12.08.2018 Author: Phil Butler

Big Energy Versus the Forgotten Sahrawi of Western Sahara


In North Africa, the devastating effects of European colonialism still smolder. Hundreds of millions of lives are affected, freedom is suppressed, and progress is stifled by outside influences still largely in control. A case in point is the territory of Western Sahara, and a people the world has forgotten. Here is a briefing on the plight of the Sahrawi, victims of new French-American imperialism.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa left in limbo when Spain relinquished control back in 1975. A desert land bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north by Morocco, Algeria in the northeast, and Mauritania to the south, Western Sahara is the largest ungoverned territory in the world. It is also one of the most sparsely populated with only about 500,000 persons occupying an area of over 100,000 square miles. The people there, the nomadic and culturally diverse Saharawi, have sought self-determination for many decades now. Spain having turned over custody of their lands to both Morocco and Mauritania during decolonization put them in a kind of political, impractical limbo.

Morocco still claims the territory with the support of France and the United States, while the Sahrawi nationalist movement, the Polisario Front, has proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The SADR currently maintains a government in exile in Algeria, while Morocco still maintains control of the region. Meanwhile, the United Nations recognizes the legitimacy of the Polisario Front. Ergo my suggestion that the half million Sahrawi are imprisoned in an indeterminate developmental state. As shocking the illegal annexation of Western Sahara is, the fact the United States was the cause of the conflict there is even more upsetting.

Not many readers will be aware, but the US played the key role diplomatically in pressing Spain to accept the Madrid Treaty whereby Spain ceded the Sahara to Morocco in 1975. Since that time America has sided with Morocco, basically considering the Polisario Front an ally of the USSR during the Cold War. Today US policy is as it is everywhere else, locked in the overall scheme of global hegemony and the unshakable, age-old strategy. The “dinosaur” doggedness of American policy toward Western Sahara’s situation is a mirror reflection of US failures worldwide. The best example of this dogged ridiculousness of détente is the fact that former US ambassador to the United Nations and current National Security Advisor John Bolton played a critical role in cementing Western Sahara’s fate. Yes, you read that correctly.

Western Sahara serves as a perfect example of everything that is wrong with US policy for the last seven decades. Basically, Washington is and has always been a country club of power-hungry crooks, old money narcissists, and privileged nincompoops who’ve stumbled into good times. Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton is the poster boy of all-powerful nincompoops. Reading his assessment (PDF) of the Western Sahara situation from 1998, anyone with a wit of intelligence can discover what an idiot this man is. Let me quote a section that shows his incompetence and obtuseness.

“Now, part of our view in the spring of 1991 about Western Sahara, I think, was motivated by an early misreading, if you will of the lessons of the UN in the Persian Gulf Crisis. And I will confess, myself, to misreading those lessons, at least for a while–although, I think I’ve caught up a little bit since then. But one of the misreadings was that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted in the Security Council. . You’ve got a crisis, bring it in, roll it around a little bit, and you come to a Resolution, and fire it out, and away we go.”

No, I am not making this up. These are Bolton’s own words. He’s not only admitting his own arrogance, and that of US policymakers, he’s revealing for us the kid’s game these Washington morons have made of world policy. He excuses the plight of a forgotten people by whining about how busy he and his fellow psychopaths were ruining some other nation. “Resolving the Western Sahara Conflict,” read before the 1998 Congressional Defense and Foreign Policy Forum, is a chilling reminder of what excessive power can do. Bolton is one of the most dangerous men in this world.

What’s even more troubling in the Western Sahara case is the fact that people like Bolton have played a key role since the beginning. Bolton’s role goes back to at least 1989 when he was the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State. Before this time he was the general counsel for USAID, which certainly put him in touch with CIA goals in North Africa. But my mission here is not to roast Trump’s career war hawk. The world of analysts knows John Bolton’s hands are bloody since before his involvement in the Iran Contra affair. A last note on Bolton, he did work for free from 1997 and 2000 as an assistant to James Baker, in the latter’s capacity as envoy to Western Sahara. Which leads us to the legendary James Baker, former Secretary of State and/or Chief of Staff to Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Baker served as a United Nations envoy to Western Sahara while consulting for now infamous Enron. Baker’s role in Western Sahara was to ensure that Morocco came out on top of negotiations by placating the Polisario Front. This is illustrated by the fact the so-called “Baker Plan I” was drafted by a Moroccan legal team. Baker’s second plan was basically a red herring designed to leave in place the status quo for Western Sahara self-determination. I won’t get into this worthless bit of bureaucratic legalism here. What’s more interesting is Baker’s role at Enron and a little-known energy company known as Enron Wind. The company, taken over by GE when Enron went belly up, was one of the big players in a Morrocan wind farm endeavor to supply massive alternative energy to Europe. The details are too complicated to discuss here, but Baker’s role, the vested interest he and others in the US government had in Morocco business should have sequestered them from having anything to do with mediating this crisis.

Finding Baker’s exact connections with business in Morocco is not the easiest task. His Enron connection and Enron Wind’s bid for the massive wind farm project are not damning except for the fact Morocco is NOT supplied massive megawatts to either Europe or its local citizenry. Maybe Baker’s and/or Enron’s role was to torpedo alternative energy? Who can say? But another company in business with Enron, CMS Energy later invested in a coal-fired power plant Morocco. As it turns out, this Michigan company built the biggest independent power plant in Africa there, is also the company accused of fraudulent energy deals back in 2002. Back then CMS’s auditor was none other than Arthur Andersen, who became infamous for covering up fraudulent activity for Enron. Again, Baker’s real role seemed nebulous until I discovered a connection in between the Bush administration and Oklahoma City-based Kerr McGee Corporation (the company infamously portrayed in the movie “Silkwood”) and an offshore exploration deal with from 2001. It turns out Baker’s role in the West Sahara situation was to help his Texas oil buddies cut deals in the region. This Wayne Madsen piece at counterpunch in 2003 goes into details. This is also where France’s TotalFinaElf conglomerate comes in, as international energy titans rein in control. Today, Morocco’s Europe pipeline news finally buries the notion of giant wind farms to send cheap energy to Europeans. And with this we see James Baker’s successful efforts blossoming for one side of the Western Sahara situation. And the legacy of the Saharawi people America trampled? Well, this report on the controversial off-shore fields completes this story.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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