Part II continues the story of "A Century in War" in Part I. It's breathtaking in scope and content, and a shocking and essential history of geopolitics and the strategic importance of oil. Part I covered events from the late 19th century through the end of the 1960s. Part II completes the story to the present era under George Bush.
Running the World Economy in Reverse: Who Made the 1970s Oil Shocks?
In 1969, the US was in recession, interest rates were cut, dollars flowed abroad, and the money supply expanded. In addition, in May 1971, America recorded its first monthly trade deficit that triggered a panic US dollar sell-off.
Things were desperate, gold reserves were one-quarter of official liabilities, and Nixon shocked the world on August 15. He unilaterally imposed a 90 day wage and price freeze, a 10% import surcharge, and most importantly closed the gold window, suspended dollar convertibility into the metal, and shredded the Bretton Woods core provision. He also devalued the dollar by 8%, far less than what US allies wanted.
By this action, Nixon "pulled the plug on the world economy" and set off a series of events that shook it. Further deterioration followed with massive capital flight to Europe and Japan. It forced Nixon to act again on February 12, 1973. He announced a further 10% devaluation, major world currencies began a process called a "managed float," and world instability was the worst seen since the 1930s.
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Kissinger's Yom Kippur war began it when Egypt and Syria invaded Israel on October 6, 1973. It wasn't by accident as Washington and London carefully orchestrated the conflict while Kissinger controlled Israel's response. An oil embargo followed, OPEC prices skyrocketed 400% overnight, panic ensued, Arab oil producers were scapegoated, and the key part of the scheme took shape. It was for much of the windfall oil revenue (mainly Saudi, the world's largest producer) to be recycled into US investments.
Following a Tehran January 1, 1974 meeting, a second price increase doubled the price of oil for even more recycling. The net effect - the worst American and European economic crisis since the 1930s with bankruptcies, unemployment, and in the US, a bonus of stagflation. The fallout was horrific. It brought down most European governments but its effects on developing states were devastating. Nixon as well got caught in the "Watergate affair" that benefitted Henry Kissinger hugely. He became de facto president throughout the period while his boss battled to survive and lost. For Big Oil and major US and London banks, it was even sweeter. They profited handsomely.
Other issues were at stake as well, one of which was potentially cheaper nuclear electricity as an alternative energy source. By the early 1970s, it was viewed favorably, and European governments favored building 160 to 200 nuclear plants by 1985. For the first time, America's nuclear export market was threatened as well as Big Oil's overall energy dominance. It got Anglo-American think tanks and journals to launch an "awesome propaganda offensive" to ensure the oil shock strategy's success. The scheme was an "Anglo-American ecology agenda" (strongly anti-nuclear) that became "one of the most successful frauds in history."
A second Malthusian plot was also hatched through a classified Kissinger April 1974 memo. It was a secret project called National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) that called for drastic global population reduction. It reasoned that many developing nations are resource rich and vital to US growth. If Third World populations grow too fast, their domestic demand will as well, and that will pressure price rises for their goods. Curbing population growth was the counter strategy. It's also self-defeating along with horrific fallout for targeted countries.
Europe, Japan and a Response to the Oil Shock
By late 1975, industrial countries began recovering but not developing ones. The oil shock was crushing and prevented their ability to finance industrial and agricultural growth and the hopes of their people for a better life. Perversely, it was also at a time the worst global drought in decades hit Africa, South America and parts of Asia especially hard. The fourfold increase in oil prices exacerbated conditions and increased developing states' current account deficits sevenfold by 1976. They halted internal development to preserve revenue for debt service and to buy oil. Conditions also let foreign banks and later the IMF provide loans that became an onerous debt bondage cycle.
At the same time in 1974, 70% of surplus OPEC revenues were recycled abroad into equities, bonds, real estate and other investments as part of an exclusive OPEC decision to accept only US dollars for oil. It forced world nations to buy enormous amounts of dollars and do it when the currency was weak. This effectively replaced the gold standard with a "highly unstable (petrodollar) exchange system." Washington and New York banks planned to control it and thus benefit from artificially inflated oil prices.
The scheme transformed the world economy and began an unprecedented transfer of wealth to an elite minority. Engdahl called it "a perverse variation on the old mafia 'protection racket' game." Third World agricultural and industrial development suffered so a select few could prosper. It sent shock waves through the developing world and got a Colombo, Sri Lanka gathering to confront it.
Officials from 85 Non-Aligned Nations met in the Sri Lankan capital in August, 1976 and produced a document unlike any others by developing states post-war. Its theme was "A fair and just economic development, and its contents stated that "economic problems have become the most difficult aspect of international relations (and) developing countries have become the victim(s) of this worldwide crisis." Steps were proposed to address it, and they called for a "fundamental reorganization of the international trade system to improve" its terms. They also wanted the international monetary system overhauled and the "explosive issue" of foreign debt raised for the first time.
The proposal was then presented at the annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York. It was a "political bombshell," and financial markets reacted sending bank shares and the dollar lower. The fear was a potential alliance between key oil producing states and continental Europe and Japan. If in place, it could challenge Anglo-American dominance, had to be confronted, and Henry Kissinger got the job with "the full power and force of the US government." He warned EEC foreign ministers and disrupted any efforts they were considering to ally with OPEC and the non-aligned group.
Coordinating with Britain, he also forced key non-aligned nation strategists out of office within months of their declaration. The threat was thwarted and leading New York and London banks took full advantage. They turned on the spigot and increased lending to developing nations under draconian IMF terms.
Down but not out, North-South cooperation resurfaced in new ways. In late 1975, Brazil contracted with Germany to build a nuclear power plant complex. A similar deal was made with France for an experimental fast breeder reactor. Mexico as well decided to go nuclear for part of its electricity to conserve oil and so did Pakistan and Iran. The Shah's oil revenues were substantial, and his idea was "to realize an old dream" - to create a modern energy infrastructure, built around nuclear power generation, that would transform the entire Middle East's power needs. In 1978, Iran had the world's fourth largest nuclear program, the largest among developing states, and the plan was for 20 new reactors by 1995.
The idea was simple - to diversify from Iran's dependence on oil and weaken Washington and London's pressure to recycle petrodollars. Also involved was investing in leading European companies to ally with the continent. Washington was alarmed and tried to block the plan but failed. Nonetheless, the Carter administration continued Kissinger's strategy behind a phony "human rights" mask. In reality, the game was unchanged - limit Third World growth and maintain dollar hegemony. It failed miserably but threats to dollar dominance were stalled for a time.
They resurfaced in June, 1978 on the initiative of France and Germany. Responding to policy disagreements and a fluctuating dollar, they took steps to create a European currency zone and proposed Phase I of the European Monetary System (EMS) under which central banks of EEC countries agreed to stabilize their currencies relative to each other. EMS became operational in 1979 with notable positive results. This worried Washington and London as a threat to petrodollar supremacy, Britain refused to be an EMS partner, and Carter was unable to dissuade Germany from pursuing a nuclear option. The situation required drastic action.
It began in November 1978 with a White House Iran task force that recommended Washington end support for the Shah and replace him with Ayatollah Khomeini, then living in France. It would be by the same type coup that overthrew the Iranian government in 1953 along with broader aims that again are in play in the region.
Key then (and now) was to balkanize the Middle East along tribal and religious lines - a simple divide and conquer strategy that worked in the 1990s Balkan wars. The aim was to create an "Arc of Crisis" that would spread to Central Asia and the Soviet Union. Another 1978 event highlighted the urgency. At the time, the Shah was negotiating a 25-year oil agreement with British Petroleum (BP), but talks broke down in October. BP demanded exclusive rights to future Iranian output but refused to guarantee oil purchases. The Shah balked and was on the verge of independently seeking new buyers with eager ones lined up in Germany, France, Japan and elsewhere.
Washington and London were alarmed and acted. They implemented destabilization plans, starting with cutting Iranian oil purchases. Economic pressures followed, and trained US and UK agitators exacerbated them by fanning religious discontent and overall turmoil. Oil strikes as well were used. They crippled production and made things worse. American security advisors recommended Iran's Savak secret police use repressive tactics to maximize antipathy to the Shah. The Carter administration cynically protested human rights abuses, and BBC correspondents exaggerated anti-Shah protests to rev up hysteria against him. At the same time, it gave Khomeini an open platform to speak and prevented the Shah from replying.
Things came to a head in January, 1979 when he fled the country, and Khomeini returned to Tehran and proclaimed a theocratic state. Chaos was unleashed, and by May the new regime cancelled plans for further nuclear reactor development. At the same time, Iran's oil exports were cut off, and the Saudis inexplicably cut their own in January. Spot prices skyrocketed, and a second oil shock ensued that was as deviously conceived as the first one. Then it got worse. In October, newly appointed Fed Chairman Paul Volker unleashed a new scheme that turned calamity into catastrophe by design.
It was a radical new monetary policy on the pretext of "squeezing inflation out of the system." In fact, it was made-in-Washington fraud to preserve dollar hegemony, make it the world's most sought currency, and crush industrial growth to let political and financial power prop up dollar strength. Volker succeeded by raising interest rates from 10% to 16% and finally 20% in weeks. World policy makers were stunned, economies plunged into the deepest recession since the 1930s, and the dollar began an extraordinary five year ascent.
The combined effect of oil and Volker shocks took "the bloom off the nuclear rose" and ended its threat to Anglo-American oil supremacy. And if more was needed it came on March 28, 1979 in the middle of Pennsylvania at a place called Three Mile Island. Conveniently, at the same time The China Syndrome was released that fictionalized the ongoing event. The combined effect was public hysteria, and later investigation revealed critical valves had illegally been closed. In addition, FEMA controlled all news to create panic. The scheme worked, and Anglo-American supremacy was reasserted over the industrial and financial world. Nothing is stable forever, however, and within a decade new rumblings would be felt.
Imposing the New World Order
The combined effects of two oil shocks and resulting inflation created a new US "landed aristocracy" while the vast majority of Americans saw their living standards sink. It was the same type scheme Margaret Thatcher imposed on Britain when she declared "there is no alternative." Preaching free market hokum, she claimed deficit spending was the culprit, not two oil shocks causing 18% UK inflation. Her remedy - kill the patient to save it by cutting the money supply and government spending while sharply hiking interest rates to 17% in weeks, thereby causing depression she called the "Thatcher revolution." Engdahl had another view saying: "Never in modern history had an industrialized nation undergone such (a counterproductive) shock" in so short a time, except in wartime emergency.
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