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Ian Angus

North Grenville, Ontario

Petrodollar myth

In his review of William Clark's book Petrodollar Warfare (GLW #697), Zane Alcorn seems to buy into the claim made by Clark, among others, that if the oil exporting countries switched from transacting their oil exports in US dollars to euros this would have "dire consequences" for the greenback's exchange rate.

Some simple arithmetic quickly demonstrates the fallacy of this claim. Currently, world oil consumption is about 85 million barrels a day. About half of this amount is traded across international borders.

Let's assume that the bills for this internationally traded oil are all paid on the same day of the month everywhere in the world (which, of course, they aren't). This would mean that if all payments were made in US dollars, oil importing countries would need to come up with $81 billion (45 million barrels X $60 per barrel X 30 days) once a month to pay for their oil imports.

World-wide holdings of US dollars currently exceed $2200 billion (with the "oil exporter" countries holding a little less than $100 billion). This means that in the above extreme scenario, a switch in all payments of international oil transactions from US dollars to euros would reduce the global demand for dollars by about 4%.

The fact is, the transaction demand for US dollars associated with the international oil trade (half of which has for many years now not been transacted in US dollars) is far too small to have much direct impact on the dollar's exchange rate.

There is also no evidence to support the claim that the November 2000 decision by the UN sanctions committee to allow Iraq to receive payment for its oil exports in euros was the motivation behind the US invasion. There is, however, considerable evidence that it was motivated by the goal of installing a pro-US regime that would sell off Iraq's oil industry to the big US (and British) corporations that owned it before it was nationalised in 1972.

Doug Lorimer

Summer Hill, NSW

David Hicks

The February 7 Canberra Times published a somewhat strange article headlined "Stop complaining over Hicks — and get on with it" by "lawyer and author" Mirko Bagaric in which he asserts that since civil rights are not absolute and in any case David Hicks has forfeited those rights when he went to fight for the "enemy", we should ignore Hicks' plight and move on.

It's hard to tell if Bagaric is being serious or just facetious. I would have thought that it would be hard to be a lawyer without believing in some absolute rights like freedom and equality, and that even rights that are perhaps not absolute should not be given up easily.

It's true that as a prisoner of war (POW), David Hicks can be held for the duration of the war (or at least until he has no opportunity to return to the battlefield), but this does not mean that he has given up all his rights. In particular, he must not be punished as well.

If not proven guilty of any recognied crime, then he should be held in accordance with the Geneva conventions, free of punishment, humiliation and certainly torture as you would want your own countrymen to be held.

You can't combine the indefinite detention of POW status with the punishment of the criminal law system without any of the legal safeguards (like recognised charges, speedy trial before a properly constituted court, habeas corpus, and evidence not obtained by torture) that must go with it.

Bagaric implies that in "guarding a tank for the murderous Taliban" Hicks is somehow guilty of a war crime. Being an enemy combatant in a war is not in itself a crime.

David Hicks should be returned immediately to Australia because 1) the Australian government can ensure he will not return to the battlefield, 2) the Americans are incapable of holding him in accordance with the Geneva conventions, and 3) the charges of attempted murder and conspiracy are a complete nonsense.

David Bastin

Nicholls, ACT [Abridged]

Spreading democracy

It is very interesting to note that while much of the world's attention has been focused on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine and other areas of the Middle East, encouraging democratic changes have been sweeping Central and South America. These positive developments have taken place without the presence of huge numbers of troops from Western armies that are alleged to be required to spread democracy in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Despite the presence of so many US troops and bases in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and other US-allied states, the supposed attempts to bring democracy to the region have been a stunning, distressing and bloody failure.

The leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile and others have relied on the efforts of their own people, and in doing so have taken great strides toward improving the conditions of their citizens in a variety of ways, spreading democratic participation among the population, advancing their self-determination and extending health and welfare services to more of their people.

Of course the last time the peoples of Latin America attempted democratic changes and challenged the corrupt, repressive, governments of the region, the USA sought to protect its strategic, economic and political position by stifling these progressive movements. The USA, through the covert activities of the CIA and Operation Condor, supported the oppression of these peoples by financing, training, supplying and arming the various dictatorships.

One by one the democratic and radical movements were suppressed, with popular and even elected governments overthrown, at the human cost of many hundreds of thousands of people killed, tortured, exiled and disappeared.

Some observers may suggest that it is partly because the US is so preoccupied with the Middle East that the Latin Americans have been able to loosen the grip of the US stranglehold over the area on this occasion.

It seems straightforward to me that if the people of any country strive for democracy, independence and freedom, then it is mostly up to the people of that nation themselves to achieve these aims. Even if outside military intervention was well intentioned, such fundamental changes cannot be imposed from outside by others, even those with powerful armies and superior technology.

Steven Katsineris

Hurstbridge, Vic [Abridged]

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