President Gas

Former FBEU president (and now Life Member) Darryl Snow sent this missive to our members on the anniversary of 9/11 (9/11/2002): – the day when 343 of our colleagues died in the line of duty.

Workers Online : September 2002 : President Gas.

President Gas

‘The question to ask ourselves as we journey into the 21st century is this: is each of us at heart a businessman, or is each of us at heart a human being. On our answer will hinge the fate of the earth.’

Nearly six months before the WTC and the Pentagon were rammed by jet planes full of fuel the Fairfax press ran an article authored by Australian writer, Richard Neville. Entitled ‘American Psycho – Oh say, can’t they see’ Neville closed the article with the above question having detailed in very colourful and pointed prose the many excesses of the American people and how the American way of life posed a threat to the world’s trade and every country’s security. Neville questioned what lay beyond Uncle Sam’s mask of sanity. He then proceeded to peel away that mask in an unquestionably critical piece that was designed to provoke comment.

The article was predictably met with howls of outrage from some quarters and just as predictably was warmly welcomed by others. In itself, that is no surprise, because America has a way of polarising opinion. So much so, that the September 11 attacks seemed to some on another part of the world a necessary response to America and the actions that form up her foreign policy.

That obscene statement felled the economic, military and political symbols that represent the American way of life. In doing so, the opponents of America took the lives of around 3000 human beings; not all of them American; and few, if any, of them guilty of proposing the foreign policy objectives that so offended her opponents. Three hundred and forty three of those people were firefighters who, for the first time found themselves firmly in the front line of international terrorism. If for no other reason, that is why Australian firefighters need to take heed of the lessons learned and why we need to broaden our interests past the home, past the fire station and past our national borders.

What, we all ask, could so offend? What drives people to act with such ferocious disregard for humanity? And what, we must seek to learn, is this thing called American foreign policy? That last question is the most relevant because very few in America-and elsewhere-really understand the needs America has created for herself.

“The American way of life is not negotiable”

That statement was obviously not made by a diplomat yet it’s a sentiment that holds true for most of America’s sons and daughters. Appropriately, perhaps, that statement with all of its absence of diplomacy was made by George W. Bush. Those words also encapsulate past and present US administrations’ approach to foreign policy.

The American way of life is held aloft by an enormous dependence on energy needs. With a population that demands the right to consume, to create wealth and needing the where-with-all to continue its way of life the primary job of an American President is pre-determined.

Point your foreign policy towards keeping up the oil supply and deal with domestic policy after that.

Six billion people are currently grazing on the global paddock. Of those America has less than 5 % of the world’s population yet she consumes 30% of the world’s resources. Twenty five percent of the world’s petrol is consumed by America, which on a per capita basis is some 27 times more than an Indian national. That same American citizen chews through 10 times more coal than a Chinese citizen does. She vomits greenhouse gas emissions into the air at a rate greater than anyone else does and it’s no surprise that her partner in resisting signing the Kyoto treaty, Australia, comes in a close second in polluting the planet.

Like America, Australians are amongst the fattest people on earth and if anyone saw the light hearted BBC doco on America “Fat, Dumb and Rich”, there is little doubt that Australians are set to follow all the way with the USA. We are also following the US in ensuring that the greater proportion of the national wealth is held by few as we face up to a future of unsustainable welfare needs. Poverty is rife and wealth is becoming more concentrated.

I’m not sure if Americans and Australians are dumb or just mute. It may be that people just don’t want to know. They want to go to work, do their best, look after their families and serve their own needs. But most of all they expect to consume the world’s resources as they see fit. And most are either too busy or disengaged to recognise that their leaders wage war to ensure that their citizens can continue to consume more, much more, than their share. If America is the greedy fat kid at the world’s table then Australia is looking to cop the fat kid’s ‘hand me downs.’ A little bit younger, a dress size smaller perhaps, but keen to emulate the older dumber kids.

George W. Bush is not fat but he sure understands consumption. This short, thin Texan also understands oil better than most. As a former oil executive, George brings his interests and his past with him into the White House.

September 11 was the start of something and no-one knows where it will end. But before that, America was already preparing for it’s future. With an insatiable appetite for oil, the US has learned to shop smart. In recent times the US reduced it’s dependence on Middle East oil – an obvious reaction to the instability in the region. That instability is partially fuelled by America’s unquestioning support for Israel over other Arab nations and that support extends to allowing Israel to flout a sack full of United Nations resolutions aimed at ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. But now we hear that Iraq’s refusal to comply with UN resolutions means that it must be militarily attacked in order that Saddam Hussein is ousted.

Why the double standards? Oil, comrades, oil.

The US is smart enough these days to draw most of its energy needs from the oil basins of the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in it’s region – an important policy shift in recent times. But they still need the Middle East to make up the balance. About 20% of US oil needs are still serviced by the Arab nations, most of it from Saudi Arabia. Now Saudi Arabia is a long term US ally with a significant US military presence stationed within its borders. That US military base was strategically important the last time another Bush waged war on Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is also the birthplace of a bloke called Osama bin Laden and 11 of the 19 hijackers that proved that America was no longer immune from war on their own soil.

And this is where it gets worrying. In Iraq we are not talking about a bombing raid to flush out and round up the terrorists. There is simply no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11. None.

Yet there are clear indications that Saudi Arabia has some questions to answer. At least twelve of them – but obviously many more. Questions that will be asked as soon as the US can find another source for the oil currently provided by the Saudis.

Is that why there needs to be a regime change in Iraq? Could it be so that a new regime in Iraq more ‘friendly’ to America will provide the oil the US needs? Once freed of the shackles of Saudi oil dependence, there is little doubt that the US foreign policy objectives as they currently apply to Saudi Arabia will undergo a very significant review.

So far we know that 343 firefighters died in New York. Western newspapers were less precise in counting dead firefighters in Afghanistan so we just don’t know what the score was there. Their deaths didn’t make the world a safer place after September 11. Quite the opposite. Along with every other death by violence it has been proved to be utterly needless.

With John Howard joining the bellicose ranting that is unnerving the planet he is placing 11, 000 Australian firefighters and many more other emergency personnel in a position they have never before faced. And our deaths won’t make the world a safer place either.

You are now involved.

To quote a familiar Talking Head on the world’s stage…. “And you might ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Even if you used to turn a deaf ear to the leftie, greenie, tree-hugging, pinko, do-gooders you might now be able to see what they are on about even if you don’t agree. If talk about globalisation, geopolitics, United Nations, foreign policy, the Middle East, wind farms, solar energy and global warming leaves you cold, your current body temperature is warmer than a New York firefighters corpse. If you just want to do your job, provide for your family’s future and serve your own needs then the way to do that most effectively is to get out of your comfort zone and speak up against this selfish stupidity that says war, any war, violence, any violence, is a necessary response to anything.

Stop it!

Darryl Snow

About Darin Sullivan (1980 Articles)
Former President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (2009-2018) and a professional firefighter with more than 30 years experience. I live and work on the NSW South Coast, Australia. I am a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around me. I am a former Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and work with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist I have long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. I am a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and have 30 years experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. I am passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. I am also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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