Burma, Big Oil, Burning earth & Bush

Burma, Big Oil, Burning earth & Bush

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow | 10/3/2007

Dear Friends,

Petitions to the Myanmar/ Burma military government are sweeping the Internet – and will make no difference whatsoever. But there IS a way to make a difference: letters to the US government.

The US press has focused on how China’s and India’s involvements make pressuring Myanmar’s govt difficult. But how much have you seen about the involvement of Chevron, a US oil company that bought Unocal and its stake in Burma?

Reports the Associated Press (but have you seen this in your own newspaper?),

“Despite economic sanctions against Myanmar by the United States and the European Union, Total continues to operate the Yadana gas field, and Chevron Corp. has a 28 percent stake through its takeover of Unocal. Existing investments were exempt from the investment ban.

“Both Total and Chevron broadly defended their business in the nation.

” ‘Far from solving Myanmar’s problems, a forced withdrawal would only lead to our replacement by other operators probably less committed to the ethical principles guiding all our initiatives,’ Jean-Francois Lassalle, vice president of public affairs for Total Exploration & Production, said this week in a statement.

‘French President Nicholas Sarkozy urged Total this week to refrain from new investment in Myanmar; the French concern said it had not made any capital expenditure there since 1998.

“Chevron’s interest in the Yadana project is ‘a long-term commitment that helps meet the critical energy needs of millions in people in the region,’ said Nicole Hodgson, corporate media adviser for Asia.

“Total and former partner Unocal Corp. were accused of cooperating with the military in human rights violations while a pipeline was being built across Myanmar to Thailand in the 1990s. Both companies have denied the accusations but Unocal settled a related lawsuit in the U.S. in 2005, prior to being acquired by Chevron.”

That lawsuit alleged that Unocal incited, abetted, and paid for the use of murder, rape and forced labor by the Myanmar Army — allegedly meted out to villagers working on oil-company sites protected by the military. “Protected” from protests against Unocal’s treatment of workers and the earth.

Unocal claimed that it had no control over the actions of the Myanmar military. Its position (in 2003-2005) also received a boost from the Bush administration, which filed a brief in the case suggesting national interests in the war against terrorism would be impacted if the case were to go ahead.

The AP report continues: “Always worried that instability on its border could affect the juggernaut Chinese economy, Beijing has been gently urging Myanmar’s leaders to ease the recent strife. On Thursday, it issued a plea for calm, asking the government to ‘properly deal’ with the conflict.

“‘The Chinese prefer to separate business and politics,’ said Kuen-Wook Paik, an energy analyst at Chatham House, a think tank in London. “They want to take a neutral stance. They don’t want to risk the relationship with the Myanmar authorities.”

“The Chinese” prefer to separate business and politics??? And the Americans do not? (“Separating” in this usage means separating ethical politics from business — unethical politics and unethical business are so closely intertwined, by the US as well as Chinese oil interests and their political patrons, that they can hardly be told apart.)

WHY was Chevron “grandfathered” to escape from the prohibition on doing business in Myanmar? Have you heard the fulminating Bush, burning with anger at the attacks on monks, demand that Chevron withdraw?

The US is addicted to oil. The addiction has Drug Lords. Just as Big Tobacco is the Drug Lord for nicotine addiction, Big Oil is the Drug Lord for oiloholic addicts.

The same drug lords that are scorching the earth and claiming there is no climate crisis (just as Big Tobacco said nicotine is non-addictive) are supporting the murder of Buddhist monks.

What we need is enormous US public (e.g. boycott) and govtal pressure on Chevron to raise wages for its Burmese workers, encourage unionization, send food to the Buddhist monasteries, demand the Burmese govt stop smashing demonstrations and hold free elections, etc.

If Chevron refuses, the US govt should start fining the company heavily for unfair labor &environmental practices.

With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace for you and for your work to heal our world –


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