California Must Retain Control of its Electric Grid Wenonah Hauter / The San Francisco Chronicle
(June 6, 2018) — California’s energy future is at a crossroads. The state is both a renewable energy powerhouse and a major producer and consumer of fossil fuels. California’s leaders must decide if the state will provide a model for the nation by replacing its fossil fuels with renewable energy to avoid climate disaster, or stay hooked on dirty energy.
Gov. Jerry Brown has tried to have it both ways. Despite preaching about climate change as our greatest challenge, he has supported fracking and a cap-and-trade system that allows the oil-and-gas industry to pay to continue business as usual, rather than reduce its pollution at the source. Brown has allowed the dangerous Aliso Canyon gas storage facility to remain open, even after it had the worst blowout in our nation’s history and still springs leaks.
Now, California faces its biggest test yet over whether it will truly advance to become a renewably powered economy.
The Legislature is considering legislation, including Assembly Bill 813, to turn over the management of the California energy grid to an unelected regional board that would govern a single energy market across the Western United States.
The regional board would replace California’s Independent System Operator and would ultimately answer to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, now under the Trump administration.
This move could result in a severe setback to California’s renewable energy future. A regional board comprising largely out-of-state interests could load the grid with fracked gas and coal produced by Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico and Colorado. Trump’s FERC, which is unabashedly pro-fossil fuel, would have the final say and has already imposed its agenda on other regional systems in the country.
Regionalizing California’s grid would increase speculation and raise energy bills for Californians. The proposal would transfer the California-based market for buying and selling electricity to a Western interstate market.
While speculation in a financial instrument pegged to electric transmission is already costing Californians more than $700 million, the problem could grow worse in a Western market with even less oversight.
The plan is similar to the electricity deregulation of the 1990s that allowed corporations such as Enron to treat California’s energy system like a casino, which resulted in Californians being overcharged and blackouts caused by manipulation.
Deregulation, which allowed private utilities to separate transmission and power production, has also resulted in California ratepayers paying billions of dollars for unnecessary gas-fired power plants, and profits for energy speculators.
The NRG corporation’s announcement that it plans to close three gas-fired power plants on the Southern California coast shows that state regulators allowed the industry to build more power plants than were needed. Meanwhile, California leads the country in solar production but has to give away solar power to neighboring states because our grid has too much natural gas — a problem that a Western grid would prolong and worsen.
(June 13, 2018) — When the California Public Utilities Commission issued its May 3 white paper on change in California’s electricity system and customer choice, it sounded an alarm of impending doom due to diversification coming from both local communities and technologies. Don’t be fooled by this false alarm.
Good things are happening in California’s electricity markets. Community choice aggregators are now providing electric generation service to millions of Californians. CCAs are public agencies that contract for cleaner, low-cost electric supply delivered to you by utilities such as PG&E.
The CPUC report asks important questions about the future of California’s electricity system, but it misses the mark through its lack of understanding of how CCAs are governed, whom they serve and what they procure. CCAs are a critical part of the solution for California’s challenges.
Let me address three contentions in the paper:
Renewable energy: CCAs across California are leading the charge to deliver ever higher quantities of renewable energy. In fact, since their formation in 2007, CCAs have gained the ability to power 300,000 homes with 100 percent renewable energy.
Peninsula Clean Energy has a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Marin Clean Energy, which serves Marin, Napa and Contra Costa counties and Benicia in Solano County, already serves its customers with more than 55 percent renewable energy.
Disadvantaged communities: By the end of 2018, CCAs will be operating in 18 counties, from Humboldt to Alameda, San Benito to Riverside. More than 22 percent of their customers receive special discounted rates designed for lower-income households. A study by East Bay Community Energy found that CCAs also serve high-poverty communities at the same rate as the investor-owned utilities — just over 19 percent each.
Governance: Every operating CCA in California is governed by a board of local elected officials. These mayors, council members and supervisors are directly elected by residents and actively govern a whole range of critical infrastructure, from water systems to mass transportation. Many have set stringent climate-action goals within their jurisdictions that far exceed the state’s goals. CCA boards have oversight over all facets of operations, from reviewing and setting rates to approving procurement.
The local governance model helps to ensure that our procurement, rates and programs are designed to meet the specific demands of each community, instead of relying on the one-size-fits-all approach of the investor-owned utility model set by the commission.
Additionally, all CCAs must submit plans to the commission to ensure that they meet reliability and emissions reductions goals for all of California. In addition to the local boards, the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the Legislature each have oversight responsibilities.
I appreciate the California Public Utilities Commission’s concern around rapid change in the electricity sector, but through my experience and from the track record of CCAs in California, community choice is the solution. Consumers deserve more choice through innovative community programs, renewable options and local control. They shouldn’t be forced into an antiquated monopoly structure pushed by the investor-owned utilities’ self-interest.
Nick Chaset was chief of staff to California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker until last August, when he became the CEO of East Bay Community Energy, a community choice aggregator.
(May 9, 2018) — Bigger, more intense forest fires, longer droughts, warmer ocean temperatures and an ever shrinking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada are “unequivocal” evidence of the ruinous domino-effects that climate change is having on California, a new California Environmental Protection Agency report states.
The 350-page report released Wednesday tracks 36 indicators of climate change, including a comprehensive list of human impacts and the effects on wildlife, the ocean, lakes, rivers and the mountains.
The study pulled together research from scientists, academia and research institutions and found that despite a marked downward trend in greenhouse-gas emissions in California, including a 90 percent drop in black carbon from tailpipe emissions over the past 50 years, CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in seawater are increasing at a steady rate.
“To me, it shows how important it is to bring carbon emissions down to zero and to limit the amount of climate change that occurs as much as possible,” said Christopher Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute and a top climate scientist whose research is reflected in the report. “The risks are coming into sharper focus, the range of impacts are coming into sharper focus. (The report) reinforces and amplifies the messages we’ve already seen.”
The report, called Indicators of Climate Change in California , shows a dramatic increase in temperatures since 1895, especially since the early 1980s. The warmest year in California history was 2014, followed closely by 2015, 2017 and 2016. Most alarming of all, though, are night temperatures, which have increased 2.3 degrees over the past century, the report notes.
Extreme heat waves have also increased since 1950, according to the report. Record heat combined with drought has had a debilitating effect on the ecosystem.
The drought from 2012 to 2016 was the most extreme in terms of high temperatures since records began in 1895. Some 129 million trees died during the drought, which deprived the trees of water, dried out their sap and promoted infestations of bark beetles, which thrived in the heat.
The drought coincided with record-low snowpack. Snowmelt has, in fact, been in a continual decline, decreasing by 9 percent since 1906, according to the climate document. The largest glaciers in the Sierra have shrunk by an average of about 70 percent, the report said.
Meanwhile, the water temperature in Lake Tahoe — California’s signature high-altitude water basin — has warmed nearly one degree since 1970. The study said the warming has been 10 times faster over the past four years.
Sea levels have also been rising and temperatures have been warming, according to the report. The mean sea level in San Francisco has risen 7 inches since 1924. Oxygen depletion has also been detected in the water off San Diego.
The result of all this change has been an alarming increase in extreme weather-related calamities. The five largest fire years since 1950 have all occurred since 2006, and last year saw the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history. These included the Thomas Fire in Southern California and the wind-blown wildfires that killed 45 people and destroyed 8,900 homes in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties in October.
“The observed changes in wildfire have outpaced all of the models,” said LeRoy Westerling, professor at UC Merced who has created fire models for the California Energy Commission. “Warmer temperatures enhance the droughts, and that drives more wildfire.”
Westerling said there are likely to be more forest fires, as opposed to chaparral fires, in California in future years. That means more wildlife habitat will be destroyed by fire, humans will be breathing more particulate matter, more homes will be in danger, and the cost of homeowners insurance will continue to rise.
“Under any of the scenarios we’ve looked at, we see increased wildfires in the Sierra Nevada, Southern Cascade and North Coast range forests because their elevation makes them more sensitive to temperature increases.” he said. “It means we are going to have big increases in air pollution emissions from these burning forest fires.”
But there are bright spots.
Senate Bill 32, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, put California on course to reduce emissions an additional 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The state expects to drop below 1990 levels within two years. Concentrations of black carbon from vehicle exhaust have already dropped 90 percent over the past 50 years even as diesel fuel consumption has increased seven-fold, according to the report.
California’s leadership role in the development of clean fuels and sustainable energy has largely been driving the market in the rest of the country. Experts say that innovative spirit, in defiance of the political winds blowing in Washington, D.C., have put the state at the forefront of a new economic model that could eventually make clean energy the standard throughout the world.
“As California works to both fight climate change and adapt to it, it is critical that we understand the dramatic impacts climate change is already having in our state,” said Matthew Rodriquez, the California secretary for environmental protection. “California’s climate leadership is unquestioned, and this report builds on the essential scientific foundation that informs our efforts to respond to climate change.”
Still, California contributes only a fraction of the world’s carbon emissions.
“If I were going to look across North America, ground zero for climate change is the Arctic. It is just changing really, really rapidly,” said Steven Beissinger, professor of conservation biology at UC Berkeley. “But California is an important laboratory to understand the effects of climate change on biodiversity.”
Key Findings Temperature: Average air temperature increases have accelerated since the mid-1970s. The last four years were the hottest on record.
Wildfires: The five largest fire years since 1950 occurred after 2006. The Wine Country fires in 2017 were the deadliest and most destructive in state history.
Drought: California is becoming drier. The 2012-16 drought was the most extreme on record.
Species migration: About 75 percent of small mammal species and 80 percent of bird species surveyed in the Sierra Nevada region have shifted ranges in an effort to find suitable habitat.
Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer and an experienced reporter and writer who has traveled the world covering, among other stories, the Beijing Olympics, Hurricane Katrina, illegal American tourism in Cuba and development in Mexico. He has written investigative pieces and humor, covered high-profile court cases, politics, crime, historical sagas and social movements. Now covering the environment, natural resources and public lands, he is the San Francisco Chronicle‘s point man on the National Park Service, California state parks and issues relating to climate change.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Congo Says It Will Open Two National Parks Up to Oil Drilling Amedee Mwarabu and Aaron Ross / Reuters
KINSHASA, DRC (June 29, 2018) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s government said on Friday that it has decided to open up parts of Virunga and Salonga National Parks, home to mountain gorillas, bonobos and other rare species, to oil drilling.
Earlier proposals to allow oil exploration in the parks met fierce resistance from environmental activists, who say drilling would place wildlife at risk and release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing global warming.
The government has defended its right to authorise drilling anywhere in the country and said it is mindful of protecting animals and plants in the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The cabinet said in a statement that it had approved the establishment of interministerial commissions charged with preparing plans to declassify sections of the parks, including 1,720 sq km, or 21.5 percent, of eastern Congo’s Virunga.
Virunga sits on the forest-cloaked volcanoes of central Africa and is home to over half the global population of mountain gorillas. British company Soco International performed seismic testing there but let its license lapse in 2015.
Salonga covers 33,350 sq km of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, and contains bonobos, forest elephants, dwarf chimpanzees and Congo peacocks.
Documents seen by The Independent show
the government plans to re-draw the borders
of the Salonga and Virunga national parks
(May 4, 2018) — The Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to reclassify two protected national parks to allow oil exploration.
Documents seen by The Independent show the government wants to redraw the boundaries of the Salonga and Virunga national parks, which are home to critically endangered species such as mountain gorillas, to remove protected status from certain areas.
Both parks are UNESCO World Heritage sites, a status which in theory should protect them from oil exploration and other extractive activities.
In a letter, Congo’s oil minister Aime Ngoi Muken invited the environment minister and the minister for scientific research to a special commission meeting to discuss the plans on 27 April.
Minutes and notes of the meeting give more details about the areas in which the Congolese government wants to allow exploration.
In another series of letters seen by NGO Global Witness, Congo’s oil minister Ngoi Muken argued for the need to open up the protected sites for oil exploration and set out the legal procedures to do so.
Global Witness said the plans would be a violation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a signatory.
The Virunga park is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and is home to about a quarter of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
According to UNESCO, the Salonga park is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest, home to many endangered species such as bonobos, dwarf chimpanzees, Congo peacocks and forest elephants.
Peter Jones, a campaign leader on corruption for Global Witness, said the attempt to open up the parks must be halted immediately.
“If we cannot protect even UNESCO World Heritage Sites from oil exploration where in the world is safe from the fossil fuel industry?
“The potential damage to these rare and valuable ecosystems is enormous. The Congolese government should be seeking to extend protection of these areas rather than selling them off to the highest bidder.”
In February, Congolese President Kabila authorised oil exploration inside areas, which partially overlapped with the Salonga park.
At the time, oil minister oil minister Ngoi Muken said no land should be off limits for oil exploration in the country.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
On the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty:
An Exercise in Bad Faith Alice Slater / Pressenza
(June 30, 2018) — On July 1, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will turn 50 years old. In that agreement, five nuclear weapons states — the US, Russia, UK, France, and China — promised, a half a century ago, to make “good faith efforts” to give up their nuclear weapons, while non-nuclear weapons states promised not to acquire them. Every country in the world agreed to join the treaty except for India, Pakistan, and Israel which then went on to develop their own nuclear arsenals.
To sweeten the pot, the NPT’s Faustian bargain promised the non-nuclear weapons states an “inalienable right” to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power. Every nuclear power reactor is a potential bomb factory since its operation produces radioactive waste, which can be enriched into bomb-grade fuel for nuclear bombs.
North Korea developed its promised “peaceful” nuclear technology and then walked out of the treaty and made nuclear bombs. And it was feared that Iran was on its way to enriching their “peaceful” nuclear waste to make nuclear weapons as well, which is why Obama negotiated the “Iran deal” which provided more stringent inspections of Iran’s enrichment activity, now under assault by the US with the election of Donald Trump.
Despite the passage of 50 years since the NPT states promised “good faith” efforts to disarm, and the required Review and Extension conference 25 years ago (which since then has instituted substantive review conferences every five years as a condition for having extended the NPT indefinitely rather than letting it lapse in 1995), there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons on our planet. All but some 1,000 of them are in the US and Russia which keep nearly 2,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert, poised and ready to fire on each other’s cities in a matter of minutes.
Only this month, the Trump administration upped the ante on a plan developed by Obama’s war machine to spend $1 trillion over the next ten years on two new nuclear bomb factories, new weapons, and nuclear-firing planes, missiles and submarines.
Trump’s new proposal for a massive Pentagon budget of $716 billion, an increase of $82 billion, was passed in the House and now in the Senate by 85 Republicans and Democrats alike, with only 10 Senators voting against it!
When it comes to gross and violent military spending, bi-partisanship is the modus operandi! And the most radical aspect of the budget is a massive expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, ending a 15-year prohibition on developing “more usable” low-yield nuclear warheads that can be delivered by submarine as well as by air-launched cruise missiles.
“More usable” in this case, are bombs that are at least as destructive as the atom bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the subsequently developed hydrogen bombs in the US arsenal are magnitudes more devastating and catastrophic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his March, 2018 State of the Nation Address, also spoke of new nuclear- weapons bearing missiles being developed by Russia in response to the US having pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then planting missiles in eastern Europe. He noted that: Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system.
Under this treaty, the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defence systems only in one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the US around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base.
Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.
We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security.
Ironically, this week the US Department of State, under the heading “Diplomacy in Action”, issued a joint statement with US Secretary of State Pompeo and the Russian and UK Foreign Ministers , extolling the NPT as the “essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat — then and now — that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe . . . and has limited the risk that the vast devastation of nuclear war would be unleashed.”
All this is occurring against the stunning new development of the negotiation and passage of a new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — the culmination of a ten-year campaign by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which succeeded in lobbying for 122 nations to sign this new treaty which prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.
Just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapon, as well as landmines and cluster bombs, the new treaty to ban nuclear weapons closes the legal gap created by the NPT which only requires “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament, and doesn’t prohibit them.
At the last NPT review in 2015, South Africa spoke eloquently about the state of nuclear apartheid created by the NPT where the nuclear “haves” hold the rest of the world hostage to their devastating nuclear threats, which provided even more impetus for the successful negotiation of the ban treaty.
ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for their winning campaign and is now engaged in lobbying for ratification by the 50 states required by the ban treaty to enter into force. To date, 58 nations have signed the treaty, with 10 national legislatures having weighed in to ratify it. (See: www.icanw.org)
None of the nine nuclear weapons states or the US nuclear alliance nations in NATO, as well as South Korea, Australia, and surprisingly, Japan, have signed the treaty and all of them boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands because a grassroots campaign resulted in their Parliament voting to mandate attendance at the ban negotiations, even though they voted against the treaty.
Grassroots groups are organizing in the five NATO states that host US nuclear weapons — Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey — to remove these weapons from US bases now that they are prohibited.
It remains to be seen whether the NPT will continue to have relevance in light of the evident lack of integrity by the parties who promised “good faith” efforts for nuclear disarmament, and instead are all modernizing and inventing new forms of nuclear terror.
The recent detente between the US and North Korea, with proposals to sign a peace treaty and formally end the Korean War, after a 65 year cease-fire since 1953, and the proposed meeting between the two nuclear gargantuans, the US and Russia, together with the new nuclear ban treaty, may be an opportunity to shift gears and look forward to a world without nuclear weapons if we can overcome the corrupt forces that keep the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex in business, seemingly forever!
LONDON (June 20, 2018) — From 1:30 pm today, while Parliament was sitting inside, 60 Trident Ploughshares activists from across the UK chained themselves to the railings outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. They are calling for the UK to Sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and scrap Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system.
Members of the campaign group Trident Ploughshares chained themselves along thirteen sections of wrought iron fence stretching from Big Ben to Parliament Square and hung banners that proclaim “Denuclearize the World â€“ Sign the Treaty” and “Trident Terrorises.”
Angie Zelter from Knighton in Wales said “Since the end of the Cold War the world has largely forgotten about nuclear weapons. An exchange of nuclear weapons deployed around the world right now would cause a famine and the deaths of billions of people.
“The situation is urgent. As long as the UK and other countries continue to rely on nuclear weapons to project power countries like North Korea will want to have them too, increasing the risk that someday they will be used again.
“Instead of working towards nuclear disarmament as they promised the UK and other nuclear weapons states are building a new generation of nuclear weapons and putting us all at risk of nuclear war. Tensions between the West and Russia or in the Middle East could lead to conflict.
“Let’s choose real security. Sign the Ban Treaty.”
CND campaigns non-violently to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations. CND opposes all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction: their development, manufacture, testing, deployment and use or threatened use by any country.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Trump’s Military Drops a Bomb Every 12 Minutes
And No One Is Talking About It Lee Camp / TruthDig
(June 19, 2018) — We live in a state of perpetual war, and we never feel it. While you get your gelato at the hip place where they put those cute little mint leaves on the side, someone is being bombed in your name. While you argue with the 17-year-old at the movie theater who gave you a small popcorn when you paid for a large, someone is being obliterated in your name.
While we sleep and eat and make love and shield our eyes on a sunny day, someone’s home, family, life and body are being blown into a thousand pieces in our names.
Once every 12 minutes.
The United States military drops an explosive with a strength you can hardly comprehend once every 12 minutes. And that’s odd, because we’re technically at war with — let me think — zero countries. So that should mean zero bombs are being dropped, right?
Hell no! You’ve made the common mistake of confusing our world with some sort of rational, cogent world in which our military-industrial complex is under control, the music industry is based on merit and talent, Legos have gently rounded edges (so when you step on them barefoot, it doesn’t feel like an armor-piercing bullet just shot straight up your sphincter), and humans are dealing with climate change like adults rather than burying our heads in the sand while trying to convince ourselves that the sand around our heads isn’t getting really, really hot.
You’re thinking of a rational world. We do not live there.
Instead, we live in a world where the Pentagon is completely and utterly out of control. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the $21 trillion (that’s not a typo) that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. But I didn’t get into the number of bombs that ridiculous amount of money buys us.
President George W. Bush’s military dropped 70,000 bombs on five countries. But of that outrageous number, only 57 of those bombs really upset the international community.
Because there were 57 strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen — countries the US was neither at war with nor had ongoing conflicts with. And the world was kind of horrified. There was a lot of talk that went something like, “Wait a second. We’re bombing in countries outside of war zones?
Is it possible that’s a slippery slope ending in us just bombing all the goddamn time? (Awkward pause.) . . . Nah. Whichever president follows Bush will be a normal adult person (with a functional brain stem of some sort) and will therefore stop this madness.”
We were so cute and naive back then, like a kitten when it’s first waking up in the morning.
It’s not just the fact that bombing outside of a war zone is a horrific violation of international law and global norms. It’s also the morally reprehensible targeting of people for pre-crime, which is what we’re doing and what the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report” warned us about.
(Humans are very bad at taking the advice of sci-fi dystopias. If we’d listened to “1984,” we wouldn’t have allowed the existence of the National Security Agency. If we listened to “The Terminator,” we wouldn’t have allowed the existence of drone warfare. And if we’d listened to “The Matrix,” we wouldn’t have allowed the vast majority of humans to get lost in a virtual reality of spectacle and vapid nonsense while the oceans die in a swamp of plastic waste. . . . But you know, who’s counting?)
There was basically a media blackout while Obama was president. You could count on one hand the number of mainstream media reports on the Pentagon’s daily bombing campaigns under Obama. And even when the media did mention it, the underlying sentiment was, “Yeah, but look at how suave Obama is while he’s OK’ing endless destruction. He’s like the Steve McQueen of aerial death.”
And let’s take a moment to wipe away the idea that our “advanced weaponry” hits only the bad guys. As David DeGraw put it, “According to the CIA’s own documents, the people on the ‘kill list,’ who were targeted for ‘death-by-drone,’ accounted for only 2% of the deaths caused by the drone strikes.”
Two percent. Really, Pentagon? You got a two on the test? You get five points just for spelling your name right.
But those 70,000 bombs dropped by Bush — it was child’s play. DeGraw again: “[Obama] dropped 100,000 bombs in seven countries. He out-bombed Bush by 30,000 bombs and 2 countries.”
You have to admit that’s impressively horrific. That puts Obama in a very elite group of Nobel Peace Prize winners who have killed that many innocent civilians. The reunions are mainly just him and Henry Kissinger wearing little hand-drawn name tags and munching on deviled eggs.
However, we now know that Donald Trump’s administration puts all previous presidents to shame. The Pentagon’s numbers show that during George W. Bush’s eight years he averaged 24 bombs dropped per day, which is 8,750 per year. Over the course of Obama’s time in office, his military dropped 34 bombs per day, 12,500 per year. And in Trump’s first year in office, he averaged 121 bombs dropped per day, for an annual total of 44,096.
Trump’s military dropped 44,000 bombs in his first year in office.
He has basically taken the gloves off the Pentagon, taken the leash off an already rabid dog. So the end result is a military that’s behaving like Lil Wayne crossed with Conor McGregor. You look away for one minute, look back, and are like, “What the fuck did you just do? I was gone for like, a second!”
Under Trump, five bombs are dropped per hour — every hour of every day. That averages out to a bomb every 12 minutes.
And which is more outrageous — the crazy amount of death and destruction we are creating around the world, or the fact that your mainstream corporate media basically NEVER investigates it?
They talk about Trump’s flaws. They say he’s a racist, bulbous-headed, self-centered idiot (which is totally accurate) — but they don’t criticize the perpetual Amityville massacre our military perpetrates by dropping a bomb every 12 minutes, most of them killing 98 percent non-targets.
When you have a Department of War with a completely unaccountable budget — as we saw with the $21 trillion — and you have a president with no interest in overseeing how much death the Department of War is responsible for, then you end up dropping so many bombs that the Pentagon has reported we are running out of bombs.
Oh, dear God. If we run out of our bombs, then how will we stop all those innocent civilians from . . . farming? Think of all the goats that will be allowed to go about their days.
And, as with the $21 trillion, the theme seems to be “unaccountable.”
Journalist Witney Webb wrote in February: “Shockingly, more than 80 percent of those killed have never even been identified and the CIA’s own documents have shown that they are not even aware of who they are killing — avoiding the issue of reporting civilian deaths simply by naming all those in the strike zone as enemy combatants.”
That’s right. We kill only enemy combatants. How do we know they’re enemy combatants? Because they were in our strike zone. How did we know it was a strike zone? Because there were enemy combatants there. How did we find out they were enemy combatants? Because they were in the strike zone. . . . Want me to keep going, or do you get the point? I have all day.
This is not about Trump, even though he’s a maniac. It’s not about Obama, even though he’s a war criminal. It’s not about Bush, even though he has the intelligence of boiled cabbage. (I haven’t told a Bush joke in about eight years. Felt kind of good. Maybe I’ll get back into that.)
This is about a runaway military-industrial complex that our ruling elite are more than happy to let loose. Almost no one in Congress or the presidency tries to restrain our 121 bombs a day. Almost no one in a mainstream outlet tries to get people to care about this.
Recently, the hashtag #21Trillion for the unaccounted Pentagon money has gained some traction. Let’s get another one started: #121BombsADay.
One every 12 minutes.
Do you know where they’re hitting? Who they’re murdering? Why?
One hundred and twenty-one bombs a day rip apart the lives of families a world away — in your name and my name and the name of the kid doling out the wrong size popcorn at the movie theater.
We are a rogue nation with a rogue military and a completely unaccountable ruling elite. The government and military you and I support by being a part of this society are murdering people every 12 minutes, and in response, there’s nothing but a ghostly silence. It is beneath us as a people and a species to give this topic nothing but silence. It is a crime against humanity.
Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. If you think this column is important, please share it. Also, check out Lee Camp’s weekly TV show “Redacted Tonight” and weekly podcast “Common Censored.”
Truthdig is running a reader-funded project to document the Poor People’s Campaign.
(February 2, 2018) — During the 2016 election, Donald Trump — quite successfully — managed to convince a sizable portion of the electorate that he would take a much more anti-interventionist stance, in terms of US military entanglements abroad, than would his contender Hillary Clinton. Yet, throughout his first year as president, such differences have been few and far between.
In particular, it has been Trump’s dangerous expansion of the drone war that has authoritatively destroyed any illusion that Trump would genuinely put “America first” — and put an end to dangerous military operations abroad that only serve to exacerbate the horrendously bungled War on Terror.
For instance, after gutting the already lax regulations on drone strikes and giving the CIA free rein to kill whomever they choose, it took Trump only seven months to surpass the number of civilian deaths that occurred during Obama’s entire eight-year presidency, according to non-profit monitoring group Airwars.
The covert drone war program, first created under George W. Bush, was a key part of the War on Terror whereby terror suspects could be targeted and killed covertly. However, under his presidency, only 57 strikes were conducted in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, with between 384 and 807 civilians killed. The program was greatly expanded during the Obama administration, which conducted 563 strikes in those same countries. Now, under Trump, drone strikes targeting these countries have skyrocketed.
In 2017, the US bombed Yemen 127 times alone, compared to 32 strikes conducted in 2016. In Pakistan and Somalia, the number of strikes have also increased under Trump. In Somalia, for instance, 34 drone strikes were conducted last year, the same number as all US drone strikes conducted in Somalia from 2001 to 2016.
As the number of drone strikes has grown, so too has the number of civilian casualties. Trump’s drone assassination rate is now eight times that of Obama. Obama’s, in turn, was 10 times that of Bush, making Trump’s drone kill rate a whopping 80 times higher than that of Bush. In other words, Trump is on track to be a record-breaking war criminal.
However, the problem is bigger than just the innocent lives claimed as a result of the “covert” drone war. Civilian deaths resulting from US airstrikes in Iraq, Libya and Syria reached between 3,923 to 6,102 last year under Trump. This startling figure marks a massive increase from civilian deaths reported during the Obama administration, which was responsible for between 2,298 to 3,398 civilian deaths during Obama’s eight years in office.
Ninety-eight Percent Collateral Damage
More troubling than the sheer number of strikes conducted is the fact that US drone strikes kill far more civilians than supposed militants. Indeed, militant leaders on the controversial US “kill list” account for a mere 2 percent of drone-related deaths, with strikes confirmed to kill civilians 90 percent of the time.
Shockingly, more than 80 percent of those killed have never even been identified and the CIA’s own documents have shown that they are not even aware of who they are killing — avoiding the issue of reporting civilian deaths simply by naming all those in the strike zone as enemy combatants.
The jump in the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths is largely owing to Trump’s decision last March that allowed the CIA to conduct strikes without White House approval. This policy change overhauled the Obama administration requirement that the military would carry out strikes the CIA had identified.
Not only has this led to an increase in reported drone strikes, it has also made reporting drone strikes — and their casualties — more difficult, as the CIA, unlike the Pentagon, is not required to disclose the strikes it conducts. Thus, the harrowing figures of civilian deaths incurred under the Trump-led drone war are likely a fraction of the actual total.
Trump’s dramatic reversal, played out over the first year of his presidency, is not very surprising given that his “anti-war” credentials touted on the campaign trail were falsified. For instance, Trump claimed to have opposed both the invasion of Iraq — resulting in over a million dead — and the invasion of Libya, which has resulted in a failed state now plagued by slavery and terrorism.
In fact, however, he supported both of these disastrous invasions, even supporting the deployment of US ground troops in Libya to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power.
The ruse of Trump’s anti-interventionism was painted in disappearing ink along his campaign trail, giving way to a presidency that has no qualms about leaving thousands of innocent civilians dead in its wake.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
International Invitation First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases
November 16-18, 2018, Dublin, Ireland No to NATO Bases.org
(June 29, 3018) — Dear Friends of Peace Around the World:
We are deeply concerned, and frightened, by the threat of war that permeates the present Global atmosphere.
The increasingly aggressive and expansionist actions of US/NATO forces in violation of international law and the sovereign rights of all nations, the raging wars in the Middle East, the burgeoning arms race devastating the national treasuries, the bellicose language replacing diplomatic negotiations, the economic crises facing country after country, and the destruction of the global environment through war and unfettered exploitation, and their impact on public health, have all created crises that, unless checked by popular opposition, can lead to unimaginable catastrophe and war.
None of us can stop this madness alone from within our national borders. The global peace forces must come together, mobilizing the millions in our countries, and around the world, for peace. We cannot, and should not, allow our possible differences on other issues to separate us. WE MUST UNITE FOR PEACE!
On the basis of our shared understanding, we have initiated a Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases, and are inviting you and your organization, recognized as a voice of your people for peace and national sovereignty, to join this new Global Campaign by signing our Global Unity Statement. It is our sincere hope that you will accept this invitation and join in our global effort to oppose all forms of war and aggression against sovereign nations.
ACTION: To join the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases, please sign our Global Unity Statement by clicking HERE.
As the first step toward launching our Global Campaign, we will be holding our first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases on November 16-18, 2018, in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA).
It is our sincere hope that you will help us in mobilizing the maximum level of participation in this International Conference. Additional details for the Conference, including registration and the Conference program, will be announced shortly.
As you are well aware, organizing such a broad-based International Conference requires a great amount of human and financial resources, especially since we are trying to invite experts from across the globe to make presentations.
For updated information on the Conference, or to make a financial contribution, please visit our web site at: NoUSNATOBases.org. You can also contact us via email at: contact@NoUSNATOBases.org.
Looking forward to your support and participation.
Yours in Peace,
Founding Organizations: Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), Ireland
Roger Cole, President
Ed Horgan, International Secretary
John Lannon, Member of the National Executive
Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases, USA
Bahman Azad (Coordinator), US Peace Council
Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK
Leah Bolger, World BEYOND War
Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN-USA
Sara Flounders, International Action Center
Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace
Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Coalition
Alfred L. Marder, US Peace Council
Kevin Martin, Peace Action
Nancy Price, Womenâ€™s International League for Peace and Freedom — US Section
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
David Swanson, World BEYOND War
Ann Wright, Veterans For Peace, CODEPINK
Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
Sponsoring Organizations: * World Peace Council (WPC) * Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos (MOVPAZ) — (Cuba) * Centro Brasileiro de Solidariedade aos Povos e Luta pela Paz (CEBRAPAZ) — (Brazil) * Stop the War Coalition — (UK) * Okinawa Peace Action Center — (Japan) * Japan Peace Committee — (Japan) * Gangjeong International Team — (Jeju, South Korea) * Conselho PortuguÃªs para a Paz e CooperaÃ§Ã£o — (Potugal) * Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals — (Serbia) * Peace Committee of Turkey — (Turkey) * Cyprus Peace Council — (Cyprus) * Environmentalists Against War â€“ (USA) * Greek Committee for International Detente and Peace (EEDYE) — (Greece) * Philippine Peace & Solidarity Council (PPSC) — (Philippines) * Foro Contra la Guerra Imperialista y la OTAN — (Spain) * Palestinian Committee for Peace and Solidarity — (Palestine) * Canadian Peace Congress — (Canada) * Lebanese Peace Council — (Lebanon) * Peace and Solidarity Committee in Israel — (Israel) * Czech Peace Movement — (Czech Republic) * South African Peace Initiative — (South Africa) * German Peace Council — (Germany) * All India Peace and Solidarity Organization — (India) * Nepal Peace & Solidarity Council — (Nepal) * Swiss Peace Movement — (Switzerland) * British Peace Assembly — (Britain) * International Action for Liberation (INTAL) — (Belgium) * International League of Peoples Struggle — (Netherlands) * Comitato Contro La Guerra Milano (CCLGM) — (Italy) * Jamaica Peace Council — (Jamaica)
End the Wars To Halt the Refugee Crisis Ramzy Baroud / Politics for the People
(June 20, 2018) — Europe is facing the most significant refugee crisis since World War II. All attempts at resolving the issue have failed, mostly because they have ignored the root causes of the problem.
On June 11, Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying 629 refugees and economic migrants, from docking at its ports.
A statement by Doctors without Borders (MSF) stated that the boat was carrying 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.
“From now on, Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration,” said Salvini, who also heads the far-right League Party.
The number of refugees was repeated in news broadcasts time and again, as a mere statistic. In reality, it is 629 precious lives at stake, each with a compelling reason why she/he has undertaken the deadly journey.
While the cruelty of refusing entry to a boat laden with desperate refugees is obvious, it has to be viewed within a larger narrative pertaining to the rapidly changing political landscape in Europe and the crises under way in the Middle East and North Africa.
Italy’s new government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the far-right League party, seems intent on stopping the flow of refugees into the country, as promised on the campaign trail.
However, if politicians continue to ignore the root causes of the problem, the refugee crisis will not go away on its own.
The disturbing truth is this: Europe is accountable for much of the mayhem under way in the Middle East. Right-wing pundits may wish to omit that part of the debate altogether, but facts will not simply disappear when ignored.
European politicians should honestly confront the question: what are the reasons that lead millions of people to leave their homes? And fashion equally honest and humane solutions.
In 2017, an uprising-turned-civil-war in Syria led to the exodus of millions of Syrian refugees.
Ahmed is a 55-year-old Syrian refugee, who fled the country with his wife and two children. His reason for leaving was no other than the grinding, deadly war.
He told the UN Refugees Agency: “I was born in Homs and I wanted to live there until the end, but this vicious war left us no other choice but to leave all behind. For the sake of my children’s future we had to take the risk.”
“I had to pay the smuggler eight thousand US dollars for each member of my family. I’ve never done anything illegal in my whole life, but there was no other solution.”
Saving his family meant breaking the rules; millions would do the same thing if confronted with the same grim dilemma. In fact, millions have.
African immigrants are often blamed for ‘taking advantage’ of the porous Libyan coastline to ‘sneak’ into Europe. Yet, many of those refugees had lived peacefully in Libya and were forced to flee following the NATO-led war on that country in March 2011.
“I’m originally from Nigeria and I had been living in Libya for five years when the war broke out,” wrote Hakim Bello in the Guardian.
“I had a good life: I was working as a tailor and I earned enough to send money home to loved ones. But after the fighting started, people like us — black people — became very vulnerable. If you went out for something to eat, a gang would stop you and ask if you supported them. They might be rebels, they might be government, you didn’t know.”
The security mayhem in Libya led not only to the persecution of many Libyans, but also millions of African workers, like Bello, as well. Many of those workers could neither go home nor stay in Libya. They, too, joined the dangerous mass escapes to Europe.
War-torn Afghanistan has served as the tragic model of the same story.
Ajmal Sadiqi escaped Afghanistan, which has been in a constant state of war for many years, a war that took a much deadlier turn since the US invasion in 2001.
Sadiqi told CNN that the vast majority of those who joined him on his journey from Afghanistan, through other countries to Turkey, Greece and other EU countries, died along the way. But, like many in his situation, he had few alternatives.
“Afghanistan has been at war for 50 years and things are never going to change,” he said.
“Here, I have nothing, but I feel safe. I can walk on the street without being afraid.”
Alas, that sense of safety is, perhaps, temporary. Many in Europe are refusing to examine their own responsibility in creating or feeding conflicts around the world, while perceiving the refugees as a threat.
Despite the obvious correlation between western-sustained wars and the EU’s refugee crisis, no moral awakening is yet to be realized. Worse still, France and Italy are now involved in exploiting the current warring factions in Libya for their own interests.
Syria is not an entirely different story. There, too, the EU is hardly innocent.
The Syria war has resulted in a massive influx of refugees, most of whom are hosted by neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but many have sailed the sea to seek safety in Europe.
“All of Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning. It’s partly due to their actions in Africa that people have had to leave their homes,” said Bello.
“Countries such as Britain, France, Belgium and Germany think they are far away and not responsible, but they all took part in colonizing Africa. NATO took part in the war in Libya. They’re all part of the problem.”
Expectedly, Italy’s Salvini and other like-minded politicians refuse to frame the crisis that way.
They use whichever discourse needed to guarantee votes, while ignoring the obvious fact that, without military interventions, economic exploitation and political meddling, a refugee crisis — at least one of this magnitude — could exist in the first place.
Until this fact is recognized by EU governments, the flow of refugees will continue, raising political tension and contributing to the tragic loss of lives of innocent people, whose only hope is merely to survive.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net. Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, also contributed to this article.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
US Military Headquarters in Korea Relocated Further South Jason DitzJ / AntiWar.com
(June 29, 2018) — The US military has formally ended a 70-year presence in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Friday, with the opening of a new military headquarters further south in the city of Pyeongtaek. The US has had forces in Seoul since shortly after World War 2.
The new base is further south, and therefore out of the range of North Korean artillery. The relocation has been planned for some time, though the priority is clearly lessened with North Korea in talks to relocate its artillery, and peace talks underway.
Still, US military brass are presenting the new base as proof of a “long-term commitment” to South Korea, a commitment that may not have any practical justification if the peace process is completed. The base cost $10.8 billion, and US officials are emphasizing that the South Koreans paid 90% of that.
Pyeongtaek is a port city on the western coast of South Korea. The new base, Camp Humphreys, is intended to accommodate 43,000 people by the end of 2022. South Korean officials have said they are keen to keep a large US military presence in their country, largely believing it is an economic boon for the host city.
SEOUL, South Korea (June 29, 2018) — The United States formally ended seven decades of military presence in South Korea’s capital Friday with a ceremony to mark the opening of a new headquarters farther from North Korean artillery range.
The command’s move to Camp Humphreys, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Seoul, comes amid a fledgling detente on the Korean Peninsula, though the relocation was planned long before that. Most troops have already transferred to the new location, and the US says the remaining ones will move by the end of this year.
The US military had been headquartered in Seoul’s central Yongsan neighborhood since American troops first arrived at the end of World War II. The Yongsan Garrison was a symbol of the US-South Korea alliance but its occupation of prime real estate was also a long-running source of friction.
Located in the western port city of Pyeongtaek and close to a US air field, the new 3,510-acre (1,420-hectare) command cost $11 billion to build and is the largest overseas US base. South Korea has paid about 90 percent of the cost.
“This headquarters’ building, within the headquarters’ complex that surrounds it, represents the significant investment in the long-term presence of US forces in Korea,” Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of US Forces Korea, said during the opening ceremony. “US Forces Korea will remain the living proof of the American commitment to the alliance.”
In a message read out at the ceremony by an aide, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the headquarters is the cornerstone of the US-South Korea alliance.
“In opening a new era of the US forces headquarters in Pyeongtaek, I hope that the US-South Korea alliance will develop beyond a ‘military alliance’ and a ‘comprehensive alliance’ and become a ‘great alliance,'” Moon said in the statement.
The relocation is part of a broad US plan to realign its 28,500 troops and their bases in South Korea into two major hubs: one in Pyeongtaek and the other in the southeastern city of Daegu. US officials say they want to move out of highly populated areas and improve efficiency and military readiness.
“Modern warfare is all about concentrating and deploying forces quickly, and Pyeongtaek in these terms has many advantages because it can really function as an outlet, unlike Yongsan, which was stuck in the middle of a population center,” said Yun Jiwon, a security professor at Pyeongtaek University.
It also moved US forces away from the hundreds of North Korean artillery guns targeting the Seoul metropolitan area, although Camp Humphreys is still within reach of newer weapons, such as the 300 mm guns North Korea revealed in 2015.
The land used by the Yongsan Garrison will be handed over to South Korea, which hopes to turn the site into a Seoul’s “Central Park.”
The Yongsan area has been occupied by foreign forces since the late 19th century. Chinese troops used the site as their base when they came to help suppress a revolt in 1882. The Imperial Japanese Army took it over during Japan’s colonization of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
The US military arrived to disarm Japan following its World War II defeat. Most US troops were withdrawn in 1949 but they returned the next year to fight alongside South Korea in the three-year Korean War. In 1957, the US military command in South Korea was formally launched in Yongsan.
Camp Humphreys resembles a small American city. It has massive shopping centers with chains such as Taco Bell, Popeye’s and Starbucks, a movie theater, a water park and elementary, middle and high schools within walking distance of apartment buildings where servicemen and their families live in three- to five-bedroom units.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Urge the UN to Investigate Our Borders Hon. Barbara Lee / US House of Representatives
WASHINGTON, DC (June 23, 2018) — We have entered yet another dark chapter in our nation’s history.
More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by border patrol agents under Donald Trump’s directive.
And now, after Trump’s “executive order,” border patrol is interning families for indefinite amounts of time . . . which is illegal.
The Trump administration created this policy that separated children from their families, and now, does nothing to reverse his “zero-tolerance policy.” This is a gross violation of human rights that we would never tolerate in any other country.
Since its inception, our country has always been made up of diverse communities. But instead of celebrating that diversity and welcoming those trying to start a new life here, we’ve made their lives worse. We must be better than this.
Thatâ€™s why I’m visiting detention sites in Texas today. We need to see the children, the families, and the detention centers. The truth about how these innocent children are being treated needs to come out.
Ignoring the severity of this situation will do nothing to advance human rights, it will do nothing to heal the wounds of the internment, and it does not reaffirm our national commitment to liberty and justice for all. We can’t give the Trump administration a free pass to continue to commit these atrocities unchecked.
That is why I’m urging the United Nations to send experts to observe conditions in both the Department of Homeland Security and Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities both at the border and throughout the more than 17 states around the country that are now housing children who have been separated from their families. Add your name now to join me.
THE PETITION: I am urging the United Nations to send experts to observe conditions in both the Department of Homeland Security and Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities both at the border and throughout the more than 17 states around the country that are now housing children who have been separated from their families.
ACTION Please, add your name now to urge the UN to investigate these human rights abuses today. We can no longer stay silent. Add your name now to join me.
Preventing Crimes Against Humanity in the US Nadia Rubaii and Max Pensky / War Criminals Watch and The Conversation
(June 22, 2018) — There are those who say that comparing President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to that of Adolf Hitler is alarmist, unfair and counterproductive. And yet, there has been no dearth of such comparisons nearly one and a half years into his term.
Many commentators have also drawn parallels between the conduct and language of Trump supporters and Holocaust-era Nazis. Recent news of ICE agents separating immigrant families and housing children in cages have generated further comparisons by world leaders, as well as Holocaust survivors and scholars.
Trump’s use of the word “infest” to refer to immigrants coming to the US is particularly striking. Nazis referred to infestations of Jewish vermin, and Rwandan Hutu’s labeled Tutsi as cockroaches.
In August 2017, in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, the president used a familiar rhetorical strategy for signaling support to violent groups. He referenced violence on “both sides,” implying moral equivalence between protesters calling for the removal of Confederate statues and those asserting white supremacy. His comments gave white supremacists and neo-Nazis the implied approval of the president of the United States.
Many of these groups explicitly seek to eliminate from the US African-Americans, Jews, immigrants and other groups, and are willing to do so through violence. As co-directors of Binghamton University’s Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, we emphasize the importance of recognizing and responding to early warning signs of potential genocide and other atrocity crimes. Usually, government officials, scholars and nongovernmental organizations look for these signals in other parts of the world — Syria, Sudan or Burma.
But what about the US? President Trump’s executive order halting family separations provides Congress an opportunity to act. How the legislators respond will be an important indicator of where the US is headed.
Is It Possible in the US?
The term “genocide” invokes images of gas chambers the Nazis used to exterminate Jews during World War II, the Khmer Rouge killing fields of Cambodia and thousands of Tutsi bodies in the Kagera River in Rwanda. On that scale and in that manner, genocide is highly unlikely in the United States.
But genocidal violence can happen in the US It has happened. Organized policies passed by elected US lawmakers have targeted both Native Americans and African-Americans. Public policies defined these groups as not fully human and not protected by basic laws. Current policies treat immigrants the same way.
The threat of genocide is present wherever a country’s political leadership tolerates or even encourages acts with an intent to destroy a racial, ethnic, national or religious group, whether in whole or in part. While genocide is unlikely in the United States, atrocities which amount to mass violations of human rights and crimes against humanity are evident.
The UN defines crimes against humanity as any “deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign, that causes human suffering or death on a large scale.” Unlike genocide, it does not need to include the actual destruction or intent to destroy a group.
According to Holocaust survivors, the current visual and audio accounts of children separated from their parents in border detention facilities reminds them of practices of the Nazis in ghettos and concentration and extermination camps.
The Holocaust took the international community by surprise. In hindsight, there were many signs. In fact, scholars have learned a great deal about the danger signals for the risk of large-scale violence against vulnerable groups.
In 1996, the founder and first president of the US-based advocacy group Genocide Watch, Gregory H. Stanton, introduced a model that identified eight stages — later increased to 10 — that societies frequently pass through on the way to genocidal violence and other mass atrocities.
Stanton’s model has its critics. Like any such model, it can’t be applied in all cases and can’t predict the future. But it has been influential in our understanding of the sources of mass violence in Rwanda, Burma, Syria and other nations.
The 10 Stages of Genocide
The early stages of Stanton’s model include “classification” and “symbolization.” These are processes in which groups of people are saddled with labels or imagined characteristics that encourage active discrimination. These stages emphasize “us-versus-them” thinking, and define a group as “the other.”
The 10 Stages of Genocide
According to one model, societies frequently pass through these stages on the way to genocidal violence.
The differences between people are not respected. There’s a division of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ This can be carried out through the use of stereotypes, or excluding people who are perceived to be different.
This is a visual manifestation of hatred. Jews in Nazi occupied Europe were forced to wear yellow stars to show that they were ‘different.’
The dominant group denies civil rights or even citizenship to identified groups. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 in Nazi Germany stripped Jews of their German citizenship and prohibited their employment by the government and by universities.
Those who are perceived as ‘different’ are treated with no form of human right or personal dignity. During the Genocide in Rwanda, Tutsis were referred to as ‘cockroaches’; the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin.’
Genocides are always planned. Regimes of hatred often train those who are to carry out the destruction of a people.
Propaganda begins to be spread by hate groups. The Nazis used the newspaper Der Sturmer to spread and incite messages of hate about Jewish people.
Perpetrators plan the genocide. They often use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, create fear of the victim group and build armies, buy weapons and train their troops and militias.
Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity and death lists are drawn up. People are sometimes segregated into ghettos, deported or starved and property is often expropriated. Genocidal massacres begin.
The hate group murders their identified victims in a deliberate and systematic campaign of violence. Millions of lives have been destroyed or changed beyond recognition through genocide.
The perpetrators or later generations deny the existence of any crime.
Source: Based on Gregory H. Stanton’s “10 Stages of Genocide.”
As Stanton makes clear, these processes are universally human. They do not necessarily result in a progression toward mass violence. But they prepare the ground for the next stages: active “discrimination,” “dehumanization,” “organization” and “polarization.” These middle stages may be warning signs of an increasing risk of large-scale violence.
Where Are We Now?
Trump’s political rhetoric helped propel him into office by playing on the fears and resentments of the electorate. He has used derogatory labels for certain religious and ethnic groups, hinted at dark conspiracies, winked at violence and appealed to nativist and nationalist sentiments. He has promoted discriminatory policies including travel restrictions and gender-based exclusions.
Classification, symbolization, discrimination and dehumanization of Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, immigrants, the media and even the political opposition may be leading to polarization, stage six of Stanton’s model.
Stanton writes that polarization further drives wedges between social groups through extremism. Hate groups find an opening to send messages that further dehumanize and demonize targeted groups. Political moderates are edged out of the political arena, and extremist groups attempt to move from the former political fringes into mainstream politics.
Do Trump’s implied claims of a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and counterprotesters in Charlottesville move us closer to the stage of polarization?
Does housing children in cages at border detention facilities in the name of deterrence represent a deepening dehumanization?
Certainly, there are reasons for deep concern. Moral equivalence — the claim that when both “sides” in a conflict use similar tactics, then one “side” must be as morally good or bad as the other — is what logicians call an informal fallacy. Philosophers take their red pens to student essays that commit it. But when a president is called on to address his nation in times of political turmoil, the claim of moral equivalence is a lot more than an undergraduate mistake.
Similarly, when warehousing children in cages and tent cities is justified as a policy of deterrence, this is more than an academic policy debate. We suggest this is a deliberate effort to dehumanize and polarize, and an invitation to what may come next.
While the US may not be on the path to genocide in the sense of mass killings, it clearly is engaging in other crimes against humanity — deliberately and systematically causing human suffering on a large scale and violating fundamental human rights.
Responding and Preventing
Polarization is a warning of the increased risk of violence, not a guarantee. Stanton’s model also argues that every stage offers opportunities for prevention. Extremist groups can have their financial assets frozen. Hate crimes and hate atrocities can be more consistently investigated and prosecuted. Moderate politicians, human rights activists, representatives of threatened groups and members of the independent media can be provided increased security.
Encouraging responses have come from the international community, the electorate, business leaders and government officials. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the racist and far-right violence displayed in Charlottesville, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May harshly criticized Trump’s use of moral equivalence. More recently, Pope Francis and the governments of various countries have spoken out about US family separation practices.
The recent withdrawal of the US from the UN Human Rights Council suggests that international pressure may not be effective. Domestic actors may have more luck.
Individuals and groups are following the recommendations presented in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s guide to combating hate in supporting victims, speaking up, pressuring leaders and staying engaged.
Business leaders have also expressed their discontent with Trump’s polarizing statements and actions. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone so far as to label the immigrant family separations a form of mass child abuse.
Local governments are struggling to maintain their status as sanctuary cities or cities of resistance. These cities try to provide refuge for immigrants despite ICE raids and arrests. The general public and politicians of both parties and at all levels are speaking out about the separations, and it appears they may be heard.
In our assessment, these actions represent essential forms of resistance to the movement toward escalating atrocities. The executive order issued by President Trump this week provides the elected representatives in Congress with an important opportunity. Will they be complicit in or act to prevent further atrocities?
It also provides the general public an opportunity to strongly assert a commitment to human rights. How Congress responds will be a clear indicator of whether our democratic checks and balances are functioning to stop atrocities from escalating, or whether we are continuing down a dangerous path.
(June 25, 2018) — national crisis has engulfed the Trump regime since escalating its fascist assault on immigrants by separating children from their parents at the Southern border. The pictures and stories of children being ripped from the arms of their parents, locked in cages, infants incarcerated in “tender age” facilities, kids screaming in terror for their parents and separated across the country without hope of finding each other — has shaken the country. Millions have been shocked into a state of revulsion and outrage at the cruel inhumanity of this regime.
Immigrant mothers held under charges of “illegal entry” to the US at a federal detention center near Seattle reported to US Rep. Pramila Jayapal that after their children were forcibly taken away without even being able to say goodbye, they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room.
One mother reported to Jayapal that a Border Patrol agent told her, “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family anymore.”
After kidnapping their kids, these officials wouldn’t even tell the parents where their kids were. Mothers who cried were mocked by agents. Federal defenders said authorities separated parents from kids by lying that the kids were just being taken out to be given a bath.
For days, various Trump officials spun out a web of deception and completely conflicting story lines to cover-up, justify and continue this horror. Then, in the face of massive outrage from all corners forcing even prominent Republican Trump backers to worry things were going to unravel, Trump signed an executive order supposedly ending separation of parents and kids.
While Trump was forced to back up and blink, more deeply, this is a maneuver to dampen the outrage while continuing the fascist terrorizing of immigrants in new ways.
This order, which could fall apart under court challenges, proposes to end separating children from parents by incarcerating both together in detention facilities indefinitely. It continues the “zero tolerance policy” of locking up and charging all immigrants who cross into the US without going through a port of entry. It instructs the Defense Department to begin building detention camps to incarcerate immigrant families.
Justice Department lawyers are expected to challenge a previous court ruling that established basic minimal humanitarian guarantees for immigrant children, meaning they want to be able to hold immigrant kids in detention in conditions that violate this standard.
The horror and trauma of all this continues. After separating more than 2,000 children, the government has established no means for parents to find their kids or for them to be reunited. This executive order does nothing about that. Still, after all this, the government has refused to divulge where female children are being held or allow unfettered access to these facilities.
This vicious regime has disappeared children from parents fleeing horrific violence in countries devastated by US policies. It has locked up, kidnapped and shipped kids around the country with no accounting, no plans for reuniting them with parents and no measures for ensuring their safety. And they persevered in doing so, only changing course when forced to, and then continued this assault in new forms while admitting no wrong,
If all of this doesn’t justly remind people of the Nazi treatment of Jewish children and families, then they’re either historically unaware or willfully oblivious. This crisis continues. If Trump and his bullies are not made to fully back down, to release immigrant parents and kids, stop deporting them, provide for their safety and adjudicate asylum claims, this will be an ominous consolidation of fascism.
Echoes of Fascism From History
At the same moment this crisis was beginning, Trump’s assertion of other dictatorial powers was also gaining momentum. In a memo to Robert Mueller, Trump’s lawyers argued he was in effect above the lawand couldn’t commit obstruction of justice. Then Trump claimed the right to pardon himself.
Trump’s ghoulish consigliere Rudy Giuliani proclaimed that Trump could shoot James Comey in the Oval Office and not be indicted. This is a not so subtle threat of Trump’s capability of eliminating a rival who Trump deems an existential threat to his power.
These, of course, are just the latest of the mounting outrages. In the book, Fire and Fury, author Michael Wolff says part of the logic of Trump’s seeming illogic is to follow each outrage with another, so that the previous one is forgotten. This also serves the purpose of wearing down or numbing those who have a sense of right and wrong; to cause them to accept the unacceptable.
For a long time, many said that Trump was “accomplishing nothing.” Some still talk about the turnover in the Trump White House as a completely ineffectual chaos of a political amateur. But what this misses is the very dangerous way Trump is normalizing vicious assaults on immigrant families; legitimizing open white supremacy and racism, including propelling the most hateful elements into the public square; consolidating an unthinking, compassionless base unable or unwilling to tell the difference between truth and fiction; undermining the rule of law; delegitimizing the mainstream press; and expanding the plunder of the natural world.
Trump has been called a buffoon or unfit. To be sure, Trump’s case is in some ways a unique and peculiar one. He has an obsessive need for fawning adulation; his decision-making is based on “gut instinct” that eschews evidence and reason; and his worldview is embedded in the deep history of American chauvinism, white supremacy, genocide and brutal repression.
When all this is sorted through however, you have a man not substantially different from other fascist leaders seeking dictatorial powers.
After Trump was elected, Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, wrote the piece “Against Normalization,” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, looking at Trump in light of the history of Hitler’s Germany and its attacks on the press.
Rosenbaum’s description of Hitler’s maneuvering for power is chillingly reminiscent of Trump: “Hitler used the tactics of bluff masterfully, at times giving the impression of being a feckless Chaplinesque clown, at other times a sleeping serpent, at others yet a trustworthy statesman. The Weimar establishment didn’t know what to do, so they pretended this was normal. They ‘normalized’ him.”
By many accounts, Hitler was given to fits of extreme rage and unable to confront reality, especially as his armies were being wiped out. At the same time, he was a virulent racist guided by fascist aims to conquer Europe, expand Germany’s “lebensraum” (living room), wipe out the Soviet “threat” and “Aryanize” the populace, eventually through genocide.
The Hitler/Trump comparison is not a perfect fit. However, the basic tenets of extreme nationalism, racism, misogyny, and disgust with democracy and the rule of law are essentially the same.
In reading Robert Paxton’s book, The Anatomy of Fascism, which focuses particularly on Nazism and Mussolini’s Italy, the parallels between those experiences and Trump’s America come further into relief. People ask, How can this presidency be fascist when there are so many incongruities, whipsawing public statements, such seeming incoherence and ludicrous claims? This book, and others written on the history of fascism, help make sense of much of this.
Paxton quotes from the German writer Thomas Mann who commented that the Nazi “revolution” was “without underlying ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth, and justice.”
German lawyer and political scientist Franz Leopold Neumann wrote in Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933-1944: National Socialism has no theory of society as we understand it, no consistent picture of its operation, structure and development. It has certain aims to carry through and adjusts its ideological pronouncements to a series of ever-changing goals. . . . It has certain magical beliefs — leadership adoration, the supremacy of the master race — but its ideology is not laid down in a series of categorical and dogmatic pronouncements.
Paxton says fascism is more plausibly linked to a set of “‘mobilizing passions’ that shape fascist action than to a consistent and fully articulated philosophy. At bottom is a passionate nationalism . . .” and a conspiratorial view of history as a fight between good and evil “. . . in which one’s own community or nation has been the victim.” Does this sound familiar?
I’ve had Trump supporters tweet at me that it’s ridiculous to compare Trump to Hitler because Trump hasn’t murdered 6 million Jews. Well, Hitler hadn’t murdered 6 million Jews by the time he came to power, either. The point isn’t that Trump is exactly like Hitler or that a certain trajectory is guaranteed. There are also many large differences between the United States in 2018 and Germany of 1933.
On the other hand, much of the logic and essential character of the two projects is quite a bit the same. As author Richard Evans, a leading scholar on the history of Nazi Germany put it, in Trump, you see echoes of Hitler that are “very alarming.”
There was an underlying logic and process of development in Nazi Germany. The initial Nazi program in power in 1933 was to brutally suppress Communists and expel Jews, not to eliminate them through mass murder. Communists, and then Jews, were the Nazi spear points of attack.
Succeeding in targeting these sections of people without being stopped allowed them to go forward suppressing all other opposition. They proceeded to Nazify society, laying the basis for fascist war.
Over the next years, the Nazis step by step stripped rights, livelihood and citizenship from Jewish people, and as necessity confronting the Nazis sharpened with war, the “mobilizing passion” of “Aryanization” and considering Jews to be subhuman developed into an active policy of genocide.
Trump called immigrants “animals” and non-white countries “shitholes” while considering people from these countries disposable. These are not just words. They are dangerous affirmations of an outlook capable of horrors we can barely imagine right now. And now these words are being acted on.
We Can’t Count on Political Parties — We Must Act
As Paxton says, “Fascists need a demonized enemy against which to mobilize followers, but of course the enemy does not have to be Jewish. Each culture specifies the national enemy.” To the US, this has always meant Black people and Native Americans at home and other oppressed peoples internationally.
Now, Muslims and Latino immigrants have been added, with the Trumpian spear point aimed at immigrants and their children. If this is not stopped and reversed, more horrors are to come. If they succeed on this, they will come for others, one by one, until opposition is silenced or wiped out.
Trump and his regime, along with the national Republican Party, are transforming a capitalist democracy, already living off of the brutal oppression of people worldwide and at home, into an openly fascist form of capitalism, where the grinding down of the oppressed is raised to an even more horrifying level, even possibly a genocidal one.
Fascism means the essential elimination of basic norms and rights present under ordinary capitalist rule; stifling and even eliminating the rule of law, freedom of the press, the rights to free speech; and the violent suppression of opposition.
As this tyranny builds up, more people are recognizing that Trump is moving to fascism. Many are seeing the danger, recognizing that fascism is being normalized, and the reality that, Yes, we are like a frog being slowly boiled in that warming pot.
Others still write off Trump and the danger of what is happening now. Talk focuses on how many years it will take to reverse the damage, as if this is guaranteed. The Democratic Party claims that this will be somehow reversed by a “blue wave” of midterm voters or a combination of this and the Mueller probe.
This is a tremendous mistake for a number of reasons. While it is true the deep differences between the Democrats and Republicans, or the strains within the Trump coalition, for example, could intensify and the Mueller probe can be one factor here, it is unlikely that this alone would lead to Trump being impeached or forced to resign. For one, Trump and his current grouping are not like Richard Nixon.
Confronted with impeachment, Nixon resigned. To the Trumpers, it’s keep power or die. Even faced with a finding that Trump obstructed justice, who believes that Trump — who reviles and is seeking to destroy the rule of law and is incapable of following previous norms — would step aside instead of doubling down on power? There is also no reason to think that the Republican Party, now essentially Trump’s party, would impeach him.
With many Democrats still refusing to even put impeachment on the table, why believe that the 2018 midterms would lead to Trump’s ouster? Who can guarantee that elections would be fair, with the continual scrubbing of Black people and others from voter rolls and other methods of voter suppression already in play and recently given new support by the Supreme Court?
Further, even if Trump goes down somehow, Pence is then president, and if there has not been significant and massive mobilization in the streets, this regime would recoup and roll on.
The Democrats — who refuse to call out the fascist threat and mainly still advise people to channel their outrage into voting in the midterms — have neither the will nor the audacity to lead people to stop the direction the US is headed in. They are a ruling-class party more fearful of upheaval by millions of people than of fascism, despite the fact that fascism could mean their own elimination.
Time is short and fascism is gaining ground. Millions deeply hate what is going on. Many more could be swung to more active opposition if those who do recognize the dangers and refuse to accept them join with each other and generate a movement to force Trump and Pence from power.
This would have to be sustained and developed into a concerted effort. It would have to unite many of the different strains and elements of what has been the active opposition and powerful resistance to Trump, but reach far more broadly into the deep opposition among millions to everything this regime is going for.
It’s time for all to realize we have a common goal of stopping the consolidation of fascism. We have to organize ourselves, form networks, build structures, speak out publicly and get into the streets and not stop until fascism is stopped.
Forcing out a regime that threatens life while bringing forward many contending visions and programs of a much better future can open the way to this world. If we don’t move soon, it will be too late, and we will have allowed unspeakable horrors to come.
Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.
Curtis Johnson is a research scientist and freelance writer who has reported on the Gulf oil spill, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the extinction crisis and the climate crisis, as well as other environmental topics.
Court Approves Fascist Assault on Buddhists, Muslims,
Catholics, Jews, Japanese-Americans, Whoever . . .
Prepare for Your Very Own Concentration Camp Harvey Wasserman / Solartopia.org
(June 27, 2018) — The US Supreme Court has approved Donald Trump’s presumed dictatorial power to ban and imprison any would-be immigrant group he does not like.
The decision is ostensibly about banning Muslims coming into America from certain countries.
But the Court’s ruling clearly grants the power to any US president to ban any immigrant group for any reason. And it, by default, approves their detention in concentration camps, as Trump is now doing along the Mexican border.
Trump supporters should understand that this and future presidents can now certainly use it against THEM.
The Court’s 5-4 “conservative” majority made the expected fake genuflection against Franklin Roosevelt’s horrifying 1942 Executive Order #9066 forcing some 10,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps during World War 2. That decision has been widely denounced ever since, even by former right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat has been taken by Neil Gorsuch, who approved this ban. Trump cited FDR’s order in justifying his own.
During the war, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt actually visited those camps. She was not wearing a jacket that said “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?”
Trump’s Jewish supporters here in the US might well reflect that although this ban is currently aimed at Muslims, it could very well be applied to the next boatload of Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic, Methodist or other asylum seekers, depending on Trump’s latest tweet — or on the bigoted whim of any future president.
During WW2 FDR stopped the USS St. Louis from disembarking in Miami. The boat carried more than 900 Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe. It was turned away in Cuba, and then by the United States government. That action was clearly on par with Trump’s ban against Muslims, Hispanic asylum seekers and others.
The St. Louis took its refugees back to Europe. Nearly all of them died in Hitler’s death camps.
Our world today is awash in desperate human asylum seekers. in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s assault on Iraq, civil war in Syria, American interventions in Afghanistan, Libya and Honduras, horrifying destruction in Yemen, Myanmar’s slaughter of the Rohingya, civil wars in Africa and so much more, millions of our fellow humans are desperately seeking a safe place for themselves and their families.
The United States once offered such asylum. Two of Trump’s three wives took advantage. So did virtually all of our ancestors here.
But this decision is about far more than that. It approves a president’s dictatorial power to single out any religious, ethnic, national or other group he or she does not like.
One such group — those coming to our southern border with Mexico — has been subjected to the horrifying separation of children from their families, a practice used against Indigenous peoples worldwide (including here in America) and by the Nazis against Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, Slavs, gays, those with infirmities, labor organizers, and many more.
Many thousands more at our southern border are now being herded into de facto concentration camps. They are very explicitly being denied any legal or human rights to which our nation is legally bound by international treaty.
Trump is doing this. The Supreme Court has certified it. This power is now available to all future presidents.
And GET ACTIVE. YOU and yours are next.
Harvey Wasserman’s Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to the Donald can be ordered via www.solartopia.org. His California Solartopia Show is at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7FM, Los Angeles; Green Power & Wellness podcasts at prn.fm.
Copyright 2018 solartopia, All rights reserved. Solartopia, 735 Euclaire, Bexley, Oh 43209
(June18, 2018) — Separating children from their parents, as Trump, Sessions and their myrmidons are doing, is monstrous and has been characteristic of the biggest dictators of the modern era.
Here are a few cases in case you donâ€™t believe me:
1. Stalin‘s police used to designate some Soviet citizens as “enemies of the people” and then would take their children from those families. Some so designated who had their families confiscated were Jews.
2. Pol Pot‘s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s, 1980s:
Every family that lived in the cities was forced by Khmer Rouge soldiers to work in the fields in the countryside. This was the time in which husbands and wives, mothers, fathers and their children, and brothers and sisters were all separated from each other.
3. Under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Catholic hospitals were encouraged to steal babies from leftist families at the hospital, telling the parents they were stillborn, and then to give the infants to right-wing families to raise.
4. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, expelled tens of thousands of Iraqis of Iranian heritage as marked by their family names. In some instances, Saddam kept the children but expelled the parents: “Many Shi’a refugees from southern Iraq testified about the forcible separation of their families during the early years of the Iran-Iraq war, when the Baath regime summarily deported tens of thousands of Shi’a to Iran on the grounds that they were of “Iranian origin.”
5. The Burmese military junta has separated Muslim children from their families, as part of the ongoing attempt by the Buddhists to expel the Muslims.
6. And, yes, Hitler separated children from their families on a large scale. In some instances, he had children with blonde hair and blue eyes born into “Slavic” families kidnapped and given to a German family to raise Aryan.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.