Skip to comments.A Fisking of the Afghan Pipeline Conspriacy Theory in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11"
Posted on 07/26/2004 1:49:40 PM PDT by Shermy
In the run up to the Afghan War of 2001 a conspiracy theory arose that George W. Bush attacked the Taliban at the behest of the energy company Unocal. Proponents of this theory allege the real reason for the war was to facilitate the building of a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. Due to geography the pipeline had to transit Afghanistan.
The pipeline theory was discussed and ridiculed by posters here at FreeRepublic. There were many valuable insights, including from one poster who actually worked with Unocal in Turkmenistan.
The pipeline theory was bunk. I thought it was long dead and buried. But Michael Moore resurrects it in his new movie Fahrenheit 9/11. I liked Roger and Me, disliked Bowling for Columbine, and have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11. Thats not a bar to my commentary because Moore posted the text of his movie his website.
Moore defends his movie at Fahrenheit 9/11 Notes + Sources Moore claims: THE FOLLOWING IS THE LINE BY LINE FACTUAL BACKUP FOR 'FAHRENHEIT 9/11' which stretches six web pages. Interested, I reviewed Fahrenheit 9/11's text and supporting notes regarding the pipeline conspiracy theory at pages five and six.
My first impression was confirmed by my independent research: Moores statements are the most deceptive version of the pipeline conspiracy theory Ive ever read. I found even his use of the word the could relate a lie. .
Below is my fisking of Moores Afghan pipeline theory. Im told methodical review of Fahrenheit 9/11's text cannot express the skill of how Moores rapid recitation of facts and supporting visual cues compel the viewer to receive Moores art as truth. Moore also relies on the viewers unfamiliarity with the geography of the region. In light of that I have these prefatory comments:
The Caucasian/Caspian/Central Asian region is the new frontier of energy exploration, or at least hoped by some to be. The most prominent collection of oil and gas deposits in the region is at the basin of the Caspian Sea itself, somewhat analogous to the concentrations in the Persian Gulf. There are significant deposits elsewhere amid the regions large countries of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.As follows is the Fahrenheit 9/11 text and back up. My comments are in blue.
How to get these deposits to European and East Asian markets is subject to many pipeline proposals and theories. Countries and energy companies have floated all sorts of plans for laying new pipelines in almost every direction. An example of a pipeline actually being built is the Baku/Ceyhan pipeline stretching from Azerbaijans Caspian Sea oil deposits to a Turkish port for transit by ship to Western Europe.
Most of the plans for pipelines are pipe dreams of the countries of the region that have not received financial backing from companies who might build the pipeline. But Unocal, in a consortium of five other companies and interests (CentGas), did make further steps to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. The end market for the gas was no East Asia or the United States, but for domestic use in Pakistan. The pipeline would have run southeasterly to Pakistans heavily populated Indus River valley. The gas to be exploited was from the non- Caspian Sea Dalautebad gas field of eastern Turkmenistan.
Because of the strife in Afghanistan Unocal dropped its interest in the CentGas pipeline and all Turkmenistan projects in 1998. The Argentinian company Bridas showed a brief interest aftewards but dropped out too.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: In 1997, while George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a delegation of Taliban leaders from Afghanistan flew to Houston to meet with Unocal executives to discuss the building of a pipeline through Afghanistan.
* A senior delegation from the Taleban movement in Afghanistan is in the United States for talks with an international energy company that wants to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan. A spokesman for the company, Unocal, said the Taleban were expected to spend several days at the company's headquarters in Sugarland, Texas. Taleban in Texas for Talks on Gas Pipeline, BBC News, December 4, 1997 (Sugarland is 22 miles outside Houston.)Many commentators have dissected this easily refuted false impression. The Taliban officials didn't meet with Governor Bush and the pipeline was a Clinton-era international project. Moore suggests a connection via geographic innuendo positing that anything that happens in Texas involves Bush. Alone, the allegation is merely stupid. But it is an important building block for Moores version of the Afghan pipeline conspiracy theory.
* The Taliban ministers and their advisers stayed in a five-star hotel and were chauffeured in a company minibus. Their only requests were to visit Houston's zoo, the NASA space centre and Omaha's Super Target discount store to buy stockings, toothpaste, combs and soap. [...] After a meal of specially prepared halal meat, rice and Coca-Cola, the hardline fundamentalists - who have banned women from working and girls from going to school - asked Mr. Miller about his Christmas tree. Caroline Lees, Oil Barons Court Taliban in Texas, The Telegraph (London), December 14, 1997.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: And who got a Caspian Sea drilling contract the same day Unocal signed the pipeline deal? A company headed by a man named Dick Cheney, Halliburton.
* On October 27, 1997, both Unocal and Halliburton issued press releases about their energy work in Turkmenistan. Halliburton Energy Services has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years. Press Release, Halliburton Alliance Awarded Integrated Service Contract Offshore Caspian Sea In Turkmenistan, October 27, 1997. http://www.halliburton.com/news/archive/1997/hesnws_102797.jsp; ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, Oct. 27, 1997 - Six international companies and the Government of Turkmenistan formed Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) in formal signing ceremonies here Saturday. Press Release, Consortium Formed to Build Central Asia Gas Pipeline, October 27, 1997.The deals were not signed on the same day, and one had nothing to do with the other. Halliburton was not part of CentGas consortium. If there was a quid pro quo one of the CentGas companies would have got the Caspian Sea project. The Halliburton project was only a $30 million services contract, no big deal. Companies like Halliburton, and most every big company is involved in the Caspian Sea, sign Caspian Sea contracts almost every week for one or another purpose among the five countries which share the seas shoreline. An analogy - if, hypothetically, Unocal signed a deal with Texas to explore Gulf of Mexico oil deposits that wouldnt in the slightest have any connection to a contemporaneous and hypothetical Halliburton contract to fix existing oil rigs near El Paso.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: Enron stood to benefit from the pipeline.
This is false, and the Unocal press release is the proof itself. It states:
"The CentGas consortium will initially include the following companies, either directly or through affiliates: Unocal Corporation, 46.5 percent; Delta Oil Company Limited (Saudi Arabia), 15 percent; the Government of Turkmenistan, 7 percent; Indonesia Petroleum, LTD. (INPEX) (Japan), 6.5 percent; ITOCHU Oil Exploration Co., Ltd. (CIECO) (Japan), 6.5 percent; Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (Korea), 5 percent; and the Crescent Group (Pakistan), 3.5 percent. RAO Gazprom (Russia) has indicated an interest in signing the consortium agreements formalizing a 10 percent share in the project in the near future.
Enron is not mentioned (nor is Halliburton). What's Moore's proof?:
* Dr. Zaher Wahab of Afghanistan, a professor in the US speaking at International Human Rights Day event, explained that Delta, Unocal as well as Russian, Pakistani and Japanese oil and gas companies have signed agreements with the Turkmenistan government, immediately north of Afghanistan, which has the fourth largest gas reserve in the world. Agreements also have been signed with the Taliban, allowing these oil and gas giants to pump Turkmenistan gas and oil through western Afghanistan to Pakistan, from which it then will be shipped all over the world. The energy consortium Enron plans to be one of the builders of the pipeline. Elaine Kelly, Northwest Groups Discuss Afghan, Iranian and Turkish Rights Violations, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 31, 1997.
Moore's proof that Enron stood to benefit from the pipeline is one reporter's recounting of remarks by a Professor of Education at Clark University in Oregon speaking at a public forum in Portland six months before the Unocal press release. That is Moores total evidence.
I've searched media and industry newsletters and can find never any mention that Enron had anything to do with the CentGas project, or any other pipeline dream of transiting Afghanistan. Its possible Enron expressed an interest at some point, but I doubt it. Not only by reason of my research, but by the fact Moore's diligent research could not dig up anything but this Professor of Education's comments. If Moores could find Dr. Wahabs obscure comment, surely he could find more substantial evidence if any existed. Negotiations for international pipeline deals are not such secret matters, and discussed in trade publications and media in detail, and related for the purpose of informing stockholders. Indeed, if Enron had an inkling of involvement they would probably have exaggerated it, as was their custom, in pursuit of making it appear their books were backed by any asset, real or fictive.
Additionally, the Professor of Education isn't talking about the same pipeline plan. Centgas was to transport gas southwest to the Indus River heartland of Pakistan for domestic use. Dr. Wahab is speaking about a different idea, bringing gas south to the desolate Pakistani Arabian Sea harbor of Gwadar for export, probably to East Asian markets. Its an theory drawn on a map among many other theoretical pipeline routes.
I don't fault the hducation professor. He could not have foreseen his one sentence comment in 1997 would be used as "evidence" of a bogus claim in a controversial movie seven years later, and wasnt speaking as an expert on the subject
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: Kenneth Lay of Enron was Bushs number one campaign contributor.
Might be true but irrelevant for the Afghan story. If Enron had been involved with CentGas, its ties to Clinton administration figures would be relevant. But Enron was not involved with CentGas. Moores invocation of the criminal Enron enterprise is merely to incite the viewer of his film.
* Mr. Lay, also a friend to former President George Bush, was the top campaign contributor to Mr. Bushs 2000 presidential election. Jerry Seper, Colossal Collapse: Enron Bankruptcy Scandal Carves a Wide Swath, The Washington Times, January 13, 2002; Although Enron is George W. Bushs No. 1 career donor, the president also is heavily indebted to the professional firms that aided and abetted the greatest bankruptcy and shareholder meltdown in U.S. history. Texans for Public Justice, Bush Is Indebted To Enrons Professional Abettors, Too, January 17, 2002 http://www.tpj.org/page_view.jsp?pageid=255
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: Then in 2001, just five and a half months before 9/11, the Bush administration welcomed a special Taliban envoy to tour the United States to help improve the image of the Taliban government.
* A Taliban envoy appealed to the Bush administration Monday to overlook his group's support of extremist Osama bin Laden and the destruction of priceless centuries-old Buddhist sculptures and lift sanctions on Afghanistan to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis threatening the lives of a million people. Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi delivered a letter from the Taliban for President Bush that called for better U.S.-Afghan relations and negotiations to solve the dispute over the Saudi-born Bin Laden. Robin Wright, Taliban Asks US to Lift its Economic Sanctions, Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2001.Moore furthers the impression of collaboration by alleging Bush welcomed the Taliban envoy, rather than just allowing him to visit. All sorts of governments have sent envoys to the U.S. Its called "diplomacy." Take it from the other side - would Moore argue there should be no contacts?
* The Town Hall forum was Hashemi's final meeting in a weeklong visit to California, where he spoke at several universities, including USC, UCLA and UC Berkeley. Later Thursday, he left for New York for another stop on his public relations tour before going to Washington, where he is scheduled to deliver a letter from his party to the Bush administration. Teresa Watanabe, Overture By Taliban Hits Resistance," Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2001.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: The Taliban were harboring the man who bombed the USS Cole and our African embassies.
This is not news. But maybe Moores followers need to be reminded. Both Clinton and Bush were considering various efforts to get Osama. Since the Taliban housed him, diplomatic efforts were naturally taken with the Taliban.
* Osama bin Laden has claimed credit for the attack on U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, which killed 18; for the attack on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, which killed 224 and injured nearly 5,000; and were linked to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole on 12 October 2000, in which 17 crew members were killed and 40 others injured. They have sought to acquire nuclear and chemical materials for use as terrorist weapons. Britain's Bill of Particulars New York Times, October 5, 2001.
* Osama bin Laden, in recent years, has been America's most wanted terrorism suspect, with a $5 million reward on his head for his alleged role in the August 1998 truck bombings of two American embassies in East Africa that killed more than 200 people, as well as a string of other terrorist attacks Most recently, the F.B.I. has named Mr. bin Laden as a prime suspect in the suicide bombing of the American destroyer Cole, which was attacked in Aden harbor, 350 miles by road southwest of here, on Oct. 12, with the loss of 17 sailors' lives." John F. Burns, Where bin Laden Has Roots, His Mystique Grows, New York Times, December 31, 2000.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: Hamid Karzai was a former Unocal advisor.
* Cool and worldly, Karzai is a former employee of US oil company Unocal -- one of two main oil companies that was bidding for the lucrative contract to build an oil pipeline from Uzbekistan through Afghanistan to seaports in Pakistan -- and the son of a former Afghan parliament speaker. Ilene R. Prusher, Scott Baldauf, and Edward Girardet, Afghan power brokers, Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2002. http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0610/p01s03e-wosc.html.
* Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a former Unocal adviser, signed a treaty with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf and the Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov to authorize construction of a $3.2 billion gas pipeline through the Heart-Kandahar corridor in Afghanistan. Lutz Kleveman, Oil and the New Great Game," The Nation, February 16, 2004.
* TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH: He was a consultant for the American oil company Unocal, while they studied the construction of a pipeline in Afghanistan." Chipaux Francoise, Hamid Karzaï, Une Large Connaissance Du Monde Occidental, Le Monde, December 6, 2001.en minutes
This is false. Karzai never worked for Unocal. It's an often repeated rumor, a keystone in Afghan pipeline conspiracy theories. Barry Lane: No. No, not him. He was never a consultant, never an employee. We've exhaustively searched through all our records to try and find out where the hell that came from. Barry Lane: Le Monde. Le Monde was the one who wrote it first and you know what's strange about it is I've asked reporters over and over again, go ask Mr. Karzai himself. And nobody has. Jared Israel: Well the argument is that there is something sinister and therefore you would both deny it anyway. But my argument is in order to posit that this relationship existed in the first place you have to have some evidence - something - but all le Monde has is their own assertion. They just say he was a consultant. They say, "At one time." Not even a date. And no source. And then all these writers repeat this as if Le Monde's assertion is enough to counter your denial. I mean, you can't use the fact that somebody denies something to prove it's true. Barry Lane: Hey, it makes a great story. But I gotta tell you, our CEO was asked this kind of question about the project at the annual meeting, in May, and he was absolutely emphatic that we have no interest, no plans. I'm not sure what part of that is confusing for people.
One might argue Moore can be forgiven because so many articles have repeated the Karzai worked for Unocal mistake in the past. But not in 2004. For two years, on the record, Unocal has denied the employment. Any research on media databases, and the web, would show this. And Moore claims he researched all the allegations in his movie before its release.
Back in 2002 a blogger interviewed a Unocal representative, as linked here. It's the most detailed open source reporting on the whole Unocal/Karzai/Pipeline story. In part:
Jared Israel: He didn't work for somebody else who worked for you?
Barry Lane: No. No, not him. He was never a consultant, never an employee. We've exhaustively searched through all our records to try and find out where the hell that came from.
Barry Lane: Le Monde. Le Monde was the one who wrote it first and you know what's strange about it is I've asked reporters over and over again, go ask Mr. Karzai himself. And nobody has.
Jared Israel: Well the argument is that there is something sinister and therefore you would both deny it anyway. But my argument is in order to posit that this relationship existed in the first place you have to have some evidence - something - but all le Monde has is their own assertion. They just say he was a consultant. They say, "At one time." Not even a date. And no source. And then all these writers repeat this as if Le Monde's assertion is enough to counter your denial. I mean, you can't use the fact that somebody denies something to prove it's true.
Barry Lane: Hey, it makes a great story. But I gotta tell you, our CEO was asked this kind of question about the project at the annual meeting, in May, and he was absolutely emphatic that we have no interest, no plans. I'm not sure what part of that is confusing for people.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: "Bush also appointed as our envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who was also a former Unocal advisor."
* "Mr. Khalilzad himself knows how compasses change. In the mid-1990's, he briefly defended the Taliban while working as a consultant for Unocal, the oil company that was then trying to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. He later became one of the Taliban's fiercest critics." Amy Waldman, "Afghan Returns Home as American Ambassador," New York Times, April 19, 2004.This is true. Khalilzad worked for "Cambridge Energy Research Associates" which was a consultant to Unocal on the CentGas project.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11: "Afghanistan signed the agreement to build a pipeline through its country carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea."
* "The framework agreement defines legal mechanisms for setting up a consortium to build and operate the long-delayed US$3.2-billion natural gas pipeline, known as the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, which would carry gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan to Pakistan. It would be one of the first major investment projects in Afghanistan in decades." Baglia Bukharbayeva "Pakistani, Turkmen, Afghan Leaders Sign US$3.2 Billion Pipeline Deal," Associated Press, December 27, 2002.I don't recall ever encountering in my life someone who could turn the mere word "the" into a lie. But Moore's done it.
The Japanese conglomerate Itochu has expressed interest in participating, but no company has joined the project. Unocal said it has no plans to do so.
Outstanding. Compare the Unocal pipeline theory to the AMBO pipeline planned to run through the Balkans - there is no comparision.
This crap just makes me seethe. This one doesn't even depend upon the meaning of the word "the".
Outstanding. Moore is not just obnoxious, he is a liar. As is the better dressed but no less mendacious Wilson.
Notice how in Moore's world, oil companies "conspire" to pump oil?
Great job, Shermy.
Bookmarked and bumped.
It's a pity Moore didn't investigate more closely the drug connections.
Little things ... like our opting to build a landbridge to the 'stans instead of liberating Kabul for Christmas might make a lot more sense.
Excellent job, Shermy. I'll need a little more time to take it all in.
Thanks again for the heads-up, Dirtboy. Hope Hamiltonian shows up to give us his take.
Good job on running this down.
here's one for you.
You might be interested in this
Then again it’s not necessary to be a fan of Moore’s for the strategic implications to be worthy of study:
Hydrocarbons and a New Strategic Region: The Caspian Sea and Central Asia
by Mr. Lester W. Grau (Lt.Col. Retd.), Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS.
Military Review May-June 2001
Hardly a looney-tunes source.
How come you newbies always find an old thread to resurrect? Isn't there anything current that interests you or what?
They're about as subtle as Rosie at a Chinese buffet.
But what has whether or not one is a ‘newbie’ (an incestuous little in-group term if ever there was one) or his imagined behaviour at a Chinese Buffet, (is that one of those feeding trough thingies the hoit poloi swarm at?), got to do with the topic?
But perhaps someone will actually alight on this thread and find the reference useful, in which case my purpose will have been achieved.
As for the rest; “Where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.”
We've been discussing the geopolitical aspects of Caspian Oil for many years. You're rather late to the party, newb.
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