Environmentalists Against War
Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are

 

 

 

ACTION ALERT: Letter to Congress “No Iran War”

May 22nd, 2019 - by Mana Mostatabi / The National Iranian American Council

WASHINGTON, DC (May 21, 2019) — In light of President Trump and John Bolton’s dangerous escalations against Iran and a forthcoming intelligence briefing on Capitol Hill this afternoon, 62 organizations – including J Street, Indivisible, NIAC Action and Win Without War – sent a letter calling on Congress to pass legislation to halt a march to war with Iran.

The combined groups, representing millions of Americans concerned about renewed threats of war with Iran, signals a strong desire for Congress to step up and block Trump from leading America into yet another war of choice.

“Last Fall, Americans voted for a new Congress to act as a co-equal branch of government that would finally serve as a check on this president and his reckless impulses,” said NIAC President Jamal Abdi. “Now Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton are taking this country to the brink of a completely avoidable military confrontation. It’s time for Congress to turn its words into action by passing legislation to stop Trump and Bolton from starting an illegal war.”

“President Trump’s chaos-first foreign policy centers around his penchant for turning challenges into crises,” said Win Without War Advocacy Director Erica Fein. “His Iran policy is no different: President Obama took us off the path to war, but now Trump and Bolton have put us back on it. It’s time for Congress to put the brakes on a Trump-Bolton war with Iran.”

“If the Trump administration were to launch a war of choice against Iran it would have devastating consequences for the United States, Israel and the entire region,” warned J Street head of government affairs Dylan Williams. “Congress must fulfill its constitutional responsibility by making absolutely clear that the president is not authorized to trigger a new conflagration in the Middle East.”

According to the letter, “As the drumbeat for war grows louder, Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact further constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an unauthorized war.” The letter concludes, “The American people do not want another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. Congress has the chance to stop a war before it starts. Please take action before it is too late.”

THE LETTER

To: Members of Congress

We write to request that Congress take urgent action to halt a march to war with Iran.

The Trump administration, spurred on by National Security Advisor John Bolton, has moved the U.S. into a war posture. Over the last few weeks, Bolton pushed through unprecedented sanctions and escalated the war of words intended to provoke retaliation from the Iranians. Now, Bolton has used a routine carrier deployment to the Middle East to threaten Iran with “unrelenting force” and has overseen the revision of war plans that would send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran takes his bait.

Congress cannot be complicit as the playbook for the 2003 invasion of Iraq is repeated before our eyes. The administration has increasingly politicized intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, and falsely asserts ties between Iran and al-Qaeda. Worryingly, the administration does not perceive that it is constrained by the lack of Congressional authorization for war with Iran, and has even suggested that the 2001 authorization to use military force could be twisted to green light strikes against Iran.

As the drumbeat for war grows louder, Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and enact further constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an unauthorized war. We urge you to pass legislation to bar funding for an unauthorized war with Iran – The Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act (S. 1039/H.R. 2354) – together with legislation that makes clear that no existing statutory authorization, including the 2001 authorization for use of military force, provides for war with Iran. Moreover, we urge all lawmakers to issue statements making clear that no authorization for an Iran war exists, and that if the Trump administration seeks war it must first come to Congress for debate.

The American people do not want another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. Congress has the chance to stop a war before it starts. Please take action before it is too late.

Sincerely,

About Face: Veterans Against the War

Americans for Peace Now

Beyond the Bomb

Brave New Films

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Center for American Progress

Center for International Policy

Chino Cienega Foundation

CODEPINK

Common Defense

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Council for a Livable World

CREDO

Daily Kos

Dallas Peace and Justice Center

Demand Progress

Environmentalists Against War

Federation of American Scientists

Foreign Policy for America

Franciscan Action Network

Freedom Forward

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Global Security Institute

Global Zero

Indivisible

J Street

Jewish Voice for Peace

Just Foreign Policy

MADRE

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

NIAC Action

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Palestine Action Committee of Texas

Pax Christi International

Peace Action

Peace Development Fund

Peace Direct

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Ploughshares Fund

PRBB Foundation

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Project South

Public Citizen

Rachel Carson Council

RootsAction.org

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

The Peace Farm

Tri-Valley CAREs

Truman National Security Project

Union of Concerned Scientists

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

United for Peace and Justice

Veterans For Peace

VoteVets

Washington Against Nuclear Weapons

Western States Legal Foundation

Win Without War

Women’s Action for New Directions

NIAC Action: The Pro-Peace Iranian-American Lobby

NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit and the 501(c)4 sister organization of the National Iranian American Council, which works to strengthen the Iranian-American community and promote greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

NIAC Action works to maximize the political influence of Iranian Americans and the pro-peace community to ensure we have a powerful voice on the issues that matter to us most. We utilize three tools: direct lobbying efforts in Washington, grassroots advocacy led by NIAC Action Chapters nationwide, and organized engagement with political candidates by NIAC Action members.

Our goal is to strengthen U.S. diplomacy with Iran to advance peace and human rights, promote greater openings between the American and the Iranian people, protect civil rights and opportunities for Iranian Americans at home, and support candidates who represent our community’s values. We accomplish this mission by leveraging the resources of the Iranian-American and pro-peace community, the talent of our grassroots leaders, and the political expertise of our Washington, D.C. staff.

To ensure our community has a powerful voice in the political process, NIAC Action provides its members with top caliber political resources and guidance, powerful advocacy tools and civic trainings, and grassroots leadership development.

NIAC Action is supported by its members in the Iranian-American and pro-peace communities, and by prominent U.S. foundations. We do not receive any funding from the Iranian government or the United States government.

Discriminating against people on their ethnicity or country of origin is anathema to the ideals that make America great. NIAC Action works to fight back against such discrimination and ensure that the civil rights of Iranian Americans and Iranians in the U.S. are protected. NIAC Action is working to repeal a law barring Iranian dual nationals and travelers to Iran from participating in the Visa Waiver Program. This discriminatory law could provoke reciprocal restrictions that turn many Iranian-Americans into second-class citizens when traveling abroad.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The UN Must Stop US War on Iran

May 22nd, 2019 - by Jonathan Power / InDepthNews

LUND, Sweden (May 21, 2019) – Amnesty International reported on March 11 that an Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been sentenced to 38 years in jail and 148 lashes. She has dedicated her life to defending women accused of removing their hijabs in public. The persecution of human rights dissidents in Iran appears to be getting worse.

It makes it harder to feel sorry for Iran, even if President Donald Trump is wielding the heavy stick against it, and even though Trump has sabotaged the Agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear research and uranium enrichment carefully negotiated by President Barack Obama’s team, the EU, Russia and China.

However, Realpolitik demands us to stand up for this Agreement but who can be happy stepping into the ring to defend the honor of such a regime? Iran executes more people each year than any other country bar China. If Iran wants more enthusiastic outside help it must put its own house in order.

Is the U.S. moving towards war since Iran, pushing back against American sanctions which were supposed to have been removed in return for Iran’s agreement on nuclear research restraint, has now suggested in might start this work again?

This seems to have maddened Trump. The White House keeps reiterating that Iran is secretly set on making a nuclear bomb, which will then be mounted on rockets that can threaten NATO and U.S. troops in Europe.


Prevent reckless wars (Image: Democracy for America)

There are only a few in Europe who have ever believed this was the Iranian intention before the Agreement and it certainly isn’t now. Apart from anything else, the Iranians only have short-range rockets and the Iranians have no knowledge of how to miniaturize a bomb (which they don’t have to practice with) to fit on the head of a small rocket.

Trump’s militancy on the issue seems to contradict his campaign promise not to involve America in any more Asian wars, all of which have ended disastrously and counterproductively – Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. In all of them he’s pushed for reducing American troops. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for hard lobbying by the Pentagon there would zero troops deployed.

But Iran in his mind seems to be a different case. The deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Straits of Hormuz near to Iranian waters is a war threat. This is much more serious than the sanctions. There’s no point in having it there unless he is prepared to use its firepower.

Of course, the U.S. would need far more than one aircraft carrier to overcome Iran’s defense forces. It would mean using long-range bombers. Many of them are based in British-controlled territory. But in 2012 on the last occasion the U.S. thought about a war with Iran, at the time of President George W. Bush, the UK government’s attorney general advised Prime Minister Tony Blair that a preemptive military strike on Iran could violate international law. The existence of this secret document suggests that the government believed then that Iran didn’t meet the legal threshold for a “clear and present danger” that would merit such an attack- and that was before the big power Agreement with Iran.

The Guardian newspaper’s investigation which was reported on prominently in the Washington Post concluded that the U.S. was asking for access to British airbases that are strategically located on remote islands, but that the UK refused to cooperate. London is unlikely to be helpful today when, like its European partners, it seriously objects to Trump’s decision to abrogate the Agreement with Iran.

One of the strange footnotes in the run up to the Agreement was that for years the CIA in its annual reviews said it found no proof that Iran was developing a bomb.

Iran’s powerful religious leaders have all said loudly that to have a nuclear weapons would go against the teaching of Mohammed. The Iranian public has heard this message time and time again so they are unlikely to give their support to a bomb-making effort now, but they will support the right to develop an independent nuclear program to enable it to build civilian power stations. They will support the right for Iran to be self-sufficient in energy in a world that is hostile to it.

Iran has made enemies, especially Israel, whose hard line leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, eggs Trump on. It’s true that Iran supports anti-Israeli militias and meddles in other Middle Eastern countries, in particular Syria and Iraq. But Obama’s plan was always to build on the Agreement and then, using the trust that that would create, to go on and negotiate with Iran to be more responsible in its foreign policy.

Trump has got it all back to front.

Before the situation escalates to the real danger zone the matter must be put before the Security Council and with a unanimous vote the U.S. be told to stop its confrontation and honor the Agreement.

Jonathan Power was for 17 years a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune. Copyright: Jonathan Power. Website www.jonathanpowerjournalist.com[IDN-InDepthNews – 21 May 2019] IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”

May 22nd, 2019 - by T. J. Coles / CounterPunch

(March 20, 2019) — The US is formally committed to dominating the world by the year 2020. With President Trump’s new Space Directive-4, the production of laser-armed fighter jets as possible precursors to space weapons, and the possibility of nuclear warheads being put into orbit, the clock is ticking…

Back in 1997, the now-re-established US Space Command announced its commitment to “full spectrum dominance.” The Vision for 2020 explains that “full spectrum dominance” means military control over land, sea, air, and space (the so-called fourth dimension of warfare) “to protect US interests and investment.” “Protect” means guarantee operational freedom. “US interest and investment” means corporate profits.

The glossy brochure explains that, in the past, the Army evolved to protect US settlers who stole land from Native Americans in the genocidal birth of the nation. Like the Vision for 2020, a report by the National Defense University acknowledges that by the 19th century, the Navy had evolved to protect the US’s newly-formulated “grand strategy.” In addition to supposedly protecting citizens and the constitution, “The overriding principle was, and remains, the protection of American territory … and our economic well-being.”

By the 20th century, the Air Force had been established, in the words of the Air Force Study Strategy Guide, to protect “vital interests,” including: “commerce; secure energy supplies; [and] freedom of action.” In the 21st Century, these pillars of power are bolstered by the Cyber Command and the coming Space Force.

The use of the Army, Navy, and Air Force—the three dimensions of power—means that the US is already close to achieving “full spectrum dominance.” Brown University’s Cost of War project documents current US military involvement in 80 countries—or 40% of the world’s nations. This includes 65 so-called counterterrorism training operations and 40 military bases (though others think the number of bases is much higher). By this measure, “full spectrum dominance” is nearly half way complete. But the map leaves out US and NATO bases, training programs, and operations in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine.

As the US expands its space operations—the fourth dimension of warfare—the race towards “full spectrum dominance” quickens. Space has long been militarized in the sense that the US uses satellites to guide missiles and aircraft. But the new doctrine seeks to weaponize space by, for instance, blurring the boundaries between high-altitude military aircraft and space itself. Today’s space power will be harnessed by the US to ensure dominance over the satellite infrastructure that allows for the modern world of internet, e-commerce, GPS, telecommunications, surveillance, and war-fighting.

Since the 1950s, the United Nations has introduced various treaties to prohibit the militarization and weaponization of space—the most famous being the Outer Space Treaty (1967). These treaties aim to preserve space as a commons for all humanity. The creation of the US Space Force is a blatant violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of those treaties.

In more recent decades, successive US governments have unilaterally rejected treaties to reinforce and expand the existing space-for-peace agreements. In 2002, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), allowing it to expand its long-range missile systems. In 2008, China and Russia submitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament the proposed Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects. This would have preserved the space-as-a-commons principle and answered US claims that “enemies” would use space as a battleground against US satellites.

But peace is not the goal. The goal is “full spectrum dominance,” so the US rejected the offer. China and Russia introduced the proposed the treaty again in 2014—and again the US rejected it. Earlier this year, the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Last month, President Trump sent an unclassified memo on the new Space Directive-4 to the Vice President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, NASA, and the Secretaries of Defense and State.

The document makes for chilling and vital reading. It recommends legislating for the training of US forces “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.” Crucially, this doctrine includes “peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.” As well as integrating space forces with the intelligence community, the memo recommends establishing a Chief of Staff of the Space Force, who will to join the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo also says that US space operations will abide by “international law.” But given that the US has rejected anti-space weapons treaties, it is barely constrained by international law.

In late-2017, Space.com reported on a $26.3 million Department of Defense contract with Lockheed Martin to build lasers for fighter jets under the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments program. The report says that the lasers will be ready by 2021. The article links to Doug Graham, the Vice President of Missile Systems and Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

In the original link Graham reveals that the Air Force laser “is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems.”

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) states in a projection out to the year 2050: “Economies are becoming increasingly dependent upon space-based systems … By 2050, space-based weapon systems may also be deployed, which could include nuclear weapons.” But this is extremely reckless. Discussing technologies, including the artificial intelligence on which weapons systems are increasingly based, another MoD projection warns of “the potential for disastrous outcomes, planned and unplanned … Various doomsday scenarios arising in relation to these and other areas of development present the possibility of catastrophic impacts, ultimately including the end of the world, or at least of humanity.”

“Full spectrum dominance” is not only a danger to the world, it is a danger to US citizens who would also suffer the consequences, if and when something goes wrong with their leaders’ complicated space weapons.

Dr. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and the forthcoming Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Take Two Actions in Solidarity with Colombia

May 22nd, 2019 - by The Alliance for Global Justice

A young Wayuu woman in Colombia (Photo: Flickr)

(May 21, 2019) — An important “Dear Colleague” letter is circulating in the US Congress that solicits support for the peace accord. The letter, authored by Rep. James McGovern, specifically mentions the points of most concern. The Trump administration is leading attacks against components of the peace agreement that deal with transitional justice, land reform, and eradication of crops with illicit uses. This is taking place against a backdrop of political violence that is claiming one victim every other day.

The McGovern letter addresses all these issues and should be supported. Signatures are being collected through Wednesday, so there is still time to contact your congressperson and demand they sign. 

ACTION: Send a message to your US Representative urging that they sign-on to the Rep. James P. McGovern

The other action we are soliciting is in solidarity with the Wayuu Women’s Force (FMW, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu). They are being threatened and followed by the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) death squad, and the Colombian government is not taking it seriously. AfGJ recently met with members of Fuerza Mujeres Wayuu and heard first-hand about the threats and harassment.

We also traveled to other areas of the Wayuu territory and learned about a general atmosphere of intimidation and danger to the communities. Support for the Wayuu Women’s Force is especially strategic: this group of women go throughout the Wayuu territory to accompany people who are being targeted for their activism. They defend the defenders. Thus, solidarity with FMW is solidarity with the entire Wayuu nation. 

ACTION: Send a message to the Colombian authorities calling on them to investigate the threats against the Wayuu Women’s Force and end the harassment and threats against them

Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu in Colombia.

Death Squad Threatens Wayuu Women’s Force in La Guajíra, Colombia

James Patrick Jordan / Alliance For Global Justice

(May 21, 2019) — I recently visited the Department of La Guajira on behalf of the Alliance for Global Justice. I was with Raquel Mogollón who works with the organization Camino Común. While we were in La Guajira, we were asked to meet with members of the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú (FMW, Women’s Wayuú Force) about death threats against the group, and the failure of the government to take the situation seriously. They want to make known what they are facing, and are looking for international declarations and other forms of solidarity in support of their call for an investigation into the threats. 

 La Guajira is a desperately poor region that is the most northern reach of mainland Colombia, a peninsula that reaches like a finger into the Caribbean Sea, curling itself around the Gulf of Venezuela and sharing a border with the Bolivarian Republic to its east.  La Guajíra has Colombia’s second largest indigenous population, primarily members of the Wayuu nation. It is also a place plagued by extreme drought. That drought has been greatly exacerbated by the Cerrajón and other coalmines and extractive industries.

These companies contaminate and divert water from the region’s rivers and streams, decimating local agriculture and negatively impacting the ability of Wayuu and other communities to grow the food the need and to get access to potable water. Since 2011, more than 6,100 mostly Wayuu children have died from hunger and thirst.

This is a tragic example of humanitarian disaster that the world prefers to ignore. Rather, the focus is on next-door Venezuela in order to justify dreams of intervention and overthrow of that country’s government. Since Colombia is virtually a colony of the US Empire, addressing the crisis there would only embarrass and be of no strategic value for oil wars and plans of world domination.

Nevertheless, it is somewhat unfair to simply denounce the world’s ignorance about La Guajira.  Community, indigenous, and ecological activists are actively discouraged from letting the world know what is happening, and from organizing and mobilizing to alleviate and end the humanitarian and ecological crisis. If the world understood the depth of suffering in La Guajira, it just might demand action.

Any action that were to address the situation would have to address the unrestrained and devastating practices of the big mining corporations. That prospect is sufficiently undesirable to the corporations involved, that the most repressive threats and acts of violence are used to suppress the voices of Wayuú activists who speak out in defense of the land, water, and people.

While traveling in La Guajira, we heard of several such threats. We even had to help one family leave their home and community because they were in grave danger and the village they lived in was so isolated and vulnerable. This family was being persecuted by likely members of the Colombian Armed Forces moonlighting as plain clothes and hooded paramilitaries. They were targeted because of their role as human and indigenous rights defenders in their community.

When we heard about the threats against the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú (FMW, Wayuú Women’s Force), we became especially concerned. In the case of FMW, they are not only activists defending their land, water, and culture – they defend the defenders.

Since their founding in 2007, the FMW’s mission has been to accompany Wayuú communities that are being directly threatened and assaulted. Therefore, when they are repressed, the repercussions have a ripple effect throughout the territory. A threat against the FMW is truly a threat against all the Wayuú people and everyone who speaks out for their interests.

Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú has recently been the target of several acts of intimidation by the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles). These include an April 30 2019 pamphlet threatening individual leaders as well as the entire group, a recently deleted false Facebook profile attacking them, and the repeated presence of unknown individuals observing and following them as they move about trying to do their work.

We spoke at some length with leaders and associates who asked not to be identified. According to their spokesperson, while threats against the group had gone down between 2015 and 2017, since the beginning of 2018, they have become much more frequent. She told us that the government is not taking the situation seriously and is not undertaking an investigation.

The Attorney General’s office replied that the threats could “possibly” be real, but could be coming from another organization other than the Águilas Negras, or that they threats may not be sincere. They maintained an investigations was unwarranted.

The FMW was formed in 2007 as a coalition of Wayuú organizations lead by women in support of indigenous and popular movements opposing mining projects, engaging in water protection, and acting to reclaim and rehabilitate lost territory. While various mining companies operate nearby, the area is especially affected by the giant Cerrajón coal mine, one of the world’s largest. Cerrajón is a joint project owned in equal shares by a consortium of British, Australian, and South African based companies, namely the BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata corporations.

Paramilitary death squads have a long history in the region. In next door César, for instance, Alabama-based Drummond Coal was known to have paid paramilitaries to protect their operations. Clearly, death squads in the area serve to protect the interests of mining companies, big landowners, and narco-traffickers.

While famine resulting from drought and corporate irresponsibility is an acceptable situation, any real challenge to the profits of these sectors is not.

Nevertheless, since 2007, the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuú has done just that: challenge the big industries and, more, provide protection and accompaniment to other organizers.

Because of this powerful and dangerous work, FMW was the first organization to receive protection from the Colombian government via the National Protection Unit (UNP). The UNP is a system of bodyguards and protection provided by the government, a system won through popular struggle.

Despite this protection, the Colombian State is not responding adequately to the threats against the FMW. Furthermore, the focus of the UNP, with its own stretched and limited resources, is on protection of a few individuals, but not an entire group. The spokesperson we spoke to insisted that their demand is not for more UNP, but for a real investigation to be launched against the Águilas Negras to bring them to justice.


Paramilitary groups have reorganized in Santander (Photo: Vangardia)

She provided us a copy of the most recent threat and, as one can imagine, it is chilling. It states: “It is the moment to finish with all the so-called human rights defenders toads of La Guajira, we’re going to dig under all these leaders of social organizations…. IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IT WE HAVE THE NAMES OF EVERYONE AND THESE ARE NOT ALL….”

The death threat goes on to mention six leaders, including two men who participate in and support FMW. (While FMW is woman-led, and mostly women, it does include male supporters and accompaniers.) One of them is the brother of an FMW member, Luís Socorra Pimienta, who was killed by paramilitaries on July 28 2010.

The US-NATO Empire, with fawning allegiance from the Colombian government, wants all eyes on Venezuela. Therefore, our attention is diverted away from the crisis of famine and the threat of death squads happening on the Colombia-side of the border in La Guajira.

Let’s take off the blinders. If we see the repression and poverty in La Guajira and in the Wayuú Nation, that could be the beginning of changing the ending of what is an otherwise tragic story.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Don’t Iraq Iran

May 21st, 2019 - by Roots Action and World BEYOND War

What the US did to Iraq must not be done to Iran!

(May 20, 2019) — The danger has been dramatically escalated that the United States will launch yet another catastrophic war — this time against Iran.
Such a war could come by a deliberate decision, or through a series of provocations, reprisals, and misunderstandings. The latter scenario has been made more likely through threats and the positioning of weapons and troops.

President Trump has called attacking Iraq “one of the worst decisions in the history of the country.”

ACTION: Click here to sign a petition telling him not to make a decision that could be even worse.
Congress has the power to prevent this looming crime against humanity.
 

ACTION: Click here to email your Representative and Senators (for US residents only) telling them to cosponsor the bills that would block this war and to take other necessary steps to move us in the direction of peace.

A war on Iran would be a war on a large and well-armed nation. It would be a war very likely to bring in other nations on both sides. That sort of catastrophe would dwarf other recent disastrous wars.

If such a war happens and we survive it, apologies won’t do us much good. Years after the 2003 attack on Iraq, some (but not most) of the members of Congress and the media who voted for and promoted it apologized.

Some of the same officials and outlets have supported new and ongoing wars on Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. The disaster of a war on Iran could compel apologies, but what we need is instead not to do it.

Sign the petition.
Email Congress.

After taking these actions, please use the tools on the next webpage to share them with your friends.

Background: 
H.R.2354 – Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019
S.1039 – Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019
Washington Post: Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran
*  Ray McGovern: Pretexts for an Attack on Iran
*  David Swanson: Don’t Iraq Iran
Common Dreams: In Old Tweets, Trump Warned a President Would Attack Iran in ‘Desperate’ Attempt to Win Reelection
Common Dreams: Amid Murky Intel, Experts Say Time to Be Clear: Threat of War With Iran “Solely and Unequivocally” Trump’s Fault

RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former US Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.

Pretexts for an Attack on Iran

Ray McGovern / Special to Consortium News 

(May 15, 2019) — An Iraq-War redux is now in full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for example, who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton’s request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.

The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War.” 

By midday, Trump had denied the Times report, branding it “fake news.” Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.

Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to “justify” attacking — this time — Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.


Bolton the Belligerent. (Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

What is not clear, to Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to use the same specious charges — terrorism and nuclear weapons — to provoke war with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the US as Iraq did — that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.B

Before discussing the main, but unspoken-in-polite-circles, impulse behind the present step-up in threats to Iran, let’s clear some underbrush by addressing the two limping-but-still-preferred, ostensible rationales, neither of which can bear close scrutiny:

No. 1: It isn’t because Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. We of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity shot down that canard a year and a half ago. In a Memorandum for President Trump, we said:

“The depiction of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism’ is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981.

In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years.”

No. 2. It isn’t because Iran is building a nuclear weapon. A November 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed any such work. That judgment has been re-affirmed by the Intelligence Community annually since then.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, imposed strict, new, verifiable restrictions on Iranian nuclear-related activities and was agreed to in July 2015 by Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, the U.K., Germany and the European Union. 


US team on way to JCPOA meeting at UN, New York 2016 (Photo: US State Department)

Even the Trump administration has acknowledged that Iran has been abiding by the agreement’s provisions. Nevertheless, President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, four weeks after John Bolton became his national security adviser.

‘We Prefer No Outcome’ 

Fair WarningWhat follows may come as a shock to those malnourished on the drivel in mainstream media: The “WHY,” quite simply, is Israel. It is impossible to understand US Middle East policy without realizing the overwhelming influence of Israel on it and on opinion makers. (A personal experience drove home how strong the public appetite is for the straight story, after I gave a half-hour video interview to independent videographer Regis Tremblay three years ago. He titled it “The Inside Scoop on the Middle East & Israel,” put it on YouTube and it got an unusually high number of views.) 

Syria is an illustrative case in point, since Israel has always sought to secure its position in the Middle East by enlisting US support to curb and dominate its neighbors. An episode I recounted in that interview speaks volumes about Israeli objectives in the region as a whole, not only in Syria. And it includes an uncommonly frank admission/exposition of Israeli objectives straight from the mouths of senior Israeli officials. It is the kind of case-study, empirical approach much to be preferred to indulging in ponderous pronouncements or, worse still, so-called “intelligence assessments.”

It has long been clear that Israeli leaders have powerful incentives to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority has become crystal clear in many ways. Reporter Jodi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem, had an important article in The New York Times on Sept. 6, 2013, in which she addressed Israel’s motivation in a particularly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike against Syria,” noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.

Rudoren wrote:

“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

If this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the carnage in Syria, they seem to believe that deeper US involvement, including military action, is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict especially when Syrian government forces seem to be getting the upper hand. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates it will be. 

The fact that Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. And since Iranian military support has not been enough to destroy those challenging Bashar al-Assad, Israel can highlight that in an attempt to humiliate Iran as an ally. 

Today the geography has shifted from Syria to Iran: What’s playing out in the Persian Gulf area is a function of the politically-dictated obsequiousness of American presidents to the policies and actions of Israel’s leaders.

This bipartisan phenomenon was obvious enough under recent presidents like Clinton and Obama; but under Bush II and Trump, it went on steroids, including a born-again, fundamentalist religious aspect.

One need hardly mention the political power of the Israel lobby and the lucrative campaign donations from the likes of Sheldon Adelson. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is riding high, at least for the now, Israeli influence is particularly strong in the lead-up to US elections, and Trump has been acquitted of colluding with Russia. 

The stars seem aligned for very strong “retaliatory strikes” for terrorist acts blamed on Iran. 

Tonkin — er, I Mean Persian Gulf

Over the weekend, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz. Last evening The Wall Street Journal was the first to report an “initial US assessment” that Iran likely was behind the attacks, and quoted a “US official” to the effect that if confirmed, this would inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The attacks came as the US deploys an aircraft carrier, bombers and an antimissile battery to the Gulf — supposedly to deter what the Trump administration said is the possibility of Iranian aggression.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting a bloody war for the past four years, launched a drone attack on a Saudi east-west pipeline that carries crude to the Red Sea. This is not the first such attack; a Houthi spokesman said the attack was a response to Saudi “aggression” and “genocide” in Yemen. The Saudis shut down the pipeline for repair.

Thus the dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz increase apace with US-Iran recriminations. This, too, is not new.

Tension in the Strait was very much on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the US and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”

Now the potential for an incident has increased markedly. Adm. Mullen was primarily concerned about the various sides — Iran, the US, Israel — making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”

With Pompeo and Bolton on the loose, the world may be well advised to worry even more about “intended consequences” from a false flag attack. The Israelis are masters at this. The tactic has been in the US clandestine toolkit for a long time, as well. In recent days, the Pentagon has reported tracking “anomalous naval activity” in the Persian Gulf, including loading small sailing vessels with missiles and other military hardware.

Cheney: Down to the Sea in Boats

In July 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the vice president’s office in the wake of a January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and US warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

Hersh wrote:

“There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives. 

“And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of, that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. 

“Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January 2008] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. Youknow, we’re into it.”

Preparing the (Propaganda) Battlefield

One of Washington’s favorite ways to blacken Iran and its leaders is to blame it for killing US troops in Iraq. Iran was accused, inter alia, of supplying the most lethal improvised explosive devices, but sycophants like Gen. David Petraeus wanted to score points by blaming the Iranians for still more actions. 

On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” that would provide detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.”

Petraeus’s staff alerted US media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala, Iraq, would be displayed and then destroyed. But there was a small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.

This embarrassing episode went virtually unreported in Western media—like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no corporate media to hear it crash. A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks find out about it. The Iraqis did announce that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate US claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.”

With his windsock full of neoconservative anti-Iran rhetoric, Petreaus, as CIA director, nevertheless persisted — and came up with even more imaginative allegations of Iranian perfidy. Think back, for example, to October 2011 and the outlandish White House spy feature at the time: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US And hold your nose.

More recently, the Pentagon announced it has upped its estimate of how many US troops Iran killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. The revised death tally would mean that Iran is responsible for 17 percent of all US troops killed in Iraq.

Who Will Restrain the ‘Crazies’?

Pompeo stopped off in Brussels on Monday to discuss Iran with EU leaders, skipping what would have been the first day of a two-day trip to Russia. Pompeo did not speak to the news media in Brussels, but European foreign ministers said that they had urged “restraint.”

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended, really on either side.” British Army Major General Christopher Ghika was rebuked by US Central Command for saying Tuesday: “There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” Central Command spokesperson Captain Bill Urban said Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”

Although there is growing resentment at the many serious problems tied to Trump’s pulling the US out of the Iran deal, and there is the EU’s growing pique at heavyweights like Pompeo crashing their gatherings uninvited, I agree with Pepe Escobar’s bottom line, that “it’s politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.”

There remains a fleeting hope that cooler heads in the US military might summon the courage to talk some sense into Trump, in the process making it clear that they will take orders from neither Pompeo nor from National Security Advisor John Bolton. But the generals and admirals of today are far more likely in the end to salute and “follow orders.”

There is a somewhat less forlorn hope that Russia will give Pompeo a strong warning in Sochi — a shot across the bow, so to speak. The last thing Russia, China, Turkey and other countries want is an attack on Iran. Strategic realities have greatly changed since the two wars on Iraq.

In 1992, still in the afterglow of Desert Storm (the first Gulf War), former Gen. Wesley Clark asked then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz about major lessons to be drawn from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991. Without hesitation, Wolfowitz answered, “We can do these things and the Russians won’t stop us.” That was still true for the second attack on Iraq in 2003.

But much has changed since then: In 2014, the Russians stopped NATO expansion to include Ukraine, after the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev; and in the years that followed, Moscow thwarted attempts by the US, Israel, and others to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

No doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to “stop us” before the Bolton/Pompeo team finds an “Iranian” casus belli. Initial reporting from Sochi, where Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday indicates there was no meeting of the minds on Iran. Both Pompeo and Lavrov described their talks as “frank” — diplomat-speak for acrimonious.

Pompeo was probably treated to much stronger warnings in private during the Sochi talks with Lavrov and Putin. Either or both may even have put into play the potent China card, now that Russia and China have a relationship just short of a military alliance — a momentous alteration of what the Soviets used to call the “correlation of forces.” 

In my mind’s eye, I can even see Putin warning, “If you attack Iran, you may wish to be prepared for trouble elsewhere, including in the South China Sea. Besides, the strategic balance is quite different from conditions existing each time you attacked Iraq. We strongly advise you not to start hostilities with Iran — under any pretext. If you do, we are ready this time.”

And, of course, Putin could also pick up the phone and simply call Trump.

There is no guarantee, however, that tough talk from Russia could stick an iron rod into the wheels of the juggernaut now rolling downhill to war on Iran. But, failing that kind of strong intervention and disincentive, an attack on Iran seems all but assured. Were we to be advising President Trump today, we VIPS would not alter a word in the recommendation at the very end of the Memorandum for President George W. Bush we sent him on the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2003, after Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council earlier that day: 

“No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and presidential briefer and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

In Old Tweets, Trump Warned a President Could Attack Iran in ‘Desperate’ Attempt to Win Reelection

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

(May 16, 2019) — Donald Trump predicted that an American president would launch a war with Iran in a “desperate” attempt to win reelection—he just didn’t think it would be him.

As Trump and the hawks in his cabinet dangerously escalate military tensions with Iran ahead of the 2020 election, Twitter users and media outlets have uncovered a slew of old Trump tweets warning that former President Barack Obama would “attack Iran” to boost his electoral prospects.

“Barack Obama will attack Iran in the not too distant future because it will help him win the election,” Trump tweeted on November 14, 2011—a prediction he echoed nearly a dozen times between 2011 and 2012.

Read more here.

Refuse to Fight: The Time Has Come for Patriotic Dissent

May 21st, 2019 - by Maj. Danny Sjursen, USA (ret.) / AntiWar.com

(May 21, 2019) — What if they called a war and no one came? Well, now’s the time folks. The apparent march to war with Iran represents a pivotal moment in the historical arc—the rise and fall—of our republic come empire. This potential war is so unnecessary, so irrational, that it borders on the absurd. Still, since the U.S. now fields a professional, volunteer military, few citizens have “skin in the game.” As such, they could hardly care less.

Unlike in past wars—think Vietnam—there is no longer a built in, established antiwar movement. This is unfortunate, and, dangerous for a democracy. See the US Government operates with near impunity in foreign affairs, waging global war without the consent of the people and, essentially, uninterested in what the people have to say at all. It should not be thus in a healthy republic. People should not fear their government; governments should fear their people.

So let me propose something seemingly ludicrous. It’s this: since Americans only trust the military among various branches of government, and since that military is both over adulated and ultimately responsible for waging these insane wars, it is within the military that active dissent must begin.

That’s right, to stop the war America needs clean-cut, seemingly conservative, all-American soldiers and officers to start refusing to fight. The people will back them; trust me. These guys are heroes after all, right? I mean few will pay attention to some aging hippie protester—even if he or she is correct—but even Republicans might tune in to here what a combat vet has to say.

Remember, we soldiers take an oath not to a particular president or a certain government but to the Constitution. And that constitution has been violated time and again for some 75 years as US presidents play emperor and wage unilateral wars without the required, and clearly stipulated, consent of Congress, I.e. the people’s representatives. Thus, one could argue—and I’m doing just that—that a massive military “sit-down-strike” of sorts would be both legal and moral.

Sure, its a long shot. But there is historical precedence for dissent within the US military. It is an unknown but vibrant history worthy of a brief recounting. Back in the mid-19th century, many US Army officers were so appalled by the futility and brutality of the three American attempts to subjugate the Seminole tribe in Florida that a staggering portion of the young subalterns simply resigned.

There was also dissent in the ranks during the Mexican-American War of conquest. Though they did their duty, many officers were appalled by the blatant aggression of their country. A young lieutenant—and future general / president—named US Grant stated that he knew “the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War.

I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign.” Its unlikely that very many Americans even know that prominent statesmen, too, have often been against wars.

The list goes on. During the Great Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s-90s, many US Army officers actually came to respect their native adversaries, and in some cases protected the tribes from land hungry civilian prospectors and settlers. Then during the Philippine-American War, many young soldiers wrote letters back home—some of which were published in newspapers—expressing their skeptical uncertainty and exposing various war crimes.

Few remember that during World War I tens of thousands of Americans simply refused to serve, even when drafted. Most were kept in military internment camps of sorts until the end of the war. Others sought to fight the draft by discouraging others not to enlist or to submit to conscription.

The former labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, was even sentenced to eight years in federal prison simply for giving an antiwar speech outside of a recruiting station. At his sentencing he told the judge—in ever so Christlike language—that “while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Finally, during the Vietnam War, many thousands of soldiers and veterans joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and became active and prominent staples in the massive antiwar movement. VVAW marched on Washington time and again.

At some marches, members threw away their medals, and some leaders even held “Winter Soldier” hearings to expose the war crimes they witnessed and participated in first hand. One particularly articulate young navy officer—future Secretary of State John Kerry—famously asked, during the hearings, “Who will be the last to die for a mistake?”

Perhaps we should be asking that question now!


The author (left) in Afghanistan with his translator, Ali. (Photo: ZeroHedge)

Only today there are rather few veteran and active duty dissenters. As the military became more selective and professional it also became more culturally conservative. It turned out that President Nixon was right and that ending the draft took the wind out of the sails of the antiwar movement.

Still, we are still out there. I belong to a small but morally powerful organization called About Face: Veterans Against the War. It’s a budding movement, and lacks the numbers of its predecessor, but it is certainly modeled on VVAW. We need more members to join, more authentic, credible vets to speak out and tell this government, not in my name!

My point is this: it’s now the time for the dirty work of citizenship to begin. That means protests, marches, civil disobedience. This must happen in society at large but also as a microcosm in the US military. Generals must resign in protest and then speak out.

Soldiers should question their orders and ignore—as is legally justified—those that are immoral or unconstitutional. Service members ought to collectively refuse to fight unless Congress is consulted and actually declares war on Iran, or whichever Muslim country full of brown folks Washington takes to fighting next.

I never had that courage when I was a young man, even though I knew what I was doing was ultimately wrong. So I hope there are braver souls than me wearing the uniform today—those willing to redefine patriotism as dissent.

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Why The Guardian Is Changing the Language It Uses about the Environment

May 21st, 2019 - by Damian Carrington / The Guardian

From now, house style guide recommends terms such as ‘climate crisis’ and ‘global heating’

LONDON (May 17, 2019) — The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.

Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

“Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said.

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope, also uses “climate crisis”.

In December, Prof Richard Betts, who leads the Met Office’s climate research, said “global heating” was a more accurate term than “global warming” to describe the changes taking place to the world’s climate. In the political world, UK MPs recently endorsed the Labour party’s declaration of a “climate emergency”.

The scale of the climate and wildlife crises has been laid bare by two landmark reports from the world’s scientists.

In October, they said carbon emissions must halve by 2030 to avoid even greater risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. In May, global scientists said human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating annihilation of wildlife and destruction of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth.

Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”. In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”

Earlier in May, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired school strikes for climate around the globe, said: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”

The update to the Guardian’s style guide follows the addition of the global carbon dioxide level to the Guardian’s daily weather pages. “Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen so dramatically—including a measure of that in our daily weather report is symbolic of what human activity is doing to our climate,” said Viner in April. “People need reminding that the climate crisis is no longer a future problem—we need to tackle it now, and every day matters.”

As the Crisis Escalates…

… in our natural world, we refuse to turn away from the climate catastrophe and species extinction. For The Guardian, reporting on the environment is a priority. We give reporting on climate, nature and pollution the prominence it deserves, stories, which often go unreported by others in the media.

At this pivotal time for our species and our planet, we are determined to inform readers about threats, consequences and solutions based on scientific facts, not political prejudice or business interests. But we need your support to grow our coverage, to travel to the remote frontlines of change and to cover vital conferences that affect us all.

More people are reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion.

This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do—but we must maintain and build on it for every year to come.

Damian Carrington is the Environment editor at The Guardian.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Inside the Long War to Protect Plastics

May 21st, 2019 - by Tik Root / The Center for Public Integrity and PRI’s The World.

—A fisherman in India walks on the shores of the Arabian Sea, littered with plastic trash from the ocean. (Photo: Rafiq Magbool)

New York’s Suffolk County had a trash problem. Facing brimming landfills and public pressure, legislators took a first-in-the-nation step: They banned plastic bags. But what the county saw as part of the solution, the plastics industry took as a threat.

“We had never seen lobbyists like this before,” said Steven Englebright, the chief sponsor of the bill. “The B.S. came in by the shovel-load.”

That was in 1988. Soon, Suffolk County — on Long Island — inspired similar initiatives in municipalities across the country. As one lawyer for the industry wrote in an internal memo from the time: “Several years from now we may look back on 1988 as the opening round in a solid waste/packaging war.”

A barge load of garbage from Long Island, New York, traveled 6,000 miles in 1987 in a fruitless search for a dump site. That same year, worried about a mounting trash crisis, a Long Island county proposed the nation’s first plastic bag ban. (AP Photo/David Bookstaver)

The plastics industry — from the chemical giants making the building blocks of plastic to companies using the packaging to sell their products — has been waging that war for more than 30 years. It has pumped millions of dollars into pro-plastic marketing, high-profile lawsuits and lobbyists who travel the country promising that recycling, not bans, presents the best way forward. All this despite decades of repeated warnings about weak recycling markets and plastic pollution problems. 

Today, about a dozen states restrict local governments from regulating plastic items, while only two (with a third pending) have passed statewide plastic-bag bans. And manufacturers are profiting from a plastics boom. According to the research firm the Freedonia Group, by 2025, the plastic packaging market will be worth roughly $365 billion.

“The industry has kept us from confronting plastics for decades through corporate lobbying and threats of litigation,” said Jennie Romer, a lawyer, longtime anti-plastics activist and founder of the website PlasticBagLaws.org. “Billions of single-use plastic items have made it into our environment because of this.”

“The industry has kept us from confronting plastics for decades through corporate lobbying and threats of litigation.”

— JENNIE ROMER, LAWYER, LONGTIME ANTI-PLASTICS ACTIVIST AND FOUNDER OF PLASTICBAGLAWS.ORG

Of the roughly 300 million tons of plastic waste the world creates every year, an estimated eight million tons makes its way into oceans. In March, scientists examining a dead whale found more than 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Because the material often breaks down into tiny particles, the oceans contain an estimated 5.25 trillion microplastics, which can easily absorb toxic chemicals and emit climate-changing gases

“We believe uncollected plastics do not belong in the environment,” the Plastics Industry Association, a key trade group, wrote in a statement after declining an interview. “The problem is that waste management practices and infrastructure did not keep pace with the changing economy.” 

The group argued that plastics are more environmentally friendly than alternatives — using fewer resources to create, while also making end products lighter — and are crucial for global commerce. 

“In many ways, plastics have made the modern economy possible,” the statement reads. “Other materials and processes transformed the world over the course of centuries or millennia. Plastics did so in decades.”

PRACTICALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE 

Synthetic plastic first appeared in the early 1900s as an alternative to materials such as cork or paper. But World War II catalyzed plastic’s ascent. The material worked its way into every facet of the military — including in the cockpits and gunner noses of fighter planes. When soldiers returned home, plastics came with them and quickly became a fixture of American life.

This wasn’t an accident. In 1937 — after a series of golf getaways — leading manufacturers formed the Society of the Plastics Industry, now known as the Plastics Industry Association. Its mission was to promote and protect plastics. By the 1960s, the society was encountering early signs of what would become its greatest challenge. 

America’s trash had accumulated into a crisis, and disposable plastics, even in much smaller amounts than the country now uses, seemed to be making the problem worse. The first national conference on packaging waste convened in 1969, with an attendance list that included key manufacturers. 

“This material is practically indestructible,” griped Leonard Stefanelli, president of a California salvage company. “Packaging is a particularly large contributor to the problems of household refuse collection and street litter,” noted a New York City sanitation official.

“This material is practically indestructible.”

— LEONARD STEFANELLI, PRESIDENT OF A CALIFORNIA SALVAGE COMPANY

As concerns about plastic grew louder, the industry knew it had to offer municipal leaders something. It turned to recycling. “No doubt about it, legislation [restricting plastics] is the single most important reason why we are looking at recycling,” said Wayne Pearson, the then-executive director of the Plastics Recycling Foundation, an initiative that 45 companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi formed in the mid-1980s. The industry similarly established the Council for Solid Waste Solutions to promote recycling programs and infrastructure. Around the same time the society also pushed incineration, which releases air pollution, as “really a form of recycling.”

In 1987, a top official with the trade group, Roger Bernstein, brought the narrative to Suffolk County. Later, in an interview with Susan Freinkel for her 2011 book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, Bernstein referred to recycling as a “guilt eraser.” 

The recycling argument was often persuasive. A 1989 Council for Solid Waste Solutions account of its efforts in Iowa — which, like other internal documents in this story, were unearthed through lawsuits and collected by Toxic Docs, a project based at Columbia University and the City University of New York — noted that “outright bans on polystyrene packaging were dropped with a promise of recycling by industry.” 

Just this February, the trash-handling firm Waste Management said in a government filing that manufacturers are pressuring its recycling-collection programs to accept more types of plastic “to alleviate public pressures to ban the sale of those materials.”

Industry recycling pledges have kept coming despite decades of warnings — some of them internal — that this solution was limited. “Currently, there is no market for recycled plastics,” read one Society of the Plastics Industry document from 1972. “Recycling currently is not feasible for most multi-material packages,” acknowledged another from 1987. And as the recent Waste Management filing made clear, even now certain plastics have “no viable end markets.”

Today, many U.S. cities don’t accept plastic bags in their recycling stream because the thin sacks gum up sorting machinery. Just 9 percent of all plastic waste in the U.S. was recycled in 2015, according to the latest federal estimate. That rate is almost certainly lower now: Cities were relying heavily on China to take the plastic they’d collected and finish the job, but last year the country all but stopped accepting those imports. 

Martin Bourque, executive director of a nonprofit providing curbside recycling pickup in Berkeley, California, said that instead of selling his customers’ plastic food containers he must pay a U.S. facility $75 a ton to take them. Only half that material gets turned into recycled content. The rest, he said, ends up in a landfill.

“The brands and the manufacturers and the petrochemical industry all want us to believe it’s recyclable,” said Bourque, with the Ecology Center. “But it’s not a problem that we’re going to be able to recycle our way out of.” 

PLASTIC BAGS BECOME A FLASHPOINT

When the recycling argument didn’t work, the industry would often sue — as was the case in Suffolk County. Although the ban passed in 1988, it spent years in the courts before its opponents ultimately prevailed and the legislation was repealed.

The industry’s tactics in the 1980s paid off in the 1990s, which — with a few exceptions, such as McDonald’s move away from polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam) — were a heyday for plastics. “There were no bans, essentially, in all that time,” Bernstein told author Freinkel. “There were no products that were put out of the marketplace.”

But concerns eventually resurfaced. Plastic bags so badly clogged the drains of Mumbai, India, during flooding that, in 2000, the city banned them. Facing similar issues two years later, Bangladesh became the first country to do the same. In 2007, San Francisco implemented America’s first bag ban, prompting a new round of similar ordinances in U.S. cities.

 “Legislation and regulation threaten to fundamentally change our business model,” William Carteaux, the Society of the Plastics Industry’s then-president, told a crowd of industry insiders in 2009. “We can’t continue to fight back just at the reactive stage when things are emotionally charged. We have to take the offensive.”

The industry spent millions of dollars opposing bans in California alone. One of their primary lawyers in the state, Stephen Joseph, was dubbed “Patron Saint of Plastic Bags” by Time magazine. He called unwashed reusable bags a “health hazard” and suggested that bans would mean more dog poop on streets. Ban advocates, he wrote in a 2010 court filing, “have disseminated environmental myths, misinformation and exaggerations to promote their goal.”

This time, though, lawsuits didn’t work. California courts repeatedly rebuffed Joseph and the industry. In 2014, lawmakers there passed the country’s first statewide ban on plastic bags. 

“This bill is a step in the right direction,” said then-Gov. Jerry Brown. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The industry, though, was about to add a new weapon to its arsenal.

BANNING BANS

Bisbee is a small town of about 5,000, tucked into the Arizona hills just shy of the Mexican border. Like many places, it had a plastic bag problem. Empty grocery sacks would float down the street and into the surrounding landscape. In response, the city council banned them in 2012. 

“There was a dramatic change,” said Mayor David Smith. Soon after, he could drive miles without seeing any littered bags. 

The industry didn’t sue. It had a new plan. 

In early 2013, the society joined the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, which routinely works with companies and conservative lawmakers to write and then promote legislation. One strategy ALEC pursues is “preemption” bills, which, when passed at the state level, prevent cities and other municipalities from regulating certain activities — ranging from wages to pesticides.

In September 2015, ALEC approved a template for preempting local regulation of disposable containers and bags, complete with an easy-to-fill “[Insert Jurisdiction]” blank. Now, about a dozen states have passed some version of plastic preemption — including Arizona in 2016

The Plastics Industry Association said it left ALEC in 2017 and was never involved in the model policy process, which ALEC says is legislator-driven. Regardless, both organizations, along with other supporters of plastic preemption legislation, argue that it heads off a patchwork of local laws that could confuse and burden consumers and businesses alike. Environmentalists say the effect has been chilling, stopping new initiatives and reversing earlier wins. 

In the fall of 2017, the Arizona attorney general ruled that plastics bans like Bisbee’s violated Arizona’s new preemption regime. Smith said his city faced a choice: Repeal its ban or lose all state funding. 

“I called it extortion,” Smith said, but he saw no way around it and the city rescinded its ban. The windswept bags came back.

“We call them desert flags,” he said, “because they hang on all the cactus.”

PLASTIC ‘EVERYWHERE’

In 1971, biological oceanographer Edward J. Carpenter was out in a remote region of the North Atlantic known as the Sargasso Sea, sampling seaweed that was drifting on the ocean surface. To his surprise, he kept pulling up tiny pieces of plastic. The same thing happened on a separate trip along the New England coast. 

“The plastic was just everywhere,” he said. “So I tried to quantify it.” 

Carpenter published his findings in two 1972 articles in the prestigious journal Science. They were among the first studies of plastic pollution and came with an unmistakable warning. “Increasing production of plastics, combined with present waste-disposal practices,” he wrote, “will undoubtedly lead to increases in the concentration of these particles.”

This was just a few years after the Society of the Plastics Industry commissioned a report that estimated the amount of plastic waste would soon reach almost 11 billion pounds annually but argued the problem was “minor” and that plastics “do not appear to have any potential as land or water pollutants.” Carpenter’s research was an implicit challenge to that notion. 

Shortly after each of his articles was published, he said, the society flew an industry scientist out to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to meet with his bosses and question him. “It was obvious that they were pretty upset about it,” Carpenter said. He found the visits “kind of intimidating.”

The Plastics Industry Association, as the society rebranded itself in 2016, did not address questions about the incident directly. “We can’t speak for anyone who’s no longer a part of our organization, or no longer a part of the industry,” it said in a statement. “But today we know that the plastics industry has nothing to hide.”

For decades, though, the industry cast doubt on marine plastic problems or dodged responsibility. At the 1989 International Conference on Marine Debris (which the industry-funded Council for Solid Waste Solutions co-sponsored), for instance, the society issued an official statement claiming that most plastic pollution was “beyond the ‘control’ of the plastics industry.” In 2008, Joseph, the industry attorney, wrote in a court filing that “there is no evidence that plastic bags are a continuing significant problem for marine animals or seabirds.”

Meanwhile, plastics kept flowing into the oceans. 

In 1997, oceanographer Charles Moore spotted a tract of marine debris off the West Coast that became known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” His 1999 study reported “the mass of plastic was approximately six times that of plankton.” A 2014 survey found plastic bags deep on the seafloor, hundreds of miles from land. Scientists estimated in 2015 — more than four decades after the first study about plastic in the stomachs of seabirds — that 90 percent of these animals have eaten the substance at some point in their lives. Last year, record levels of microplastics were found in the Arctic, with traces of 17 different plastics frozen in seawater.

Even the industry seems unable to deny these plastics issues any longer. In January, a group that includes petrochemical companies, plastics manufacturers and distributors formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and pledged $1.5 billion over five years to help “make the dream of a world without plastic waste a reality.”

That funding represents a tiny fraction of the more than $1 trillion that plastic packaging is expected to bring in during that same period. Many of the alliance members are also building new plastic plants — including one that would be the world’s largest in Texas.

In a statement, the alliance said it hopes its pledge will trigger more investments in waste management. “We recognize this amount is not sufficient to achieve the goal of eliminating plastic waste in the environment,” wrote a representative of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. “There is no single solution, and we don’t have all the answers.”

On its website, the alliance adds, “Plastics have helped improve living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world. … We must maintain the critical benefits that plastics bring to people and communities around the world.”

“We must maintain the critical benefits that plastics bring to people and communities around the world.”

ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE: FOOT SOLDIERS AND FASHION SHOWS

As the executive director of the industry-backed American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), Matt Seaholm is like a first responder. When there’s new plastics legislation proposed, he’s there: New Jersey in September, South Carolina in November, Memphis in January.

“Imagine our surprise when he flew down from Washington,” said Monique Michel, an attorney with the Memphis City Council. 

The APBA, which declined an interview request for Seaholm, wrote in a statement, “Bans don’t work; they punish people into using alternatives that are worse for the environment.”

The industry’s current foot soldiering echoes its Suffolk County-era strategy. These days it includes representatives from Novolex — one of the world’s largest plastic-bag manufacturers — as well as local lobbyists that the industry hires for tens of thousands of dollars per month. 

When Charleston, South Carolina, was considering a plastic bag ban in 2015 and 2016, the industry countered with materials that ranged from a “myth vs. fact” sheet about recycling to academic research. A slideshow from Clemson University, stating that plastic bags “are not a significant litter problem,” drew from a 2014 study that concluded that bans “may result in negative impact on the environment rather than positive.”

Buried deep in the report: Hilex Poly Co., Novolex’s previous name, paid for the research. The lead author, Robert Kimmel, is the director of Clemson’s Center for Flexible Packaging, which receives industry funding. He has appeared as an expert witness for the industry. One of the main surveys in the study was conducted by Edelman Berland, the research arm of a firm that also lobbies for the APBA.

“[Hilex Poly] did not try to influence us or our conclusions in any way, shape, or form,” said Kimmel. “Paper bags are not a good alternative to [plastic] grocery bags.”

A study by the British government, for instance, found that a paper bag would have to be reused four times to have the same “global warming potential” as a conventional plastic bag. A cotton bag would have be to reused 131 times. And recent research found that when plastic grocery bags were banned in California, people used more plastic sacks of other types, reducing the plastics waste savings from 40 million pounds to 28 million. That study’s author, Rebecca Taylor, recommends fees over bans — and that any fees extend to paper as well. (Many cities are already passing “second generation” bag bills that also include a fee on paper.)

As this fight over plastics has expanded to more places, the industry is also targeting new demographics with its message.

The APBA, for instance, has funded the Black Leadership Action Coalition, whose founder, Bertha Lewis, argues that bag fees and bans will disproportionately burden poor and minority communities. “New Yorkers, YOU BEEN HOODWINKED!” she wrote in response to a proposed bag fee in New York City. She declined multiple requests for interviews.

The industry has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars into its “Plastics Makes it Possible” campaign, which started on TV in the 1990s and is now splashed across social media. The campaign has built a tiny house featuring plastics, gathered endorsements from celebrities such as The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco — she hosted a plastic fashion show, saying,“Plastics make you cuter” — and paid for posts on sites like BuzzFeed.

A “Plastics Makes it Possible” commercial from the 1990s. Today, the campaign is splashed across social media.

“Environmentally friendly board shorts,” reads No. 12 on an industry-sponsored listicle of items made from recycled or reused plastics. Or there’s No. 2: “Awesome plastic chairs.”

LIKE MINK COATS AND CIGARETTES

To a large extent, the industry’s lobbying, promotion and outreach is working — demand for plastics keeps rising. But the perception of plastics is changing.

“The water bottle has, in some way, become the mink coat or the pack of cigarettes,” said John Caturano, senior sustainability manager for Nestlé Waters North America, at a conference this March. (Nestlé has pledged to make all its packaging “recyclable or reusable” by 2025.) “It’s socially not very acceptable to the young folks, and that scares me.”

And, while state preemption laws still far outnumber statewide bans, attempts to impose fees or other limitations are mounting. Legislators in Hawaii and New Jersey, among other places, are trying to expand their targets to include not only bags but also straws and foam containers. Lawmakers in several states are also trying “producer responsibility” bills, which are more broadly aimed at getting companies, instead of consumers, to bear the costs of recycling.

Suffolk County, which never got to impose its 1988 ban, implemented a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags in January 2018. According to the county, businesses distributed 1.1 billion fewer bags during the first year of the policy. In March, New York became the second state in the country to enact a bag ban.

“It’s gratifying, but we still have so much more plastic going into the waste stream,” said Steven Englebright, the original sponsor of the Suffolk County bill and now a New York state assemblyman. Action, he said, could have been taken much earlier. “We really should not have had a 30-year delay.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes

Closing Military Bases, Opening a New World

May 20th, 2019 - by David Swanson / World BEYOND War

Why does the US have troops in 175 countries with roughly 1,000 major military bases in over 80 other nations? (Image: The History Reader: St. Martin’s Press)

(May 2, 2019) — In a day and age when many of us are taught to overcome prejudice and behave respectfully toward all, mainstream US media and school texts still habitually portray US lives as the only lives that really matter. A plane crash that kills dozens of human beings is reported, just like a war, with the bulk of the coverage on the handful of US lives lost.

A US military commander’s decision to bomb a village rather than subject his troops to ground combat is depicted as an act of enlightenment. The US Civil War is almost universally labeled the deadliest of all US wars, despite the fact that many US wars have killed many more human beings — including US human beings if Filipinos were US citizens during the Philippine-American war or World War II.

In an age when we are generally taught to solve our problems nonviolently, the exception for the organized mass murder of war remains. But wars are increasingly marketed, not as protection from the Adolf Hitler of the Month (last month’s weapons customer), but as acts of philanthropy and benevolence, preventing massacres by bombing cities, or delivering humanitarian aid by bombing cities, or developing democracies by bombing cities.

So, why does the United States maintain troops in at least 175 countries, and roughly 1,000 major military bases in over 80 countries outside the United States and its colonies? This is a practice whose development depended on racism. When old-fashioned colonies became unnecessary for rubber, tin, and other materials that chemists could create, the exception of oil remained, and the desire to maintain troops near potential new wars (how ever progressively marketed) remained.

Now that it is clear to most of us that oil will render the Earth uninhabitable, that the United States can get its planes, ships, drones, and troops to any spot on earth rapidly without any nearby base, and that all human beings are equally capable of creating such splendorous monuments to self-government as the campaign ad, the gerrymandered district, and the unverifiable voting machine, it’s mostly the belief that non-US people don’t matter that remains.

There are profits to be made, and weapons-buying or oil-selling or labor-exploiting dictatorships to be propped up. There’s the inertia of the way things are. There’s the perverse drive to dominate the globe. But the marketing scheme for the global archipelago of bases comes down to the need to police people for their own good, even though they mostly believe it harms them.

The presence of not a single foreign US or NATO base has been approved by a public referendum. Numerous such bases have been voted down by public referenda (including one in February 2019 in Okinawa), not a single one of which has been honored by the US government. Many bases are the targets of massive nonviolent protests even before their construction, and for years or decades after.

Most bases are gated communities on steroids. The residents can come out, visit brothels, drink, crash their cars and sometimes airplanes, and commit crimes immune from local prosecution.

The bases can emit pollutants and poisons, render the local drinking water deadly, and answer to nobody in the nation being “served” by the base. Those who live outside the base, unless employed there, cannot come in to visit the Little America built inside the walls: the super markets, fast food restaurants, schools, gyms, hospitals, childcare centers, golf courses.

An empire of bases is an empire of very little land, but it is no more land that was “available” than the Americas were empty and awaiting European “discovery.” Countless villages and farms have been eradicated, populations evicted from islands, those islands bombed and poisoned into uninhabitablity.

This process describes significant portions of Hawaii, of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Bikini Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, Lib Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Ebeye, Vieques, Culebra, Okinawa, Thule, Diego Garcia, and other locations most people in the United States have never heard of. South Korea has evicted large numbers of people from their homes to make way for US bases in recent years. Pagan Island is a new target for destruction.

While the rest of the world’s nations combined have a couple of dozen military bases outside their borders, and while the wealthier nations of the world are leaving the United States behind in health, happiness, life expectancy, education, and other measures of well-being, the United States goes right on building and maintaining more bases around the world at great expense (over $100 billion every year), and at great risk.

This has been true during every recent US presidency. President Donald Trump may yet get a big new base named for him in Poland, though it is in Asia and Africa that the heaviest base construction is underway.

Bases hold missiles as well as troops, and new bases in Romania and elsewhere have contributed to the highest ever risk of nuclear apocalypse. Bases have generated, motivated, and served as training grounds for terrorism, including such famous terrorist attacks as those of 9-11, driven by opposition to bases in Saudi Arabia, and groups like ISIS, organized in prison camps at US bases in Iraq.

An explicit purpose in launching and continuing many wars, including those on Afghanistan and Iraq, is to establish bases. Bases are also used as locations to torture people ostensibly outside the rule of any law. When Congress Members suspect that US troops might someday leave Syria or South Korea, they are quick to insist upon a permanent presence, though they are somewhat mollified when White House officials suggest that any troops leaving Syria will only make it as far as Iraq, from which they will be able to quickly attack Iran as “needed.”

The good news is that sometimes people can shut down bases, as when farmers in Japanprevented the construction of a US base in 1957, or when the people of Puerto Rico kicked the US Navy out of Culebra in 1974, and after years of effort, out of Vieques in 2003. Native Americans evicted a Canadian military base from their land in 2013. People of the Marshall Islands shortened a US base lease in 1983. The people of the Philippineskicked out all US bases in 1992 (though the US later returned). A women’s peace camp helped get US missiles out of England in 1993. US bases left Midway Island in 1993 and Bermuda in 1995. Hawaiians won back an island in 2003.

In 2007 localities in the Czech Republic held referenda that matched national opinion polls and demonstrations; their opposition moved their government to refuse to host a US base. Saudi Arabia closed its US bases in 2003 (later reopened), as did Uzbekistan in 2005, Kyrgyzstan in 2009. The US military decided it had done enough damage to Johnston/Kalama Atoll in 2004. In 2007, the President of Ecuador answered public demand, and exposed hypocrisy, by announcing the United States would need to host an Ecuadorean base or shut down its base in Ecuador.

There have been many incomplete victories. In Okinawa, when one base is blocked, another is proposed. But a broad and global movement is being built that is sharing strategies and providing assistance across borders.

At World BEYOND War we are putting a major focus on this effort, and have helped to start up a D.C. insider coalition called Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, drawing heavily on the work of David Vine and his book Base Nation. We’ve also been part of launching a global activist coalition to educate and mobilize people for the closure of US and NATO military bases. This effort has produced a conference in Baltimore, Md., in January 2018, and one in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2018.

Some of the angles finding traction and being shared around the world are environmental. US bases are poisoning ground water, not just all over the United States, where the Pentagon is seeking to legalize such practices, but all over the world, where it needn’t bother. The reasons the Pentagon needn’t bother legalizing destruction abroad ultimately depend on the last remaining widely accepted bigotry in US culture, namely that against every non-US culture.

As the anti-base movement grows, it must work with activists who oppose Western Empire without opposing violence. Spreading the skills of nonviolent activism will be crucial. It must also figure out how to work with that uniquely USian creation: libertarianism.

One way might be this: encourage pressure on Trump to continue demanding that nations occupied by (or “hosting”) US bases pay larger fees for the “service.” We can do this while encouraging governments around the world to respond with a polite “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

At the same time, we cannot lose track of the new world that would be made possible by moving resources away from the maintenance of bases, and away from the even more costly wars they instigate. With this kind of money, the United States could transform both itself and global foreign aid.

David Swanson is the Executive Director of World BEYOND War. Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Breaking News: World BEYOND War Receives Award for its Work Educating for the Abolition of War

On May 15, World BEYOND War Education Director Tony Jenkins received the Educators’ Challenge Award from the Global Challenges Foundation in partnership with the London School of Economics (LES) Institute of Global Affairs. An awards ceremony was held in London at LES where Tony presented on our educational work to abolish all war.

You can watch a video of his presentation below:

Tony was among 10 finalists each of whom received $5,000 awards. Tony also received the coveted $1,000 People’s Choice Award as a result of public support of the promotional video of our entry. Tony submitted our book, “A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (AGSS)” as an educational blueprint for ending all war through the development of a cooperative, nonviolent system of global governance.

ACTION ALERT: Stop Trump’s Assault on Colombian Peace Accord

May 20th, 2019 - by Alliance For Global Justice

Former FARC leader Jesus Santrich. (Photo: Colombia Check)

Free Jesús Santrich, Stop the White House Assaults on Colombia’s Peace Accord

Alliance For Global Justice

(May 19, 2019) — In what may constitute a mortal blow to Colombia’s peace process, President Ivan Duque has defied the order by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to release Jesús Santrich, aka Seuxis Hernández Solarte, from prison. Santrich is a negotiator and former insurgent who helped craft the accord to end more than five decades of civil war.

The failure to recognize the court’s authority undermines a key provision of the accord implemented in 2016: the establishment of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace court to oversee truth and reconciliation processes, the handling of criminal procedures, release of political prisoners and prisoners of war, as well as extradition requests regarding ex-combatants.

The probable next step in this rapidly unfolding drama is the extradition of Santrich to the United States, also in defiance of court orders. 

ACTION: Send an email to Colombian authorities demanding that they respect their own laws and court decisions, not Trump’s demands, and free Jesús Santrich!

ACTION: Send an email to the White House demanding that the charges and extradition request against Jesús Santrich be dropped and the assaults on the peace process be ended!

At this moment, Santrich is being held in a Bogotá hospital, where he is in intensive care following varying and confusing reports as to his condition. According to Fundación Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity Foundation), who form part of Santrich’s legal team, Santrich is receiving care for cardiac arrest.

Various other reports had circulated earlier claiming Santrich had attempted suicide. Still other sources said authorities had raided Santrich’s prison cell at least two times, injuring him.

The prospect that Santrich’s life could be in danger should not be dismissed. Former insurgents have previously died under suspicious circumstances while in state custody, including the recent mutilation and murder of ex insurgent Dimar Torres by Colombian Armed Forces troops on April 22 2019 in Norte de Santander. 

On Friday, May 17 2019 the Colombian government appeared to be complying with the order for Santrich to be released, taking him beyond the gates of the prison in a wheelchair surrounded by prison agents. He was then re-arrested moments later.

This liberation from prison was a cynical technicality in which Santrich never left the custody of prison personnel. The re-arrest happened in response to US government intervention, with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) providing allegedly new evidence linking Santrich to a narco-trafficking scheme. The evidence was never submitted to the JEP for review.

The Duque administration has chosen to ignore Colombian laws and legal judgments in deference to White House demands and interference. This exposes to the world the degree to which Colombia under the Duque administration has rejected all notions of national sovereignty, taking on a colonial relationship where US interests outweigh the authority of Colombia’s own laws, accords, and courts. 

Santrich was one of the primary negotiators of the accord between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), ending more than 52 years of war. He was arrested on charges of narco-trafficking shortly before he was to take office as a representative in the Colombian Congress of the new and legal FARC (Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons) political party.

All the known evidence against him to date is based on the testimony of paid informants and DEA agents who allege that Santrich joined into a narcotrafficking enterprise with them after the peace accord went into effect. A few audio and video recordings exist on which Santrich speaks, and none make mention whatsoever of cocaine or any other illicit substance.

Much of the testimony against Santrich contradicts known facts, for instance, reports of meetings Santrich could not possibly have attended since he was verifiably in an altogether different part of Colombia at the alleged times. 

The lack of credible or concrete audio or video evidence indicates that the DEA agents and dubious informants were either incompetent or had no case. Despite this sustained and coordinated effort, backed by considerable US resources, they were never able to record a single instance of explicit discussion of any kind of illegal activity or reference to a narcotic substance.

An article by the Colombian weekly Semana corroborates that they, “never specify if they are talking about illicit crops or productive crops….” According to Santrich, during the few conversations he had with the set-up team, he thought they were discussing an agricultural enterprise. This makes sense given that FARC leaders were actively looking to develop employment and business opportunities for ex-insurgents being reincorporated into civilian life.

Furthermore, there is no date on the video, and it is impossible to know if the video was made before or after the peace accord went into effect. 

The DEA refused to hand over its evidence while the JEP was considering the extradition request. The JEP also noted many other irregularities by the DEA, including that it never sought nor received official permission from the Colombian government to operate within the country.

This circumvention of legal process was done in collaboration with former Attorney General Nestor Martínez who just resigned along with his Vice Attorney General amid corruption investigations and accusations of mishandling the Santrich case. 

This extradition is a nefarious, concerted, and serious attack on one of the core components of the peace accord. Agreement was reached for a general amnesty for armed combatants on both sides of the conflict, with any serious crimes against humanity or war crimes still prosecutable by the JEP. The JEP was to have the last word on issues of extradition.

Under the accord, former combatants cannot be extradited for alleged crimes committed during the civil war. This was necessary given the US history of requesting the extradition of insurgents and ex-insurgents, even through false charges with the effect of impeding and circumventing the peace process. This history includes the extradition of Simón Trinidad, aka Ricardo Palmera, who is held at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Trinidad, like Jesús Santrich, was one of the FARC-EP’s peace negotiators. He has been in isolation since 2006 under kidnapping charges with no factual basis other than his membership in the FARC-EP. The US extradition process would create a catastrophic loophole around Colombian laws and the amnesty agreement. Extraditions have also been used against paramilitary leaders to avoid public exposure of testimonies “sensitive” to both US and Colombian national (and transnational corporate) interests. 

The arrest of Santrich in defiance of the JEP is part of a larger effort by the Duque and Trump administrations to destroy the special court. Not only has the Trump administration requested this extradition after the practice had not been used for years, it has publicly declared its support for attempts to de-commission the JEP.

The Duque administration has twice tried to repeal legislation establishing the JEP, and twice they have lost. During that process, then US-Ambassador Michael McKinley made a special trip to lobby the Colombian Congress against the JEP. Court cases at the highest levels have reaffirmed the legal authority of the JEP. 

The re-arrest of Santrich is a direct response to US pressure. It is also a response to pressure from Duque’s mentor, former president and current senator Álvaro Uribe. In either case, it is clear that Duque is not representing the Colombian voters, but is a puppet in the hands of other masters.

The morning before the re-arrest, Uribe, himself under various investigation[s] for his ties to paramilitary death squads, publicly announced that Santrich would not be released, but would be extradited to the US in outright defiance of the court’s decision.

Uribe speculated that this would be done via some kind of national emergency declaration by President Duque. Uribe is known as the “father of Colombia’s death squads” and was once actually listed as one of Colombia’s top 100 narco-traffickers by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. That, of course, was before he became a political power and the US government’s “best friend” in Latin America. 

The Trump-Uribe-Duque alliance wants to destroy the JEP and, with it, the entire peace process. This is part of a three-pronged strategy. The other components include attacks against agreements regarding agricultural reform and substitution of crops with illicit uses; and encouragement of military violence, and ignoring if not outright encouraging paramilitary political violence, against rural, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian community activists, peace process participants, and any political or social movement leaders who defend these sectors. 

Right now, the struggle to save the peace process in Colombia is centered on the resistance to the re-arrest and possible extradition of Jesús Santrich. We must demand his immediate liberty, that he be kept safe and sound while in custody, and that he not be extradited to the United States. 

As Santrich struggles for his life and freedom at the Méderi hospital in Bogotá, we must struggle for the peace of Colombia. The personal legal and medical condition of Jesús Santrich reflects the general health of Colombia’s peace accord. One can only hope they both recover.

The alternative is permanent conflict and an erosion of any notion of civil rights and independent justice, a situation that would have repercussions throughout Colombia, the United States, and the entire hemisphere.

This is an international precedent being set by Empire and its lackeys to jettison any and all notions of sovereignty and the rule of law. Those who care about peace, justice, and liberation will understand the importance of this crisis and step forward in resistance. 

THE LETTER TO IVAN DUQUE

Please send the following email to Colombian authorities.

I am writing to demand the immediate liberty for Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte, aka Jesús Santrich, and that he not be extradited to the United States.While he is incarcerated, I also demand that his safety be respected and that he remain healthy and unharmed. Jesus Santrich deserves respect for his role in negotiating Colombia’s peace accord, not repression by enemies of the peace. 

It is unbelievable that the Colombian government would obey the demands of the US government to jail Hernández Solarte instead of its own country’s laws and courts, which have ruled that he should be released. This constitutes a violation of the most basic concepts of sovereignty. There is no concrete evidcence against Hernández Solarte other than the testimony of paid informants and US DEA agents.

More, the DEA investigation did not even have the Colombian government’s position to operate in its territory. The JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) has demanded the liberty of Hernández Solarte. Its authority has been confirmed by the national Congress and the Colombian justice system. Without credible evidence, the US government continues to request the extradition of Hernández Solarte.

If the Colombian government complies with these North American demands and ignores its own laws and institutions, that would be and assault against the democracy, sovereignty, and peace of Colombia. As an internationalist, I add my voice to all those who want peace for Colombia. I demand: Freedom for Jesús Santrich! No extradition!

For more information, click here.

THE LETTER TO DONALD TRUMP

I am writing to demand the immediate liberty for Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte, aka Jesús Santrich, and that he not be extradited to the United States.While he is incarcerated, I also demand that his safety be respected and that he remain healthy and unharmed.

It is unbelievable that the Colombian government would obey the demands of the US government to jail Hernández Solarte instead of its own country’s laws and courts, which have ruled that he should be released. This constitutes a violation of the most basic concepts of sovereignty.

There is no concrete evidcence against Hernández Solarte other than the testimony of paid informants and US DEA agents. More, the DEA investigation did not even have the Colombian government’s position to operate in its territory. The JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) has demanded the liberty of Hernández Solarte. Its authority has been confirmed by the national Congress and the Colombian justice system.

Without credible evidence, the US government continues to request the extradition of Hernández Solarte. If the Colombian government complies with these North American demands and ignores its own laws and institutions, that would be and assault against the democracy, sovereignty, and peace of Colombia.

As an internationalist, I add my voice to all those who want peace for Colombia. I demand: Freedom for Jesús Santrich! No extradition!

Archives by Month:

 

 

Stay Connected
Sign up to receive our weekly updates. We promise not to sell, trade or give away your email address.
Email Address:
Full Name:
 

Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are