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The Dubya Doctrine
Page 1, 2, 3

The Nigeria Case

The Bush energy policy could be read as a message to dictators and corrupt governments that they can do as they please as long as they keep the nations' energy resources flowing to the U.S. If that's how the policy is interpreted, it could lead to the kind of human rights and environmental abuses that occurred in Nigeria in the mid 1990s.

Nigeria’s history is a complicated and troubled story. A former British colony, Nigeria gained independence in 1960. By then, oil had been discovered in the rich and fertile Niger Delta region along the Atlantic coast in Nigeria’s Southwest region.

The first oil company to make substantial investments to exploit these resources was Royal Dutch Shell. By the 1990s, Shell had extracted more than $30 billion worth of oil from the Niger Delta. [See report by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People Canada,]

Without environmental standards, however, Shell’s oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta grew dilapidated and caused severe environmental damage. Between 1982 and 1992 alone, it is estimated that Shell spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil (40% more than the Exxon Valdez spill). All told, Shell's oil spills probably totaled millions of gallons.

By the early 1990s, the people of the Niger Delta had had enough. Their land had been laid waste; continuous gas flarings had polluted their air; oil spills had seeped into their water; their communities had suffered terrible damage.

In 1993, the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta organized a human rights and environmental community group called Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and began mass demonstrations against Shell’s activities in the Delta.

The first demonstration on Jan. 4, 1993, turned out 300,000 people for a peaceful street protest. The Ogoni people also translated their street activism into a political movement. They drafted a Bill of Rights demanding self-determination. They also began targeting Shell with their protests. []

In the 1990s, however, Nigeria was ruled by a military dictator, Sani Abacha, who directly benefited from the windfall of revenue from Shell’s operations in the Delta. Abacha would not sit by while these protesters drove Shell out of the Delta.

Abacha did what military dictators do – he systematically and violently attacked the communities in the Delta involved in the protests. Abacha had Nigerian poet and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders convicted of trumped-up charges. On Nov. 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders were hanged.

Abacha's brutal tactics earned widespread condemnation from around the world. Shell was hit with boycotts and other protests, many of which continue to this day. The international outrage contributed to a change in government in Nigeria and a transition to democracy. Still, the Niger Delta remains a mess.

People in the Delta have a deep distrust of the oil companies and of their own government. There has been violence between competing Delta communities and sustained sabotage of the oil infrastructure. The environment throughout the Delta is still scarred and polluted. The sad fact is that given the four decades of abuse and neglect, it may take generations for the Niger Delta to stabilize, if it ever can.

Yet, Cheney's energy report reflects positively on Nigeria as a source of U.S. oil. Without any mention of the troubled history, the report recommends, "that the President direct the Secretaries of State, Energy, and Commerce to recast the Joint Economic Partnership Committee with Nigeria to improve the climate for U.S. oil and gas trade, investment, and operations and to advance our shared energy interests."

No to Sanctions

Another sign of where the Dubya Doctrine is headed is the report’s recommendation on economic sanctions.

The report acknowledges that "sanctions can advance important national and global security objectives," suggesting, for instance, that penalties could be continued against Iraq and the government of Saddam Hussein, the nemesis of Bush's father. But the report makes no mention of sanction cases where the U.S. has used economic pressure to advance humanitarian goals, such as human rights and democratic freedoms.

The report simply recommends "a comprehensive review of sanctions" to determine their effect on U.S. energy needs, again indicating that the Bush administration will balance access to oil supplies with other national security objectives, while giving short-shrift to humanitarian concerns.

Regarding the continent of Africa, the energy report praises the oil potential of Nigeria and Angola. The report notes that 300,000 barrels of the 750,000 barrels of oil Angola that produces each day go to the U.S. Angola is expected to double its oil production in the next 10 years, which the report indicates could benefit U.S. oil needs.

The commentary about Angola as a source of oil, however, leaves out reference to the U.S. State Department's criticism of the human rights situation in Angola as "poor."

Last year’s State Department report on human rights in Angola found that "members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings, were responsible for disappearances, and tortured, beat, raped and otherwise abused persons." The State Department added that "the Government gives tacit permission for security personnel to supplement their income-through the extortion of the civilian population."

page 3: Caspian Oil