Sources: LOS ANGELES TIMES, Date: 1/18/93, Title: “The Oil Factor In Somalia,” Author: Mar Fineman; PROPAGANDA REVIEW, Date: No. 10, 1993, Title: “Somalia?*,” Author: Rory Cox; EXTRA!, Date: March 1993, Title: “The Somalia Intervention: Tragedy Made Simple,” Author: Jim Naureckas
SYNOPSIS: There was little question about the influence of oil on our decision to send troops to the Persian Gulf on behalf of Kuwait. But Somalia was strictly a matter of humanitarian aid. Right?
Or was the preponderance of tragic images of starving Somalis all over the major media outlets during the end of 1992 and the first half of 1993 merely a more refined and cynical method of selling yet another war for oil, asked Rory Cox in Propaganda Review.
Or, as Jim Naureckas asked in EXTRA!, “If the U.S. has not consistently acted in an altruistic manner toward starving people in Africa, why did it dispatch troops to Somalia at this point? There have been frequent media denials that geopolitical considerations might have entered into the decision. The Washington Post reported (12/6/92) that `Unlike previous large-scale operations, there is no U.S. strategic or economic interest in the Somalia deployments.”‘
Oddly enough, while the U.S./U.N. military involvement in Somalia began in mid-November, it wasn’t until January 18, two days before George Bush left office, that a major media outlet, the Los Angeles Times, published an article that revealed America’s oil connection with Somalia.
Times staff writer Mark Fineman started his Mogadishu-datelined article with, “Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective for tune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside. That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.”
According to Fineman, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown. The U.S. oil companies are “well positioned to pursue Somalia’s most promising potential oil reserves the moment the nation is pacified.”
While oil industry spokesmen, along with Bush/Clinton administration spokespersons, deny these allegations as “absurd” and “nonsense,” Thomas E. O’Connor, the principal petroleum engineer for the World Bank, who headed an in-depth three-year study of oil prospects off Somalia’s northern coast, said, “There’s no doubt there’s oil there …. It’s got high (commercial) potential … once the Somalis get their act together.”
Meanwhile, Conoco is playing an intimate part in the U.S. government’s role with the humanitarian effort in Somalia. Conoco agreed to “rent” its Mogadishu corporate compound to U.S. envoy Robert B. Oakley, who transformed it into a temporary U.S. embassy.
One Conoco executive said, “With America, there is a genuine humanitarian streak in us … that many other countries and cultures cannot understand.” Nonetheless, the cozy relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force, coupled with America’s well known need for oil, has left many Somalis and foreign development experts disturbed.
It may well be that the Operation Restore Hope slogan was less representative than Operation Restore Oil.
SSU Censored Researcher: Kristen Rutledge
COMMENTS: Jim Naureckas, investigative journalist and editor of EXTRA!, noted that Somalia has received two intense bursts of coverage in the media. “The second burst, obviously, corrected some of the simplistic assumptions of the first-but in many cases simply replaced them with new stereotypes. Some information, like the role of oil companies in the Somalian intervention, has never gotten adequate attention. And there has still not been the sustained discussion of the causes of famine that we (EXTRA!) called for.
The general public would benefit from wider exposure of this subject since it was given minimal information on which to base a judgment on the Somalian intervention, Naureckas added. The limited amount of information “led to shock and disillusionment when it turned out military intervention was not the easy solution it had been sold as. U.S. citizens need realistic discussions of the real causes of famine if humanitarian efforts are to have real success.”
Naureckas charged that the primary beneficiaries of the flawed coverage of Somalia are “the U.S. military and foreign policy apparatus, who treated Somalia as an opportunity for a p.r. victory, while treating Somalis as a conquered people. The oil companies with stakes in Somalia are secondary beneficiaries.”
Author Rory Cox, who examined the influence of oil on our Somalian policy for Propaganda Review, said that “While U.S./U.N. involvement in Somalia has been covered widely, scant information is available on the oil-producing potential of the region. This was the gist of my piece, and since I wrote it the story has continued to be virtually ignored, though strangely enough I’ve heard a few talk-radio hosts rant about it.”
Cox feels the public should be aware of the oil potential since “there seems to be a general sense of confusion about the mission in Somalia and its changing nature, i.e. from feeding the starving to chasing a warlord. If the public knew about the oil angle on all of this, they/we would have a clearer picture of the situation, and that there is potentially a resource for us to use (or for oil companies to profit from).”
Cox adds a caveat to his comments, noting that he has not personally been to Somalia, nor is he an expert on the region, but “regardless of what role oil plays, it’s potential in Somalia is a well documented fact, and one that should be considered in any debate on the subject.”
Mark Fineman, staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, who examined the “oil factor in Somalia,” was on assignment in Cypress and not available to comment on his story.
Clarence Page, a syndicated columnist in Chicago, raised another little known fact about our Somalia involvement in his column published October 14, 1993. In trying to understand how we got into the mess in Somalia, Page said “one comes across an ominously familiar name from the past: April Glaspie. Yes, the same former ambassador to Iraq who many believe inadvertently signaled during a meeting with Saddam Hussein that the Bush administration would not get all that upset if he invaded Kuwait.
“Glaspie has re-emerged like the Typhoid Mary of American diplomacy as a senior adviser to the United Nations in Somalia, our latest disaster,” Page said.
Page reports that Glaspie may have played a key role in turning Aidid against the U.N. and the United States at a time when he was cooperating with peacemaking efforts.