February 09, 2004

AlterNet: Oil and Democracy Don't Mix:

"At a 1996 energy conference in New Orleans, Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton said, 'The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas reserves where there are democratic governments.'

Laying the blame on the divine is a stretch, but it seems that the vice president is right: Democracy and oil do not mix. Just look at the United States' top 10 oil suppliers. Algeria, Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are repressive regimes with deplorable human rights records. Mexico and Venezuela, while democracies, are marked by instability, inequality and civil strife. Iraq remains at war and under occupation. Only Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom are fully functioning democracies.

Why don't oil and democracy mix? At least part of the answer can be found in Washington's policy of providing military aid and training to leaders who guarantee an uninterrupted flow of oil, defending it against all threats - even those coming from their own citizens.
Since the beginning of the war on terrorism in 2001, the United States' top 10 sources of oil imports have experienced a 350 percent increase in U.S. military aid and training. In 2003, the United States plans to provide these countries with $58 million in military assistance. In fiscal year 2001, their military assistance totaled $12.2 million.

A large part of the increase is explained by Washington's rewarding of regimes like Algeria and Nigeria for their ability to cloak domestic repression in the rhetoric of the 'war on terrorism.' As the United States looks ahead to a never ending war on terrorism and growing dependence on foreign oil, this dynamic will become increasingly common. "


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