The Center for an Informed America

The Internet’s Best Source for Disinformation-Free News and Commentary
What’s It Really All About?, Part I
Greetings to all subscribers!
Jared Israel – and his website, The Emperor’s New Clothes – has long been near the top of my list of the very best of alternative news sources. With unflinching, in-depth coverage of the U.S. assault on Yugoslavia, the mockery of justice masquerading as the ‘war crimes’ trial of Slobodan Milosevic, and – most notably – the September 11 attacks and their aftermath, Emperor’s has distinguished itself as one of the more credible voices of dissent.
For that reason, it pains me to write this newsletter. Nevertheless, recent postings on the site compel me to do so. As those who have visited Emperor’s lately are aware, Israel has been working himself into quite a lather these past couple months trying to convince readers that U.S. military forces are not in Central Asia for the oil.
And he’s quite right that oil isn’t the only goal of America’s latest military foray, nor even necessarily the primary goal. But Mr. Israel seems to want us to believe that oil doesn’t factor into the equation in any way — which is, quite frankly, an extremely dubious claim. And the arguments put forth by Israel to bolster this contention have at times bordered on the bizarre.
Israel’s wrath has been primarily directed at Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, two French researchers (and probable spooks) who authored a book that claims that the war in Afghanistan was motivated solely by oil. But though he hasn’t mentioned them by name, Israel also seems to be attacking numerous other researchers who have presented evidence that oil is at least one of the motivating factors behind the assault on Afghanistan.
On May 17, Emperor’s posted a piece entitled “The Empire Isn’t in Afghanistan for the Oil,” which apparently was the first volley of the war of words waged by Israel. In that posting, he refers to what he calls an “age-old truth” — that “the poor seek security. The rich seek more money. But the real rulers seek power, because power gets them control of everything that human beings seek.”
It’s hard to argue with that. But then Israel goes on at some length attempting to convince his audience that U.S. oil conglomerates in general, and Unocal in particular, have no interest in building a pipeline across Afghanistan — an argument that flies in the face of a considerable amount of evidence to the contrary.
To back up his claim, Israel cites an article from the Petroleum Economist, which he describes as “the most sophisticated journal of the oil industry.” The Economist article is characterized as claiming that “it was the Taliban which tried to get a trans-Afghan pipeline, and it was the U.S. and Unocal which nixed the project.”
The Economist does in fact portray the Taliban as having been the driving force behind the pipeline, described as a “$2bn gas line across Afghanistan,” which was to have been built “under the leadership of Unocal.” But the project purportedly died on the vine due to the “imposition of US and, later, UN sanctions against the country and then Unocal’s withdrawal put a stop to the plan.”
The problem with this article from what Israel inexplicably describes as a “reliable source” (a mouthpiece of the oil industry is a reliable source?) is that it was published in February of 2002, after the devastation of Afghanistan had been underway for several months.
It seems reasonable to conclude that the oil industry had a vested interest at that time in distancing itself from any plans for a pipeline across a country being pelted with U.S. bombs and missiles, and in claiming that it was actually the Taliban, and not the oil cartels, that wanted the pipeline.
In an interesting side note, the Economist article mentions that the planned pipeline was to terminate at the “Pakistan border, at Quetta …” Quetta is, strangely enough, the very place where there was, in the early days of the ‘war,’ reports of an unexplained outbreak of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever — before all mentions of that fact disappeared down a memory hole.
Further into Israel’s initial “it’s not about oil” posting, he lays out what he believes is the primary motivation for the U.S. incursion into Central Asia: “We said the central (that is, dominant) goal of the New World Empire was to fully encircle Russia with Imperial proxy states and gradually – including the use of phony rebellions and military attrition – reduce Russia and certain other former Soviet states to shattered, totally impoverished territories under Imperial domination.”
I don’t really have much quarrel with that statement, except that Israel presents this as though it is some kind of recent development. The goal of the “Empire,” as Israel dubs it, has since 1917 been the destruction of the Soviet empire. From the time that U.S. forces were first sent into the Soviet Union immediately following the October Revolution, the ‘West’ has been fixated on dismantling the Soviet state.
That was certainly the true goal during World War II*. It was also the goal throughout the so-called Cold War, which was really just a covert continuation of World War II — complete with the utilization of the entire massive Nazi Eastern Front ‘intelligence’ infrastructure, which was maintained in its entirety by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
(*see my Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion, Writers Club Press, 2001)
On July 3, Emperor’s posted another “it’s not about oil” article — under the title of “Zbigniew and Zalmay’s Excellent Afghan Pro-Terrorist Adventure.” In that posting, Israel claims that “Unocal, which pulled out of the Afghan pipeline deal in 1998, has not returned.”
The primary piece of evidence that he presents to support that claim is the observation that: “There is exactly zero mention of Afghanistan on their Website during 2002. Their last mention of the Afghan pipeline is a September 14, 2001 statement which concluded as follows: ‘Unocal suspended participation in the pipeline consortium in August 1998. Unocal officially withdrew from the consortium (in accordance with the consortium contracts) in December 1998.'”
For some reason, it never occurred to Mr. Israel to question the timing of the posting of that disclaimer. September 14, 2001? Gee, wasn’t that just a few days after the WTC and Pentagon attacks? You don’t suppose that Unocal would have had a vested interest at that time in distancing itself from any business ventures in a country the U.S. was gearing up to bomb the piss out of, do you?
The rest of the Emperor’s posting consists of tracing the connections of Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, to various U.S. national security luminaries — especially to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who Israel portrays as being the primary architect of Central Asian domination. Israel’s contention is that, while Khalilzad did serve as a consultant for Unocal, that connection is of less importance than his other connections.
That is a fair enough assessment. Khalilzad does appear to be a very well-connected member of the U.S. intelligence/national security community — which is to say, he is well connected to the enforcement arm of corporate America.
So it is likely true that he is not now in Afghanistan primarily as a representative of Unocal. He is there to represent the ‘interests’ of all of corporate America. Certainly Unocal won’t be the only U.S. corporation working through Khalilzad to exploit the resources of the country, but it will likely be one of those doing so.
Israel’s next “it’s not about oil” posting came on July 9 — in the form of an answer to a query from a reader in Germany. The reader asked, logically enough: “why do you insist on the formulation: It’s not the oil? There could be oil and gas interests in connection with the striving for world hegemony, couldn’t it?”
Not according to Israel. He first launches into an attack on a comparison that the respondent had drawn with Nazi Germany. That argument, according to Israel, “is flawed because you are comparing apples and oranges. The Nazis in World War II were a rebellious attack dog making a desperate move to seize world power.”
Uh huh. They sure were. And the United States is … what? A cuddly puppy making a move to seize world power? How exactly is it that the apples differ from the oranges?
According to Israel: “The US/Euro Empire is not fighting World War III … ” There is considerable room for argument with that statement.
If we count the ‘Cold War’ as World War III, then I guess technically we are now fighting World War IV. But the Cold War was really just an extension of World War II, and the current war is really just an extension of the Cold War, so it could be argued that we are still fighting World War II. But whatever number you assign to it, it really boils down to the fact that it’s just the same shit, different year.
The very next statement in the posting, after the comment about World War III, is: “[The US/Euro Empire] is consolidating control by means of the systematic devastation of potentially hostile populations.” Yeah, it sure is. That is the way that the oranges are doing it … but how exactly does that differ from the way that the apples did it? That’s the thing that confuses me.
Israel again points to Brzezinski as the primary architect of the current military actions, noting that Brzezinski is on the record as supporting a shattering of the former Soviet Union into pieces. Brzezinski though didn’t just snatch his ideas about Central Asia out of thin air. Such ideas have a long, and very significant, history — a fact that we shall return to shortly.
Later in the same Emperor’s posting, Israel writes: “Some of those who have led the way with [the “it’s about oil”] argument have made it clear they don’t even know whether Unocal was negotiating an oil pipeline or a gas pipeline. Well, there was no oil pipeline deal. Unocal was involved in a gas pipeline deal, and in December 1998 it dropped out of the CentGas gas pipeline consortium. They don’t know this because they haven’t bothered to read what’s on Unocal’s Website.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read what’s on Unocal’s website. What I have read though is the transcript of the Congressional testimony delivered by Unocal vice-president John J. Maresca in February of 1998, when he clearly and unequivocally stated that Unocal had vested interests in building both oil and gas pipelines across Afghanistan, once an acceptable regime was in place.
Maresca began by relaying to Congress that Unocal had three specific areas of concern: “The need for multiple pipeline routes for Central Asian oil and gas. The need for U.S. support for international and regional efforts to achieve balanced and lasting political settlements within Russia, other newly independent states and in Afghanistan. The need for structured assistance to encourage economic reforms and the development of appropriate investment climates in the region.” (emphasis added)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that what Unocal was asking for was a military ‘pacification’ of the area, and the establishment of permanent military bases in the region, in order to create the “appropriate investment climates” to enable the construction of “multiple pipeline routes.”
And, contrary to Israel’s assertion that Unocal never had any interest in an oil pipeline, Maresca explicitly detailed the oil pipeline that Unocal wants to build:
“The territory across which the pipeline would extend is controlled by the Taliban, an Islamic movement that is not recognized as a government by most other nations. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of our proposed pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders and our company.
“In spite of this, a route through Afghanistan appears to be the best option with the fewest technical obstacles. It is the shortest route to the sea and has relatively favorable terrain for a pipeline. The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil.
“Unocal envisions the creation of a Central Asian Oil Pipeline Consortium. The pipeline would become an integral part of a regional oil pipeline system that will utilize and gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.”The 1,040-mile-long oil pipeline would begin near the town of Chardzhou, in northern Turkmenistan, and extend southeasterly through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast on the Arabian Sea. Only about 440 miles of the pipeline would be in Afghanistan.”
Now that certainly sounds to me like an oil pipeline that Mr. Maresca was talking about. Of course, Maresca also discussed at some length the CentGas natural gas pipeline, about which he commented: “As with the proposed Central Asia Oil Pipeline, CentGas cannot begin construction until an internationally recognized Afghanistan government is in place.”
Maresca delivered a very clear message that Unocal wanted a regime change in Afghanistan. And he noted that the company had already covered all the bases: “Although Unocal has not negotiated with any one group, and does not favor any group, we have had contacts with and briefings for all of them.”
In other words, Unocal was willing to work with just about anyone to get their pipelines built (notice that “pipelines” is plural here, as in oil and gas pipelines). Now that seems to me a rather odd posture for a company that already had in place a relatively stable government that, according to the company’s website and according to Jared Israel, was the primary cheerleader for building the proposed gas pipeline. Why then was Unocal requesting a regime change?
Israel never mentions this testimony, which came straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Instead, he offers up PR from the company’s website, along with the transcript of a telephone interview which he conducted with Unocal’s public relations manager — which is to say, a man who is well versed in the practiced art of lying on behalf of his company.
If I didn’t know better, I would swear that the interview was conducted by that notorious softball-lobber, Larry King. To say that Israel asked leading questions would be a serious understatement. It wasn’t really so much an interview as it was a request for confirmation of Israel’s preconceived notions.
For example, rather than asking if Khalilzad had in fact been employed by Unocal, and in what capacity, Israel asked: “My understanding is he never worked directly for you. Is that right?” Instead of asking why Khalilzad was selected for the position, Israel supplied his own reason: “My understanding is that he’s a door-opener because he’s very influential. Is that correct? … Is it commonplace for companies dealing with an area to have people working for them that have influence in the area?”
As for reported claims by Afghan officials that Unocal is still interested in the pipeline project, Israel asked the ‘question’: “It occurred to me that it’s in the interest of Afghanistan to say Unocal is still interested because that makes the project seem more attractive and they need it as a cash cow. So you guys are not secretly planning to go back?”
Israel also mentioned reports that Hamid Karzai – installed by force as the interim president of Afghanistan, and so completely lacking in support among his own people that he has now replaced his Afghan guards with U.S. military personnel – was once a consultant for Unocal.
In this case, Israel didn’t even bother to disguise his statements of opinion as a question: “Well the argument is that there is something sinister and therefore you would both deny it anyway. But my argument is in order to posit that this relationship existed in the first place you have to have some evidence – something – but all LeMonde has is their own assertion. They just say he was a consultant. They say ‘At one time.’ Not even a date. And no source. And then all these writers repeat this as if LeMonde’s assertion is enough to counter your denial. I mean, you can’t use the fact that somebody denies something to prove it’s true.”
Clearly either Unocal or LeMonde, which has reportedly stood behind its initial report, is lying. But why should we assume that it is LeMonde? Unocal has a long and sordid history of exploiting ‘Third World’ human and mineral resources, engaging in egregious human rights violations, and being complicit in U.S. covert operations. Unocal, in other words, has a lot to lie about. Unquestioning acceptance of their public denials is tantamount to unquestioning acceptance of the CIA’s public denials.
On July 15, Emperor’s posted yet another “it’s not about oil” offering, again in the form of a response to a reader’s query. This posting is devoted to debunking the oft-repeated quote of a statement allegedly delivered to the Taliban by a U.S. delegation: “Either you accept a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”
It is entirely possible, even probable, that that is a bogus quote. But that quote is only one small piece of the “it’s partially about oil” argument, just as the Mike Vreeland story is only one small piece of the “U.S. officials had specific foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks” argument. And debunking one plank of an argument, especially one likely set up as a straw man to begin with, does not serve to debunk the balance of the evidence supporting the argument.
Next up from Emperor’s was a telling posting entitled “Brzezinski, Hitler, MacKinder, Geopolitics … and Correction.” Strangely though, and quite significantly, Hitler is never mentioned throughout the posting, though his name appears in the title. This posting was, once again, a response to an e-mail from a reader.
This particular reader attempted to educate the staff at Emperor’s about the history of geopolitical theory. Specifically, he identified the father of the theory, quite accurately, as Sir Halford MacKinder, and suggested to Emperor’s that they should do a little research into the subject.
The reply from Emperor’s, in its entirety, was: “It would be most kind of you to write in more detail about these issues.” Apparently then, Israel and company had no idea what this reader was talking about. Considering that Emperor’s has been pushing an explicitly geopolitical theory of the incursion into Central Asia, it is a most remarkable fact that Israel appears to be completely unaware of where these ideas originated.
For the record, the ideas that Brzezinski has promoted in his written works have been around, relatively unchanged, for an entire century. They were first formulated in 1904 by British geologist Halford MacKinder, who wrote that: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World.”
According to Unocal’s John Maresca, something else significant happened around that very same time: “About 100 years ago, the international oil industry was born in the Caspian/Central Asian region with the discovery of oil.” Now that’s certainly an odd coincidence, isn’t it?
Considering that MacKinder was one of the foremost geologists of his day, he was most certainly aware, at the time that he formulated his Heartland theories, of the discovery of oil in Central Asia and of the birth of the international petroleum industry. It is entirely possible then that a covert goal of his geopolitical gameplan was from the beginning, and continues to be today, to seize control of the planet’s energy reserves.
In the Summer of 2000, Parameters, a quarterly publication of the U.S. Army War College, published a review of MacKinder’s theories of geopolitics and the effect those theories have had on the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
The author of the article, Christopher J. Fettweis, wrote that MacKinder’s “theories [had] influence throughout the century, informing and shaping US containment policy throughout the Cold War. Today, almost a century after his ‘Heartland’ theory came into being, there is renewed interest in the region that MacKinder considered to be the key to world dominance.”
Though it is more accurate to say that there is continued interest in the region, notice that the ‘renewed’ interest that Fettweis speaks of was evident prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Fettweis cites a laundry list of influential architects of U.S. foreign policy who were/are avid disciples of MacKinder: Yale University professor Nicholas Spykman, who updated MacKinder’s theories in the 1940s, along with such Cold Warriors as George Kennan, Colin Gray, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Madeleine Albright (a protégé of Brzezinski).
Colin Gray has written fairly recently that: “From Harry S Truman to George Bush, the overarching vision of US national security was explicitly geopolitical and directly traceable to the heartland theory of MacKinder … MacKinder’s relevance to the containment of a heartland-occupying Soviet Union in the cold war was so apparent as to approach the status of a cliché.”
It wasn’t just during the Cold War that MacKinder’s theories proved to be hugely influential. As Fettweis notes: “MacKinder’s theories might have faded into irrelevance were it not for their apparent influence on the foreign policy of Nazi Germany. A German geopolitician and devotee of MacKinder, Karl Haushofer, spent the interwar period writing extensively about the Heartland and the need for Lebensraum (additional territory deemed essential for continued national well-being) for the German people.”
According to some reports, it was Haushofer who was the actual author of two chapters of Mein Kampf, which of course popular mythology holds was dictated to Rudolf Hess by an imprisoned Adolf Hitler. Haushofer was, for the record, a teacher of, and the mentor of, Rudolf Hess.
(see Peter Levenda’s Unholy Alliance, Avon, 1995 — if you can find a copy)
Fettweis downplays the notion that the Third Reich was basing its conquest of the East on MacKinder’s theories, though he does allow that “the possibility that there was a secret master plan at work in Berlin created a whole new interest in geopolitics and what MacKinder and geopolitics had to say.”
In light of that, I must again ask the question: if Nazi Germany was following a geopolitical plan for world domination through conquest of the Heartland, and now America is following a geopolitical plan for world domination through conquest of the Heartland, then how exactly is it that comparing Adolf Hitler’s Germany to George Bush’s America is like comparing apples and oranges?
As for MacKinder’s relevance today, Fettweis writes that: “One might expect that geopolitics would have faded into the intellectual background with the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the Heartland power. Strangely, though, MacKinder received a fresh look by some scholars in the 1990s … because policymakers are searching for ways to conceptualize and deal with the heart of his Heartland — Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.”
One way to “deal with the heart of his Heartland,” which apparently no one has thought of, would be to leave the fate of the area up to the indigenous peoples who live there. But that would hardly serve the needs of a global power bent on world domination and monopolization of the world’s energy reserves.
On July 19, Emperor’s checked in with yet another “it isn’t about oil” posting, yet again in the form of a response to a reader’s suggestion — a suggestion that didn’t even indirectly reference the Brisard/Dasquie book. Nevertheless, Israel once again launches into a lengthy attack upon the two, again with an inordinate amount of attention paid to the “carpet of gold” quote, as though destroying the credibility of the French book effectively destroys all aspects of the “it’s at least in part about oil” argument.
Some of Israel’s criticisms of Brisard and Dasquie are valid, but some of them are just downright silly. Here, for example, is something that some of you might not know: “liars tend to talk too much, embellishing with lots of flowery baloney in the hopes of creating an atmosphere of believability.”
This bit of wisdom is imparted to let Emperor’s readers know that the French authors had revealed themselves as liars by using the adjective “delightful.” Israel asks that the writers just “Give me some facts” — as though information is only credible if presented in a dry, Joe Friday-like manner. And I guess it never occurred to Israel that since he was reading an English language version of the book, “delightful” was actually an adjective that some translator chose to use in such an offensive way.
Later in the same posting, Brisard and Dasquie are attacked even more viciously for another of their translator’s choice of adjectives: “‘tireless’ is another of those tell-tale gossipy-but-irrelevant adjectives, used to tell us the writer is ‘in the know’ – a mark of the liar!”
I don’t even know what to say about that. It boggles the mind that a website that has garnered a considerable amount of well-earned respect for the past several years would put forth such a ridiculous argument. Someone should inform Mr. Israel that putting such absurd arguments in print seriously damages his own credibility.
Somewhere in the midst of his “there was no carpet of bombs threat” diatribe, Israel goes in search of some of the references cited by the French authors. Before doing so, he advises readers to:
“Keep in mind that if the ‘carpet of bombs’ threat does appear in either article, it would not prove the threat was made. It would only mean that Niaz Naik, a Pakistani official who might have an axe to grind and therefore could well be lying about anything he said, apparently reported this to the Guardian. I say ‘apparently’ because the Guardian could have inaccurately reported his words. But if the threat does not appear, it means Brisard and Dasquie are liars.”
I don’t want to sound like I’m nitpicking, but it seems to me that Mr. Israel has set the bar pretty damn high here. He has set this up as a no-win game — even if all of the authors’ sources check out. If this is the standard that is to be applied, then everyone’s research, including Israel’s, would fail to pass muster.
I barely even know who these poor French saps are that wrote this book but I kind of feel sorry for them here — though I have little doubt that their book is ultimately disinformational. It does, after all, support the “blowback” theory of the September 11 attacks — which is about the only version of ‘dissent’ that is allowed in the U.S. alternative/progressive press.
Not surprisingly then, it is The Nation that has published the English language version of the book. The fact that The Nation – the very same publication that graces the progressive community with the written words of such notables as David Corn, Marc Cooper and Christopher Hitchens – chose to offer this book to an American audience raises serious questions about its validity.
Strangely enough, one of Israel’s tell-tale indicators that the French authors are “liars” is his contention that some of the allegations from the original French edition of the book have been embellished in the English language edition — purportedly because English speaking readers can’t check the original sources and will therefore not know that they are being lied to. Israel readily admits though that he hasn’t actually read the French version.
Those who have read the original French version, and who facilitated the publication of the English edition, say exactly the opposite: that allegations made in the original have been toned down in the new English version. As the Village Voice characterized it: “it’s the equivalent of buying a manuscript that states unequivocally that the CIA killed John F. Kennedy–and then publishing a book that speculates that the CIA might have killed John Kennedy.”
Unfortunately, I see that I’ve run out of time this week, so I will have to carry this discussion through to next week’s newsletter. For now, I will leave you with the following summary of my interpretations of the recent spate of postings on The Emperor’s New Clothes:
  1. Israel’s contention that it is about more than just the oil is an accurate observation; however, his claim that it has nothing to do with oil is contradicted by the known facts.
  2. Some of Israel’s arguments are downright silly and have no place on a website regarded as a credible source of information.
  3. Israel presents his interpretation of current events without supplying any sort of historical context, thereby presenting what is necessarily a disinformational view of the world we live in.
  4. The Brisard and Dasquie book is consistently singled out for attack, as though impeaching the credibility of the book is all that is required to debunk all the evidence that indicates that oil is in fact one of the motivating factors behind the ‘war.’
  5. Some of Israel’s claims are patently false, most notably his strident statement that Unocal never had any vested interest in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan, which is directly refuted by the Congressional testimony of a Unocal spokesman.
Leaving all that aside until next week, here is a quick rundown of the most illuminating articles that have come to my attention recently. First up is this trio of articles that are absolutely essential reading. The obvious question that is begged by these postings, and which of course goes completely unasked, is: exactly what kind of ‘training’ are U.S. Special Forces operatives receiving in Afghanistan? Can you say ‘Phoenix Program’?
Next up is this random assortment of postings whose titles are pretty much self-explanatory:
“Internet extends long arm of the law”
“United States loses fight to block U.N. vote on torture convention”
“Government tightens hold on information”
“Firm Linked to Cheney Gets Contract for Cuba Jail Cells”
“Bush civil rights commissioner warns of detention camps for Arab Americans” (
“Alabama Mobilizes Tank Battalion for Use Inside the US”
“Bombers’ families targeted as Israel responds to new violence”
“Expert: Palm Beach’s New Voting Machines Have Problems” [here’s a hint: they don’t allow for auditing of the results]
“Evidence Against Suspect From 9/11 is Called Weak” and “The Case Against Moussaoui: Internal Doubts”
“‘But Officer, I Didn’t Do Anything!'”
Finally, last but certainly not least, comes this interesting story, discovered deep within the bowels of the July 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times, that reveals that: “The [NYC] mayor’s office says it plans to keep secret hundreds of written and audio records related to the Fire Department’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.”
I can’t imagine why such information would be withheld. Can you?