BERKELEY, Calif. (November 25, 2015) — During the November 15 Democratic Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sounded an alarm that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” Citing a CIA study, Sanders warned that countries around the world are “going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.”
On November 8, the World Bank predicted that climate change is on track to drive 100 million people into poverty by 2030. And, in March, a National Geographic study linked climate change to the conflict in Syria: “A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.”
The sobering insight that climate change can accelerate violence should weigh heavily on the minds of delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set to begin November 30 in Parisâ€”a city that, on November 13, suffered grievously from the blowback of the Syrian conflict. But there is another looming threat that needs to be addressed.
Put simply: War and militarism also fuel climate change.
From November 30 to December 11, delegates from more than 190 nations will convene in Paris to address the increasingly visible threats of climate disruption. The 21st Conference of the Parties (aka COP21) is expected to draw 25,000 official delegates intent on crafting a legally binding pact to keep global warming below 2Â°C.
But it is difficult to imagine the delegates reaching this goal when one of the largest contributors to global-warming has no intention of agreeing to reduce its pollution. The problem in this case is neither China nor the United States. Instead, the culprit is the Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s Carbon Bootprint
The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and more than 1,000 bases (the exact number is disputed) in 60-plus foreign countries. According to its FY 2010 Base Structure Report, the Pentagon’s global empire includes more than 539,000 facilities at 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres.
The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day (only 35 countries in the world consume more) but that doesn’t include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers. It does, however, include providing fuel for more than 28,000 armored vehicles, thousands of helicopters, hundreds of jet fighters and bombers and vast fleets of Navy vessels. The Air Force accounts for about half of the Pentagonâ€™s operational energy consumption, followed by the Navy (33%) and Army (15%). In 2012, oil accounted for nearly 80% of the Pentagon’s energy consumption, followed by electricity, natural gas and coal.
Ironically, most of the Pentagon’s oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America’s access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes. In short, the consumption of oil relies on consuming more oil. This is not a sustainable energy model.
The amount of oil burned — and the burden of smoke released — increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. (Indeed, human history’s most combustible mix may well prove to be oil and testosterone.) Oil Change International estimates the Pentagon’s 2003-2007 $2 trillion Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of CO2 pollution per month.
The Pentagon: A Privileged Polluter
Yet, despite being the planet’s single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing — or even reporting — its pollution. The US won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a “national security provision” that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control.
As Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: “Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got.” (Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and “peacekeeping” missions.)
After winning this concession, however, the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, the House amended the Pentagon budget to ban any “restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol,” and George W. Bush rejected the entire climate treaty because it “would cause serious harm to the US economy” (by which he clearly meant the US oil and gas industries).
Today, the Pentagon consumes one percent of all the country’s oil and around 80 percent of all the oil burned by federal government. President Barack Obama recently received praise for his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but Obama’s EO specifically exempted the Pentagon from having to report its contribution to climate chaos.
(As a practical matter, the Pentagon has been forced to act. With battlefield gas costing $400 a gallon and naval bases at risk of flooding from rising seas, the Pentagon managed to trim its domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 percent between 2008-2012 and hopes to achieve a 34 percent reduction by 2020.)
Climate Chaos: Deception and Denial
According to recent exposes, Exxon executives knew the company’s products were stoking global temperatures but they opted to put “profits before planet” and conspired to secretly finance three decades of deception.
Similarly, the Pentagon has been well aware that its operations were wrecking our planetary habitat. In 2014, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel identified climate change as a “threat multiplier” that will endanger national security by increasing “global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict.”
As far back as 2001, Pentagon strategists have been preparing to capitalize on the problem by planning for “ice-free” operations in the Arctic — in anticipation of US-Russian conflicts over access to polar oil.
In 2014, Tom Ridge, George W. Bush’s Homeland Security chief, stated flat-out that climate change posed “a real serious problem” that “would bring destruction and economic damage.” But climate deniers in Congress continue to prevail.
Ignoring Ridge’s warnings, a majority of House Republicans hammered an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization bill that banned the Pentagon from spending any funds on researching climate change or sustainable development.
“The climate . . . has always been changing,” Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) said dismissively. “[W]hy should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?”
Since 1980, the US has experienced 178 “billion dollar” weather events that have caused more than $1 trillion in damages. In 2014 alone, there were eight “billion dollar” weather calamities.
In September 2015, the World Health Organization warned climate change would claim 250,000 million lives between 2030 and 2050 at a cost of $2-4 billion a year and a study in Nature Climate Change estimated the economic damage from greenhouse emissions could top $326 trillion. (If the global warming causes the permafrost to melt and release its trapped carbon dioxide and methane gases, the economic damage could exceed $492 trillion.)
In October 2015 (the hottest October in recorded weather history), BloombergBusiness expressed alarm over a joint study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that predicted global warning “could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 percent by the end of the century.”
This is more than a matter of “political ideology.”
The Pentagon’s role in weather disruption needs to become part of the climate discussion. Oil barrels and gun barrels both pose a threat to our survival. If we hope to stabilize our climate, we will need to start spending less money on war.
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal. He is the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will ‘Climate Change’ Forever Alter U.S. Military Policy? The Next News Network
(March 5, 2014) — The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review was released yesterday. It says the effects of “climate change” are a “threat multiplier” which will alter global defense policies well into the future.
Due to the many anticipated effects of climate change, the Pentagon will have to rethink its training, its missions and how to deliver humanitarian aid in a world that could be destabilized by “climate change.”
That’s a big adjustment for a theory which claims that the globe is not only warming, but human fuel emissions are primarily responsible for it. To avoid precision, the matter is delicately called “climate change” since that common term avoids the concepts of heating or cooling.
Perhaps that’s because in the 1970s, “global cooling” fears foretold of an ice age that did not happenâ€”unless you count this winter.
All kidding aside, the Pentagon report says “climate change” will “aggravate stressors.” The Washington Examiner noted that these “stressors” include “poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions.”
The Pentagon report darkly adds that these dire conditions “can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
Therefore, it follows that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will reduce all sorts of problems, including terrorist activities. That’s because heating the planet could cause drought and famine, and those things, in turn, could spark upheaval and push enraged populations toward violence.
Of course, the Pentagon’s review recognizes that such a scenario would affect the military’s installations and operations.
The review states: “The department’s operational readiness hinges on unimpeded access to land, air, and sea training and test space. Consequently, we will complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on our missions and operational resiliency, and develop and implement plans to adapt as required.”
An advocacy group called the Truman National Security Project seeks to end oil dependence. The group feels the Pentagon’s 2014 review is far better than its 2010 review in assessing the effects of climate change.
Yet, the 2014 report was released right after the co-founder of Greenpeace gave global warming a chilly review on Capitol Hill.
Patrick Moore last week told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee there’s “no scientific proof” that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of minor atmospheric warming over the past 100 years. He also told the Senators that political bias has tainted so-called climate-change “science.”
To be fair, it’s premature to call global warming a mirage simply on the basis of Moore’s remarks. But consider this: America’s military has impoverished and radicalized entire nations in the brutal quest for oil and natural gas resourcesâ€”the very same resources blamed for causing climate change. Nations on the hit list have included Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
So maybe we Americans should make a deal with the federal government: If military policies must be molded to the global warming theory, then let’s have no more wars for oil.
Furthermore, instead of debating whether to get oil from beneath Middle Eastern kingdoms or Canadian tarsands, America could get serious about hydrogen cars. America and the world also could explore the naturally-occurring free-energy sources attributed to famed visionary Nicola Tesla.
Sharply reducing oil dependency not only means innovation and jobs. It also means that, if global warming is for real, we’re already covered.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
PARIS (November 4, 2015) — An arguÂ¬ment can be made that COP21 must address the subject of war and peace as an ecological issue. Because secrecy veils the true numbers, it is difficult to accurately determine the amount of atmospheric pollution caused by the military. Nonetheless, it is significant.
A certain correlation can be found between the biggest C02 emitters of the world and those who are in charge of the most militarized complex.
How come the IPCC does not take into account this form of destructive human activity? Let’s look at aircraft emissions, for example.
To tackle the issue of military pollution we need real, hard data. This means finding the right means, the right people, in the right place to work with us.
The video, Footprints of War, shows one example of the polluting aspect from the impact of military conflict. Burnt fields, exploitation and outright theft of raw materials diverted to military rather than peaceful use, and the “differentiated status” granted to certain countries under the Kyoto Protocol are other examples of pollution-inducing military activities that should be explored and discussed.
US military operations to protect oil imports coming from the Middle East are creating larger amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than once thought, new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows.
The massive financial resources allocated, absorbed or confiscated by the military is another essential issue to be addressed, but we have to be smart because the armed forces are positioning themselves as part of the solution. And, whether we like it or not, they will have an influence amongst the various delegations.
We must move beyond the previous idyllic concepts — that fundÂ¬ing for missiles and tanks should be diverted towards so-called “development”, for example. The “polluters pay” principle seems to have been forgotten. New proposals are needed, not only taxation of weapons transfers or eventual taxes on nuclear warheads but also other linkages that would create specific funds for discrete and compelling purposes.
Money to aid and rescue refugees, assist NGO’s working on de-pollution and decontamination of military sites, funding to help and defend whistle blowers.
We have an opportunity to highlight the huge gap between money spent by certain big powers on military assistance and that which is offered for climate assistance.
The risks related to geo-engineering could be a major focal point for us, particularly since the players behind the proposals to “climatise the planet” are often found to be linked in some way to the military-industrial complex — many of whom have been the most vocal nuclear hawks. Focusing on geo-engineering also gives us the opportunity to point out that the 1978 ENMOD Convention has been lying dormant for more than 20 years.
The time is ripe to give ENMOD a new life, to reaffirm the linkage between disarmament and environment, and to enshrine November 6 as a day of remembrance with the same importance as that of the first of May, June 5th or September 21.
Activists from Iraq hope to address this issue at the Alternative Forum being held in Montreuil concurrently with the main COP21 forum in le Bourget and it’s our job to ensure the media makes this connection. French activists should not forget that France is the only NWS (and Israel) that has refused to sign the Convention.
The mainstream Paris agenda will try to avoid these critical issues, framing the nuclear problems as an energy “solution” thus confusing the politicians and the public with degrees, ppm, and other figures.
Nevertheless, there is a growing number of public figures and journalists who are serious, dedicated and ready to look at the hidden side of IPCC and the inconvenient truth surrounding the Kyoto Protocol.
COP21 is the best opportunity we have to raise these issues and it’s location itself provides an important clue for them . . . the simple fact the COP21 is taking place at the precise spot that hosts some of the world’s largest arms fairs (Eurosatory, Euronaval, Milipol, Bourget Air Show) should serve as a reminder and an inspiration for all of us.
COP21 might not be a peace conference, but it would be a step in the right direction if people realize that negotiations about Climate Change share much in common cause with those conferences that deal with Disarmament.
Wars and Climate:
The Effects of Climatic Change on Security Athena21
(November 6, 2015) — Environmental security, a relatively recent concept, has provoked intense debate amongst theorists of international relations. What are the indicators for environmental security? To what extent is the scarcity of a natural resource likely to cause a “green war”? Are crises, such as Darfur, likely to be more frequent?
Taking into account the amount of land soon to be engulfed by rising sea levels, is climatic change then a threat to national or international security?
To what extent are these climatic disturbances going to represent the drop that causes the vase to overflow, the vase being already full to the brim with demographic pressure, soil erosion, deforestation, and diminishing sources of drinking water and fish stocks.
Do we include amongst these new threats States that are demanding compensation for environmental damage perpetuated by other States, or the attempts of those who seek to delocalize their pollution? Or those who would rely on military solutions in situations of environmental insecurity?
A New Context?
“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
Attributed to Niels Bohr, Danish physicist (1885-1962)
There is much research that attempts to establish links between climate change or disturbances, “human security,” migrations, and armed conflicts. (1)
However, by way of an introduction, we will recall here the road that has been travelled in recent decades. During the 1980s, just prior to the ending of the Cold War, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Disarmament and Development wrote: “It is now clear, without any doubt, that resource shortages and ecological constraints pose threats, real and imminent, to the future well – being of all peoples and all nations. These problems have a primarily non – military character and it is absolutely necessary that they be treated as such.” (2)
Is the military option still the only one imaginable when we speak of security? In 1983, the Danish political scientist Barry Buzan in his work People, States, and Fear, proposed “revisiting” the security field and constructed a five-part typology of security issues. Besides military security, Buzan identified other forms of security:
1) political security, which concerns the institutional stability of the State and of its political regime;
2) economic security, which concerns the conditions for maintaining the well-being and prosperity of the State;
3) environmental security, as protection of the conditions for human life on earth;
4) lastly, social security, which seeks to protect against attacks on the culture and language of a political entity, or its identity. (3)
The formalisation of the concept of environmental security in international relations theory occurred at the beginning of the 1990s. The post-Cold War period made it more and more evident that military threats were not the only elements of insecurity in the world.
In 2005, the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, had asked in the framework of the High-Level Panel on Threats (the Challenges and Conflicts report) that the environment be recognized as a source of conflict, which was a cultural revolution insofar as questions of environmental security are not mentioned in the UN Charter. Since then, the International Panel on Climate Change and its President, Rajendra Patchauri, have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the Brundtland Report, generated in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development, later known as the Brundtland Commission and presided over by Gro H. Brundtland, the impact of climate is not absent. Their report, entitled “Our Common Future,” notes: “Environmental threats to security are now beginning to emerge on a global scale. The most worrisome of these stem from the possible consequences of global warming caused by the atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide and other gases.
“Any such climatic change would quite probably be unequal in its effects, disrupting agricultural systems in areas that provide a large proportion of the world’s cereal harvests and perhaps triggering mass population movements in areas where hunger is already endemic.
“Sea levels may rise during the first half of the next century enough to radically change the boundÂ¬aries between coastal nations and to change the shapes and strategic importance of international waterways – effects both likely to increase international tensions.” (4)
In June 2009, almost twenty years later, the UN GenÂ¬eral Assembly adopted a resolution concerning the harmful effects of climate change and their implications for international security (5).
This was the first time that the delegations of different member countries of the concert of nations reached a consensus on the issue and adopted a resolution which established the link between climate change and international security.
In the words of the UN resolution A/RES/63/281, sponsored by more than 90 countries, adopted on June 3, 2009, the General Assembly “Deeply concerned that the adverse impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, could have possible security implications; Invites the relevant organs of the United Nations, as appropriate and within their respective manÂ¬dates, to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, including its possible security implications. . . . ”
The Ongoing Debate
The December 2007 report of the German Federal Government’s Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU — Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveranderungen) is a point of reference. The report, entitled “World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk,” is based on the work of international experts and organisations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
It concluded that if climate change is not brought under control, it is likely to aggravate old tensions and to provoke new ones in certain parts of the world which could then sink into violence, conflict, and war.
Professor Hans Schellnhuber, the main author of the report who is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a professor at Oxford University, wrote, “Without the means to combat it, climate change will destroy the capacities of adaptation of a number of societies in the decades to come. This could in turn lead to destabilization and violence that will endanger national and international security at an entirely new level.” (6)
In terms of expertise, we can refer to various schools of thought. According to the “American School” represented by Arthur Westing, environmental changes and resource shortages contribute largely to the emergence of armed conflicts.
Other institutes are working on this sensitive and controversial issue; they try to assess the influence of environmental problems on the emergence of armed conflicts and on the course of events, and to evaluate the influence of the management of resources on peace and security, whether at the national level (civil wars) or the international level, considering that each indirectly touches upon the climate question.
The pioneers in this realm include the Toronto Group around Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Toronto Group acts as a programme of studies, at the University of Toronto, on peace and conflict. The conceptual and theoretical bases of the work were presented in two articles published in the journal International Security (1991, 1994).
The work of this group puts at our disposal a range of interpretations of phenomena and their consequences by seeking to show how resource shortages and violent conflicts are inseparable, based upon case studies that include Mexico (ChiÂ¬aÂ¬pas), the Middle-East (Gaza), Pakistan, and South Africa.
Amongst the other authoritative institutions, mention should be made of the group created by the Environment and Conflicts Project (ENCOP) established by Bachler and Spillman of the Polytechnic University (ETH) in Zurich. The ENCOP has focused its empirical studies on trying to establish the correlations between environmental degradation and the escalation of conflicts.
To expand this list, we must take account of the work of the Oslo Group around Nils Petter Gleditsch. This group is composed of researchers from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), and uses statistical methodologies; for these researchers, ecological and sociological variables are connected.
Finally, there is also the GECHS-UCI established in 1999 at the University of California, Irvine with support from the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies (GPACS) by Dr. Richard A. Matthew. GECHS-UCI has the following objectives:
a) to undertake original, interdisciplinary and participatory research;
b) to collaborate with academics and policymakers in developing countries;
c) to develop policy recommendations; and
d) to educate the public on the ways in which environmental change interacts with other transnational forces to affect the lives and welfare of individuals and groups around the world, especially in developing countries.
It focuses on the “capacities of adaptation” of human societies, (7) but challenges the neo-Malthusian notions of “carrying capacity” according to which human population growth and per capita rates of consumption will cause more and more demands, shortages and distributional conflicts (8).
Before reviewing the issues that are subject to debate, we can already identify some key points from the different approaches. To summarize, environmental factors are rarely, perhaps never, the only cause of violent conflicts. It is impossible to isolate environmental factors from their contexts, from the socio-economic, political, and cultural factors, which are inter-related and interact.
In the case of civil wars, intra-state wars, which today represent the majority of conflicts in the world, the factors leading to war, for the most part, are explained through structural contexts: the political exclusion of certain ethnic groups — or “the micro-nations” as they are called by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai — the weakening of economies, without forgetting the collapse of the system created by the Cold War.
We could say that the structural causes of conflict, such as the withdrawal of the State, the emergence of markets of violence, the exclusion or extermination of certain population groups, find themselves reinforced and accelerated by ecological problems and the loss of resources like water and soil.
It is these factors which lead the political scientist Halvard Buhaug (from PRIO Institute in Oslo) to write “the principal causes of civil war are political, and not environmental” (9).
According to his findings, there is virtually no correlation between climate-change indicators such as temperature and rainfall variability and the frequency of civil wars over the past 50 years in sub-Saharan Africa.
So far, there has been no evidence that environmental problems are the direct cause of war – that is to say, there have been no “environmental wars” as manifestations of the most extreme form of inter-state conflict. At least no evidence exists to date to suggest any unambiguous causal links between environmental change and violent inter-state conflict.
The greatest danger posed by climatic disturbances is not the degradation of ecosystems in itself, but rather the disintegration of human society brought about by widespread famine, mass migrations, and recurring conflicts over resources.
The Disintegration of Human Society
In the next twenty years, the world will be adversely affected by famines, and available food-stocks are not sufficient when facing these climatic changes.
Bohle (1994) make the link between food security and climate change, and Doos (1994) insists on the fact the climate change will lead to exacerbating food shortages caused by soil degradation. Molvaer (1991) had foreseen that soil degradation would become a source of conflict between farmers and herders in the Horn of Africa (10).
Even while being the continent the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is considered as running the highest risk of being subject to conflicts generated by climate change; this risk emanates from the economic fact that the continent’s economic stability is based on sectors that are themselves dependent on climate (such as rain-fed agriculture).
An example is Niger: 75 % of the population lives on 12 % of its territory in the South, which creates a heavy pressure on an already fragile environment. Desertification threatens an agricultural economy, which employs more than 90 % of Niger’s inhabitants. The precarious nature of the agricultural sector has obliged the country to import 60 % of its food requirements.
From another angle, concerning the vulnerability of Africa, it is necessary to evaluate its past history: ethnic and political conflict and disÂ¬putes linked to resources. At the dawn of the 21st century, the wars in Africa have caused more casualties than all the others combined taking place in the rest of the world over the same period.
Lastly, the general link between the level of economic development of a given country and its propensity for conflict is recognized (11). Some studies have been undertaken to evaluate the impact of economic growth, or absence of growth, on conflicts.
A recently issued report by the Brookings Institute, generated jointly with researchers from the Wilson Center and other specialized institutes, found that, in the years to come, there would be little correlation between violent conflicts and variables such as political repression, ethnic fragmentation, colonial history, or population density. Rather, it would be economic factors, which would be determinant: “a 1 % drop in the GNP raised the probability of conflict (civil conflict) by more than 2 points” (12).
Even if the demand for the available resources becomes more insistent, successful economies were less likely to experience conflicts, and more likely than weaker economies to avoid resorting to war as a remedy (13).
Towards the end of 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted close to 67 million persons displaced through force due to reasons of conflict, persecutions, and natural disasters.
Nearly half of those, approximately 30 million, migrated on account of natural catastrophes and another 30 million on account of armed conflict; more than 30 % of the world’s refugees are displaced persons in Africa, and are accommodated — because they are neighbours — by other African countries (14).
Twenty million people, according to the UN figures from 2007, had already been displaced following the erosion of arable lands. According to a report emanating from the British humanitarian organisation, Christian Aid, entitled “The Human Tide: The Real Migratory Crisis,” there are presently 163 million people who have had to leave their homes as a result of conflict, natural disasters, and massive infrastructure development projects, such as mines and dams (15).
The estimate of 200 million climate refugees by 2050, forecast by Dr. Myers, is now a figure of reference, even if he himself admits that it is based on “major extrapolations.” Myers was one of the first (in 1989, and then in 1993) to predict that climate change would lead to vast population movements.
These estimates have been appearing in various publications emanating from such organisations as the GIEC, in the Stern Report, the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) based in Geneva, and the UN’s Institute for the Environment and Human Security.
All forecast that migrations will involve 50 million persons in 2010, rising to 200 million in 2050, and towards 700 million in the years beyond. To understand this phenomenon better and put it in context, it means that one out of 45 persons in the world will have been displaced due to climate change between now and 2050.
However, no-one can know with any certainty which part of the human population will be most affected by climate change. The present estimates run from 25 million to 1 billion displaced persons between now and 2050.
McGregor (1994) has suggested the need to ensure that the movements of population do not affect, in turn, access to food resources in the areas where “climate refugees” seek refuge or relocate (16). However, this point is rarely emphasized.
The importance of the issues linked to migration is in part due to the impending disappearance of certain land masses (islands for example), whose inhabitants will not survive the rises in sea level. It is emphasized that these exiles, who are persecuted by natural elements “aggravated” by abusive usage of the planet’s resources, do not have “refugee” status.
In fact, there is a fear that the distinction between refugees fleeing from war and those who will flee from their environment, between political refugees and climate refugees, will no longer be relevant insofar as the number of new wars will increase, as a result of environmental degradation. Legal experts — such as those at the University of Limoges Research Centre on Environmental, Planning, and Urban Law — have written much on this subject (17).
From another perspective, the French frigate captain Jerome Origny, during a demography seminar directed by the University President G. F. Dumont, noted that “This is to ensure that the 200 million candidates for climate immigration will not be followed by billions” (18).
If one believes the forecasts of researchers who mix with policy-makers, and who serve certain ambitions that are far from academic considerations, mass migrations are flows that will affect everybody.
According to the writers Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall (in their Pentagon report, “drought and/or frost will push populations towards the South or towards the interiors of land masses, provoking or amplifying conflicts between States situated in turbulent zones like countries of Europe, the United States and Canada, India and Pakistan, and even in China and Africa” (19).
Nonetheless, this literature omits to specify that these migrations will most often be internal to the countries concerned, as shown in studies of population reactions to floods and droughts in Mozambique or Ghana. Of the 200 million people referred to, around one million of them will be led to seek refuge in a country other than their own, which represents 0.5 % of the total.
There is a consensus regarding the typology of the conflicts believed to involve an environmental element and the climatic element that emphasized it. They are predominantly intra-state conflicts; even when they can be categorized as cross-border conflicts, they are generally not classical inter-state conflicts in the sense of large-scale wars between countries but rather regionally limited clashes at the sub-national level, such as between States that border on the same rivers and lakes.
Conflicts over Resources
In stating that humanity will experience mass migrations, can solutions other than violent ones to the problems of the refugees be imagined, given the tensions which surround the issues involved: the right to water and its exploitation.
When we speak of resources, we inevitably think of natural elements like water, air, and land that are essential for the survival of any human community. Thus, they constitute fertile ground for many kinds of environmental antagonism.
If we are to believe UNEP experts, since 1990 at least eighteen conflicts have been fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. Some recent studies have suggested that over the course of the last sixty years, at least 40 % of all interstate conflicts involved a link to natural resources. Some civil wars such as those of Liberia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been centered around “high-value” resources such as wood, diamonds, gold, minerals and oil.
Other conflicts, for instance in Darfur (the conflict here is linked to climate, according to one of the UNEP reports) and in the Middle-East with Palestine and Lebanon, are about the control of scarce resources like fertile land and water. Tensions will increase as a result of the high growth rates of emerging economies and their demands for uranium, cobalt, titanium, zinc, and other rare earth metals, which are increasÂ¬ing by 10% per year (20).
In the same vein, access to certain raw materials and/or supply infrastructures – especially pipelines — constitutes a sensitive area of “globalised insecurity”. We can see this with Iraq, Nigeria, and also Afghanistan (21). The growing importance of oil, natural gas, and uraÂ¬nium production is itself a source of instability, acting as a magnet that attracts the arms trade and external interventions.
“Green” Conflicts and the Stakes Linked to Water
In “Africa — Up for Smoke,” Andrew Simms illustrates the vulnerability of African ecosystems to global cliÂ¬mate change with the situation of the Nile, noting that “most scenarios estimate a decrease in river flow of up to more than 75 per cent by the year 2100.”(22).
Simms then cites a 2003 article in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, which states that “a reduction in the annual flow of the Nile of above 20 per cent would interrupt normal irrigation” and, he concludes: “Such a situation could cause conflicts because the present distribution of water, negotiated during a period of high flow, would become untenable” (23).
Sudan has been seeking to irrigate the Sahel but Ethiopia has made clear that any Sudanese attempt to divert water from the Nile would provoke a military response (24). Along the same lines, Egypt has threatened to oppose Sudan or Ethiopia if one or the other attempts to manipulate the waters that feed the Nile.
Professor Frederic Lasserre, at Laval University (Quebec) and geopolitical expert of “blue gold” (water), presents scenarios of a synÂ¬ergistic correlation between the scarcity of water and what he qualifies as “hydraulic conflicts” or “water wars.” He claims that climatic disturbances will exacerbate pre-existing tensions.
On the other hand, the willingness to settle disputes between opposing parties is manifest, whether it be over the usage of “blue gold” between Israelis and Palestinians or the co-operation between Israelis and Egyptians in the context of the Mediterranean Action Plan.
Since 1953, Israel and Jordan have held secret informal meetings on the management of the Jordan River, even though the two countries were officially at war from 1948 to 1994 (the date when their peace treaty was signed). The Indus River Commission survived two major wars between India and Pakistan, providing further proof of a willingness to settle water disputes.
Another textbook case of regulating water conflicts is the sharing of the Shatt Al-Arab between Arabs and Persians from the 16th Century. Certainly, there have been in the recent past a conflict between two nations wishing to establish their regional supremacy, but co-operation has tended to prevail.
Admittedly, scenarios exist in which States would be prepared weapons in hand, to obtain from a neighbour a vital resource of which they are deprived.
The UN has identified about 300 potential areas of “hydro-conflict” based on common groundwater and trans-boundary Rivers. However, it cannot be said with certainty that the use of armed conflict will be the de facto response to future water supply problems. In reality, it is rather the opposite trend, which has emerged from current historical research.
Researchers at Oregon State University have created a databank of all reported interactions (be they co-operative or conflictual) between two (or more) countries that have been provoked by water issues over the last 50 years.
The results indicate that the rate of co-operation massively exceeded the cases of “serious” conflict. During this period, only 37 disÂ¬putes involved the use of violence, 30 of which were between Israel and one of its neighbours.
Outside the Middle-East, the researchers found that only 5 violent conflicts had erupted while as many as 157 treaties had been negotiated and signed. Between 1945 and 1999, the cases of co-operation have been two times more numerous than the cases of conflict between States sharÂ¬ing the same water source (25).
Green Conflicts and Raw Materials
The overexploitation of natural resources is likely to boost global tensions to a degree hitherto unknown as nations seek to satisfy their needs for energy, water, food, and raw materials. Global energy consumption could double by 2030.
The countries of the European Union today depend on productions zones situated in the Middle-East, Africa, and Russia for more than 75 % of their oil consumption. The figures are comparable for gas.
Countries with high economic growth rates, like India and China, are searching for new sources of supply all over the planet. Competition and perhaps conflicts could result from tensions that become too strong and are not regulated.
The US military has warned that surplus capacity production of oil could lead to severe shortages by 2015, with significant political and ecoÂ¬nomic consequences. This energy crisis, elaborated in the JOE (Joint Operating Environment) 2010 of the American Joint Forces Command, came just as the price of petrol had reached record levels.
The report specifies that in 2012, the surplus capacity production could completely disappear and, from 2015, the production deficit would be close to 10 million barrels per day. It adds: “Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious ecoÂ¬nomic impact on both China and India (26).
Has the War for Uranium Begun?
In the context of an international market, ten countries in the world possess 90% of the world’s uranium production. Will this production be enough to satisfy the demand of the growing nuclear power sector? The remaining available uranium reserves are becoming scarce, while the demand continues to increase since the Kyoto Protocol and alongside the production of new reactors, notably in China.
Since 1991, and in every year after that, the global demand for uranium has exceeded mining production. The difference between mining production and demand is approximately one-third, which is being offset by what is called “secondary uranium,” or uranium coming from military stockpiles: for example, uranium recuperated from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons, via the Russo-American programme “Megatons to Megawatts”.
However, the sale of uranium coming from dismantled warheads will end by 2013. With or without the conflict linked to the Imouraren site in Niger (conceded to the French energy company Areva), any restrictions on the exploitation of this deposit site could lead to a “uranium shock” similar to the oil shock of the “70s, with consequences that are unpredictable.
In terms of rare earth minerals, indispensable for the production of sophisticated military equipment, there is nothing to keep powers such as China, which now holds a near-monopoly (97%) over the extraction of these materials, from being tempted to use this powerful position to pressure or even strangle certain partners.
The Debate over Carrying Capacity
Carrying capacity, a proposition that comes close to the neo-Malthusian theories espoused by Gaston Bouthoul one of the French fathers (with Louise Weiss) of War Studies or “polemology” and a pioneer in his time, has associated tensions and violence with the scarcity of food resources. Carrying capacity is defined here as the capability of a given natural environment to sustain a given population.
It follows then that, once the carrying capacity of a given environment is exceeded, there will be a growing imbalance between population growth and dwindling resources, which almost automatically will lead to conflict. This interpretation, originating from an ecological theory, is questionable. Hence the reservations or criticisms of the determinist and negative aspect of this line of thinking that could be called “cultural ecology” (27).
When examining cases such as the conflicts of the last few years in Chiapas, Mexico, for example, or in Rwanda, this theory espoused by Steve Leblanc has been described as too “ecological.”
“We, anthrpologists,” declares Ferguson, “discover that if a population suffers from a lack of basic resources, the principle cause of this shortage is an inequitable distribution of resources within the society, a political question, and an economic question, rather than the combination of a too large population and a lack of resources.
“Among the peoples of the Northwest Pacific Coast, before the depopulation of the 19th century, groups competed for access to basic resources, such as salmon-sheltering estuaries. But the singularity of the situations does not allow them to be transposed. Thus, in numerous places across the globe, as in the case of the Yanomami people war is not linked to a battle for food.
“Studies of modern conflicts show that very diverse factors can interact, including the need for food, local ecological relations, as well as struggles for power within govÂ¬ernÂ¬ments, and cultural characteristics like beliefs and symbols” (28).
While one might tend to emphasize the inevitability of clashes which “naturally” will hit or are hitting failed States, states being considered as “unsafe, in the process of failing or having already failed” (29) — it appears that the capacity of these states to manage or adapt to conflicts is not uniform. (30) As argued by Oli Brown of the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD): “We have seen, across regions and the world, that conditions of stress have provoked conflicts in certain regions but not in others” (31).
The Unknowns Linked to Climate
We can find solid historic links between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warm years resulting in the significant increase of the probability of war, or so it is claimed in the study entitled “Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa” (32).
Based on computer modeling, this study, undertaken by a team of scientists from Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, New York University and Harvard University has already calculated the prospective number of victims in 2030: 393,000 additional war victims if the future conflicts are as deadly as recent conflicts (sic); according to the projections, we should expect an increase of approximately 54 % in the incidence of armed conflict by 2030.
Is the collected data — based on events occurring in Africa between 1981 and 2002 — a good indicator? According to the Norwegian political scientist Halvard Buhaug of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), it is fallacious to establish overly simplistic and mechanical links between climate and civil war(s).
Buhaug does not deny the reality of global warming: he admits that the African continent, over the last 50 years, has become hotter and dryer (see above). But there is no tangible correlation between the frequency of civil wars in Sub-Saharan Africa over this period and temperature and rainfall trends. Especially since, although the temperature continued to rise over the last ten years, conflicts on the other hand actually declined.
Seen from another perspective, the panorama of 73 conflicts listed between 1980 and 2005, and considered as environmental, shows that they were limited to a certain space and did not in fact present any real “threat to international security”.
The science of climate change is quite complex. According to the report of Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall (2003-2004), commissioned by Andrew Marshall, strategic adviser to the Pentagon, “We must prepare ourselves for the inevitable effects of abrupt climate change, which will likely occur regardless of human activity” (33).
Moreover, the scenario of the authors is modeled on a climatic event, which occurred suddenly, according to ice-core samples from glaciers in Greenland, took place 8,200 years ago, and lasted a century.
The debate remains open. Though, not between supporters and adversaries of global warming, or between climate-skeptics and the others, but rather between the interpretations of global warming: controllable or not, progressive or/and discontinuous? For the geo-political analyst, what consequences will follow an inevitable yet unpredictable process?
These unknowns are to be taken into account if one should consider their repercussions on societies endowed with vastly different resources and capabilities of adapting to an array of diverse exterior shocks. One can say that the projected repercussions of climate change on societies are manifestly even more uncertain than anticipated climatic changes since they are essentially a projection based on another projection.
Resource scarcity could dictate the terms of international relations in the years to come. This is the line of thinking in the report “The Age of Consequences” produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the United States (34).
Could the countries considered as rich, over the next thirty years, focus on their own survival while neglecting and maintaining a distance from poor countries?
Leon Fuerth, one of the authors of the CSIS report and former National Security Advisor to former Vice-President Al Gore, believes that climate change and its spill-over effects, including causing wars, could lead to the end of the globalization process as we know it today; different regions of the world would withdraw in on themselves to conserve what they “need” for their own survival, or to avoid sharing resources or having to redistribute resources which can be perceived as global public goods.
This trend is already perceptible in the lack of financial support that the West is willing to offer in the framework of official public development assistance, and in the difficulties faced by partners to find innovative financing in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
In any case, a reconfiguring of nation-state power structures cannot be excluded; this could involve exclusive economic zones, which recently arose out of the Law of the Sea treaty, with the prospect for navigation and exploitation of the Poles. In the scenario concocted for the benefit of the Pentagon, (35) we can look forward to seeing new alliances and alliances of circumstance.
The US and Canada could unite and become one country. The two Koreas could re-unite to create an entity with technological know-how and nuclear weapons.
The reconfiguring includes a new international sharing of the threat of nuclear death. Amongst the countries who would develop their enrichment and processing capacities (of nuclear materials) to guarantee their national security, the report lists not only countries that already possess nuclear weapons but also Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Egypt.
The subtitle of the 2003 report is “Imagining the Unthinkable.” It sounds like an echo of the slogan of Herman Kahn’s “Think the Unthinkable” voiced during the darkest hours of the Cold War during which the super-powers relied on MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) (36).
Even if the West were somehow compelled to “toe the line” after its long period (five centuries) of domination, (37) Europe could act or react as a unified, fortified, and bunkered block to limit the probÂ¬lems associated with immigration and organize its protection against “aggressors.”
Unless Russia, with its abundant mineral resources, oil, and natural gas, seeks a rapprochement with Europe, a Europe cut loose from the other side of the Atlantic. As a result of these readjustments, which also concern the emergÂ¬ing powers, the lines of demarcation between the North and the South, between rich countries and the South, will change.
Unabated climate change could thus plunge the “industrialized countries” in particular into crises of legitimacy and limit their international scope for action. The worst affected countries are likely to invoke the “polluter pays” principle, so international controversy over a global compensation regime for climate change will probably intensify.
Faced with this complicated future, the thesis developed by Roy Woodbridge in his book “The Next World War” is appealing; it proposes that the international community should literally go to war, in a unified and coordinated manner, against environmental degradation (38).
This proposal comes close to somewhat Utopian ideas of a reconciled humanity facing a common exterior enemy (the arrival of Martians), and the views of those in the pacifist movement, including Sara Parkin, former director of Forum for the Future, who insists with a dash of wishful thinking that the military are incapable of sewing up the holes in the ozone layer and are powerless against tidal waves and tsunamis (39).
Climate as a Tool of Strategic Influence
For the United States, the climate question is a means of establishing their leadership and perpetuating their strategy of pre-eminence over other countries, with Europe and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) in the front row (40).
While the CIA opened (in September of 2009) a centre on climate change and national security, the United States had begun to develop a programme to investigate climate as a security risk factor since 1979.
With the arrival of President Bill Clinton in the White House, and under Vice-President Al Gore, the intelligence community saw itself assigned an environmental mandate. Since 1994, NATO has launched a series of conferences on the theme of “environment and defence” and has evoked at times the concept of “environmental security.”
Studies of the impact on national security of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population movements, and the rising competition for natural resources are not, moreover, preoccupations that are exclusive to the Pentagon.
But the consequences can affect military installations, such as [the island of] Diego Garcia for example, endangered by rising sea levels. Furthermore, the consequences of climate change could impose “an additional burden on military forces in the world”, as noted in the Quadrennial Defense Review published by the American Army (41).
Certain rival powers could be tempted to appropriate the Arctic region at the risk of leading the world into “another Cold War,” in the words of Frank Walter Steinmeier, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Thus, “Additionally, an Arctic with less sea ice could bring more competition for resources, as well as more commercial and military activity, that could further threaten an already fragile ecosystem,” as stated in the April 2007, CNA report, entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” that articulates the concept of climate change acting as a “threat multiplier” for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world (42).
For the Russians, its new Antarctic strategy has been framed around the preservation of “Russian national interests.” The need to develop geophysical knowledge about the Antarctic geological make-up is linked to the presence of ore deposits found on the continent and its continental shelf, and also to the potential presence of hydrocarbons. Although the Antarctica Treaty prohibits any mining activity in the region, States with interests there must prepare themselves to assert their “geopolitical claims.”
By Way of a Conclusion
In spite of the controversy about the graphs and data furnished by climatologists, a majority have drawn the conclusion that the potential consequences of climate change on the availability of water, food security, the prevalence of disease, coastal boundaries, and population distributions could aggravate already existing tensions and generate new conflicts.
It is at the same time difficult and risky to establish relationships of cause and effect, especially since the current period has been characterized by a decrease in conflicts in comparison to the Cold War period. Can we therefore venture to establish a link between natural disasters and conflicts?
The data collected by the Research Centre on the Epidemiology of Disaster (2006) seems to disavow this conclusion, stating that “of the 171 disasters caused by storms and flooding since 1950 — each having at least 1,000 victims — a clear link has been established in 12 cases — between natural disasters and the intensification of a conflict or a political crisis” (43). Only 12 cases.
If no one is capable of determining the type of conflicts and their degrees of intensity, then there is no reason to believe that they will be confined to a given area. In a world that is more and more interdependent, the rise in the number of armed conflicts in Africa will have repercussions that go beyond the boundaries of that continent.
From a retrospective analysis of inter-state conflicts over the last sixty years, it is possible to conclude that conflicts associated with natural resources are twice as likely to flare up again within five years; which could be termed a “boomerang” effect. And yet, less than a quarter of the peace negotiations aimed at resolving conflicts over resources have seriously sought to address the mechanisms of resource management.
There are other factors than those linked to climate — poverty, governance, conflict management, regional diplomacy, and others — which will determine, in large part, if the status of climate change will evolve from being a challenge to sustainable development for the most vulnerable to being a global security threat.
The Brundtand Report already stated more than twenty years ago that “In recent years, international relations have been characterized by a marked tendency to resort to the threat or use of military force in response to security threats of a non milÂ¬itary character” (44). It’s a safe bet that this prognosis is even more valid today.
The Ashgate Research Companion to War
Origins and Prevention (Ashgate, 2012) Edited by Hall Gardner and Oleg Kobtzeff
1. Fabrice Renaud, Institute for the Environment and Human Security, United Nations University
2. The United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development (1978-1981), chaired by Ms. Inga Thorsson (Sweden); UN General Assembly document A/36/536, reproduced by the Centre for Disarmament Affairs in 1982 as Disarmament Study nÂ° 5
3. Brundtland Commission “Our Common Future”
4. Ibid See Chapters 4 and 7.
5. Appendix of UN resolution A/63/L.8/rev.1
6. WBGU Report 2007 “World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk” German Federal Government’s Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU — Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveranderungen) December 2007 — http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_jg2007_engl.html
8. Ehrlich 1969, Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1990; Homer-Dixon 1999.
9. Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.1005739107 (2010).
10. Bohle, H.G., Downing, T. E. et M.H. Watts. “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability: Toward a Sociology and Geography of Food Insecurity,” in Global Environmental Change, vol. 4, no 1, 1994, p. 37 – 48; Doos, B.R. “Environmental Degradation, Global Food Production, and Risk for Large-scale Migrations,” in Ambio, vol. 23, no 2, 1994, p. 124 – 130; Molvaer, R. “Environmentally Induced Conflicts? A Discussion Based on Studies from the Horn of Africa,” In Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 22, no 2, 1991, p. 175 – 188
11. Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A. “Greed and grievance in civil war.” Oxford EcoÂ¬nomic Papers, vol. 56, no 4, 2004. 563 – 595. European Commission
12. Hendrix, C.S. et S.M. Glaser. Trends and triggers: Climate, climate change and civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Political Geography, vol. 26, 2007, p. 695 – 715
14. Garcia, D. The climate security divide: Bridging human and national security in Africa, The African Security Review, vol. 17, no 3, Institute for Security Studies, 2008, p. 2 – 17
15. WBGU Report 2007 “World in Transistion: Climate Change as a Security Risk” German Federal Government’s Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU — Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveranderungen) December 2007 –
16. McGregor, J. “Climate Change and Involuntary Migration: Implications for Food Security,” In Food Policy, vol. 19, no 2, 1994, p. 120 – 132
17. Lavieille Jean-Marc, Michel Prieur, Jean-Pierre Marguenaud, Gerard Monediaire, Julien Betaille, Bernard Drobenko, Jean-Jacques Gouguet, Severne Nadaud and Damien Roets, “Projet de Convention relative au statut international des deplaces environnementaux,” Revue europeenne de droit de l’environnement, nÂ° 4/2008, p.381
18. G. F. Dumont, Les Territoires face au vieillissement en France et en Europe (Paris, Ellipses, 2006)
19. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National SecuÂ¬rity (October 2003).
20. Klare Michael, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Henry Holt & Company, 2008)
21. Monbiot George, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (London, Allen Lane/Penguin, 2006)
22. Andrew SIMMS, Policy Director at the New Economics Foundation, Africa — Up in Smoke (New Economics Foundation, London, 2005)
23. Dixon, R, Smith, J, Guill, S (2003). “Life on the edge: vulnerability and adaptation of African ecosystems to global climate change”. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 8(2):93 – 113 cited in Nyong, A. (2005), “Impacts of climate change in the tropics: the African experience”, keynote presentation at “Avoiding dangerous climate change: a scientific symposium on stabilization of greenhouse gases, Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom, February 2005. Available on http://www.stabilisation2005.com/Tony_Nyong.pdf (accessed 1 June 2005).
24. Campbell, K.M, J. Gullledge, J.R. Mcneill, J. Podesta, P. Ogden, L. Fuerth, R.J. Woosley, A.T.J. Lennon, J. Smith, R. Weitz et D. Miz. The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) et Center for a New American Security (CNAS), 2007
25. Wolf, Aaron. T., Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius and Georffrey Dabelko. “Water can be a pathway to peace not war: Global Security brief #5,” In State of the World 2005, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, 2005.
26. US Joint Forces ComÂ¬mand, Joint Operating Environment (2010) See http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/joe2010.pdf, p.27.
27. Obi, C. “Globalised Images of Environmental Security in Africa,” Review of African Political Economy, vol. 27, no 83, 2000, p. 47 – 62
28. Ferguson R.B. et N. Whitehead (dir.), War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, School of American Research Press, 2000. (Interview with Brian Ferguson in “La Recherche”).
29. Welzer Harald, Les guerres du climat, Pourquoi on tue au XXIÃ¨me siÃ¨cle, Gallimard, collection NRF essais, 2009
30. Batterbury, S.P.J & A. Warren (eds.). 2001. “The African Sahel 25 years after the Great Drought”. Global Environmental Change. 11 (1): 1 – 96. (8 papers).
31. Oli Brown of the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD)
32. Marshall B. Burke, Edward Miguel, Shanker Satyanath, John A. Dykema and David B. Lobell, “Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa”. (ref: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol 106, nÂ° 49, pp. 20670 – 20674 (October 2009) Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/11/20/0907998106.full.pdf.html
33. Peter Schwartz and Doug RanÂ¬dall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, OctoÂ¬ber 2003, at http://www.edf.org/documents/3566_AbruptClimateChange.pdf
34. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) The Age of Consequences November 2007
35. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States.” National Security October 2003 http://www.edf.org/documents/3566_AbruptClimateChange.pdf
36. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,” October 2003.
37. Kempf Herve, La crise ecologique: une question de justice, revue de Defense Nationale, Paris, fevrier 2010
38. Roy Woodbridge, The Next World War: Tribes, Cities, Nations, and Ecological Decline (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).
39. Sara Parkin, “As shooting the ozone layer or bombing empty water aquifers is not an option” cf. “Environmental Security: Issues and Agenda for an Incoming Government,” published in the RUSI Journal, June 1997, pp. 24 – 28
40. Lalanne Romain “Quand la securite devient vert’e, revue Defense Nationale, Fevrier 2010-11-13
42. CNA Report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” (April 2007), p. 21
43. Centre For the Research on Epidemiology Disasters, Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2006 http://www.cred.be/sites/default/files/ADSR_2006.pdf “The death of a large number of people following the hurricane Katrina, the heat wave of the summer of 2003 in Europe, and the Indonesian tsunami of December 2004 have sadly demonstrated that, in the case of natural disasters, countries and communities, even the most developed ones, are badly prepared to protect and help their citizen, the vulnerable ones in particular, i.e. poor, isolated, sick, handicapped people who lived in inappropriate lodging conditions. Such disasters are never totally “natural.” In fact, many experts consider that so-called “natural” disasters are largely due to human negligence or to inappropriate land use. When causes and consequences of disasters are considered, it is crucial to address the notion of individual and social vulnerability of a person as much as human adaptation to stress.”
44. Brundtland Commission, “Our Common Future.” http:// www.un-documents.net/ocf-cf.htm
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
200+ Detained, Tear Gas & Scuffles at
Banned Global March for Climate in Paris) RT News
PARIS (November 29, 2015) — Crowds gathered in the French capital on Sunday to attend a global march for the climate, despite the ban on gatherings enforced by French authorities. When one of the groups charged a police cordon, tear gas was deployed to push them back.
“Huge amounts” of tear gas were fired at protesters near Place de la Republique in central Paris, according to witnessesâ€™ reports on Twitter, with objects flying in the direction of security forces.
The march, which was set to take place in dozens of cities around the world, was restricted in the French capital falling under the ban on gatherings introduced after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
La Republique metro station, closest to the scene, has been closed by authorities, citing security measures.
The riot police repeatedly attempted to push back the activists, spraying the crowds with tear gas. Ahead of the summit, 24 green activists were put under house arrest, with police saying they were suspected of planning violent protests, according to Reuters.
Over 200 people were arrested in the scuffles, AFP reported citing officials. The detained protesters were found to have been in possession of projectiles and other suspicious objects, AP cited Paris police chief Michel Cadot as saying. About 200 to 300 people who violated the official protests ban during the state of emergency have been identified by police, Cadot added.
While it was initially expected that some 400,000 people would gather in Paris ahead of UN climate change talks taking place at Le Bourget outside the capital, hundreds of activists took to the streets despite the emergency measures.
Protesters first formed a human chain, and then around 200 activists, some wearing masks, clashed with police on a street leading to the square, Reuters reported.
Earlier in the day, people opted for more peaceful ways to be heard by politicians at the climate talks. While some were holding hands standing on sidewalks in central Paris, some activists brought their shoes to the Place de la Republique and hundreds of pairs appeared at the square.
The important environmental meeting in Paris, known as COP21, will be attended by nearly 150 world leaders and about 22,000 other officials. During the two-week event, participants, including the world’s top three carbon-emitting countries (US, China and India), will attempt to reach a global deal on cutting carbon emissions to limit climate change and keep average global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius.
State leaders have expressed hope for progress, after most countries submitted pledges and measures to reduce their own CO2 emissions. But the UN, which seeks to impose top-down targets, has opposed the voluntary moves.
PARIS (November 29, 2015) — A critical UN conference aimed at agreeing a new global approach to climate change is set to open in Paris. Negotiators from 195 countries will try to reach a deal within two weeks. Leaders from 147 nations will address the meeting, known as COP21, on Monday.
But the world’s poorest countries say they fear being “left behind” in the push for a new treaty.
The French government will officially take over the running of the talks during Monday’s opening ceremony. Police have locked down the conference centre in Le Bourget, closing roads amid strict security for the leaders’ visit.
Presidents and prime ministers will address the gathering amid a growing sense of optimism that an agreement can be secured.
“It will be the turning point, which is what the world requires,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the weekend. Mr Fabius will chair the conference until it reaches a conclusion.
UN Climate Conference 30 Nov – 11 Dec 2015
COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties – will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.
Boost for Clean Energy
The leaders, who will only stay at the meeting for one day, are likely to make a number of significant announcements to step up the fight against rising temperatures.
Details emerged on Monday of new plans designed to boost investment in clean technology. France and India will announce a global alliance that aims to bring together 100 solar-rich countries in tropical regions to rapidly expand the availability of electricity from the Sun.
An initiative involving at least 19 governments and private individuals including Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will see up to $20bn (Â£13bn) of public and private funds poured into the development of low cost, clean energy projects, every year from 2020.
Mr Gates is expected to put up $1bn of his own money while governments including the US, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil and the UK are expected to promise to double their spending on low carbon technology over the next five years. The US is expected to increase its spending on clean technology research to $10bn per year.
The private finance is said to be contingent on the public funds becoming available.
Meanwhile a number of European nations, working with the World Bank, announced a $500m fund designed to help developing countries cut their carbon emissions. Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland are backing what’s termed the Transformative Carbon Asset Facility.
This will measure and pay for emission cuts in areas like renewable energy, transport, energy efficiency, solid waste management, and low carbon cities. According to the World Bank it could make payments for carbon cuts to countries that remove fossil fuel subsidies.
‘Catastrophic’ Temperature Rise
But among the warm words and good intentions, there are growing concerns among the very poorest countries that their interests might be sacrificed in the clamour for compromise.
Most of the discussions here will revolve around a new deal that would limit global warming to 2C.
Assessments of the more than 180 national plans that have been submitted by countries suggest that if they were implemented the world would see a rise of nearer to 3C.
However, the 48 members of the least developed countries (LDC) group at these talks say that for them, anything more than 1.5 degrees would be catastrophic.
“For the LDCs, economic development, regional food security, ecosystems, and the very survival of their populations and livelihoods are at risk if talks aim only for a 2C world,” said Giza Gaspar Martins from Angola.
“The heads of state will be in Paris to set the tone for the negotiations. We renew our call for an ambitious, robust and binding climate deal that does not leave behind the most vulnerable among us.”
While the arrival of the leaders will give a significant boost to the conference, the practical difficulties of securing a deal have not gone away.
At present the negotiating text runs to more than 50 dense pages, filled with brackets, indicating disagreement.
Teams of negotiators began the work on Sunday conscious of the fact that so many issues remain unresolved.
The hope is that, by the end of this week, a new draft agreement will be ready for environment ministers to haggle over during the second half of the conference.
One of the biggest disagreements is said to be over what is termed “differentiation”.
The US and other wealthy countries object to the fact that in these negotiations, a country is determined to be developed or developing based on its wealth when this body was formed back in 1992.
They argue that any new deal must accurately reflect the current position, meaning that a larger number of countries would have to share the burden of cutting carbon.
Why a Climate Deal Is the Best Hope for Peace Jason Box and Naomi Klein / The New Yorker
(November 18, 2015) — Soon after the horrific terror attacks in Paris, last Friday, our phones filled with messages from friends and colleagues: “So are they going to cancel the Paris climate summit?” “The drums of war are beating. Count on climate change being drowned out.”
The assumption is reasonable enough. While many politicians pay lip service to the existential urgency of the climate crisis, as soon as another more immediate crisis rears its head — war, a market shock, an epidemic — climate reliably falls off the political map.
After the attacks, the French government stated that the COP21 climate summit would begin as scheduled at the end of November. Yet the police have just barred the huge planned marches and protests, effectively silencing the voices of people who are directly affected by these high-level talks.
And it’s hard to see how sea-level rise and parched farmland — tough media sells at the best of times — will have a hope of competing with rapid military escalation and calls for fortressed borders.
All of this is perfectly understandable. When our safety feels threatened, it’s difficult to think of anything else. Major shocks like the Paris attacks are awfully good at changing the subject.
But what if we decided to not let it happen? What if, instead of changing the subject, we deepened the discussion of climate change and expanded the range of solutions, which are fundamental for real human security? What if, instead of being pushed aside in the name of war, climate action took center stage as the planet’s best hope for peace?
The connection between warming temperatures and the cycle of Syrian violence is, by now, uncontroversial. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in Virginia, this month, “It’s not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.”
As Kerry went on to note, many factors contributed to Syria’s instability. The severe drought was one, but so were the repressive practices of a brutal dictator and the rise of a particular strain of religious extremism.
Another big factor was the invasion of Iraq, a decade ago. And since that war — like so many before it — was inextricable from the West’s thirst for Iraqi oil (warming be damned), that fateful decision in turn became difficult to separate from climate change. ISIS, which has taken responsibility for the attacks in Paris, found fertile ground in this volatile context of too much oil and too little water.
If we acknowledge that the instability emanating from the Middle East has these roots, it makes little sense to allow the Paris attacks to minimize our already inadequate climate commitments. Rather, this tragedy should inspire the opposite reaction: an urgent push to lower emissions as rapidly and deeply as possible, including strong support for developing countries to leapfrog to renewable energy, creating much-needed jobs and economic opportunities in the process.
That kind of bold climate transition is our only hope of preventing a future in which, as a recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change put it, large areas of the Middle East will, by the end of the century, “experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.”
But even this is not enough. The deepest emission reductions can only prevent climate change from getting far worse. They can’t stop the warming that has already arrived, nor the warming that is locked in as a result of the fossil fuels we have already burned.
So there is a critical piece missing from our climate conversation: the need to quickly lower atmospheric CO2 levels from the current four hundred parts per million to the upper limit of what is not considered dangerous: three hundred and fifty parts per million.
The implications of a failure to bring carbon down to safer levels go well beyond amplifying catastrophes like Syria’s historic drought. The last time atmospheric CO2 was this high, global sea levels were at least six metres higher. We find ourselves confronted with ice-sheet disintegration that, in some susceptible areas, already appears unstoppable.
In the currently overloaded CO2 climate, it’s just a matter of time until hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from coastal regions, their agricultural lands and groundwater destroyed by saltwater intrusion from sea rise.
Among the most vulnerable areas are broad swaths of South and Southeast Asia — which include some of the world’s biggest cities, from Shanghai to Jakarta — along with a number of coastal African and Latin American countries, such as Nigeria, Brazil, and Egypt.
A climate summit taking place against the backdrop of climate-fuelled violence and migration can only be relevant if its central goal is the creation of conditions for lasting peace. That would mean making legally enforceable commitments to leave the vast majority of known fossil-fuel reserves in the ground.
It would also mean delivering real financing to developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change, and recognizing the full rights of climate migrants to move to safer ground.
A strong climate-peace agreement would also include a program to plant vast numbers of native-species trees in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, to draw down atmospheric CO2, reduce desertification, and promote cooler and moister climates. Tree planting alone is not enough to lower CO2 to safe levels, but it could help people stay on their land and protect sustainable livelihoods.
We knew that the Paris summit wasn’t going to achieve all of this. But just days ago, bold collective action on climate seemed within reach: the climate movement was accelerating, winning tangible victories against pipelines and Arctic drilling; governments were strengthening their targets, and some were even starting to stand up to fossil-fuel companies.
Enough pressure existed, it seemed, to achieve the main goals of the conference: an enforceable and binding international treaty to ratchet down carbon emissions once and for all. But the movement believed that keeping the pressure up during the summit would be critical. That just got a lot harder.
The last time there was this much climate momentum was in 2008, when Europe was leading a renewable-energy revolution and Barack Obama was pledging, as he accepted the Democratic nomination, that his election would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Then came the full reverberations of the financial crisis.
By the time the world met at the Copenhagen climate-change conference, at the end of 2009, global attention had already shifted away from climate to bank bailouts, and the deal was widely considered to be a disaster.
In the years that followed, support for renewables was slashed across southern Europe, ambitions dwindled, and pledges of climate financing for the developing world virtually disappeared.
Never mind that a decisive response to the climate crisis, grounded in big investments in renewables, efficiency, and public transit, could well have created enough jobs to undercut the discredited logic of economic austerity.
We cannot afford to allow this story to be repeated, this time with terror changing the subject. To the contrary, as the author and energy expert Michael T. Klare argued weeks before the attacks, Paris “should be considered not just a climate summit but a peace conference — perhaps the most significant peace convocation in history.”
But it can only do that if the agreement builds a carbon-safe economy fast enough to tangibly improve lives in the here and now. We are finally starting to recognize that climate change leads to wars and economic ruin. It’s time to recognize that intelligent climate policy is fundamental to lasting peace and economic justice.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Perhaps the gravity of the moment will weigh more heavily on UN delegates as they ponder a world where extreme weather, rising seas, and punishing droughts become the norm, leading to ever more conflict and misery.
Still, we’re unlikely to see a plan emerge from the Paris talks that truly stems the tide of rising carbon pollution, much less any binding agreement to ensure that meaningful climate protection goals are met.
Those who’ve pinned their hopes on a global accord that ramps down carbon levels are singing from the same songbook as they always have, year after year, from Rio in 1992 to Kyoto in 1997 to Copenhagen in 2009. Time and time again the refrain is always: “It will be different this time.”
Environmental commentator Brian Tokar has outlined each of these progressive failures in his painfully incisive piece, Is the Paris Climate Conference Designed to Fail? With excruciating detail, Tokar provides a behind-the-scenes look into why these global processes have perpetually missed the mark, concluding that “progress toward a meaningful climate agreement has continued to be stifled by big-power politics and diplomatic gridlock.”
That appears unlikely to change anytime soon, certainly not in the 20-30 year timeframe that climate activists proclaim is critical to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2Â°C above pre-industrial levels to stave off massive climate disruption.
Recent news from climate scientists isn’t encouraging. Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Association (WMO) released a bulletin noting that the Earth’s climate will soon enter a new “permanent reality” when concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are almost certain to pass 400 parts per million (PPM) — already 50 units higher than the 350 PPM ‘safe’ threshold advocated by climate scientists and activists alike.
“It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed,” said WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud.
What’s more, researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research just concluded that a major section of West Antarctica’s ice sheet has destabilized, the melting water from which is likely to raise global sea levels by three meters.
It’s worth noting that more than 150 million people globally live within just one meter of the sea; at 3 meters, the number climbs to at least 300 million. In the United States alone, a 3-meter sea level rise would inundate many of the East Coast’s largest cities, including huge metroplexes like Boston, Miami, and New York.
And that’s just a sampling of the climate impacts that are already in the cards. Even if we look optimistically at what we can expect a global agreement to achieve, there’s simply no way it will stave off massive climate disruption.
Independent researchers at Climate Action Tracker project a global temperature rise between 2.2Â°C and 3.4Â°C by 2100 if all current country-by-country pledges are fully implemented (emphasis mine).
Those who are still committed to making the most of the UN talks in Paris, to push global leaders to ratify the boldest, most equitable climate agreement possible, deserve enormous praise and respect.
May their efforts bear fruit, in spite of the odds. But given all the well-established impacts of the pollution that has already happened — let alone all the gigatons of carbon and methane releases to come — it’s simply irresponsible not to refocus our efforts on preparing for the worst.
To date, only about $57 billion in annual funds have been mobilized globally to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That pales in comparison to the $6 trillion needed for infrastructure transformation over the next 15 years alone, according to the Global Commission of the Economy and Climate Change.
And even that figure sounds woefully inadequate when the costs of shifting from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based entirely on renewables are factored in — roughly $60 trillion to maintain current world per-capita energy use, or $150 trillion to achieve European per-capita energy use, according to Searching for a Miracle, a joint study by the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute.
The UN climate negotiations thus far have settled on a goal of just $100 billion annually in adaptation financing — a mere fraction of what’s needed to truly prepare communities for what’s coming.
Of course, were we to downscale our overall energy demand, opt for radical conservation measures, phase out private automobile use, relocalize our economies, and shift our food system away from animal agriculture — then modern society’s energy requirements would be far less than they are now, our lives would be far more fulfilling, healthy, and connected, and our impact on the climate would be drastically reduced.
And rather than scramble in vain to maintain unsustainable levels of consumption — albeit through supposed “green” technologies, nearly all of which require extensive fossil fuels and toxic chemicals to produce — we could instead focus on bracing our communities for climate change’s inevitable impacts, simplifying our infrastructure, and moving population centers away from rising waters.
Unfortunately, in terms of overall investments and socioeconomic trends, we’re doing precisely the opposite: building more and more energy-intensive infrastructure, sprawling networks of roads and highways, vaster trade routes and shipping fleets, and ever-larger cattle, pig, poultry, and fish production facilities.
Still, while global climate talks and dominant trends are falling far short, a rising tide of local actions around the world to push governments, institutions, and communities toward climate sanity are providing a glimmer of hope for the future. To name but a few noteworthy developments:
* In Haiti, where people are still reeling from a devastating earthquake, decades of conflict, and lingering poverty, newfound possibilities have emerged to reenergize the country’s economy and power most of its energy needs from renewable sources.
Thanks to a recent commitment by Haitian President Jean-Claude Martelly in partnership with a cohort of small businesses and nonprofits, the country has embarked on an ambitious program (called “Give me light, give me life”) to electrify 200,000 rural households, primarily with distributed solar energy.
In the capital Port-au-Prince, a newly constructed L’HÃ´pital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM) powered by 1,800 solar panels now provides primary and secondary care services to 185,000 people.
According to Worldwatch Institute, Haiti is well-poised to build on these efforts by harnessing its local hydropower, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy resources, which could feasibly meet 52% of its projected energy demand through 2030.
* The province of Alberta, Canada just introduced a far-reaching climate protection strategy that includes a tax on carbon, an unprecedented cap on oilsands emissions, and a phase-out of coal-fired electricity with an emphasis on replacement by wind power.
The carbon tax is expected to raise $3 billion a year, which will be reinvested in renewable energy sectors and cover increased costs to consumers. A portion of the revenues will also be invested in truly green infrastructure like public transit systems, along with programs to help Albertans reduce their energy use.
Other revenues will help individuals and families make ends meet and provide transitional financial assistance to small businesses, First Nations and people working in affected coal facilities. It’s smart policy on all fronts, and has real economic teeth.
* And in the United States, a blossoming climate justice movement scored a phenomenal victory earlier this month when the Obama Administration finally rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
A powerful coalition of Tribal Nations, farmers and ranchers, climate scientists, college students, trade unionists, renewable energy advocates, nurses and everyday citizens forced this fossil fuel boondoggle into the national spotlight over the past six years, and relentlessly dogged decision-makers every step of the way to ensure that the project eventually suffered a well-deserved defeat.
Similar tireless activism has led to dozens of successful campaigns around the country to shut down fracking wells, stop new coal export facilities, and encourage major funds to divest from fossil fuels.
On the weekend of November 28-29, the Global Climate March will take place in hundreds of cities around the world to coincide with the start of the Paris talks.
The breadth and tenacity of the global climate movement has already made impressive strides, having forced governments to take bolder stances than they clearly would have otherwise, and shifting popular consciousness largely away from the deniers and diminishers of our day.
But the vital task of shifting trillions away from fossil fueled infrastructure, oil wars, and wasteful consumption toward a just, regenerative, balanced way of life for us all remains the most critical unfinished challenge of our time. It’s too late to “save” the climate as we know it, but it’s not too late to save ourselves.
If we can face the gathering storms, the rising seas, and the social turmoil that’s coming with honesty, humility, and boldness, we may just make it to the other side. How that “other side” shapes up is still largely up to us, depending on whether we continue to squander this planet’s abundant natural wealth or harness its remaining bounty toward a life-affirming future.
The costs of fossil fuels on our world have been staggering, to be sure, to our health, to our communities, and to the biosphere at-large. But whether by design or some fantastical quirk of geological fortune, the endgame is nigh for fossil fueled industrialism.
The mad dash for more, more, more into the furthest, most remote corners of the globe will eventually fade into distant memory, replaced with cultures and economies that flow with the rhythms of sunlight, water, and wind. Why not get started with the exciting work of recalibrating ourselves to the natural cadence of life on Earth?
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Hitting Saudi Arabia Where It Hurts Robert Parry / Consortium News
(November 23, 2015) — As the Islamic State and Al Qaeda enter a grim competition to see who can kill more civilians around the world, the fate of Western Civilization as we’ve known it arguably hangs in the balance. It will not take much more terror for the European Union to begin cracking up and for the United States to transform itself into a full-scale surveillance state.
Yet, in the face of this crisis, many of the same people who set us on this road to destruction continue to dominate — and indeed frame — the public debate. For instance, Official Washington’s neocons still insist on their recipe for “regime change” in countries that they targeted 20 years ago.
They also demand a new Cold War with Russia in defense of a corrupt right-wing regime in Ukraine, further destabilizing Europe and disrupting US-Russian cooperation in Syria.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his entourage arrive to greet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Given the stakes, you might think that someone in a position of power — or one of the many candidates for US president — would offer some pragmatic and realistic ideas for addressing this extraordinary threat.
But most Republicans — from Marco Rubio to Carly Fiorina to Ted Cruz — only offer more of “more of the same,” i.e. neocon belligerence on steroids. Arguably, Donald Trump and Rand Paul are exceptions to this particular hysteria, but neither has offered a coherent and comprehensive counter-analysis.
On the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton wins praise from the neocon editors of The Washington Post for breaking with President Barack Obama’s hesitancy to fully invade Syria. Former Secretary of State Clinton wants an invasion to occupy parts of Syria as a “safe area” and to destroy Syrian (and presumably Russian) planes if they violate her “no-fly zone.”
Much like the disastrous US invasions of Iraq and Libya, Clinton and her neocon allies are pitching the invasion of Syria as a humanitarian venture to remove a “brutal dictator” — in this case, President Bashar al-Assad — as well as to “destroy” the Islamic State, which Assad’s army and its Iranian-Russian allies have also been fighting.
Assad’s military, Iranian troops and Russian planes have hit other jihadist groups, too, such as Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, which receives US weapons as it fights side-by-side with Nusra in the Army of Conquest.
Clinton’s strategy likely would protect jihadists except for the Islamic State — and thus keep hope alive for “regime change” — explaining why the Post‘s neocon editors, who were enthusiastic boosters of the Iraq War in 2003, hailed her hawkish approach toward Syria as “laudable.”
To Clinton’s left, Sen. Bernie Sanders has punted on the issue of what to do in either Syria or the Middle East, failing to offer any thoughtful ideas about what can be done to stabilize the region. He opted instead for a clever but vacuous talking point, arguing that the Saudis and other rich oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf should use their wealth and militaries to bring order to the region, to “get their hands dirty.”
The problem is that the Saudis, the Qataris and the Kuwaitis — along with the Turks — are a big part of the problem. They have used their considerable wealth to finance and arm Al Qaeda and its various allies and spinoffs, including the Islamic State. Their hands are already very dirty.
Saudi ‘Hard Power’
What we have seen in the Middle East since the 1980s is Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states creating “hard power” for their regional ambitions by assembling paramilitary forces that are willing and even eager to lash out at “enemies,” whether against Shiite rivals or Western powers.
While the wealthy Saudis, Qataris and other pampered princes don’t want to become soldiers themselves, they’re more than happy to exploit disaffected young Sunnis, turn them into jihadists and unleash them.
Al Qaeda (dating back to the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s) and the Islamic State (emerging in resistance to the US-installed Shiite regime in Iraq after 2003) are Saudi Arabia’s foot soldiers.
This reality is similar to how the Reagan administration supported right-wing paramilitary forces in Central America during the 1980s, including “death squads” in El Salvador and Guatemala and the drug-tainted “Contras” in Nicaragua.
These extremists were willing to do the “dirty work” that Reagan’s CIA considered necessary to reverse the tide of leftist revolution in the region, but with “deniability” built in so Official Washington couldn’t be directly blamed for the slaughters.
Also, in the 1980s, the Reagan administration’s hardliners, including CIA Director William J. Casey, saw the value of using Islamic extremism to undermine the Soviet Union, with its official position of atheism. The CIA and the Saudis worked hand in hand in building the Afghan mujahedeen — an Islamic fundamentalist movement — to overthrow the Soviet-backed secular government in Kabul.
The “success” of that strategy included severe harm dealt to the struggling Soviet economy and the eventual ouster (and murder) of the Moscow-backed president, Najibullah. But the strategy also gave rise to the Taliban, which took power and installed a medieval regime, and Al Qaeda, which evolved from the Saudi and other foreign fighters (including Saudi Osama bin Laden) who had flocked to the Afghan jihad.
In effect, the Afghan experience created the modern jihadist movement — and the Saudis, in particular, understood the value of this paramilitary force to punish governments and political groups that the Saudis and their oil-rich friends considered threats. Officially, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni oil states could claim that they weren’t behind the terrorists while letting money and arms slip through.
Though Al Qaeda and the other jihadists had their own agendas — and could take independent action — the Saudis and other sheiks could direct these paramilitary forces against the so-called “Shiite crescent,” from Iran through Syria to Lebanon (and after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, against Iraq’s Shiite government as well).
At times, the jihadists also proved useful for the United States and Israel, striking at Hezbollah in Lebanon, fighting for “regime change” in Syria, collaborating in the 2011 ouster (and murder) of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, even joining forces with the US-backed Ukrainian government to kill ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Since these Sunni jihadists were most adept at killing Shiites, they endeared themselves not only to their Saudi, Qatari and Kuwaiti benefactors, but also to Israel, which has identified Shiite-ruled Iran as its greatest strategic threat. Thus, the American neocons, who collaborate closely with Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had mixed attitudes toward the Sunni jihadists, too.
Plus, high-profile terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks, enabled the tough-talking neocons to consolidate their control over US foreign policy, diverting American fury over Al Qaeda’s killing nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington to implement the neocons’ “regime change” agenda, first in Iraq though it had nothing to do with 9/11, with plans to move on to Syria and Iran.
As the Military-Industrial Complex made out like bandits with billions upon billions of dollars thrown at the “War on Terror,” grateful military contractors kicked back some profits to major think tanks where neocon thinkers were employed to develop more militaristic plans. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”]
But the downside of this coziness with the Sunni jihadists has been that Al Qaeda and its spinoff, the Islamic State, perceive the West as their ultimate enemy, drawing from both historic and current injustices inflicted on the Islamic world by Europe and the United States.
The terrorist leaders cite this mistreatment to recruit young people from impoverished areas of the Middle East and the urban slums of Europe — and get them to strap on suicide-belts.
Thus, Al Qaeda and now the Islamic State not only advance the neocon/Israeli/Saudi agenda by launching terror attacks in Syria against Assad’s government and in Lebanon against Hezbollah, but they strike out on their own against US and European targets, even in Africa where Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for last week’s murderous assault on an upscale Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali.
It also appears that Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have entered into a competition over who can stage the bloodiest attacks against Westerners as a way to bolster recruitment. The Bamako attack was an attempt by Al Qaeda to regain the spotlight from the Islamic State which boasted of a vicious string of attacks on Paris, Beirut and a Russian tourist flight in the Sinai.
The consequence of these murderous rampages has been to threaten the political and economic cohesion of Europe and to increase pressures for a strengthened surveillance state inside the United States. In other words, some of the most treasured features of Western civilization — personal liberty and relative affluence — are being endangered.
Yet, rather than explain the real reasons for this crisis — and what the possible solutions might be — no one in the US mainstream political world or the major media seems able or willing to talk straight to the American people about how we got here.
Sanders’s Lost Opportunity
While you might have expected as much from most Republicans (who have surrounded themselves with neocon advisers) and from Hillary Clinton (who has cultivated her own ties to the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks), you might have hoped that Sanders would have adopted a thoughtful critique of Official Washington’s neocon-dominated “group think.”
But instead he offers a simplistic and nonsensical prescription of demanding the Saudis do more — when that would only inflict more death and destruction on the region and beyond. Arguably, the opposite would make much more sense — impose tough financial sanctions against Saudi Arabia as punishment for its continued support for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Freezing or confiscating Saudi bank accounts around the world might finally impress on the spoiled princes of the Persian Gulf oil states that there is a real price to pay for dabbling in terrorism. Such an action against Saudi Arabia also would send a message to smaller Sunni sheikdoms that they could be next. Other pressures, including possible expulsion from NATO, could be brought to bear on Turkey.
If the West finally got serious about stopping this financial and military support for Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and their jihadist allies in Syria, the violence might finally abate. And, if the United States and Europe put pressure on the “moderate” Syrian opposition — whatever there is of it — to compromise, a political solution might be possible, too.
Right now, the biggest obstacle to a political agreement appears to be the US insistence that President Assad be barred from elections once Syria achieves some stability. Yet, if President Obama is so certain that the Syrian people hate Assad, it seems crazy to let Assad’s presumed defeat at the polls obstruct such a crucial deal.
The only explanation for this US stubbornness is that the neocons and the liberal hawks have made “regime change” in Syria such a key part of their agenda that they would lose face if Assad’s departure was not mandated. However, with the future of Western civilization in the balance, such obstinate behavior seems not only feckless but reckless.
From understanding how this mess was made, some US politician could fashion an appeal that might have broad popular support across the political spectrum. If Sanders took up this torch for a rational plan for bringing relative peace to the Middle East, he also might shift the dynamics of the Democratic race.
Of course, to challenge Official Washington’s “group think” is always dangerous. If compromise and cooperation suddenly replaced “regime change” as the US goal, the neocons and liberal hawks would flip out. But the stakes are extremely high for the planet’s future. Maybe saving Western civilization is worth the risk of facing down a neocon/liberal-hawk temper tantrum.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(November 20 2015) — The General leading the US military’s hidden war in Africa says the continent is now home to nearly 50 terrorist organizations and “illicit groups” that threaten US interests. And today, gunmen reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar” stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital and seized several dozen hostages.
US special operations forces are “currently assisting hostage recovery efforts,” a Pentagon spokesperson said, and US personnel have “helped move civilians to secured locations, as Malian forces clear the hotel of hostile gunmen.”
In Mali, groups like Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa have long posed a threat. Major terrorist groups in Africa include al Shabaab, Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM).
In the wake of the Paris attacks by ISIS, attention has been drawn to ISIS affiliates in Egypt and Libya, too. But what are the dozens of other groups in Africa that the Pentagon is fighting with more special operations forces, more outposts, and more missions than ever?
For the most part, the Pentagon won’t say.
Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, chief of US Special Operations Command Africa, made a little-noticed comment earlier this month about these terror groups. After describing ISIS as a transnational and transregional threat, he went on to tell the audience of the Defense One Summit, “Although ISIS is a concern, so is al Shabaab, so is the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and the 43 other illicit groups that operate in the area . . . Boko Haram, AQIM, and other small groups in that area.”
Bolduc mentioned only a handful of terror groups by name, so I asked for clarification from the Department of Defense, Africa Command (AFRICOM), and Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). None offered any names, let alone a complete accounting. SOCAFRICA did not respond to multiple queries by The Intercept. AFRICOM spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo would only state, “I have nothing further for you.”
While the State Department maintains a list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), including 10 operating in Africa (ISIS, Boko Haram, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, al Shabaab, AQIM, Ansaru, Ansar al-Din, Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia, as well as Libya’s Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah), it “does not provide the DoD any legal or policy approval,” according to Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Defense Department spokesperson.
“The DoD does not maintain a separate or similar list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations for the government,” she said in an email to The Intercept. “In general, not all groups of armed individuals on the African continent that potentially present a threat to US interests would be subject to FTO.
“DoD works closely with the Intel Community, Inter-Agency, and the [National Security Council] to continuously monitor threats to US interests; and when required, identifies, tracks, and presents options to mitigate threats to US persons overseas.”
This isn’t the first time the Defense Department has been unable or unwilling to name the groups it’s fighting. In 2013, The Intercept‘s Cora Currier, then writing for ProPublica, asked for a full list of America’s war-on-terror enemies and was told by a Pentagon spokesman that public disclosure of the names could increase the prestige and recruitment prowess of the groups and do “serious damage to national security.”
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School who served as a legal counsel during the George W. Bush administration, told Currier that the Pentagon’s rationale was weak and there was a “very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name.”
The secret of whom the US military is fighting extends to Africa. Since 9/11, US military efforts on the continent have grown in every conceivable way, from funding and manpower to missions and outposts, while at the same time the number of transnational terror groups has increased in linear fashion, according to the military.
The reasons for this are murky. Is it a spillover from events in the Middle East and Central Asia? Are US operations helping to spawn and spread terror groups? Is the Pentagon inflating the terror threat for its own gain? Is the rise of these terrorist organizations due to myriad local factors? Or more likely, is it a combination of these and other reasons?
The task of answering these questions is made more difficult when no one in the military is willing to name more than a handful of the transnational terror groups that are classified as America’s enemies.
Before 9/11, Africa seemed to be free of transnational terror threats, according to the US government.
In 2000, for example, a report prepared under the auspices of the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute examined the “African security environment.” While noting the existence of “internal separatist or rebel movements” in “weak states,” as well as militias and “warlord armies,” it made no mention of Islamic extremism or major transnational terror threats.
In early 2002, a senior Pentagon official speaking on background told reporters that the US invasion of Afghanistan might drive “terrorists” out of that nation and into Africa. “Terrorists associated with al Qaeda and indigenous terrorist groups have been and continue to be present in this region,” he said. “These terrorists will, of course, threaten US personnel and facilities.”
Pressed about genuine transnational threats, the official drew attention to Somali militants, specifically several hundred members of al Itihaad al Islamiyaâ€”a forerunner of al Shabaab — but admitted that even the most extreme members “really have not engaged in acts of terrorism outside Somalia.”
Questioned about ties between Osama bin Laden’s core al Qaeda group and African militants, the official offered tenuous links, like bin Laden’s “salute” to Somali fighters who killed US troops during the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down incident.
The US nonetheless deployed military personnel to Africa in 2002, while the State Department launched a big-budget counterterrorism program, known as the Pan Sahel Initiative, to enhance the capabilities of the militaries of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. In 2005, that program expanded to include Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia and was renamed the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.
In the years that followed, the US increased its efforts. In 2014, for example, the US carried out 674 military missions across the continent — an average of nearly two per day and an increase of about 300 percent since US Africa Command was launched in 2008.
The US also took part in a number of multinational military interventions, including a coalition war in Libya, assistance to French and African forces fighting militants in Central African Republic and Mali, and the training and funding of African proxies to do battle against extremist groups like al Shabaab and Boko Haram.
The US has also carried out a shadow war of special ops raids, drone strikes and other attacks, as well as an expanding number of training missions by elite forces. US special operations teams are now deployed to 23 African countries “seven days a week, 24/7,” according to Bolduc.
“The most effective thing that we do is about 1,400 SOF operators and supporters integrated with our partner nation, integrated with our allies and other coalition partners in a way that allows us to take advantage of each other’s capabilities,” he said.
The US military has also set up a network of bases — although it is loath to refer to them in such terms. A recent report by The Intercept, relying on classified documents leaked by a whistleblower, detailed an archipelago of outposts integral to a secret drone assassination program that was based at the premier US facility on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
That base alone has expanded since 2002 from 88 acres to nearly 600 acres, with more than $600 million allocated or awarded for projects and $1.2 billion in construction and improvements planned for the future.
A continent relatively free of transnational terror threats in 2001 is — after almost 14 years of US military efforts — now rife with them, in the Pentagon’s view. Bolduc said the African continent is “as lethal and dangerous an environment as anywhere else in the world,” and specifically invoked ISIS, which he called “a transnational threat, a transregional threat, as are all threats that we deal with in Africa.”
But the Pentagon would not specify whether the threat levels are stable, increasing, or decreasing. “I can’t get into any details regarding threats or future operations,” Lt. Col. Baldanza stated. “I can say that we will continue to work with our African partners to enable them in their counter-terrorism efforts as they further grow security and stability in the region.”
In the end, Bolduc tempered expectations that his troops might be able to transform the region in any significant way. “The military can only get you so far,” he told the Defense One Summit audience. “So if I’m asked to build a counter-violent extremist organization capability in a particular country, I can do that . . . but if there’s not . . . a valid institution to plug it into, then we are there for a long time.”
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On November 13, 130 people were killed in six attacks in Paris.
On November 27, 309 people were killed in ten attacks in Yemen.
Both were acts of terrorism that targeted and killed innocent civilians.
The first war crime was committed by agents of the Islamic State.
The larger war crime was committed by the US-backed Saudi government.
Saudi-led Yemen Strikes Illegally Kill 309 Civilians: Human Rights Watch Middle East Eye and Agencies
(November 28, 2015) — The Saudi-led coalition conducted at least 10 air strikes in Yemen on Friday that broke the laws of war and killed civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a new report written by the watchdog, an estimated 2,500 Yemeni civilians have died in coalition strikes since March.
The UAE and other regional powers including Qatar, Egypt and Morocco have joined a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen for nine months, in an attempt to crush Houthi rebels who overran much of the country last September.
Both sides have been accused of large-scale human rights violations during the conflict, which has killed over 5,700 people, at least half of whom are thought to be civilians.
Earlier this month UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he would halt UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia if the kingdom is found to have breached international law during the intervention.
Riyadh has steadfastly denied earlier accounts of indiscriminate bombing, but Friday’s detailed report cites a wealth of witness testimony.
The strikes in the report killed at least 309 civilians, wounded at least 414 and breached the allies’ obligation to investigate alleged war crimes.
“Human Rights Watch found either no evident military target or that the attack failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives,” the report said. “Human Rights Watch is unaware of any investigations by Saudi Arabia or other coalition members in these or other reported cases.”
The 10 suspect attacks took place in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, Amran, Hajja, Hodeida and Ibb and hit residential houses, market places, a factory and a civilian prison.
Washington has given strong diplomatic backing to the Saudi offensive and approved a $1.29 billion sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia earlier this month.
A US State Department spokeswoman said it was aware of the Human Rights Watch report and that “any loss of civilian life in a conflict is tragic.” She blamed the Houthis for starting the war and noted that the report also accuses the rebels of shelling civilian areas.
But the spokeswoman added: “We have asked the Saudi government to investigate all credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from coalition-led airstrikes and, if confirmed, to address the factors that led to them.”
Britain and France are also major arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia and its Emirati ally.
Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations Security Council to investigate its allegations and to remind the warring parties of their legal responsibilities.
(November 27, 2015) — The UK government will not launch a special probe into the use of its weapons in the Yemen war, despite reports that a UK-made missile destroyed a civilian factory in September in violation of international law.
A joint investigation by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published on Wednesday found that a ceramics factory in Yemen’s Sanaa governorate appeared to be producing only civilian goods when it was destroyed by a PGM-500 missile made by British firm Marconi.
One person was killed and two injured in the strike on 23 September. The missile used in the strike was supplied in the 1990s, and armaments of its kind are in service with the UAE’s air force.
Witnesses told Amnesty International and HRW that the man killed in the strike, 28-year-old Abdel Karim al-Sawary, was hit by shrapnel as he fled the area. At the time, Sawary was working as a guard at a makeshift detention facility run by Houthi rebels, the probable target of the strike, which was 140 meters from the factory compound.
The four strikes that completely destroyed the factory left the nearby detention facility unscathed. The strike did, however, cause minor damage to a nearby hospital.
Attacks such as these, which fail to distinguish between civilian and military targets, are a violation of international humanitarian law, according to the report.
The UAE and other regional powers including Qatar, Egypt and Morocco are part of a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen for nine months, in an attempt to crush Houthi rebels who overran much of the country last September.
Both sides have been accused of large-scale human rights violations during the conflict, which has killed over 5,700 people, at least half of whom are thought to be civilians.
Earlier this month UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he would halt UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia if the kingdom is found to have breached international law during the intervention.
“We need to see proper investigations,” Hammond told the BBC’s Newsnight programme.
Responding to fresh allegations that UK-made weapons were used in coalition strikes that breached international law, the British Foreign Office stressed that it operates “one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.”
However, asked whether the UK will now launch a specific investigation into the use of British-made weapons in Yemen, a spokesperson for the government instead said that it “monitors alleged international humanitarian law [IHL] violations”.
The spokesperson says the UK has “repeatedly received assurances of compliance with IHL” from Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coalition.
“We are offering advice and training to the Saudis to demonstrate best practice and to help ensure continued compliance with international humanitarian law.”
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Six of Muawiyya al-Amouri’s eight children were killed by a US air strike (MEE/Bilal Abdul Kareem)
(November 26, 2015) — A Syrian father has accused the American military of attempting to cover up the deaths of six of his children and the serious injury of two others in a US-led coalition air strike.
Standing amid the rubble of his former home, Muawiyya al-Amouri told Middle East Eye that six of his children, aged between 10 months and 10 years old, and three members of a refugee family sharing their house, had died in the attack near Atmeh, a town close to the Turkish border, on 11 August.
“A plane belonging to the alliance shelled my house with six missiles. They destroyed my house and my children died. I had some refugees in my home from Ariha [near Idlib city] who died as well,” he said.
US Central Command confirmed that the coalition had carried out an air strike in the area as part of its campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group and launched an investigation into possible civilian casualties following media reports at the time.
The incident was also the subject of a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group. But in recent emails, US military spokespeople told MEE the investigation had concluded that allegations of civilian casualties were “unfounded” and said the strike had targeted an IS “staging area”.
“After careful review and based on the best available evidence, it was determined that allegations of civilian casualties by the coalition were unfounded and deemed not credible,” said Centcom spokesman Kyle Raines.
Yet al-Amouri, who was not in the house at the time, said that five of his daughters had been killed: Fatimah, aged 10; Hayat, aged nine; Amina, aged seven; Asia, aged five and Marwa, aged four; as well as his 10-month-old son Abdullah.
Muawiyya al-Amouri’s 10-month-old son Abdullah was killed in the US air strike (MEE/Bilal Abdul Kareem)
He also identified the three members of the refugee family who were killed as Umm Tawfiq, her son Yusuf Yaseen, 25, and daughter Fatima Yaseen, 17.
Al-Amouri’s two surviving children, Ali, aged five, and Nariman, aged two, were pulled out of the rubble with serious injuries. His wife also suffered injuries including a broken arm and leg.
He said his son had required several operations for head injuries and had spent a month in hospital, while his daughter could no longer walk, was blind and could not speak.
“She used to walk and talk, she had no problems. Now her legs are as you can see. I don’t know what is wrong with them. She doesn’t speak, doesn’t see, and I don’t know what to do for her,” he said.
Asked what his message was to those he believes carried out the attack, Al-Amouri said: “I would say to them, Allah is enough for us as a disposer of our affairs. We hadn’t even finished with Bashar [al-Assad, the Syrian president] and then the alliance [the US-led coalition] came. I am charging the alliance and I am suing them. I’m a civilian and six of my children were killed, my house was destroyed and now I have nothing.”
A doctor who was on duty at a nearby hospital on the night of the air strike, who did not want to be identified, told MEE that he had initially feared the hospital was being targeted because of the force of the explosions.
“Around 8:15pm we felt and heard the powerful blasts,” he said. “Approximately 15 minutes later casualties began coming in. There were three hospitals that the injured were brought to. Fatima Yaseen [one of the refugees] was brought to our hospital. She died of her injuries shortly after her arrival.”
Al-Amouri and other local residents also rejected US claims that IS had been present in the area.
Asked by MEE to clarify what the target of air strike had been, Centcom spokesman Major Tim Smith wrote: “The target was a Daesh [IS] staging area in the vicinity of Atmeh. And it was a successful strike by the Coalition.
“The Coalition takes a lot of time and research into developing our targets to ensure maximum effect against Daesh and to minimize the potential for civilian casualties. No evidence links casualties or injuries to the Coalition air strike.”
But Al-Amouri said: “IS hasn’t been in this area for approximately two years. This is my house. My home. It was occupied by me, my children, some refugees. All civilians.”
IS Not in Area of Strike
Sources in Atmeh told MEE that IS had been forced out of the town by local rebel groups in early 2014 after setting up checkpoints where some residents had been shot, and attempting to take over local mosques.
Initial reports of the air strike had suggested that the main target had been a nearby building used as a headquarters and munitions factory by a rebel group originally from Homs known as Jaysh al-Sunna. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 10 fighters as well as civilians had been killed.
But Tauqir Sharif, a British aid worker based in Atmeh’s nearby refugee camp, told MEE that all the victims he had seen had been civilians. He was a few hundred metres away when the missiles struck and helped to pull bodies out of the rubble, he said.
“In the factory nobody was killed. They didn’t kill any soldiers or military personnel. The warehouse was clearly a warehouse and the house was clearly a civilian house. It was very precise, they targeted that house. There was nothing left,” he said.
“The strike was at sunset and we were digging all night to take people out of the ground. The last child was taken out at about 5.30 in the morning. It was all in darkness. We were using torches.”
Sharif said that local residents did not know why the coalition had attacked a group with no affiliation to IS or Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda-linked group it has occasionally also targeted, including in a previous air strike in Atmeh in March.
“I’d never heard of this group, Jaysh al-Sunnah, until the strike. I didn’t even know they existed in Atmeh,” he said.
He later learned rebels were making mortar bombs and distributing them to different groups to use against President Assad’s forces.
Atmeh and the surrounding area has been relatively safe since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 because its proximity to the Turkish border has protected it from air attack by government forces, drawing thousands of Syrians displaced from elsewhere in the country.
“This has always been known as a safe zone but it has created a sense of fear,” said Sharif. “Many locals are saying the reason the Americans did this is they don’t want people to help the rebels. People are afraid now to help the rebels, because here they just want a safe place to live.”
Doubts over Centcom Probe
Centcom’s response to MEE also appears to raise questions about the rigour of its inquiries into the Atmeh strike. At the time, it had initially denied reports of the attack, but later said that had been due to confusion over the spelling of the town’s name.
Asked what evidence investigators had considered and whether they had sought to contact witnesses in Atmeh, Major Smith wrote: “When comparing what was reported to be eyewitness reports, photos of the scene, photos of the casualties at the scene, and the various social media videos and pictures to coalition target imagery, the assessment found significant contradictions. Most glaringly is the fact that there are no pictures that show casualties at the strike location.”
Aleji Wael, a spokesman for the Syrian Network for Human Rights, told MEE that the US military had not contacted the organisation despite its report into the attack, and said he was surprised it had dismissed reports of civilian deaths.
“If they say that they have initiated an investigation into this incident I would imagine that they would get in touch with the people who reported it,” he said.
“We are confident that it was a coalition strike. Our team of researchers have interviewed and spoken to eyewitnesses and victims of the strike. I would encourage the US authorities to show evidence of this investigation and publish the results so we are informed about what they think.”
The US military, which has conducted about 95 percent of more than 2,800 air strikes in Syria since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve against IS last September, has so far published only one report acknowledging civilian casualties in Syria; two children it said were likely killed near Harem in Idlib province in November 2014.
On Friday, the US also said that four civilians had been killed in a coalition air strike against an IS checkpoint near Hatra in Iraq.
In July, the coalition bombing campaign was described by Lt Gen Charles Q Brown Jr, the commanding general, as “the most precise in the history of warfare”. But monitoring groups have accused the coalition of killing hundreds of civilians in both Syria and Iraq, and of failing to properly investigate reports of casualties.
Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer at the human rights organisation Reprieve which has taken legal action on behalf of civilian victims of drone strikes, called for the US to launch “proper, public investigations into dozens of credible claims of civilian casualties”.
“We’ve seen this time and time again in the war on terror. The US wages a ‘precise’ air campaign and claims little to no civilian damage. Yet, the realities on the ground paint a different picture. They paint a picture of faulty intelligence, shattered lives and terrorised communities who are left with nowhere to turn for answers,” Gibson told MEE.
“The reality is that the US quite simply has no idea who it is killing. This lack of transparency is the hallmark of a US counterterrorism approach that fires missiles based on faulty intelligence and no accountability.”
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Former Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified”
By Cruelty of Assassination Program Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept
(November 19 2015) — US drone operators are inflicting heavy civilian casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children and other innocents, four former operators said at a press briefing today in New York.
The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.
In addition to Haas, the operators are former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant along with former senior airmen Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis. The men have conducted kill missions in many of the major theaters of the post-9/11 war on terror, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have seen the abuse firsthand,” said Bryant, “and we are horrified.”
An Air Force spokesperson did not address the specific allegations but wrote in an email that “the demands placed on the [drone] force are tremendous. A great deal of effort is being taken to bring about relief, stabilize the force, and sustain a vital warfighter capability. . . . Airmen are expected to adhere to established standards of behavior. Behavior found to be inconsistent with Air Force core values is appropriately looked into and if warranted, disciplinary action is taken.”
Beyond the press conference, the group also denounced the program yesterday in an interview with The Guardian and in an open letter addressed to President Obama.
At the press conference, Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”
The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to keep details of the drone program secret, but in their statements today the former operators opened up about the culture that has developed among those responsible for carrying it out.
Haas said operators become acculturated to denying the humanity of the people on their targeting screens. “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring,” he said. “Shooting was something to be lauded and something we should strive for.”
The deaths of children and other non-combatants in strikes was rationalized by many drone operators, Haas said. As a flight instructor, Haas claimed to have been non-judicially reprimanded by his superiors for failing a student who had expressed “bloodlust,” an overwhelming eagerness to kill.
Haas also described widespread alcohol and drug abuse among drone pilots. Drone operators, he said, would frequently get intoxicated using bath salts and synthetic marijuana to avoid possible drug testing and in an effort to “bend that reality and try to picture yourself not being there.”
Haas said that he knew at least a half-dozen people in his unit who were using bath salts and that drug use had “impaired” them during missions.
The Obama administration’s assassination program has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. This October, The Intercept published a cache of classified documents leaked by a government whistleblower that showed how the program killed people based on unreliable intelligence, that the vast majority of people killed in a multi-year Afghanistan campaign were not the intended targets, and that the military by default labeled non-targets killed in the campaign as enemies rather than civilians.
The operators said that they felt increasing urgency to speak out in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week; they believe drone assassinations have fed the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Westmoreland said of drones: “In the short term they’re good at killing people, but in the long term they’re not effective.
There are 15-year-olds growing up who have not lived a day without drones overhead, but you also have expats who are watching what’s going on in their home countries and seeing regularly the violations that are happening there, and that is something that could radicalize them.”
In their open letter to Obama, the former drone pilots made a similar point, writing that during their service they “came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS,” going on to describe the program as “one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
At the press conference today, the pilots echoed these sentiments. “It seems like our actions of late have only made the problems worse. . . . The drones are good at killing people, just not the right ones,” Bryant said. “Have we forgotten our humanity in the pursuit of vengeance and security?”
LOS ANGELES (November 24, 2015) â€“ Memorandums on the legal basis for targeted killings of people in other countries that the US government believes are involved in militant attacks can be kept secret, a federal court ruled in a document released on Monday.
A three-judge panel of the New York-based US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied an effort to obtain the memos by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) under the US Freedom of Information Act.
The ruling was detailed in a 22-page opinion reached last month but placed under temporary seal.
The legal action by the New York Times and the ACLU seeking the release of the documents was launched after a 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric who joined al Qaeda’s affiliate in that country and directed several attacks.
The same appeals court decided last year to release key portions of a 41-page memorandum from 2010 on drone killings, on the grounds that senior US government officials waived the right to secrecy for that particular document by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings.
The ACLU and the New York Times had then sought the release of certain other memos from the US Department of Justice’s office of legal counsel on targeted killings but a district court ordered them withheld.
ACLU attorneys and lawyers for the New York Times argued in their latest appeal that the memos constituted “working law” that must be publicly released.
In his opinion, however, Judge Jon Newman denied that argument to force the disclosure of the memos from the office of legal counsel.
“At most, they provide, in their specific contexts, legal advice as to what a department or agency ‘is permitted to do’ … and its advice ‘is not the law of an agency unless the agency adopts it’,” Newman wrote, in quoting from a related federal court decision from 2014.
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