Murder for oil

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Tuesday 6 Feb 2024


If money is the root of all evil, oil is the source of most of the world’s money.

Most murders are committed for two reasons, love and money. During our time, we have witnessed wars being waged for the seizure of oil fields.

Murders were committed during the 1920s by greedy folk who wished to grab other people’s lands because of the oil beneath.

In 2017 author David Gann wrote his best-selling novel, Killers of the Flower Moon, based on a true story of the murders of several members of a native American tribe in the state of Oklahoma in the 1920s.   

The Osage tribe were chased off by the government to move off federal land into Indian territories or reservations. The tribe moved to land they had purchased from the Cherokee in the state of Oklahoma. Soon oil was discovered on their land and members of the tribe became the richest people, per capita, in the world.

That did not sit well with the white colonisers. They believed the indigenous population was inferior, lazy, and unworthy of such wealth. Why not murder them one by one and gain control of their vast wealth? This is what they proceeded to do.

It is the stuff that great movies are made of — betrayal, love, greed, deception, intrigue, corruption, blood, and gore.

One of the world’s greatest film directors thought so. He adapted Gann’s best-seller for the screen. A big-budget drama headed by a stellar cast. Names such as Leonardo Di Caprio and Robert De Niro hit the screens. It should have been a great movie. It was not.

Best-seller books often disappoint on the big screen and this was a big disappointment at least at the box-office. The film that cost $200 million to make, brought only $44 million worldwide. Compare this to Oppenheimer, which had a budget of $100 million and grossed $950 million, or Barbie that cost $145 million, with revenues reaching $1.3 billion.

Academy members are no longer impressed with big box-office hits, even though they showered both films with Oscar nominations. They are intellectuals with compassion for all minorities, except Arabs. The film has received critical acclaim and that was just their cup of tea.  

The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, but not for its leading men. They are too well known; why not nominate Lily Gladstone for her performance as Mollie of the Osage tribe. She has already received the Golden Globe and can speak the Osage language.      

As Oscar time nears it remains to be seen how many of the 10 nominations the film will would receive.

David Gann’s novel, filled with murder and mystery, describes one of the most horrific events in American history. Yet he chose a title that is both lyrical and romantic.

It is not the name of a native Indian princess. The term comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which gave names to each monthly moon, such as Snow Moon, Pink Moon, Harvest Moon, etc.

The Flower Moon represents the blooming of spring flowers in the month of May, which coincided with the beginning of the Reign of Terror, as the killing off of members of the Osage tribe were known.

Oil is man’s largest headache nowadays. The climate change advocates curse it with every breath, yet even they cannot exist without it.

Many are under the misconception that oil was discovered a century ago, but it has been known to man for thousands of years. Its history goes back some 70,000 years as residues were found on the tools of Neanderthal sites in Syria.

Like fire, crude oil was common long before modern humans evolved.

Petroleum literally means “rock oil”. That is how it was first discovered, oozing from the underground to the earth’s surface. Oil that had seeped to the surface would evaporate and leave behind bitumen, a sticky black liquid known as asphalt. The asphalt was quarried by the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, Chinese and used as mortar, medicine, heat and a variety of purposes.

The discovery of the world’s first commercially viable oil well was in the US in 1895.

The second most abundant liquid on earth, oil unfortunately lies beneath the earth’s surface. It needs drilling for use in over 6,000 everyday products and high-tech devices.

Most of the oil formed during the Mezozoic era 252 million years ago of algae and plants that lived in shallow seas.  After drying and sinking to the sea floor, the organic material was buried. After millions of years of high pressure and high temperatures, the remains of these organs were transformed into the much-maligned fossil fuels.

The Killers of the Flower Moon have assumed another name nowadays. The act of genocide is being conducted under the eyes of a world without conscience.

If you think the war in Gaza is about Israeli self-defence, think again.

A 2019 UN report claimed that three billion barrels of oil are estimated to exist beneath the occupied lands of Palestine. Hence the excuse to seize Gaza’s rich oil resources.

This genocide is about oil.

Will the academy members consider that, as they decide the winners and losers of their coveted Oscar prize?

Come 11 March, will oil spring to the surface of Oscar wins? Will Killers of the Flower Moon reach the top?

One fact is certain. Whether or not the film wins, oil remains a winner.


“There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need, but not for man’s greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)


* A version of this article appears in print in the 8 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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