Guest Writer ~ Bill Johns ~ US Air Force Veteran

Bill Johns entered the United States Air Force in 1986 and got out in 2007. He was in Aircraft maintenance and retired as a Master Sergeant. He served in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during the first Gulf war (1990-1991). He was deployed to Italy several times in 1994 and 1995 in support of the Bosnian war. For Iraq/Afghanistan, he was in Qatar 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, close to 5 months each time....By the way, Bill also writes songs about the important issues he thinks about, and you can hear his songs at MySpace


In 1981 I was going to college in eastern New Mexico, not far from the Texas border. At that time, the oil bomb was in full swing. I knew people who were high school drop outs that were making as much as $1000 per week doing the unskilled jobs on the oil rigs. Soon, most of the oil wells were capped, and that industry dried up in the US. The common explanation for this was that the US was running out of oil and the "50 year reserve" story.
In 1990, I went to Saudi Arabia for the first of several trips. While there, I got to know many people that they called Third Country Nationals (TCN). They are what make the oil rich countries run in the Middle East. They are brought in from places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other developing countries. I met a couple of guys who were working as rough necks on oil rigs and they were making $350 a month for doing a job that paid $800 to $1000 a week in the States 10 years before.
What’s worse is that every US military installation in the Middle East is operating from the sweat of these people. On my last couple trips to Qatar, I got to be friends with a couple people from Nepal that worked in our dinning halls. The first thing that disturbed me was the hours they worked. I would eat breakfast at 5:30 am before work and supper at 7:30 pm after I got off work, worked out and showered. Many times, the same crew was working at the dining facility. I asked my friend what their hours were, and he said 12 hours a day. I looked at a clock and informed him that I saw him 14 hours ago. So then he explained that they had two crews: one 5am to 5pm and the other 5pm to 5am (and that they were bused in from 45 minutes away). When their bus arrived at the base, they had to clear security, which takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. So their day was about 16 to 18 hours long. As far as time off; they got one day a month to take care of personal needs such as laundry. Their compensation was the equivalent of $380 US dollars a month. While these people are happy to have a way to survive, it does not make it right. They are not fairly treated or paid by any kind of reasonable standard. When I brought this up with some base leadership, they said they pay contractors so they have nothing to do with how the TCN’s are paid or treated. That is, of course, a cop out.
Now back to the US oil industry and their reasons for the shift from producing domestic oil to producing foreign oil. In my opinion, it boils down to profit margin. Why cut into your profit with labor cost when you can go somewhere else and use slave labor. However, it has cost us as tax payers a sinful percentage of our tax dollars to secure the oil in the Middle East. Right now it seems it is costing around $2,000,000 a minute to secure the American oil billionaire’s investments in the Middle East. So the next time you are terrified about the price of gas at the pump, think of the real cost. We are paying for it, not only with our tax dollars, but, also, with young American lives.
I don’t believe the old adage that oil is a resource we need so, therefore, we have to secure it. I think we are only protecting our richest citizen’s investments in the commodity. Carbon emissions are destroying our planet, and we have been and still are fighting for the right to destroy it.... (continue reading more below)