woody_zimmerman_118_2007In recent days the news has been loaded with dramatic events. I’d like to review some of them in a series of articles to see if we can look a little deeper and grasp their import.

Now that the destroyed Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico is spewing thousands of barrels of oil a day and threatening to become a major ecological disaster, the news media and the federal government seem to have forgotten that the triggering event was a disastrous explosion on April 20th that killed eleven people. The huge platform blew up, burned out of control and sank in mile-deep water. The platform had floated on pontoons and was moored to the ocean floor by anchors. During the explosion and subsequent fire, the wellhead-connection on the ocean floor was evidently damaged, causing oil leakage than has not yet been brought under control.

This kind of accident is extremely rare. To my knowledge, such an explosion has never occurred before in the whole history of offshore drilling. The first platform of the Deepwater Horizon’s type was built off the coast of Santa Barbara County, California, in 1986. An earlier type of platform was erected out of sight of land in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947.

Safety is naturally a prime concern on these huge, extremely complex platforms. This explains media attempts to uncover a safety violation or inspection failure that might explain the explosion. We may rest assured that we should know all about it, had one occurred.

British Petroleum is even now attempting to cap the well on the ocean floor with a 65-ton concrete cap that will let the leaking oil be siphoned off and brought to the surface in a controlled manner. We can all hope and pray that this attempt will succeed, and that the large oil slick can be controlled and eventually cleaned up before it does too much damage to beaches and wildlife.

Reporters wearing windbreakers have been having a great time tracking the widening oil slick and showing pathetic footage of oil-covered birds and animals. (In truth, not much of the latter has happened yet.) This is all well and good, but once that situation is under control it will be just as important – maybe even more important – to return to the explosion and determine its cause. It was the seminal event. As I see it, Big Media have waved that issue aside for at least three reasons:

  1. The ecological damage from the leaking oil is considered the more compelling issue;
  2. It is politically useful, from the liberal point of view, to leave the public with an impression that such explosions are spontaneous and likely to occur again without warning;
  3. The Obama administration would be politically damaged – possibly mortally – if it were revealed that this explosion was the work of eco-terrorists or other hostile interests.

Only weeks earlier, President Obama had announced that he would sign an executive order permitting some new offshore drilling, as part of his reformed energy strategy. It is not entirely clear why he did this, although the briskly rising price of gasoline might have had something to do with it. Militant, left-leaning eco-activists were unhappy about the new drilling plan, and they let Mr. Obama know it.

When the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurred, Mr. Obama immediately froze any new drilling – citing a need to delay until the issue of the spill was resolved. (This could mean indefinitely.) His leftist base was appeased, but the “drill, baby, drill!” crowd didn’t like the smell of it.

If the impression can be implanted that platform explosions are likely, the public could be indefinitely scared away from offshore drilling as they were scared away from nuclear power by the hyped-up Three Mile Island incident in 1979. In the thirty years since the release of a small amount of radioactive steam from TMI, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, public fears have stopped the building of any new nuclear plants. This has denied us access to a valuable source of clean electrical power and kept us shackled to Middle East oil. Now, just as the American public was starting to push for tapping our offshore oil reserves, this peculiar incident has occurred at the least opportune moment. Remarkable coincidence, eh?

On the other hand, if it were shown that the platform was deliberately destroyed for either political or ecological reasons, Mr. Obama’s national security bona fides would suffer horrific damage. If a foreign power or domestic extremists have done this thing as an act of economic sabotage or terror, the public’s confidence in Mr. Obama’s ability to protect the country would crash. It could literally be the “kiss of death” for Mr. Obama’s re-election hopes. Thus, it would be natural for his government not to be overly anxious to investigate the incident, lest damaging facts should emerge.

I admit that I do belong to the Grassy Knoll Society for Ageing Conspiracy Theorists. We GKSACT members will never believe that a loser like Lee Harvey Oswald got off three extremely accurate shots with a rusted Italian rifle, in a few seconds – all fired at a moving car from a sixth-story vantage point – to kill John F. Kennedy. We know another shooter was on the grassy knoll. (Some of us also think the whole Lincoln assassination story is a little fishy – especially those of us who were around at the time of the actual events.) But I digress.

Isn’t there something a little too convenient about a unique oil-rig explosion creating a huge ecological incident that totally deflates the expanded drilling initiative soon after its announcement and just a few days before Earth Day? The timing seems very suspicious, and the lack of law-enforcement curiosity about the cause seems even more suspicious. The slightest possibility that this was a sabotage effort carried out by a tea-partier or a white supremacist would have sent both the media and the FBI baying after suspects in full cry. So far, though, there’s not a peep from any of them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg quickly announced that the unsuccessful Times Square bomber was probably some guy who was unhappy about the health care reform bill – presumably a tea-partier. This story-line threw maximum law-enforcement resources into the search for the culprit who, disappointingly, turned out to be a Pakistani Muslim, now a naturalized U. S. citizen.

At least one nationally syndicated radio talk-jock has publicized the suggestion that the oil-rig explosion was a deliberate act of sabotage caused by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. Gina Miller, a writer for an Internet blog called Dakota Voice, has reviewed this theory in an article entitled, “Was the Gulf Oil Rig Explosion a Deliberate Attack on America?” In part, she writes:

“As soon as this happened, my gut told me it was no accident. This kind of thing rarely happens, and the timing was just too ‘coincidental’ for various reasons. I don’t know what the truth is behind this terrible event, but I’m certain it’s more than we’re being told. We may never know the truth.”

I was kidding about the Grassy Knoll Society, of course (although I am a skeptic about the Oswald-alone theory of the JFK-shooting). The North Korean submarine theory seems pretty far out, but I don’t believe in coincidences, either. (The “coincidence” of the platform explosion's timing comes to mind.) We live in dangerous times, when wicked men are on the verge of obtaining fearsome weapons that could actually destroy us. We need to stop kidding ourselves about these people, and keep a weather eye open to reality.

More than 150 years ago abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  Now would be a good time to print that line and paste it on the fridge, or keep it in front of you at the office. If we’re not getting credible reports from our government about acts of terror on our shores, we’ll have to assume the worst, whether Mr. Obama’s inner circle likes it or not. This is terribly serious – far too serious to be brushed aside or concealed.

The U. S. Marines famously say of their soldiers: “Every man a rifleman.” America has entered a new era where every citizen needs to be a “rifleman” – i.e., an activist – to help guard the country from danger. This will be critical duty in days ahead.