What Lies Beneath

One day in third grade, our friend Barry showed us a pamphlet with a map of Vietnam inside. Scattered across the map were pictures of gas pumps. On the gauge of each pump was a number. The number reflected war dead in that area.

For convenience, we usually date our political awakening to that moment. It was Spring 1968.

As it happens, we don’t recall Vietnam joining OPEC in the intervening decades, so we can’t vouch for the research the pumps represented. But it was our first exposure to what later would be summarized as Follow The Money, which, when we think about it, is really just an adjunct to Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation of a political act usually involves cash.

Hey, did you know Afghanistan’s a wonderful place to run an oil pipeline?

Or if that’s Old Millennium Thinking for you, there’s the news about “$1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan” which broke Sunday, and includes this lovely passage:

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

This is one reason why the Gray Lady is stumbling in the Internet Age, by the way. Gawker would have ran with a post screaming “APPLE SHAMED AS IPAD BATTERIES KILL U.S. SOLDIERS!”

But we digress.

The fact this news is coming out now, and not nine years ago, would seem to invert the normal order of things: First you discover extensive natural resources, then you gin up a war. In truth, however, it actually restores the natural balance: We’ve all been getting more than a little bored with this war, and now’s a good moment to spruce things up.

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan [NYT]

Short version of the dialogue among the War Planners at the Pentagon:

“Okay gentlemen, the only way to stop them from harvesting opium is to get them to harvest lithium“.


Short version of the dialogue among the managers at the CIA:

Fuck, how do we keep them moving the opium with this lithium crap laying around?

Or, at the Pentagon: “Hey, I know, that damned country’s own oil minerals will pay for the war!”

I bet the Russkies are feeling pretty dumb right now. Silly commies.


The sad thing is this: what we’ve just discovered in Afghanistan is enough mineral wealth to bring the nation into the 21st century, bestow the place with peace and prosperity and provide every Afghan citizen with health care, a good education and a comfortable standard of living. Instead, what we’ll most likely see is decades of bloody internecine warfare aided and abetted by outside powers hungry to exploit the resources in question. What should be a blessing to teh Afgani people will instead prove to be the Afghans’ worst nighmare.

I hope very much to be proven wrong.

BTW: I’m perplexed as to why this isn’t the biggest story on the intertubes right now. If I just gave you incontrovertible proof that the U.S. will not pull out of Afghanistan for the next 20 years don’t you think you’d want to write about it?

@Serolf Divad: For realz. I am incredibly curious about the timing of this ‘recent’ discovery and if it say, oh I don’t know, affected anyone in particular’s decision to escalate a certain war.

@homofascist: We’re trying to run an empire here, people, and if you’re all going to stand up the back bitching about the lighting we are never going to achieve world domination! Do you want to end up like Britain? No. Didn’t think so. Let’s take it again and this time can we please do it like we mean it because this fucking dress-rehearsal is working my last NERVE!?

if that stuff about lithium is true they will probably be buying our debt in a few years.

I’m shocked that resource exploitation exploration is happening in this war. Shocked, I tell you.

The natural gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to, eventually, the giant, failing power plant built by Enron in India, the one that Colin Powell was lobbying India to subsidize, so that Enron wouldn’t go under? The pipeline to be built by Unocal, who had hired Hamid Karzai as their consultant to help push the project? The pipeline that the US tried to help Unocal build by bribing the Taliban with $40 million in foreign aid in the spring of 2001, to the surprise of many, considering the Taliban were at this time destroying world heritage sites and executing people in soccer stadiums? That pipeline?

@Capt Howdy: Thats enough lithium to sedate the teabaggers.

Meanwhile, there was just the cutest Brazilena on the Beeb as part of a poll of fans as to whether they are pro or in contra of the vuvuzela. No surprise, she supports embraces them.

ADD: she agrees that there is something just a little off about the balls, however. So, Brazilian girls are pro vuvuzela, contra lively balls.


Not just natural gas, but oil from the Caspian Sea. Better to go through Pak/Afghan than Iran.

The Great Game Continues. Hard to play cunning spy games and international intrigue as done by the Bush Admin (aka buffoons and halfwits.)

@Capt Howdy: Shit, man, we had those in the 60s, I am serious, for real, they sold them at my older brother’s high school football games, in the team colors, I owned one. They were populat in the states, way back.


I believe I have had the pleasure of sitting in front of one of those

@SanFranLefty: Prius batteries don’t grow on trees. Neither do transistors and solar electric cells.

Hmm. Pissing all over the petro-chemical giants for exploiting governments and trashing the environment is pretty easy when we can get all high and mighty because we bike places (sometimes) and eat locally (sometimes). But it gets a bit trickier to heap scorn on the mining giants who are going to exploit and trash just as much when we really, really want batteries for our hybrid cars, shiny electronics, and “green” power. What’s a libtard to do?

Meanwhile, North Carolina misses the memo that it’s her southern sister who’s neck-in-neck with Arizona for Craziest State Legislators title and submits a fine entry into the race.

@flippin eck: Its quite the conundrum. Not ever feeling self-righteous is all I can come up with, as far as what to do.

@Serolf Divad: The story’s starting to pick up on Memeorandum:

Discussion: Matthew Yglesias, Danger Room, The Moderate Voice, Washington Post, ATTACKERMAN, The Jawa Report, naked capitalism, democracyarsenal.org, Newshoggers.com, Jules Crittenden, TIME.com, New Atlanticist, Instapundit, BuzzFlash.org, AmSpecBlog, TPMMuckraker, The Political Carnival, Outside the Beltway, Guardian, Mother Jones, Military Space News …, Abu Muqawama, Power Line, Daily Kos, unbossed.com, The Lede, This Just In, TPMCafe, The Reaction, Hot Air, AMERICAblog News, Unqualified Offerings, Commentary, Taylor Marsh, Don Surber, Pundita, Ross Douthat, JustOneMinute, The Washington Independent, No More Mister Nice Blog, Wonkette, Washington Monthly, Pileus, Beltway Confidential, Wonk Room, Left Coast Rebel, MyDD, http://www.thetakeaway.org, Prairie Weather, Talking Points Memo, Rumproast, Right Wing News, Politics Daily, The Awl, FT Alphaville, Fausta’s Blog, Alan Colmes’ Liberaland, Moe Lane, Gates of Vienna, Shakesville, The Corner on National …, BLACKFIVE, DISSENTING JUSTICE, Townhall.com, Hit & Run, Connecting.the.Dots, RealClearWorld, Blogs of War, Balloon Juice, Hullabaloo, JammieWearingFool, Truthdig, The Page, Angry Bear, Dean’s World, Gateway Pundit and A plain blog about politics

We’ve fallen on and off the radar there a couple of times. Needless to say, we’re not on their radar right now.

This brings up an interesting conundrum for me. Once upon a time, when I was just past being a kitten and in my first years of college I had a history professor- very interesting, very liberal guy, but he had a take on war that I’ve never quite been able to reconcile or respond to properly. We were discussing the US-Mexican war, a two-conflict mostly fought over the resources in Texas. I was full of outrage, blustering on about the immorality of war for resources as opposed to “noble” war- like, for example, World War II. He let me go on for a while, and then, with a little grin, said the following:

Why is fighting for a cause somehow more moral than fighting for a resource? If the means are as terrible and horrifying as war often is, why is one end somehow more moral than another?

I’ve never been able to answer that sufficiently for myself.

@Tommmcat Still Gets Carly Confused With Meg:
WW2 was about as much for resources as any other war.

In this case, it was Japan and Germany trying to grab what the Dutch, Brits, Sovs and US America had claimed for their own.

Trade follows the flag or is it flag follows Trade?

What amuses me in a dark way is that it shows how badly Cheney and his neoboobs stumbled strategically. If they threw in the forces they used in Iraq to stabilize Afghanistan. Access to Caspian Sea oil + lithium (for the post oil economy.) Instead, it’s going to be 20+ years of pacification and endless war.

@Tommmcat Still Gets Carly Confused With Meg: Why is fighting for a cause somehow more moral than fighting for a resource?

Depends on the cause.

Jury’s still out on the Great War.

@Tommmcat Still Gets Carly Confused With Meg: Not sure whose motives in WW2 you’d characterize as being noble. Perhaps the only action that could be considered a nation acting in a way it thought right even though it was clearly against its best interest would be the Nazi’s moral imperative to annihilate Europe’s Jews. We don’t, correctly, see it in that light but they did. Frau Goebells kiled her 6 children so they shouldn’t grow up in a world without nazism triumphant. Other nations were mostly defending themselves till they could grab whatever they could for themselves.

I’m trying to think of a conflict one might call noble and can’t come up with anything yet.

@Tommmcat Still Gets Carly Confused With Meg: As you may know, I went to a liberal Xian college which, blessedly, lived up to the liberal part by not having mandatory chapel, obligatory “moral” codes, or (most importantly) religiously-constricted areas of study or profs. However, we did have to take at least one course from the religion department, and mine (Perspectives on Christ) involved a discussion of this exact same topic. The prof had us choose our outlook on violence and war specifically from three categories: Ends Justified (whatever means necessary to obtain desired end), Just Cause War, or Pacifism. Nearly the entire class chose the Just Cause War category…and I was all by myself under Pacifism. When they were asked where Jesus would be, most admitted that he would probably be on my team.

However, I realize that moral humans have to choose a middle ground, because thinking we could avoid war entirely is ridiculous. Plus, if an occasional act of violence can alleviate suffering and bring about justice for a large number of people, it’s hard to argue against it. Who wouldn’t admire people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian who worked with the German Resistance and was executed for plotting to assassinate Hitler? It’s a conundrum, alright.

@flippin eck: I’m going to take Option #4: “Was World War II justified?” is a question so broad as to be almost meaningless.

“Was Dresden justified?” offers more interesting answers.

I think the 1680 Pueblo Revolt against Spain in New Mexico (then the northernmost frontier of New Spain) was totally justified in the face of colonial oppression. After Spain returned in 1693, the Spanish-Pueblo relations were on more improved footing. The native religion and culture was permitted to exist, and tribal lands were clearly delineated. The tribes’ property rights in such grants were recognized by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago of 1848 that ended the Mexican-American War.

Unlike a lot of other tribes around us, the Pueblos overall were not forcibly removed from their homelands through conflict with the conquering power (as were the Cherokees, Choctaws and others), although inter-tribal warfare caused at least one village I know of, Pecos Pueblo, to relocate eastward to Jemez Pueblo in the face of continual Commanche* attacks. Resistance and perseverance remain key elements of Pueblo culture, along with the benefits of long terms occupation of ancestral lands as regards history, culture and stability.

My home village sits at the source of water for the surrounding valley and has a lot of good agricultural land. The threat to one’s resources posed by others never really goes away.

*Thereby violating a primary rule of nomadic raiders – don’t hit the villages that you rely upon for supplies (resources) so hard that they go away.

A just barely OK article on the Pueblo Revolt:


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