Pakistan murders outspoken Journalist.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 by psysword

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online who went missing on Sunday evening, has been killed, according to police.

Shahzad, who has been writing for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online for nearly 10 years, failed to show up for a scheduled appearance on a television talk show in the capital Islamabad.

Police reported that his body was found in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab province about 150 kilometers southeast of Islamabad and about 10 kilometers from where his car was found. They said that his body bore marks of torture.

Earlier, the International Federation of Journalists released a statement saying it “urgently appeals to the Government of Pakistan to order its security and police agencies to respond

 
immediately to find a senior journalist who disappeared in Islamabad on May 29”.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani expressed his “deep grief and sorrow” over Shahzad’s death and ordered an immediate inquiry into his kidnapping and murder, according to Associated Press of Pakistan.

Shahzad, 40, had on several occasions been warned by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over articles they deemed to be detrimental to Pakistan’s national interests or image. He leaves a wife, two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan earlier said he suspected ISI officials abducted Shahzad, possibly because of a recent story he wrote on al-Qaeda infiltration in the Pakistani navy. Authorities haven’t commented. (Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike.)

Tony Allison, the Editor of Asia Times Online, expressed his deep concern for one of the most fearless journalists with whom he had ever worked. “We will bring the utmost pressure to bear on the authorities over this case. We at Asia Times Online express our deepest sympathies for Saleem’s family.”

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Is the world too big to fail? Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 by psysword

DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
Is the world too big to fail?
By Noam Chomsky

There was also a sharp change in the US economy in the 1970s, towards financialization and export of production. A variety of factors converged to create a vicious cycle of radical concentration of wealth, primarily in the top fraction of 1% of the population – mostly CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and the like.

That leads to the concentration of political power, hence state policies to increase economic concentration: fiscal policies, rules of corporate governance, deregulation, and much more. Meanwhile the costs of electoral campaigns skyrocketed, driving the parties into the pockets of concentrated capital, increasingly financial: the Republicans reflexively, the Democrats – by now what used to be moderate Republicans – not far behind.

Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations

 
industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year. Executives were euphoric. In the business press they explained that they had been marketing candidates like other commodities since Ronald Reagan, but 2008 was their greatest achievement and would change the style in corporate boardrooms.

The 2012 election is expected to cost US$2 billion, mostly in corporate funding. Small wonder that Obama is selecting business leaders for top positions. The public is angry and frustrated, but as long as the Muasher principle prevails, that doesn’t matter.

While wealth and power have narrowly concentrated, for most of the population real incomes have stagnated and people have been getting by with increased work hours, debt, and asset inflation, regularly destroyed by the financial crises that began as the regulatory apparatus was dismantled starting in the 1980s.

None of this is problematic for the very wealthy, who benefit from a government insurance policy called “too big to fail”. The banks and investment firms can make risky transactions, with rich rewards, and when the system inevitably crashes, they can run to the nanny state for a taxpayer bailout, clutching their copies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

That has been the regular process since the Reagan years, each crisis more extreme than the last – for the public population, that is. Right now, real unemployment is at Depression levels for much of the population, while Goldman Sachs, one of the main architects of the current crisis, is richer than ever. It has just quietly announced $17.5 billion in compensation for last year, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples.

It wouldn’t do to focus attention on such facts as these. Accordingly, propaganda must seek to blame others, in the past few months, public sector workers, their fat salaries, exorbitant pensions, and so on: all fantasy, on the model of Reaganite imagery of black mothers being driven in their limousines to pick up welfare checks – and other models that need not be mentioned. We all must tighten our belts; almost all, that is.

Teachers are a particularly good target, as part of the deliberate effort to destroy the public education system from kindergarten through the universities by privatization – again, good for the wealthy, but a disaster for the population, as well as the long-term health of the economy, but that is one of the externalities that is put to the side insofar as market principles prevail.

Another fine target, always, is immigrants. That has been true throughout US history, even more so at times of economic crisis, exacerbated now by a sense that our country is being taken away from us: the white population will soon become a minority. One can understand the anger of aggrieved individuals, but the cruelty of the policy is shocking.

Who are the immigrants targeted? In Eastern Massachusetts, where I live, many are Mayans fleeing genocide in the Guatemalan highlands carried out by Reagan’s favorite killers. Others are Mexican victims of Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of those rare government agreements that managed to harm working people in all three of the participating countries.

As NAFTA was rammed through congress over popular objection in 1994, Clinton also initiated the militarization of the US-Mexican border, previously fairly open. It was understood that Mexican campesinos (peasants) cannot compete with highly subsidized US agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses would not survive competition with US multinationals, which must be granted “national treatment” under the mislabeled free trade agreements, a privilege granted only to corporate persons, not those of flesh and blood. Not surprisingly, these measures led to a flood of desperate refugees, and to rising anti-immigrant hysteria by the victims of state-corporate policies at home.

Much the same appears to be happening in Europe, where racism is probably more rampant than in the US. One can only watch with wonder as Italy complains about the flow of refugees from Libya, the scene of the first post-World War I genocide, in the now-liberated East, at the hands of Italy’s Fascist government. Or when France, still today the main protector of the brutal dictatorships in its former colonies, manages to overlook its hideous atrocities in Africa, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy warns grimly of the “flood of immigrants” and the leader of France’s far-right National Front Marine Le Pen objects that he is doing nothing to prevent it. I need not mention Belgium, which may win the prize for what Adam Smith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans”.

The rise of neo-fascist parties in much of Europe would be a frightening phenomenon even if we were not to recall what happened on the continent in the recent past. Just imagine the reaction if Jews were being expelled from France to misery and oppression, and then witness the non-reaction when that is happening to Roma, also victims of the Holocaust and Europe’s most brutalized population.

In Hungary, the neo-fascist party Jobbik gained 17% of the vote in national elections, perhaps unsurprising when three-quarters of the population feels that they are worse off than under communist rule. We might be relieved that in Austria the ultra-right J๖rg Haider won only 10% of the vote in 2008 – were it not for the fact that the new Freedom Party, outflanking him from the far right, won more than 17%. It is chilling to recall that, in 1928, the Nazis won less than 3% of the vote in Germany.

In England the British National Party and the English Defense League, on the ultra-racist right, are major forces. (What is happening in Holland you know all too well.) In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin’s lament that immigrants are destroying the country was a runaway best-seller, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, though condemning the book, declared that multiculturalism had “utterly failed”: the Turks imported to do the dirty work in Germany are failing to become blond and blue-eyed, true Aryans.

Those with a sense of irony may recall that Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment, warned that the newly liberated colonies should be wary of allowing Germans to immigrate, because they were too swarthy; Swedes as well. Into the 20th century, ludicrous myths of Anglo-Saxon purity were common in the US, including among presidents and other leading figures. Racism in the literary culture has been a rank obscenity; far worse in practice, needless to say. It is much easier to eradicate polio than this horrifying plague, which regularly becomes more virulent in times of economic distress.

I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: the fate of the species. Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will.

This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new congress in the US, propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.

If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the “religion” that markets know best – which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8 trillion housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.

All of this, and much more, can proceed as long as the Muashar doctrine prevails. As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and Terror, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappe, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook. This piece is adapted from a talk given in Amsterdam in March.

Is the World too big to fail? Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 by psysword

Page 2 of 3
DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
Is the world too big to fail?
By Noam Chomsky

In Adam Smith’s defense, it should be added that he recognized what would happen if Britain followed the rules of sound economics, now called “neo-liberalism.” He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. But he felt that they would be guided by a home bias, so as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.

The passage is hard to miss. It is the one occurrence of the famous phrase “invisible hand” in The Wealth of Nations. The other leading founder of classical economics, David Ricardo, drew similar conclusions, hoping that home bias would lead men of property to “be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for

 
their wealth in foreign nations,” feelings that, he added, “I should be sorry to see weakened.” Their predictions aside, the instincts of the classical economists were sound.

The Iranian and Chinese ‘threats’
The democracy uprising in the Arab world is sometimes compared to Eastern Europe in 1989, but on dubious grounds. In 1989, the democracy uprising was tolerated by the Russians, and supported by western power in accord with standard doctrine: it plainly conformed to economic and strategic objectives, and was therefore a noble achievement, greatly honored, unlike the struggles at the same time “to defend the people’s fundamental human rights” in Central America, in the words of the assassinated Archbishop of El Salvador, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the military forces armed and trained by Washington.

There was no Mickhail Gorbachev in the West throughout these horrendous years, and there is none today. And Western power remains hostile to democracy in the Arab world for good reasons.

Grand Area doctrines continue to apply to contemporary crises and confrontations. In Western policy-making circles and political commentary the Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and hence must be the primary focus of US foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely.

What exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and US intelligence. Reporting on global security last year, they make it clear that the threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region,” they conclude. Its military doctrine is strictly “defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.”

Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders”. With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.” All quotes.

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it hardly outranks US allies in that regard. But the threat lies elsewhere, and is ominous indeed. One element is Iran’s potential deterrent capacity, an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that might interfere with US freedom of action in the region. It is glaringly obvious why Iran would seek a deterrent capacity; a look at the military bases and nuclear forces in the region suffices to explain.

Seven years ago, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that “The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy,” particularly when they are under constant threat of attack in violation of the UN Charter. Whether they are doing so remains an open question, but perhaps so.

But Iran’s threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries, the Pentagon and US intelligence emphasize, and in this way to “destabilize” the region (in the technical terms of foreign policy discourse). The US invasion and military occupation of Iran’s neighbors is “stabilization.” Iran’s efforts to extend its influence to them are “destabilization,” hence plainly illegitimate.

Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term “stability” in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile it was necessary to “destabilize” the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s planners emphasized at the dawn of the contemporary world system, the US cannot tolerate “any exercise of sovereignty” that interferes with its global designs.

The US and Europe are united in punishing Iran for its threat to stability, but it is useful to recall how isolated they are. The nonaligned countries have vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium. In the region, Arab public opinion even strongly favors Iranian nuclear weapons.

The major regional power, Turkey, voted against the latest US-initiated sanctions motion in the Security Council, along with Brazil, the most admired country of the South. Their disobedience led to sharp censure, not for the first time: Turkey had been bitterly condemned in 2003 when the government followed the will of 95% of the population and refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq, thus demonstrating its weak grasp of democracy, Western-style.

After its Security Council misdeed last year, Turkey was warned by Obama’s top diplomat on European affairs, Philip Gordon, that it must “demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West”. A scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations asked, “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?” – following orders like good democrats. Brazil’s Lula was admonished in a New York Times headline that his effort with Turkey to provide a solution to the uranium enrichment issue outside of the framework of US power was a “Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy.” In brief, do what we say, or else.

An interesting sidelight, effectively suppressed, is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal was approved in advance by Obama, presumably on the assumption that it would fail, providing an ideological weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the approval turned to censure, and Washington rammed through a Security Council resolution so weak that China readily signed – and is now chastised for living up to the letter of the resolution but not Washington’s unilateral directives – in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, for example.

While the US can tolerate Turkish disobedience, though with dismay, China is harder to ignore. The press warns that “China’s investors and traders are now filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out,” and in particular, is expanding its dominant role in Iran’s energy industries.

Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. The State Department warned China that if it wants to be accepted in the international community – a technical term referring to the US and whoever happens to agree with it – then it must not “skirt and evade international responsibilities, [which] are clear”: namely, follow US orders. China is unlikely to be impressed.

There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China’s military budget is approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a fraction of the US military budget, of course. China’s expansion of military forces might “deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast,” the New York Times added.

Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the US should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China’s lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China’s coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.

In contrast, the West understands that such US operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that “China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa.” That is indeed a provocation – unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Deep-seated imperial doctrine aside, there is good reason for China’s neighbors to be concerned about its growing military and commercial power. And though Arab opinion supports an Iranian nuclear weapons program, we certainly should not do so. The foreign policy literature is full of proposals as to how to counter the threat. One obvious way is rarely discussed: work to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region.

The issue arose (again) at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters last May. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for negotiations on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the US, at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

International support is so overwhelming that Obama formally agreed. It is a fine idea, Washington informed the conference, but not now. Furthermore, the US made clear that Israel must be exempted: no proposal can call for Israel’s nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency or for the release of information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities.” So much for this method of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.

Privatizing the planet
While Grand Area doctrine still prevails, the capacity to implement it has declined. The peak of US power was after World War II, when it had literally half the world’s wealth. But that naturally declined, as other industrial economies recovered from the devastation of the war and decolonization took its agonizing course. By the early 1970s, the US share of global wealth had declined to about 25%, and the industrial world had become tripolar: North America, Europe, and East Asia (then Japan-based).

Continued 1 2 3  

Is the world too big to fail?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 by psysword

Page 1 of 3
DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
Is the world too big to fail?
By Noam Chomsky

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces – coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other United States cities.

If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following

 
varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what president Dwight Eisenhower called “the most strategically important area in the world” – “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment,” in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the US intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today’s policy-makers basically adhere to the judgment of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s influential advisor A A Berle, that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield “substantial control of the world”. And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day.

From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the US in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a “Grand Area” that the US was to dominate, including the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources.

As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the US would maintain “unquestioned power,” with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.

It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

It has since become a US-run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO decretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that “NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West,” and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other “crucial infrastructure” of the energy system.

Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Bill Clinton administration, which declared that the US has the right to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” and must maintain huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security.”

The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the US failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that US forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, president George W Bush informed congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of US Armed Forces in Iraq or “United States control of the oil resources of Iraq” – demands that the US had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: “A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal.” The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.

The US and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by US polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners.

They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the US and Israel as the major threats they face: the US is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to US policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons – in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the US not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.

The invisible hand of power
Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.
Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the US stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: “There is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?

The Muasher doctrine is rational and venerable. To mention just one case that is highly relevant today, in internal discussion in 1958, president Eisenhower expressed concern about “the campaign of hatred” against us in the Arab world, not by governments, but by the people. The National Security Council (NSC) explained that there is a perception in the Arab world that the US supports dictatorships and blocks democracy and development so as to ensure control over the resources of the region. Furthermore, the perception is basically accurate, the NSC concluded, and that is what we should be doing, relying on the Muasher doctrine. Pentagon studies conducted after 9/11 confirmed that the same holds today.

It is normal for the victors to consign history to the trash can, and for victims to take it seriously. Perhaps a few brief observations on this important matter may be useful. Today is not the first occasion when Egypt and the US are facing similar problems, and moving in opposite directions. That was also true in the early 19th century.

Economic historians have argued that Egypt was well-placed to undertake rapid economic development at the same time that the US was. Both had rich agriculture, including cotton, the fuel of the early industrial revolution – though unlike Egypt, the US had to develop cotton production and a work force by conquest, extermination, and slavery, with consequences that are evident right now in the reservations for the survivors and the prisons that have rapidly expanded since the Ronald Reagan years to house the superfluous population left by deindustrialization.

One fundamental difference was that the US had gained independence and was therefore free to ignore the prescriptions of economic theory, delivered at the time by Adam Smith in terms rather like those preached to developing societies today. Smith urged the liberated colonies to produce primary products for export and to import superior British manufactures, and certainly not to attempt to monopolize crucial goods, particularly cotton. Any other path, Smith warned, “would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce, and would obstruct instead of promoting the progress of their country towards real wealth and greatness”.

Having gained their independence, the colonies were free to ignore his advice and to follow England’s course of independent state-guided development, with high tariffs to protect industry from British exports, first textiles, later steel and others, and to adopt numerous other devices to accelerate industrial development. The independent Republic also sought to gain a monopoly of cotton so as to “place all other nations at our feet,” particularly the British enemy, as the Jacksonian presidents announced when conquering Texas and half of Mexico.

For Egypt, a comparable course was barred by British power. Lord Palmerston declared that “no ideas of fairness [toward Egypt] ought to stand in the way of such great and paramount interests” of Britain as preserving its economic and political hegemony, expressing his “hate” for the “ignorant barbarian” Muhammed Ali who dared to seek an independent course, and deploying Britain’s fleet and financial power to terminate Egypt’s quest for independence and economic development.

After World War II, when the US displaced Britain as global hegemon, Washington adopted the same stand, making it clear that the US would provide no aid to Egypt unless it adhered to the standard rules for the weak – which the US continued to violate, imposing high tariffs to bar Egyptian cotton and causing a debilitating dollar shortage. The usual interpretation of market principles.

It is small wonder that the “campaign of hatred” against the US that concerned Eisenhower was based on the recognition that the US supports dictators and blocks democracy and development, as do its allies. 

Continued 1 2 3 

Bin laden out, ghaddafi next

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2011 by psysword

THE ROVING EYE
Bin Laden out, Gaddafi next

By Pepe Escobar

To follow Pepe’s articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

THE ROVING EYE Let’s start by invoking a Western cultural icon, Dante; “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” – because international law as we know it has just been delivered a stake through its heart. The “new” sociopolitical Darwinism entails humanitarian neo-colonialism, targeted assassinations – extrajudicial executions – and drone wars, all carried out in the name of a revamped white man’s burden.

In the whirlwind of lies and hypocrisy engulfing the Osama bin Laden hit job, the key justice-related fact is how an unarmed man, codename “Geronimo”, was captured live then summarily

executed in front of one of his daughters – after a lightning-quick invasion of a theoretically “sovereign” country.

As for the quagmire war waged by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against Libya, the fact is that Western public opinion was fed a military attack against a sovereign country that has committed no violation of the United Nations charter. Talk about a wolf – neo-colonialism – in sheep’s clothing – “humanitarian war”.

At the heart of the matter is the concept itself of international law – adopted by all “civilized” nations, as well as what constitutes a just war. Yet for Western ruling elites this is just a detail; there has been no high-level debate on the implications of an United Nations-justified NATO war whose ultimate – and always unstated – objective is regime change.

Tomahawk Darwinism
The dirty operation in northern Africa reveals itself to be even nastier when it has been proved that the war on Libya was initially conceptualized by dubious French interests; that Saudi Arabia delivered a fake Arab League vote for the US because it wanted to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi and at the same time have a free hand in smashing pro-democracy protests in Bahrain; that Libya offers the perfect possibility for the Pentagon’s Africom to have an African base; that a dodgy bunch of “rebels” hijacked legitimate protests, with Gaddafi defectors, al-Qaeda-linked jihadis and exiles such as Central Intelligence Agency asset General Khalifa Hifter, who had lived for nearly 20 years in Virginia, taking over.

The going got even nastier when one learned that on March 19 the Washington/London/Paris financial elites authorized the Central Bank of Benghazi to have its own – Western dictated – monetary policy, unlike the state-owned, and fully independent, Libyan national bank in Tripoli; Gaddafi wanted to get rid of both the US dollar and the euro and switch to the gold dinar as an African common currency – and many governments were already on board.

The war on Libya has been globally sold under the slogan R2P – Responsibility to Protect – a “new” humanitarian imperialist concept that in Washington was brandished with relish by three Amazon cheerleaders; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and presidential adviser Samantha Power.

Large swathes of the developing world – the real “international community”, not that fiction in the pages of Western mainstream media – saw it for what it is; the end of the concept of national sovereignty, as in a clever “reframing” completely blurring the original Article 2, Section 1 of the UN Charter principle of sovereign equality of states.

They saw that the “deciders” on R2P were exclusively Washington and a bunch of European capitals. They saw that Libya was slapped with NATO bombing – but not Bahrain, Yemen or Syria. They saw the “deciders” made no effort whatsoever to negotiate a ceasefire inside Libya – ignoring plans by Turkey and the African Union (AU).

And power players Moscow and Beijing of course could not fail to see that R2P could be invoked in the case of unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang – and the next step would be NATO troops inside Chinese territory. Same to what concerns Chechnya – with the additional Western hypocritical factor that Chechens have for years been armed by NATO via al-Qaeda-linked networks in the Caucasus/Central Asia.

Even South American players could not fail to see R2P invoked in the long run for a “humanitarian” NATO intervention in Venezuela or Bolivia.

So this is the new meaning of “international law”: Washington – via Africom or NATO – intervenes anyway, with or without a UN Security Council resolution, in the name of R2P, and everyone keeps silent on collateral damage, on bombing a regime while denying the objective is regime change, on not helping boatloads of refugees stranded in the Mediterranean.

As for why Gaddafi gets the boot while the al-Khalifas in Bahrain, Saleh in Yemen and Bashar al-Assad in Syria get away with it – that’s simple; you’re not an evil dictator if you’re one of “our” bastards – that is, play by “our” rules. The destiny of “independents” such as Gaddafi is to become toast. It helps if you already have a key US military base in your country – as with the al-Khalifas and the US 5th Fleet.

If the al-Khalifas were not US lackeys and there was no US military base, Washington would have no problems selling an intervention in favor of the peaceful, largely Shi’ite pro-democracy protesters against a ghastly Sunni tyranny which needs the House of Saud to repress its own people.

Then there are the legalese aspects. Imagine putting Gaddafi on trial. Martial court or civil court? A kangaroo court – a la Saddam Hussein – or offering him all the “civilized” means to defend himself? And how to prosecute crimes against humanity beyond reasonable doubt? How to use testimonies obtained under torture, sorry, “enhanced interrogation”? And for how long? Years? How many witnesses? Thousands?

It’s much easier to solve it all with a Tomahawk – or a bullet in the head – and then call it “justice”.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

When Montgomery comes to Nabi Saleh

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2011 by psysword

When Montgomery comes to Nabi Saleh By Mark Perry On March 24, the Israeli government arrested Bassem Tamimi, a 44-year-old resident of the small Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, which is just west of Ramallah. Tamimi was arrested for leading a group of his neighbors in protest marches on a settlement that had “expropriated” the village’s spring – the symbolic center of Nabi Saleh’s life. Tamimi was brought before the Ofer military court and charged with “incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, disobeying the duty to report to questioning” and “obstruction of justice” – for giving young Palestinians advice on how to act under Israeli police interrogation. He was remanded to an Israeli military prison to await a hearing and a trial. The detention of Tamimi is not a formality: under Israeli military decree 101 he is being charged with attempting “verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order.” As in Syria, this is an “emergency decree” disguised as protecting public security. It carries a sentence of 10 years. The arrest of Tamimi marked only the most recent escalation in Israel’s campaign to suffocate the Nabi Saleh movement: in the two months prior to his arrest, Israeli officials detained more than 18 Nabi Saleh youths; over the last two years, nearly 15% of Nabi Saleh’s population has spent time in Israeli jails; half of those arrested have been under the age of 18 and the youngest of them was 11. But what is extraordinary about the Nabi Saleh campaign is its effectiveness. The protesters are trained in non-violent tactics. “Our strategic choice of a popular struggle – as a means to fight the occupation taking over our lands, lives, and future – is a declaration that we do not harm human lives,” Tamimi has said. “The very essence of our activity opposes killing.” Tamimi’s arrest has not stopped the movement. On the morning of April 8, about 80 villagers marched from Nabi Saleh’s main street towards the settlement. As they crossed into some nearby fields, they were attacked by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers with teargas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. The villagers fled, but then reorganized themselves, defiantly linking arms in front of the soldiers. Again, the IDF responded harshly and, by that evening, had arrested six villagers. But these are small incidents in a continuing battle. The protests go on day after day, week after week – and have over the course of the last four years. Nabi Saleh does not stand alone. The non-violent protests actually began eight years ago in small communities near Israel’s security wall, then took root in the villages of Mas’ha and Budrus; the protests have now spread to towns and villages across the West Bank, encompassing mass rural movements from Hebron in the south to Nablus in the north. The protests have involved dozens to hundreds, and on rare occasions, thousands of villagers. But pride of place for this widespread non-violent resistance movement belongs to Bil’in, a village that (like Nabi Saleh) has seen much of its land taken over by a settlement. The leader of the Bil’in protests is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the head of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall. Like Tamimi, Abu Rahmah has trained his young activists in the principles of non-violence, sparking movable protests that the IDF has found impossible to suppress. Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher at the Latin Patriarch School in Ramallah, began organizing Bil’in’s protests in 2004, even as the violence of the Second Intifada was beginning to wane. Every Friday after prayers, Abu Rahmah would lead a group of Bil’in residents on a protest march towards a local settlement – and every Friday his march would be intercepted by the IDF. In one demonstration, an IDF sniper used a .22 caliber rifle to disburse the protesters, killing a Palestinian boy. Twenty-one unarmed demonstrators, among them five children, have been killed in non-violent West Bank demonstrations since the beginnings of the movement. In the village of Nil’in in 2008, American activist Tristan Anderson was paralyzed after an IDF soldier fired a high velocity tear gas canister at his head from a distance of 15 meters. In December of 2009, IDF soldiers raided Abu Rahmah’s home, arrested him for incitement, and sentenced him to 12 months in prison. At the end of his sentence, the IDF asked his sentence to be extended for another four months, describing Abu Rahmah as “dangerous”. The court agreed. Abu Rahmah has become a symbol of the protests. While in prison, he smuggled letters to his supporters, including one written this last February that has become a kind of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – an famous letter written in 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr – of the movement. “Ofer is an Israeli military base inside the occupied territories that serves as a prison and military court,” he wrote. “The prison is a collection of tents enclosed by razor wire and an electrical fence, each unit containing four tents, 22 prisoners per tent. Now, in winter, wind and rain comes through the cracks in the tent and we don’t have sufficient blankets, clothes, and other basic necessities. Food is a critical issue here in Ofer, there’s not enough. We survive by buying ingredients from the prison canteen that we prepare for our tent. We have one small hot plate, and this is also our only source of warmth.” One month after penning this letter, Abu Rahmah was released, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s arrested again – and shut inside one of the half-dozen Israeli military prisons and administrative facilities that dot the West Bank. Israeli tactics, the mass arrests, and the use of live fire have been condemned by a long list of human-rights organization. But not by the United States. Just how much do the Bil’in-Nabi Saleh protests worry Israel? One widely circulated article from the popular Israeli political daily Yediot Ahronot described Naji Tamimi, who helped his cousin Bassem organize the Nabi Saleh movement, as “a pied piper” who “fans the flames of violence”. (Despite the fact that not one Israeli has died as a result of the protests.) The article went further: “Even though it hasn’t been proven, it seems that sources connected to the Palestinian Authority are directing the activities and that the funds paid out to the youths is coming from donations from organizations registered abroad.” Not proven – because it’s not true. In fact, while Fatah and Hamas officials monitor the protests (PA officials have come to Nabi Saleh – before scuttling back to their offices in Ramallah), they have been careful not to interfere in them. They view the protests as a credible and powerful movement that is better left alone. Hamas leaders agree. “We wish them well. We hope they succeed. We support them. We are staying away,” a senior Hamas official says. A group of international activists have been helping the Nabi Saleh protests. Jonathan Pollak, a 29-year-old native of Tel Aviv, has found himself at the center of the protests – and has written about them extensively. “I grew up in a progressive home,” he says, “but I don’t think that anyone in my family could be described as a radical. I came to Nabi Saleh and realized I had to help. What’s happening here is just wrong.” Joseph Dana, a New York native and journalist, works alongside Pollak. He came to Israel to find his Jewish identity. “I haven’t found it,” he says. “What I found instead was an army that arrests children.” Pollak, Dana, and other international activists are working to bring attention to the Nabi Saleh movement and have escorted diplomats from Europe through the village. A few low-level American diplomats from Jerusalem have come to Nabi Saleh, but no senior American officials have visited. “The international community has been asking for years where the Palestinian non-violent movement is,” Joseph Dana says from his home in Jerusalem. “Well, here it is. And the Americans are nowhere to be found.” Pollak and Dana are being modest. While the events at Nabi Saleh and Bil’in have been largely ignored in the US, they have sparked a simmering conflict between Palestinian villagers and Israeli settlers. The IDF has taken the side of the settlers, arresting hundreds of young Palestinians (many of them minors) and using (in one case) the testimony of a 14-year-old boy to condemn the movement’s leadership. “They kept him up all night, shouting at him,” Dana says. “He was frightened, alone. Finally, he did what they wanted. If you can imagine, Israeli soldiers subjecting a child to mental torture.” While the world’s attention has been diverted by the events in Tahrir Square, Israeli officials have struck back against what may well be the greatest threat to their settlement project – condemning non-violent protesters as “terrorists” and standing aside while settlers have taken more and more land from unarmed and defenseless people. Israel has poured increased funds into countering the protests, deployed more and more soldiers to stop them, and escalated the arrest of its leaders – breaking down the doors of their homes in pre-dawn raids designed to frighten and intimidate them. Nothing has worked. Unfunded and unnoticed, Bassem Tamimi, his cousin Naji, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, and a handful of others have organized and trained battalions of young men and women in the art of non-violent resistance. Bassem Tamimi’s arrest has not stopped the protests. They are growing, and spreading. The movement is now in the hands of Bassem’s wife, Nariman, who vows to fight on. She has already spent time in an Israeli jail, but remains undeterred. “There is no knowing what the future holds,” she says from her home in Nabi Saleh, “but our path is clear and so is our goal. We know well that it is possible to achieve it, and we will continue to fight for it. To a great extent, the question of our victory is also one that should be directed to the American people and their government – are you on the side of justice and victory, or on the side of continued oppression?” The Arab Spring has seen revolutions come to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. In each revolution, US President Barack Obama has praised the crowds seeking democracy and freedom. Again and again he has talked of the need to fight extremist violence. He has paid homage to the young men and women who have brought freedom to Egypt and Tunisia. He has supported those defending themselves in the streets of Benghazi, Sanaa, and Damascus. His talisman has been non-violence, his pole star the American civil rights movement. In Cairo, in June of 2009, Obama linked the Palestinian quest for freedom to the American civil rights movement. “Palestinians must abandon violence,” he said. “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.” He was right. So why is it that now – when finally, actions like the Montgomery Bus Boycott have come to Nabi Saleh – he chooses to remain silent? Mark Perry is a military and political analyst and author of eight books, including Partners In Command, George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace and most recently Talking To Terrorists. (This article first appeared in Foreign Policy. Used with permission.)

The planet strikes back

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2011 by psysword

The planet strikes back
By Michael T Klare

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
On Monday, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, defended the Japanese government’s response to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, insisting that the plant complex was in “a stable situation, relatively speaking”. That’s somewhat like the official description of 11,500 tonnes of water purposely dumped into the ocean waters off Fukushima as “low-level radioactive” or “lightly radioactive”.

It is only “lightly” so in comparison to the even more radioactive water being stored at the plant in its place. But that’s the thing 


with descriptive words: they can leave so much to the eye of the beholder – and the Japanese government hasn’t been significantly more eager than the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the complex, to behold all that much when it comes to Fukushima.

On Tuesday, the government finally raised the Fukushima alert level on the International Nuclear Event scale from 5 to 7 – “a major accident” – the highest category possible, only previously used for the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster (which resulted in a 15,000-square-mile (3,884,982 hectares) “dead zone” in the Ukraine). Though government officials rushed to play down the Chernobyl comparison, a TEPCO official offered this ominously bet-hedging comment: “Our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it.”

In fact, on our punch-drunk planet, we’ve never seen anything like what’s underway at Fukushima – not one, but four adjacent nuclear reactors, three of which seem to have suffered partial meltdowns, and several containment pools for “spent” fuel (which, in terms of radioactivity, is anything but spent) in various states of distress.

Meanwhile, talk about the weeks needed to bring the situation under control has faded into perilous months, years, decades, even a century of cleanup and recovery. There is speculation that some of the core of at least one reactor has already “leaked from its steel pressure vessel into the bottom of [its] containment structure” – and every action to bring the complex under some kind of control only seems to create, or threatens to create, other unexpected problems (like that “lightly radioactive” water).

Meanwhile, amid further giant aftershocks from the 9.0 earthquake of March 11 (with possibly years more of them to come), the Japanese government has been slowly widening the 20-kilometer “evacuation zone” (recently described by a visitor as an eerie “death zone … like an episode of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone crossed with The Day After – an apocalyptic vision of life in the nuclear age”) around the complex.

Just this week, it began warning pregnant women and children to stay out of certain areas up to 30 kilometers away from the plant. That’s not surprising, considering that in a small number of soil tests taken outside that 30-kilometer zone – in one case 40 kilometers from Fukushima – cesium-137 (half-life 30 years) has been found at levels that exceed those which, at Chernobyl, forced residents to move away. Many of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese who once lived in these areas (and if things get worse, beyond them) may never go home.

Whatever happens at Fukushima, could there be a more striking warning that we humans have been overreaching and that our planet has a way of offering penalties for such hubris? And keep in mind, the Japanese are hardly in this alone. After all, in the United States, at least five nuclear reactors are situated in “in earthquake-prone seismic zones”, according to a recent report, which doesn’t even include the Indian Point nuclear reactor built on an earthquake fault only 30 miles from downtown New York City, my hometown.

Perhaps, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, suggests in the article that follows, it’s time to recalibrate when it comes to the way we’re treating planet Earth – before it’s too late.

In his 2010 book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, environmental scholar and activist Bill McKibben writes of a planet so devastated by global warming that it’s no longer recognizable as the Earth we once inhabited. This is a planet, he predicts, of “melting poles and dying forests and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat”. Altered as it is from the world in which human civilization was born and thrived, it needs a new name – so he gave it that extra “a” in “Eaarth”.

The Eaarth that McKibben describes is a victim, a casualty of humankind’s unrestrained consumption of resources and its heedless emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases. True, this Eaarth will cause pain and suffering to humans as sea levels rise and croplands wither, but as he portrays it, it is essentially a victim of human rapaciousness.

With all due respect to McKibben’s vision, let me offer another perspective on his (and our) Eaarth: as a powerful actor in its own right and as an avenger, rather than simply victim.

It’s not enough to think of Eaarth as an impotent casualty of humanity’s predations. It is also a complex organic system with many potent defenses against alien intervention – defenses it is already wielding to devastating effect when it comes to human societies. And keep this in mind: we are only at the beginning of this process.

To grasp our present situation, however, it’s necessary to distinguish between naturally recurring planetary disturbances and the planetary responses to human intervention. Both need a fresh look, so let’s start with what Earth has always been capable of before we turn to the responses of Eaarth, the avenger.

Overestimating ourselves
Our planet is a complex natural system, and like all such systems, it is continually evolving. As that happens – as continents drift apart, as mountain ranges rise and fall, as climate patterns shift – earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, typhoons, prolonged droughts, and other natural disturbances recur, even if on an irregular and unpredictable basis.

Our predecessors on the planet were deeply aware of this reality. After all, ancient civilizations were repeatedly shaken, and in some cases shattered, by such disturbances. For example, it is widely believed that the ancient Minoan civilization of the eastern Mediterranean collapsed following a powerful volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (also called Santorini) in the mid-second millennium BCE.

Archaeological evidence suggests that many other ancient civilizations were weakened or destroyed by intense earthquake activity. In Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God, Stanford geophysicist Amos Nur and his co-author Dawn Burgess argue that Troy, Mycenae, ancient Jericho, Tenochtitlan and the Hittite empire may have fallen in this manner.

Faced with recurring threats of earthquakes and volcanoes, many ancient religions personified the forces of nature as gods and goddesses and called for elaborate human rituals and sacrificial offerings to appease these powerful deities. The ancient Greek sea-god Poseidon (Neptune to the Romans), also called “Earth-Shaker”, was thought to cause earthquakes when provoked or angry.

In more recent times, thinkers have tended to scoff at such primitive notions and the gestures that went with them, suggesting instead that science and technology – the fruits of civilization – offer more than enough help to allow us to triumph over the Earth’s destructive forces. This shift in consciousness has been impressively documented in Clive Ponting’s 2007 volume, A New Green History of the World.

Quoting from influential thinkers of the post-Medieval world, he shows how Europeans acquired a powerful conviction that humanity should and would rule nature, not the other way around. The 17th century French mathematician Rene Descartes, for example, wrote of employing science and human knowledge so that “we can … render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature”.

It’s possible that this growing sense of human control over nature was enhanced by a period of a few hundred years in which there may have been less than the usual number of civilization-threatening natural disturbances. Over those centuries, modern Europe and North America, the two centers of the Industrial Revolution, experienced nothing like the Thera eruption of the Minoan era – or, for that matter, anything akin to the double whammy of the 9.0 earthquake and 50-foot-high tsunami that struck Japan on March 11.

This relative immunity from such perils was the context within which we created a highly complex, technologically sophisticated civilization that largely takes for granted human supremacy over nature on a seemingly quiescent planet.

But is this assessment accurate? Recent events, ranging from the floods that covered 20% of Pakistan and put huge swathes of Australia underwater to the drought-induced fires that burned vast areas of Russia, suggest otherwise. In the past few years, the planet has been struck by a spate of major natural disturbances, including the recent earthquake-tsunami disaster in Japan (and its many powerful aftershocks), the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the February 2010 earthquake in Chile, the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, the March 2011 earthquake in Myanmar, and the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake-tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries, as well as a series of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in and around Indonesia.

If nothing else, these events remind us that the Earth is an ever-evolving natural system; that the past few hundred years are not necessarily predictive of the next few hundred; and that we may, in the last century in particular, have lulled ourselves into a sense of complacency about our planet that is ill-deserved. More important, they suggest that we may – and I emphasize may – be returning to an era in which the frequency of the incidence of such events is on the rise.

In this context, the folly and hubris with which we’ve treated natural forces comes strongly into focus. Take what’s happening at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in northern Japan, where at least four nuclear reactors and their adjoining containment pools for “spent” nuclear fuel remain dangerously out of control.

The designers and owners of the plant obviously did not cause the earthquake and tsunami that have created the present peril. This was a result of the planet’s natural evolution – in this case, of the sudden movement of continental plates. But they do bear responsibility for failing to anticipate the potential for catastrophe – for building a reactor on the site of frequent past tsunamis and assuming that a human-made concrete platform could withstand the worst that nature has to offer.

Much has been said about flaws in design at the Fukushima plant and its inadequate backup systems. All this, no doubt, is vital, but the ultimate cause of the disaster was never a simple design flaw. It was hubris: an overestimation of the power of human ingenuity and an underestimation of the power of nature.

What future disasters await us as a result of such hubris? No one, at this point, can say with certainty, but the Fukushima facility is not the only reactor built near active earthquake zones, or at risk from other natural disturbances. And don’t just stop with nuclear plants.

Consider, for instance, all those oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico at risk from increasingly powerful hurricanes or, if cyclones increase in power and frequency, the deep-sea ones Brazil is planning to construct up to 290 kilometers off its coast in the Atlantic Ocean. And with recent events in Japan in mind, who knows what damage might be inflicted by a major earthquake in California? After all, California, too, has nuclear plants sited ominously near earthquake faults.

Underestimating Eaarth
Hubris of this sort is, however, only one of the ways in which we invite the planet’s ire. Far more dangerous and provocative is our poisoning of the atmosphere with the residues of our resource consumption, especially of fossil fuels. According to the US Department of Energy, total carbon emissions from all forms of energy use had already hit 21.2 billion tonnes by 1990 and are projected to rise ominously to 42.4 billion tonnes by 2035, a 100% increase in less than half a century.

The more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we dump into the atmosphere, the more we alter the planet’s natural climatic systems and damage other vital ecological assets, including oceans, forests and glaciers. These are all components of the planet’s integral makeup, and when damaged in this way, they will trigger defensive feedback mechanisms: rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and increased sea levels, among other reactions.

The notion of the Earth as a complex natural system with multiple feedback loops was first proposed by environmental scientist James Lovelock in the 1960s and propounded in his 1979 book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. (Lovelock appropriated the name of the ancient Greek goddess Gaia, the personification of Mother Earth, for his version of our planet.)

In this and other works, Lovelock and his collaborators argue that all biological organisms and their inorganic surroundings on the planet are closely integrated to form a complex and self-regulating system, maintaining the necessary conditions for life – a concept they termed “the Gaia Hypothesis”. When any parts of this system are damaged or altered, they contend, the others respond by attempting to repair, or compensate for, the damage in order to restore the essential balance.

Think of our own bodies when attacked by virulent microorganisms: our temperature rises; we produce more white blood cells and other fluids, sleep a lot, and deploy other defense mechanisms. When successful, our bodies’ defenses first neutralize and eventually exterminate the invading germs. This is not a conscious act, but a natural, life-saving process.

Eaarth is now responding to humanity’s depredations in a similar way: by warming the atmosphere, taking carbon from the air and depositing it in the ocean, increasing rainfall in some areas and decreasing it elsewhere, and in other ways compensating for the massive atmospheric infusion of harmful human emissions.

But what Eaarth does to protect itself from human intervention is unlikely to prove beneficial for human societies. As the planet warms and glaciers melt, sea levels will rise, inundating coastal areas, destroying cities, and flooding low-lying croplands. Drought will become endemic in many once-productive farming areas, reducing food supplies for hundreds of millions of people.

Many plant and animal species that are key to human livelihoods, including various species of trees, food crops and fish, will prove incapable of adjusting to these climate changes and so cease to exist. Humans may – and again I emphasize that may – prove more successful at adapting to the crisis of global warming than such species, but in the process, multitudes are likely to die of starvation, disease, and attendant warfare.

McKibben is right: we no longer live on the “cozy, taken-for-granted” planet formerly known as Earth. We inhabit a new place, already changed dramatically by the intervention of humankind. But we are not acting upon a passive, impotent entity unable to defend itself against human transgression. Sad to say, we will learn to our dismay of the immense powers available to Eaarth, the Avenger.

Michael T Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A documentary movie version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation.

(Copyright 2011 Michael T Klare.)

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books),

(Used by permission Tomdispatch)