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Shell's Oil, Africa's Blood

In the wake of Nigeria's execution of nine environmental activists, including Nobel Prize winner and leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, evidence has indicated that Shell has fomented civil unrest in Nigeria, contributed to unfair trials, and failed to use its leverage to prevent the unjustified executions. The executed activists were involved in massive protests against Royal Dutch/Shell Group because of the environmental devastation it has caused-particularly in Southern Nigeria's Ogoniland.

Since the executions, Shell has also managed to keep the United States media from informing the public of its actions.

Nigeria's government, under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, derives 90 percent of its foreign revenue from oil exports. The United States, home of Royal Dutch's subsidiary Shell Oil Company, located in Houston, Texas, imports almost 50 percent of Nigeria's annual oil production.

In October 1990, Nigerian villagers occupied part of a Shell facility demanding compensation for the farm lands which had been destroyed by Shell. A division manager at Shell Petroleum Development Company called the Nigerian military for help. The military forces then fired on the villagers, killing some 80 people and destroying or badly damaging 495 homes. A Nigerian judicial inquiry later concluded that the protest had been peaceful. The MOSOP was formed after the massacre to continue protests against Shell. And while Shell has denied having anything to do with the recent executions, Dr. Owens Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa's brother, reported that on three occasions Brian Anderson, the managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Co. in Nigeria, offered to make a deal with Wiwa: Shell would try to prevent the executions if the activists would call off their protests. Wiwa refused, and Shell did not intervene.

After international pleas for Shell's intervention, Shell claimed that it was not-and would not- become involved in Nigeria's political affairs. Internal documents uncovered by journalists and human rights groups contradict this claim.

According to a report by Andy Rowell in the Village Voice (November 21, 1995), there is evidence that Shell has been bankrolling Nigerian military action against protesters and that two key prosecution witnesses admitted in sworn affidavits that they were offered bribes by Shell to unjustly incriminate Saro-Wiwa in his trial.

In response to these allegations, Shell has mounted an international media campaign to combat negative publicity. Amnesty International USA said the Houston Chronicle refused to run an ad which questioned Shell's stance on human rights violations in Nigeria and that three billboard companies, including Gannett Outdoor Co. Inc., also declined to sell space to the human rights organization.


U.S. Troops Exposed to Depleted Uranium During Gulf War

Depleted uranium (DU) weapons were used for the first time in a war situation in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and were hailed as a new and incredibly effective weapon by the Department of Defense. Since the Manhattan Project of World War II, numerous government studies have indicated that while DU weapons are highly effective, they are still extremely toxic and need to be handled with special precautionary tools and protective gear.

Although army training manuals were written in the 1980s to warn tank crews and commanders of the dangers associated with DU rounds, the Pentagon failed to warn Gulf War troops of the dangers. The Defense Department did circulate a memo to Gulf War commanders that contained three key points: any vehicle or system struck by a DU penetrator can be assumed to be contaminated; personnel should avoid entering contaminated areas; and, if troops must enter contaminated areas, they should wear protective clothing. Unfortunately, this memo was written on March 7, 1991, eight days after the firing of weapons ceased in the Persian Gulf.

Without this knowledge, and without the necessary protective clothing, the 144th Army National Guard Service and Supply Company was allowed to perform DU battlefield cleanup for three weeks in Kuwait and southern Iraq, where the U.S. Army fired at least 14,000 rounds (or 40 tons) of DU ammunition.

The Department of Energy possesses over 500,000 tons of DU that has been accumulating since the Manhattan Project. Billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. government to find a final dumpsite for the radioactive waste, but other nations, as well as communities in Maine and New Mexico have resisted the efforts to dump the DU waste in their areas. The use of this weaponry in the Persian Gulf, then, served two purposes. It eliminated enemy troops and weapons and disposed of tens or even hundreds of tons of the radioactive DU on the Persian Gulf battlefields.

The effects of depleted uranium exposure, however, are just beginning to be known. DU has now been linked to many illnesses, including the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome." Despite widespread concern among Gulf War vets and in U.S. communities about the dangers of DU weapons, the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, and military defense contractors are all excited about the sales potential of DU weapons as well as the transfer of DU to allies for their own weapons production. According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission shipment records, steady transfers- amounting to several million pounds of DU-have been flowing to U.S. allies over the past decade, with Britain, France, and Canada being the largest recipients.


Dark Alliance: Tuna Free Trade, and Cocaine

If recent history is any guide at all, one can only conclude that President Clinton's free trade policies have been immensely valuable to drug smuggling cartels based in Italy, Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico. The ongoing dolphin-safe tuna debate sharply illustrates U.S. indifference to the problem of international drug trafficking. According to the Administration's own Drug

Enforcement Agency (DEA), approximately 90 percent of the worldwide flow of cocaine and heroin is transported and maintained by fishing fleets-with Mexico as one of the most successful traffickers.

By the late 1980s, the Mexican fleet, with 70 big boats, dominated smuggling operations. The country's boats and canneries were privatized-with tuna industry shares divided up between prominent Mexicans in the ruling PRI party.

In the early 1990s, legislation for dolphin-safe standards on tuna fishing closed the lucrative U.S. and western European tuna markets to Mexican, Venezuelan, and Colombian fleets that continued to use the outlawed "purse-seine net" technique. As a result, the Mexican fleet began to shrink, thus limiting their overall smuggling capacity. In the fall of 1995, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo came to Washington for talks with President Clinton. During these talks, Zedillo raised the specter of a World Trade Organization complaint about the Mexican tuna ban. President Clinton assured him that U.S. domestic legislation would solve the problem more prudently.

On May 8, 1996, the Clinton Administration's legislative reversal of the ban cleared the House Resource Committee. With this passing, the Mexican tuna fleet, owned by narcotraffickers and high-ranking Mexican officials, is expected, once again, to expand.

As critics of the Clinton Administration's policy have noted, Mexico has become so dependent on the hard currency it receives from drug trafficking that any significant crackdown on its narcotics cartels would jeopardize economic recovery, and further deterioration of Mexico's economy would hurt NAFTA, destabilize Mexican politics, and increase immigration.

Today, with the help of NAFTA and tuna boat drug smuggling, Mexico has become one of the most important countries of legal trade- and illegal drug trafficking-across the U.S. border. And the free trade agreements will continue to be a boon for the world's drug smuggling cartels because of the relaxed inspection of commercial cross-border traffic between Mexico and the U.S. In addition, liberalized international banking rules have made it easier to launder billions in drug revenues.

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