Capitalism is a form of Cancer

SUBHEAD: A few thoughts on why treating Global Warming has proved so difficult to get a handle on.

By Juan Wilson on 7 October 2016 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2016/10/capitalism-is-form-of-cancer.html)


Image above: Political cartoon by Justin Bilicki. From (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/134756213820806743/).

Sometimes as I'm going to bed I have half-formed thoughts that I play with for a while and promise myself I will remember in the morning for further possible development. The night before last I was thinking about how trapped we seem amidst perpetual growth on a finite planet and dealing with global warming, human population, resource depletion and uncontrolled industrialism, etc.

I know part of the problem is that our lifestyles and the shear numbers of human beings require too much of the Earth. But besides that we have a non-human component that has been raised to the rank of "person" but is not - namely corporations - and they are the embodiment of Capitalism and now have some human rights.

The question formulated in my mind was why this linked set of suicidal tendencies had become held together in such a self reinforcing and destructive partnership. Then something came to mind. A pair of connected relationships.

Cancer is to we Humans as Capitalism is to the Earth.

That is, each relationship is one of a self-regulating living entity with a lethal disease. An illness with the characteristic of requiring unlimited unending growth to survive. And that means using any and all of its hosts resources to continue - eventually killing the host... and itself.

Capitalism will be stopped. The question is; will we be the agents and save the Earth as we know it, or will Earth become uninhabitable for us?

The indicators are not good.

The capitalist corporations know they are destroying the Earth. For example, take Philip Morris Tobacco, they knew many decades ago that their cigarettes gave people lung cancer and killed them - but they continue to sell to their addicted customers. And just as Exxon knew decades ago that their fossil fuel products would destroy the Earth's atmosphere through CO2 emmisions -  they continued expanding their drilling operations to fracking, shale oil and offshore drilling.

Both corporations followed the capitalist's mantra of maximizing profits for the good of the shareholders - above all other responsibilities. That's the core religion of all corporations. They don't call it "a religion"... they call it "fiduciary responsibility". 

THEM OR US?
So it's gotten down a question of "Them or us?" It's late to begin saving Mother Nature.There is little time to shut down the ever expanding dirty resource extraction and pollution model the corporations are bound to. Their world view is black and white - Grow or Die! The main stream media is not going to help either.

Companies like the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was once owned by Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The General Electric Company (GE), who builds nuclear power plants and and weapons systems owns NBC (and CNBC and MSNBC) now.

During the first "Presidential Debate" hosted by NBC's Lester Holt there was nothing significant asked of the candidates about fossil fuel CO2, shale oil pollution, global warming, sea rise for climate instability.

These crises are too damaging to the corporations to get headlines. that's because the only solution to  Capitalism is the halt of industrialization and the end to wholesale extraction of the Earth's resources.

KILL THE CANCER!
Unfortunately for Capitalism, Nature is not a subset Capitalist civilization. It is but a lethal, subset of Nature that needs to be surgically removed.

Let is stop the Dakota Access Pipe Line as a tiny first step and move on from there to shut down corporations "as people" and capitalism as the economic model. It's not re-starting "Growth" we should play for, it's "De-growth" - contraction - that's the ticket. If we can't stop "Growth" I suggest you pray for "Collapse"!

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The Fallacy of Economic Growth

SUBHEAD: We're being told that we need still more growth to overcome the present multi-layer crises.

By Yavor Tarinski on 5 October 2016 for Resilience -
(http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-10-05/the-fallacy-of-economic-growth)


Image above: "Plastikos-Planet" photo by Simon Banister From original article.
The insistence on work and production is a malign one. Giorgio Agamben [1]
We are being told that we need still more economic growth in order to overcome the present multi-layer crises. Actually we have been hearing this for quite some time now. Both right and left, capitalist and socialist governments, offer their theories about how we need more production and consumption, in order for our societies to progress and overcome the present difficulties.

The narrative of constant economic growth
But a question arises - isn't our economy already more than big enough? Our production and consumption levels are already outgrowing our planet's biocapacity by nearly 60% each year[2]. Constantly expanding, material extraction and consumption on a global scale have peaked to almost 70 billion tonnes annually[3]. And the current projections show that this rapid growth will continue - it is expected that by the year of 2100 we will be producing three times more waste than we do today[4].

This constant process of large-scale resource extraction and consumption has triggered a severe degradation of nature. Scientists are warning us that we are witnessing the greatest mass extinction of species in more than 65 million years[5].

Due to human economic activity a climate change has been set in motion (with each year passed being hotter than the previous) that threatens to trigger large-scale displacement of people (climate refugees). In many parts of the world soil fertility is being degraded by GMO crops, while water and air are being polluted to levels dangerous for human health. Whole islands consisting of garbage are being formed above the deepest points of our oceans[6].

The list goes on and on. Having said this, we can go as far as to talk of a war on nature.

It is not clear how we will be able to reverse the ecological crisis provoked by the Anthropocene if we continue down the same path. The global leaders admit the problem and call for keeping CO2 emissions down, in order to keep up with the "below 2 degrees Celsius" requirement[7], while paradoxically insisting on more resource extraction, industrial production, long-distance shipment, consumption etc.

According to the dominant narrative, we need economic growth, even at the price of irreversible ecological catastrophe, in order to cope with inequality and poverty. And here another question arises - with the growth acquired until now we should have made some significant progress in this direction, shouldn't we?

Instead, in most contemporary societies, despite their growing economies, there is an increase in inequality. According to Jason Hickel, from the London School of Economics, the world's richest 1% have increased their profits by 60% in the last 20 years[8], during which global economic inequality was rapidly rising - a period of constant economic growth on a global scale.

This is so, because economic growth does not indicate general social wellbeing. If a few bankers get much richer, the indicator of average income can go up, even as most individuals' incomes are declining. The growing indebtedness also potentially can contribute to economic growth, as was the case of Ireland, before it descended into crisis. For example, if the incomes of the slum dwellers rise, it will be an insignificant gain for the economic sector, while the same does not apply for the richest strata of society, whose expanding piece of the economic 'pie' consists of most of the global economy.

These negative effects of the doctrine of constant economic growth were already noticed in 1897 by Errico Malatesta, who in his book At the Café wrote[9]:
“These evils [social inequality, poverty, unemployment] generally are more intense in countries where the industry is more developed, except if the workers themselves didn’t manage, through organizing at the working place, resistance or revolt, to achieve better living conditions."
The paradigm of “Fair Growth”
Now the European Left (in the face of the Greek SYRIZA government[10]) is coming up with a promise to share the “pie” in a more just manner. But still, as if it is not already big enough, it must grow further. It is unclear why this should happen and why we cannot just share the plenty we already have. Is the ruling Left just trying to buy itself more time in power?

The European proposal of “left-winged” growth is based on the so called progressivismo of Latin America. There supposedly progressive governments are conducting large-scale extractivist policies, in order to improve the general wellbeing of society. Despite the obvious ecological costs such projects usually have, it's is also worth noticing the negative effects they have on rural and indigenous communities[11].

By the enclosure and commodification of common-pool resources which accompany the extractivist policies, traditionally sustainable ways of life are made practically impossible, thus forcing the members of these communities to search for livelihoods in megalopolises, often ending up in the urban slums.

For the enrichment of the metropolitan middle and upper classes, sustainable ways of life are being sacrificed. And what are they being sacrificed for - for a life of increasing dependence in an unhealthy environment. That's why much of the critique and resistance against the pink-tide in Latin America is coming from those located at the bottom of the pyramid - the indigenous communities, the first that are being sacrificed in the name of “progress”.

We can assume therefore that economic growth is incompatible with ecological and self-sustainable ways of life. In order to continue growing, the modern economy needs to absorb as much commons as possible, making impossible human interactions outside of it.

Some, such as Google and Facebook, the two fastest growing corporations in the history of capitalism, are going as far as to commodify our very existence in the datascape, squeezing our digital life for surplus value[12].

And by doing this, economic growth actually strengthens the capitalist system, which is, alongside the state apparatus, responsible for the deepening social inequalities.

Thus the Left's promise that constant economic growth could lower the current levels of inequality and poverty is at least unrealistic. We can assume that in reality it is nothing more than a move that strives at keeping them in positions of power by giving hope. On the one hand, it is a promise towards the many that are in need, stricken by the crisis. On the other - towards the richest strata, promising them that the current social imbalances will not be disturbed.

But even if somehow reduction of poverty and inequality is being achieved in the distant future through constant economic growth, it will be at the price of irreversible environmental changes that will affect human health, like the unbreathable air of the Chinese megapolises, or the inflammable water in American towns where shale-gas fracking is taking place. But there will be a cost also on the socio-political level.

In this process self-sufficient and democratic ways of life will be sacrificed and absorbed by unstable capitalist entities and the state that strive to commodify and bureaucratize everything. Thus alternative approaches will be pushed even further away from the social imaginary.

Towards direct democracy and ecology
Instead, we should abandon the growth doctrine altogether and direct our attention at the already existing enormous economic “pie”. There is no point at enlarging it even further; on the contrary, if we want to have any future on this planet, we will have to de-grow it. But this can have meaning only if we decide to share it equally.

And this cannot be done by the state or other hierarchical extra-social structures, for equality requires equal participation in the decision-making by all citizens. Thus here we speak for major paradigm change: an altogether abandonment of the capitalist economism of homo economicus and embracement of the social ecology of active citizens, impassioned about public affairs and conscious of their symbiotic relationship with nature.

This implies that instead of elected representatives, economic oligarchs or artificial economic indicators to determine where the pieces of the  economic “pie” should go, this should be done by interconnected direct-democratic institutions like popular assemblies and councils of revocable delegates that give the opportunity for direct participation to every member of society.

In her field work in the U.S., Guatemala, Kenya, Turkey, Nepal and elsewhere, Nobel-prize recipient Elinor Ostrom observed[13] similar patterns of communal management of commons, that didn't just avoid a theoretical tragedy, bit actually appeared quite sustainable.

In such a way, actual social, individual and environmental needs, reflected by the above-mentioned deliberative bodies, will direct the size and purpose of economic activity. That way already existing and functioning technologies could be put to serve people and nature, reducing the work day and creating more time for creativity, philosophy, politics, art, enjoyment etc.

Energy could be acquired through decentralized and renewable means, fostering local self-sufficiency and sustainability. Tools and devices could be made long-lasting, by designing them to be upgradable, rather than replaceable. All these and many more are already possible with the current state of our development.

The rejection of economic growth does not mean a retreat to primitivism, but rather a different use and understanding of what we already have and will acquire in the future. Scientific researches and experiments needn't cease taking place, but they shouldn’t be navigated by the economism of short-term profits for the few, but by the general commonwealth of people and nature.

And this includes conscious self-limitation, i.e. the possibility of society itself to decide, in a deliberative manner, which directions to progress in and what technology (or knowledge) should be dealt with cautionsly, or even restrained.

Here it is worth noticing that the technological progress that is being praised by the advocates of capitalism and economic growth is, quite possibly, not their strongest side. In his book Utopia of Rules, David Graeber points at the unfulfilled popular hopes of technological miracles we should have acquired by now.

Instead, the imperative of constant economic growth, bureaucratic hierarchy and short-term market competitiveness have made companies and scientists indulge mainly into developing information technologies[14], i.e. technologies of simulation, or what Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco call “hyper-real” – the ability to make imitations more realistic than the original. Thus real advance in this field was replaced by a spectacle.

Grassroots resistance to economic growth
As it is obvious from what’s being said above, this democratic paradigm is not confined to the economy. Instead, it encompasses all spheres of human life and their relation to nature, offering a holistic and sustainable vision for our future, based on symbiotic, rather than competitive, relations between people, and between humanity and nature. And it cannot but be enforced from the “bottom-up” – in a non-statist, anti-capitalist, direct-democratic, ecological manner.

We can already see that in many parts of the world projects aimed at enforcing economic growth, are being met with hostility by local communities. From India’s farmers burning GMO crops, which are degrading their land, to indigenous and environmental groups in the U.S. that have managed during the last couple of years to stop some mega-projects – like the Keystone XL and the North Dakota pipeline, that were supposed to transfer large quantities of oil over drinkable water sources, putting in danger the lives of the locals.

But even in the countries that can be considered as pioneers of the “Fair Growth” concept we see such reactions. In Bolivia comunarios (communal peasants)[15] are protesting against the government's extremely extractivist policies that are contributing to the warming of the climate and the drought that impoverishes local farmers.

In Ecuador, indigenous and ecological movements have gained such a momentum, that Correa's administration went as far as to criminalize environmental activism, classifying it as "terrorism"[16].

 We can conclude that economic growth, either Right or Left-wing, cannot solve the present social problems.

Instead it strengthens capitalism and statist hierarchies, which only deepen the roots of the present crisis. For their successful tackling a completely different paradigm is needed, one that will not aim at cursory “fix-ups”, but will deal with the real causes of our problems in a holistic manner.

We all need to support and participate in such struggles and movements by connecting them with each other, introducing them to alternatives like decentralizing power, giving it back in the hands of interconnected local communities, and making all of us conscious of our dependence on nature.

[1] http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/1612-thought-is-the-courage-of-hopelessness-an-interview-with-philosopher-giorgio-agamben
[9] Errico Malatesta: At the Cafe: Conversations on Anarchism, Freedom Press 2005, p. 30
[11] Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything, Penguin Books 2015, pp 180-182
[12] https://roarmag.org/magazine/socialize-the-internet/
[13] Elinor Ostrom: Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems, Nobel-Prize Lecture 2009
[14] David Graeber: The Utopia of Rules, Melville House 2015, p. 110

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A cynical "eco-friendly" US Army

SUBHEAD: The US military continues to prepare for war as it hides behind green smokescreen of environmentalism.

By Jon Letman on 5 October 2016 for Truth-Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37872-a-cynical-environmentalism-protecting-nature-to-prepare-for-war)


Image above: The U.S. Navy has rolled out the Rivereen Command Boat, the first military vessel designed to run on  algae based fuel making it "eco-friendly" even with four automatic gun mounts. From (https://www.wired.com/2010/10/navy-debuts-first-eco-friendly-ship-a-mean-green-riverine-machine/).

Painfully aware that the internet now delivers the carnage of war onto our screens in real time, the US military has made a concerted effort to redefine itself as a "helping" force, offering disaster relief and defending the weak and vulnerable. Increasingly, this includes protecting the environment.

By rebranding itself as a guardian of nature, the military improves its own public image and achieves a veneer of unassailability while bolstering its primary mission, which is, of course, the ability to wage war. In reality, war's brutal and merciless goal of domination and control is the furthest thing imaginable from nurturing or preservation.

"The number one priority of the Army is readiness. We have to be ready for war," said Dr. Christine Altendorf, director of the Pacific Region US Army Installation Management Command. "Readiness requires training, and training requires environmental stewardship, which goes hand in hand. Sustaining the ability to train requires protecting the environment."

Altendorf was speaking on September 5 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at a panel discussion hosted by the US State Department entitled "Department of Defense Conservation: A Good News Story."

The event was held at the US Pavilion of the World Conservation Congress (WCC), a gathering organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This year's WCC, attended by over 10,000 conservationists, scientists, government leaders, NGOs and members of civil society from 192 countries, also included representatives of the Army, Navy and Air Force who were eager to talk about caring for the natural world.

A Good News Story
With more than 12.4 million acres of Army-controlled land that, according to Altendorf, include 156 installations, 1.3 million acres of wetlands, over 82,000 archaeological sites, 109 Native American sacred sites and 223 endangered species, there's plenty of environment for the Army to protect.

Altendorf said the US Army spends between $1 billion and $1.5 billion annually for renewable energy, water and waste programs, as well as the cleanup of former Department of Defense sites.

The impact of the US military can be found in places like South Korea; Okinawa, Japan; Guam; the Philippines; the Marshall Islands and Hawaii, where contamination from fuel spillschemical weaponsdepleted uraniumunexploded ordnance and bomb blast craters have become part of the landscape.

The day before the opening of the WCC, as President Obama arrived in Honolulu to speak to Pacific Island nation leaders about the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, protesters demonstrated on the campus of the University of Hawaii against issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to military testing and live-fire training.

When Obama spoke about the world's largest protected marine area, he did not mention the broad exemptions for the military to operate within the newly expanded conservation area in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The Elephant in the Room
The WCC offered a dizzying array of more than 1,300 panel discussions, workshops, meetings, talks and exhibitions considering everything from the Amazon rainforests and biocultural conservation to world heritage and zoos, but there was very little discussion of how militarism, conflict and war impact nature and people.

When asked whether the WCC is an appropriate venue for discussing the environmental impacts of the military, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz told Truthout, "Of course it's relevant because a lot of the bases are really polluting. These are the ones that are causing heavy metal, toxic poisoning and all that. But I'm not sure that IUCN is dealing with this issue at all."

In 2012, when the WCC convened on South Korea's Jeju Island, environmental and human rights defenders were angered as the IUCN met just miles from where South Korean police were arresting protesters trying to stop the construction of a large naval base, which opponents said was being built at the expense of the environment and the island's culture.

Retired US Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright attended this year's WCC and told Truthout that it is crucial to address the destructive effects of military operations on nature.

"The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this 'elephant in the room' in a conference for the protection of the endangered planet -- a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all pressures on the planet," Wright said.

Why Do We Care?
Also talking up Department of Defense conservation was Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy Miranda Ballentine, who spoke of a "good news/bad news story."

"Essentially, what we've done is built perfect islands of habitat within the [military base] fence line," Ballentine said. This limits the range of threatened and endangered species, which "could encroach on the military mission." For this reason, she said it's important to expand conservation efforts beyond the base with the goal of "protecting a species from a landscape perspective and enhancing the military mission."

Spanning 9 million acres globally with 115 species documented among 161 installations and 44 range complexes, threatened and endangered species on Defense Department land, Ballentine said, are five times denser than on US Fish and Wildlife Service land.

"Why do we care about conservation on military bases?" Ballentine asked. "It comes down to natural infrastructure. Just like we invest in our built infrastructure, we invest, protect and conserve our natural infrastructure [which] provides services back to us as human beings."

Need for a Critical Space
Among those challenging the military's environmental claims at the WCC were Okinawan and Japanese delegates who ran a booth sharing information about how the forced construction of a new US Marine air base on reclaimed land at Cape Henoko in northern Okinawa threatens coral, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and tramples human rights.

The outspoken mayor of Okinawa's Nago city, Susumu Inamine, came to the WCC to present Okinawa's case against a plan that would require dumping 21 million cubic meters of sand and dirt imported from seven Japanese locations into Oura Bay to reclaim land for the proposed base. The bay is recognized by environmental and scientific organizations as one of the most biologically rich marine environments in East Asia.

Hideki Yoshikawa -- the international director of the Save the Dugong Campaign Center, an NGO seeking to protect a vulnerable sea mammal threatened by the planned construction -- is working with Okinawan officials to challenge a Japanese government environmental impact assessment. Yoshikawa is also petitioning the IUCN to take a stronger position on the Henoko base. "The IUCN needs to create a critical space in which the environmental impacts of war, military exercises and [bases] are seriously discussed," Yoshikawa told Truthout.

Dr. Mariko Abe, a coral reef biologist with the Nature Conservation Society of Japan has been monitoring Okinawa's coral reefs since 1998. Her organization has been petitioning the IUCN to issue recommendations in support of dugong conservation since 2000. Abe explained that the land reclamation project threatens to introduce invasive species and would irreversibly alter the biodiverse bay, which is home to at least 34 noteworthy recently reported species and 262 threatened and endangered marine species.

Abe said support for conservation work should go directly to scientists rather than be routed through the military.

Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, said military base construction and associated activities should be held to the same requirements under human rights laws as other potentially environmentally damaging enterprises, such as extractive industries like mining, oil and timber.

This should include fully informed participation by affected local people, participation in decision-making, remedies for violations and the ability to exercise rights of free expression and association.

"You should absolutely be able to protest and get together with other people to protest and not worry about being thrown in jail as long as you do it peacefully," Knox said.

Our Mission Is Clear
In keeping with its slogan, "Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom. Protecting the Environment," Rear Admiral John W. Korka said the Navy's mission is clear:
"We have a global presence to project power from the sea and at sea, to preserve our freedom of the United States. But we also value trust and have a responsibility to preserve our environment through good stewardship."
That mission includes training exercises in over 4.4 million square miles of sea and along 500 miles of coastline where 70 global naval installations serve as launching platforms to deploy military forces. Korka said the Navy spends some $30 million a year for marine mammal protection programs.

He described monitoring marine mammals, turtles, seabirds and invertebrates using sophisticated underwater acoustic technology and satellite tracking systems to determine the impacts of naval activities. In July 2016, the Ninth Circuit court ordered the Navy to limit its use of long-range sonar, which could severely harm marine mammals.

Korka also spoke of a program to relocate Laysan albatrosses and their eggs from their chosen nesting site near a runway at Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility with the goal of protecting the birds and preventing aircraft bird strikes.

Meanwhile, far to the west, in the Northern Mariana Islands, environmental defenders -- Indigenous Chamorro and others -- are fighting to prevent small islands, identified by the IUCN as hotspots of biodiversity, from becoming live fire test ranges.

Speaking specifically about Guam, Pågan and Tinian islands, Korka talked about inviting public comment, adding, "I do think [the Navy's] transparency and commitment to the environment is pretty sincere and pretty honest and open."

Dr. Michael Bevacqua, an assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam, called statements like Korka's "a perfect example of greenwashing;" portraying them as an attempt by the military to distract onlookers from the deeper reality of environments poisoned by the military.
"If these military activities are so good for the environment, why don't they do them in Yellowstone or near Mt. Rushmore?" Bevacqua asked.

A Toxic Legacy
Speaking about the Navy's environmental legacy on Guam, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, co-chair of the Independence for Guam Task Force said, "A significant portion of over 10,000 comments on the Navy's Environmental Impact Statement expressed serious concerns about continued environmental injustice and land taking."

"Our community is burned out from continuously being asked to give what are essentially powerless comments. The Navy has proven time and again that our people and environment are not their priorities."

Leon Guerrero's family land was contaminated by the US military after World War II when she said it was used to bury war waste. In 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers assessed the property and, three years later, told her family they found total petroleum hydrocarbons as oil, benzo(a)pyrene, arsenic, lead, mercury, pesticides and PCBs in the surface soil and metals and pesticides in the subsurface soil.

 "They unearthed drums of chemicals but ran out of money midway through the project and abandoned it," Leon Guerrero said. Today, her family still doesn't know the specific levels or amounts of contamination, the volumes of toxicity or the associated health risks.
She and others on Guam have expressed concerns about plans for new live-fire testing ranges that will accompany a buildup of US Marines in the region.

But Ballentine said, "very precision weaponry" meant that on Air Force ranges "we actually damage, when we're testing bombs, less than 10 percent of the range which is why ranges have become some of the most pristine natural habitat left in the United States."

Today, US military presence is expanding across the Asia-Pacific region, an area already drastically altered by war. From Subic Bay in the Philippines to the Korean Peninsula, Okinawa, Japan, Guam, the Marshall Islands and Hawaii, the United States military has created countless opportunities to clean up and restore damaged landscapes.

As recently as 2015, civilians were  injured in Oahu's Makua Valley, where unexploded ordnance from military testing remains. Last May, in the Marshall Islands, a nation used by the US for nuclear testing, a woman was killed by a World War II-era munition on Mili Atoll.

During President Obama's August visit to Laos, he committed to contribute to that country's ongoing efforts to clear cluster bombs dropped by the US, which still cover roughly one-quarter of the entire nation -- the same percentage that cover the Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe, formerly used by the Navy for testing bombs.

But even as the US military invests billions of dollars in environmental conservation, their efforts are met with skepticism by those who wonder if protecting the environment in order to more effectively wage war is true conservation.

The Air Force's Ballentine said the bottom line is: "It's absolutely essential that your United States military has the opportunity to test and train in real-world situations and hopefully that's all we do and we never actually have to take that into a real-world war situation."

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Trump and the end of Globalism

SUBHEAD: Elitists like Thomas Friedman cannot see the rejection of globalism in the support for Trump.

By Kurt Cobb on 2 October 2016 for Resource Insights -
(http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2016/10/donald-trump-and-impossible-destination.html)


Image above: Germans protest imposition of TTIP in August 2016 as global trade deal falls apart. Wave goodbye Angela and Barack. From (http://www.puppetstringnews.com/blog/breaking-globalist-trade-deal-ttip-talks-fail-in-the-eu).

In a recent column, The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman shows himself to be as good a spokesman for the world's elites (with whom he often communes) as anyone on Earth. He asks one simple question about Republican presidential candidate and billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump: How?Friedman's column-length answer is a catalogue of Trump's puzzling views about NATO and ISIS, his poor command of the major issues, his contradictory statements and his strange embrace of tax avoidance.

What's missing, of course, is the centerpiece of Trump's appeal: his criticism of major trade deals which have devastated entire industries in the United States and destroyed the middle-class jobs that go with them. To the defenders of globalism--and Friedman is one of globalism's fiercest defenders--Trump's criticism is nothing short of heresy.

But the billionaire's bluster embodies the anger that people affected by those deals feel every day. Not a few of them have previously been consistent Democratic voters. Of course, there are plenty of Republicans who are voting for Trump because he is the party's candidate.

And, there are plenty of evangelicals and so-called "values voters" supporting him (despite his profligate ways) because his party has traditionally opposed abortion, supported prayer in schools, and fought same-sex marriage.

But disaffected, downwardly mobile American workers are the ones keeping the race very close, a race that few thought would ever be close just a few weeks ago. So strong is the fear of globalism and all that it represents among a certain class of Trump supporters that they readily dismiss mainstream media critiques of his fitness for office and his understanding of policy. Those supporters want to protect what little they have left.

And, some want to go back to retrieve what they and their communities--often small and rural ones--have lost to the globalist onslaught in the last two decades. In this desire they are not being irrational.

Now here's the dirty secret about the top four U.S. presidential candidates who regularly appear in national polls. None of them actually rejects globalism. (I'll come back to this later.) At this point I'm finally obliged to say what I mean by the amorphous term "globalism."

A friend recently put it into historical perspective and included the resource angle that regular readers must have already suspected I would mention.

With the discovery and then exploitation of fossil fuels on an ever growing scale, societies everywhere were faced with figuring out how to govern a world with ever increasing energy surpluses. Those surpluses made so many new things possible and in doing so led to rapid social and technological change.

We tried laissez-faire capitalism, communism, fascism, democratic socialism and finally globalism which I'll define as the management of worldwide economic activity and growth by large multi-national corporations which have no particular allegiance to any one country or people. Our belief has been that this arrangement is the most rational and efficient.

Therefore, trade deals which bring down barriers both to international trade and to the movement of capital and technology across borders are believed to encourage global economic growth. That growth supposedly will ultimately lift the world's poor into the middle class and enrich everyone else while doing it.

Around the time that the fall of communism made possible the uniting of the world's economies into one great global system, we were also discovering that this system was doomed to failure for environmental reasons.

Climate scientist James Hansen's testimony before the U.S. Senate in 1988 presaged the many "thousand-year floods" which are hitting the United States and other places around the world, and that is just one of the many emerging and dangerous consequences of climate change.

And, climate change is just one of a thicket of interrelated threats including resource depletion, pollution and overuse of groundwater, ocean pollution, overfishing, soil degradation, and toxic pollutants in the air, water and soil.

Contrary to what the apologists for globalism suggest, scale actually matters.

One million humans living as we do today would not likely undermine the habitability of the planet, for humans at least. When 7 billion live in this way, our combined effect has made us the dominant force on the planet so much so that we have created a new geologic age named after us: the Anthropocene.

It is now clear that globalism as an engine for an ever growing world economy will lead to catastrophic climate change and other untoward results that will destroy the underpinnings of modern society. In other words, globalism is a suicide pact.

The idea that we can expand globalism to any size we choose was discredited long before now. One version of this fantasy was that the Earth would be able to accommodate U.S.-style consumerism worldwide. But we know that if all residents of the planet consumed like Americans, we would need four Earths to sustain them.

Therefore, the destination offered by globalism no longer features prosperity and stability for all, but a ruinous decline. And yet, our politics and our public discourse speak as if we can still go there.

Trump in his rejection of current trade treaties is saying that we need to go back to something else. He says he wants to "make America great again," which, of course, means America's greatness is somewhere in the past.

As another friend quipped, implied in Trump's platform is the idea that we can get into a time machine and go back to a past that is more to our liking.

So, it's no surprise that Trump's critics are saying he is backward-looking. The future, those critics say, is an ever more connected global society. But, in such a discussion we are left with only two destinations:

We can try to go back to a past which we cannot hope to reconstruct and which, even if we could, would send us in a direction which is considered the opposite of progress.

Or, we can go forward toward globalism's dream of a connected worldwide sphere of material prosperity (and the inevitable ruin this trajectory implies). In our broad public discourse there is no third non-globalism destination for which we have a description and a justification because any such attempt at describing that destination is labeled backward-looking, as merely going back to the past. And, who wants to be accused of that? The accusation tends to end the discussion.

In truth, Trump is not actually proposing a retrograde movement. He merely proposes to renegotiate America's trade deals. That means he embraces the globalist system whether he admits it or not.

Hillary Clinton has now said she will oppose the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. And, she has supposedly told one union leader she will reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement. She, too, continues to embrace globalism, merely wishing to alter its terms.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson wants to lay the groundwork for "massive job growth across the entire country." He believes in reducing regulation to encourage that growth. And, he believes in free trade which is a codeword for embracing globalism.

Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, has a lot in her platform that working people should like. But her call for increased spending on renewable energy, drastic cuts in defense spending and broader protection of human rights probably won't go down well with many whites whose jobs depend on the old fossil-fuel-burning industrial economy, who think military spending is synonymous with security, and who perceive non-whites as competitors in the job market.

Like Trump, Stein would replace current trade deals with new ones that are "fair." Again, we have no explicit rejection of globalism as a system. We will somehow survive that system if only we embrace the "Green New Deal" plan which she proposes.

Bernie Sanders, Clinton's opponent in the Democratic primary, sounds a lot like Stein. He would mitigate the worst aspects of globalism without really challenging its legitimacy. But Sanders did something which Clinton by temperament could not or by choice would not do. Like Trump, Sanders embodied the anger of those injured by globalism.

This is why he consistently polled higher than Clinton in one-to-one matchups with Trump. (Compare Sanders' and Clinton's polling numbers.) Sanders was the candidate who not only displayed his anger at globalism, but also (unlike Trump) had a detailed plan for addressing it. That plan appealed to many Trump voters who could not register that appeal when asked about a Clinton-Trump matchup.

But they could register their approval when asked about a Sanders-Trump contest, and they account for Sanders' runaway margins in polls which show him attracting voters who would otherwise support Trump in a contest with Clinton.

It would be political suicide for any serious candidate for the presidency of the United States to announce that economic growth as we know it is over and that we will have to organize our society based on other principles. Just what those principles might be has been articulated by such people as Herman Daly, the dean of the steady-state economists. But then, Daly isn't running for anything.

Even though the idea of a steady-state economy may seem utterly foreign to us after 200 years of unprecedented economic growth, it has become a lived reality for many since even before the 2008 financial crash.

Critical to how we proceed is to understand what is actually slowing down economic growth. Climate change will certainly over time become a huge detriment to economic activity and, if unchecked, is likely to disrupt our modern technical society to such a degree (particularly when it comes to growing food) that it will not survive intact.

Many of the theories about slow growth revolve around financial and demographic constraints. What needs to become part of the discussion are energy limits (see here and here) and pollution limits, particularly on greenhouse gases.

We are now waiting for our politics to catch up to this reality. Donald Trump, the exit of Great Britain from the European Union, and threat of exit by movements in Italy, Greece and Spain, all point to the same problem. Globalism as a system has no future. The pain it has inflicted so far has been on the middle and lower classes.

At some point, that pain will spread to the highest reaches of society. Will we have to wait for that in order to get definitive movement toward a third destination?

Jared Diamond in his book Collapse pondered our predicament. Elites in past societies that have collapsed insulated themselves from the consequences of environmental and resource constraints so that they perceived no need for drastic changes.

If Thomas Friedman's column represents the thinking of today's elites, then they are truly well-insulated. Even Friedman who is more broadly informed and nuanced in his thinking shows how he himself is insulated when he writes that "income gaps are actually narrowing, wages are rising and poverty is easing."

A minor beneficial move in the statistics after so many years of moves in the opposite direction is hardly the stuff that matters to people who are hurting.
 
The elites and Friedman can't understand Trump's appeal because they don't have much contact with those who are suffering from globalism's many side-effects. Whether or not Trump actually understands those injured by globalism, he successfully embodies their rage.

And, it is that rage which is propelling his campaign to the amazement of elites out of touch with America's middle and lower classes.

Unfortunately, the answer to globalism's dead end cannot be found in the current U.S. presidential campaign. But the loud cries of its victims are audible to all those who are willing to hear them. And those victims may end up deciding who will be America's next president.
 
P.S. I am indebted to Bruno Latour, the French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist of science for his recent lecture "Why Gaia is not the Globe" which inspired this piece.


Video above: Trump speaks about this June about globalist trade deals damaging American economy in Monessa, Pennsylvania. From (https://youtu.be/FI9ZIDSlyhk).

• Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.

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Nature = sacred • Capitalism = wicked

SUBHEAD: Under Capitalism catastrophes like natural disasters and war are used as business opportunities.

By Jake Johnson on 3 October 2016 for Common Dreams -
(http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/10/03/if-nature-sacred-capitalism-wicked)


Image above: Monolopy capitalist drowning in the fruits of his own labor - Global Warming. From original article.

In his remarkable study When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten recounts a meeting he attended ahead of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The meeting was led, Korten notes, by indigenous leaders who were anxious about the direction in which global environmental policy was being steered. They were also, quite justifiably, worried about who was doing the steering.

"In the conference's preparatory meetings," Korten writes, "corporatists...proposed that to save nature we must put a price on her."

t's a familiar story: Capitalism, we are often told, can be made green. Incentives can be established. The corporations previously leading the way in pollution, plunder, and exploitation can, with a few adjustments, become the world's leaders in the development of clean energy and pave the way to a sustainable future.

As is often the case, it is those who have seen up close the harm done by corporate greed who most quickly see through the facade.

"These indigenous leaders recognized that this proposal would accelerate the monopolization by the richest among us of the resources essential to human life," Korten observed. "Their position was clear and unbending. Earth is our Sacred Mother and she is not for sale. Her care is our sacred
responsibility. Her fruits must be equitably and responsibly shared by all."

This conflict between capitalism and the environment is not, of course, uncharted terrain. Naomi Klein, in her bestselling book This Changes Everything, argues that an economic order predicated on the relentless pursuit of profit is incompatible with a world in which natural resources are used with the necessary care and restraint.

It truly is, as the subtitle of Klein's book notes, "capitalism versus the climate." Terrifyingly, capitalism is winning.

Under capitalism, everything is a business opportunity — catastrophes, from tsunamis to wars, are no exception. In fact, as Klein documented in her earlier book The Shock Doctrine, disasters are not viewed by business leaders as problems to be solved; rather, they are seen as circumstances of which they must take advantage.

But capitalism does not merely wait on the sidelines for these opportunities to arise. "An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial," Klein notes.

Disasters of the kind Klein describes have become commonplace during the neoliberal period, in which markets have been deregulated, public services have been privatized, governments have become unresponsive to the needs of the citizenry, and trade accords have empowered corporations to run roughshod over sovereign nations in pursuit of profit.

The exploitation of the global poor in the process is a given — as Arundhati Roy observed in a piece condemning the government of India for sanctioning the displacement of indigenous communities in an effort to clear the way for corporate mining projects, it's now just "business as usual."

"The battle lines," she wrote, "are clearly drawn."

Similar such cases, in which poor people are seen as disposable and their communities as capitalism's waste dumps, abound.

In North Texas, the "birthplace of modern hydraulic fracturing," residents have been suffering the consequences of living near the operations of the oil and gas industry for years — consequences that include, but aren't limited to, heart problems, breathing troubles, and birth defects.
"I've been trying to sell my house," one resident told the Center for Public Integrity. "I've got to get out of here or I'm going to die."

In 2015, Scientific American reported  an unsurprising fact, by now almost a truism: It is the poor, disproportionately poor people of color, who have been forced to bear the brunt of the often devastating ills imposed by fracking. Unsurprising, and far from new: "Residents in these poor counties have been under assault for generations," Alex Lotorto of Energy Justice said.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has been thoroughly documented, and rightly so. Less prominent has been coverage of East Chicago, Indiana, where for decades residents' homes have rested on lead-contaminated soil.

As the New York Times reported in August, "the companies responsible for the contamination" were sued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009, but this is little comfort for the more than 1,000 people — including over 600 children — now forced to find a new place to live.

It is impossible to quantify the harm done in such circumstances; but, needless to say, those responsible for the harm harbor few qualms about their actions. One executive reportedly said aloud what most already knew was the case: Poor communities are intentionally targeted because they lack the resources to mount effective resistance.

Thankfully, we have seen in recent weeks that this doesn't have to be the case — that, when the opposition is sufficiently organized, corporate plunder can be obstructed. Though under-reported in mainstream outlets, the fight over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline provides a case in point.

North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux tribe, joined by many other tribes and activists, has for weeks engaged in direct action in response to Energy Transfer Partners' desire to move forward with the project, arguing that it would place at risk both the water supply and sacred land. State officials have responded with striking intensity.

"In recent weeks, the state has militarized my reservation, with road blocks and license-plate checks, low-flying aircraft and racial profiling of Indians," wrote David Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. "The local sheriff and the pipeline company have both called our protest 'unlawful,' and Gov. Dalrymple has declared a state of emergency."

Last week, as Common Dreams reported, over twenty protesters were arrested in "a military-style raid" which "interrupted a peaceful prayer ceremony."

Far from dispiriting, such a vicious response to nonviolent demonstrations of this kind show how threatening organized protest is to corporations and their partners in government; though they claim to fear chaos, disorder, and violence, what corporate forces really fear is mass solidarity expressed through courageous acts of civil disobedience.

Of course, the protests at Standing Rock are not isolated acts, and they are, as Sarah Jaffe observes, "bigger than one pipeline."

"We all have similar struggles, where this dependency this world has on fossil fuels is affecting and damaging Mother Earth," David Archambault II told Jaffe. "It is the indigenous peoples who are standing up with that spirit, that awakening of that spirit and saying, 'It is time to protect what is precious to us.'"

Never has such action been more necessary.

The science tells us that we have reached a critical moment; as Naomi Klein has argued, "no gradual, incremental options are now available to us." Researchers agree, and some have joined the call for "radical change" that goes far beyond the agreements reached in Paris.

But such radical change cannot take place in the absence of mass anti-capitalist movements that recognize the interplay between economic interests and environmental degradation.

The leaders of the struggle for a sustainable, equitable future will not, therefore, be corporate executives and billionaire philanthropists, with their deep ideological commitments to the economic order that so enriched them and their businesses.

Rather, leading the way will be the indigenous communities that have for so long been forced to endure relentless dispossession in the name of business.

As Noam Chomsky has observed, "The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction." And, he adds, "countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet."

If "water is life," as the Sioux saying goes, an economic system that poisons water for profit is life's contradiction — it is a system of destruction, a "suicide economy," that must be dismantled.

"Ultimately, the 'success' or otherwise of the Paris climate talks appears unlikely to challenge the fundamental dynamics underlying the climate crisis.

Dramatic decarbonisation based around limits upon consumption, economic growth, and corporate influence are not open for discussion," conclude scholars Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg.

"Until this changes, the dominance of corporate capitalism will ensure the continued rapid unraveling of our habitable climate."

Jake Johnson is an independent writer. Follow him on Twitter: @wordsofdissent

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Syria & Ukraine stress risks war

SUBHEAD: Obama and Putin play risky game of bluster that could easily lead to violence between nations.

By Matthrew Lee on 3 October 2016 for Zero Hedge -
(http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ffc0bdf90d8248b29e53d37acdab039c/us-suspends-contacts-russia-syria)


Image above: FS President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on September 28, 2015 in New York. From original article.

Already testy, relations between the United States and Russia plummeted Monday as Washington suspended diplomatic contacts with Moscow over failed efforts to end the war in Syria and President Vladimir Putin put on hold a deal with the U.S. on disposing weapons-grade plutonium.

On the surface, the suspensions were unrelated. But both underscored deep mistrust and rising tensions between the former Cold War foes, who are increasingly at odds on a number of issues, particularly Syria and Ukraine. In the short term, the end of discussions on Syria deals a potential death blow to efforts to slow the civil war and begin negotiations on possible elections in the country that could mean the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

Underscoring the deterioration between the U.S. and Russia, Putin suspended a deal on plutonium disposal hours before the U.S. announcement. The two powers will still continue discussions on the Iran nuclear deal, Ukraine and other non-Syria issues.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. has "done all it could to destroy the atmosphere encouraging cooperation." It cited U.S. sanctions on Moscow over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and NATO's deployment of forces near Russian borders.

U.S. officials said that despite the suspension of talks with Russia, they would continue to work for a truce and aid deliveries to Syria in other gatherings, including the International Syria Support Group, a collection of nations, including Russia.

The Obama administration said it decided to cut off discussions on Syria because Russia had not lived up to the terms of last month's agreement to restore a tattered cease-fire and ensure sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged cities, such as Aleppo, which has been under bombardment from Russian and Syrian forces.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, "What's clear is that there is nothing more for the United States and Russia to talk about with regard to trying to reach an agreement that would reduce the violence inside of Syria and that's tragic."

"This is not a decision that was taken lightly," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments ... and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed."

Kirby's statement said that Russia and Syria are pursuing military action in violation of the cease-fire agreement, and pointed to their targeting of hospitals as well as the Sept. 19 airstrike on a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy. The U.S. accused Russia of bombing that convoy, a charge both Russia and Syria have denied.

Russia intervened on behalf of its close ally Syria on Sept. 30 last year, joining Assad's bombardment of both anti-Assad rebel groups and militant groups such as the Islamic State and Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaida spinoff formerly known as the Nusra Front. Russia is interested in propping up Assad in part because Russia's only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union is on the Syrian coast.

If it had been implemented, the cease-fire deal would have created a joint U.S.-Russian center to coordinate military and intelligence operations. President Barack Obama had overruled Pentagon objections to such cooperation and Secretary of State John Kerry made the offer.

According to a senior U.S. official, the Pentagon has ordered troops who had been deployed to set up the joint implementation center — fewer than 20 — to return to their bases. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The suspension will not affect communications between the two countries aimed at keeping their planes from bumping into each other over Syria.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova voiced regret about the U.S. move and blamed Washington for the failure to persuade the moderate Syrian rebels it backs to cut ties with extremist groups.

"And now, after failing to fulfill the agreements they worked out themselves, they are trying to shift the blame," she said.

The U.S. had agreed to separate the rebel groups but noted it was an extremely slow process. The U.S. has relatively few personnel on the ground in Syria and even the moderate rebels have said they are frustrated with the pace of U.S. help.

Putin's decree on plutonium cited the "emerging threat to strategic stability as a result of U.S. unfriendly actions," as well as Washington's failure to meet its end of the cease-fire deal. It said, however, that Russia will keep the weapons-grade plutonium covered under the agreement away from weapons programs.

Under the agreement, which was expanded in 2006 and 2010, Russia and the U.S. each were to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium, enough material for about 17,000 nuclear warheads. When it was signed in 2000, the deal was touted as an example of successful cooperation between Washington and Moscow.



Russia adds S-300 missiles to Syria

SUBHEAD: The anti-aircraft missiles might be used on US planes attacking President Assad's government.

By Tyler Durden on 5 October 2016 for Zero Hedge -
(http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-10-05/russia-delivers-anti-aircraft-missiles-syria-us-mulls-airstrikes-against-assad)


Image above: Four s-300 missiles are maneuvered on the back of their tractor through sand. From original article.

When we commented yesterday on the latest report that the US is once again contemplating launching a military operation targeting the Assad regime with months of faux diplomacy having irrevocable broken down between John Kerry and his Russian colleague Lavrov, we said that "since the report is, at least for now, just a trial balloon to gauge the Russian reaction to a potential US military incursion, we now wait to see what Putin's reaction to the possibility of a US military campaign in Syria will be".


We got the answer overnight when Russia's Defense Ministry said that a battery of Russian S-300 air defense missile launchers has been transported to Syria. Its sole purpose is to defend a Russian naval base and warships, the ministry added.

The information about the S-300’s deployment was confirmed by ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“Indeed, the Syrian Arab Republic received an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. This system is designed to ensure the safety of the naval base in [Syrian city of] Tartus and ships located in the coastal area [in Syria]…” he told the media.

Konashenkov said it is unclear why the deployment of the missile system has created such a fuss in the West.
"The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat,” he said. Of course, a defense system is precisely what the Pentagon would prefer to avoid in case an offensive attack was launched.

Konashenkov said that he recalled that before the deployment of S-300, Russia had delivered Fort air defense missile systems to Syria.

The statement comes after a report by Fox news that a Russian S-300 was deployed to Syria. The media cited three US officials who claimed that Moscow “continues to ramp up its military operations in Syria.”

As RT adds, in November 2015, Moscow deployed its newest S-400 air defense missile system to Khmeimim in Syria as part of a security boost following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey near the border with that country.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the S-400 systems are not targeting Russia's partners, “with whom we fight terrorists in Syria together.” The S-400 is the most advanced anti-aircraft defense system in Russia.
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To prevent still worse in Syria

SUBHEAD: President Obama warned to avoid a deadly confrontation with Russia over Syria.

By Staff on 2 October 2016 for Consortium News -
(https://consortiumnews.com/2016/10/02/obama-warned-to-defuse-tensions-with-russia/)


Image above:US Secretary of State John Kerry addressing United Nations on 21 September 2016. From (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/21/us-russia-trade-barbs-over-syria-at-un-security-council.html).

A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.

ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Preventing Still  Worse In Syria

We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.

We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”

Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”

We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scale war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.”

Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.
In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.

Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust.

Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time.

We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.

It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.

In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:
“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”
Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”

Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands.

It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.

The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.

In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home.

In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.

We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”

Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction.

It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.

Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.

Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.

Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.
In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”

* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat



Russian warning on expanding war

SUBHEAD: Russia Minister of Foreign Affairs addressed the United Nations on dangers of war in Middle East and North Africa.

By Sergey Lavrov on 21 September 2016 to the United Nations -
(http://russiaun.ru/en/news/sc_mena)


Image above: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressing United Nations on 21 September 2016. From article above.

Distinguished Secretary-General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The region of the Middle East and North Africa is clearly experiencing a period of serious upheavals linked to the aggravation of interethnic and interfaith antagonisms and an unprecedented surge of terrorism and extremism. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria are on fire. There is trouble in a number of other countries, including on the African continent.

Any further deterioration of the situation is a grave threat to international stability and security. It has been repeatedly noted that this state of affairs is the direct consequence of a terrible practice of geopolitical engineering, interference in internal affairs of sovereign states, and attempts to change undesirable regimes, including by force.

The situation in Syria is justifiably evoking special concern. From the very beginning of the Syrian crisis, Russia has invariably advocated its strictly peaceful solution respecting the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of that ancient country.

As before, we are confident that there is no alternative to a political process based on a mutually respectful and inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue without preconditions, accompanied by a parallel effort to ensure cessation of hostilities, expand humanitarian access, and increase the effectiveness of combating terrorism.

It is this comprehensive stance that has been enshrined in resolutions approved by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and in UN Security Council resolutions, primarily Resolution 2254.

To implement requirements contained therein, Russia and the United States as the ISSG co-chairs worked for over six months to coordinate concrete agreements, a process that was completed on September 9, three days after the meeting in China between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama, who finally coordinated the last points of principle that needed to be brought up to the mark. I apologise for referring to documents which practically no one in this room has seen.

Russia is still ready to make them public and to circulate them within the United Nations.

I would like to particularly stress that the Russian-US agreements specify that the main priority is to separate the opposition groups from ISIS and the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in order to strengthen the cessation of hostilities regime, resolve humanitarian issues and, most importantly, stop terrorists from escaping justice by hiding behind cooperation with the so-called moderate parties to the cessation of hostilities regime.

These arrangements took effect on September 12. I repeat, the fact that the agreements have not been disclosed makes it difficult to say who is abiding by them and who is not. Here is one example. According to the agreements, the parties were supposed to ensure the security of the humanitarian convoy on Castello Road.

We agreed that the Syrian government and opposition, who control opposite sides of the road, would both pull their troops back to equal distances from it, which was specifically mentioned in the agreements.

The government troops started withdrawing as required by the Russian-US arrangements, only to see that the opposition did not reciprocate and even started shelling government forces.

Several incidents of this kind took place. So far, the opposition troops have not withdrawn from Castello Road as required by the September 9 agreements.

On the whole, the Russian Defence Ministry is monitoring on an ongoing basis what is happening around Castello Road and Aleppo.From the ministry’s official website it is very clear who is abiding by the arrangements and who is not.

Last week, through the rapid response centre that we established with our US partners in Geneva, we notified our American colleagues about 300 ceasefire violations by Ahrar al-Sham and a number of other opposition groups, including those whose names were on the list of organisations that have purportedly joined the ceasefire, which was transferred to us.

There were violations in Aleppo, in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Daraa provinces, and in the Damascus suburbs. I would like to underscore that this information is reliable and not based on internet or media reports but information obtained on the ground by Russian military monitoring groups.

Consequently, this information is backed up by concrete facts. Violations include shooting attacks with light weapons, mortars and improvised multiple rocket launchers.

Coalition strikes on government troops positions at Deir ez-Zor on September 16 is a blatant violation of the cessation of hostilities regime. Furthermore, right after those strikes, ISIS forces attacked government troops.

On September 19, there was another unacceptable provocation. I am referring to the bombing of a UN humanitarian convoy near Aleppo on a territory controlled by the armed opposition.

 Incidentally, it should be noted that on the same day, September 19, in the same area known as the Ramus road, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied detachments mounted a fierce attack on government forces.

As a result, the jihadists advanced to Neighbourhood 1070.
I am not trying to make any accusations. However, I am convinced that such coincidences call for serious analysis and investigation. We insist on the most thorough and impartial probe into the attack against the humanitarian convoy.

There are many indications that it could have been a rocket or artillery attack. Initially that was how it was reported. Then they started mentioning helicopters and then aircraft. Therefore it is probably necessary to refrain from emotional responses and to not immediately grab the microphone and make comments, but conduct a thorough and professional investigation.

It is also noteworthy that the distance between the site of the incident and the epicentre of the battle in western Aleppo, where Jabhat al-Nusra is active, does not exceed five to seven kilometres.

Russia has provided all the data in its possession related to the attack against this convoy, including real-time video footage.

Despite our calls regarding the need to influence the armed opposition and corresponding groups, as recorded in UN Security Council decisions, so far, very little result has been achieved in this sphere.

I mentioned the list that our US partners handed over to us, which lists about 150 organisations as participants of the cessation of hostilities regime. However, immediately after September 12, over 20 of these groups officially declared that they will not comply with the agreements.

By the way, Ahrar al-Sham, which we proposed including on the list of terrorist organisations together with another group, Jaish al-Islam, as part of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, is also on that list. Our partners then said that this will prevent us from working efficiently.

As a goodwill gesture we did not insist at that time, limiting terrorist lists to Jabhat al-Nusra and the so-called Islamic State.

Right after it was announced on September 12 that the Russian-US agreements had come into force, the Ahrar al-Sham leadership officially declared that it will not comply with them, because they designate Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation while Ahrar al-Sham does not regard it as such and closely collaborates with it.

I believe the time has come to consider reviewing the list of terrorist organisations, especially given another event that took place recently, which I would like to mention.

Over the past few days, Syrian troops have been repelling fierce attacks by an organisation called Jund al-Aqsa in the north of the Hama province, in the districts of Qabbara and Ma’an.

Incidentally, commenting on the fighting there, some blamed the ceasefire violations on Syrian government troops. However, yesterday, the US Department of State announced that the United States has put Jund al-Aqsa on the list of terrorist organisations so I hope that no one will now call for a ceasefire with this terrorist organisation.

To reiterate, this, as well as what I have said about Ahrar al-Sham’s position, makes it necessary to revisit the list of terrorist organisations. It is high time everyone stopped shielding the opponents of peace, those who are refusing to honour agreements and UN Security Council resolutions. They must be put in the same league with terrorists.

In the past two days, the Army of Islam tried to regain control over territories in Eastern Ghouta, part of the Damascus Governorate. At the same time, intensive fighting continued between government forces, Faylaq Al-Rahman and Jabhat al-Nusra. Faylaq Al-Rahman also coordinates its operations with Jabhat al-Nusra in Damascus’ Jobar municipality, from where Jihadists are launching regular mortar attacks against Damascus residential areas.

We believe the latest developments can teach us another lesson. It is necessary to involve all the parties to the conflict in maintaining security during humanitarian relief operations. This does not only apply to Russian and Syrian armed forces, to whom all appeals and requests are addressed.

Armed groups and their sponsors should also provide the required guarantees. After obtaining these guarantees, UN representatives should always escort all convoys.

ISSG members held a meeting yesterday, and many colleagues were present there. Everyone called for reanimating the cessation of hostilities regime. It was suggested that a “regime of silence” be maintained on the first day. We are confident that this can only be accomplished through simultaneous, parallel and synchronised steps by all parties involved in the Syrian conflict, one way or another, without exception. Otherwise we would accomplish nothing.

There will be no unilateral pauses. We have already been through this. 48-hour and 72-hour unilateral pauses were declared in the vicinity of Aleppo. During each “period of silence,” militants, including Jabhat al-Nusra, received reinforcements, ammunition and weapons.

We should not even discuss unilateral measures today. All ISSG members without exception, especially those mentioned by the UN Security Council President, Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key, should, indeed guarantee that units on the ground on which they can exert influence will comply with all provisions related to the cessation of hostilities regime.

Chances are that the ceasefire regime will continue, if we manage to agree on this comprehensive approach. Instead of merely reaching an agreement, we will have to make sure that these obligations are fulfilled.

In conclusion, I would like to note that we have always focused on the resumption of intra-Syrian political dialogue without any pre-conditions, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

This process should involve representatives of all ethnic groups and religious groups so as to fulfil the roadmap stipulated by this resolution, which should lead to a solution to the Syrian crisis within 18 months, as we expected at the time.

Otherwise we would fail to achieve a lasting political settlement, preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, rebuild its economy, and to bring back refugees and internally displaced persons.

Russia supports the efforts of Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria. We urge him to continue closely cooperating with the Syrian parties to the Syrian conflict, so as to guarantee an uninterrupted and inclusive negotiating process.

The attempts by certain participants to put forward pre-conditions, to present ultimatums and to sabotage UN Security Council Resolution 2254 are unacceptable. Unfortunately, these attempts continue. The UN and its Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura should not surrender to intimidation of this kind.

We need to resume the talks as soon as possible, and we should tell those who demand pre-conditions for these talks that this runs counter to UN Security Council’s decisions.

We stand ready to facilitate the efforts of Staffan de Mistura in every way, including through continued cooperation with all Syrian parties without exception, specifically, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and all opposition groups.


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