Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Adam Hochschild

Adam Hochschild's new book is Spain In Our Hearts: Americans In The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. From the transcript of his interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: One of the most interesting characters that you write about in this book is the head of Texaco oil, Torkild Rieber. He was the head during the Spanish Civil War, and he supported the fascist cause, the military coup in Spain. And he made a deal with Franco's regime. What was the deal?

HOCHSCHILD: Here was the deal - before the war, Texaco had been the principal oil supplier to the government of Spain. The moment the war began, Rieber signaled that he would cut off oil supplies to the Spanish Republic, the Democratic side, and would sell oil to Franco's Nationalists. He not only did that, but he gave them the oil at a big discount, which, as far as we can tell, he never told Texaco shareholders or even his board of directors about.

And he violated American law in a couple of ways because U.S. neutrality legislation was pretty strict and said that if you were selling anything to a country at war, the oil couldn't travel on American ships. But he shipped it on Texaco tankers. The Nationalists had no tankers. U.S. law also said you could not sell things on credit to a country at war, and Rieber gave the Nationalists very, very, very generous terms of credit. And he did something else as well.

Texaco, being a major oil company, had offices, installations, agents, tank farms in ports all over the world. And he sent out orders to them saying, send us as soon as possible any information you acquire about oil tankers heading for the Spanish Republic. And this information was passed on to the Nationalists to help submarine captains and bomber pilots look for targets. Twenty-nine oil tankers headed for the Spanish Republic were destroyed, damaged or captured during the war. And in at least one or two cases, we can specifically tie it to information supplied by Texaco. So the United States might be neutral, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue