Special envoy to Afghanistan appointed.
January 4, 2002 3:38 AM   Subscribe

Special envoy to Afghanistan appointed. Is it a surprise he worked for Unocal? Or that he defended the Taliban in the Washington Post? Is it a surprise Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's interim Prez, was also on the Unocal payroll? Not really, Unocal wanted a pipeline in Afghanistan for years.
posted by raaka (25 comments total)
Right on, Raaka. Now that the revenge/ retribution part of the Afghan war is nearly finished, the Bush family can get back to dealing with what it understands best: oil. I'm confident there will be a pipeline running through Afghanistan from the Caspian. Let's just see how much of the profits flow to those poor Afghan citizens who we so desperately want to protect.

And if anyone wants to doubt that there's an oil motive for the USA in general, perhaps do a calculation: how long could the USA, given its present consumption, survive on its own national sources of oil?
posted by skylar at 6:08 AM on January 4, 2002

there's definitely an oil motive, but the fact that Hamid Karzai worked for Unocal isn't necessarily a function of it. there isn't exactly a plethora of non-oil-related jobs for educated people in that region. Anyone in the region with a good education and significant international experience is likely to be somehow related to the oil industry, simply because there aren't very many other options. this is getting to be a serious problem in Saudi, where college grads can't get white collar jobs because they simply don't exist outside of the oil industry, which can't feed everyone.
posted by lizs at 6:46 AM on January 4, 2002

Still up at Unocal.com:
Unocal has received inquiries about a previously proposed pipeline that, if built, would have crossed a part of Afghanistan. We withdrew from that project in 1998, and do not now have - nor plan to have - any projects
in that country.

I like the implication that they're not even considering projects. Of course, if someone has to build a pipeline in Afghanistan...
posted by liam at 7:03 AM on January 4, 2002

Considering the whole government re-build was conducted with strong US interests in the background, the nomination of a Unical ex-employee is only just one more drop in the natural flow of the events.
US dealt with Talibans yesterday, and with anti-Talibans today, what's the difference ?
posted by michel v at 7:30 AM on January 4, 2002

The Unocal share price on the NYSE.
posted by liam at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2002

Interesting to see that Unocal share price chart. That big dip after Nov. 12 is right around the start of Ramadan. That is when the bombing and everything wasnt having a lot of ground affect. And then when the rout started, the stock has gone really high. Not to say that this is the only factor, but could be an interesting factor.
posted by adnanbwp at 8:52 AM on January 4, 2002

Just a couple of points:

1. As has been pointed out, most of the educated people in Afghanistan have worked for oil companies because those were the only jobs in the country. The rest have fled the country over the last 10 - 20 years leaving it with a small minority of educated people to lead it. You take your pick, someone who was educated and worked for an oil company or some guy who grew up without schooling and immediately joined a local tribal warlord's militia.

2. I would think an oil guy would be the perfect choice to lead a country that has only two major industries (post-Taliban), oil related or drug related.

So, as I often do when I see people post a critique or implied wrongs, tell me how you would have done it differently.

Please tell me who you would have put forth as a new leader (and no, "I would have left it up to the people" doesn't count because he is the head of an interim government so there's no election yet). Who would it be?

What industries would you suggest to a new leader of Afghanistan? Tourism? Drugs? Arms? Remember, this is a country with few natural resources, a population of mostly uneducated peasents, and no infrastructure. Do you suggest that they rely on the goodwill of the world for the next 10 or 20 years while they turn around conditions within the country?
posted by billman at 8:59 AM on January 4, 2002

The WSWS article is really a smear job. Everybody knows that the first couple of years the Taliban were in power there was hope they would at least bring peace and stability to the region and permit investment to return. To say "Khalilzad only shifted his position on the Taliban after the [1998 cruise missile attacks]" -- well, duh. You could just as easily say "most people". Then they say he was part of the "milieu" that sparked the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Well, guess what, leftie weenies: so were a lot of people who did not become terrorists. You know, before September 1939, there were an awful lot of countries who had "ties" to Germany in the form of overt diplomatic relations, but became our firm allies afterward. Regimes change, or only gradually show their true colors as they consolidate power.

This nasty bit of sneering "oh, he had ties to the Taliban" is getting damned tiresome. And if it's any surprise to anyone that a powerful tribal leader living in Pakistan with ties to America would be contacted by business entities with interests in the region, they're deluding themselves. Kabul is, at the level of international business and law, a small town. Everybody who's anybody knows everybody else who's anybody. Now, all of a sudden, we've eliminated half those anybodies, either permanently or through disenfranchisement. The rest are going to turn out to have ... shock horror an interest in business deals that bring them money to help their damn country crawl out of the stupid stone age they bombed themselves into. This was an opportunity they did not have prior to US intervention.

Where the Taliban were broke, obstinate, and stupid, they're broke, desperate, and smart. If the whiners want the country to stay broke and desperate, rather than make a deal with the Great Satan (i.e. us), they should make that crystal clear. Actually, no -- they have. They really think Afghanistan getting "not all of" the profits from a pipeline is WORSE than an Afghanistan getting jack fucking squat because it's run by medieval loons.

Shock. Horror. They have something to sell. We want it and we have money. But these two should never be brought together lest the World Socialist Weenie Website wet their pants.
posted by dhartung at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2002

Dhartung, how old are you? I'm sincerely curious, as it will help me to figure out the basis of your remarks.
posted by retrofut at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2002

Weenie Street Journal, yep it does work, I have successfully slayed the Wall Street Journal. Those Afgans should just be grateful we have freed them to sell us land for a pipeline.
My understanding is that the oil comes not from Afganistan, but only through it, so I think the Afgans will get very little while the U.S. oil concerns will clean up.

I love reading the WSWS on many levels, the arts reviews are great, no one slays hollywood better. Kudos to Raaka for using them as a source, too many Americans are scared of that little s-word.
posted by chrismc at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2002

chrismc: I still don't think anybody has addressed the issues that myself and dhartung have raised concerning what are the alternatives? Afghanistan seriously needs to start creating jobs and generating revenue if it ever hopes to leave the stone age. What do you suggest? Unless you or WSWS can offer some alternatives, I can only assume your position is that they should become a welfare state depending on the rest of the world to keep their people from starving every year when winter hits. What industries do you suggest they get into if you are so opposed to them entering into the oil biz?

Also, your comment strikes me as just a little odd that the oil is not in Afghanistan so they will only get a small piece. Should they get the lion's share for letting the oil pass through their country?

So instead of the slapping each other on the backs for such a great "journalistic" find, perhaps you can enlighten us with how those who admire socialism would deal with the problem differently.
posted by billman at 11:57 AM on January 4, 2002

What relevance does the share price have to Unocal's plans to take over Afghanistan again? After all, their stock has behaved similarly to that of ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobiland and it's not like all three of them are going to build a pipeline through Afghanistan.
posted by jaek at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2002

For more interesting views on America invading countries to get control of their natural resources, look up "Stari Trg[o] mine" and "Trepca mine." They're in the former Yugoslav republic. Now controlled by American interests.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on January 4, 2002

Everyone would have been better off if the Taliban went for the carpet of gold instead. At least the next country will take our threats more seriously and we can avoid more carpet bombing. Like the Teddy bear says, carry a big stick.
posted by euphorb at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2002


I was move to post a comment by the normally intelligent dhartungs ridiculous comment about the WSWS, which is a favorite read of mine.
If the Afghan people want a to allow a pipeline through their country that is their right. I simply think that most of the benefit from this project would go to American oil interests and gas guzzling consumers. As far as what else can be done to help get an economy going over there, how about micro loans for people to start locally owned businesses. How about aid to get hospitals and schools going.

I completely understand the point you are making, a job which pays something is better than no job paying nothing, but the notion that this is going to be equally beneficial to all parties is naive. The problem is the Afghans now have no negotiating power to get ownership of the resource (their location in this case) and the fix is in based on who is in charge and their relationship to the oil companies.
posted by chrismc at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2002

from the CIA fact book:


natural resources:
natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones

small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, and cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, oil, coal, copper

Agriculture - products:
opium poppies, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, karakul pelts

Exports - commodities: $80 million (does not include opium) (1996 est.)
opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems

Imports - commodities: $150 million (1996 est.)
capital goods, food and petroleum products; most consumer goods
posted by rebeccablood at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2002

retrofut, unlike you, my profile does not keep me anonymous. If you wish to know more about me you are perfectly welcome to follow that link and make your own judgements.

I can't imagine what my age has to do with the validity of what I have said, whether it is higher or lower than you hypothesize. If you have contrary information or opinion, you may enter them into this thread, rather than making veiled insinuations.

chrismc: Afghanistan is not believed to have major oil deposits, although it has some. (During the Soviet era, there was an oil pipeline running to Kabul.) It is believed to have non-trivial natural gas deposits in the north. Exploiting these resources will require Western investment, and Western investment will not be possible without the proper economic structure.

As for the "carpet of gold/bombs" threat, I find it most interesting that no Taliban ever seemed to make an issue of this threat we allegedly issued. You'd think it would make terrific propaganda. Did Beardo and Patch ever mention it during their endless Peshawar press conferences?
posted by dhartung at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2002

The point about the administration/Unocal connection is not - shock! horror! - that it exists, but that government motives are worth monitoring. Those of us not in policy-making positions have the freedom to be more idealistic, and the duty, I think, to keep capitalism's baser instincts in check, for our own long-term good. "Realpolitik" taken to an extreme, as dhartung seems to be advocating here, can come back to bite us in the ass, if we don't maintain a more humanitarian perspective.

jaek: The Unocal share price may be worth watching over the next few months, or years (perhaps if you have money to spare for long-term investment).
posted by liam at 4:17 PM on January 4, 2002

Did Beardo and Patch ever mention it during their endless Peshawar press conferences?

I hope you're not basing your point on the credibility of the Taliban spokesman. But if he had mentioned it we can be sure that it would have been covered on Dateline and all over the NY Times the next day.

As to whether or not there was a meeting in July where the Taliban were threatened with military force, several diplomats who were there seem to think so. I wouldn't hold my breath for the video taped confession to be released though. The carpet of gold/carpet bombing threat sounds a little too poetic to come out of the mouth of an American diplomat. It probably sells plenty of books though.
posted by euphorb at 4:38 PM on January 4, 2002

Dhartung, I did overlook the possibility that your profile might have useful information. (Checks.) Nope, no age info there. Maybe it's somewhere in Lake Effect . . . nope. How about that homepage (http://www.mcs.net/~dhartung/)? Nah, it's a 404.

I can't imagine what my age has to do with the validity of what I have said, whether it is higher or lower than you hypothesize. If you have contrary information or opinion, you may enter them into this thread, rather than making veiled insinuations.

Touchy touchy. I was actually sincere (and had no specific hypotheses re your age except the usual 25-45yo spread one typically finds on the net). I'm not talking about your validity (as a person or as applied to your remarks today, however bellicose) but asking for context to perhaps understand more exactly what they mean. If you can't imagine how, well, you can't imagine, and though you may deserve points for truthful self-apprehension, that's your responsibility, not mine. (At least you didn't automatically call me a leftist because I might disagree with you.)
posted by retrofut at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2002

If anyone actually thinks that Unocal is going to make a killing, I strongly suggest you buy the stock, because the market has not anticipated any impact on Unocal (NYSE: UCL).

One oil company that was in the news today was Halliburton (Dick Cheney's old company), which was fending off rumors of bankruptcy bandied about on msg boards. Here you can see where the market anticipates ill effects.
posted by Real9 at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2002

Well, then, retrofut -- sorry I got my guard up. I'm 38. A smidgen of my geopolitical views; more on my doubts about moralism and idealism in foreign policy. More of a classical Realist than a full-tilt amoral realpolitiker (as liam asks). If you want a reference point you can consider me a Hitchens liberal, who's had enough, since September 11, of the Chomsky crowd's recycled nonsense. Having been sooo wrong about the war, now they're trying to prove that we'll lose the peace, by moving the goalposts every which way they can. They love to take the superior position that they dissed the Taliban when darn it, those people who were actually charged with implementing US policy in regards to a failed state such as Afghanistan were not in such a position of non-responsibility as to take an idealistic position.
posted by dhartung at 6:35 PM on January 4, 2002

I hope dhartung doesn't take this as an insult but I support his position 175%. Eleven posts later, and I stilll don't see anybody suggesting an alternative. Bash oil companies, bash Bush, bash capatlism, but nowhere do I see a challenge to the points made by dhartung.
posted by billman at 9:33 PM on January 4, 2002

Dhartung [capitalisation not intended as insult but as nod to English orthography], thanks for the amplification and information, and I appreciate the time you've spent making yourself clearer, beyond the call of duty IMO.

I read Lake Effect regularly these last two years till your critique of the "Chomsky crowd", however factually accurate at base, devolved into namecalling and reversed the signal to noise ratio. (I'll try again after the martial festivities, you're well worth reading otherwise.)

Like Bob Black (link 1 | 2), you bring up stuff that challenges the simplicity of the orthodox view (in both cases, of what remains of the organized Left), and like most orthodoxies in this simplistic time it richly deserves it. But if what you're trying to do is convince people to change their minds (IMO the process of politics in action), calling them "weenies" and caricaturing their opinions isn't going to help you one bit. Does this feel good to you?

[In an attempt to be more on-topic:] It does surprise me that you can refer to geopolitical struggle and yet dismiss reports such as the originating item above as though there could be no organizing principle to them. This, more than anything, reeks of some rebroadcast ideology, however unexamined, rather than an intelligent appreciation of the facts and where they may lead.
posted by retrofut at 11:10 PM on January 4, 2002

(I'd like to point out I was solely asking if anyone was "surprised" by Unocal's involvement in rebuilding Afghanistan, considering their prior actions there, which consisted mainly of defending and supporting the Taliban. Overwhelmingly, no one is.

What should one take away from the fact that organizations trying to get people to pay attention to the human rights abuses of the Taliban were ignored and the organizations that supported them were oil corporations? Who has people's best interests in mind?)

There is some wiggle room between organizing a country's economy and using it as a facilitator of corporate interests.

Business and human interests clash rather consistently. If the Bush adminstration was worried about the humans we would see a differnet approach to Afghanistan altogether. There’s a very obvious unity of purpose to everything the US does in the Middle East. Loving, hating or enduring "freedom" has nothing to do with it.

If one wanted to get Afghanistan back on its feet, it should be treated as an ally, not simply the theater for a series of holy wars (on communism, on drugs, on terror). If Afghanistan's people were ever more than a means to an end to US (or Russian) administrations, they would not have been abandoned at the end of the Russia-Afghan-US War. The people were used and discarded. It's hard to believe they aren't being used now.

It is true. My weenie is huge.
posted by raaka at 7:42 PM on January 5, 2002

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