WASHINGTON - Demonstrators chanted "no war for oil" at over 100 gas stations across the United States Tuesday, hoping to pre-empt military action against Iraq, which they believe would be motivated as much by U.S. oil interests as by the need to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Many of the protestors charged that, while securing oil reserves is not the only reason the U.S. has threatened to wage war in Iraq, energy concerns have played a disproportionately large role in the decision-making of the administration of President George W. Bush.
"It is not credible that there would be such a strong push for war if there were no oil in Iraq," said Ralph Nader , the Green Party's 2000 presidential candidate and founder of the grassroots activist group Citizen Works, speaking at a Washington, D.C. press conference that launched the day of protest. "Oil is power and this is in significant measure a struggle over that power."
Nader also suggested that although the Bush administration had considered supporting Iraqi opposition forces in an effort to oust the government of President Saddam Hussein, it abandoned this strategy in favor of military action because a post-war occupation of Iraq would result in greater U.S. control of the country's oil reserves, the second largest in the world.
SPANISH ACTIVISTS ALSO TARGET GAS STATIONS
A group of peace activists tied together surround a British Petroleum (BP) petrol station in Barcelona, Spain to protest against the possible war and invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain, February 4, 2003. REUTERS/Miquel Perales
Following the press conference, a group of 30-40 protesters gathered in front of Washington's American Petroleum Institute--a trade association and research institute that lobbies on behalf of the oil and natural gas industries--while thousands more demonstrated in over 25 states across the country.
The protestors chanted "1-2-3-4, we don't want your oil war" and used props, including a giant inflatable oil drum and signs reading "How Many Lives Per Gallon" and "Go Solar, Not Ballistic," to convey their opposition to an invasion of Iraq.
A counter-protest of similar numbers was organized by the American Land Rights Association (ALRA), a nationwide grassroots organization that advocates for private property rights and increased domestic energy production.
ALRA demonstrators--carrying "Oil Heats the World" signs and attempting to drown out anti-war cries with a chorus of "God Bless America"--accused environmentalists within the anti-war lobby of increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil supplies.
ALRA's Chuck Williams said Greenpeace was "aiding and abetting the enemy" by opposing domestic oil exploration in areas it considered to be environmentally-sensitive, such as Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Any hostilities against Iraq would be driven not by oil but by a need to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, added Williams.
The protest came the day before a key presentation to the United Nations Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell during which he is expected to release classified information aimed at convincing wavering allies and other nations that Iraq has defied calls to disarm.
Bush and security officials within his administration have repeatedly stated that Iraq will be forcibly disarmed if it fails to comply with U.N. resolutions, the latest of which mandates a team of inspectors to search the country for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
According to Nader and other speakers at Tuesday's meeting, over 40 members of the administration have ties to the oil industry, which contributed more than US$1.8 million to the president's 2000 election campaign. Bush and his deputy Dick Cheney were both oil executives and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is a former director of the Chevron oil corporation.
Nader called for the administration to take swift measures to reduce dependency on polluting fossil fuels, such as oil, and invest instead in cleaner energy, of the kind used to power hydraulic and electric vehicles, which Bush supported in his State of the Union address last week.
But, said Nader, rather than forcing the American automobile industry to switch to production of hybrid electric automobiles that can achieve 55 miles per gallon, "the President is promising Detroit $1.7 billion in corporate welfare gifts...while doing nothing to make improvements next year and the years after."
Copyright 2003 OneWorld.net