The Collapse of Western Morality

Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse.

In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.

And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.

This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.

US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime.

In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

US Rep. Rogers said that America’s wars are being undermined by “a culture of disclosure” and that this “serious and growing problem” could only be stopped by the execution of Manning.

If Rep. Rogers is representative of Michigan, then Michigan is a state that we don’t need.

The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq.

When other countries attempt to enforce the international laws that the Americans established in order to execute Germans defeated in World War II, the US government goes to work and blocks the attempt. A year ago on October 8, the Spanish Senate, obeying its American master, limited Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction in order to sink a legitimate war crimes case brought against George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, Tony Blair,and Gordon Brown.

The West includes Israel, and there the horror stories are 60 years long. Moreover, if you mention any of them you are declared to be an anti-semite. I only mention them in order to prove that I am not anti-American, anti-British, and anti-NATO, but am simply against war crimes. It was the distinguished Zionist Jewish Judge, Goldstone, who produced the UN report indicating that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked the civilian population and civilian infrastructure of Gaza. For his efforts, Israel declared the Zionist Goldstone to be “a self-hating Jew,” and the US Congress, on instruction from the Israel Lobby, voted to disregard the Goldstone Report to the UN.

As the Israeli official said, we are only doing to the Palestinians what the Americans did to the American Indians.

The Israeli army uses female soldiers to sit before video screens and to fire by remote control machine guns from towers to murder Palestinians who come to tend their fields within 1500 meters of the inclosed perimeter of Ghetto Gaza. There is no indication that these Israeli women are bothered by gunning down young children and old people who come to tend to their fields.

If the crimes were limited to war and the theft of lands, perhaps we could say it is a case of jingoism sidetracking traditional morality, otherwise still in effect.

Alas, the collapse of morality is too widespread. Some sports teams now have a win-at-all-cost attitude that involves plans to injure the star players of the opposing teams. To avoid all these controversies, let’s go to Formula One racing where 200 mph speeds are routine.

Prior to 1988, 22 years ago, track deaths were due to driver error, car failure, and poorly designed tracks compromised with safety hazards. World Champion Jackie Stewart did much to improve the safety of tracks, both for drivers and spectators. But in 1988 everything changed. Top driver Ayrton Senna nudged another top driver Alain Prost toward a pit wall at 190 mph. According to AutoWeek (August 30, 2010), nothing like this had been seen before. “Officials did not punish Senna’s move that day in Portugal, and so a significant shift in racing began.” What the great racing driver Stirling Moss called “dirty driving” became the norm.

Nigel Roebuck in AutoWeek reports that in 1996 World Champion Damon Hill said that Senna’s win-at-all-cost tactic “was responsible for fundamental change in the ethics of the sport.” Drivers began using “terrorist tactics on the track.” Damon Hill said that “the views that I’d gleaned from being around my dad [twice world champion Graham Hill] and people like him, I soon had to abandon,” because you realized that no penalty was forthcoming against the guy who tried to kill you in order that he could win.

When asked about the ethics of modern Formula One racing, American World Champion Phil Hill said: “Doing that sort of stuff in my day was just unthinkable. For one thing, we believed certain tactics were unacceptable.”

In today’s Western moral climate, driving another talented driver into the wall at 200 mph is just part of winning. Michael Schumacher, born in January 1969, is a seven times World Champion, an unequaled record. On August 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, AutoWeek Reports that Schumacher tried to drive his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, into the wall at 200 mph speeds.

Confronted with his attempted act of murder, Schumacher said: “This is Formula One. Everyone knows I don’t give presents.”

Neither does the US government, nor state and local governments, nor the UK government, nor the EU.

The deformation of the police, which many Americans, in their untutored existence as naive believers in “law and order,” still think are “on their side,” has taken on new dimensions with the police militarized to fight “terrorists” and “domestic extremists.”

The police have been off the leash since the civilian police boards were nixed by the conservatives. Kids as young as 6 years old have been handcuffed and carted off to jail for school infractions that may or may not have occurred. So have moms with a car full of children (see, for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AaSLERx0VM ).

Anyone who googles videos of US police gratuitous brutality will call up tens of thousands of examples, and this is after laws that make filming police brutality a felony. A year or two ago such a search would call up hundreds of thousands of videos.

In one of the most recent of the numerous daily acts of gratuitous police abuse of citizens, an 84-year-old man had his neck broken because he objected to a night time towing of his car. The goon cop body-slammed the 84-year old and broke his neck. The Orlando, Florida, police department says that the old man was a “threat” to the well-armed much younger police goon, because the old man clenched his fist.

Americans will be the first people sent straight to Hell while thinking that they are the salt of the earth. The Americans have even devised a title for themselves to rival that of the Israelis’ self-designation as “God’s Chosen People.” The Americans call themselves “the indispensable people.”

Ref: Counterpunch

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

VIDEO: Are Bush and Blair above the law?

VIDEO: THE KINGDOM OF SURVIVAL + What collapsing (american) empire looks like

What collapsing (american) empire looks like

As we enter our ninth year of the War in Afghanistan with an escalated force, and continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and feed an endlessly growing Surveillance State, reports are emerging of the Deficit Commission hard at work planning how to cut Social Security, Medicare, and now even to freeze military pay.  But a new New York Times article today illustrates as vividly as anything else what a collapsing empire looks like, as it profiles just a few of the budget cuts which cities around the country are being forced to make.  This is a sampling of what one finds:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.

There are some lovely photos accompanying the article, including one showing what a darkened street in Colorado looks like as a result of not being able to afford street lights.  Read the article to revel in the details of this widespread misery.  Meanwhile, the tiniest sliver of the wealthiest — the ones who caused these problems in the first place — continues to thrive.  Let’s recall what former IMF Chief Economist Simon Johnson said last year in The Atlantic about what happens in under-developed and developing countries when an elite-caused financial crisis ensues:

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or — here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique — the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk — at least until the riots grow too large.

The real question is whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for that to ever happen.

UPDATE:  It’s probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month — with a subheadline warning:  “Back to Stone Age” — which describes how “paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue.”  Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional.  And it was announced this week that “Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.”

Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights — or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State — that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?  Anyway, I just wanted to leave everyone with some light and cheerful thoughts as we head into the weekend.

Ref: Salon

The Neoliberal Ocean of Cop-15 Accord + SMART POWER

Smart Power

The Bush administration has hijacked a once-proud progressive doctrine–liberal internationalism–to justify muscle-flexing militarism and arrogant unilateralism. Progressives must reclaim the legacy of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy with a foreign policy that will both bolster U.S. power and unite the world behind it.

RECLAIMING LIBERAL INTERNATIONALISM

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, conservative foreign-policy makers have united behind a clear agenda: combating terrorism, aggressively preempting perceived threats, and asserting the United States’ right and duty to act alone. Progressives, in contrast, have seemed flummoxed. Stuck on the sidelines, they advocate tactics that differ sharply from those of the Bush administration. But they have not consistently articulated a distinct set of progressive U.S. foreign policy goals.

This is a mistake. Progressives now have a historic opportunity to reorient U.S. foreign policy around an ambitious agenda of their own. The unparalleled strength of the United States, the absence of great-power conflict, the fears aroused by September 11, and growing public skepticism of the Bush administration’s militarism have created a political opening for a cogent, visionary alternative to the president’s foreign policy.

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war. Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military — to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Unlike conservatives, who rely on military power as the main tool of statecraft, liberal internationalists see trade, diplomacy, foreign aid, and the spread of American values as equally important.

After September 11, conservatives adopted the trappings of liberal internationalism, entangling the rhetoric of human rights and democracy in a strategy of aggressive unilateralism. But the militant imperiousness of the Bush administration is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals they claim to invoke. To reinvent liberal internationalism for the twenty-first century, progressives must wrest it back from Republican policymakers who have misapplied it.

Ref: ForeignAffairs

Suzanne Nossel was Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. mission to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001 and is currently an executive at a media company in New York.

HISTORY: The Tragedy of Haiti … and Us

Dr. Paul Farmer tells the story of the beautiful young Haitian girl Acéphie, whose family was driven out of their small farm by powerful forces: a hydroelectric company whose dam flooded the farmland; a dictator (Duvalier) who paid workers 10 cents a day; political violence that disrupted the operations of medical clinics. And a soldier who took advantage of her and gave her AIDS. When she died, her grief-stricken father hanged himself. [1]

Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier became president of Haiti in 1957, and upon his death in 1971 was succeeded by his son Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. During their 30 years of rule 60,000 Haitians were killed and many others were tortured by death squads. The Duvaliers, supported by the U.S., enriched themselves with foreign aid money while Haiti became the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The Haitian people worked in sweatshops for pennies a day while foreign industrialists made millions. In 1986, a people’s rebellion forced Baby Doc out, and the U.S. installed a military government, which continued to terrorize the citizens. [2]

In 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, was elected president in Haiti’s first free democratic election. He surprised the western world by winning 67% of the vote in a field of 12 candidates that included the U.S. candidate, a former World Bank official. Months later Aristide was overthrown by a US-backed military coup. [3] The Council on Hemispheric Affairs stated after the coup: “Under Aristide…Haiti seemed to be on the verge of tearing free from the fabric of despotism and tyranny…”

For the next three years anarchy reigned in Haiti. A study by Boston Media Action revealed that while human rights abuses attributed to Aristide supporters were less than 1% of the total, they comprised 60% of the coverage in major journals during the two weeks following the coup, and over half of coverage in the New York Times through mid-1992. [4]

Aristide was finally allowed to return, provided that he accept a number of political and economic conditions mandated by the United States.

In 2000 Aristide was re-elected president with over 90% of the vote. The Organization of American States claimed that the election was conducted unfairly, and the U.S. began to withhold foreign aid from Haiti. [5] In 2003 the country was forced to send 90% of its foreign reserves to Washington to pay off its debt. Pressure from business and international organizations was relentless. Aristide was vilified by the Reuters and AP wire services, which relied on local media owned by Aristide’s opponents. On February 5, 2004 a major revolt again forced him out of office. He was flown by the U.S. to the Central African Republic. [6]

Conditions in Haiti have remained desperate, with crumbling roads and infrastructure and nonexistent public services, unemployment at 70%, half the adults illiterate, and the richest 1% of the population controlling nearly half of all of the wealth. [7]

It doesn’t seem possible that the situation could get worse. But now it has.

Paul Buchheit teaches at DePaul University. He can be reached at: pbuchhei@depaul.edu

Notes.

1 Paul Farmer, “Pathologies of Power” (University of California Press, 2005)

2 Noam Chomsky, “Year 501: the conquest continues” (Boston: South End Press, 1993)

3 “Coup in Haiti,” by Amy Wilentz, The Nation, March 4, 2004 (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20040322/wilentz)

VIDEO: Post-American world! + The US as a great warrior tribe

RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze speaks to American journalist and CNN programme host Fareed Zakaria to find out what he thinks about Obama’s administration in Washington, and the U.S. influence in the world.

FOCUS: IMPERIUM
The US as a great warrior tribe

According to tribal Yemeni tradition, if a dispute has been resolved peacefully, any dagger that has been drawn cannot go back into its scabbard unless it tastes blood. Traditionally, an animal is slaughtered to satisfy its thirst and restore its holder’s honour.

Since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact without a single shot, let alone nuclear warheads, being fired, the ‘Greater Middle East’ region has been turned into a real theatre of war.

From the Gulf war in 1991 through to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, from Somalia in 1993 to Yemen in 2010, and through Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US military has gone to great lengths to demonstrate its strategic capacity to act in faraway places and to prove its ability to guard and advance US and Western interests.

In no time, military means and out-right war and occupation replaced diplomacy and international law.

In return, the Pentagon’s budget has almost doubled from the level it was before 9/11 to surpass the combined military expenditures of all the countries of the world, all under the guise of the ‘global war against terror’.

Alas, the costly failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries have demonstrated that the Muslim world is far too stubborn to be offered as a sacrifice in the pursuit of global leadership.

Tribal vs. state identities

Since then, the devastating wars of terror that have taken place in the shadows of accelerated globalisation have weakened state structures and institutions and reinforced tribal and sectarian identities. Regimes not directly affected, took preventative measures by strengthening their grip on power through increased security and tribal alliances.

The US and its regional allies have empowered and financed tribal leaders, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to defeat unrelenting Islamist opposition or nationalist insurgencies, just as America’s enemies have tried to gain the support of tribes for their cause against the “foreigners”.

Washington followed in the footsteps of the UK, which boasts extensive experience of tribal politics in its former colonies, to arm and finance tribal leaders to fight its war in Iraq under the guise of “The Awakening” or ”The Sons of Iraq”.

Likewise in Afghanistan, where the US built on its long experience with the northern tribes in the 1980s to regain the initiative against the Soviet supported regime in Kabul.

In the process, salient – and not so salient – tribal power has been empowered in all the areas of conflict in the ‘Greater Middle East’ by undemocratic leaders. Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Palestine and, even failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia, have witnessed the emergence of tribal loyalties and power.

But the failure of the US and its allies to attain stability – let alone to declare victory – has slowly but surely transformed the political landscape into a coalition of tribes or ‘a warrior ruling tribe’ over many.

‘Sons of America’

This transformation was not limited to the Middle East. Compromised by globalisation and market diktats, the most modern countries, such as the US, just like the least modern, such as Yemen, are increasingly acting in primordial ways and means.

As their sovereignty is compromised by multinational corporate decisions, capital, labour and investment movements, as well as communication and cultural globalisation, many states make up for their diminishing role over their economy and culture through alternative means of collective identities such as rallying their people around the flag.

With the advent of 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, anger, humiliation and fear nudged the US into wars of ‘shock and awe’, revenge, torture, and rendition – stripping their ‘enemy-combatants’ of their very humanity in far away prisons.

The politics of fear engineered by cynical racism and nationalism drove wars that have compromised traditional republican values and civil liberties just as its wars of choice undermined its ‘social contract’ and whipped US citizens into a collective frenzy.

In short, the United States of America, the most powerful and advanced liberal democracy, began acting as the most aggressive of all the world’s tribes. And although much of this change was engineered by the Bush administration under the fog of the ‘war on terror’, Barack Obama’s election has defused war criticism, diminished the ‘peace movement’ and once again united the country under the flags of war.

In the process, tribal loyalty replaced patriotism, revenge superseded legality, and “you’re either with US or against us” wrecked international solidarity and even sympathy with the US after the 9/11 attacks.

War without end

As asymmetrical warfare takes up the fight from conventional wars, battles are replaced by bombings and massacres, military bases by hideouts and remote control rooms, population control and policing by propaganda and terror, and national borders are surpassed by new fault lines passing through every minor Middle Eastern state and every major Western city.

As Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalis volunteer to fight and even die on behalf of their cause and collective identities, against corrupt autocratic regimes, demoralised soldiers and private contractors with fancy gear, who do you think wins at the end of the day?

Before you answer, consider two important lessons of asymmetrical war that have been ignored in the sweeping post-9/11 transformation.

Firstly, in the long term, loyalty, kinship, sacrifice and a sense of justice and belonging is more potent than firepower.

Secondly, “he who fights terrorists for any period of time is likely to become one himself”.

All of which begs for a change in the whole paradigm of the ongoing ‘global war on terror’ that holds entire populations hostage to fear and war.

To be continued …

REF: Al jazeera

Beyond Copenhagen: Dialogue, not diktat

As it drifts from the present into the past, the Copenhagen climate change conference looks both better and worse. Worse, because a considered reading of the accord, which was its only tangible output, reveals that it is not just inadequate but in fact utterly empty. Better, because of the novel manner in which this ultimate failure was reached. As the sight of the daily chaos drops out of view, it becomes easier to appreciate that the rich world was forced to haggle with the bigger emerging economies on more equal terms than ever before.

As the dust has settled on the “meaningful agreement” proclaimed late on Friday, it has become plain that it was scarcely an agreement at all. For one thing it was “noted” rather than adopted by the assembly, and for another it contains no commitments with real bite. The gaping hole where emissions targets should have been was immediately apparent, but it took a little longer to spot that seemingly firm pledges on aid were hedged with lawyerly language, and that passages dealing with supposed “easy wins” – such as on forestry – were devoid of all detail. But amid all the multiple omissions in the three pages of waffle that constitute the accord, the most damning of all was a lack of anything firm about what happens next.

Failure to fix the climate in Copenhagen might have been forgiven, had the delegates emerged with a credible timetable for getting the job done. Instead, progress made under the text’s inaction plan is to be “assessed” in 2015, with a view to considering whether to tighten the 2C lid on temperature rises to 1.5C. This may sound a noble idea, but the review is set to be futile, since the science says that rises above 1.5C will probably be guaranteed by the middle of the new decade. About the only action committed to at an earlier date is for the rich countries to come up with targets by the end of next month, an obligation which the big players could fully discharge by simply repeating the pledges each has already made.

While the Copenhagen product is every inch the sham that campaigners say it is, the Copenhagen process has set important precedents. Most obviously, although the haggling proved fruitless, the sheer fact that it took place – and at such a high political level – means it will probably do so again. Many of the presidents and prime ministers who swanned off to Denmark told their people that their mission was saving the world. Before Copenhagen, across much of the planet, the highly complex risks faced by the climate had rarely been discussed in such dramatic terms. Now that leaders from Beijing to Brasilia have shown that they believe that the clear and present threat is sufficiently serious for them to turn up in person, they would have a tough time explaining why they were not going to bother next time.

Just as significant is what the summit revealed about the terms on which the ultimate climate deal will have to be brokered. Two moments were particularly instructive. The first involved the derailment of a western-led stitch-up, which became known as the Danish text. It would have done away with the Kyoto protocol, with its explicit acknowledgement of the industrialised world’s unique responsibility for the pollution it has pumped out over the centuries. When the poor countries made plain they would not wear it, the rich felt forced to back down. The second, which occurred only moments before stumps were finally drawn, was an American concession on monitoring emissions designed to sooth Chinese anxieties about sovereignty. Hours before, President Obama had taken a pointedly tough tone towards Beijing, but despite justified concerns about holding it to account, in the end he rightly recognised the need to compromise.

The silver that glistens within the dark cloud of Copenhagen’s failure is the west’s recognition that the world will not be rescued by diktat, but only through genuine dialogue.

Ref: Guardian

COP 15: Better to have no deal at Copenhagen than one that spells catastrophe

The only offer on the table in Copenhagen would condemn the developing world to poverty and suffering in perpetuity

On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3–3.5C increase in Africa. That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger”, and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale … A global goal of about 2C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”

And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2C increase and offers developing countries just $10bn a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position … If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent … What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.“And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn. Similarly, we do not know what happened when secretary of state Hillary Clinton met Philippine president Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9C, as Bill McKibben puts it.

Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development – one of the most influential advisers in these talks – says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the south. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than “the importance of sharing the sky”.

Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market – $1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern – with the paltry $10bn on the table for developing countries for the next three years, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan”. He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal … Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”

For months now NGOs have got behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to “seal the deal”. Everywhere we look in the Bella Centre, clocks are ticking. But any old deal isn’t good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won’t solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between north and south and locking them in indefinitely.

Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2C proposal in harsh terms: “You cannot say you are proposing a ‘solution’ to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change.”

Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would “lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020″ – well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it’s not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. “I’d rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they’ll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.”

At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2C would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is “better to have no deal than to have a bad deal”. That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state – but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.
Ref: guardian

Yeswecanistan – The Peace Candidate Myth

All the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about?

Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign: We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state. Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe.

If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration. But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue.

The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.” Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings. And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan.

It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.” The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option.

However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation: The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents. President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials. Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways. A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar. Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.

Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy. The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban. MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees. Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured. British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country. British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.” For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.” On November 2, IslamOnline.net (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast …

America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told IslamOnline.net.” There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the IslamOnline.net story. The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.” Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal: “Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.” From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience.

Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest. How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007. Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt? So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America. William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

*Ref: counterpunch

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

The demise of the dollar- Business Oil’s dollar pricing ‘under review’

The demise of the dollar

In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading. In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.

Read the rest of the article…

Ref: The Independent

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