Like everyone I’m in shock over the Charlie Hebdo massacre this week. It’s the latest in a long string of running battles between the West and “terrorists” associated with the Muslim world. In trying to understand why this happened, and I’m thinking of this through the lens of the global oil war. That oil war is the international geopolitical struggle between many elements on the global stage over control of access to the fossil fuel resources necessary to keep our modern society functioning in the way to which we are accustomed.
The news magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was reportedly a satirical left-leaning news magazine that routinely skewered all kinds of hard line conservatives, including religious fundamentalists of all stripes, with cutting satire. In 2011 their offices had been bombed by Islamic fundamentalists which earned the magazine’s staff full time police protection. They kept publishing their weekly magazine, in the face of that and other threats. Reportedly Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier had said that “We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism.”
The Muslim Extremist against the Charlie Hebdo staff came because of repeatedly publishing items which outraged those people. For example the magazine republished the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons which had already inflamed the Middle East. There are many other examples, basically the point is that the Charlie Hebdo staff were repeatedly antagonizing Muslim Extremists with satire. They not only poked Muslims, but Christians and Jews alike. Extremists rarely grok satire, and instead respond with violence.
If this were as far as the story goes – muslim extremists angry at what Charlie Hebdo published – then I wouldn’t be writing it up for The Long Tail Pipe. What does this have to do with the Oil War or the kind of fuel we use to drive our cars?
It would be way too simplistic just to wave my hands and point to the blowback from the West repeatedly interfering with Middle East politics. Because the West is highly dependent on fossil fuels, but has little domestic oil resources, the West has to get that oil from elsewhere, such as the Middle East. To keep the supply channels open, the West believes it must continually meddle with the Politics of the Middle East. The ISIS threat and the overall civil war in Syria is just the latest example in a string of meddling going back for decades. The context is rife with Muslim Extremists radicalized over all this meddling.
Were the Charlie Hebdo attackers actually influenced by all this?
I can do better than just wave my hands – I can turn to Wikipedia and read what has been gathered of the background of the Charlie Hebdo attackers. Specifically, the Wikipedia page on the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which was the source of some of the information above. There was also a very good report by Rachel Maddow this evening that I’ll paste in below.
The attackers were two brothers of Algerian descent, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi. An additional attack was staged by a friend of theirs, Amedy Coulibaly and his wife/girlfriend Hayat Boumeddiene, both of French-Algerian descent. They were all closely associated enough that it’s clear they were one “Cell” of a larger movement.
The Wikipedia page suggests they were part of the “Buttes-Chaumont network,” named from the nearby Parc des Buttes Chaumont which they and other French-Algerian extremists used to engage in physical training activities.
It’s reported that leaving the scene the Kouachi brothers were shouting Allahu Akbar (“god is great”) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”
Hence, everything the Charlie Hebdo attackers are known to have been angry about – the conduct of the Iraq War, etc – was a result of the West’s need for fossil oil. The West has, for decades, been doing whatever is necessary to ensure access to fossil oil resources around the world.
This connection seems not to be getting made in the press coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Instead the press coverage is focusing on radical muslims staging yet another horrific attack.
Indeed, this is a horrific event. But what are we collectively losing when the press coverage fails to connect the dots between this event and the bigger context within which it happened?
With luck some brave journalists and comic artists will step up to ensure Charlie Hebdo will stay in print. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression must be maintained, even in the face of brutal bloody attacks by radical extremists.
In feeling our heart open to this horrific attack, we cannot lose sight of the bigger context I just discussed. The cost of our modern lifestyle, energized as it is by fossil fuels, relies on procuring by any means necessary fossil oil from the middle east and other areas. It means all of us who drive fossil fuel powered vehicles are indirectly complicit in the Charlie Hebdo attack.
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