So what happens when you search UK newspaper archives for the words 'WikiLeaks', 'Libya' and 'oil'? We decided to take a look.
From the time prior to the start of Libya's civil war on February 17, and of Nato's war on Libya on March 19, we found a couple of comments of this kind in the Sunday Times:
The Guardian's Alexander Chancellor managed to discover a leaked cable revealing that Libya 'sometimes demands billion-dollar "signing bonuses" for contracts with western oil companies'. (Chancellor, 'The bonanza of kickbacks and corrupt deals between Libya and the west have helped Gaddafi cling on to power,' The Guardian, March 25, 2011)
Other cables offer more significant insights, but Chancellor made no mention of them.
George Monbiot's March 15 Guardian article contained all three search terms - his sole mention of Libya in the past 12 months – but he was writing about Saudi Arabia: 'We won't trouble Saudi's tyrants with calls to reform while we crave their oil.' The article had nothing to say about the looming assault on Libya, just four days away. Monbiot has had nothing to say since.
Johann Hari wrote about the Libyan war in his sole article on the subject in the Independent on April 8, commenting:
Soured Relations - Gaddafi And Big OilRemarkably, then, we found nothing in any article in any national UK newspaper reporting the freely-available facts revealed by WikiLeaks on Western oil interests in Libya. And nothing linking these facts to the current war.
By contrast, in his June 11 article for the Washington Post, Steven Mufson focused intensely on WikiLeaks exposés in regard to Libyan oil. In November 2007, a leaked State Department cable reported 'growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism'. In his 2006 speech marking the founding of his regime, Gaddafi had said:
'Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.'
Gaddafi's son made similar comments in 2007. As (honest) students of history will know, these are exactly the kind of words that make US generals sit up and listen. The stakes for the West were, and are, high: companies such as ConocoPhillips and Marathon have each invested about $700 million over the past six years.
Even more seriously, in late February 2008, a US State Department cable described how Gaddafi had 'threatened to dramatically reduce Libya's oil production and/or expel... U.S. oil and gas companies'. The Post explained how, in early 2008, US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg had enraged the Libyan leader by adding an amendment to a bill that made it easier for families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing to 'go after Libya's commercial assets'.
The Libyan equivalent of the deputy foreign minister told US officials that the Lautenberg amendment was 'destroying everything the two sides have built since 2003,' according to a State Department cable. In 2008, Libyan oil minister Shokri Ghanem warned an Exxon Mobil executive that Libya might 'significantly curtail' its oil production to 'penalize the US,' according to another cable.
The Post concluded: 'even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Gaddafi had soured. The Libyan leader demanded tough contract terms. He sought big bonus payments up front. Moreover, upset that he was not getting more U.S. government respect and recognition for his earlier concessions, he pressured the oil companies to influence U.S. policies'.
Similarly, compare the chasm in rational analysis separating the mainstream UK media and the dissident Real News Network, hosted by Paul Jay. Last month, Jay interviewed Kevin G. Hall, the national economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. Jay concluded with a summary of their conversation discussing oil shenanigans in Libya:
In March, we drew attention to a cable released by WikiLeaks sent from the US embassy in Tripoli in November 2007. The cable communicated US concerns about the direction being taken by Libya's leadership:
US analyst Glenn Greenwald, asks:
'The Urge To Help'It does seem extraordinary that anyone could doubt that this is the case. But the fact is that the WikiLeaks cables cited above, the Washington Post's facts, and Greenwald's conclusions, have been almost completely blanked by the UK media system. Notice that they have been readily accessible to us, a tiny website supported by public donations.
As though reporting from a different planet, the BBC reported last week:
An Observer leader entitled, 'The west can't let Gaddafi destroy his people,' told the same tale in March:
Compared to the analysis discussed above this reads like a bed-time story for children. The deceptive words 'dithering and equivocation' refer to the West's iron-willed resolve to protect tyrannical clients and to thwart democratic revolution in the region while appearing (the key word) to be 'on the right side'.
The conclusion: 'a no-fly zone should become an option. Lord Owen was therefore right to say that military preparations should be made and the necessary diplomatic approaches, above all to the Russians and the Chinese, set in train to secure UN authority for such action'.
The Guardian's argument was shorn of the political, economic and historical facts that make a nonsense of the idea that Western military action 'should become an option'. There may indeed have been a moral case for action by someone. But not by Western states with a bitter history of subjugating and killing people in Libya, and elsewhere in the region, for the sake of oil. But then it is a trademark of Guardian liberalism that Britain and its allies are forever Teflon-coated, forever untainted by the evident brutality of 'our' actions. This is the perennial, vital service the paper performs for the establishment.
We are asked to believe that the facts sampled in this alert are somehow unknown to the hard-headed corporate executives who write of 'The urge to help' and the 'common position which brooks no more argument'. And yet, the Guardian was one of WikiLeaks' major 'media partners' at the time the cables were published - it is well aware that 'a full 10 percent of those documents, reference in some way, shape, or form oil'. Like the rest of the corporate media, Britain's leading liberal newspaper knows but is not telling.
SUGGESTED ACTIONThe goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Please write to the following editors and journalists. Ask them why they have not explored WikiLeaks' revelations indicating the role of oil in the war on Libya:
Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian
Jeremy Bowen at the BBC
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