It’s not all about oil anymore

The tagline to my book, THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”, set in the context of the recent past of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, states:

It’s all about oil . . . “

and I still believe that holds true for most of the 20th Century  Iran – and it was certainly true from 1936 when the Americans discovered vast reserves of cheap crude oil in Saudi Arabia.

But the Americans, having discovered vast reserves of shale oil and gas at home, are no longer dependent on Middle East crude oil. They have shifted their geo-political focus onto the Far East. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Syrian civil war are disappearing from the headlines. And what about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that drove most of the 20th Century chaos in the Middle East?

Flying under the rader, the Israelis have taken possession of more than 70 % of the former Palestine. Of the remaining 30% (the West Bank, supposedly set aside for the Palestinian State) the Israelis continue to build settlements in strategic locations, linked by settler only roads. Effectively they are now in control of the West Bank, and the two state solution is dead. How long will it be before they annex the West Bank – and then what next?

If you believe my Arab friends, the Israelis will never be satisfied until they control the whole of the Middle East. They will, under the pretext of national security, attempt to annex Jordan – the home of so many displaced Palestinians.

In the meantime I grieve for the characters I created to tell the turbulent story of the oil rich Middle East. The flotsam and jetsam that washed up in The Gulf for a variety of reasons. Archetypal expatriates. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, driven to the fringes of Western society trying to survive.

Poor old Uncle Tom, diabetic and obese and impotent. Unable to give his wife Hettie the child she wanted so desperately. His foster son Ray, the brave SAS trooper whose fiancee cheated on him while he was away fighting in the Dhofar campaign – a hidden politicians war.

And the equally brave Dudley, a young cavalry lieutenant leading desert patrols in the Trucial States, fighting tribesmen in the Battle for Buraimi Oasis – a proxy war between Britain and the USA.

And Captain Bob who, when he lost his command of a supertanker, lost his command – and submitted to the ferocious attacks of the shrew of his social climbing Glaswegian wife.

And my narrator Mick, a journalist of the old school, grubbing around in all the darkest corners exposing corruption and hypocrisy regardless of the personal cost. It cost him the love of his life – Leila – the lovely young Palestinian woman from the refugee camps trying to pass as a Lebanese flight attendant because she just wanted a husband, and a normal life.

And it almost cost him the friendship of his life-long friend Pete Moore, a talented geologist and succesful businessman who was too high-minded and naïve to withstand the blandishments of Natalya, a 19 year old Kosovan whore, and the threats of her brutal Albanian pimps.

All of this is fading into history as international attention shifts to the Far East, and the maniac who is running North Korea. Here in Australia, even that story takes second and third place to the debate about gay marriage – and the citizenship requirements of senators. Both subjects rank somewhere between 0 and 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. How low can we go?

THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”, deals with the effect that fabulous oil wealth brought to the region after the quadrupling of crude oil prices in 1972. You can preview my book on Amazon’s Kindle Websites at:

www.amazon.com www.amazon.co.uk

and read the comprehensive 5 Star reviews it has received, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, you can preview my book, and order the paperback from my UK publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Advertisements

Writing is like living life twice

Writing is a hard discipline that gives you headaches, sleepless nights – and a bad back. But a wonderful thing about writing is the threads that weave into stories unbidden – and only reveal themselves later.

My first book – THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” was written on weekends as short stories while living in an oilfield camp in Saudi Arabia and based on my 40 years experiences in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. There were 10 stories – two from each decade. But when YouWriteOn (the UK Arts Council initiative designed to encourage new writing) offered to publish a book for me, I realized I didn’t have a book – just a collection of stories. I had to weave those stories into a narrative.

I chose to do this through the eyes of a young and idealistic journalist sent out from the UK to cover the region. I topped and tailed the stories with a fictitious beginning and end for the fictitious journalist’s career. And when I had finished I realized that, subconsciously, the thread running through the book is a classic hero’s journey.

I have made several false starts on the sequel GULF II “The Beginning of Sorrows”, but recently, using a peripheral story from my first book set in aftermath of the war in Kosovo, I realize that this has set the tone for that book.

In the Kosovo excerpt a Serb policeman makes the point that UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) and the O.S.C.E. (Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe) are desperate to prove that they were not wrong to back the Albanians against the Serbs.

But in researching the story again I find that now, General Wesley Clarke, the Supreme Allied Commander NATO during the Kosovo War, believes that NATO intervened on the wrong side. And Carla del Ponte, the former special prosecutor of ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) produced a book, THE HUNT, in 2008 that contained “serious and credible allegations” that the Albanians had transported 3-400 Serb prisoners from Kosovo, harvested their organs – and then killed them. These allegations were backed by The Council for Europe.

This is by no means the first time The West has blundered in and created chaos. Politicians understand the issues (maybe) – but they don’t understand the people. They don’t understand the tribalism, the depth of ethnic hatreds and the desire for revenge going back centuries that is rife in the Middle East and The Balkans. And so they blunder around and make things worse.

In the Middle East think Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration, and Britain’s neglect of its mandates in The Gulf, and the 5 fold increase in crude oil prices that funded the rise of fundamental Islam leading to the events of 9/11. And now Gulf II that destabilized the region and led to ISIS.

Read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Although it is a work of fiction, it is journalistic because the stories start from real events I witnessed – or were reported to me by reliable sources during my 40 years in The Gulf.

It is written from the points of view of those sources, archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf. They were victims of power-mad politicians’ proxy wars,(The Buraimi Oasis, the Dhofar Campaign, the Viet Nam War), greedy finance house excesses (IOS, BCCI, Lonrho, Lloyds of London etc.) – and in some cases just victims of Madame Bovary style Western wives, and out-of-control, drug-crazed teenage children.

You can preview my book on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites:

www.amazon.com

www.amazon.co.uk

and read the comprehensive 5 Star reviews it has received, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, you can preview my book, and order the paperback from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be . . . or is it?

The 1950s, when I was growing up in the UK, seems to me to be a lot better and more peaceful era than the present. Or is it that I was young, and naive, with the whole of my life ahead of me? I think not.

A quick look at the crime statistics tells the story. In 1982 there were just over 400,000 crimes reported in the UK, and the clear up rate was over 50%. Last year there were 2.4 Million (repeat Million) crimes reported in the UK – and the clear up rate was lower than 30%. And the statistics for mental health – and drug abuse – tell the same story.

In the aftermath of WWII everybody was sick of war – and worked for a better life. And young couples could buy a modern home on one of the many new housing estates being built for a 10% deposit and a 25 year mortgage at 2.5% per annum of the husband’s income.

So the “progressives” (neo-liberals, libertarians, strident feminists and anarchists etc.) who are screaming that Brexit and Trump are reactionaries are wrong. Much as I dislike Trump, and Nigel Farage, what they are exploiting is a desire by the majority (repeat majority) of the people to return to a better and more peaceful age. The progressive belief in the relentless upward march of history is fake. Karl Marx was right, “History repeats itself, first time tragedy – second time farce.”

The progressives were leading us into a narcissistic, dissolute and decadent era that would cause the collapse of Western civilization – as decadence has always lead to the collapse of civilizations.

In parallel with the decline of The West is the Middle East ‘s descent into chaos. In the past it was by no means as safe and secure as The West – but after WWI, for a while, there was a semblance of order under paternalistic international oil companies. Oil towns like Kirkuk, Abadan and Dhahran had good schools and hospitals open to the families of local employees.

And after WWII, for a while it started to make good progress towards a more universal affluence. But that disappeared under the greed and corruption of The Shah, and Saddam, and the Assads. And the creation of the State of Israel.

If you want insights into the present chaos and confusion in the Middle East, from Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration to Britain’s neglect of its mandates in The Gulf, and the 5 fold increase in crude oil prices that funded the rise of fundamental Islam leading to the events of 9/11, read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.

Although it is a work of fiction, it is journalistic because the stories start from real events I witnessed – or were reported to me by reliable sources during my 40 years in The Gulf.

It is written from the points of view of those sources, archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf. They were victims of power-mad politicians’ proxy wars,(The Buraimi Oasis, the Dhofar Campaign, the Viet Nam War), greedy finance house excesses (IOS, BCCI, Lonrho, Lloyds of London etc.) – and in some cases just victims of Madame Bovary style Western wives, and out-of-control, drug-crazed teenage children.

You can preview my book on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites:

www.amazon.com

www.amazon.co.uk

and read the comprehensive 5 Star reviews it has received, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, you can preview my book, and order the paperback from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Jerusalem

The tagline to my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is:

‘It’s all about Oil’

Certainly in my working lifetime in the 20th Century international oil industry that appeared to be true. But in the new Millenium, the brutal Palestine/Israeli conflict became ever more prominent, and then with 9/11, the Gulf War, the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Civil War, came the rise of Da’esh (ISIS), which seemed to be the ultimate in atavistic and barbaric behaviour.

But in Biblical terms, Da’esh are absolutely within the context of Middle Eastern history. For the past 3,000 years, ever since Abraham(Ibrahim), it has always been the scene of cruel, bloody and brutal conflict. And maybe it always will be, for this is the site of Armageddon.

‘It’s all about Religion’

I have just watched Simon Montefiori’s documentary JERUSALEM that traces the history of this, the most Holy of Cities, from Canaanite paganism, through Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And the number of times it has been besieged, destroyed and rebuilt – all involving unbelievable levels of cruelty and barbarism – is mind boggling.

And after each destruction they rebuilt the city and its temples and shrines over the ruins of the religious sites of the previous occupiers, sometimes using the same stones. In exactly the same way The Holy Bible built on The Torah, and The Holy Qu’ran built on the Old Testament and the New Testament – and is proclaimed as the Final Testament. Yet we are all ‘People of the Book’ – followers of the same one God.

I have to admit that the focus of my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is very narrow in terms of the religious strife that has riven the Middle East throughout the centuries. To try and correct this I am writing a sequel, GULF II “The Beginning of Sorrows”, based on the Biblical Quotation:

“And ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars: see that ye are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass – but the end is not yet. For Nation shall rise against Nation, and Kingdom against Kingdom: and there shall be Famine, and Pestilences, and Earthquakes in divers places. All these are The Beginning of Sorrows.”

In the meantime, if you want insights into the chaos and confusion in the Middle East from Britain’s neglect of its mandates in The Gulf, and the 5 fold increase in crude oil prices that funded the rise of Islam, until the events of 9/11, read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Although it is a work of fiction, it is journalistic because the stories start from real events I witnessed – or were reported to me by reliable sources during my 40 years in The Gulf.

It is written from the points of view of those sources, archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf. They were victims of power-mad politicians’ proxy wars,(The Buraimi Oasis, the Dhofar Campaign, the Viet Nam War), greedy finance house excesses (BCCI, Lonrho, Lloyds of London, IOS etc.) – and in some cases just victims of avaricious Western wives, and out-of-control, drug-crazed teenage children.

You can preview my book on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites for the USA and UK, Germany and Spain, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Lest We Forget

At the moment I am watching a CNN documentary about the 1970s. An era that saw the advent of cable TV, the 24 hour news cycle, NIXON and the Watergate scandal – and the ignominious end of the VIETNAM War.

And it is that last segment that resonates with me. I lived in the USA in the mid-1960s, and many of my young colleagues were drafted to fight in Viet Nam. I was even taken off a bus to Canada and questioned by the FBI as a potential draft dodger. Fortunately I had already done military service in the UK, and was not eligible for the draft.

And one of my best friends here in Australia fought in the Viet Nam war. In fact we first met on vacation in Viet Nam.

 The CNN segment on the war ends with a clip of the presenter standing in Arlington Cemetery among the endless rows of white headstones marking the graves of young Americans who died in Viet Nam, and he says,

“If any future President ever thinks of going into a foreign war again, he should visit this place before he makes that decision. The Viet Nam War cost America 7 trillion dollars, the lives of 56,000 young Americans, and more than a hundred thousand wounded – some of whom will never recover from their injuries.”

He spoke those words in 1974 – and what he didn’t say was that it was all to no avail. When the Americans left Viet Nam after 10 years of bloody conflict the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese swept into Saigon and took over the South.

Now think Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The body-bags still keep coming home (although figures are no longer published) – and the cost escalates to unimaginable numbers, not just in trillions of dollars, but in civilians killed and maimed and forced to flee their countries as refugees. Will no American President learn the lessons of (recent) history and heed George Washington’s words:

“Interventionists are the result of refined education on minds of a peculiar structure,”

If you want insights into the recent history, and the chaos and confusion in the Middle East read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. It is written from the points of view of the archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf prior to the events of 9/11. They were victims of power-mad politicians’ wars, greedy finance house excesses – and in some cases just victims of avaricious Western wives, and out of control drug-crazed teenage children.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites for the USA, UK, Germany and Spain, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Why am I a Sceptic/Cynic?

I had a happy childhood. I am by nature optimistic – and yet I am sceptical of everything I see and hear – because:

My first management role was as Group Leader of SHELL’s jet fuel lab near Heathrow. My first project was the field testing of a water detector that had been developed by SHELL’s prestigious Amsterdam Research Laboratorium – and I, and my 3 research assistants, could not make it work.

Under intense pressure from my boss – and feeling like a failure who had fallen at the first fence – and in the throes of a panic attack at 3 am, I thought the unthinkable. What if Amsterdam were wrong? It took me and my assistants a morning in the lab to show that they were wrong.

I rushed to my boss shouting “Amsterdam are wrong.”. He was aghast. “You can’t say that,” was his reponse. And I had to invent a bullshit technology invoking Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to explain the difference between lab results and field experience. The SHELL Water Detector is still in safe use at most of the world’s airports – thanks to my 3 am panic attack.

Very much later, I was the Manager of SGS Redwood’s Production Laboratory in Aberdeen that devised the crude oil Production Allocation scheme for the EKOFISK field with the Norwegain Petroleum Directorate; and for Occidental’s PIPER/CLAYMORE oilfields. On that basis we were invited to participate in the development of a scheme for the vastly more complex Sullom Voe Terminal project along with SHELL, ESSO, BP and ICI.

Test samples were sent to all the labs for analysis – and the results were sent to a Cambridge PhD for collation and analysis. He issued a report that made no sense to anybody. Les Berqvist from ESSO then asked the 64K question, “What is the baseline you have used to compare the results?” His confident answer, “My results, of course.”

Instead of applying well known statistical methods to analyze all results, including his own, he had made the vain and arrogant assumption that his results were the most accurate – and he was hostile, embarrassed and defensive when he was found out. Contrary to popular belief, scientists are human. They are frequently vain, intellectually arrogant, insecure and desperate for recognition. And under intense pressure to conform to orthodox beliefs in order to attract funding.

Think what George Orwell said:

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas, which it is assumed right-thinking people will accept without question.”(GlobalWarming) ”Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban.” (think the late Dr. David Kelly, and Iraqi WMD)

Just like the scientists, the neo-Cons and neo-Liberals are so certain of their righteousness that they feel justified in spinning their half truths – and their outright lies. Tony B-Liar is still maintaining it was right to get rid of Saddam Hussein, in spite of the hundreds of thousands killed and being killed, maimed and being maimed in Iraq and Syria, the millions of refugees being displaced into Jordan, Turkey, and on into Europe – and the rise of ISIS, a far more terrifying and effective terrorist group than Al Qa’eda. He needs to seek asylum – in a psychiatric unit.

If you want more insights into the chaos and confusion that preceded all this read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. It is written from the points of view of the archetypal expatriates who washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf, prior to the events of 9/11. They were victims of powermad politicians’ wars, greedy finance house excesses – and in some cases just victims of avaricious Western wives, and out of control drug-crazed teenage children.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites for the USA, UK, Germany and Spain, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Is the (male) Working Class Hero dead?

In the last three books I have read, the protaganists have been 23 year old, American, white, female college graduates out in the exciting and frightening wide world for the first time. Is this the new trope for the classic hero’s journey?

My book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is also a classic hero’s journey – and my protaganist is indeed 23 years old and white; but male, and from the working class, and not college educated. Nevertheless he feels alienated and guilty because he has abandoned the hard life of his mates in the shipyard, and works as a journalist. He is a foreign correspondent out in the wide world for the first time. And it is probably this guilt that fuels his rage against Britain’s elitist foreign policies, and against his entitled University educated colleagues in the media.

For the working class male – and the cannon-fodder foot- soldier who fights not for Queen and Country, but for his comrades in arms – loyalty to your mates/comrades is central to your sense of masculinity. To rise above it, and break ranks is a betrayal.

But a sense of honour, comradeship, and betrayal is archaic now. We have moved so far away from the social revolution of the 1950s,(when the working class gained “free” access to higher education, and upward mobility), that feelings of guilt and alienation are riseable? And the anti-Viet Nam war riots of the 60s, and the Sexual Revolution, succeeded in putting women and under-25s on an equal footing with their Elders and Betters (who proved to be just older, and not better). And the feminist movement has succeeded in making it possible for 23 year old white females to be heros – and not heroines?

At least, for me, one benefit would be we no longer hear about John Lennon – the working class hero who never did a day’s work in his life.

The female protaganists do feel guilt, but it is because once the adrenaline rush of being out in a violent, unpredictable and squalid world has died, they come to realize that they are not connected. They are priveleged, affluent, healthy and hygenic, and wear nice expensive clothes – and always have a return ticket back to suburbia. This isolates them from the Third World residents they mingle with – for a while.

My protaganist Mick, coming from an underclass that has suffered the consequences of the blunderings of the ruling classes, and dying in the thousands in politicians’ wars, identifies all to easily with the Wretched of the Earth. So my stories are from the bottom up, while these new stories are top down.

Mick’s rage is a primal howl against the possibility of living a decent and honourable life in an increasingly squalid, corrupt and tawdry globalized world. As he says “The World is OK – it’s people who are pricks.”

I make no claim that my stories are better – but they are authentic, and felt, rather than observed. And it is my belief that any art form benefits from being an emotional journey – not intellectual. Perhaps in my next book the protaganist should be a 23 year old Liberalized Muslim woman? But then it would not be authentic. I am not a Muslim or a woman

THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is a linked series of character studies of the archetypal expatriates who wash up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf, victims of powermad politicians wars, and greedy finance houses excesses – and in some cases just victims of shopaholic wives, and out of control teenage children. Welcome to the modern world.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com