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Rape and Spillage

by Robert Scheer
from HUSTLER Magazine November 2010


What’s with Barack Obama’s war analogy on the Gulf oil spill? It’s as if some extraterrestrial force had suddenly launched “The Invasion of the Slippery Sludge.”

“Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al-Qaeda,” the President said in his June 15 prime-time address from the Oval Office after weeks of being slammed for apparent passivity in the face of mounting disaster. “And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.”

What nonsense! The oil was minding its own business until some multinational corporations, enabled by a dysfunctional government regulatory regime, decided to wage war on the ecological balance of the oceans by employing technology that they were not prepared to control. Cleaning up the mess we made by raping the environment to satiate our consumer gluttony is not a glorious battle against evil but rather obligatory penance for the profound error of our ways.

You wound Mother Nature by punching a hole deep in her pristine waters, where you have no business going, and when she bleeds uncontrollably, you dare blame her for the assault? This from a President who, shortly before this disaster, had given the oil companies permission to pillage in the deep seas at will.

At least Obama now admits to having been extremely naive in his belief that they knew what they were doing: “A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe—that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. That obviously was not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why.”

The President already knows why! It’s the same ideological obsession that led to the deregulation of the banking industry—a policy based on the assumption that the unfettered pursuit of multinational corporation profits would somehow serve the public good. In every area of federal governance, the story is the same: The mammoth corporations, through their lobbyists and campaign contributions, end up controlling the government agencies ostensibly regulating the activities of the military-industrial, health, financial and communications complexes. Why be surprised that the oil conglomerates are also in bed with their pretend Washington regulators?  Obviously, Obama cannot be blamed for the bipartisan endorsement of the Reagan Revolution’s siren song, a call to make the world safe for multinational corporations. The radical antiregulation campaign—endorsed by Bill Clinton as well as the father-and-son Bush team—corrupted rather than improved the efficiency of the entire private sector, and what happened with the oil industry was the rule and not the exception.

In explaining the failure of the Minerals Management Service, whose responsibilities include regulating oil drillers, Obama stated: “Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility—a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.”

That damning indictment of the corporate corruption of our political process should stand as a cautionary tale to everyone, but particularly to the citizens of those red states now suffering, thanks to offshore drilling previously approved by the majority of their voters. Hopefully they, and the President who catered to such impulses, will take away from this very costly mess a justifiable skepticism about the risk assessments of plunderers that treat natural treasures as nothing more than potential profit centers.

The public goes along because, as with the jobs created by military spending and the false wealth of financial bubbles, it is blinded by lavishly funded corporate PR that cloaks the true costs of such reckless corporate behavior.

Coinciding with Obama’s June speech, one Republican congressman said British Petroleum— which took steps toward creating a $20-billion fund to pay for spill reparations— was the victim of a “shakedown” by the President. However, even financial experts noted that this may have been as much a crafty Wall Street move as anything, creating with the obligation a “poison pill” for potential “hostile takeover” predators.

Of course, it is quite possible BP could be chopped up and sold—its huge international oil reserves going one way to produce more billions in profits while a rump portion is left to languish through decades of liability litigation.  Ultimately, what must be fought and won is the war against corporate dominance of every important aspect of our political culture. The catastrophic Gulf oil spill is the wake-up call to fight corporate arrogance that we, and our President, desperately needed.

Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.

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