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WATCH: Yejide Orunmila – Surviving the White Women’s March on Washington

February 11, 2017

 

angela-peoples-womens-march

Angela Peoples holding sign (Kevin Banatte)

 

“Yejide Orunmila, president of ANWO (African National Women’s Organization) and member of the Uhuru Movement examines the (white) Women’s March on Washington, and explains the political opportunism of feminism and the complicity of white women in the oppression of African women. The Uhuru Movement is led by the African People’s Socialist Party. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is the organization of white people created by and working under the leadership of APSP, to go into the white community and win reparations for African liberation and self determination. uhurusolidarity.org” [Courtesy of Uhuru Solidarity]

To further demonstrate the whiteness of the Women’s March on Washington, we juxtapose a third video featured by “RISE Travel, LLC”. RISE travel the latest trend in the travel industry. A new agency that markets/brands (corporate) activism as experience (“select your experience”), specializing in connecting clients with organized luxury bus tours, etc.  for NGO marches and events (such as the upcoming People’s Climate March).

 

 

As featured on the Rise Travel website:

 

 

Further Reading:

Imperialist Underpinnings of the Women’s March on Washington

Women’s March in Canada Shuts Out Black Lives Matter:

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Womens-March-in-Canada-Shuts-out-Black-Lives-Matter–20170122-0014.html

 

 

FLASHBACK: The Class-Domination Theory of Power

Who Rules America

First published April 2005; updated February 2012

by G. William Domhoff

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: WhoRulesAmerica.net is largely based on my book, Who Rules America?, first published in 1967 and now in its 7th edition. This on-line document is presented as a summary of some of the main ideas in that book.

 

Who has predominant power in the United States? The short answer, from 1776 to the present, is: Those who have the money — or more specifically, who own income-producing land and businesses — have the power. George Washington was one of the biggest landowners of his day; presidents in the late 19th century were close to the railroad interests; for the Bush family, it was oil and other natural resources, agribusiness, and finance. In this day and age, this means that banks, corporations, agribusinesses, and big real estate developers, working separately on most policy issues, but in combination on important general issues — such as taxes, opposition to labor unions, and trade agreements with other countries — set the rules within which policy battles are waged.

While this conclusion may at first seem too simple or direct, leaving little room for elected officials or voters, the reasons behind it are complex. They involve an understanding of social classes, the role of experts, the two-party system, and the history of the country, especially Southern slavery. In terms of the big world-historical picture, and the Four Networks theory of power advocated on this site, large economic interests rule in America because there are no rival networks that grew up over a long and complex history:

  • There is no one big church, as in many countries in Europe
  • No big government, as it took to survive as a nation-state in Europe
  • No big military until after 1940 (which is not very long ago) to threaten to take over the government

 

So, the only power network of any consequence in the history of the United States has been the economic one, which under capitalism generates a business-owning class and a working class, along with small businesses and skilled craft workers who are self-employed, and a relatively small number of highly trained professionals such as architects, lawyers, physicians, and scientists. In this context, the key reason why money can rule — i.e., why the business owners who hire workers can rule — is that the people who work in the factories and fields were divided from the outset into free and slave, white and black, and later into numerous immigrant ethnic groups as well, making it difficult for workers as a whole to unite politically to battle for higher wages and better social benefits. This important point is elaborated on toward the end of this document in a section entitled “The Weaknesses of the Working Class.”

Moreover, the simple answer that money rules has to be qualified somewhat. Domination by the few does not mean complete control, but rather the ability to set the terms under which other groups and classes must operate. Highly trained professionals with an interest in environmental and consumer issues have been able to couple their technical information and their understanding of the legislative process with timely publicity to win governmental restrictions on some corporate practices. Wage and salary workers, when they are organized or disruptive, sometimes have been able to gain concessions on wages, hours, and working conditions.

Most of all, there is free speech and the right to vote. While voting does not necessarily make government responsive to the will of the majority, under certain circumstances the electorate has been able to place restraints on the actions of the wealthy elites, or to decide which elites will have the greatest influence on policy. This is especially a possibility when there are disagreements within the higher circles of wealth and influence.

Still, the idea that a relatively fixed group of privileged people dominate the economy and government goes against the American grain and the founding principles of the country. “Class” and “power” are terms that make Americans a little uneasy, and concepts such as “upper class” and “power elite” immediately put people on guard. Americans may differ in their social and income levels, and some may have more influence than others, but it is felt that there can be no fixed power group when power is constitutionally lodged in all the people, when there is democratic participation through elections and lobbying, and when the evidence of social mobility is everywhere apparent. So, it is usually concluded by most power analysts that elected officials, along with “interest groups” like “organized labor” and “consumers,” have enough “countervailing” power to say that there is a more open, “pluralistic” distribution of power rather than one with rich people and corporations at the top.

Contrary to this pluralistic view, I will try to demonstrate how rule by the wealthy few is possible despite free speech, regular elections, and organized opposition:

  • “The rich” coalesce into a social upper class that has developed institutions by which the children of its members are socialized into an upper-class worldview, and newly wealthy people are assimilated.
  • Members of this upper class control corporations, which have been the primary mechanisms for generating and holding wealth in the United States for upwards of 150 years now.
  • There exists a network of nonprofit organizations through which members of the upper class and hired corporate leaders not yet in the upper class shape policy debates in the United States.
  • Members of the upper class, with the help of their high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions, are able to dominate the federal government in Washington.
  • The rich, and corporate leaders, nonetheless claim to be relatively powerless.
  • Working people have less power than in many other democratic countries.

Before running through this list, it is first necessary to define the term “power” and to explain the “indicators” of power that are used to determine who has it. Later other concepts will be introduced as they are needed. They include “social class,” “upper class,” “corporate community,” “interlocking directorates,” the “policy-planning network,” the “power elite,” the “special-interest process,” the “candidate-selection process,” and a few others. All of these concepts are necessary in order to understand the nature and operation of the “power structure” in the United States.

Power and Power Indicators

Power is one of those words that is easy to understand but hard to define in a precise manner. We know it means “clout” or “juice” or “muscle” or “the ability to make things happen.” We know it comes from words implying the ability to act in a strong, compelling, and direct way, but we also know that power can be projected in a very quiet and indirect manner.

By “power” I mean “the capacity of some persons to produce intended and foreseen effects on others” (Wrong, 1995). This is a very general definition that allows for the many forms of power that can be changed from one to another, such as economic power, political power, military power, ideological power, and intellectual power (i.e., knowledge, expertise). It leaves open the question of whether “force” or “coercion” is always lurking somewhere in the background in the exercise of power, as many definitions imply. However, to say that power is the ability to produce intended and foreseen effects on others does not mean it is a simple matter to study the power of a group or social class. A formal definition does not explain how a concept is to be measured. In the case of power, it is seldom possible to observe interactions that reveal its operation even in a small group, let alone to see one “social class” producing “effects” on another. It is therefore necessary to develop what are called “indicators” of power.

For research purposes, power can be thought of as an underlying “trait” or “property” of a social group or social class. It is measured by a series of signs, or indicators, that bear a probabilistic relationship to it. This means that all the indicators do not necessarily appear each and every time power is manifesting itself. Research proceeds through a series of “if-then” statements: “if” a group or class is powerful, “then” it should be expected that certain indicators of this power will be present. It is especially important to have more than one indicator. Ideally, the indicators will be of very different types so that any irrelevant components in them will cancel each other out. In the best of all possible worlds, these multiple indicators will point to the same group or class, increasing the likelihood that the underlying concept has been measured correctly.

There are three primary indicators of power, which can be summarized as (1) who benefits? (2) who governs? and (3) who wins? In every society there are experiences and material objects that are highly valued. If it is assumed that everyone in the society would like to have as great a share as possible of these experiences and objects, then the distribution of values in that society can be utilized as a power indicator. Those who benefit the most, by inference, are powerful. In American society, wealth and well-being are highly valued. People seek to own property, earn high incomes, to have interesting and safe jobs, and to live long and healthy lives. All of these “values” are unequally distributed, and all may be utilized as power indicators.

Power also can be inferred from studies of who occupies important institutional positions and takes part in important decision-making groups. If a group or class is highly over-represented in relation to its proportion of the population, it can be inferred that the group is powerful. If, for example, a group makes up 10% of the population but has 50% of the seats in the main governing institutions, then it has five times more people in governing positions than would be expected by chance, and there is thus reason to believe that the group is a powerful one.

There are many policy issues over which groups or classes disagree. In the United States different policies are suggested by opposing groups in such “issue-areas” as foreign policy, taxation, welfare, and the environment. Power can be inferred from these issue conflicts by determining who successfully initiates, modifies, or vetoes policy alternatives. This indicator, by focusing on actions within the decision-making process, comes closest to approximating the process of power that is contained in the formal definition, but it must be stressed that it is no less an inference to say that who wins on issues is an indicator of “power” than with the other two types of empirical observations — value distributions and positional over-representation — that are used as power indicators.

The decisional (who wins) indicator is also the most difficult to use in an accurate way. First, it is often difficult to gain access to decision-makers to interview them, much less observe them in action. Second, aspects of a decision process may remain hidden. Third, some informants may exaggerate or play down their roles. Fourth, and not least, people’s memories about who did what often become cloudy shortly after the event. Those are some of the reasons why social scientists often end up relying on written records about key decisions, but they often are not available until years later. So we end up historians as well as social scientists, or depending on historians for much basic information.

In summary, all three of the power indicators have strengths and weaknesses. However, these weaknesses present no serious problem. This is because each of these indicators involves different kinds of information drawn from very different kinds of studies. The case for the power of a group or class should only be considered a convincing one if all three types of indicators “triangulate” on one particular group or social class.

The Social Upper Class

One good starting point for the study of power in the United States, and the one I have preferred as a sociologist (especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when there was far less readily available information than there is now) is a careful consideration of the small social upper class at the top of the wealth, income, and status ladders. This is because the social upper class is the most visible and accessible aspect of the power equation. It is not necessarily the heart of the matter, but it is nonetheless the best place to get a handle on the overall power structure.

By a “social class” I mean a set of intermarrying and interacting families who see each other as equals, share a common style of life, and have a common viewpoint on the world. This general definition is accepted by most social scientists whatever their views on the distribution of power. By the “social upper class,” hereafter to be called simply “the upper class,” I mean that social class that is commonly agreed by most members of the society to be the “top” or “elite” or “exclusive” class. In various times and places Americans have called such people the “high hats,” the “country club set,” the “snobs,” and the “rich.” In turn, members of this class recognize themselves as distinctive. They call themselves such names as the “old families,” the “established families,” and the “community leaders.”

The upper class probably makes up only a few tenths of one percent of the population. For research purposes, I use the conservative estimate that it includes 0.5% to 1% of the population for determining the over-representation of its members in corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the government. Members of the upper class live in exclusive suburban neighborhoods, expensive downtown co-ops, and large country estates. They often have far-away summer and winter homes as well. They attend a system of private schools that extends from pre-school to the university level; the best known of these schools are the “day” and “boarding” prep schools that take the place of public high schools in the education of most upper-class teenagers. Adult members of the upper class socialize in expensive country clubs, downtown luncheon clubs, hunting clubs, and garden clubs. Young women of the upper class are “introduced” to high society each year through an elaborate series of debutante teas, parties, and balls. Women of the upper class gain experience as “volunteers” through a nationwide organization known as the Junior League, and then go on to serve as directors of cultural organizations, family service associations, and hospitals (see Kendall, 2002, for a good account of women of the upper class by a sociologist who was also a participant in upper-class organizations).

These various social institutions are important in creating “social cohesion” and a sense of in-group “we-ness.” This sense of cohesion is heightened by the fact that people can be excluded from these organizations. Through these institutions young members of the upper class and those who are new to wealth develop shared understandings of how to be wealthy. Because these social settings are expensive and exclusive, members of the upper class usually come to think of themselves as “special” or “superior.” They think they are better than other people, and certainly better able to lead and govern. Their self-confidence and social polish are useful in dealing with people from other social classes, who often admire them and defer to their judgments.

For research purposes, the important thing about these social institutions is that they provide us with a starting point for systematic studies of power. For example, these class “indicators” allow us to determine which economic and political leaders are and are not members of the upper class. Put another way, class indicators allow us to trace members of the upper class into the economic, political, and ideological power systems of the society.

Starting with these class indicators, we can show that the upper class is nationwide in its scope. This is because there is “overlapping” membership among the many social clubs around the country. A person from Chicago, for example, might belong to clubs in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, implying that he or she interacts with upper-class counterparts in those cities. By comparing dozens of club membership lists, we have been able to establish the “density” of this club network. (See the pages on the Bohemian Grove for findings on social cohesion and a photo essay; and for a wonderfully detailed and colorful portrait of what one of these clubs is like, see this memoir of going to the Links Club in New York City, which is one of the most central clubs in the social club/corporate executive network.)

Similarly, the alumni lists of exclusive private schools reveal that their students come from all parts of the country. The summer addresses of those members of the upper class who are listed in in-group telephone books called blue books and social registers show that people from all parts of the country mingle together at secluded summer resorts that have been upper-class watering holes for many generations.

But here we must enter our first caution. The class indicators are not perfect. Some members of the upper class do not join clubs, or list in a social register, or reveal their school affiliations in such sources as Who’s Who in America that we have to rely on for much of our information. We cannot trace such people through the power system. They are counted as not being upper class when they really are. On the other hand, there are local, or scholarship children (often people of color) at some prep schools who are not members of the upper class, and some honorary members of social clubs are not upper class. They are counted as upper class when they really are not. In large-scale studies, these two kinds of mistakes tend to cancel each other out, so in general we obtain an accurate picture. But it is true that the class indicators could be wrong on specific individuals. They are useful for group studies, not for identifying individuals.

Cautions aside, there is no doubt that there is a nationwide upper class in the United States with its own distinctive social institutions, lifestyle, and outlook. There is also no doubt that most of these people are active in business or the professions, and that all of them are very wealthy. Their great wealth is obvious, of course, from the large sums that it takes to maintain their homes and their style of life, but systematic studies also show that the wealthiest families are part of the social institutions of the upper class. Combining our studies with findings by economists on the wealth and income distributions, it is possible to say that the upper class, comprising 0.5% to 1% of the population, owns 35-40% of all privately held wealth in the United States and receives 12-15% of total yearly income. In short, the upper class scores very high on the “who benefits” power indicator.

The wealth and income of members of the upper class certainly imply that the upper class is powerful, but they do not demonstrate how power operates. It is therefore necessary to turn to studies of the economy to gain further understanding of the American power structure.

The Corporate Community

Major economic power in the United States is concentrated in an organizational and legal form known as the corporation, and has been since the last several decades of the 19th century. No one doubts that individual corporations have great power in the society at large. For example, they can hire and fire workers, decide where to invest their resources, and use their income in a variety of tax-deductible ways to influence schools, charities, and governments. The argument begins over whether the large corporations are united enough to exert a common social power, and then moves to the question of whether they are still controlled by members of the upper class.

The unity of the corporations can be demonstrated in a number of ways. They share a common interest in making profits. They are often owned by the same families or financial institutions. Their executives have very similar educational and work experiences. It is also important for their sense of unity that corporate leaders see themselves as sharing common opponents in organized labor, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and government officials. A sense of togetherness is created as well by their use of the same few legal, accounting, and consulting firms.

However, the best way to demonstrate the unity among corporations is through the study of what are called “interlocking directors,” meaning those individuals who sit on two or more of the boards of directors that are in charge of the overall direction of the corporation. Boards of directors usually include major owners, top executives from similar corporations or corporations located in the same area, financial and legal advisors, and the three or four officers who run the corporation on a daily basis. Several studies show that those 15-20% of corporate directors who sit on two or more boards, who are called the “inner circle” of the corporate directorate, unite 80-90% of the largest corporations in the United States into a well-connected “corporate community.”

Most social scientists agree that corporations have a strong basis for cohesion. However, there is disagreement over their relationship to the upper class. Some theorists, the pluralists, say that members of the upper class used to dominate corporations, but not any more due to their increase in size, the need for highly trained and specialized executives, and the decline in family ownership. Thus, there is an upper class of rich families with one set of interests and a group of professional business executives who have their own interests and power base. Members of the upper class have power based on their wealth, and corporate executives have organizational power.

Contrary to this claim of a division between owners and managers, I think there is strong evidence for the idea of great overlap in membership and interest between the upper class and the corporate community. The wealthiest and most cohesive upper-class families often have “family offices” through which they can bring to bear the concentrated power of their collective stock ownership, sometimes placing employees of the office on boards of directors. Then too, members of the upper class often control corporations through financial devices known as “holding companies,” which purchase a controlling interest in operating companies. More generally, members of the upper class own roughly half of all corporate stock . Then too, upper-class control of corporations can be seen in its over-representation on boards of directors. Several past studies show that members of the upper class sit on boards far more than would be expected by chance. They are especially likely to be part of the “inner circle” that has two or more directorships. According to the “who governs” power indicator, the upper class still controls the corporate community. Thus, we can conclude that the upper class is rooted in the ownership and control of the corporations that comprise the corporate community. We can say that members of the upper class are for the most part a “corporate rich” who continue to be involved in the business world as investors, venture capitalists, bankers, corporate lawyers, and top executives.

True enough, there are many top corporate executives who did not grow up in the upper class. Most CEO’s of major corporations do not come from the upper class. However, they are gradually socialized into the upper class and its values as they move up the corporate ladder; indeed, they are advanced on the basis of their ability to fulfill upper-class goals of corporate expansion and profitability. In return, these rising managers are given the opportunity to buy corporate stock at below-market prices, paid very high salaries, and given other “perks” that make it possible for them to join the upper class economically as well as socially. The end result is a strengthening of the power of the upper class, not a diminution of it.

How Government Policy Is Shaped From Outside Government

The upper class and the closely related corporate community do not stand alone at the top of the power structure. They are supplemented by a wide range of nonprofit organizations that play an important role in framing debates over public policy and in shaping public opinion. These organizations are often called “nonpartisan” or “bipartisan” because they are not identified with politics or with either of the two major political parties. But they are the real “political party” of the upper class in terms of insuring the stability of the society and the compliance of government.

Upper-class and corporate dominance of the major nonprofit organizations can be seen in their founding by wealthy members of the upper class and in their reliance on large corporations for their funding. However, dominance is once again most readily demonstrated through studies of boards of directors, which have ultimate control of the organizations, including the ability to hire and fire top executives. These studies show that (1) members of the upper class are greatly over-represented on the boards of these organizations, and (2) that nonprofit organizations share a large number of directors in common with the corporate community, particularly directors who are part of the “inner circle.” In effect, most large nonprofit organizations are part of the corporate community.

All the organizations in the nonprofit sector have a hand in creating the framework of the society in one way or another, and hence in helping to shape the political climate. The cultural and civic organizations set the standard for what is beautiful, important, and “classy.” The elite universities play a big part in determining what is important to teach, learn, and research, and they train most of the professionals and experts in the country. However, it is the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations that have the most direct and important influences. Their ideas, criticisms, and policy suggestions go out to the general public through a wide array of avenues, including pamphlets, books, local discussion groups, mass media, and not least, the public relations departments of major corporations. Their materials also reach government through a variety of means that will be outlined shortly.

It is worthwhile to look a little more closely at the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations to show how they function as a “policy-planning network.”

Tax-free foundations receive their money from wealthy families and corporations. Their primary purpose is to provide money for education, research, and policy discussion. They thus have the power to encourage those ideas and researchers they find compatible with their values and goals, and to withhold funds from others. Support by major foundations often has had a significant impact on the direction of research in agriculture, social science, and the health sciences. However, foundations also create policy projects on their own. The Ford Foundation, for example, helped to create a complex network of advocacy groups and funding sources for Community Development Corporations (CDCs) that provide housing and social services in the inner city.

The role of the think tanks is to suggest new policies to deal with the problems facing the economy and government. Using money from wealthy donors, corporations, and foundations, think tanks hire the experts produced by the graduate departments of the elite universities. The ideas and proposals developed by the experts are disseminated through pamphlets, books, articles in major magazines and newspapers, and, most importantly, through the participation of the experts themselves in the various forums provided by the policy-discussion organizations.

The policy-discussion organizations are the hub of the policy-planning network. They bring together wealthy individuals, corporate executives, experts, and government officials for lectures, forums, meetings, and group discussions of issues that range from the local to the international, and from the economic to the political to the cultural. New ideas are tried out in weekly or monthly discussion groups, and differences of opinion are aired and compromised. These structured discussion groups usually begin with a presentation by the invited experts, followed by questions and discussion involving all participants. Such discussion groups may range in size from ten to 50, with the usual group having fifteen to 25 members.

The many discussion groups that take place within the several policy-discussion organizations have several functions that do not readily meet the eye. They are often overlooked by theorists — pluralists and state-autonomy theorists, primarily — who do not believe that the upper class and corporate community have the ability to develop overall policy sophistication and thereby be in a position to influence the government. First, these organizations help to familiarize busy corporate leaders with policy options outside the purview of their day-to-day business concerns. This gives these executives the ability to influence public opinion through the mass media and other outlets, to argue with and influence experts, and to accept appointments for government service. Second, the policy-discussion organizations give members of the upper class and corporate community the opportunity to see which of their colleagues seem to be the best natural leaders through watching them in the give and take of the discussion groups. They can see which of their counterparts understand the issues quickly, offer their own ideas, facilitate discussions, and relate well to experts. The organizations thus serve as sorting and screening mechanisms for the emergence of new leadership for the corporate rich in general.

Third, these organizations legitimate their participants to the media and interested public as knowledgeable leaders who deserve to be tapped for public service because they have used their free time to acquaint themselves with the issues in nonpartisan forums. The organizations thereby help make wealthy individuals and corporate executives into “national leaders” and “statesmen.” Finally, these organizations provide a forum wherein members of the upper class and corporate community can come to know policy experts. This gives them a pool of people from which they can draw advisors if they are asked to serve in government. It also gives them a basis for recommending experts to politicians for government service.

The organizations also serve obvious functions for the experts. First, presenting their ideas and policies to these organizations gives them an opportunity to have influence. Second, it gives them a chance to advance their own careers if they can impress the upper-class and corporate participants.

The policy-planning network is not totally homogeneous. Reflecting differences within the corporate community, there are moderate-conservative and ultra-conservative wings within it. Moderate conservatives favor foreign aid, low tariffs, and increased economic expansion overseas, whereas the ultra-conservatives tend to see foreign aid as a giveaway. Moderate conservatives tend to accept the idea that governmental taxation and spending policies can be used to stimulate and stabilize the economy, but ultra-conservatives insist that taxes should be cut to the very minimum and that government spending is the next thing to evil. Moderate conservatives accept some welfare-state measures, or at least they support such measures in the face of serious social disruption. Ultra-conservatives have consistently opposed any welfare spending, claiming that it destroys moral fiber and saps individual initiative, so they prefer to use arrest and detention when faced with social unrest.

The reasons for these differences are not well understood. There is a tendency for the moderate-conservative organizations to be directed by executives from the very largest and most internationally oriented of corporations, but there are numerous exceptions to that generalization. Moreover, there are corporations that support policy organizations within both camps. However, for all their differences, leaders within the two clusters of policy organizations have a tendency to search for compromise due to their common membership in the upper-class and corporate community. When compromise is not possible, the final resolution of policy conflicts often takes place in legislative struggles in Congress.

The existence of the policy-planning network provides evidence for another form of power possessed by the wealthy few: expertise on social and political issues. It is an important complement to the naked economic power possessed by the corporations.

The Power Elite

Now that the upper class, corporate community, and policy-planning network have been defined and described, it is possible to discuss the leadership group that I call the “power elite.” I define the power elite as the leadership group of the upper class. It consists of active-working members of the upper class and high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions controlled by members of the upper class through stock ownership, financial support, or involvement on the board of directors. This does not mean that all members of the upper class are involved in governing. Some are only playboys and socialites; their social gatherings may provide a setting where members of the power elite mingle with celebrities, and sometimes they give money to political candidates, but that is about as close as they come to political power.

Conversely, not all those involved in the power elite are members of the upper class. They are sons and daughters of the middle class, and occasionally, the blue-collar working class, who do well at any one of several hundred private and state universities, and then go to grad school, MBA school, or law school at one of a handful of elite universities — e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, and Stanford. From there they go to work for a major corporation, law firm, foundation, think tank, or university, and slowly work their way to the top.

The idea of the power elite intertwines class theory and organizational theory, two theories which are often thought of as distinctive or even as rivals. The basis for the intertwining of the two theories is to be found in the role and composition of the boards of directors that govern every large profit and nonprofit organization in the United States. It is on boards of directors that the values and goals of the upper class are integrated with those of the organizational hierarchy. Upper-class directors insure that their interests are infused into the organizations they control, but the day-to-day organizational leaders on the board are able to harmonize class interests with organizational principles.

It is important to stress that I am not saying that all experts are members of the power elite. People have to be high-level employees in institutions controlled by members of the upper class to be considered part of the power elite. Receiving a fellowship from a foundation, spending a year at a think tank, or giving advice to a policy-discussion organization does not make a person a member of the power elite. It also may be useful to note that there are many experts who never go near the policy-planning network. They focus on their teaching and research, or work for groups that oppose the policies of the power elite. In short, experts and advisers are a separate group just below the power elite in the pecking order.

power_elite_diagram

With the composition of the power elite clearly stated, it is now possible to show how it dominates the federal government in the interest of the upper class and corporate community.

The Power Elite and Government

Members of the power elite directly involve themselves in the federal government through three basic processes, each of which has a slightly different role in ensuring “access” to the White House, Congress, and specific agencies, departments, and committees in the executive branch. Although some of the same people are involved in all three processes, most leaders specialize in one or two of the three processes. These three processes are:

  1. The special-interest process, through which specific families, corporations, and industrial sectors are able to realize their narrow and short-run interests on taxes, subsidies, and regulation in their dealings with congressional committees, regulatory bodies, and executive departments;
  2. The policy-making process, through which the policies developed in the policy-planning network described earlier are brought to the White House and Congress;
  3. The candidate selection process, through which members of the power elite influence electoral campaigns by means of campaign donations to political candidates.

Power elite domination of the federal government can be seen most directly in the workings of the corporate lobbyists, backroom super-lawyers, and industry-wide trade associations that represent the interests of specific corporations or business sectors. This special-interest process is based in varying combinations of information, gifts, insider dealing, friendship, and, not least, promises of lucrative private jobs in the future for compliant government officials. This is the aspect of business-government relations described by journalists and social scientists in their case studies. While these studies show that the special interests usually get their way, the conflict that sometimes erupts within this process, occasionally pitting one corporate sector against another, reinforces the image of widely shared and fragmented power in America, including the image of a divided corporate community. Moreover, there are some defeats suffered by the corporate rich in the special-interest process. For example, laws that improved auto safety standards were passed over automobile industry objections in the 1970s, as were standards of water cleanliness opposed by the paper and chemical industries.

Policies of concern to the corporate community as a whole are not the province of the special-interest process. Instead, such policies come from the network of foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations discussed in an earlier section. The plans developed in the organizations of the policy-planning network reach the federal government in a variety of ways. On the most general level, their reports, news releases, and interviews are read by elected officials and their staffs, either in pamphlet form or in summary articles in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Members of the policy-planning network also testify before congressional committees and subcommittees that are writing legislation or preparing budget proposals. More directly, leaders from these organizations are regular members of the dozens of little-known committees that advise specific departments of the executive branch on general policies, making them in effect unpaid temporary members of the government. They are also very prominent on the extremely important presidential commissions that are appointed to make recommendations on a wide range of issues from foreign policy to highway construction. They also serve on the little-known federal advisory committees that are part of just about every department of the executive branch.

Finally, and crucially, they are appointed to government positions with a frequency far beyond what would be expected by chance. Several different studies show that top cabinet positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations are held by members of the upper class and corporate executives who are leaders in policy-discussion organizations.

The general picture that emerges from the findings on the overrepresentation of members of the power elite in appointed governmental positions is that the highest levels of the executive branch are interlocked constantly with the upper class and corporate community through the movement of executives and lawyers in and out of government. Although the same person is not in governmental and corporate positions at the same time, there is enough continuity for the relationship to be described as one of “revolving interlocks.” Corporate leaders resign their numerous directorships in profit and nonprofit organizations to serve in government for two or three years, then return to the corporate community or policy-planning network. This system gives them temporary independence from the narrow concerns of their own organizations and allows them to perform the more general roles they have learned in the policy-discussion groups. They then return to the private sector with useful personal contacts and information.

As important as the special-interest and policy-planning processes are for the power elite, they could not operate successfully if there were not sympathetic, business-oriented elected officials in government. That leads us to the third process through which members of the power elite dominate the federal government, the candidate-selection process. It operates through the two major political parties. For reasons to be discussed in a moment, the two parties have very little role in political education or policy formation; they are reduced to the function of filling offices. That is why the American political system can be characterized as a “candidate-selection process.”

The main reason the political system focuses on candidate selection to the relative exclusion of political education and policy formulation is that there can be only two main parties due to the structure of the government and the nature of the electoral rules. The fact that Americans select a president instead of a parliament, and elect legislators from “single-member” geographical areas (states for the Senate, districts for the House) leads to a two-party system because in these “winner-take-all” elections a vote for a third party is a vote for the person’s least desired choice. A vote for a very liberal party instead of the Democrats, for example, actually helps the Republicans. Under these rules, the most sensible strategy for both the Democrats and Republicans is to blur their policy differences in order to compete for the voters with middle-of-the-road policy views, or no policy views at all.

Contrary to what many believe, then, American political parties are not very responsive to voter preferences. Their candidates are fairly free to say one thing to get elected and to do another once in office. This contributes to confusion and apathy in the electorate. It leads to campaigns where there are no “issues” except “images” and “personalities” even when polls show that voters are extremely concerned about certain policy issues. You don’t raise unnecessary issues during a campaign, one successful presidential candidate once said.

It is precisely because the candidate-selection process is so personalized, and therefore dependent on name recognition, images, and emotional symbolism, that it can be in good part dominated by members of the power elite through the relatively simple and direct means of large campaign contributions. Playing the role of donors and money raisers, the same people who direct corporations and take part in the policy-planning network have a crucial place in the careers of most politicians who advance beyond the local level or state legislatures in states with large populations. Their support is especially important in party primaries, where money is an even larger factor than in general elections.

The two-party system therefore results in elected officials who are relatively issueless and willing to go along with the policies advocated by those members of the power elite who work in the special-interest and policy-planning processes. They are motivated by personal ambition far more than they are by political conviction. Still, there are some extremely conservative elected Republicans who often oppose power elite proposals, claiming that such policies are the work of secret communists or pointy-headed intellectuals out to wreck the “free enterprise” system. There also are many Democrats from blue-collar and university districts who consistently oppose power elite policies as members of the liberal-labor coalition. However, both the ultra-conservatives and the liberals are outnumbered by the “moderates” of both parties, especially in key leadership positions in Congress. After many years in Congress the elected liberals decide to “go along to get along.” “This place has a way of grinding you down,” explained one liberal Congressman of the early 1970s in a classic summary of what happens.

Although members of the power elite are far and away the most important financial backers for both parties, this does not mean that there are no differences between the two parties. The leadership levels have intra-class differences, and the supporters tend to have inter-class differences. The Republican Party is controlled by the wealthiest families of the upper class and corporate community, who are largely Protestant in background. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is the party of the “fringes” of the upper class and power elite. Although often called “the party of the common person,” it was in fact the party of the Southern segment of the upper class until very recently. The power of the Southern Democrats in the party and in Congress was secured in a variety of ways, the most important of which was the seniority system for selecting committee chairs in Congress. (By tradition, the person who has been on the committee longest just about automatically becomes the chair; this avoids conflict among members of the party.) However, the underlying point is that the one-party system in the South and the exclusion of African-Americans from the voting booth until the mid-1960s gave the Southern planters and merchants power at the national level through the Democratic Party out of all proportion to their wealth and numbers. Thus, it is not necessarily the wealthiest people who rule. The nature of the political system also enters into the equation. But the Southern elites are not poor; they are only less rich than many of their Northern counterparts.

The Southerners dominated the Democratic Party in alliance with the “ethnic rich” in the North, meaning wealthy Jews and Catholics who were shunned or mistreated by the rich Protestants. The businesses they owned were often local or smaller than those of the Republican backers, and they usually were excluded from the social institutions of the upper class. These ethnic rich were the primary financial supporters of the infamous “political machines” that dominated Democratic politics in most large northern cities.

The alliance between the Southern segment of the upper class and the Northern ethnic rich usually was able to freeze out the policy initiatives of the party’s liberal-labor coalition through its control of congressional committees, although there was a time (1940 to 1975) when labor unions had significant influence on the Democrats. When that alliance broke down on certain issues because the machine Democrats sided with the liberals and labor, then the Southern Democrats joined with Northern Republicans to create the “conservative coalition,” AKA “the conservative voting bloc,” wherein a majority of Southern Democrats and a majority of Northern Republicans voted together against the Northern Democrats. This conservative coalition most often formed around the issues that reflect class conflict in the legislative arena — civil rights, union rights, social welfare, and business regulation. Legislation on any of these issues weakens employers in the face of workers and their unions, so it is not surprising that the conservative coalition is based on the shared interests of Northern and Southern employers. This alliance won far more often than it lost in the years between 1937, when it was formed, and the 1990s, when it disappeared for the simple reason that many of the Southerners had become Republicans.

Once the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was in effect, the Democratic Party was slowly changed because African-Americans in the South were able to vote against the worst racists in the party primaries. The gradual industrialization also was causing changes. As a result of these two forces, Southern whites started to move into the Republican Party, which thus became the party of wealthy employers in both the North and South. In that context, the Democratic Party is slowly becoming what many always thought it to be, the party of liberals, minorities, workers, and the poor.

In summary, the special-interest process, policy-planning process, and campaign finance make it possible for the power elite to win far more often than it loses on the policy issues that come before the federal government. The power elite is also greatly over-represented in appointed positions, presidential blue-ribbon commissions, and advisory committees within the government. In terms of both the “who wins” and “who governs” power indicators, the power elite dominates the federal government.

However, this domination does not mean control on each and every issue, or lack of opposition, and it does not rest upon government involvement alone. Involvement in government is only the final and most visible aspect of power elite domination, which has its roots in the class structure, the nature of the economy, and the functioning of the policy-planning network. If government officials did not have to wait on corporate leaders to decide where and when they will invest, and if government officials were not further limited by the acceptance of the current economic arrangements by the large majority of the population, then power elite involvement in elections and government would count for a lot less than it does under present conditions.

Why Business Leaders Feel Powerless

Despite these various kinds of objective evidence that the power elite has great power in relation to the federal government, many corporate leaders feel that they are relatively powerless in the face of government. To hear them tell it, Congress is more responsive to organized labor, environmentalists, and consumers. They also claim to be harassed by willful and arrogant bureaucrats. These negative feelings toward government are not a new development, contrary to those who blame the New Deal and the social programs of the 1960s. A study of businessmen’s views in the 19th century found that they believed political leaders to be “stupid” and “empty” people who went into politics only to earn a living, and a study of businessmen’s views during what are thought of as their most powerful decade, the 1920s, found the same mistrust of government.

The emotional expressions of business leaders about their lack of power cannot be taken seriously as a power indicator, for that confuses psychological uneasiness with power. Feelings are one thing, the effects of one’s actions another. But it is nonetheless interesting to try to understand why businessmen complain about a government they dominate. First, complaining about government is a useful political strategy. It puts government officials on the defensive and forces them to keep proving that they are friendly to business. Second, businessmen complain about government because in fact very few civil servants are part of the upper class and corporate community. The anti-government ideology of the United States tends to restrain members of the upper class from government careers except in the State Department, meaning that the main contacts for members of the power elite within government are at the very top. There is thus uncertainty about how the middle levels will react to new situations, and therefore a feeling that there is a necessity to “ride herd” on or “reign in” the potentially troublesome “bureaucrats.”

There also seems to be an ideological level to the business leaders’ attitudes toward government. There is a fear of the populist, democratic ideology that underlies American government. Since power is in theory in the hands of all the people, there always is the possibility that someday “the people,” in the sense of the majority, will make the government into the reflection of pluralist democracy that it is supposed to be. In a certain very real way, then, the great power of the upper class and corporate community are culturally illegitimate, and the existence of such power is therefore vigorously denied. It is okay to be rich, and even to brag about wealth a little bit, but not to be powerful or, worse, to flaunt that power.

Finally, the expressions of anguish from individual corporate leaders concerning their powerlessness also suggests an explanation in terms of the intersection of social psychology and sociology. It is the upper class and corporate community that have power, not individuals apart from their institutional context. As individuals, they are not always listened to, and they have to convince their peers of the reasonableness of their arguments before anything happens. Moreover, any policy that is adopted is a group decision, and it is sometimes hard for people to identify with group actions to the point where they feel personally powerful. It is therefore not surprising that specific individuals might feel powerless.

The Weaknesses of the Working Class

There are many democratic countries where the working class — defined as all those white-collar and blue-collar workers who earn a salary or a wage — has more power than it does in the United States. This power is achieved primarily through labor unions and political parties. It is reflected in more egalitarian wealth and income distributions, a more equitable tax structure, better public health services, subsidized housing, and higher old-age and unemployment benefits.

How is it possible that the American working class could be relatively powerless in a country that prides itself on its long-standing history of pluralism and elections? There are several interacting historical factors. First, the “primary producers” in the United States, those who work with their hands in factories and fields, were more seriously divided among themselves until the 1930s than in most other countries. The deepest and most important of these divisions was between whites and African-Americans. In the beginning, of course, the African-Americans had no social power because of their enslavement, which meant that there was no way to organize workers in the South. But even after African-Americans gained their freedom, prejudices in the white working class kept the two groups apart.

This black/white split in the working class was reinforced by later conflicts between craft workers — also called “skilled” workers — and industrial workers — also called mass-production or “unskilled” workers. Craft workers usually tried to keep their wages high by excluding industrial workers. Their sense of superiority as skilled workers was reinforced by the fact that they were of Northern European, Protestant origins and the industrial workers tended to be Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Southern Europe. Some African-Americans were also found in the ranks of the industrial workers, along with other racial minorities.

It would have been difficult enough to overcome these divisions even if workers had been able to develop their own political party, but they were unable to develop such a party because the electoral system greatly disadvantages third parties. Workers were stuck. They had no place to go but the Republicans or Democrats. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the craft workers often supported the Democrats, while the recent immigrant industrial workers tended to support the Republicans. Even when craft and industrial workers moved into the Democratic Party en masse in the 1930s, they couldn’t control the party because of the power of the wealthy Southern planters and merchants.

Nor did the workers have much luck organizing themselves through unions. The employers were able to call upon the government to crush organizing drives and strikes through both court injunctions and police arrests. This was not only because employers had great influence with politicians then, just as they do now, but because the American tradition of law, based in laissez faire (free market) liberalism, was so fiercely opposed to any “restraint of trade” or “interference” with private property. It was not until the 1930s that the liberal-labor coalition was able to pass legislation guaranteeing workers the right to join unions and engage in collective bargaining. Even this advance was only possible by excluding the Southern workforce — i.e., agricultural and seasonal labor — from the purview of the legislation. Further, the passage of the legislation had only limited impact because the industrial unions were defeated almost completely in the South and Southwest. Unions thrived in a few major industries in the North in the years after World War II, but then their power was eroded beginning in the 1970s as the big corporations moved their factories to other countries or lost market share to European and Japanese companies.

Given this history of internal division, political frustration, and union defeat, it is not surprising the American workers continue to accept the highly individualistic ideology that has characterized the United States since its founding. This acceptance in turn makes it even more difficult to organize workers around “bread-and-butter” issues. They often vote instead on the basis of social issues or religious convictions, with those who are deeply religious, opposed to affirmative action, or opposed to gun control voting for the avowedly anti-union Republican Party.

Thus, it is important not to confuse freedom with social power. Between 1962 and the 1990s there was a great expansion in individual rights due to the civil rights, feminist, and lesbian-gay movements, but during that time the ratio of a top business executive’s pay to a factory worker’s pay increased from 41 to 1 to about 300 to 1. American workers can say what they want and do what they want within very broad limits, and their children can study hard in school so they can go to graduate school and join the well-off professional class as doctors, lawyers, architects, or engineers, but when it comes to social power most Americans have very little of it if they are not a part of the power elite.

Community Power

Not all power is wielded at the national level. For more on local power, click here.

Conclusion

The argument over the structure and distribution of power in the United States has been going on within academia since the 1950s. It has generated a large number of empirical studies, many of which have been drawn upon here. In the final analysis, however, scholars’ conclusions about the American power structure depend upon their beliefs concerning power indicators, which are a product of their “philosophy of science.” That sounds strange, I realize, but if “who benefits?” and “who sits?” are seen as valid power indicators, on the assumption that “power” is an underlying social trait that can be indexed by a variety of imperfect indicators, then the kind of evidence briefly outlined here will be seen as a very strong case for the dominant role of the power elite in the federal government.

If “who wins?” on a wide range of government decisions is seen as the only valid indicator of power, and if it is expected that the power elite must win every time, which is the stance adopted by pluralist theorists on the basis of a “strict positivist” view of how power must be measured, then the argument presented here, based on a “soft positivism,” will be seen as less impressive. That’s because those relatively few of us who disagree with the pluralists have not yet had the time and the resources to do enough case studies within the framework of the special-interest and policy-planning processes to show the full range of power elite dominance on policy issues. A good start has been made in this direction, but it will take more to convince the skeptics.


References

Kendall, D. (2002). The power of good deeds: Privileged women and the social reproduction of class. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Wrong, D. (1995). Power: Its Forms, Bases, and Uses (2nd ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

 

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits: Addendum

From White House to Media Whiteout

 

February 9, 2017

 

The following is an addendum to the 6-part series: Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

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From left: Jodi Gillette; parents Dave Archambault I and Betty Archambault; the Obamas; brother Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; sisters Billi Hornbeck and Sunshine Archambault Carlow; and sister-in-law Nicole Thunder Hawk Archambault. (Photo Pete Souza, White House)

In May of 2015 Jodi Gillette (Bush Fellow, 2002) stepped down from her position as a White House senior policy advisor to take on the same role in a private capacity for Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP, a national law firm “devoted to representing Native American interests in a variety of legal areas.” Although this was not mentioned in the national media, this recent maneuver exposes the allegiances and alliances of those who are leaders in the Standing Rock opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Above: Jodi Gillette featured on the cover of B Magazine from the Bush Foundation. Second Issue,  2015, STANDING ROCK STRONG: JODI GILLETTE

Previous to her current position in the private sector, Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was hired by Obama for the United States to oversee statewide operations of the First American voting efforts (the North Dakota First American Vote campaign) in 2008. Following this, Gillette served as Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House between 2009 t0 2010. Subsequently, Gillette joined the U.S. Department of the Interior as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in 2011 and was named Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council in 2012. [Source]

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“Jodi Gillette, a senior policy advisor, and her family pose with President Barack Obama.” Courtesy White House

Unbeknownst to the general public, Jodi Gillette’s full name is Jodi Archambault Gillette – sister of David Archambault – elected as Chairman of the Standing Rock Tribal Council on September 25, 2013. Although these conflicting relationships between elite power structures and the land defenders on the frontlines is rather glaring, it is omitted by all media. As media serves as a key apparatus in insulating elite power, one can safely assume this is a deliberate omission rather than a simple oversight.

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About the series:

“In crushing detail and shining a floodlight on the history of the co-optation of Indigenous struggles since the pivotal year of 2010, Cory Morningstar has put together this series to give deep context to the events at and around Standing Rock. Most vitally, this series contrasts the tiny amounts of money spent at the grassroots against the vast sums spent at the ‘business’ end of the non-profit industrial complex where personal data helps behavior-change B-corporation executives exercise the will of corporate philanthropists, corporations, and imperialist governments.

 

In this “age of peak spectacle” Morningstar and Forrest Palmer present the invisiblization of crude-via-rail and the manipulations of Warren Buffett and his BNSF empire while showing that not all water is treated as precious, not all pipelines get scrutiny, and not all Indigenous land needs to be treated as sacred if it doesn’t serve the interests of the non-profit industrial complex and those brands that maximize profits through Dave Matthews concerts. You will find stunning passages of clarity in each of part of this series which includes indispensable details of political context and networked hegemony for any true fireball activist.” — Activist Michael Swifte

 

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 2]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 3]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 4]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 5]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 6 | Conclusion]

 

 

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Humanitarian Spin Merchants & Propaganda Peddlers

21st Century Wire

February 8, 2017

 

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Amnesty International has released a report entitled, Syria: Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Sadnaya Prison. It is the follow up to a slick video produced by Amnesty International back in August 2016. The timing of this report is crucial, as is the fact that Amnesty International has, for years, been exposed as a US State Department soft power tool and propaganda producer.

The report is produced at a critical juncture in the dirty war that has been waged against Syria for the last six years by the US, NATO and Gulf states, Jordan and Israel – all driving their geopolitical objectives in the region, primarily regime change and the weakening of the Syrian state. Amnesty International to the rescue with its formulaic damning report containing the now, familiar, absence of credible evidence or divergent views.

The following real events should be considered when evaluating the timing of Amnesty International’s propaganda release this week: 

1. The liberation of Aleppo and Syrian Army military progress against NATO and Gulf State funded terrorists across Syria.

2. The Astana Peace Talks.

3. Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire. Partially successful.

4. Tulsi Gabbard trip to Syria and her very successful “Stop Arming Terrorists” bill.

5. Uncertain Trump policy on Syria, threatening to undermine US coalition, regime change objectives.

6. Syria’s pivot towards Russia and China [BRICS New Development Bank] for reconstruction of Syria, thus depriving NATO states of their usual mop-up profit and private sector benefits.

7. “Criminal” investigation will be largely sponsored by UK who are the deep state masterminds in the dirty war against Syria.

8. Two weeks before Geneva Peace talks are scheduled to begin, between Syrian government and the NATO/Gulf state funded opposition factions.

In so many ways, the defamatory tactics being deployed against Syria by western media, governments and NGOs like Amnesty International – are identical to the criminal operation which was carried out against the nation state of Libya in 2011. 

The following report was made by Syriana Analysis, an independent research and analysis media outlet, based in Damascus.

As many as 13,000 people have been executed at Saydnaya prison, north of the capital Damascus, a report by Amnesty International claims. Syriana Analysis addresses the shortcomings of Amnesty report and reveals its poor methodology that does not even meet the lowest mark of scientific or legal veracity.”Watch ~

Compilation of Articles Exposing Amnesty International as an Integral part of the NATO State ‘Smart’ Power Industrial Complex & the “Human Slaughterhouse” Report as a Hoax

Amnesty International Admits Syrian “Saydnaya” Report Fabricated Entirely in UK, by Tony Cartalucci:

“However, there is another aspect of the report that remains unexplored – the fact that Amnesty International itself has openly admitted that the summation of the report was fabricated in the United Kingdom at Amnesty International’s office, using a process they call “forensic architecture,” in which the lack of actual, physical, photographic, and video evidence, is replaced by 3D animations and sound effects created by designers hired by Amnesty International.”

VIDEO: Amnesty International Fake News: Sadnaya Prison for Al Qaeda:


Amnesty International “Human Slaughterhouse” Report Lacks Evidence, Credibility, Reeks Of State Department Propaganda,
by Brandon Turbeville

“The Amnesty International report is, at best, a faulty and poorly produced distortion of some disturbing reports from dubious sources, exaggerated for the purposes of demonizing Assad and the Syrian government. It simply cannot be believed and has no credibility whatsoever. The lack of understanding of Syrian culture, the straws being grasped when it comes to the satellite photos, dubious NGO influence, terrorist-linked sources, and lack of credible “witnesses” as well as the fact that virtually “evidence” being produced rests on these incredible “witnesses” all serve the purpose of destroying AI’s own propaganda before it can even get off the ground. Amnesty International may now officially join the ranks of Human Rights Watch in the running for which NGO and “human rights” organization can produce the most ridiculous yet effective propaganda against the Syrian government. Indeed, Amnesty International has long been known as a State Department propaganda organ designed to attack fake and even sometimes real human rights abuses of target governments. This new report has virtually no evidence to back up its claims and, until it can produce real verifiable evidence, the report itself must be disregarded.”

The Amnesty International Report – Response from Former Syrian Dissident, by the Angry Arab Blogspot:

“This is about the Amnesty International report on Syria.  Western human rights organizations–specifically Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch–don’t have any credibility among most Arabs about human rights. Their reputation has sunk far lower ever since the Arab uprisings in 2011, where they have been rightly perceived as propaganda arms of Western governments.

Nizar Nayouf (Syrian Dissident):

“The white prison is the one on the shape of Mercedes. It is the main building (the old and big). As for the red prison, it is the new and small [structure], and contrary to what is contained in the report–which it seems does not distinguish between the two. The first was inaugurated in 1988 while the second was not inaugurated until 2001. As for the main White building, it is quite impossible for it to accommodate 10,000 prisoners. We know it inch by inch, and know how much it can accommodate, at maximum, and assuming you put 30 prisoners in a cell like pickles (or Syrian style pickles, makdus), it can’t accommodate more than 4500 prisoners (in fact it was designed for 3000 prisoners). The red building is much smaller and is exclusive to public defendants among the military members (traffic, desertion, various criminal offenses, etc), and can’t accommodate more than 1800 prisoners, and even if you put 3 on top of one another…READ ON.”

Amnesty International Report Hearsay, by Moon of Alabama:

“A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction style writing from its title “Human Slaughterhouse” down to the last paragraph…”

The Farce that is Amnesty International’s “Human Slaughterhouse Study”: Quite Literally Fake News Goes Viral, by Scott Creighton:

“All day yesterday, Amnesty International was trending on Twitter. Thousands of people left comments reflecting their outrage at Assad “the monster” and various news organizations published the baseless comments as news. It was a megaphone project that worked perfectly… for a little while. You’ll notice the story has been relegated to the back pages today and some publications  have actually pulled their articles on it. There’s a reason for that. The AI report is complete and total bunk. It’s baseless, technically flawed and as they accurately reported over at Moon of Alabama, it wouldn’t stand up in even the most rigged kangaroo court on the planet. Do you want to know many of those 13,000 victims of “torture, hanging and extermination” that AI has actual evidence of?

Zero.”

How we were Misled about Syria: Amnesty International, by Tim Hayward:

“Since it is not just the strength of the condemnation that is noteworthy, but the swiftness of its delivery – in ‘real-time’ – a question that Amnesty International supporters might consider is how the organisation can provide instantaneous coverage of events while also fully investigating and verifying the evidence.”

Amnesty International is US State Department Propaganda, by Tony Cartalucci:

“Amnesty does indeed cover issues that are critical of US foreign policy, toward the bottom of their websites and at the back of their reports. Likewise, the corporate-media selectively reports issues that coincide with their interests while other issues are either under-reported or not reported at all. And it is precisely because Amnesty covers all issues, but selectively emphasizes those that are conducive to the interests of immense corporate-financiers that makes Amnesty one of the greatest impediments to genuine human rights advocacy on Earth.”

Tim
Infograph by Prof Tim Anderson, author of The Dirty War on Syria.

Amnesty International, Imperialist Tool, by Prof Francis Boyle:

“Once it became clear that there never were any dead babies in Kuwait as alleged by Amnesty International, AI/London proceeded to engage in a massive coverup of the truth. For all I know, the same people at AI/London who waged this Dead-Babies Disinformation Campaign against Iraq are still at AI/London producing more disinformation against Arab/Muslim states in the Middle East in order to further the political and economic interests of the United States, Britain, and Israel. Because of its Dead-Babies Disinformation Campaign against Iraq and its ensuing coverup, Amnesty International will never have any credibility in the Middle East!”

Amnesty International Whitewashing Another Massacre, by Paul de Rooij

“Amnesty urges Palestinians to address their grievances via the ICC. It is curious that while international law provides the Palestinians no protection whatsoever, AI is urging Palestinians to jump through international legal hoops. It is also questionable to suggest a legal framework meant for interstate conflict when dealing with a non-state dispossessed native population. And of course, AI fails to mention that Israel has avoided and ignored international law with the complicity and aid of the United States.”

Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo, by Rick Sterling:

“There is little or no evidence provided regarding most of the alleged victims. Photographs and video evidence is provided for a small minority of the cases. The spokesman and advocacy director for VDC is Bassam al Ahmad.  He is based in Istanbul and closely connected to the United States as shown in his recent participation in a “Leadership Conference” as shown in photograph #4 below. In short, Amnesty’s report and conclusions are based on dubious data from a biased source closely aligned with foreign powers actively seeking “regime change” in Damascus.”

George Soros Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario, by Vanessa Beeley:

“In some countries, local NGOs also have been funded to mount “people power” campaigns. As in the recent “color revolutions,” these campaigns are aimed at opening up political regimes to opposition parties and ousting leaders who were holding onto power through irregular methods. Viewed more broadly, all these programs supporting NGO activities and capacity-building are seen as ways to foster the progressive emergence of a broad civil society, one that both supplements the state in providing for public needs and makes governments more responsive to their populations.”  The gloves appear to be off.  Here, the Wilson Centre is blithely exposing the NGO’s trojan horse policy with regards to its role as outreach agents for Imperialism in any resource rich or strategically important, prey nation. It explains perfectly the funding of the people power, time for change campaigns that run in synch with any regional or national schisms that are then piggybacked by imported or locally fostered opposition movements to propel the Imperialist friendly movements towards regime change.”

Soros Plays Both Ends Against the Middle, by William Engdahl:

Another Soros-financed NGO active demonizing the Assad government as cause of all atrocities in Syria and helping build publc support for a war in Syria from the US and EU is Amnesty International. Suzanne Nossel, until 2013 the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, came to the job from the US State Department where she was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, not exactly an unbiased agency in regard to Syria” 

Amnesty International, Infamous Tools of Conspiracies,  by Wrong Kind of Green Files:

“Nayirah’s fairy tale is one of the many deceiving act of drama orchestrated by such organizations like “Amnesty International” designed to serve Washington’s political, security and military objectives of the US. Dr. Francis Boyle, one former Board Member of “Amnesty International”, disclosed that at the time the Security Council was voting in favor of the invasion of Iraq, and as they confessed later, was based on the false report by “Amnesty International”.

Amnesty International, War Propaganda and Human Rights Terrorism, by Gearoid O’Colmain:

“We must document crimes such as the massacre of Jaramana and  expose those who attempt to cover for their perpetrators, not because they are violations of human rights but because they are violations of humanity and the social networks that sustain meaningful human relations. We must stand up for the human being and consign human rights to the dustbin of history.”

Smart Power and the Human Rights Industrial Complex, by Patrick Henningsen:

“Here we see a powerful public relations resumé, combined with established links to Washington’s foreign policy core, and at a time when multiple Middle Eastern nation states, like Libya and Syria, were being forced into submission under the yoke of US-led international pressure. Projecting Washington’s preferred narrative is paramount in this multilateral effort and Nossel would be a key bridge in helping to project US foreign policy messaging internationally through top tier NGO Amnesty.”

Human Rights Front Groups Warring on Syria, by Eva Bartlett:

“Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros (whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other “human rights” advocates). Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance was drawn directly from the US State Department …Amnesty International’s website specifically mentions Nossel’s role behind US State Department-backed UN resolutions regarding Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cote d’Ivoire… Nossel’s “contributions” then are simply to dress up naked military aggression and the pursuit of global corporate-financier hegemony with the pretense of “human rights” advocacy.” [citation from: Amnesty International is US State Department Propaganda]

Suzanne Nossel Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, by Human Rights Investigations:

“Given that Suzanne Nossel is an advocate for war, particularly against Israel’s enemies, and a firm believer in NATO and US power, what has this meant for Amnesty in the last few months? Well not surprisingly Nossel has used her platform as Executive Director to focus on the State Department’s current main concerns which are Syria and Iran as well as China and Russia, who through their membership of the UN Security Council and insistence on the principles of national sovereignty and non-aggression towards other member states constitute obstacles to US foreign policy.”

VIDEO: LIBYA: Amnesty International Confessing:

Human Rights, Geopolitics and the Union for the Mediterranean, by Centre for Study of Interventionism

“The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is a key NGO within the Network and it is also a member of the International Federation of Human Rights.  It was founded in 1993 by Bahey El Din Hassan who was elected member of the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network at its second meeting in 1997.  In December 2011, he participated in a meeting of the Atlantic Council co-organised by the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East dealing with Egypt which is his country or origin. (7)  That meeting discussed the arrest of members of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the National Endowment for Democracy who were accused of interference in Egyptian internal affairs.

 

The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t

What’s Left

October 22, 2016

By Stephen Gowans

 

“Apparently, the US Left has yet to figure out that Washington doesn’t try to overthrow neoliberals. If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were a devotee of the Washington Consensus–as Counterpunch’s Eric Draitser seems to believe–the United States government wouldn’t have been calling since 2003 for Assad to step down. Nor would it be overseeing the Islamist guerilla war against his government; it would be protecting him.”

 

There is a shibboleth in some circles that, as Eric Draitser put it in a recent Counterpunch article, the uprising in Syria “began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality,” and that “the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists.” This theory appears, as far as I can tell, to be based on argument by assertion, not evidence.

Forthcoming April 2017 from Baraka Books.

Forthcoming April 2017 from Baraka Books.

A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the mid-March 2011 outbreak of riots in Daraa—usually recognized as the beginning of the uprising—offers no indication that Syria was in the grips of a revolutionary distemper, whether anti-neo-liberal or otherwise. On the contrary, reporters representing Time magazine and the New York Times referred to the government as having broad support, of critics conceding that Assad was popular, and of Syrians exhibiting little interest in protest. At the same time, they described the unrest as a series of riots involving hundreds, and not thousands or tens of thousands of people, guided by a largely Islamist agenda and exhibiting a violent character.

Time magazine reported that two jihadist groups that would later play lead roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while a mere three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced “their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.” The Muslim Brothers, who had decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party, objecting violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s. (In one such battle, Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father, who himself would serve as president from 1970 to 2000, was knifed by a Muslim Brother adversary.) The Brotherhood’s leaders, beginning in 2007, met frequently with the US State Department and the US National Security Council, as well as with the US government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, which had taken on the overt role of funding overseas overthrow organizations—a task the CIA had previously done covertly.

Washington had conspired to purge Arab nationalist influence from Syria as early as the mid-1950s, when Kermit Roosevelt, who engineered the overthrow of Iran’s prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh for nationalizing his country’s oil industry, plotted with British intelligence to stir up the Muslim Brothers to overthrow a triumvirate of Arab nationalist and communist leaders in Damascus who Washington and London perceived as threatening Western economic interests in the Middle East.

Washington funnelled arms to Brotherhood mujahedeen in the 1980s to wage urban guerrilla warfare against Hafez al-Assad, who hardliners in Washington called an “Arab communist.” His son, Bashar, continued the Arab nationalists’ commitment to unity (of the Arab nation), independence, and (Arab) socialism. These goals guided the Syrian state—as they had done the Arab nationalist states of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq under Saddam. All three states were targeted by Washington for the same reason: their Arab nationalist commitments clashed fundamentally with the US imperialist agenda of US global leadership.

Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to renounce Arab nationalist ideology dismayed Washington, which complained about his socialism, the third part of the Ba’athists’ holy trinity of values. Plans to oust Assad—based in part on his failure to embrace Washington’s neo-liberalism—were already in preparation in Washington by 2003, if not earlier. If Assad was championing neo-liberalism, as Draitser and others contend, it somehow escaped the notice of Washington and Wall Street, which complained about “socialist” Syria and the country’s decidedly anti-neoliberal economic policies.

A Death Feud Heats Up With US Assistance

In late January 2011, a page was created on Facebook called The Syrian Revolution 2011. It announced that a “Day of Rage” would be held on February 4 and 5. [1] The protests “fizzled,” reported Time. The Day of Rage amounted to a Day of Indifference. Moreover, the connection to Syria was tenuous. Most of the chants shouted by the few protesters who attended were about Libya, demanding that Muammar Gaddafi—whose government was under siege by Islamist insurrectionists—step down. Plans were set for new protests on March 4 and March 5, but they too garnered little support. [2]

Time’s correspondent Rania Abouzeid attributed the failure of the protest organizers to draw significant support to the fact that most Syrians were not opposed to their government. Assad had a favorable reputation, especially among the two-thirds of the population under 30 years of age, and his government’s policies were widely supported. “Even critics concede that Assad is popular and considered close to the country’s huge youth cohort, both emotionally, ideologically and, of course, chronologically,” Abouzeid reported, adding that unlike “the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.” Assad, in other words, had legitimacy. The Time correspondent added that Assad’s “driving himself to the Umayyad Mosque in February to take part in prayers to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and strolling through the crowded Souq Al-Hamidiyah marketplace with a low security profile” had “helped to endear him, personally, to the public.” [3]

This depiction of the Syrian president—a leader endeared to the public, ideologically in sync with popular Syrian sentiment—clashed starkly with the discourse that would emerge shortly after the eruption of violent protests in the Syrian town of Daraa less than two weeks later, and would become implanted in the discourse of US leftists, including Draitser. But on the eve of the signal Daraa events, Syria was being remarked upon for its quietude. No one “expects mass uprisings in Syria,” Abouzeid reported, “and, despite a show of dissent every now and then, very few want to participate.” [4] A Syrian youth told Time: “There is a lot of government help for the youth. They give us free books, free schools, free universities.” (Hardly the picture of the neo-liberal state Draitser paints.) She continued: “Why should there be a revolution? There’s maybe a one percent chance.” [5] The New York Times shared this view. Syria, the newspaper reported, “seemed immune to the wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.” [6] Syria was distemper-free.

But on March 17, there was a violent uprising in Daraa. There are conflicting accounts of who or what sparked it. Time reported that the “rebellion in Daraa was provoked by the arrest of a handful of youths for daubing a wall with anti-regime graffiti.” [7] The Independent’s Robert Fisk offered a slightly different version. He reported that “government intelligence officers beat and killed several boys who had scrawled anti-government graffiti on the walls of the city.” [8] Another account holds that the factor that sparked the uprising in Daraa that day was extreme and disproportionate use of force by Syrian security forces in response to demonstrations against the boys’ arrest. There “were some youngsters printing some graffiti on the wall, and they were imprisoned, and as their parents wanted them back, the security forces really struck back very, very tough.” [9] Another account, from the Syrian government, denies that any of this happened. Five years after the event, Assad told an interviewer that it “didn’t happen. It was only propaganda. I mean, we heard about them, we never saw those children that have been taken to prison that time. So, it was only a fallacious narrative.”[10]

But if there was disagreement about what sparked the uprising, there was little disagreement that the uprising was violent. The New York Times reported that “Protesters set fire to the ruling Ba’ath Party’s headquarters and other government buildings…and clashed with police….In addition to the party headquarters, protesters burned the town’s main courthouse and a branch of the SyriaTel phone company.” [11] Time added that protesters set fire to the governor’s office, as well as to a branch office of a second cellphone company. [12] The Syrian government’s news agency, SANA, posted photographs of burning vehicles on its Web site. [13] Clearly, this wasn’t a peaceful demonstration, as it would be later depicted. Nor was it a mass uprising. Time reported that the demonstrators numbered in the hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands. [14]

Assad reacted immediately to the Daraa ructions, announcing “a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the news media and political parties, and a reconsideration of the emergency rule,” [15] a war-time restriction on political and civil liberties, invoked because Syria was officially at war with Israel. Before the end of April, the government would rescind “the country’s 48-year-old emergency law” and abolish “the Supreme State Security Court.” [16]

Why did the government make these concessions? Because that’s what the Daraa protesters demanded. Protesters “gathered in and around Omari mosque in Daraa, chanting their demands: the release of all political prisoners…the abolition of Syria’s 48-year emergency law; more freedoms; and an end to pervasive corruption.” [17] These demands were consistent with the call, articulated in early February on The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page “to end the state of emergency in Syria and end corruption.” [18] A demand to release all political prisoners was also made in a letter signed by clerics posted on Facebook. The clerics’ demands included lifting the “state of emergency law, releasing all political detainees, halting harassment by the security forces and combating corruption.” [19] Releasing political detainees would amount to releasing jihadists, or, to use a designation current in the West, “terrorists.” The State Department had acknowledged that political Islam was the main opposition in Syria [20]; jihadists made up the principal section of oppositionists likely to be incarcerated. Clerics demanding that Damascus release all political prisoners was equal in effect to the Islamic State demanding that Washington, Paris, and London release all Islamists detained in US, French and British prisons on terrorism charges. This wasn’t a demand for jobs and greater democracy, but a demand for the release from prison of activists inspired by the goal of bringing about an Islamic state in Syria. The call to lift the emergency law, similarly, appeared to have little to do with fostering democracy and more to do with expanding the room for jihadists and their collaborators to organize opposition to the secular state.

A week after the outbreak of violence in Daraa, Time’s Rania Abouzeid reported that “there do not appear to be widespread calls for the fall of the regime or the removal of the relatively popular President.” [21] Indeed, the demands issued by the protesters and clerics had not included calls for Assad to step down. And Syrians were rallying to Assad. “There were counterdemonstrations in the capital in support of the President,” [22] reportedly far exceeding in number the hundreds of protesters who turned out in Daraa to burn buildings and cars and clash with police. [23]

By April 9—less than a month after the Daraa events—Time reported that a string of protests had broken out and that Islam was playing a prominent role in them. For anyone who was conversant with the decades-long succession of strikes, demonstrations, riots, and insurrections the Muslim Brotherhood had organized against what it deemed the “infidel” Ba’athist government, this looked like history repeating itself. The protests weren‘t reaching a critical mass. On the contrary, the government continued to enjoy “the loyalty” of “a large part of the population,” reported Time. [24]

Islamists played a lead role in drafting the Damascus Declaration in the mid-2000s, which demanded regime change. [25] In 2007, the Muslim Brothers, the archetypal Sunni political Islamist movement, which inspired Al-Qaeda and its progeny, Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic State, teamed up with a former Syrian vice-president to found the National Salvation Front. The front met frequently with the US State Department and the US National Security Council, as well as with the US government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, [26] which did openly what the CIA once did covertly, namely, funnel money and expertise to fifth columnists in countries whose governments Washington opposed.

By 2009, just two years before the eruption of unrest throughout the Arab world, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Arab nationalist government of Bashar al-Assad as a foreign and hostile element in Syrian society which needed to be eliminated. According to the group’s thinking, the Alawite community, to which Assad belonged, and which the Brothers regarded as heretics, used secular Arab nationalism as a cover to furtively advance a sectarian agenda to destroy Syria from within by oppressing “true” (i.e., Sunni) Muslims. In the name of Islam, the heretical regime would have to be overthrown. [27]

A mere three months before the 2011 outbreak of violence in Syria, scholar Liad Porat wrote a brief for the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, based at Brandeis University. “The movement’s leaders,” the scholar concluded, “continue to voice their hope for a civil revolt in Syria, wherein ‘the Syrian people will perform its duty and liberate Syria from the tyrannical and corrupt regime.’” The Brotherhood stressed that it was engaged in a fight to the death with the secular Arab nationalist government of Bashar al-Assad. A political accommodation with the government was impossible because its leaders were not part of the Sunni Muslim Syrian nation. Membership in the Syrian nation was limited to true Muslims, the Brothers contended, and not Alawite heretics who embraced such foreign un-Islamic creeds as secular Arab nationalism. [28]

That the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood played a key role in the uprising that erupted three months later was confirmed in 2012 by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. A leaked report from the agency said that the insurgency was sectarian and led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of Islamic State. The report went on to say that the insurgents were supported by the West, Arab Gulf oil monarchies and Turkey. The analysis correctly predicted the establishment of a “Salafist principality,” an Islamic state, in Eastern Syria, noting that this was desired by the insurgency’s foreign backers, who wanted to see the secular Arab nationalists isolated and cut-off from Iran. [29]

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers in 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels was based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it was simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers acknowledged that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the secular Arab nationalist government in Damascus was unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference was for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering open market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration. [30] If Assad was promoting neo-liberal policies in Syria, as Draitser contends, it’s difficult to understand why Washington cited Syria’s refusal to embrace the US agenda of open markets and free enterprise as a reason to change Syria’s government.

To underscore the point that the protests lacked broad popular support, on April 22, more than a month after the Daraa riot, the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid reported that “the protests, so far, seemed to fall short of the popular upheaval of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.” In other words, more than a month after only hundreds—and not thousands or tens of thousands—of protesters rioted in Daraa, there was no sign in Syria of a popular Arab Spring upheaval. The uprising remained a limited, prominently, Islamist affair. By contrast, there had been huge demonstrations in Damascus in support of—not against—the government, Assad remained popular, and, according to Shadid, the government commanded the loyalty of “Christian and heterodox Muslim sects.” [31] Shadid wasn’t the only Western journalist who reported that Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians were strongly backing the government. Times’ Rania Abouzeid observed that the Ba’athists “could claim the backing of Syria’s substantial minority groups.” [32]

The reality that the Syrian government commanded the loyalty of Christian and heterodox Muslim sects, as the New York Times’ Shadid reported, suggested that Syria’s religious minorities recognized something about the uprising that the Western press under-reported (and revolutionary socialists in the United States missed), namely, that it was driven by a sectarian Sunni Islamist agenda which, if brought to fruition, would have unpleasant consequences for anyone who wasn’t considered a “true” Muslim. For this reason, Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians lined up with the Ba’athists who sought to bridge sectarian divisions as part of their programmatic commitment to fostering Arab unity. The slogan “Alawis to the grave and Christians to Beirut!” chanted during demonstrations in those early days” [33] only confirmed the point that the uprising was a continuation of the death feud that Sunni political Islam had vowed to wage against the secular Arab nationalist government, and was not a mass upheaval for democracy or against neo-liberalism. If indeed it was any of these things, how would we explain that a thirst for democracy and opposition to neo-liberalism were present only in the Sunni community and absent in those of religious minorities? Surely, a democratic deficit and neoliberal tyranny, if they were present at all and acted as triggers of a revolutionary upsurge, would have crossed religious lines. That Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians didn’t demonstrate, and that riots were Sunni-based with Islamist content, points strongly to the insurrection, from the very beginning, representing the recrudescence of the long running Sunni jihadist campaign against Ba’athist secularism.

“From the very beginning the Assad government said it was engaged in a fight with militant Islamists.” [34] The long history of Islamist uprisings against Ba’athism prior to 2011 certainly suggested this was very likely the case, and the way in which the uprising subsequently unfolded, as an Islamist-led war against the secular state, only strengthened the view. Other evidence, both positive and negative, corroborated Assad’s contention that the Syrian state was under attack by jihadists (just as it had been many other times in the past.) The negative evidence, that the uprising wasn’t a popular upheaval against an unpopular government, was inhered in Western media reports which showed that Syria’s Arab nationalist government was popular and commanded the loyalty of the population.

By contrast, anti-government demonstrations, riots and protests were small-scale, attracting far fewer people than did a mass demonstration in Damascus in support of the government, and certainly not on the order of the popular upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia. What’s more, the protesters’ demands centered on the release of political prisoners (mainly jihadists) and the lifting of war-time restrictions on the expression of political dissent, not calls for Assad to step down or change the government’s economic policies. The positive evidence came from Western news media accounts which showed that Islam played a prominent role in the riots. Also, while it was widely believed that armed Islamist groups only entered the fray subsequent to the initial spring 2011 riots—and in doing so “hijacked” a “popular uprising”— in point of fact, two jihadist groups which played a prominent role in the post-2011 armed revolt against secular Arab nationalism, Ahrar- al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, were both active at the beginning of 2011. Ahrar al-Sham “started working on forming brigades…well before mid-March, 2011, when the” Daraa riot occurred, according to Time. [35] Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, “was unknown until late January 2012, when it announced its formation… [but] it was active for months before then.” [36]

Another piece of evidence that is consistent with the view that militant Islam played a role in the uprisings very early on—or, at the very least, that the protests were violent from the beginning—is that `”there were signs from the very start that armed groups were involved.” The journalist and author Robert Fisk recalled seeing a tape from “the very early days of the ‘rising’ showing men with pistols and Kalashnikovs in a Daraa demonstration.” He recalls another event, in May 2011, when “an Al Jazeera crew filmed armed men shooting at Syrian troops a few hundred metres from the northern border with Lebanon but the channel declined to air the footage.” [37] Even US officials, who were hostile to the Syrian government and might be expected to challenge Damascus’s view that it was embroiled in a fight with armed rebels “acknowledged that the demonstrations weren’t peaceful and that some protesters were armed.” [38] By September, Syrian authorities were reporting that they had lost more than 500 police officers and soldiers, killed by guerillas. [39] By late October, the number had more than doubled. [40] In less than a year, the uprising had gone from the burning of Ba’ath Party buildings and government officers and clashes with police, to guerrilla warfare, involving methods that would be labeled “terrorism” were they undertaken against Western targets.

Assad would later complain that:

“Everything we said in Syria at the beginning of the crisis they say later. They said it’s peaceful, we said it’s not peaceful, they’re killing – these demonstrators, that they called them peaceful demonstrators – have killed policemen. Then it became militants. They said yes, it’s militants. We said it’s militants, it’s terrorism. They said no, it’s not terrorism. Then when they say it’s terrorism, we say it’s Al Qaeda, they say no, it’s not Al Qaeda. So, whatever we said, they say later.” [41]

The “Syrian uprising,” wrote the Middle East specialist Patrick Seale, “should be seen as only the latest, if by far the most violent, episode in the long war between Islamists and Ba’athists, which dates back to the founding of the secular Ba‘ath Party in the 1940s. The struggle between them is by now little short of a death-feud.” [42] “It is striking,” Seale continued, citing Aron Lund, who had written a report for the Swedish Institute of International Affairs on Syrian Jihadism, “that virtually all the members of the various armed insurgent groups are Sunni Arabs; that the fighting has been largely restricted to Sunni Arab areas only, whereas areas inhabited by Alawis, Druze or Christians have remained passive or supportive of the regime; that defections from the regime are nearly 100 per cent Sunni; that money, arms and volunteers are pouring in from Islamic states or from pro-Islamic organisations and individuals; and that religion is the insurgent movement’s most important common denominator.” [43]

Brutality as a Trigger?

Is it reasonable to believe that the use of force by the Syrian state sparked the guerrilla war which broke out soon after?

It strains belief that an over-reaction by security forces to a challenge to government authority in the Syrian town of Daraa (if indeed an over-reaction occurred) could spark a major war, involving scores of states, and mobilizing jihadists from scores of countries. A slew of discordant facts would have to be ignored to begin to give this theory even a soupcon of credibility.

First, we would have to overlook the reality that the Assad government was popular and viewed as legitimate. A case might be made that an overbearing response by a highly unpopular government to a trivial challenge to its authority might have provided the spark that was needed to ignite a popular insurrection, but notwithstanding US president Barack Obama’s insistence that Assad lacked legitimacy, there’s no evidence that Syria, in March 2011, was a powder keg of popular anti-government resentment ready to explode. As Time’s Rania Abouzeid reported on the eve of the Daraa riot, “Even critics concede that Assad is popular” [44] and “no one expects mass uprisings in Syria and, despite a show of dissent every now and then, very few want to participate.” [45]

Second, we would have to discount the fact that the Daraa riot involved only hundreds of participants, hardly a mass uprising, and the protests that followed similarly failed to garner a critical mass, as Time’s Nicholas Blanford reported.[46] Similarly, the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid found no evidence that there was a popular upheaval in Syria, even more than a month after the Daraa riot.[47] What was going on, contrary to Washington-propagated rhetoric about the Arab Spring breaking out in Syria, was that jihadists were engaged in a campaign of guerilla warfare against Syrian security forces, and had, by October, taken the lives of more than a thousand police officers and soldiers.

Third, we would have to close our eyes to the fact that the US government, with its British ally, had drawn up plans in 1956 to provoke a war in Syria by enlisting the Muslim Brotherhood to instigate internal uprisings. [48] The Daraa riot and subsequent armed clashes with police and soldiers resembled the plan which regime change specialist Kermit Roosevelt had prepared. That’s not to say that the CIA dusted off Roosevelt’s proposal and recycled it for use in 2011; only that the plot showed that Washington and London were capable of planning a destabilization operation involving a Muslim Brotherhood-led insurrection to bring about regime change in Syria.

We would also have to ignore the events of February 1982, when the Muslim Brothers seized control of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city. Hama was the epicenter of Sunni fundamentalism in Syria, and a major base of operations for the jihadist fighters. Galvanized by a false report that Assad had been overthrown, Muslim Brothers went on a gleeful blood-soaked rampage throughout the city, attacking police stations and murdering Ba’ath Party leaders and their families, along with government officials and soldiers. In some cases, victims were decapitated [49] a practice which would be resurrected decades later by Islamic State fighters. Every Ba’athist official in Hama was murdered. [50]

The Hama events of 1982 are usually remembered in the West (if they’re remembered at all), not for the atrocities carried out by the Islamists, but for the Syrian army’s response, which, as would be expected of any army, involved the use of force to restore sovereign control over the territory seized by the insurrectionists. Thousands of troops were dispatched to take Hama back from the Muslim Brothers. Former US State Department official William R. Polk described the aftermath of the Syrian army assault on Hama as resembling that of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, [51] (the difference, of course, being that the Syrian army was acting legitimately within its own sovereign territory while the US military was acting illegitimately as an occupying force to quell opposition to its occupation.) How many died in the Hama assault, however, remains a matter of dispute. The figures vary. “An early report in Time said that 1,000 were killed. Most observers estimated that 5,000 people died. Israeli sources and the Muslim Brotherhood”—sworn enemies of the secular Arab nationalists who therefore had an interest in exaggerating the casualty toll—“both charged that the death toll passed 20,000.” [52] Robert Dreyfus, who has written on the West’s collaboration with political Islam, argues that Western sources deliberately exaggerated the death toll in order to demonize the Ba’athists as ruthless killers, and that the Ba’athists went along with the deception in order to intimidate the Muslim Brotherhood. [53]

As the Syrian army sorted through the rubble of Hama in the aftermath of the assault, evidence was found that foreign governments had provided Hama’s insurrectionists with money, arms, and communications equipment. Polk writes that:

“Assad saw foreign troublemakers at work among his people. This, after all, was the emotional and political legacy of colonial rule—a legacy painfully evident in most of the post-colonial world, but one that is almost unnoticed in the Western world. And the legacy is not a myth. It is a reality that, often years after events occur, we can verify with official papers. Hafez al-Assad did not need to wait for leaks of documents: his intelligence services and international journalists turned up dozens of attempts by conservative, oil-rich Arab countries, the United States, and Israel to subvert his government. Most engaged in ‘dirty tricks,’ propaganda, or infusions of money, but it was noteworthy that in the 1982 Hama uprising, more than 15,000 foreign-supplied machine guns were captured, along with prisoners including Jordanian- and CIA-trained paramilitary forces (much like the jihadists who appear so much in media accounts of 2013 Syria). And what he saw in Syria was confirmed by what he learned about Western regime-changing elsewhere. He certainly knew of the CIA attempt to murder President Nasser of Egypt and the Anglo-American overthrow of the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.” [54]

In his book From Beirut to Jerusalem, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that “the Hama massacre could be understood as, ‘The natural reaction of a modernizing politician in a relatively new nation state trying to stave off retrogressive—in this case, Islamic fundamentalists—elements aiming to undermine everything he has achieved in the way of building Syria into a 20th century secular republic. That is also why,” continued Friedman, that “if someone had been able to take an objective opinion poll in Syria after the Hama massacre, Assad’s treatment of the rebellion probably would have won substantial approval, even among Sunni Muslims.” [55]

The outbreak of a Sunni Islamist jihad against the Syrian government in the 1980s challenges the view that militant Sunni Islam in the Levant is an outcome of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the pro-Shi’a sectarian policies of the US occupation authorities. This view is historically myopic, blind to the decades-long existence of Sunni political Islam as a significant force in Levantine politics. From the moment Syria achieved formal independence from France after World War II, through the decades that followed in the 20th century, and into the next century, the main contending forces in Syria were secular Arab nationalism and political Islam. As journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote in 2016, “the Syrian armed opposition is dominated by Isis, al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.” The “only alternative to (secular Arab nationalist) rule is the Islamists.” [56] This has long been the case.

Finally, we would also have to ignore the fact that US strategists had planned since 2003, and possibly as early as 2001, to force Assad and his secular Arab nationalist ideology from power, and was funding the Syrian opposition, including Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups, from 2005. Accordingly, Washington had been driving toward the overthrow of the Assad government with the goal of de-Ba’athifying Syria. An Islamist-led guerilla struggle against Syria’s secular Arab nationalists would have unfolded, regardless of whether the Syrian government’s response at Daraa was excessive or not. The game was already in play, and a pretext was being sought. Daraa provided it. Thus, the idea that the arrest of two boys in Daraa for painting anti-government graffiti on a wall could provoke a major conflict is as believable as the notion that WWI was caused by nothing more than the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Socialist Syria

Socialism can be defined in many ways, but if it is defined as public-ownership of the commanding heights of the economy accompanied by economic planning, then Syria under its 1973 and 2012 constitutions clearly meets the definition of socialism. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had never been a working-class socialist state, of the category Marxists would recognize. It was, instead, an Arab socialist state inspired by the goal of achieving Arab political independence and overcoming the legacy of the Arab nation’s underdevelopment. The framers of the constitution saw socialism as a means to achieve national liberation and economic development. “The march toward the establishment of a socialist order,” the 1973 constitution’s framers wrote, is a “fundamental necessity for mobilizing the potentialities of the Arab masses in their battle with Zionism and imperialism.” Marxist socialism concerned itself with the struggle between an exploiting owning class and exploited working class, while Arab socialism addressed the struggle between exploiting and exploited nations. While these two different socialisms operated at different levels of exploitation, the distinctions were of no moment for Westerns banks, corporations and major investors as they cast their gaze across the globe in pursuit of profit. Socialism was against the profit-making interests of US industrial and financial capital, whether it was aimed at ending the exploitation of the working class or overcoming the imperialist oppression of national groups.

Ba’ath socialism had long irritated Washington. The Ba’athist state had exercised considerable influence over the Syrian economy, through ownership of enterprises, subsidies to privately-owned domestic firms, limits on foreign investment, and restrictions on imports. The Ba’athists regarded these measures as necessary economic tools of a post-colonial state trying to wrest its economic life from the grips of former colonial powers and to chart a course of development free from the domination of foreign interests.

Washington’s goals, however, were obviously antithetical. It didn’t want Syria to nurture its industry and zealously guard its independence, but to serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership. Our agenda, the Obama Administration had declared in 2015, “is focused on lowering tariffs on American products, breaking down barriers to our goods and services, and setting higher standards to level the playing field for American…firms.”[57] This was hardly a new agenda, but had been the agenda of US foreign policy for decades. Damascus wasn’t falling into line behind a Washington that insisted that it could and would “lead the global economy.”[58]

Hardliners in Washington had considered Hafez al-Assad an Arab communist, [59] and US officials considered his son, Bashar, an ideologue who couldn’t bring himself to abandon the third pillar of the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party’s program: socialism. The US State Department complained that Syria had “failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy,” which is to say, had failed to turn over its state-owned enterprises to private investors, among them Wall Street financial interests. The US State Department also expressed dissatisfaction that “ideological reasons” had prevented Assad from liberalizing Syria’s economy, that “privatization of government enterprises was still not widespread,” and that the economy “remains highly controlled by the government.” [60] Clearly, Assad hadn’t learned what Washington had dubbed the “lessons of history,” namely, that “market economies, not command-and-control economies with the heavy hand of government, are the best.” [61] By drafting a constitution that mandated that the government maintain a role in guiding the economy on behalf of Syrian interests, and that the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors, Assad was asserting Syrian independence against Washington’s agenda of “opening markets and leveling the playing field for American….businesses abroad.” [62]

On top of this, Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values against what Washington had once called the “moral imperative” of “economic freedom,” [63] by writing social rights into the constitution: security against sickness, disability and old age; access to health care; and free education at all levels. These rights would continue to be placed beyond the easy reach of legislators and politicians who could sacrifice them on the altar of creating a low-tax, foreign-investment-friendly business climate. As a further affront against Washington’s pro-business orthodoxy, the constitution committed the state to progressive taxation.

Finally, the Ba’athist leader included in his updated constitution a provision that had been introduced by his father in 1973, a step toward real, genuine democracy—a provision which decision-makers in Washington, with their myriad connections to the banking and corporate worlds, could hardly tolerate. The constitution would require that at minimum half the members of the People’s Assembly be drawn from the ranks of peasants and workers.

If Assad was a neo-liberal, he certainly was one of the world’s oddest devotees of the ideology.

Drought?

A final point on the origins of the violent uprising in 2011: Some social scientists and analysts have drawn on a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to suggest that “drought played a role in the Syrian unrest.” According to this view, drought “caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas.” This, in combination with an influx of refugees from Iraq, intensified competition for scarce jobs in urban areas, making Syria a cauldron of social and economic tension ready to boil over. [64] The argument sounds reasonable, even “scientific,” but the phenomenon it seeks to explain—mass upheaval in Syria—never happened. As we’ve seen, a review of Western press coverage found no reference to mass upheaval. On the contrary, reporters who expected to find a mass upheaval were surprised that they didn’t find one. Instead, Western journalists found Syria to be surprisingly quiet. Demonstrations called by organizers of the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page fizzled. Critics conceded that Assad was popular. Reporters could find no one who believed a revolt was imminent. Even a month after the Daraa incident—which involved only hundreds of protesters, dwarfed by the tens of thousands of Syrians who demonstrated in Damascus in support of the government—the New York Times reporter on the ground, Anthony Shadid, could find no sign in Syria of the mass upheavals of Tunisia and Egypt. In early February 2011, “Omar Nashabe, a long-time Syria watcher and correspondent for the Beirut-based Arabic daily Al-Ahkbar” told Time that “Syrians may be afflicted by poverty that stalks 14% of its population combined with an estimated 20% unemployment rate, but Assad still has his credibility.” [65]

That the government commanded popular support was affirmed when the British survey firm YouGov published a poll in late 2011 showing that 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to stay. The poll received almost no mention in the Western media, prompting the British journalist Jonathan Steele to ask: “Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news?” Steele described the poll findings as “inconvenient facts” which were” suppressed “because Western media coverage of the events in Syria had ceased “to be fair” and had turned into “a propaganda weapon.”[66]

Sloganeering in Lieu of Politics and Analysis

Draitser can be faulted, not only for propagating an argument made by assertion, based on no evidence, but for substituting slogans for politics and analysis. In his October 20 Counterpunch article, Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence, he argues that the defining goals of Leftism ought to be the pursuit of peace and justice, as if these are two inseparable qualities, which are never in opposition. That peace and justice may, at times, be antithetical, is illustrated in the following conversation between Australian journalist Richard Carleton and Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian writer, novelist and revolutionary. [67]

C: ‘Why won’t your organization engage in peace talks with the Israelis?’

K: ‘You don’t mean exactly “peace talks”. You mean capitulation. Surrendering.

C: ‘Why not just talk?’

K: ‘Talk to whom?’

C: ‘Talk to the Israeli leaders.’

K: ‘That is kind of a conversation between the sword and the neck, you mean?’

C: ‘Well, if there are no swords and no guns in the room, you could still talk.’

K: ‘No. I have never seen any talk between a colonialist and a national liberation movement.’

C: ‘But despite this, why not talk?’

K: ‘Talk about what?’

C: ‘Talk about the possibility of not fighting.’

K: ‘Not fighting for what?’

C: ‘No fighting at all. No matter what for.’

K: ‘People usually fight for something. And they stop fighting for something. So you can’t even tell me why we should speak about what. Why should we talk about stopping to fight?’

C: ‘Talk to stop fighting to stop the death and the misery, the destruction and the pain.’

K: ‘The misery and the destruction the pain and the death of whom?’

C: ‘Of Palestinians. Of Israelis. Of Arabs.’

K: ‘Of the Palestinian people who are uprooted, thrown in the camps, living in starvation, killed for twenty years and forbidden to use even the name “Palestinians”?’

C: ‘They are better that way than dead though.’

K: ‘Maybe to you. But to us, it’s not. To us, to liberate our country, to have dignity, to have respect, to have our mere human rights is something as essential as life itself.

To which values the US Left should devote itself when peace and justice are in conflict, Draitser doesn’t say. His invocation of the slogan “peace and justice” as the desired defining mission of the US Left seems to be nothing more than an invitation for Leftists to abandon politics in favor of embarking on a mission of becoming beautiful souls, above the sordid conflicts which plague humanity—never taking a side, except that of the angels. His assertion that “no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart” is almost too silly to warrant comment. How would he know? One can’t help but get the impression that he believes that he, and the US Left, alone among the groups and states of the world, know what’s best for the “Syrian people.” Which may be why he opines that the responsibility of the US Left, “is to the people of Syria,” as if the people of Syria are an undifferentiated mass with uniform interests and agendas. Syrians en masse include both secularists and political Islamists, who have irreconcilable views of how the state ought to be organized, who have been locked in a death feud for more than half a century—one helped along, on the Islamist side, by his own government. Syrians en masse include those who favor integration into the US Empire, and those who are against it; those who collaborate with US imperialists and those who refuse to. In this perspective, what does it mean, to say the US Left has a responsibility to the people of Syria? Which people of Syria?

I would have thought that the responsibility of the US Left is to working people of the United States, not the people of Syria. And I would have imagined, as well, that the US Left would regard its responsibilities to include disseminating a rigorous, evidence-based political analysis of how the US economic elite uses the apparatus of the US state to advance its interests at the expense of both domestic and foreign populations. How does Washington’s long war on Syria affect the working people of America? That’s what Draitser ought to be talking about.

My book Washington’s Long War on Syria is forthcoming April 2017.

NOTES

1 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011

2 Rania Abouzeid, “The Syrian style of repression: Thugs and lectures,” Time, February 27, 2011

3 Rania Abouzeid, “Sitting pretty in Syria: Why few go backing Bashar,” Time, March 6, 2011

4 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011.

5 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011

6 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011

7 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?,” Time, April 9, 2011

8 Robert Fisk, “Welcome to Dera’a, Syria’s graveyard of terrorists,” The Independent, July 6. 2016

9 President Assad to ARD TV: Terrorists breached cessation of hostilities agreement from the very first hour, Syrian Army refrained from retaliating,” SANA, March 1, 2016

10 Ibid

11 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011

12 Rania Abouzeid, “Arab Spring: Is a revolution starting up in Syria?” Time, March 20, 2011; Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s revolt: How graffiti stirred an uprising,” Time, March 22, 2011

13 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011

14 Rania Abouzeid, “Arab Spring: Is a revolution starting up in Syria?,” Time, March 20, 2011

15 “Thousands march to protest Syria killings”, The New York Times, March 24, 2011

16 Rania Abouzeid, “Assad and reform: Damned if he does, doomed if he doesn’t,” Time, April 22, 2011

17 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011

18 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011

19 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011.

20 Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005

21 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011

22 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011

23 “Syrie: un autre eclarage du conflict qui dure depuis 5 ans, BeCuriousTV , » May 23, 2016, http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-aleppo-doctor-demolishes-imperialist-propaganda-and-media-warmongering/5531157

24 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011

25 Jay Solomon, “To check Syria, U.S. explores bond with Muslim Brothers,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2007

26 Ibid

27 Liad Porat, “The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Asad Regime,” Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University, December 2010, No. 47

28 Ibid

29 http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

30 Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.

31 Anthony Shadid, “Security forces kill dozens in uprisings around Syria”, The New York Times, April 22, 2011

32 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011

33 Fabrice Balanche, “The Alawi Community and the Syria Crisis Middle East Institute, May 14, 2015

34 Anthony Shadid, “Syria broadens deadly crackdown on protesters”, The New York Times, May 8, 2011

35 Rania Abouzeid, “Meet the Islamist militants fighting alongside Syria’s rebels,” Time, July 26, 2012

36 Rania Abouzeid, “Interview with official of Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s Islamist militia group,” Time, Dec 25, 2015

37 Robert Fisk, “Syrian civil war: West failed to factor in Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian backers as the conflict developed,” The Independent, March 13, 2016

38 Anthony Shadid, “Syria broadens deadly crackdown on protesters”, The New York Times, May 8, 2011

39 Nada Bakri, “Syria allows Red Cross officials to visit prison”, The New York Times, September 5, 2011

40 Nada Bakri, “Syrian opposition calls for protection from crackdown”, The New York Times, October 25, 2011

41 President al-Assad to Portuguese State TV: International system failed to accomplish its duty… Western officials have no desire to combat terrorism, SANA, March 5, 2015

42 Patrick Seale, “Syria’s long war,” Middle East Online, September 26, 2012

43 Ibid

44 Rania Abouzeid, “Sitting pretty in Syria: Why few go backing Bashar,” Time, March 6, 2011

45 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011

46 “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011

47 Anthony Shadid, “Security forces kill dozens in uprisings around Syria”, The New York Times, April 22, 2011

48 Ben Fenton, “Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot,” The Guardian, September 27, 2003

49 Robert Fisk, “Conspiracy of silence in the Arab world,” The Independent, February 9, 2007

50 Robert Dreyfus, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Fundamentalist Islam, Holt, 2005, p. 205

51 William R. Polk, “Understanding Syria: From pre-civil war to post-Assad,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2013

52 Dreyfus

53 Dreyfus

54 William R. Polk, “Understanding Syria: From pre-civil war to post-Assad,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2013

55 Quoted in Nikolas Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Asad and the Ba’ath Party, I.B. Taurus, 2011

56 Patrick Cockburn, “Confused about the US response to Isis in Syria? Look to the CIA’s relationship with Saudi Arabia,” The Independent, June 17, 2016

57 National Security Strategy, February 2015

58 Ibid

59 Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, Three Rivers Press, 2003, p. 123

60 US State Department website. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm#econ. Accessed February 8, 2012

61 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002

62 National Security Strategy, February 2015

63 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 2006

64 Henry Fountain, “Researchers link Syrian conflict to drought made worse by climate change,” The New York Times, March 2, 2015

65 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011

66 Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media,” The Guardian, January 17, 2012

67 “Full transcript: Classic video interview with Comrade Ghassan Kanafani re-surfaces,” PFLP, October 17, 2016, http://pflp.ps/english/2016/10/17/full-transcript-classic-video-interview-with-comrade-ghassan-kanafani-re-surfaces/

 

[Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist based in Ottawa, Canada.]

 

FLASHBACK: George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers

Counterpunch

July 24, 2015

by David Swanson

 

obama-clooney

May 19, 2012: “Political pals: Clooney and President Obama have met on a number of occasions, like this Darfur event in April”

George Clooney is being paid by the world’s top two war profiteers, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, to oppose war profiteering by Africans disloyal to the U.S. government’s agenda.

Way back yonder before World War II, war profiteering was widely frowned on in the United States. Those of us trying to bring back that attitude, and working for barely-funded peace organizations, ought to be thrilled when a wealthy celebrity like George Clooney decides to take on war profiteering, and the corporate media laps it up.

“Real leverage for peace and human rights will come when the people who benefit from war will pay a price for the damage they cause,” said Clooney — without encountering anything like the blowback Donald Trump received when he criticized John McCain.

Really, is that all it takes to give peace a chance, a celebrity? Will the media now cover the matter of who funds opponents of the Iran deal, and who funds supporters of the wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.?

Well, no, not really.

It turns out Clooney opposes, not war profiteering in general, but war profiteering while African. In fact, Clooney’s concern is limited, at least thus far, to five African nations: Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, though these are not the only nations in Africa or the world with serious wars underway.

Of the top 100 weapons makers in the world, not a single one is based in Africa. Only 1 is in South or Central America. Fifteen are in Western allies and protectorates in Asia (and China is not included in the list). Three are in Israel, one in Ukraine, and 13 in Russia. Sixty-six are in the United States, Western Europe, and Canada. Forty are in the U.S. alone. Seventeen of the top 30 are in the U.S. Six of the top 10 mega-profiteers are in the U.S. The other four in the top 10 are in Western Europe.

clinton-clooney-2016

Hillary Clinton, Rob and Alisa Bair, Amal and George Clooney. Photo credit: Adam Schultz. | Clooney called Clinton the ‘one consistent voice’ in the 2016 election. He hosted a lavish fundraiser (that took in 15 million) for Clinton that Bernie Sanders observed as “obscene”.

Clooney’s new organization, “The Sentry,” is part of The Enough Project, which is part of the Center for American Progress, which is a leading backer of “humanitarian” wars, and various other wars for that matter — and which is funded by the world’s top war profiteer, Lockheed Martin, and by number-two Boeing, among other war profiteers.

According to the Congressional Research Service, in the most recent edition of an annual report that it has now discontinued, 79% of all weapons transfers to poor nations are from the United States. That doesn’t include U.S. weapons in the hands of the U.S. military, which has now moved into nearly every nation in Africa. When drugs flow north the United States focuses on the supply end of the exchange as an excuse for wars. When weapons flow south, George Clooney announces that we’ll stop backward violence at the demand side by exposing African corruption.

clooney-albright-2016

“United States actor George Clooney (R) embraces former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a Leaders Summit for Refugees during the United Nations 71st session of the General Debate at the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2016.”

The spreading of the U.S. empire through militarism is most often justified by the example of Rwanda as a place where the opportunity for a humanitarian war, to prevent the Rwanda Genocide, was supposedly missed. But the United States backed an invasion of Rwanda in 1990 by a Ugandan army led by U.S.-trained killers, and supported their attacks for three-and-a-half years, applying more pressure through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and USAID. U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained war-maker Paul Kagame — now president of Rwanda — is the leading suspect behind the shooting down of a plane carrying the then-presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6, 1994. As chaos followed, the U.N. might have sent in peacekeepers (not the same thing, be it noted, as dropping bombs) but Washington was opposed. President Bill Clinton wanted Kagame in power, and Kagame has now taken the war into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with U.S. aid and weapons, where 6 million have been killed. And yet nobody ever says “We must prevent another Congo!”

What does George Clooney’s new organization say about the DRC? A very different story from that told by Friends of the Congo. According to Clooney’s group the killing in the Congo happens “despite years of international attention,” not because of it. Clooney’s organization also promotes this argument for more U.S. warmaking in the DRC from Kathryn Bigelow, best known for producing the CIA propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty.

On Sudan as well, there’s no blame for U.S. interference; instead Clooney’s crew has produced a brief for regime change.

On South Sudan, there’s no acknowledgement of U.S. warmongering in Ethiopia and Kenya, but a plea for more U.S. involvement.

The Central African Republic gets the same diagnosis as the others: local ahistorical spontaneous corruption and backwardness leading to war.

Clooney’s co-founder of the Sentry (dictionary definition of “Sentry” is “A guard, especially a soldier posted at a given spot to prevent the passage of unauthorized persons”) is John Prendergast, former Africa director for the National Security Council. Watch Prendergast find himself awkwardly in a debate with an informed person here.

Clooney’s wife, incidentally, works for U.S.-friendly dictators and brutal killers in places like Bahrain and Libya.

More nations could soon be spotted by The Sentry. The President of Nigeria was at the U.S. Institute of “Peace” this week pleading for weapons. U.S. troops are in Cameroon this week training fighters.

If the peace organization I work for had 0.0001% the financial support of The Sentry, perhaps the debate would change. So, one thing you can do is support the right antiwar efforts.

Another is to let The Sentry know what it’s missing. It asks for anonymous tips when you spot war profiteering. Have you ever turned on C-Span? If you see something, say something. Let The Sentry know about the Pentagon.

 

 

 

Further Reading:

Enough of CIA’s ‘Enough Project’ in Africa! [Avaaz, International Crisis Group, Center for American Progress]

Buffett, Gates Foundation, Bono’s RED and the Dakota Access Pipeline

How Bono’s RED Became the Color of Philanthrowashing Done Right for the Dakota Access Pipeline

The Raydiant Labyrinth

February 8, 2017

by Pamela Williams

 

warren-buffett-berkshire-hathaway-inc-doubles-its-stake-in-phillips-66

PART 1

Who’s Invested? Complicit Corruption Aiding and Abetting the Bakken Shale Boom (#bombtrains)

 

If you Google “phillips 66 DAPL investment” right now, -unless a new divestment announcement is resulting in an algorithm smackdown of the headlines as we speak, your search will turn up a mass majority of articles stating how President elect Donald Trump is (mainly was) invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through both Energy Transfer Partners LLC and Phillips 66, at a maximal of $1 million that was reduced to between $15 000 – $50 000 for the former (which Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks announced was divested of) and an investment which may maximally be a quarter million in the latter, Phillips66, which has not garnered any response of whether Trump divested or not. These reports give you confirmation that Phillips66 has a 25% stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline.  This is what Google’s search algorithms latch onto. In November, the other two majority stakeholders consolidated.

Trump’s investment is hailed of interest for its conflict of interest, and may rate as a calculated smackdown of Trump targeted at the environmental constituency, echo-chambered by the mainstream media to swamp searches on the subject in the last heat of the election. Google “Trump DAPL investor October 2016”. It hit then. Stories on this went so far back as May, 2016 (see Sources; they remain focussed on the subject to this day).

The next focus of aspersion and the sole focus for financial punishment designated by environmental groups and indigenous activists as the rightful target for a divestment campaign has been the banks funding the project, a campaign more or less launched by Food & Water Watch. What is interesting about this is that in terms of the banks loaning credit to the DAPL, not one of these banks exceeds an investment of $600 million.

 

350org-dapl-banks

s7-bank-logos

Hardly a murmur is heard on the media or inter-webs as per the billionaire investors in DAPL’s fruition, but Counterpunch made mention of Warren Buffett, invested in Phillips 66 at over $6.8 billion through Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, making Berkshire Hathaway the majority shareholder of Phillips 66 at 22%. (The second ranked investor, Vanguard Group, sits at 8%.) Phillips66 is Berkshire Hathaway’s 6th largest holding and 5th largest percent stake. Phillips66 is responsible for building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Perhaps even curiouser given Berkshire Hathaway is invested in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline over a hundred times as much as any of these banks, it owns a host of subsidiaries, many of which are easily boycott-able by the general public, starting with Geico and Dairy Queen. Curiously, the most significant of Berkshire Hathaway’s “wholly owned subsidiaries”, which figures significantly in the scenario about to be laid before you of who’s been deep down and dirty in the Bakken, North Dakota, is not on that list. BNSF and its fracking holding company, Burlington Resources, figure prominently in this New York Times’ expose dated November, 2014. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) belongs to Berkshire Hathaway. At $44 billion it was the largest acquisition in Berkshire Hathaway’s history, which would be common knowledge to anyone in the NYT readership with a memory, but was a curiously omitted fact in the above expose on state corruption in the Bakken five years later.

burlington-resources-inc-logo

The expose delineates pay to play collusion involving the then current North Dakota Governor and state officials (the director of mineral resources) with the oil and gas industry with respects to mineral rights (i.e., fracking rights, helpful hint: mineral rights trump surface rights), which BNSF had originally owned through land it had been historically awarded including those rights. When they sold off surface tracts of land in North Dakota, they were not selling the mineral rights. Those rights “were managed by its energy company, Burlington Resources.” Burlington Resources was sold to Conoco Phillips for $36.5 billion. The NYT article does not provide the crucial purchase date, but this does (Feb. 1, 2006), so it was a Conoco Phillips entity when this corruption scandal transpired (by three years), a date of transaction curiously omitted by the NYT that was pretty essential for clarification. Incidentally Phillips 66 was created and spun off from this parent company in 2012, meaning Conoco Phillips investors received two Phillips 66 shares for every Conoco Phillips share they owned.
conoco
Take it as a promise that these financials are being laid out to deliver the juice. The NYT expose had a Part 1, depicting how oil and gas resource industry was an old-school regulatory douche-nozzle we normally identify as structured unbridled corruption with ghastly spill rates, (precisely the sort of situation completely ripe for an explosive protest with the level of ineptitude just waiting to blow), accompanied by the above Part 2 pointing out the level of corruption that is legally structured into state governance around oil resources in North Dakota, as well as a history of connective issue informing us that these are more or less the same corporate players. The most salient point is that NYT would make no mention of Warren Buffett’s ownership of BNSF or lend any clarification with regards to its subsidiary, Burlington Resources although this would have indicated it avoided a direct conflict of interest on the part of the companies and himself. The basis for this became clear with the fact that NYT pointedly omitted on its description that the photograph of a charred skeleton of an train engine from a rail explosion outside of Casselton, ND, was a BNSF train. If you avoided the train was BNSF’s, the query of conflict of interest would not even arise at all for those who didn’t already know that. They certainly weren’t bringing up who owned it to those not in the know of their readership, and that was the priority.

casselton-derailment
“On its website, BNSF reported that a westbound grain train with 112 cars derailed at about 2:10 p.m. Monday about one mile west of Casselton, hitting an eastbound 106-car train carrying crude oil on an adjacent track and causing it to derail, as well. An estimated 21 cars caught fire, some exploding and sending huge fireballs into the blue sky.” [Source] Photo Credit: Shawn Rode Photography

To give you some curious foreshadowing (think of if as appropriate visual and musical montage  for accompaniment) you can opt to interrupt this broadcast by taking note of how a shot of a BNSF train running through the southwest graces the opening credits of Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers”  (and reappears throughout). That won’t be a left field statement by the time this report is concluded; indeed the movie might almost seem peppered with the visual spice and splice of foreshadowing itself, were it not for the truth that the architects of human global imminent peril are not, and never have been, individual mass murderers. They’re the opposite. That aside, even the death toll (48 before Mickey and Mallory go to prison) will have a curious resonance (not to mention the 666 motif almost already does), so let’s get back to it.

NYT’s photo of the charred shell of an train engine whose company they wouldn’t name makes a picturesque omission that should have been worth a thousand words, or could have easily held the potential for a Part 3; -the trace remnant of a BNSF train that exploded near the governor’s birthplace of Casselton, ND (with such fierceness that the town had to be evacuated). In fact it was BNSF’s first Bakken oil train explosion, and it was truly spectacular. However these were not new. The first explosion of fracked product out of Bakken immolated the town center of Lac-Megantic along with 47 people. Homes were burned from the inside out while “fire erupted from water pipes, drains and sewers”:

“The Lac-Mégantic disaster generated an estimated $2 billion in liabilities with the cleanup alone projected at $200 million. The train’s operator, MM&A, a short line railroad transporting the crude from a Canadian Pacific (CP) yard to a refinery in New Brunswick, had just $25 million in liability insurance. Soon after the accident, MM&A filed for bankruptcy protection.” – Sightline Institute


 

While there was obvious negligence at fault (brakes not set properly on a single engineer run train at the top of a hill) and these problems increased, rather than decreased in Canada afterwards) -this was clearly not simply the problem as evidenced by the barest of timelines offered by Sightline, which marks the BNSF train at Casselton as the third such explosion. This is problematic as many actual explosions are treated as spills or derailments in the press, and additionally many accidents were omitted. Two reports have reached a consensus of 14 such headline accidents by multiple carriers, whereas Sightline lists eleven. In the instance of the Gogoma ON oil train fire mentioned by all three, that was in fact the fifth derailment in Ontario alone for that year (in less than three months) of just CN trains. There were more (of just CN trains for that period) in other provinces, actually seven additional derailments, five in Canadian provinces, and two more in the US.  This article on the second oil train accident/fire listed in Sightline’s timeline in Alabama mentions another one in Alberta. By the time of the Timmins ON derailment (and massive fire), that was the third such derailment in less than a month. Noteworthy incidents like two Wisconsin accidents two days in a row  and one in Buffalo don’t make the list. Neither do products other than crude oil, like a CN coal spill in Vancouver that took out a river Streamkeepers had been rehabilitating for salmon, due for its biggest run in 80 years , or a train carrying ‘liquid petroleum’ (propane) that caused the evacuation of hundreds in Tennessee.

Another fine example of this type of downplaying of events (though they mention 17 such derailments, 10 of them “terrifying”) is a far more recent piece of glaring headliner clickbait by Chicago Magazine that states the energy potential of a single oil rail car is the equivalent of ‘2 million sticks of dynamite’, a piece designed to at once to frighten and soothe the Chicago populace. Chicago was where Buffett was apparently behind forcing rail yard workers not to unionize for anything above minimum wage.

Chicago Magazine labeled this BNSF Casselton explosion (mushroom cloud is more like it) a collision. Initial reporting of this accident by eye-witnesses said this was between standing rail cars, and that a grain car tipped off its rails onto the adjacent oil train. For Chicago Magazine’s citation the Lynchburg derailment in Virginia was treated was as a spill into the river (with 50 000 gallons of crude oil ‘missing’  that endangered the drinking water supply), when it had an explosion from the derailment that sent ‘flames stories high’ and set the river on fire. Likewise, Sightline’s listing of the same accident treats the Lynchburg derailment as just that. The same watering down is apparent in Sightline’s ambiguity as per the second Bakken oil train fire in the timeline at Alliceville, Alabama which they dubbed “derailment and river contamination” when the accompanying blaze could not be approached for eighteen hours, was referred to as hundreds of feet tall and could be witnessed from ten miles away. Ignited Thursday, it was still burning on Saturday, and kept going. Ergo, by the time of the second major headline accident, it was already known that a simple derailment could engender massive combustion with large fires.

The third explosion in the rail accident chronology by BNSF outside of Casselton stands apart for one thing, it brought about a report by Truthout that all trains out of Bakken were being permitted to carry highly volatile VOC’s, alleged by non-corporate testing of the Bakken product to easily range between 30% and 40% of the product. (Casselton got the undivided attention of Mark Ruffalo.) Also, those in receivership of BNSF Bakken trains had to obtain “special conditions” permits, requiring them to “flare-off” the dangerous VOCs before barging them down a river, the Mississippi. This wasn’t your usual crude. (The article doesn’t even mention the obvious potential of residual methane, which in fracking operations was being flared off all the time.) The permit process showed that those in receivership knew the volatility as they were required to treat the product, which means so did the shippers. What was AWOL was Federal regulation of the product out of North Dakota, and this was because volatility equated with profitability, especially with respects to jet fuel.

At this threshold the salient point to be derived from the New York Times expose on the prior coexistence of BNSF and their spin-off Burlington Resources becomes very clear. BNSF had a subsidiary dealing in this product that was more than likely offloaded at the right time to prevent any conflict of interest being thrown into relief by a subsequent explosion, a situation that would would have surely made it liable, whereas after Casselton, Buffett was campaigning for the equivalent insurance exceptions as nuclear power plants, despite a record of 721 safety violations in North Dakota alone since 2006. After all, you cannot obtain such exemptions in the face of such a record when you can in no way have claimed ignorance after 47 people got immolated, which you could not when the same company that ships the product has an existing subsidiary fracking the product. By the point of purchase of BNSF, Buffett was in the clear of such a glaring direct conflict of interest. Nonetheless there is no way those responsible for shipping product out of Bakken could have been any more naive than those in receivership who were being regulated to treat the contents for volatility, and even if one could have laid claim to ignorance, after the second conflagration in Alabama, there was really no question anymore. Really there should have been no question after Lac-Megantic, but strike 3, you’re out. The BNSF Casselton explosion resulted in a nigh instantaneous safety classification alert by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Canadian pipeline corporations immediately followed suite. (Look at the photo caption. -Little late to protest the Keystone XL, -weren’t we?)

Yet rail companies continued to insist on not even upgrading their tanker cars, as well as one engineer per train after 47 dead, (which has met with consistent resistance). BNSF was spearheading continual lobbying efforts against safety regulation, -including against upgrading the braking system to ECP(electronically controlled pneumatic braking system), right up to the present day.

Buffett himself needed no more hints after Casselton, he diversified into a subsidiary pipeline company of Phillips 66 within 24 hours, whose specialty was “lubricating oil’s movement through pipelines, increasingly crucial for the industry to move both tar sands crude and oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) in an efficient manner.” At that point he was already invested in Phillips 66 to the tune of 27 million shares. This article cites shipment of Bakken crude by BNSF at “over 1 million barrels per day”. This move to formulation is pertinent if one were to consider the question of whether the mixture ratios for transport via pipelines would be dissimilar to the necessary need for viscosity to get the substance into individual train cars. With respects to the tar sands/diluent formulation, this would be especially likely since you are dealing with bitumen, literally sand granules individually coated in tar, where they’ve managed to get the guck off the sand granules. And the truth of the substance is that it was being cut 30% with “diluent” (out of Texas) to get it to even move through a pipeline. This logically constituted natural gas, combined with all those undisclosed chemicals that went into fracking the product. “Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.”

This question of what amount of diluent would be needed to get the tar sands product in and out of individual rail cars was brought instantly to the fore by the fourth listed oil train accident, a CN train in New Brunswick. At the time of the fourth listed “derailment” in New Brunswick (by Sightline and the rest), Reuters was deceiving the public as to the train’s point of origin. (They literally claimed it was from Toronto, with a straight face. Oil does not come from Toronto.) It was later confirmed to have originated from “western Canada”. This vague imputation (which was about all you would find) was deliberately framed to avoid the determination whether it was tar sands with diluent or Bakken “crude”, as western Canada is home to both. CN callously refused to disclose to the shaken Canadian public the train’s point of origin at the time in order to avoid the nature of the contents, but after all, this was the same corporation that after Lac-Megantic “argued against an emergency provision that trains loaded with dangerous goods such as crude oil [which should be put in the requisite air quotes, as it was never dangerous before Bakken] never be left unattended.

Transport Canada was no help at all. They announced in 2013 that CN was failing to disclose “hundreds of derailments, accidents”, a discrepancy which began ten years after privatization in 2005. They were also classifying the safety exemptions they gave to rail carriers, (including and especially CN, who was still favored by laws that remained in on the books from when CN was Canada’s national rail company, -exercised to brutal effect), and were heftily to blame for the failures that led to Lac-Megantic. Before Lac-Megantic, the Bakken oil trains had been labeled with the wrong hazard class in Canada, one that gave no warning of their explosiveness. They were classified the same as regular crude.

While the New Brunswick rail fire has been clarified as three cars of propane and one of ‘crude’ (-that’s in the “Oregon Live” accident summary, we never got to know where it came from or what it constituted), –since the deliberate venting post fire involved three cars carrying “liquified petroleum”), it’s safe to conclude the three propane cars involved did not explode in the first place. Oh geez, lucky us. What a boom that would have been! Now you’re beginning to grasp why this accident was the subject of such cover-up. It was, given the product portfolio of “western Canada”, (and the nature of the burn), likely from the Athabasca tar sands and diluted bitumen (shortened in the parlance to ‘dilbit’), and not Bakken product involved in the conflagration. After all the cat was already out of the bag about Bakken, so why was this one hush-hush? Additionally this Global News article on the vent taking place points to the same venting technique having to happen at another Alberta oil train fire, which otherwise would not have made mention.

What is dilbit? This answer shows you how easy vague reportage on these explosions could be by describing different aspects of the product. It was in fact devilishly difficult to track and quite some time before reportage started declaring which oil train fires were diluted bitumen shipments. With the New Brunswick accident, no one was the wiser. Seattle fire chiefs were certainly alarmed by that point, an unavoidable consideration since Seattle had experienced a BNSF/Bakken “crude” derailment the July prior at only 5 mph. By the time of their communication of disclosure demands for the sake of safety by BNSF, “North Dakota [Bakken was] principally responsible for increasing domestic production from 5 million to 9 million barrels of oil a day.”

The dawning of this insight (the looming question of what was the diluent percentile of tar sands bitumen/diluent needed for sufficient viscosity to transfer “dilbit” in and out of rail cars and how volatile that might prove (as already indicated)) was made irrevocably clear in the accidents to follow. The article that cleared this one up is referring to the fifth oil by rail accident on Sightline’s timeline, the Timmins Ontario CN fire, which was dilbit (as was the ninth listed (CN) rail accident fire at Gogoma ON). In fact the volatility of tar sands with diluent, while not quite as explosive as Bakken product, was certainly as volatile and produced burns that lasted for days, -so volatile that it was just as explosion prone in the newly issued CPC-1232 tank cars brought in to replace the vulnerable DOT-111’s that weren’t designed for oil transport. (The BNSF oil by rail explosion at Galena ILalso involved safer rail cars upgraded for the purpose, showing these upgrades also did not solve the problem for Bakken shale product.)

Further complicating the issue, while there was always an interest in flaring off the additives that originated in the Bakken ‘crude’ (or they could be subject to pre-treatment if anyone cared), diluent was added to tar sands bitumen to make it in any way viable in the first place, and it was exploding in Ontario at minus 40 degrees Celcius. Not only was Buffett’s acquisition of stock in the Phillips 66 subsidiary, Phillips Specialty Products, pivotal, it already looked like they’d proven incapable of the job. It was either that or it was impossible to do the job safely. While the constraint to oil by rail was making money hand over fist for everyone involved, something had to give, and that give was to transition to pipeline. But that did not mean the abandonment of Buffett’s original strategy, either, which was to divert and attenuate the environmental climate movement and use them to prevent the Keystone XL and maximize the oil by rail profit boom.

gates-and-buffett

At this point it should be brought into the record that Bill Gates has the majority investment stake in CN (Canadian National Railway), and it is the Gates Foundation Trust portfolio’s third largest investment (it was second in 2015). His private investment is the maximal investment permitted under the rules of CN’s privatization. As a personal investment (after the 28,000% increase in oil by rail shipment out of Canada in only four years), it was Bill Gates’ second biggest milk cow after Microsoft in 2013, thanks to a 34% share increase that year.

 

PART 2

Opposing DAPL: Billionaires are Philanthropists because they’re DAPL investors (and much more)

 

Gates and Buffett both got into oil by rail nigh simultaneously, -after touring the Alberta (Athabasca) tar sands in 2008. (Cory Morningstar provides an invaluable timeline on this, though it doesn’t capture Bill Gates’ point of purchase until attaining majority control (they might have been one and the same). Her own online version of this is visually fab.) The tar sands tour article mentions that in 2006 Buffett was notably invested in Conoco Phillips, which means his hands weren’t entirely clean of what went down in North Dakota with the Burlington Resources subsidiary (owned by Conoco Phillips when BNSF sold it). The reason Bill Gates sought majority control of CN at all was in order to cash in on the 28 000% increase in oil by rail shipping out of Canada, driven in no small part by bitumen export to the United States, basically cashing in on the dirtiest oil cash cow on earth. That was the long game.

As a sideshow amusement (which for Canada wasn’t amusing at all), their tour host was a Canadian dilbit billionaire named Murray Edwards. He had the usual PR BJ from Forbes, and still appears listed by them as the 25th richest Canadian (he was 14th at the time he committed one of the worst bits of corporate environmental negligence Canada’s ever seen). Forbes makes no mention that the Albertan instantly engaged in tax flight from the province the moment the NDP party got elected to power, ending over 40 years of conservative rule furnished by the Alberta oil patch.

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Tl’abane Declaration, Kablona Keepers

As CEO of Imperial Metals, Edwards was responsible for the largest mine tailings spill to ever occur in Canadian history. Despite clear abrogation of safety regulations, Imperial metals ignored the Liberal (which should read ‘neoliberal’) provincial government’s warnings on the dam multiple times, (there was no reason to heed when they simultaneously made spine snapping allowances). The dam blew, and released “10.6 million cubic metres of water, 7.3 million cubic metres of tailings and 6.5 million cubic metres of ‘interstitial water’” into the pristine Quesnel Lake, which fed a tributary responsible for up to 25% of the Fraser River’s annual salmon run. The BC provincial Liberal government was simply giving themselves a paper trail to legally keep them out of liability should the inevitable consequence of such corporate negligence prove devastating, which it did. There were no consequences.

It should also be noted (as it has now caught the attention of the New York Times), that rules for election donations and political party funding in British Columbia (BC) might rival behavior in North Dakota (this is the same formula for all the resource hinterland extraction areas needed to fulfill the demands of the ultra-consumerist West). In particular among the Liberal Party’s biggest donors last election were Imperial Metals (after whence they had their massive mine tailings spill in Beautiful BC), and (wait for it, as this will sound off by article’s end like a gong) a foreign multinational shat out of Enron’s carcass named Kinder Morgan. Murray Edwards himself hosted a million dollar funding [election] campaign luncheon for the BC Liberals in Alberta:

“When British Columbia’s Liberal Premier, Christy Clark, was in danger of losing last spring’s election, Edwards helped sponsor a fundraiser in Calgary; he advised Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the controversial takeover last year of Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd. and on future foreign investment by state-owned enterprises; he was instrumental in clenching a deal with Jean Chretien in 2003 that limited the oil sands’ financial exposure to the Kyoto Accord on greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, he co-hosted a tour of the oil sands for Warren Buffett [together with Bill Gates], one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s top advisors who has since invested in oil sands producers Suncor Energy Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp.” – National Post

In light of the need for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline to furnish shipment of Alberta diluted bitumen to Vancouver’s ports (for export beyond, which newly elected Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau just granted them), this should be as incontrovertible in its logic as basic addition. When the price of “dilbit” is depressed, the product is being exported out of Vancouver by Kinder Morgan to California. As we of BC know all too well, California’s consumer demands are truly inexhaustible.

The year Bill Gates was raking in his peak oil by rail profits (2013) “just happened” to be the same year that US records showed that rail related oil spills were more frequent in that one year than had occurred in the four decades prior, (bear in mind CN transports in the US), -and accidents at CN’s newly acquired (and thereby privatized) BC Rail went up 21%. US rail clocked in 88 oil by rail accidents for 2013 while oil by rail in the US “increased by 423 percent between 2011 and 2012 and in 2013 had surpassed 400,000 rail carloads per year.” CN used backed to work legislation on its workers seven times, who were suffering from exhaustion and genuinely worried about safety. Rail on both sides of the border prioritized oil by rail to the point that grain transport was severely constrained. (Ranchers on Vancouver Island were three days away from having no grain for their cattle during a year with a 60% grain surplus, a boom crop that sat in silos.) It was so bad General Mills complained to the Federal Government of factory shutdowns due to lack of grain. And then fortunes began to shift. 2014 was the year Bill Gates’ CN basically graduated to being a gong show on rails (derailments soared 73% that year), but his profits pulled ahead of Buffett’s BNSF.

one-gates-bono

I suppose you might be wondering why I’m inserting Bill Gates into the fray, but the answer’s obvious, as in herein lies the crux. It is Bill Gates who has succeeded in turning Bono’s philanthropic endeavors into pure philanthrowash of he and Buffett’s investments. After all, ONE was Gates’ brainchild as much or more than it was Bono’s. Bono’s ONE and RED are more or less Gates Foundation funded affairs, (with 81% of ONE’s budget dedicated purely to generating awareness). This obviously cuts both ways, i.e., in generating awareness for the funding target, it simultaneously generates a benevolent awareness about the funders. There are years when half ONE’s funding has been from Gates Foundation, and with ONE’s  $31.8 million dollar budget for 2014, -obviously Gates Foundation’s self-declared $135 million over the years to ONE is not insignificant. Gates Foundation’s beneficence to RED (that flagship of “consumer activism”) is not insignificant either. This was the Gates Foundation funding grant Bono rapturously announced out of Davos next to a grinning Gates on a snowy alpine slope for January, 2016 on RED’s Facebook home page.

Singer of Irish band U2, Bono (L) poses with Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum annual meeting on January 22, 2016 in Davos to mark the 10 years of (RED). Launched at Davos in 2006, (RED) has raised $350 million for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, impacting 60 million lives. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Singer of Irish band U2, Bono (L) poses with Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum annual meeting on January 22, 2016 in Davos to mark the 10 years of (RED). FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

bono-1-getty

Back in 2006 Buffett matched Gates Foundation’s funding 50%, to the tune of $30 billion -which he gives them incrementally in Berkshire Hathaway shares at a rate of 5% annually, -which brings us right back to the beginning financials I labored to show you, because that’s right, 54% of Gates Foundation portfolio is Berkshire Hathaway stock (2nd quarter, 2015). The second ranking in the portfolio, CN, is only 5.81%. (This puts Gates Foundation’s BH holding at 58% with CN as the third ranked investment for the third quarter, 2016.) This means in fact Bono’s RED and ONE were indirect but definite financial beneficiaries of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

 

Furthermore, Bill Gates has been sitting on Berkshire’s Hathaway’s Board of Directors since 2005. So it’s literally impossible he doesn’t know about the goings on with DAPL stakeholder Phillips 66, -he was there seven years before they even existed. It’s literally impossible that he has not decided upon the entire course of this DAPL investment, yet you’ve never heard of the connection. Furthermore, it should begin to dawn you that there cannot exist such two disparate sides to the same coin. They are inherently incompatible. You are either charitable or predatory. They are mutually exclusive. From a PR standpoint, now you know exactly why Bill Gates went all out this Christmas as Secret Santa on reddit.  He had something very big to hide, -that Warren Buffett’s beneficence in the way of Berkshire Hathaway shares meant over half of Gates Foundation’s portfolio was invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline via Phillips 66, making him a very big investor indeed (much bigger than Trump ever was), -and that given his directorship in the company, he not only was apprised of every detail, he was in charge. He had surely overseen the purchase and continually approved of it given he was on Berkshire Hathaway’s Board of Directors long enough to have overseen and approved the attainment of majority control of Phillips 66[6], thoughit had been Buffett’s acquisition all along,  -and definitely his favorite.

When it comes to Berkshire Hathaway, Bill Gates was still buying in as of December 2015.  (Coincidentally this was the month Congress lifted the 40 year ban on oil export out of the US.)

Phillips 66 was still Buffett’s big stake, even with #NoDAPL going on. (The protest began April, 2016.)
Seeing as North Dakota state’s corruption was at a level where his BNSF Bakken bomb trains were simply a matter of zero concern (Heimdal included, which again was the new generation rail cars), clearly there was no reason to worry. (Maybe it was that North Dakota knew it needed the Dakota Access Pipeline at any cost. All its spectacular rail accidents went eastward and the pipeline went south of Chicago.)

#Cringemas was one of RED’s promotional twitter hashtags for #shopathon December 2016 (the youtube online gamer portion), -a RED campaign that was matched by the Gates Foundation to the tune of $78 million.) While RED’s page for this bears no date, you can take it from me that this was announced in conjunction with RED’s Shopathon launched on December 1st, 2016. #Cringemas it is! –#Cringemas is arms lost to the 1%. Sophia Wolansky sure could have used Secret Santa’s help for her two years of reconstructive surgery; her father was trying to crowd fund it just before RED kicked off on Jimmy Kimmelwith their Gates Foundation matched #Shopathon funding drive. With his usual canniness, Bono launched RED’s spending drive on Jimmy Kimmel by resurrecting Mac Phisto (a play on Mephistopheles, meaning he came out as the Devil) for the first time since 1993 (when he actually was a bit dangerous). Mac Phisto entered the “REDtm Pack” little celebrity sing a long ditty “We’re Going to Hell” (with celebrities he’d managed to gull into the celebrity contest portion of RED’s promotion) with the opening line “welcome in to my cauldron of sin”. (The’s song title is, from a planetary perspective (if you know the Biblical mistranslation involved), literal.) This exact same promotion using meet celebrity contests you paid to play (you could throw the thing with entries of up to $25 000, which was commensurate to the number of entries you received) was launched last year. That announcement was made on U2’s official Facebook; -the brand-bleed crossover was officially begun, and officially offensive. Those celebrity stakes included a chance to bike ride with Bono, the promotion of which was through U2’s FB site. (U2’s FB announced the happy winner.) As of December 2015 they were now targeting U2 fans as the fundraiser, but last year’s was the first disclosure this was all being officially matched by Gates Foundation, as the entirety of RED’s funding drives had been for 2016. This time, you could meet the entire band and have them play for you exclusively.

Bill Gates surely would have known the #NoDAPL protest suppression was completely off the chain by the time of U2/RED’s 2016 Shopathon, just as it’s surely known Sophia’s never going to get a Secret Santa down her chimney. In fact the Guardian’s hit piece targeting Trump as an investor was timed to target the blame after the attack dogs had been deployed. Actually it was right on cue with when police and military moved on the Oceti Sakowin camp141 arrests followed.  The attack dogs were unleashed by private security, but they weren’t the ones who got kenneled. We got to find out who they were and that they weren’t licensed to work in North Dakota and were from out of state and may be criminally liable, but we never get to hear who hires them. The Guardian will only repeat Trump’s nigh bogus connection to the project.

However, in terms of modus operandi (if not involvement), BNSF was already using private police to perform arrests in Washington State at protest blockades and they were already being blockaded there by climate protests. The public was much more aware of the oil by rail issue than the media gave credit.

#NoDAPL would prove to be the rumble, and why would it not? It was the place and tribes who wiped Custer off the face of the earth Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, ground zero of the longest war in American history, in a manner of speaking. The strongest point of Native American resistance, against which a grudge was held ever since. In truth it was the Seven Fires Council who wiped out Custer. #NoDAPL was the first time in 150 years they reconvened (since 1867 –at 0:45) #NoDAPL was a treaty dispute over lands the tribes first relented to being confined to by the US in the Treaty of Fort Laramie, 1851. While the reservation tract is much smaller than that original territory agreement thanks to the second Treaty of 1868, they never surrendered hunting or fishing rights, nor water rights over the land reserved for them in the Treaty of Fort Laramie and the land is unceded meaning “owned by the Sioux, outside of the reservation.” “Almost the entire pipeline from the source to the river” the Treaty of 1868 defined as “unceded.”

This doesn’t quite gel with Obama’s statement that “the pipeline cuts too close to tribal lands in North Dakota.” It’s true the land is outside of the reservation. The Federal government tried to force the issue by giving them money for the land, which the Sioux refused. The Federal government is still sitting on over a billion dollars in trust for that land, that the Sioux still refuse, demanding to retain title. They never let it go. Despite their impoverishment, they never took the money. Obama fed the misapprehension about the Treaty deliberately. He did everything he possibly humanly could to kick the ball and the entire issue past his tenure in avoidance of the interests of his billionaire sponsors, to a president who would surely vet the DAPL, while the injuries, arrests and camp population mounted. He abandoned the issue to brute force by rumble. Of course he was going to vet the pipeline come hell or high water. He as well as anyone else could see where the bomb trains situation was headed.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved only due to land expropriated from the tribe against their wishes to build the dam that created Lake Oahe. (The dam was just outside the reservation. The USACE expropriated the land inside the reservation to remove several native communities that would be submerged due to the flooding.) But the tribe accepted the monies offered by the Federal Government decades later for that incursion, so they no longer have a leg to stand on on that one.

The Black Snake is what Lakota people call the Dakota Access Pipeline. It will extinguish the world. For a people who have endured the end of their way of life so many times, who can doubt the truth of their vision, which coincides with scientific truth about the relationship of fossil fuels to catastrophic climate change?” – New York Times

In keeping with a rumble, police were brought in from seven states under an emergency assistance clause (for natural disasters) enacted under Bill Clinton. A security force named TigerSwan who collaborated with Blackwater and was a sub-contractor in the Iraq occupation was brought in to gather intelligence and oversee security. Private security forces brought the usual roster of agent provocateurs. Water cannons were used on 400 water protectors in freezing temperatures at night. Arrests exceeded 600. When 2000 veterans were set to arrive the day before eviction of the camp (set for December 5th), Army Corps of Engineers suddenly announced they were denying the easement through Lake Oahe.  (WP still couldn’t resist braying about Trump’s investment whenever they ran a piece.) It’s like the Army Corps switched sides. (As for the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) notice of intent the Tribe was waiting for, that was announced on January 18th.) Public input as to why an EIS was needed was being accepted until February 20th. But the the USACE reversed themselves again and declared, after Trump’s executive order, that they intend to grant the easement. The EIS is aborted the moment they do.

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Upon USACE’s denial of the Lake Oahe easement, Energy Transfer Partners LLC and Sunoco immediately issued a formal statement. In it they stated they were still “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.” Phillips 66, the 25% stakeholder, was notably absent. For some reason they were evading publicity, or putting their stamp on any response, even though they were players.

The entire #NoDAPL protest was (and is) a win-win for Buffett. It delays the pipeline sufficiently long enough to keep boosting his flagging oil by rail shipment, but even if the Standing Rock protestors win their re-route (which was about all you could hope for with the pipeline over 90% complete), he is still going to profit from the pipeline regardless, a pipeline he was forced to diversify into because oil by rail has proven so manifestly unsafe. Even Buffett can register a mushroom cloud for what it means.

This is the world we live in. Callous corporate indifference (structured into governance as we now know with the entire State of North Dakota, with their mighty and brutal enforcement) is compensated for by the appearance of DAPL investor Bill Gates acting as random reddit Secret Santa, though the general public has no clue they bear any relation. That’s the point. They are only supposed to be aware of Secret Santa. Gates himself knew though. In much the same manner the billionaire class purported to be of conscience ‘compensate’ for profiting off global depredation of the planet by funding philanthropic foundations utterly hamstrung by the implementation of their benefactor’s ideology, the PR equivalent is Secret Santa. In the same manner and same respects, philanthropy can never and in no way compensates for planetary depredation. We are dealing with two of the eight richest men on the planet, who possess the same amount of wealth as the lower half of human kind. Think then on what that means if we calculated each of these individuals’ true ecological human footprint, which certainly provides an indicator that all it not well. (According to this critique, our collective human footprint would be worse than 1.5 earths, and it’s all down to deforestation and carbon.) We are dealing with the existential apex of individualism, the very essence of what we’ve internalized so much we can’t break away from it, the very nature of “Consumer Hell”. Is there any compensation this precious minority of eight can provide to the 50% of the human race that somehow or in any way compensates for their acquisition, unique to all of human history and more serious to the planet than it’s ever been when we’re dealing with the specter of catastrophic climate change? No, they could never come close. In short, you can’t save Africa when you’re invested in cooking Africa, i.e., sunk bigger than practically anyone into the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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According to this latest figure, Gates Foundation was invested in Berkshire Hathaway at $10.74 billion.  Buffett’s sunk Berkshire Hathaway over $6.8 billion into the Dakota Access Pipeline. 15.77% of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio has majority control of Phillips 66 (22%). That’s the equivalent of a $1.69 billion investment in Phillips 66 on the part of the Gates Foundation. The entire climate movement (it doesn’t merit the term ‘protest’) had you chasing after a list of parties (who were loaning/financing the pipeline, not investors) at under the under $600 million mark, down to a paltry $30 million. You wanna Boycott? GOOD. You start with Warren Buffett. And you wallop those philanthropies with a  good ol’ counter awareness campaign, -especially the ones where that’s all they’re good at in the first place. YOU BLOODY PRIORITIZE according to THE BLEEDING MATHs. The Guardian/350.org/tcktcktck consortium of climate “activism” (which doesn’t merit the term resistance), -their “keep it in the ground” campaign’s entire focus was the $722 million Gates Foundation had invested in fossil fuel corporations, one tar sands operation included.

 

PART 3

Image VS. Reality: -Plus What’s Wrong with the DAPL 

 

Fifty years of tailings mismanagement in Alberta: How did we get here, and where are we headed? – The Pembina Institute

What is it to be invested in the tar sands boom, even in the more tertiary form of capitalizing on its shipment? The tar sands’ other output is over 176 km of open toxic tailing ponds  that are death to migratory birds, will be death of the Athabasca River they sit next to the moment we have a sufficient flash flood  (as they are now providing slow death by seepage since there is no impermeable shield between the toxic ponds and the soil), and provide death to the people living there. I suppose you didn’t know this is all sitting on the Athabasca River, which is a tributary of the 2nd largest watershed basin in NA next to the Mississippi, -the Mackenzie. -Good one! The Federal Government of Canada knows all of this, and has deemed it to be in our best interest. -Whose interest, precisely? Surely not Fort McMurray’s, the tar sands boom town where you can make over $100 000 grand per annum with a high school diploma. It just went up in flames last spring (the wildfire precluded the official start of fire season by starting in May) due to the brand new climatologically induced raging wildfire regime consuming the North. This one was of such severity it was dubbed ‘“The Beast”. It was the largest fire driven evacuation in Alberta’s history. It generated its own super cells, winds and created its own lightning. It leapt the Athabasca River and was clocked moving at 30 to 40 meters per second, reaching temperatures of over 1000 degrees Celcius. It consumed nearly 600 000 Ha and made it into Saskatchewan. It now lies smoldering underground in the peat, waiting to resurrect this spring. -That’s a real problem with northern fires. -Ask Alaska.

Welcome to the dilbit/frack billionaires’ not so invisible, off-set costs (visible from space) that are absorbed by society and the environment at large. These are the self-same billionaires who regard divestment from fossil fuels as a “false solution”.  (He’s right but for the opposite reason, it’s the very least of what should be done. Face it, no one who sinks themselves into rail just because of the tar sands/shale boom is going to think divestment is the solution! Get Real!)

The Gates Foundation has a history of responding to public pressure, while simultaneously not admitting they are responding to public pressure.” -It took protests outside their Seattle office every day (for months), a petition signed by over 300 000 as part of The Guardian’s “keep it in the ground” campaign; (which took no notice of CN, or whether Gates might be otherwise privately invested, in which case the Gates Foundation divesting might simply have been a PR exercise). Gates eventually listened (not 100%, but kudos for divesting from the big one: Exxon at $662 million). Honestly given the fall out of events and when in the timeline protests would have even had to be engaged in on the DAPL to even be effectual from a climactic standpoint (when instead we ended up in this brutal confrontational mess because these investors (not to mention the corrupt state of North Dakota) were treated with total kid gloves all this time), what good did the climate movement do -? They missed Gates Foundation’s biggest/worst investment by a mile (the DAPL), literally until there was no chance of stopping it. You’d think if tcktcktck was serious about their divestment campaign launched at the Gates Foundation, they could have landed on a lightning rod of an issue like #NoDAPL. It had all the right stuff from a PR perspective. How on earth if this is your campaign do you miss this? Oh, wait

How can Bill McKibben even claim he’s serious about this?! Oh, wait

Ha-ha-ha!

Are you seriously going to tell me that not one of these campaigns, focused on precisely the investor issue, -when it involved one of the most headline grabbing protests we’ve seen in years, (forget the somnolent the media, the Gates Foundation funds The Guardian’s Global Initiative page), simply didn’t notice who the investor was? All those announcements were going on that Buffett was investing hand over fist in Phillips66 the entire period. They were all over the financial news. Everyone knew he bankrolled Gates Foundation by half. If the environmental groups coordinating the climate divestment campaigns are this incompetent at their calling, we might as well all go bury ourselves right now. It’s no wonder Bill Gates responded by telling them how redundant their divestment campaign is if they can’t even follow the money. Big Hint: They’d missed the oil by rail boom to begin with. It showed they weren’t serious, in just the same manner none of us are serious enough about our habits of consumption. They weren’t by design.

The fact that all of the above was going on and you never heard of the connection; -you heard plenty about Bono and the benevolence exacted by ONE and RED and their benefactors, should be enough for you to register how philanthrowashing works on behalf of the benefactors more than those they’re benefitting. If not, watch and learn, -because I am going to show you how this works with the transition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. You should recognize that the entire transpiration above was effectively philanthro-washed by Bono’s philanthropic endeavors already, because those philanthropic efforts being bankrolled by the above billionaires are what you heard about, -not the sordid actions of their investments that were bankrolling those endeavors. That’s what human “superbrands” like Bono are for.  Philanthro-washing is for providing a subtext of sanctity and doing good so impervious that the entire host of media will simply self censor as they’re simply overwhelmed in the face of your good image. They find it unassailable. Who on earth is willing to jeopardize their career in order to be such a churl as to challenge the most generous and charitable billionaire on earth?

However, that is not simply what is going on in the philanthropic endeavor of Mr. Gates, who is literally curating the image of the Gates Foundation through coordinated funding that works as a stranglehold preserving self-censorship within the most laudatory founts of what we consider the liberal/left media.  Read the list of Media Partners, “New York Times, NPR, the Guardian, NBC, Seattle Times and a number of other news organizations, non-profit groups and foundations. Not all were grant recipients, or partners. Some just came to consult.” It goes without saying this is ripe for investigative reportage, and I’m sure this is not happening because it is, outside of those favored, decidedly opaque. That it will never happen among those with access goes without saying. I’d like to know who everyone is on that list and what their basis for invitation is myself. (It also indicates that if Trump’s defunding plan succeeds, NPR will likely be in the Gates Foundation’s pocket. Let the partisan media wars begin, -except that Obama thought it perfectly fine to create a Federal propaganda division and hand it off to Trump after he won.)

Voila, there’s the New York Times at the top of the list! This self censorship (after all, you don’t get any Gates Foundation funding if you say anything negative about Gates Foundation or their sponsor) protected Buffett and kept them from touching the bomb trains when NYT did their two part expose on the Bakken and North Dakota state corruption, which has already been demonstrated to extend the bomb trains themselves.The point is the New York Times wouldn’t investigate or touch it, even though the incautious shipping and total absence of regulation on what was effectively a new hazardous substance (they left Canada none the wiser about) resulted in 47 dead. New York Times’ censorship is so strong on the matter that you can’t post a comment pertaining to the bomb trains that mentions either Gates or Buffett by name. I know because I tried, and I tried the same reply to a second individual without their names immediately after it did not work (three times). Without their names, the same text and links posted.

Now it is true that North Dakota State avoids direct culpability for the bomb trains since regulation of rail shipment is a federal concern (they could have petitioned the Feds, of course), but there’s no evasion possible on DAPL’s enforcement, –isn’t it lovely? -Incidentally, here’s a lovely 25 point chart of everything wrong with DAPL’s construction plan under Lake Oahe as stands by an engineer with a life time career in the business listing the flaws in the original Environmental Assessment (EA) in order to ram through DAPL’s permission. (His name is Steve Martin. His full report on behalf of the tribe fighting the DAPL in court has just been released.) A full Environmental Impact Study was avoided by the DAPL consortium making their applications for the pipeline piecemeal. They did this deliberately to avoid the much more stringent Environmental Impact Study (EIS, -called elsewhere “Environmental Impact Statement”). This is something North Dakota State could have easily called them on, demanding an EIS be done. Steve Martin has more to say about what’s wrong with the DAPL, in the main pointing out how much more the installation of an underground pipeline is compounded by the length under a water body, and safer relative to the distance being shorter, and how this hampers detection systems for leaks. When they’re allowing much worse projects by Phillips 66 to fly (the pipeline under Lake Sakakawea that endangers the drinking water of several North Dakota cities; Steve Martin has plenty more to say about the design flaws and danger on this -namely when longer HDD tunnels are done, there is no protection of the pipe possible in construction (i.e., casing), plus the danger of hydrofracture increases during installation relative to length) -if North Dakota State is granting permission on pipelines like these, it’s not like they care. No one cared about the Phillips 66 pipeline under Lake Sacagawea (Native spelling) in North Dakota, which has already been whistle blown for shoddy construction. Once it’s under, it’s done. There’s no going back. This pipeline is set to service a rail terminal for BNSF trains, so you never heard of it. The Natives didn’t protest that one. They bought in. (In keeping with our touchstone, consider that your real Route 66[6].)

You can ask a large margin of those who voted for Trump about how and why this could have happened. They were revolted and disgusted by the collusion that went into making Buffett and Gates rail barons that could corner oil shipment into oil by rail using the Keystone protest, bomb trains and all. To them it’s just an adjunct conspiracy to their climate change denial, because pipelines were better (the truth is pipelines also have serious problems with the highly corrosive nature of dilbit). On the Republican side, the rail monopolization of oil transport by the Democrats’ favorite billionaires is broadly public knowledge. The billionaire cronyism relationship on exhibit between Buffett and the ruling Democratic Party, Obama, and Hillary Clinton was a factor in their loss.  And they were right on that count.

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The philanthrowash effort in Buffett’s hands is also a lucrative greenwash; it included the protracted foundation funding by Buffett through Novo and Tides Foundation to manufacture the 350.org movement  in order to attenuate and direct the environmental movement towards the Keystone pipeline because that would secure his and Gates’ oil by rail profits. There is also a decidedly partisan connection between Buffett and Bill McKibben, and Bono as well. Between them is the confluence of the neoliberal. Neoliberal is an epithet to me because this is what they are. These are the crimes committed on their watch. They are partisan first, and that means they are not environmental, in fact all ideological cause is subborned to that of the market, and the market’s main driver in America, -making war. This makes them the very opposite of their purported causes, the covert sanction of everything rejected by the Left hiding under the skirt of identity politics.

OK, so in case you’re just too lazy to hop links or too busy read a five part series, in a nutshell McKibben’s 350.org is tied directly to Buffett through his Novo Foundation’s funding of the Tides Foundation, which funds 350.org. Which is bloody brilliant, because it channeled all climate activism to the Keystone XL (when it was already too late to protest that one’s completion as well), which should have aroused the question “Who benefits?” It sure explains a lot at any rate. Like how you could magically de-prioritize the investor who’s into the DAPL for $6.8 freaking billion as unmentionable and invisible. I’m sure the fact that, after all, he’s the one giving you the money surely helps. The #NoDAPL protest marks the second time Bill McKibben’s coordination or involvement with a pipeline protest has directly benefitted Buffett’s economic interests.

Here, asked point blank by Amy Goodman where Hillary Clinton stood on the DAPL, he actually declared “One has no idea.” He also remained true to the formula of mentioning only one of the corporations with a stake in the DAPL (albeit the majority one) -Energy Transfer Partners LLC. But that keeps anyone from landing on Phillips 66’s connection to Warren Buffett in an inter-webs search, -that is if they aren’t drowned by Trump articles in the attempt anyhow. McKibben’s main function in this regard is to insure the water gets deep enough you’ll never touch bottom. Anyone remotely aware of Buffett stumping for Hillary on the campaign trail (or any of the above) should have fallen on the floor laughing at McKibben’s reply to Amy. Really, you kill me. When Clinton finally managed a tepid statement on the DAPL, -a statement that had been literally forced from her by a #NoDAPL protest at her campaign headquarters which she steadfastly ignored, not even accepting a letter, McKibben finally managed to bark a single tweet. McKibben did not even bother with repudiation he should have been well capable of, namely her affiliation and donor support from one of DAPL’s biggest investors, who had been Obama’s biggest individual donor for his 2012 election campaign. Buffett “approves of Trump’s cabinet ‘overwhelmingly’”, by the way.

Between them (Buffett, Gates, and their Bono AIDs charity charm offensive on the one hand, with Bill McKibben flying wingman one the other), it’s no damn wonder you’ve never heard a damn thing about this. Cory Morningstar has provided in depth coverage of Buffett and the “Democrat” (neoliberal) administration’s attenuation of the environmental climate movement. I am going to provide you with some indicator of how Bill Gates turning the media into media partners effectively helped silence the press on their connections to the Dakota Access Pipeline, maybe even to the extent of actively thrusting Trump into the position of drowning the search algorithms to the point you’d never, ever find out just who had control of Phillips 66. Omission in the press means the general public never lights upon the terms to search for. The thrust of the Trump story, and story it was given the relative scale of the investments, was designed to insure what terms were searched and what terms weren’t. Furthermore, Buffett’s foundation funding insures that not only the media are in collusion downplaying the #NoDAPL protest thanks to participating as Gates Foundation “Media Partners” (this in addition to completely avoiding the perpetrators they are protesting), -it is, through its funding control of environmental groups, actually shown to be damaging to the climate change resistance movement (see the above wrongkindofgreen urls, but I’m going to pull some explicit examples for you of how this is attenuated in the press), and most especially damaging to the indigenous resistance movement.

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This is highlighted by the spectrum of Bill McKibben’s public interviews on #NoDAPL, especially with The Guardian, who launched the Trump DAPL investment story in the final election heat of 2016, after Trump had already divested. They did this after Washington Post already had gone on record showing this just three days before. The Guardian performed this fake expose that was echo-chambered around the entire leftist media in the last heat of the election (and still is). Just keep reminding yourself, the Gates Foundation is responsible for funding The Guardian’s Global Initiative section.

Then I’m going to show that while Bono may have easily been unaware about this entire business about the bomb trains and the DAPL investment, (which he could and should have known), he’s certainly over a barrel, because it’s fairly demonstrative that RED is, as per the very nature of “consumer activism” a philanthro-washing outfit, and it doesn’t take too much to show you.

 

PART 4

RED is a Philanthro-washing Operation, -Plus Everything Bill McKibben Insured You Did Not Know

 

So what makes RED a philanthrowasing outfit? Let’s begin with the declaration from RED’s official site that a percentile of all corporation affiliated RED products you buy go directly to the Global Fund (all of it -RED claims this can be up to 50% of a purchase, but this is effectively not disclosed), -and 50% percent of those sales revenues go to fight AIDS, and that over its course RED has managed to raise $365 million in this manner. This is a report that was attempted on how that all worked in 2009, when the monies raised by RED stood at $135 million. The monies the corporations claimed as going to the RED cause were simply sequestered from their pre-existing marketing budgets. It short for them the RED cause was a marketing campaign based on human lives; granting them life was really their PR promotion for themselves. These corporations would not disclose the amount of sales that were apportioned to RED. Rather than just contributing to the cause directly themselves by donating, they commandeered witless consumers to spend on their product to do it, while adding a small cut. This is called consumer activism.

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Let’s consider Apple, who is hailed in the afore-referenced link announcing RED’s funding January 2016 as a “founding partner” who has since raised $110 million for the cause. Apple is one of the biggest tax evaders on the planet, along with Microsoft, and most of the Silicon Valley corporations sitting here at Trump’s table. (This includes Facebook, who Bono was an invitation only investor of before the stock opened to the public (it made him a mint); -incidentally Facebook’s lead independent Director is the Chief Executive Officer of the Gates Foundation.) They have collectively managed to evade US taxes to the tune of $560 billion. A not insignificant number of these (including Google and Facebook) are based out of Ireland expressly for the purpose of evading taxes in the EU. In fact it was Apple who was penalized for this just recently with the largest settlement the EU has ever exacted for tax evasion, and they were ordered to give Ireland restitution to the tune of $13 billion with interest (which put it over $14 billion). According to the press release on the penalty, Apple’s exclusive Irish tax rate steadily declined from 1% to 0.5%, -coinciding rather remarkably with the period that U2 were shilling expensive, exclusive Apple iPods with their entire song catalogue on them. (With countrymen like this, who needs enemies?)

I’m not sure whether this qualifies the band as uncultured, uneducated, social media Luddites, or just plain naive at this point, so I’ll just stick with my true epithet, as it looks like we’ve found what Bono truly believes in, which is philanthro-washing tax evaders at fractions of pennies to the dollar giving them wonderful RED PR out of their already allocated marketing budget to drape themselves in the red cloak of sanctity of charitable life giving operations, while getting consumers to foot most of the bill, which serves to increase their total sales revenue (win-win-win as PR coup), -whilst simultaneously utterly reneging on social contract with tax evasion that is wholesale divestment of society of astronomical amounts of revenue (not just of nations but entire continents) that would otherwise provide for the population they still manage to convince to spend money on them, by making them feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves because they chose this purchase for RED in order to save lives. That divestiture is in the billions to one, and these corporations have decided where their substituted penny tokenism goes, not governance, and not society. Bono hails this as consumer activism, when it’s really just the targeted exploitation of human conscience in a deliberate displacement designed to maintain corporate total divestment of the consumers themselves. Of course, Apple is one of Warren Buffett’s high dividend stocks. And of course, it looks like Apple will get their US tax break, -from Trump.

I think you can see where this is going, so let’s return our attention to Bill McKibben.

McKibben struck next with a “thought piece” on Grist, apparently designed to develop empathy towards the Native American resistance that created the #NoDAPL protest, as well attempting to ground it in a sense of history, titled “After 525 years, it’s time to actually listen to Native Americans”. He goes onto to instruct the general public to Google “Wounded Knee”, “Custer”, “Washita River”, and “Pine Ridge.” While I’m sure the general public needs an overview, only Custer was directly pertinent to the #NoDAPL location in North Dakota, having suffered the defeat of The Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876 on the bank of the Greasy Grass River (-tributary of the Missouri River, -even rock band the The Black Crowes know the name of this river for this reason, which has since been reduced to Greasy Creek). And if Bill Mckibben was advocating for empathic awareness and unity with the natives on this issue, you would think instead of mentioning the white man involved, he could have had the grace or knowledge to mention who some of the Native historic actors in this defeat were, namely Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. (Canadian musician Neil Young knows who Crazy Horse is.) This helps evade what this confrontation is rooted in, which is Native American warrior culture. This is not rooted in the civil disobedience pacifism defining the civil rights movement. However it may define itself now, it’s an entirely different resistance movement, definitely rooted in something else, and the defeat of Custer was their greatest victory.

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Wounded Knee took place in South Dakota. The Washita River massacre took place in Oklahoma. The Pine Ridge Reservation is in South Dakota, and while it brings up the Treaty of Fort Laramie, you’d be left with no clue at all THAT THIS IS THE TREATY AT ISSUE in the #NoDAPL protest. It is no disservice to reference all this, not at all. The problem is that in allying yourself with a particular Native American cause, you should be aware of its existing roots, and if you’re not providing and sharing that awareness, you’ve defeated the cause by failing to equip the general public to be able to inform themselves of what this contest actually is by exercising their own judgment. If you are aware of these existing roots already (as he well should be in this context), this amounts to a failure in disclosure, a vital one, because it leaves the public ultimately and completely uninformed on this issue that caused this Native American confrontation with North Dakota State at this location in the here and now. There is no mention and no reference whatsoever to the Great Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where this is all taking place, when everyone could have really, really used a map right about now. This from a “Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, and a founder of 350.org. He is a member of Grist’s board of directors.” -How nice. As a director, he could have laid out anything he wanted to. He didn’t even mention the Treaty.

-How come a Canadian, Cory Morningstar, is left to provide the history of the Treaty(ies), provide the maps of the existing reservation and the land allocated by the Treaty of Fort Laramie? -How come we know better than you? It’s not a question of superior knowledge, it’s that in devising a statement apparently designed for the public to develop empathy with the Natives, he wasn’t even grounded enough to focus on the background and history of #NoDAPL itself. Which would be a fairly slight slight, -apart from the fact that it left the general public he was purportedly informing completely without compass or reference point, and yet, paradoxically, if they’d followed McKibben’s instructions, feeling completely grounded in what was in fact a total evasion of the issue at hand. Amazing, what?

The implications of this piece are much worse. It takes a Cory Morningstar to not only give you the history, but name all the tribes involved and ground you in the financials of the here and now (as her piece does, Buffett included), including again a realm of scam and fraud over leasing rights to frack, directing you to the frack boom in Fort Berthold Reservation and the Lake Sacagawea (Sakakawea) pipeline. It remains to her to delineate the entire scope of oil and gas (and nuclear) development presently going on in the Bakken, and who benefits, -the sponsor of 350.org twice removed that Bill McKibben will never reference. But worse yet, what is truly astounding about McKibben’s total omission of this pivotal investor behind the DAPL, is that this isn’t, given his massive array of investments, the first time Buffett has targeted a Native American tribe over a Treaty issue for fossil fuel development, or was met with the resistance of several tribes. In particular, Buffett was going head to head with the Lummi Nation in Washington State over the development of a coal port at Cherry Point. Once again it remains to Cory Morningstar to set you straight. This fight also got dirty, with “Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad are now laundering funds through the Washington Republican Party to donate to pro-coal candidates for Whatcom County Council.” -Oh. You don’t say.

If Bill McKibben was onside with the Native American cause, he’d bloody mention the opposition, as well as knowing who and what they’re up against elsewhere. It’s not like a new coal port (Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), for export to China) is an unsuitable point of resistance for the climate movement.

This might be considered a mis-step unless it were patterned behavior, which was indicated when he provided an ultimate capitulation of sorts by way of The Guardian while touting the victory at Standing Rock when USACE denied the last needed easement for completion the DAPL. What’s truly astonishing about this one is that while he touts the alliance of 200 tribal nations that came together and made the #NoDAPL protest win this unprecedented battle, he then doesn’t mention the most significant bi-national tribal alliance that developed in tandem with this resistance, even though he asserts that in the near future, they’re going to be responsible for “Standing Rock North” around two tar sands pipelines in Canada he doesn’t bother to specify at all, namely the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Energy East. If you’re participating in climate resistance, you sure as hell be specific as to the next points of resistance where public participation will prove needful. Indeed one of these, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline had already been the site of multiple arrests at Burnaby Mountain. This is again a catastrophic failure to convey information to the general public, information he is not remiss about. As for the “Canada First Nations” organization he said would be behind the protest but didn’t even bother to name, he himself had retweeted them, knew they were the Treaty Alliance (against the Tar Sands), but here he was not only evading their name but the fact that he knew they had a homepage. This prevented the general public from Googling both the Native center of the pipeline resistance and the prospective pipelines involved. This was particularly true with respects to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly approved less than one week before, so it just had hit the media fan, and both Canada’s environmental and indigenous movements were up in arms. But unless they were already this well informed about Canada, The Guardian’s readership were rendered incapable of putting 2 + 2 together thanks to McKibben. Talk about dropping the ball.

When Canada’s Prime Minister was asked whether he was willing to arrest tribal elders (which is sure to happen), Justin Trudeau’s reply was Canada was a nation under “the rule of law” (15:50). No one in the Liberal government would rebut “a pledge made [two days after Trudeau’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline] by federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to use Canada’s military to deal with ‘non-peaceful’ anti-pipeline protests” inveighing the government would willingly militarily enforce the Trans Mountain pipeline’s construction against Canada’s First Nations people for the sake of a foreign multinational, Kinder Morgan. (Trudeau’s father is the only Prime Minister to invoke the War Measures Act (basically martial law) outside war time, dubbed the “October Crisis”.)

Given the mass arrests to prevent the logging of virgin coastal temperate rainforest that occurred on the BC coast in the past (namely Clayoquot Sound, the largest civil disobedience action mass arrest site in Canadian history at well over 800 people, -at a site that was pretty inaccessibly remote, yet managed to become a standing camp of over 5000 people, which is really saying something for a nation with a similar population size to California, where the vast majority of those arrested under what were arbitrarily made criminal charges were BC residents), -given the way the people of BC are willing to put themselves on the line for the environment, resistance to the Trans Mountain on the west coast in Canada’s third largest urban center could end up making Standing Rock look small. It may also well prove the biggest challenge the Treaty Alliance has to face. Bill McKibben found neither worth mentioning by name.

McKibben’s gloss over article in The Guardian also meant no one knew how unprecedented the Treaty Alliance is, and was deliberately misleading as to the fact that it is a bi-national alliance that has since expanded to include over 120 Native tribes in both the US and Canada, -not to mention that they all co-signed a Treaty to do it. It has the strength of an actual Treaty between this number of tribes. In all probability McKibben was averse to making any reference to a movement that wasn’t just against a pipeline here or a pipeline there, but had been co-signed to curtail any and all tar sands development, which is again aversion on Bill McKibben’s part to any climate resistance action that’s really real. And again, he avoided framing the confrontation in terms of the real opposition (namely the investors) completely by framing the opposition solely in terms of Trump.

Getting the general public to participate on effectively stopping the DAPL was worth one tweet;  the Women’s March was worth over ten times as much to Bill McKibben. He couldn’t even issue a statement as to what the implication of finally obtaining the EIS declaration of intention meant and what you as a citizen could now do to legally oppose the DAPL. That pivotal discussion was left to YES Magazine.

-I think we’re done now. Let’s finish roasting Bono. Where the eye gazes, it burns; fire is all it sees.

Let’s start with one of RED’s seminal partners (that’s a cool $10 million from them right there ) – Bank of America. Bank of America is indelibly imprinted with the slogan “Too Crooked to Fail”. $10 million seems incredibly generous. $8 million of this was a grant outright, and $2 million was a match fund that would depend on how many people chose to download U2’s “Invisible” song for free in the first 24 hours it launched. (Someone b****-slapped @BofA on twitter about how there should be no $2 million funding cap on this drive; they removed the cap and the result was they ended up matching the drive based on total downloads for a cool $3.1 Mil.)

When you realize that this was launched for the Superbowl and a Superbowl slot would have cost them $4 million for a 30 second commercial slot, and U2 gave them a 4 plus minute slot launched during the Superbowl of impeccable marketing with their name on it for the cause of saving lives, surely, given their patronage was about the equivalent of purchasing papal indulgences in real lives, -surely it was the least they could have done! At that point it just becomes good marketing for Bank of America, which God knows they needed at that moment, after all, this is what they’d done to America. Nor were they going to pay for it, at least not to those they really hurt. Millions of American homeowners got shafted.

The point was, this settlement had just been announced for Bank of America in January. The philanthrowash could not have proven more timely. And compared to how they’d screwed over mortgage securities and compared to the fines levied on them for their crimes, the image makeover RED provided was practically nothing. The settlement for the millions of homeowners they’d destroyed was still in process, and God knows they needed to look charitable before that one came down the pipes. At the going rate, had they purchased the best PR money could buy in the attempt to redress their image on Superbowl Sunday, RED probably cost them less. This is not to impinge on RED’s good deed. Rather it’s pointing out just how little of a good deed it is for a very bad corporation.

This Christmas Season Bank of America helped paint New York Times Square REDtm. This year, Bank of America are subject to the boycott campaign to divest of the banks loaning credit for the Dakota Access Pipeline. They’re in for $350 million.

-It so happens if you look at the list of the seven largest tax evaders in Europe, four of these appear on RED’s corporate partner list in this 2009 article. And that’s not looking into the matter with any scrutiny. One of them likes stripping the Boreal to the tune of 4 billion disposable paper cups annually (as if that’s “normal”).

Yet even Bono managed to outdo himself, by getting named Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” precisely for becoming this sort of paragon of “consumer activism”.

bono-glamour-2

He literally hijacked feminism and made it #brandfeminism, -merely an adjunct to the philanthrowash of his billionaire benefactors and a philanthrowash the Dakota Access Pipeline, and all of #NoDAPL’s brutality, against womenLots of WomenLots and lots of them. We stand with Sophia.  We stand with the women of Standing Rock.

While all these women were being brutalized and Bono was simultaneously receiving his “Woman of the Year” award for successfully performing the philanthrowash of those whose investment was being enforced by this brutality, the whole U2 band put themselves forward as a contest reward where you could meet them this year’s Shopathon, funding matched by Dakota Access Pipeline investor Gates Foundation. Post holiday binge and post Trump, The Edge made a point of performing at the #WomensMarch with Julliette Lewis (who played Mallory in “Natural Born Killers”). It’s like the hijacking of authenticity and resistance is never going to stop. Julliette Lewis sang “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which no doubt under the existing cirumstances would have been enough to have MLK rolling in his grave.

I wanted to double over and vomit. I wanted to double over and vomit when Lac-Megantic burned alive; I was writing this essay before that happened. Bono’s succeeded in insuring the feeling’s never left.

On January 27th, 2017, it was announced that Gates Foundation declared an intention to “Sell Almost $10 Billion Worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares” (intention does not necessarily mean they will follow through). Wow. Now you know I was right on my numbers, Gr. 5 maths. In fact it appears they’ve been divesting steadily as of September (that’s the latest available update period in share transactions on this page, and the above announcement chronicles the same thing happening as of November). It was even going on as far back as March.

Someone must’ve said ‘Boo’.

“The Gates Foundation has a history of responding to public pressure, while simultaneously not admitting they are responding to public pressure.”

A little late, mate. I think the fact it happened at all means a bill is still due.

So’s RED’s page has no announcement of the winners of this latest and greatest Gates Foundation matched Shopathon shizzle (they’ve probably done it by e-mail). The winners were supposed to be informed on Friday, January 27th. Those winners won’t ever even know what they were actually participating in.

How sexy am I now?” (Since I have a twee bit more identity with this plot line, than U2.)

Your Postscript: Can you even imagine what you’re never going to know now that Bono’s billionaire benefactor also gets to curate Facebook for #fakenews? Bow. Wow.

Canada’s Postscript: An interview with the inventor of human ecological footprint calculus, Bill Rees, provides more proof that economists aren’t engaged in anything akin to reality when discussing carrying capacity. At Bill’s first presentation of his application, an economist gave him this rebuttal:

“’Look, economists have long ago resolved this issue. Carrying capacity has no meaning, whatsoever, because, after all, we can trade. Almost any area, like the lower mainland here has certain resources in surplus. And, if there is anything in short supply then we just sell off what we have in surplus in exchange for what we need, such as food, and thereby we can overcome any local limits to the carrying capacity of the area. And if trade doesn’t work, then there is technology.’ In fact, it’s almost a doctrinaire position in modern economics, that human ingenuity is capable of substituting for almost any good or service provided by nature.”

-Food was and is what BC is in shortage of; 70% of BC’s produce comes from [drought stricken] California. -And here we are about to sink 30 000 acres of prime agricultural land for the Site C dam(capable of feeding at least 1 million people) for electrical power BC residents don’t even need. It’s been asserted the excess power is for export to California. Its immediate use will be for corporations to frack with. It’s other use (potential and logical, given the total illogic of its construction) is so we’ll be perfectly situated for water export in cooperation with NAFTA conditions, -to drought stricken California. Rather than achieving self sufficiency on our own land (by watering agriculture with the river in its very own fertile valley), we’re going to drown the land, just in order to pollute the living f*** out of BC’s North for foreign multinationals to frack, and we’re going to basically rape BC residents’ utility bills and tax rates to do so, just to export the water so California can sell the produce back to us at extortionate prices that will also be accounting for the cost of shipment or our water. Yes, neoliberal Trudeau vetted that one too. Of course, this is what happens to Canada’s third largest public utility (this becomes their notion of sound business) -after they’ve already been privatized and partititioned out to an American consulting firm that only just managed to distance itself from Enron’s carcass. Tallk about poisonous exports maligning Beautiful British Columbia. They’ve succeded in not only destroying our public utility, but using it to destroy the province itself.

-And I’m supposed to be thrilled I’m part of the human race. With corporate globalization structured like this, who needs enemies?

 

[Pamela Williams is the author of The Raydiant Labyrinth, which covers over twenty years of music lyrics (including U2’s) in the interest of delineating a transcendent concept that implies transcendent consciousness, inadvertently participated in by a host of alternative graduated to mainstream artists. U2 was arguably the first. She does not appreciate that their topical nature in her research obliged her attention anymore.  She can be contacted at the book’s website, www.theraydiantlabyrinth.com and exists on twitter as @raysondetre.]

The Age of Humanism is Ending

Mail Guardian Africa

December 22, 2016

killing-earth

There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016.

Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth.

In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws.

Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.

Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions.

The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right.

With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.

None of the above is accidental. If anything, it is a symptom of structural shifts, which will become ever more apparent as the new century unfolds. The world as we knew it since the end of World War II, the long years of decolonisation, the Cold War and the defeat of communism has ended.

Another long and deadlier game has started. The main clash of the first half of the 21st century will not oppose religions or civilisations. It will oppose liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism, the rule of finance and the rule of the people, humanism and nihilism.

Capitalism and liberal democracy triumphed over fascism in 1945 and over communism in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the advent of globalisation, their fates were disentangled. The widening bifurcation of demo-cracy and capital is the new threat to civilisation.

Abetted by technological and military might, finance capital has achieved its hegemony over the world by annexing the core of human desires and, in the process, by turning itself into the first global secular theology. Fusing the attributes of a technology and a religion, it relied on uncontested dogmas modern forms of capitalism had reluctantly shared with democracy since the post-war period — individual liberty, market competition and the rule of the commodity and of property, the cult of science, technology and reason.

Each of these articles of faith is under threat. At its core, liberal democracy is not compatible with the inner logic of finance capitalism. The clash between these two ideas and principles is likely to be the most signifying event of the first half of a 21st-century political landscape — a landscape shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect.

In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth.

As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic.

Instead of people with body, history and flesh, statistical inferences will be all that count. Statistics and other big data will mostly be derived from computation.

As a result of the conflation of knowledge, technology and markets, contempt will be extended to anyone who has nothing to sell.

The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer.

Already in the making, a new kind of human will triumph.  This will not be the liberal individual who, not so long ago, we believed could be the subject of democracy. The new human being will be constituted through and within digital technologies and computational media.

The computational age — the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — is dominated by the idea that there are clean slates in the unconscious. New media forms have not only lifted the lid previous cultural eras had put on the unconscious. They have become the new infrastructures of the unconscious.

Yesterday, human sociality consisted of keeping tabs on the unconscious. For the social to thrive meant exercising vigilance on ourselves, or delegating to specific authorities the right to enforce such vigilance.

This was called repression.

Repression’s main function was to set the conditions for sublimation. Not all desires could be fulfilled. Not everything could be said or enacted. The capacity to limit oneself was the essence of one’s freedom and the freedom of all.

Partly thanks to new media forms and the post-repressive era it has unleashed, the unconscious can now roam free. Sublimation is no longer necessary.

Language has been dislocated. The content is in the form and the form is beyond, or in excess of, the content.

We are now led to believe that mediation is no longer necessary.

This explains the growing anti-humanist stance that now goes hand in hand with a general contempt for democracy.  Calling this phase of our history fascist might be misleading unless by fascism we mean the normalisation of a social state of warfare.

Such a state would in itself be a paradox because, if anything, warfare leads to the dissolution of the social. And yet under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, politics will become a barely sublimated warfare. This will be a class warfare that denies its very nature — a war against the poor, a race war against minorities, a gender war against women, a religious war against Muslims, a war against the disabled.

Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat.

They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become.

In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities.

In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment.

Under such conditions, the future of progressive and future-oriented mass politics of the left is very uncertain.

In a world set on objectifying everybody and every living thing in the name of profit, the erasure of the political by capital is the real threat. The transformation of the political into business raises the risk of the elimination of the very possibility of politics.

Whether civilisation can give rise at all to any form of political life is the problem of the 21st century.

 

 

[Achille Mbembe is based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research. His new book, The Politics of Enmity, will be published by Duke University Press in 2017.]

Nature is Being Renamed ‘Natural Capital’ – But is it Really the Planet that Will Profit?

The Conversation

September 13, 2016

by Sian Sullivan

 

China’s Jiangxi mountains: now just an asset? Shutterstock

The four-yearly World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has just taken place in Hawai’i. The congress is the largest global meeting on nature’s conservation. This year a controversial motion was debated regarding incorporating the language and mechanisms of “natural capital” into IUCN policy.

But what is “natural capital”? And why use it to refer to “nature”?

Motion 63 on “Natural Capital”, adopted at the congress, proposes the development of a “natural capital charter” as a framework “for the application of natural capital approaches and mechanisms”. In “noting that concepts and language of natural capital are becoming widespread within conservation circles and IUCN”, the motion reflects IUCN’s adoption of “a substantial policy position” on natural capital. Eleven programmed sessions scheduled for the congress included “natural capital” in the title. Many are associated with the recent launch of the global Natural Capital Protocol, which brings together business leaders to create a world where business both enhances and conserves nature.

At least one congress session discussed possible “unforeseen impacts of natural capital on broader issues of equitability, ethics, values, rights and social justice”. This draws on widespreadconcerns around the metaphor that nature-is-as-capital-is. Critics worry about the emphasis on economic, as opposed to ecological, language and models, and a corresponding marginalisation of non-economic values that elicit care for the natural world.

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Naming nature … but at what cost? Shutterstock

Naturalising ‘natural capital’

The use of “natural capital” as a noun is becoming increasingly normalised in environmental governance. Recent natural capital initiatives include the World Forum on Natural Capital, described as “the world’s leading natural capital event”, the Natural Capital Declaration, which commits the financial sector to mainstreaming “natural capital considerations” into all financial products and services, and the Natural Capital Financing Facility, a financial instrument of the European Investment Bank and the European Commission that aims “to prove to the market and to potential investors the attractiveness of biodiversity and climate adaptation operations in order to promote sustainable investments from the private sector”.

All these initiatives share the UK Natural Capital Committee’s view that “natural capital” consists of “our natural assets including forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans”. People used to talk about “nature” or “the natural environment” – now they speak of “natural capital”.

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Growing profits. Shutterstock

So what does the word “capital” do to “nature” when they are linked? And should nature be seen in terms of capital at all? One controversial aspect, backed by IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme, is receiving particular attention. This is the possibility of securing debt-based conservation finance from major institutions and the super-super-rich based on the value of income generated from so-called natural capital assets conserved in situ.

Capitalising natures

At the IUCN’s conservation congress a Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation was launched. Led by financial services company Credit Suisse, and backed by the IUCN and the World Wide Fund for Nature, the coalition builds on a series of recent reports proposing capitalising conservation in exactly this way.

In 2016, and following a 2014 report, Credit Suisse and collaborators published two documents outlining proposals for debt-based, return-seeking conservation finance. The most recent is called Levering Ecosystems: A Business-focused Perspective on how Debt Supports Investment in Ecosystem Services. In this, the CEO of Credit Suisse states that not only is saving ecosystems affordable, but it is also profitable, if turned “into an asset treasured by the mainstream investment market”.

The report proposes a number of mechanisms whereby “businesses can utilise debt as a tool to restore, rehabilitate, and conserve the environment while creating financial value”. The idea is that as “environmental footprints move closer to being recognised as assets and liabilities by companies, debt can be used to fund specific investments in ecosystems that lead to net-positive financial outcomes”. Debt-based financing – for example, through tradeable securities such as bonds – is framed as attractive in part because interest received by investors is “usually tax-deductible”.

The Levering Ecosystems report followed quickly from Conservation Finance: From Niche to Mainstream, steered by a small group including the director of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme. This report estimated the investment potential for conservation finance to be roughly US$200-400 billion by 2020.

Of course, investors loaning finance to projects associated with conservation also expect market-rate returns to compensate for investments considered to conserve, restore or rehabilitate ecosystems.

In the documents above, financial returns are projected as coming in part from new markets in payments for ecosystem services and sales of carbon credits. These new markets will supply the potentially monetisable “dividends” of conserved and restored habitats as “standing natural capitals”. Investor risk is proposed to be reduced through mobilising these assets, as well as the “land or usage rights” from which they derive, as underlying collateral.

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Two redrawn graphs representing the design of debt-based conservation finance, as per Credit Suisse reports in 2014 and 2016.

The graphs above present two schematic diagrams redrawn from the Credit Suisse texts to indicate how these flows of financial value may be leveraged from areas capitalised as investable natural capital. The models are based in part on expectations that recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change support for international carbon compensation mechanisms will release new long-term sources of public funding to “balance anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases”, thereby boosting possibilities for financial flows from forest carbon.

Such financialising moves, nascent and clunky as they are, may yet have significant implications if applied to countries in the global south with remaining high levels of “standing natural capital”. Caution is needed regarding the possibility that forest-rich but least developed countries may become indebted to ultra high-net-worth investors who access returns on their investments from new income streams arising from conserved tropical natures in these countries.

What’s in a name?

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Pandas: sending a powerful message. Shutterstock

In 1986, the central secretariat of the WWF decided to change the name of the organisation from the World Wildlife Fund to the World Wide Fund for Nature. The thinking was that an emphasis on “wildlife”, borne of a concern for endangered species, no longer reflected the organisation’s scope of work for the conservation of the diversity of life on earth. It was considered that overall the organisation would be better served by the term “nature”. In other words, it seems that naming and framing “nature” matters.

Given the conversations and debates at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, it seems important to ask: how exactly does the conservation of natural capital equate with the conservation of nature? Do these terms in fact invoke different things? If they do, then it is worth clarifying whether the conservation of natural capital is always good for the conservation of nature. If they don’t, then it remains worth querying why exactly “nature” needs to be renamed as “natural capital”.

 

 

[Sian Sullivan is Professor of Environment and Culture, Bath Spa University.]

Ecosystem Services for Whom?

A New Nature Blog

November 25, 2017

Darcey, Wanstead Park bluebellsEcosystem Services – the idea that we benefit from goods and services provided for free by nature. To be frank, the phrase is ugly. It’s ugly language to use to describe so much beauty – Nature; the bringer of joy, spirituality, reflection, contemplation, solace, inspiration.

Nature, the wellspring of human creativity, degraded to a service provider – like just another G4S or Carillion.

Language is vital. The words we use to describe things and processes constrain our thinking about the world – this is the main message of research on values and frames.

As it is with Natural Capital, so it shall be with Ecosystem Services.

Ecosystem Services is also a lie. The notion of a service provided conjures in our mind the idea that it is an economic transaction, just like going to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk (see how I framed that example?). But of course it is not a transaction, it is an extraction of resources, of goods, where nature has no choice about whether to provide the service or not. When we look at farm animals providing us with meat, do we call them service providers?

If a human takes a “service” from another human without permission, without payment, there are whole set of words to describe that relationship, none of them are pretty. So let’s avoid being too emotive about it and call it Ecosystem Servitude. A stronger, but equally appropriate word would be Ecosystem Slavery.

In a recent article, which I commented on this Monday, leading Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm described the idea that nature has intrinsic value as “harmless or dangerous”. To start with Helm displays his contempt for the notion of intrinsic value by misdefining it (perhaps through ignorance perhaps for effect). He suggests that intrinsic value means nature provides people with pleasure! What it is to see the world through such a utilitarian frame.

No, nature provides people with pleasure and this is a hugely important benefit for people, but it does not mean that therefore nature has intrinsic value. It may lead people to believe nature has intrinsic value, but that is a different thing. Anyway Helm regards whatever people believe or feel about nature as “harmless”, which is kind of him.

He goes on to suggest that it is dangerous for people to think nature has some kind of value in and of itself “that nature has value independent of people.” “to claim that there is value without us opens up the possibility that the world might be better off without us.”

Heaven forfend!

Does Helm seriously believe the world was put here for our benefit? Is Helm a christian of that ilk? Note how similar the language is to uber-neolibertarian Andrew Lilico, about whom I wrote yesterday.

I put to you a thought experiment. Take your average nature reserve and consider what “services” it provides, to dogs. (or look at a specific example here)

  • A place to run around
  •  Do a wee and a poo
  •  Chase birds and rabbits (if they’re lucky, even a beaver!)
  •  Follow scent trails
  •  Dig a hole
  •  Social interactions with other dogs

 

There are also incidental benefits for owners.

If an alien arrived from a distant galaxy and landed near a nature reserve in lowland England, taking up an unobserved position to do a spot of nature-watching, what would they conclude? They would see an awful lot of people being led by their dogs to this place, where the dogs would have a great time. They would conclude that these places had been purposefully created to provide benefits for the dogs, wouldn’t they?

Nature Reserves provide ecosystem services for dogs.

Now consider ecosystem services for bees.

Taxpayers pay farmers through agri-environment schemes, to grow flowers (pollinators mixes) instead of food crops. So we are paying farmers to provide ecosystem services, in the form of nectar pollen and places for them to build nests, to bees. Unfortunately, we are also paying farmers to use bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides on the adjacent crops, which via the soil, inevitably find their way into the flowers, killing the bees, or at least poisoning them.

Clearly we have not thought through this particular provision of ecosystem services for bees.

Add together the services for dogs, for bees and for every other living thing on the planet. This is one way of looking at the intrinsic value of nature. Perhaps Prof Helm could explain exactly why that is a dangerous concept. Perhaps it’s dangerous because it challenges the neoliberal frame which Prof Helm and his Natural Capital devotees wish the rest of us to adopt.

 

[Miles King has worked on British nature conservation for nearly 30 years. He has led conservation work at Plantlife and the Grasslands Trust as well as stints with English Nature, Dorset AONB and as a freelance conservation consultant. He writes about nature, society and politics at www.anewnatureblog.wordpress.com. In 2015 he is starting a new charity called People Need Nature, focussing on the importance of nature to people as a source of inspiration, joy, solace and contemplation.]