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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Climate Discord: From Hopenhagen to Nopenhagen by Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, "We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today." These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as "Hopenhagen," was looking more like "Nopenhagen."

As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty.

Most groups had been stripped of their credentials so the summit could meet the security and space needs for traveling heads of state, the U.N. claimed. These people sitting in the cold were engaged in a somber protest: They were shaving their heads. One woman told me, "I am shaving my head to show how really deeply touched I feel about what is happening in there. ... There are 6 billion people out there, and inside they don't seem to be talking about them." She held a white sign, with just a pair of quotation marks, but no words. "What does the sign say?" I asked her. She had tears in her eyes, "It says nothing because I don't know what to say anymore."

Obama reportedly heard Friday of a meeting taking place between the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and burst into the room, leading the group to consensus on "The Copenhagen Accord." One hundred ninety-three countries were represented at the summit, most of them by their head of state. Obama and his small group defied U.N. procedure, resulting in the nonbinding, take-it-or-leave-it document.

The accord at least acknowledges that countries "agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science ... so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius." For some, after eight years with President George W. Bush, just having a U.S. president who accepts science as a basis for policy might be considered a huge victory. The accord pledges "a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020" for developing countries. This is less than many say is needed to solve the problem of adapting to climate change and building green economies in developing countries, and is only a nonbinding goal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to specify the U.S. share, only saying if countries didn't come to an agreement it would not be on the table anymore.

Respected climate scientist James Hansen told me, "The wealthy countries are trying to basically buy off these countries that will, in effect, disappear," adding, "based on our contribution to the carbon in the atmosphere, [the U.S. share] would be 27 percent, $27 billion per year."

I asked Bolivian President Evo Morales for his solution. He recommends "all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America." According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of the major NGOs stripped of credentials, criticized the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, writing: "The United States slammed through a flimsy agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors. The so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord' is full of empty pledges." But he also applauded "concerned citizens who marched, held vigils and sent messages to their leaders, [who] helped to create unstoppable momentum in the global movement for climate justice."

Many feel that Obama's disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks. But Pica has it right. The Copenhagen climate summit failed to reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement, but it inspired a new generation of activists to join what has emerged as a mature, sophisticated global movement for climate justice.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Published on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 by TruthDig.com

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein

Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the U.S. economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the U.S. took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.

(The "deal" that was ultimately rammed through was nothing more than a grubby pact between the world's biggest emitters: I'll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.)

I understand all the arguments about not promising what he can't deliver, about the dysfunction of the U.S. Senate, about the art of the possible. But spare me the lecture about how little power poor Obama has. No President since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the U.S. into something that doesn't threaten the stability of life on this planet. He has refused to use each and every one of them. Let's look at the big three.

Blown Opportunity Number 1: The Stimulus Package When Obama came to office he had a free hand and a blank check to design a spending package to stimulate the economy. He could have used that power to fashion what many were calling a "Green New Deal" -- to build the best public transit systems and smart grids in the world. Instead, he experimented disastrously with reaching across the aisle to Republicans, low-balling the size of the stimulus and blowing much of it on tax cuts. Sure, he spent some money on weatherization, but public transit was inexplicably short changed while highways that perpetuate car culture won big.

Blown Opportunity Number 2: The Auto Bailouts Speaking of the car culture, when Obama took office he also found himself in charge of two of the big three automakers, and all of the emissions for which they are responsible. A visionary leader committed to the fight against climate chaos would obviously have used that power to dramatically reengineer the failing industry so that its factories could build the infrastructure of the green economy the world desperately needs. Instead Obama saw his role as uninspiring down-sizer in chief, leaving the fundamentals of the industry unchanged.

Blown Opportunity Number 3: The Bank Bailouts Obama, it's worth remembering, also came to office with the big banks on their knees -- it took real effort not to nationalize them. Once again, if Obama had dared to use the power that was handed to him by history, he could have mandated the banks to provide the loans for factories to be retrofitted and new green infrastructure to be built. Instead he declared that the government shouldn't tell the failed banks how to run their businesses. Green businesses report that it's harder than ever to get a loan.

Imagine if these three huge economic engines -- the banks, the auto companies, the stimulus bill -- had been harnessed to a common green vision. If that had happened, demand for a complementary energy bill would have been part of a coherent transformative agenda.

Whether the bill had passed or not, by the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the U.S. would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world.

There are very few U.S. Presidents who have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. More than anyone else, the Copenhagen failure belongs to him.

Published on Monday, December 21, 2009 by The Nation

Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org

Hugo Chávez writes on `The battle of Copenhagen'


"I will not tire of repeating to the four winds: the only possible and viable alternative is socialism. I said it in each of my speeches to all the world representatives gathered in Copenhagen, the world's most important event in the last two hundred years: there is no other way if we want to stop this heartless and debased competition that promises only total annihilation." – Hugo Chávez

I


Copenhagen was the scene of a historic battle in the framework of the 15th Conference of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP15). Better said, in the beautiful, snowy capital of Denmark, a battle began that did not end on Friday, December 18, 2009. I reiterate: Copenhagen was only the beginning of a decisive battle for the salvation of the planet. It was a battle in the realm of ideas and in praxis.


Brazilian Leonardo Boff, a great liberation theologian and one of the most authoritative voices on environmental issues, in a key article, entitled What is at stake in Copenhagen?, wrote these words full of insight and courage: What can we expect from Copenhagen? At least this simple confession: We cannot continue like this. And a simple proposition: Let’s change course.


And for that reason, precisely, we went to Copenhagen to battle for a change of course on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), and moreover, in defence of the cause of humanity and to speak, with President Evo Morales, in defence of the rights of Pachamama, of Mother Earth.


Evo, who together with yours truly, had the responsibility to be a spokesperson for the Bolivarian Alliance, wisely said: What this debate is about, is whether we are going to live or we are going to die.


All eyes of the world were concentrated on Copenhagen: the 15th Conference on Climate Change allowed us to gauge the fibre we are made of, where hope lies and what can we do to establish what the Liberator Simón Bolívar defined as the equilibrium of the universe, an equilibrium that can never be achieved within the capitalist world system.


II

Before our arrival in Copenhagen, the African bloc, backed by the Group of 77, denounced that rich countries were ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, that is, the only existing international instrument to fight global warming, the only thing that penalises the industrialised states and protects the developing countries.


It is necessary to recognise that the battle had already begun in the streets of Copenhagen, with the youth at the forefront protesting and proposing: I could see and feel, since my arrival in the Danish capital on December 16, the historic power of another world that for the youth is not only possible but absolutely necessary.


III

In Copenhagen, from the beginning, the cards were on the table for all to see. On the one hand, the cards of brutal meanness and stupidity of capitalism which did not budge in defence of its logic: the logic of capital, which leaves only death and destruction in its wake at an increasingly rapid pace.


On the other hand, the cards of the peoples demanding human dignity, the salvation of the planet and for a radical change, not of the climate, but of a world system that has brought us to the brink of unprecedented ecological and social catastrophe.
On one side, the victors of a mercantile and utilitarian civilisation, that is, the “civilised ones” who for a long time now have forgotten about human beings, and opted blindly for increasingly insatiable desires.


On the other hand, the “barbarians” who remain committed in believing and in fighting for radically changing the logic, that you can maximise human welfare, minimising environmental and ecological impacts. Those who sustain the impossibility of defending human rights, as raised by the comrade Evo Morales, if we don’t also defend the rights of Mother Earth, those who act with determination to leave a planet and future for our descendants.


I will not tire of repeating to the four winds: the only possible and viable alternative is socialism. I said it in each of my speeches to all the world representatives gathered in Copenhagen, the world's most important event in the last two hundred years: there is no other way if we want to stop this heartless and debased competition that promises only total annihilation.


Why are the “civilised ones” so afraid of a project that aspires to build shared happiness? They are afraid, let’s be honest, because shared happiness does not generate profit. Hence the crystal clarity of that great slogan of the Copenhagen street protest that today speaks for millions: “If the climate was a bank, they would have saved it already.”


The “civilised ones” do not take the necessary measures, simply because of this, it would oblige them to reverse their voracious pattern of life, marked by selfish comfort and that does not touch their cold hearts, which palpitate only to the beat of money.


That’s why the [US] Empire arrived late on December 18, to offer crumbs via blackmail, and through this, wash away the guilt marked on its face. In front of this strategy of buying support, you could hear throughout Denmark the clear and courageous voice of Vandana Shiva, the Indian thinker saying a great truth: “I think it is time for US to stop seeing itself as a donor and begin to recognise itself as polluter: a polluter must pay compensation for damages and must it pay its ecological debt. It is not charity. This is justice.”


I must say: in Copenhagen the Obama illusion was definitively destroyed. He was confirmed in his position as head of the empire and winner of the Nobel War Prize. The enigma of the two Obamas has been resolved.


Friday the 18th came to an end without a democratically agreed accord: Obama mounted the platform separately, in a further violation of UN procedures, for which we feel obliged to challenge any decision that does not respect for the validity of the Protocol Kyoto. To respect and enhance Kyoto is our motto.


An accord was not possible in Copenhagen due to the lack of political will of the rich countries: the powerful of this world, the hyper-developed, they do not want to change their patterns of production and consumption which are as senseless as suicide. “The world can go to hell if it dares to threaten my privilege and my lifestyle”, is what they appear to be saying with their conduct: that is the hard truth that they do not want to hear from those who act under the historical and categorical imperative to change course.
Copenhagen is not the end, I repeat, but a beginning: the doors have been opened for a universal debate on how to save the planet, life on the planet. The battle continues.


IVWe commemorated the 179th anniversary of the physical disappearance of our Liberator Simón Bolívar in an act of deep revolutionary content; I refer to the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance with social movements in Denmark on December 17. There I felt, once again that Bolivar is not only a banner of Venezuela and Our America, but is increasingly a universal leader.


It is his living and combative legacy, now embodied in the Bolivarian Alliance, which is becoming a world heritage, that we took to Copenhagen to do battle for the Patria Grande, which is at the same time, to do battle for the sake of humanity .
In reality and in truth: Bolivar lives! In Copenhagen it was confirmed that his legacy is more alive than ever.
And now he will overcome.
Now we shall overcome!

translated by Kiraz Janicke for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal December 20, 2009

Why the Afghanistan/Pakistan War is Illegal By MARJORIE COHN


President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize nine days after he announced he would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. His escalation of that war is not what the Nobel committee envisioned when it sought to encourage him to make peace, not war.

In 1945, in the wake of two wars that claimed millions of lives, the nations of the world created the United Nations system to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The UN Charter is based on the principles of international peace and security as well as the protection of human rights. But the United States, one of the founding members of the UN, has often flouted the commands of the charter, which is part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Although the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans saw it as a justifiable response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The cover of Time magazine called it "The Right War." Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war but escalating the war in Afghanistan. But a majority of Americans now oppose that war as well.

The UN Charter provides that all member states must settle their international disputes by peaceful means, and no nation can use military force except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. After the 9/11 attacks, the council passed two resolutions, neither of which authorized the use of military force in Afghanistan.

“Operation Enduring Freedom” was not legitimate self-defense under the charter because the 9/11 attacks were crimes against humanity, not “armed attacks” by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. In fact, 15 of the 19 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, there was not an imminent threat of an armed attack on the United States after 9/11, or President Bush would not have waited three weeks before initiating his October 2001 bombing campaign. The necessity for self-defense must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” This classic principle of self-defense in international law has been affirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN General Assembly.

Bush's justification for attacking Afghanistan was that it was harboring Osama bin Laden and training terrorists, even though bin Laden did not claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks until 2004. After Bush demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden to the United States, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan said his government wanted proof that bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks before deciding whether to extradite him, according to the Washington Post. That proof was not forthcoming, the Taliban did not deliver bin Laden, and Bush began bombing Afghanistan.

Bush’s rationale for attacking Afghanistan was spurious. Iranians could have made the same argument to attack the United States after they overthrew the vicious Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979 and the U.S. gave him safe haven. If the new Iranian government had demanded that the U.S. turn over the Shah and we refused, would it have been lawful for Iran to invade the United States? Of course not.

When he announced his troop “surge” in Afghanistan, Obama invoked the 9/11 attacks. By continuing and escalating Bush’s war in Afghanistan, Obama, too, is violating the UN Charter. In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama declared that he has the "right" to wage wars "unilaterally.” The unilateral use of military force, however, is illegal unless undertaken in self-defense.

Those who conspired to hijack airplanes and kill thousands of people on 9/11 are guilty of crimes against humanity. They must be identified and brought to justice in accordance with the law. But retaliation by invading Afghanistan was not the answer. It has lead to growing U.S. and Afghan casualties, and has incurred even more hatred against the United States.

Conspicuously absent from the national discourse is a political analysis of why the tragedy of 9/11 occurred. We need to have that debate and construct a comprehensive strategy to overhaul U.S. foreign policy to inoculate us from the wrath of those who despise American imperialism. The "global war on terror" has been uncritically accepted by most in this country. But terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. One cannot declare war on a tactic. The way to combat terrorism is by identifying and targeting its root causes, including poverty, lack of education, and foreign occupation.

In his declaration that he would send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Obama made scant reference to Pakistan. But his CIA has used more unmanned Predator drones against Pakistan than Bush. There are estimates that these robots have killed several hundred civilians. Most Pakistanis oppose them. A Gallup poll conducted in Pakistan last summer found 67% opposed and only 9% in favor. Notably, a majority of Pakistanis ranked the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than the Taliban or Pakistan’s arch-rival India.

Many countries use drones for surveillance, but only the United States and Israel have used them for strikes. Scott Shane wrote in the New York Times, “For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for targeted killings in a country where the United States is not officially at war.”

The use of these drones in Pakistan violates both the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit willful killing. Targeted or political assassinations—sometimes called extrajudicial executions—are carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework. As a 1998 report from the UN Special Rapporteur noted, “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any circumstances, not even in time of war.” Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, punishable as a war crime under the U.S. War Crimes Act. Extrajudicial executions also violate a longstanding U.S. policy. In the 1970s, after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed that the CIA had been involved in several murders or attempted murders of foreign leaders, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations. Although there have been exceptions to this policy, every succeeding president until George W. Bush reaffirmed that order.

Obama is trying to make up for his withdrawal from Iraq by escalating the war on Afghanistan. He is acting like Lyndon Johnson, who rejected Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s admonition about Vietnam because LBJ was “more afraid of the right than the left,” McNamara said in a 2007 interview with Bob Woodward published in the Washington Post.

Approximately 30% of all U.S. deaths in Afghanistan have occurred during Obama’s presidency. The cost of the war, including the 30,000 new troops he just ordered, will be about $100 billion a year. That money could better be used for building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and creating jobs and funding health care in the United States.

Many congressional Democrats are uncomfortable with Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. We must encourage them to hold firm and refuse to fund this war. And the left needs to organize and demonstrate to Obama that we are a force with which he must contend.

21 December CounterPunch

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is a member of the Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her latest book is Rules of Disengagement.

The Secret US War in Pakistan By Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

Blackwater's founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in a recent interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."

The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi

The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It's very bare bones, and that's the point."

Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black" operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater, therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don't unless they ask."

According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"
Pakistan's Military Contracting Maze

Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. "The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets," he said. "It's not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people." Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls "Blackwater Vanilla," and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. "Good or bad, there's a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That's probably a good thing," said the source. "It's the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they're the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It's not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They're very good at what they do."

The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, "that's not entirely accurate." While he concurred with the military intelligence source's description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral's main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.

A spokesperson for the US State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. "We cannot help you," said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. "You'll have to contact the companies directly." Blackwater's Corallo said the company has "no operations of any kind" in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.

According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. "Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship," he said. "They've met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another." Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.

According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral's forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry's paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as "frontier scouts"). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater "is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral's folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they're having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they're executing the job," he said. "You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas." He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. "You've got BW guys that are assisting... and they're all going to want to go on the jobs--so they're going to go with them," he said. "So, the things that you're seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that--in some of those cases, you're going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house." Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, 'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work."

The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, "There's no real oversight. It's not really on people's radar screen."

In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by "a private American security contractor." The statement said, "Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments."

Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.

In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at "hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company's contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft." In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.

The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."
The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."

The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality." He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that. It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. "The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?" asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. "Let's forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren't about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory."
JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney's Extra Special Force

Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal's elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war--which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan--there is a concomitant rise in JSOC's power and influence within the military structure. "I don't see how you can escape that; it's just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it's inevitable, I think," Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, "I'm alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command," under which JSOC operates. "That's backward. But that's essentially what we have today."

From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater's 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators--which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater's alleged contracts with JSOC.

Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. "The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they've been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don't," said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. "They're known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they've got the experience. They're very valuable."

"They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia," said the military intelligence source. "They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they're talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It's a ridiculous revolving door."

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. "What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing," said Colonel Wilkerson. "That's dangerous, that's very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don't tell the theater commander what you're doing."

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. "I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good," says Wilkerson. "I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions." He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld "built up initially because Rumsfeld didn't get the responsiveness. He didn't get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse's mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch--read: Cheney and Rumsfeld--wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier."

Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. "When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn't tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, 'Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?' So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him--we rendered him home."

As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using "reprogrammed" funds "without explicit congressional authority or appropriation," according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA's authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end "near total dependence on CIA." Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations...before publication" of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.

The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the "darkest acts" in part to keep them concealed from Congress. "Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress," said the source. "They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: 'Preparing the Battlefield.'"
The significance of the flexibility of JSOC's operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA's is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress," she said. "If they are not, that is a violation of the law."

Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan

For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater's
alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater's operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved--almost from the beginning of the "war on terror"--with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater's presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, "Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan." In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater's rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater "provides security for a US-backed aid project" in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. "We have no contracts in Pakistan," Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. "We've been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there."

Reports of Blackwater's alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. "The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar," he said. "That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities." Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are "wildly incorrect," saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has "found refuge from potential U.S. attacks" in Karachi "with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service."

In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan's intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi's Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, "The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in."

The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired "bungalows" in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate originally established "for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan." Its motto is: "Home for Defenders." The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.

The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations." Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members of the International Criminal Court."

If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater's alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. "Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we're going to go as a nation that are dangerous," he said. "It's as simple as that."

Published in the Nation November 23, 2009

About Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alternative Radio Guide for January 2010
















Alternative Radio is a weekly one hour, award winning, unembedded, independently produced radio program heard exclusively on Community Radio throughout Australia.

Alternative Radio Australia was established in 1997 and is an affiliate of Alternative Radio (US). Both AR (Aust) and AR (US) are committed to the principles of community broadcasting.

04/01/10 George Lakoff - The Political Mind

It is abundantly clear that if you control language, terms such as, war on terror, partial birth abortion, and death tax, you can shape ideas and dominate the discourse. You can put your opponents on the defensive. And once you do that, they are always reacting to your initiatives. People on the right have understood this dynamic very well. And they've done something about it. First, they built up a network of well-funded think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Then they created their own media such as Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Then they developed a golden rolodex of experts, attached to their think tanks, who constantly appear in the media to advance their ideological agenda. On the other side of the conventional political spectrum, it is not clear whether liberals sufficiently grasp the urgency of the issue.

George Lakoff is Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute where he applies cognitive linguistics to the study of politics, especially the framing of public political debate. He is the author of the bestseller Don't Think of An Elephant. His latest book is The Political Mind.

11/01/10 Najma Sadeque - Pakistan: Environment in Crisis

Pakistan is much in the news. Almost all the attention is on its perilous security situation. But it is also beset with acute environmental problems. Typical of many post colonial countries, Pakistan went headlong into a western model of industrial development. Big dams were seen as an elixir. Now, most of those dams are silting up causing problems. In the province of Punjab, the breadbasket of the country, farmers are hurting for lack of water for irrigation. All things are connected. Global warming is having an adverse impact. In the great mountains in northern Pakistan the glaciers are shrinking. Thus, snowmelt is reduced and there is less water reaching the arid plains resulting in not enough drinking water. Crop yields are declining and food prices are going up. And to exacerbate everything, governmental corruption is all pervasive and deeply entrenched.

Najma Sadeque is a leading Pakistani journalist who writes frequently on environmental issues. She's also a strong advocate on women's issues. She's a founder of Shirkat Gah (Women's Resource Centre).

18/01/10 Arundhati Roy - Terrorism: No Easy Answers

There are myriad types of terrorism. But the focus is highly selective. 200,000 Indian farmers killing themselves because of debt or 4,000 children dying everyday around the world because of no access to clean water are not considered. Nor are massacres of Muslims in the Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra or of Sikhs in New Delhi. Nor are the tens of thousands of Kashmiris killed by the Indian military. The attention and emphasis is overwhelmingly on car bombings, 9/11 and Mumbai type of attacks. Massive state terrorism is not up for discussion unless the state is a designated enemy of Washington's such as Iran and Syria. America and its allies such as Israel and India get a free pass. Can you imagine Charlie Rose or Wolf Blitzer asking Kissinger or Rice or other apparatchiks of the empire about state terrorism? Maybe when pigs fly.

Arundhati Roy is the celebrated author of The God of Small Things and winner of the prestigious Booker Prize. The New York Times calls her, "India's most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence." Howard Zinn praises her "powerful commitment to social justice." She is the recipient of the Lannan Award for Cultural Freedom. Her latest books are The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile, a collection of interviews with David Barsamian, and An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.

25/01/10 John Pilger - Imperialism in the Age of Obama

The election of Barack Obama was greeted in many circles with a combination of relief and euphoria. It was of course historic. But does Obama represent genuine change from the previous regime? Eloquence and charisma, while attractive qualities, are not policy. Obama is imbued with the same imperial mentality that prevails in Washington in that he believes America can reengineer other countries like Afghanistan. This hubris will lead to further death and destruction. Obama has declared that Afghanistan is "a war worth fighting" and has doubled the number of troops there. A little history would be instructive. The mighty British Empire, among others, on multiple occasions, tried to conquer Afghanistan. They never succeeded. One high 19th century British official astutely observed that the Afghans "do not want us, they dread our appearance in their country and will not tolerate foreign rule."

John Pilger is an internationally renowned journalist and documentary filmmaker. Born in Australia he's been based in London for many years. He's twice won British journalism's highest award, that of Journalist of the Year. His award-winning documentaries such as "Palestine is Still the Issue" and "The War on Democracy" are seen all over the world but rarely in the U.S. He is the author of numerous books including The New Rulers of the World and Freedom Next Time.

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• 2XX 98.3FM (Canberra)

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• 3CR 855AM
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Vulnerable Planet Fifteen Years Later by John Bellamy Foster

John Bellamy Foster

Notes from the Editors

This is the preface to the Bangla edition of The Vulnerable Planet, translated by Farooque Chowdhury, to be published by Shahitya Prakash in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and by Bangla Monthly Review in Kolkata, India.


The original intent of The Vulnerable Planet,when it was first published fifteen years ago, was to provide a brief historical materialist analysis of the development of the global ecological crisis, beginning with the early civilizations and leading up to the monopoly capitalist society of the late twentieth century. Looking back now at the book as it was originally written — and at the second edition published five years later, incorporating a few minor changes plus an afterword — I see no major point on which the analysis has proven to be substantially wrong or where it needs significant revision. Nevertheless, the last decade and a half has witnessed an acceleration of history with respect to the human relation to the environment, adding force to the concerns that the book expressed.

At the time of its first appearance, The Vulnerable Planet was criticized by some on the left as alarmist.1 But, if anything, its argument on the dire nature of the planetary ecological crisis, viewed from today’s perspective, understated the severity of the problem. Thus, the 1994 edition stated in the very first paragraph: “According to the prestigious Worldwatch Institute, we have only four decades left in which to gain control over our major environmental problems if we are to avoid irreversible ecological decline [changed to “socio-ecological decline” in the second edition], and the 1990s are the critical decade in which the necessary changes must begin to occur.” Yet, today this timeline appears to have been too optimistic. Available evidence suggests that we could be facing an irrevocable tipping point within a decade with respect to our ability to protect the climate and the earth as we know it — although the full socio-ecological cost of the continuation of current trends will not be felt for generations. The simultaneous rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic, the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, the frozen tundra of the north, and the glaciers in mountainous regions marks a massive climatic shift, which, if not stopped, will have unthinkable repercussions for life on earth.2

The future is especially ominous for those living in South Asia, where numerous environmental catastrophes threaten. Chief among these are: melting Himalayan glaciers; rising sea levels; the negative effect of heightened temperatures on crop yields; potential alterations in monsoon patterns; growing floods and droughts; loss of forests; expanding hunger and disease; and the increase of extreme weather events, such as coastal cyclones and storm surges. In Nepal, vanishing glaciers are leading to glacial lake outburst floods, threatening enormous damage to the people and the environment — with twenty-six of the country’s 2,323 glacial lakes already characterized as dangerous. A 3-4°C increase in temperature could result in the loss of 58-70 percent of the snow and glaciated areas in the country. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently warned that Himalayan glaciers could vanish altogether by 2035 if the current rate of global warming continues. Such glacial melting would lead to a drastic increase in river flow in South Asia, lasting for decades. This would then be followed by a no less drastic decrease in river flow, due to the disappearance of the glaciers. Rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers currently supply water to over half the world’s population, and hence are crucial to the survival of a large portion of humanity. At the same time, a quite different danger looms over the densely populated lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. There are signs that constantly rising sea levels have begun to encroach on low-lying coastal areas inhabited by tens of millions. This immense threat pays no heed to borders and the history of division and partition. The peoples of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal alike are at risk. All of this points to the extraordinary vulnerability of South Asia to current climate change trends — the effects of which would be compounded by widespread poverty. Fifteen years ago such catastrophic threats to human and ecological survival were difficult to imagine. Now they seem dangerously close.3

But just as the analysis of The Vulnerable Planet saw the problem as the growth of the global environmental crisis under capitalism, but didn’t foresee just how fast it would accelerate, it likewise saw the solution as the development of a new historical nexus between socialism and ecology, but didn’t foresee the speed with which this was to emerge as a real historical alternative. With revolutions now taking place in areas as distant as South America (e.g., Venezuela and Bolivia) and South Asia (e.g., Nepal) a new socialism of the twenty-first century, inextricably linked to a new, radical ecology, is coming into being. As Evo Morales, the socialist president of Bolivia, observed on November 28, 2008: “As long as we do not change the capitalist system for a system based in complementarity, solidarity and harmony between the people and nature, the measures that we adopt [to save the planet] will be palliatives that will be limited and precarious in character.”4 Today, we are either revolutionaries seeking to build a just and sustainable society — or we are lost.

Eugene, Oregon, July 22, 2009

Notes

1.For example, see David Harvey, Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996), 194.

2.For a detailed explanation of this see John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, “Ecology: The Moment of Truth — An Introduction,” Monthly Review 60, no. 3 (July-August 2008), 1-11.

3.Ulka Kelkar and Suruchi Badwal, South Asian Regional Study on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, UN Human Development Report 2007/2008: Occasional Paper, http://hdr.undp.org/;

Science and Development Network, “Monitoring Climate Change at the Top of the World,” August 16, 2007, http://www.scidev.net/.


4.Evo Morales, “Save the Planet from Capitalism,” November 28, 2008, Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal, http://links.org.au/note/769.

from December Monthly Review

http://www.monthlyreview.org/

An Interview With Eva Golinger/Chavez's Venezuela By MIKE WHITNEY

Eva Golinger

Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York living in Caracas, Venezuela since 2005 and author of “The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela” (2006 Olive Branch Press), “Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” (2007, Monthly Review Press), “The Empire’s Web: Encyclopedia of Interventionism and Subversion”, “La Mirada del Imperio sobre el 4F: Los Documentos Desclasificados de Washington sobre la rebelión militar del 4 de febrero de 1992” and "La Agresión Permanente: USAID, NED y CIA".

Mike Whitney: The US media is very critical of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He's frequently denounced as "anti-American", a "leftist strongman", and a dictator. Can you briefly summarize some of the positive social, economic and judicial changes for which Chavez is mainly responsible?

Eva Golinger: The first and foremost important achievement during the Chávez administration is the 1999 Constitution, which, although not written nor decreed by Chávez himself, was created through his vision of change for Venezuela. The 1999 Constitution was, in fact, drafted - written - by the people of Venezuela in one of the most participatory examples of nation building, and then was ratified through popular national referendum by 75 per cent of Venezuelans. The 1999 Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world in the area of human rights. It guarantees the rights to housing, education, healthcare, food, indigenous lands, languages, women's rights, worker's rights, living wages and a whole host of other rights that few other countries recognize on a national level.

My favorite right in the Venezuelan Constitution is the right to a dignified life. That pretty much sums up all the others. Laws to implement these rights began to surface in 2001, with land reform, oil industry redistribution, tax laws and the creation of more than a dozen social programs - called missions - dedicated to addressing the basic needs of Venezuela's poor majority. In 2003, the first missions were directed at education and healthcare. Within two years, illiteracy was eradicated in the country and Venezuela was certified by UNESCO as a nation free of illiteracy. This was done with the help of a successful Cuban literacy program called "Yo si puedo" (Yes I can). Further educational missions were created to provide free universal education from primary to doctoral levels throughout the country. Today, Venezuela's population is much more educated than before, and adults who previously had no high school education now are encouraged to not only go through a secondary school program, but also university and graduate school.

The healthcare program, called "Barrio Adentro", has not only provided preventive healthcare to all Venezuelans - many who never had access to a doctor before - but also has guaranteed universal, free access to medical attention at the most advanced levels. MRIs, heart surgery, lab work, cancer treatments, are all provided free of cost to anyone (including foreigners) in need. Some of the most modern clinics, diagnostic treatment centers and hospitals have been built in the past five years under this program, placing Venezuela at the forefront of medical technology.

Other programs providing subsidized food and consumer products (Mercal, Pdval), job training (Mission Vuelvan Caras), subsidies to poor, single mothers (Madres del Barrio), attention to indigents and drug addicts (Mission Negra Hipolita) have reduced extreme poverty by 50 per cent and raised Venezuelans standard of living and quality of life. While nothing is perfect, these changes are extraordinary and have transformed Venezuela into a nation far different from what it looked like 10 years ago. In fact, the most important achievement that Hugo Chávez himself is directly responsible for is the level of participation in the political process. Today, millions of Venezuelans previously invisible and excluded are visible and included. Those who were always marginalized and ignored in Venezuela by prior governments today have a voice, are seen and heard, and are actively participating in the building of a new economic, political and social model in their country.

Whitney: On Monday, President Chavez threw a Venezuelan judge in jail on charges of abuse of power for freeing a high-profile banker. Do you think he overstepped his authority as executive or violated the principle of separation of powers? What does this say about Chavez's resolve to fight corruption?

Eva Golinger: President Chávez did not put anyone in jail. Venezuela has an Attorney General and an independent branch of government in charge of public prosecutions. Chávez did publicly accuse the judge of corruption and violating the law because that judge overstepped her authority by releasing an individual charged with corruption and other criminal acts from detention, despite the fact that a previous court had not granted conditional freedom or bail to the suspect. And, the judge released the suspect in a very irregular way, without the presence of the prosecutor, and through a back door. The suspect then fled the country.

This is part of Venezuela's fight against corruption. Unfortunately - as in a lot of countries - corruption is deeply rooted in the culture. The struggle to eradicate corruption is probably the most difficult of all and will probably not be achieved until new generations have grown up with different values and education. In the meantime, the Chávez administration is trying hard to ensure that corrupt public officials pay the consequences. That judge, for example, engaged in an act of corruption and abuse of authority by illegally releasing a suspect and therefore was charged by the Public Prosecutor's office and will be tried. It has nothing to do with what Chávez said or didn't say, it has to do with enforcing the law.

Whitney: Why is the United States building military bases in Colombia? Do they pose a threat to Chavez or the Bolivarian Revolution?

Eva Golinger: On October 30, the US formally entered into an agreement with the Colombian government to allow US access to seven military bases in Colombia and unlimited use of Colombian territory for military operations. The agreement itself is purported to be directed at counter-narcotics operations and counter-terrorism. But a US Air Force document released earlier this year discussing the need for a stronger US military presence in Colombia revealed the true intentions behind the military agreement. The document stated that the US military presence was necessary to combat the "constant threat from anti-US governments in the region". Clearly, that is a reference to Venezuela, and probably Bolivia, maybe Ecuador. It's no secret that Washington considers the Venezuelan government anti-US, though it's not true. Venezuela is anti-imperialist, but not anti-US. The US Air Force document also stated that the Colombian bases would be used to engage in "full spectrum military operations" throughout South America, and even talked about surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions, and improving the capacity of US forces to execute "expeditionary warfare" in Latin America.

Clearly, this is a threat to the peoples of Latin America and particularly those nations targeted, such as Venezuela. Most people in the US don't know about this military agreement, but it they did, they should question why their government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, is preparing for war in South America. And, in the midst of an economic crisis with millions of people in the US losing jobs and homes, why are millions of dollars being spent on military bases in Colombia? The US Congress already approved $46 million for one of the bases in Colombia. And surely more funds will be supplied in the future.

Whitney: What is ALBA? Is it a viable alternative to the "free trade" blocs promoted by the US?

Eva Golinger: The Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas - Trade Agreement for the People, is a regional agreement created five years ago between Venezuela and Cuba, and now has 9 members: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica. ALBA is a trade agreement based on integration, cooperation and solidarity, contrary to US trade agreements which are based on competition and exploitation. It promotes a way of trading between nations that assures mutual benefits. For example, Venezuela sells oil to Cuba and Cuba pays with services - doctors, educators and technological experts that help to improve Venezuela's industries. Venezuela sells oil to Nicaragua and Nicaragua pays with food products, agricultural technology and aide to build Venezuela's own agricultural industry, which long ago was abandoned by prior governments only interested in the rich oil industry. ALBA seeks to not just provide economic benefits to its member nations, but also social and cultural advances. The idea is to find ways to help members develop and progress in all aspects of society. ALBA recently created a new currency, the SUCRE, which will be used as a form of exchange between member nations, eliminating the US dollar as the standard for trade.

Whitney: Are US NGOs and intelligence agents still trying to foment political instability in Venezuela or have those operations ceased since the failed coup?

Eva Golinger: In fact, the funding of political groups in Venezuela, and others throughout Latin America that promote US agenda, has increased since the April 2002 coup against President Chávez. Through two principal Department of State agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US government has channeled more than $50 million to opposition groups in Venezuela since 2002. The USAID/NED budget to fund groups in Venezuela in 2010 is nearly $15 million, doubled from last year's $7 million. This is a state policy of Washington, which the Obama Administration plans to amp up. They call it "democracy promotion", but it's really democracy subversion and destabilization. Funding political groups favorable to Empire, equipping them with resources, strategizing to help formulate political platforms and campaigns - all geared towards regime change - is a new form of invasion, a silent invasion. Through USAID and NED, and their "partner NGOs" and contractors, such as Freedom House, International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, Pan-American Development Foundation and Development Alternatives, Inc., hundreds of political groups, parties and programs are presently being funded in Venezuela to promote regime change against the Chávez government. US taxpayer dollars are being squandered on these efforts to overthrow a democratically elected government that simply isn't convenient for Washington. Remember, Venezuela has 24 per cent of world oil reserves. That's a lot!

Whitney: How hard has Venezuela been hit by the economic crisis? Do the people understand Wall Street's role in the meltdown?

Eva Golinger: Actually, the Chávez government has taken important steps to shelter Venezuela from the financial crisis. People here in Venezuela absolutely understand Wall Street's role in the crisis and know that the US capitalist-consumerist system is principally responsible for causing the financial crisis, but also the climate crisis that the world is facing. The Venezuelan government took preventive steps against the financial crisis, such as withdrawing Venezuela's reserves from US banks two years ago, creating cushion funds to ensure social programs would not be cut and diversifying Venezuela's oil clientele so as not to be dependent solely on US clients. Recently, several banks have been nationalized by the Venezuelan government and others have been liquidated. But this was more due to the mismanagement and internal corruption within those banks. The Venezuelan government reacted quickly to take over the banks and guarantee customers' savings would not be lost. In fact, it's the first time in Venezuela's history that no customers have lost any of their money during a bank liquidation or takeover. This is part of the Chávez Administration's policy of prioritizing social needs over economic gain.

Whitney: Here's an excerpt from a special weekend report by Bloomberg News: "Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January... Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months... Only 32 per cent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September." The frustration and disillusionment with the US political/economic system has never been greater in my lifetime. Do you think people in the United States are ready for their own Bolivarian Revolution and steps towards a more progressive, socialistic model of government?

Eva Golinger: The rise of Barack Obama neutralized a growing sentiment for profound change inside the US. Hopefully, the slowdown in US activism will only be temporary. South of the border, there is tremendous change taking place. New social, political and economic models are being built by popular grassroots movements in Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American nations that seek economic and social justice. I believe strongly that models in process, like the Bolivarian Revolution, provide inspiration and hope to those in the US and around the world that alternatives to US capitalism do exist and can be successful.

The US has a rich history of revolution. There are many groups inside the US dedicated to building a better, more humanist system. Unity and a collective vision are essential aspects of building a strong movement capable of moving forward. Every nation has its moment in history. This is the time of Latin America. But there is great hope that the people of the US will soon unite with their brothers and sisters south of the border to bring down Empire and help build a true world community based on social and economic justice for all.

CounterPunch 17-12-09

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Copenhagen Negotiators Bicker and Filibuster While the Biosphere Burns by George Monbiot despairs at the chaotic denouement of climate summit

Georrge Monboit

First they put the planet in square brackets, now they have deleted it from the text. At the end it was no longer about saving the biosphere: it was just a matter of saving face. As the talks melted down, everything that might have made a new treaty worthwhile was scratched out. Any deal would do, as long as the negotiators could pretend they have achieved something. A clearer and less destructive treaty than the text that emerged would be a sheaf of blank paper, which every negotiating party solemnly sits down to sign.

This was the chaotic, disastrous denouement of a chaotic and disastrous summit. The event has been attended by historic levels of incompetence. Delegates arriving from the tropics spent 10 hours queueing in sub-zero temperatures without shelter, food or drink, let alone any explanation or announcement, before being turned away. Some people fainted from exposure; it's surprising that no one died. The process of negotiation was just as obtuse: there was no evidence here of the innovative methods of dispute resolution developed recently by mediators and coaches, just the same old pig-headed wrestling.

Watching this stupid summit via webcam (I wasn't allowed in either), it struck me that the treaty-making system has scarcely changed in 130 years. There's a wider range of faces, fewer handlebar moustaches, frock coats or pickelhaubes, but otherwise, when the world's governments try to decide how to carve up the atmosphere, they might have been attending the conference of Berlin in 1884. It's as if democratisation and the flowering of civil society, advocacy and self-determination had never happened. Governments, whether elected or not, without reference to their own citizens let alone those of other nations, assert their right to draw lines across the global commons and decide who gets what. This is a scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble for Africa.

At no point has the injustice at the heart of multilateralism been addressed or even acknowledged: the interests of states and the interests of the world's people are not the same. Often they are diametrically opposed. In this case, most rich and rapidly developing states have sought through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for themselves as they can – to grab bigger rights to pollute than their competitors. The process couldn't have been better designed to produce the wrong results.

I spent most of my time at the Klimaforum, the alternative conference set up by just four paid staff, which 50,000 people attended without a hitch. (I know which team I would put in charge of saving the planet.) There the barrister Polly Higgins laid out a different approach. Her declaration of planetary rights invests ecosystems with similar legal safeguards to those won by humans after the second world war. It changes the legal relationship between humans, the atmosphere and the biosphere from ownership to stewardship. It creates a global framework for negotiation which gives nation states less discretion to dispose of ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

Even before the farce in Copenhagen began it was looking like it might be too late to prevent two or more degrees of global warming. The nation states, pursuing their own interests, have each been passing the parcel of responsibility since they decided to take action in 1992. We have now lost 17 precious years, possibly the only years in which climate breakdown could have been prevented. This has not happened by accident: it is the result of a systematic campaign of sabotage by certain states, driven and promoted by the energy industries. This idiocy has been aided and abetted by the nations characterised, until now, as the good guys: those that have made firm commitments, only to invalidate them with loopholes, false accounting and outsourcing. In all cases immediate self-interest has trumped the long-term welfare of humankind. Corporate profits and political expediency have proved more urgent considerations than either the natural world or human civilisation. Our political systems are incapable of discharging the main function of government: to protect us from each other.

Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral reefs and rainforest. It was nice knowing you. Not that we really cared. The governments which moved so swiftly to save the banks have bickered and filibustered while the biosphere burns.

Published on Saturday, December 19, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com