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Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Mark Carney: Bank Of England Can’t Stop UK House Price Inflation

Mark Carney: Bank Of England Can’t Stop UK House Price Inflation.

 

mark carney

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney speaks during the bank’s inflation report news conference in central London. | Dan Kitwood/WPA-Rota

Mark Carney has warned that the Bank of England could not directly stop wealthy foreign buyers pushing up house prices by snapping up expensive properties in the capital.

Appearing before the Treasury select committee, the Bank of England governor admitted that the central bank lacked the “tools that would directly affect” cash buyers of property, who are typically wealthy foreigners. He also warned that the rising house prices in the capital could spread to the rest of the country.

“We have to be alive to that possibility,” he said, adding that the Bank’s concerns about the standard of underwriting for mortgages remain “quite high” but “vastly improved relative to pre-crisis levels”.

Carney added: “Our concern is those standards would deteriorate, fed by general improvement in housing market. That’s a pattern of behaviour we’ve witnessed over time so we’re taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

 

However, the Bank governor refused to be drawn on the effects on the housing market of George Osborne’s Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme, insisting that it is “still early days” and Bank officials are “watching closely”.

 

Carney previously warned that about the limits of the Bank of England’s influence on the housing market, telling the BBC last month: “The top end of London is driven by cash buyers. It’s driven in many cases by foreign buyers. We as the central bank can’t influence that.”

 

“We change underwriting standards – it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage. We change interest rates – it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage, etc. But we watch the knock-on effect.”

 

Under questioning by MPs, Carney also defended his decision to change the Bank’s forward guidance from seeing policymakers consider raising interest rates if unemployment rate fell to a 7% threshold to instead considering it based on 18 indicators. Tory MP Brooks Newmark mocked the decision as a “bait-and-switch” for what he called “fuzzy” guidance over interest rates.

 

Carney said: “The key uncertainty around unemployment is the pace of recovery and productivity in economy. The unemployment rate has come down faster than we expected but we were careful to underscore that this was state dependent guidance not a promise of time.”

 

“I have absolutely no regrets that we are sitting here in March with amost half a milion people more in work and inflation at target.”

 

Mark Carney: Bank Of England Can't Stop UK House Price Inflation

Mark Carney: Bank Of England Can’t Stop UK House Price Inflation.

 

mark carney

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney speaks during the bank’s inflation report news conference in central London. | Dan Kitwood/WPA-Rota

Mark Carney has warned that the Bank of England could not directly stop wealthy foreign buyers pushing up house prices by snapping up expensive properties in the capital.

Appearing before the Treasury select committee, the Bank of England governor admitted that the central bank lacked the “tools that would directly affect” cash buyers of property, who are typically wealthy foreigners. He also warned that the rising house prices in the capital could spread to the rest of the country.

“We have to be alive to that possibility,” he said, adding that the Bank’s concerns about the standard of underwriting for mortgages remain “quite high” but “vastly improved relative to pre-crisis levels”.

Carney added: “Our concern is those standards would deteriorate, fed by general improvement in housing market. That’s a pattern of behaviour we’ve witnessed over time so we’re taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

 

However, the Bank governor refused to be drawn on the effects on the housing market of George Osborne’s Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme, insisting that it is “still early days” and Bank officials are “watching closely”.

 

Carney previously warned that about the limits of the Bank of England’s influence on the housing market, telling the BBC last month: “The top end of London is driven by cash buyers. It’s driven in many cases by foreign buyers. We as the central bank can’t influence that.”

 

“We change underwriting standards – it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage. We change interest rates – it doesn’t matter, there’s not a mortgage, etc. But we watch the knock-on effect.”

 

Under questioning by MPs, Carney also defended his decision to change the Bank’s forward guidance from seeing policymakers consider raising interest rates if unemployment rate fell to a 7% threshold to instead considering it based on 18 indicators. Tory MP Brooks Newmark mocked the decision as a “bait-and-switch” for what he called “fuzzy” guidance over interest rates.

 

Carney said: “The key uncertainty around unemployment is the pace of recovery and productivity in economy. The unemployment rate has come down faster than we expected but we were careful to underscore that this was state dependent guidance not a promise of time.”

 

“I have absolutely no regrets that we are sitting here in March with amost half a milion people more in work and inflation at target.”

 

Flood alerts across England and Wales as south-west braces for 80mph storm | UK news | theguardian.com

Flood alerts across England and Wales as south-west braces for 80mph storm | UK news | theguardian.com.

Somerset, Devon and Dorset at greatest risk of flooding as Environment Agency issues warnings as far north as Hull
theguardian.com, Saturday 8 February 2014 12.26 GMT
Waves break at Porthleven in Cornwall

Waves break at high tide in Porthleven, Cornwall, on Saturday as south-west England and Wales braced for more storms and flooding. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Large areas of England and Wales are on flood and storm alert as a new storm is poised to hit the south and south-west with winds of up to 80mph.

The flooded Somerset Levels where many residents have already been forced from their homes after weeks of heavy rain remain at the highest risk of continued flooding on Saturday.

The Environment Agency said there was a risk of flooding along the coast of Devon and Dorset from the combination of high tides and high winds.

There are more than 300 low-level flood alerts and nearly 200 medium-risk flood warnings in place across Wales and southern and central England as far north as Hull.

The Met Office issued an amber warning of high winds for the south of England and Wales and yellow rain warnings for the south and west of England and Wales.

“After a short lull, winds will increase from the south-west during the course of Saturday with severe gales affecting coastal districts, bringing gusts of 60-70mph and isolated 80mph at the most exposed locations within the amber warning area. Large waves are also expected to affect south-west facing coasts. Further inland, gusts of 50-60 mph are likely.”

The Met Office warned the public to be prepared for disruption to transport and power supplies, particularly when combined with the effect of heavy rain.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said an additional 1,500 troops were on six hours’ notice to move if required to help victims of new flooding. Several hundred Royal Marines and engineers are already helping in south-west England.

Engineers have strengthened the shore along the railway line at Dawlish in Devon to prevent further damage to the tracks although Cornwall and Plymouth remain cut off from the rest of the rail network. Flybe said it will increase the number of weekday flights between Gatwick and Newquay in Cornwall from three to six after the airport said it would waive fees.

As residents in Somerset have struggled to cope with rising water, police arrested three men on suspicion of stealing fuel from near the cut-off village of Muchelney.

The arrests follow the theft of 600 gallons of domestic heating oil from a farm in Moorland and the theft of two fire service quad bikes from Burrowbridge last week.

Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, has ordered a flood defence repair audit of both Environment Agency defences and private defences after the latest meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night.

He said: “We continue to make sure every preparation is made before the severe weather expected this weekend and the following days. I ask everyone to remain vigilant and follow the advice being issued by the Environment Agency.

“I want to reassure the country that everything possible is being done to help those communities affected by these terrible storms, and work to be prepared for any further bad weather we may see in the days ahead.”

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism
Climate and anti-fracking activists blocade site

Are the hundreds of peaceful protesters who blockaded the Cuadrilla oil drilling site outside Balcombe, West Sussex, dangerous “extremists”? Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energycompanies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.

Activists tarred with the same brush

In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada‘s domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on ‘national security’ grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project’s corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.

The Northern Gateway is an $8 billion project to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it can be shipped to global markets. According to the documents a Canadian federal agency, the National Energy Board, worked with CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate with Enbridge, TransCanada, and other energy corporations in gathering intelligence on anti-fracking activists – despite senior police privately admitting they “could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat.”

Now it has emerged that former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl – the man appointed by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to head up the CSIS’ civilian oversight panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) – has been lobbying for Enbridge since 2011.

But that’s not all. According to CBC News, only one member of Strahl’s spy watchdog committee “has no ties to either the current government or the oil industry.” For instance, SIRC member Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge-subsidiary, Enbridge NB, while Yves Fortier, is a former board member of TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Counter-insurgency in the homeland

Investigative journalist Steve Horn reports that TransCanada has also worked closely with American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in attempting to criminalise US citizens opposed to the pipeline. Files obtained under freedom of information last summer showed that in training documents for the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TransCanada suggested that non-violent Keystone XL protestors could be deterred using criminal and anti-terror statutes:

“… the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.”

According to the Earth Island Journal, official documents show that TransCanada “has established close ties with state and federal law enforcement agencies along the proposed pipeline route.” But TransCanada is only one example of “the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business.”

This has had a tangible impact. In March last year, US law enforcement officials had infiltrated and spied on environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance camp in Oklahoma, leading to the successful pre-emptive disruption of their protest action.

Just last December, other activists in Oklahoma faced terror charges for draping an anti-fracking banner in the lobby of the offices housing US oil and gas company, Devon Energy. The two protestors were charged with carrying out a “terrorism hoax” for using gold glitter on their banner, some of which happened to scatter to the floor of the building – depicted by a police spokesman as a potentially “dangerous or toxic” substance in the form of a “black powder,” causing a panic.

But Suzanne Goldenberg reports a different account:

“After a few uneventful minutes, [the activists] Stephenson and Warner took down the banner and left the building – apologising to the janitor who came hurrying over with a broom. A few people, clutching coffee cups, wandered around in the lobby below, according to Stephenson. But she did not detect much of a response to the banner. There wasn’t even that much mess, she said. The pair had used just four small tubes of glitter on their two banners.”

The criminalisation of peaceful activism under the rubric of ‘anti-terrorism’ is an escalating trend linked directly to corporate co-optationof the national security apparatus. In one egregious example, thousands of pages of government records confirm how local US police departments, the FBI and the DHS monitored Occupy activists nationwide as part of public-private intelligence sharing with banks and corporations.

Anti-fracking activists in particular have come under increased FBI surveillance in recent years under an expanded definition of ‘eco-terrorism‘, although the FBI concedes that eco-terrorism is on the decline. This is consistent with US defence planning documents over the last decade which increasingly highlight the danger of domestic “insurgencies” due to the potential collapse of public order under various environmental, energy or economic crises.

Manufacturing “consensus”

In the UK, Scotland Yard’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (which started life as the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and later became the National Domestic Extremism Unit), has had a long record of equating the spectre of “domestic extremism” with “single-issue protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM crops.” Apart from animal rights, these movements have been “overwhelmingly peaceful” points out George Monbiot.

This has not prevented the police unit from monitoring almost 9,000 Britons deemed to hold “radical political views,” ranging from “anti-capitalists” to “anti-war demonstrators.” Increasingly though, according to a Guardian investigation, the unit “is known to have focused its resources on spying on environmental campaigners, particularly those engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to protest against climate change.”

Most recently, British police have gone so far as to conduct surveillance of Cambridge University students involved in social campaigns like anti-fracking, education, anti-fascism, and opposition to austerity, despite a lack of reason to suspect criminal activity.

This is no accident. Yesterday, senior Tory and ex-Cabinet minister Lord Deben, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Committee on Climate Change, characterised anyone suggesting that fracking is “devastatingly damaging” as a far-left “extremist,” holding “nonsensical” views associated with “Trotskyite” dogma. In contrast, he described “moderate” environmentalists as situated safely in the legitimate spectrum of a “broad range of consensus” across “all political parties.”

In other words, if you are disillusioned with the existing party political system and its approach to environmental issues, you are an extremist.

Deben’s comments demonstrate the regressive mindset behind the British government’s private collaboration with shale gas industry executives to “manage the British public’s hostility to fracking,” as revealed in official emails analysed by Damien Carrington.

The emails exposed the alarming extent to which government is “acting as an arm of the gas industry,” compounding earlier revelations that Department of Energy and Climate Change employees involved in drafting UK energy policy have been seconded from UK gas corporations.

Public opinion is the enemy

The latest polling data shows that some 47% of Britons “would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home,” with just 14% saying they would be happy. By implication, the government views nearly half of the British public as potential extremists merely for being sceptical of shale gas.

This illustrates precisely why the trend-line of mass surveillance exemplified in the Snowden disclosures has escalated across the Western world. From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of “terrorism” and “extremism” are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation.

But then, what’s new? Back in 1975, the Trilateral Commission – a network of some 300 American, European and Japanese elites drawn from business, banking, government, academia and media founded by Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockerfeller – published an influential study called The Crisis of Democracy.

The report concluded that the problems of governance “stem from an excess of democracy” which makes government “less powerful and more active” due to being “overloaded with participants and demands.” This democratic excess at the time consisted of:

“… a marked upswing in other forms of citizen participation, in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ’cause’ organizations… [including] markedly higher levels of self-consciousness on the part of blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women… [and] a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private… People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.”

The solution, therefore, is “to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions,” including “hegemonic power” in the world. This requires the government to somehow “reinforce tendencies towards political passivity” and to instill “a greater degree of moderation in democracy.” This is because:

“… the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups… In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively.”

Today, such official sentiments live on in the form of covert psychological operations targeted against Western publics by the CIAPentagon andMI6, invariably designed to exaggerate threats to manipulate public opinion in favour of government policy.

As the global economy continues to suffocate itself, and as publics increasingly lose faith in prevailing institutions, the spectre of ‘terror’ is an increasingly convenient tool to attempt to restore authority by whipping populations into panic-induced subordination.

Evidently, however, what the nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power fears the most is simply an “excess of democracy”: the unpalatable prospect of citizens rising up and taking power back.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

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