Boys and Oil


The leadership might bicker and fume at North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, but it’s a smokescreen. By warring with North Korea, there is no takeaway as grand a prize as winning a mother lode of black gold—Oil. The real prize is Iran. The oil surplus in the Middle East remains the highest in regional crude oil, and that increased further in 2016. And it might be noteworthy that the world oil demand grew by 1.7%, which was less than 2015 when oil prices fell dramatically and the increased demand was only 2.2%. The United States, though, continues to be the world’s largest consumer of oil. And this is no small fact.  Based on current data, there is an indication that China is on the ascent in oil consumption, but for the time being, this nation is years away from achieving the U.S consumption rate.

The current leadership wants to win, and winning can be measured by controlling the world’s oil supply. The nation with the fourth largest oil reserve is Iran, which is eclipsed by Venezuela, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.  Following Iran, the nations with the next largest oil reserves are Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Libya. The United States ranks tenth in oil reserves, but just barely, and competes with Nigeria from year-to-year for the number ten slot. The current leadership has reared its large head and seems to be pointing its tentacles in the direction of Iran.

It is no coincidence that our major military actions in the last twenty years have taken place in the Middle East. There is grave certainty that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused great instability and massive suffering for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran.  Yet it is important to note that in the World Oil Review 2016, oil reserves increased slightly mainly due to the contribution of additional reserves from Iraq. The notion of waging a war to win oil should be further examined in light of the current leadership—those who are in power, both the seen, the highly visible loutish, lying POTUS and his flunkies, to the unseen—those masterful power brokers who grin cannily from behind their well-funded lobbyists, political candidates, think tanks, foundations, charitable organizations and sophisticated academic programs. I’m talking about the creature with a very large head and too many tentacles to count—Kochtopus.

For billionaires who disdain the spotlight and claim to want to remain behind the scenes, the Koch brothers have been doing a very good job of getting media notoriety. Not a day passes, when the news media doesn’t mention the Koch brothers’ handiwork.  Last week, The Boston Globe reported that the founder and director of Wellesley College’s controversial Freedom Project was asked to step down after an outcry from its college alumnae. The Freedom project is a program backed by the Charles Koch Foundation. Wellesley alumnae expressed alarm that Charles Koch was exerting influence on its campus. And in the latest shake-up at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a strong case was made asserting that David Shulkin, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, was ousted because he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the POTUS’ desire for a change in Veterans Health Care Benefits. The real issue boils down to the influence being exerted by the Concerned Veterans for America who are lobbying for the privatization of health care benefits for Veterans. The Concerned Veterans for America has a name so great that you might think it really advocates for Veterans. But it is worth mentioning that the Concerned Veterans for America, a self-styled advocacy group, is being funded by the Koch brothers, and like all things emanating from Kochtopus, names are deceiving, and intentionally created to mislead the American people. The real name of Concerned Veterans for America should be Make Veterans Pay for Their Own Damn Healthcare.

And who are Charles and David Koch? They refer to themselves as American businessmen and philanthropists. They inherited great wealth from their father Fred Koch, who developed an innovative method for the refinement of crude oil. The family business is rooted primarily in oil refining, heavy industry, and the manufacturing of petroleum-based products and technologies. As of late, they have ventured into the press by backing the media company Meredith’s purchase of colossus Time, Inc., and they have become monstrously large sponsors of the traditional vanguard liberal press: PBS and NPR. The brothers espouse a strict conservative libertarian philosophy and have been instrumental in funding policy and advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation… to name a few, among many; some hidden and some not.  Their core belief is the less government, the better—de minimus government regulation impacting the environment, taxes and business. No social services: Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or for that matter, Veterans Health Care Benefits. It’s a laissez faire economic view and a tightly held belief that free markets should be allowed to work things out on their own and prosper without government interference, hence no EPA to impose penalties on heavy industry pumping benzene into a town’s air and water supply. 

The Koch Brothers have made it their mission to destroy many federal agencies: the SEC, ICC, FTC, OSHA, FBI, CIA, DOE, and especially the EPA. The Koch brothers have good reason to decimate the EPA.  In just one example of media scrutiny, a 2014 article in Rolling Stone, analyzed the Koch Empire that had a long history of flouting environmental regulations and of consistently releasing toxins that endangered the environment and public safety. “According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America's air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries.” Furthermore, “the company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch's climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.” It’s easy to see why the brothers are bullish on no government interference and an anathema to the EPA. They want to win.

Global warming has been cited as the number one crisis to the planet. Even high-ranking officials in the current administration have admitted that climate change is a threat. The Pacific Standard reported that Secretary of Defense James Mattis called climate change “a security threat for which military leaders need to prepare.” And former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “admitted that climate change requires ‘serious action.”’ During a time when strong leadership and a fully sanctioned, funded and staffed EPA are critically needed to oversee a solution to the clear and imminent damage to our planet, there has been well-funded Koch-driven movement to destroy the agency and debunk global warming as a myth. 

More emphasis than ever has been placed on conquering an important frontier—milking oil for all its worth, where all roads lead to the Middle East.  Let’s start with Iran. The Washington Post recently reported, there are reasons to believe that we could be stumbling toward a military confrontation with Iran. In the past few months, heightened tensions among Israel, Palestine, Syria, Hezbollah and Iran have increased the risk of war. Not a day goes by where we don’t see massive violence between Israel and Hezbollah which makes the outbreak of another war imminent.  And most recently Iran has spearheaded Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to model the operations of Hezbollah. It’s only a question of time before the U.S. intervenes under the guise of stabilizing the region to avoid nuclear proliferation; but the real stakes have less to with the prospect of Iran producing enriched uranium and more to do with Koch Industries #Kochtopus.

With all of this talk of oil and winning, there is a problem. Who is going to fight the next bloody war? Or rather does our current leadership, both the seen and the unseen, understand the ravages of war? David Koch, age 77, the younger of the two brothers, served in the U.S. Army Reserve, which was a direct route to avoid the draft in the Vietnam War. Older brother Charles Koch, age 82, has no history of ever serving. Donald Trump, age 71, avoided going to Vietnam, was given four student deferments, and ultimately given a medical deferment for heel spurs.

Sheldon Adelson, age 84, an avid Trump Supporter, proclaimed at a panel discussion at Yeshiva University in 2013, the the United States must get tougher about Iran’s nuclear program and called on the United States to nuke the Iranian desert. With Adelson’s apparent financial influence on the 2016 Presidential campaign, it’s no wonder that Trump proclaimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The US State Department has begun to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Duly noted: Sheldon Adelson lacks combat credentials and has never served in the military.

The latest addition to the current leadership is John Bolton, age 69, who drew number 185 in the Vietnam War Draft lottery, but enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard to avoid service in Vietnam. John Bolton began his post as National Security Advisor on April 9, 2018. It was alleged that John Bolton helped kickstart the new nuclear arms race. “Bolton was a principal advocate of tearing up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty—and was the one who ripped it up in the Kremlin's face.” His recent most accomplishment includes preparing a memo for Donald Trump on how to exit the Iran deal.

Not to be irreverent, but of the past leaders who led us into our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither Dick Cheney or George W. Bush, served in combat.  When Dick Cheney, age 77, became eligible for the Vietnam War Draft, he received five deferments.  In 1989, The Washington Post writer George C. Wilson interviewed Cheney and asked about his deferments, Cheney reportedly said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service.” Former President George W. Bush, age 71, also got out of going to Vietnam by joining the National Texas Air Guard.  On May 1, 2003, he stood on the aircraft carrier USSAbraham Lincoln proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” a P.R. stunt, which later became fodder for late-night TV and stand up comics. 

One beneficial outcome of the bloody aftermath of the Iraq War resulted in additional oil reserves flowing into the world economy, and to the U.S. economy in particular.  The reason for our involvement in Iraq was to destroy Sadam Hussein’s massive cache of weapons of mass destruction, none of which were ever found. The gathering clouds over Iran are beginning to resemble a new reason to go to war —our current leadership’s noble intent to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. After all, you can’t call a war just to take a nation’s oil.  Or can you? The tentacles of Koctopus have a far reaching global impact that far exceeds the boundaries of America First. It might only be about winning some mighty fine oil reserves.

We do not have the leaders in place that we need for a complex global economy. It’s easy for them to want go to war because they have not seen combat up close and personal. They have never seen blood, raw carnage, dead children and maimed lives- the destructive path of war, and the aftermath of shell shocked vets. If they had seen these things, they would not want to go to war because it’s too high a price to pay. The current leadership cares so little for real veterans of war that they are intent on privatizing our Veterans Health Insurance, and they do not want to pay for services, institutions, hospitals and cemeteries that benefit veterans. What we have is a loose cadre of boys who have a sense entitlement and have never grown up. These boys have not earned battle scars, stripes, honors or victories. They never put their own skin in the game. True leaders have a god-like quality that transcends ordinary human boundaries and inspires us to believe we can attain the same ideal for the common good.  We want to have a passionate mission that connects the dots, is greater than any one person, and brings out the best we can be as human beings.  We want leaders who are willing to build a world for all of us. And not spill our blood so they can win a game.

Patricia Vaccarino has over 30 years' expertise working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, and individuals. She has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, speeches, web content, marketing collateral, and five books.  Her latest book, YONKERS Yonkers!, takes place during one of the most turbulent times in American history, 1969-1971. Chief leitmotifs throughout this work of fiction include the Vietnam War, a bad President in the White House, upheaval in society, racism, sexual harassment, chaos and the fundamental breakdown of social order. Sound familiar? Here we are again in the same place, different time.




Sources cited:

World Oil Review


OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletin


CIA World Fact Book


Koch effort at Wellesley will be overhauled after public attention by Annie Linskey March 27, 2018

Veterans Affairs Shake-Up Stirs New Fears of Privatized Care by Nicholas Fandos


Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire by Tim Dickinson  Rolling Stone



Is Trump stumbling toward a war with Iran by Paul Waldman Washington Post


Sheldon Adelson Calls on US to Nuke Iranian Desert


Despair and Defiance as Donald Trump declares Jerusalem Israel’s capital The Guardian


How John Bolton Helped Kickstart the New Nuclear Arms Race by Spencer Ackerman The Daily Beast


Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino has over 30 years' expertise working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, and individuals.

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