There is an axiom along the lines of: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The proverb and its origin are themselves in some dispute. It appears the original version was not in English and therefore some things were literally lost in translation. In any event, the concept is both well-known and very true. I fear we are seeing a modern day example of it in Donald Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson as his nominee to become Secretary of State. Let’s explore.
Tillerson is currently the CEO of fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil. He is retiring from that position at the end of the year with a retirement package worth $70 million. He reportedly owns $200 million worth of ExxonMobil stock. It is safe to say that he is invested in fossil fuel and his wealth is directly tied to it.
At the same time that virtually every American not named Donald Trump is concerned about the Russians hacking our computer systems and trying to influence the 2016 election Trump picked Tillerson who Vladimir Putin personally pinned the Russian Order of Friendship medal on. ExxonMobil negotiated a deal to drill for oil in Russia. The only thing stopping it from commencing is a freeze President Obama put on that and similar projects. Is it really that far of a stretch to imagine a Trump-Tillerson team rescinding that order and starting up the drills? Vlad, Rex and Don Trump can all personally profit from that deal. That looks like a conflict of interest to me!
Here is what concerns me the most and the reason I made the reference to history, (not to say that climate change isn’t a big deal). At the end of World War I the Western powers (mainly England and France) let the oil interests divide the Middle East to their benefit with total disregard for the denizens of the region. Today, over 100 years later, we are still paying the price for that disastrous decision. Now an American President-elect is proposing to put a lifetime oil man in charge of American diplomacy. Putin has visions of recreating the Soviet Union and turning Russia into a great economic power in the process. All he really has to market at the moment is oil. The Middle East is in constant turmoil but it is still oil rich. Am I the only one who sees the almost guaranteed disaster in the making here?
I don’t know if it was fortune or prowess on the part of the Trump crew but they did derive tremendous benefit from the timing of the Tillerson announcement. Note that it took place just hours after Trump cancelled his conflict of interest resolution press conference. The more the media and the American people are talking about Tillerson the less they are paying attention to Trump’s conflict of interests.
If you are interested in observing the Trump administration here are a few things to remember. Trump’s greed appears to be insatiable –it is like a disease with no cure for him. Follow the financial interests. Trump wants to skim as much money off the top as possible and enhance his personal investments to the maximum. His financiers are expecting a return on investment and many are invested in industries that pollute.
We are still paying the price for the last time we let big oil control Middle East policy. Why would we repeat that mistake?
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