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Forum Post: Understanding Warsaw: Capitalism, Climate Change and Neocolonialism

Posted 8 years ago on Nov. 25, 2013, 6:24 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Understanding Warsaw: Capitalism, Climate Change and Neocolonialism

Monday, 25 November 2013 10:23 By Chris Williams, Truthout | News Analysis


"The old Imperialism levied tribute; the new Imperialism lends money at interest."

The War of Steel and Gold: A Study of the Armed Peace, Henry Noel Brailsford, 1914

The contradictions of world affairs are shifting into sharp relief in Warsaw. As the denouement of the climate conference approaches, political fissures are appearing that even the most diplomatic and experienced of civil service soothers are unable to paper over. The fractured lives and incendiary event of Typhoon Haiyan have been tossed into the most business-friendly COP yet.

The pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, and the anger of the Filipino delegation, screams for a rebalancing of global priorities for which the rich countries, intent on securing more get-out clauses than there are exits to the Norodowy Stadium, had not bargained. Commenting on Barack Obama's supposedly positive climate action plan, Lucille Sering, secretary of the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines, disputed its impact: "Somehow, when they negotiate, they always find some way to excuse themselves from doing anything. ... It's always either they can't do this or they can't do that."

On one side, images from the aftermath of record-breaking Super Typhoon Haiyan, which UN head Ban Ki-moon and others have said is connected to climate change, are giving a new sense of moral urgency, in particular to national delegations from developing countries.

On the other side, despite the horrifying extent of the humanitarian disaster, and the fact that Haiyan is just one of many hurricanes since 2000 that has broken strength and intensity records, rich nations seem to be going out of their way to water down expectations over finances and a climate deal, even as we know we are falling farther and farther behind in our ability to address global warming.

A new scientific study by Climate Analytics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Ecofys shows that, even if countries stick to their current emissions reduction targets - a big if - planet Earth is headed for 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming; almost double the 2.0 degrees that is required to keep the global climate within safe limits.

With greenhouse gases already higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years, an increase in average temperatures of this magnitude would mean that our only home would be unrecognizable to any person living in the past 10,000 years, be catastrophic for many existing ecosystems and irreparably damage human agriculture and civilization.

In light of Canada, Australia and Japan all downgrading their previous commitments to emissions reductions, Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, remarked, "We are seeing a major risk of a further downward spiral in ambition, a retreat from action and a recarbonization of the energy system led by the use of coal." Despite the absolutely obvious and clear urgency of discussing how countries least responsible for creating climate change and simultaneously least able to respond, even as they are hit the hardest, might gain new financial help from richer nations, the United States, the European Union and Australia all came out with statements in Warsaw saying that finance for extreme weather events would not be discussed until 2015 at the earliest. Similarly swept off the table was an immediately rejected Brazilian proposal for a scientific study to determine the amount of historical emissions for which each country is responsible.

Two people are clearly observing a conference different to the one taking place in Warsaw - which is alarming because one of them is supposed to be running it.

Lord Stern, now a professor at London School of Economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, who published the influential mainstream British government report known as the Stern Report on Climate Change, and Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), published a joint article on Tuesday, a week into the talks. In comments that would put Dr. Pangloss himself to shame, they claim that a universal deal on climate change is "within our reach" because of a "renewed sense of urgency" alongside "a renewed sense of optimism" because "the political will among our leaders to act is growing."

In contrast, inside the talks, and notwithstanding the fact that they claimed to be taking the issue seriously, Australian negotiators came to talks "in T-shirts and munched on snacks throughout the negotiation" according to a spokesperson for Climate Action Network. As tension and frustration mounted,132 nations, organized through the 77-plus China Group of developing countries, walked out on talks Wednesday in protest at the lack of serious discussion and the intransigence of powerful countries to address financial issues, which were supposed to be at the heart of this year's COP.

Speaking to this issue, spokesperson on disaster risk for ActionAid International Harjeet Singh commented, "The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder. They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically."

Poorer countries in the developing world rest their case on "seeking redress for climate damages from sea-level rise, droughts, powerful storms and other adverse impacts", as noted by a leaked US document opposing such a discussion, on the very reasonable basis that rich nations have put off serious action on emissions and finance for 20 years. By that inaction, they have imposed costs on developing countries for which they are neither responsible nor able to pay.

To compound the legal, political and moral case, as of 2000, over the previous 30 years, the poorest countries have paid $550 billion in principal and interest to Western financial institutions, on a total debt of $540 billion - yet they still manage to owe $523 billion. For every dollar received in grants, the developing world commits $13 to debt repayment.

Developing nations are therefore fattening the coffers of institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and other Western financial houses by draining funds from desperately needed projects to address poverty, the lack of infrastructure development, agricultural facilities and their ability to adapt to climate change.

What should be happening is the immediate cancellation of all "Third World" debt, just as the US government forgave far larger sums and bailed out its own banks after the 2008 financial crash. Moreover, developed nations actually have to add money for climate change induced "loss and damage" to the balance sheets of developing countries, rather than subtract it.



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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The 'Axis of Evil,' Revisited

Wednesday, 04 December 2013 10:44 By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed


An interim agreement on Iran's nuclear policies that will provide a six-month period for substantive negotiations was announced on Nov. 24. Michael Gordon, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote, "It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran's nuclear program and roll some elements of it back."

The United States moved at once to impose severe penalties on a Swiss firm that had violated U.S.-imposed sanctions. "The timing of the announcement seemed to be partly intended to send a signal that the Obama administration still considers Iran subject to economic isolation," Rick Gladstone explained in The Times. The "landmark accord" indeed includes significant Iranian concessions - though nothing comparable from the United States, which merely agreed to temporarily limit its punishment of Iran. It's easy to imagine possible U.S. concessions. To mention just one: The United States is the only country directly violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (and more severely, the United Nations Charter) by maintaining its threat of force against Iran. The United States could also insist that its Israeli client refrain from this severe violation of international law - which is just one of many.

In mainstream discourse, it is considered natural that Iran alone should make concessions. After all, the United States is the White Knight, leading the international community in its efforts to contain Iran - which is held to be the gravest threat to world peace - and to compel it to refrain from its aggression, terror and other crimes. There is a different perspective, little heard, though it might be worth at least a mention. It begins by rejecting the American assertion that the accord breaks 10 years of unwillingness on Iran's part to address this alleged nuclear threat.

Ten years ago Iran offered to resolve its differences with the United States over nuclear programs, along with all other issues. The Bush administration rejected the offer angrily and reprimanded the Swiss diplomat who conveyed it.

The European Union and Iran then sought an arrangement under which Iran would suspend uranium enrichment while the EU would provide assurances that the U.S. would not attack. As Selig Harrison reported in the Financial Times, "the EU, held back by the U.S. ... refused to discuss security issues," and the effort died. In 2010, Iran accepted a proposal by Turkey and Brazil to ship its enriched uranium to Turkey for storage. In return, the West would provide isotopes for Iran's medical research reactors. President Obama furiously denounced Brazil and Turkey for breaking ranks, and quickly imposed harsher sanctions. Irritated, Brazil released a letter from Obama in which he had proposed this arrangement, presumably assuming that Iran would reject it. The incident quickly disappeared from view.

Also in 2010, the NPT members called for an international conference to carry forward a long-standing Arab initiative to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the region, to be held in Helsinki in December 2012. Israel refused to attend. Iran agreed to do so, unconditionally.

The U.S. then announced that the conference was canceled, reiterating Israel's objections. The Arab states, the European Parliament and Russia called for a rapid reconvening of the conference, while the U.N. General Assembly voted 174-6 to call on Israel to join the NPT and open its facilities to inspection. Voting "no" were the United States, Israel, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau - a result that suggests another possible U.S. concession today.

Such isolation of the United States in the international arena is quite normal, on a wide range of issues.

In contrast, the non-aligned movement (most of the world), at its meeting last year in Tehran, once again vigorously supported Iran's right, as a signer of the NPT, to enrich uranium. The U.S. rejects that argument, claiming that the right is conditional on a clean bill of health from inspectors, but there is no such wording in the treaty. A large majority of Arabs support Iran's right to pursue its nuclear program. Arabs are hostile to Iran, but overwhelmingly regard the United States and Israel as the primary threats they face, as Shibley Telhami reported again in his recent comprehensive review of Arab opinion.

"Western officials appear flummoxed" by Iran's refusal to abandon the right to enrich uranium, Frank Rose observes in The New York Times, offering a psychological explanation. Others come to mind if we step slightly out of the box.

The United States can be held to lead the international community only if that community is defined as the U.S. and whoever happens to go along with it, often through intimidation, as is sometimes tacitly conceded.

Critics of the new accord, as David E. Sanger and Jodi Rudoren report in The New York Times, warn that "wily middlemen, Chinese eager for energy sources and Europeans looking for a way back to the old days, when Iran was a major source of trade, will see their chance to leap the barriers." In short, they currently accept American orders only because of fear. And in fact China, India and many others have sought their own ways to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. The alternative perspective challenges the rest of the standard U.S. version. It does not overlook the fact that for 60 years, without a break, the United States has been torturing Iranians. That punishment began in 1953 with the CIA-run coup that overthrew Iran's parliamentary government and installed the Shah, a tyrant who regularly compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world as an American ally.

When the Shah was himself overthrown in 1979, the U.S. turned at once to supporting Saddam Hussein's murderous invasion of Iran, finally joining directly by reflagging Iraq ally Kuwait's ships so that they could break an Iranian blockade. In 1988 a U.S. naval vessel also shot down an Iranian airliner in commercial airspace, killing 290 people, then received presidential honors upon returning home. After Iran was forced to capitulate, the United States renewed its support for its friend Saddam, even inviting Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production. The Clinton administration then imposed sanctions on Iran, which have become much harsher in recent years.

There are in fact two rogue states operating in the region, resorting to aggression and terror and violating international law at will: the United States and its Israeli client. Iran has indeed carried out an act of aggression: conquering three Arab islands under the U.S.-backed Shah. But any terror credibly attributed to Iran pales in comparison with that of the rogue states.

It is understandable that those rogue states should strenuously object to a deterrent in the region, and should lead a campaign to free themselves from any such constraints.

Just how far will the lesser rogue state go to eliminate the feared deterrent on the pretext of an "existential threat"? Some fear that it will go very far. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations warns in Foreign Policy that Israel might resort to nuclear war. Foreign policy analyst Zbigniew Brzezinski urges Washington to make it clear to Israel that the U.S. Air Force will stop them if they try to bomb.

Which of these conflicting perspectives is closer to reality? To answer the question is more than just a useful exercise. Significant global consequences turn on the answer.

© 2012 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Pentagon Approves Record Sale of Advanced Arms to Countries at War

Sunday, 01 December 2013 10:38 By Jo Erickson, Mint Press News | Report


Congress will decide if deal first struck by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in April should go through.

Selling weapons used to be a cut-throat business. With a no-questions-asked policy, it has led in the past, to the selling of weapons to support African conflicts, leaving Angola, Somalia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic Congo awash with AK-47 semi-automatic rifles and very little else.

Today’s high-tech weapons manufacturers are enjoying record sales. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year. One of the more controversial is the Defense Department’s plans to sell Saudi Arabia $6.8 billion and the United Arab Emirates $4 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions. The trouble is – has anyone asked where these weapons will ultimately end up?

Boeing Co. (BA) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) sent a message of support from the Obama administration for setting up the deal with these two close allies in the Middle East.

This historic deal will be the first U.S sales of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters. But this is just part of Saudi Arabia’s military shopping list.

The Saudi Kingdom is also purchasing the Boeing Expanded-Response Standoff Land Attack Missile and Raytheon Joint Standoff Weapon, which can strike at air defense sites and radar installations from beyond the range of enemy air-defense systems. The Royal Saudi Navy is acquiring Boeing missiles, a derivative of the Harpoon anti-ship missile that can be launched more than 135 nautical miles from a target and be redirected in flight. With such a big order should the U.S question the need for this military arsenal?

This deal was first struck by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel back in April and later this month Congress will decide whether this deal should be approved. With Congress’ concern for job creation and security, thus far there has been little debate about the ethics of the arms sales and whether the country that buys weapons should be able to sell them to other countries struggling with conflict. The U.S. sells to Saudi Arabia, but who buys Saudi weapons?

Saudi Arabia was the world’s 10th-largest weapons importer in 2008-2012, and that is expected to change by 2017, where they will be in the top five if outstanding orders are completed. With this increase fire-power some commentators are nervously looking at Saudi Arabia’s influence in the Syrian civil war and also its strained relations with Iran.

Over the summer, Saudi Arabia began funneling guns into Jordan, as well as conducting military training, where there are being used by Saudi-led armed rebel groups who cross the border into southern Syria. Jordan’s role as a conduit for Saudi arms has had an adverse effect on its population. The increased amount of guns circulating in Jordan is contributing to more conflicts within Jordan’s refugee camps and regions.

Taking full advantage of the tension, Syria rebels are moving in to recruit. Syrian rebels forces are using the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to recruit fighters. The rebel training camps have put the Jordanian and UN officials running the camp in a delicate position. Wary of further increasing tensions with the government in Syria, Jordan has sought to keep its support of rebels under the radar, officially denying that any training of anti-Assad fighters takes place on its soil, though both Jordanian and U.S. officials have acknowledged it.

The influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East political landscape is considerable. It has assisted in overthrowing Egyptian Prime Minister Morsi, and is currently providing training to the interim military government. With the world already nervous of the unknown outcome of both the Syrian and Egyptian conflicts, should the U.S really be finalizing a $10.8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia? Does the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty work?

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty has been pushing for more transparency and greater accountability of arms sales by governments. Secretary of State John Kerry defied Congress’ objections and signed the treaty in New York.

The treaty establishes standards for the global trade in conventional weapons, with the goal of preventing such weapons from being sold to those who would use them to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Despite the good intentions of this treaty, the U.S continues to provide weapons to Syria and Iraq.

Since 2006, Iraq has fallen into social and economic disarray, where al-Qaida forces are dominating certain regions.

Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, spoke at the Senate committee hearing on terrorism threats to the U.S. He warned of the growing threat that al-Qaida in Iraq poses, pointing out an increase in the pace of attacks this year.

“The group is exploiting increasingly permissive security environments in Iraq to fundraise, plan and train for attacks,” Olsen said

Yet the Pentagon is looking to secure a military stronghold to contain Syria’s civil war by using Iraq as a base. It proposed to send $2.7 billion in weapons to Iraq, despite the country being on the verge of civil war.

“This capability will provide Iraq with the ability to contribute to regional air defenses and reduce its vulnerability to air attacks and also enhance interoperability between the government of Iraq, the US, and other allies,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Human Rights advocates are pushing for more stringent controls on sale of arms but also for the U.S to abide by it on laws of trading with countries who practice human rights abuses or genocide.

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor cites this about India: “The most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence. Other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention.”

But the U.S is nevertheless allowing arms sales to India. As the law stands, U.S arms exporters don’t have to follow the State Department’s human rights assessment. Instead, companies can opt to use “Leahy Law,” named for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), which passed in 1997 and prohibits U.S. assistance to specific military and police units deemed responsible for human rights abuses.

Yet this law only covers direct government-to-government direct sales overseen by the Pentagon, and allows non-defense department commercial export sales approved by the State Department. So this year the Defense Department sold $34.8 billion in direct government-to-government sales are covered by the Leahy Law, but $44.28 billion in sales authorized by State are not.

Adotei Akwei, director of Amnesty International’s government relations efforts, said: “In all of these countries, there’s a need for a much more rigorous process for looking at where these weapons are going and how they’re being used. Even though the U.S State Department identifies problems, we still see these sales taking place over and over again. There’s a much-exemplified disconnect between the identifying of abuse and the sales.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23590) 8 years ago

The U.S. leads the world in arms exports. Of the $73 billion in arms exported globally, the U.S. makes up 39% of that:


Strange for a nation supposedly rooted in Christian values.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Matthew 10:34-37. 1Corinthians 15:24-25. Revelations 19:11-16.

The same Christian values found in those Christian writings were the Christian values behind Imperial Rome's forced conversion of the population and America's concept of Manifest Destiny. Like any other religion, Christianity is only peaceful when it lacks the power to dominate. It should never be forgotten that no matter how peaceful Christians may project their religion as being, the foundation of Christianity is in the expectation of the Xristos whose sole purpose is to conquer and rule the world in a thousand year totalitarian regime while granting favors of life and power to those obedient to him. War is the ultimate expectation for bringing about universal Christian rule just as war is the ultimate expectation for bringing about assurance of American global dominance.

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23590) 8 years ago

I agree completely. Ever read any of Bartolome de las Casas' writings? He just came to mind as I read what you wrote. I was being sarcastic, and you are so right to point out all that you did which kind of got lost in my bad humor, lol. Thanks.


[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Yes, I have read Bartolome de las Casas' writings as well as the writings on the death of Hypatia.

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (23590) 8 years ago

Okay, cool. How about Peter Brown's "Late Antiquity?" Can't read that little book and think the same way about Christianity and it's legacy. It's one of my very favorites.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Can't say that I recall having ever read Peter Brown's "Late Antiquity" although I have read plenty of various writings on and from that time, most of it centering upon Christian laws and the treatment of the Jewish population.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

US Bullying at TPP Negotiations for Big Pharma Profits

Monday, 25 November 2013 09:19 By Staff, Popular Resistance | Report


“The world should stand up to the United States. US corporations are not more important than people’s lives.”

A key dispute in the TPP negotiations is the patents on pharmaceutical drugs and medical procedures. Long patents inflate the profits of the pharmaceutical industry by not allowing less expensive generic drugs on the market. This means that people around the world will not be able to afford critical, often life-saving, drugs and medical procedures. It also means that countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand that have national health care systems will see the cost of healthcare rise to a breaking point, undermining some of the best health systems in the world.

In order for the US to get its way, Stan McCoy, Assistant US Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation, is chairing the meetings on intellectual properties and medicines. He has been using bullying tactics to force countries to agree to positions that will harm people in the countries negotiating the TPP, including the US. “The US has adopted a strategy of exhaustion in its bullying of negotiators on the crucial intellectual property chapter to force countries to trade away health in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations in Salt Lake City,” according to Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who is monitoring the negotiations.” The US has stepped up its aggression as they move towards their ‘end point’ of the TPP ministerial meeting in Singapore from 7 to 10 December.”

Margaret Flowers, MD a health policy expert from the US says, “The Office of the US Trade Representative is putting the interests of trans-national health corporations before the needs of people. If the US position is forced through, the TPP will extend patents for medications, medical devices and even procedures for exorbitant lengths of times. This will inflate prices, keeping treatments out of reach for those who need them. This will cause unnecessary suffering and death, especially for the most vulnerable populations, and will undermine health systems around the world and at home.” “This is a loaded game,” Professor Kelsey said. “McCoy sets the agenda and timetable. Negotiators are working from morning until late at night and preparing to work all night, if necessary. ”This is a crucial period for New Zealand and a number of other countries,” Kelsey observed. The text published by Wikileaks last week shows they have tabled an alternative to the US proposed text that has been repeatedly rejected.”

“New Zealand’s trade minister Tim Groser and his counterparts from the other ten countries must tell the US to stop this behaviour now,” Kelsey said. Flowers added: “Countries negotiating with the United States should not allow themselves to be bullied but should stand up to the United States. It is looking very unlikely that President Obama will be able to get TPP through the Congress. Why would any country negotiate against the interests of their people?”

The US has around twenty people in Salt Lake City for the intellectual property chapter, who can rotate. Some countries have only one delegate for crucial talks on intellectual property on medicines. Their negotiations on medicines have been extended beyond the dates that were scheduled before negotiators came. They have continued despite the fact that some health negotiators, especially from poor countries, could not extend their stay.

This follows a pattern of abuse over recent rounds reported in Inside US Trade and other media, where McCoy has acted as a gatekeeper, deciding what proposals from other countries are allowed into the text and what are not.

“This is an early warning of the extreme bullying that can be expected in when the trade ministers seek to close the deal off in December,” Professor Kelsey warned.

Contact: Prof Kelsey is in Salt Lake City she can be contacted through text messages at +64 21 765 055. Margaret Flowers can be contacted at 410-591-0892.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Another instance of the USA saying ( demonstrating the concept ) - Do as I say not as I do?

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Iran Nuke Pact Defies the Neocons

Monday, 25 November 2013 11:02 By Paul R. Pillar, Consortium News | News Analysis


For anyone who genuinely wants to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon and whose attitude toward the nuclear negotiations with Iran has not been shaped by some other agenda, the “Joint Plan of Action” that was agreed to in Geneva this weekend is a major achievement that deserves enthusiastic applause.

Without delving into minutiae that understandably would spin the heads of most Americans who are not nuclear technology enthusiasts, several key attributes of this agreement stand out.

First, it unmistakably moves Iran farther away than it is now from any ability to make a nuclear weapon, and even farther away from any such ability it would have in the future in the absence of this agreement. Among the facets of the deal that do this are the stopping of enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and the conversion of all current material enriched to this level into forms making it unavailable for enrichment to the level required for weapons. Second, Iran’s program will be subjected to an unprecedented degree of international inspection, going beyond the treaty obligations of Iran or any other country and providing additional assurance that any Iranian departure from the terms of the agreement would be quickly detected.

Third, for anyone keeping score of such things, any imbalance in the deal is markedly against Iran and in favor of the P5+1. Iran has accepted significant restrictions — for now as a matter of the next six months — on the very aspects of its program that matter most regarding possible military use, while getting sanctions relief during the same time frame that is minor compared to the crippling oil and financial sanctions that remain in place.

And fourth, the deal does exactly what a preliminary agreement was supposed to do, at least from the viewpoint of the P5+1: to provide time for further negotiations without fear that Iran would use that time to work closer toward the capability of making a bomb. The agreement achieves the very result that was the ostensible objective of the repeatedly voiced demand by critics in Congress for Iran to cease all uranium enrichment.

That objective is that Iran should have no more partially enriched uranium, available for possible further enrichment, after several more months of negotiations than it does now. The deal assures that objective, through an Iranian commitment not to increase its stock of 3.5 percent uranium in addition to the provisions dealing with 20 percent enrichment. If anyone still has reason to fear negotiations being used as a stalling tactic, it is Iranians who will see their country continue to lose billions each month as the oil and banking sanctions continue to inflict additional economic damage.

Everyone involved in the negotiations, and particularly Secretary of State John Kerry on the U.S. side, deserves much credit for what has been accomplished. As Kerry observed, however, the next phase of negotiations “will be even more difficult.”

The difficulty will not come from any lack of a basis, consistent with both Western and Iranian interests, for reaching a final agreement. The outlines of such an agreement have been clear for some time, and the Joint Plan of Action has made them even clearer. The chief difficulty will instead consist of continued resistance from those opposed to any agreement and to any reduction in estrangement between the United States and Iran. Those opponents, and American politicians who follow their lead, will strive to inhibit the negotiations and prevent a final deal, no matter what the terms. It will not matter to these opponents that negotiations that have already occurred and the preliminary agreement already reached have invalidated what used to be some of their principal arguments. They have abandoned arguments before when shown to be wrong and simply shifted to other lines of attack.

With the new deal invalidating the argument that Iran could use a period of negotiations to work toward producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon, that argument will be abandoned as well. The opponents will look for other ways to screw up the process and spike a final agreement.

There are several things the opponents can do. The principal one is a continuation of moves in Congress to slap still more sanctions on Iran — a subject of much of the immediate comment by members of Congress in the first 24 hours after the preliminary deal was announced. Never mind the complete lack of logic in the notion that inflicting more punishment immediately after negotiations have borne more fruit than ever before, and the Iranians have made more concessions in an agreement than ever before, is somehow a way to induce still more concessions from them.

Logic and reason will take second place to resourcefulness in trying to sabotage a further agreement. One tactic opponents may use is to enact more sanctions against Iran in the name of issues other than the nuclear program (such as terrorism or human rights) and to claim that they do not violate the interim agreement. There may be legislation along such lines in the months ahead that will raise the issue of whether President Barack Obama needs to exercise his veto power.

Probably even a greater hurdle than this kind of procedural sabotage is the eventual need for concurrence of the U.S. Congress in removing most of the existing sanctions as part of a final agreement, not just in refraining from enacting new ones. This concurrence will be tough to get. A substantial slice of the Congress still appears inclined to stick to a deal-killing insistence that Iran be allowed no uranium enrichment at all.

In this respect Kerry and the Obama administration, despite what in other respects has been a virtuoso performance in handling the latest rounds of negotiations, may have tactically erred in its effort to dance around the “right to enrich” issue. It has long been clear that any conceivable deal would need to involve some Iranian enrichment of uranium.

Indeed, the Joint Plan of Action refers specifically to “a mutually defined enrichment program” in laying out parameters for a final agreement. This language is presumably part of what made it possible for the Iranians to concur in the preliminary agreement. It might have been better for the administration to have made clear all along that enrichment would be part of a curtailed Iranian program, rather than leaving this matter hanging out there as a handle for opponents to grab in the later and more difficult phase of negotiations.

It will be in trying to sell to the Congress a final agreement that a drawback of the two-phase approach to negotiations may become apparent. The very negotiating success in phase one may, in one way, make it harder to overcome opposition to an agreement in phase two.

Because the Iranians conceded so much and the P5+1 so little in phase one, a follow-on agreement may look like it exhibits the opposite imbalance. Iranian obligations under a final agreement will consist chiefly of making permanent the sort of restrictions on their program that they agreed to on a temporary, six-month basis in the preliminary agreement. If they do that, the assurance the whole process provides against an Iranian nuclear weapon will remain strong.

What the P5+1 will have to do if a final agreement is to be reached is to grant sanctions relief that is far more substantial than the modest amount granted in the preliminary deal. Without that, the Iranians have no incentive to make further concessions. Accusations being heard today that the preliminary agreement is unbalanced in favor of Iran lose credibility with even a cursory look at the terms of the agreement. Similar accusations against a final agreement, however, may sound more believable to many ears, in Congress and among the public.

Hope in offsetting these hazards lies partly in an offsetting advantage of the two-phase approach. The achievement of a substantial preliminary agreement — a historic departure after all the missed opportunities and non-dialogue of past years — imparts a sense of momentum.

It of course buys negotiating time. It serves as a confidence-building measure, with the Iranians having more opportunity to demonstrate good faith and seriousness. And it provides more opportunity to demonstrate the invalidity of arguments being used by those out to undermine the negotiations. One of the arguments that is next likely to be shown invalid is the notion that limited sanctions relief would cause the entire sanctions regime to start to unravel.

The agreement reached in Geneva is an important positive development with regard not only to the nuclear weapons issue but also to broader U.S. interests in the Middle East and the conduct of U.S. diplomacy there. In this respect the agreement represents two beneficial things, both of which the principal opponents of the agreement are trying to prevent (which is why they will continue to try hard to undermine the process).

First, it is a modest step toward a more normal relationship between the United States and Iran, in which points of disagreement as well as agreement can be managed in a businesslike way, as part of a wider conduct of U.S. foreign policy in which matters of disagreement and agreement with all other powers in the region also would be handled in a normal, businesslike way.

Second, it is a demonstration that when a U.S. administration puts its mind to it, it can conduct initiatives and achieve results to advance U.S. interests even when opposed by hardline foreign governments with influence in Washington. To sustain these benefits requires a continued sustained push to the finish line: a final agreement in the next phase of the negotiations with Iran. The stakes are high, for reasons that go well beyond what the Iranians do with their nuclear program.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Who's in Charge: Israel or the USA?

Friday, 29 November 2013 01:11 By Uri Avnery, Redress Information & Analysis | Op-Ed


This is not merely a fight between Israel and the US. Nor is it only a fight between the White House and Congress. It is also a battle between intellectual titans. On the one side there are the two renowned professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. On the other, the towering international intellectual Noam Chomsky. It’s all about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog. Six years ago the two professors shocked the US (and Israel) when they published a book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, in which they asserted that the foreign policy of the United States of America, at least in the Middle East, is practically controlled by the state of Israel. To paraphrase their analysis, Washington DC is in effect an Israeli colony. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Israeli-occupied territories, much like Ramallah and Nablus. This is diametrically opposed to the assertion of Noam Chomsky that Israel is a US pawn, used by American imperialism as an instrument to promote its interests… Intellectual theories can seldom be put to a laboratory test. But this one can.

The Israeli-American Crisis

It is happening now. Between Israel and the US a crisis has developed, and it has come into the open. It’s about the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama is determined to avert a military showdown. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to prevent a compromise. For Netanyahu, the Iranian nuclear effort has become a defining issue, even an obsession. He talks about it incessantly. He has declared that it is an “existential” threat to Israel, that it poses the possibility of a second holocaust. Last year he made an exhibition of himself at the UN General Assembly meeting with his childish drawing of the bomb. Cynics say that this is only a trick, a successful gimmick to divert the world’s attention away from the Palestinian issue. And indeed, for years now the Israeli policy of occupation and settlements has has been advancing quietly, away from the limelight. But in politics, one gimmick can serve several purposes at once. Netanyahu is serious about the Iranian bomb. The proof: on this issue he is ready to do something that no Israeli prime minister has ever dared to do before: endanger Israeli-American relations. This is a momentous decision. Israel is dependent on the US in almost every respect. The US pays Israel a yearly tribute of at least three billion dollars, and in fact much more. It gives us state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects us from UN Security Council censure, whatever we do. We have no other unconditional friend in the world, except, perhaps, the Fiji Islands. If there is one thing on which practically all Israelis agree, it is this subject. A break with the US is unthinkable. The US-Israeli relationship is, to use a Hebrew expression much loved by Netanyahu , “the rock of our existence”.

So what does he think he is doing?

Netanyahu’s Game

Netanyahu was brought up in the US. There he attended high school and university. There he started his career. He does not need advisors on US affairs. He considers himself the smartest expert of all. He is no fool. Neither is he an adventurer. He bases himself on solid assessments. He believes that he is able to win this fight. You could say that he is an adherent of the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine. His present moves are based on the assessment that in a straight confrontation between Congress and the White House, Congress will win. Obama, already blooded by other issues, will be beaten, even destroyed. True, Netanyahu was proved wrong the last time he tried something like this. During the last presidential elections, he openly supported Mitt Romney. The idea was that the Republicans were bound to win. The Jewish casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, poured money into their campaign, while at the same time maintaining an Israeli mass-circulation daily for the sole purpose of supporting Netanyahu. Romney “couldn’t lose” – but he did. This should have been a lesson for Netanyahu, but he didn’t absorb it. He is now playing the same game, but for vastly higher stakes. We are now in the middle of the fight, and it is still too early to predict the outcome.

The Zionist Lobby

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), supported by other Jewish and Evangelical organizations, is marshalling its forces on Capitol Hill. It’s an impressive show. Senator after senator, congressman after congressman comes forward to support the Israeli government against their own president. The same people who jumped up and down like string puppets when Netanyahu made his last speech before both houses of Congress, try to outdo each other in assertions of their undying loyalty to Israel. This is now done in the open, in an exhibition of shamelessness. Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA. Not one of them said the opposite. This would have been unthinkable if any other country was involved, say Ireland or Italy, from which many Americans are descended. The “Jewish state” stands unique, a kind of inverse anti-Semitism. Indeed, some Israeli commentators have joked that Netanyahu believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famous – and infamous – tract fabricated by the secret police of the Czar. It purported to expose a sinister conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world. A hundred years later, controlling the US comes near to that. The senators and representatives are no fools (not all of them, in any case). They have a clear purpose: to be re-elected. They know on which side their bread is buttered. AIPAC has demonstrated, in several test cases, that it can unseat any senator or congressman who does not toe the straight Israeli line. One sentence of implied criticism of Israeli policies suffices to doom a candidate. Politicians prefer open shame and ridicule to political suicide. No kamikaze pilots in Congress.

The White House vs Israel’s Congressional Stooges

This is not a new situation. It is at least several decades old. What is new is that it is now out in the open, without embellishment. It is difficult to know, as of now, how much the White House is cowed by this development. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, know that American public opinion is dead set against any new war in the Middle East. Compromise with Iran is in the air. This is supported by almost all the world’s powers. Even the French tantrums, which have no clear purpose but to throw their supposed weight around, are not serious. President Francois Hollande was received in Israel this week like the harbinger of the Messiah. If one closed one’s eyes, one could imagine that the happy old pre-de Gaulle days were back again, when France armed Israel, supplied it with its military atomic reactor and the two countries went on escapades together (the ill-fated 1956 Suez adventure). But if Obama and Kerry hold fast and stay their course on Iran, can Congress impose the opposite course? Could this turn into the most serious constitutional crisis in US history? As a sideshow, Kerry is going on with his effort to impose on Netanyahu a peace he does not want. The secretary of state did succeed in pushing Netanyahu into “final status negotiations” (nobody dared to utter the word peace, God forbid), but nobody in Israel or Palestine believes that anything will come out of this. Unless, of course, the White House puts the whole might of the US behind the effort – and that seems more than unlikely. Kerry has allotted nine months to the endeavour, as if it were a normal pregnancy. But the chances of a baby emerging at the end of it are practically nil. During the first three months, the sides have not progressed a single step.

So who will win? Obama or Netanyahu? Chomsky or Walt/Mearsheimer?

As commentators love to say: time will tell.

In the meantime, place your bets.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Israel-Palestine: Enough Negotiations Already!

Friday, 29 November 2013 01:13 By Adil E Shamoo, Foreign Policy in Focus | News Analysis


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants negotiations with the Palestinians to continue for decades to come. But the Palestinian leadership would be foolish to go along with this charade.

When I was a child in Baghdad, we had a special Assyrian holiday for kids called Nusardil. As part of the celebrations, everyone throws water at each other, symbolizing baptism. The goal is to run away quickly enough to avoid getting wet.

The year I turned six, an adult friend asked me to bring him a glass of water. When I did, he threw the water in my face. Everyone laughed. He asked me again to bring him water, assuring me that this time he would throw it at someone else. But you guessed it—he threw the water right at me again. By the third time he asked me for a glass of water, I had learned my lesson. I threw the water in his face and ran for my life.

The Palestinian leadership has had water thrown in its face by the Israelis dozens of times in the past 40 years. In every round of negotiations, the United States assures the Palestinians that this time it will be different, but inevitably they walk away soaking wet. Yet the Palestinian leadership keeps going back for more. It’s time for a change. It’s time to let negotiations go, and find other means of achieving Palestinian rights and statehood.

The Current Situation

The situation for Palestinians has reached dire straits. Palestinians suffer from lack of sovereignty, lack of resources, and abject poverty. A million and a half Arabs live as second-class citizens in Israel. Another 1.5 million suffer in an open-air prison in Gaza, and 2 million more live under occupation in the West Bank—an occupation maintained with the help of the United States and the collaboration of a Palestinian government.

Meanwhile, the Israelis are riding high. The United Nations classifies Israel as having “Very High Human Development”—it ranks 16th among 186 nations. With a very strong military, Israel has little to fear in terms of external attacks, particularly with its undeclared nuclear arsenal. Despite some nominal differences over settlements, the U.S. president and members of Congress from both parties, many of them insisting that the West Bank isn’t even under occupation, repeatedly reiterate their ongoing support of Israel. For their part, the Palestinians are divided and fighting among themselves. The Palestinian Authority, with its leaders serving on long past their term limits, is illegitimate. Reliant on foreign assistance and Israel’s willingness to let its funds through, the Authority complies with U.S. policies to gain access to a measly few hundred million dollars a year. Meanwhile, regional support has been slim as Arab countries have dealt with their own internal strife.

Negotiations Without End

Lacking progress on any other front, all eyes turn toward negotiations, which have recently re-started under the guidance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Despite the fact that the broker in these negotiations—the United States—is on the side of Israel on nearly every major question, the Palestinian leadership still hopes for the best. It wants an agreement that will stop settlement building, send Israel back to its 1967 borders, establish East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, enact the right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and enable Palestinians to run their own affairs. In contrast, right-wing Israeli politicians—many of them in the leadership of Netanyahu’s government—are floating the idea of not creating a Palestinian state at all. Rather, they propose annexing the most important portions of the West Bank—leaving many Palestinians permanently stateless in an overtly apartheid arrangement—and making Jerusalem a permanently undivided city for Israelis only. The two sides are not exactly close together. And while the Palestinian leadership lacks the legitimacy to compromise anymore than it already has, the Israeli leadership lacks any incentive. The push for negotiations is spurred forward by a cottage industry of foreign policy professionals who still believe that Washington has not only the ability but also the willingness to negotiate a just and acceptable settlement. The negotiation industry, at times backed by very well-intentioned people, keeps the drumbeat of hope alive and says that talks are preferable to what it claims is the only other alternative: war. Palestinian leaders, along with most everyone else in the region, seem to agree that there will be no military solution to the conflict. But the alternative to war is not necessarily negotiations — not if it means negotiating while the Israelis openly confiscate Palestinian land by settling over half a million Israelis on it. Or negotiating despite the fact that the majority of both Palestinians and Israelis have little faith that this round of talks will succeed. It’s time for the Palestinians to make sure they do not aid in perpetuating this charade of endless negotiations for decades more.

Ways Forward

The status quo is unsustainable, and when the United States is no longer a superpower, Israel’s impunity will be much less assured. As Ian Lustick stated recently in the New YorkTimes, “many Israelis see the demise of the country as not just possible, but probable. The State of Israel has been established, not its permanence.” Lustick reminded the Israelis that the “Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Bathist Iraqi, and Yugoslavian states unraveled,” and so too could Israel collapse under the weight of its own injustices. In the meantime, what are the options? For one thing, the Palestinians can exercise peaceful demonstrations, engage in hunger strikes, and use international forums to further isolate Israel. Meanwhile, the Israelis may be doing a fine job of isolating themselves: the United States is almost the only friend Israel has, and Israel is abusing the friendship. Netanyahu’s government wants to go to war with Iran and has been pressing Washington hard to do the same, contrary to U.S. interests. That move risks alienating Washington and eroding one of Israel’s chief pillars of support, although this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Palestinians are at an important juncture in their history. Through nonviolent resistance and further appeals to international law and institutions—not through a hollow “negotiation” process that puts a veneer of legitimacy on the slow erosion of historic Palestine—the Palestinian struggle for statehood must continue. On the home front, Palestinians need to get rid of Mahmoud Abbas and the coterie of other leaders who are jaded by their comfort. And they should redouble their efforts to enlist world opinion by exposing Israel’s virtual enslavement of 5 million Palestinians, which is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an anathema to the world conscience in the 21st century.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Without Reagan's Treason, Iran Would Not Be a Problem

Tuesday, 26 November 2013 15:29 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed


As news of a US-Iranian nuclear deal spread like wildfire this weekend, the mainstream media began to ask its usual set of questions. Is the deal for real? Can we trust the Iranians? Are the mullahs just using a temporary break in sanctions to buy enough time to build a bomb?

Ever since the Second Bush administration labeled Iran part of the "Axis of Evil," the media has portrayed the Iranian government as a scheming theocracy, so the discussion of the "two-faced Persians" isn't all that surprising.

But aside from being wildly racist, this portrayal is also wildly inaccurate. That's because the biggest threat to an American-Iranian accord comes from President Obama's enemies at home - Congressional Republicans - not from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Already Republican leaders in the Senate are calling for more sanctions against Iran. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that doing so is the only way to ensure a long-term deal between the U.S. and Iran.

The call for sanctions also has support in the House. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Michigan says that he backs any Senate plan to tighten restrictions on Iran's economy.

Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president's deal with Iran are nothing new, however.

Just ask Jimmy Carter.

In 1980 Carter thought he had reached a deal with newly-elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr over the release of the fifty-two hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran.

Bani-Sadr was a moderate and, as he explained in an editorial for The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year, had successfully run for President on the popular position of releasing the hostages: "I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign.... I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote.... Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking]."

Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr's help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November of 1979.

But Carter underestimated the lengths his opponent in the 1980 Presidential election, California Governor Ronald Reagan, would go to screw him over.

Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran's radical faction - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini - to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 Presidential election.

This was nothing short of treason. The Reagan campaign's secret negotiations with Khomeini - the so-called "October Surprise" - sabotaged Carter and Bani-Sadr's attempts to free the hostages. And as Bani-Sadr told The Christian Science Monitor in March of this year, they most certainly "tipped the results of the [1980] election in Reagan's favor."

Not surprisingly, Iran released the hostages on January 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.

The "October Surprise" emboldened the radical forces inside Iran. A politically weakened Bani-Sadr was overthrown in June of 1981 and replaced with Mohammed Ali Rajai - a favorite of Khomeini's. These radical forces today are represented by people like former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hard-liners who oppose any deal with the United States and, like Khomeini in the 1980s, will jump at any chance to discredit the current moderate presidency of Hassan Rouhani.

The October Surprise also led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people around the world, and in Central America in particular. Reagan took money from the Iranians and used that money to kill nuns in Nicaragua.

But those are just the most obvious results of the October Surprise. Again, if Carter were able to free the hostages like he and Bani-Sadr had planned, Carter would have won re-election. After all, he was leading in most polls in the months leading up to the election. And if Reagan were never elected, America would be a much more progressive nation.

Flash-forward thirty-three years, and once again a Democratic President is trying to negotiate in good faith with Iran. President Obama has made a deal with the moderate Iranian President that - if everything goes as planned - will solve a major international crisis. But like President Carter's deal, President Obama's deal is opposed by Republicans who have proven time and time again that they will stop at nothing to sabotage a Democrat in the White House. And while there is no proof that Republican Senators are secretly asking Ayatollah Khameini to violate the terms of this weekend's nuclear deal, their obsession with slamming Iran with more sanctions is just as dangerous. We know what happened the last time a deal with Iran fell through because of Republican sabotage. Who knows what could happen this time?

A long-term Iranian nuclear deal would be a once in a generation chance for the United States to rethink its foreign policy. President Obama should go for it. But he should watch his back. Because if history tells us anything, it's that Republicans are more than willing to betray their country for a little short-term political gain.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Secret Trade Deal Spawns 'We Will Not Obey' Movement

Saturday, 21 December 2013 11:38 By Zack Kaldveer, Organic Consumers Association | News Analysis


In his epic book of poetry, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman advises “Resist Much. Obey Little.” But when it comes to corporations trampling on local rights, the city of Madison, Wis., advises other cities and counties to do what it has done: Resist much. Obey not.

In October, the Madison City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring the city a “TPP-Free Zone,” and promising that if Congress passes the Trans Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement, “We will not obey” it.

The TPP is the largest global trade pact to be negotiated since the World Trade Organization (WTO). Most of the details of the deal remain a mystery. Negotiations are being conducted in secret. But we know, from some of the drafts that have been leaked, that the TPP would hand transnational corporations the power to “protect their future profit potential” by suing countries, states, counties or cities in order to wipe out existing laws—laws specifically designed to protect communities’ best interests.

Those interests could include everything from internet freedom and banking and finance regulation, to the passing of bans on growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“Call it a sovereignty issue, or local control, or threat of lowering local standards with regard to government procurement (elimination of any “buy local” ordinances), food safety ordinances, living wage ordinances, environmental requirements, prevailing wage requirements on construction, etc.—[Madison City Council members] saw all these as threats to their authority and the job they had been elected to do,” said David Newby of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition. Newby played a key role in passing the “TPP-Free Zone” resolution in Madison, and another in Dane County, Wis. The “TPP-Free Zone” concept is modeled after the successful grassroots strategy that helped defeat a similar trade agreement in 1998, called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The basic premise was to convince elected officials, city by city, county by county, of the need to refuse to obey the MAI if it became law. The anti-MAI grassroots effort succeeded by exposing the dark side of the MAI, and by proving its unpopularity with the public.

Growing Opposition

A scenario similar to the anti-MAI grassroots movement is unfolding today, this time with the TPP as its target. According to the latest poll, 61 percent of the public in key countries, including the U.S., oppose the TPP. Opposition has grown, thanks to the work of many groups, including the Organic Consumers Association, who have publicly opposed the deal, and launched massive public education campaigns to expose the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the deal, and the potential for the TPP to subvert democracy for the benefit of corporate profits.

TPP protesters recently turned out in mass in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. More than 400 organizations representing 15 million Americans have already petitioned Congress to do away with Fast Track, a tactic the Obama Administration wants to use in order to ram the deal through Congress, without debate.

But if efforts to thwart the deal fail, states, cities and counties can follow the lead of Madison and Dane County by passing their own TPP-Free zones. Ruth Caplan, with the Alliance for Democracy, hopes they will. In a recent interview, Caplan urged people to work with their local governments to “build a democratic movement of resistance.”

“This starts from the grass roots, in the communities where we live . . . This is not, 'Please, Congress, do the right thing,' but language of resistance. We need to say, 'If you create this secretly negotiated corporate trade agreement and it is rubber-stamped by Congress, we will not obey.'"

The Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission (PJC) has approved a TPP-Free Zone resolution, and says the Berkeley, Calif. city council could take it up this month.

For citizens or officials interested in passing TPP-Free Zone resolutions in other states and counties, the Alliance for Democracy website provides information, model municipal laws that can be edited to fit the needs of any community, and includes pointers on how to convince wavering local officials to pass “We Will Not Obey” resolutions.

The TPP, Monsanto and the Future of Food

There’s a long list of reasons to oppose the TPP. Food safety is right at the top—especially with a former Monsanto lobbyist leading U.S. negotiations on agricultural issues.

Specifically, the TPP would require countries to accept food that meets only the lowest safety standards of the collective participants. That means consumers could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don’t meet even basic U.S. food safety standards. And the (FDA) would be powerless to shut down imports of these unsafe food or food ingredients.

Countries, including those in the European Union, could also find it increasingly difficult to ban, or even require the labeling of, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) if biotech companies determine that those countries’ strict policies restrict fair trade and infringe on the companies’ “rights” to profit.

To top it off, corporations would be allowed to resolve trade disputes in special international tribunals, effectively wiping out hundreds of domestic and international food sovereignty laws. Products labeled fair trade, organic, country-of-origin, animal-welfare approved, or GMO-free, could all be challenged as “barriers to trade.”

With the world’s food supply, and consumers’ health, already endangered by chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and climate change, the U.S. and other governments should be looking for ways to promote sustainable food and agriculture policies, not restrict governments’ abilities to do so. Instead, the Obama Administration is subverting the principles of democracy in favor of handing a few transnational corporations unprecedented power to put profits above the health and well-being of consumers.

Fortunately citizens are protesting. And city and county governments are claiming the power to resist.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Mandela Is Gone, but Apartheid Is Alive and Well in Australia

Thursday, 19 December 2013 09:08 By John Pilger, Truthout | Op-Ed


Apartheid was defeated largely by a global campaign from which the South African regime never recovered. Similar disapproval seldom has found its mark for Australia's treatment of its Aboriginal population.

In the late 1960s, I was given an usual assignment by the London Daily Mirror's editor in chief, Hugh Cudlipp. I was to return to my homeland, Australia, and "discover what lies behind the sunny face." The Mirror had been an indefatigable campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, where I had reported from behind the "sunny face." As an Australian, I had been welcomed into this bastion of white supremacy. "We admire you Aussies," people would say. "You know how to deal with your blacks."

I was offended, of course, but I also knew that only the Indian Ocean separated the racial attitudes of the two colonial nations. What I was not aware of was how the similarity caused such suffering among the original people of my own country. Growing up, my school books had made clear, to quote one historian: "We are civilised, and they are not." I remember how a few talented Aboriginal Rugby League players were allowed their glory as long as they never mentioned their people. Eddie Gilbert, the great Aboriginal cricketer, the man who bowled Don Bradman for a duck, was to be prevented from playing again. That was not untypical.

In 1969, I flew to Alice Springs in the red heart of Australia and met Charlie Perkins. At a time when Aboriginal people were not even counted in the census - unlike the sheep - Charlie was only the second Aborigine to get a university degree. He had made good use of this distinction by leading "freedom rides" into racially segregated towns in the outback of New South Wales. He got the idea from the freedom riders who went into the Deep South of the United States. We hired an old Ford, picked up Charlie's mother, Hetti, an elder of the Aranda people, and headed for what Charlie described as "hell." This was Jay Creek, a "native reserve," where hundreds of Aboriginal people were corralled in conditions I had seen in Africa and India. One outside tap trickled brown; there was no sanitation; the food, or "rations," was starch and sugar. The children had stick-thin legs and the distended bellies of malnutrition.

What struck me was the number of grieving mothers and grandmothers - bereft at the theft of children by the police and "welfare" authorities who, for years, had taken away those infants with lighter skin. The policy was "assimilation." Today, this has changed only in name and rationale.

The boys would end up working on white-run farms, the girls as servants in middle-class homes. This was undeclared slave labor. They were known as the Stolen Generation. Hetti Perkins told me that when Charlie was an infant she had kept him tied to her back and would hide whenever she heard the hoofs of the police horses. "They didn't get him," she said, with pride.

In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for this crime against humanity. Older Aboriginal people were grateful; they believed that Australia's first people - the most enduring human presence on Earth - might finally receive the justice and recognition they had been denied for 220 years.

What few of them heard was the postscript to Rudd's apology. "I want to be blunt about this," he said. "There will be no compensation." That 100,000 people deeply wronged and scarred by vicious racism - the product of a form of the eugenics movement with its links to fascism - would be given no opportunity to materially restore their lives was shocking, although not surprising. Most governments in Canberra, conservative or Labor, have insinuated that the First Australians are to blame for their suffering and poverty. When the Labor government in the 1980s promised "full restitution" and land rights, the powerful mining lobby went on the attack, spending millions campaigning on the theme that "the blacks" would "take over your beaches and barbies." The government capitulated, even though the lie was farcical; Aboriginal people make up barely 3 percent of the Australian population.

Today, Aboriginal children are again being stolen from their families. The bureaucratic words are "removed" for "child protection." By July 2012, there were 13,299 Aboriginal children in institutions or handed over to white families. Today, the theft of these children is now higher than at any time during the past century. I have interviewed numerous specialists in child care who regard this as a second stolen generation. "Many of the kids never see their mothers and communities again," Olga Havnen, the author of a report for the Northern Territory government, told me. "In the Northern Territory, $80 million was spent on surveillance and removing kids, and less than $500,000 on supporting these impoverished families. Families are often given no warning and have no idea where their children are being taken. The reason given is neglect - which means poverty. This is destroying Aboriginal culture and is racist. If apartheid South Africa had done this, there would have been an uproar."

In the town of Wilcannia, New South Wales, the life expectancy of Aborigines is 37 - lower than the Central African Republic, perhaps the poorest country on Earth, currently racked by civil war. Wilcannia's other distinction is that the Cuban government runs a literacy program there, teaching young Aboriginal children to read and write. This is what the Cubans are famous for - in the world's poorest countries. Australia is one of the world's richest countries. I filmed similar conditions 28 years ago when I made my first film about indigenous Australia, The Secret Country. Vince Forrester, an Aboriginal elder I interviewed then, appears in my new film, Utopia. He guided me through a house in Mutitjulu where 32 people lived, mostly children, many of them suffering from otitis media, an infectious, entirely preventable disease that impairs hearing and speech. "Seventy percent of the children in this house are partially deaf," he said. Turning straight to my camera, he said, "Australians, this is what we call an abuse of human rights."

Australians rarely are confronted with their nation's dirtiest secret. In 2009, professor James Anaya, the respected United Nations special rapporteur, witnessed similar conditions and described government "intervention" policies as racist. The then-minister for indigenous health, Tony Abbott, told him to "get a life" and stop listening to "the victim brigade." Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.

In Western Australia, minerals are being dug up from Aboriginal land and shipped to China for a profit of $1 billion a week. In this, the richest, "booming" state, the prisons bulge with stricken Aboriginal people, including juveniles whose mothers stand at the prison gates, pleading for their release. The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans during the last decade of apartheid.

When Nelson Mandela was buried this week, his struggle against apartheid was duly celebrated in Australia, although the irony was missing. Apartheid was defeated largely by a global campaign from which the South African regime never recovered. Similar opprobrium seldom has found its mark in Australia, principally because the Aboriginal population is so small and Australian governments have been successful in dividing and co-opting a disparate leadership with gestures and vacuous promises. That may well be changing. A resistance is growing, yet again, in the Aboriginal heartland, especially among the young. Unlike the United States, Canada and New Zealand, which have made treaties with their first people, Australia has refused to negotiate a treaty with the Aboriginal people and offered instead gestures often wrapped in the law but mostly meaningless.

However, in the 21st century, the outside world is starting to pay attention. The specter of Mandela's South Africa is a warning. This article first appeared in the London Daily Mirror.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Eyewitness to America Betraying Mandela's South Africa: The Gore-Mbeki Commission

Saturday, 14 December 2013 09:43 By Dr Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Truthout | Op-Ed


At the dawn of the Nelson Mandela administration, I had the extraordinary privilege to sit at the table with the new African National Congress leadership as the Environmental Protection Agency-White House liaison to the South African government. My job was to work with the new ANC leadership to design and provide US technical environmental expertise to assist the majority population's recovery from the environmental and public health disaster the apartheid system imposed on it. This process took place through the flagship foreign policy vehicle, the US-South African BiNational Commission, commonly called the Gore-Mbeki Commission, or the BNC. All bilateral foreign policy activities between the United States and South Africa took place through this commission. A detailed account of these events can be found in my book, No FEAR: A Whistleblower's Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. As a graduate student and professor, I had been an anti-apartheid activist who marched with my colleagues in the Southern Africa Support Project and TransAfrica in front of the South African Embassy to "Free Mandela" and to express our solidarity with the South African revolution. When I was offered the position of executive secretary to the BNC in 1995, I made it clear to the EPA - citing racist US foreign policy in other African countries - that I would not be a part of any diabolical scheme against the South African people. I was a supporter of the South African Freedom Charter and excited about helping the Mandela government implement environmental policies that would reverse decades of harmful and, at times, fatal policies toward the black majority. Soon after assuming my position, I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. In a 1996 letter to my mentor, professor Noam Chomsky, I wrote: "The Freedom Charter is not on the table. I'm heart broken to report that despite the blood sacrifice of so many activists, South Africa is entering a neo-colonial phase."

Vice President Al Gore said of the BNC: "I affirm that the people of the United States of America are committed to the strongest possible partnership with the citizens of South Africa." His counterpart, Thabo Mbeki, then deputy president of South Africa, proclaimed that he appreciated "this relationship of support and engagement for creating a better life for the people of this country."

At the time, CNN's description of aspects of the BNC's mission was closer to the truth: A further goal of the BNC was to hold regular trade talks and cooperate in the fight against international terrorism. There was a stark difference between the stated goals of the BNC and US political strategy. It would become evident that the functional goal of the environment committee of the BiNational Commission was to provide cover for the same US multinational corporations that had participated in the repression of South Africa during apartheid. Under a green banner, they were seeking to continue the previous relationship with Afrikaner leaders they had enjoyed while Nelson Mandela languished in prison for three decades.

I was the US official to whom the first reports of illness and death relating to vanadium mining were given by black South African union leaders and later by the new environmental leadership in the Nelson Mandela government. The United States ignored these reports, choosing to protect American-owned multinational corporations that were operating in South Africa. The reports included symptomology of miners whose tongues were turning green; bronchitis; asthma; bleeding from bodily orifices; impotence in young, healthy male workers; cancers; and, ultimately, death.

Despite the BNC agreeing to send a team of experts from the United States to investigate these horrible reports, no serious investigation ever occurred. Every attempt to convene an independent team of medical doctors was thwarted by EPA management. Instead, the EPA dispatched a single veterinarian to care for its new black African partners, as the United States focused its serious efforts and resources on developing private-sector projects.

The United States had been a faithful ally of the racist apartheid regime. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher considered the ANC a terrorist organization and called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. However, the saturated media coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela has missed another important relationship between the United States and Mandela - the fact that, according to The New York Times, there was a "CIA Tie Reported in Mandela Arrest:"

"The Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader who was jailed for nearly 28 years before his release four months ago. ... The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela's activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service."

The report quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior CIA officer told him shortly after Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be."

By 1996, US policy had not changed from the Reagan administration's - but the PR and public statements did - in response to growing US public outcries from the anti-apartheid movement and international human rights groups. Still, behind the scenes and in agencies like the EPA, the US role was business as usual.

As flowers adorn the front of the statue of Mandela at the South African Embassy, it is worth noting that the statue was paid for by the same corporate concerns that supported Mandela's incarceration, including the Anglo American Corp., the South African Mining Group, South Africa's Synthetic Fuels, chemicals giant Sasol, the South African Gold Coin Exchange and Standard Bank. These corporate co-conspirators think they can fool us with plaques, devotionals and crocodile tears.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] -3 points by michaeljames (-78) from New York, NY 8 years ago

Sounds like a conspiracy theory. Delusional fantasy built on loose and uninteresting associations and coincidences. A story for the gullible.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

A conspiracy theory involves speculation, not straight forward reports of events. It is only delusional fantasy to read straight forward reports of events and misconstrue them to be conspiracy theory.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Why the World Should Care About Honduras' Recent Election

Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:37 By Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian | Op-Ed


Election results are often contested, and that is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or European Union (EU). But there are times and places when these outside organizations don't provide much in the way of independent observation.

On Sunday, 24 November, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence (pdf) that prevailed in the country. As I noted before the vote, members of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate had, in the prior six months, written to US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their concerns.

Their worst fears proved justified. During the weekend of the election, three Libre party activists were murdered. This has received little attention from the media, but imagine if 120 Democratic party organizers (scaling up for the population of the US) were assassinated in the course of a US presidential election – a fourth Libre party activist was murdered on 30 November. Libre is the party formed by Hondurans who opposed the 2009 military coup that ousted the democratically-elected, left-of-center President Mel Zelaya. Their presidential candidate was Xiomara Castro, who is married to Zelaya.

Both letters also expressed concern about the electoral process, and here, too, the result was beyond their worst scenarios. According to the official results, Xiomara Castro received 28.8% of the vote, behind the ruling National Party's 36.8%. Another newly formed opposition party, the Anti-Corruption party headed by Salvador Nasralla, received 13.5% in the official tally.

Reports of fraud, vote-buying, the buying of polling-place party representatives by the National Party, and other irregularities came from observers during the day of the election and following. Of course, these things happen in many elections, especially in poor countries, so it is generally a judgment call for election monitors to determine if the election is "good enough" to warrant approval, or whether it should be rejected. But there are two very big things that stand out in this election that raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the vote count.

First is the compilation of votes by the Libre party, released on Friday. The parties are able to do their own vote count after the election because their observers receive copies of the tally sheets, which they sign, at the polling centers. The Libre party was able to salvage 14,593 of the 16,135 tally sheets (some Libre observers were reportedly tricked or intimidated into turning their copies over to the electoral authorities). They compared these tally sheets to the official results posted on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) web site, and found enormous discrepancies: for example, an 82,301 overcount for the National Party, and a 55,720 undercount for the Libre party. This by itself is more than 4.6% of the total vote, well over half of the National Party's lead in the official tally.

Hopefully the Libre party will post its tally sheets online so that these counts can be verified. If true, these discrepancies are so large that, by themselves, they would mandate the recount that the Libre party is demanding, if not a new election altogether.

The second big thing in this election has been the defection of a delegate from the official EU observer mission, Leo Gabriel of Austria. In a press interview with Brazil's Opera Mundi, Gabriel explained why he breached protocol and denounced the EU's preliminary report:

I can attest to countless inconsistencies in the electoral process. There were people who could not vote because they showed up as being dead, and there were dead people who voted … the hidden alliance between the small parties and the National Party led to the buying and selling of votes and [electoral worker] credentials … During the transmission of the results there was no possibility to find out where the tallies were being sent and we received reliable information that at least 20% of "the original tally sheets were being diverted to an illegal server.

He also noted that the majority of his fellow EU observers disagreed with the mission's report, but were overruled by the team leaders. Gabriel concludes that although "EU missions have played a relevant role and have appropriately dealt with lack of transparency in electoral processes", this was not the case in this election, where "political, economic, commercial, and even partisan interests prevailed".

The most important partisan interest is that of Washington, which put $11m into the election and wanted to legitimize the rule of its ally, the National Party, just as it did in the more blatantly illegitimate election four years ago following the US-backed military coup.

The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in elections in Haiti: it changed its 2000 report on presidential elections to support US efforts at "regime change", and in 2011, took the unprecedented step of reversing an actual election result, without so much as even a recount – again in line with Washington's electoral choices.

But the battle over this election is not over yet. Thousands of Hondurans have taken to the streets, despite increasing repression and militarization of the country. The response of the international media and observer missions will be relevant: will they investigate to see if the charges of electoral fraud are true? Or will they simply watch as the National Party government consolidates itself with repression and support for the results from the US and its allies?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Last Chance for Peace in Syria: Will Obama Sabotage the Geneva II Syria peace talks?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 12:09 By Shamus Cooke, CounterPunch | News Analysis


The war in Syria grinds on, an endless wreckage of shattered limbs and lives. The blood flows across borders, fueling the religious sectarian killing across the Middle East that is the life-blood of the Syrian conflict.

Hopes rose in Syria after Obama’s last minute decision not to “punish Assad” with a missile attack. Then came the U.S.-Iran nuclear peace deal, and it was hoped that peace in Syria was part of the broader shift in U.S. policy, “pivoting” away from the Middle East towards China.

The “Geneva II” Syrian peace talks have been discussed for months, but there always seems to be an endlessly complicated barrier. Contrary to what the media and politicians say, stopping the mass carnage is sadly easy. And it could be done relatively quickly, if the power brokers behind the conflict actually wanted it stopped. Peace talks are not advanced calculus, but basic addition. You bring together those outside nations who are fueling the conflict — directly or indirectly — you add the groups inside Syria who have power on the ground, and out of negotiations equals a settlement. I.groups on the ground in Syria refuse to negotiate, the outside powers are then expected to exert their leverage on their proxies, with the threat of being cut off politically and financially. Through this process an agreement can be forged.

Of course, an x factor often emerges: whether parties are actually willing to negotiate, and whether or not they do so honestly, with the intention of pursuing peace, rather then using the talks to wage a better-timed war.

Obama seems conflicted about wanting peace in Syria. One of the key actors in the Syrian drama is Iran, and Obama is blocking Iran from participating. The UN understands that Iran’s involvement in the peace talks is crucial, but Obama is exploiting U.S. power to pick and choose who participates, sabotaging the talks in the process. Why does Obama want Iran out of the picture? Because the U.S. wants to control the outcome of the talks, and Obama insists that Iran agree that the peace talks be conditional, the condition being that the goals of the talks be limited to creating a “transitional government,” i.e., the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama is essentially attempting to achieve via talks what he couldn’t achieve through a proxy war.

Of course, any pre-condition to peace talks is a great way to abort any chance of peace, though there has been much chatter that Obama is reconsidering his “Assad must go” pre-condition, since it is so obviously destructive to peace talks.

But Obama continues to encourage war in Syria by refusing to muzzle his attack dog, Saudi Arabia, which continues to openly funnel money, weapons, and jihadists into Syria, supporting Islamic extremist rebel groups that refuse to participate in peace talks. Recently the Saudi ambassador to Britain wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, where he defiantly declared that Saudi Arabia will “go it alone” to continue to fuel the Syrian sociocide.

The article was a masterstroke of hypocrisy; Saudi Arabia remains the motor force of religious extremism in the Middle East and a prime contributor to sectarian atrocities committed in Syria. The ambassador shamelessly writes:

“The way to prevent the rise of extremism in Syria — and elsewhere — is to support the champions of moderation: financially, materially and yes, militarily, if necessary.”

Of course, in Syria there are zero “moderate” rebel forces with any shred of power. This long-known fact was made explicit recently when a large group of rebels — some of them former “moderates” under the Free Syrian Army — realigned themselves under the banner of the Islamic Front, which shares a fundamentalist Sunni Islam ideology similar to al Qaeda — the other dominant power among the Syrian opposition. What was Obama’s response to the implosion of his Free Syrian Army and the rise of the Islamic Front? Obama’s U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf casually commented:

“We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front … We can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they’re not designated terrorists … We’re always open to meeting with a wide range of opposition groups.”

There you go. Taliban-style extremists aren’t designated as “terrorists,” so it’s OK to support them. Obama is forced to support these groups because without doing so, the U.S. would have zero influence on the ground in the Syrian conflict. And without power on the ground the U.S. has no influence to steer peace talks in a direction favorable to U.S. interests.

This is why Obama continues to allow Saudi Arabia to fuel the conflict, as it has done — along with the other Gulf states — since the beginning. For example, the highest religious authority of Saudi Arabia gave his support to the widely popular Qatari-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, after the Sheikh called for jihad against the Syrian government.

The response to these calls for jihad has been predictable; a recent study estimates that as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have fought in Syria, although no one knows exactly.

In practice, a Sunni fundamentalist call for jihad equals the murder of Shia Muslims, Christians and by implication, the majority of Sunni Muslims who are not of the Saudi fundamentalist variety. These Saudi and Qatari for-profit Sheikh’s are up to their necks in Syrian blood.

Of course, if Obama wanted to address this issue, he would actually discuss it publicly, and then he would use his “bully pulpit” to push Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and others into line towards a peace agreement, since these nations’ national and domestic security is completely dependent on the United States military and weapon industries.

Ultimately, religious sectarianism is just the surface gloss used to divide the Middle East into an orgy of violence. The real motor force of the conflict remains profit: regional domination for raw materials, markets, loans, military sales, client states, etc.

And this is the real x factor that Obama creates in the Syrian conflict: how best to manage a peace deal that leaves in place U.S. power in the region, as well as the power of U.S. allies, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Consequently, the Syrian Kurds who’ve carved out their own autonomous zone — similar to the Kurds in Iraq — have thus far been ignored, since they pose an “existential threat” to Turkey and its large Kurdish population.

The battle for power and profit are the real complications in creating peace in Syria. Obama has had several prior chances to forge peace in Syria and has chosen not to. When Syria and Russia proposed peace last year, John Kerry openly mocked the prospect, so sure he was of his rebels taking power.

When Syria and Russia again asked for peace talks last summer, Obama’s rebels boycotted the talks and Obama’s silence equaled complicity. Obama has sabotaged peace talks for over a year by attaching pre-conditions and demands — such as the removal of Bashar al-Assad– before peace talks could begin.

Now peace talks are again on the table, the situation in Syria is more dire than ever, and the world as a whole demands peace.

Obama’s actions will testify to his intent in Syria; he will either insist on a no conditions peace talk and pressure his allies to stop the bloodshed, or he will do the opposite and remain a driving force for senseless slaughter and the continued butchering of innocents.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Indigenous Groups Win Right to Seize Chevron's Canadian Assets over $18 Billion in Amazon Pollution

Monday, 23 December 2013 10:42 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview


A court in Canada has ruled Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen can try to seize the assets of oil giant Chevron based on a 2011 decision in an Ecuadorean court found it liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rainforest. Since then, the victims have been trying to collect some $18 billion in environmental damages. But Chevron has filed its own lawsuit that argues the verdict was won through fabrication of evidence and bribery. We speak with Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek about how oil corporations from Chevron to BP are fighting lawsuits brought against them by attacking the lawyers handling the cases.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to major developments in the landmark lawsuit filed by a group of Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen against Chevron, the world’s third-largest oil company. In 2011, an Ecuadorean court found Chevron liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rainforest. Since then, the victims have been trying to collect some $18 billion in environmental damages.

AMY GOODMAN: But Chevron has vowed never to comply with the judgment. In a case now before a federal court in New York, Chevron argues the main American lawyer in the case, Steve Donziger, won the verdict after he engaged in judicial coercion, fabrication of evidence, and bribery. The court is expected to rule in the coming months. Han Shan, working with the victims, spoke as Ecuadorean villagers and their supporters rallied across from the courthouse in New York in October.

HAN SHAN: Nearly every single person who’s been named as a defendant in Chevron’s retaliatory RICO suit has loved ones, has family members who have died, who have contracted cancer, who have suffered from birth defects and other oil-related illness due to Chevron’s contamination. This lawsuit essentially rubs salt in their wounds.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as victims of Chevron fight this case in the United States, they’ve also tried to move forward on collecting damages from the company in Canada. Now the courts there have given the green light for the rainforest residents to attempt to seize Chevron’s Canadian assets.

AMY GOODMAN: This week, a panel of judges noted a Chevron spokesman had previously said, quote, "We’re going to fight this until hell freezes over. And then we’ll fight it out on the ice." In response, the judges wrote, quote, "After all these years, the Ecuadorean plaintiffs deserve to have recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorean judgment heard on the merits in an appropriate jurisdiction. At this juncture, Ontario is that jurisdiction."

Well, for more, we go to Paul Barrett, assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s been following all this closely, and his book about the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador is due out next year.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Paul. Talk about the significance of this decision.

PAUL BARRETT: Thanks. The importance of the decision in Canada is that for the first time the Ecuadorean plaintiffs will be able to go before the judiciary of a third country—not Ecuador, not the United States—and say, "We have a legitimate judgment in Ecuador, multiple billions of dollars, and we believe it should be enforced. And we want you, the judiciary of Canada, to respect the judiciary of Ecuador and allow us to literally seize the operations of Chevron in this country."

AMY GOODMAN: What assets could be seized?

PAUL BARRETT: Well, you’re talking about refineries, Chevron’s ownership in operations, for example, in western Canada in the tar sands area, and bank accounts and any assets that could then be sold off and offset against this multibillion-dollar verdict in Ecuador.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, the verdict in Ecuador has gone up the entire chain of the court system in that country, right?


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What is, in essence, the main claims of Chevron about that verdict, in particular?

PAUL BARRETT: Right. Well, that’s, of course, Juan, the other side of the story here, because Chevron says that while there may be victims of oil pollution in Ecuador—and, in fact, if you go down there and have your eyes open, you can see there is a tremendous problem of contamination—Chevron says, "Those are not our problem. This is not something that can be laid at our doorstep." And, in fact, the 2011 judgment against Chevron, the company says, was the product of corruption, that you had outside American lawyers cooperating with Ecuadorean lawyers and corrupt Ecuadorean judges to put together what amounts to a sham. And that’s where we have the conflict. And that’s the argument you’re going to hear in the Canadian courts, because while the Canadians have said, "We will hear this argument," they have not said, "We’re going to rule for the Ecuadoreans." They have said, "We’re going to give you an opportunity to make your argument." And Chevron’s argument on the other side is this is all a sham.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Barrett, quickly give us the history of Chevron—


AMY GOODMAN: —in Ecuador, because it didn’t start as Chevron.

PAUL BARRETT: Absolutely not. The history really begins with Texaco in the 1960s in Ecuador, invited into the country by the then-military government of Ecuador to exploit the oil reserves in the rainforest east of the Andes. And Texaco was there for 25-odd years. Texaco did what it was asked to do. This was not some type of by dark of night American oil company comes in and takes all the profits out; this was done in close cooperation with the Ecuadorean government.

The big problem was that Texaco left a big mess on the ground—waste oil pools, pollution. They sprayed waste oil on the roads to keep dust down. And, you know, it looks like, if you’ve been down there, what you might imagine the Gulf Coast of the United States looked like in the 1920s, except with rural Ecuadorean poverty hard up against the oil operations.

2001, Chevron takes over Texaco and inherits its legal problems, its liabilities. A lawsuit has been filed in 1993 on behalf of the residents, here in New York. That lawsuit was actually dismissed by the American courts on the assumption that the proper place for it to be played out was in Ecuador. The lawsuit was restarted in Ecuador in 2003, and the result of that lawsuit, some eight years later, was this huge victory for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs.

AMY GOODMAN: And it was to the tune of?

PAUL BARRETT: Well, initially, it was $18 billion-plus. In upholding the verdict, as Juan correctly said, the top court in Ecuador actually said, "The liability is legitimate, Chevron must pay," but they cut the verdict in half. So at this point, the liability at this moment is $9.5 billion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the likelihood of—the court case that Chevron is pursuing here in the United States—


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —could you talk about that and the likelihood of success in that?

PAUL BARRETT: Absolutely. This is—this is Chevron’s counterpunch. Chevron—the plaintiffs landed a big blow into Ecuador, and Chevron said, "We lost in Ecuador. We’re not going to pay, but we lost. We’re going to take you back to the United States, where all of this started, and we’re going to prove that the people on the other side are akin to gangsters." They used the U.S. anti-racketeering law enacted in 1970 to deal with the Mafia.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So it’s a RICO suit.

PAUL BARRETT: It’s a RICO suit, exactly. "And we are going to show that what you called a lawsuit was actually a conspiracy, a protection racket, a shakedown of the company." And they put on evidence for six weeks. I was actually there almost every day of this trial, as were all kinds of much more famous people, like Sting and his wife Trudie Styler and others. And this is now with a federal judge here in New York, and we are eagerly awaiting his ruling, which could come as early as January. And he’s going to say either Chevron is correct or Chevron is incorrect. And I think all the smart money is on his finding for Chevron. And I think Chevron is going to walk away from this trial with a judgment from a U.S. court that says that Steve Donziger and his clients were actually, basically, akin to criminals, who shook down this big American company.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve also been following BP.


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: And I was wondering if you can talk about what’s happening in the legal cases with BP and what BP is doing—


AMY GOODMAN: —because it seems to be following a certain pattern.

PAUL BARRETT: There is a pattern here throughout the oil industry, but it even goes broader than that. It’s throughout corporate America. A strategy is emerging on the part of major corporations whereby when they are hit with a big liability in court, they turn not so much to the merits of the case, but to the lawyers who have brought the case, and they try to ruin the lawyer. Now, the companies would say, "We’re doing this because the lawyers are all thieves and crooks." The plaintiffs’ lawyers would say otherwise.

But in the BP case, just this last week, BP has filed a massive fraud case against a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Texas named Mikal Watts, who is one of the most powerful and influential mass tort lawyers in this country, a big supporter, as it happens, of President Obama, one of his main financiers. And Watts had filed tens of thousands of claims against BP in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That’s all being fought out in the courts. But meanwhile, BP has said, "Watts is a fraud, and more than half of his 40,000 claims, those people don’t even exist."

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, they seem to have, at least on the face of it, some pretty good evidence that he submitted Social Security numbers for people that—whose names were not the same names as the Social Security numbers that they represented and that many of them were dead and—

PAUL BARRETT: Well, as with the Chevron case, wherever your loyalties are on the underlying merits—oil on the ground, oil in the water—as with the Chevron case, the companies have come up with very troubling evidence of plaintiffs’ lawyers cutting corners and basically using an ends-justify-the-means approach to trying to get—to hold the oil companies accountable. I mean, I think we would all agree that not—that not all ends justify any means. If you’re in a court of law, the evidence has to be real evidence. The plaintiffs have to be real people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to go back to the lawyer in the case in Ecuador.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: There had been some—also some problems between him and some of his clients, as well, since then?

PAUL BARRETT: Oh, absolutely. This is a man who, as he’s proceeded through this case, has had fallings out with most of his allies and some of his clients. So there are other groups of Ecuadoreans who have claimed that he doesn’t represent their interests, and they’ve actually filed their own lawsuit against him. That’s pending here in New York. And meanwhile, some of his scientific advisers have disavowed their own work on his behalf. So this is a very troubling and confused situation.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to stay with Ecuador, the Chevron case. I recently interviewed the Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño when he was here in New York, and asked him about the pollution that ChevronTexaco left behind.

RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] President Rafael Correa, a few days ago, went to an area where ChevronTexaco was operating, and the president put his hands in the toxic waste pits that ChevronTexaco left, and raised his oil-stained hand up to show the world how ChevronTexaco has destroyed the Ecuadorean Amazon and did not use the cleanup methodologies that were available at the time to mitigate or even avoid environmental damages.

AMY GOODMAN: You argue that ChevronTexaco has not cleaned up the Amazon that it polluted. Why hasn’t the Ecuadorean government done more to clean it up over these decades that ChevronTexaco is gone? Wasn’t Texaco a subcontractor for the Ecuadorean—for Ecuador, Petroecuador?

RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Unfortunately, the governments prior to the current government did not take measures to clean up Texaco’s mess. At one point, officials of Ecopetrol issued a document saying that Texaco had in fact cleaned up, but we know that this isn’t the case. That is why Ecuador has now begun to clean up the damage. But now we have to put that on hold, because, otherwise, the evidence of their pollution will no longer exist. So, the proof could disappear if we continue with the cleanup.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño. If you could respond to that? And also, you had an exclusive interview with the Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States.

PAUL BARRETT: Yes. Well, I mean, you asked the Ecuadorean official, you know, one of the most important questions, which is, what’s the priority here? Is the priority to actually clean up the oil, which, after all, was being drilled and produced on behalf of your country, not on behalf of another country? The vast majority of the revenue generated from all of that activity by Texaco stayed in Ecuador. And some of it was put to very good use—building roads, electrifying small towns and so forth.

And I don’t think the government of Ecuador really has a good answer, and I think you saw that demonstrated there, where it’s, "Yes, someone else should have done it earlier, and now we’ve started to do it, but now we’ve stopped doing it because of evidence." Well, look, if you’ve got poor people who are living up to their ankles in oil, you clean up the oil, and you figure out the legalities and the liabilities later. You don’t put it all on hold.

And I think, in an interesting way, the ambassador to the United States took another small step forward, and she said, in a more positive way—she actually said, "I think we should be cleaning up the oil, and the lawyers are telling us not to. And we’ve got to figure out a political compromise. We’ve got to figure out a way to just get this done." And I thought that was actually a heartening statement by her.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Barrett, I want to thank you for being here with us, and we’re going to link to your articles, assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His latest book is called Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun. His book about the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador is due out next year. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Iran Sanctions Bill Big Test of Israel Lobby Power

Sunday, 22 December 2013 11:31 By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service | News Analysis


This week’s introduction by a bipartisan group of 26 senators of a new sanctions bill against Iran could result in the biggest test of the political clout of the Israel lobby here in decades.

The White House, which says the bill could well derail ongoing negotiations between Iran and the U.S. and five other powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme and destroy the international coalition behind the existing sanctions regime, has already warned that it will veto the bill if it passes Congress in its present form.

The new bill, co-sponsored by two of Congress’s biggest beneficiaries of campaign contributions by political action committees closely linked to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), would impose sweeping new sanctions against Tehran if it fails either to comply with the interim deal it struck last month in Geneva with the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany) or reach a comprehensive accord with the great powers within one year.

To be acceptable, however, such an accord, according to the bill, would require Iran to effectively dismantle virtually its entire nuclear programme, including any enrichment of uranium on its own soil, as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The government of President Hassan Rouhani has warned repeatedly that such a demand is a deal-breaker, and even Secretary of State John Kerry has said that a zero-enrichment position is a non-starter.

The bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, also calls for Washington to provide military and other support to Israel if its government “is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program.”

The introduction of the bill Thursday by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez followed unsuccessful efforts by both men to get some sanctions legislation passed since the Geneva accord was signed Nov. 24.

Kirk at first tried to move legislation that would have imposed new sanctions immediately in direct contradiction to a pledge by the P5+1 in the Geneva accord to forgo any new sanctions for the six-month life of the agreement in exchange for, among other things, enhanced international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and a freeze on most of its nuclear programme.

Unable to make headway, Kirk then worked with Menendez to draw up the new bill which, because of its prospective application, would not, according to them, violate the agreement. They had initially planned to attach it to a defence bill before the holiday recess. But the Democratic leadership, which controls the calendar, refused to go along.

Their hope now is to pass it – either as a free-standing measure or as an amendment to another must-pass bill after Congress reconvenes Jan. 6.

To highlight its bipartisan support, the two sponsors gathered a dozen other senators from each party to co-sponsor it. Republicans, many of whom reflexively oppose President Barack Obama’s positions on any issue and whose core constituencies include Christian Zionists, are almost certain to support the bill by an overwhelming margin. If the bill gets to the floor, the main battle will thus take place within the Democratic majority.

The latter find themselves torn between, on the one hand, their loyalty to Obama and their fear that new sanctions will indeed derail negotiations and thus make war more likely, and, on the other, their general antipathy for Iran and the influence exerted by AIPAC and associated groups as a result of the questionable perception that Israel’s security is uppermost in the minds of Jewish voters and campaign contributors (who, by some estimates, provide as much as 40 percent of political donations to Democrats in national campaigns). The administration clearly hopes the Democratic leadership will prevent the bill from coming to a vote, but, if it does, persuading most of the Democrats who have already endorsed the bill to change their minds will be an uphill fight. If the bill passes, the administration will have to muster 34 senators of the 100 senators to sustain a veto – a difficult but not impossible task, according to Congressional sources. That battle has already been joined. Against the 13 Democratic senators who signed onto the Kirk-Menendez bill, 10 Democratic Senate committee chairs urged Majority Leader Harry Reid, who controls the upper chamber’s calendar, to forestall any new sanctions legislation.

“As negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see negotiations fail,” wrote the 10, who included the chairs of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, respectively. They also noted that a new intelligence community assessment had concluded that “new sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Their letter was followed by the veto threat by White House spokesman Jay Carney and a strong denunciation of the bill by State Department spokesperson Marie Harf. She accused the sponsors of “directly contradict[ing] the administration work. …If Congress passes this bill, …it would be proactively taking an action that would undermine American diplomacy and make peaceful resolution to this issue less possible.”

But none of that has deterred key Israel lobby institutions. “Far from being a step which will make war more likely, as some claim, enhanced sanctions together with negotiations will sustain the utmost pressure on a regime that poses a threat to America and our closest allies in the Middle East,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argued Thursday.

And, in a slap at both the administration and the Senate chairs, the Conference of Major American Jewish Organisations complained about criticisms of the bill’s proponents. “Some of the terminology and characterizations used in the latest days, including accusations of warmongering and sabotage, are inappropriate and counterproductive,” it said.

Since it lost a major battle with former President Ronald Reagan over a huge arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, the Israel lobby has generally avoided directly confronting a sitting president, but, at this point, it appears determined to take on Obama over Iran. For some observers, its opposition is difficult to understand, particularly because key members of the Israeli national security establishment have conspicuously declined to join Netanyahu in denouncing the Geneva deal.

“I’m amazed that they’ve taken it this far,” said Keith Weissman, a former AIPAC specialist on Iran. “Bottom line is that if the Iranians comply with the terms of the deal – which it seems like they are doing so far, despite some internal resistance – they are further from breakout capacity [to produce a nuclear weapon] than they were before the deal.”

But Douglas Bloomfield, a former senior AIPAC executive, suggested the motivation may be of a more practical nature. “It’s good for business,” he told IPS. “AIPAC has spent the last 20 years very, very effectively making a strong case against Iran, and Iran has been a great asset to them.”

“They want to show they’re not going to give up on this; they’ve built a huge financial and political base on it. …Most of the Jewish groups and all of Congress have been on auto-pilot on Iran; nobody ever thought you might actually get a deal… In AIPAC’s case, they’re terrified they’re going to lose their major fund-raising appeal.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 years ago

all interested states already have nuclear weapons

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Major US Academic Association Endorses Academic Boycott of Israel

Friday, 20 December 2013 11:56 By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview



JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

On December 16, the membership of the American Studies Association endorsed the boycott to end Israel violations of Palestinian rights.

ASA is the largest and oldest association devoted to interdisciplinary study of American culture and history. In the resolution, it says, quote: "We believe that the ASA's endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel's violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA."

Now joining us to discuss all of this is Ali Abunimah. Ali is the cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of the forthcoming book The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

Thanks for joining us, Ali.


DESVARIEUX: So, Ali, just right off the top, can you just break down what exactly is in this resolution?

ABUNIMAH: Yes. The members of the American Studies Association voted to endorse a Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, institutions that are complicit in Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and other human rights abuses. So what this means on a symbolic level, of course, is that it's a statement of solidarity with Palestinians whose rights are being violated. In practice, it means that the ASA itself will not undertake joint projects and other institutional connections with Israeli universities and other academic institutions and will not accept funding from those institutions. And it advises its members, who, as you mentioned, are 5,000 scholars, among them very prominent American scholars, from doing the same.

What it does not do--and I think this is very important because of the amount of sort of misrepresentation that's being put about--this is not a boycott of individuals. It doesn't stop Israeli researchers from traveling to the United States, from participating in conferences, from conducting their research. And so it doesn't call for a boycott of individuals, except to the extent that any individuals, Israeli or otherwise, are specifically representing Israeli institutions that are complicit or the Israeli government. They do in fact lay all that out in quite a clear statement.

DESVARIEUX: Ali, I want to get to what the critics are saying. You have voices saying that this is not promoting the free exchange of ideas, which is what academia should be all about. What's your response?

ABUNIMAH: Well, that's something a number of scholars who have supported the boycott have responded to. And they said that, you know, I mean, there's nothing that requires people to collaborate with Israeli government institutions in order to promote the free exchange of ideas. People are free to exchange ideas as they see fit. They don't need to work with the Israeli government or with Israeli institutions that are complicit in human rights abuses in order to promote free ideas. The resolution simply doesn't do anything to prevent free exchange of ideas.

And, in fact, what's been so interesting is the amount of debate and discussion that this resolution has generated. As you know, the issues of Israel's abuses of Palestinian rights is really something of a taboo in the United States and in American media. But precisely as a result of this resolution, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of stories in the media discussing this issue. So if anything, it has promoted debate, where before there was a great deal of silence.

DESVARIEUX: Ali, can you speak to specific examples of those Israeli institutions violating or denying Palestinians' basic human rights?

ABUNIMAH: Absolutely. There's really too many, but I can give you a few examples.

Every Israeli University works very closely with the Israeli military that is occupying and confiscating Palestinian land, both in terms of recruitment and training and other activities on campuses, but also, very importantly, in terms of weapons research and research that is used directly, its products are used directly to violate human rights and to violate Palestinian rights.

Tel Aviv University is built on the ruins of several Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed in 1948, and the university has refused even to acknowledge that, refused even to place a historical marker like the historical markers we have in the United States all over the place commemorating historical crimes on this continent. Hebrew University, part of Hebrew University in Jerusalem is built on land confiscated from Palestinians since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank. The IDC Herzliya institute actually directly participates in Israeli government propaganda, setting up so-called war rooms during Israeli attacks on Gaza and encouraging students to post pro-government comments on Facebook and other social media. So those are just a few examples of direct complicity with the Israeli military machine in the occupation.

It's also important to note that none of these Israeli institutions has taken a position against Israel's violations of Palestinian rights. And I think it's very important, a very important point, and one I hear the American Studies Association making, is that universities are not ethics-free zones. You don't go onto campus and leave your ethics and morals behind. But that seems to be what some of the critics of this resolution are saying, that university professors and faculty and students should not ever consider the ethical consequences of the work they do. And, of course, universities themselves all have very strict ethics guidelines. And I think what supporters of the academic boycott are saying is that we should be applying those kinds of ethics to Israeli universities as well.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Ali Abunimah, thank you so much for joining us.

ABUNIMAH: My pleasure. Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Taking Direct Action Against Israel's Racist Marriage Law

Sunday, 22 December 2013 13:07 By Patrick O. Strickland, The Electronic Intifada | Report


Activists have launched a new campaign to challenge Israeli laws which prevent many Palestinians from marrying each other.

“We were all friends through different forums, and we decided to do something to tackle this racism,” Najwan Berekdar, a founding member of the campaign, told The Electronic Intifada.

Launched in March this year, the campaign — which the activists are calling Love in a Time of Apartheid — focuses on Israel’s Citizenship and Entry Law, a temporary order that prevents the reunification of Palestinian families based on the type of identification card they carry.

Love in a Time of Apartheid consists of some thirty members who work on a voluntary basis.

The group undertakes direct action protests and raises awareness about the Citizenship and Entry Law and its effects on Palestinians both at home and abroad.

Berekdar said the law is another Israeli tactic to impose divisions among the Palestinian people by deciding the terms on which they can marry or build a family. “It’s obvious that this is used to target Palestinians because we are a ‘demographic threat’ to Israel. It’s part of the broader policy of pushing Palestinians out,” Berekdar said. “Our campaign was launched as a rejection of this racist law,” Berekdar added. The campaigners decided to tackle the Citizenship and Entry Law because “we are all touched by it. We are all Palestinians affected by the same occupation and the same racist system.”

The Citizenship and Entry Law was first passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in 2003. Due to the opposition of Israel’s high court, it was passed as a temporary order. Nonetheless, it has been renewed by the Knesset every April for the last decade. Article 2 of the order states that for as long as it is in place, “the minister of the interior shall not grant the inhabitant of an area [the West Bank or the Gaza Strip] citizenship on the basis of the citizenship law, and shall not give him a license to reside in Israel.” The authorities have used it to deny Palestinians the right to live in occupied East Jerusalem.

“Enemy States”

In addition to targeting those granted identification documents by the Palestinian Authority, the order prevents family reunification for Israeli citizens whose spouses carry nationality from “enemy states” — Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq, and other places that the military considers “a threat” to Israel’s security.

Israel argues that the law serves to prevent Palestinian “terrorism” operations. However, Adalah, an organization that campaigns for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, has noted that out of thousands of people affected by the law, Israel has been only able to point to a tiny number of individuals suspected of indirect involvement in acts of violence.

“We have to maintain the state’s democratic nature, but also its Jewish nature,” Zeev Boim, then Israel’s immigration minister said in 2006. “The extent of entry of in-laws to Israeli territory is intolerable” (“Arab spouses face Israeli legal purge,” The Scotsman, 14 May 2006).


In 2012, Israel’s high court rejected a petition against the Citizenship and Entry Law that was presented by Adalah. The judges ruled that “the right to a family life does not necessarily have to be realized within the borders of Israel” (“High court rejects petition against citizenship law,” The Jerusalem Post, 11 January 2012). Israeli chief justice Asher Grunis argued that allowing Palestinian families to reunite inside Israel amounted to “national suicide.” The order threatens to “eventually strengthen Israel’s fragmentation of the Palestinians … it not only divides us as families and couples but as Palestinians, as a unified, occupied people,” said Berekdar. In effect, the law means that married Palestinian couples who hold different identification cards — one with a Palestinian Authority ID card and the other with an Israeli-issued Jerusalem residency card or Israeli citizenship — are denied family reunification for themselves or their children.

In practice, however, foreign citizens of Palestinian descent are not granted residency permits upon marrying Jerusalem residents or Palestinian citizens of Israel, either.

These restrictions are reserved solely for Palestinians. “If you are Jewish from anywhere in the world, you can move to Israel and get nationality … and you can marry anyone and have them move to Israel and get the [Israeli] passport,” Berekdar explained.

In tune with Israel’s policy of treating the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as different entities, the law also allows “Israel to take away the citizenship of Palestinian citizens [of Israel] if they marry a Gazan and move to the Gaza Strip,” Berekdar added.

Collective Punishment

Rima Awwad of the Jerusalemites Campaign dismissed the idea that the order has any security basis, noting that it is a “clear example of collective punishment.”

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem carry a special Israeli-issued identity card and are considered stateless under international law. Awwad said that this order is only the latest development in the “mounting evidence that the Citizenship and Entry Law is used to satisfy Israel’s demographic aims, not quell its security concerns,” adding that it punishes Palestinian Jerusalemites asymmetrically. “The ramifications of this measure run even deeper for Palestinian Jerusalemites, who come under threat of having their permanent residency status revoked if they leave the immediate area, including to the West Bank or Gaza. For those in possession of a Jerusalem ID, then, the law works not only to push them and their families out, but also prevents them from being able to return to the city freely.” One of the most important components of Love in a Time of Apartheid is that its direct actions bring together Palestinian citizens of Israel, holders of Israeli-issued Jerusalem identity cards, and those with citizenship documents issued by the Palestinian Authority. The campaign has organized two direct action protests that received significant media coverage.

In March, dozens of Palestinians assembled for a large protest at Hizma checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank. Demonstrators staged a mock wedding to demonstrate Israel’s divisive policies.

Dressed as bride and a groom, two participants attempted to cross the checkpoint in order to reach each other. “The occupation came between them — the soldiers actually stopped the wedding from happening and used their violent ways of suppressing the demonstration,” said Berekdar. Israeli soldiers fired sound grenades and smoke bombs on the wedding, beating and arresting several protesters.

“The idea of this wedding was to visualize the reality that we live in, to show people what this law means because it has been invisible,” she added.

Empty Chair

On the eve of the order’s renewal in April, the campaign staged a second protest outside the Knesset. “We called this demonstration ‘My Partner Belongs Next to Me,’ and we put an empty chair next to a bride,” said Berekdar.

In order to reach out and raise awareness, the campaign organizers held an event at the Ramallah Cultural Palace on 18 November. The event included live music, a comedy skit, a modern dance performance, videos about the campaign’s organizing and speeches on the details of Israel’s recent wave of laws aimed at sowing division between Palestinians.

The event was also the formal launch of a petition against the order, which received more than 400 signatures the first night alone. Its purpose was to reach out to Palestinians on a local level by “gaining popular support,” said Berekdar.

At the event, the campaign also announced the signatures of more than 100 local nongovernmental organizations that declared their endorsement for the Love in a Time of Apartheid campaign, as well as the handful of international figures who have joined the advisory board, including the rock star Roger Waters, the author Alice Walker and the philosopher Judith Butler.

Calls to Repeal

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Inequality and Discrimination called on Israel to “reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family reunification on a non-discriminatory basis” as far back as 2003, shortly after the Citizenship and Entry Law was introduced (“UN blasts Israeli marriage law,” BBC, 15 August 2003).

The order has also been roundly denounced by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations. In January 2012, Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, filed a petition calling for the court to reconsider its constitutionality.

Human Rights Watch called on Israel to annul the law that same month.

Several other international human rights groups have also criticized the order and called for its repeal. They include Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Federation for Human Rights.

Despite the chorus of condemnation, there has been no international action against this order or dozens of similarly racist laws. Against this backdrop of Israeli impunity, participants of the Love in a Time of Apartheid and similar campaigns aim to take matters into their own hands.

“We want to tell people to be aware of this law and to not let it get to them,” explained Berekdar. “We want people to continue loving each other as Palestinian families based on their feelings and their connections, not the color of their ID card.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Hillel International Faces Crisis as Swarthmore Chapter Rebels Against its Israel Guidelines

Monday, 23 December 2013 10:16 By Abraham Greenhouse, The Electronic Intifada | Report


In a move that sent shockwaves through the American Jewish community, the Hillel chapter at Philadelphia’s Swarthmore College declared in an open letter last week that it would not comply with its parent organization’s policy of censoring speech critical of Israeli policy.

Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization, acts as an umbrella group for more than 550 chapters around the world — but mainly within the United States.

Hillel’s Israel Guidelines forbid chapters from hosting individuals or organizations that oppose Israel’s status as a “Jewish and democratic state” (i.e., its right to discriminate against non-Jews). The guidelines further ban those who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double-standard to Israel” (a catch-all for virtually all other forms of criticism). They also rule out any speaker who supports boycotts, divestment or sanctions against Israel (i.e. the use of nonviolent pressure to encourage Israel to comply with international law).

Citing the fact that Hillel’s own namesake was a rabbi known for his steadfast pluralism, Swarthmore Hillel’s student board stated in its open letter published in The Beacon that:

Hillel, billing itself as the “Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,” is seen by many as the face of the American Jewish college population. And due to these policies, it is a face that is often seen to be monolithically Zionist, increasingly uncooperative, and completely uninterested in real pluralistic, open dialogue and discussion. We do not believe this is the true face of young American Jews…

Therefore, we choose to depart from the Israel guidelines of Hillel International. We believe these guidelines, and the actions that have stemmed from them, are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name “Hillel” should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name.

Hillel International Responds

Swarthmore Hillel was rebuked almost immediately in a sharply-worded letter from Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut. Fingerhut insisted that “no campus organization that uses the Hillel name” may decline to comply with the umbrella group’s censorship policy. The letter goes on to state that “ ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.”

Hillel International told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Fingerhut would meet with representatives of Swarthmore Hillel in January, but declined to say if any punitive measures would be taken.

Although Hillel’s campus chapters are autonomous entities, Swarthmore Hillel is particularly well-positioned to challenge the policies of the umbrella group. It receives little funding from Hillel International, and unlike most chapters, it doesn’t have a non-student board of directors.

The Swarthmore move is a major leap forward for the broader Open Hillel movement, which was launched at Harvard last year. Open Hillel has started a petition in supportof Swarthmore Hillel’s declaration that has already gained more than 1,000 signatures.

Mixing Culture and Religion with Political Advocacy

When Fingerhut was hired earlier this year, he said in an interview with JNS.org that the Hillel board’s commitment to its Israel Guidelines was “an important thing” that persuaded him to take the job.

In a recent op-ed authored with Jonathan Kessler, Fingerhut boasted of the way Hillel works alongside lobbying group AIPAC to “develop better and more effective strategies for minimizing the impact of anti-Israel activities on campus.” Kessler is the longtime leader of AIPAC’s campus programs.

Its partnership with AIPAC is only one feature of Hillel’s role in coordinating anti-Palestinian advocacy on college campuses. Seventy Hillel chapters across the United States host “Israel Fellows” employed by the Jewish Agency for Israel, working to increase Jewish students’ “engagement” with Israel, in large part through anti-Palestinian advocacy. Hillel chapters also work closely with “Campus Coordinators” from the David Project, a Boston-based nonprofit which trains students to weave personal networks that can be activated to advance anti-Palestinian initiatives or respond to criticism of Israel on their campuses.

Implications for Anti-Palestinian Advocacy

In recent years, mainstream US anti-Palestinian groups, led by the Israel Action Network (IAN), have sought to reduce the extent to which they are with identified withovert efforts at censorship, such as attempts to block Judith Butler and Omar Barghoutifrom speaking at Brooklyn College. This is part of a broader strategy aimed at crafting a “Big Tent” that can leverage voices seen as being on the left to “drive a wedge” between Palestinian rights advocates and potential progressive supporters.

With the Swarthmore declaration, and a growing perception that Hillel and associated institutions are out of touch with their communities and enforce a false consenus through the use of bullying, that strategy faces a serious crisis.

Andy Bachman, a rabbi known for working with IAN to aggressively pressure Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op to continue stocking Israeli products, including settlement-made SodaStream beverage devices, was quick to leap to Swarthmore Hillel’s defense in the pages of the Forward.

While known astroturfer Bachman’s op-ed may be part of a deliberate communications strategy developed by key institutional stakeholders, it’s far too early to predict how this will play out. Should other Hillels find inspiration in Swarthmore’s bold decision, or should the ideals behind the Open Hillel movement spread to other Jewish communal institutions, the anti-Palestinian leadership of groups like Hillel International may face a crisis larger than they thought.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Extending Solidarity to the Ecosystem: Laura Flanders Interviews Sean Sweeney

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 09:39 By Laura Flanders, Truthout | Interview

What would it mean to extend solidarity to the ecosystem? That's the question at the heart of this conversation with union activist and environmentalist, Sean Sweeney.

The conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that 50 years will be more than sufficient to witness the worst impacts of climate change. And if past is prologue, poor and working-class communities will be hit doubly hard. Climate change is a class issue, and yet the trade union movement continues to drag its feet.

In the United States today, while trade unions that aggressively back dirty-energy projects are in a minority, big labor is not exactly in the leadership of the movement for a sustainable and fair energy future. This year's AFL-CIO convention saw no significant change on that front. Not enough people are talking about what the future might look like, especially for those whose livelihoods depend on the energy industry - and what opportunities exist to benefit from the shift. The United States is lagging, says Sweeney,

"In Germany now, there are 700 renewable energy cooperatives. Up to 25 percent of its power generation is renewable. It has installed as much solar energy last year as the entire installed capacity of solar in the United States."

First things first: "For unions to get away from playing defense onto offense, they first of all have to tell the truth; they have to be aware of the urgency and seize the opportunities," says Sweeney. In a word, "They need to extend solidarity to the ecosystem itself." What would that look like, and what does it have to do with privatization and the Battle of Dunkirk. Find out, in this edited transcript below. Sean Sweeney works with Trade Unions for Energy Democracy. He also directs the Global Labor Institute, a program of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations. To watch my interview in full, go to GRITtv.org.

Laura Flanders: Hi, I am Laura Flanders. Fifty years would be more than sufficient to witness the worst impacts of climate change, according to a major scientific report released in October from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is obviously a class issue. Poor and working-class communities are hit doubly hard by disasters like Hurricane Sandy, as we have seen, but while trade unions that vocally back projects like the Keystone Pipeline or fracking in the Marcellus Shale are in a minority, big labor is not exactly in the leadership of the climate justice movement. And this year's AFL-CIO convention saw no real significant change on that front. So what is going on? There are some interesting developments; still, it is far from clear what real energy change would look like, especially for those whose livelihoods depend on the energy industry. Here to talk about that is Sean Sweeney. He works with Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and he is the director of the Global Labor Institute, a program of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

LAURA FLANDERS: Welcome to GRITtv. Glad to have you.

SEAN SWEENEY: Thank you, Laura.

Let's start with the downside of the picture. The most recent report from the intergovernmental folks on climate change is very grim, and yet you have to agree with the critics of big labor who ask where is the labor leadership on this topic?


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The Arctic Is the First Line of Defense Against a Climate Transition to an Uninhabitable Earth

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 09:46 By DH Garrett, Truthout | Opinion


"I am enthusiastic over humanity's extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem."

  • Richard Buckminster Fuller

Humanity - and the Earth system it is a part of - is moving toward an Anthropocene Thermal Max (ATM), which will be cataclysmic for the ecosystem and the human societies it sustains. Despite the fact that climate scientists are uniform in stating that remaining hydrocarbon energy resources must be kept in the ground if we are to have a chance of stopping at a peak temperature that affords a chance of adaptation, the world's major transnational energy companies and the world's arctic nations are moving at breakneck speed to develop arctic resources. This is the story of three ATMs. First: the earth system can no longer be treated as an ATM; capitalistic economics as currently configured is dangerously out of kilter with real costs. Second: the great focus of both global and local efforts must be on making the ATM (Anthropocene Thermal Max) as low as possible. Third: an ATM (Arctic Transnational Moratorium) must be put in place now if the great majority of humanity is to have a reasonable prospect of adapting to climate-change-induced, nonlinear changes already programmed into the Earth-climate system.

In considering how realistic the implementations of these three ATMs are, one veers from despair to hope and back again ... and back again. Despair is the more realistic of these poles: At the same time that we are careening full-tilt toward worse-case climate change scenarios, we also are engaged in a mad dash for the last remaining hydrocarbon energy (and other) resources, the development of which will be resounding nails in the coffin of any hope at all of preventing runaway climate change. The hope is there, because we must have hope in a situation like this. It is an Apollo 13 moment. But this time, instead of representing the fate of three astronauts, it is the fate of all humanity and most of the life forms on the planet that is at stake. And this time, instead of Houston being helpful, Houston, as representative of the old ways of making energy and making money, is the problem. It is time for people of good will to come together, worldwide, to come together, to save themselves, save their children and to save any prospect of a habitable planet. Sadly, much of the work will have to be done without sufficient help from many of the governments that supposedly have our best interests at heart and without the help of most of the corporations that have made us into a new class of serfs entrapped by the illusions of commercial happiness they saturate us with.

" ... All humanity is scheduled by evolution (not by any world planning body) to become physically more successful and, metaphysically more interestingly occupied than have any humans ever been in all known history - provided that humanity does not commit ignorance-, fear-, and panic-induced total-species suicide.

Why might they panic? All the present bureaucracies of political governments, great religious organizations, and all big businesses find that physical success for all humanity would be devastating to the perpetuation of their ongoing activities. This is because all of them are founded on the premise of ameliorating individual cases while generally exploiting on behalf of their respective political, religious, or business organizations the condition of nowhere-nearly-enough-life-support-for-all and its resultant great human suffering and discontent."

  • Buckminster Fuller

The First ATM (Anthropocene Thermal Max)

Part of the problem is simply the problem of a failure of imagination. The rate of climate change, although almost instantaneous on geological time scales, is just slow enough on the human time scale that we do not react with sufficient alarm, not, say, with the panic and alarm of a terrorist attack on iconic skyscrapers. Had the United States, for example, spent at a rough approximation $4 trillion on climate change mitigation, instead of two major and many minor failed wars against "terrorism," the world would be very far along toward a credible defense against climate change. But most human brains react well to an immediate threat and seem poorly adapted to large global threats that will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or next year or the year after that.

To that insufficient grasp of the severity and immediacy of the crisis, must be added the crucial role that the oil and gas industries have played in successfully obfuscating the clear science.1 They also have been successful in obtaining large subsidies from governments, $500 billion per year by one recent estimate.2 The result has been that according to the most recent studies by the UNEP3 and the WMO,4 GHG emissions are increasing at a record pace and humanity's chance of stabilizing at a 2 degrees Celsius increase is becoming increasingly remote. Even limiting temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius is considered by many climate scientists - who understand the many nonlinear effects that essentially double climate sensitivity (Earth System Sensitivity) - as too high to avoid many very destructive effects.5 That said, this was the best global political will was able to do. We are asked to consider safe living in a building with a 50 percent chance of collapse by being told, well, there is a 50 percent chance it won't collapse. And even that promise isn't being kept. As Hansen puts it, "Most remaining fossil fuel carbon is in coal and unconventional oil and gas. Thus, it seems, humanity stands at a fork in the road. As conventional oil and gas are depleted, will we move to carbon-free energy and efficiency - or to unconventional fossil fuels and coal? "It seems implausible that humanity will not alter its energy course as consequences of burning all fossil fuels become clearer. Yet strong evidence about the dangers of human-made climate change have so far had little effect. Whether governments continue to be so foolhardy as to allow or encourage development of all fossil fuels may determine the fate of humanity."6 Even the much more conservative (recently leaked) IPCC report - conservative because it uses a simpler measure of climate sensitivity that doesn't take into account known nonlinear feedbacks - paints a dire picture if we don't act now.7

So what are we doing? The world's arctic nations and their transnational oil and gas company minions are scrambling like maggots on a carcass to fight over the large oil and gas deposits the arctic holds. Does this make sense in any belief system? Only in the hermetically sealed belief systems of profit-at-all-cost-driven capitalism coupled with nationalism coupled with an ideology that equates growth at all cost with corporate and national health, despite the fact that the real cost of this mad pursuit, the negative externalities if you will, is the loss of a habitable world. There is a paleoclimatic rough analogue for the world whose phase we are plunging into; it is the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum).8 This was a period about 55 million years ago when temperatures suddenly spiked, probably mostly caused by the rapid release of methane from methane clathrates. Because this paleoclimaticaly sudden event probably took around 1,000 years to unfold, despite widespread extinctions, some life forms were able to adapt. Life above the arctic circle was good, with even crocodiles surviving there. The rest of the Earth, though, was a hot, inhospitably stormy, largely desert place. The oceans were largely devoid of larger life forms, because these require cooler temperatures to survive. One of the problems with this analogy, though, is that, compared with the release of greenhouse gases in the PETM, the release in the Anthropocene is some 10 to 30 times faster. We are, in other words, in uncharted territory when it comes to understanding the forces we have unleashed.

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."

  • Buckminster Fuller
[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The Second ATM (Arctic Transnational Moratorium)

So here we are at the beginning of an arctic petro-carbon gold rush,9 and although it might pump money into a few oil companies for a while and a few national coffers for a while and keep a few factories and cars humming for a while, it is global suicide. It doesn't take a degree of any sort, not undergraduate, not postgraduate, not honorary, to recognize that the exploitation of these resources at this time must be stopped, stopped cold. We need an ATM - Arctic Transnational Moratorium - and we need it now. Is there any hope of this? Perhaps if the countries and communities most immediately affected (in terms of communities, these are the arctic indigenous communities - and in terms of nations, these are the nations south of the arctic circle - hey, that's everybody, isn't it. ... ) were to mobilize out of their own best survival instincts, then perhaps, just perhaps, something could be done. Oil prices would rise, as they must if we are to have the proper impetus to transition as soon as possible (now!) to a low-carbon, no-carbon economy. But will this happen? Probably not. Oil has driven humanity insane. No country wants to see its economic growth slowed by higher oil prices. No corporation wants to give up the billions of dollars it will lose if these resources aren't exploited. As Brad Werner, a geophysicist at the Universityh of California-San Diego, put it in an address to the AGU's 2012 Fall meeting, "Is Earth F**ked?"10 The answer without an ATM appears to be, yes. His argument was that there are two non-linear systems at work. Capitalism is a nonlinear system that requires constant growth to generate profits. Nature is a nonlinear system in which relatively small inputs (like greenhouse gases) can have major nonlinear (destructive) outputs. One system is destroying the other, and there is only one outside force that gives us any cause for hope: civil society, NGOs, nonviolent resistance, everyone outside of government and the big corporations who wants to have a habitable Earth for his or herself and their children.

I have slightly more hope than Mr. Werner. I do believe that governments can act in their own best national security interests to take the radical World War II-level steps necessary to immediately decarbonize. I do believe that corporations will understand that there is no money to be made in a world of collapsed societies but a lot of money to be made in full participation in as rapid a transition to a zero carbon world as possible. Perhaps I am naïve.

Nor of course is this problem limited to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The rapacious scramble for what is left of Earth's other dwindling resources also must be controlled. There needs to be a robust reflection in international law of the fact that the Earth system upon which we all depend for life is interconnected, and as such you cannot dam a river here, cut down a forest there, mine a mountain there, without affecting both the local and the global commons. Negative externalities must be internalized. An international ecological tribunal or some such entity must be able to look at our resource extraction activities, even in, especially in, remote places and weigh and assess the real-world effects: We live in a global commons, a globally interconnected weather and Earth system, and ecological tragedy in one area, loss of coral reefs, rain forest destruction, trans-boundary river pollution and damming affect all of us. Nature must be given the voice we are trying so hard to take from her, or she will howl us back into caves or worse.

"[My vision is] To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

  • Buckminster Fuller

The Third ATM (Nature is Not an ATM)

Chief Seattle is said to have said, "The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." It is ironic that an American such as myself should quote a Native American, a people we perpetrated genocide upon. It is tragic that an American would quote a fellow human being who had a different relation with nature than the one my culture imposed upon his continent. I do not mean to romanticize traditional lifestyles, but the indigenous view of the world, in terms of the human intimate, important, connection with nature is correct. The understanding of the interconnection of all living things is perfectly scientifically accurate. It is we "moderns" in our boxes, in our cars, in our shopping malls, who have become very sick. You might ask, would it have been possible for America to become the powerful nation it has become - or was, if we are now in decline - had it not cut down its virgin forests, killed its buffalo in the millions, plowed its prairies, dammed its rivers and mined its mountains? Is there any way for 300 million people to live on a continent, any way for 7 billion people to live on a planet in such a way as to not have a very, very heavy footprint?

I think the answer is yes, because the answer must be yes. Certainly it wasn't possible with the technologies we have used up to now. They are old, clumsy, destructive, primitive, one-dimensional technologies. We can have a civilization of the bees, if you will. The bees build their hive, their complex society, out of what is around them, but in such a way that their own bee-centered activities enrich their surrounding environment, enrich and make it fertile and productive. Humanity's activities, too, in search of its own sustenance, can be re-understood in such a way as to recognize the necessity of these too becoming a supporting part of the web of life. What we take, we can give back, cleaner, purer, fresher. Our cities can be natural places, through which wildness walks in and out comfortably, as they can be places of repose, comfort and grace of the highest arts and sciences for all. This is the challenge of our time. To save the Earth. And in so doing, save ourselves. And in so doing, find once again a harmony, both inside and out, that is now desperately lacking.

"The best way to predict the future is to design it."

  • Buckminster Fuller

"Since it is now physically and metaphysically demonstrable that the chemical elements resources of Earth already mined or in recirculation, plus the knowledge we now have, are adequate to the support of all humanity and can be feasibly redesign-employed ... to support all humanity at a higher standard of living than ever before enjoyed by any human, war is now and henceforth murder. All weapons are invalid. Lying is intolerable. All politics are not only obsolete but lethal.

  • Buckminster Fuller


1 Merchants of Doubt, Orestes, Conway, Bloomsbury Press, June 2013

2 Time to Change the Game, Subsidies and Climate, ODI

3 The Emissions Gap Report 2013

4The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Using Global Observations through 2012, WMO

5 Allowable carbon emissions lowered by multiple climate targets, Marco Steinacher, Fortunat Joos & Thomas F. Stocker, Nature 499, 197–201 (July 11, 2013)

6 Climate sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide, James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Gary Russell and Pushker Kharecha, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A. 2013 371 2001 20120294; doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0294 (published September 16, 2013)

7(LEAKED DRAFT) IPCC WGII AR5 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

8PETM Weirdness, Real Climate, Climate Science from Climate Scientists

9 The Race for What is Left, Michael Klare, Picador; Reprint edition (December 24, 2012)

10 "Is Earth F**ked?" Brad Werner, paper presented at AGU Fall 2012

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Department of State or the US government.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Drone Strike Victims Find Support From Activists, Silence from Unapologetic US Leaders

Monday, 25 November 2013 09:55 By Rania Khalek, Truthout | News Analysis


"There are no words to explain how horrific it is to see body parts blown to pieces," said Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber at a November 19 Congressional briefing, as he recounted to US lawmakers the drone strike that killed his relatives last year, marking the second time a drone strike victim has ever directly addressed members of Congress.

Killing An Ally

Less than 24 hours after his son's wedding in August 2012, a US drone launched four missiles on Faisal's village, killing his brother-in-law, Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, 49, and his nephew, Waleed bin ali Jaber, 26.

"Right before the wedding, the people gathered in the area to celebrate," said Faisal. "We saw many drones in the sky, but we didn't expect anything to actually occur."

Salem was a Yemeni cleric and father of seven who preached loudly against the extremism exhibited by Al Qaeda, which his family feared would invite violent retribution from Al Qaeda-linked militants. "Salem's father told him to stop giving anti-Al Qaeda lectures out of fear they would attack him," said Faisal. "But Salem insisted on doing so, saying if he didn't speak against Al Qaeda, no one would." But in the end, it was US violence that ended Salem's life along with that of Waleed, who worked as a local policeman and was with Salem at the time of the strike.

US Officials Turn a Blind Eye

As for November's historic briefing, just five members of the US House of Representatives bothered to show. Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D- Ill.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) hosted the briefing and were joined by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Those in attendance apologized to Faisal for his loss and expressed their disapproval of the drone program, with the harshest critique coming from Rep. Rangel, who called drone strikes "barbaric." But no one could provide answers for why Faisal's relatives were killed, given the veil of secrecy under which the drone program operates. This led Rep. Lee to use the briefing as an opportunity to promote the "Drone Accountability Act," a bill she sponsored earlier this year demanding a moratorium on drone strikes and transparency about who has been killed, and why.

But Lee's colleagues have been far less enthusiastic about shedding light on the human impact of drones, as demonstrated two days later when the GOP-controlled House intelligence committee rejected a provision requiring a public accounting of civilians killed in drone strikes.

President Obama showed even less interest in Faisal's plight. Prior to arriving in the United States, Faisal requested a meeting with Obama during his visit to Washington, DC. The White House first responded with silence and then with a US drone strike on Faisal's village the day of the briefing.

This wasn't the first time Faisal had appealed to Obama for engagement on the drone issue.

In July, after another US drone strike pounded his village, Faisal wrote a moving letter to President Obama and Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi.

"Our family are not your enemy," insisted Faisal. "My family worried that militants would target Salem for his sermons. We never anticipated his death would come from above, at the hands of the United States. In his death you lost a potential ally - in fact, because word of the killing spread immediately through the region, I fear you have lost thousands," read the letter. Faisal never received a response.

Global Drone Summit

The packed lecture hall at Georgetown Law School during CODEPINK's annual Global Drone Summit November 16 was a striking contrast to the tepid welcome Faisal received on Capitol Hill. Concerned citizens from around the world were anxious to hear from Yemenis and Pakistanis directly impacted by the drone war, illustrating the rising global backlash to the proliferation of drone warfare.

This gave Faisal an opportunity to talk about the psychological trauma inflicted by US drone strikes, which has been devastating for his family. Salem's mother died two weeks after her son was killed, from grief. And Faisal fell into a deep depression and lost his job. He told Truthout that the people in his village, particularly the children, live in a constant state of fear, with drones regularly hovering overhead. The mere sight of a family member's car after an accident unrelated to drones sent his granddaughter into a terrified fit. "Once she saw the car, she started screaming, ‘It's a drone strike! It's a drone strike!" and she was afraid to even get near the car," said Faisal. "So you can imagine the amount of fear it's causing among children."

"Hollowed-Out Shells of Children"

After conducting research in Yemen earlier this year, clinical and forensic psychiatrist Peter Schaapveld warned of a "psychological emergency" in towns impacted by drones, with 99 percent of Yemenis he spoke with suffering from PTSD.

He described the children he assessed as "hollowed-out shells of children" who are being "traumatized and re-traumatized" by lethal drones buzzing constantly overhead. Speaking about an 8-year-old Yemeni girl who witnessed a drone strike obliterate her neighbor's home, Schaapveld said, "Her dreams are of dead people, planes and people running around scared." Kat Craig, legal director of the UK nonprofit, Reprieve, who accompanied Schaapveld on his trip, said that the terror inflicted by drones in Yemen "amounts to a form of psychological torture and collective punishment."

Echoing claims made by Yemeni activists on the ground, Schaapveld added that the drone war is driving young men into the arms of Al Qaeda. "[I]nstead of keeping us safe, they breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world," said Schaapveld. "A hellfire missile costs over $60,000, which could be spent building schools and wells. Yemen needs aid and our support, not drones."

This point was brought up repeatedly at the both the congressional briefing and drone summit by Entesar Al Qadhi, a prominent activist from Mareb, an area of Yemen devastated by drone strikes.

Drone Strikes Empower Al Qaeda

"Al Qaeda was not in my province until after US drones began striking my village," Qadhi told lawmakers at the drone briefing. "What could justify terrorizing a community of thousands just to kill one person?"

She elaborated on these points at the drone summit. "Until the United States interfered, we did not even know what Al Qaeda was," she told the audience, adding that her fellow villagers are often stuck fighting Al Qaeda militants with absolutely no help from the Yemeni government.

Qadhi told Truthout that it's common for a US drone to strike her village after residents have chased out Al Qaeda militants. "Before one of the latest strikes that happened in my village, there was a clash between Al Qaeda fighters and people in my village trying to protect their own," Qadhi said. "A few days later, after things died down, there was a drone strike. The US and Yemen claimed that Al Qaeda militants were killed, but in reality it was two university students from my village."

"The United States says they're fighting Al Qaeda, but in reality we are the ones fighting them, and then the drones come and hit us," she said. "We're always wondering who's going to be next. It's terrifying. What we did to deserve this?"

As a result, many fear and have begun to despise the United States more than they do Al Qaeda. "Young kids have strangers coming into their land and attacking their families," said Qadhi. "And now they want revenge against the US."

Qadhi, who was visiting the United States for the first time, added that her impression of the country responsible for repeatedly bombing her village was unexpectedly positive. But this made her wonder why a nation of seemingly nice people who live rather comfortably will not allow Yemenis to live in similar peace. She said that in her village, drones often hover for days before striking, leaving the residents in constant fear.

"If you all are against terrorism then you should be against drones as well because drones are terrorism," she implored. "My dream is to go back to my area and live in peace as you do here."

Killing Democracy in Yemen

Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni youth activist and Reprieve's Yemen project coordinator, told Truthout that the same number of people killed in Yemen's 2011 Arab Spring uprising have been killed by the US drone program since. "This came from the same president who said he's going to help Yemen build a new democracy," said Shiban about Obama. He pointed to the tragic fate of his friend, an Arab Spring activist named Ali, to illustrate the disconnect.

"Ali was an elementary school teacher. He went out to the streets with us calling for a new democracy. This same person was killed by the US drone program, by the same president who said he's going to help Yemen build a new democracy," said Shiban.

Destroying Peace Negotiations in Pakistan

Pakistani politician and outspoken drone critic Shafqat Mahmood echoed Qadhi at the drone summit, saying that US strikes are empowering rather than weakening the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan. "Drone strikes have pushed back the possibility for peace for us in Pakistan." He specifically condemned a recent US drone strike that killed Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud. Though he described Mehsud as an "enemy of Pakistan," Mahmood said that his assassination destroyed fragile peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban.

After a great deal of outrage over the destroyed negotiations at the time, Pakistan's foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz said he received assurances from the United States that there would be no more drone strikes during the peace talks. But one day later, a suspected US drone fired three missiles at a Pakistani school, killing three teachers and two students.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Three Nations vs. the World

The Global Drone Summit included panels on various aspects of drone technology ranging from drone surveillance to autonomous killer drones. However, connecting drone warfare to racism and imperialism was a theme that popped up throughout the day beginning with the morning's sermon-like keynote address by Cornel West.

"The dominant liberal response to Obama's war crimes has been shameful," he told Truthout later in the day. "It shows a certain moral bankruptcy on behalf of most liberals in terms of innocent human beings who have been killed and reflects the inability of neoliberalism to begin to come to terms with not just imperial crimes, but Wall Street crimes, as well as the crimes connected to the new Jim Crow with the prison-industrial complex."

During a panel on drone proliferation, Chris Cole, an anti-drone activist from the United Kingdom who runs the website Drone Wars UK, pointed out that thus far, just three nations - the United States, UK and Israel - are using armed drones. Meanwhile, 12 nations, all of which are located in poor areas of the world inhabited by nonwhite populations, have been subject to drone strikes, including Gaza, Yemen, Pakistan's North Waziristan and Somalia.

Cole attributed the rise of armed drones to militarily stretched nations attempting to get around antiwar public sentiment. "Empire has learned many times how to cope with war-weary citizens," said Cole. "That's why, in part, we see drone wars."

Joe Nevins, professor of geography at Vassar College, spoke about the proliferation of drones on the US-Mexico border in enforcing what he termed a system of "global apartheid" that restricts the mobility of poor and often brown people desperate to find safer spaces across borders. "When people were denied mobility in South Africa, we called it apartheid," said Nevins. "But on borders, we call it national sovereignty."

Building Political Pressure against Drone-delivered Racist Imperialism

One way activists are combating the indifference that has accompanied the imperialist rise of drone warfare is by shedding light on the human toll.

Reprieve Strategic Director Cori Crider has no doubt that exposing Americans to drone victims like Faisal is having an impact. "This year we've seen a sea change in the debate in the United States about drones," she told Truthout. "When we were starting this stuff in 2010, very few people were talking about it. Now, a lot more mainstream entities are a part of the debate and are asking questions about civilian casualties and about the wisdom of a putative counterterrorism policy that may well create tens and tens of people who have reason to wish us harm for every one that they may take out."

Much like with Guantanamo, it is "individual human stories that change people's minds," thereby creating the necessary political pressure to bring about justice, argued Crider.

Though Faisal returned to Yemen without the answers or justice his family deserves from the US government, his story, resilience and courage in standing up to the world's most dangerous superpower have fueled demands for accountability from a growing number of concerned citizens who want an end to the killing.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Reapers of Their Own Destruction

Tuesday, 26 November 2013 09:16 By Medea Benjamin, Pink Tank | News Analysis


“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” said an angry Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan’s third largest political party, the PTI (the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf). He was speaking on Saturday, November 23, to a crowd of over 10,000 protesters who blocked the highway used by NATO supply trucks taking goods in and out of Afghanistan. The latest protests in Pakistan show that even when the US hits its mark, as in the case of the last two strikes in Pakistan that killed key leaders of two extremist cells, they’re still counterproductive.

Most Pakistanis reject the Taliban and other extremists. But they also reject the American drones that violate their sovereignty and operate with impunity. The Pakistani resistance, along with growing opposition within the United States, has had an impact: the number of Predator and Reaper drones strikes in Pakistan has been steadily declining, from a high of 122 in 2010 to 48 in 2012, and even fewer this year.

But the strikes have not stopped, and each strike now receives greater scrutiny and opposition. This is the case of the two attacks that took place in November.

On November 1 a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone killed Hakimullah Mehsud and at least four others. Mehsud was head of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group responsible for the killing of thousands in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for the failed bomb plot at New York’s Times Square in 2010, and was connected with the killing of seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in 2009.

The Pakistani government was incensed by the drone attack. They certainly had no love for Hakimullah Mehsud, but Pakistani negotiators had been carefully working for months to bring the TTP militants to the negotiating table to end more than a decade of violence. In fact, the peace talks were scheduled to begin the very next day, November 2.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan charged that the drone attack that killed Mehsud also blew up the government’s efforts at negotiations, and that peace talks could not move forward until there was an end to drone attacks in Pakistan.

But the CIA, which carries out the strikes in Pakistan, ignored the Pakistani government’s wishes and launched another strike on Thursday, November 21. This time the missiles hit a religious seminary, killing at least six people and wounding eight. Among the dead were militants belonging to the Haqqani network, including senior leader Ahmad Jan. The Haqqani network used to be part of the U.S.-backed forces fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. accuses the Haqqani network of orchestrating the 2011 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that killed 16 people, and an assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital the same year that killed more than 20.

The November 23 attack was particularly embarrassing for the Pakistani government because it came just one day after foreign minister Sartaj Aziz told parliament the US had agreed to suspend drone attacks while the Pakistani government was in peace talks with the Taliban.

This strike brought a particularly visceral reaction because unlike the hundreds of other strikes in Pakistan that have taken place in the tribal territories, it occurred in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province which is controlled by the staunchly anti-drone political party, the PTI.

At the Saturday rally, PTI leader Imran Khan threatened to organize a long-term blockade of the NATO supply route. Any prolonged disruption of the key route in the KP province could disrupt the U.S. plans to remove troops, weapons and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

This is not an empty threat. The Pakistani government shut down supply routes for seven months after an American helicopter attack accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and only reopened them after the U.S. apologized.

Imran Khan also used the rally to attack Prime Minister Sharif’s government for failing to force the Americans to halt drone strikes. Sharif has been outspoken against the strikes, even during the election campaign. After becoming prime minister in June, he publicly ordered the military to end its policy of “condemning drones in public while being complicit in them.” During an October meeting in Washington with President Obama, Sharif reiterated his belief that drone strikes were counterproductive and should end.

But Sharif’s ability to force Washington’s hand is constrained by finances: his government relies on $1.6 billion in US aid and is dependent on US support for the $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund loan package it just signed. The government’s inability to stop the drone attacks makes it look weak and subservient to US interests, undermining Pakistan’s fragile democracy.

The two drone strikes in November show that these attacks don’t just kill and maim individuals. They also blow up peace talks. They weaken democratically elected governments. They sabotage bilateral relations. They sow hatred and resentment.

In response, the world community is rising up with mass demonstrations in Pakistan, solidarity protests in London, and hundreds gathering at the 2013 Drone Summit in Washington DC. The 10-year drone-induced killing spree has unleashed the seeds of its own destruction: a nonviolent resistance movement.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

How Big Six Covers Tracks in Murder of the Honeybee

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:41 By Jennifer Sonntag, Truthout | Op-Ed


The Big 6 agrichemical companies have turned the honeybee into a factory animal, a workhorse that cannot exist without antibiotics, and is using the term "Colony Collapse Disorder" to cover its poisoning of pollinators vital to agriculture.

It is only by fiat of a corporate-captured EPA, a bought press and willed ignorance that colony collapse continues to be known as a bee "disorder."

Neonics, systemic pesticides that work through a neurotoxin, which is applied to the seed of a plant and taken up into all its tissue so that the insect is exposed at every turn to a new vehicle bearing the same poison, work in a very orderly manner indeed. Poisoned food crops and the honeybees that pollinate them are perfectly efficient bearers of the values of the Big 6 - Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont. The empty beehive isn't mysterious. It is no magician's cabinet. The bees aren't disordered - they are designed. There is, that is, no Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

But CCD is something. It is a vocabulary of power that sets down rules regarding who may speak, what we speak about, and the conditions of that speech. Power is not "about" objects such as wooden boxes; it concerns, more precisely, their very possibility. In service to power, CCD-speak has naturalized the biases of Big 6, helping to consolidate its hegemony over our food web. As a discourse, it has created the conceptual ground for a wholly privatized and administered creature, existing only by the arbitrary whim of the market.

The philosopher Theodor Adorno called this kind of world, where the profit motive pervades every level of society, the administered world. To a great extent, honeybees are already an administered creature. Man has turned the bee into a factory animal, a workhorse that cannot exist without antibiotics and careful breeding. This reduction of honeybees to migratory worker has enfeebled them. The unmitigated use of neonicotinoids over the last 15 years is rendering them extinct.

In its attempt to cover up this state of affairs, Big 6 treats the beehive as a magician's box. Its favorite rhetorical tricks are the red herring - distraction from the problem at hand - and ignoratio elenchi, a logical fallacy whereby a related - yet irrelevant - point is proven. The diversionary content, that honeybee decline is caused by varroa mites, lack of adequate flora, poor nutrition, antibiotics, and in-breeding, valid on its own terms, is, in fact, a well-worn list of criticisms of industrialized beekeeping, here used to deflect the fact that neonicotinoids have decimated honeybee colonies. Another trick, "pseudo-science," pretends to address the neonic issue, cherry-picking non-peer-reviewed studies to deny the pesticides' toxicity. These sophistries are typical of administration's magic box: The false back asserts a transparency that is, in fact, opaque; the compartment isolates and fetishizes the context-less "fact."

In its PR campaign, where it dutifully musters up an iconography seemingly interested in the sustainability of human life, Big 6 adopts a happy face that mimics the language of ethics. But appropriately, the images it proliferates via social media are an invitation to alienation: blimps, hot-air balloons, skydivers, in short, fetishes of a paradoxically "earth-free" leisure. Here also, corporatism's hostility to life is revealed, despite its feints of affect and affiliation. Its sentimentalism is, like much sentimentalism, sadism's party dress; its images advertisements for an arid world evacuated of life- and mind-sustaining biodiversity.

We, mere citizens, are counted on for our apathy and cynicism: to remain distracted consumers or crumb-eating activists. We are expected to passively accept, either unaware or with regret, the turning of the world into a precarious contradiction inverting the valuation of life and death; a world in which toxic pesticides are self-evident, living beings fungible, and the most basic questions of our survival negotiated according to a bleak economistic logic.

Like it or not, neonics are chemical predators. To treat them as our fate, as Big 6 does, is to cut us off from sustainable sources of nourishment in the present as well as to renew Big 6's lease on future generations' sustenance. This sustenance is not only material. It upholds the very seat of our imaginations and our capacity for critical thought. Until we refuse the manipulative discourse of CCD and reject Big 6's pesticides, we will see many more empty wooden boxes in bee yards. And they will continue to be an emblem of our own de facto status as scouts in the dead zones of Big 6's empire.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Argentine Protesters vs Monsanto: "The Monster Is Right on Top of Us"

Monday, 09 December 2013 13:41 By Fabiana Frayssinet, Inter Press Service | Report


The people of this working-class suburb of Córdoba in Argentina’s central farming belt stoically put up with the spraying of the weed-killer glyphosate on the fields surrounding their neighbourhood. But the last straw was when U.S. biotech giant Monsanto showed up to build a seed plant.

The creator of glyphosate, whose trademark is Roundup, and one of the world’s leading producers of genetically modified seeds, Monsanto is building one of its biggest plants to process transgenic corn seed in Malvinas Argentinas, this poor community of 15,000 people 17 km east of the capital of the province of Córdoba. The plant was to begin operating in March 2014. But construction work was brought to a halt in October by protests and legal action by local residents, who have been blocking the entrance to the site since Sept. 18.

On the morning of Saturday Nov. 30, troops arrived at the plant, as seen in this video posted on Facebook, and escorted several trucks out of the construction site. The trucks had forced their way past the roadblock on Thursday Nov. 28, when members of the construction union stormed into the camp set up by local residents, with the aim of breaking the blockade. More than 20 people were injured in the clash.

The protesters don’t like to describe themselves as environmentalists, and do not identify with any specific political party. Most of them are women.

In Malvinas Argentinas, one of the poorest districts in the province, everyone knows someone with respiratory problems or allergic reactions that coincide with the spraying of fields around Córdoba, one of the biggest producers of transgenic soy in this South American country, which is the world’s third largest producer of soy. Doctors have also reported a rise in cases of cancer and birth defects.

But the final stroke was Monsanto’s plans for a local seed plant. “I’m participating because I’m afraid of illness and death,” María Torres, a local resident, told Tierramérica*. “My son is already sick, and if Monsanto comes things will get worse,” she added, in the midst of a protest that this reporter accompanied in mid-November. Her 13-year-old son was at home, with sinusitis and a nosebleed. “In Malvinas, a lot of people have the same symptoms,” she said. Most of the spraying is done with Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate-based weed-killer.

According to the University Network for Environment and Health – Physicians in Fumigated Towns, nearly 22 million hectares of soy, corn and other transgenic crops are sprayed in 12 of Argentina’s 23 provinces, whose towns are homes to some 12 million of the country’s nearly 42 million people.

Eli Leiria was also in the protest march. She is suffering from problems like weight loss. Doctors found glyphosate in her blood. “They say it’s as if a tornado had hit my body,” she said. Biologist Raúl Montenegro of the National University of Córdoba, who won the Right Livelihood Award or Alternative Nobel Prize in 2004, explained to Tierramérica that there was no official monitoring of morbidity and mortality to determine whether the growing health problems observed by doctors are the effect of pesticides.

Nor are there adequate controls of pesticide levels in the blood, or environmental monitoring to detect traces in water tanks, for example, added Montenegro, president of the Environment Defence Foundation (FUNAM).

“That makes Argentina, and Brazil too, a paradise” for companies like Monsanto, he said.

The state agencies that authorise the use of pesticides base their decisions “mainly on technical reports and data from the companies themselves,” he said.

In 2009, Argentine President Cristina Fernández created the National Commission for Research on Agrochemicals, to study, prevent and treat their effects on human health and the environment. But Argentina is also a “paradise” for transgenic crops, whose authorisation depends on “technical information mainly provided by the biotechnology corporations,” Montenegro said.

A plant that produces genetically modified seeds “is not a bread factory…they make poison,” said schoolteacher Matías Marizza of the Malvinas Assembly Fighting for Life.

Montenegro complained that the Córdoba Secretariat of the Environment authorised construction of the plant without taking into account studies by an independent interdisciplinary commission. In the case of transgenic crops, there are “external pesticides,” like the ones that are sprayed on the fields, and pesticides “that come from inside the seeds,” such as the Cry1Ab protein in Monsanto’s MON810 GM maize, said Montenegro.

Each MON810 corn seed contains between 190 and 390 ng/g of the protein, whose impacts on health and biodiversity are not clear. “In Canada it was found that pregnant and non-pregnant women had insecticide protein in their blood,” added the biologist, saying this runs counter to Monsanto’s claim that the proteins are degraded in the digestive tract.

According to a study by the University Network, the seeds to be processed by the plant in Malvinas Argentinas will be impregnated with substances such as propoxur, deltamethrin, pirimiphos ethyl, trifloxystrobin, ipconazole, metalaxyl and especially clothianidin, an insecticide banned by the European Union.

For now, the Monsanto plant construction site is blocked by five camps, where men and women – some there with their children – take turns keeping the trucks out.

Daniela Pérez, a mother of five, told Tierramérica that “this was a quiet town,” where people barely complained about problems like the lack of paved roads.

“Now what is at stake is the health of the children,” she said. “We feel so impotent…there is no one defending us.”

Soledad Escobar has four children who attend a school located next to the lot where the plant is being built.

“I’m worried about the silos and the chemical products they use,” she said. “Because of the changes in the climate, it’s now windy year-round in Córdoba and the school is right next door – I live across the street.”

Another protester, Beba Figueroa, said “What the TV and newspapers are saying, that there are political parties involved in this, isn’t true…most of us are mothers who are scared for our children.”

The demonstrators said many local residents were not taking part out of fear of losing their municipal jobs and the social assistance they receive from the government.

The protest that Tierramérica accompanied from the town square to the camps had a festive atmosphere, with colourful murga musical theatre groups, typical of the Argentine and Uruguayan carnival – a sharp contrast with the tension and violent clashes that would break out a few days later.

Like other people in this impoverished district, Matías Mansilla, his wife and their baby came out to the doorway of their humble home to watch the “carnival for life”. Mansilla didn’t take part, but he said he supports the cause “because of the illnesses that have appeared.” A survey by two universities and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) found that 87 percent of respondents in Malvinas Argentinas wanted a plebiscite to be held, to let voters decide whether the Monsanto plant should be built, while 58 percent were opposed to the factory.

Neither the provincial government nor the company responded to Tierramérica’s request for an interview.

On its website, Monsanto claims it is committed to “sustainable agriculture.” A communiqué issued in September stated that the company had the “necessary permits” from the local authorities in Malvinas Argentinas for the construction of the plant, and that the environmental impact assessment was being studied by the provincial government.

Monsanto complained about “dirty campaigns that manipulate the technical data to generate fear…and lies, in the name of environmentalism…that mask spurious interests.”

In April, the provincial high court dismissed a request for protective measures, presented by local residents in an attempt to block construction of the plant.

In the last few months, the police have cracked down on the protesters on several occasions. The demonstrators have also received threats.

Malvinas Argentinas forms part of a growing global movement against Monsanto. The protests in this district have drawn up to 8,000 people, Marizza said. And it’s no wonder, he added: “The monster is right on top of us.”

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

In Depth: Journal Retracts Independent Study Linking Monsanto GMO Corn to Cancer in Rats

Monday, 09 December 2013 13:19 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report


Last September, an alarming study rocketed through media and unleashed a storm of controversy. French researchers appeared to have uncovered a link between a Monsanto genetically engineered corn variety and cancer in lab rats. Now, more than a year later, a respected American scientific journal has taken a black eye and retracted the study, reigniting a global debate that raises serious questions about the media's coverage of biotechnology research and the deep divisions between industry-backed researchers and independent scientists.

The two-year study, conducted by a team lead by French biotech critic Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, found that groups of lab rats fed a lifetime diet of either Monsanto's NK603 corn (NK603 is treated with Roundup herbicide) or exposed to varying levels of Roundup herbicide in drinking water died earlier and had higher rates of tumors and organ damage than controls. NK603 is a genetically modified organism, or GMO, that is bioengineered to tolerate Roundup.

On November 28, the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology officially retracted the study, effectively removing Séralini's findings from the realm of accepted science. In a statement, chief editor, A. Wallace Hayes, echoed critiques from scientists around the world who pointed out that Séralini did not experiment on enough rats to support his explosive cancer claims, and the Sprague Dawley lab rats used in the study are prone to developing tumors if allowed to live long enough.

Independent scientists, however, say the Sprague Dawley breed is an industry standard for toxicity research, and while the Séralini study is not perfect, there is no legitimate reason to remove it from scientific debate. Séralini and his team refused an offer from Hayes to voluntarily retract the study and continue to publically defend their findings.

"Inconclusive," But "Not Incorrect "

Hayes said that he "found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data," but after reviewing Séralini's raw data, determined the results were "not incorrect," but "inconclusive," and therefore not suitable for publication.

Séralini's supporters were quick to point out that Hayes' journal is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics and guidelines issued by the committee state that editors should only consider retracting a study if there is evidence of plagiarism, unethical research, or unreliable findings based on misconduct or honest error. Simply being "inconclusive" does not make the cut.

"You don't get papers retracted for this," said Michael Hansen, a biotechnology analyst for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. Hansen added that plenty of published scientific studies are inconclusive, and the retraction borders on "scientific censorship."

Here's where the Séralini Affair gets tricky. The French team never definitively concluded that Monsanto products caused bulging tumors in the rats; his team simply reported the high tumor rates along with its analysis of kidney and organ damage. The project was a long-term toxicity study model of a 90-day Monsanto safety study, which also used Sprague Dawley rats, not a carcinogenicity study, which would have required a larger number of lab rats. In response to heaping criticism, Séralini's team members said they had simply pointed out the alarming tumor data and called for further research on the safety of GMO corn.

While ANSES, the French food safety authority, joined other European food regulators and scientific academies in dismissing the study, the French officials also called attention to the "originality" and agreed that more research should be done on the long-term health effects of consuming GMO crops and the pesticides associated with them. The European Commission has also considered funding a long-term feeding study on Monsanto corn.

Séralini did hype the cancer findings in the media while simultaneously releasing a book on his GMO research. The study was initially released to journalists under a heavily criticized embargo and included grotesque images of rats with giant tumors. The breaking news generated alarming headlines around the world, setting off a general panic among politicians and regulators in several countries where GMOs are unpopular. France launched an investigation into the findings, and Russia declared a temporary ban on NK603 while food safety officials reviewed the study.

Amid media hype, public discussion of the study deteriorated into a grinding and spin-heavy information war. Pro-business pundits and industry-funded front groups went on the offensive to discredit the study and called for a retraction. Independent scientists and biotech critics attempted to expose Séralini's detractors as industry shills who stand ready to trash any research that raises concerns about GMOs. Proponents of a failed GMO food labeling ballot initiative in California touted the study as alarming evidence that consumers cannot be sure that GMO groceries are safe. Writers Keith Kloor and Jon Entine attacked progressive news outlets for lending legitimacy to the study and accused GMO skeptics of being the left-wing version of climate-change deniers.

The retraction announcement further fanned the flames. Forbes.com, which initially published several articles attacking the study, celebrated the retraction. Biotech critics attempted to spark a scandal by pointing out that Richard Goodman, a food allergy expert and professor at the University of Nebraska, had been appointed an associate biotechnology editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology a few months after the study was published. Goodman is a former Monsanto employee, but he has denied being involved in the decision to retract the Séralini study.

In an email to Truthout, Goodman said that he left Monsanto in 2004 and continued his career as an independent research professor, but "people will connect the dots that they perceive to be true, no matter what I say.

"If you knew me personally, you would know that people do not tell me what to write or say (or if they do try, I will not listen)," Goodman wrote. "I listen to the scientific facts, and I think as a scientist. I judge based on science."

A Double Standard?

In an official response to the retraction, the Séralini team said its research was a long-term toxicology study modeled from short-term industry studies like those funded by Monsanto to gain regulatory approvals in Europe, and its critics are holding the independent science to a "double standard." If the journal throws out Séralini's study, they argued, then a 90-day Monsanto study on NK603, which used the same breed of rats, should be thrown out as well. "It is true that there's clearly a double standard here," Hansen told Truthout. "Any study that shows no problem with [GMOs], as soon as its published, it's just accepted, it's not looked with detail . . . but any study that shows any problems, it gets ripped apart and ran through with a fine-tooth comb."

Hansen says the Food and Chemical Toxicology has published several long-term studies that determined GMOs did not harm the same Sprague Dawley rats Séralini was criticized for using, but those have not been retracted. Hansen also points to a recent European review of Séralini's study and two other feeding studies on NK603, including the Monsanto study that Séralini had based his own research on. The comparative analysis found that all three studies failed to satisfy European Food Safety Authority criteria, but the regulatory body only dismissed the Séralini study, revealing "critical double standards."

So what's left of the Séralini Affair? It's now clear that the initial rat tumor uproar was based on a well-publicized, but inconclusive, toxicology study that raised more questions than it answered before being removed from the scientific cannon under sketchy ethical circumstances. But Séralini has succeeded in pointing out flaws in the industry's own GMO safety testing and inspired further research on the subject, at least in Europe.

Whether he intended to or not, Séralini also taught the media some important lessons about covering biotechnology issues in a world where the voices of independent scientists compete with powerful corporations claiming to own the right to define legitimate science. It seems the public relations teams for the biotech and agrichemical industry may not the only ones who know how to play the game.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Migration Across the Mediterranean: When Will Europe See That Too Many People Have Died?

Monday, 09 December 2013 09:39 By Hrvoje Simicevic, Truthout | Interview


The Mediterranean has been described by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as a "graveyard" as migrants from Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, seek to cross over to Europe to flee various hardships partly attributed to the legacies of Eurocentric colonial and neocolonial politics. It is estimated that over the last two decades, around 20,000 people drowned while being smuggled over. The European Union, through its "fortress" politics, centering around the notion of "security," has much to answer for in this continuous human tragedy. Maltese scholar Peter Mayo, author of, among many other books, The Politics of Indignation (Zero Books, 2012), discusses these and related issues in an interview with Croatian journalist Hrvoje Šimičević.

Hroje Simicevic: What is the current situation regarding the immigrant/refugee issue in Malta?

Peter Mayo: Malta is witnessing an influx of immigrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, including the Middle East (the third highest group of arrivals were Syrians this year) with tragic consequences. While many make it to our shores and others are rescued off our shores, a number drown in the process of crossing over from North Africa in rickety boats, which are often overcrowded. They are all placed in detention on arrival as they await decisions as to whether they have been accepted or rejected as refugees. This takes a very long time - with a maximum of 18 months - and the conditions inside some of these centers have been described by observers as appalling.

HS: How do you comment on a statement of your prime minister, Joseph Muscat: "We've been left alone. We need a coherent EU policy. Empty talk on solidarity is not enough"?

PM: As a frontier island and country, Malta faces an influx of immigrants, who, according to the Dublin II Regulation, are to have their asylum-seeking application evaluated by the state through which they first entered the EU. They are therefore forced to remain on this very small island state where they originally disembarked. Malta is a densely populated island and requires "responsibility sharing" (the Maltese government uses the term "burden" sharing) with its fellow EU members. This has, for the most part, not been forthcoming. The EU's fortress policy with respect to denial of visas and travel opportunities is compelling immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, and more lately, from Egypt and Syria fleeing the situations in their countries to pursue some of the most hazardous routes to get to Europe. Parallels with the Mexico-USA border situation are invited. While people from South and Central America use sewers to cross over to the USA, people from Africa are risking their lives by selling all their possessions to make the journey, in the case of SSA migrants, across the Sahara to Libya and then be crossed over by unscrupulous "coyotes" - who apparently do not care a toss about human lives. And in both cases, immigrants are fleeing an unjust colonial /neocolonial system and structural legacy mainly of the USA's and Europe's own making (and now China has got in on the act big time!). It is a case of the Empire striking back - certainly not on level terms, given the sub-alterneity and vulnerability of those involved: The vast majority are asylum seekers in need of protection (over 80 percent of arrivals in 2013 were granted a form of protection).

Moreover, the North-South structural imbalances that are a feature of a perennially colonial capitalist system predicated on uneven levels of development that lead to the shifting of populations in the South. It is a common feature of European imperial politics that persist: Southern and oppressed populations can be moved at will to suit imperial interests. It happened with Africans during the period of slavery and the slave trade; with Palestinians with the 1948 Nakba and later; it happened, for example, with Puerto Ricans during "operation bootstrap"; and continued to happen throughout modern history . . . it happens with people from sub-Saharan and North Africa today. This is standard European imperialist policy. The interests today are many, including primarily the ready availability of an underpaid and grossly exploited reserve or alternative army of labor to accommodate western imperial capitalist interests - depressing local wages and therefore labor costs. Europe has a lot to answer for this, but has remained passive, despite its moral obligations, while tragedies continue to occur at sea and elsewhere, not least when crossing Africa itself, as different forms of smuggling mafias emerge on both sides of the Europe-Africa divide. The Guardian reported on October 3, that over 20,000 people died during the last 20 years, trying to cross from Africa to Southern Europe. Yes, how many deaths will it take for an ostensibly oblivious and fortified Europe to know that too many people have died (due apologies to Bob Dylan)?

HS: What do the citizens of Malta say about immigrants and refugees? What about political parties?

PM: The funny thing about Joseph Muscat and his one-time socialist party is that they have done nothing over the years to broaden the meaning of international as opposed to national solidarity, since "socialism," the appropriate word in this context, has become passé in today's Labor discourse.

No attempt was made over the years to raise consciousness in the rank and file regarding the pitfalls of racism and a comprehensively inclusive, including gender inclusive, notion of workers' solidarity. The term "working class" has also become passé despite the presence of whole swathes of societies worldwide suffering from precarious living conditions rendering many sectors déclassé. With many members of what I would call the new working class (including those déclassé sectors) feeling vulnerable in this age of constant layoffs, and downsizing and economic meltdowns it is likely that they misguidedly pursue the route of xenophobia and racism.

It is not surprising to see racism toward people of color and Arabs being rife in this country. The swing to the right is symptomatic of many countries worldwide, including larger ones in the context of increasing immigrant labor, including the gastarbeiter (guest worker). It would be writ large in small countries such as Malta, with a small land mass and around 400,000 inhabitants. And once again, mainstream political parties do nothing to confront the situation through educational means for fear of losing electoral votes.

HS: On the other hand, we are witnessing the present rightist discourse of the "foreigners who will take our jobs" and parties that built their identity and electoral success on fear of foreigners. How dangerous is this phenomenon in Europe, given the voting trends in Greece and France (and the recent success of Marine La Pen in local elections)?

PM: The criminalization of immigrants serves to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. The marginalization of immigrants with no access to citizenship rights and social benefits, especially rejected asylum seekers, leads them to eke out a living at the very margins of society, in the "underworld" if need be. This furthers the construction of irregular migrants as given to criminality, promiscuity etc. rather than being victims of a systemic oppressive and ultimately racist structure that encourages abuse of their vulnerability.

In the case of one specific country, Malta, the number of SSA migrants in the country is considerably smaller than that of other non-EU residents whose presence does not lead to similar exaggerated reactions in the media, which often take the form of a potential Armageddon. As for jobs, Maria Pisani reminds us that in one of the papers, the Minister of education, youth and employment stated in 2007 that there is a shortage of labor supply because certain jobs are unattractive to Maltese workers and therefore labor needs to be imported. And it is in these kind of jobs, which Maltese do not want to carry out, that many migrants from SSA are employed. If anything, as stated earlier, the target of any anger, where vulnerable working-class employees are concerned, should be those unscrupulous employers who prey on a destitute "reserve army" to considerably cut down labor costs. If one goes by hearsay, they often completely do away with these costs, at best paying the migrant a pittance. But unless these aspects of the migration issue are tackled systematically and backed by robust research by those whose historical function was that of leading the working class through a sustained process of an inclusive workers' education program spanning different media and settings, we are more likely to see a swing toward the right. And by this, I mean not only the emergence of right-wing parties, but also former leftist parties veering towards right of centre.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

HS: How do you comment on the fact that the issue of refugees and migrants is predominantly mentioned in the context of "security" and not human rights? This is also evident from the very institutional framework within the EU (such as the agency Frontex), and in policies of most of European countries, since they are further militarizing borders and criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

PM: Indeed, the dominant discourse centers around "security" on the grounds of the threat of international terrorism rather than foregrounding a person's right to seek asylum and protection, especially in cases where her or his existence is very much in jeopardy as a result of the many causes I outlined above and others. The enforcing of such boundaries in what is a "fortress," emblematically captured by the visible physical fortifications surrounding entrance by sea to the two natural Maltese harbors (erected in the 17th century to ward off any attack by the Ottomans), has led to the discarding of the human rights of people outside these borders and rendering their lives disposable and expendable.

In the majority of cases, we have bona fide breathing human subjects being criminalized for sins not of their making - sins for which Europe itself has a lot to answer. All this attests to the legacies of colonialism in Africa and the Middle East and the Western powers' collusion in the creation of situations characterized by the presence of client tyrannical regimes, not least through the supply of arms by a western-driven arms industry, and, in one specific case, a direct colonial/apartheid regime.

HS: What do you think about refugee/"illegal immigrant" policies of rich European countries, especially Germany?

PM: Once more I refer to what Maria Pisani writes in some of her papers. She points out that "illegal immigrant" is a nonexistent term in international law. It is bandied about by politicians to justify "illegal legalities," that is to say, the trampling over human rights, basic ones at that. It has unfortunately become part of the popular doxa. She reminds us of the 1951 Geneva Convention that recognizes a person's right to asylum and which allows for possible instances of "irregularity" in recognition of situations that lead to "forced migration." Once again, these policies should be international since we are dealing with international, global phenomena and should therefore not be allowed to be guided by the selfish interest of political and economic powerhouses in Europe and beyond.

HS: After recent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, the editor of Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote that the"mass death before Lampedusa is part of the EU refugee policy; it belongs to the deterrence strategy" and that "the outer limits of the Nobel Peace Prize have been made so thick that there is no way through for humanity." Do you agree with this?

PM: Actually, I can do no better than quote what a local lawyer and activist with regard to immigrant rights, Neil Falzon, said in a recent newspaper interview in Malta Today. He highlighted that there are no legal means that allow "bona fide asylum seekers" to make it to Europe without placing their lives in jeopardy. He points out that flying is out of the question since no visa would be made available by any European country. He suggested the idea of humanitarian visas in this context so that people can safely exercise their right to seek asylum. This is a global situation that requires an international solution and not individual country solutions, as colleague and good friend Maria Pisani argues in a number of papers she published on the issue!

HS: Recently we have been witnessing mass protests in Italy and France over immigrant issues, among other things. Can you comment on these events, and do they have potential to sensitize European citizens toward the plight of refugees and immigrants?

PM: Anybody with a modicum of human compassion and who values human life dearly should be outraged by the events occurring at Europe's doorstep. Protesting is the least one can do in these circumstances, which call for a proactive politics of indignation targeted at something of which this human migrant tragedy is symptomatic - the current politics of human disposability. It was Zygmunt Bauman who used the term "the human waste disposal industry" in a book concerning The Globalization of Racism (Panagiota Gounari and Donaldo Macedo eds., Paradigm 2006). This is what this situation regarding the hazardous shifting of southern populations represents. So I am not surprised by these protests.

Hopefully, these protests will highlight the continent's shameful past with regard to treatment of ethnic minorities and sensitize other Europeans to the danger of seeing complex global imperialist issues in myopic nationalistic and mono-cultural terms. Hopefully it would sensitize other Europeans to the complex set of factors that compel people to leave the contexts in which they are rooted, and possibly love dearly, to seek a different life abroad. The reasons for doing this are many, but I would mention some here: civil wars fueled by a Western-based arms industry and exacerbation of tribal conflicts often resulting in rape and being disowned by family; the attempt among women to avoid female genital mutilation; evading religious fundamentalism; the negative effects on African farming of subsidies provided to farmers in other continents; the negative effects of climate change; an impoverished environment (the ransacking of Africa); and a colonial ideology which presents the West as the Eldorado and a context for the "good life," structural adjustment programs, the quest for better employment opportunities . . . and one can go on, perhaps falling prey to western stereotypes and constructions of "Africa."

There is however one major global reason, namely the quest for low-cost labor by corporations and other businesses alike that serves as a "push-and-pull factor." As David Bacon argues (see Illegal People. How Globalization creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), hegemonic globalization necessitates migration, but it is the same victims of this process who are rendered "illegal" and criminalized as a result, often victims of the "carceral state." By carceral state, I mean the state that punishes as part of its function in dealing with the excesses of hegemonic globalization, that is neoliberal capitalist-driven globalization or "globalization from above." Detention centers such as those decried by international and local observers over here and Fabrizio Gatti in Lampedusa are institutions that reflect the presence of a carceral state, to borrow Henry A. Giroux's term.

HS: So you think that the current and dominant economic/political system is also to blame for deaths of many thousands in the Mediterranean Sea in the last 10 years?

PM: Neoliberal politics with their structural adjustment programs in Africa and other parts of the "majority world" have exacerbated the disparities between South and North. Colonialism has not gone away, but has taken different forms, aspects of which were highlighted when I outlined some of the many reasons why people flee their country. And as also underlined earlier, framing the whole discourse of migration within the context of "security" and the need to provide secure borders, as part of the war on terror and the threat to some kind of "national culture" and lifestyle, makes the right to asylum and mobility (ironically that same right exercised and encouraged within the EU and by globalization itself) difficult to exercise in a safe and straightforward manner. This manner applies only to the mobility of goods. and goods from certain countries. Ask Palestinians seeking to transfer goods from one part of Palestine to another? It does not apply to all people. Some are allowed to be, relatively speaking, more freely and comfortably mobile than others in the same way that some are allowed to live while others are simply rendered disposable. In my view, this is all part of a racist imperialist mindset which still lies at the heart of the, as you put it, "current and dominant economic/political system." There is recent talk about providing the right conditions for "investment" (there's the magic word) in Africa not to compel people to move elsewhere. I can only greet this idea with a smirk on my face. First we ravage a continent and drain it of its resources and now we attempt to resuscitate it - a tall order, don't you think? Also, I am very suspicious of any proposal which has containment as its underlying feature. In fact, I detect racist overtones in this idea, namely that Africans are to remain in Africa and do not belong elsewhere.

Peter Mayo: I am indebted to Dr Maria Pisani, Lecturer in Youth and community Studies and founding director of the Maltese NGO, Integra Foundation, for helping me with the finer details on policy matters. Also indebted to Michael Grech, friend, social activist and lecturer at the University of Malta's Junior College, for some comments on an earlier draft.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

So Iran is Britain's Enemy…

Sunday, 08 December 2013 13:53 By Stuart Littlewood, Redress Information & Analysis | Op-Ed


Whenever a Western leader expresses adoration and undying support for the Zionist state the Jewish Chronicle (JC) can be relied on to make the most of it. This week it reports on UK Prime Minister David Cameron’sChanucah/Hanukkah reception in Downing Street when he lit a menorah (that elegant nine-branch candlestick) with the chief rabbi.

According to the JC, Cameron took the opportunity to say he didn’t have much faith in the interim nuclear agreement struck with Iran. He told assembled Jewish leaders: “I know there will be great scepticism, I know there will be great worry. I share that scepticism, I share that worry. I don’t have any starry-eyed view of what this Iranian regime offers.”

He went on to announce: “I am with you and with the Israeli people, genuinely. As far as I’m concerned, an enemy of Israel is an enemy of mine. A threat to Israel is a threat to us all.

“I can promise you this: Britain will stand with Israel, Britain will support Israel, Britain will keep the pressure up on Iran. We do not want you to have a nuclear-armed near-neighbour, a nuclear threat facing your country… We share that feeling and show you our solidarity.”

Who on earth is he speaking for? Has he consulted the British people on this pledge of servitude to the criminal Zionist project? Was it in his election manifesto? This isn’t the first time Cameron has ‘mis-spoken’. He does it regularly.

And why has he got it in for Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and is no threat to us? Shouldn’t he instead be saying to Iran: “We share your anxiety about having a nuclear armed neighbour like Israel, with its 400 warheads, menacing your country. You have our solidarity.” Cameron is a self-declared Zionist and, from his various remarks, thinks nothing of putting Israel’s interests, no matter how unlawful and menacing, ahead of the UK’s and allowing us to be drawn into conflict with Israel’s enemies such as Iran and Syria.

No respectable nation can operate a foreign policy on such a twisted basis. How many more of our young men have to shed blood, limbs and life to serve the foolish ambitions, ill-advised friendships and private commitments of our politicians?

Hysterical Iran-Bashing

The ludicrous idea that Iran is the enemy was spouted several years ago by Liam Fox while shadow secretary of state for defence: “We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for – for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.” After Cameron appointed him defence secretary, Fox came to grief over the scandal of his close relationship with Adam Werritty, his so-called adviser. It was revealed that Werrity, among other misdeeds, had been involved in secret meetings with Mossad agents for the purpose of enlisting British support for an Israeli attack on Iran. By no stretch of the imagination is Iran an enemy of the British people, but could soon be if Cameron and his foreign secretary, William Hague, persist with economic sanctions that needlessly hurt the Iranian people and inflict the kind of suffering heaped upon Iraq’s women and children for 12 years before we bombed them to hell and back. Is that what they are trying to engineer?

Israel, as people are beginning to realize, has a vast nuclear arsenal, won’t sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (but Iran has done so) and won’t submit to UN inspection and safeguards. Moreover Cameron is comfortable about rewarding Israel for its crimes against humanity. He even provides a safe haven for its criminals, contrary to the UK’s solemn obligation under the Geneva Conventions.

Israel Flag Waving

Pro-Israel politicians here still repeat the big lie that Iran threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually said, rather poetically, that the regime in Jerusalem (i.e. the Zionist regime) must vanish from the page of time. As Western powers regularly use regime change as an excuse to make wa, either directly or by proxy, against any country they don’t like… why is Ahmadinejad’s remark so objectionable? Cameron’s senior partner in the UK government’s hysterical Iran-bashing campaign, William Hague, has been an avid admirer of Israel since his schooldays. In 2011, in a keynote address on the theme “Sixty Years of British-Israeli Diplomatic Relations”, Hague said the UK’s relationship with Israel went far beyond the realm of diplomatic relations. “It is based on bonds between families and communities as well as shared values and common interests… This government is firmly opposed to those who seek to deligitimize Israel, and… we are firmly opposed to boycotts…“

His speech included the usual attempt to demonize Iran. “Iran’s treatment of its own people, as well as its attitude to Israel and posturing in the region show that it would be a disaster to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons.” He omitted to mention the hundreds of nuclear warheads at the fingertips of Israel’s delinquent leaders. “Iran should therefore not doubt the resolve of the international community to address the concerns about its nuclear programme…

“I never forget,” said Hague, “that Israel is a country that has been repeatedly attacked through its brief history, that has been at war with all its neighbours for some of its history and with some of its neighbours for all of its history.”

And whose fault is that?

Is aiding and defending a belligerent foreign power, land thief and serial abuser of human rights a listed policy in the Conservative Party manifesto? No. It is a private agenda for which Hague and Cameron have no popular mandate. And is terrorizing Iranian civilians with economic ruination, just for the hell of it (or because Israel wants it), Conservative policy? Well, I suppose it must be, otherwise Hague and Cameron would have been slapped down. A friend dubbed the pair “Agent” Cameron and “Agent” Hague and the names have stuck. We can see why.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

Operation Ajax. Look into it.

The Iranian people remember.

The SAVAK were trained and funded by whom?

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 8 years ago

If I were to make a quick guess, I'd say the CIA. Lemme go to Wiki and check . . . .


[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

It should really worry Americans that they are funding the largest terrorist org on the planet.

Shouldn't it?

Or is cheap fuel the only thing that is important?

Britain's then govt lied the American admin into that ouster of Mossedegh.

From memory, it took a change in US presidents to carry out the ouster.

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 8 years ago

It should worry the hell out of Americans, if only they saw it that way. It's like I told someone back in November, 2011 (if memory serves me right). Whether or not you're a terrorist all depends on which side of the fence you're on.

I just briefly scanned the Wiki article about Operation Ajax but it was Eisenhower that was pres. during the ouster. But you're right, because Truman didn't want to do it:

"President Harry S. Truman was busy fighting a war in Korea, he did not agree to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. However, in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, the UK convinced him to a joint coup d'état."

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

Yes, and after two decades of US-sanctioned despotism, murder, and iron-fisted erasure of political dissidence, the Iranian people are supposed to be forgiving and understanding. Right?

Capitalism, and the oil that props up that system of financial oligarchy, is responsible for millions of unnecessary deaths of both civilians and soldiers, while the puppet-masters sit back and profit greatly.

This reality is in for a big shake-up.

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 8 years ago

Yep, and that shake-up is coming a lot sooner than most of us realize. Right now methane comes to mind.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

I love wild weather.

I'm waiting for the next "storm of the century".

Though I'm hoping the crew in Japan get a clear run at cleaning up that yahweh-forsaken mess they've created there.

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 8 years ago

Yep, we should probably expect the next "storm of the century" before the year's out.

"That yahweh-forsaken mess," heheh. You sure do turn a colorful phrase, my friend.

That nightmare just might be the game-changer. I haven't read anything about it in the last couple weeks but heard they were supposed to begin moving those spent fuel rods last Monday or the one before. That should be keeping a couple people up at night.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

Oh, it's already a "game-changer" for mine.

The Pacific ocean is effectively irradiated for centuries.

I'm putting everything fluid through magnesium crystals before it hits my system.

On the fuel rods, I read somewhere that the process could take decades. Did the IAEA say it's okay to store such potentially world-destroying materials in a second-floor swimming pool, on a known geographical fault-line, in a known tsunami zone?

What are the pre-requisites for a job at the IAEA? Retardedness, perhaps?

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 8 years ago

Good point. I believe we're already getting higher than normal radiation readings out west and there have been reports of contaminated fish showing up on the coast of Cali. And I heard a rumor there's also a huge floating mass of irradiated debris heading this way. Oh, and don't the hot-shots think the best plan for disposing of all that radioactive water on-site is to just dump it into the Pacific?

That plant was designed by GE, I think. Ahhh, you gotta love that devoutly American megacorp, don't you? They bring good things to life.

Maybe it's just my twisted sense of humor, but I've been wondering how many Japanese have entertained the thought, however briefly, that "It's payback time." Especially the senior citizens. We are downwind and downstream, after all.

Edit: you have me curious about those mag crystals. Tell me more, but i probably won't get a chance to respond till tomorrow. It's four AM here, the eyelids are getting heavy. ;-)

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 8 years ago

Every nation that gets "liberated" by the empire also gets the depleted uranium treatment. Japan forced the US to clean that shit up on one of their island training camps. They know what side their bread is buttered on.

I gave up on the karma rule a long time ago. If there's justice to be had on this planet, it will be meted out by the indignant and the irate.

The meek can inherit all they like. I'm not hanging around to wait for that shite.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Operation Enduring Occupation

Saturday, 07 December 2013 11:03 By Staff, Socialist Worker | Op-Ed


The last 12 years have brought only suffering to Afghanistan - and there's more to come.

Operation Enduring Freedom - the U.S. government's official name for its war and occupation of Afghanistan - is supposed to be coming to an end.

But the arrangement established under a proposed deal between the U.S. and Afghan governments to "end" the occupation is hard to tell apart from the existing occupation--since it includes the continued presence of U.S. military bases, troops and contractors throughout the country, and exempts U.S. personnel from any civil or criminal action under Afghan law.

It's occupation by another name--and the goal remains the same: a continuing U.S. military presence in the region, not to "fight terrorism," but to carry out the agenda of the American empire around the globe.

And the man running the show is Democratic President Barack Obama. His embrace of such an agreement, not to mention the U.S. "war on terror" more broadly, is yet more evidence that the Democratic Party doesn't have the interests of ordinary people at heart, as it claims--whether they live in the U.S. or Afghanistan.

In late November, thousands of Afghan leaders came together in the capital city of Kabul for a loya jirga, or grand council, to hear U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai explain the details of the agreement brokered with the U.S. But it quickly became clear that the proposal was merely a means to extend the U.S. military presence for at least 10 years to come.

The proposed accord would allow the U.S. to keep up to nine military bases in Afghanistan--and mandate that it fund the Afghan government's security forces through at least 2024, at an expected cost of some $6 billion a year.

It also allows for the presence of an indefinite number of foreign troops, though Karzai claims the number will be some 15,000 soldiers, the majority of them from the U.S. U.S. troops and contractors working with the Defense Department would be allowed to enter the country without having to obtain passports or visas. U.S. troops will be able to engage in combat operations in "mutually agreed" circumstances, including giving support to Afghan forces. Under the agreement, U.S. soldiers are exempt from civil or criminal complaints under Afghan law--jurisdiction will lie solely with the U.S., which has never allowed its own soldiers to face charges in Afghanistan for the killing of Afghan civilians. In November, Reuters reported that a lack of U.S. cooperation halted Afghan officials' investigation into the deaths of at least 10 civilians after they were detained by U.S. Special Forces troops between October 2012 and February 2013.

Also in the new agreement, U.S. troops will be allowed to enter and raid Afghan homes under "extraordinary" circumstances. Initially, this provision was supposed to be obtained in exchange for a letter from Obama apologizing for "mistakes" made in Afghanistan--but administration officials deny such an apology is in the works.

As a female delegate to the loya jirga angrily yelled out during deliberations, "All the night raids can be categorized as exceptional cases."

In fact, just days after the loya jirga, the ongoing consequences of U.S. occupation were made clear once again when a U.S. drone attack left one Afghan child and two women dead. NATO forces claimed they were trying to kill a lone "known militant" riding a motorcycle in Helmand Province.

Some "peace."

At the loya jirga, Karzai told attendees, "We want the Americans to respect our sovereignty and laws and be an honest partner." Then, he added, "And bring a lot of money."

But Karzai also threw a wrench into U.S. plans by announcing to the loya jirga that even if it approved the agreement, he wouldn't sign it until after new presidential elections in April 2014. The loya jirga, consisting of delegates over which Karzai had final say, overwhelmingly approved the deal and urged Karzai to sign it by December 31.

In response, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice threatened the so-called "zero option": If Karzai doesn't sign the deal by the new year, the U.S. will prepare to pull out all its forces by the end of next year.

This was simply calling Karzai's bluff--he and his government are dependent on U.S. troops, and the U.S. aid that comes with them, to stay in power. making the likelihood that Karzai will be able to continue to hold off signing unlikely. Karzai's threat to not sign may be an attempt at leverage to renegotiate some points, but he is very unlikely to continue holding off on the signing.

But the Obama administration also needs the agreement--not because it gives a damn about the lives of ordinary Afghan civilians, but because the country remains a strategic asset in maintaining U.S. imperial interests.

As Eric Ruder wrote at SocialistWorker.org last year, the Obama administration's clear aim has been to remain in Afghanistan for the much longer haul:

[D]espite the spin, the plain fact is that the war will definitely continue for at least two and a half more years--until the end of 2014, or halfway through Obama's second term, if he wins one. And after that? Administration officials expect that "as many as 20,000 U.S. troops may remain after the combat mission ends," according to the Associated Press. Under this timeline, the last U.S. troops would actually leave the Afghan battlefield in 2024, making Afghanistan a 23-year-long war.

As Britain's Guardian newspaper wrote, "[I]f the U.S. does not strike a deal in Afghanistan after 2014, they have no staging ground to launch drone strikes into Pakistan, or would have to negotiate one with one of the former Soviet republics, giving a wider strategic importance to the clash with Karzai."

Writing at TomDispatch.com in early November, Robert Dreyfuss noted:

Twelve years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and a decade after the misguided invasion of Iraq--both designed to consolidate and expand America's regional clout by removing adversaries--Washington's actual standing in country after country, including its chief allies in the region, has never been weaker...

There are plenty of reasons why America's previously unchallenged hegemony in the Middle East is in free fall. The disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq generated anti-American fervor in the streets and in the elites. America's economic crisis since 2008 has convinced many that the United States no longer has the wherewithal to sustain an imperial presence.

The Arab Spring, for all its ups and downs, has challenged the status quo everywhere, leading to enormous uncertainty while empowering political forces unwilling to march in lockstep with Washington. In addition, oil-consuming nations like China and India have become more engaged with their suppliers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. The result: throughout the region, things are fast becoming unglued for the United States.

Of course, the U.S. government is still the world's most deadly purveyor of violence. As Dreyfuss acknowledges, Obama can order raids by Special Forces almost anywhere, and he can carry out assassinations around the globe by calling in the drones. The U.S. is still the dominant imperialist power in the world, with by far the largest military--but it has weakened by a series of failures, of which Afghanistan is only one.

These two faces of U.S. imperialism can be seen in the agreement reached with the Iranian government to temporarily halt that country's nuclear program. Iran agreed to the deal in the hopes that this will lead to the lifting of the brutal sanctions inflicted by the U.S.--including unfreezing $4.2 billion in oil revenues in foreign banks. But the Obama administration also hopes to benefit from the easing of a confrontation that has escalated at times toward a military conflict--in a region where the U.S. has lost influence to Iran, especially with the dismal end of the Iraq occupation two years ago. With this in mind, it's clear that the U.S. is attempting to shore up its strategic position by cutting the deal with Karzai and the Afghan government. But for the people of Afghanistan, the reality of 12 years of war and occupation has been not the liberation once promised them by the U.S., but only more bloodshed.

As author and activist Malalai Joya told the Nation, "These twelve years, we've lived in civil war. In the Taliban time, we had one enemy: the Taliban. Now we have three: the Taliban, warlords and the occupation forces."

If the U.S. gets away with the agreement it is trying to make in Afghanistan, Joya and other opponents of injustice will continue to face the enemy of "occupation forces" for years to come.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

It's the Hypocrisy, Stupid: Fundamentalist Christian Bullies Running Amok in America's Military

Saturday, 07 December 2013 11:41 By Mikey Weinstein, AlterNet | Op-Ed


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

COP19 Promotes Carbon Colonialism With New REDD+ Deal

Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00 By Melanie Jae Martin , Truthout | News


At COP19, REDD+, a global carbon trading scheme, was passed. This jeopardizes the rights and resources of local communities throughout the global south, because of the prevalence of carbon-market-driven land grabs.

In protest of inaction on climate agreements, more than 800 attendees in environmental and development groups walked out of the recent COP19 UN climate summit in Warsaw. Their action followed a walkout of the G-77 group of developing nations. However, inaction did not pose the only threat to the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Rather, the REDD+ agreement reached at COP19 puts developing countries under threat of being colonized for their carbon.

There's a reason why REDD+ was the only agreement reached at COP19 - it serves the big polluters' interests. If it actually benefited local communities rather than corporate interests, it certainly would have stalled like the other plans on the table.

ALSO SEE: Colonialism and the Green Economy: The Hidden Side of Carbon Offsets; Colonialism and the Green Economy: Villagers Defy Pressure to Forfeit Farms for Carbon-Offset; Colonialism and the Green Economy: Environmental Justice, Refineries and California's Cap-and-Trade Program; Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands.

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) has been in the works for years, with pilot programs in various countries in the Global South. It ostensibly protects forests by offering payments to countries that might otherwise cut them down. In an ideal scenario, the payments would end up in the hands of the small landholders who must give up cultivation, or better still, allow small-scale farmers and forest dwellers to continue using the land to support their needs in sustainable ways. But the corruption of REDD's predecessors such as the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) foreshadow the anguish that REDD+ may bring - and is already bringing to some.

Land Grabbing and Community Rights

A major problem with REDD+ is that it could hand over cash to overseas speculators and corrupt governments that seize the land rights of local communities, particularly indigenous peoples. Overseas "carbon pirates" already have come into a number of REDD zones and, through coercion or outright theft, taken land from locals. Governments now have greater motivation to force indigenous communities and others off their traditional lands as well. Thus, REDD+ poses a serious threat to the rights of the world's most marginalized peoples. In fact, Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, calls REDD+ "potentially genocidal."

As far back as 2001, REDD+ was spoken of as "a colonial mechanism to enclose lands." That's because it's a top-down solution in which so-called world leaders govern how small-scale farmers throughout the Global South manage their land. While proponents claim it will require strong human rights practices, it incorporates no means of ensuring that land theft does not occur. Worse, because the industry is so new, "experts" are few and far between - meaning there is likely to be a revolving door between oversight and speculation. Furthermore, other carbon trading schemes like the CDM have failed to ensure that the human rights of all involved communities are respected, with coercion and outright theft a common occurrence. In many cases, communities have been forced off their traditional land, which has been re-categorized as a pristine nature reserve that humans must not set foot in - nevermind that it is "pristine" precisely because of the care its people maintained in their use of it.

Indeed, land theft already is occurring, as potential profiteers seize the chance to buy up land while the getting is good. In Kenya, residents of the Mau forest are being forcibly evicted, often violently. In Papua New Guinea, villagers say carbon traders coerced them into signing away their forests. Such coercion has occurred often, in carbon trading land grabs, through failing to inform villagers how the deal will affect their use of land and resources, bestowing false promises, and telling lies about what will happen if they don't sign over their rights. In the case of the Kamula Doso people of Papua New Guinea, their leader, Abilie Wape, was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint by police demanding that he surrender his people's rights to the forest. In No REDD! A Reader, Khadija Sharife quotes Abilie Wape's description of the incident in a news article: "Police came with a gun. They threatened me. They told me, 'You sign. Otherwise, if you don't sign, I'll ... lock you up.'"

Ignoring the Root Problem

The thrust of the argument for REDD+ is the notion that small-scale farmers and forest-dwellers in poorer countries need persuasion from leaders in wealthier nations to manage their lands sustainably - which many are now calling "carbon colonialism." Negotiators ignore that the same free-trade policies robbing these peoples of their ability to make a sustainable living also are allowing "carbon pirates" to steal their land and make a profit. Without dramatically restructuring the current system of trade laws, climate progress based on this type of financial persuasion not only won't work, it will cause great suffering for many people in the Global South.

Massive resistance to agreements like the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that would give outside corporations greater ability to profit from locals' land and resources will play an important role in forging a just future. The TPP would expand corporations' ability to ignore borders and local laws, meaning any attempts to improve oversight of local laws in preparation for REDD+ could be rendered moot - as some REDD+ proponents may well know.

Maintaining Status Quo Pollution

REDD's alleged ability to protect forests is also misguided. At best, REDD+ will maintain status quo pollution - which is why it's the only agreement that made progress in COP19 this year. Preserving one forested tract of land so a company can pollute elsewhere will not mitigate climate change disaster. A tract of forest would be preserved specifically so a company could continue polluting elsewhere, which would maintain, at best, a constant level of pollution.

Further, because the preserved trees often sit hundreds or thousands of miles from the site of pollution they are offsetting, environmental sacrifice zones can continue wreaking havoc on surrounding communities. For this reason, as Goldtooth argues in No REDD! A Reader, REDD+ is responsible for pitting local communities against one another. Whenever a forest community signs a contract that allows a corporation to pollute or extract elsewhere, another community suffers.

And because REDD+ considers plantations like palm oil monocultures to be forests, the environmental value of a REDD+ project plummets even farther.

In short, by allowing a wealthy few to increase their profits without mitigating climate change, REDD+ could make carbon trading the world's biggest scam.


Many indigenous peoples and advocacy groups believe that improving local communities' rights will benefit forests far more than a top-down scheme. The Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment Initiative has demonstrated that when indigenous peoples gain land tenure, it benefits the land far more than a global scheme. Independent assessment also has confirmed that community-managed forests fare far better than forests categorized as pristine nature reserves. Locals who depend on their forest will continue using it even if laws deny them this access, if it is their only or best way of achieving a livelihood or feeding their family. Interfering with their right to use this land in traditional ways only disrupts the balance of this relationship while putting them in an even more vulnerable position.

Global alliances of marginalized communities - and resistance by individual communities - are therefore growing. At the 2011 COP, the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life demanded a moratorium on the REDD+ program. Indigenous communities and councils in places like Chiapas and Honduras have refused to consider participation in the REDD+ program. Their strong stance against the program - and the global powers imposing it on vulnerable communities - sets a valuable precedent for others.

Shining a spotlight on the often violent struggles of communities being forced off their land has become even more important, now that REDD+ has passed in COP19. With the stage primed for a new wave of land grabs, communities and allies need to remain vigilant and vocal in their resistance. Only through a bold and strongly networked social movement will we move toward a just - and sustainable - future wherein forests are viewed not as market commodities but as homes, as habitat, as integral to every aspect of human life.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The US-Mexico Border Is a Site of Environmental and Humanitarian Disaster

Thursday, 05 December 2013 09:41 By Michelle Chen, Jacobin | News Analysis


The concept of "national security" seems abstract in most of our political discussions, but there's one place where the idea of the secure nation takes a concrete form: the US-Mexico border wall, a ragged concrete and steel barrier that cleaves the frontier and imposingly wards off outsiders. Lawmakers have long advocated further fortifying the border against unauthorized border crossings through more extended construction and militarized patrols.

Earlier this year, the debate over immigration reform led conservatives to propose a security plan that would fortify a 700-mile expanse of borderland with radar systems, surveillance cameras, "mobile automated targeting systems," marine vessels to police the waterways, and unmanned aerial drones overhead. The entire apparatus - mostly concentrated in hotspots for border crossing, far from the Pacific edge of the wall - would be patrolled by some 40,000 border agents, aiming to apprehend, block, and deport as many unauthorized migrants as possible.

The parts of the border that take the form of an actual, physical barrier are an intrusion on the landscape, an eyesore to many - and to millions, a deadly obstacle to overcome. Elements of the local environment, from deserts to the Rio Grande, have been trampled, polluted, criss-crossed by truck convoys, occupied by federal agents and factories, and traversed by migrants following well-worn and perilous trails. And each phase of commercial development and economic exchange has also left an ecological mark, from the bustle of tourists to the churn of the maquilas to the paths trod by migrants following smugglers.

Just as immigrant rights activists see the border as a violent social barrier, environmentalists see the border fence as an assault on the integrity of regional ecologies. The border environs is both a symbol of global environmental changes - transnational movement of people and natural resources, climate change, the wave of urbanization that is sweeping wild lands worldwide - and a symptom of acute environmental impacts - the footprints of stampeding livestock, baking asphalt slicing through desert, and a dense network of dams and pipelines tapping the veins of increasingly parched riparian habitats. In the border zone, life is disrupted by the armature of the state.

Stripping the Land

Environmental critiques of the border's physical structure align with humanitarian ones. Border hawks in Washington have pushed for immigration enforcement measures that would subordinate environmental protections to border "security" - and angered advocates for the land as well as the people crossing it.

Border security bills recently proposed in Congress would further broaden an existing waiver that blocks federal oversight of the Department of Homeland Security in the fence area and exempts Customs and Border Patrol from key federal environmental regulations, such as the Endangered Species Act.

Various studies have documented that further "beefing up" of border security could have a devastating impact on sensitive populations of transboundary species, including Mexican spotted owl, desert tortoise, jaguars and others. According to a report by the Sierra Club's Borderlands Project, the effects range from the introduction of exotic species to "fragmenting habitat and restricting access to water sources," along with air and water contamination and intensified flooding resulting from faulty border construction.

The "border security" apparatus may pose even more serious risks to human life.

As legions of farmers displaced by the opening of Mexican agriculture under NAFTA fled northward to seek jobs, the border was tightened further by clamping down on passings along certain well-traveled routes, forcing people to take more remote, dangerous routes through the desert. The border consequently became both more enticing and more perilous for a growing number of crossers. In 2009, the American Public Health Association (APHA) reported that estimates of the death toll "range from over 3,800 to 5,600" in 15 years, essentially doubling since the NAFTA border clampdown began.

In fiscal year 2012, deaths reported at the Southwest border spiked to 477 from about 380 in 2011, according to federal data.

Some are murders - linked to the rise in illicit trafficking of both drugs and people. But from 1993 to 2008, border mortality became increasingly entwined with the perils of the desert itself. As APHA explained, "migrant deaths caused by exposure, especially heat-related exposure, increased substantially, whereas deaths from traffic fatalities and homicide declined."

Cracked Earth

While itinerant migrants struggle to survive the cruelties of crossing, the border zone's permanent settlers are witnessing a slower pattern of destruction at a volatile axis of economic and environmental transitions. The Sierra Club reported earlier this year that in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, border wall construction work "has proceeded so hastily that in one case, engineers had no idea that a home with a family living in it existed on the south side of the wall and denied them access to it when they were going home. Another homeowner awoke to find her backyard hurricane fencing gone and the wall going up with no prior notice. Farmers fear they will be prevented or hampered from irrigating their fields."

Some of the poorest, most vulnerable settlements are barely settled at all. The shanties that have emerged in both Mexican and US border towns stand as social byproducts of the area's violent demographic and economic churns, reflecting the disruptions that drive migration within Mexico as well as the lack of infrastructure in areas where migrants land or get stranded. Here, residents often lack basic water and sanitary infrastructure and face the health hazards of water and air pollution from local industrial plants. Kimberly Collins, a professor of public administration specializing in the border region at California State University-San Bernardino, says that since they're constructed with little consideration for the long-term sustainability of surrounding communities or the environment, the boundaries serve as "political lines, and they're not a natural construct." Under current border policy, she adds, "Right now we have this policy of control. It doesn't work with the reality of life and what people need."

Environmentalists argue that an ecological approach to the border would focus on engaging communities across national boundaries on transnational conservation initiatives, or collaborative research led by Mexico- and US-based scientists. Away from the garrisoned wall, Dan Millis, an organizer with the Sierra Club's Borderlands Program, poses a metaphor for a more humane border in the Rio Grande, a fluid boundary that joins as well as clefts the frontier. "That's the nature of our borderlands," he says. "It is a frontera. a transition zone between two countries, two cultures, and two languages.. It's two but it's one."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Climactic Shifts

Environmental tensions converge on the border's waters. The binational treaty that has governed the sharing of water resources between the US and Mexico for about six decades was outdated before the ink was even dry. The arrangement is rooted in a concept that treats water supplies as proprietary to adjacent nation-states, rather that part of a unitary system. The system gives rise to a water politics that constantly aggravates, rather than relieves, the region's exploitation and attendant social distress.

The two governments recently brokered an upgrade to the Colorado River 's water-sharing deal aimed at sorting out water transfers and, ostensibly, improving Mexico's water infrastructure. But disputes over water rights have further complicated the region's response to intensifying agriculture and residential water crises. Due to gaps in coordinated monitoring and management of border-region water needs, observes legal scholar Gabriel Eckstein in a recent study, the fragile border aquifers that are continually strained by farms and households are "being degraded by leaking septic tanks, underground storage containers holding fuel products and other chemicals, agricultural run-off, industrial activities. and other pollution sources."

This past summer, Texans accused Mexico of hoarding water and not releasing an adequate share into US aquifers, contending that Texas farms suffered disproportionately from recent droughts. Yet the scarcity issues are also affecting water-insecure communities in Mexico, which generally, as a poorer nation, is extremely vulnerable to intensifying resource crises.

The parched topography seems to imply overconsumption, but according to the researchers, the devastation is not inevitable. An overhaul of water politics might help resolve transborder water struggles - not by further complicating and expanding the bilateral treaty, but by decentralizing control over the resources. The idea is to cede power to local communities who have the most at stake if the well runs dry.

Decentralization could improve sustainability across all arenas of environmental policy at the border, according to Collins. "The first thing that should happen is empowerment of local communities," she says, including cross-border research collaborations and more direct communication between residents and local officials. Unfortunately, she's seen the opposite since 9/11, as the presence of federal bureaucracies and patrol forces in the border zone has inflated wildly under the banner of protecting national security.

While the border zone's political institutions continue to calcify, new environmental crises continue to spread. Researchers project that the stress of rising temperatures and an increasingly volatile climate will intensify poverty and public health hazards in border communities and undermine agriculture and transborder trade networks across the region. Economic hardship compounded by environmental vulnerability also drives migration to the north. Princeton University researchers estimate that loss of crop yields in Mexican agriculture would drive a significant increase in migration, leading to an additional 1.4 million to 6.7 million adult Mexicans to seek better prospects in the US by 2080. (Undocumented Mexican migrants in the US now number around 11.7 million, in addition to millions more who are documented.)

Indeed, competition for land and water resources is driving social stress across many borders around the world. Some researchers have identified potential hotspots for climate-related migration and conflict in South America, North Africa and the Middle East, portending threats of "resource wars" and mass exoduses of "climate refugees."

But activists caution that the actual social impacts of climate change are hard to predict, since migration is contingent on many other economic and political factors. And public panic over impending environmental catastrophe can all too easily become conflated with fears of mass demographic change.

In fact, the intersection between social justice and environmental crisis has sometimes been co-opted to bolster conservationist racism. In recent years, a self-proclaimed "nativist" fringe of the environmental movement, fueled by anti-immigrant groups like Californians for Population Stabilization, has integrated environmental arguments into their xenophobic rhetoric, painting migrants as alien hordes flooding over the border driving overpopulation and the depletion of natural resources.

So fears about resource scarcity have been twisted to justify xenophobic impulses, just as the border wall itself stands as a totem of "security" obscuring underlying environmental disruption, and the political rhetoric surrounding border "protection" has become a proxy for the racial anxieties driving the call for "closed borders." The border wall becomes a conveniently self-justifying mechanism for the enforcement of the deep, desperate wealth divide between Global North and South.

Redrawing Boundaries

Indigenous groups have historically articulated a different notion of the border, one that contemplates environment and humanity as a unified system.

Earlier this year, for example, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) criticized the US government by issuing a statement on the impact of the wall and US border policy on a local Indigenous community, the federally unrecognized Ndé (Lipan Apache) nation. The statement cited Indigenous peoples' longstanding complaints that "the construction of the wall through its land has allegedly damaged ancestral burial sites, reduced the tribe's access to elders and other knowledge keepers, led to severe decline in biodiversity, and may lead to the disappearance of the tribal identity altogether as the community may be forced to leave the land." Meanwhile, the wall "has skipped border areas with lucrative properties owned by business."

The binational rift over water governance has clashed with the politics of indigenous sovereignty, as well. On the Mexico side, Yaqui pueblos have protested for years against a river diversion project to channel water to the nearby city of Hermosillo. In Mexico's court system and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Yaqui have petitioned against both local agricultural businesses and government authorities, citing a landmark 1937 decree by the Mexican government that guaranteed water sovereignty to Yaqui pueblos.

A recent petition presented by Yaqui Traditional Authorities to UN CERD condemned the Mexican government's failure to honor its water sovereignty and pointed out that the riverbank has now essentially run dry, while local aquifers are threatened by agrichemical contamination. For the impoverished pueblos, the petition argues, "a paradox of tragic proportions exists wherein Yaqui workers tend to the fields their parents' generation once lived upon in a sustainable and culturally relevant manner."

Aggravating the overall crisis, the northern portion of the Yaqui watershed, nestled in the lower lip of Arizona, also faces massive water depletion. The environmental reporting project Melóncoyote observed in 2012, "Along much of the length of the binational river, no water can be seen in its sandy bed." Today, in the absence of a comprehensive restoration plan for the entire watershed, US-based activists have constructed a homegrown counter-border of sorts: a network of small dam-like rock structures to help salvage what's left of fast-eroding swamp lands, amid degraded riverbanks and parched trees.

Indigenous cultural scholar and activist Margo Tamez (Goschich Kónitsąąíí-Lightning Big Water Clan, Ndé Nation) calls the wall an "architecture of an authoritarian state." Since nation-states militate against indigenous self-determination, she says, "the current policy-making, focused on imposing a settler nation's 'jurisdiction' upon Indigenous sovereigns, will always maintain adversarial relationships of conflict, violence, and societal and environmental disintegration. It is inherently a model of domination."

When activists in Canada launched the Idle No More campaign last fall, they rejuvenated a vision of environmental justice based on indigenous sovereignty and aboriginal title, along with transborder resistance to corporate fossil fuel development on First Nations' lands. Against the backdrop of modern-day resource exploitation and climate-change activism, the political resonance of the movement galvanized solidarity campaigns among indigenous communities across the Americas.

To activists who have seen what societal division can do to the land, the question is not one of physical division or containment, but rather, redefining society's sense of ownership over, and dependence on, its environment. On the social landscape delineated by the border, the very idea of environmental management, even projects that aim for sustainability like water-conservation measures, inevitably revolve around a binary, extractive relationship between "civilization" and "nature." The border wall - as social metaphor, architectural scarecrow, and environmental blight - is intrinsically a statement against nature.

But look closer and you'll see that some communities have carved out another space between a concept of earth sovereignty and geopolitical interests, to pursue a different path to security on the frontier. If Idle No More and other grassroots movements reveal one thing about social possibility beyond borders, it's that human development might not have to come at the expense of the surrounding ecology, but in tandem with it.

Truthout is proud to feature content from Jacobin, a print quarterly that offers socialists perspectives on politics and economics. Support Jacobin and buy a four-issue subscription for $19.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Hollywood Without the Happy Ending: How the CIA Bungled the War on Terror

Thursday, 05 December 2013 09:50 By Pratap Chatterjee, TomDispatch | News Analysis


Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.

Think of it as the CIA’s plunge into Hollywood -- or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail. The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed "Penny Lane." (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was "Strawberry Fields," a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates -- a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts -- is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.

Hollywood in Langley

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: "In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War... we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%... Then 9/11 occurred... With the gusher... of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors."

Thousands of "Green Badges" were hired via companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and Qinetiq to work at CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) offices around the world, among the regular staff who wore blue badges. Many of them -- like Edward Snowden -- performed specialist tasks in information technology meant to augment the effectiveness of government employees.

Then the CIA decided that there was no aspect of secret war which couldn’t be corporatized. So they set up a unit of private contractors as covert agents, green-lighting them to carry guns and be sent into U.S. war zones at a moment's notice. This elite James Bond-like unit of armed bodyguards and super-fixers was given the anodyne name Global Response Staff (GRS).

Among the 125 employees of this unit, from the Army Special Forces via private contractors came Raymond Davis and Dane Paresi; from the Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Jeremy Wise, and Tyrone Woods. All five would soon be in the anything-but-covert headlines of newspapers across the world. These men -- no women have yet been named -- were deployed on three- to four-month missions accompanying CIA analysts into the field.

Davis was assigned to Lahore, Pakistan; Doherty and Woods to Benghazi, Libya; Paresi and Wise to Khost, Afghanistan. As GRS expanded, other contractors went to Djibouti, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries, according to a Washington Post profile of the unit.

From early on, its work wasn’t exactly a paragon of secrecy. By 2005, for instance, former Special Forces personnel had already begun openly discussing jobs in the unit at online forums. Their descriptions sounded like something directly out of a Hollywood thriller. The Post portrayed the focus of GRS personnel more mundanely as "designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts."

"They don't learn languages, they're not meeting foreign nationals, and they're not writing up intelligence reports," a former U.S. intelligence official told that paper. "Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants, and provide an ‘envelope’ of security... if push comes to shove, you're going to have to shoot."

In the ensuing years, GRS embedded itself in the Agency, becoming essential to its work. Today, new CIA agents and analysts going into danger zones are trained to work with such bodyguards. In addition, GRS teams are now loaned out to other outfits like the NSA for tasks like installing spy equipment in war zones.

The CIA’s Private Contractors (Don’t) Save the Day Recently these men, the spearhead of the CIA’s post-9/11 contractor war, have been making it into the news with startling regularity. Unlike their Hollywood cousins, however, the news they have made has all been bad. Those weapons they’re packing and the derring-do that is supposed to go with them have repeatedly led not to breathtaking getaways and shootouts, but to disaster. Jason Bourne, of course, wins the day; they don’t.

Take Dane Paresi and Jeremy Wise. In 2009, not long after Paresi left the Army Special Forces and Wise the Navy SEALs, they were hired by Xe Services (the former Blackwater) to work for GRS and assigned to Camp Chapman, a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. On December 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda, was invited to a meeting at the base after spending several months in Pakistan's tribal borderlands. Invited as well were several senior CIA staff members from Kabul who hoped Balawi might help them target Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s number two man, who also hailed from Jordan.

Details of what happened are still sketchy, but the GRS men clearly failed to fulfill their security mission. Somehow Balawi, who turned out to be not a double but a triple agent, made it onto the closed base with a bomb and blew himself up, killing not just Paresi and Wise but also seven CIA staff officers, including Jennifer Matthews, the base chief.

Thirteen months later, in January 2011, another GRS contractor, Raymond Davis, decided to shoot his way out of what he considered a difficult situation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Army Special Forces veteran had also worked for Blackwater, although at the time of the shootings he was employed by Hyperion Protective Services, LLC. Assigned to work at a CIA safe house in Lahore to support agents tracking al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Davis had apparently spent days photographing local military installations like the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. On January 27th, his car was stopped and he claims that he was confronted by two young men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad. Davis proceeded to shoot both of them dead, and then take pictures of their bodies, before radioing back to the safe house for help. When a backup vehicle arrived, it compounded the disaster by driving at high speed the wrong way down a street and killing a passing motorcyclist.

Davis was later caught by two traffic wardens, taken to a police station, and jailed. A furor ensued, involving both countries and an indignant Pakistani media. The U.S. embassy, which initially claimed he was a consular official before the Guardian broke the news that he was a CIA contractor, finally pressured the Pakistani government into releasing him, but only after agreeing to pay out $2.34 million in compensation to the families of those he killed.

A year and a half later, two more GRS contractors made front-page news under the worst of circumstances. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had been assigned to a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, where the Agency was attempting to track a developing North African al-Qaeda movement and recover heavy weapons, including Stinger missiles, that had been looted from state arsenals in the wake of an U.S.-NATO intervention which led to the fall of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was staying at a nearby diplomatic compound when it came under attack. Militants entered the buildings and set them on fire. A CIA team, including Doherty, rushed to the rescue, although ultimately, unlike Hollywood’s action teams, they did not save Stevens or the day. In fact, several hours later, the militants raided the CIA base, killing both Doherty and Woods.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The disastrous denouements to these three incidents, as well as the deaths of four GRS contractors -- more than a quarter of CIA casualties since the War on Terror was launched -- raise a series of questions: Is this yet another example of the way the privatization of war and intelligence doesn’t work? And is the answer to bring such jobs back in-house? Or does the Hollywood-style skullduggery (gone repeatedly wrong) hint at a larger problem? Is the present intelligence system, in fact, out of control and, despite a combined budget of $52.6 billion a year, simply incapable of delivering anything like the “security” promised, leaving the various spy agencies, including the CIA, increasingly desperate to prove that they can "defeat" terrorism?

Take, for example, the slew of documents Edward Snowden -- another private contractor who at one point worked for the CIA -- released about secret NSA programs attempting to suck up global communications at previously unimaginable rates. There have been howls of outrage across the planet, including from spied-upon heads of state. Those denouncing such blatant invasions of privacy have regularly raised the fear that we might be witnessing the rise of a secret-police-like urge to clamp down on dissent everywhere. But as with the CIA, there may be another explanation: desperation. Top intelligence officials, fearing that they will be seen as having done a poor job, are possessed by an ever greater urge to prove their self-worth by driving the intelligence community to ever more (rather than less) of the same.

As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and defense secretary, told MSNBC: "If you're looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack." It’s true that, while the various intelligence agencies and the CIA may not succeed when it comes to the needles, they have proven effective indeed when it comes to creating haystacks.

In the case of the NSA, the Obama administration’s efforts to prove that its humongous data haul had any effect on foiling terrorist plots -- at one point, they claimed 54 such plots foiled -- has had a quality of genuine pathos to it. The claims have proven so thin that administration and intelligence officials have struggled to convince even those in Congress who support the programs, let alone the rest of the world, that it has done much more than gather and store staggering reams of information on almost everyone to no particular purpose whatsoever. Similarly, the FBI has made a point of trumpeting every “terrorist” arrest it has made, most of which, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be of gullible Muslims, framed by planted evidence in plots often essentially engineered by FBI informants. Despite stunning investments of funds and the copious hiring of private contractors, when it comes to ineptitude the CIA is giving the FBI and NSA a run for their money. In fact, both of its recently revealed high-profile programs -- GRS and the Guantanamo double agents -- have proven dismal failures, yielding little if anything of value. The Associated Press account of Penny Lane, the only description of that program thus far, notes, for instance, that al-Qaeda never trusted the former Guantanamo Bay detainees released into their midst and that, after millions of dollars were fruitlessly spent, the program was canceled as a failure in 2006. If you could find a phrase that was the polar opposite of “more bang for your buck,” all of these efforts would qualify. In the case of the CIA, keep in mind as well that you’re talking about an agency which has for years conducted drone assassination campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have been killed along with numerous al-Qaeda types and “suspected militants,” and yet -- many experts believe -- these campaigns have functioned not as an air war on, but for, terror. In Yemen, as an example, the tiny al-Qaeda outfit that existed when the drone campaign began in 2002 has grown exponentially.

So what about the Jason Bourne-like contractors working for GRS who turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? How successful have they been in helping the CIA sniff out al-Qaeda globally? It’s a good guess, based on what we already know, that their record would be no better than that of the rest of the CIA. One hint, when it comes to GRS-assisted operations, may be found in documents revealed in 2010 by WikiLeaks about joint CIA-Special Operations hunter-killer programs in Afghanistan like Task Force 373. We don’t actually know if any GRS employees were involved with those operations, but it’s notable that one of Task Force 373's principal bases was in Khost, where Paresi and Wise were assisting the CIA in drone-targeting operations. The evidence from the WikiLeaks documents suggests that, as with GRS missions, those hunter-killer teams regularly botched their jobs by killing civilians and stoking local unrest.

At the time, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Operations Forces "capture/kill" programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, told me: "We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S."

As details of programs like Penny Lane and GRS tumble out into the open, shedding light on how the CIA has fought its secret war, it is becoming clearer that the full story of the Agency's failures, and the larger failures of U.S. intelligence and its paramilitarized, privatized sidekicks has yet to be told.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

"Banana Republic" Honduras Open for Business After Tainted Election

Tuesday, 03 December 2013 12:53 By Lauren Carasik, Truthout | Opinion


Few observers are surprised at widespread allegations of fraud, violence and intimidation in the November 24, 2013, election in Honduras, a country notorious for corruption; stark and longstanding social, political and economic inequality; and extremely fragile democratic institutions. After all, electoral mischief is what we have come to expect from the pejoratively termed "banana republics," countries in the global south characterized by iron-fisted oligarchic rule, the exploitation of resources and labor for international corporations and misery for the masses. But although we may want to distance ourselves from the suffering in Honduras, grinding poverty, inequality and anti-democratic principles do not occur in a vacuum: What happens in contemporary Honduran politics is inseparable from its colonial legacy and present-day economic and geopolitical importance to its powerful neighbors to the north and the interests of transnational companies.

Both Juan Orlando Hernandez of the ruling conservative National Party and Xiomara Castro of the left-leaning LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party claimed victory shortly after the polls closed. Allegations of fraud and irregularities surfaced during the election and continued to accumulate. On November 29, Castro, wife of democratically elected President Mel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup in 2009, denounced fraud and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the election, demanding a vote-by-vote recount (although there is no clear mechanism for vote review), meticulously documenting her claim of electoral fraud and encouraging peaceful social protest.

In response to Castro's complaint, the electoral authority announced December 2 that it will recount the vote tally sheets that were transmitted to them. Given the context, it is not clear if this would even address any problems, because one of the allegations is that some tally sheets were altered before being transmitted. And it certainly does not address vote and credential buying, intimidation, etc. So this could make the electoral authority look responsive to complaints about fraud without providing real and meaningful review or redress.

Tampering With Democracy

Some critics allege a brilliantly orchestrated campaign to ensure and legitimize Hernandez's victory. Fraud, intimidation and violence before and during the election have a cumulative impact: dirty elections are stolen one vote at a time, through a variety of tactics that start well in advance of voting day. Hernandez's control over all the apparatus of government power, including the Congress, judiciary, military and electoral authority, facilitated the ease of influencing the outcome. The Honduran elite also control the media and its messaging to the electorate - and command a deep well of financial resources to inundate the airwaves and print media, with no public scrutiny of campaign financing. The poorly resourced LIBRE was vastly outspent by the National Party.

Efforts to influence the outcome included vote buying, discount cards and jobs offered by the National Party, tampering with registered voter rolls to disqualify some voters and include others who could not legally cast a vote, credential buying that compromised multiparty oversight of voting tables, media manipulation, malfeasance in the calculation and transmission of the vote tabulation sheets, and intimidation and violence, including the criminalization of resistance leaders and targeted attacks and killings.

In addition to the inaccuracies outlined by the LIBRE Party, evidence of fraud in the vote count is mounting. After accessing the TSE database, the electronic activist group Anonymous provided documentation of electoral malfeasance. Allegations of fraud were compounded by concerns previously identified by the Organization of American States about the penetrability and reliability of vote tallying software. Although the TSE remedied some of those vulnerabilities and weaknesses, others remained uncorrected on Election Day. Reports of Fraud, Intimidation and Violence Minimized On Election Day, LIBRE and Salvador Nasralla of the newly formed Anti-Corruption Party claimed electoral foul, identifying discrepancies in the transmission of votes. But it was not just those who stand to benefit who questioned the election's legitimacy. A number of delegations, including the National Lawyers Guild (in which I participated), the Honduran Solidarity Network, the International Federation for Human Rights and a litany of respected dignitaries expressed grave concern about the process and cautioned against the premature endorsement of election results, urging a careful review of vote counting, improper influence and the climate of fear and intimidation in which the elections were held. Leo Gabriel, a member of the European Union Electoral observation mission, claimed serious disagreement existed among delegates about its preliminary statement validating the process, despite irregularities they found troubling. Gabriel claimed certain observers in the European Union mission were concerned about the social and economic repercussions of impugning the integrity of the results, since the European Union is invested in whitewashing the tarnished image of post-coup Honduras.

Despite the concerns, the press accounts subsequent to the election were largely uncritical, reflecting a biased narrative. Reports recounted that most international observers commended the transparency of the process while noting some anomalies, but they gave short shrift to the credible claims of widespread malfeasance. The ruling party launched a media campaign to disparage the presence of certain international observers, presumably to discredit future criticisms, and engaged in intimidation tactics such as confrontations by immigration authorities demanding documentation from certain credentialed observers (not surprisingly, those singled out did not hail from the United States, Canada or the European Union). Yet the Hondurans denouncing the meddling of international observers perceived no irony in their simultaneous welcome of transnational corporations and investments that extract and export not only resources but also profits from the country.

Media bias was evident in the post-election spin, domestically and internationally. Misinformation abounded, such as a Washington Post editorial that erroneously claimed that Zelaya was ousted in response to a referendum intended to allow him to circumvent the one-term limit for presidents. In reality, the vote in question was a non-binding poll about constitutional reform that would have been voted on formally months later, at the same time as Zelaya's successor was elected, making it impossible for him to extend his term as president. The article made no mention of Zelaya's modest land reforms, wage increases and other initiatives that did not inure to the benefit of the ruling elite that many argue contributed to his removal. The editorial also cited the unanimous verdict that claims of fraud were not substantiated, despite the concerns raised by numerous election observers.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Political and Endemic Violence

With the highest murder rate in the world, Honduras is plagued by violence and impunity. Much of the mayhem is attributable to drug and gang violence and the crime that often accompanies desperate poverty, but repression against resistance activists has taken an incalculable toll and sent an unmistakably chilling message. Attacks on journalists make Honduras the most perilous country in Latin America to report in, with journalists critical of the government singled out for persecution, according to Hector Becerra of C-Libre, a journalist's group. The death toll from a bloody land struggle in the Lower Agaun has taken 110 lives, and 18 Libre activists were killed between May 2012 and late October 2013, with four more dead in recent days, including two people assassinated the night before the election just outside of Tegucigalpa and a beloved LIBRE leader gunned down Saturday. Lawyers, human rights defenders, indigenous activists and members of the LGBT community also have been killed.

The drug-trafficking and gang-related violence occurs in an international context, and current US policies contribute to the escalating disorder. Honduras serves as conduit for drugs destined for US consumers - the US State Department estimated that 87 percent of the cocaine from South America transits through Honduras, motivating the United States to invest personnel, equipment, logistical support and millions of dollars and in the militarization of counternarcotics efforts. A joint US-Honduran drug interdiction operation gone awry ended with the death of four civilians and the injury of three others in La Moskitia, causing critics to implore the United States to rethink its "war on drugs," where the US consumption of drugs fuels bloodshed south of its border. Aggressive US deportation efforts fuel gang violence, as do the burgeoning unemployment and poverty that reflect Honduras' position in the global economic order.

In response to the violence, Castro supports community policing. In contrast, Hernandez supports the militarization of policing, and he shepherded through congress the authorization for a military police force of 5,000 - 1,000 of whom already have been deployed in Tegucigalpa and Honduras' second-largest city, San Pedro Sula. Hernandez's law-and-order platform garnered support from some weary of the violence, who welcomed an iron-fist approach to crime. But the move provoked consternation among many sectors that point out the perils of employing soldiers trained in combat for the more delicate role of policing, which entails crime prevention, investigation and assistance with prosecution, a particularly important task in a country where impunity reaches above 90 percent. Yet mistrust for the National Police is pervasive. Compounding concern about corruption within its ranks, a story by The Associated Press in 2013 claimed that the US-funded National Police, under the command of Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla, were engaging in social cleansing against gangs, despite the Leahy Law that prohibits US funding of forces involved with human rights abuses.

International Political and Financial Interests

After the 2009 military coup, the Lobo regime announced that Honduras was "Open for Business," and ushered a package of laws through Congress with little public debate that were designed to generate and guarantee profits for transnational corporations and the economic elite - but not the desperately poor, who make up the majority of the Honduran population. These laws made Honduras friendlier to resource extraction, biofuel production, "eco-tourism" developments and hydroelectric dam projects that are dispossessing campesinos and indigenous peoples and engendering repression against those defending their land, their livelihood and their lives. Legislation creating "model cities" - unregulated free enterprise enclaves that opponents claim abridge a host of protections for workers, the environment and Honduras' sovereignty - initially was found unconstitutional before the illegal removal of four of the Supreme Court judges who invalidated the law. This initiative most certainly will be pushed forward under Hernandez.

While the Lobo administration's adherence to the neoliberal agenda has provided a windfall to the interests of the country's elites and transnational corporations, his tenure has been a disaster for ordinary Hondurans. A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research documented the deterioration of economic conditions for ordinary Hondurans under the Lobo administration's policies. Adding to its distinction as the world's murder capital, Honduras now claims the title of being the most economically unequal country in Latin America and the second-poorest country in the hemisphere. Even a member of one of Honduras' elite ruling families, Adolfo Facusse, lamented the country's deterioration under Lobo's leadership. Castro's opponents cast her as a militantly anti-business socialist bent on imposing Venezuelan-model reforms. But Castro has made it clear that she supports business development, although her economic plan aims to benefit more than just the elite and interests of transnational capital. Observers expect that Hernandez will continue Lobo's neoliberal economic policies and rush through unpopular austerity measures aimed at satisfying the concerns of international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that Honduras is safe for investments. After the United States and Canada prematurely gave their imprimatur to the widely discredited November 2009 election, won by Lobo, even before the polls closed, various organizations and members of the US Congress urged the Obama administration to exercise caution this time. Yet while waiting for an official declaration from the Honduran electoral authority before formally recognizing Hernandez's victory, US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske lauded the transparency, peacefulness and fairness of the process. Other governments, including Colombia, Guatemala and Panama congratulated Hernandez very early in the vote-counting process. The United States has a vested interest in the election's outcome. Honduras has long been strategically important to the United States, including serving as a staging ground for the coup against democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and in support of the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. Waning US influence in the region has heightened the perceived importance of supporting governments friendly to its geopolitical and economic interests that serve as a bulwark against the rising independence of more left-leaning nations.

Anxiety About Election's Aftermath

Palpable foreboding permeates Honduras as many questions remain about the election's aftermath. The social movement that mobilized in response to the 2009 coup was not initially monolithic in its support of forming LIBRE - some favored organizing grass-roots resistance to participating in the electoral process. It is unclear whether the movement will fragment or unify in its support of the next steps, such as whether to focus on forming a viable opposition block in Congress or mounting massive social resistance.

Despite official results that bitterly disappointed many rooting for a more democratic and egalitarian civil society, Castro has not conceded defeat, and some hope can be salvaged from this contested process. The emergence of the LIBRE Party as a political contender helped break the longstanding stranglehold of the conservative National and Liberal parties. With the TSE giving Hernandez just less than 36 percent of the vote, he commands a weak mandate at best. Without a majority of seats in Congress, the National Party will have to cobble together a coalition to govern, presumably with the center-right Liberal Party. Voter participation of over 60 percent was a significant increase from 2009, an indication that the post-coup disillusionment with the electoral process is fading. But Honduras is at grave risk of spiraling into even-more-brutal repression. Peaceful student protests on November 26 were met with a violent crackdown. Exacerbating fears of escalating repression against resistance protagonists is the news from human rights groups and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) that a hit list is circulating, containing the names of prominent human rights defenders, lawyers, union leaders, indigenous rights activists, teachers and opposition party members targeted for death, reminiscent of the 1980s, when death squads were lethally employed to silence dissent. Those reaping the economic and geopolitical benefits of Honduras' status quo will not cede ground easily. In the oft-cited words of Frederick Douglass, "Power concedes nothing without a demand." And so courageous Hondurans fighting for a more just, equitable and democratic society march on, with the winds of history blowing at their backs.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Exposed: Globally Renowned Activist Collaborated With Intelligence Firm Stratfor

Tuesday, 03 December 2013 09:18 By Steve Horn and Carl Gibson, Occupy.com | Report


[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Contra-Cocaine Was a Real Conspiracy

Tuesday, 03 December 2013 09:46 By Robert Parry, Consortium News | News Analysis


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The Courage of Malala: Shot for Advocating Education for Girls

Thursday, 28 November 2013 10:39 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Progressive Picks


Malala Yousafzai, shot and wounded in Pakistan for being an advocate of education for young women when she was 15, has emerged as an international symbol of the challenges that still exist in gender equality in education and opportunities.

Perhaps the value of the full development of women in a non-patriarchal society, of the wisdom that they contribute to resolving the conflicts of the world, can best be exemplified by what Yousafzai recently told President Obama in a private meeting: "I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in a statement following the Oval Office meeting. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK has confronted Obama publicly about drone attacks, but few male politicians or advocates have challenged the president to his face. For a now 16-year-old female Pakistani, nearly martyred for her advocacy, to warn the president of the United States that his drone assassinations were counterproductive - and that it would be a better outcome to educate instead of killing Pakistanis - is proof in itself of the value of ensuring that young women in all parts of the world have full access to explore their intellectual capabilities.

I Am Malala, the full story of Malala Yousafzai's heroic commitment to education for girls (written with Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times), can be obtained directly from Truthout for a contribution of $35.

Malala Yousafzai dedicates her book "to all the girls who have faced injustice and been silenced. Together, we shall be heard." Yousafzai, with the full support of her school principal father, decided she would not quietly be prohibited from attending school, which was becoming an increasing likelihood as the Taliban has been making encroachments into the Swat valley of Pakistan, where her family was living.

In a Washington Post review of I Am Malala, author Maria Arana states the importance of Yousafzi's cause:

Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls. Capture them in that fleeting window between the ages of 10 and 14, give them an education, and watch a community change: Per capita income goes up, infant mortality goes down, the rate of economic growth increases, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection falls. Child marriage becomes less common, as does child labor. Educated mothers tend to educate their children. They tend to be more frugal with family money. Last year, the World Bank reckoned that Kenya's illiterate girls, if educated, could boost that country's economy by $27 billion in the course of a lifetime.Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource.

That possibility is obviously a threat to many men who have been at the top of the patriarchal pyramid for centuries. Eventually, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai point blank in the face for her outspokenness (including a blog for the BBC Urdu service - although written anonymously, it was possibly known by many in her area that she was the author).

She survived. And through reconstructive surgery in Birmingham, England, her face was restored. Significantly, her profound insatiable love of knowledge remained fully intact because the bullet didn't impact the parts of the brain affecting cognitive ability.

Much has been made of her being the youngest person nominated for the Noble Prize (although she did not receive it this year), of her speaking to the UN and receiving other honors. (She even left Jon Stewart speechless with her invocation of enlightened pacifism in the face of possible death.)

Some argue that the United States could end up using her as a "celebrity" propaganda tool to continue the war in Afghanistan and the northwest region of Pakistan. But Yousafzai is no supporter of violence - and, as noted earlier, tactfully lectured Obama on the subject. What she denounces - directly and fearlessly - is the ongoing attempt at the suppression of millions and millions of girls in the world to confine them to servile, ignorant roles.

As Yousafzai exhorted at the UN: "Let us pick up our books and our pens," I said. "They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." Later she writes in I Am Malala:

Today we all know education is our basic right. Not just in the West; Islam too has given us that right. Islam says every girl and every boy should go to school. In the Quran it is written. God wants us to have knowledge. He wants us to know why the sky is blue and about oceans and stars.

It is a big challenge that lies before her.

Because the problem is self-perpetuating.

"We have almost 50 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women, like my own mother," Yousafzai revealed.

I Am Malala fills the gap between mother and daughter with a fully told story of a love of learning and bravery. Political powers may try to use her as a pawn for one strategic purpose or another, but she is nobody's fool. She is a proud young woman, Pashtun, follower of Islam, Pakistani and champion for the power of schooling that nurtures and enlightens.

She ends the book affirming her independence: "I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Let the Sun Shine in

Friday, 20 December 2013 11:38 By Isaiah J Poole, OtherWords | Op-Ed


Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

What’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?

Yes, according to ALEC, an organization that specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws, people like me who invest in energy-efficiency and shrinking our carbon footprints ought to be penalized.

Why does ALEC want us punished? Since it’s bankrolled by, among others, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, it’s hard not to surmise that they’re worried about a threat to fossil fuels businesses. Koch Industries’ operations include refineries, oil and natural gas pipelines, and petrochemicals

That’s no conspiracy theory. Recently the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about the assault on solar panels as part of a broader exposé on ALEC.

John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture program, confirmed to The Guardian that the organization would support making solar panel users pay extra for the electricity they generate. That’s already about to happen in Arizona, where homeowners who use solar panels will pay an average of about $5 extra a month for the privilege, starting in January.

The solar power industry called the new rule a victory only because power companies in the state were demanding assessments of as much as $100 a month — more than high enough to deter families from considering switching to solar.

Making solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses is part of a larger ALEC objective, affirmed at its recent annual meeting, to continue its effort to eliminate state renewable energy mandates.

According to meeting minutes, ALEC has already succeeded in getting legislation introduced in 15 states to “reform, freeze, or repeal their state’s renewable mandate.” ALEC lobbyists are pushing policies through states that will speed up climate change and increase pollution. They’re threatening the renewable energy industry, which is already creating new jobs and saving money for homeowners and businesses.

Without the current policy paralysis in Washington and a lack of bold, creative thinking about how to build a new, green economy at the national level, they wouldn’t be making so much headway.

My organization, Institute for America’s Future — together with the Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance — recently published a report that shows what’s at stake with ALEC’s destructive agenda.

Our “green industrial revolution” report recommends tying together a series of regional solutions that take advantage of the unique assets of each part of the country, such as the abundance of sun in the West and the wind off the Atlantic coast, into a cohesive whole. These regional strategies would be supported by smart federal policies, such as establishing a price for carbon emissions and a national clean energy standard, creating certainty and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and providing strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.

This is the way to unleash the kind of innovation and job creation our economy — and our rapidly warming planet — desperately needs. My solar panels are the envy of my block and I wish more of my neighbors will be able to make the same choice I did. But they won’t if fossil-fuel dinosaurs like the Koch brothers and right-wing organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council keep casting their dark clouds on efforts to build a clean energy future. It’s time for them to step aside and let the sun shine in.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Making Trouble - and Alternatives - in Asia

Friday, 06 December 2013 10:33 By Dr Joseph Gerson, Truthout | Opinion


The Obama administration's provocative decision to send a veiled nuclear threat to China in late November with B-52 flights over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands grew out of a complicated set of issues with deep historic roots. Not the least of them is the Obama administration's campaign to preserve the United States' Asia-Pacific hegemony in the era of US decline and China's rise.

There are few good guys in this dangerous game - which brings to mind my first international relations professor's maxim that the study of international relations is analogous to studying the rules of the game among mafia families. (Such was the world view taught at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service when Bill Clinton and I were students there.)

The crisis didn't begin last week. It was initiated a year and a half ago with a very calculated right-wing Japanese semi-coup, reminiscent of those that brought militarists to power there in the early 1930s. In the spring of 2012, Shintaro Ishihara, then Tokyo's extreme right-wing governor, set the coup in motion by moving to purchase the uninhabited Senkaku/Diayou islands, which had been administered by Japan since the US military occupation of Okinawa came to an end, from their private owner. This he understood would lead Beijing to over-react, and that, in turn, would reinforce right-wing and militarist political forces in Japan's coming national election. As Ishihara anticipated, then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda moved to contain the emerging crisis with China by purchasing the rocks on behalf of the Japanese government. China wasn't amused. It predictably challenged the changed status quo (a 30-year-old agreement to shelve the dispute until the future) with changes of its own by proclaiming what it termed its historic rights to the islands. Beijing then reinforced those claims by sending warships and later jet fighters into the disputed zone. Taiwan also reasserted its claims by sending hundreds of fishing boats into the disputed waters. The Noda government responded by increasing its military presence in the region. And following his subsequent election victory, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated his willingness to go to war to preserve Japanese control of the islands.

To reinforce their rival claims, Japan and China have dispatched jet fighters to fly over the islands. When Beijing announced its plans to send drones over the isles, Abe warned that he would shoot them down. China responded that such an attack would constitute an act of war. And on November 25, it escalated the crisis by declaring its aerial defense identification zone over the islands.

To understand why the Obama administration has responded as it did to the recent Chinese expansion of its "aerial defense zone," recall that just before Hillary Clinton announced the US military, economic and diplomatic "Pivot" from the Middle East and Central Asia to Asia and the Pacific, Joseph Nye (long a leading figure in the formulation of the United States' Asia-Pacific policies) wrote "Asia will return to its historic status, with more than half of the world's population and half of the world's economic output. America must be present there. Markets and economic power rest on political frameworks and American military power provides that framework." Challenged by US-Chinese competitive interdependence, the Obama administration's China policy, like that of its predecessors, is simultaneous containment and engagement.

So, in the context of US commitments to reinforce its Asia-Pacific hegemony (a project launched with the1898 Spanish-American War and the resulting conquests of the Philippines and Guam, along with the annexation of Hawaii), the Obama administration is not only driving an arms race with China and sparking one across the Asia-Pacific region, it is expanding its network of hundreds of foreign military bases to more fully encircle China and negotiating the strategic TPP free-trade agreement designed to marginalize and gain leverage over China.

Central to this strategy is reinforcing Japan - the "keystone" of US regional hegemony - by encouraging the Abe government's increasingly militarized and confrontational policies. Contrary to its "Peace Constitution," Japan is already the world's sixth-greatest military spender. And even with its economy stalled, Abe is pressing for increased military spending. A new National Security Council has been created, soon to be augmented by a new state secrets law feared by the press and by those monitoring Fukushima fallout and crtiticized by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. And most troubling to the neighbors of a nation that has yet to fully acknowledge its wartime aggressions, Abe has made the personnel changes needed to fulfill his commitment to revise the official interpretation of the "Peace Constitution." When implemented this spring, almost all limits on Japan's war-renouncing basic law will be removed.

The Obama administration has responded to the tit-for-tat escalation of tensions between Tokyo and Beijing in the context of China's rise and the consequent implicit threats to US regional hegemony. In October 2012 and again in November 2013, even as it claims neutrality in terms of China's and Japan's competing territorial claims, the United States warned that if it comes to war, Washington will be bound by the secretly imposed US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty to fight on Japan's side.

Why? Because, in the tradition of falling dominoes, it believes that the regionwide alliance system that has been the foundation of the United States' Asia-Pacific hegemony since 1945 would unravel quickly if it failed to fulfill its treaty commitments to Japan. The expectation is that with US backing less assured, ASEAN nations and South Korea, which are increasingly dependent economically on China, would more willingly kowtow to Beijing. Hence the November 26 veiled nuclear threat warning China to back off now that it has taken Japan down a peg or three and planted a marker for the future. China, of course, is no innocent. In what may have been a serious miscalculation, when it declared its expanded aerial defense identification zone, the claim was not limited to the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu rocks. It included 1,160 square miles of ocean and reefs claimed by South Korea, including a rock known to Koreans as Leodo. This is not winning China friends in Korea, which again is finding itself caught between its traditional enemies Japan and China. There is also the related matter of Beijing's much contested claim to 80 percent of the mineral-rich and strategically vital South China Sea, which has led to militarized tensions with Vietnam and the Philippines. China's unanticipated and aggressive claims provided the opening for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to up the ante by declaring the region's sea lanes to be of "vital interest" to the United States. Beijing has, indeed, massively increased spending to build a blue water navy, is beginning to compete with the United States in high-tech weaponry and cyber warfare capabilities, and is "modernizing" its nuclear arsenal (about the size of France's and Israel's) with its commitments to its no-first-strike doctrine increasingly questioned. China also is pursuing its alternative to Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement in negotiations designed to accelerate the integrations of ASEAN nations into China's sphere – not entirely unrelated to its tradition of tributary empire.

As I write, Vice President Joe Biden is completing his unexpectedly challenging embassy to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul. The original plan was to focus on TPP negotiations with Japan, to press Japan to deepen its military cooperation with Japan despite their profound "historical differences." Instead, fearing that miscalculations in Tokyo or Beijing could trigger a calamatous war, much as they did a century ago, resulting in the first world war, Biden focused on managing, if not resolving, the crisis. Of course, with Washington's nuclear fist in its velvet glove, he made no public reference to the signal sent with the B-52s as he pressed Japanese and Chinese leaders to create "crisis managment mechanisms." And, in his effort to manufacture consent in Japan and the United States, he falsely claimed that it was China that "unilaterally chang[ed] the status quo in the East China Sea" with the aerial defense identification zone. There was no mention of the ways that Ishihara and Noda precipitated the crisis with their unilateral changes of the status quo. Some have suggested that one way out of this dangerous morass would be for Japan and China to turn to the International Court of Justice, but neither nation is inclined to do so. Japan fears losing control of the strategically important contested Senkaku/Diaoyu rocks, and China isn't inclined to seek arbitration with Japan when, at the same time, it is refusing the Philippines' initiative to arrange arbitration over contested Spratly Island rocks, which Beijing has occupied militarily and which are considerably closer to the Philippines than to China.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

In these contexts, we need to stress alternatives to increasingly dangerous Asia-Pacific military tensions. This will be the subject of local and national forums being initiated by the Working Group for Peace & Demilitarization in Asia & the Pacific. Among the alternatives that immediately occur are:

  • The US must pivot diplomatically, not militarily. Campaigning to reinforce US hegemony in Asia and the Pacific will be no more successful than it has been in the Middle East, with potentially much more disastrous consequences than Bush's invasion of Iraq and Obama's drone war from Libya and Yemen to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  • It is past time to pursue common/human security diplomacy - what the American Friends Service Committee terms "Shared Security" - to resolve the increasingly dangerous Asia-Pacific tensions, possibly via the Six Party Talks initially established to resolve the Korean crisis. That's how the Cold War came to a close before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

  • Plans for massive increases in US military spending to reinforce the pivot with an expanded Navy must be challenged. Congressional hearings scheduled for early next year, designed to inflate the threat posed by China, provide a focal point for such a challenge. With schools being closed and needy families losing Section 8 housing across the country, the last thing we should be doing is building new aircraft carriers and $1.5 trillion F-35s.

  • Instead of making veiled nuclear threats, the United States should be stanching pressures for nuclear weapons proliferation by fulfilling its Article VI commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: the obligation to engage in good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

  • Finally, we urgently need to act in solidarity with Japanese peace and democracy activists as they challenge Abe's campaign to restore many of Japan's pre-war systems, prioritizing militarism over diplomacy in its relations with China, subverting the Peace Constitution and increasing military spending, while simultaneously refusing to fully acknowledge that Japan's Fifteen-Year War (1931-45) and wartime sexual slavery were criminal acts of aggression.

Copyright, Truthout.