Seamless Transition: Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell Moves to BP America

Wed, 2011-09-14 06:15Steve Horn
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Seamless Transition: Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell Moves to BP America

Last week, BP America hired former Department of Defense spokesman, Geoff Morrell, as its head of communications.

The move sheds light on the central tenet of American national security policy dating back to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's not-so-well-known, but crucial 1945 meeting with then King of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud. That is, what Hampshire College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, Michael Klare, calls a foreign policy of “Blood for Oil,” which was outlined in full as such vis-a-vis the 1980 “Carter Doctrine,” presented as part of President Jimmy Carter's 1980 State of the Union Address.

During that speech, Carter stated (emphases mine), 

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

The Carter Doctrine made it clear that domination over the procurement of the resources of the Persian Gulf (a.k.a. oil) was a national security issue for the United States, and thus, an issue largely in the hands of the Pentagon.

A historical case study of the Carter Doctrine in action, predating its official announcement, is the BP-orchestrated 1953 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency/British MIcoup of then Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. Contemporary case studies include the current military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.   

The new job for Morrell, then, is less anything “new,” and more so, a textbook example of the revolving door and “blood for oil” in-action.

​The Pentagon's Cozy Contracting Relationship with BP: “Fueling” the Military Occupations

BP, formerly called British Petroleum until its turn-of-the-century mergers with Amoco and ARCO, and now infamous for the summer 2010 Gulf Coast oil disaster, has received far less publicity for its lockstep relationship with the Pentagon. 

In June 2010, while BP was in crisis management mode in response to the Deepwater disaster, journalist Nick Turse wrote a piece that flew under the radar titled “BP and the Pentagon's Dirty Little Secret,” exposing this little-covered side of the BP story – its cozy petroleum contracting relationship with the Pentagon.

Wrote Turse (emphases mine),

In 2009, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), the military spent $3.8 billion for 31.3 million barrelsaround 1.3 billion gallons – of oil consumed at posts, camps, and bases overseas. Moreover, DESC’s bulk-fuels division, which purchases jet fuel and naval diesel fuel among other petroleum products, awarded $2.2 billion in contracts to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year. Another $974 million was reportedly spent by the ground-fuels division, which awards contracts for diesel fuel, gasoline, and heating oil for ground operations, just for the war in Afghanistan in 2009.

(Snip)

In 2009, according to the Defense Energy Support Center, the military awarded $22.5 billion in energy contracts. More than $16 billion of that went to purchasing bulk fuel. Some 10 top petroleum suppliers got the lion’s share, more than $11.5 billion, among them big names like Shell, Exxon Mobil and Valero. The largest contractor, however, was BP, which received more than $2.2 billion – almost 12% of all petroleum-contract dollars awarded by the Pentagon for the year.

While Turse unearthed the Pentagon's BP contracting trends, BP is also “in” on the petroleum procurement game in two places integral to U.S. military operations: Iraq and Libya.

BP, U.S. Military Occupations, and Oil

 ​Iraq

In November 2009, BP signed a technical service contract with Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company, with the goal of boosting production from the Rumaila oil field, located in southern Iraq. The plan called for “a 20 year lifetime,” and “aims to nearly triple the Rumaila field’s output, which would make it the world’s second largest producing oilfield,” BP stated in a press release announcing the deal.

BP continued, “With around 65 billion barrels of initial oil in place – of which 12 billion barrels have been recovered, we estimate that there is probably 20 billion barrels of oil still to recover, assuming a recovery factor of 40%, which is perfectly credible in this sort of field.”

The Associated Press, reporting on the deal, explained, “…the deal…marks the return of BP to Iraq after the 1972 oil nationalization pushed out Western oil companies. BP has a long history in Iraq. The company was a shareholder in the Iraqi Petroleum Company when it started drilling Iraq's first oil well at Baba Gurgur just north of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk in June 1927.”

 Libya

Prior to the launch of the U.S.-led NATO invasion of Libya, BP had just secured oil drilling rights in western Libya via a deal with the Libya National Oil Corporation. Reuters reported, “BP…was preparing for the start of exploratory drilling in western Libya when it suspended the effort due to the uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.”

A Seamless Transition for Morrell

In an article titled, “BP Hires a Pentagon PR Warrior,” Mother Jones reporter Adam Weinstein summed up the seamless transition for Morrell:

​Given continued uncertainty over Libya's mineral resources and BP's interest in them…the oil giant stands to benefit from Morrell's access to Pentagon insiders who can keep “helpful” US warplanes buzzing over North African shores.

Though Weinstein refers specifically to Libya, the broader historical and contemporary geopolitical posturing and maneuvering by BP makes clear that Morrell is the perfect man for the job. 

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