We must become the owners, or at any rate the controllers at the source, of at least a proportion of the supply (of oil) which we require….and obtain our oil supply, so far as possible, from sources under British control, or British influence.” (Winston S. Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1919)
From the bedroom window in my house at the end of a little cul de sac in a large village/small town called Syston on the outskirts of Leicester, England, I can see a row of houses built in neo-Georgian style on the other side of the road, another row of similar styled houses to the right at the end of the cul de sac, a few flags with the cross of St. George, the flag of England (it’s the World Cup), draped from upper story windows, a “Sold” sign, and a “For Sale” sign, and, between the gap in the two rows of houses a disused and dirty BP (or should I say, as President Obama, in this mid-term election year, is wont to do, British Petroleum), sign, lying on its side, its top visible above a garage roof.
Ever since I moved into Syston in the summer of 2001, there have been two petrol-filling stations, one at my end of the village, which was run by Shell when I first moved in, and the other, at the other end, owned by Texaco. (“Petrol”, btw, is what we Brits call the stuff you Yanks call “gas”, or “gasoline”.) Then Shell sold up and BP took over with their bright, shiny green and yellow logo betokening their much trumpeted commitment to the environment and green issues! (In fact, bp’s environmental record is the worst of all the major oil companies, as this video of an interview of Steve Lendman by James Fetzer shows.) It is the back end of this garage that I can see from my bedroom window.
Of the two petrol-filling stations, Texaco’s was usually the slightly cheaper.
Then the Texaco-filling station was closed down and into their place, yes, you’ve guessed it, came another BP station with the same bright, shiny green and yellow logo betokening their…etc. etc., etc,.
The heart-rending events in the Gulf of Mexico are, naturally, concentrating minds here in the UK, home, as Obama continually likes to remind us, of BP, and my cogitations on the subject revolve around three main issues.
The first is the way in which Obama, a man whom I once admired, but whom I am now beginning increasingly to despise, has in this election year descended to politicking by highlighting the fact that bp is British (and therefore foreign, despite the fact that 39% of shares in bp are owned by Americans), by his insistence on calling pb, “British Petroleum”, despite the fact that that is not its current name, as if environmental disasters are a uniquely Britsh or foreign phenomenon. No mention is made of Union Carbide, at whose plant in Bhopal, what was up until then the world’s worst environmental disaster took place on the night of December 3, 1984, which is an American Company, or of Occidental, whose Alpha offshore production platform in the Piper oilfield in the North Sea suffered an explosion and consequent fire when a gas condensate pump was started with the pressure safety valve removed, and in which 167 (mostly British) workers died, and which is likewise American.
The second is that, alone of the heads of state of the world’s democracies, the Queen is not required to declare her interests. The Queen, whose great, great grandfather Edward VII, was advised by the bankers, Baron Hirsch, and, when Baron Hirsch died in 1896, Ernest Cassel, whose daughter and heiress, Edwina, married Lord Louis Mountbatten, an uncle and much-loved great uncle of respectively, Prince Philip, the Queen’s consort, and their son, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, is almost certainly a major shareholder of bp, as she is of all the other major oil companies. It is extraordinary that a head of state in a supposedly modern democracy, is not required to disclose her financial interests, when she almost certainly stands to benefit from some of the resource wars going on in the world and in which Britsh troops, direclty loyal to the Queen, and not their country, are involved, and in which she is a beneficiary.
I once raised this question with Kenneth Baker, Liberal-Democrat MP for Lewis, who supports the reform, if not abolition of the monarchy, and who took a year-off from politics to investigate the alleged suicide of Dr. David Kelley and which Baker shows, was almost definitely a murder.
The last is the enormous power oil companies have over western governments. It was the nationalization of Iran’s oil under Mossadegh, which led to Eisenhow giving the green light to the CIA-orchestrated coup, supported by the British government, who owned shares in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), which went on to become bp, in 1953. More recently, the US has been governed by oil men, such as George H. W. Bush, co founder of the Zapata Petroleum Corporation, an oil company which drilled in the Permian Basin in Texas, and president of the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling, his son, George W. Bush, whose Secretary of State, Condoleez Rice, sat on the board of Chevron, which, for unspecified reasons, honored Rice by naming an oil tanker Condoleezza Rice.
Britain and oil goes back a long way, to 1882, to be exact, when British Admiral Lord Fisher saw oil’s potential as qualitatively superior to coal. It required one-quarter the tonnage, one-third the engine weight, and expanded a fleet’s “radius of action” fourfold.
Since the early 20th century, when the importance of oil was first realised, the history of Britain and America has been more or less the history of their scramble for control of the world’s oil supply, first as rivals, then, following the first world war as partners.
In 1919, Winston S. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, told Parliament: “We must become the owners, or at any rate the controllers at the source, of at least a proportion of the supply (of oil) which we require….and obtain our oil supply, so far as possible, from sources under British control, or British influence.”
It explains Britain’s role in the Middle East in the First World War (the Western Front, it seems, was merely a side-show), and the various scraps she has been involved in since, like the First Gulf War and, more recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America’s belated involvement in the Balkans in the mid 1990s in what was billed as a NATO operation to end the killings Bosnians by Serbs.
The man who best exposes this oil-driven thrust in British and American foreign policy is William Engdahl, two reviews of whose book, A Century of War, I have posted links to below.