Satirical ‘Onion’ Headline About Saudi Oil Now Just A Regular News Report

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Four months ago the satirical news site The Onion posted the headline, “John Bolton: ‘An Attack On Two Saudi Oil Tankers Is An Attack On All Americans’”.

I remember the post because it cracked me up a the time. Like many Onion headlines, the joke came from a cartoonish exaggeration of something that we all kind of know to be basically true but which no official would actually say, in this case the fact that the drivers of the US war machine are always trying to spin their imperialist resource control agendas as something which protects ordinary Americans instead of plutocratic investments and geostrategic hegemony. It was quite clever, and it was very clearly satirical.

At the time.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday about an attack on a Saudi Aramco oil refinery last weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaimed that not only was the attack definitely perpetrated by Iran, but that it was an “act of war” and a threat to American lives.

“This was an Iranian attack,” Pompeo claimed without evidence. “We were blessed there were no Americans killed in this attack, but anytime you have an act of war of this nature, there’s always a risk that could happen.”

Indeed, despite the Saudi government hilariously labeling the wounding of an Aramco facility “their 9/11”, nobody was killed in the incident at all. The most significant casualty of the attack was Saudi oil export capacity, which has reportedly been cut in half for the few weeks it will likely take to repair the damage. Yet Pompeo is rendering the art of satire obsolete by claiming it was an “act of war” against which Americans must be defended.

The government-owned Saudi Aramco is reportedly the single most profitable corporation in the world, and while it’s difficult to know for certain behind the veils of government opacity it may be worth trillions of dollars. If you’ve ever wondered how the Saudi royals can afford extravagances like arming violent extremist militias in rival governments and a relentless genocide in Yemen, that’s how. This blood-soaked Saudi corporation is the thing that the US government is attempting to conflate with “America” right now.

Which is refreshingly honest, in a way. The idea that we’re in a corporate global empire where the lines between nations mean nothing to the elites who actually run things was once broadly considered the purview of hoarse-voiced Infowars tirades; now they’re just coming right out and saying it. As I’ve said before, in some ways the Trump administration is the most honest presidency of all time.

We’re seeing the same kind of startlingly frank admission that Washington, DC is the capital of a globe-spanning empire in the way US officials are reacting to the decision of the Solomon Islands to shift its diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China. Based on what you were taught in school about what nations are and how the world works, you would assume that a sovereign state on the other side of the planet pivoting diplomatically from Taipei to Beijing would have nothing to do with the United States, yet we’re seeing a hostile reaction from the US government of the sort you’d expect to see if Alaska or Hawaii seceded from the union.

“U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to meet with the leader of the Solomon Islands to discuss development partnerships after the Pacific island cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China this week,” a senior US official told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that “the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences.”

“And now I will begin exploring ways to cut off ties with #SolomonIslands including potentially ending financial assistance and restricting access to U.S. dollars and banking,” tweeted Senator Marco Rubio in response to the news.

“The senator is threatening to penalize a small country for switching their diplomatic ties from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China,” wrote The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison of Rubio’s reaction. “Not only is this a heavy-handed and stupid response to growing Chinese influence, since it would guarantee that the Solomons become even more dependent on China, but it is utter hypocrisy for an American politician to berate another government for doing what our government did forty years ago. It is also a good example of how many hawks view the sovereignty and independence of small states. As long as small states take the ‘right’ foreign policy positions, the hawks say they have every right to make their own foreign policy without interference, but as soon as they do something that hawks don’t like they will be targeted for punishment. It is crude bullying against one of the poorest countries in the world, and Floridians should be embarrassed to be represented by someone who engages in it.”

Things are becoming more transparent, and the gears of the empire are becoming easier to point to. It’s scary, it’s bizarre, and it will put the satirists right out of business. But ultimately, I think, it will wake people up.

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I write about the end of illusions.

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