Is It Time To Make Fundamentalism A Crime? Part 3

By Mark Esposito

The following is the third installment in a multi-part series exploring religious fundamentalism and the means of checking its excesses. You can read the first part here and the second part here.

imageThe discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia in 1939 would have immediate consequences for world geopolitics and for the Wahhabis. Rising concerns about Hitler’s Nazi movement prompted the British to make immediate inroads into the region to secure oil. Prior to the mid-1920s, the Western industrial powers were coal-fired. The UK had that in abundance but industry was changing and demands for petroleum-based products for gasoline and kerosene were increasing by the mid-1930s especially  for automobile and heating fuel.

Prior to 1939, the MidEast accounted for no more than 5% of the world’s petroleum supply.  The desert kingdoms, as they were known, were poor, culturally backward and the subject of much derision as the civilization time forgot. Oil changed all that and increased the power and prestige of the former sheiks into international businessmen in charge of the world’s largest known oil reserves. Saudi Arabia literally floated on an ocean of oil that was cheap to access with little vegetation to clear and near navigable ports where it could be efficiently exported.

Seven major oil companies negotiated leases for the oil and established the means of production. The first was British Petroleum followed in short order by Shell, Esso, Texaco, Gulf, Chevron and Mobil. The holocaust supporting Nazi-controlled German chemical company, IG Farben, who, with patents from the US Standard Oil (Esso) via its US subsidiary, Standard IG Farben, was the world leader in producing oil from coal, but was effectively shutout of the MidEast.  IG Farben, however, made a secret pact with Esso through its subsidiary to supply oil to German sub bases. Esso chairman John D. Rockefeller disclaimed knowledge but the president of the subsidiary took the fall — a $5000.00 fine for supplying the enemy. (Though beyond the scope of this essay, you can read about the whole sordid tale here that some contend delayed the US entering the war until Pearl Harbor)

Oil meant money for the House of Saud and its allies, the Wahhabis, who gained dominance in the rising culture. But it also fostered resentment as the former imperial powers controlled both the upstream (production and marketing of crude oil) and down stream (transportation, refining, distribution, and sale of oil products) means of production. This arrangement continued unabated until the 1960s when the move to nationalize oil fields in MidEast began to take shape.

Now affiliated into OPEC, the oil-producing states oversaw Algeria’s nationalization of the French controlled company, Sonatrach,  in 1971, that was followed by almost every other producing country doing the same by the mid-70s.  By 1982, Western “companies lost around 50% of their share of the crude oil market, from 30 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) to around 15.2 MMbbl/d, while ‘free world’ demand decreased only 15% over the same time period. Even more significant, in 1982 the major (oil companies) could rely on 6.7 MMbbl/d of production from the reserves under their control, while the corresponding number in 1973 was 25.5 MMbbl/d—a decrease of 74% in less than 10 years.” (Energy Studies Review). The companies over the course of a decade became buyers and re-sellers of sweet crude instead of just sellers. Oil profits shifted from an outflow from the MidEast into an inflow to the desert kingdoms with the Western oil companies now handing — and being paid for — only the downstream activities.

Now flush with funds, the amalgamated OPEC (or OPAEC with the addition of Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) advanced onto the world stage. In 1973, at the height of both nationalization and the Yom Kippur War (where Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel), oil producers embargoed oil to the West to punish it for its support of the Jewish state (which it had created via the UN over Arab objection in 1948). That caused a stock market crash in the US and long gas lines at the pump. US antipathy to the Arab states from all strata of society was assured. By 1980, Saudi Arabia had taken control of  the last remaining oil company,  Arabian-American Oil Company (“ARAMCO”), which engendered no love in the West. Aramco is now the world’s largest oil company.

Flexing of political muscle led to flexing of cultural muscle as the House of Saud, the leaders of OPEC, became more closely allied with the fundamentalist Wahhabi movement and its unwavering hate of Israel. To understand the effects of Wahhabism on Saudi policy you must first understand the culture. As author David Long writes (here):

Saudi Arabia is a society run by the elders of extended families who are collectively ruled by the elders of the royal extended family, not a country of individuals ruled by an individual ruler. In this context, the ancient desert culture and customs and the Islamic values and mores of the royal family are the same as those of any other Saudi family. Not to understand this is not to understand commercial, political, social or religious practices in the kingdom.

As a conservative male-dominated leadership, Saudi rulers are constantly embroiled in one of the universal features of international trade – cultural exchange with your trading partners. From Marco Polo to the present day, trade brings goods, services, and new ideas. In this context, that means Western pop culture which emphasizes individual freedom and equality. Both taboo concepts to the desert culture that traces its roots to Ishmael.

In this constant flood of perceived heresy to  both the traditions and texts of orthodox Islam, Wahhabis find themselves squeezed in a battle between the present and the past and, given their history, the choice is easy. And so are the means and choices of fighting back. It is in this context that ISIS must be understood.

As Cal State  Professor As’ad AbuKhalil explains:

What Mohammed Ibn ‘Abdul-Wahab insisted upon — and what is followers today insist upon — is that men with the sword judge on behalf of God here on earth, and on all matters, small and big. This is where the Saudi Kingdom and ISIS fit. They are outside the boundaries of mainstream Islam, in that they refuse to even concede that they speak as representatives of a sect. Wahhabis (of all stripes) protest to even the name of Wahhabis: we are only Muslims, they assert; i.e. they alone are Muslim and everyone else is a kafir [unbeliever] who should be fought as ancient pagans at the time of Mohammad. Wahhabis claim that they represent the ‘true Islam’ when the strength of Islam throughout the ages is that there is no such thing as ‘the true Islam.’

Next time, we’ll discuss the concept of global jihad and its attraction to some Muslim fundamentalists.

~Mark Esposito, FFS Contributor

 

 

About mespo727272

I 'm a plaintiff's personal injury attorney with 30 years of trial experience practicing with my law school classmate in Richmond, Virginia. You can read all about me here: www.schillingandesposito.com
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26 Responses to Is It Time To Make Fundamentalism A Crime? Part 3

  1. randyjet says:

    Most of what mespo wrote is on the mark, but there are some rather glaring omissions. While Prescott Bush was the director of the bank he mentioned. Bush was simply the hired hand of his boss Averral Harriman who owned the firm Bush worked for. He was just a paper head of that bank, NOT the owner or principal. Thus repeating this old canard is bad propaganda and takes the rest of us for fools or ignorant folks. A good book to read is Trading With the Enemy about the collaboration and outright sabotage of US and foreign corporations during WWII. The banking industry was far worse than the oil companies. As was Texaco which supplied the Nazi U-boats before the US entered the war.

  2. mespo727272 says:

    randyjet:

    Thanks for that addition. I wish I had more time to devote to that aspect. I was trying to give a wide overview and to explain the role of oil companies in fostering both wealth and resentment in the MIdEast.

    • randyjet says:

      One thing that needs to be understood, is that anti-Semitism was the NORM in US society at the time of WWII in the ruling class circles. It even existed as a norm up to the 60s. The Catholic church still taught that Jews were the ones who killed Jesus, and Jews were kept out of ruling class clubs, societies, and higher executive positions. The US State Dept at the time was the preserve of the Ivy League, most of whose members were anti-Semitic as well, and was reflected in State Dept rulings and activities. Those who went against that, found that they no longer had careers.

      I disagree that the America First movement was only right wing. There were plenty of pacifists who were leading that movement who were religiously motivated. Then after the Stalin Hitler pact, the CPUSA became active against US entry into the war. Their slogan was THE YANKS ARE NOT COMING. There were pro-Nazis in it such as Charles Lindhberg, and the German American Bund, as well as the majority of the GOP, and the Dixiecrats in the Democratic Party who thought HItlers ideas on race were just peachy. The result was that the draft that was passed in 1940 was almost defeated in Congress by one vote when it came up to be renewed in 1941. Only a quick gavel by Sam Rayburn saved the vote. The Japanese military took that vote to be a sign of American lack of courage and thus encouraged their attack on the US at Pearl Harbor, since they figured the US would agree to a negotiated settlement rather than fight a protracted war.

  3. mespo727272 says:

    By the way, randyjet, I really think Prescott Bush was the “hired-hand” not for Harriman but for his own father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, who was the established financier. While allegations he was a Nazi sympathizer are untrue, it’s likely he benefitted the cause financially even after Pearl Harbor.
    You can read about the transactions here:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

  4. Justice has cataracts says:

    Very interesting articled and comments.

  5. buckaroo says:

    OK, some of us do not like Fundamentalism – but be expressive regarding who that is in power, keeping in mind that expression of opinion is part of life, liberty & the pursuit of justice . I for one do not like our inequitable tax code. That is my No 1 needed redaction

  6. blouise17 says:

    mespo and randyjet,

    This is all valuable information and I admire the way the two of you are adding to the discussion in a manner that encourages collaboration.

    Well done, gentlemen.

    (BTW, mespo, I disagree with the notion that fundamentalism is a crime but I am disciplining myself to wait until all the installments in this wonderful series have been presented)

  7. Mike Spindell says:

    Mark my cup runneth over with good stuff to read but football and the Golden Globes come first, but what a treat for my bedtime reading.

  8. mespo727272 says:

    Blouise:

    Thanks for your interest. The thesis is that some ideologies are so pernicious as to be exempted from the usual protection of the freedom of conscience principle. When an ideology contains violence as an approved method of proselytizing we have to think long and hard on whether it can be tolerated. That’s the subject I’m exploring without having completely made up my mind yet myself.

  9. mespo727272 says:

    Mike S:

    Watching the games myself so have at it and read at your leisure. More segments coming next week as I decide where I stand. I’m learning as I’m going too.

  10. Slartibartfast says:

    Buckaroo,

    Yes, it really is a shame that our tax code places such a heavy burden on the poor and a light one on the rich. We really need to fix that. A 50% marginal rate on yearly incomes over $1 million (salary or capital gains) would be a good start (along with removing the cap on FICA), don’t you think?

    Mespo,

    Interesting series. Certainly “fundamentalist” is a better way of defining our true opponents than, for instance, “terrorist” (a term which would include our Founding Fathers) and I’ll be interested to see how you build the case for outlawing fundamentalism as well as how you think such a ban could be implemented.

  11. Harvey says:

    “I’ll be interested to see how you build the case for outlawing fundamentalism as well as how you think such a ban could be implemented.”

    Me, too, though I don’t see how it can be done without a police state – and one that is a lot more aggressive than what many angered Americans call our present law enforcement policies.

  12. Bob Kauten says:

    Slarti,
    Thanks for interpreting buckaroo’s true feelings about the tax system, for us.
    I knew that buckaroo was a bleeding-heart liberal, all along.
    He just wants the rich to pay their fair share.
    He wants taxes on the upper crust to return to the levels of the Eisenhower years.
    Wattaguy!

  13. Mike Spindell says:

    Mark,

    Thanks again you have already exceeded my usual high expectations for you. Randyjet’s input on the prevalent anti-Jewish sentiment also hit the mark in broadening the context. One of the points I’ve been making for years about Israel is that it is far from being the number one ally of the US in the ME.. The role of the US has always been to restrain Israel, rather than support it. The main US ally is the Saudi’s and sometimes it is unclear if they are the ones pulling our strings. At the time of Israel’s independence most of the US foreign policy cabal was against it and Truman was even skeptical. However, US public opinion was mainly favorable due to the Shoah, but also in no small part to belief it would rid our country of the despised Jews. The idea behind finally recognizing Israel’s independence was that it would be short lived. There was an embargo on arms to Israel and they were outnumbered 10 to 1 in armed forces. British led Arab Legion was a modern army. The Jewidh community and other sympatizers smuggled arms to Israel, but they were still out gunned. What won the day was that knowing what had happened in the Shoah, these Israel’s were fighting a life or death battle on their home turf. Losing wasn’t an option.

    • randyjet says:

      Mike, There is a good book I would recommend to you. It is The Sword and the Olive about Israel’s Army from the beginning. While it is true that in the UK support for Zionism was driven by anti-Semitism during and right after WWI, that was not true of the US. There was an arms embargo against ALL of the countries in the Mideast at the time of the establishment of Israel, not just Israel. There was one country which did not support the embargo, Czechoslovakia with the support of Stalin, who was a big supporter of Israel. The result was that Israel was far better armed and supplied than any of the Arab countries. The IDF Air Force got most of its planes from the same source since they had lots of them surplus from the Luftwaffe from WWII. The forces involved were tiny compared to what later was the case.

      The Pentagon was very much opposed to supporting Israel since it was a far left wing government in its eyes. They also did not support Israel since they did not think it could win and that Saudi was more important with its resources. The fact that Stalin supported Israel did not sit well with the right wingers in the US. After Israel was established, the French especially Dausault provided aircraft for the Air Force. It was mainly after the Israeli attack against Egypt in 1956 in conjunction with the Brits and French and their subsequent forced withdrawal that the US started supplying arms on a massive scale. At all points, Israel has been the military giant in the region. Now they are a nuclear power too.

  14. Bob Kauten says:

    Slarti,
    A kipper?
    So that’s the porpoise of bucky saying, “So long and thanks for all the fish”!

    • Slartibartfast says:

      Bob,

      It was a reference to Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) from Red Dwarf and his catchphrase (“smoke a kipper for me, I’ll be back for breakfast”).

  15. blouise says:

    ” …but also in no small part to belief it would rid our country of the despised Jews. ” – Mike S

    Oh man, I remember hearing that sentiment from lots of adults (I was a child during the late 40’s early 50’s and eavesdropped a lot). I had forgotten all about that till you mentioned it.

  16. Bob Kauten says:

    Well, I thought since you have the rather common name of Slartibartfast, you might’ve been a Hitchhiker. I didn’t follow Red Dwarf, so I’m even more clueless than usual.

  17. Mike Spindell says:

    Randjet,

    Yes they got very good weaponry from the Czechs, but Stalin was no friend of Israel. However, at the time the USSR was competing heavily for influence in the ME and saw Israel as a means of fomenting problems and destabilizing a region in control of the Seven Sisters Oil Cartel. I will check out that book though.

    As a Jew though born before wars end I can tell you that I grew up with talk about anti-Jewish sentiment in the US, learned from my parents and family.This feeling was derived from their own upbringing in the US.

    • randyjet says:

      Mike, You need to learn more about history instead of taking the propaganda as being true. Stalin was in favor of Israel and the big rush in the US was to get Truman to recognize Israel before Stalin did. There were many reasons Stalin supported Israel some were of tradition since many of the founders of Israel were originally members of the Bolshevik and Menshevik wings of his party in Russia for many years. The founders were overwhelmingly far left wing compared to most other countries and Stalin saw Israel as a possible fellow socialist state against the kingdoms or colonies of the Mideast. The first government had the Israeli Communist Party in it and the head of the Armed forces was the leader of that party. Thus the reason why Czechoslovakia violated the UN order for an arms embargo.

      While I hate Stalin and what he did, you have to take a factual view of what he did and the circumstances. He was not the monster devoted to world conquest as the right wing lies about. In fact, he was not concerned about revolution in any other country other than his own. He urged the Chinese CP to let Chiang keep power and be a junior partner in China. As Churchill said in his book Triumph and Tragedy, he kept his word on every agreement he signed, especially as regards British destruction of the Greek Communist Party and re-conquest of Greece after the war. In France, the French CP entered DeGaulles government and got two ministries, one of which was the Colonial office, in which the FCP minister ordered the French troops back into Indochina in support of putting Vietnam back under French rule! Even FDR would not have done something like that! He made it clear to Churchill throughout the war the US would not give them a dime to take back their colonies. Yet the CPs under Stalin’s orders to make peaceful co-existence a fact did horrific things. It was the west which started the Cold War, and you can read all the nasty details in the book MI-6.

  18. bron98 says:

    the muslims in france and britian are the new colonialists with the same intent-displacing the natives.

    Islam is all about submission, how does that track with a modern society? I guess you need some submission such as paying taxes and following the laws which make for a civil society but that is a far cry from the total submission required by Islam.

    If the west is to survive, we will have to take harsher measures than we have taken in the past.

    It is a totalitarian ideology and it is in dire need of a reformation so that we can all move forward. Together would be nice and certainly more fun than the alternative.

  19. Pingback: Is It Time To Make Fundamentalism A Crime? Part 4 | Flowers For Socrates

  20. Anonymouly Yours says:

    Mark,

    Interesting to read is the Dulles Brothers, John Foster and Alan Dulles influence….. What they do leave out of the book is the Bush influence….. True Harriman did own the company…. Bush did not act without adequate compensation…. If I recall he even owned a share or two…. I may have read this or made it up, but didn’t Roosevelt seize Bushes assess under the trading with the enemy act?

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