Sudan's big oil problem, and ours

From Tom Engelhardt:

The pieces are all there. No one reading the business pages of the papers these last weeks could ignore oil prices that briefly surged to a once-inconceivable $67 dollars a barrel of crude before falling back; no one driving a car on any highway could possibly avoid pump prices that, for unleaded regular, are now hovering around $2.50 a gallon (making inflation jump and consumer confidence drop); those with sharp eyes might have noticed less than a week ago that Lee R. Raymond, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation for the last 12 years (whose total compensation for 2004 was a modest $38.1 million but could have been a billion dollars without his company taking much of a hit) is reportedly planning to step down soon. As the head of possibly the most successful and “efficient” corporation on the face of our planet, he primed the Exxon Mobil pump to the tune of $25.3 billion dollars in profits in 2004, and upped that in the first half of 2005 by socking in another $15 billion (give or take the odd million); oh yes, and does anybody not know that somewhere in a place called Darfur in Sudan a genocide is underway?
But the connections between surging oil price levels, pump prices, oil company mega-profits, and mass murder in distant Africa are something you’re far less likely to read about in your local paper; and yet, under the pressure of growing global energy demand and peak-oil fears, oil companies from many nations are now scouring the Earth, buying governments, tribal leaders, warlords, and anyone else who might lead them to any untapped new reserves of black gold. As the Washington Post said politely in its article on Raymond, Exxon Mobil “operates in more than 200 countries or territories — as diverse as Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela and the Russian Far East.” Diverse indeed. Sudan is “diverse” too and it has been swept up in the global oil sweepstakes with horrific consequences as journalist David Morse makes vividly clear below.

Tom

War of the Future
Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur
By David Morse

A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today’s arsenal.

No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape — carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.

This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.

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