May 28, 2010, Issue #159
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
There are few current news developments more geopolitically important than the intervention of Brazil and Turkey as honest brokers in the U.S.-Iran crisis. The Obama Administration seeks to torpedo these efforts because it is committed to imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. Below you will find two important articles on this situation — "Iran: Obama's Other Oil Spill," and "Iran: A New World Order is Needed." We recommend them.
Also below is a three-part series titled "Terrorism: Cause and Effect," which posits that the U.S. is aiming at the wrong target if it wants to end terrorism, and makes suggestions about how to locate the real target — which is closer to home than most people think, much closer.
Our two-part article on "Obama's Military Intentions" in the last issue of the Activist Newsletter (May 3), was reprinted on over 50 websites and innumerable listserves under its international title "Obama's Military Machine." Among them were Asia Times, AlterNet, Antiwar.com, Counter-Currents, and Dissident View. This is the largest audience for one of our articles this year.
1. OBAMA EXPANDS COVERT MILITARY OPERATIONS — The Pentagon is expanding its secret war activities in the Middle East and eastern Africa — including special operations missions into Iran for subversion and possible war preparations.
2. SEIZE BRITISH PETROLEUM! — The ANSWER Coalition has launched a nationwide campaign to seize BP's assets.
3. WHO SUPPORTS THE WAR? — Do the American people, and particularly members of the Democratic Party, support the Afghan war? Here are the facts.
4. OPINION POLL: CAPITALISM VS. SOCIALISM — A surprising number of Americans — not a majority but a fairly impressive minority — evidently think well of socialism and are critical of capitalism, according to a new opinion poll.
5. PEACE PROTEST AT WEST POINT — As President Obama presided over graduation ceremonies at West Point May 22, demonstrators rallied at the south gate to the Military Academy calling for an end to the wars
6. U.S. MILITARY POWER AND WORLD PEACE — Despite the incredible power of the U.S. Armed Forces, the White House is enlarging its global military reach, mainly to retain geopolitical superiority, says a speaker at West Point rally.
7. WORKERS, UNIONS AND THE WARS — "War and peace are core concerns of workers, and unions are a political force that can amplify workers' voices in opposition to war and occupation," says local union delegate.
8. WHY AREN'T THEY HOLDING SIGNS? — "We will resist this imperialism because we love our country, and because we value our humanity above our comfort," says local peace organizer at West Point rally.
9. TERRORISM: CAUSE AND EFFECT — Part 1, The U.S. focuses on the wrong target.
10.TERRORISM: CAUSE AND EFFECT — Part 2, Washington's major decisions provoking jihad.
11.TERRORISM: CAUSE AND EFFECT — Part 3, How to end the threat of terrorism.
12.IRAN: OBAMA'S OTHER OIL SPILL — President Obama has been moving mountains to undermine the Iranian nuclear fuel swap deal mediated by Brazil and Turkey.
13. IRAN: A NEW WORLD ORDER IS NEEDED — The efforts of Brazil and Turkey to find a negotiated solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program must be seen in the context of a growing challenge to the international political order lead by the U.S.
14. BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS — Desmond Tutu, South Africa's Anglican Archbishop Emeritus, calls for total nuclear disarmament.
15. WHITE-BLACK WEALTH GAP WIDENS —The wealth gap between white and black Americans quadrupled between 1984 and 2007.
16. THE WORLD'S CLEANEST COUNTRIES — The U.S. comes in at number 63, Germany at 17, the UK at 14 — but guess who is number 9.
17. BOYCOTTING THE BOYCOTTER — The Palestinian-initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has been sharply criticized in Israel from the far right to the center right, but it does have liberal and left supporters among the Israeli people, writes Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy.
18. THE GENERALS COME CLEAN — Armed Forces Day (May 15) and Memorial Day (May 31) are an appropriate occasion to reflect on past wars, and to recall that a number of leading U.S. military commanders have done some reflecting of their own, occasionally with startling results.
19. THE REAL ENEMY — Lest the generals (above) have the last word, even though their words are laudable, we conclude this reflection on past wars with the antiwar poem "From a German War Primer?" (1937) by Bertolt Brecht.
20. NEWS BRIEFS — Cops Target Minorities in NYC; and Battlefield Executions in Afghanistan.
21. SAVING MOTHER EARTH — Bolivian President Evo Morales explains the importance of the recent environmental conference in his country that drew 35,000 participants. Concerned readers dissatisfied with the nebulous results of the December Copenhagen UN meeting on climate change will learn much from this article, especially where Morales discusses the differences between the positions of the developed and the developing nations.
1. OBAMA EXPANDS COVERT MILITARY OPERATIONS
Compiled May 26 from Agence France Presse,
London Times, and Dreyfuss Report
The U.S. military has ordered an expansion of covert military operations in the Middle East and east Africa to disrupt Al-Qaeda and other militant networks, officials have said.
Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command, issued the order Sept. 30 to bolster intelligence gathering against Islamist extremists and lay the ground for possible attacks by U.S. forces, officials said. The order was first reported by the New York Times May 25 and officials told AFP the account was accurate.
The move was designed to "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" Al-Qaeda and other groups in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, the order states, according to the Times. The operations were supposed to "prepare the environment" for potential U.S. attacks in the future, but a specific country is not singled out in the document for a possible strike.
The order also allows for reconnaissance before possible military action in Iran, amid mounting tensions over Tehran's nuclear program. Pentagon officials sought to play down the significance of the order, saying it did not represent a dramatic break with past practice.
While the directive echoes moves by the administration of former president George W. Bush to expand military operations beyond war zones, it is designed to outline a more long-term, structured approach, officials said.
In a related development, the London Times reported the following May 26:
Teams of American special forces have been authorized to conduct spying missions intended to pave the way for a military strike on Iran in case President Obama orders one, U.S. government sources have confirmed.
The military units would penetrate Iranian territory to reconnoiter potential nuclear targets and make contact with friendly dissident groups, according to a secret directive written by Gen Petraeus. The document’s existence was disclosed for the first time yesterday.
It authorizes an expansion in the use of U.S. special forces throughout the Middle East, U.S. officials said. However, it is the possibility of American troops operating covertly inside Iran that has the greatest potential to destabilize regional security....
News analyst Robert Dreyfuss, in the May 25 Dreyfuss Report, commented that the secret military directive “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran," continuing:
If President Obama knew about this, authorized it and still supports it, then Obama has crossed a red line, and the president will stand revealed as an aggressive, militaristic liberal interventionist who bears a closer resemblance to the president he succeeded than to the ephemeral reformer that he pretended to be in 2008, when he ran for office. If he didn’t know, if he didn’t understand the order, and if he’s unwilling to cancel it now that it’s been publicized, then Obama is a feckless incompetent....
If Congress has any guts at all, it will convene immediate investigative hearings into a power grab by Petraeus, a politically ambitious general, and the Pentagon’s arrogant Special Operations team, led by Admiral Eric T. Olson, who collaborated with Petraeus. And Congress needs to ask the White House, What did you know, and when did you know it?"
2. SEIZE BRITISH PETROLEUM!
By the Activist Newsletter
The ANSWER Coalition has launched a nationwide campaign to seize the assets of British Petroleum because the giant oil corporation intends to "pay only a fraction of what they owe to those they negatively impacted by the oil spill" in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the last three weeks it has organized "Seize BP" demonstrations in many cities. ANSWER called a National Day of Action to Seize BP on May 12 and protests took place at BP offices, gas stations and other places in over 20 locations.
Among the cities and towns where protests have taken place are Washington; Los Angles; San Francisco; Chicago; New York; Hammond, La.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Tallahassee, Fla.; Albuquerque, N.M.; New Haven, Conn.; and New Falls, S.D.
A demonstration is set for Louisiana, so far the hardest hit of the Gulf states, on Sunday, May 30. It will be held in the French Quarter in New Orleans 1-7:30 p.m.
The Seize BP campaign is asking readers of this newsletter to sign a petition calling for the takeover of BP's assets to compensate working people, small businesses, and coastal towns and wetlands harmed by the spill, then pass on the request to friends. Here is the petition web link, which contains not only the petition but lots more information, including a thorough explanation of the political, humanitarian and legal reasons involved in a seizure of assets: http://www.SeizeBP.org.
According to Sarah Sloan, spokesperson for Seize BP: "The momentum of the Seize BP campaign is growing each day. As company executives hedge at Congressional hearings, saying they’ll pay only 'legitimate' damage claims for the oil disaster they caused, people across the United States are coming out in protest....
"Aside from tough talk, the White House and Congress have done absolutely nothing to curb the power of Big Oil. Instead, government officials have been taking their cues from BP, allowing the very company behind the disaster to dictate what happens next. Their profits first, our lives second. The U.S. government is equally to blame."
ANSWER called a National Day of Action to Seize BP for May 12 and protests took place at BP offices, gas stations and other places in over 20 cities and towns.
According to Los Angeles Seize BP organizer Ian Thompson, about 75 people took part in a picket line that shut down the BP "Green Curve" gas station for two hours on the Day of Action. “Green Curve” stations are heavily promoted by BP as a “green” alternative for consumers. Thompson told the demonstrators and press that "We’re calling for a government seizure of BP’s assets to pay for all the environmental damage, personal losses and untold consequences of their oil spill. To have a company that is responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters ever claim to be able to teach anybody how to live green is utter hypocrisy.”
In New York City, according to ANSWER, demonstrators gathered outside of JP Morgan Chase's World Headquarters, which controls 30% of BP's public stock. Activists handed out leaflets and solicited petition signatures from passers-by.
3. WHO SUPPORTS THE WAR?
By the Activist Newsletter
Do the American people, and particularly members of the Democratic Party, support the Afghan war?
President Barack Obama seems to think so. Speaking May 22 to the graduation class at West Point Military Academy — while noting that many of the new officers would soon end up in Afghanistan — Obama declared: "I assure you, you will go with the full support of a proud and grateful nation."
On March 28, speaking to U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield during his emergency trip to Kabul to pressure Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama stated: "We have seen a huge increase in support stateside, because people understand the kinds of sacrifices that you guys are making."
Actually, it's an extreme exaggeration to suggest that the nearly nine-year-old Afghan war has anything near the "full support" of the people or that there has been a "huge increase in support."
The reality is quite different. It is true, of course, that many Democratic members of Congress who opposed President George W. Bush's wars — remember the "peace candidates"? — are silent now that their own party is in power. And it is true that the peace movement is considerably weaker these days now that its base — the Democratic voters — largely withdrew from peace activism when Obama was elected.
But an extremely important May 9 ABC News poll, tells a somewhat different story:
"At 52%, criticism of the war has grown by 8 points since December, when its support rebounded in a positive response to President Obama’s announced surge-then-withdraw plan. Views of the war are back almost exactly to where they were before the president’s Dec. 1 address....
"Obama’s own handling of the war is one of his best individual issues, with 56% approval, his highest on the issue since August. That’s because his approach on Afghanistan gets an unusual level of approval from Republicans, 42%. Compare that to his approval among Republicans more generally, for handling his job overall – just 12%. Republicans, similarly, are far more apt to say the war’s been worth fighting – 69% express that view, compared with 41% of independents and 32% Democrats.
"Democrats, for their part, appear cross-pressured by their disapproval of the war on one hand and their inclination to support Obama on the other. Just 34% give him 'strong' approval for handling Afghanistan, far below his strong approval among Democrats for his job performance overall, 59%.
"There are other differences among groups. Young adults are most critical of the war; 60% say it has not been worth fighting. That view also peaks among non-whites (65%, 17 points higher than among whites), and, at 66%, among people who voted for Obama in 2008 — marking the potential hazard the war poses for the president in his political base."
We have heard criticisms lately that the peace movement has "failed," or simply that it "has not accomplished anything" of value. But such charges are wrong for two main reasons:
(1) Opposition to the Afghan war is part of a protracted struggle against Washington's systemic warmaking, and it is far from over. Any popular struggle that requires great patience, persistence and a measure of sacrifice assures there will be advances and retreats. After all, we are, with our quite limited material resources, going up against a quasi-democratic but powerful militarist state backed by an all-pervasive pro-war corporate mass media.
We have made some advances. President Bush was forced to set a date, in the last days of his administration, for withdrawal from Iraq. But the wars continue, as does the antiwar struggle. The peace movement has not failed because the outcome has yet to be determined.
(2) One of the movement's great successes is this: It is primarily responsible for convincing a large sector of the American people, particularly Democratic voters, to question and oppose the unjust, illegal Iraq and Afghan wars. It has raised the moral and political consciousness of multitudes. It has, starting soon after 9/11, provoked a continual nationwide debate in America about the utility of aggressive wars in a so-called "War on Terrorism." Were it not for the mass demonstrations, public peace meetings, vigils, teach-ins and the widespread dissemination of antiwar information, the ongoing debate would have been completely muffled or even nonexistent. That debate continues, as is quite obvious from the opinion polls.
The main problem confronting the peace movement today is this: Despite the fact that approximately 68% of Democratic voters believe the Afghan war is not worth fighting, and only 34% "strongly approve" of Obama's handling of the Afghan war, the majority of Democrats that were active in the peace movement have dropped out because of greater loyalty to party than principle. That's the failure — the refusal of many Democratic voters who actively opposed Bush's wars to take a public stand against Obama's continuation and expansion of those same wars.
Why did President Obama feel confident enough to tell the troops at Bagram, "the entire country stands behind you," despite the public opinion polls showing major opposition to the wars? Because the White House is well aware that many peace Democrats might honestly tell poll takers that the war is not worth fighting, but would rather for partisan reasons, march with the pro-war Republicans to back the wars than march on Main Street or Pennsylvania Avenue against Obama's wars. Polls can easily be disregarded by the White House when the masses of people take no action to back up their beliefs.
Our numbers may be smaller, and our voices not as loud, but the American movement against aggressive and imperialist wars, whether such affronts to humanity are managed by Republican or Democratic politicians, will never give up — and from time to time, we will win.
4. OPINION POLL: CAPITALISM VS. SOCIALISM
By the Activist Newsletter
A surprising number of Americans — not a majority but a fairly impressive minority — evidently think well of socialism and are critical of capitalism, according to a new opinion poll.
This is unexpected in a society where the government, mass media, educational system and religious institutions all disparage the very notion of socialism. Indeed, Republicans absurdists use it as a red-baiting epithet against the Obama Administration.
The findings are the result of national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that tested reactions to words and phrases frequently used in current political discourse. The survey, conducted April 21-26 among 1,546 adults, was made public May 4. Following are direct quotes extracted from the Pew report relative to the terms capitalism and socialism:
Overall, 29% say they have a positive reaction to the word "socialism," while 59% react negatively. The public's impressions of "capitalism," though far more positive, are somewhat mixed. Slightly more than half (52%) react positively to the word "capitalism," compared with 37% who say they have a negative reaction.
Just 15% of Republicans react positively to "socialism" while 77% react negatively. By more than two-to-one (64% to 26%), independents also have a negative impression of "socialism." However, Democrats are evenly divided — 44% have a positive reaction to "socialism" while 43% react negatively.
"Capitalism" elicits a less partisan reaction. About six-in-ten Republicans (62%) react positively to "capitalism," compared with 29% who have a negative reaction. About half of independents (52%) have a positive impression while 39% react negatively. Among Democrats, 47% react positively to "capitalism" while nearly as many (43%) react negatively.
Young people are more positive about "socialism" — and more negative about "capitalism" — than are older Americans. Among those younger than age 30, identical percentages react positively to "socialism" and "capitalism" (43% each), while about half react negatively to each. Among older age groups, majorities view "socialism" negatively and "capitalism" positively.
People ages 65 and older have a particularly negative reaction to "socialism" — 73% have a negative impression of the term compared with just 14% who are positive. But those 65 and older are no more likely than those ages 30 to 64 to have a positive reaction to "capitalism" (56% vs. 55%).
More than twice as many blacks as whites react positively to "socialism" (53% vs. 24%). Yet there are no racial differences in views of "capitalism" — 50% of African Americans and 53% of whites have a positive reaction.
Those with a high school education or less are evenly divided over "capitalism" (44% positive vs. 42% negative). Among those with some college experience, 49% react positively to "capitalism" as do 68% of college graduates. Those with a high school education or less are more likely to express a positive view of "socialism" than do those with more education.
People with family incomes of $75,000 or more are the only income group in which a clear majority (66%) reacts positively to the word "capitalism." Views of "socialism" also are much more negative among those in this income category (71% negative) and among those with incomes of $30,000 to $75,000 (64% negative) than among those with incomes of less than $30,000 (46% negative).
Conservative Republicans stand out for their overwhelmingly negative reactions to "socialism" (84% negative) and highly positive reactions to "capitalism" (67% positive). No more than about half in other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans (51%), have a positive impression of "capitalism."
— Full document with graphs: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1583/political-rhetoric-capitalism-socialism-militia-family-values-states-rights.
5. PEACE PROTEST AT WEST POINT
By the Activist Newsletter
As President Barack Obama presided over graduation ceremonies at West Point May 22, over 125 peace demonstrators stood at the Highland Falls south gate to the Military Academy calling for an end to the wars launched by former President George W. Bush beginning nearly nine years ago.
Since taking office, Obama has more than doubled the number of U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan and has spread Bush's wars to Pakistan and Yemen. For a number of demonstrators, their initial disappointment and unease has turned in this last year into anger and frustration at the war policies of the Democratic White House and Congress.
More than one speaker at the 10 a.m. rally at Memorial Park noted there has been a seamless transition from Bush's aggressive wars to Obama's. The speeches were difficult to hear because police banned use of loudspeakers and electronic megaphones. (Reprinted below are the texts of the three written speeches.)
The Highland Falls police also allowed members of the pro-war right wing "Gathering of Eagles" to demonstrate simultaneously in the same small park, each rightist holding various flags and signs — including a large banner reading "Left wingers want to demoralize the troops!" As the rally was assembling some of the "Eagles" began chanting with Tea Party-like illogic that war opponents were "racists" because "war freed the slaves, and war saved the Jews." There were no untoward confrontations, and the rally itself wasn't disrupted because the pro-war side didn't have loudspeakers, either.
After the rally the demonstrators marched less than a mile to the south "Thayer" gates to the academy, where there was another brief rally and a march through town back to the park.
The peace demonstration was initiated by the Orange County Democratic Alliance (OCDA). Local groups endorsing the demonstration included Dutchess Greens, Dutchess Peace Coalition, Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Hudson Valley BDS, Middle East Crisis Response, No War Westchester, OCDA, Orange County Peace and Justice, Peace and Social Progress Now, the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, WESPAC, and the Woodstock Chapter of Veterans For Peace. National endorsers included the ANSWER Coalition, CodePink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and World Can't Wait.
People attended the rally from several counties, mostly from the Lower-Hudson Valley, but a fairly large number participated from the Mid-Hudson region, especially Ulster County. The crowd was smaller than it should have been, given that Obama was present at the graduation, but this was something the peace movement has become accustomed to ever since Obama replaced Bush in the White House. Local press coverage wasn't bad.
It was important that the demonstration took place. It would have been a shame for the peace movement to have ignored the presence of a Commander-in-Chief speaking at a Military Academy graduation as a prelude to sending these young officers to the Bush-Obama wars of choice.
6. U.S. MILITARY POWER AND WORLD PEACE
[Following is the text of a talk by Activist Newsletter editor Jack A. Smith at the May 22 peace rally near West Point.]
In this brief talk I'll discuss the geopolitics of American military power and world peace.
The U.S. is the most powerful military state in history. America invests over a trillion dollars a year on "defense," when the Pentagon budget is combined with the national security spending by other government departments.
We are told such expenses are necessary to protect America from the threat of attack. However, only one entity wants to attack our country — al-Qaeda, an organization of perhaps 1,000 reliable combatants around the world, equipped with small arms and improvised explosives.
Yet, despite the incredible power of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Obama Administration has just decided to enlarge America's military strength. This has nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
The Pentagon has long been equipped with weapons and troops to fight two major wars simultaneously. Now, according to the Obama Administration's recent Quadrennial Military Review, it's preparing to engage in two big wars plus a variety of smaller wars at the same time.
As Bush-Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it: "The U.S. needs a broad portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of conflicts." He went further: "Success in wars to come will depend on success in these wars in progress."
That's why President Obama doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan and has taken the war to Pakistan and to a lesser degree to Yemen — to win today's wars to succeed in wars to come. What wars are to come? They are not identified. All the military review states is that victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is "only the first step toward achieving our strategic objectives."
Those objectives, in our view, devolve to maintaining what the Bush Administration termed "full spectrum military dominance" — the ability to militarily control the entire world in order to maintain Washington's position as the ruling global power.
But America's economic and political power has been eroding. Washington's the world's biggest debtor. Our manufacturing base has been allowed to atrophy. Deregulation facilitated the greed of capitalist Wall St. and the big banks that led to today's recession. Our educational system is in deep trouble.
U.S. domination is being challenged in many parts of the world. That's the geopolitical significance of the left trend in Latin America. Countries like India, Brazil and Russia are rising. And China's economy will overtake that of the U.S. in decades.
Washington is still top dog, but the days of U.S. unipolar world leadership are gradually giving way to multipolar leadership by several countries and blocs such as the European Union. Hopefully, a more democratic world order may be coalescing.
This is where full scale military dominance comes in. If the U.S. is no longer able to project dominant economic and political hegemony, it plans to utilize its military power to maintain the role as supreme world leader.
This is a dangerous policy. It could lead to a devastating World War III. Combined with uncontrolled global warming, plus the inability of capitalism to significantly reduce world poverty, we appear to be heading toward a catastrophe.
Whether or not catastrophe will be avoided mainly depends on our own country. U.S. militarism and its imperialist policy of world rule must end!
If Washington takes the lead in advocating complete nuclear disarmament, the world will follow. If it calls for vast reductions in all war spending, the world will follow. And if those trillions of dollars are invested in halting climate change and ending global poverty, the world will avoid catastrophe.
The American people can bring about this change. But the people lack the power. To acquire that power means transcending conventional U.S. politics, where power these days alternates between the right/far right Republicans and the center/center right Democrats — the frozen-in-time political champions of the status quo.
Two essential tasks come to mind: First, we have to rebuild the U.S peace movement to end the Bush-Obama wars. Second, we must work toward building a mass political left in our country — the only force capable of bringing about world peace, a stable and healthy environment, and an end to world poverty.
7. WORKERS, UNIONS AND THE WARS
[Following is the text of a talk by unionist Donna Goodman at the May 22 peace rally near West Point.]
While others will focus on the immorality and illegality of Washington's wars, I will talk about the wars as a workers' issue and a union issue.
Earlier this month, when the public sector unions filed suit against New York Gov. David Paterson's plan to force state workers to accept a one-day weekly furlough — that's a 20% pay cut — the governor criticized the workers for not being willing to make a sacrifice to close the $9 billion state budget deficit.
This was a typical example of official solutions to the state budget crisis being presented in the narrowest of terms: cut education or cut Medicaid? Cut these workers or those workers? Cut the arts or parks or transportation? Which benefits can be saved at the expense of which other benefits?
But it's not workers' salaries and benefits that are causing the deficits here and in states throughout America, where total budget shortfalls amount to $200 billion nationwide.
The recession is a major factor, resulting in a record decline in state tax receipts. Federal stimulus money is providing some relief to states, but this assistance will end before state budget gaps have closed. The recession, however, is only part of the problem. The other part, which doesn't depend on the business cycle, is Washington's astronomical military spending, which increases year after year.
The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are costing the U.S. about $200 billion this year when all costs are counted — enough to eliminate the budget cutbacks and the pain they cause in all 50 states. Total spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001, when the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, is well over $1 trillion.
The nation's total annual defense spending, starting with the huge Pentagon budget and adding veterans' benefits, homeland security, interest on past military debts, nuclear weapons, the cost of America's 16 intelligence agencies, and war-related spending absorbed by other government departments, amounts to $1.4 trillion. That's 48% of the federal funds — the part of the federal budget that comes from our income taxes.
It's important for workers and union members to make the connection between the military budget and the devastating loss of civilian jobs at home, the cuts to education, and the erosion of our democratic rights.
My union, United University Professions (UUP/AFT/AFL-CIO) at the State University of New York, is making that connection. The union is a charter member of U.S. Labor Against the War, a national network of unions, labor councils and other labor organizations, that calls for a just foreign policy; an end to U.S. occupation of foreign countries; redirecting U.S. resources from military spending to meeting the needs of workers and their families; bringing the troops home now; protecting worker rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the rights of immigrants; and solidarity with workers around the world.
This is a big change for the union movement, which with few exceptions has traditionally supported U.S. imperialism and its wars.
Many union members and leaders see negotiating and enforcing the contract as the union's only job and voting on the contract as the members' primary responsibility. But our jobs exist in a broader political and social context, and unions can do even more than protect our livelihoods. War and peace are core concerns of workers, and unions are a political force that can amplify workers' voices in opposition to war and occupation.
UUP has begun a campaign to build antiwar committees on every SUNY campus – that's 32 campuses throughout New York State. Each campus has just been given an organizing kit, containing fact sheets, a DVD called "Why are we in Afghanistan," and ideas for activities to help members organize their peace campaigns.
We've made our organizing packet available to all antiwar activists. You can download it to use in your union or community group or just to get ideas to deepen your own education and organizing. Go to the USLAW website at http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org, or to the UUP website at http://www.uupinfo.org.
USLAW and its member unions are taking concrete steps to chart an antiwar path for the labor movement. Now is the time for workers and unionists to stand up, speak out, and work for peace.
8. WHY AREN'T THEY HOLDING SIGNS?
[Following is the text of a talk by Hudson Valley activist Fred Nagel at the May 22 peace rally near West Point.]
I am here representing the Dutchess Peace Coalition, which is part of Peace Action N.Y. I am also a member of other groups, including the Middle East Crisis Response and the Woodstock Vets for Peace.
We have a nice crowd today, but I sometimes wonder why it isn't twice this size. Why we don't have at least 10,000 to protest these wars in the Middle East? I wonder the same thing at our Rhinebeck peace vigil every Wednesday. Everyone going by gives us the peace sign. They honk. Even the people walking by say "honk honk," an old joke but we don't care.
And I wonder, "Why aren't these people holding signs? Why aren't they standing with us?"
I try my theories out on my sister-in-law. She is against protesting Obama because he is better than the crazy Republicans. So I try my first line of reasoning: "I care most about these wars. Obama is still sending troops to them, increasing them in fact. He lied about being a peace candidate, so I just want to remind him of what he should be doing."
This works and she is even glad I am going to a rally. But I know from experience that I would have a harder time offering my second level of reasoning: "Both parties support the empire and are run by the same dominant corporations. Obama does what the weapons industry wants, and what the oil, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries want. The rest is nothing but a soap opera."
She won't listen to this, and I don't blame her really. It means our democracy is a sham. It means that she should be spending this afternoon protesting at the West Point gates, instead of enjoying herself somewhere else.
It is a difficult step between being a liberal and being an activist. The majority of Americans now have doubts about Obama's wars. But that doesn't mean that they have come to doubt the system behind these wars.
Arthur Miller wrote "Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."
So I see our job as pointing out to our fellow citizens that our government is not benign or well intentioned; that our government does not work for democracy in the world, or even for democracy here; that our government runs a terrorist organization for profit, a terrorist organization that is located up the street from our rally; that our government has killed millions in its quest for power and profit; that our government keeps developing terrible new weapons to use on innocent civilians; and that our government, like the heart of every major corporation, like the heart of any machine, is soulless. It is stripped of its humanity, of its legitimacy. We the people represent life, and Washington has come to represent violence and death around the world.
Our goal must be nothing less than Martin Luther King's "true revolution of values" in America. We must help all Americans to see for themselves. Not to be diverted by political parties. Not to vote every four years and think things will change. Not to just hope things will get better, without putting themselves on the line.
We seek a moral journey for Americans. For denying what our empire does in the rest of the world is ultimately damaging to our nation and to ourselves. We are no greater than the injustice our system perpetrates on other countries and other peoples. We are no greater than the terrible disparities of income and opportunity we see in our own country.
We will resist this imperialism because we love our country, and because we value our humanity above our comfort. We will see a day when our troops finally come home, not to fill our graveyards or our mental hospitals, but to help rebuild our country as the beacon of peace and justice in the world.
9. TERRORISM — CAUSE AND EFFECT
Part 1 — The U.S. focuses on the wrong target
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
"Terrorists" and "terrorism" have become Washington's monomania since 9/11, guiding the foreign/military policies of the American superstate and holding its population in thrall.
“The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term,” President Barack Obama said April 11, is the possibility that terrorists might obtain a nuclear weapon. The second biggest threat to world history's mightiest military state, it goes without saying, are terrorists without nuclear weapons but armed with box-cutters, rifles or homemade explosives.
It's "terrorism" 24/7 in the United States — the product of a conscious effort by the Bush Administration to keep the American people in the constant clutches of existential fear, in large part to justify launching endless aggressive wars. Anything goes if the target is said to be "terrorism," as long as the Pentagon's violence takes place in smaller, weaker countries usually populated by non-Europeans.
But does the U.S. government really want to defeat terrorism? This is a serious question. All its major efforts so far have been focused on the effects of terrorism but not on its much more profound causes. In this article we shall discuss the causes, particularly the actions of the U.S. in the Middle East over the decades which contributed significantly to the rise of terror as a weapon.
After almost a decade, the Bush Administration's "War on Terrorism" — at a cost of trillions of dollars, the erosion of a substantial portion of America's civil liberties and its worldwide reputation, and the deaths of over a million foreign civilians — has not succeeded in its stated objectives.
And yet, judging by the Obama Administration's 2011 war budget request, the recently released Quadrennial Defense Report and the Nuclear Posture report, and the widening of the wars, it is clear that President Barack Obama has no intention of deviating significantly from President George W. Bush's unjust and failed policies.
President Obama's troop buildup, implied nuclear threats against Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and his order to the CIA to assassinate an American citizen without a trial are but some of the most recent examples.
All that's really changed in national security strategy from one administration to the other is the name of Bush's "War on Terrorism." The Obama Administration renamed it, in an excess of bureaucratese, an "Overseas Contingency Operation," transforming its title to suggest it was a mere budget item. Not so mere, actually, since the Pentagon's annual war budget has risen 67% since 9/11.
American national security policy since the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center nearly nine years ago has been aimed primarily at defeating a small number of ill-equipped non-state "terrorist" enemies by fielding a large professional army with advanced technology first to Afghanistan, then Iraq and now back to the Afghan theater with tributaries extending into Pakistan, Yemen and to a lesser extent Somalia and the Philippines.
Fewer than 100 al-Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan against about 94,000 U.S. troops, so far, plus 40,000 NATO soldiers, and about 100,000 mostly higher paid "contractors" performing military duties. There are up to 15,000 part- and full-time irregulars associated with the Afghan Taliban, perhaps fewer. But — even though they are ultra-conservative religious extremists who were oppressive when in power — they are a national force with no designs on the United States, and are not technically terrorists but defenders of their country from foreign invasion. Many Americans don't like to hear that, of course.
The Bush-Obama anti-terrorism policy has two aspects, one public, the other concealed. The public aspect is to "keep America safe" from specifically Arab and more broadly Muslim "terrorists." The concealed aspect is to utilize the 9/11 tragedy to justify the projection of military might to extend U.S. hegemony throughout the oil-rich Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf region, and into geostrategic Central Asia through the occupation of Afghanistan.
We shall here discuss the public aspect, and why it was and continues to be the wrong response to 9/11, beginning with a paragraph from the Sept. 15, 2001, Activist Newsletter:
"Tuesday’s deplorable terror attacks did not occur in a political vacuum, despite the mass media’s effort to depict the events as simply the product of Middle Eastern 'madmen' with 'no regard for human life' driven by fundamentalist religious beliefs to hate the United States. In reality, Washington’s role in the Middle East, which it has dominated since the end of World War II to control the region’s vast petroleum resources, must be carefully examined to determine the roots of our present situation.... Many Americans ask, 'Why do they hate us so?' The honest answer to that question points the way toward a solution to the 'terrorism' crisis."
Never once in all these years has the U.S. government acknowledged that its decades of interference in the region were a major factor in the growth of "terrorism," the existence of al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, and the 9/11 attacks. Washington is hardly unaware of the connection — and indeed of the primacy of its own historic provocation in the region — but in the era of government deception and corporate domination of the mass media, "inconvenient" truths usually remain concealed from the masses of people.
(To be continued)
10. TERRORISM — CAUSE AND EFFECT
Part 2 —Washington's major decisions provoking jihad
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
Washington implemented five major decisions during the last 65 years that turned public opinion in the Middle East against the United States and largely generated the conditions that led to the creation of al-Qaeda, jihadist warriors, and suicide bombers. We will describe these causes which ultimately led to the effects called terrorism, then, in part 3, conclude with brief "modest" proposals to rectify the situation.
(1) The first of these decisions took place immediately following the end of World War II in 1945, when the U.S. chose to extend its hegemony throughout the Middle East, and thus prevent its essential wartime ally, the Soviet Union, from gaining a foothold. Washington's goal ever since that time — including the last two decades after the implosion of the socialist camp and the 16 months since Obama took office — has been directed toward establishing dominion over this petroleum-rich region to insure America's global preeminence.
To accomplish this objective, the U.S. made deals with ultra-conservative monarchies in the region, offering them military protection and secure dynastic longevity in return for loyalty and concessions on oil supplies. Royal houses, such as exist in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and elsewhere, could have been swept away decades ago by their own people had they not been in America's protective custody. Washington's prolongation of monarchical rule has been a major impediment to democracy in the region.
When the people prevailed, as in Iran in 1951 after an elected democratic government gained power, nationalized the country's substantial petroleum reserves, and replaced the monarchy with a republic, the U.S. and Britain launched a campaign for bloody regime change that by 1953 crushed democracy and restored the brutal Shah of Iran to power.
Washington also continually interfered with republics, not just monarchies, supporting, protecting and enriching those which destroyed their political left wing and bent the knee to U.S. hegemony, such as Egypt, while subverting those leaning left, as in Iran in the early 1950s, or who simply insisted upon maintaining independence from American domination, such as Syria. This, too, stifled democracy and social progress.
After 65 years of interference, Washington either controls or has considerable influence over virtually all the governments of the Middle East, with the exception of Iran, today's imperial target par excellence. Syria remains in the middle. Turkey, which is sometimes not geographically included in the Middle East, is a member of U.S.-dominated NATO and seeks Washington's support to enter the European Union, but has lately taken two positions totally opposed by the Obama Administration: It has sharply criticized Israel, which was considered Turkey's ally, over its invasion and imprisonment of Gaza, and this month joined with Brazil in a move calculated to head off harsh sanctions against Iran.
In the process of gaining dominance over most Mideast regimes — the majority of which have remained undemocratic as a consequence — the United States has alienated the masses of people throughout the region.
In response, given that the U.S. has demanded of its Arab protectorates that the political left and progressive secular forces be weakened or crushed in country after country, it has been the Islamic resistance which has filled the vacuum and taken up the national struggle against American domination and undemocratic rule. A relatively small portion of this movement is influenced by extreme fundamentalist ideology, and a still smaller sector have joined the jihad (struggle) initiated by Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaeda.
(2) The second decision that contributed principally to creating Arab and Muslim antipathy toward the U.S. was Washington's total support of Israel to the detriment of the people of Palestine, particularly following the June 1967 war, when Israel invaded and occupied large swaths of Palestinian territory, where it remains today in utter violation of several key international laws.
"In Palestine," according to British writer/filmmaker John Pilger, "the enduring illegal occupation by Israel would have collapsed long ago were it not for U.S. backing. Far from being the terrorists of the world, the Islamic peoples have been its victims.... It is only a few years ago that the Islamic fundamentalist groups, willing to blow themselves up in Israel and New York, were formed, and only after Israel and the U.S. had rejected outright the hope of a Palestinian state, and justice for a people scarred by imperialism.”
Today, the Arab world agrees to normalize relations with Israel if the Tel Aviv government allows the establishment of two sovereign states, one being Palestinian. Israel refuses, and not only continues to illegally occupy Palestinian lands but to oppress the masses of people — the most gruesome recent example being the vicious attack on Gaza followed by blockading the territory to deprive its inhabitants of the basic necessities of life.
It is well understood that only U.S. military, economic and political support makes it possible for Israel to continuously subjugate the Palestinians. Israel often claims it is surrounded by "existential" threats of one kind or another, the latest being from Iran, but the only real threat it faces is that of losing Washington's sponsorship, protection and economic support.
(3) The third Washington decision that led to 9/11 — and in this case directly — was to involve the U.S. in the Afghan civil war that erupted in 1978 after the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), backed by the Afghan army and military officers, seized power and began to enact reforms to "bring Afghanistan into the 20th century." The reforms — including substantial freedoms for women — aroused armed opposition from conservative Islamic war lords and fighting groups.
The U.S. began supporting these groups clandestinely in 1979 with great infusions of money and war materials, prompting the USSR to send troops to defend the leftist government. Both al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban developed out of this struggle, receiving American support in the process.
The Soviets were fought to a standstill and withdrew in 1989, but the left wing government managed to hold on until it was brutally crushed in 1992. The civil war then transformed into a war for control of Afghanistan between several of the strongest rebel groups. It lasted four years, and resulted in victory for the ultra-orthodox Taliban in 1996. Al-Qaeda used Afghanistan as one of its bases until the U.S. invasion in October 2001, then fled to western Pakistan. (A 2-part account of "The U.S. in Afghanistan," including "The Origins of a Bad War," were published in the November 5, 2009, issue of the Activist Newsletter, available in the blog archive.)
(To be continued)
11. TERRORISM — CAUSE AND EFFECT
Part 3 — How to end the threat of terrorism
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
(4) The fourth U.S. decision that contributed substantially to the unpopularity of the American government was to impose cruel sanctions against the Iraqi people in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. The war itself, resulting in the mortification of Iraq for occupying Kuwait, was intended to compensate for the Pentagon's humiliating defeat in Vietnam 15 years earlier. The U.S. launched what has been called one of the "most devastating air assaults in history" against Iraq in mid-January 1991. It was all over in a couple of months. Overwhelming power succeeded: The U.S. lost 147 troops. The Iraqis lost 200,000, troops and civilians in the brief war and its immediate aftermath.
Ultimately up to 1.5 million Iraqis died as a result of a dozen years of draconian U.S./UN economic, trade and materials sanctions that accompanied the war, and which ended only after the U.S. invasion in March 2003. The UN suggests that half these civilian dead were children. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a defender of the Iraqi people, said of the sanctions, "The goal was to cripple Iraq’s infrastructure and make civilian life unsustainable.” (His 1992 book, "The Fire This Time — U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf," remains a classic account of the real causes and effects of the Gulf War.)
Most Americans were and remain indifferent to the terrible pain visited upon the Iraqi people by the sanctions. Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously said of the civilian deaths, "we think the price is worth it." To the Arab people, Muslims in general, humanitarians, and anti-imperialists throughout the world, it was a cruel and vindictive act of genocidal proportions.
(5) The fifth decision was to respond to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the U.S. by bombing and invading Afghanistan, instead of relying on international police work to capture al-Qaeda, a small, non-state, quasi-military organization dedicated to "propaganda of the deed," with cells in several countries in addition to its Afghan component.
Bush's decision to launch a war was precisely what al-Qaeda wanted to further discredit the U.S. in Arab eyes. The Bush Administration's subsequent decision to invade Iraq — which was completely innocent of involvement in 9/11 and extremely weak militarily because of the sanctions — compounded the original miscalculation of invading Afghanistan. Secular President Saddam Hussein was probably fundamentalist al-Qaeda's principal ideological enemy in the Arab world, and Washington ordered his execution. Meanwhile, the Iraqi national resistance forced the world's only military superpower into a humiliating stalemate, another fact about which the U.S. public is blissfully ignorant.
The Iraq war itself, now seven years old, has killed another million Iraqi people and created at least four million refugees. Between the sanctions and the war, the U.S. has killed roughly 2.5 million Iraqis — almost 10% of the population. This does not seem to have penetrated the consciousness, much less the conscience, of the thoroughly propagandized American people. The only winner of Bush's imperialist misadventure in Iraq was neighboring Shi'ite Iran, which had viewed Hussein's Ba'athist Sunni regime as its main enemy.
President Obama's decision to widen the Afghan war and to penetrate Pakistan and Yemen has once again played into al-Qaeda's hands, and continues to increase anti-U.S. views on the part of the Arab masses. The good will Obama generated throughout the Muslim world by his warm, peaceful, convincing and ultimately deceptive words in Cairo a year ago has dissipated. His actions have strengthened the tiny splinter of the Arab and Muslim population attracted to fringe groups that engage in violence, led by al-Qaeda.
If America's long, unsustainably expensive and essentially stalemated wars are doing little to eliminate the so-called "terrorist" threat, what's the alternative if Washington actually wants to eliminate terrorism?
The answer is to recognize that the history of America's misdeeds in the Middle East is the main reason for the existence of al-Qaeda. Instead of more wars, Washington must reverse its policies:
• Call off the wars. Pull the troops out. Withdraw the fleet and air bases from the region.
• Insist upon an equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and take measures to enhance Israel's compliance.
• Stop dominating and manipulating the countries of the Middle East to serve America's interests. Discontinue support for undemocratic governments and monarchies. Apologize for decades of manipulation and violence.
• Pay a huge compensation to the Iraqi people in particular. Invest heavily in eliminating poverty in the entire region and improving social services for the masses of people.
• Allow the Arab people, and the Iranians as well of course, to work out their political, social and cultural contradictions and preferences without interference. The United States is not the divine instrument chosen to redeem the world, and should stop behaving as though it were.
This will end jihadist terrorism. And it can all be paid for with the money Washington saves by ending its wars and subversion in the region.
There is another problem as well, however, more dangerous and widespread than the small-group terrorism of a handful of individuals with homemade weapons. That problem is state terrorism.
What else other than "state terrorism" can describe Washington's killer sanctions followed by the "shock and awe" bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq against an essentially defenseless people? What else but state terrorism can we call U.S.-enabled Israel's horrendously disproportionate attack against the civilian population of Gaza, resulting in 1,400 Palestinian deaths and 14 Israeli deaths, followed by strangling sanctions?
At this stage, only the people of the United States have the power to force their government to stop interfering in the Middle East, thus ending the retaliatory threat of terrorism. And only the people have the power to end Washington's ongoing state terrorism against small developing countries in order to enhance its geopolitical fortunes.
So far, the U.S. government, whether controlled by one or the other of the two ruling parties, has hoodwinked most Americans into actively or passively supporting its aggressive wars. This is surprisingly easy to do, not least because most of us Americans suffer not at all due to our country's violent and criminal adventures abroad. It remains the task of those who see through the distortions and propaganda to speak up and take a public stand in opposition. To do less is to be indifferent to, or complicit with, a gross iniquity.
12. IRAN: OBAMA'S OTHER OIL SPILL
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to meet Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva May 27 in Brasilia. As much as the Barack Obama administration has been moving mountains to undermine the Iranian nuclear fuel swap deal mediated by Brazil and Turkey, both leaders (and U.S. allies) are far from dropping the ball.
They may have mountain ranges to climb, but their point has resonated across much of the world; were it not for the mediation of two emerging powers and honest brokers, Iran would have never accepted what was in fact a slightly modified United States proposal made in October 2009.
In terms of the agreement, Iran commits to ship the bulk of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey for safekeeping until an equivalent mass of high-enriched uranium is delivered to Iran, plus fuel rods to be used in a medical reactor, ostensibly from Russia and France.
With its eye on full spectrum dominance, control of Eurasia and regime change in Iran, the Obama administration had lost control of the Iranian nuclear dossier, and Brazil and Turkey filled the void by starting down the diplomatic track. The real "international community" has interpreted the sequel for what it is — Washington undermining the emergence of independent, non-U.S.-centric global diplomacy, preemptively striking both Brazil and Turkey, these annoying "threats" to the major power platinum club.
Obama sent a letter to Lula in late April saying he would keep pressing for more United Nations Security Council sanctions unless Iran abandoned all its uranium enrichment (to which it has a right according to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty [NPT]; the U.S. has strenuously attempted to amend the NPT ex post facto). The letter — not leaked in full —confirms the Brazilian government version that the deal struck in Tehran followed Washington's requests.
This week, Lula sent another letter to Obama, stressing that Iran now accepted "in writing" what was once rejected, and that new Security Council sanctions would only undermine the possibility of an overall negotiated settlement. Lula suggests all players should bide their time before any vote on sanctions. Similar letters were sent to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
As much as Lula and Erdogan know that the U.S. has the power to bomb their diplomatic efforts to ashes, they simply cannot back down. Danger lies ahead from Iran as well. After Iran officially notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week of the nuclear fuel swap deal, Ali Larijani, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament, was crystal clear. Iran won't ratify the deal unless approved by all 15 members of the Security Council, and no further sanctions are enforced.
Last week, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said, "We put the ball in the goal area, but the goal will have to be scored by the permanent members of the council and the representatives of the IAEA."
The problem is Washington does not want to play ball. Nor does U.S. corporate media. Confrontational headlines swirl — from "Turkey's Iran standoff role irks allies" (Associated Press) to "West plays down Iran gesture, sticks to sanctions drive" (Reuters). Not to mention a New York Times report criminalizing Lula for being a diplomat ("Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader's Legacy").
The powerful Washington war lobby, with all its myriad ramifications, does not want any agreement with Tehran. Washed out neo-conservatives, allied with the powerful Israel Lobby, it wants to go back to George W. Bush's time, with Iran as a card-carrying "axis of evil" member bound to be shocked and awed. Pentagon types overwhelmingly want at least hardcore sanctions. In the minority are the realists and the left wing of the Democratic Party — in favor of negotiations.
Meanwhile, Obama is drowned in his own administration's oil spill - as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Pentagon supremo Robert Gates have been unleashed to keep hammering the (false) tune of Iran as a major security challenge to the U.S.
Under the heat of the 24-hour news cycle, few people remember how Obama, in early 2009, wanted to engage in direct negotiations with Iran. The logic now is an all-out charge for sanctions as a way to appease the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel, (maybe) prevent it from conducting an unilateral bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities, and as a carrot for negotiations over Palestine. In a nutshell, this is what passes for the Obama administration policy regarding Iran.
Another source of widespread puzzlement is what Russia is actually up to with its support of the current draft sanctions resolution at the Security Council. Russian analyst Konstantin Makiyenko said last week that another round of sanctions would torpedo Iran-Russia military-technical cooperation, including the delivery to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missiles. "The first contract for the delivery of Tor M-1 air-defense missile systems was signed in 2006, and for deliveries of the S-300, in 2007, but the contract has still not been executed. Russia is citing technical problems."
Without the S-300s it would be much harder for Iran to counteract a possible Israeli strike. Western diplomats insist Moscow has made private guarantees that it won't deliver the S-300s to Iran. What's likely is that it is keeping the delivery on hold as a pawn in a larger negotiation with both the U.S. and Iran. Especially as the Obama administration is pulling out no stops to seduce the Russians. Last week, the U.S. suspended a trade ban on four Russian weapons manufacturers as Moscow had requested. On the other hand, Iran's first nuclear power station, the Russian-built plant at Bushehr, will finally have its first reactor online in August — Washington's alarm notwithstanding.
Arguably China and Russia — both avid proponents of a multipolar world — will not allow the Obama administration's hardcore tactics to win at the Security Council over the Brazil-Turkey diplomatic way. This compounds with the Obama administration antagonizing both Brazil and Turkey. Washington elites simply cannot stomach the fact that now Brazil is trying to position itself to compete with America as an honest broker in the Middle East. Arabs, Persians, Palestinians can smell an honest broker when they see one.
The big picture is even juicier. It involves the Amazon rainforest and the enormous oil reserves recently found in southeast Brazil — which, in the view of the Brazilian military — are magnets for U.S. imperial designs. Brazil is investing heavily in the modernization of its industrial-military complex outside of Washington's sphere — buying from France and Russia, technology transfer included.
The Brazilian military is getting deeper into the Amazon as a way to counteract the new U.S. military bases in Colombia. It's not far-fetched to imagine a long-term scenario of inevitable collision course between the U.S. and Brazil centered on the immense natural wealth of the Amazon.
Meanwhile, the fact— noted by the developing world — is that Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama stabbed both Brazil's Lula and Turkey's Erdogan in the back by torpedoing the deal with Tehran and proclaiming a draft resolution for a fourth UN round of sanctions against Iran, after having both allies take an immense risk and put their prestige on the line for him.
All this is in exchange for a diluted-to-death sanctions package that will do absolutely nothing toward changing the Iranian regime's behavior (not to mention "regime change" itself). Who wins? Washed up neo-cons, the Israel Lobby and full spectrum dominance fanatics. Iran is now Obama's political twin to the Gulf oil spill.
— Pepe Escobar is a columnist for Asia Times where this article was printed May 28 (Asia time). He is the author of "Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War" (Nimble Books, 2007) and "Red Zone Blues: A snapshot of Baghdad during the surge." His new book, just out, is "Obama does Globalistan" (Nimble Books, 2009).
13. IRAN: A NEW WORLD ORDER IS NEEDED
By Mark Weisbrot, CEPR, May 25, 2010
The efforts of Brazil and Turkey to find a negotiated solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, which generated a negotiated agreement with Iran last week, must be seen in the context of a growing challenge to the international political order.
That political order has been dominated by the United States, with Europe as a subordinate partner, since the end of World War II. The replacement of the G-7 (or G-8) with the G-20 is an important but largely symbolic change. The levers of power – for example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, are still controlled much as when they were when created in 1944 – by the U.S. Treasury Department, with some input from European powers. Similarly, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, who hold a veto over the most important UN decisions, are the victorious allies from World War II, plus China.
Even the World Trade Organization, which was formed in 1994-95, and has a consensus process that does not cede formal control to Washington or the rich countries, is already out of date. The organization's rules are so heavily stacked against developing countries that they would never have been approved by the member countries if the ratification were to take place today.
After a brief period of engagement, the Obama administration has reverted to the foreign policy of the Bush administration with respect to Iran - as it has also done with Latin America. This is a policy of threats and increased sanctions against Iran, which greatly increases the risk of military confrontation. For example, the sanctions against Iran that Washington is now seeking in the Security Council would authorize countries to stop and search Iranian ships if they are suspected to be carrying banned materials. This would not only ratchet up tensions but could lead to military confrontation.
By contrast, Brazil and Turkey have continued along Washington's prior, brief path of diplomacy, and reached an agreement that is similar to one supported/proposed by the United States last October. In this arrangement, Iran would ship 1200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Turkey. After a year, Iran would get 120 kilograms of uranium for its medical research reactor.
According to the U.S.-based Federation of American Scientists, the differences between the Brazil/Turkey agreement and the October deal are small. Nonetheless, the Obama administration has been dismissive of the agreement and is moving ahead with its plan to increase sanctions against Iran. By contrast, on May 21 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped that the agreement "may open the door to a negotiated settlement."
By taking leadership on this issue, Brazil and Turkey have already won an important victory. They have shown the world that progress can be made on this issue through dialogue and negotiation. They have therefore slowed the march to military conflict.
Of course, as we say in Washington, no good deed goes unpunished. The Western media, including most major media outlets in Latin America, tend to report on international relations from the perspective of the United States. Since Washington has demonized Iran, the Western media presents an exaggerated and one-sided picture of the country, as a threat to the world. And within most countries – almost monolithically in Europe, but elsewhere to varying degrees – there is a faction of the elite that favors the United States' hegemonic order against the emergence of a multipolar world. Their views tend to dominate the media.
Those who support a more multipolar world are accused of being "anti-American." The pro-Washington elites play on people's fears that such a world will simply create another, perhaps worse empire; or greater instability in international relations.
But the opposite is true. Over the past decade, Latin America has become vastly more independent of the United States than it has ever been – and its people, especially the poor and the majority, have clearly benefited. And as the Brazil/Turkey diplomacy shows, a multipolar world will help reduce the risk of war.
It is like moving from dictatorship to democracy. Just as representative democracy, as it exists today, does not give all citizens an equal voice, neither will a multipolar world. But democracy is still a big improvement over dictatorship. And in the international arena it is opening the door to a larger role for the rule of law, for diplomacy – instead of threats and violence that violate the UN Charter – and for greater social and economic progress.
— Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy, located at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/.
14. BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS
By Desmond Tutu
[On May 23, the 79-year-old Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and well known humanitarian issued a statement calling for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons. Here is the text as it appeared in the UK's Sunday Observer.]
This year the nuclear bomb turns 65 — an appropriate age, by international standards, for compulsory retirement. But do our leaders have the courage and wisdom to rid the planet of this ultimate menace? The five-yearly review of the ailing nuclear non-proliferation treaty, currently under way at the United Nations in New York, will test the strength of governments' commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world.
If they are serious about realizing this vision, they will work now to shift the focus from the failed policy of nuclear arms control, which assumes that a select few states can be trusted with these weapons, to nuclear abolition. Just as we have outlawed other categories of particularly inhuman and indiscriminate weapons - from biological and chemical agents to anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions - we must now turn our attention to outlawing the most iniquitous weapons of all.
Gains in nuclear disarmament to date have come much too slowly. More than 23,000 nuclear arms remain in global stockpiles, breeding enmity and mistrust among nations, and casting a shadow over us all. None of the nuclear-armed countries appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. Their failure to disarm has spurred nuclear proliferation, and will continue to destabilize the planet unless we radically alter our trajectory now. Forty years after the NPT entered into force, we should seriously question whether we are on track to abolition.
Disarmament is not an option for governments to take up or ignore. It is a moral duty owed by them to their own citizens, and to humanity as a whole. We must not await another Hiroshima or Nagasaki before finally mustering the political will to banish these weapons from global arsenals. Governments should agree at this NPT review conference to toss their nuclear arms into the dustbin of history, along with those other monstrous evils of our time - slavery and apartheid.
Skeptics tell us, and have told us for many years, that we are wasting our time pursuing the dream of a world without nuclear weapons, as it can never be realized. But more than a few people said the same about ending entrenched racial segregation in South Africa and abolishing slavery in the United States. Often they had a perceived interest in maintaining the status quo. Systems and policies that devalue human life, and deprive us all of our right to live in peace with each other, are rarely able to withstand the pressure created by a highly organized public that is determined to see change.
The most obvious and realistic path to a nuclear-weapon-free world is for nations to negotiate a legally binding ban, which would include a timeline for elimination and establish an institutional framework to ensure compliance. Two-thirds of all governments have called for such a treaty, known as a nuclear weapons convention, and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has voiced his support for the idea. Only the nuclear weapon states and NATO members are holding us back.
Successful efforts to prohibit other classes of weapons provide evidence that, where there is political momentum and widespread popular support, obstacles which may at first appear insurmountable can very often be torn down. Nuclear abolition is the democratic wish of the world's people, and has been our goal almost since the dawn of the atomic age. Together, we have the power to decide whether the nuclear era ends in a bang or worldwide celebration.
Last April in the Czech capital, Prague, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, but he warned that nations probably would not eliminate their arsenals in his lifetime. I am three decades older than the U.S. president, yet I am confident that both of us will live to see the day when the last nuclear weapon is dismantled. We just need to think outside the bomb.
From the Activist Newsletter: The U.S. is not prepared to call for complete nuclear disarmament in either Tutu's or Obama's lifetime, according to the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review, published in April. It states that the long range U.S. goal is a "nuclear free" world but despite token reductions in its arsenal of such weapons, the Pentagon is strengthening its nuclear force. This document also explained that the U.S. retains "hair-trigger" nuclear launch readiness, refuses to declare its nuclear force is for deterrence only (suggesting offensive use) and for the first time authorizes a nuclear attack, if necessary, on a non-nuclear state (Iran).
15. WHITE-BLACK WEALTH GAP WIDENS
By Clement Tan, San Francisco Chronicle
WASHINGTON, May 22 —Years of deregulation that led to an increase in high-cost loans is indirectly responsible for the quadrupling of the wealth gap between white and black Americans between 1984 and 2007, according to a study by Brandeis University's Institute on Assets and Social Policy released this week.
Measured in 2007 dollars, the disparity in assets increased $75,000 on average, from $20,000 to $95,000 over the 23-year period. [Assets include cash, savings, stock/bonds, and possessions minus debts. This study excludes home ownership as an asset. If included the racial disparity would be even greater.] At least one in four black households had no assets, meaning debts equaled or surpassed assets.
According to the study, such an increase in negative wealth among African-Americans means they depend more frequently on credit and other forms of high cost debt, but many low-income and minority households are subjected to costly lending products as a result of their burgeoning debt.
"Our study shows a broken chain of achievement," said Thomas Shapiro, director of the Institute and co-author of the study. "Even when African Americans do everything right — get an education and work hard at well-paying jobs — they cannot achieve the wealth of their white peers in the workforce, and that translates into very different life chances."
The study found that even as white families saw their financial assets grow from a median value of $22,000 in 1984 to $100,000 in 2007, black families experienced only the slightest growth in wealth during this same period.
This was true even at higher income levels, with middle-income whites seeing their wealth levels increase from $55,000 to $74,000, while high-income African-Americans saw their wealth decrease $7,000 in the same period, to $18,000 in 2007. The study defined middle income as $40,000 to $70,000, in 2007 dollars. In general, wealth produced during this period "accrues primarily to highest income whites."
The authors say this shows higher incomes alone will not lead to increased wealth and security for African Americans, since consumers of color are subjected to "systemic bias that operates in racialized ways" in credit, housing and taxes — dramatically reducing their chances of achieving economic mobility.
One way around this problem, Shapiro said, is the establishment of a consumer financial protection agency that would ensure fairness for consumers of all financial products by equalizing and regularizing the terms on which cash-strapped families are borrowing to make ends meet.
Shapiro said while he is in favor of the "general ideas that frame" the provisions for such an agency in the proposed financial reform bill, he hopes the agency will take on more of an advocacy role and have more autonomy than contained in the current proposal. Wealth building policies, he recommends, should carry provisions to "target... families of color."
16. THE WORLD'S CLEANEST COUNTRIES
By the Activist Newsletter
Which countries are considered the cleanest in the world according to the newly released 2010 edition of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which is based on research by Columbia and Yale Universities?
The United States, which came in number 63, was behind all the other major advanced industrial societies, such as France (7), UK (14), Germany (17), Italy (18).
As usual in matters pertaining to health, education and the environment, Cuba, at number 9, was among the leaders, just behind Iceland (1), Switzerland (2), Costa Rica (3), Sweden (4), Norway (5), Mauritius (6), and Austria (8).
The EPI "ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across 10 policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals."
Each country received points for Ecosystem Vitality and Environment Health, which were combined and then averaged. Iceland, the leader, had a score of 93.5; Cuba, 78.1; the U.S., 63.3.
— The full study is at http://epi.yale.edu/.
17. BOYCOTTING THE BOYCOTTERS
[Editor's Note: A global economic campaign was initiated against the Israeli government five years ago by 171 Palestinian non-government organizations. It is called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This movement has been sharply criticized from the far right to the center right in Israeli politics. But it does have liberal and left supporters among the Israeli people. Following is an analysis of the BDS campaign and its vociferous detractors written by Gideon Levy, a liberal columnist for the Hebrew and English daily Israeli newspaper Haaretz, where it was published May 16.]
By Gideon Levy
Most people here are appalled at the notion that anybody beyond Israel’s borders would think to boycott their country, products or universities. Boycotts, after all, are viewed in Israel as illegitimate. Anyone who calls for such a step is perceived as an anti-Semite and Israel-hater who is undermining the state’s very right to exist. In Israel itself, those who call for a boycott are branded as traitors and heretics. The notion that a boycott, limited as it may be, is likely to convince Israel to change its ways - and for its own benefit - is not tolerated here.
Even an obvious, logical step - like the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of products made in the settlements - is viewed by hypocritical Israeli eyes as provocative. Moreover, while the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.
It would be possible to identify with these intolerant reactions were it not for the fact that Israel itself is one of the world’s prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. At the same time, almost no one here utters a dissenting word questioning the legitimacy of these boycotts. Yet the thought of boycotting the boycotter? Now that’s inconceivable.
The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see firsthand the unbearable sights.
In addition, Israel bars entry to anyone who wishes to lend humanitarian aid. We should note that the boycott isn’t just against Hamas, but against all Gaza, everyone who lives there. The convoy of ships that will soon sail from Europe to try to break the siege will carry thousands of tons of construction material, prefab houses and medicine. Israel has announced that it plans to stop the vessels. A boycott is a boycott.
Doctors, professors, artists, jurists, intellectuals, economists, engineers - none of them are permitted to enter Gaza. This is a complete boycott that bears the tag “Made in Israel.” Those who speak about immoral and ineffective boycotts do so without batting an eye when it comes to Gaza.
Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. But it’s not just Gaza and Iran that are at issue here, because entry into Israel and the West Bank is being affected by the recent frenzy of boycotts. Anyone who is suspected of supporting the Palestinians or expressing concern for their lot is boycotted and expelled. This group includes a clown who came to organize a conference; a peace activist who was due to appear at a symposium; and scientists, artists and intellectuals who arouse suspicions that they back the Palestinian cause. This is a cultural and academic boycott on all counts, the type of boycott that we reject when it is used against us.
Yet the anti-boycott country’s list of boycotted parties does not end there. Even a Jewish-American organization like J Street, which defines itself as pro-Israel, has felt the long arm of the Israeli boycott. It is permissible to boycott J Street because it champions peace, but we can’t tolerate a boycott of products made in settlements that were built on usurped land. Denying a visiting professor entry into Gaza for an appearance at a university does not qualify as a boycott, but cutting off ties with Israeli institutions that provide fast-track degree programs for army officers and interrogators in the Shin Bet security service - people who are often viewed around the world as complicit in war crimes - is viewed as verboten.
Yes, an Israeli who lives in Israel will have a hard time preaching to others about the virtues of a boycott when that person does not boycott his or her own country or university. But it is his right to believe that a boycott could compel his government to end the occupation. As long as the Israelis don’t pay any price, there won’t be a change.
This is a legitimate, moral position. It is no less legitimate or moral than those who claim that a boycott is an immoral, ineffective tool while exercising that same option against others. So you oppose a boycott against Israel? Then let’s first do away with all the boycotts we have imposed ourselves.
18. THE GENERALS COME CLEAN
By the Activist Newsletter
Armed Forces Day (May 15) and Memorial Day (May 31) provide us with an appropriate occasion to reflect on past wars. Over the years, a number of leading U.S. military commanders have done some reflecting of their own, occasionally with startling results, as these quotes from five American generals make abundantly clear. They show a depth of understanding in retirement that was rarely, if ever, evidenced during active duty.
GEN. PHILIP SHERIDAN (1831-1888): Named commander in chief of the U.S. Army in 1883, he is best remembered during his Indian-fighting days for the vicious phrase, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Later in life, he allowed a deeper comprehension of the imperial wars imposed on the Native American people for almost 200 years until their resistance was broken: “We took away their country and their means of support, and it was for this and against this they made war. Could anyone expect less?”
GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR (1880-1964): A military martinet who led the government’s violent attack against 20,000 poor veterans of World War I encamped in Depression-era Washington in 1932 in an effort to convince the Hoover administration to pay them their war bonuses ahead of schedule. He subsequently served as commander of U.S. forces in the Far East during World War II, and supreme commander of UN forces in Korea until he was dismissed by President Truman for advocating an invasion and nuclear bombing of China. Testifying at a congressional hearing on the military budget in 1957, his tune evidently had changed: “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil...to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”
GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (1890-1969): Chief of staff of the U.S. Army, supreme commander of NATO, and President of the United States during the early years of the Cold War. He bequeathed to his successor the CIA’s disastrous invasion plan for Cuba which he had secretly approved. Upon retiring as president in January 1961, he issued the following warning to the American people in his Farewell Address: “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry.... But now...we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, 3.5 million men and women are directly engaged in the Defense Establishment....This conjunction of an immense Military Establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience....We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications....In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist....Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together....Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms but with intellect and decent purpose.”
GEN. WALLACE NUTTING: Washington’s military overlord for the Southern Hemisphere, charged with keeping the lid on social unrest and preventing the rise of communism. He said upon his retirement as U.S. Army Chief of the Southern Command in 1983: “The fundamental causes of dissatisfaction in Central America are the existing social, political and economic inequities.”
MAJ.-GEN. SMEDLEY D. BUTLER (1881-1940), joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17, commanded expeditions in the Philippines, China, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Haiti, winning two Medals of Honor before his retirement in 1931. Four years later, he made this extraordinary statement: “I spent 33 years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.... Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for U.S. oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in....I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903.... During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”
19. THE REAL ENEMY
We cannot allow the generals (above) to have the last word, even though their words are laudable. So to conclude this recognition of Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day we offer a few stanzas, translated into English, of From A German War Primer (1937) by the great anti-Nazi people’s poet and playwright, Bertolt Brecht:
When it comes to marching many do not know
That their enemy is marching at their head.
The voice which gives them their orders
Is their enemy’s voice and
The man who speaks of the enemy
Is the enemy himself.
General, your tank is a powerful vehicle
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.
General, your bomber is powerful
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.
General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.
20. NEWS BRIEFS
By Nathan Rosenblum, Activist News
COPS TARGET MINORITIES IN NYC
Be careful if you are walking or standing on a New York City street while black or brown. According to a new study by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), black and Latino New Yorkers were nine times more likely to be stopped and frisked by the police than white people in 2009.
Interestingly, the whites who were stopped were more likely to be found with a weapon and arrested. About 1.7% of whites stopped were found to have a weapon compared with 1.1% of blacks. Whites were arrested in slightly more than 6% of the stops, slightly more than minorities.
All told, an incredible 490,000 blacks and Latinos were pulled aside and questioned last year, compared to only 53,000 whites. Police used force — such as drawing a weapon or ordering people to the ground — 27% of the time when stopping Latinos, 25% for blacks and 19% for whites.
Under current police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, stop and frisks have more than quadrupled.
The CCR first sued the city for data about its stops following the police killing of 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999. He was stopped by four cops who shot him dead firing 41 bullets, 19 of which entered his body, when he reached for his pocket. He was unarmed and evidently went for his wallet, perhaps to show ID. The four cops were acquitted of all charges in a trial held in Albany.
BATTLEFIELD EXECUTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN
At the recent Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Seymour Hersh declared that U.S. soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan. Hersh is the reporter who broke the story of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam war and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal during the Iraq war — among other journalistic triumphs — so his words carry unusual weight.
He told the Geneva conference that "one of the great tragedies of my country is that Mr. Obama is looking the other way, because equally horrible things are happening to prisoners...we capture in Afghanistan. They're being executed on the battlefield. It's unbelievable stuff going on there that doesn't necessarily get reported.
Under today's battlefield rules in Afghanistan, Hersh continued, American troops "have to make a determination within a day or two" on whether detainees are Taliban members. If not, they must be freed. According to Hersh, "What it means is — and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people — battlefield executions are taking place.... Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam! If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now."
21. SAVING MOTHER EARTH
By Evo Morales
[Editor's Note: A critically important environmental conference was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 20-22, titled the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. It was the developing world's response to the developed world's greenhouse gas emissions that threaten life on Earth.
[Some 35,000 participants attended the meetings, of which over 9,000 were foreign delegates representing movements and social organizations from 140 countries and five continents. It received little media coverage in the U.S. (except for Democracy Now's extensive daily reports).
[The event was convened by Bolivia's indigenous President Evo Morales in response to the failure of the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen last December, and to influence the next such UN meeting scheduled for Cancún, Mexico, in late November. In late April, Bolivia formally presented the conference conclusions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
[On May 7, Morales explained the importance of the Cochabamba conference to a meeting of the Group of 77 at the United Nations. The G-77, founded in 1964, now has 130 member nations and is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing states in the UN. Most of these developing nations have little influence at the UN climate meetings. Morales refers to the G-77 + China because while still a developing country and long a member of the organization, China has become an industrial powerhouse in the last two decades, requiring a unique designation. Here are substantial excerpts from the Bolivian leader's address.]
.... I am personally convinced that the only way to guarantee a positive result in Cancún is through the broad participation of the world and the ironclad unity of the countries of the G77 + China. We... are the least responsible for climate change, and, nonetheless, the most affected by the dire impacts of global warming. We represent two-thirds of the countries comprising the United Nations, and close to 80% of the world’s population. In our hands is the task of saving the future of humanity and planet Earth, and making the voices of our peoples heard and respected....
I would like to begin by highlighting the points of convergence between the G77 + China and the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (WPCCC).
The first point of convergence is the need to preserve and fulfill the Kyoto Protocol. That is to say, the need for developed countries to make substantial commitments to domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.
In the G77 + China, nobody is proposing to liquidate or dilute the Kyoto Protocol. We all agree that the Annex 1 [industrialized] countries that are historically responsible for causing greenhouse gas emissions should honor their commitments and obligations under international treaties on climate change.
The WPCCC demands that developed countries reduce their domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 50% based on 1990 levels for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Current offers for reducing greenhouse gases in developed countries would at best only amount to a reduction of 2% based on 1990 levels.
The Cochabamba Conference does not propose substituting the Kyoto Protocol with various voluntary reduction commitments that are not directed toward global goals, and in which no distinction is made between what the different developed countries must do.
The [conference's] People’s Accord states: “The United States, as the only Annex 1 country on Earth that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, has a significant responsibility toward all peoples of the world to ratify this document and commit itself to respecting and complying with emissions reduction targets on a scale appropriate to the total size of its economy.”
The second point of convergence among the WPCCC and the G77 + China is the need for the reduction commitments made by developed countries to be as deep as possible in order to stabilize the increase in temperature to, where possible, within a range of 1.5 to 1 degree Celsius.
We developing countries present here are aware that an increase in temperature will bring grave consequences for the provision of food, for coastal zones, for glaciers, and all of Africa. All of us here in the G77 + China are resolved to avoid letting a single island state fall into the ocean.
A third point of convergence among the G77 and the conference is the concept of the climate debt that developed countries owe to developing countries. This concept was much discussed at the WPCCC, and it became clear that the concept has the following components:
• The first component is the need to give back the atmospheric space that has been occupied by the developed countries and their greenhouse gas emissions, affecting developing countries. Developed countries should decolonize the atmosphere to allow for an equitable distribution of the atmospheric space among all countries in accordance with the size of their population.
• The second component is the debt with regard to forced migrations due to climate change. The number of forced migrations has reached 50 million worldwide, and could increase to 200 million to 1 billion people by the year 2050. To honor this debt, developed countries, as the generators of climate change, must open their borders to receive the affected migrants. The existence of migration laws like that of Arizona or the Return Policy in the European Union is absolutely unacceptable.
• The third component is the debt to our Mother Earth. This is because not only have human beings and developing countries been affected, but so has nature. To honor this debt, the First World People’s Conference considers it fundamental to discuss here in the United Nations a proposal for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth that establishes obligations for all human beings with regard to nature and that recognizes, in the form of rights, the limits that human activity must have if we are going to preserve planet Earth.
Some of the rights of nature that it proposes are:
• The right to life and to exist.
• The right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions.
• The right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste.
• The right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens its integrity or vital and healthy functioning.
We hope that this proposed Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth will begin to be discussed and analyzed within the General Assembly of the United Nations.
• Finally, we have the fourth component, the economic component of climate debt, which is comprised of the adaptation debt and the development debt that the industrialized countries have to developing countries.
On the topic of financing, the World People’s Conference considers that, to confront climate change, a budget should be designated similar to the budget that countries allot for military and security spending.
The amount of $10 billion that developing countries are currently offering is less than 1% of the total amount of their defense budgets. It is simply not possible to dedicate 120 times more resources to war and death than to preserving life and our Mother Earth. [Italics ours]
Developed countries should commit to annual financing from public sources in addition to the Official Development Assistance in order to confront climate change in developing countries. This financing should be direct and without conditionalities, and should not violate the sovereignty of States.
It is necessary to establish a new financing mechanism that functions under the authority of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and with significant representation by developing countries to guarantee compliance with the financing commitments of Annex 1 countries.
The WPCCC proposes the creation of a multilateral and multidisciplinary mechanism for technology transfer. These technologies should be useful, clean, and socially appropriate. The Cochabamba Conference considers it essential to create a fund for the financing and inventory of appropriate technologies free from intellectual property rights, particularly by moving patents from private monopolies into the public domain for free access.
The People’s Conference notes that developed countries increased their emissions by 11.2% in the period from 1990-2007 despite having claimed that reductions would be assisted by market mechanisms.
The carbon market has become a lucrative business that commodifies nature, favors a few intermediaries, and does not significantly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
The recent financial crisis has demonstrated that the market is incapable of regulating the financial system, and that it would be totally irresponsible to leave care for and protection of the very existence of humanity and our Mother Earth in the hands of the market. [Italics ours]
In this regard, the Conference considers it inadmissible that the current negotiations attempt to create new mechanisms that broaden and promote the carbon market.
The first Conference proposes the substitution of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) by a new mechanism that is not based on the promotion of the carbon market, and that respects the sovereignty of States and the right of the peoples to free, previous, and informed consent. This new mechanism should directly transfer technologies and economic resources from developed countries for the restoration and maintenance of forests and woodlands.
The topic of agriculture and climate change was also widely discussed, and the concept of food sovereignty was adopted. This goes beyond food security by implying not just the right to nourishment, but also the right of the peoples to control their own seeds, lands, water, and technology for food production in harmony with Mother Earth and at the service of the whole community, not just the sectors with the highest income....
Another proposal has to do with the need to convene a Referendum on Climate Change so that the world’s population can decide what should be done about this important issue.
The Cochabamba Conference challenges us to begin to imagine and to promote a kind of global democracy in which the major issues facing humanity can be decided by all peoples.
To bring about all of these proposals, the Conference resolves to initiate the construction of a World People’s Movement for Mother Earth.
The Cochabamba Conference places special emphasis on analyzing the topic of development and what kind of development it is that we want. Some of the principles agreed upon were:
• There cannot be unlimited development in a finite planet.
• The model of development we want is not that of the so-called developed countries, which is unsustainable in a planet with limited natural resources.
• So that developing countries might satisfy the needs of their populations without affecting planet Earth, it is essential that developed countries lower their levels of consumption and waste.
•To achieve development in harmony with nature, we must also seek harmony among human beings through an equitable distribution of wealth....
Ambassadors, the response to global warming is global democracy for life and for the Mother Earth. Let us choose to be clean and active today for the sake all of humanity, not toxic and reactive tomorrow, against nature. Esteemed ambassadors, we have two paths: to save capitalism, or to save life and Mother Earth.
— English text from World People's Conference on Climate Change
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