What is the true cost of oil?

September 18, 2001 at 1:53 am
Contributed by:

Here is a letter to the editor I wrote to the NY Times, asking "What is the true cost of oil?" No, I never got a response, nor have I ever seen a good analysis of the question. I would love to have that information if anybody ever comes across it!
To the Editor, the Times:

As I have been educating myself during the last week about "America’s New
War," it appears to me that this conflict, the ‘war’ that seems imminent,
the Gulf War, and well, most of our engagements in the Middle East over the
last two decades or so, has ultimately been about one thing: oil. Our utter
dependence on it, our commitment to it, and the fact that our leadership
(now, and 10 years ago) mainly consists of people who have made millions off
it, and who have no interest in pursuing anything other than the
preservation of the existing oil industry.

I would like to challenge the Times to put less energy into the ‘human
interest’ stories about the terrorist attacks, and more into solid
journalism about how we got here. I would like to challenge any of the major
media organizations to produce a story that tallies the true cost of
oil–including the human cost of oil.

Consider the Gulf War, the war in Sudan, and the many other conflicts that
have taken millions of human lives in the pursuit of cheap oil. Contrast
that with Dick Cheney’s comments this summer that "Conservation may be a
sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound,
comprehensive energy policy." Ask the questions that no journalistic
organization seems to have asked yet: why do we consider oil the cheapest
source of energy, when it has cost far more human lives than any other
source? Why is our national energy policy so completely committed to oil,
when it is clear that it is a diminishing, non-renewable resource, ever
fraught with conflict and aggression, and when so many alternatives exist
that are nearly free and do not involve our reliance on any other nation?
Why are so many renewable, environmentally sound fuel alternatives–like
soybean oil, hemp oil, used vegetable oil, and solar power–automatically
dismissed on political grounds, when there is virtually no political
opposition to invading other countries and killing civilians to ensure a
steady flow of fossil fuel?

Why has no one added up the true cost of oil? Why is that not a part of the
current public debate? Are there any truly independent journalistic voices
in the major media, or are they all covering only the stories that won’t
disturb the status quo and most importantly, their advertisers and owners?

I am just a citizen, not a journalist, and I don’t have the resources or
knowledge to answer these question for myself. But I sure wish somebody


Bomb the shit out of Afghanistan?

September 14, 2001 at 12:37 am
Contributed by:

Bomb the shit out of Afghanistan?Of all that I’ve seen and read so far, this one really had the ring of
truth. I think this is exactly the perspective I’ve been looking for. I
dearly hope that we will tread carefully in the coming months & years.

For a different perspective on the events of last Tuesday…

Here’s what an Afghani thinks of the situation.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
Age." Ron Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean
innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we’re
war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes
later I
heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must
done." And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because
I am
from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived here for 35 years I’ve never
track of what’s going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how
all looks from where I’m standing.

I speak as one who deeply hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. My hatred
from first-hand experience. There is no doubt in my mind that these people
responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be
about those monsters.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the
government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics
took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a
When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler.
when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the

It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity.
were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone
come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of
thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The
is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering.

A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000
orphans in Afghanistan–a country with no economy, no food. There are
of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass
The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the
Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not
overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age".

Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the
Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn
schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done.
their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late.
Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least
the Taliban? Not likely. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only
they have the means to move around. They’d slip away and hide.

Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move
fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping
would not really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific
Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban–by raping
again the people they’ve been raping all this time.

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true
and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground
troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done"
they’re thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed.
the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let’s
our heads out of the sand. What’s actually on the table is Americans dying.
not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through
to Bin Laden’s hideout. It’s much bigger than that folks. Because to get
troops to Afghanistan, we’d have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us?
likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim
nations just stand by? You see where I’m going. We’re flirting with a world
between Islam and the West.

And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants.
That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right
He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but
figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a
soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion
with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of
He’s probably wrong, in the end the West would win, whatever that would
but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but
ours. Who has the belly for that?

Unfortunately, Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

In Peace,

Tamim Ansary

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