September 22, 2008

Oil Is Thicker Than Blood

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Blood and Oil is a harrowing, methodical account of the United State’s political and military ties to oil. Activists for the environment, advocating energy independence, frequently claim that the only roadblock to mass action is ignorance — people simply don’t understand the state of the emergency or the consequences of our inaction. Michael T. Klare’s film places the blame elsewhere.
It presents without bias, the violence-filled history of the United States foreign policy efforts to protect and secure fossil fuels in the Middle East. It’s not a film targeted at the individual, and chooses not to suggest personal action to prevent climate change—switching out our light bulbs, checking tire pressure and switching to sustainable forms of energy. Instead, Blood and Oil is a targeted missile to the voter: It shows the consequences of a oil-addicted foreign policy. By the end of the film, when the current administration is shown tersely denying that the war in Iraq was motivated by oil, Klare will likely have convinced many that they are lying through their teeth.
Hollywood has made attempts to portray emotionally the issue of political ties to foreign oil. Syriana, with George Clooney and other stars, notably tries to sway by showing the personal stories of individuals in a war for non-renewable resources. The flight of a young man aboard a suicide-bound boat moves the audience to tears. The Day After Tomorrow, by comparison, has been considered the Syriana for the non-thinking audience. Roland Emmerich’s film uses computer generated visions of an apocalyptic future to shock us into fighting climate change. Michael T. Klare (the creator of Blood and Oil), however, comes from an academic background, which his methods reflect. He is a professor at Amherst and Smith Colleges (among others) who’s interest in ending ignorance about the political situation now, with this film, reach beyond academia.
Blood and Oil is the manifestation in film of various written works. Klare’s points are illustrated not by dramatic reenactments, but by historical footage of past presidents, CNN newscasts and the actual documents which outline Dick Cheney’s energy policy. While most documentaries with these sorts of sources may come off as dry or unemotional — lacking the visceral punch of movies like Syriana — Blood and Oil is all the more frightening because of its sampling from legitimate sources. The audience is forced to confront, over the course of the film, the fact that a series of presidents — beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt in his meeting with the Saudi Arabian king in 1945 — continually reinforced a relationship with the Middle-Eastern nation in exchange for access to oil.
Throughout the film, Klare is unsparing in his accusations against the current and past administrations. He explains the origins and consequences of military actions dating back to World War II, through the first war in the Persian Gulf and up to our current entanglement in Iraq. No doubt this film will be criticized by many — those same voices that we hear in the beginning of the film, saying that the far left lies — who claim that Klare’s film is biased and un-patriotic. However, Blood and Oil stands on its own in a way that The Day After Tomorrow never did. There can be little argument with TV clips from the past 50 years, presenting the same harsh truth again and again: Blood has been the fuel for the American addiction to oil.