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Greening Racism

Rami El-Amine
Date Published: 
October 01, 2006

The war on terror is the most blatant example of anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism, but there are other less overt and more sophisticated examples, which together contribute to the overall hysteria against Arabs and Muslims. In his State of the Union address, Bush pledged to end US dependence on Middle East oil. Bush—whose ties to oil corporations are well known—had the audacity to say, “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world,” and “this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.”

It’s not worth responding to the “unstable” comment since it’s obvious to most that the instability in the Middle East is the result of US wars and policies, including their unconditional support for Israel. It is, however, worth questioning the claim about US dependence on Middle East oil since it has become popular, particularly among environmentalists.

The fact is only about 12% of the oil the US consumes comes from the Middle East. Moreover, Bush, his family, and his friends at Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and the like have all profited handsomely over the years from Middle East oil, the most profitable oil because of the lower costs of extracting and refining it. Finally, the Bush administration’s environmental record can only lead one to conclude that this sudden change of heart is more about contributing to anti-Arab/anti-Muslim hysteria and deflecting people’s anger over gas prices than it is about addressing the destruction of the environment.

Middle Eastern oil is not the problem; a US foreign policy built around controlling that oil—because of its profitability and importance to US rivals in Europe, China, and Japan—is.

Bush’s new policy agenda is very similar to a campaign launched last year by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and the environmental organization the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called Re-Energize America. In fact, Bush’s comments at the State of the Union come straight out of Re-Energize America’s pledge, which begins with, “We must use advanced technology to move beyond our reliance on polluting energy resources from unstable regions of the world.”

Innocuous think tank

On the surface, IAGS appears to be an innocuous think tank focused on ending US dependence on oil. But dig further and you will find that it is made up of some of the most anti-Arab/anti-Muslim neoconservatives (which might be a redundant thing to say since anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism is so ingrained in the neoconservative ideology). One of IAGS’s initiatives is the Set America Free coalition, whose homepage—alongside images of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Osama Bin Laden on their homepage—states, “Since much of the world’s oil is controlled by countries that are sponsors of or allied with radical Islamists who foment hatred against the United States this dependency is a matter of national security.” Of course, if this was truly the case, then the US government would be complicit based on their close alliance with Saudi Arabia.

The members of the Set America Free coalition are a who’s who of right wingers like the notoriously anti-Muslim Daniel Pipes, who once said, “all immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” One of the more prominent members is Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), who wrote the first nationally syndicated column about the deal that would have resulted in Dubai Ports World managing six US ports and was instrumental in creating the anti-Arab hysteria which ultimately killed the deal.

There is also the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) which, along with being one of the strongest supporters of right-wing Israeli policies, was and continues to be one of the main backers of the Iraq war. According to Jason Vest, in a report supporting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), JINSA argues that “‘the Arab oil-producing states’ are countries ‘with interests inimical to ours,’ but Israel ‘stand[s] with us when we need [Israel],’ and a US policy of tapping oil under ANWR will ‘limit [the Arabs’] ability to do damage to either of us.’”

Some might say that this alliance between IAGS and NRDC is not surprising since anti-immigrant views are rampant in many of the mainstream environmental groups. But the clamor of “we have to end our dependence on foreign [read: Middle Eastern] oil” can be heard on the left as well. In an article in Common Dreams publicizing a Venezuela oil buy-cott, Jeff Cohen says “Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela—not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East.” It would have been just as effective to say that the US needs to get away from a fossil fuel based economy or that we should support Venezuela. Instead many liberal to left groups continue to add to the racist hysteria that Bush, Pipes, Gaffney, JINSA and others are whipping up to justify their wars.