In Nigeria, the coming trial of Wiwa vs. Shell promises, if anything, a disturbing look at a microcosm of Big Oil’s influence on governments around the world, particularly our own under eight years of Bush and Cheney and the Democratic leaders who enabled them. Did events that transpired in Nigeria back in the 1990s foreshadow the outright seizure of government in the United States by oil interests today?

Peaceful Opposition is Portrayed as Criminal

Intimidation of the press: Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman arrested at RNC in 2008. While reporting the event, she was charged with conspiracy to riot, but there was no riot to begin with. This is the definition of illegal “preventive detention” Bush and now Obama supports.

The suit against Shell claims they helped fabricate evidence against Ken Saro-Wiwa, through which he was later executed in a military tribunal.

In Nigeria and the United States, peaceful opposition is portrayed as criminal. In Nigeria, the MOSOP, or Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, advocated for the rights of the Ogoni people in a non-violent struggle against the degradation of their lands by Shell. They were deemed gangsters and terrorists by a military regime hand-picked by Royal Dutch Shell. The regime soon arrested the leaders of MOSOP, the Ogani Nine, whom were soon hanged.

In America, anti-war and environmental activists can be detained as terrorists if it is deemed they are an obstruction to the war effort in Iraq.

As more and more oil fields were secured with the blood of American servicemen, Americans back home paid dearly at the pump. We saw oil sell from about $25 to $147 a barrel.

In Nigeria and the United States, we have a self-evident alliance of military and private interests, in both cases oil interests, conspiring to abolish the rights of Nigerians and Americans alike.

Oil Execs Before the Senate

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WASHINGTON – MAY 21: Stephen Simon (R), Senior Vice President of Exxon Mobile Corporation, testifies as (L-R) Robert Malone, Chairman and President of BP America Inc. ; John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company; Peter Robertson, Vice Chairman of the Board of Chevron Corporation; and John Lowe, Executive Vice President of ConocoPhillips Company; listen during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 21, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to address the skyrocketing price of oil as crude-oil surged to another record high of $132.00 USD a barrel.

They escaped prosecution for racketeering or bribery, e.g., and despite their threat to the security and economy of the United States; despite their willingness to risk both for the sake of gouging American consumers to the last dime, nothing was done. No additional law enforcement measures came from the show hearings. In an unprecedented mockery of justice, they were not required to testify under oath!

The Mafia Before the Senate

Joseph M. Valachi, a New York City gangster, sitting at the witness table facing the Senate Investigation subcommittee, reveals the inner workings of a major crime syndicate, October 8, 1963. As the problem of organized crime was examined throughout the 1960s, it became clear that the mob was a threat to the security and economy of the United States, requiring additional law enforcement measures.

Unlike the case with the oil companies, action was taken, and the Mafia was hit hard after the televised hearings. (© AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS)  

Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, advocated for the rights of the Ogoni people in a non-violent struggle against the degradation of their lands by Shell. They were deemed gangsters and terrorists by a military regime hand-picked by Royal Dutch Shell. The regime soon arrested the leaders of MOSOP, the Ogani Nine, whom were soon hanged.

In America, anti-war and environmental activists can be detained as terrorists if it is deemed they are an obstruction to the war effort in Iraq.

If you look at events from 2001 to the present, you’ll see the parallels between Nigeria and the United States are sobering:

*In Nigeria and the United States, we have Big Oil interests corrupting government leaders and consequentially, the military.

  • In Nigeria and the United States, under the guise of state security, we engaged in an unwinnable war on terror that was indefinite by design. Ideas and war strategies like terrorism are intangible. A war on terror is as winnable as a war on fear. A soldier is a soldier. A terrorist can be anyone you want.

*In Nigeria and the United States, “terrorist suspects” are literally convicted terrorists under the law, and we both have show trials by military tribunal to distract us from this discrepancy.

*In Nigeria and the United States, we have the death penalty, so opposition leaders are or can be executed on tainted or bogus convictions obtained from such military tribunals.

  • In Nigeria and the United States, human rights abuses condoned by the nation’s highest leaders. However, in the United States, the Bush administration wrote it into law by redefining what torture is. How? they simply called it something else: enhanced interrogation.

This is the road we’re on…

If you look at events from 9/11 to the present, you see events that transpired in Nigeria back in the 1990s became an apparent blueprint for Big Oil’s seizure of government in the U.S.

In Nigeria and the United States, we have a self-evident alliance of military and private interests, in both cases oil interests, conspiring to abolish the rights of a Nigerian and American citizens alike. But this isn’t all we share.

We also share Nigeria’s human rights abuses. Consider the irony…

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Nigeria’s human rights record. In red brackets are the abuses the United States now shares with Nigeria:

Nigeria’s human rights record remains poor and government officials at all levels continue to commit serious abuses.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the most significant human rights problems are:

  • extrajudicial killings and use of excessive force by security forces [Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, NYPD];
  • impunity for abuses by security forces [Blackwater, NYPD];
  • arbitrary arrests; prolonged pretrial detention [Obama’s prolonged detention plan];
  • judicial corruption and executive influence on the judiciary [Patriot Act];
  • rape, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees and suspects; harsh and life‑threatening prison and detention center conditions [Abu Ghraib]
  • discrimination based on sex, ethnicity, region and religion; restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement, press, speech and religion; infringement of privacy rights; and the abridgement of the right of citizens to change the government [Patriot Act].

Remember how, as the gas prices rose to $5 a gallon, you heard talk about Nigerian labor strikes and unrest as one major cause of the spike in oil prices? Investors came to equate that unrest with profit. In fact, so did the oil companies; Shell in particular. Why not? they created it. They financed a military coup to do it. Before we get into that, though, lets talk about their handiwork back home.

Consider the modus operandi parallels between the Shell Oil case in Nigeria (Wiwa vs. Shell) and our intentionally indefinite “war on terror”:

In Nigeria and the United States, we have a self-evident alliance of military and private interests, in both cases oil interests, conspiring to remove the rights of a given people.

In Nigeria and the United States, peaceful opposition is portrayed as terrorist. In Nigeria, human rights activist leader Ken Saro Wiwa was portrayed by a military tribunal as a “gangster” and “terrorist” to justify arrest. In America, anti-war activists are portrayed as terrorist sympathizers by big oil’s media assets, most notably FOX News, in a clear prelude to justify the arrest of opposition leaders.

In Nigeria and the United States, under the guise of state security, indefinite arrest without charge has become legal. Here, there is a push to make it permanent. Indefinite detention is called “prolonged detention”

In Nigeria and the United States, those whom are charged are tried by military tribunal. This insures a suspect has no right to anything but a show trial with a predetermined outcome. Osama bin Laden’s chauffeur was tried and convicted in this manner.

In Nigeria and the United States, opposition leaders are or can be executed on convictions obtained from such military tribunals. In Nigeria, activist Ken Saro Wiwa was executed in this manner. In America, since we also have a death penalty it could be any opposition leader the media can convince you is terrorist.

Again, in Nigeria and the United States, we have a military in the obvious employ of Big Oil; both conspiring to remove the human rights of a given nation for financial gain. In Nigeria, this led to to Shell oil backing a bloody military coup. In America, the war in Iraq was fought over oil, for oil companies, using American troops.

Just as Nigerian troops were used to execute the will of oil companies, American troops were used to execute the will of oil company interests seeking financial gain. We didn’t go in to free anyone.

As more and more oil fields were secured with the blood of American servicemen, a monopoly effect took place in 2008. We saw oil sell from about $25 to $147. For consumers, this meant $5 a gallon at the pump.

On October 30, 2008, Exxon posted the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history: $14.3 billion. Earlier, Chevron’s financial report capped a week in which the largest international oil companies all announced soaring profits: $10.9 billion for Exxon Mobil, $9.08 billion for Shell and $7.6 billion for BP. And so on, and so on.

The point is, already powerful interests became more powerful and one way it became painfully clear was the sham hearing on price gouging. Back in the 1950s even the Mafia bowed to Congressional scrutiny. Today, Big Oil executives can laugh them off, and have. You could almost hear them whisper to one another during the show hearings last year “What? you’re going to fire your boss?”

Conclusion: the Senate Fears Oil Companies More than they Did the Mafia

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