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The Militant, 16 February 1946

Oil Dictates U.S. Role in Middle East

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Oil – the black, sticky, liquid gold so prized by the imperialists – is smeared all over Truman’s aggressive moves in the Eastern Mediterranean and the conflict-torn Middle East.

Behind the war-like U.S. Naval maneuvers around the Balkan peninsula, the threat to send American troops to Palestine and the State Department’s intrigues with the British and Arabian rulers, are the multi-billion dollar interests of Standard Oil and other giant American oil corporations.

If American boys die in a shooting war anywhere in the Balkans or Middle East, it will be in defense of the oil concessions and monumental profits that Standard Oil of California, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Socony Vacuum and Texas Co. are looting from the Middle East.

More and more facts are beginning to leak out about the decisive influence of the oil corporations on American foreign policy. Top government officials, like Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, have given revealing testimony along these lines.

Forrestal informed the Senate War Investigating Committee on Jan. 29 that the U.S. government has a “vital interest” in the Middle East oil reserves. This “vital interest” extends, in fact, from “Gibraltar to the Indian Ocean.”

Cry of “Imperialism”

He declared that “some arrangement” must be made by the government to secure for American armed forces, in time of “emergency.” the oil from the Middle East “depot.” The protection of this “depot” – owned by private American oil companies – he conceded would raise a cry of “imperialism.”

He suggested that the government could escape this charge by buying into the private companies – although he admitted this would be actively resisted by the capitalists and Congress. His alternative proposal was for long-term government contracts to buy up the oil from the private companies at a fixed price. In fact, he indicated the Navy is considering such contracts now.

Forrestal then went on to disclose that “high military authorities believe that far more fundamental actions may be needed to protect the vital interests of the Western World in that region (Middle East),” as the Jan. 30 N.Y. Times indirectly quoted him.

Forrestal added the proposition that “the Marshall Plan itself might be in serious jeopardy” unless the Middle East oil were available to supply America’s Western European satellites and junior partners of the Western Bloc.

Fantastic “Overcharge”

This testimony was brought out in connection with the Senate Committee’s attempts to uncover the facts about a 35 million dollar “overcharge” the Navy paid the Arabian-American Oil Company in a 1945 contract. Previous testimony had revealed that this Standard Oil company had made 117 million dollars profit on which it did not have to pay a penny of taxes to the U.S.

Forrestal said that he had asked Attorney General Clark to look into the “overcharge” angle last April – but nothing has ever come of it. The Navy contracted to pay $1.05 a barrel for oil originally offered by the company for 40 cents. But Forrestal informed the committee that he was not disposed to be “very critical” of the contract.

At a previous hearing- on Jan. 24, it was revealed that outright oil company agents had penetrated into the State Department. Senator Brewster directly accused the big oil companies of “placing or planting” their men in the State Department “to influence foreign policy.”

Specifically named was Max W. Thornburg, former special assistant to the Under-Secretary of State from 1941 to 1943. While he was getting $8,000 from the government, he was also getting $29,000 from Standard Oil of California, one of the controlling interests in Arabian-American Oil Co.

Thornburg, it is claimed, helped secure a 30 million dollar “lend-lease” handout for King Ibn Saud, who thereupon gratefully granted oil concessions to the Arabian-American Oil Co. The committee is investigating the cases of at least 20 other oil men working in the State Department.

What has been brought out clearly in the testimony so far is that the American oil interests have a tremendous profits-stake in the Middle East; that the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan involve the protection of that stake; and that this country is being readied for war in part to ensure Standard Oil’s control of Arabian oil resources.

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