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Bush, Enron, UNOCAL and the Taliban

The Bush Administration’s entanglement with ENRON is beginning to unravel as it finally admits that Enron executives entered the White House six times last year to secretly plan the Administration’s energy policy with Vice-President Cheney before the collapse of the Texas-based energy giant. Meanwhile, even more trouble for our former-Texas-oil-man-turned-President is brewing with reports that unveil UNOCAL, another big energy company, for being in bed with the Taliban, along with the U.S. government in a major, continuing effort to construct pipelines through Afghanistan from the petroleum-rich Caspian Basin in Central Asia. Beneath their burkas, UNOCAL is being exposed for giving the five star treatment to Taliban Mullahs in the Lone Star State in 1997. The “evil-ones” were also invited to meet with U.S. government officials in Washington, D.C.

According to a December 17, 1997 article in the British paper, The Telegraph, headlined, “Oil barons court Taliban in Texas,” the Taliban was about to sign a “?2 billion contract with an American oil company to build a pipeline across the war-torn country. … The Islamic warriors appear to have been persuaded to close the deal, not through delicate negotiation but by old-fashioned Texan hospitality. … Dressed in traditional salwar khameez,Afghan waistcoats and loose, black turbans, the high-ranking delegation was given VIP treatment during the four-day stay.”

At the same time, U.S. government documents reveal that the Taliban were harboring Osama bin Laden as their “guest” since June 1996. By then, bin Laden had: been expelled by Sudan in early 1996 in response to US insistence and the threat of UN sanctions; publicly declared war against the U.S. on or about August 23, 1996; pronounced the bombings in Riyadh and at Khobar in Saudi Arabia killing 19 US servicemen as ‘praiseworthy terrorism’, promising that other attacks would follow in November 1996 and further admitted carrying out attacks on U.S. military personnel in Somalia in 1993 and Yemen in 1992, declaring that “we used to hunt them down in Mogadishu”; stated in an interview broadcast in February 1997 that “if someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters.” Evidence was also developing which linked bin Laden to: the 1995 bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Riyadh which killed five; Ramzi Yuosef, who led the 1993 World Trade Center attacks; and a 1994 assassination plot against President Clinton in the Philippines.

Back in Houston, the Taliban was learning how the “other half lives,” and according to The Telegraph, “stayed in a five-star hotel and were chauffeured in a company minibus.” The Taliban representatives “…were amazed by the luxurious homes of Texan oil barons. Invited to dinner at the palatial home of Martin Miller, a vice-president of Unocal, they marveled at his swimming pool, views of the golf course and six bathrooms.” Mr. Miller, said he hoped that UNOCAL had clinched the deal.

Dick Cheney was then CEO of Haliburton Corporation, a pipeline services vendor based in Texas. Gushed Cheney in 1998, “I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It’s almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight. The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Would Cheney bargain with the harborers of U.S. troop killers if that’s where the business was?

The Telegraph reported that Unocal had promised to start building the pipeline and paying the Taliban immediately, with the added inducements and a donation of ?500,000 to the University of Nebraska for courses in Afghanistan to train 400 teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters.

The Telegraph also reported, “The US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children “despicable”, appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.” In a paper prepared by Neamatollah Nojumi, at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Nojumi wrote in August 1997 that Madeline Albright sat in a “full-dress CIA briefing” on the Caspian region. CIA agents then accompanied “some well-trained petroleum engineers” to the region. Albright concluded that shaping the region’s policies was “one of the most exciting things that we can do.”

It’s also exciting to the Bush Administration. According to the authors of Bin Laden, the Hidden Truth, one of the FBI’s leading counter terrorism agents, John O’Neill, resigned last year in protest over the Bush Administration’s alleged obstruction of his investigation into bin Laden. (A similar complaint has been filed on behalf of another unidentified FBI Agent by the conservative Judicial Watch public interest group.) Supposedly the Bush Administration had been meeting since January 2001 with the Taliban, and was also reluctant to offend Saudi Arabians who O’Neill had linked to bin Laden. Mr. O’Neill, after leaving the FBI, assumed the position of security director at the World Trade Center, where he was killed in the 911 attacks.

As America’s New War now begins focusing on other “rogue nations,” UNOCAL’s stars have magically aligned. About two months after the Houston parties, UNOCAL executive John Maresca addressed the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and urged support for establishment of an investor-friendly climate in Afghanistan, “… we have made it clear that construction of our proposed pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders and our company.” Meaning that UNOCAL’s ability to construct the Afghan pipeline was a cause worthy of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Maresca’s prayers have been answered with the Taliban’s replacement. As reported in Le Monde, the new Afghan government’s head, Hamid Karzai, formerly served as a UNOCAL consultant. Only nine days after Karzai’s ascension, President Bush nominated another UNOCAL consultant and former Taliban defender, Zalmay Khalilzad, as his special envoy to Afghanistan.

When UNOCAL makes big bucks from the pipeline they should donate 50% of all pretax profits to the 911 Fund. And they should also cut a very special check to the widow of FBI Agent O’Neill.

Tom Turnipseed is a civil rights lawyer in South Carolina. Visit Tom’s website at www.turnipseed.net

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