Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama’s Oval Office speech: A cowardly cover-up of BP’s crimes

President Obama’s Oval Office speech Tuesday night on the Gulf oil disaster was a cowardly exercise in evasion and cover-up that could have been written by the publicity department of BP.

The 18-minute speech, coming on the 57th day of the worst environmental catastrophe in US history, provided no concrete assessment of the causes of the oil spill or the dimensions of the crisis—in terms of damage either to the ecosystem or the economy.

The speech represented a complete capitulation to BP and corporate power. Anyone who expected that Obama would use the occasion to provide the American people with an honest accounting of the disaster and the culpability of BP had to be sorely disappointed.

Given only hours before a scheduled White House meeting with top BP executives, the speech made absolutely clear that the Obama administration takes its marching orders from the corporate-financial oligarchy. In his response to the Gulf disaster, Obama has adopted the same approach as he did to the criminal actions of Wall Street that threw the US and the world into the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. No one is to be held accountable and nothing is to be done that challenges the basic interests of the financial aristocracy.

In his speech, Obama made no clear condemnation of BP’s actions, either before or after the April 20 blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that took the lives of 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

He made no mention of the latest shocking revelations of BP’s systematic violations of safety procedures in the run-up to the explosion that sank the rig—violations that were part of the company’s policy of cutting corners in order to save time and money and boost profits.

He did not even note the new estimates released that day by government scientists placing the oil flow rate at 35,000 to 60,000 gallons a day—the latest evidence of BP’s consistent policy of lying about the crisis.

Nor was there any mention of a criminal investigation into BP—something that was floated two weeks ago by the administration and has since been dropped.

Obama devoted exactly four short sentences and less than a minute to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, omitting anything that could be damaging to BP. For example, he failed to note that the company’s blowout preventer, supposedly the failsafe barrier against an oil gusher, failed to operate.

“Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth,” he continued, “stopping it has tested the limits of human technology.”

This is a miserable and dishonest attempt to place the disaster outside of any direct responsibility on the part of BP. The issue is not the supposed limits of human technology, but the fact that BP had no plan in place to deal with a blowout.

Obama proceeded to tout his desultory and incompetent response to the spill, stating, “As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.”

Where did the figure of 90 percent containment come from? From BP!

Obama presented the claims of the company, including full stoppage of the leak by late summer, as though they were to be trusted. This is after BP has given incorrect and false information from day one of the disaster—information which Obama and his subordinates have uncritically accepted and passed on to the public.
Obama was silent on BP’s record of deceit—beginning with its claim after April 20 that there was no oil leak, followed by its fraudulent estimates of 1,000 barrels a day and then 5,000 barrels. Nor did he mention the company’s defiance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s call for it to stop pumping the toxic oil dispersant Corexit into the Gulf. Or its policy of blocking the media from gaining access to polluted beaches and marshlands.

As his speech made clear, the administration will continue to disseminate BP’s lies.


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