The Crash of Flight 3804: A Lost Spy, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game for Oil
by Charlotte Dennett
Chelsea Green Press (2020)
In my view, this books makes a fairly compelling case that US Cold War strategy was more about protecting US oil interests (specifically pipelines) than fighting Communism. In The Crash of Flight 3804, Dennett describes her decades long battle to declassify intelligence records related to the plane crash that killed her father in Ethiopia on March 24, 1947. Daniel Dennett, previously employed by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was working for the immediate CIA predecessor the Defense Intelligence Group (DIG) at the time of his death. Although his cover was Beirut State Department Cultural Attache, declassified records indicate he performed a vital counterintelligence role in protecting US strategic oil interests from, not only Russia, but also France and Britain.
Beginning in 1945, Emperor Haile Selassie signed oil deals with Sinclair Oil and TWA to break the British stranglehold* over Ethiopia. Charlotte believes he was flying from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia to further cement the US oil foothold in that country.
As she describes it, the post World War II years witnessed a mad scramble by the US, France, Britain and Russia to stake claims to key oil resources as Asian, Middle East and African countries declared their independence from European colonizers. Prior to the development of oil supertankers in the 1970s, overland pipelines were the most efficient method of transporting Middle East oil to European and Asian markets.
Within weeks of her father’s death, Truman signed the 1947 National Security Act that created the CIA. The latter would undertake their first-ever coup in 1949 again Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli, who refused to allow the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (TAPLINE) to transit his country. He was replaced by an army officer who approved the pipeline, and TAPLINE construction began immediately.
Dennett then traces, country by country, how all US military bases and interventions in the Middle East and Mediterranean follow existing and proposed oil pipelines routes.
I especially enjoyed her detailed analysis of the so-called civil war in Syria, starting with Robert F Kennedy’s revelations in 2014 about his grandfather Joseph P Kennedy’s role in a secret committee to investigate CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Although the 1956 Bruce Lovett report has since be declassified, its contents remain unknown to the US public.
Kennedy’s assertions about US backing for militant anti-Assad jihadists were subsequently validated by State Department emails leaked by Wikileaks. Likewise Dennett cites Hillary Clinton emails leaked (by Wikileaks) in 2016 revealing that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq with State Department knowledge.
Her analysis of the current war in Yemen (whose oil reserves are believed to exceed those of the entire Persian Gulf) is spellbinding.
*British occupation of Ethiopia began in 1941, following their ouster of Italian troops.