Depleted uranium - search results
- preemptive 2006 Lebanon war;
- its Operation Cast Lead Gaza aggression (December 2008 - January 2009,) and
- murdering nine Turkish Mavi Marmara Gaza humanitarian mission activists in May 2010 in cold blood.
1. War is immoral.
Murder is the one crime that we're taught to excuse if it's done on a large enough scale. Morality demands that we not so excuse it. War is nothing other than murder on a large scale.
Over the centuries and decades, death counts in wars have grown dramatically, shifted heavily onto civilians rather than combatants, and been overtaken by injury counts as even greater numbers have been injured but medicine has allowed them to survive.
Deaths are now due primarily to violence rather than to disease, formerly the biggest killer in wars.
Death and injury counts have also shifted very heavily toward one side in each war, rather than being evenly divided between two parties. Those traumatized, rendered homeless, and otherwise damaged far outnumber the injured and the dead.
The idea of a "good war" or a "just war" sounds obscene when one looks honestly at independent reporting on wars.
When we say that war goes back 10,000 years it’s not clear that we’re talking about a single thing, as opposed to two or more different things going by the same name. Picture a family in Yemen or Pakistan living under a constant buzz produced by a drone overhead. One day their home and everyone in it is shattered by a missile. Were they at war? Where was the battlefield? Where were their weapons? Who declared the war? What was contested in the war? How would it end?
Is it not perhaps the case that we have already ended war and now must end something else as well (a name for it might be: the hunting of humans)?
If we can change our manner of killing foreigners to render it almost unrecognizable, who’s to say we can’t eliminate the practice altogether?
2. War endangers us.
There are more effective tools than war for protection.
In arming, many factors must be considered: weapon-related accidents, malicious testing on human beings, theft, sales to allies who become enemies, and the distraction from efforts to reduce the causes of terrorism and war must all be taken into account. So, of course, must the tendency to use weapons once you have them. And a nation’s stockpiling of weapons for war puts pressure on other nations to do the same. Even a nation that intends to fight only in defense, may understand “defense” to be the ability to retaliate against other nations. This makes it necessary to create the weaponry and strategies for aggressive war. When you put a lot of people to work planning something, when that project is in fact your largest public investment and proudest cause, it can be difficult to keep those people from finding opportunities to execute their plans. Read more.
War making provokes danger.
While the best defense in many sports may be a good offense, an offense in war is not defensive, not when it generates hatred, resentment, and blowback, not when the alternative is no war at all. Through the course of the so-called global war on terrorism, terrorism has been on the rise. This was predictable and predicted. The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion. Read More.
War's weapons risk intentional or accidental apocalypse.
We can either eliminate all nuclear weapons or we can watch them proliferate. There's no middle way. We can either have no nuclear weapons states, or we can have many. As long as some states have nuclear weapons others will desire them, and the more that have them the more easily they will spread to others still. If nuclear weapons continue to exist, there will very likely be a nuclear catastrophe, and the more the weapons have proliferated, the sooner it will come. Hundreds of incidents have nearly destroyed our world through accident, confusion, misunderstanding, and extremely irrational machismo. And possessing nuclear weapons does absolutely nothing to keep us safe, so that there is really no trade-off involved in eliminating them. They do not deter terrorist attacks by non-state actors in any way. Nor do they add an iota to a military's ability to deter nations from attacking, given the United States' ability to destroy anything anywhere at any time with non-nuclear weapons. The United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China have all lost wars against non-nuclear powers while possessing nukes.
Oil can be leaked or burned off, as in the Gulf War, but primarily it is put to use in all kinds of machines polluting the earth’s atmosphere, placing us all at risk. Some associate the consumption of oil with the supposed glory and heroism of war, so that renewable energies that do not risk global catastrophe are viewed as cowardly and unpatriotic ways to fuel our machines.
The interplay of war with oil goes beyond that, however. The wars themselves, whether or not fought for oil, consume huge quantities of it. The world’s top consumer of oil, in fact, is the U.S. military. Not only do we fight wars in areas of the globe that happen to be rich in oil; we also burn more oil fighting those wars than we do in any other activity. Author Ted Rall writes:
“The U.S. Department of [War] is the world’s worst polluter, belching, dumping, and spilling more pesticides, defoliants, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury, and depleted uranium than the five biggest American chemical corporations combined. According to Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, 60 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions between 2003 and 2007 originated in U.S.-occupied Iraq, due to the enormous amount of oil and gas required to maintain hundreds of thousands of American military forces and private contractors, not to mention the toxins released by fighter jets, drone planes, and the missiles and other ordnance they fire at Iraqis.”
The U.S. military burns through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption.
The environment as we know it will not survive nuclear war. It also may not survive “conventional” war, understood to mean the sorts of wars now waged. Intense damage has already been done by wars and by the research, testing, and production done in preparation for wars.
Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School.
Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth, oblivious to any announcements that peace has been declared. Most of their victims are civilians, a large percentage of them children.
The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.
If militaries were made green in terms of their operations, they would lose one of their main reasons for war. (Nobody can own the sun or the wind.) And we would still have a long list of ... More reasons to end war.
We're often told that wars are fought for "freedom." But when a wealthy nation fights a war against a poor (if often resource-rich) nation halfway around the globe, among the goals is not actually to prevent that poor nation from taking over the wealthy one, after which it might restrict people's rights and liberties. The fears used to build support for the wars don't involve such an incredible scenario at all; rather the threat is depicted as one to safety, not liberty.
In close proportion to levels of military spending, liberties are restricted in the name of war -- even while wars may simultaneously be waged in the name of liberty. We try to resist the erosion of liberties, the warrantless surveillance, the drones in the skies, the lawless imprisonment, the torture, the assassinations, the denial of a lawyer, the denial of access to information on the government, etc. But these are symptoms. The disease is war and the preparation for war.
It is the idea of the enemy that allows government secrecy.
The nature of war, as fought between valued and devalued people, facilitates the erosion of liberties in another way, in addition to the fear for safety. That is, it allows liberties to first be taken away from devalued people. But the programs developed to accomplish that are later predictably expanded to include valued people as well.
Militarism erodes not just particular rights but the very basis of self-governance. It privatizes public goods, it corrupts public servants, it creates momentum for war by making people's careers dependent on it.
One way in which war erodes public trust and morals is by its predictable generation of public lies.
Also eroded, of course, is the very idea of the rule of law -- replaced with the practice of might-makes-right.
War has a huge direct financial cost, the vast majority of which is in funds spent on the preparation for war — or what's thought of as ordinary, non-war military spending. Very roughly, the world spends $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the United States spends about half, or $1 trillion. This U.S. spending also accounts for roughly half of the U.S. government's discretionary budget each year and is distributed through several departments and agencies. Much of the rest of world spending is by members of NATO and other allies of the United States, although China ranks second in the world.
Wars can cost even an aggressor nation that fights wars far from its shores twise as much in indirect expenses as in direct expenditures.
The costs to the aggressor, enormous as they are, can be small in comparison to those of the nation attacked.
War Spending Drains an Economy:
It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs -- with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.
War Spending Increases Inequality:
Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved.
War Spending Is Unsustainable, As Is Exploitation it Facilitates:
While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? Not in a manner that can be sustained.
Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates' wildest fantasies if the funds now invested in war were transferred there.
It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. Again, that sounds like a lot. Let's round up to $50 billion per year to provide the world with both food and water. Who has that kind of money? We do.
Of course, we in the wealthier parts of the world don't share the money, even among ourselves. Those in need of aid are right here as well as far away.
But imagine if one of the wealthy nations, the United States for example, were to put $500 billion into its own education (meaning "college debt" can begin the process of coming to sound as backward as "human sacrifice"), housing (meaning no more people without homes), infrastructure, and sustainable green energy and agricultural practices. What if, instead of leading the destruction of the natural environment, this country were catching up and helping to lead in the other direction?
The potential of green energy would suddenly skyrocket with that sort of unimaginable investment, and the same investment again, year after year. But where would the money come from? $500 billion? Well, if $1 trillion fell from the sky on an annual basis, half of it would still be left. After $50 billion to provide the world with food and water, what if another $450 billion went into providing the world with green energy and infrastructure, topsoil preservation, environmental protection, schools, medicine, programs of cultural exchange, and the study of peace and of nonviolent action?
U.S. foreign aid right now is about $23 billion a year. Taking it up to $100 billion -- never mind $523 billion! -- would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A recent poll of 65 nations found that the United States is far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, but only if one other factor were added -- only if the $1 trillion came from where it really ought to come from.
Some U.S. states are setting up commissions to work on the transition from war to peace insustries.
“You listen to your constituents and then you act in terms of what you consider to be in America’s interests.”
“I cannot honestly claim his (Assad’s) use poses an immediate, direct threat...”
Countercurrents 28/8/2013 and Global Research 1/9/2013
"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa." Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
|AP Photo/Narciso Contreras|
And here we go again. In
“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.” Oscar Wilde in ‘An Ideal Husband’.
Many of us have a vision, an alternative vision to the tyranny of those who control the world. But we are ridiculed, dismissed, put on trial (Manning), confined to a small embassy in
“Some cockroaches have been known to live up to three months without food and a month without water. They are even resilient enough to survive occasional freezing temperatures. This makes them difficult to eradicate once they have infested an area.” – Wikipedia
tribunal) defines aggression as the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes, and it encompasses all of the evil that follows. The Nuremberg and British invasion of US was a textbook example of aggression, which means that we were responsible for all the evil that followed. Serious conflict arose. It spread all over the region. In fact the region is being torn to shreds by this conflict. That’s part of the evil that follows…Take a look at the International criminal court (ICC) – black Africans or other people the West doesn’t like. Bush and Blair ought to be up there. There is no recent crime worse than the invasion of Iraq . Obama’s got to be there for the terror war... it’s just murder on executive whim” Noam Chomsky (1) Iraq
A file photo showing Iraqis inspecting the damage caused by an explosion in central Baghdad
Iraq is marking the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion as the country grapples with escalating violence.
The Wednesday commemorations come a day after a spate of deadly bombings and gun attacks left over 60 people dead in the country.
On March 19, 2003, US-led forces invaded Iraq under the pretext of wiping out the stocks of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) belonging to the executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, no such weapons were ever discovered in the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and Iraq’s infrastructure was destroyed following the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of the country.
According to a report published by the Guardian on March 6, the clean-up of depleted uranium (DU) contamination across Iraq, which has been spread by the US military during the invasion and occupation of the country, would cost at least USD 30 million.
Iraq’s Health Ministry has also reported an increase in cancer cases and birth defects linked to DU exposure in the country.
Ahead of the anniversary, brutal unrest has spiked in Iraq with more than 100 people killed over the past week.
On Tuesday, deadly attacks carried out in Shia-populated neighborhoods of the capital, Baghdad, claimed at least 65 lives and injured 200 others.
Iraq’s recent history includes two far reaching events, on the 2 August 1990 Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait and on 19 March 2003 the US/UK invasion into Iraq. Whether political leaders will draw lessons from these events will be, at best, questionable. Iraqis continue to be wronged. Danger to life and turmoil remain a cruel part of Iraq’s reality in early 2013. The collective suffering of a nation is visibly all pervasive. It can not be hidden.
The Iraqi puzzle of life confirms an endless number of tragedies
Ethnic tension and sectarianism have become a major element in Iraqi politics since the US/UK invasion of 2003, a polarization of inter-group relations Iraqis had not known before. This explains much of the existing hideous crime including murder, kidnapping, property destruction and, most noteworthy, the deteriorating relationships between Baghdad and the three northern Kurdish governorates.
Since the years of war, sanctions and occupation, Iraq’s once state-of-the-art medical system has all but collapsed. Malnutrition and diseases, almost forgotten in Iraq, such as respiratory infections; measles; typhoid fever and tuberculosis have re-emerged on a large scale. The planned destruction of water and sanitation facilities, especially in the 1991 war, and recurrent drug shortages, throughout the period of sanctions and after the 2003 invasion, promoted significantly ill-being, morbidity and mortality in the country (WHO).
Depleted uranium, the armour-piercing radio-active munition, and white phosphorus used by the US military in 1991 and 2003 have created serious health and environmental dangers in Iraq. In early 2000 the US Government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where DU had been used. It also rejected any causality with increases in lung cancer, leukaemia and congenital birth defects. Fortunately national and international efforts have not deterred the collection of more evidence to show the relevance of these war contaminants.
A 2009 Iraq Government mental health survey concluded that mass displacement, a climate of fear, torture, death and violence have contributed to the high ratio of mental illness in the country. It reflects what an old man in Mosul observed:
“First they destroyed our economy and now they are trying to kill our minds.”
Iraq is said to have the third largest oil reserves in the world. Its current oil exports nevertheless remain below the average export of 2.2 million barrels/day Iraq was able to market during the years of sanctions. Sabotage against pipelines, corruption, inability to rehabilitate oil installations in the post-invasion era and Iraqi resistance to handover oil exploration to foreign interests (PSAs) are among the causes.
An immensely oil-rich country but 22.9% out of the est. 33 million Iraqis have been living in poverty and many more have to survive under near-poverty living conditions. The GNI per capita/annum (2011) amounted to a mere $2.640 (World Bank). Transparency International classified Iraq’s public sector corruption among the highest in the world – ranking 169 out of 176 countries (2012).
Rahim Hassan al-Uqailee, as head of the Iraqi Commission of Integrity wrote in an open letter to the Iraqi parliament’s anti-graft committee (2011): “The fight over stealing the money of state and its property is the unspoken part of the struggle for power in Iraq today.”
Despite the despicable gap between the rich and the poor, the Iraqi authorities signed a deal (2011) with the US Government for the purchase of 18 F-16 fighter jets at a cost of $ 3 billion! At that time almost a quarter of the Iraqi population lived in poverty and the unemployment rate exceeded 28% (UN).
There is a saying in the Middle East: “Egyptians write, Lebanese print and Iraqis read”. Prior to Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait in August 1990, Iraq had among the highest literacy rates in the Middle East. Sanctions changed that.
A World Bank/Government of Iraq survey (2007) showed that “almost 23 percent of Iraqis were illiterate”, 5 million school age children were not in school and gender disparity in education had become severe. There have been other serious developments in the education sector since 2003: a sectarian element has found its way into the school system affecting mostly Sunni and Shiite students and, most disturbingly, a 2011 Ghent University/Brussels Tribunal publication states: “Iraq’s intellectual and technical class has been subject to a systematic campaign of intimidation, abduction, extortion, random killings and targeted assassinations”. Conditions in Iraq were “reminiscent of ‘educide’ or genocide of the educated segments of Iraqi society”.
Other serious and life-threatening dangers have confronted Iraqis in recent years
“…Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has become a transit point in the flow of hashish and heroin from Iran and Afghanistan”, according to the UN. The Iraqi Ministry of Health confirms that local “addiction rates are climbing steadily” while before drug use was not an Iraqi problem.
During the 13 years of sanctions and beyond, it was difficult to obtain building materials for the construction of additional housing. This resulted in a steep rise in overcrowded accommodation which in turn promoted domestic violence, often involving women as victims. A UN report estimates that “one in five women in Iraq suffer from domestic abuse”.
Wars and violence have fundamentally changed the demographic and social profile of Iraq.
Iraq’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs indicates (2011) there are an estimated 4.5 million Iraqi children who have lost their parents – a horrific 14% of Iraq’s population are orphans! 70% of these children became orphans since the 2003 invasion. Around 600,000 of these are living in the streets and a few in the 18 orphanages that exist in the country, we are told.
In the Iraq tradition, it must be remembered, there was no need for orphanages. The extended family took care of those who had lost their parents. Dictatorship, wars, sanctions and crime have changed this. There are an estimated one million female-headed households in Iraq. Most of these women are widows, victims of armed conflict and sectarian violence (ICRC/2010).
Apart from extreme physical, mental, economic and social damages, Iraqis have also faced a grim reality of punitive financial limitations during the years of sanctions. From 1990 until 1996, the year when the Oil-for-Food Programme (OFFP) became operative, all of Iraq’s foreign accounts were frozen and oil was not allowed to be sold internationally. The Iraqi people were almost entirely dependent on meager help from abroad – a far cry from a dignified survival.
The OFFP (1996-2003), allegedly a “humanitarian” exemption but fully financed (!) with sanctions-limited Iraqi oil money, was little more than an underfunded supply programme. Out of a total oil income of $64 billion about $ 19 billion were transferred to the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) in Geneva. At that time Iraq’s child mortality of 130/1000 was among the highest in the world. This transfer to the UNCC was to compensate individuals, companies and governments, especially the Government of Kuwait, for claims resulting from Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait. Had there been any moral leadership in the UN Security Council, much of this compensation could have been postponed. It would have prevented many deaths among Iraqi children!
During 6 ½ years, only $ 43 billion were available to meet the needs of 23 million Iraqis – a pittance! Out of this amount only $28 billion (1) were actually utilized for this purpose. Micro-management and extreme bureaucratization of the OFFP by the UN Security Council and also the deliberate blocking by the US & UK of much needed supplies for the people of Iraq were main causes.
The UN humanitarian programme was not meant to work!
The end result: the per capita value/ day of humanitarian goods actually benefitting Iraqis amounted to 51 US cents – a shameful reality for which the US & UK Governments were largely responsible.
As of October 2012 Iraq has paid $ 38.7 billion in compensation to the three parties identified above. The rightful demand by Iraqis to-day that time has come to obtain in turn their reparations from abroad for war devastation, air, water and soil pollution, destruction of farmland, physical infrastructure, water, sanitation and electricity facilities to date has been ignored by the international community.
This constitutes an intolerable and unacceptable double standard.
In March 2003, at the end of the Government of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s total debt burden was identified as between $ 50 to $ 80 billion. The 19 Paris Club members, mostly European, identify an Iraq debt to them of $38.9 billion. Iraq’s other creditors are primarily Arab (GCCC) countries.
Detractors of the evidence of willful destruction of Iraq’s heritage, its culture, the artifact pilferage; the gross violation of national and international law; planted dis- and mis-information; crime; brutality; disregard for fundamental human concerns and ethical standards, will either reject these accusations as preposterous, ideological and stupid or remain mute. Pitiful as this is they have no more to offer! In the name of democracy they insist that the infamous “bigger picture”, their bigger picture, justified the means.
They do not understand what democracy and humanness really entails. It is not about potato chips and coke but about human security and the opportunity to shape one’s life in freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Iraq, a major owner of global oil and gas, should have no problem in giving its people such a life. Instead Iraq has become a failing state vying with other disadvantaged countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and, of course, the State of Palestine, for the crown of misery.
The overall impact of these elements on life in Iraq constitute an indescribable human drama. Perpetrators, however, will not be allowed to lean back for ever and assume that their crimes will simply disappear into the far horizon of nowhere.
Accountability will prevail
The efforts of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) founded in 2005 by Tun Dr. Mahathir, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981-2003 are a step in that direction. The Commission has worked for many years to produce an impressive body of evidence from legal documents and victims testimonies. This material, carefully reviewed by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, allowed the Court to pronounce in November 2011 and in May 2012 that culpability exists at the highest levels of government in the United States and in the United Kingdom for war crimes and the crimes of torture. This can not possibly come as a surprise for George W. Bush and Anthony Blair!
The Tribunal’s verdict: the two leaders and their senior advisors had committed serious crimes against peace “in that they planned, prepared and invaded the sovereign state of Iraq in violation of international law and committed crimes of torture and war crimes, ignoring the Geneva Conventions and the UN torture law.” (2)
What one has seen can not be unseen! How much can a people take?
2013 must become the year during which these perpetrators will see an end to their impunity. Especially those who were instrumental in creating decades of Iraqi suffering. Due process must be for everyone, Iraqi and non-Iraqi; facing justice, however, is not just for those who lost!
The international public, as the ‘power from below’, will intensify its efforts during this tenth year after an illegal invasion into Iraq, to reassure the Iraqi people that they are not alone in their search for redress.
Hans-C. von Sponeck, Former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq and aMember of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission
(1) During the years of US occupation of Iraq, the monthly cost of maintaining troops in Iraq amounted to an est. US $ 12 billion. In other words, what Iraqis had from the OFFP for survival during the entire 6 ½ years corresponded to less than 3 months of the cost of maintaining US troops in Iraq!
(2) Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal – Case 1 and Case 2: Judgements of 22 November 2011 and 11 May 2012 (ISBN 978-937-10817-1-6 and ISBN 978-967-10817-2-3)
In reality, the diminutive, corporate-media inflated rally in DC was organized by the very corporate-financier special interests that have been wreaking terrible havoc on both the human population and the environment of this planet for decades. They are demanding action from a government that already represents their interests. Their demands are policies, particularly financial tax schemes that they themselves created and are are best positioned to benefit from while making no discernible impact on the very real environmental threats we collectively face.
Image: Rampant CO2, high global temperatures, rising sea levels. A look into the future? No, this is Mesozoic North America 250-65 million years ago. Climate change has happened long before humanity’s emergence, it will happen again, with or without us. The key to preserving what we as humans value, including not only our cities, towns, and countrysides, but also ecosystems and species – is to devise technical, pragmatic solutions to ensure no matter what the climate does, we can not only survive, but thrive.
Yahoo! News’ report, “40,000 People Reported at Climate Change Rally,” mentions 350.org as one of the rally’s organizers and key representatives. Upon 350.org‘s “Friends & Allies” page, an extensive list of human rights and environmental racketeers can be found, all either linked, or directly connected to big-oil, big-finance, big-agri, and big-defense.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its “Earth Hour” for instance, includes Fortune 500 corporations (page 24, .pdf) (and here) Walmart, Unilever, Coca-Cola, draconian intellectual property racketeer Christopher Dodd representing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as a director, Bank of America, Google, and others.
While the WWF claims having big corporations as partners is “good news” for the environment, implying that they are shifting toward environmental responsibility – in reality it is exactly the other way around. Corporations are co-opting genuine concern for the environment to further enrich themselves and to create global frameworks that eliminate indigenous competition over resources they themselves are already exploiting and plan to continue exploiting.
The lack of real, pragmatic solutions, or even an honest scientific discussion on issues like climate change are particularly telling. This collection of organizations falling under the 350.org website have also been key in pushing other establishment agendas, most notably regime change and political subversion worldwide, couching a corporate-fascist warmongering agenda behind liberal concerns for “freedom,” “democracy,” and “human rights.”
Real Environmental Threats
The climate of Earth has always changed throughout its natural history, and many times before the existence of man, has changed so dramatically that it has caused mass extinction events. 65 million years ago, for example, Antarctica was a thriving ecosystem covered in temperate forests inhabited by dinosaurs. The global temperatures were higher, sea levels were higher, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were many times higher than they are today. Higher temperatures, sea levels, and CO2 levels made the planet more habitable, not less. This changed however, and to the detriment of many species that are now extinct.
Before the Cretaceous period, there have been many points throughout Earth’s natural history, that were we as humans to travel back, would find uninhabitable. The atmosphere has been in a state of perpetual change, the biology driven by this change has likewise continuously evolved. There is no “norm” in terms of geology, biology, or climate. The only constant is the inevitability of its constant change.
The climate will change with or without us. To ensure the survival of what we value in terms of human society, history, and infrastructure, as well as ecosystems and individual species we desire to preserve, we must come up with something better than “carbon neutrality” implemented by giving bankers yet another derivative to trade, and energy companies a legal framework to maintain monopolies over powering human civilization.
Part of the solution is not only leveraging technology to protect our towns, cities, and countrysides from adverse weather, flooding, and changes in temperature through innovative infrastructure projects, but undermining, decentralizing, and eventually eliminating permanently these corporate monopolies that are demonstrably destroying the environment.
Strange that 350.org wasn’t marching against genetically modified organisms (GMO) and Monsanto’s pursuit of overwriting the planet genetically. Could a planet face a more dire threat than being overwritten genetically, its very essence mutilated by profiteering corporations? Strange that 350.org‘s “Friends & Allies” don’t demand an end to profiteering wars around the planet that see tons of depleted uranium, with a half-life of billions of years, being dumped in both human and natural habitats the world over. Strange that 350.org, and “Friends & Allies” like WWF have in fact partnered with Fortune 500 corporations that perpetuate global monopolies, centralized manufacturing and distribution (and profits) that encourage wasteful supply chains, unhealthy socioeconomic trends, incur large amounts of garbage, and require the very petroleum and CO2 producing processes they allegedly were in Washington to oppose.
Indeed, 350.org and partners like the WWF do not represent corporations joining environmentalists, but rather represent environmentalists being co-opted and manipulated by the very special interests committing real harm to this planet.
Don’t Demand Action – Be the Action
Waving around placards as part of a big-business rally couched behind environmentalism, demanding action from a government big-business already fully owns, simply legitimizes and manufacturers public consent for more of the same. More schemes, more waste, more fraud, more abuse, while the environment continues to unravel and a host of problems both directly and indirectly related continue to grow.
Real solutions generally don’t involve corporations or governments, in fact, as a necessity must exclude them. The marriage between corporate interests and government regulations should be something all of us can agree on, regardless of where we sit on the political or environmental spectrum.
Real solutions involve a real education in science, technology, design, and manufacturing. This empowers people in all levels of society to accurately assess problems and apply local solutions. This, coupled with modern manufacturing technology enables more to be done on a local level, short-circuiting the petroleum intensive logistical chains WWF sponsors like Walmart couldn’t live without.
Organic farming on a local level coupled with local farmers’ markets eliminates entirely the need for Monsanto poison, fertilizers, and genetically modified franken-crops, along with the replacement of the petroleum intensive logistical networks that distribute big-agri’s products. 3D printing, computer-controlled manufacturing, and local hackerspaces that encourage local entrepreneurship accelerate technological development and solutions that allow us to live the lives we wish to lead while doing so more efficiently in terms of energy, waste, and environmental impact.
In fact, when you think about it, almost all of these real solutions involve real community and local action, not placard-waving trips to Washington. These are not solutions that involve policies, taxes, and regulations, but rather technology, education, constructive, pragmatic, technical solutions that not only would make our environment more livable, but make our local economies and communities more viable and self-sufficient. The catch is, and the reason why this isn’t being done, you will notice that none of these activities require WWF sponsors like Walmart, Nike, IBM, Toyota, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, HSBC, Citi, IKEA, Nokia, etc.
We all desire cleaner air, healthier food, safer water, and greener parks. Waiting for a corporate-financier establishment to give it to us, when they themselves are the ones that have denied us of these essentials is the height of both naivety and futility.
Does it make sense then, to see why real problems and their solutions have become the target of hijackers like the corporate conglomeration that is 350.org and the WWF? Does it make sense to see them offering “alternative” centralized, corporate dependent solutions that replace local activism and tangible, technological solutions?
Why travel to Washington D.C. and demand non-solutions to real problems when you can organize locally and begin making this planet livable in very real, tangible, pragmatic, and measurable ways?
Iran Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani has criticized the West for obstructing the country’s talks with the P5+1 group while pretending they are interested in dialogue.
“We are faced with two gestures from the West,” Larijani stated on Tuesday in reference to the negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US plus Germany) which are scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan on February 26.
Larijani, who is Islamabad to attend the conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organization in the Pakistani capital, blamed Western governments for claiming willingness to negotiate with Iran at the media level while engaging in obstructionism in practice.
He scoffed at US and Israeli threats of war against the Islamic Republic, noting the 1967 Islamic revolution in the country clearly showed the Iranian nation’s determination to stand up to US policies.
“I suppose they [Americans] have a little wisdom left to prevent them from risking their future,” Larijani said when answering a question on the possibility of a US military attack on Iran.
The Iranian Majlis speaker rejected allegations spearheaded by the United States and their allies that accuse Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, and described Iran’s missile technology as defensive and deterrent in nature.
Larijani denounced “the oppressors” for not condemning US for using depleted uranium weapons in the region, noting that Washington's support for Tel Aviv’s nuclear warheads is main cause of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Henry Kissinger
When the story broke about the Feb. 2 shooting death of former Navy SEAL and American Sniper author, Chris Kyle, we immediately learned that the 39-year-old wrote the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual, and he “served four tours in Iraq and was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.”
We were also regaled with the “fact” that from 1999 to 2009, “Kyle recorded more than 150 sniper kills, the most in U.S. military history.”
“We have lost more than we can replace,” said Kyle’s American Sniper co-author, Scott McEwen. “Chris was a patriot, a great father, and a true supporter of this country and its ideals. This is a tragedy for all of us.”
Real tragedy for all of us: The reality that Kyle’s book was a New York Times best seller along with the widespread public celebration of 150 “kills” (surely a number conjured up for maximum propaganda impact) is business-as-usual in the home of the brave.
“A different breed of warrior”
The entire Chris Kyle episode brought me back to something I wrote nine years ago after reading a Jan. 2, 2004, New York Times article by Eric Schmitt, entitled “In Iraq’s Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon.”
Consider Schmitt’s opening lines: “The intimate horror of the guerrilla war here in Iraq seems most vivid when seen through the sights of a sniper’s rifle. In an age of satellite-guided bombs dropped at featureless targets from 30,000 feet, Army snipers can see the expression on a man’s face when the bullet hits.”
Schmitt went on to quote an American sniper boasting: “I shot one guy in the head, and his head exploded. Usually, though, you just see a dust cloud pop up off their clothes, and see a little blood splatter come out the front.”
The newspaper of record also crowed about a sniper’s ability “to fell guerrilla gunmen and their leaders with a single shot from as far as half a mile away” all in the name of protecting “infantry patrols sweeping through urban streets and alleyways.”
“Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high. But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task,” Schmitt dutifully explained.
Let’s pause for a minute here to re-cap. The alleged liberal media ignored any mention of an illegal invasion and occupation while turning U.S. snipers into rifle-toting gods: “calm, methodical, and disciplined” men, we’re told, who undergo psychological screening “to make sure they’re not training a nut.”
“I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me”
Specialist Wilson told Schmitt that he tries not to see his Iraqi victims “as men with families and children” and a Sergeant Davis had this to say about the eight confirmed kills to his credit: “As soon as they picked up a weapon and tried to engage U.S. soldiers, they forfeited all their rights to life, is how I look at it.”
These men, I guess, are no more “nuts” than those who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo or those who piloted the Enola Gay or blew up Korean dams or napalmed Southeast Asia or used sand plows to cover Iraqi soldiers or fired depleted uranium shells in Yugoslavia or launch predator drones today.
The Times reassure us that “our” snipers are well-trained and have “honed the art of killing to a fine edge.” They always hit the right target, Schmitt promises us, soothingly.
“We don’t have civilian casualties,” a sniper explained when asked how he avoided hitting the Iraqi schoolchildren. “Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going.”
We can all sleep better tonight…
After fetishizing their weapons of choice and informing us that U.S. snipers often wrap condoms on the gun muzzle “to keep the sand out,” Schmitt offers some helpful context: “Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces. Sergeant Davis and Specialist Wilson grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10. They fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.”
You gotta love his use of the word fondly to soften the image of frightened animals being stalked and murdered by human children.
In the classic liberal media tradition of asking the tough questions, Schmitt concludes with this one: “Would they ever shoot a child who aimed at them?”
Specialist Wilson, a father of five, hesitated before replying. “I couldn’t imagine that,” he said. Davis saw things differently: “I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me.”
However, before you lose any sleep over any potential “nuts” running around spending our tax dollars exploding the heads of brown-skinned children, Davis did offer this caveat (which Schmitt’s editor tellingly chose as the article’s closing line): “But I wouldn’t feel good about it.”
This neatly transitions us back to the violent death of Chris Kyle who, since leaving the service, had been running an organization ostensibly designed to help ex-enlistees with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
Counter-recruitment is the best “support”
According to a 2008 RAND study, up to 20 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.
Eddie Ray Routh, the 25-year-old accused killer, is “a former Marine said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.” He is a veteran, we’re told, “who served in Iraq and Haiti and who police say may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military.”
Apparently Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield had taken Routh to a shooting range “to aid his recovery.”
I’d suggest our (sic) troops don’t need day trips to the shooting range; they need more information about what “serving their country” really means.
Sniper worship, yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of “USA” don’t qualify as support but do qualify as self-policed obedience orchestrated by a corporate-dominated state. Ultimately, however, it’s not an issue of “support” but rather, learning to resist the relentless conditioning.
We grow up watching war movies and playing with guns. We’re surrounded by war memorials and war monuments, and are taught to obey and fear those in uniform. We witness the demonizing of those who oppose war.
Our (sic) media is overrun with militaristic fervor. Our (sic) tax dollars finance war and pro-war propaganda. Our (sic) government passes laws designed to thwart dissent.
As I’ve said before: The U.S. Department of Defense (sic) is the most violent institution on the planet and that includes its status as the planet’s worst polluter. Paid volunteers are nothing more than willing accomplices to the continuing carnage.
If we want a culture without sniper scorecards and without manipulated soldiers sent home with PTSD (and worse), we must rediscover the subversive pleasure of critical thought… and help others to do the same.
We must create and cultivate alternative visions. We must get busy with counter-recruitment. Now.
NYC Event Note: Mickey Z. will be part of a Feb. 9 panel called: “Game Over For the Environment: Keystone XL, Spectra and Direct Action.”
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.
Prisoners earning 23 cents an hour in U.S. federal prisons are manufacturing high-tech electronic components for Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles, launchers for TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles, and other guided missile systems. A March article by journalist and financial researcher Justin Rohrlich of World in Review is worth a closer look at the full implications of this ominous development. (minyanville.com)
The expanding use of prison industries, which pay slave wages, as a way to increase profits for giant military corporations, is a frontal attack on the rights of all workers.
Prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — also makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter. Prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm to 300-mm battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.
Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.
The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.
Increased profits, unhealthy workplaces
However, the Pentagon is not the only buyer. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. The U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and diplomats pressure NATO members and dependent countries around the world into multibillion-dollar weapons purchases that generate further corporate profits, often leaving many countries mired in enormous debt.
But the fact that the capitalist state has found yet another way to drastically undercut union workers’ wages and ensure still higher profits to military corporations — whose weapons wreak such havoc around the world — is an ominous development.
According to CNN Money, the U.S. highly skilled and well-paid “aerospace workforce has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 20 years. Like many other industries, the defense sector has been quietly outsourcing production (and jobs) to cheaper labor markets overseas.” (Feb. 24) It seems that with prison labor, these jobs are also being outsourced domestically.
Meanwhile, dividends and options to a handful of top stockholders and CEO compensation packages at top military corporations exceed the total payment of wages to the more than 23,000 imprisoned workers who produce UNICOR parts.
The prison work is often dangerous, toxic and unprotected. At FCC Victorville, a federal prison located at an old U.S. airbase, prisoners clean, overhaul and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat and coated in toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and chemicals.
A federal lawsuit by prisoners, food service workers and family members at FCI Marianna, a minimum security women’s prison in Florida, cited that toxic dust containing lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic poisoned those who worked at UNICOR’s computer and electronic recycling factory.
Prisoners there worked covered in dust, without safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The suit explained that the toxic dust caused severe damage to nervous and reproductive systems, lung damage, bone disease, kidney failure, blood clots, cancers, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, skin lesions, and circulatory and respiratory problems. This is one of eight federal prison recycling facilities — employing 1,200 prisoners — run by UNICOR.
After years of complaints the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Occupational Health Service concurred in October 2008 that UNICOR has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff. (Prison Legal News, Feb. 17, 2009)
Racism & U.S. prisons
The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. imprisons more than 25 percent of all people imprisoned in the world.
There are more than 2.3 million prisoners in federal, state and local prisons in the U.S. Twice as many people are under probation and parole. Many tens of thousands of other prisoners include undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing and youthful offenders in categories considered reform or detention.
The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system.
More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color. Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or on parole. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid. (Linn Washington, “Incarceration Nation”)
The U.S. prison population is not only the largest in the world — it is relentlessly growing. The U.S. prison population is more than five times what it was 30 years ago.
In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, there were 400,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today the number exceeds 2.3 million. In California the prison population soared from 23,264 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2010. The Pennsylvania prison population climbed from 8,243 to 51,487 in those same years. There are now more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began, according to Law Professor Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Today a staggering 1-in-100 adults in the U.S. are living behind bars. But this crime, which breaks families and destroys lives, is not evenly distributed. In major urban areas one-half of Black men have criminal records. This means life-long, legalized discrimination in student loans, financial assistance, access to public housing, mortgages, the right to vote and, of course, the possibility of being hired for a job.
State Prisons contracting slave labor
It is not only federal prisons that contract out prison labor to top corporations. State prisons that used forced prison labor in plantations, laundries and highway chain gangs increasingly seek to sell prison labor to corporations trolling the globe in search of the cheapest possible labor.
One agency asks: “Are you experiencing high employee turnover? Worried about the costs of employee benefits? Unhappy with out-of-state or offshore suppliers? Getting hit by overseas competition? Having trouble motivating your workforce? Thinking about expansion space? Then Washington State Department of Corrections Private Sector Partnerships is for you.” (educate-yourself.org, July 25, 2005)
Major corporations profiting from the slave labor of prisoners include Motorola, Compaq, Honeywell, Microsoft, Boeing, Revlon, Chevron, TWA, Victoria’s Secret and Eddie Bauer.
IBM, Texas Instruments and Dell get circuit boards made by Texas prisoners. Tennessee inmates sew jeans for Kmart and JCPenney. Tens of thousands of youth flipping hamburgers for minimum wages at McDonald’s wear uniforms sewn by prison workers, who are forced to work for much less.
In California, as in many states, prisoners who refuse to work are moved to disciplinary housing and lose canteen privileges as well as “good time” credit, which slices hard time off their sentences.
Systematic abuse, beatings, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation, and lack of medical care make U.S. prison conditions among the worst in the world. Ironically, working under grueling conditions for pennies an hour is treated as a “perk” for good behavior.
In December, Georgia inmates went on strike and refused to leave their cells at six prisons for more than a week. In one of the largest prison protests in U.S. history, prisoners spoke of being forced to work seven days a week for no pay. Prisoners were beaten if they refused to work.
Private prisons for profit
In the ruthless search to maximize profits and grab hold of every possible source of income, almost every public agency and social service is being outsourced to private for-profit contractors.
In the U.S. military this means there are now more private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are U.S. or NATO soldiers.
In cities and states across the U.S., hospitals, medical care facilities, schools, cafeterias, road maintenance, water supply services, sewage departments, sanitation, airports and tens of thousands of social programs that receive public funding are being contracted out to for-profit corporations. Anything publicly owned and paid for by generations of past workers’ taxes — from libraries to concert halls and parks — is being sold or leased at fire sale prices.
All this is motivated and lobbied for by right-wing think tanks like that set up by Koch Industries and their owners, Charles and David Koch, as a way to cut costs, lower wages and pensions, and undercut public service unions.
The most gruesome privatizations are the hundreds of for-profit prisons being established.
The inmate population in private for-profit prisons tripled between 1987 and 2007. By 2007 there were 264 such prison facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult prisoners. (house.leg.state.mn.us, Feb. 24, 2009) Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group Inc. and Community Education Centers.
Prison bonds provide a lucrative return for capitalist investors such as Merrill-Lynch, Shearson Lehman, American Express and Allstate. Prisoners are traded from one state to another based on the most profitable arrangements.
Militarism and prisons
Hand in hand with the military-industrial complex, U.S. imperialism has created a massive prison-industrial complex that generates billions of dollars annually for businesses and industries profiting from mass incarceration.
For decades workers in the U.S. have been assured that they also benefit from imperialist looting by the giant multinational corporations. But today more than half the federal budget is absorbed by the costs of maintaining the military machine and the corporations who are guaranteed profits for equipping the Pentagon. That is the only budget category in federal spending that is guaranteed to increase by at least 5 percent a year — at a time when every social program is being cut to the bone.
The sheer economic weight of militarism seeps into the fabric of society at every level. It fuels racism and reaction. The political influence of the Pentagon and the giant military and oil corporations — with their thousands of high-paid lobbyists, media pundits and network of links into every police force in the country — fuels growing repression and an expanding prison population.
The military, oil and banking conglomerates, interlinked with the police and prisons, have a stranglehold on the U.S. capitalist economy and reins of political power, regardless of who is president or what political party is in office. The very survival of these global corporations is based on immediate maximization of profits. They are driven to seize every resource and source of potential profits.
Thoroughly rational solutions are proposed whenever the human and economic cost of militarism and repression is discussed. The billions spent for war and fantastically destructive weapons systems could provide five to seven times more jobs if spent on desperately needed social services, education and rebuilding essential infrastructure. Or it could provide free university education, considering the fact that it costs far more to imprison people than to educate them.
Why aren’t such reasonable solutions ever chosen? Because military contracts generate far larger guaranteed profits to the military and the oil industries, which have a decisive influence on the U.S. economy.
The prison-industrial complex — including the prison system, prison labor, private prisons, police and repressive apparatus, and their continuing expansion — are a greater source of profit and are reinforced by the climate of racism and reaction. Most rational and socially useful solutions are not considered viable options.
The president negotiates our withdrawal from Afghanistan, proclaims mission accomplished — and the wars of the last decade continue winding down to nothing.
We’ll be leaving behind an unstable country with one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates and hundreds of armed insurgent groups. We haven’t rescued or rebuilt the country or accomplished any objective that begins to justify the human and financial cost of this adventure. We just lost.
But we’re the most powerful nation on the planet. How is that possible? And, as Tom Engelhardt asks, “who exactly beat us? Where exactly is the triumphant enemy?”
He goes on, in an essay that ran this week on Common Dreams: “Did we in some bizarre fashion fight ourselves and lose? After all, last year, more American servicemen died from suicide than on the battlefield in Afghanistan; and a startling number of Americans were killed in ‘green on blue’ or ‘insider’ attacks by Afghan ‘allies’ rather than by that fragmented movement we still call the Taliban.”
Did we fight ourselves and lose? This is a question for the millennium — a question in which the human future hangs in the balance. A rich, arrogant and unbelievably powerful nation, riding a tide of opportune vengeance, pursuing its global interests, invades a poor, backward country, then a year and a half later invades another. It pours multi-trillions of dollars into the adventure and unleashes the most sophisticated high-tech weaponry the world has ever seen. On the home front, the war is backed by at least 80 percent of the population. It’s a good war, a righteous war, proclaimed by the prodigious public relations arm of the military-industrial consensus as a “war on terror” . . . a war on evil itself.
And we lost. Or sort of lost — at least in the sense that we didn’t win. As Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2010: “By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning . . . . They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.”
His essay was titled, “Is War Becoming Obsolete?” That is, is war becoming an ineffective means of achieving, not merely the aims of its own propaganda (the defeat of evil), but its actual, limited goals of regional dominance, the looting of natural resources, the containment of geopolitical rivals? And if so, does it matter?
Beyond such questions, I sense that a larger question lurks: Might it be that war isn’t something we wage, so much as a force that wages us? And if that’s the case, it doesn’t particularly matter whether we win or lose because it’s not in our control anyway, at least not in the way we think it is. War has been obsolete for at least the last century, in that the damage it inflicted shattered winner and loser alike, almost to the point of mutual suicide — not counting the United States, which emerged powerful and prosperous and on top of the world after World War II. It took another half-century or so for the lose-lose nature of war to catch up to us, and thus for us to begin noticing its obsolescence.
This may be a good time to begin assessing the nature of our loss in the war on terror, beyond the non-achievement of geopolitical ends and non-fulfillment of whatever our mission actually was. Certainly this loss includes expenditures in the trillions of dollars, contributing enormously to the national bankruptcy.
And it also includes the thousands of American combat deaths and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers wounded, both physically and psychologically, during their extended deployments, or suffering from an array of mystery nerve, respiratory and multiple other illnesses— now called chronic multisymptom illness and declared, in a recent report by the federal Institute of Medicine, to be the same symptoms that several hundred thousand vets from the 1991 Gulf War still suffer from — which are the result of the toxic hell that modern warfare inflicts on its battle zones.
In the process of inflicting all this harm on ourselves, of course, we inflicted infinitely more harm on the nations we invaded, killing hundreds of thousands, displacing millions, and polluting Iraq and Afghanistan with radioactive waste from depleted uranium munitions and the toxins of unregulated burn pits, among much else. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published the results of a study showing that Fallujah, Iraq, was experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.
Is war becoming obsolete? When war's toxic aftermath is endured only by the defeated “enemy,” the winners can still cheer. But today there’s no cheering on any side of the erstwhile war on terror. The pertinent question is: How do we stop our mad preparation for future wars?
And there’s only one answer: Stop inventing enemies, whom we proceed to dehumanize. Once we begin the dehumanization process, we lose — not just figuratively, but literally, and in almost incalculable ways. Philip Zimbardo coined the term “the Lucifer Effect” to describe the sadistic corruption that consumes good-hearted men and women when they are given overwhelming power over others. We wage war thinking we can control the Lucifer Effect. We’re always wrong.
Through much of history the abnormal has been the norm.
This is a paradox to which we should attend. Aberrations, so plentiful as to form a terrible normality of their own, descend upon us with frightful consistency.
The number of massacres in history, for instance, are almost more than we can record. There was the New World holocaust, consisting of the extermination of indigenous Native American peoples throughout the western hemisphere, extending over four centuries or more, continuing into recent times in the Amazon region.
There were the centuries of heartless slavery in the Americas and elsewhere, followed by a full century of lynch mob rule and Jim Crow segregation in the United States, and today the numerous killings and incarcerations of Black youth by law enforcement agencies.
Let us not forget the extermination of some 200,000 Filipinos by the U.S. military at the beginning of the twentieth century, the genocidal massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915, and the mass killings of African peoples by the western colonists, including the 63,000 Herero victims in German Southwest Africa in 1904, and the brutalization and enslavement of millions in the Belgian Congo from the late 1880s until emancipation in 1960—followed by years of neocolonial free-market exploitation and repression in what was Mobutu’s Zaire.
French colonizers killed some 150,000 Algerians. Later on, several million souls perished in Angola and Mozambique along with an estimated five million in the merciless region now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The twentieth century gave us—among other horrors—more than sixteen million lost and twenty million wounded or mutilated in World War I, followed by the estimated 62 million to 78 million killed in World War II, including some 24 million Soviet military personnel and civilians, 5.8 million European Jews, and taken together: several million Serbs, Poles, Roma, homosexuals, and a score of other nationalities.
In the decades after World War II, many, if not most, massacres and wars have been openly or covertly sponsored by the U.S. national security state. This includes the two million or so left dead or missing in Vietnam, along with 250,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians, and 58,000 Americans.
Today in much of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East there are “smaller” wars, replete with atrocities of all sorts. Central America, Colombia, Rwanda and other places too numerous to list, suffered the massacres and death-squad exterminations of hundreds of thousands, a constancy of violent horrors. In Mexico a “war on drugs” has taken 70,000 lives with 8,000 missing.
There was the slaughter of more than half a million socialistic or democratic nationalist Indonesians by the U.S.-supported Indonesian military in 1965, eventually followed by the extermination of 100,000 East Timorese by that same U.S.-backed military.
Consider the 78-days of NATO’s aerial destruction of Yugoslavia complete with depleted uranium, and the bombings and invasion of Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now the devastating war of attrition brokered against Syria. And as I write (early 2013), the U.S.-sponsored sanctions against Iran are seeding severe hardship for the civilian population of that country.
All the above amounts to a very incomplete listing of the world’s violent and ugly injustice. A comprehensive inventory would fill volumes. How do we record the countless other life-searing abuses: the many millions who survive wars and massacres but remain forever broken in body and spirit, left to a lifetime of suffering and pitiless privation, refugees without sufficient food or medical supplies or water and sanitation services in countries like Syria, Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Mali.
Think of the millions of women and children around the world and across the centuries who have been trafficked in unspeakable ways, and the millions upon millions trapped in exploitative toil, be they slaves, indentured servants, or underpaid laborers. The number of impoverished is now growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. Add to that, the countless acts of repression, incarceration, torture, and other criminal abuses that beat upon the human spirit throughout the world day by day.
Let us not overlook the ubiquitous corporate corruption and massive financial swindles, the plundering of natural resources and industrial poisoning of whole regions, the forceful dislocation of entire populations, the continuing catastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima and other impending disasters awaiting numerous aging nuclear reactors.
The world’s dreadful aberrations are so commonplace and unrelenting that they lose their edge and we become inured to the horror of it all. “Who today remembers the Armenians?” Hitler is quoted as having said while plotting his “final solution” for the Jews. Who today remembers the Iraqis and the death and destruction done to them on a grand scale by the U.S. invasion of their lands? William Blum reminds us that more than half the Iraq population is either dead, wounded, traumatized, imprisoned, displaced, or exiled, while their environment is saturated with depleted uranium (from U.S. weaponry) inflicting horrific birth defects.
What is to be made of all this? First, we must not ascribe these aberrations to happenstance, innocent confusion, and unintended consequences. Nor should we believe the usual rationales about spreading democracy, fighting terrorism, providing humanitarian rescue, protecting U.S. national interests and other such rallying cries promulgated by ruling elites and their mouthpieces.
The repetitious patterns of atrocity and violence are so persistent as to invite the suspicion that they usually serve real interests; they are structural not incidental. All this destruction and slaughter has greatly profited those plutocrats who pursue economic expansion, resource acquisition, territorial dominion, and financial accumulation.
Ruling interests are well served by their superiority in firepower and striking force. Violence is what we are talking about here, not just the wild and wanton type but the persistent and well-organized kind. As a political resource, violence is the instrument of ultimate authority. Violence allows for the conquest of entire lands and the riches they contain, while keeping displaced laborers and other slaves in harness.
The plutocratic rulers find it necessary to misuse or exterminate restive multitudes, to let them starve while the fruits of their land and the sweat of their labor enrich privileged coteries.
Thus we had a profit-driven imperial rule that helped precipitate the great famine in northern China, 1876-1879, resulting in the death of some thirteen million. At about that same time the Madras famine in India took the lives of as many as twelve million while the colonial forces grew ever richer. And thirty years earlier, the great potato famine in Ireland led to about one million deaths, with another desperate million emigrating from their homeland. Nothing accidental about this: while the Irish starved, their English landlords exported shiploads of Irish grain and livestock to England and elsewhere at considerable profit to themselves.
These occurrences must be seen as something more than just historic abnormalities floating aimlessly in time and space, driven only by overweening impulse or happenstance. It is not enough to condemn monstrous events and bad times, we also must try to understand them. They must be contextualized in the larger framework of historical social relations.
The dominant socio-economic system today is free-market capitalism (in all its variations). Along with its unrelenting imperial terrorism, free-market capitalism provides “normal abnormalities” from within its own dynamic, creating scarcity and maldistributed excess, filled with duplication, waste, overproduction, frightening environmental destruction, and varieties of financial crises, bringing swollen rewards to a select few and continual hardship to multitudes.
Economic crises are not exceptional; they are the standing operational mode of the capitalist system. Once again, the irrational is the norm. Consider U.S. free-market history: after the American Revolution, there were the debtor rebellions of the late 1780s, the panic of 1792, the recession of 1809 (lasting several years), the panics of 1819 and 1837, and recessions and crashes through much of the rest of that century. The serious recession of 1893 continued for more than a decade.
After the industrial underemployment of 1900 to 1915 came the agrarian depression of the 1920s—hidden behind what became known to us as “the Jazz Age,” followed by a horrendous crash and the Great Depression of 1929-1942. All through the twentieth century we had wars, recessions, inflation, labor struggles, high unemployment—hardly a year that would be considered “normal” in any pleasant sense. An extended normal period would itself have been an abnormality. The free market is by design inherently unstable in every aspect other than wealth accumulation for the select few.
What we are witnessing is not an irrational output from a basically rational society but the converse: the “rational” (to be expected) output of a fundamentally irrational system. Does this mean these horrors are inescapable? No, they are not made of supernatural forces. They are produced by plutocratic greed and deception.
So, if the aberrant is the norm and the horrific is chronic, then we in our fightback should give less attention to the idiosyncratic and more to the systemic. Wars, massacres and recessions help to increase capital concentration, monopolize markets and natural resources, and destroy labor organizations and popular transformative resistance.
The brutish vagaries of plutocracy are not the product of particular personalities but of systemic interests. President George W. Bush was ridiculed for misusing words, but his empire-building and stripping of government services and regulations revealed a keen devotion to ruling-class interests. Likewise, President Barack Obama is not spineless. He is hypocritical but not confused. He is (by his own description) an erstwhile “liberal Republican,” or as I would put it, a faithful servant of corporate America.
Our various leaders are well informed, not deluded. They come from different regions and different families, and have different personalities, yet they pursue pretty much the same policies on behalf of the same plutocracy.
So it is not enough to denounce atrocities and wars, we also must understand who propagates them and who benefits. We have to ask why violence and deception are constant ingredients.
Unintended consequences and other oddities do arise in worldly affairs but we also must take account of interest-driven rational intentions. More often than not, the aberrations—be they wars, market crashes, famines, individual assassinations or mass killings—take shape because those at the top are pursuing gainful expropriation. Many may suffer and perish but somebody somewhere is benefiting boundlessly.
Knowing your enemies and what they are capable of doing is the first step toward effective opposition. The world becomes less of a horrific puzzlement. We can only resist these global (and local) perpetrators when we see who they are and what they are doing to us and our sacred environment.
Democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced. But the people must not be satisfied with tinseled favors offered by smooth leaders. We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.
Michael Parenti’s most recent books are The Culture Struggle (2006), Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (2007), God and His Demons (2010), Democracy for the Few (9th ed. 2011), and The Face of Imperialism (2011). For further information about his work, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.
Just because there is a superficially-pacifist, yet supraficially genocidal, dictatorially-inclined egomaniac in every one of us, the moment the Maisto Fresh Metal Tailwinds 1:97 Scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft - US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator went on loss at Amazon (we would say sale, but that would imply some probability of profit, which as even the hotdog guy, knows is never going to happen at AMZN), everyone scrambled to buy one.
However, only those first in line got one: everyone else was greeted by a "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock" sign. So what does one do: what one should have done in the first place before going for the one impulse purchase that can murder innocent children half way around the world courtesy of the latest iPad app "iKiller": read the customer reviews of course.
Below is a broad sample of the rather bipolar main street America response when faced with the opportunity of having the same great power, if not so great - or any - responsibility, as is given, by some 25% of the population (factoring for the 55% or so who don't vote) to the president of the USA, even if on a 1:97 scale.
By Raini Pachak
This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I'm a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!
It's like I'm sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!
My son is very interested in joining the Imperial forces when he grows up. He says he's not sure if he wants to help police the homeland or if he wants to invade foreign countries. So I thought a new Predator drone toy would be a nice gift for him. These drones are used both domestically and internationally, to spy on people and assassinate them at the Emperor's discretion. He just loves flying his drone around our house, dropping Hellfire missiles on Scruffy, our dog. He kept saying that Scruffy was a terror suspect and needed to be taken out. I asked him if Scruffy should get a trial first, and he quoted Lindsay Graham, Imperial Senator: "Shut up Scruffy, you don't get a trial!" I was so proud. I think I'll buy him some video games that promote martial law for Christmas.
By Maurice Cobbs
You've had a busy play day - You've wiretapped Mom's cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you've indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you've confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid - besides you, of course - even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?
That's where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let's say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! Remember, due process and oversight are for sissies. Plus, you get the added bonus of taking out potential terrorists before they've even done anything - estimates have determined that you can kill up to 49 potential future terrorists of any age for every confirmed terrorist you kill, and with the innovative 'double-tap' option, you can even kill a few terrorist first responders, preventing them from committing terrorist acts like helping the wounded and rescuing survivors trapped in the rubble. Don't let Dad get away with anti-American activities! Show him who's boss, whether he's at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine's Person of the Year - Twice!
This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way - which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor's house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun!
By Jonathan D
Brown people around the world beware! Always ready to drop a few Hellfire's worth of freedom on unsuspecting civilian gatherings in various middle eastern nations, this Predator model is the perfect addition to any toy collection. Instead of just talking with your children about how our country conducts diplomacy by assassinating people we don't like along with whatever innocent bystanders may be in the blast radius, this Predator model allows for creative play acting and recreation of the murder scene itself. I was sorely disappointed to find out that it's now out of stock and I can't buy dozens more to add to the realism.
By Mr. Ronald M. Ayers
Like most children, my sons and daughters fantasize a lot about killing, usually their teachers and/or other kids at school. For a modest amount of money this toy allows them to take their fantasies to a new level. Instead of using a toy gun or knife or even a video game, this baby takes their blood lust over the top. Now, with a fleet of killer drones, mass genocide of third world peoples is possible for my little ones. As others have noted, a lack of bloodied bodies to go along with the drone is a problem. Perhaps the maker will see fit to remedy that problem in the future.
BTW, I first found about about the toy drones through my children's therapist. The kids have been torturing kittens and puppies and the wife and I sent them to a headshrinker to try to get them to transfer their murderous impulses to third world humans. Their therapist recommended this little gem of a toy. The kids are so excited by it, my son is even talking about joining the military when he turns 18 just so he can pilot a drone. Thank you Amazon for making this excellent product available so kids can experience the glory of killing.
I enthusiastically await the prospects of teaching my grandchildren how to promote Democracy from the comfort of my Desktop! Nothing like making church parking lots out of wedding parties and family events!
By Vanessa Carlisle
I bought this for my son and he spent countless, blissful hours simulating massacres of weddings, funerals, and other family gatherings of brown skinned foreigners! He even realized that if he circled the drone back around on the first responders, his effective kill rate soared! Neat-o!
Educationally, this toy can't be beat - inculcating a predilection for indiscriminate, imperialist violence against non-combatants from oppressed and marginalized communities is precisely in accordance with truly "American values!"
This is an awesome toy to instill a sense of exploration in your child. Geography of foreign lands will come naturally as you and your child act out imaginary strikes on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and many more! Combined with the optional targets, the wedding,the funeral and the dusty road with an American citizen and his son, you can act out these scenarios very realistically! Teaching the moral superiority and callous disregard for other people and nations has never been easier.
By Julia Nelson
The Maisto replica RQ-1 Predator satisfies the requirement for realism, accuracy and detail in manufacture alongside excellent of playability. The blister pack reminds us of the danger of choking, this attention to detail (especially when the Predator is used in dusty countries in the troubled Middle east) suggests that the Maisto marketing department have really done their homework. I bought ten of these for my boy because, as he so rightly says, "So many countries, so little time". He hasn't played with his Matchbox V2 Buzz Bomb once since he became a "Drone Operator". It's given him a real grasp of imperialism, murder of innocents, the art of war and the complex geography of the Middle East. Thank You Maisto, we look forward to your Cluster Bomb, Land Mine and Gas canister multi pack with anticipation hitherto unseen in the world of play.
By Gordon M. Wagner
The coolest detail about this toy are the small body fragments you can litter around your target area following a drone missile strike on a wedding party. THEN (this is where the real fun begins) you circle back in an hour and fire MORE missiles at the people rescuing survivors and mourning the dead! Sure if another country did such a thing we'd decry it as heinous terrorism, but when good Ol' Uncle Sam's finger is on the joystick, you can bet that we call what we hit our target, no matter what.
Seriously? This toy is inappropriate and ought to be removed from Amazon as soon as possible. If it hasn't occurred to you, "drone" murder is still murder. As in "war crime". As in "international tribunal".
ORDER NOW and get FREE packs of Cluster Bombs (banned by all countries except the US and Israel) as well as the latest 2013 assortment of Land Mines (also banned by international treaty except for the US and Israel).
Nothing teaches your kids about the fact that they may one day be the target of an extra-judicious execution by executive order via a flying death robot from the movie Terminator, then this beautiful piece of replica toy war crimes.
By Michael Liszewski
This model is a 100% accurate scale model, and you will likely be thrilled that the "for ages 3 and up" disclaimer only applies to those remotely flying the Predator, not its potential victims.
I thought if I bought this, I could kill random people without facing justice. It doesn't work! It won't kill people, not even brown ones.
THIS IS AN EDUCATIONAL TOY AND I HOPE TO GOD THAT MY FELLOW MURCUN SHEEPLE LEARN SOMETHING FROM IT.
By sandinista death squad "sandinista death squad"
I thought this would come with "baseball cards" of American civilians living in other countries that I could target for termination, I had to satisfy myself by destroying everything in my house and giving up on everything I ever believed in, liberty, freedom, and due process!
By HDTV shopper "HDTV"
Whenever my 7-year-old takes his dose of psychotropic medication, he's always obsessed with First Person Shooter videogames. Boy, I want to thank Amazon for their patriotic act of making this MALE (awesome friggin' acronym, Maisto!) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) available. At first, when little Tommy unwrapped this gift from Santa, he said, "this blows," but when I informed him that this would give him an opportunity to blow up people "Who Hate Us For Our Freedoms," well, little Tommy just lit up.
Now, father and son sit in Little Tommy's tree fort, pretending we're in a 63-degree military installation in Tampa or New Mexico, toggling a joystick and doing some real "collateral damage" on women and children in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Yemen! It's a true bonding experience for father and son -- we're Real American Heroes, making up our own kill list and angling for that Nobel Peace Prize we so richly deserve for bringing Democracy to The Middle East and Africa! [...]
Plus, the real bonus is that I'm preparing Little Tommy for a future career. Let's face it -- our Congress has shipped all our manufacturing jobs to China, and Little Tommy is hopelessly addicted to psychotropic medication. His brain is fried, OK? So I thought he might have a great future with the TSA, groping other 7-year-olds or grandmothers at unconstitutional checkpoints, but considering there will be 30,000 REAL DRONES OVER THE SKIES OF THE U. S. OF A. by 2015, Little Tommy is actually preparing himself for the career of a lifetime by practicing to take out his fellow American citizens with a Hellfire missle. Hoowah! www. nowtheendbegins .com/blog/?p=8504
Look, I listen closely to everything the Brit Piers Morgan tells me. The Second Amendment right to own firearms is evil. So I've destroyed all of Little Tommy's toy guns. But piloting a killer drone is freaking awesome. I highly recommend that all you sheeple step up like me and be REAL American patriots. Turn in your guns, eat your GMO foods, drink your fluoride water, breathe in your chemtrails and BUY YOUR BOYS THIS AWESOME, AWESOME TOY for your kid! Remember -- they hate us for our freedoms. So we need to kill thousands of brown people we don't know remotely with the push of a button. Baba booey, y'all!
By Barry D. Berns
What's next, depleted uranium Play-doh? Yes, let's teach our children that endless war for the benefit of billionaire defense contractors and bankers is okay, that it's okay to kill unarmed civilians as long as it's in the name of "Democracy," that murdering innocent men, women and children is okay as long as it's the government telling you to murder them. I won't mention 9/11 "conspiracies," but isn't it obvious to all by now that war is a racket? Only the mega-rich profit from war while everyone else either suffers or dies. Oh yeah, let's arm and install those evil terrorists in Libya and Syria while we irradiate and/or sexually molest people at our airports to protect us from them. No wonder Al Qaeda has been called "Al CIA Duh." Of course, you need a nebulous "enemy" or boogeyman to fight an unending war. Orwell's "1984" was not supposed to be a book of prophecy.
In a word, disgusting.
By USS LIBERTY
My Ritalin®-fueled first grade son thought it would be so much fun to play "Drop the Hellfire missiles". But when he brought it to school, the taxpayer-funded armed guard overheard him say the word "Hellfire" during recess. The principal immediately assigned him to indefinite detention. Then she called the media, and shamed him at the national level. Now he's depressed and taking Zoloft®. Where did we go wrong? Oh well, at least my new husband and I can finally take that 7 million dollar vacation to Hawai'i! Talk about change... "Yes we did!"
By Gk Harris
A toy but it's still quite dangerous. My 7-year-old son launched this in the school playground and hit a Pakistani kid in the eye. These things just can't help themselves.
By Chai T. "texaschai
Disappointed in the price of this toy. Thought it would be paid for with my hard-working, middle-class, high tax rate taxes as the real ones are, but apparently not! Of course I'm kidding. There is no middle-class anymore.
DO NOT BUY THIS TOY! JUST MOVE TO PAKISTAN AND YOU WILL SEE THEM DROPPING BOMBS ON YOU.. AND IT ITS FREE! WELL NOT FREE... JUST PAID FOR BY THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER.
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Hard assets are gaining momentum once again as market participants digest the potential impact of central bank printing initiatives. After last year's record level of central bank intervention, 2013 is gearing up to be an even more prolific year on the money-printing front. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently unveiled Japan's tenth Quantitative Easing program to follow the country's current $224 billion stimulus announced on January 11th. The US Federal Reserve is steadily printing US$85 billion a month under its QE3 & QE4 programs, and reports indicate that the European Central Bank is close to launching its much-awaited Open Market Transaction (OMT) program to purchase European sovereign debt. It's a money-printing party and everyone's invited. Even the new Bank of England head, Mark Carney, has hinted of plans to launch more monetary stimulus.
Professional investors have noticed and are expressing concern over the consequences of concerted currency devaluation and the continuation of zero-percent interest rates. PIMCO's Bill Gross, aka "The Bond King", is now regularly touting gold and hard assets as a prudent investment in 2013. While his advice appears to have fallen on deaf ears, interest in inflation protection is once again on the rise. We continue to believe that precious metals remain the place to be invested in this environment and are always interested in different avenues with which to participate in the sector's inevitable rise.
Despite being long-time precious metals enthusiasts and active investors in gold and silver, we did not focus on "the other precious metals", platinum or palladium, until very recently. Our interest in the space was ignited by a client's request to assess investment opportunities in the debt and equity of Platinum Group Metal (PGM) mining companies - an exercise that came up almost completely dry. As long-time resource equity investors, we are familiar with the mining industry's supply/demand cyclicality and the impact it has on commodity prices. Looking more closely at the PGM miners, the platinum and palladium industry reminds us of the uranium industry back in 2003. Like uranium, platinum and palladium are crucial to a number of important industrial applications where demand for them is relatively inelastic to price. And like uranium in 2003, palladium is also marked by an opaque, but rapidly diminishing foreign supply stockpile, which had previously balanced out the market and effectively capped the price. Investors will remember that uranium proceeded to perform extremely well from 2003 onwards based on the fundamental supply/demand imbalances that ensued. Our assessment of the PGM industry has led us to believe that platinum and palladium have the potential to do the same. The one difference being, however, that whereas in uranium, where we chose to build our exposure primarily through uranium mining equities, platinum and palladium exposure appears to be best gained through the metals themselves… hence the launch of the Sprott Physical Platinum & Palladium Trust this past December (NYSE Arca: SPPP, TSX: PPT.U).
On January 15th, the world's largest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (Amplats), announced plans to shut down several of its mines, resulting in the layoff of 14,000 mine workers and the reduction of approximately 400,000 ounces of annual platinum production. Given that global platinum mine production has averaged approximately 6.2 million ounces per year, the Amplats announcement is equivalent to almost 6% of global annual mine production in 2012, representing a substantial shortfall to the metal's supply/demand balance. The platinum spot price appreciated by over $30/oz following this announcement out of South Africa.
Our desire to launch the Sprott Physical Platinum & Palladium Trust was partly based on an expectation of further supply disruptions out of South Africa, which produces close to 75% of the world's annual platinum supply and 37% of the world's palladium. Union-led labour strife has become a growing concern in the country, where some 46 people were killed this past summer in violent strikes at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana. The labour unrest has come at a time when the industry is already suffering from persistent operating challenges and declining profit margins (see Figure A). The geological nature and depth of many of the country's platinum mines requires large amounts of manual labour, and South African mine workers have become increasingly politicized in their struggle for higher wages. At today's platinum price, however, most platinum miners are unprofitable after netting out the costs of labour, electricity and equipment required to produce the metal. Many are cash flow negative and cannot meet the workers' request for higher wages without sustaining further losses. Roger Baxter, senior executive at the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, recently stated that at least 50% of the country's platinum industry is marginal or in a loss-making position today. In addition, many of the mining operations are suffering from declining ore grades, further lowering mine output. The result has been a 25% decline in annual South African platinum production since 2006. As the Amplats decision plainly underscored, at today's prices, platinum mining in South Africa is simply no longer a profitable affair.
FIGURE A: PRODUCTION MARGIN AND BASKET PRICE
Source: CIBC World Markets Equity Research 2012, PGM Basket consists of Platinum (~60%), Palladium (~30%) and Rhodium (~10%)
Source: Johnson Matthey Platinum 2012 Interim Review
The impact of South Africa's mining woes has completely shifted the platinum market's supply fundamentals over the past year, moving it from a state of oversupply in 2011 to a net supply deficit in 2012 (see Figure B). The recent developments in South Africa strongly suggest platinum's supply deficit will continue into 2013, supporting the platinum spot price and potentially moving it to much higher levels. In fact, some industry estimates have suggested the platinum market will experience a deficit as high as 760,000 ounces in 2013. Platinum miners will not be able to increase production unless the platinum price rises to a level capable of incentivizing further development.
On the demand side, platinum has benefitted from a steady demand for auto catalysts, which constitutes the metal's primary industrial usage. Platinum and palladium both possess chemical properties that help reduce pollutants produced by gasoline and diesel engines, significantly lowering the air pollution produced by automobiles. Just as we believe the platinum price must go up to incentivize new mine production out of South Africa, the platinum price is further supported by the fact that it CAN go up, because of the relative inelasticity of the demand for its catalytic utility. The average automobile (worldwide) carries a mere $212 worth of platinum group metals per vehicle, making the impact of any platinum price increase on the total wholesale cost of an automobile relatively marginal. In China, for example, where pollution is a critical problem, air pollution levels of 300 or above regularly prompt the US embassy to issue warnings to minimize outdoor or strenuous activity. Air particulate levels in Beijing have often been above 500 recently, sometimes crossing over 700. In response, Beijing has recently tightened emissions standards for new cars to meet European Union Standards, or Euro V, starting February 1st. Increasing the platinum/palladium loadings per catalytic converter is one feasible way of directly addressing this growing problem, as the demand for automobiles in China is expected to grow steadily over the next five years. Platinum has also benefitted from increasing demand for its usage in jewelry, particularly in China, where it is considered to be superior to gold. According to refiner Johnson Matthey, China is expected to have consumed 1.92 million ounces of platinum in 2012, representing 70% of the overall global platinum jewellery consumption of 2.73 million ounces. That total is likely to increase as demand rises in other countries as well. In India, for example, platinum demand is estimated to have increased by 25% this past year, representing a new high of 100,000 ounces. As emerging markets growth continues, we expect platinum jewellery demand to increase along with it.
The palladium story is similar to that for platinum from a demand perspective, but has a different supply picture that makes it more compelling in our view. Palladium generally occurs with platinum and other PGM metals and is usually associated with nickel and copper. Like platinum, palladium's main industrial usage is in catalytic converters, most notably in gasoline engines. It is also used in jewellery, watchmaking, dentistry, surgical instruments and electrical contacts.
Almost 40% of the world's annual palladium mine supply comes from Russia, primarily through operations at Norilsk. Russia, naturally, does not provide much information on its palladium stockpiles, but various reporting agencies are able to piece together reliable estimates for annual supply and demand.
The palladium market is tight, and appears to be getting tighter. It has gone from a 1.26 million ounce surplus in 2011 to a 915,000 ounce deficit in 2012. This represents a swing of over 2 million ounces this year due to contracting supply, increasing gross demand and diminished recycling, resulting in a supply decrease of 790,000 ounces (see Figure E). If you factor in the ~200,000 ounces we purchased in our Trust, the deficit for 2012 increases to 1.15 million oz.
As bullish as we are on the supply dynamics of platinum, it is palladium that appears to be poised to move higher in the short-term. The palladium market is now in supply deficit globally and will experience a residual deficit in 2013 even after existing stockpile sales are taken into account. Russia has historically maintained a sizeable palladium stockpile which has represented a key source of supply over the past two decades. 2012 reports suggested that that stockpile was nearing depletion, with sales expected to fall below 100,000 ounces in 2013, versus the 250,000 ounces that are believed to have been sold last year. Those numbers were also supported by Swiss PGM data, where the most recent 2012 numbers show Russian palladium shipments running 72% lower than the same period in 2011. All of this was recently confirmed by Norilsk itself, when an executive conceded in an interview on November 29th (and later confirmed by industry watchers like GFMS this past January) that the supply overhang from Russian stockpiles is officially close to being depleted. If this proves to be true, it will represent a significant shift in supply, since those stockpiles were a main contributor in balancing the palladium market for the last ten years.
Source: Johnson Matthey Platinum 2012 Interim Review
One other bullish palladium supply factor relates to the Norilsk mines themselves, which produce more palladium than the next four largest palladium producers combined. Norilsk's 2012 palladium production is expected to account for 42% of global supply. Despite higher prices, Norilsk is not expected to expand its annual palladium production for at least 10 years, because that's how long it will take to develop the new mines it requires to increase production. In addition, the existing operations are reported to be having difficulty maintaining their average 2.7 million ounces of annual production due to diminishing ore grades at depth within the ore bodies Norilsk is mining. With Russian state supplies dwindling, and Norilsk's palladium production flat at best, the supply picture in 2013 has a very high probability of tightening further. This is especially likely if South Africa's 1.5 million ounces of palladium production is also impacted by further strikes and mine shutdowns.
Palladium demand has been robust, having risen by 15% year-over-year in 2012 to 9.73 million ounces. The growth has been primarily driven by increased use in autocatalysts, the demand for which alone is forecasted to increase by 7% in 2013. Given the probability of tightening supply in the years ahead, we could potentially see a hoarding reaction by industry users as supply constraints become more pronounced. In year 2000, a similar reaction by industry users led palladium to trade over $1,000/ ounce. It is also interesting to note that palladium has the second highest amount of short positions in the futures market in relation to total annual production - second only to that for silver. The reversal of those short contracts may represent a significant source of investment demand as prices continue to rise.
The timing of the launch of the Sprott Physical Platinum & Palladium Trust has been favourable thus far. Supply problems out of South Africa will be the driving force behind platinum's price appreciation, while palladium will benefit from the depletion of Russian stockpiles and flat production from Norilsk. Both metals have the potential to see significant demand increases as the autocatalyst market benefits from growing global auto sales, which reached a record 80 million units sold in 2012.
As at February 2013, the Sprott Physical Platinum & Palladium Trust now holds 81,486 ounces of platinum and 186,098 ounces of palladium in bullion form. The Trust is structured similar to our existing Sprott Physical Gold Trust (NYSE Arca: PHYS, TSX: PHY.U) and Sprott Physical Silver Trust (NYCE Arca: PSLV, TSX PHS.U), but differs in that it initially holds approximately equal dollar amounts of platinum and palladium.
We aim to publish more updates in the coming months to analyze developments in the markets for both metals. Although platinum and palladium share gold and silver's "precious metal" categorization, they represent significantly smaller markets in terms of physical production, making them much more responsive to the supply constraints and demand increases that we foresee for both. It is also worth noting that relatively little of the total annual platinum and palladium supply actually makes it to "market" - with the vast majority sold directly to fabricators. Our Trust's December purchases represent 1.3% of 2012's platinum mine supply and almost 3% of palladium supply. If investment demand for platinum/palladium were to grow in an environment where supply is further constrained, it could indeed have a large impact on the spot price for both metals going forward.
Precious metal investors are encouraged to review platinum and palladium's unique supply/demand dynamics. We believe 2013 will be an exciting year for both metals, and that's without even considering what could happen to the precious metals sector as a whole.
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“Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”, chant First Nations as a showdown 11 January loams with Prime Minister Harper.
Sparked by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike on tiny ‘Victoria’ Island near Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, now in its third frigid week, the native uprising across Canada is in fact the latest manifestation of the world’s colonized peoples trying to throw off the shackles of imperialism. An exciting moment, one of vital import for us all.
Their warrior path brings to mind Egyptian Muslims fighting their westernizers and Mubarakite old guard since the revolution in January 2011, or the struggle by Palestinian natives against Israeli theft of their land. It is a continuation of the Iranian people’s struggle in the face of unrelenting subversion from the West. It’s no coincidence that Cairenes were some of the demonstrators at Canadian embassies, or that native activist-leader Terrance Nelson recently was offered support in Tehran for his efforts to gain a seat at the OPEC table for the real owners of Canada’s oil and gas resources.
This struggle has been going on for more than two centuries. In Canada, it really got underway in the 19th century, as the trickle of colons became a deluge and the theft of native lands accelerated. In Egypt it began in 1798, when Napoleon invaded, and crescendoed in 1875 when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli ‘brought’ the Suez Canal — built by endentured labor at the cost of tens of thousands of Egyptian lives. In Iran, it also began in the early 19th century, when Russia seized northern Iran (present day Azerbaijan), and picked up steam when Reuter and other western businessmen bribed the Shah to grant them lucrative economic concessions. Palestine has been at the center of the anti-imperial struggle since the western powers imposed illegally a Jewish state at the heart of the Muslim world.
Canada’s natives fought for their land, but were overwhelmed by the wiley and land-hungry colons, and today represent only 3% of Canada’s population, living for the most part short, bleak lives in dire poverty on the dregs of land allotted them by the victors.
But resistance is alive and well. “Idle No More” has swept Canada since Spence pitched her tent near Parliament Hill. Egyptians have risen up four times since Disraeli’s coup, eventually taking back the Canal and today are fashioning a new political order inspired not by western imperial dictates, but by the Quran. Iran finally had its revolution in 1979 and has been affronting the imperial monster ever since, telling truth to the world’s would-be masters.
The ploys of the imperialists were all variations on the program to steal others’ lands, and tie their economies to a world order policed by imperial guns and money. There are many weapons in the imperial arsenal, including nuclear weapons capable of destroying all life on Earth many times over, the latest being the armed drone, deploying ‘depleted’ uranium bunker-buster bombs (guaranteed to ‘keep on giving’ for hundreds of thousands of years).
Postmodern imperialism, the latest fashion, cloaks itself in ‘human rights’ and the fight against WMDs and terrorism. That this is mere subterfuge is revealed by the invasion of Iraq (and planned invasions of Iran and Syria) on the pretext of WMD eradication. Instead, hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed by US-led invasions, with no one guilty, no WMDs and no end in sight.
Israel’s flagrant violation of all international norms similarly goes unpunished, indeed is subsidized by the US and and enthusiastically endorsed by Canada.
Imperialism is alive and all too well, and Canada is fortunate to at last have a clear voice shouting this grim truth to other Canadians and the world. The alarm went off for Harper last year when native activist-leader Terrance Nelson went to Tehran, defying the Conservatives’ unprovoked cutting of diplomatic relations with Iran last November. Nelson was pilloried as a traitor, though it should be clear by now to Canadians who is trading away Canada’s sovereignty and our reputation.
Attawapiskat Chief Spence was inspired by four native women in Saskatoon who began a hunger strike also last November, protesting the Harper government’s omnibus bill C-45, which: *abrogates the Indian Act, ending native sovereignty,
*gives band councils greater municipal powers,
*makes reserve lands “fee simple property” (which can be bought and sold, not only leased),
*allows taxes to be charged and collected by the new Native governments.
The battle lines are drawn. The Harperite status quo is now being mobilized to push through his agenda. Commenting on the 1905 treaty governing Attawapiskat, the National Post’s Jonathan Kay wrote: “The whole basis of the treaty was destroyed as soon as traditional native hunting life came to an end. This is the fundamental reason that the Idle No More message on treaties is irrelevant: The great challenge of native policy in the 21st century will be to integrate natives into the larger economy that is based in Canadian population centers. You can’t turn the clock back to 1905, or even to 1930.” The only answer, the assimilationists claim, is to push the remnants of the natives into urban ghettoes, where they can live like other Canadian poor on welfare handouts.
The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffery Simpson lectures natives for “living intellectually in a dream palace”, built on “mythology about environmental protection and the aboriginals’ sacred link to their lands”. Harper was correct in refusing a face-to-face meeting with the native chief, since a prime minister should not be “blackmailed” into doing what any lobby group or individual wants.
As a First Nations chief devoted to her people, it is the “lobbyist” Spence who has the creds as a Canadian leader, not the scheming power-hungry Harper, who clawed his way to the top of the Reform/ Conservative Party over broken promises and lies.
The “scattered incidents” Simpson sneers at are taking place spontaneously from coast-to-coast by First Nations protesters, closing rail lines, roads, flashdancing in malls, even disrupting and closing several bridge border crossings with the US. Demonstrations have been held around the world — Palestine, Cairo, London, the US, Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Despite media disdain, there has been an outpouring of sympathy from Canadians native and non-native. NDP MP Charlie Angus visited Spence in her tent, as did Justin Trudeau: “It was deeply moving to meet Chief Theresa today. She is willing to sacrifice everything for her people. She shouldn’t have to.”
The struggle has quickly been taken up by band leaders trying to co-opt the protests. Shawn Atleo, head of the Assembly of First Nations, has called for a renewed campaign of civil disobedience beginning 16 January with “country-wide economic disruptions” and “breach of treaty” declarations. This should climax with the proposed Crown-First Nations Summit 24 January, a repeat of last year’s meeting, when the appalling housing conditions on the Attawapiskat reserve first hit the media.
Idle No More may well act as a catalyst and ignite a broader struggle against Harper’s agenda, his hollowing out of environmental protection laws and Canada’s declining record on human rights. Perhaps Harper’s grudging agreement to meet with native leaders 11 January is too late for him. Starving a native women leader at the heart Canada’s democracy, at Christmas no less, is not conducive to good PR for a leader whose hold on power is shaky. Spence agreed to attend but refused to end the hunger strike she began 11 December until she is convinced this isn’t just another PR stunt. She insisted that Governor Geneneral David Johnston and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty be at the meeting.
Canada is at last redeeming itself in the world’s eyes after seven humiliating years of kowtowing to the US-Israeli agenda both abroad and at home, and we have the First Nations people to thank, their resolve “a conduit for the pain of the world”, comments Naomi Klein. Idle No More speaks for all Canadians against the 1% who so eagerly sell out Canada’s resources and smirch its reputation in the world. “The greatest blessing of all is indigenous sovereignty itself. If Canadians have a chance of stopping Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights – backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way.”
Not only do Canada’s natives empower all Canadians against the 1%, they also help us understand Canada’s actions in Palestine and Iran, countries whose people love Canada and rout for our natives, whose struggle against the imperial order is their struggle too. Victory against Canada’s Mubarak helps Egyptians shake off the legacy of neoliberalism, helps Palestinians in their struggle against Jewish colons in Israel, and Iranians dying in hospitals for lack of medicines due to the embargo intended to crush their independence.
Eric Walberg is author of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html. You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/
A version of this appeared at http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/07/282238/canadas-first-nations-expect-resistance/