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FW: Pulitzer Prize winner speaks out on Renewables

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  • Mike Ewert
    ... From: LaVerne Williams [mailto:lavernewilliams@sbcglobal.net] Sent: Sunday, August 25, 2002 1:06 PM To: Mike Ewert Subject: Pulitzer Prize winner speaks
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 25, 2002
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: LaVerne Williams [mailto:lavernewilliams@...]
      Sent: Sunday, August 25, 2002 1:06 PM
      To: Mike Ewert
      Subject: Pulitzer Prize winner speaks out on Renewables

      Mike:  Could you forward this on to HREG? 
      This is one powerful piece of work.  It ties it all together better than anything else I have seen.
       
      I encourage everyone who wants to understand the connections between oil & terrorism, democracy and renewables, to follow what the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN has to say.  His most recent article is below.  Copy and forward it to policy makers that you know. 
       
      When a person with his credibility speaks out on renewables like he has done here, his words can yield far more influence upon policy makers than mine and yours alone. 
       
      I have been receiving the free edition of the NYTimes (www.nytimes.com) by email since Sept. 11th along with other sources on these issues, and no one has a better grasp on all this than Mr. Friedman. His articles are in the Op-Ed Section.
       
      LaVerne A. Williams, AIA
      laverne@...
      lavernewilliams@...
      Environment Associates, Architects & Consultants
      5828 Langfield Road
      Houston, TX 77092-1429
      713.528.0000
       
       
      The New York Times

      August 25, 2002

      Drowning Freedom in Oil

      By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

      On a recent tour of India, I was visiting with an Indian Muslim community leader, Syed Shahabuddin, and the conversation drifted to the question of why the Muslim world seems so angry with the West. "Whenever I am in America," he said, "people ask me, `Why do they hate us?' They don't hate you. If they hated you, would they send their kids to be educated by you? Would they look up to you as a model? They hate that you are monopolizing all the nonrenewable resources [oil]. And because you want to do that, you need to keep in power all your collaborators. As a consequence, you support feudal elements who are trying to stave off the march of democracy."

      The more I've traveled in the Muslim world since 9/11, the more it has struck me how true this statement is: Nothing has subverted Middle East democracy more than the Arab world's and Iran's dependence on oil, and nothing will restrict America's ability to tell the truth in the Middle East and promote democracy there more than our continued dependence on oil.

      Yet, since Sept. 11, the Bush-Cheney team has not lifted a finger to make us, or the Arab-Islamic world, less dependent on oil. Too bad. Because politics in countries dependent on oil becomes totally focused on who controls the oil revenues — rather than on how to improve the skills and education of both their men and women, how to build a rule of law and a legitimate state in which people feel some ownership, and how to build an honest economy that is open and attractive to investors.

      In short, countries with oil can flourish under repression — as long as they just drill a hole in the right place. Think of Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iraq. Countries without oil can flourish only if they drill their own people's minds and unlock their energies with the keys of freedom. Think of Japan, Taiwan or India.

      Do you think the unpopular mullahs in Iran would be able to hold power today if they didn't have huge oil revenues to finance their merchant cronies and security services? Do you think Saudi Arabia would be able to keep most of its women unemployed and behind veils if it didn't have petrodollars to replace their energies? Do you think it is an accident that the most open and democratizing Arab countries — Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Dubai and Qatar — are those with either no oil or dwindling oil reserves? They've had to learn how to tap the talents of their people rather than their sand dunes.

      The Pentagon is now debating whether Saudi Arabia is our enemy. Yes and no. There is a secularized, U.S.-educated, pro-American elite and middle class in Saudi Arabia, who are not America's enemies. They are good people, and you can't visit Saudi Arabia without meeting them. We should never forget that.

      But the Saudi ruling family stays in power not by a democratic vote from these progressives. It stays in power through a bargain with the conservative Wahhabi Muslim religious establishment. The Wahhabi clerics bless the regime and give it legitimacy — in the absence of any democratic elections. In return, the regime gives the Wahhabis oil money, which they use to propagate a puritanical version of Islam that is hostile to the West, to women, to modernity and to all non-Muslim faiths.

      This bargain suits the Saudi rulers well. If they empowered the secularized, pro-American Saudis, it would not be long before they demanded things like transparency in budgeting, accountability and representation. The Wahhabi religious establishment, by contrast, doesn't care how corrupt the ruling family is in private — as long it keeps paying off the clerics and gives them a free hand to impose Wahhabi dogma on Saudi society, media and education, and to export it abroad.

      So while there are many moderate Saudis who do not threaten us, there is no moderate Saudi ruling bargain. The one that exists does threaten us by giving huge oil resources to the Wahhabi conservatives, which they use to build mosques and schools that preach against tolerance, pluralism and modernity across the Muslim world — and in America. And it is our oil addiction that keeps us from ever confronting the Saudis on this. Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.

      Until we face up to that — and curb our consumption and encourage alternative energies that will slowly bring the price of oil down and force these countries to open up and adapt to modernity — we can invade Iraq once a week and it's not going to unleash democracy in the Arab world.

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