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Forget Oscar: Give The White Helmets the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Best War Propaganda Film

21st Century Wire

March 2, 2017

by Patrick Henningson

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This has to be historic low for Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In your average lifetime, everyone will get their share of war propaganda films. In America, it’s a kind of sacred tradition, where Hollywood does the job of revisionism, paving over an otherwise uncomfortable history with a new coat of stain. It’s necessary – not just to make us feel better about ourselves, but also to cover-up any inconvenient truths and high crimes of the state.

To be honest, when I first heard about this film being promoted by Netflix, I wasn’t surprised at all because ever since the Syria conflict began in 2011, the establishment media has gone out of its way to falsely promote it as a “civil war”, and have used the NGO known as the White Helmets which calls itself the ‘Syria Civil Defense’, as its primary media protagonist in furthering that narrative.

The fact that a documentary about The White Helmets received an Oscar Award simply confirms what a glorious bubble the entertainment industry resides in, and how easy it is these days for a documentary film to used for the purposes of propaganda and made to reinforce a mainly US-UK foreign policy project.

To Hollywood, it’s a feel good documentary, designed to make us feel good about a dirty war in Syria. But this is a level of distortion and spin that would make even Joseph Goebbels’ head spin.

In his essay published at Global Research, Dr. T.P. Wilkinson explains the liberal obsession with cosmetic revisionism:

“The “wrong war” thesis is elemental to what Carroll Quigley called “liberal imperialism” in his history of the Anglo-American establishment.[2] Liberal imperialists, to which the faux gauche (the descendants of Fabianism) also belong, do not oppose empire. They simply want it to be more aesthetically appealing, and lost wars are most un-aesthetic. So what is the liberal imperialist’s answer to unappetizing military defeats? It is cosmetic surgery.”

Expensive war propaganda in Hollywood is nothing new. High profile films like Zero Dark ThirtyAmerican Sniper and Argo were all released to much fanfare. Each of them fulfilled a role in forming a more perfect American narrative, and in some cases completely rewrote history altogether. But these were meant to be theatrical releases so naturally there’s a generous dose of artistic license taken by the director. Nothing unusual there. It’s what Hollywood does. These films also had some distance between the present day and wars which had already lapsed.

A veneer of integrity is always important. Hollywood still purports to put a lot of currency in the truth. During this year’s Oscars, The New York Times ran a TV ad (above) for the first time since 2010 entitled, “The truth is. . .”

 

This campaign is meant to decry fake news and its ugly cousin ‘alternative facts’ to show what high standards the mainstream media has – which demonstrates the delusional world the in which the establishment exists.  Earlier this month, I wrote an exposé showing exactly how the New York Times has been America’s perennial leader in running fake news for the purposes of advancing a war agenda. It’s ironic that this advertisement would run on a night when an Oscar would be given to one of the most egregious propaganda films of all time.Last Sunday night, The White Helmets, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, took home an Academy Award for best documentary short. Unlike Argo, or American Sniper, this was a film about a war which is happening now, but this was not a conventional documentary film. The footage was provided by a terrorist-affiliated NGO based in Turkey, operating in Syria, and who is primarily funded by the US State Dept, the British Foreign Office, the Netherlands, and other NATO member and Gulf states to the tune of over $150 million and whose chief remit is producing US-led Coalition propaganda images for mass media consumption. The film, funded and distributed by Netflix, seems to be an extension of that remit.

Watch the film’s trailer here.

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Normally we think of documentaries as films that are supposed to speak truth to power, but this film does the opposite. It reinforces an Anglo-American establishment power structure responsible for one of the most violent, dirty wars in modern history. It reinforces a collection of lies placed on heavy rotation by the political and media establishments since the conflict began.

In every way, Syria is the wrong war. For the US and the UK, there’s much at stake – the legacies of two paradigmatic political figures, Barack Obama and David Cameron, along with the reputations of other architects of the west’s dirty war on Syria, like former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and British Foreign Minister William Hague. Back when the war was getting started, both Clinton and Hague were busy front-running their “Friends of Syria” whistle stop tour around the Middle East and Europe, securing Gulf cash commitments while grooming their hand-picked ‘opposition’ government in exile, holding court in various 5 star hotels in Paris, London and Istanbul. The US had tried this only a year earlier with Libya, and at the time in 2011-2012, they had every reason to believe that the Libyan formula could be repeated in Syria. Those hopes were dashed by early 2013, when it became apparent that Libya was officially a failed state. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of extremist foreign fighters and jihadi soldiers of fortune began pouring into Syria. It was an invasion. This was the West’s proxy army, ready to decapitate the government, dismember the state and destabilize the region – with the full blessing of Washington DC and its partners.

The Troika of Washington-London-Paris then doubled down by pouring billions of dollars in lethal weapons to various fighting groups laying in waiting in Turkey and Jordan, as well as those already active in Syria. There were a number of well-documented arrangements, but one of the most successful working models was for the CIA and its European NATO partners illegally supplying the weapons funnelled through Jordan and Turkey – and all paid for by Saudi, Qatari cash. All the while, the public were told by the US-led Coalition all of this was for the “moderate rebels” in Syria. These were meant to be the “freedom fighters” that Ronald Reagan referred to back in the 1980’s. As it turned out, these freedom fighters in Syria were a chip of the old block from the violent, psychopathic US-backed and CIA-trained paramilitary death squads which would wreak havoc and terrorise El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras. In Syria, they are much worse in fact, as they employed  a potent brand of warped, radical Salafi and Wahabist religious fervour as the central axis of their self-styled, Medieval nihilistic raison d’etre. Yes, these are the moderates, backed by the US, UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, every other NATO member state, and of course, Israel, who has skill fully stayed out of the media firing line. It’s a collective project. Their mission: ‘regime change’ in Syria – to overthrow by force – the government in Damascus.

As dirty wars go, none is more filthy than this one. As the US and the UK are running point on public relations for this criminal enterprise, their big challenge has been selling it to their electorates. In order to justify the dirty war, a narrative has to be constructed and maintained. This requires a relentless negative public relations campaign demonizating the Syrian government and all of its agencies. The following talking points are therefore reinforced:

  1. Syria’s peaceful ‘Arab Spring’ uprising happened in 2011, and was violently squashed by the government.
  2. Assad is a brutal dictator, and is illegitimate.
  3. The Syrian government and its armed forces are deliberately killing their own people.
  4. The US-NATO and Gulf-backed armed ‘rebel’ opposition is legitimate.
  5. Syrian and Russian Airforce are only killing civilians, and not militant and terrorists.
  6. Terrorists do not exist in Syria, only “moderate rebels” and Syrians ‘fighting for freedom’.
  7. Therefore, Assad must be removed from power and replaced with a US-approved government.

Add to this, the entrance of Russia in the fall of 2015 at the lawful invitation of Damascus, and Russia can now be added to the demonization campaign.

These talking points are then repeated and recycled, over and over, and held up as justification for US-led, crippling economic and diplomatic sanction against the Syrian state, and the destructive policy of flooding the region with arms. In the summer of 2014, an added bonus for the US was inserted into the mix – the emergence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham). The appearance of ISIS allowed the US to fly air sorties over Syria, allegedly to fight ISIS, although after 3 years the US has produced little if any verifiable progress in ‘defeating’ ISIS. In truth, the US had hoped that ISIS, along with the other al Qaeda affiliates, would somehow do the job of destabilizing Syria and overthrowing the government of President Bashar al Assad in Damascus. Meanwhile, on-script western media operatives and politicians alike still referred to them as “rebels” and “armed opposition” – violent radical terrorist groups like Jabbat al Nusra (Nusra Front), Arar al Sham, Nour al-Din al-Zinki, Jaish al-Fatah (The Army of Conquest), along with some radical remnants of John McCain’s ‘Free Syrian Army’. This was all part of the public relations con.

But that wasn’t enough. Washington and London needed a face for the evening news. They needed to personalize the conflict in order to help maintain the illusion of a “civil war” in Syria. This is where the White Helmets come in. A merry band of men, comprised of “ordinary citizens, from bakers to teachers to painters,” all donning the White Helmets to save humanity in this moment of turmoil. Raed Saleh, the group’s spokesman says his organization is guided by a verse in the Qu’ran: “To save one life is to save all of humanity.” No doubt a beautiful line, but like so many aspects of the White Helmets – it’s been applied cosmetically. Who would dare be so insensitive as to challenge such a perfect story? For war planners in Washington and London, the White Helmets provided the PR cushion they needed to help sell a filthy proxy war to western audiences. By creating and managing their own ‘first responder’ NGO, the US, UK and its stakeholder partners have been able to leverage public sympathies – enough to keep the project going, until the war was either won or lost, or until someone caught on to the scam.

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In his article in Counterpunch back in April 2015, Rick Sterling summarized the White Helmet roll-out and basic agenda:

“In reality the White Helmets is a project created by the UK and USA. Training of civilians in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier. Promotion of the program is done by “The Syria Campaign” supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets is clearly a public relations project which has received glowing publicity from HuffPo to Nicholas Kristof at the NYT. White Helmets have been heavily promoted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (U.S.IP) whose leader began the press conference by declaring “U.S.IP has been working for the Syrian Revolution from the beginning.”

For the last 3 years, the White Helmets have existed for the singular purpose of producing thousands of propaganda segments – videos and images which reinforce the US-led foreign policy narrative for Syria. The brutal dictator Assad using his airforce against his own people, along with his evil Russian partners. Both are callously snuffing-out the fledging and therefore, the White Helmets’ primary financiers – the US State Dept (via USAID), the British Foreign Office, The Netherlands, along with other EU member states and Qatar. Since at least 2011, each of these nation stakeholders has had a vested interest in overthrowing the Syrian government and destabilizing Syria. In 2014, a number of independent researchers in the west began to catch the White Helmets’ unmistakable stench of dupery. Cory Morningstar’s article, “SYRIA: AVAAZ, PURPOSE & THE ART OF SELLING HATE FOR EMPIRE” (April 2014), and Rick Sterling’s piece for Counterpunch, “About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria,” and also the work of researcher Petri Krohn’s notable wiki site ‘A Closer Look at Syria‘ – first cracked the facade. They were followed by extensive investigations by Vanessa Beeley who has since produced a formidable volume of research and analysis on the White Helmets and other similar NGO projects, all of which are readily available on 21st Century Wire.

Any researcher working on a White Helmets documentary would have had access to all of this information, through a simple key word search.

Interestingly, mainstream media defenders of the White Helmets such as Michael Weiss, a senior fellow at NATO’s own propaganda think tank the Atlantic Council, as well as editor at the dubious Daily Beast, claim that criticism of the White Helmets is a Russian plot organized by Putin himself. Weiss’ conspiracy theory is expected considering his employer’s affiliation, but such typical hyperbolic accusations belie the fact that the first individuals to expose this pseudo NGO are not Russian, but rather independent writers and researchers from the US, Canada and Great Britain and why not – because it’s their tax dollars that is funding the White Helmets. It’s also worth noting that in December 2016 when the Nusra terrorist hold over East Aleppo was collapsing, it was Michael Weiss who is responsible for circulating bogus reports, including that women in East Aleppo were committing ‘mass suicide’ to avoid ‘mass rape’ by Assad’s soldiers. “Seventy-nine of them were executed at the barricades. The rest — everyone under 40 — were taken to warehouses that look more like internment camps. They face an unknown fate,” he said. “This morning 20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.”

Weiss’ source for these sensational reports: terrorists in East Aleppo. This was just one of many fake news stories disseminated in the mainstream media. Weiss then went on to repeat the fabricated story to a global mainstream audience on CNN’s Don Lemon Show.

In reality, and according to countless first-hand on the ground eye witness testimonies collected by 21WIRE and other media outlets, as the Syrian Army began liberating East Aleppo, the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ promoted by Weiss and other western media operatives were using residents as human shields, and in some cases shooting residents who attempted to flee terrorist enclaves prior to government forces liberating the eastern half of the city.

With direct funding to the White Helmets from US-led Coalition countries already well in excess $150 million – international stakeholders expect a return on their investment. That return comes in the form of dramatic ‘search and rescue’ videos, some of which may have even been produced in Turkey, and which were then sent in  a highly coordinated fashion to the editorial desks of CNN, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and others. At no time have any of these western or GCC-based ‘journalists’ ever queried the authenticity of the staged video and photographic productions supplied by the White Helmets. Mainly, their videos have been produced to promote a No Fly Zone, or ‘Safe Zones’ in Syria by creating the false impression that somehow Syrian and Russian air forces are targeting civilians in a Blitzkrieg fashion, using crude “barrel bombs”. Outside of the White Helmets propaganda, there is scant evidence of these ‘barrel bombs’ supposedly dropped by the ‘Assad Regime’ every day according to the White Helmets.

In the run-up to the White Helmets’ failed Nobel Peace Prize bid in October, CNN even went so far as to plant a fake story about a barrel bomb hitting a “White Helmets Center” in Damascus. Increasing attention has also meant that some people are beginning to question the group’s incredible claim at the time that it had somehow saved 60,000 lives since it started in late 2013. In one letter first published at Canadian Dimension, retired academic John Ryan, PhD, a retired professor of geography and senior scholar at the University of Winnipeg, challenged this narrative, saying:

“It is the White Helmets themselves who have claimed that they have rescued 60,000 civilians; this has not been verified by any other source. Despite such a classic conflict of interest, searching for independent evidence and disqualifying self-serving claims from belligerent parties in Syria has been ignored in much of the western media. As such, this claim by the White Helmets without any verification is next to meaningless.”

Despite the questions, the group continued to raise this figure by about 10,000 every two months. They now claim to have “Saved over 82,000 lives” since they were formed in 2013. Where are the list of names, dates, times, locations and medical reports – so as to corroborate and cross-reference the casualties with the alleged Syrian and Russian airstrikes? What’s the problem – can’t $150 million buy a little bit of administration for the White Helmets? At no point have they ever been able to produce any data to back up there outlandish numbers claims – so we can only conclude that this claim, like so many other claims by the group, are fraudulent. But when has Hollywood ever let facts and data get in the way of a good war propaganda story?

In addition, the White Helmets claim that they have trained some 3,000 ‘volunteers’ throughout Syria, and yet their training facility is actually located in neighboring NATO member state Turkey, on the outskirts of the city of Gaziantep. This is the same Gaziantep that’s been described in reports as “the home to ISIS killers, sex traders…”

‘CIVIL DEFENSE’ FRAUD

Vanessa Beeley’s investigation eventually took her to Syria, where she was able to track down the REAL Syria Civil Defense organization. The US and UK creation of the “White Helmets” required that they steal the name “Syria Civil Defense” from a real existing civil defense group based in Syria. Unlike the fraudulent western construct, the REAL Syria Civil Defense was founded 63 years ago and is a registered member of the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO) based in Geneva. For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you dial “113” inside Syria. The White Helmets have no such number because they are not a real ‘search and rescue’ organization. Their whole existence is a fraudulent construct. Beeley spoke at length to the REAL Syria Civil Defense and what the crew told her was shocking. During the ‘rebel’ (terrorist) invasion in 2012 of East Aleppo, future members of the White Helmets arrived accompanied by armed terrorists to attack the real Syria Civil Defense headquarters. They stole equipment, killed and kidnapped real civil defense volunteers as part of their operation to loot and destroy the existing institution.

Real civil defense workers also detailed how terrorist ‘Hell Cannon‘ attacks had besieged the Old City of Aleppo, which lies right on the border with the Al Nusra front lines and was a regular target for the ‘rebels’ continuous indiscriminate attacks against residents. Resident testimonies have echoed the same story: while Hell Cannons terrorized the civilians of Aleppo, the White Helmets did nothing – probably because they were with the terrorists who were launching these attacks. Terrorist Hell Cannons use an assortment of containers – gas canisters, water heater tanks packed full of explosives, glass, metal and any other limb-shredding materials – these were fired indiscriminately into civilian neighborhoods throughout Aleppo. These crude artillery guns also just happen to have the exact destructive footprint as the alleged “barrel bombs” which the White Helmets and western media are repeatedly saying are being fired by the “The Regime” (Assad) against civilians.  If the White Helmets are to be believed, Assad’s Barrel Bombs have an impact the equivalent of 7.6 on the Richter scale. This outrageous claim was actually made by White Helmets founder James Le Mesurier on CNN. In fact, 7.6 on the Richter scale is the equivalent of a hydrogen bomb, we begin to get a picture of the scale of the lies which the western narrative has spinning and which they have come to reply on in order to prosecute this dirty war. Preserving this and other key pieces of fiction is central to the US, UK and George Soros funded public relations management of the White Helmets – and essential to their entire Syria narrative which has been described by American writer Rick Sterling as something akin to a “Feel Good Hoax.”

Forget about actual ‘search and rescue’. That’s not the primary function of this ‘NGO’. If you need to know one thing about the White Helmets it’s this: marketing. A central part of the marketing campaign is images of men with beards looking up at the sky – presumably waiting for the next barrel bomb, or the media’s favorite term – the “double tap” (apparently, this is when a sinister Assad or Putin pilot returns immediately after an airstrike just to have another crack at the White Helmets).

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ALWAYS LOOKING UP: ‘Waiting for the next barrel bomb.’

In most of their videos, you will also see a large number of bearded men in jeans and T-shirts just standing around on the sidelines, always watching the camera, or looking busy – as if they are cognisant that filming is taking place. When we showed some of these videos to real first responders we were normally met with shoulder shrugs and cynical laughs. People who actually work in this trade will tell you that filming on a first responder call is a luxury no worker really has – aside from maybe a GoPro helmet cam. It’s just not something anyone in their right mind would think about very much if there were really people in need of assistance – and yet, this is all the White Helmets do, all day, every day. They film and produce well-edited emotive videos. Another aspect real first responders will point out to us is that most of the time, the White Helmets often look like they don’t know what they are doing – indicating either a lack of training or experience – which seems to at least contradict their lofty claims of rescuing 82,000 people  in three and half years – certainly that would provide more experience for 2,900 ‘volunteers’ than any other search and rescue worker on the planet. In other words, the White Helmets mythology and pantomime is not very credible to any serious observer. But it seems to be good enough for a Netflix audience, and sadly, good enough for the Academy, too.

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AWARD-WINNER: “We got the shot! No need for any first aid spinal procedure here.”

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STAGED: Many of the White Helmets’ child ‘rescue’ images are simply ridiculous. 

The other mandatory feature in the White Helmets marketing imagery where men with beards are running to or from a scene, they’re always carrying children over their shoulder. Again, when we showed many of these images to actual rescue workers, we were met with puzzled looks. Firstly, why does 99% of the White Helmets marketing imagery only feature small children? Are there not any adults out of the “82,000 saved” to be rescued from the rubble? The White Helmets claim they were only operational in early 2014, so that’s an average of 75 persons per day, everyday. Considering the amount of people they claim to have trained, spread out over Syria, and where actual air sorties have been flown – it seems like a near mathematical impossibility. As the White Helmets provide no incident data for the alleged 82,00 persons saved, there is no way to validate there sensational narrative. Also, you will rarely, if ever see the $150 million British-trained rescue crew ever use a spinal injury backboard – opting instead to just yank the children by the arm and throw them over the shoulder. When we showed these images to real first-responder workers, they were deemed not credible. So it’s safe to conclude that the White Helmets only care about one thing: pictures and videos – wired via satellite to CNN, the New York Times, or the BBC’s news desk.

SMART POWER & THE NGO COMPLEX

Still, despite the group’s obvious links to the US and UK governments, and to known extremists and terrorists – the western media continues to entertain this NGO as if it were a legitimate ‘Civil Defense’ organization. The pseudo NGO strategy is part of an over-arching western strategy which is related to the term Smart Power (following on from Soft Power) where western governments create shadow state organizations designed to co-opt and ultimately usurp actual state agencies – in effect weakening the real civil body by replacing it with a fake version of the original.

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DECEPTION: Early on, the White Helmets used images of women in order to market crowdfunding campaigns to gullible western audiences. 

In the calculus of war planners in the US, UK and France, even if they were unsuccessful in toppling the Assad government in Damascus, these fake NGOs would still be operation in “rebel” areas in the hopes that they might be viewed as legitimate civil organizations and would then replace the real ones.

After 5 years, the US or European authorities could then cite these organizations as legitimate deliverers of public service, thus giving western governments a much-needed foothold in governerates inside the target nation, in this case, Syria. Similar projects have been undertaken to replace municipal police forces with the “Free Syrian Police“, as well as western and GCC-sponsored projects in terrorist-held Idlib to create uniformed civil cleaning staff, and so on. Why doesn’t Netflix make a documentary exposing that? If they did, that would be real filmmaking; instead what we get is more public relations promotion for a failed Western foreign policy.

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LA LA LAND: White Helmet filmmakers Joanna Natasegara and Orlando Von Einsiedel basking in the glory of a job well done. 

By now, it should be obvious how this propaganda cycle has been functioning, although apparently, not obvious enough for Netflix’s award-winning filmmakers Joanna Natasegara and Orlando Von Einsiedel. The fact that their beloved White Helmets stole their name from an existing, legitimate and internationally recognized first-responder agency show be cause for alarm. For any journalist researching the White Helmets, you would think the first port of call would be to speak to the official certified civil defense body. This is what 21WIRE and Beeley did. Why didn’t Natasegara and Von Einsiedel bother to check this obvious line of inquiry? The fact they didn’t might be proof that the intention on their film was not to make a legitimate documentary, but rather to glorify to US-led narrative of the ‘moderate opposition’. By definition, Natasegara and Von Einsiedel’s work cannot rightly be called journalistic but propagandist. By promoting a pseudo ‘NGO’ funded by western government, and by giving succor to extremists, their film is directed against the Syrian people – which exactly characterizes the US and UK foreign policy in Syria since 2011.

If Natasegara and Von Einsiedel deserve any reward today it should really be the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Best Propaganda Film.

But even Nazi war propaganda filmmaker Riefenstahl could hardly image propaganda on this scale – a third sector NGO and integrated media arm,  attached to dozens of governments, paramilitary military units, intelligence agencies, hundreds of corporate media outlets, and with a multi-million dollar crowd-funding facility. If nothing else, the White Helmets operation is impressive in its scope. It’s the west’s template for building a Shadow State in target nations. If it’s successful in Syria, this formula will be recreated in other marginal hot zones around the globe. That’s why the White Helmets are being guarded so closely by the western establishment.

DOUBTS OVER AUTHENTICITY

Boston Globe columnist Stephen Kizner was one of many journalists who expressed disappointment over the Academy’s selection:

There is also the problem of obvious staging in many of the White Helmets’ supposed video rescues. The following is perhaps one of the most ridiculous. As with so many of their videos, the editing is highly misleading. In the following “Rag Doll” clip, we first see two separate views of the three men working on the rescue site – and then the edit suddenly cuts to the miraculous rescue of charming little 4 year old girl – supposedly emerging from under tons of concrete and rubble from a collapsed building. Miraculously, she is not crying and looks immaculate, while holding an equally clean rag doll. Then the edit cut jumps, and a little 3 year old boy suddenly appears from the exact same spot. Both children appear to have sustained no injuries, nor any visible cuts or bruises, and no dust. Not bad for being buried under tons of concrete, gravel and dust. Incredible, but par for the course in the completely improbable “first-responder” reality show that is the White Helmets.Watch:

After reviewing this video, it’s difficult to deny that it has all the hallmarks of a staged production piece, designed to tug at the hearts of a western public – conditioned to accept this ‘first responder’ narrative as sacrosanct, for fear of appearing callous in the face of this media-driven, multi-million dollar No Fly Zone’ public relations campaign. This is not the only fraudulent video released by the White Helmets, but even the existence of one fraudulent rescue video should be grounds to question all the group’s material.

Again, the whole purpose of these video and photos is to influence public opinion against the Syrian and Russian governments. Therefore the core mission of the White Helmets media campaign is influence western and Gulf audiences. Its objectives are as follows:

  1. To create public disfavour against the Syrian government.
  2. Maintain crippling western sanctions against Syria.
  3. Gain sympathy for jihad, recruit new fighters from Europe, GCC, Asia and other regions.
  4. Fabricate ‘evidence’ used to implicate the Syrian government and its allies in war crimes.
  5. Reinforce the narrative that Syrian and Russian Forces are deliberately targeting civilians,hospital and schools – and not terrorists.
  6. Blame Syria and Russia for war crimes (when in actuality, these crimes are committed by rebel-terrorists, White Helmets). 

SYRIAN CURVE BALLS

Back in 2003, one man was responsible for delivering the WMD lies that helped to fabricate the US and UK case for invading Iraq. His name was “Curveball”. His motives weren’t exactly straight forward: “My main purpose was to topple the tyrant in Iraq because the longer this dictator remains in power, the more the Iraqi people will suffer from this regime’s oppression.”

In Syria, the west have been constantly farming a series of curve balls – on call and ready to deliver whatever the US State Dept or the British Foreign Office need in order to grandstand in front of the UN Security Council or on the floor of Parliament.

The New York Times reported that during March and April on 2015, the White Helmets claimed that at least 20 ‘barrel bombs’ containing chlorine were dropped in six towns in northwestern Syria. It almost sounded as if the the US and UK were so desperate to establish Assad as crossing the Red Line, that they would go so far as to fabricate a case that chlorine bombs were used by “the regime”:

“Frustrated with the Security Council’s impasse over the issue, rescue workers and doctors are now working to bring evidence of chlorine gas attacks directly to the French, British and American governments for testing. The aim is to give states a solid basis for action against the attacks, in the Security Council or through quieter diplomatic pressure, said James Le Mesurier, the British director of a nonprofit group, Mayday Rescue, that trains and equips the White Helmets, Syrian volunteers supported by the British, Danish and Dutch governments.”

At the time, White Helmet founder Le Messerier was heavily involved in trying to fashion together a chemical weapons case against the Syrian government. In 2015. The NYT stated:

“Going directly to governments that have pushed for Mr. Assad’s ouster creates its own challenges. His allies may dismiss their evidence as politically tainted and can point to recent chlorine attacks in Iraq for which the government there blamed insurgents, not to mention the discredited American claims of an Iraqi chemical weapons program that were used to justify invading Iraq. To deter allegations of tampering or falsification, Mr. Le Mesurier and three Syrian doctors involved said they systematically documented the chain of custody from collection to handover. They have plenty of cases to work with. Since March 16, in Idlib alone, the White Helmets have documented 14 attacks with 26 suspected chlorine barrels that sickened scores of people.”

In the end, none of  this stuck, most likely because the White Helmets’ ‘evidence’ was either fabricated, or the ‘rebels’ (terrorists) themselves were the actual perpetrators of chlorine, mustard or sarin attacks – a fact which was born out through multiple investigations already. Once again – more fraud perpetrated by the White Helmets on behalf of the US and UK governments.

In September 2016, the White Helmets were also instrumental in trying to assign blame for an incident where a UN Aid Convoy was attacked outside of the town of Urm al-Kubra, west of Aleppo. The west were quick to blame it on the Russian and Syria militaries – despite the fact there was no evidence to implicate them.

As if by magic, the White Helmets were the first on the scene videoing among the flames. A Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse was also said to have been hit. 21WIRE later reported that indeed, the White Helmets had helped to stage the said ‘Russian Bombing’ scene outside of Aleppo – which was automatically accepted by the western mainstream media, John Kerry, Samantha Power and others, as ‘proof’ of Russian and Syrian guilt.

HOLLYWOOD ‘CHANGE AGENTS’

1 ClooneyOne of the White Helmets documentary’s biggest advocates is none other than Hollywood actor George Clooney (image, left). In the run-up to the Oscars, Clooney, along with his wife – celebrity human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, personally campaigned on behalf of the film. It turns out, Clooney’s interest is more than just that of an liberal activist. AP reported that Clooney is in the process of producing a feature-film version of the “White Helmets.” He stated:

“The White Helmets are the heroes. So if I can help them out at all, and people can know about it, in any way possible, that’s a good use of celebrity, I think.”

As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Clooney seems to relish in his role of celebrity humanitarian. Unfortunately, fellow members of the Council include an impressive line-up of war criminals and other dignitaries, like Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger, as well as a chief architect of the collapse of Libya and the dirty war in Syria, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

However, judging by Clooney’s devotion to the White Helmets, it’s pretty clear that he is either ignorant of what he is supporting, or worse – he is using his public profile to push a Deep State agenda. In September 2016, Clooney managed to get an audience with John Kerry and the US State Department in order to promote his new “anti-corruption” NGO called, The Sentry. Not surprisingly, the establishment’s globalist information outlet the Daily Beast was on hand (along with a prime segment which aired on CNN) to get the word out. Editor John Avlon writes:

“Getting Americans to care about human-rights atrocities half-a-world away is hard. Getting them fired up about confronting the corruption that fuels those slaughters is an order of magnitude harder. But that’s what actor George Clooney and human-rights activist John Prendergast are aiming to do with their new project,The Sentry.”

The Sentry, is supposed to help the poor people of South Sudan by ‘taking aim at government corruption.’ Clooney goes on to demonize the South Sudan government as utterly corrupt and redeemable only by way of the international community’ – presumably through the International Criminal Court in the Hague. What Clooney will not tell his fawning public is the CIA’s role in fomenting unrest in Sudan prior to its rather convenient partition in 2010. We say convenient because splitting the country effectively cut-off port access and therefore oil pipeline access for South Sudan of which China has been a major partner on the exploration of energy. This was followed by a dirty war in South Sudan with much of the evidence pointing to the CIA. TeleSur English reports:

“The CIA is using a mercenary warlord named Riek Machar, who has a long history of ethnic massacres and mass murder to his credit, to try and overthrow the internationally recognized government of President Salva Kiir for the crime of doing business with rivals of Pax Americana, the Chinese.”

Again, we hear the familiar tropes about ‘child soldiers’ and ‘mass rape’, and how, “we must act now” – all part and parcel of the neocolonial “helpless Africa” narrative. Clooney’s partner John Prendergast delivers emotive plea:

“The war erupted, it was a fire that just raged across the land…They’ll use attack helicopters. They’ll use rape as a tool of war. They’ll recruit child soldiers and go in and send them as cannon fodder into villages to kill people. The worst human-rights abuses being committed in the world. And this is what South Sudan has dealt with because of this fallout between these thieves over the last 2½ years.”

Watch global policeman Clooney, flanked by his celebrity friend Don Cheadle, unveiling his “forensic investigation” implicating the government of South Sudan:

Interestingly, Clooney’s Sentry Project is nested under the globalist think tank, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies and bankrolled by John Podesta’s Center for American Progress – a Washington DC-based think tank with ties to the military industrial complex. Peace activist and author David Swanson outlined Sentry’s precarious connections to America’s defense industry here.Here, we can point out that the policy of ‘evicting Chinese influence’ from Africa was included in the military directives outlined in US AFRICOM immediately after its official launch in 2007-2008. Similarly, billions in direct Chinese investment in Libya was thwarted by NATO’s illegal abuse of UN Resolution 1973 which led to the complete collapse of the Libyan state. Very quickly, we can see that Clooney’s celebrated “crusade against corruption” is very likely part of a public relations smoke screen to conceal US clandestine efforts to isolate Chinese interests in the Sudans, while nudging forward US and transnational corporate policy in South Sudan, with the ultimate goal of regime change in that country.

You can’t help but be reminded here of another similar Deep State public relations ploy centered around the exact same location back in 2012. There’s no better example of how Hollywood’s do-gooder war is waged than Kony 2012, described in Atlantic Magazine as a viral video campaign which “reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.” Like with Clooney’s Sentry Project, KONY 2012 leveraged the power of media and celebrity to manufacture public consent through an emotive public appeal, and collected millions in public donations in the process. In this case, the antagonist was the illusive warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army. The only problem was, at the time in 2012 no one had actually seen Kony in 6 years. Still, the campaign lobbied president Obama to deploy US forces to Uganda “find Kony” in order to “saving the children”. Despite the collapse of the project following a very public meltdown by the charity’s founder, Jason Russell, the US still went and deployed US military assets to Uganda under an expansion of US AFRICOM operations in Africa. Mission accomplished. The genius of this was that it concealed the genocide and crimes against humanity carried out by President Obama’s good friend and Uganda’s ‘President for Life’ Yoweri Museveni, whose crimes have since been well-documented in powerful independent non-CIA film production called a Brilliant Genocide. It turns out that Museveni is guilty of all the things and more – which the west had laid on the ghost of Kony. A brilliant deception. Of course, the irony of this is mostly lost on Hollywood’s humanitarian jet-set, all of whom thought KONY 2012 was such a great idea when it was first launched.

What Kony 2012 achieved on a ‘activist’ and public relations level is exactly what The White Helmets documentary is doing – an expensive smokescreen to hide the real horrors of a conflict, namely, the destructive policies of western governments and their local ‘partners’ which foment trouble and strife. In the case of Syria, it’s the US, UK, Turkey, France, and GCC support of violent, armed extremists – who the White Helmets are exclusively embedded with. The cynical use of the classic American gospel hymn, “When the Saints Go Marching In” as the documentary’s theme song by filmmakers Natasegara and Von Einsiedel speaks to level of manipulation of the narrative (see the bottom of this article, with numerous photographs of White Helmet ‘saints’).

Regarding the White Helmets project, Clooney revealed something else in his rhetoric when he remarked:

Clooney said that as a celebrity, “I can’t change policy … but I can make things louder.”

This is an example of the power-activist political set in Hollywood.

We find similar language in an interview with White Helmets director Joanna Natasegara in 2016, at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Malaysia while promoting her Oscar nominated film Virunga and its new foundation. Natasegara refers to herself as an “Impact Producer” (aka Change Agent) using documentaries to make a big impact by reinforcing or pushing a narrative. In many ways, this is antithetical to the whole process of filmmaking, especially in the research and discovery stages, and in the investigative aspects of historical documentary filmmaking – which is about documenting events but also about looking below popular political narratives to gain deeper insights, and not pushing political or policy outcomes. Power-activism is personified by numerous online marketing campaigns calling for a No Fly Zone in Syria. At the Oscar ceremony, both Natasegara and Von Einsiedel called for ‘an end to the war in Syria’ which everyone can agree on, but it rings hollow next to the words of persons like US Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard and Tima Kurdi, the aunt of 3 yr old Alan Kurdi who washed-up on a beach to become the face of the tragic face of the migrant crisis. Both Gabbard and Kurdi appeared on global media this week calling for the US and its Coalition allies to STOP sending arms, cash and support to extremists and terrorist ‘rebels’ in Syria. Only this can bring an end to the war and allow refugees to to return to Syria said both Gabbard and Kurdi. This plea is real and reflects the facts on the ground, as opposed to the fake narrative constructed by Natasegara and Von Einsiedel, which carefully whitewashes all clandestine involvement by US, UK and its partners (who created and are funding the White Helmets) which has aided in the systematic destruction of Syria over the last 6 years, not to mention the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands. It is no coincidence that many members  of the White Helmets have extremist ties, and the fact that this is being covered-up by Natasegara and Von Einsiedel who are literally portraying the group as “saints” – speaks to the level of deception involved in this story. Now we can see Natasegara’s modus operandi with making the White Helmets film; it’s not so much about documenting history in the conventional sense, so much as it is about ‘making an impact’ politically – on behalf of the governments who created the White Helmets, which veers into the area of propaganda again.

Watch Joanna Natasegara in an interview here from the 2016 IACC Conference:

On the surface, Natasegara appears to be waging the classic international liberal crusade by fighting against mining, oil, and poaching, in the poor, permanently ‘developing’ countries like the Congo. No one will argue that the level of corruption in African countries can be extreme in some cases, but what are the real causes of institutional corruption in those lands? Indeed, “Stopping” them (corrupt officials) in Africa, but doing little to stop them at the actual corporate level in London, Belgium, New York or Washington DC. In fact, many of the biggest corporate donors to these ‘good causes’ projects are connected to the very same corporate behemoth that activists purport to be fighting against. This cycle of power activism feeds into the cycle of neocolonialism – in what researcher Cory Morningstar so rightly refers to as “the wrong kind of green.” As it turns out, the IACC is funded by none other than Transparency International (T.I.), one of the main players in the globalist “anti-corruption” syndicate, which is very much linked to the work of Hollywood activists like Clooney. In the past, T.I. has been accused of cooking its own books in its anti-corruption investigations, including an incident in 2008 where the organization used falsified data to try and frame the Chavez government in Venezuela during one of its anti-corruption investigations. This is a good example of NGO smart power being used to undermine a target nation. Clooney and Natasegara are just two of the many public faces who represent this network.Back in 2016, when the Panama Papers story broke, seemingly out of nowhere, the mainstream media utterly failed in analysing what they were really looking at. Yes, there’s plenty of corruption and shady shell companies in Panama (but no word of the giant offshore corporate maze located in Delaware), but was the endgame of that supposedly independent ‘investigation’? Amid all the mainstream media hype and ‘anti-corruption’ grandstanding, researcher James Corbett was one of the only people who asked the right question: “So why does this new mega-leak seemingly only expose those in the State Department crosshairs or expendable others and not a single prominent American politician or businessman? And what does this have to do with the OECD’s plan for a global taxation grid?” (LISTEN to my full interview last year with James Corbett here)

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Nazi propaganda filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl.

Natasegara also goes on about using “activists” and “citizen journalists” to achieve the desired ‘impact.’ Here she is alluding to the scores of Syrian “activists” and the White Helmets, who have supplied western media outlets with the images our governments want in order to reinforce the official narrative. Natasegara is promoting the exact tool she utilized in the deceptive Netflix project where all of the alleged stock ‘rescue’ footage was supplied to producers by the White Helmets themselves. Natasegara claims to have trained 21 year old White Helmet ‘activist’ Khaled Khatib in Turkey before sending him into Syria to shoot much of the footage. NPR claims that he ‘risked his life’ to shoot the film for Netflix. Khatib was later blocked from entering the US to attend the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles. So the Netflix producers had no way of independently verifying what they’ve been given – effectively relying on al Qaeda affiliated individuals to supply them with made-to-order ‘rescue’ footage.

How can they call this a documentary?

In this case, it didn’t seem to matter to Joanna Natasegara and her co-producer Orlando Von Einsiedel whether its real or staged, so long as the White Helmets narrative was achieved.

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Despite the claims by Netflix producers, Natasegara and Von Einsiedel – purpose was to reinforce the US-led Coalition fake narrative on Syria which has never resembled the facts on the ground. The US-UK establishment could not have hand-picked better tools for this job than Natasegara and Von Einsiedel. If they were real filmmakers interested in the truth, they would have paused to question why this group was founded by a senior British Military intelligence officer, James Le Mesurier, why it is based in Turkey and not Syria, and why the group only operated exclusively in Al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), Arar al Sham (al Qaeda affiliate) and ISIS-held areas in Syria, why are White Helmets members routinely pictured with weapons, and with terrorists. The answer is simple to anyone with half a brain and who is being honest: the White Helmets are composed of mainly partisan extremists. That’s a fact.

Still, all of this is noticeably missing from Natasegara and Von Einsiedel’s storybook version of the White Helmets, which is inexcusable considering how there’s no shortage of readily available evidence pointing directly to White Helmets’ ties to terrorists. One has to assume that the filmmakers knew about the extremist links and the US-NATO funding of the group but chose to ignore this in favor of producing their expensive piece of propaganda, and as we saw this week, both were all too happy to lap up the awards – even though the fiction they created has aided in giving political cover to illegal weapons transfers by the west and GCC states and has also been instrumental in wrongly demonizing the Syrian government while further legitimizing US-led Coalition-backed terrorism in Syria.

Concealing the White Helmet fraud under the seemingly innocuous guise of “Free Speech”, “Free Press” or “Citizen Journalism” is the absolute dereliction of any journalistic inquiry or responsibility in vetting the footage supplied by the White Helmets.

“Freedom for journalists has to be absolute. There is no such thing as restrictions on media that work,” said Natasegara.

Apparently, Oscar winner Natasegara was not too keen on free speech after Youtube artist Tyranny Unmasked posted a video critical of the Netflix White Helmets trailer. It appears that Natasegara used YouTube’s communitarian censorship system to take down the video critical of her film. Watch:


Being British, one might hope that Natasegara could apply these lofty polemics to the UK – and ask why the government still controls journalists and press through the archaic practice of issuing D-Notices, or the government’s aggressive stance towards whistleblowers with UK authorities threatening imprisonment for simply handling leaked material, or perhaps even the Leveson Inquiry’s attempt at allowing state control over what’s left of the UK’s free press. Similarly, the anti-corruption crowd might consider challenging Barack Obama’s war on whistleblowing which saw freedoms roll back at a record clip over the last 8 years. Certainly, that’s no shining city on the hill, or a role model for the seemingly lowly, poor and hopelessly “corrupt” developing world nations that the globe-trotting Natasegara is after. Only last year, we learned how the Pentagon hired elite UK public relations firm Bell Pottingerpaying them $540 million to produce, among other items, fake al Qaeda propaganda videos – to further prop-up a failed US and UK foreign policy facade. Perhaps Natasegara, or Clooney could do an “anti-corruption” film explaining how many starving children could be fed for a month or how many schools could be built, or how many water wells could be drilled – with $540 million dollars of US taxpayer money.

That’s only one example to demonstrate how the NGO operatives ignore the mountains of institutional corruption in the US and Europe, and the destructive murderous military industrial juggernaut – in favor of trying to yank the rug out from under a government located in some poor African, Asian, or Middle Eastern country which the US and its partners have their eye on for regime change.

CROWD-FUNDING TERROR

One of the saddest parts of this whole story is also that the power of marketing and propaganda means that tens of thousands of unwitting members of the public have been duped into donating their hard-earned money for this dubious NGO. If the wider public knew what Aleppo residents already know – that the White Helmets function as a support group alongside known terrorists groups like Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Nour al-Din al-Zinki & ISIS and others (all known extremist groups operating inside of Syria),  the White Helmets would not be celebrated as humanitarian, but rather, they’d be condemned as a multimillion fraud, customized by the West in order to give cover to the illicit practice of arming and supporting ‘rebel’ terrorists by the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others.

By all accounts, White Helmets video and photo propaganda has been instrumental in aiding in the recruitment of new terrorists – new fighters from the West, Middle East and Asia – who see the contrived news reports in their countries of origin and believe the false narrative being portrayed by mainstream media news agencies. In this way, you could say that because the media are not vetting any of this material and are defaulting into a Western foreign policy bias by spinning all of their stories into emotive productions that reinforce a NATO and GCC-led ‘regime change’ and completely contrived “moderate rebel” narrative – the media are complicit in helping to drive the recruitment of terrorists internationally. By anyone’s definition, they are providing material support and comfort to known violent, religious extremists terrorists. When you break it right down, that’s exactly what is happening here. Undoubtedly, Hollywood is guilty of this.

Lastly, to see the White Helmets fundamental terrorist connection, one need look no further than to its ‘President’ Raed Saleh.

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TERRORIST CENTRAL: Raed Saleh photographed with his close associate Mustafa al-Haj Yussef, leader of White Helmet Centre in terrorist-held Idlib province (Photo: al-Haj Yussef Facebook page)

Last month, 21WIRE investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley reported on White Helmet leader Raed Saleh’s close partner, Mustafa al-Haj Yussefleader of the White Helmets centre in the Al Nusra-occupied city of Khan Shaykhun, Idlib. The photo, above, clearly demonstrates the close relationship that Saleh shares with his friend and colleague Yussef, and apparently with the armed militant seen standing behind the two White Helmet leaders. On the 1st June 2014, White Helmet deputy Yussef called for the shelling of civilians during elections in Damascus.  He declares that this murderous act would be the “greatest declaration of revolution” .  

Is this the words of a “neutral, impartial, humanitarian”? Here we can see the White Helmets calling for direct violence against civilians who are doing nothing more than exercising their right to vote – in their own country. See the full story here.

So to even suggest that the White Helmets are “unarmed and neutral civilian volunteers” is tantamount to fraud. The fact that filmmakers Natasegara, Von Einsiedel and Netflix are using this false statement in their film and public relations material demonstrates outright deception on their part. 

It crucial to reiterate that the White Helmets are not a Syrian creation, but rather a product of US, British and NATO intelligence special project to use western conceived and western-funded NGO organizations to assist in the stated US-led Coalition foreign policy of ‘regime change’ for Syria by producing western and GCC-oriented propaganda designed to undermine the Syrian government and state. Founded by British military intelligence officer James Le Mesurier, a graduate of Sandhurst Military Academy. It is believed that all totalled including undisclosed funding and solicited donations, that the group has received well in excess of over $250 million dollars since coming online in late 2013. 

The following is list of known funding sources for the White Helmets as of October 2016:

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To anyone who bothers to look, the White Helmets extremist links are undeniable. Watch as Al Nusra and jihadi spokesman acknowledges the White Helmets as “Mujahadeen”:

Based on the evidence presented, and the images inserted below, one can safely conclude that at the very least, filmmakers Joanna Natasegara and Orlando Von Einsiedel and Netflix did zero due diligence when researching this multimillion dollar film production. Of course, that’s being generous. It seems more likely that they were fully aware that the White Helmets are attached to the multitude of extremist and terrorist groups – and conveniently ignored this fact in favour of constructing their propaganda narrative. Hence, a case could be made that these filmmakers and their distributor have knowingly provided promotion and political support to known terrorists – which is in direct violation of numerous US, European and International laws.

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White Helmet operative, seen here at a “moderate” extremist, Free Sryian Army, meeting in Idlib, clearly demonstrating political affiliation to a widely proclaimed non “moderate” militant group, unable to function without support from better armed & funded terrorist factions such as Nusra Front.  (Photo: Screenshot from video

Not only are the White Helmets embedded exclusively with extremists – they ARE extremists. Certainly, it is the choice of White Helmets members to also join extremist terrorist fighting groups, but by doing so, the White Helmets cannot rightly claim that their members are either neutral, nonpartisan, or ‘unarmed’. To claim otherwise constitutes cunning and deception on the part of the White Helmets and their promotional agents, including Netflix corporate marketing, and the film’s producers Joanna Natasegara and Orlando Von Einsiedel. If Netflix were to take this issue seriously, after reviewing readily available evidence they would remove this film from their distribution chain, and Natasegara and Von Einsiedel should return their award to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

The following are a series of over 50 visual exhibits which clearly indicate that the White Helmets are not neutral, and whose ranks are in fact filled with extremists, including those with memberships in US-Coalition-backed internationally recognized terrorist fighting groups operating throughout Syria… 

3.5 White Helmets Terrorists

White Helmet members are clearly pictured together with violent terrorists, and also taking part in heinous terrorists acts, as well as war crimes under the Geneva Convention:

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White Helmet-Terrorist fighting group dual membership:

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White Helmet-Terrorist fighting group dual membership:

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White Helmet-Terrorist group dual membership:

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As shown previously, a White Helmet speaking on behalf of the Western-backed ‘Opposition” pseudo state, in front of the “moderate” militant, Free Syrian Army, French colonial, “Syrian” flag:

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White Helmets with armed opposition acting in the role of ‘victim’ in the notorious staged “Mannequin Challenge” video:

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White Helmet-Terrorist group dual membership:

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White Helmet are armed:

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White Helmet with Terrorist disposing of mutilated bodies of Syrian National Army soldiers:

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White Helmet are armed and embedded with “rebel” (terrorist) fighters:

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White Helmet-Terrorist group dual membership:

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White Helmet with TerroristAl Nusra Front flying the terrorist flag:

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White Helmet-Terrorist group dual membership:

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US-UK funded White Helmets operatives gloating while taking part in kidnapping, torture and execution of Syrian National Army soldiers, a violation of Geneva Convention on war crimes:

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White Helmets pictured here working alongside with Nusra-ISIS terrorists:

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“Hand in Hand with Al Nusra” (al Qaeda in Syria):

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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Possible White Helmets involvement of the Terrorist (by Nour al-Din al-Zinki) execution and beheading of 12 year-old Abdulla Issa:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets embedded exclusively in ISIS and Terrorist-held areas:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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White Helmets ARE militants:

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White Helmets -Terrorist dual membership:

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Rebel media operative demonstrates support for ISIS in Syria:

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Here is a “opposition” media operative pictured together with 7 year-old Bana Alabed, the girl at the center of a highly coordinated agit-prop Twitter-media hoax where it was claimed Bana could speak English in 2016 when clearly she could not and her Twitter account was being run by adults for “anti-Regime”, “Anti-Russian” and “No Fly Zone” propaganda – all of which was blindly promoted by nearly every western media outlet including the BBC, CNNNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and UK Telegraph, to name only a few. The Washington Post even went so far as to run the outrageous headline, How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank in a clear attempt to equate the liberation of Aleppo with the Jewish Holocaust of World War II.

Maybe filmmakers Joanna Natasegara and Orlando Von Einsiedel and Netflix will make their next documentary about Twitter sensation ‘Bana of Aleppo’? It certainly ticks all the same US-UK narrative boxes as the White Helmets…

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By blindly promoting the White Helmets, Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney and Ben Affleck are helping the terrorist cause in Syria…

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Special thanks to Clarity of Signal for collating White Helmets extremist evidence. 

Watch this video of White Helmets clearly alongside AL-QAEDA, torturing and carrying civilian to an untimely demise in Aleppo, Syria:

Watch this short documentary entitled, “The White Helmets – al Qaeda with a Facelift” by Steve Ezzedine for HANDS OFF SYRIA, drawing on research by Vanessa Beeley:


Watch this video presentation featuring Vanessa Beeley showing the White Helmets’ extremist links and criminality, and also eye witness reports of White Helmets abusing residents in East Aleppo:

 

[Patrick Henningsen is a writer, investigative journalist, and filmmaker and founder of the news website 21stCentury Wire.com. He is currently investigating issues on location in the Middle East and in Southern Europe. Patrick is a graduate of California State University at San Luis Obispo. Full Bio]

Why it is Time to Move On from MoveOn.org and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Black Agenda Report

February 21, 2017

by Danny Haiphong

The revolution will not be subsidized — but well-funded facsimiles of “movements” dominate the political landscape of the U.S. “Left.” MoveOn.org “prides itself for exposing the corporate ties of the Republicans but is perfectly content with the corporate ties of the Democratic Party.” And Black Lives Matter “drew significant interest from a consortium of non-profits after receiving millions from the Ford Foundation and Google in 2015 and 2016.”

The non-profit industrial complex has become an omnipresent feature of US society. Soon after college, it became increasingly clear to me that non-profits made up the majority of employment and activist opportunities for college-educated youth. My first employment opportunity came within the private non-profit LIFT, which partnered with a number of monopoly corporations to provide social service assistance on a volunteer basis. Like Teach for America, LIFT utilized college volunteers with little to no training and gave post-graduate students AmeriCorps stipends to supervise volunteers in place of professional social workers. After three months of grueling hours and little pay, it was time to leave LIFT and try something new.The next stop was a Community Action Program (CAP). CAP agencies have their roots in the first wave of non-profits as legal entities in the United States. They sprouted from federal funds administered by the War on Poverty programs of the Lyndon Johnson era. These agencies provided essential anti-poverty services and were often run by community members themselves. However, the purpose behind CAP agencies was far from benevolent. Johnson and his ruling class masters sought to subvert and break the independent character of the Black liberation and anti-imperialist movements of the period by turning “tax-eaters” (Black Americans) into “tax-payers.” The underlying motivation of non-profits to turn revolutionary movements into lucrative career opportunities has existed since their inception.

This is not to say that non-profits have not gone through significant changes since the War on Poverty. In the last forty years of neo-liberal capitalist crisis, CAP agencies have become nearly non-existent due to a shortage of federal funds. Housing programs have suffered chronic underfunding as a result of consistent reductions in the size of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), beginning in the Reagan era. HUD was stripped of 77 percent of its budget authority from 1978-1983. The CAP agency that I worked for eventually shut its doors due to a default in a private bank loan in 2014. The loan was taken out to keep the agency viable in the midst of dwindling federal and state funds. Hundreds of homeless individuals and families lost vital housing assistance and thousands more lost access to emergency transportation, food, and legal services.

The demise of CAP agencies stems from the shift in federal responsibilities to the private non-profit sector as part of the US capitalist state’s drive to maximize the profits of the ruling class in the neo-liberal era. This can be seen in the massive scab labor force produced by Teach for America, bankrolled by Goldman Sachs. It is also apparent in the correlation between the increase of non-profits in the arena of homelessness and the reduction of available public housing units in cities across the country. Non-profits give corporate donors an avenue to receive additional tax-free privileges with an added public relations boost. Much of the money donated is returned two-fold through tax breaks and further speculation in the housing, education, and healthcare sectors increasingly made possible by an environment of privatization.

Non-profits have also been deployed by their ruling class funders to privatize social movements. An array of tax-exempt organizations has arisen to channel popular resistance into acceptable means of protest. During Occupy Wall Street, the non-governmental organization (NGO) CANVAS took center stage at many of the New York City rallies. The Black Lives Matter movement drew significant interest from a consortium of non-profits after receiving millions from the Ford Foundation and Google in 2015 and 2016. These interventions have blunted the messaging and activities of organizations sucked into the non-profit industry while leaving genuine activists without the resources to sustain consistent political activity.

The influence of the non-profit industrial complex is evident in the protests against President Donald Trump. The non-profit MoveOn.org has taken on a leadership role in the protests. This author attended a local sanctuary city rally where every sign carried by protesters possessed the “MoveOn.org” label. It is clear that the folks at MoveOn.Org have been playing a key role in the resistance against Trump. But who is behind the MoveOn.org brand and whose interests does the organization serve?

A cursory look into the organization’s finances indicates that MoveOn.org is a loyal servant of the Democratic Party. The organization’s finances from 2015 include large donations of over 250,000 from the organization “J Street” and billionaire Cari Tuna. J Street is a Zionist organization dedicated to developing liberal acceptance to the settler occupation of Palestine among college students. Tuna’s fortunes derive from her marital partnership with co-founder of Facebook Dustin Moskovitz. Tuna spends most of her time as a “philanthropist.” Her donations include a hefty 20 million dollars to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, which was distributed among a consortium of Clinton affiliated PACs. In addition, MoveOn.org is also financed by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Soros, despite the conspiratorial machinations regarding his political influence, is well-known around the world as a sponsor of “color revolutions” dedicated to the overthrow of governments that resist the penetration of US monopoly capitalism.

Non-profits are ultimately bound by the interests of their funders. MoveOn.org is no different. The organization’s Democratic Party funding sources have one goal and one goal only: to regain Democratic Party control of all three branches of governance in Washington. First, they hope to remove Trump in order to credit the organization with a temporary, albeit symbolic, victory for the Democrats. The next step is to win control of Congress in 2018. The interests of those supplying funds to non-profits like MoveOn.org are not aligned with the interests of oppressed and working people regardless of how the organization is advertised.

In fact, because big corporate donors control the terms and conditions of “social movement” non-profits, any social movements led by these institutions represent a threat to the independent political power of exploited and oppressed people. MoveOn.org’s mission to transfer power back to the Democratic Party is a familiar act, one that is repeated whenever the Republican Party regains Presidential and Congressional control of the state. Their big corporate donors possess zero interest in stopping the bipartisan crimes carried out by Washington. No petitions have been filed by the folks at MoveOn.org for reparations to nations, such as Libya and Syria, which were completely destroyed by the Democratic Party. MoveOn.org prides itself for exposing the corporate ties of the Republicans but is perfectly content with the corporate ties of the Democratic Party.

ObamaMoveOn

The Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street and war. Obama’s two-term Presidency clarified the Democratic Party’s commitment to US imperialism. MoveOn.org had nothing to say about Wall Street’s cumbersome donations to the Obama campaign or how the Democratic Party facilitated the largest wealth transfer to the 1 percent in US history. MoveOn.org didn’t condemn Obama’s war on whistle blowers nor did it advocate for single payer healthcare when the Democratic Party held majorities in Congress. Neither Obama’s “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare nor his national assault on public education compelled MoveOn.org to take any action against its Democratic Party sugar daddies.

The case of the non-profit MoveOn.org provides an in-depth look into the broader function of non-profit industrial complex. While some individual non-profits administer vital services to the poor and working class, the non-profit industrial complex as a whole possesses a parasitic agenda. That agenda is to break the independent character of working class mobilization and organization, not develop it. Non-profits do this by turning resistance into a career opportunity managed and funded by the 1 percent. The development of an independent, working class-centered movement will require a mass rejection of non-profit funds and structures. Let us remember this as MoveOn.org continues to mobilize its base against the increasingly unstable Trump Administration.

[Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990(at)gmail.com]

Further Reading:

Inducing Consent: MoveOn.org

Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II

Human Rights Industry Protects Imperialism

Black Agenda Report

February 15, 2017

When so-called Human Rights organizations are financed by the one percent they dependably echo the priorities and prejudices of their influential sponsors.  So it is that Amnesty International is an energetic source of war propaganda on behalf of US imperial efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Their “report” of a supposed “human slaughterhouse” operated by the Syrian regime is the latest installment in a campaign to justify US intervention in the Middle East.

Humanity is in desperate need of individuals and organizations to speak up for their right to live free from the threat of state violence. Instead we have a human rights industrial complex which speaks for the powerful and tells lies in order to justify their aggressions. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are at the top of this infamous list. They have a pattern and practice of giving cover for regime change schemes hatched by the United States, NATO partners and gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International recently released a report “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison Syria” which claimed that the Syrian government executed between 5,000 and 13,000 people over a five-year period. The report is based on anonymous sources outside of Syria, hearsay, and the dubious use of satellite photos reminiscent of Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003. There is plenty of hyperbolic language like “slaughterhouse” and “extermination” but scant evidence of the serious charges being made.

Human Rights Watch joined the fray just days later, with claims that the Syrian government used chlorine gas against civilians fleeing Aleppo. Once again, the claims had little evidence, just mud thrown against a wall in the hope that some of it will stick. It is the al Nusra front which attacked the Aleppo refugees as they struggled to get within the Syrian army lines. One day there is a report on execution, another day chemical weapons, barrel bombs the next day and so on. These phony organizations never mention that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria was brought about by western intervention and its head chopping jihadist allies.

The Syrian war isn’t over, but that government and its allies are winning and they will determine the future of that nation. It is Russia, Turkey and Iran who are convening peace talks between Syria and the opposition and that is why the effort to discredit them goes on.

Beginning in 2011 the United States used a tried and true method of getting support for imperialism. A foreign leader is accused of being a tyrant who terrorizes his nation. The claims silence critics, get buy in from corporate media and cynical politicians and ultimately lead to death at the hands of the so-called saviors. There are 9 million Syrian refugees precisely because of collusion between the west and its gulf monarchy allies. The suffering of the civilian population is the fault of these parties and it is only the determination of the Syrians and help from their allies which prevented it from going the way of Libya.

Now that the jihadists are on the run and their one-time backer Turkey has switched sides, the jig is up. But the imperialists will not go away quietly. That is why Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reappear at a crucial moment.

New president Donald Trump is quite literally a wild card. During his campaign he claimed he would not support regime change but his personality and policy are erratic. It is never clear what he means or wants. His staff are equally amateurish and the direction of American foreign policy is anyone’s guess. One day he wants better relations with Russia and the next he makes a futile demand that it return Crimea to its neo-Nazi overlords. But republicans and democrats in the war party are quite clear on their plans. They are not giving up in their quest for hegemony and they need all the credibility they can get. Enter Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to provide propaganda at just the right moment.

If they were at all serious in their stated goal of giving voice to the abused, they could use their ample resources to criticize the United States domestically and around the world. When president George Bush instigated the invasion or Iraq in 1991 they repeated the fable of soldiers killing babies in incubators. They never explained or apologized for their actions. They continued their awful partnership in 2011 when they provided cover for the Obama administration’s attack on and destruction of Libya.

Neither organization will denounce the American carceral state, the world’s worst. They might attack the modern-day police slave patrol which kills three people every day. They could ask why the United States has an implicit right to decide that Libya or Syria or Somalia can be destroyed and their populations be forced to suffer. But taking on those issues would be in defiance of their true mission, creating the conditions necessary to allow the United States to commit aggressions without fear of public opposition.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are not friendly to the people of the world. They pick on the weak and the targets of imperialist attack and tell lies on behalf of those who violate human rights on a mass scale. Despite playing a lead role in the Syrian disaster, the United States was invited to be an observer at the upcoming peace talks. Enter AI and HRW to help make sure that if the Trump administration should participate, it won’t be making any changes they need worry about. The human rights industrial complex is dependably on the side of the evil doers and their dirty deeds.

 

[Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley (at)BlackAgendaReport.com]

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.

 

FLASHBACK: George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers

Counterpunch

July 24, 2015

by David Swanson

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.
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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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

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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.

warren-buffett-advice-for-2015-4-638

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.

guardian gates

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”.

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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.]

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.]

How We Were Misled About Syria: Amnesty International

Tim Hayward

January 23, 2017

 

Most of us living outside Syria know very little of the country or its recent history. What we think we know comes via the media. Information that comes with the endorsement of an organisation like Amnesty International we may tend to assume is reliable. Certainly, I always trusted Amnesty International implicitly, believing I understood and shared its moral commitments.

As a decades-long supporter, I never thought to check the reliability of its reporting. Only on seeing the organisation last year relaying messages from the infamous White Helmets did questions arise for me.[1] Having since discovered a problem about the witness testimonies provided by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I felt a need to look more closely at Amnesty International’s reporting.[2] Amnesty had been influential in forming public moral judgements about the rights and wrongs of the war in Syria.

What if Amnesty’s reporting on the situation in Syria was based on something other than verified evidence?[3] What if misleading reports were instrumental in fuelling military conflicts that might otherwise have been more contained, or even avoided?

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Amnesty International first alleged war crimes in Syria, against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, in June 2012.[4] If a war crime involves a breach of the laws of war, and application of those laws presupposes a war, it is relevant to know how long the Syrian government had been at war, assuming it was. The UN referred to a ‘situation close to civil war’ in December 2011.[5] Amnesty International’s war crimes in Syria were therefore reported on the basis of evidence that would have been gathered, analysed, written up, checked, approved and published within six months.[6] That is astonishingly – and worryingly – quick.

The report does not detail its research methods, but a press release quotes at length, and exclusively, the words of Donatella Rovera who ‘spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.’ lutherAs far as I can tell, the fresh evidence advertised in the report was gathered through conversations and tours Rovera had in those weeks.[7] Her report mentions that Amnesty International ‘had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria’.[8]

I am no lawyer, but I find it inconceivable that allegations of war crimes made on this basis would be taken seriously. Rovera herself was later to speak of problems with the investigation in Syria: in a reflective article published two years afterwards,[9] she gives examples of both material evidence and witness statements that had misled the investigation.[10]  Such reservations did not appear on Amnesty’s website; I am not aware of Amnesty having relayed any caveats about the report, nor of its reviewing the war crimes allegations.  What I find of greater concern, though, given that accusations of crimes already committed can in due course be tried, is that Amnesty also did not temper its calls for prospective action.  On the contrary.

In support of its surprisingly quick and decisive stance on intervention, Amnesty International was also accusing the Syrian government of crimes against humanity. Already before Deadly Reprisals, the report Deadly Detention had alleged these. Such allegations can have grave implications because they can be taken as warrant for armed intervention.[11] Whereas war crimes do not occur unless there is a war, crimes against humanity can be considered a justification for going to war. And in war, atrocities can occur that would otherwise not have occurred.

I find this thought deeply troubling, particularly as a supporter of Amnesty International at the time it called for action, the foreseeable consequences of which included fighting and possible war crimes, by whomsoever committed, that might otherwise never have been. Personally, I cannot quite escape the thought that in willing the means to an end one also shares some responsibility for their unintended consequences.[12]

If Amnesty International considered the moral risk of indirect complicity in creating war crimes a lesser one than keeping silent about what it believed it had found in Syria, then it must have had very great confidence in the findings. Was that confidence justified?

If we go back to human rights reports on Syria for the year 2010, before the conflict began, we find Amnesty International recorded a number of cases of wrongful detention and brutality.[13]Deadly Reprisals.png In the ten years Bashar Al-Assad had been president, the human rights situation seemed to Western observers not to have improved as markedly as they had hoped. Human Rights Watch spoke of 2000-2010 as a ‘wasted decade’.[14] The consistent tenor of reports was disappointment: advances achieved in some areas had to be set against continued problems in others. We also know that in some rural parts of Syria, there was real frustration at the government’s priorities and policies.[15] An agricultural economy hobbled by the poorly managed effects of severe drought had left the worst off feeling marginalized. Life may have been good for many in vibrant cities, but it was far from idyllic for everyone, and there remained scope to improve the human rights record. The government’s robust approach to groups seeking an end to the secular state of Syria was widely understood to need monitoring for reported excesses. Still, the pre-war findings of monitors, are a long way from any suggestion of crimes against humanity. That includes the findings of Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights.

A report published just three months later portrays a dramatically different situation.[16]In the period from April to August 2011, events on the ground had certainly moved quickly in the wake of anti-government protests in parts of the country, but so had Amnesty.

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In promoting the new report, Deadly Detention, Amnesty International USA notes with pride how the organisation is now providing ‘real-time documentation of human rights abuses committed by government forces’. Not only is it providing rapid reporting, it is also making strong claims. Instead of measured statements suggesting necessary reforms, it now condemns Assad’s government for ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’ The Syrian government is accused of ‘crimes against humanity’.[17]

The speed and confidence – as well as the implied depth of insight – of the report are remarkable. The report is worrying, too, given how portentous is its damning finding against the government: Amnesty International ‘called on the UN Security Council to not only condemn, in a firm and legally binding manner, the mass human rights violations being committed in Syria but also to take other measures to hold those responsible to account, including by referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As well, Amnesty International continues to urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria and to immediately freeze the assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity.’ With such strongly-worded statements as this, especially in a context where powerful foreign states are already calling for ‘regime change’ in Syria, Amnesty’s contribution could be seen as throwing fuel on a fire.

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.

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Amnesty International’s reputation rests on the quality of its research. The organisation’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, has clearly stated the principles and methods adhered to when gathering evidence:

‘we do it in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.’[18]

Amnesty thus sets itself rigorous standards of research, and assures the public that it is scrupulous in adhering to them. This is only to be expected, I think, especially when grave charges are to be levelled against a government.

Did Amnesty follow its own research protocol in preparing the Deadly Detention report? Was it: systematic, primary, collected by Amnesty’s own staff, on the ground, with every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration and by cross-checking with all parties concerned?

In the analysis appended here as a note [ – [19] –] I show, point by point, that the report admits failing to fulfil some of these criteria and fails to show it has met any of them.

Given that the findings could be used to support calls for humanitarian intervention in Syria, the least to expect of the organization would be application of its own prescribed standards of proof.

Lest it be thought that focusing on the technicalities of research methodology risks letting the government off the hook for egregious crimes, it really needs to be stressed – as was originally axiomatic for Amnesty International – that we should never make a presumption of guilt without evidence or trial.[20] Quite aside from technical questions, getting it wrong about who is the perpetrator of war crimes could lead to the all too real consequences of mistakenly intervening on the side of the actual perpetrators.

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Suppose it nevertheless be insisted that the evidence clearly enough shows Assad to be presiding over mass destruction of his own country and slaughter in his own people: surely the ‘international community’ should intervene on the people’s behalf against this alleged ‘mass murderer’?[21] In the climate of opinion and with the state of knowledge abroad at the time, that may have sounded a plausible proposition. It was not the only plausible proposition, however, and certainly not in Syria itself. Another was that the best sort of support to offer the people of Syria would lie in pressing the government more firmly towards reforms while assisting it, as was becoming increasingly necessary, in ridding the territory of terrorist insurgents who had fomented and then exploited the tensions in the original protests of Spring 2011.[22] For even supposing the government’s agents of internal security needed greater restraint, the best way to achieve this is not necessarily to undermine the very government that would be uniquely well-placed, with support and constructive incentives, to apply it.

I do not find it obvious that Amnesty was either obliged or competent to decide between these alternative hypotheses. Since it nevertheless chose to do so, we have to ask why it pre-emptively dismissed the method of deciding proposed by President Al-Assad himself. This was his undertaking to hold an election to ask the people whether they wanted him to stay or go.

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Although not widely reported in the West, and virtually ignored by Amnesty[23] – a presidential election was held in 2014, with the result being a landslide victory for Bashar Al-Assad. He won 10,319,723 votes – 88.7% of the vote – with a turnout put at 73.42%.[24]

Western observers did not challenge those numbers or allege voting irregularities,[25] with the media instead seeking to downplay their significance. ‘This is not an election that can be analysed in the same way as a multi-party, multi-candidate election in one of the established European democracies or in the US, says the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Damascus. It was an act of homage to President Assad by his supporters, which was boycotted and rejected by opponents rather than an act of politics, he adds.’[26] This homage, nonetheless, was paid by an outright majority of Syrians. To refer to this as ‘meaningless’, as US Secretary of State, John Kerry did,[27] reveals something of how much his own regime respected the people of Syria. It is true that voting could not take place in opposition-held areas, but participation overall was so great that even assuming the whole population in those areas would have voted against him, they would still have had to accept Assad as legitimate winner – rather as we in Scotland have to accept Theresa May as UK prime minister. In fact, the recent liberation of eastern Aleppo has revealed Assad’s government actually to have support there.

We cannot know if Assad would have been so many people’s first choice under other circumstances, but we can reasonably infer that the people of Syria saw in his leadership their best hope for unifying the country around the goal of ending the bloodshed. Whatever some might more ideally have sought – including as expressed in the authentic protests of 2011 – the will of the Syrian people quite clearly was, under the actual circumstances, for their government to be allowed to deal with their problems, rather than be supplanted by foreign-sponsored agencies.[28]

(I am tempted to add the thought, as a political philosopher, that BBC’s Jeremy Bowen could be right in saying the election was no normal ‘act of politics’: Bashar Al-Assad has always been clear in statements and interviews that his position is inextricably bound up with the Syrian constitution.  He didn’t choose to give up a career in medicine to become a dictator, as I understand it; rather, the chance event of his older brother’s death altered his plans. Until actual evidence suggests otherwise, I am personally prepared to believe that Assad’s otherwise incomprehensible steadfastness of purpose does indeed stem from a commitment to defending his country’s constitution. Whether or not the people really wanted this person as president is secondary to the main question whether they were prepared to give up their national constitution to the dictates of any body other than that of the Syrian people. Their answer to this has a significance, as Bowen inadvertently notes, that is beyond mere politics.)

Since the Syrian people had refuted the proposition that Amnesty had been promoting, serious questions have be asked. Among these, one – which would speak to a defence of Amnesty – is whether it had some independent justification – coming from sources of information other than its own investigations – for genuinely believing its allegations against the Syrian government well-founded. However, since an affirmative answer to that question would not refute the point I have sought to clarify here I shall set them aside for a separate discussion in the next episode of this investigation.

My point for now is that Amnesty International itself had not independently justified its own advocacy position. This is a concern for anyone who thinks it should take full responsibility for the monitoring it reports. Further discussion has also to address concerns about what kinds of advocacy it should be engaged in at all.[29]

SYRIA-CONFLICT-POLITICS-VOTE

 

NOTES

[1] For background on concern about the White Helmets, a concise overview is provided in the video White Helmets: first responders or Al Qaeda support group? For a more thorough discussion, see the accessible but richly referenced summary provided by Jan Oberg. On the basis of all the information now widely available, and in view of the consistency between numerous critical accounts, which contrasts with the incoherence of the official narrative as made famous by Netflix, I have come to mistrust testimony sourced from the White Helmets when it conflicts with testimony of independent journalists on the ground – especially since reports of the latter are also consistent with those of the people of eastern Aleppo who have been able to share the truth of their own experiences since the liberation (for numerous interviews with people from Aleppo, see the Youtube channel of Vanessa Beeley; see also the moving photographic journals of Jan Oberg.)

There have certainly been efforts to debunk the various exposés of the White Helmets, and the latest I know of (at the time of writing) concerns the confession featured in the video (linked above) of Abdulhadi Kamel. According to Middle East eye, his colleagues in the White Helmets believe the confession was beaten out of him (report as at 15 Jan 2017) in a notorious government detention centre (http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-white-helmet-fake-confession-filmed-assad-regime-intelligence-prison-344419324); according to Amnesty International, which does not mention that report in its appeal of 20 Jan 2017, states that there is no evidence he was a White Helmet and it is not known what happened to him (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/01/man-missing-during-east-aleppo-evacuation/). What I take from this is that some people want to defend the White Helmets, but that they cannot even agree a consistent story to base it on under the pressure of unexpected events in Aleppo showing behind the scenes – literally – of the Netflix version of events. It is also hardly reassuring about the quality of AI’s monitoring in Syria.

[2] My critical inquiry about Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was sparked by learning that their testimony was being used to criticise claims being made about Syria by the independent journalist Eva Bartlett. Having found her reporting credible, I felt compelled to discover which account to believe. I found that MSF had been misleading about what they could really claim to know in Syria.

In response to that article, several people pointed to related concerns about Amnesty International. So I had the temerity to start questioning Amnesty International on the basis of pointers and tips given by several of my new friends, and I would like to thank particularly Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Patrick J.Boyle, Adrian D., and Rick Sterling for specific suggestions. I have also benefited from work by Tim Anderson, Jean Bricmont, Tony Cartalucci, Stephen Gowans, Daniel Kovalic, Barbara McKenzie, and Coleen Rowley. I would like to thank Gunnar Øyro, too, for producing a rapid Norwegian translation of the MSF article which has helped it reach more people. In fact, there are a great any others too, that have I learned so much from in these few weeks, among what I have come to discover is a rapidly expanding movement of citizen investigators and journalists all around the globe. It’s one good thing to come out of these terrible times. Thanks to you all!

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[3] For instance, it is argued by Tim Anderson, in The Dirty War on Syria (2016), that Amnesty has been ‘embedded’, along with the Western media, and has been following almost unswervingly the line from Washington rather than providing independent evidence and analysis.

[4] The report Deadly Reprisals concluded that ‘Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.’

[5]http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40595 – .WIGzeZIpGHk

[6] ‘In the areas of the governorates of Idlib and Aleppo, where Amnesty International carried out its field research for this report, the fighting had reached the level and intensity of a non-international armed conflict. This means that the laws of war (international humanitarian law) also apply, in addition to human rights law, and that many of the abuses documented here would also amount to war crimes.’ Deadly Reprisals, p.10.

[7] Rovera’s account was contradicted at the time by other witness testimonies, as reported, for instance, in the Badische Zeitung, which claimed responsibility for deaths was attributed to the wrong side. One-sidedness in the account is also heavily criticized by Louis Denghien http://www.infosyrie.fr/decryptage/lenorme-mensonge-fondateur-de-donatella-rovera/ Most revealing, however, is the article I go on to mention in the text, in which Rovera herself two years later effectively retracts her own evidence (‘Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict’). This article is not published on Amnesty’s own site, and is not mentioned by Amnesty anywhere, as far as I know. I commend it to anyone who thinks my conclusion about Deadly Reprisals might itself be too hasty. I think it could make salutary reading for some of her colleagues, like the one who published the extraordinarily defensive dismissal of critical questions about the report in Amnesty’s blog on 15 June 2012, which, I would say, begs every question it claims to answer. (The author just keeps retorting that the critics hadn’t been as critical about opposition claims. I neither know nor care whether they were. I only wanted to learn if he had anything to say in reply to the actual criticisms made.) While appreciating that people who work for Amnesty feel passionately about the cause of the vulnerable, and I would not wish it otherwise, I do maintain that professional discipline is appropriate in discussions relating to evidence.

[8] ‘For more than a year from the onset of the unrest in 2011, Amnesty International – like other international human rights organizations – had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria as it was effectively barred from entering the country by the government.’ (Deadly Reprisals, p.13)

[9] Donatella Rovera, Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) 2014.

[10] The article is worth reading in full for its reflective insight into a number of difficulties and obstacles in the way of reliable reporting from the field, but here is an excerpt particularly relevant to the Syria case: ‘Access to relevant areas during the conduct of hostilities may be restricted or outright impossible, and often extremely dangerous when possible. Evidence may be rapidly removed, destroyed, or contaminated – whether intentionally or not. “Bad” evidence can be worse than no evidence, as it can lead to wrong assumptions or conclusions. In Syria I found unexploded cluster sub-munitions in places where no cluster bomb strikes were known to have been carried out. Though moving unexploded cluster sub-munitions is very dangerous, as even a light touch can cause them to explode, Syrian fighters frequently gather them from the sites of government strikes and transport them to other locations, sometimes a considerable distance away, in order to harvest explosive and other material for re-use. The practice has since become more widely known, but at the time of the first cluster bomb strikes, two years ago, it led to wrong assumptions about the locations of such strikes. … Especially in the initial stages of armed conflicts, civilians are confronted with wholly unfamiliar realities – armed clashes, artillery strikes, aerial bombardments, and other military activities and situations they have never experienced before – which can make it very difficult for them to accurately describe specific incidents.’ (Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict) In light of Rovera’s candour, one is drawn to an inescapable contrast with the stance of Amnesty International, the organization. Not only did it endorse the report uncritically, in the first place, it continued to issue reports of a similar kind, and to make calls for action on the basis of them.

[11] ‘This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action … For more than a year the UN Security Council has dithered, while a human rights crisis unfolded in Syria.  It must now break the impasse and take concrete action to end to these violations and to hold to account those responsible.’ Deadly Reprisals press release. The executive director of Amnesty International USA at that time was on record as favouring a Libya-like response to the Syria ‘problem’. Speaking shortly after her appointment she expressed her frustration that the Libya approach had not already been adopted for Syria: ‘Last spring the Security Council managed to forge a majority for forceful action in Libya and it was initially very controversial, [causing] many misgivings among key Security Council members. But Gaddafi fell, there’s been a transition there and I think one would have thought those misgivings would have died down. And yet we’ve seen just a continued impasse over Syria… .’ Quoted in Coleen Rowley, ‘Selling War as “Smart Power”’ (28 Aug 2012)

[12] The question of what Amnesty International as an organization can be said to have ‘willed’ is complex. One reason is that it is an association of so many people and does not have a simple ‘will’. Another is that public statements are often couched in language that can convey a message but with word choice that allows deniability of any particular intent should that become subject to criticism or censure. This practice in itself I find unwholesome, personally, and I think it ought to be entirely unnecessary for an organization with Amnesty’s moral mission. For a related critical discussion of Amnesty International’s ‘interventionism’ in Libya see e.g. Daniel Kovalik ‘Amnesty International and the Human Rights Industry’ (2012). Coleen Rowley received from Amnesty International, in response to criticisms by her, the assurance ‘we do not take positions on armed intervention.’ (The Problem with Human Rights/Humanitarian Law Taking Precedence over the Nuremberg Principle: Torture is Wrong but So Is the Supreme War Crime’, 2013). Rowley shows how this response, unlike a clear stance against intervention, shows some creativity. I also note in passing, that in the same response Amnesty assure us ‘AI’s advocacy is based on our own independent research into human rights abuses in a given country.’ This, going by the extent to which AI reports cite reports from other organisations, I would regard as economical with the truth.

In my next blog on Amnesty International, the role of Suzanne Nossel, sometime executive director of Ammesty International USA, will be discussed, and in that context further relevant information will be forthcoming about the purposes Amnesty’s testimony was serving in the period 2011-12.

[13] Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October 2011,‘End human rights violations in Syria’. Without wanting to diminish the significance of every single human rights abuse, I draw attention here to the scale of the problem that is recorded prior to 2011 for the purpose of comparison with later reports. Thus I note that the US State Department does not itemise egregious failings: ‘There was at least one instance during the year when the authorities failed to protect those in its custody. … There were reports in prior years of prisoners beating other prisoners while guards stood by and watched.’ In 2010 (May 28) Amnesty had reported ‘several suspicious deaths in custody’: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-syria-2010. Its briefing to Committee on Torture speaks in terms of scores of cases in the period 2004-2010: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/008/2010/en/

For additional reference, these reports also indicate that the most brutal treatment tends to be meted out against Islamists and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also complaints from Kurds. A small number of lawyers and journalists are mentioned too.

[14] Human Rights Watch (2010), ‘A Wasted Decade: Human Rights in Syria during Bashar al-Assad’s First Ten Years in Power’.

[15] According to one account: ‘As a result of four years of severe drought, farmers and herders have seen their livelihoods destroyed and their lifestyles transformed, becoming disillusioned with government promises of plentitude in rural areas. In the disjuncture between paternalistic promises of resource redistribution favoring Syria’s peasantry and corporatist pacts binding regime interests to corrupt private endeavors, one may begin to detect the seeds of Syrian political unrest. … the regime’s failure to put in place economic measures to alleviate the effects of drought was a critical driver in propelling such massive mobilizations of dissent. In these recent months, Syrian cities have served as junctures where the grievances of displaced rural migrants and disenfranchised urban residents meet and come to question the very nature and distribution of power. … I would argue that a critical impetus in driving Syrian dissent today has been the government’s role in further marginalizing its key rural populace in the face of recent drought. Numerous international organizations have acknowledged the extent to which drought has crippled the Syrian economy and transformed the lives of Syrian families in myriad irreversible ways.’ Suzanne Saleeby (2012) ‘Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and the Syrian Social Contract’s Unraveling’.

[16] The names, dates, and reporting periods of reports relevant here are easily confused, so here are further details. The Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights mentioned in the text just here reports on the calendar year 2010, and it was published on May 13 2011. The separate report published in August 2011 is entitled Deadly Detention: deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria’ and covers events during 2011 up to 15 August 2011.

[17] Crimes against humanity are a special and egregious category of wrongdoing: they involve acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. Whereas ordinary crimes are a matter for a state to deal with internally, crimes against humanity, especially if committed by a state, can make that state subject to redress from the international community.

[18] Salil Shetty interviewed in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unl-csIUmp8

[19] Was the research systematic? The organising of data collection takes time, involving procedures of design, preparation, execution and delivery; the systematic analysis and interpretation of data involves a good deal of work; the writing up needs to be properly checked for accuracy. Furthermore, to report reliably involves various kinds of subsidiary investigation in order to establish context and relevant variable factors that could influence the meaning and significance of data. Even then, once a draft report is written, it really needs to be checked by some expert reviewers for any unnoticed errors or omissions. Any presentation of evidence that shortcuts those processes could not, in my judgment, be regarded as systematic. I cannot imagine how such processes could be completed in short order, let alone ‘in real-time’, and so I can only leave it to readers to decide how systematic the research could have been.

Was the evidence gathered from primary sources? ‘International researchers have interviewed witnesses and others who had fled Syria in recent visits to Lebanon and Turkey, and communicated by phone and email with individuals who remain in Syria … they include relatives of victims, human rights defenders, medical professionals and newly released detainees. Amnesty International has also received information from Syrian and other human rights activists who live outside Syria.’ Of all those sources, we could regard the testimony of newly released detainees as a primary source of information about conditions in prison. However, we are looking for evidence that would support the charge of committing crimes against humanity through ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack’. On what basis Amnesty can claim definite knowledge of the extent of any attack and exactly who perpetrated it, or of how the government organizes the implementation of state policy, I do not see explained in the report.

Was the evidence collected by Amnesty’s staff on the ground? This question is answered in the report: “Amnesty International has not been able to conduct first-hand research on the ground in Syria during 2011” (p.5).

Was every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration? The fact that a number of identified individuals had died in violent circumstances is corroborated, but the report notes that ‘in very few cases has Amnesty International been able to obtain information indicating where a person was being detained at the time of their death. Consequently, this report uses qualified terms such as “reported arrests” and “reported deaths in custody”, where appropriate, in order to reflect this lack of clarity regarding some of the details of the cases reported.’

[This would corroborate descriptions of the pre-2011 situation regarding police brutality and deaths in custody. These are as unacceptable in Syria as they should be in all the other countries in which they occur, but to speak of ‘crimes against humanity’ implies an egregious systematic policy. I do not find anything in the report that claims to offer corroboration of the evidence that leads the report to state: ‘Despite these limitations, Amnesty International considers that the crimes behind the high number of reported deaths in custody of suspected opponents of the regime identified in this report, taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations committed against civilians elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity. They appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’]

As for corroboration of more widespread abuses and the claim that the government had a policy to commit what amount to crimes against humanity, I find none referred to.

Was the evidence relied on cross-checked with all parties concerned? Given that the government is charged, it would be a centrally concerned party, and the report makes clear the government has not been prepared to deal with Amnesty International. The non-cooperation of the government with Amnesty’s inquiries – whatever may be its reasons – cannot be offered as proof of its innocence. [That very phrase may jar with traditional Amnesty International supporters, given that a founding principle is the due process of assuming innocent before proven guilty. But I have allowed that some people might regard governments as relevantly different from individuals.] But since the government was not obliged to have dealings with Amnesty, and might have had other reasons not to, we must simply note that this aspect of the research methods protocol was not satisfied.

[20] I would note that a range of people have disputed whether there was any credible evidence, including former CIA intelligence officer Philip Giraldi http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/nato-vs-syria/ while also affirming that the American plan of destabilizing Syria and pursuing regime change had been hatched years earlier. That, unlike the allegations against Assad, has been corroborated from a variety of sources. These include a former French foreign minister http://www.globalresearch.ca/former-french-foreign-minister-the-war-against-syria-was-planned-two-years-before-the-arab-spring/5339112 and General Wesley Clark http://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166.

[21] Although quotation marks and the word alleged are invariably absent in mainstream references to accusations involving Assad, I retain them on principle since the simple fact of repeating an allegation does not suffice to alter its epistemic status. To credit the truth of a statement one needs evidence.

Lest it be said that there was plenty of other evidence, then I would suggest we briefly consider what Amnesty International, writing in 2016, would refer to as ‘the strongest evidence yet’. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/03/from-hope-to-horror-five-years-of-crisis-in-syria/ (15 March 2016; accessed 11 January 2017) The evidence in question was the so-called Caesar photographs showing some 11,000 corpses alleged to have been tortured and executed by Assad’s people. A full discussion of this matter is not for a passing footnote like this, but I would just point out that this evidence was known to Amnesty and the world as of January 2014 and was discussed by Amnesty’s Philip Luther at the time of its publication. Referring to them as ‘11,000 Reasons for Real Action in Syria’, Luther admitted the causes or agents of the deaths had not been verified but spoke of them in terms that suggest verification was close to being a foregone conclusion (remember, this was five months before Assad’s election victory, so the scale of this alleged mass murder was knowledge in the public domain at election time). These ‘11,000 reasons’ clearly weighed with Amnesty, even if they could not quite verify them. To this day, though, the evidence has not been credibly certified, and I for one do not expect it will be. Some reasons why are those indicated by Rick Sterling in his critical discussion ‘The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations’. Meanwhile, if Amnesty International’s people had thought up hypotheses to explain why the Syrian electors seemed so nonchalant about the supposed mass murdering of their president, they have not shared them.

[22] Although this was very much a minority perspective in the Western media, it was not entirely absent. The Los Angeles Times of 7 March 2012 carries a small item called ‘Syria Christians fear life after Assad’ http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/07/world/la-fg-syria-christians-20120307  It articulates concerns about ‘whether Syria’s increasingly bloody, nearly yearlong uprising could shatter the veneer of security provided by President Bashar Assad’s autocratic but secular government. Warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon.’ It notes ‘their fear helps explain the significant support he still draws’.

This well-founded fear of something worse should arguably have been taken into account in thinking about the proportionality of any military escalation. The LA Times article carries an interview: ‘”Of course the ‘Arab Spring’ is an Islamist movement,” George said angrily. “It’s full of extremists. They want to destroy our country, and they call it a ‘revolution.’ “… Church leaders have largely aligned themselves behind the government, urging their followers to give Assad a chance to enact long-promised political reforms while also calling for an end to the violence, which has killed more than 7,500 people on both sides, according to United Nations estimates.’ The LA Times carried several articles in a similar vein, including these: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/church-fears-ethnic-cleansing-of-christians-in-homs-syria.html; http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-05-09/syria-christians-crisis/54888144/1.

We also find that support for Assad’s presidency held up throughout the period following the initial protests: Since then, support for Assad has continued to hold up. Analysis of 2013 ORB Poll: http://russia-insider.com/en/nato-survey-2013-reveals-70-percent-syrians-support-assad/ri12011.

[23] No mention is made to it on Amnesty’s webpages, and the annual report of 2014/15 offers a cursory mention conveying that the election was of no real significance: ‘In June, President al-Assad won presidential elections held only in government-controlled areas, and returned to of ce for a third seven-year term. The following week, he announced an amnesty, which resulted in few prisoner releases; the vast majority of prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners held by the government continued to be detained.’ (p.355, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/0001/2015/en/)

[24] Reported in the Guardian 4 June 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/bashar-al-assad-winds-reelection-in-landslide-victory. The total population of Syria, including children, was 17,951,639 in 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Syria

Although most of the Western press ignored or downplayed the result, there were some exceptions. The LA Times noted that ‘Assad’s regional and international supporters hailed his win as the elusive political solution to the crisis and a clear indication of Syrians’ will.’ http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-prisoner-release-20140607-story.html In a report on Fox News via Associated Press, too, there is a very clear description of the depth of support: Syrian election shows depth of popular support for Assad, even among Sunni majority. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/06/04/syrian-election-shows-depth-popular-support-for-assad-even-among-sunni-majority.html The report explains numerous reasons for the support, in a way that appears to give the lie to the usual mainstream narrative in the West.

The Guardian reports: ‘Securing a third presidential term is Assad’s answer to the uprising, which started in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrators calling for reforms but has since morphed into a fully fledged war that has shaken the Middle East and the world. And now, with an estimated 160,000 dead, millions displaced at home and abroad, outside powers backing both sides, and al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups gaining more control in the north and east, many Syrians believe that Assad alone is capable of ending the conflict.’

Steven MacMillan offers a pro-Assad account of the election in New Eastern Outlook http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/20/bashar-al-assad-the-democratically-elected-president-of-syria/

[25] Despite assertions from the states committed to ‘regime change’ that the election result should simply be disregarded, international observers found no fault to report with the process http://tass.com/world/734657

[26] It is deemed of so little consequence by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that its webpage on Syria, as last updated 21 January 2015 (and accessed 16 January 2017) still has this as its paragraph discussing a possible election in Syria in the future tense and with scepticism: ‘there is no prospect of any free and fair election being held in 2014 while Assad remains in power.’

[27]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27706471

[28] A survey conducted in 2015 by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, still showed Assad to have more popular support than the opposition. The report is analysed by Stephen Gowans: http://www.globalresearch.ca/bashar-al-assad-has-more-popular-support-than-the-western-backed-opposition-poll/5495643

[29] For earlier and preliminary thoughts on the general question here see my short piece ‘Amnesty International: is it true to its mission?’ (12 Jan 2017)

 

[Tim Hayward is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University, There he is also founding Director of the Just World Institute and the Ethics Forum, Convenor of the Fair Trade Academic Network, and Programme Director of the MSc International Political Theory. His full biography on his website is here.]

Further Reading:

How We Were Misled About Syria: the role of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF)

 

The Resolution Copper Land Grab: How Environmental NGOs Expand Green Capitalism

Desert Water Grab

January 28, 2017

 

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People were outraged at the way the Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) finally achieved their land exchange in Arizona. It was the underhanded way Senator John McCain got the legislation passed that fueled the anger, but what many are not aware of is that the swap may not have been possible without the efforts of certain environmental groups. Conservation efforts functioned as currency for Resolution’s access to land, so the land grab could also be called a green grab. Green grabs are taking place in Arizona and beyond, especially around water. The Resolution Copper land exchange provides us with a way to understand the utility of the partnerships corporations forge to gain access to coveted resources.

The land swap is not yet a done deal. An appraisal to determine the equivalence of the parcels to be exchanged is due to be completed this year, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

“It’s a big ripoff,” Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club said in an interview last year. “The American public is getting chump change in return for this ecological treasure. The lands that are offered aren’t comparable.”

McCain’s website tells a different story:

Under the bill, the Resolution Copper company would give the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management about 5,500 acres of land identified by the Department of the Interior as ‘important’ for conservation, including property near the San Pedro River, an important migratory bird corridor and wetland habitat for endangered species. In exchange for these lands, Resolution Copper would receive about 2,400 acres of Forest Service land for the exploration and development of our nation’s top copper asset.

While the Sierra Club does not back up the claims about how important the lands are for conservation, a few other organizations did. Arguably, the land exchange may not have been possible without the help of some of these big, more corporate-friendly environmental organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arizona, who were involved in affirming, and even contributing to the value of the land to be exchanged for Resolution’s intended mine site. This is something Rio Tinto (majority owner of RCM) had learned from in partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Utah and Madagascar to arrange access to land a few years before. Multinational mining companies, Rio Tinto in particular, in partnership with NGOs, have been networking to improve the reputation and legitimacy of global mining activities since the ‘90s.

It’s clear that the quantity of land is disproportionate in the exchange. The acreage offered up to the feds for the trade (see map) is more than double Resolution’s desired area. However, McCain needed to sneak the exchange through in the National Defense Authorization Act to get it passed because the status and importance of the Chi’chil Bildagoteel/Oak Flat area resulted in nearly a decade of failed attempts to get the land exchange accepted prior to December 2014. Clearly, the conservation claims never swayed those with strong opposition to the mine, but they do count for something.

The appraiser is required to use nationally recognized standards to come up with the value of the parcels. But not only does Resolution actually have a voice in who gets the job to appraise the properties, the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions’ directive is that the appraiser determine only a market value (defined within the document) for the land. This does not seem to take into consideration the cultural, spiritual, historical, and environmental values such as those attributed by opponents of the mining in the Oak Flat/Apache Leap area.

Monetarily, while Rio Tinto spent “more than $18 million buying up” the parcels to exchange, the land to which Resolution Copper gained access could be worth around 7,000 times more – over $130 billion based on copper prices as of early 2015, as a former Florida Representative pointed out in The Nation. Copper prices had fallen, but the current price is back up to near where it was then. There are many other factors to enter into the equation, however. One is that Resolution Copper has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars towards the conservation activities that may have increased the value, even if not the market value, of the exchange lands.

While the promise of jobs seems to play a bigger role in Resolution Copper’s narrative, the exchange may have been unacceptable without the purportedly valuable conservation land tracts. And now that the legislation passed, whether it is truly an equitable exchange or not is irrelevant in some ways because if the appraisal sees those lands as insufficiently valuable, RCM will just have to add more land or cash to the deal.

Yet, the conservation values of the parcels offered up by RCM were necessary, and thusly emphasized, for public and federal acceptance. In addition to meeting the equal value requirement, land exchanges are required to serve the public interest, which includes “protection of fish and wildlife habitats, cultural resources, watersheds, and wilderness and aesthetic values,” and the Forest Service gets the final say.

Some of these NGOs have consulted with Rio Tinto to contribute to an accounting method to rate the quality of land, using something they call “quality hectares” as a metric based on various values such as biodiversity to frame as offsets the land parcels they intended to “donate“.

resolution-copper-offset-chart

Although the factors, which some refer to as “ecosystem services,” used for this type of valuation, are currently considered nonmarket values not likely to be used in the appraisal, they clearly were important to RCM in determining the value of their land parcels. “Ecosystem services” is an increasingly popular economic construct used to refer to the benefits ecosystems provide to humans.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that law firm Perkins Coie, who has worked for Resolution Copper, wrote a paper in which they made the following argument:

Over the longer term—and to the extent that appropriate methodology is developed and adopted—the BLM could also use the requirement that it obtain fair market value for use of public lands to ensure consideration of ecosystem services in determining land values and rentals.

Both the Forest Service and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) have attributed legitimacy to recognizing ecosystem services within policy. Multinational mining companies (especially Rio Tinto) and the involved NGOs have been major players on a global scale in market valuation of ecosystem services as well as ways to profit from them.

Valuation of ecosystem services, even if incorporated into the appraisal process, would likely benefit RCM. Even while “cultural,” and more rarely, “spiritual” ecosystem services can be incorporated into the value of land tracts, the fact that the Oak Flat area is not part of a reservation and is not officially recognized as sacred or culturally important works against those who have a connection with the land such as the San Carlos Apache and others.

RCM and certain NGOs’ preferred approach to environmental problems is through market-based “solutions”, which result in transferring resources into private hands. While this is a land grab, the conservation aspect is significant. RCM will gain ownership of the Oak Flat area (unless stopped) by using as currency the parcels obtained and cultivated as conservation projects. The land swap could therefore be considered a green grab. The book (and article) entitled Green Grabbing defines the process as “the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends” where “‘Appropriation’ implies the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned – or not even the subject of ownership – from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful.”

Why does all this matter? Aside from having more understanding about why this land exchange is not justified, we can learn from how some NGOs partner with private interests to engage in more green grabbing. The Nature Conservancy facilitates the sale of water offsets to companies such as Coca Cola, for example, based on conservation projects in Arizona. They are also supporting the efforts of big housing developments to legitimize construction where aquifers and the rivers like the San Pedro are at risk. Since Rio Tinto has been so central to the development of payments for ecosystem services programs such as offsets, the early stages of this Resolution Copper land exchange effort may have been the foray of the concept of ecosystem services into Arizona.

San Pedro River and Conflicts of Interest

Although the land exchange involved properties in various areas of Arizona, the one in the San Pedro River basin, the 7B Ranch, is the most relevant here, partly because early legislative support for the exchange related to this river. It is also the largest parcel offered by RCM.

Water conservation at the San Pedro River was made central to the land exchange idea when Rick Renzi, US Congressman from Arizona at the time, drew Resolution Copper into a scandal. Renzi was convicted in 2013 of conspiring with the owner of a piece of land in the San Pedro River basin, “to extort and bribe individuals seeking a federal land exchange…” A combination of his connections with Fort Huachuca, an army installation  near the San Pedro, and his desire to have Resolution Copper purchase his friend’s property in the area caused Renzi to assert in 2005, according to Wall Street Journal, that his support of the land exchange

…would hinge in part on whether it helped fulfill a goal to cut water consumption along the San Pedro River… participants in the deal say. Fort Huachuca, a big U.S. Army base nearby, was under court order to cut water consumption, and it had been seeking help to retire farmland near the river. Mr. Renzi has longstanding ties to the base, the economic engine of the area… Resolution proposed buying and handing over to the government thousands of acres of bird and wildlife habitat along the banks of the San Pedro, which would further the water-conservation goal.

Due to the high price, Resolution Copper did not buy this property, but the land was sold to someone else. A different parcel in the San Pedro River basin became part of the exchange, a choice likely influenced by the water conservation needs of Ft. Huachuca, as emphasized by Renzi.

Renzi’s father was a retired army general who had served at Ft. Huachuca and his company (one of the congressman’s top campaign donors) has had major contracts with Ft. Huachuca. In 2003, Renzi had proposed “an amendment to the defense authorization bill, [that] would exempt Ft. Huachuca from responsibility for maintaining water levels in the San Pedro River as called for in an agreement made last year with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Backed by McCain, it passed in November that year, despite media pointing to the conflict of interest.

Dropping groundwater levels have directly impacted the San Pedro base flow. Ft. Huachuca has faced multiple lawsuits for their impact on the riparian environment due to their groundwater pumping.

McCain has shown that he has invested as well in the fate of Ft. Huachuca in relation to the river. His relationship with Renzi likely had a lot to do with it, but he’s continued his support of the fort in recent years. The state of the San Pedro River makes at least an image of water conservation important to the land exchange even with Renzi’s interests out of the picture.

Various partnerships have developed to address, or more likely greenwash the fort’s impact on the environment. The Department of Defense and Ft. Huachuca had already been working with The Nature Conservancy since at least 1998. Significantly, one of the more recent projects is the Upper San Pedro Partnership (USPP) also involving Audubon Arizona. This came out Renzi’s legislative amendment in 2003 which shifted responsibility for water use away from the fort and onto this broader coalition of the USPP.

Shaping the land swap was a combination of these NGOs’ relationships with Ft. Huachuca specifically around the San Pedro River Basin, and Rio Tinto’s relationships with these NGOs through Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Copper mine in Utah where they partnered with NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society in the late ‘90s on a wetland offset program required due to the pollution of mining tailings.

Partnerships and Payments

Of course it makes sense that environmental groups be consulted about ecologically important issues. There’s a difference, however, between consultation and granting green credentials to mining companies for dubious conservation efforts when they’ll do more damage in the long run. Taken into consideration, additionally, should be the NGOs’ actions and the financial relationship between NGOs and corporations.

One role NGOs play is in acquiescing to the claim that there is no alternative to a particular mine or other development. Then somehow their pragmatism produces “win-win solutions” to supposedly mitigate mines’ damage (this is giving them the undeserved benefit of the doubt about their own financial interests in partnering with corporations). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Arizona Audubon, even while denying that they took a position on the land exchange, played integral roles in confirming and even generating some of the value of the various parcels RCM obtained and worked to glorify.

An International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) report described one way NGOs supported RCM (see chart above):

In consultation with conservation specialists, especially the Arizona Audubon Society, RCM rated the conservation value of the parcels in terms of ecosystem condition and priority for conservation in Arizona. In doing so, RCM was able to take a semi-quantitative approach using Rio Tinto’s quality hectares method, to determine whether the parcels represented equivalent or better conservation benefits than the government land.

According to Rio Tinto,

Quality Hectares are Rio Tinto’s current metric for tracking progress towards the [Net Positive Impact (NPI)] target at the global and site levels. A wide range of biodiversity values, including threatened species, rare habitats or non-timber forest products, may be expressed in terms of their quantity and quality.

It could be argued that RCM bought access to the copper ore in Oak Flat by funding NGOs’ conservation attribution of value to the land that RCM had accumulated. NGOs acted as consultants in choosing land parcels and quantifying their value, managed some of those parcels, wrote letters confirming their value, and thereby contributed to legitimizing the exchange.

Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper started funding Arizona Audubon Society in 2003. The mining subsidiary began lobbying for a land exchange in 2005 and in the same year contracted with TNC to manage the land parcel owned by BHP Billiton called the 7B Ranch.

The 7B Ranch was the piece of land in the San Pedro River basin that ultimately became part of the land exchange. Copper companies in Arizona have purchased land not only for mining, but BHP Billiton already owned some land near the San Pedro River prior to the idea for the land exchange, likely for the water rights.

The Superior Sun reported,

Resolution purchased 7B from BHP in 2007 with the intention of including it in an eventual land exchange… David Salisbury, Resolution Copper CEO, said that the company spoke to organizations such as Arizona Audubon and The Nature Conservancy to determine conservation targets that a number of agencies might be interested in…

Although Audubon hasn’t taken a position on the proposed land exchange, they have been on record since 2005 saying that 7B is an ecologically important piece of property…

With the plan in place, Resolution and its conservation partners hope to make 7B a ready-to-use asset for the [Department of the Interior] and the public.

The Tucson Sentinel reported in 2011, “7B Ranch, which contains one of oldest mesquite forests in Arizona, lies near the fragile San Pedro River. In 2007, Resolution Copper agreed to pay The Nature Conservancy $45,000 a year to manage the property.” They also noted the, “$250,000 in grants and donations that Resolution Copper and Rio Tinto have given to the Audubon Arizona since 2003.” Their coverage stated that the Sonoran Institute (SI) was also involved in identifying parcels that would be of value in the exchange.

RCM also supported SI for at least two years (2007 and 2008) and hired SI’s Dave Richins after, as The New Times revealed, he’d been doing work for RCM for a while prior to official employment. Luther Propst of SI authored an opinion column in the Arizona Republic in 2010 in favor of the Resolution Copper mine.

News outlets such as the Tucson Citizen reported in 2005 that, “the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute have all sent [Bruno Hegner, Resolution’s general manager] letters of support.” The Tucson Sentinel wrote that “Leaders of Audubon Arizona and The Nature Conservancy have said they neither support nor oppose the overall plan. But each group has formally attested to the conservation value of the Appleton-Whittell and 7B Ranch parcels, something that Resolution Copper has noted prominently in letters and testimony to Congress.” In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Arizona chapter of TNC sent letters to legislators reiterating their neutrality on the legislation, but elaborating on the value of the 7B Ranch property. Audubon Arizona had been managing the Appleton-Whittell ranch since the 1980’s. Notably, other Arizona-based Audubon groups (Maricopa and Tucson) have been openly opposed to the mine.

Resolution Copper partnered with Audubon Arizona, TNC, Birdlife International, along with the Salt River Project and others on the Lower San Pedro and Queen Creek Project, described by Birdlife International:

A two-year programme (2006–2007) undertook the development of a bird conservation strategy… It assisted in the provision of detailed biodiversity assessments of the land exchange parcel on the Lower San Pedro River for Resolution Copper Company and with the establishment of baseline data for the mine’s operational biodiversity action planning.

Thanks to the project, the Lower San Pedro River, from “The Narrows” north to the confluence with the Gila River, has been surveyed, nominated and recognised as a state [Important Bird Area (IBA)]. During 2006–2007, existing and newly collected data were compiled and submitted to the Arizona IBA Science Committee, in support of the IBA nomination of the Lower San Pedro River, and the nomination was accepted.

Birdlife International, which Rio Tinto has been working with since 2001 is described as “a global alliance of conservation organisations working together for the world’s birds and people.” One of Birdlife’s main partners is the Audubon Society, a group with which they’ve had overlapping board members.

It is not so difficult to imagine that an “environmental” group, such as Birdlife or TNC would accommodate a mining project considering TNC participated in drilling oil on a property they were supposed to have retired from oil production. Kierán Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity said that TNC “has shown over and over again its willingness to take corporate money in return for stealing, destroying, or polluting indigenous and poor human communities.” TNC has partnered with many of the most notorious corporations like Exxon, BP, Dow Chemical, and Monsanto along with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Birdlife had also partnered with BP, which may have been a factor in Rio Tinto partnering with the NGO in 2001.

From Greenwashing to Green Markets

Mines have pock-marked the earth, poisoned the land, water, and living beings, displaced communities, and left other destruction in their wake. One of the most notorious mining conflicts forced Rio Tinto to shut down their mine on Bougainville Island of Papua New Guinea in 1989 due to an uprising largely in response to the environmental damage caused by the mine. A lawsuit was filed against Rio Tinto over “racial discrimination and environmental harm, as well as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” arising from the mine and the military response as part of the decade-long civil war instigated by the company. Throughout the 1990’s major tailings containments collapsed each year around the world. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have both faced various strikes over working conditions. It’s no wonder they had to fix their reputation in order to do business.

While the Bougainville civil war was still raging, a study that Rio Tinto conducted in 1996 showed that the mining companies could benefit from addressing concern for biodiversity as part of their medium-to long-term business strategy. This may have played a part in the Rio Tinto chairman’s launch of the Global Mining Initiative (GMI) with nine of the largest global mining corporations in 1999. “The drivers for GMI were clear recognition that mining companies had problems of access to land, and access to markets, and cost of capital. The fundamental underlying reason was the reputation of the industry,” said Dr. John Groom, of mining company Anglo American.

Sarah Benabou writes that in 2000,

the GMI started a process of consultation and research known as the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project to determine the fundamental orientations that would shape the future of the industry. This project led to the creation of the [The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)] in 2002. A few months later, at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the ICMM and the [International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)] started a joint dialogue on mining and biodiversity ‘to provide a platform for communities, corporations, NGOs and governments to engage in a dialogue to seek the best balance between the protection of important ecosystems and the social and economic importance of mining’ (IUCN 2003: 1).

Benabou’s Making up for lost nature? A critical review of the international development of voluntary biodiversity offsets also describes how mining companies and NGOs at an IUCN/ICMM jointly-organized workshop in 2003 could draw upon each others’ experiences regarding ways to apply a biodiversity offset approach even if it couldn’t be “transposed term-for-term” in other situations. IUCN is one of the oldest and biggest environmental NGOs.

The relationship with Birdlife, initiated by Rio Tinto in 2001 was an early venture into partnerships with such NGOs. According to Rio Tinto, “the partnership has enabled both organisations to deliver outcomes that neither could have achieved as effectively when working alone.”

It would be a mistake to frame this simply as examples of greenwashing in attempt to solve mining companies’ public relations problems and access to land. In the context of the earth’s welfare and diminishing finite resources, the extractive industry and their partners have developed market-based tools like offsets to create new financial strategies. “In this zeitgeist of crisis capitalism, the environmental crisis itself has become a major new frontier of value creation and capitalist accumulation,” writes Sian Sullivan, Professor of Environment and Culture in the UK. The commodification and financialization of so-called natural capital and ecosystem services are central to this process.

19-ecoservices_balancedThe concept of ecosystem services originates with some in the field of Ecological Economics who argued that if destructive practices are unavoidable, then corporations should pay for the damage they have done (or will do) to that which we take for granted but can’t live without: the environment. Yet, if companies compensate for their externalities, a whole host of other problems arise with pricing, quantifying, simplifying and appropriating natural resources.

The introduction to Nature, Inc. spells it out: “Capitalism now endeavors to accumulate not merely in spite of but rather precisely through the negation of its own negative impacts on both physical environments and the people who inhabit them, proposing itself as the solution to the very problems it creates.” Similarly, co-editor of Nature, Inc., Bram Büscher posited elsewhere, “To believe that nature can be conserved by increasing the intensity, reach and depth of capital circulation is arguably one of the biggest contradictions of our times.”

IUCN, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was involved in the early 1990’s in advancing the concept of ecosystem services, aka environmental services, beginning with their Global Biodiversity Strategy. This was a predecessor to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) completed in 2005, to which IUCN and UNEP also contributed. MA has been considered a game-changer in the way it endeavored to apply a monetary value to ecosystem services; the wide variety of beneficial (to humans) functions deriving from ecosystems, like carbon sequestration and water purification.

One of the biggest payments for ecosystem services (PES) program currently is REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (the latest version is called REDD+) which Tom B. K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said could lead to “the biggest land grab of all time.” REDD is a project of IUCN, supported by Rio Tinto (including in its early development). Rio Tinto claims that REDD+ allows them to offset their carbon footprint. The Nature Conservancy, and Birdlife International are proponents of REDD+.

REDD and the carbon trade in general have meant further financialization of nature, involving hedge funds, derivatives, and “a new generation of ‘commercial conservation asset managers’ required to broker these exchanges and revenues,” according to Sian Sullivan. “Conservation investing experienced dramatic growth after 2013, as total committed private capital climbed 62% in just two years from $5.1B to $8.2B,” reported Ecosystem Marketplace recently.

NGOs and negotiations have enabled and structured “new green market opportunities and practices as they orchestrate the social and political relations among various state and non-state actors through which the mechanisms, incentives and legitimating conditions for green grabs are established,” as is argued in Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing.

Experts from the big NGOs are called upon to design, implement, and/or verify such mechanisms as offsets. While carbon offsets are the most notoriously dubious, mining companies are involved in a variety of other offsets, both voluntary and regulatory.

Buying, Banking, Trading Offsets

In Utah, a land tract Kennecott wanted for storage of their tailings (materials left over from processing of mined substance) was designated as wetlands, which are regulated. So according to a case report put out by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB),

Kennecott was thus required by U.S. law to offset, or mitigate, the loss of wetlands by the creation of an agreed number and value of habitat units… In 1996, Kennecott Utah Copper Company undertook the cleanup and construction of the 1,011 ha Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve (ISSR) in conjunction with a project to expand its tailings storage.

utah-kennecott-mine

Kennecott Utah Copper Mine (Rio Tinto)

In addition to the required wetlands offset, Rio Tinto established a “bank” of restored surplus habitat land which, as TEEB explained, referencing an unpublished study, “could be used to offset future impacts on wetlands (584 ha) adjacent to the mitigation site… Credits from the bank can be used by Kennecott or sold to others for wetlands mitigation in accordance with the terms of the Bank Agreement with the US government.” Banking converts wetland habitat properties into assets. Rio Tinto wrote in 2011 that they have, “successfully developed and then sold wetland credits” as part of the ISSR.

Essentially, companies can profit from ostensibly going above and beyond their responsibilities (or having a “net positive impact”) for mitigating the damage they cause through mining. In many cases, profit-driven wetlands banking has been shown to result in a net loss, however.

TNC and National Audubon Society were involved in developing this wetland mitigation plan. The ISSR also became an IBA in 2004 and is part of BirdLife International’s IBA Program.

BirdLife International also endorsed Rio Tinto’s activities across the world in Madagascar. Rio Tinto owns 80% of the QMM (QIT Madagascar Minerals) ilmenite (titanium dioxide) mine in Southeastern Madagascar which started mining in 2005. The mining activities “will remove more than half of a particular type of unique coastal forest.” BirdLife described the benefits of a project implemented by a BirdLife affiliate and supported by Rio Tinto:

The direct payments [for conservation] project aims to strengthen the conservation of Tsitongambarika’s unique and threatened biodiversity, enhance water security for QMM’s mining operations… and maintain ecosystem services essential for regional development.

Rio Tinto is partnered with this affiliate in a biodiversity offset program. Note that other than biodiversity, the benefits of the project are for the mine and/or “regional development” but are subsumed into conservation as well. The biodiversity offsets involve “the financing of, or provision of land for, biodiversity conservation outside of mining zones,” explains PhD candidate in Anthropology, Caroline Seagle. The idea is that aspects of biodiversity are exchangeable (or fungible) with others, so damage to this particular type of forest can be made up for elsewhere.

For aspects of ecosystems to be treated as fungible commodities, their uniqueness and complexity needs to be erased for the sake of market exchange. This “offset ideology” is “premised upon the monetization of nature and market rationality,” writes Seagle, in “Inverting the impacts: Mining, conservation and sustainability claims near the Rio Tinto/QMM ilmenite mine in Southeast Madagascar” (for a similar more accessible version, see “The mining-conservation nexus“).

“Through the paradigm of conservation finance and payments for environmental services (PES), the ‘offset ideology’ is less mitigatory and more compensatory – making up for local damage through land allocation or financial support of nature conservation,” criticizes Seagle.

Similar to Rio Tinto’s wetland banking, these mechanisms are not only intended to compensate for damage, but to create revenue. IUCN wrote in 2011 of Rio Tinto’s further steps in Madagascar to gain from conservation:

Rio Tinto is using established relationships with its biodiversity partners and specifically its relationship with IUCN to explore how ecosystem services can be accurately valued and the implications for corporate risks and opportunities.

For companies like Rio Tinto, robust methods of valuing ecosystem services and the development of well functioning markets for ecosystem services could provide an opportunity to use large non-operational land holdings to create new income streams for Rio Tinto and for local stakeholders and communities, through the sale of ecosystem service credits.

Biodiversity offsets became a primary tool to make headway into areas they wanted to mine. An IUCN document reiterated,

[For some] Multinational companies, whose operations have an impact on biodiversity and for whom license to operate – both formal concessions from governments and social license from communities – are key to business success. Their view of biodiversity offsets is that best practice on biodiversity – possibly including offsets, whether mandatory or voluntary – is important to access land, maintain reputation… and the avoidance of interference and disruption from NGOs and local communities.

The wetlands offsets in Utah and the biodiversity offsets in Madagascar are just two experiences the mining companies could learn from leading up to the Arizona land exchange. While Rio Tinto was mandated to buy wetlands offsets for their Kennecott Utah mine, in the Arizona case, RCM had to do a land exchange to access the Forest Service land, and there seem to be no other mandatory mitigatory steps required of RCM. But they did use ecosystem services to attribute value to the conservation lands, which seemed to have some utility for them.

The land exchange was framed in terms of offsets because it of its purported mitigatory function. In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Forests and Public Lands, the President of Resolution stated in 2009, “we believe the exceptional quality and quantity of the non-federal lands that will be conveyed into Federal ownership more than off-set any expected surface impacts to the lands acquired by Resolution Copper” (my emphasis).

The ICMM featured the Arizona land exchange in a 2010 Mining and Biodiversity case studies report, framing it as an offset as well:

Given Rio Tinto’s commitment to a net positive impact to biodiversity, the land exchange presents a unique opportunity to exceed the requirements of trading land of equivalent economic value by ensuring that the land parcels offered in the trade are also of equivalent or greater value for the conservation of biodiversity and provision of environmental services – a biodiversity offset (my emphasis).

The chart from this report (see above) shows the various parcels in Arizona Rio Tinto offered up as “offsets,” along with the their quality valuation, based on consultation with Audubon Arizona and other NGOs.

Again, the biodiversity and environmental services would likely not be accounted for in the official appraisal. However, Resolution’s claim of these voluntary offsets may have contributed to an attempt to prove that the swap is in the public interest.

Conservation Value

“The American public is getting ripped off,” Silver said. “The only land that is of value is the research center’s because it hasn’t been overgrazed, but it’s of no value to the general public because it wouldn’t be open to them, unlike Oak Flat that offers recreational opportunities to the public and is of cultural value to Native Americans,” Silver said.

Many, like Robin Silver, co-founder of the Center of Biological Diversity, as quoted by the Arizona Daily Sun disagree with TNC and Audubon Arizona’s opinions of the exchange parcels. Several environmental groups opposed to the mine detailed the damage the RCM would cause, as well as the poor quality of the exchange sites in their Scoping Comments for the Resolution Copper Mine DEIS.

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“The San Pedro is not free-flowing at the 7B Ranch,” Witzeman wrote.

Bob Witzeman, an environmentalist who spent several of his final years fighting against the Resolution Copper mine, commented that the 7B Ranch owned by BHP Billiton was likely purchased for its water rights and “is under no duress for need of protection… There is no danger of mining here, or developing homes here, because it is in a flood plain.”

In earning credit for offsets, protecting a site only counts for something if the site is under threat. This is called additionality. Some states and institutions require additionality as part of offset programs. The “counterfactual,” or what otherwise would have happened without a conservation project such as an offset program, is often difficult to ascertain. As far as the land exchange in Arizona goes, not only do many of the parcels seem of poor quality, especially compared to Oak Flat, it’s likely that there was no imminent threat to the largest parcel, 7B Ranch, nor the Appleton-Whittell parcel which was converted into a research facility in 1968.

This is not to say that conservation efforts are for naught (though there’s evidence that many of the projects, especially when profit-driven are not even effective), or that there is any legal weight to this point, but this needs to be considered. For example, regarding the 7B Ranch, Witzeman wrote, “BHP does own another riverside parcel with riparian habitat. BHP does plan to develop homes in that area, some 35,000 units. As of this time, they have made no commitment to protect this riparian habitat.” The land was still being preserved in 2013 (I was unable to find anything more recent) but the reason given that the real estate development plan didn’t come to fruition was the economic downturn in 2007.

This brings up another problem with offset programs called leakage. “Leakage occurs when environmentally destructive activities… are shifted from the places targeted for conservation to other sites,” explains Kathleen McAfee in Green economy and carbon markets for conservation and development: A critical view. Just one relevant example of leakage is when TNC purchased 500 acres along the San Pedro to retire it from agricultural irrigation only to have the seller begin irrigating a nearby 500 acre plot soon after.

Resolution’s protection of the 7B Ranch at the expense of nearby land can be shown in the case when the Sunzia transmission line project was in the planning stages, and two of the potential routes could have impacted the conservation value of the 7B Ranch. Resolution Copper sent a letter opposing those routes. The Final Environmental Impact Statement shows a somewhat different but nearby route as the BLM preferred alternative. RCM did not comment on other routes that would also affect the region. This not only shows that conservation is only important when it benefits the company, but it also points to another issue that comes up when profit factors into conservation. Scarcity, caused by development, increases the value of conservation products (such as offsets), thereby incentivizing conservation, but also more development.

Sian Sullivan argues that conservation banking is development-dependent. “Indeed, development that produces transformation of habitats is required for conservation credits to attain the prices that will encourage establishment of conservation banks and bankers, thereby generating trade in conservation credits as a funding strategy for conservation management.”

Seagle pointed out that as part of a strategy of sustainability in Madagascar – though applicable in other cases – Rio Tinto is paradoxically creating scarcity of biodiversity while claiming to save it.

Here and Now

The Nature Conservancy’s legitimization of development is not isolated to Resolution Copper, even in Arizona. Water is particularly vulnerable to green grabbing, as water is integral to ecosystem services as well as a necessary resource for industry. Aside from the partnerships with Ft. Huachuca noted above, TNC is also working with Castle & Cooke’s housing development called Tribute in Sierra Vista, as well as El Dorado Holdings’ Vigneto Villages housing development in Bensen, the latter involving a “mitigation parcel” as an offset. Both could be serious threats to the San Pedro and nearby aquifers, and require proof of assured water supplies.

A major threat to aquifers and other surface water in Arizona relates to what’s happening with the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water Arizona has come to depend on (though destructive). Arizona is taking voluntary Colorado River water reductions to delay an official shortage declaration triggered by Lake Mead’s water level. Water officials have been meeting with various leaders in different sectors to arrange voluntary cuts, with a plan to compensate water users (this may involve more market-based “solutions”) for 400,000 AF per year. Resolution Copper has secured a portion of Arizona’s stored water in the form of storage credits, which brings up more issues regarding recovery. RCM expects to also be able to access large quantities of CAP water, but this allocation is in a low priority category, and therefore is subject to cuts. Farmers, tribes, and others are subject to having to forego their share of CAP water, essentially to secure water for the mine (and other mining operations and water bottling, etc). As CAP reductions go into effect, stress on other sources of surface and ground water will increase.

What may be most troubling to readers is that an NGO has been selling water offsets based on watershed restoration projects, to companies like Coca Cola and Intel Corp. While they continue to use massive amounts of water, companies’ “water footprints” are allegedly reduced by voluntarily buying Water Restoration Certificates (WRC) from Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). WRCs supposedly help restore a watershed in partnership with local landowners and big environmental groups like TNC. BEF also sells carbon offsets.

One such project involving TNC and BEF (supported by Walmart heirs’ Walton Family Foundation) is the relatively new Verde River Exchange Water Offset Program. Reading media coverage on this project, you wouldn’t gather that this is part of TNC’s efforts in developing water markets across the globe. Their 2016 report called Water Share: Using water markets and impact investment to drive sustainability says a lot more, revealing that their hypothetical model involves reallocating (selling or leasing) the majority of the “conserved” water from farming (that would otherwise contribute to the aquifer or river but is considered “lost”) to another sector in order to raise revenue to compensate farmers and to profit investors. These small-scale pilot projects may have much bigger implications in the future.

A few recently published papers (funded by the Walton Family Foundation) apply monetary value to and promote payments for ecosystem services of the Colorado River Basin, and suggest unbundling water rights to create a water market in the Western US. Water-marketing may be central to addressing the main obstacle to finalizing a Lower Colorado River basin Drought Contingency Plan – California’s Salton Sea. Arizona aims to resolve remaining tribal water rights claims on the state’s terms and facilitate water marketing. A major US/Mexico water agreement makes water marketing central to multiple aspects of the current and future versions. The Bureau of Reclamation has become involved in water marketing, and things may become even worse under Trump’s administration.

It is concerning that seemingly necessary feel-good projects in water conservation will actually serve capitalism. But there is no denying that there are many examples of this across the world. NGO/corporate partnerships have served to contribute to learning experiences, provide green credentials for mining companies and other development to influence media and decision-makers, and create new mechanisms for access to resources and financial gain.

Standing Rock water protectors’ efforts were evoked in an article on the Ecosystem Marketplace website in which the author declared that 2016 was a year for learning the value of water. The article promoted market-based mechanisms like those developed by TNC. The real lesson to be learned is not that the value of water should be translated into market terms, but instead many have learned that resource appropriation (when not invisible) is backed up by state violence or the threat of it. Those who physically obstruct the Resolution Copper mine, or in any other case, in protest may be treated similarly to the water protectors fighting against DAPL.

 

See an accompanying page on the San Pedro River for more on that.

The Bankers at the Helm of the ‘Natural Capital’ Sector

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

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Let’s put a spotlight on four bankers who positioned themselves in the ‘natural capital’ sector around the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Let’s have a look at some of their networks.

The reason these bankers have positions at the intersection of big finance and the conservation sector is because of their intimate knowledge of financial instruments and what some call “financial innovation”. They follow the edict ‘measure it and you can manage it’. They are the perfect addition to decades of work – as part of the sustainable development agenda – aimed at quantifying the economic value of nature in order to exploit it as collateral to underwrite the new economy.

Banker 1

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John Fullerton is a former managing director at JPMorgan, he founded the Capital Institute in 2010, in 2014 he became a member of the Club of Rome, he has written a book called Regenerative Capitalism.

“No doubt the shift in finance will require both carrots and sticks, and perhaps some clubs.” [Source]

The first of Fullerton’s key networked individuals is Gus Speth who consults to the Capital Institute, he sits on the US Advisory Board of 350.org and the New Economy Coalition board and is good buddies with the godfather of ‘ecosystem services’ Bob Costanza. He has a long history supporting sustainable development projects and has some seriously heavy hitting networks. He founded two conservation organisations with which he was actively engaged up until 2o12, both organisations continue to support ‘natural capital’ projects among other diabolical efforts.

The second networked individual is Hunter Lovins, an award winning author and environmentalist who heads up Natural Capital Solutions and is an advisor to the Capital Institute. She is a long term cheer leader for green capitalism, climate capitalism, and sustainable development.

Banker 2

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Mark Tercek was a managing director at Goldman Sachs and became the CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008, he has written a book called Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

“This reminds me of my Wall Street days. I mean, all the new markets—the high yield markets, different convertible markets, this is how they all start.” [Source]

One of Tercek’s networked individuals is conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, the person Hank Paulson sent him to meet when he accepted the leadership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project in 2005 with the help of  WWF, TNC and the University of Minnesota.

Another prominent figure in TNC is Peter Kareiva, senior science advisor to Mark Tercek and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, he is also the former chief scientist of TNC and its former vice president.

Taylor Ricketts is also a co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, at the time of founding he was the director of conservation science at WWF. He’s now the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics which was founded by Bob Costanza.

Banker 3

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Hank Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, he was US treasury secretary during the GFC, he’s a former chair of the TNC board and the driving force behind the 2008 bail out bill. In 2011 he launched the Paulson Institute which is focussed on China, he has written a memoir called On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.

Even before he was made treasury secretary by George W Bush, Paulson had an interest in conservation finance and greening big business. He was a founding partner of Al Gore and David Blood’s, Generation Investment Management which operates the “sustainable capitalism” focussed Generation Foundation. He has worked with Gus Speth’s World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop environmental policy for Goldman Sachs. In 2004 he facilitated the donation from Goldman Sachs of 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society and in 2002-04 he and his wife Wendy donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. He has also worked with the second largest conservation organisation on the planet Conservation International.

“The environment and the economy have been totally misconstrued as incompatible,”[Source]

 

“[…] It is is clear that a system of market-based conservation finance is vital to the future of environmental conservation.” [Source]

Banker 4

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Pavan Sukhdev is a former managing director and head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, he was the study leader of the G8+5  project, he founded the Green Accounting for Indian States Project, he co-founded and chairs an NGO in India called the Conservation Action Trust, he headed up the United Nations Environment Program – Green Economy Initiative which was launched in 2008, he has written a book called  Corporation 2020: Transforming Business For Tomorrow’s World 

Sukdev’s work cuts across more than a dozen UN agencies and scores of international agencies and initiatives. Here are just some of them: IUCN, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, IPBES, WEF, IMF, OECD. Every kind of commodity and economic activity has been covered through his work.

“We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.” [Source]

There are only a one or two degrees of separation between these bankers and the environmental movements with which we are very familiar. Looking at key networked individuals connected to the representatives of the financial elites – bankers – helps to highlight the silences and privately held pragmatic positions of many an environmental pundit. “Leaders” of our popular environmental social movements don’t want to be seen or heard supporting the privatisation of the commons, but they remain silent in the face of a growing surge towards collateralization of the earth. Perhaps they too believe that using nature to capitalise the consumer economy is preferable to the toxic derivatives that precipitated the GFC. Either way the underlying motivation – for anyone who might feel that ecosystem services thinking is useful for the earth – is the desire for the continuation of our consumer economy.

 

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