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Tagged ‘Goldman Sachs.‘

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

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

bankers-at-the-helm

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.

 

nature-bar-code

The DAPL Fantasy

milieu

December 6, 2016

By Jay Taber

 

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Above: “There are about 150,000 miles of oil pipelines and more than 1.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines in the United States.” [Source]

 

“I have been working with indigenous leaders for decades and arguing that indigenous nations must take the initiative to take back that which is and always has been theirs: land, resources and freedom to move… Asking for rights from those who have no interest in recognizing those rights is a defeated policy. Taking back your land and resources they stole, as Chief George Manuel urged, is the only alternative to self-destruction.”– Center for World Indigenous Studies chair Rudolph C. Ryser

 

When reality is too much to bear, we turn to fantasies to keep from losing our mind. When fantasies become our reality, we are liable to believe just about anything.

One fantasy currently circulating online is that Obama halted DAPL because he has strong emotional ties to American Indians. While he has helped tribes with issues like domestic violence and education, his strong financial ties to oil industry investors like Goldman Sachs have created a nightmare for many tribes across the country.

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Above: US President Barack Obama (C) talks with Chairman of the Standing Rock Soiux Tribal Nation David Archambault II (L) during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, June 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON

Standing Rock could have been avoided, had Obama not approved fracking millions of acres of Bakken Shale in North Dakota. The pipelines and bomb trains emanating from that disastrous decision alone will haunt us for generations. In the Gulf of Mexico, Obama’s executive order waiving environmental restrictions on risky deep-sea oil drilling resulted in the largest oil spill in history.

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Above: “US President Barack Obama talks with youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Oval Office of the White House, 2014”

While it is a relief that the stand-off at Standing Rock avoided a showdown, by delaying the pipeline over Christmas, the fact that it progressed to this point without interference from the White House suggests Obama’s interest is in his perceived legacy, since Trump is almost certain to forge ahead with its completion in January.

Meanwhile, oil industry members of the Native American Affairs Coalition advising President Trump propose making Indian Reservations private property. As noted at Reuter’s, “The plan dovetails with Trump’s larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production.”

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Further reading:

Moment of Truth

Pentecostals Not Welcome

Leonardo DiCaprio, the Malaysian Money Scandal and His “Unusual” Foundation

Hollywood Reporter

August 17, 2016

By Gary Baum

According to the Justice Department, certain donations to the Oscar winner’s charity came directly from a multibillion-dollar embezzlement drama in Southeast Asia.

On the evening of July 20, under a tent at a vineyard in St. Tropez brimming to his specifications with booze, billionaires and babes, Leonardo DiCaprio was preparing to host one of the glitziest charitable events of the year: the third annual fundraiser for his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Earlier that same day, under far less glamorous auspices half a world away, the U.S. Department of Justice was filing a complaint with the U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles that suggested the recent Oscar winner is a bit player in the planet’s largest embezzlement case, totaling more than $3 billion siphoned from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1MDB.

While the complaint does not target DiCaprio — he’s referred to twice in the 136-page document and only as “Hollywood Actor 1” — the scandal shines an unfamiliar light on the charitable foundation of the most powerful actor in Hollywood thanks to the way the LDF has benefited directly from DiCaprio’s relationship with key figures in the saga. And much like the gala in St. Tropez, with its expressions of one-percenter excess ostensibly in support of saving the environment (guests helicoptering in to dine on whole sea bass after watching a short film about the dangers of overfishing), a closer look at the LDF itself raises questions about its ties to the 1MDB players as well as the lack of transparency often required (or offered in this case) for the specific structure the actor has chosen for his endeavor.


From left: Constance Jablonski, Joan Smalls, Doutzen Kroes, Lily Donaldson and Anja Rubik were photographed just before the July 20 Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gala in St. Tropez.

Set up not as a nonprofit but instead as a donor-advised fund (DAF) attached to the California Community Foundation, which is a nonprofit, the LDF therefore is not required to file itemized public disclosures about its own revenue, expenditures and disbursements. “It’s difficult to characterize the giving of the DiCaprio Foundation because its status as part of the CCF makes it impossible to look at its finances,” industry trade journal Inside Philanthropy noted in 2015.

Despite repeated efforts, DiCaprio, 41, the LDF and the CCF all declined to fully answer fundamental questions related to transparency and accountability of the foundation — a decision that disappoints charity experts consulted by THR. “Everything might be perfectly fine, but we don’t know,” says Aaron Dorfman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, of the LDF.

Among the questions asked: Who pays for the LDF’s six-member staff (the CCF is not allowed to cover the expense) as well as underwrites the events and other operating costs? What’s the total overhead, and how much of the money raised goes into operations versus charitable grants?


DiCaprio (right) with LDF global finance chairman Gatsby at the 2014 gala.

Also, is the LDF’s global finance chairman, Milutin Gatsby — a Serb likely originally known as Gijic — operating under a pseudonym? (Yes, Gatsby-and-Gatsby jokes were on the lips of just about everyone at the St. Tropez event.) The LDF wouldn’t make Gatsby available for comment.

(It also is unclear whether the DOJ will try to recoup 1MDB assets donated to the LDF. The Justice Department would not comment, other than to say this is an ongoing investigation. THR has learned, however, that charities are not off-limits in such asset-seizure cases.)

Multiple attendees who spoke to THR describe the annual LDF galas as freewheeling bacchanals in which wives feel outnumbered by suspiciously predisposed Slavic women in bustiers and couples openly cavort in the bathroom stalls. At the July 20 event in St. Tropez, where tickets started at $11,778 (10,500 euros) DiCaprio greeted a roomful of approximately 500 partygoers, including oligarchs (Dmitry Rybolovlev), supermodels (Naomi Campbell) and plenty of fellow A-listers, among them Bono, Charlize Theron, Tobey Maguire, Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Arnold Schwarzenegger.


From left: Kroes, Saudi producer Mohammed Al Turki, Smalls and Alessandra Ambrosio at the LDF gala.

Notably absent this year was Jho Low, 35, the bespectacled Malaysian businessman and party boy at the center of the 1MDB scandal who, at least as early as 2010, became a regular drinking buddy of DiCaprio’s (the biggest star on a roster of Low’s celebrity friends that includes Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys). Low, notorious for stunts like sending 23 bottles of Cristal to Lindsay Lohan for her 23rd birthday at the club 1OAK in Las Vegas in 2009, is alleged in the DOJ complaint to have used roughly $1 billion in 1MDB funds for a personal shopping spree. This included the acquisition of a $31 million penthouse in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center, once occupied by Jay Z and Beyonce, and a $39 million Hollywood Hills mansion a few doors down from DiCaprio.

Low, who graduated from Wharton School of Business in 2005, in 2009 was brought into the inner circle of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as an adviser on a precursor to the 1MDB wealth fund. Despite only earning the bit-part title of “Malaysian Official 1” in the Justice Department complaint, Razak is the key figure at the heart of the scandal. But it’s Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz who provides the link to both Low and DiCaprio. It was Low who introduced Aziz to Joey McFarland, previously Hilton’s party booker, and together they set up Red Granite Pictures. Red Granite eventually would surprise Hollywood insiders by landing the rights to DiCaprio’s passion project The Wolf of Wall Street. The DOJ complaint alleges, however, that the financing for the film came from a $238 million pot of money siphoned from the 1MDB fund. (Red Granite maintains it is cooperating with all inquiries; the company still has an office above DiCaprio’s own Appian Way in a Sunset Strip midrise opposite Soho House West Hollywood.)


The DOJ alleges Low paid for Vincent van Gogh’s La Maison de Vincent a Arles using money from the 1MDB fund and an account in Singapore. It was seized by Swiss authorities July 21.

The 1MDB saga has been Hollywood-tinged from the start. Tim Leissner, the Goldman Sachs banker who brokered the deal that set everything in motion, is Kimora Lee Simmons’ husband. (He since has left the firm.) Low was given a “special thanks” in the film’s credits and hailed as a “collaborator” in DiCaprio’s 2014 Golden Globes acceptance speech. The Malaysian returned the favor in grand fashion with splashy bromantic gifts — in one instance, according to the DOJ, he and the Red Granite execs brought DiCaprio along on an $11 million gambling bender in Las Vegas; in another, they reportedly laid out $600,000 to gift him Marlon Brando’s best actor Oscar statuette for On the Waterfront. (DiCaprio — who has a notable habit of buddying up with smooth dudes who end up in federal prison for money crimes, from late investment adviser Dana Giacchetto to art dealer Helly Nahmad — still was several prestige roles away from finally claiming his own.)

They also made donations to DiCaprio’s foundation. At the actor’s birthday party in 2013, Low and McFarland were among those who reportedly helped raise more than $3 million for the charity by buying marked-up bottles of champagne. Earlier that year, diverted 1MDB funds were alleged by the DOJ complaint to have been used by Low to purchase a pair of artworks (for a total of $1.1 million) by Ed Ruscha and Mark Ryden at a Christie’s auction benefiting the LDF (one of many buys during a spending spree that shook the art world). And at the glittering St. Tropez auction held in 2015, with the likes of David Geffen, Paul Allen, Tom Barrack and Harvey Weinstein in attendance, Low offered the LDF a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein, 1982’s Brushstroke, valued at roughly $700,000. But Low wasn’t there to see it go under the hammer; instead, he is believed to have fled to Taiwan — which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. — as the net of international investigators began closing in.


Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke sculpture

According to the LDF, the July 20 gala raised more than $45 million in funds for global conservation efforts. Yet the organization would provide no documentation to THR to support these and other claims. Due to its unorthodox structure, the LDF is not obligated to disclose any specifics about its donations and repeatedly has been critiqued in recent years by Inside Philanthropy for its opacity as a prominent celebrity charity. (By comparison, the most recently available 990 IRS nonprofit filing from, for instance, Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, runs 101 pages to account for an entity handling just over $10 million in assets.)

The LDF did provide a statement from its recently hired CEO, Terry Tamminen. He contends that grants of more than $30 million already have been made so far this year and calls the LDF “an incredibly efficient, highly effective philanthropic organization that, through its relationship to the California Community Foundation, is supporting credible organizations that are carrying out some of the most important work on the planet.” In its own statement, the CCF’s senior counsel, Carol Bradford, explains that it “strives to preserve the wishes of our many donors, which can often include anonymity or privacy in their giving choices.”

The LDF wasn’t always a donor-advised fund. For its first decade, it was a small nonprofit run by DiCaprio’s mother, Irmelin, distributing $1.6 million in 2008, its final year before dissolving its status to join the CCF. (DiCaprio’s father, George, and noted economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, rounded out the board.)


Low snapped up a Bombardier private jet for $35.3 million.

DAFs increasingly have become preferred giving vehicles in the U.S., largely due to their immediate charitable tax deductions, negligible startup costs and the fact that they’re not subject to the same annual payout requirements as a private foundation. According to a 2015 report published by the National Philanthropic Trust, the number of accounts launched between 2010 and 2014 jumped 29 percent, bringing the total to 238,293. While the most prominent entrant during this period was Mark Zuckerberg’s $2.5 billion charitable effort in 2014, set up at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and greeted with public criticism over its structure, the NPT says the average account size is $300,000. In a fact sheet the LDF provided to THR, its decision to become a DAF is positioned as one of practicality and efficiency — that the well-regarded, century-old CCF (which manages nearly 1,600 charitable entities totaling $1.5 billion in assets) could assist with due diligence regarding grantees as well as expertly handle backend financial and administrative functions pertaining to donations processing. (The CCF also handles funds for a few other Hollywood figures, including Eva Longoria and, as it happens, Foxx.)

In general, DAFs’ rising popularity, which experts explain also is bolstered by the paucity of red tape in the sector, has brought skepticism. The IRS, according to its web page about the category, now is examining cases (though none are specifically named) of DAFs that “appear to be established for the purpose of generating questionable charitable deductions, and providing impermissible economic benefits to donors and their families (including tax-sheltered investment income for the donors) and management fees for promoters.” (THR has no evidence that the LDF is using the DAF structure in such a way.)


Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills was bought by a company called Wynton in January 2010, using funds traceable to Low’s bank account, which the DOJ says were misappropriated from the 1MDB development fund.

Philanthropy authorities say the LDF, with its possibly subsidized staff and lavish events — as well as, crucially, its international solicitation apparatus — is a relative anomaly among community foundation DAFs, which typically are far more simple: A donor provides his own money and then advises where it should be spent. “It’s unusual,” says Ann Skeet, a director at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, which examines ethics in businesses and nonprofits. Adds Ray Madoff, head of The Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good at Boston College Law School, “Typically, Leonardo DiCaprio would gift his own assets to his donor-advised fund rather than using it as a fundraising vehicle.”

That one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood — whom United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014 designated as a U.N. Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change — has been sainted by his professional and social circles for his globe-trotting do-gooding may have permitted him to operate with comparatively little scrutiny so far. Notes Daniel Borochoff, president of Chicago-based CharityWatch: “[DAFs’] structure allows them to shirk accountability. They aren’t obligated to tell you, as a donor, anything. [DiCaprio’s] able to fundraise with one because he’s such a huge international celebrity. If you were an unknown, it would be a lot harder because people would quickly start asking questions.”

Alex Ritman contributed to this report.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

 

Further Reading:

October 7, 2016: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio dared to debate Malaysian corruption in London

October 15, 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio urged to quit as UN climate advocate over 1MDB links

October 16, 2016: Swiss activists barred from London premiere after telling DiCaprio to repay 1MDB funds

October 18, 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio to pay back dodgy Malaysian funds

 

 

NGO’s Are Bad Mkay

consciousness activism

July 10, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations are funded by profit-driven corporations that destroy the planet and the lives of poor and indigenous peoples.

The United Nations likewise cannot be trusted because they also cooperate with multinational mega-corporations that perpetrate systemic violence in the name of predatory capitalism.

A) True

B) False

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Who Shapes the United Nations Agenda?

“The global institutional machinery of the so-called United Nations is designed to destroy the sovereign will of the peoples. That is where a bureaucracy works in the service of capital and imperialism. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept that international organizations should appropriate to themselves the right of invasion and intervention. The UN has no morality to impose. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept this elitist institutionality of the bureaucrats of the empire.

 

It was in the bowels of the UN that the privatizing green economy originated, which we understand as the black economy of death; from those entrails originate the recipes for privatization and interventionism. The UN seems to be the Organization for the Rich and Powerful Countries; perhaps it should be named the INO, Imperialist Nations Organization. That UN we do not want, we disown it.

 

That neoliberal bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the green economy and privatization, the bureaucracy that promotes structural adjustments, those functionaries of capital and ideologists of domination and poverty, act with the patriarchal and colonial conviction that the peoples and developing countries are incapable and stupid and that to emerge from poverty we must faithfully follow their development recipes.” — Evo Morales’ historic speech at the Isla del Sol

***

First Phase Digital

“Premier of the Republic of the Congo at Press Conference Premier Patrice Lumumba, of the Republic of the Congo, photographed at a press conference he held at U.N. Headquarters earlier today. Conferring briefly with the Premier is Ambassador Mongi Slim, of Tunisia.” 25 July 1960, United Nations, New York (UN Archives)

Aachen/Berlin/Bonn/New York, November 2015

Excerpts from the paper Philanthropic Power and Development – Who shapes the agenda? by authors Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz

Final Phase Digital

Photo:”President Salvador Allende of Chile paid an official visit to United Nations Headquarters and addressed the General Assembly. He conferred with the Assembly President and the Secretary-General, and also held a press conference. Here, President Allende is seen at his press conference. Seated next to him are Colodomiro Almeyda (left), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, and Genichi Akatani (right), Assistant Secretary-General, UN Office of Public Information. 04 December 1972, United Nations, New York (UN Archives)

“On 5 June 2013 a remarkable event took place in the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations (UN) in New York City. Over 150 invited guests met for the second annual Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit. The event was opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, attended by celebrated philanthropists, such as Bill Gates, Bono and Warren Buffett, and sponsored by Credit Suisse. According to Forbes magazine the attendees, who represented “close to half a trillion of the world’s wealth, discussed how they can use their wealth, fame and entrepreneurial talent to eradicate poverty.” As follow up to this summit Forbes released a Special Philanthropy Issue under the headline “Entrepreneurs can save the world.” The event at UN Headquarters was a symbol for the rapidly growing role of philanthropists and their foundations in global development policy and practice.”

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“A large share of the UN Foundation’s revenues from other donors came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Between 1999 and 2014 Gates gave US$231 million in grants to the UN Foundation, mainly for projects in the areas of health and agriculture.”

UNITED NATIONS GATES

In order to broaden its funding base, the UN Foundation has actively explored ways to raise funds directly from governments.In the last decade the UN Foundation received direct funding from a number of governments or governmental agencies, inter alia the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department for International Development of the Government of the UK (DFID), the European Commission, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

UNITED NATIONS 5

In addition to individual governments, the UN Foundation is now actively exploring opportunities for building so-called “anchor partnerships” with multinational corporations and corporate philanthropic foundations as an important element of its longterm sustainability strategy. This intention caused concerns in some parts of the UN because of the potential reputation risk involved. The UN Foundation lists currently (July 2015) 23 corporate partners, such as Exxon Mobile, Shell, Goldman Sachs, and the Bank of America.

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According to the UN Secretary-General the relationship agreement between the UN and the UN Foundation has been reviewed and amended to ensure that it reflects this evolution of the Foundation’s mission and approach. The new agreement was signed in October 2014. But instead of providing a solid basis for effective and transparent governance, the new agreement seems to reinforce the exclusivity of this relationship and the preferential treatment of the UN Foundation by the UN Secretariat. The drafting of the most recent agreement took place behind closed doors without any intergovernmental oversight or transparency, and in contrast to the two earlier agreements, has not been made public.

United Nations 3

 

 

 

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department

International Business Times

May 26, 2015

By David Sirota and Andrew Perez

 

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had given millions to the Clinton Foundation.

+++

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.

The State Department formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton also accused some of these countries of failing to marshal a serious and sustained campaign to confront terrorism. In a December 2009 State Department cable published by Wikileaks, Clinton complained of “an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” She declared that “Qatar’s overall level of CT cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region.” She said the Kuwaiti government was “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks.” She noted that “UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups.” All of these countries donated to the Clinton Foundation and received increased weapons export authorizations from the Clinton-run State Department.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions from the IBTimes.

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

Winning Friends, Influencing Clintons

Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy. But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.

Just before Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation signed an agreement generally obligating it to disclose to the State Department increases in contributions from its existing foreign government donors and any new foreign government donors. Those increases were to be reviewed by an official at the State Department and “as appropriate” the White House counsel’s office. According to available disclosures, officials at the State Department and White House raised no issues about potential conflicts related to arms sales.

During Hillary Clinton’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., urged the Clinton Foundation to “forswear” accepting contributions from governments abroad. “Foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” he said. The Clintons did not take Lugar’s advice. In light of the weapons deals flowing to Clinton Foundation donors, advocates for limits on the influence of money on government action now argue that Lugar was prescient in his concerns.

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

While governments and defense contractors may not have made donations to the Clinton Foundation exclusively to influence arms deals, they were clearly “looking to build up deposits in the ‘favor bank’ and to be well thought of,” said Gregory Suchan, a 34-year State Department veteran who helped lead the agency’s oversight of arms transfers under the Bush administration.

As Hillary Clinton presses a campaign for the presidency, she has confronted sustained scrutiny into her family’s personal and philanthropic dealings, along with questions about whether their private business interests have colored her exercise of public authority. As IBTimes previously reported, Clinton switched from opposing an American free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation. IBTimes’ review of the Clintons’ annual financial disclosures also revealed that 13 companies lobbying the State Department paid Bill Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency.

Questions about the nexus of arms sales and Clinton Foundation donors stem from the State Department’s role in reviewing the export of American-made weapons. The agency is charged with both licensing direct commercial sales by U.S. defense contractors to foreign governments and also approving Pentagon-brokered sales to those governments. Those powers are enshrined in a federal law that specifically designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In that role, Hillary Clinton was empowered to approve or reject deals for a broad range of reasons, from national security considerations to human rights concerns.

The State Department does not disclose which individual companies are involved in direct commercial sales, but its disclosure documents reveal that countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation saw a combined $75 billion increase in authorized commercial military sales under the three full fiscal years Clinton served, as compared to the first three full fiscal years of Bush’s second term.

The Clinton Foundation has not released an exact timetable of its donations, making it impossible to know whether money from foreign governments and defense contractors came into the organization before or after Hillary Clinton approved weapons deals that involved their interests. But news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia.

Sales Flowed Despite Human Rights Concerns

Under a presidential policy directive signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the State Department is supposed to specifically take human rights records into account when deciding whether to approve licenses enabling foreign governments to purchase military equipment and services from American companies. Despite this, Hillary Clinton’s State Department increased approvals of such sales to nations that her agency sharply criticized for systematic human rights abuses.

In its 2010 Human Rights Report, Clinton’s State Department inveighed against Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.” The report said the Algerian government “used security grounds to constrain freedom of expression and movement.”

That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment” after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.

During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.

The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Department for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Department authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750 million sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric.

Clinton foundation donor countries that the State Department criticized for human rights violations and that received weapons export authorizations did not respond to IBTimes’ questions.

That group of arms manufacturers — along with Clinton Foundation donors Boeing, Honeywell, Hawker Beechcraft and their affiliates — were together listed as contractors in 114 such deals while Clinton was secretary of state. NBC put Chelsea Clinton on its payroll as a network correspondent in November 2011, when it was still 49 percent owned by General Electric. A spokesperson for General Electric did not respond to questions from IBTimes.

Clinton Article Screenshot 1

The other companies all asserted that their donations had nothing to do with the arms export deals.

“Our contributions have aligned with our longstanding philanthropic commitments,” said Honeywell spokesperson Rob Ferris.

“Even The Appearance Of A Conflict”

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

“Boeing has sponsored this major travel event, the Global Business Travel Association, for several years, regardless of its invited speakers,” Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesperson, told IBTimes. Johndroe said Boeing’s support for the Clinton Foundation was “a transparent act of compassion and an investment aimed at aiding the long-term interests and hopes of the Haitian people” following a devastating earthquake.

Boeing was one of three companies that helped deliver money personally to Bill Clinton while benefiting from weapons authorizations issued by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. The others were Lockheed and the financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Lockheed is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which paid Bill Clinton $250,000 to speak at an event in 2010. Three days before the speech, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved two weapons export deals in which Lockheed was listed as the prime contractor. Over the course of 2010, Lockheed was a contractor on 17 Pentagon-brokered deals that won approval from the State Department. Lockheed told IBTimes that its support for the Clinton Foundation started in 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

“Lockheed Martin has periodically supported one individual membership in the Clinton Global Initiative since 2010,” said company spokesperson Katherine Trinidad. “Membership benefits included attendance at CGI annual meetings, where we participated in working groups focused on STEM, workforce development and advanced manufacturing.”

In April 2011, Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton $200,000 to speak to “approximately 250 high level clients and investors” in New York, according to State Department records obtained by Judicial Watch. Two months later, the State Department approved a $675 million foreign military sale involving Hawker Beechcraft — a company that was then part-owned by Goldman Sachs. As part of the deal, Hawker Beechcraft would provide support to the government of Iraq to maintain a fleet of aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Goldman Sachs has also contributed at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to donation records.

“There is absolutely no connection among all the points that you have raised regarding our firm,” said Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs.

Federal records show that ethics staffers at the State Department approved the payments to Bill Clinton from Goldman Sachs, and the Lockheed- and Boeing-sponsored groups without objection, even though the firms had major stakes in the agency’s weapons export decisions.

Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor of international affairs, told IBTimes that the intertwining financial relationships between the Clintons, defense contractors and foreign governments seeking weapons approvals is “a vivid example of a very big problem — the degree to which conflicts of interest have become endemic.”

“It has troubled me all along that the Clinton Foundation was not being more scrupulous about who it would take money from and who it wouldn’t,” he said. “American foreign policy is better served if people responsible for it are not even remotely suspected of having these conflicts of interest. When George Marshall was secretary of state, nobody was worried about whether or not he would be distracted by donations to a foundation or to himself. This wasn’t an issue. And that was probably better.”

Clinton Article Screenshot 2

UPDATE (7:38pm, 5/26/15): In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office told IBTimes: “Taiwan’s 2003 donation was for the fund to build the Clinton Presidential Library. This was way before Mrs. Clinton was made the U.S. Secretary of State. We have neither knowledge nor comments concerning other issues.”

 

[David Sirota is International Business Times’ senior editor for investigations. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in Denver, Colorado and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance.]

[Andrew Perez is a National Political Reporter at the International Business Times.]

 

 

COP21: Privatization Strategy

Center for World of Indigenous Studies

December 13, 2015

by Jay Taber

cop21-showtime1

 

World Business Council for Sustainable Development is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.

A partner of WBCSD is Ceres (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies), whose funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Ceres and 350 are funded in part by Tides, whose largest donor is NoVo–Warren Buffet’s private foundation.

Today, WBCSD launched another initiative to privatize ecosystems — Natural Infrastructure for Business — and to capitalize on the Breakthrough Energy Coalition boondoggle hyped by the financial elite at COP21.

The privatization of public process and policy — which led to economic collapse in the US, and bank bailouts from the U.S. Treasury that eviscerated the general welfare — is now being enacted at the UN.

The Clean Energy Ponzi Scheme and the ‘new economy’ — false hope marketed for the financial elite by Havas, Avaaz and 350 — now has its sights set on privatizing the planet.

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

How Wall Street Is Cashing In on Climate Catastrophe

Come hell or high water, the finance industry will make a killing

In These Times

November 9, 2015

By Kate Aronoff

 

cat bonds

If you’re looking to invest in the cat bond market, the odds are good that even a major storm won’t cut into your returns.Bigger and more expensive storms are brewing. One study found that as much as $507 billion worth of U.S. coastal property could be underwater by 2100. With $416 billion in assets at risk, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development labels Miami as the city that could face the most property damage worldwide as a result of rising tides. Hurricane Katrina already claimed $48.7 billion in insured losses; Hurricane Sandy caused $18.75 billion worth.

Governments, meanwhile, are doing little to prepare. As we head into this year’s climate talks in Paris, prospects seem dim for a comprehensive plan to scale back emissions to the extent required to prevent catastrophic warming. In the United States, Department of Energy scientist Tom Wilbanks has called this country’s crumbling infrastructure, which is woefully ill-equipped to cope with even moderate climate impacts, “a national crisis.” On top of that, our federal disaster response mechanisms remain sluggish, still underfunded and encumbered by the bureaucratic mismanagement that characterized the responses to Katrina and Sandy.

But thanks to Wall Street’s ability to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, one disaster management tool is starting to gain traction.

The “catastrophe bond,” devised in the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, is a form of “reinsurance.” Reinsurance protects insurance companies in case they can’t pay out—for example, after a flurry of simultaneous claims following a catastrophic event. Stung by Katrina and Sandy, in the last decade insurance companies and eager investors have fueled an average annual growth of as much as 25 percent in what is known as the “cat bond” market, with a record $8 billion sold to investors in 2014 alone. These financial instruments are also being floated as a solution for the risk incurred by public-sector entities that range from the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program to impoverished countries that could face bankruptcy should a massive storm hit.

There’s just one hitch: Cat bonds are fundamentally financial instruments, hawked by Wall Street firms and global reinsurance companies that have no duty to the public.

A cat bond is born

Here’s how cat bonds work: Say an insurance company in Florida is looking to buy an extra layer of insurance for itself in case of a particularly severe hurricane season. It might draft up a contract with a reinsurer that—in return for a hefty fee—will set up a special-purpose vehicle (SPV), a legal entity created specifically to manage cat bond transactions. The SPV then sells cat bonds to investors, whose principal goes into a fund, typically housed in offshore tax havens like Bermuda. These bonds offer investors, who are generally larger institutional players like hedge or pension funds, the promise of steady returns. Payouts come from the insurance company’s premiums, plus any interest that accrues on the investment principal. Should the cat bond “trigger”—in this case, if a “once in a lifetime” hurricane tears through Florida—investors lose their money and the insurance company uses the cat fund to pay claims. Otherwise, investors can claim back their principal at the end of the bond’s term.

In theory, cat bonds are high-risk, high-reward investments that also provide insurers an alternative to traditional reinsurance, which has been around for over a century. In reality, as “speculative” products go, they make a fairly safe bet for investors—which, ironically, is what can make them a risky prospect for insurance companies. As Tom Keatinge, former managing director of JPMorgan Chase’s insurance capital management team, told Bloomberg Business, “For a cat bond to trigger, you need a bull’s-eye to be hit instead of a general shot in the right direction.” In creating the bond, teams of derivatives experts and geoscientists sift through piles of data on past storms and emergent weather patterns in order to model and predict the exact chances that an event will cause a certain amount of damage to a certain place within a certain time period. Only after a catastrophe causes a certain amount of damage or crosses a certain meteorological threshold will the bond be triggered.

As of 2012, just eight of the 232 cat bonds issued since 1996 had paid out. Only one was triggered during 2005’s brutal hurricane season, which caused more than $100 billion in damages. Insurance consulting firm Lane Financial LLC reports that, in sum, investors have lost just $682 million of the $51 billion in cat bonds they purchased in the same period. Using computer modeling, one insurance firm estimates that the probability a storm will be large enough to trigger a payout to insurers is just 2.89 percent. If you’re looking to invest in the cat bond market, the odds are good that even a major storm won’t cut into your returns.

Recently, however, Hurricane Patricia has given some investors a reason to sweat. Investors are anxiously awaiting news on the fate of a $100 million cat bond—MultiCat Mexico Ltd.—structured for the Mexican government in 2012 by Goldman Sachs and the world’s largest reinsurers, Munich Re and Swiss Re, with the help of the World Bank. Whether or not the $100 million will be deposited into Mexico’s disaster fund depends on whether atmospheric pressure within Patricia ever dropped below 920 millibars. The lower a hurricane’s atmospheric pressure, the stronger its force.

As Patricia-level storms become more common, the question of who controls relief funding post-disaster will become increasingly weighty.

None of these concerns have stopped cat bond proponents from extolling their virtues. In July, Goldman Sachs boasted of having structured $14 billion in cat bonds since 2006 as part of its “long-standing commitment to harness markets and deploy capital to scale-up clean energy technologies and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon energy future.” The World Bank, the United Nations and the Union of Concerned Scientists have all heralded cat bonds as a way to leverage private capital markets to protect against climate catastrophe. In 2014, the World Bank created a $30 million cat bond to cover the risk of tropical cyclones and earthquakes in 16 countries, including Haiti.

In the United States, corporations are hyping cat bonds as a private-market solution to the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24 billion debt (caused almost entirely by Katrina and Sandy). The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies testified before Congress last year that “ceding a portion of the NFIP’s risk to the private sector through reinsurance and catastrophe bonds could reduce taxpayer exposure to future debt.”

Though framed as a convenient, market-friendly means to help governments and insurance companies cope with disaster, cat bonds are no substitute for public sector investment in resiliency and robust federal disaster relief. And judging from these products’ short history, we should be vigilant as to whether the private sector’s “innovative” catbond solution to climate disaster truly serves the public good, or is another way to increase private profits.

[Kate Aronoff is an organizer and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. While in school, she worked extensively with the fossil fuel divestment movement on the local and national level, co-founding Swarthmore Mountain Justice and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network (DSN). She is currently working to build a student power network across Pennsylvania.]

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part II of an Investigative Report]

The Art of Annihilation

May 7, 2014

Part two of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII

[This report references both REDD[1] and the REDD+[2] mechanism. REDD refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation while REDD+ was updated to reflect: “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks.”] For the sake of continuity, the authors of this investigative series will use the original acronym REDD in this series unless REDD+ appears in references or quotes.]

 

No-REDD+-in-Rio+20

Image: No REDD in Rio

REDDy for Hypocrisy

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred…. It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, October 22, 2013

Industrial capitalists, employing those in the non-profit industrial complex as their personal soft-power sycophants, have every intention of controlling what remain of Indigenous People’s natural resources. Adding to centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, native peoples now face a 21st century corporatocracy that seeks full privatization and commodification of the Earth’s remaining commons. As an example, the creation of ecological reserves on Indigenous land is rampant yet proceeds relatively unnoticed. The theft of biological wealth under the guise of conservation is stealth and must be acknowledged as such – nothing less than a brilliant coup.

In the final frontier of Earth’s last remaining natural resources, with capitalism on its knees with nowhere else to go, a silent war has begun that few yet notice. It can be summarized in two words: environmental markets.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is one such key market. [“REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank. Source] This scheme (creating / obtaining permits to pollute via corporate capture of Earth’s last remaining forests) will not mitigate the escalating climate and ecological crises in any way. Rather, it simply allows polluters to continue polluting. REDD allows, and even encourages, our multiple ecological crises to further accelerate while ensuring the seizure / commodification and further exploitation of Earth’s remaining natural resources. Tina Vahenen, from the UN REDD Secretariat, addressed an auditorium of timber executives and foresters at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 and stated, “REDD would be very beneficial for forestry.” Not forests – forestry. Ms Vahenen explained to the room that REDD would be worth $45 billion for the timber industry and insisted that “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.” [Key Arguments Against REDD, 2011- Source]

At first glance it appears that Pachamama Alliance (and Pachamama Foundation by extension) are “more legitimate” than most big greens – and they may very well be, to some extent. Their progressive language is demonstrated in the positions put forward on REDD by Pachamama Foundation that appear on their website and in the mainstream.

August 8, 2011: Pachamama Foundation Website (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate):

“Aware of the urgent need to reduce deforestation in the country, Fundación Pachamama’s participation at international level in the Accra Caucus and national level in the monitoring group UN-REDD and the National Standards Committee Socio-environmental REDD +, aims to participate in advocacy spaces to ensure the inclusion of human and collective rights, self-determination, land rights, and full and effective participation of the subjects of law, and monitoring the construction of political national government for the conservation and the importance of forests. In domestic spaces acts as delegate CEDENMA, representing a sector of environmental civil society organizations to advocate for getting the highest standards of conservation and the guarantee of human and collective rights and the rights of nature. Pachamama Foundation disagrees with any attempt of the Government of Ecuador to participate in carbon markets, is in a stage of preparation and implementation stages. Markets do not do more than consider nature as a commodity and encourage perverse and inequitable business that promotes a model of capitalist development and unsustainable. Pachamama Foundation does not promote any REDD mechanism. Rather, it maintains a very critical position, this being insufficient and incomplete to combat climate change mechanism, whose origin is in a biased account of the forest that does not include the Indigenous world, does not recognize rights for nature and the commodification and intended to be inserted into the woods in the perverse world market.”

This sounds like an honourable, even radical, position. And it is. But consider the following text exactly three months later on November 8, 2011, also from the Pachamama Foundation website:

María Belén Páez, director of Pachamama Foundation, spoke about the REDD mechanism during the plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). In her speech, she addressed the following topics [translated from the Spanish]:

Financing: The REDD finance mechanism should be transparent, reliable, and accessible.

Additionality: The reductions under the REDD mechanism must be in addition to emission reductions required under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, ie, [REDD credits providing carbon offsets] should not replace these reductions.

Integrity: It is important that the parties agree that funding for REDD ensures social and environmental integrity, in addition to sustainable development and good governance.

Innovation: Funding for REDD should focus on a variety of innovative sources.

Carbon markets: Carbon trading has been declared as merchandise with the worst performance in the world. Its growth has stagnated and declined. Forests are not within this market due to concerns about leakage and impermanence of the forest.

Offset credits: It has been shown that these loans are prone to fraud and market manipulation. They should not be part of any package of funding for REDD.

Multi-functionality: It is important to recognize that forests have multiple functions in addition to their ability to store carbon. Payments resulting from REDD have to compensate more than the amount of reduced tonnes of carbon, for example, their spiritual and other environmental services. [Emphasis added to the word spiritual.]

Effectiveness: To improve the effectiveness of REDD and the ultimate goal of reducing pressures on deforestation and forest degradation, countries should be compensated not only for reducing emissions, but also for the implementation of measures to improve governance, respect for human and collective rights, and conservation of biodiversity.

Although Páez, executive director of Pachamama Foundation, publicly voices opposition to both carbon markets and offsets, she speaks as though financing/payments for REDD, from sources outside of environmental markets, are a realistic option. The intent of REDD by capitalists is to turn the services provided by Earth’s forests into globally tradable commodities. Sources of REDD finance are intentionally presented as hazy and vague while simultaneously espousing half promises that non-market finance will miraculously materialize from nowhere. The simplistic notion that altruistic REDD finance funds from “innovative sources” will come raining down from the sky is a sugar-coated Venus flytrap that easily lures those that are greedy, extraordinarily naïve or cloaked in denial,particularly those dependent upon the non-profit industrial complex.

Note the phrase “spiritual services” as cited by Páez. One must ask how “payments results in REDD” would/could compensate for the loss of spiritual services. Can an exemplary amount of money compensate for spiritual services? If you are a spiritual capitalist, the answer appears to be yes.

At COP17, Páez “represented civil society” (even though unelected to do so) and Accra Caucus (of which Pachamama Foundation is a member). [1] Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change is a network of southern and northern NGOs representing around 100 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations from 38 countries, formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The Caucus works to place the rights of Indigenous and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries. [“A full list of members of the Accra Caucus is available on request.” Source. Note that requests were made to acquire this full list, with no success.] Incidentally, Accra Caucus is also partner to the UN REDD Desk. [2] For further information it provides a link to the partner, Rainforest Foundation. At this link we find that Pachamama Alliance is also an “actor” within the UN for implementing REDD, as is Fundación Pachamama. [3]

As mentioned prior, Pachamama Foundation is also partner with the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Ambiente (CEDENMA) (Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment). At COP17, Natalia Greene, program coordinator of “Political Plurinationality and Rights of Nature” at Pachamama Foundation was also responsible for chairing CEDENMA, of which she is president.

“Nationally we have participated as a representative of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) in building REDD spaces and policies with a MAE (Ministerio del Ambiente) mechanism to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples. — Pachamama Foundation [Source]

The Spanish website of CEDENMA (an “Agency Partnership and political representation of Ecuadorian civil nonprofit organizations”), which represents the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, “a network of organizations and individuals committed to the adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce the rights of nature individuals” (to be discussed further in this report) is registered to an address in West Jacksonville, Florida, US. Under the link “I am Nature,” the website redirects you to Pachamama Foundation’s YouTube channel. The vast majority of the members are of US/foreign origin with masses of tentacles to hegemony. In one instance, the “collaborators” cited are World Bank, USAID, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and many other hegemonic institutions.

Theatre

 “Political rhetoric and sophistries do not exist, after all, in order that they be believed; rather, they have to serve as a common and agreed upon alibi.” Milan Kundera

The matrix of alliances and the repertoire of concerned/attentive language as briefly touched upon above is a brief overview and screenplay of exquisite theatre – theatre also performed for the benefit of the actors and extras themselves, carefully ensuring that all involved can bear to face themselves each morning when they must wake and look in the mirror. As defined by Kundera, it’s an “agreed upon alibi” to alleviate the conscience.

It is a spectacular feat to continually walk the fence wearing Prada heels. The script dictates that corporations, foundations, governments, organizations/NGOs (hierarchal/top down) must unequivocally demonstrate that “civil” society and Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been absolutely involved in the entire process of decision-making. Again, language is instrumental: safeguards; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; transparency; social and environmental integrity; self-determination; sustainable development; cultural integrity; good governance; respect for human and collective rights; rights-based forestry;and conservation of biodiversity, etc. etc. The list of ethical, beautiful and soothing turns of phrase that both ease and suppress well-founded anxieties flows like the River Nile. The i’s will be dotted and the t’s must be crossed. There will be nothing left undone that allows for litigation, that allows for any groups to claim they were not consulted. The capitalists will claim that civil society was not only consulted, they were invited to come to the table, with a heavy emphasis on outreach to Indigenous peoples. It’s all theatre, ladies and gentleman. And everyone in the production knows how the show ends. The ending was written long before anyone was assigned to their roles or studied their lines.

This is not activism. This is corporatized environmentalism – the ultimate oxymoron. A thriving industry for hegemony cloaked under the thin guise of ethics and human rights.

No big greens intend to actually stop REDD. In fact, many NGOs are planning to profit from the scheme just as they have from forestry, for example, Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF: “Probus is retained by the Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF, to advise on non-conflict of interest global funding mechanisms for environmental stewardship councils and NGO development of global sustainable timber and aquaculture standards. In tandem with the financial aspects of environmental stewardship, Probus develops corporate structuring to enable large NGOs to gain independent revenues via ‘for-profit’ sister companies without impinging upon the impartiality and not-for-profit or charitable status of the NGO.” In the end, “important concessions” will have been made to “protect the Indigenous” and these special considerations will be celebrated as “win win!” victories. Yet, the considerations for concessions were also written into the script with many undoubtedly pre-determined from inception. The predacious capitalist gives nothing he does not wish to give. [Further reading on WWF’s certificationschemes and green washing can be found here, here, and here.]

Via the financial institutions, the media and the non-profit industrial complex, the capitalists perform the most malevolent activities that inflict further pain and destruction onto Earth’s most vulnerable societies, sentient beings and living ecosystems. Yet as long as they appear to be polite, conciliatory, and attentively listening to grievances, feigning concern for the associated plight and risks, alongside the pie in the sky “benefits,” of course, the majority of people will acquiesce to the predetermined, “politically feasible” reformist “solution.” Behind closed doors, the ménage of human drones defending capital do not waver. Tenacious as hell, they quietly shuffle forward – impassive, undeterred, absolutely focused on their strategic objectives. This may take years. It may take decades. It matters little. Time is of no essence. The end justifies the means. Call it Machiavellian. Or call it what it is: steady state pathology.

One simply has to look at The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how such conventions are essentially worthless. Our children today are unlikely to live to old age due to cataclysmic ecological collapse, yet each waking day, the global economic system that ensures our annihilation continues unabated. Which begs the question: Why would anyone in sound mind believe that Indigenous Rights will be respected in the final scramble for the Earth’s last remaining natural resources?

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. — Aristotle, Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3

“[A]nd through pity and fear it effects relief to such [and similar] emotions.”

The embracing of deception (deception that must be swallowed whole, and willingly, if one is to protect their privilege) is warm and consoling. Not unlike a tightly spun cocoon. A metamorphosis into the same pathology we claimed to oppose.

Lying to oneself is easy for those within the non-profit industrial complex. They profess to oppose it – knowing full well that their funding (meaning their privilege and very identities) is fully dependent on what they claim to contest coming to fruition. In many cases, concern and voiced opposition are sincere. It makes no difference. Everyone understands the rules of the game. They understand from the onset that what they object to (at least publicly), which almost always falls under the expansion of capital, is going to be realized. They will voice their distrust and unease and demonstrate just how incredibly noble and ethical they are (with great concern for the natives, of course – natives in faraway exotic places, that is) prior to the proposed policy/scheme being realized. It’s theatre for the audience. Theatre for our conscience. Theatre for the absurd.

Feeding at the REDD Trough

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Image: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

It’s easy to talk smack against REDD when one (in this case, Pachamama Foundation) is partnered with UN REDD Desk and funded by Norway Rainforest Foundation (RFN), et al. All it takes is a heightened level of hypocrisy and superiority.[“RFN’s finances are to a significant degree based on multiyear contracts with Norwegian public authorities regarding long-term financial assistance. The organization derives additional funding from individuals and bequests (including from regular private donors designated ‘Rainforest Guardians’); contributions from members of the business community such as Nordic Choice Hotels; and international funds and foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the Rainforest Foundation Fund…. In Indonesia, RFN and its partners have made use of the opportunity presented by the international attention which followed the country becoming a target of many REDD initiatives, including a USD 1 billion bilateral agreement between Norway and Indonesia, in order to provide advice, criticism and input in dialogue with the government and in the media…. As stated by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), ‘the Rainforest Foundation Norway support to the Civil Society National Climate and REDD working group in DRC has brought full Congolese civil society participation and involvement in developing the national REDD+ strategy and all of its components.'”] Norad is a key funder promoting REDD. [4]

“Norway continues to be UN-REDD’s first and largest donor, committing US$52.2million for 2008-2009, US$31 million for 2010, and at least US$40 million for 2011-2012.” [Source: June, 2011]

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Image: The WWF, REDD and Tanzania

The current/previous Board of Directors on the Rainforest Foundation (US division) include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AMG Wealth Partners, George Soros Open Society Foundations, Kingdon Capital Managementamong others. After the billion dollar deal was announced between Norway and Indonesia, it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global had millions invested in many of the predatory corporations circling in on vulnerable Indigenous land owners in Papua and West Papua. This included a corporation that forced a four year old boy to sign land release contracts (PT Henrison Inti Persada, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, which it purchased from Kayu Lapis Indonesia Group, and Medco International and LG International – which sought 1 million hectares of Papua for industrial timber plantations).

Pachamama Alliance and Foundation may (and do) go far further in their criticisms against REDD and other market mechanisms, but at the end of the day they will fulfill the needs/interests of the foundations (fed by corporate profits). Just like every other NGO whose entire existence is dependent upon those profits.

The necessity for healthy dissent is critical. No one understands this more than the foundation. The oligarchy acknowledges there must be space for dissent and venting. To not ensure these needs are met is to invite elements that could lead to economic sabotage and revolutionary revolt. To have a handful of groups publicly objecting to the implementation of policies/schemes when one funds hundreds/thousands of groups to ensure their success is not threatening to the oligarchy whatsoever – rather, it ensures the populace will continue to believe (the falsehood) that they remain part of a true and healthy democracy. Who cares if a handful of groups highlight dangers of REDD – when the cat is already in the bag and the so-called “opposition” is addicted to and reliant on the foundation dole?

If the UN had a program called UN Climate Colonialism Desk (and that is what the UN REDD Desk essentially is), would we all join as “partners” to ensure we had “our say”? It is common knowledge that partners are sought after to 1) increase credibility, legitimacy and brand, and 2) accelerate the original intent/purpose. [5] Some organizations may attempt to justify such partnerships, but at the end of the day, they have lent much needed credibility and legitimacy to yet another instrument of colonialism that should have been isolated, exposed and scorned.

One can be absolutely certain that a key goal of the oligarchy, which has finally overcome most all obstacles in the indefatigable goal to implement REDD (two decades in the making, sought by Rockefeller, Ford, etc. [6], is to now expand REDD throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world now that REDD+ framework has been achieved at COP19/Warsaw. [December 13, 2013: “WWF has worked towards realizing REDD+ for many years, engaging both on the ground in the key tropical forest nations of Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas and Brazil, as well as at the global policy and finance levels.”]

It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests. As an example, on December 5, 2013, The REDD-Monitor, demonstrating solidarity with Pachamama Foundation, voices its criticisms of the Ecuador Government, writing:

“As in other countries, REDD in Ecuador takes place in parallel to business as usual, including the suppression of the right to dissent. On its website, the UN-REDD programme reports that, ‘In order to reverse forest loss, Ecuador is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce deforestation in the country as part of good governance of forest resources and to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing GHG emissions related to this activity.'”

The REDD Monitor goes further, correctly spelling out why REDD is a false solution to climate change. Yet the REDD Monitor never mentions that both Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation are UN REDD “actors,” and financed by the very oligarchs (via foundations) that are heavily invested in REDD. For a poverty stricken state such as Ecuador, the support and pursuance of REDD is, without doubt, misguided and regrettable. For multi-million dollar NGOs (which, although unelected, claim to represent civil society) to support and pursue REDD is without doubt inexcusable. Yet, as far as support for REDD is concerned, the government of Ecuador alone will be the egregious villain while Pachamama Alliance and Foundation will be the virtuous victims. (It must be noted that the REDD Monitor is also a beneficiary of funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway.)

At this juncture it is critical to note two items of great significance.

“According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007.” — Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate, November 20, 2013 [7] [“Since 2007, USD 2.72 billion has been pledged to five multilateral climate funds and two bilateral initiatives that support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+).”]

The $2.72 billion that has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 is approximately the same monetary amount (with a similar timeline) that Ecuador required for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the proposal by the government of Ecuador to refrain indefinitely from exploiting the oil reserves of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field within the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. [Source] Hence, the project, however flawed, has failed, opening President Correa up to yet another attack by “the left.” [“It is worth remembering that the first trust set up to receive donations was designed, among others, by Yolanda Kakabadse, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature and trustee of the Ford Foundation, and businessman-environmentalist Roque Sevilla, both well connected in the NGO conservation world.” [Source]

This represents the greatest case of victim blaming, which has been the hallmark identifier of the Western response to the non-Anglo plight the world over. Correa and the state have little choice but to exploit these resources (in the case of Yasuni-ITT, 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) directly impacted within the million-hectare National Park). This is due to the fact that the global economic system dictates that Ecuador MUST provide these raw materials for financial capital and everyday goods and services – or face the consequences of the West taking what Ecuador will not give willingly. The weak-willed left will point the finger at the leaders in the Global South who must acquiesce for the lives of their people rather than point the finger at the torturers of the Global North, who turn the screws while continuing to inflict the centuries-long pain of this parasitic relationship. Reparations be damned.

Yet a sister campaign, the international outcry regarding the projected tar sands mining/strip-mining designated to destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, is nowhere to be heard. [“The projected strip-mining of 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of forests and wetlands in the tar sands will result in the loss of breeding habitat for between 480,000 and 3.6 million adult birds. The corresponding impact on breeding will mean a loss of 4.8 million to 36 million young birds over a 20-year period, and 9.6 million to 72 million birds over a 40-year period.” [Source] Rather, we hear only cries against a single pipeline (the Keystone or KXL) – a campaign in large part funded by Buffett moneythat has allowed oil, gas and a 21st century oil-by-rail industrial revolution to expand and flourish. Production stopped at the source (on American soil) is of no focus. International cries for production to be crushed prior to drilling are only directed/applied to resource-rich states and their “dictators” (a phrase only applied to the uncooperative) who refuse to get down on all fours and lick the feet of imperialism. Once imperial states take control of foreign soil and natural resource wealth (via occupation, coercion or puppet presidencies), we never hear of campaigns to “keep the oil in the soil” again. A case in point would be the oil-rich state of Nigeria or recently illegally invaded and now occupied Libya where foreign interests pump and steal the oil as fast as modern day technology allows.

There is valid point to be made that defending the rights of nature cannot be based on the promise of compensation, yet the reality is that we, civil society, have a “movement” that refuses to make anti-capitalism the very foundation of all dialogue. A movement financed in full by the very interests we claim to oppose.

The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni (with no allowances for carbon offsetting / markets), rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting Annex 1 statesto sanction / advance REDD, perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists. Instead, these NGOs and their foot soldiers, financed by the oligarchs, attacked the Ecuadorian Government, framing the failure as Correa’s alone, strategically pardoning the leading GHG-obstructionist states from their failed obligation and reparations while simultaneously ignoring the nature of the capitalist beast. [Opinion: Yasuní: Entre el eco-fundamentalismo y el Socialismo del Buen Vivir]

“It is becoming more apparent every day that there is no radical Left in this period, just a bunch of middle class intellectuals, politicians, preachers, businesspeople, and academics, many of whom are seeking or receiving government jobs, grants, contracts, or elevation to high political office from the very corporations or the capitalist state they claim to be fighting. They just want us to replace one group of masters for another, while the system itself keeps humming along.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

And while NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance/Foundation, Avaaz (partner of Rockefellers Pro-REDD Climate Group), Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, etc. assist in the corporate capture of our commons, consider this:

“The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP [green economy program] will give scientific authority to the project, but the important decisions will have already been made…. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets…. Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP.… The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.” Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Re-imaging the Commons as “The Green Economy”

The second item of significance is the State of Bolivia’s “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests,” which was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)in August of 2012. Although in appearances many organizations have voiced opposition to REDD and carbon markets, it appears that absolutely none have seized the opportunity to campaign on the alternative proposal presented by the State of Bolivia.

Consider this: As the Bolivia delegation stood alone (and continues to stand alone) on the world stage opposing carbon markets (which include REDD) while also developing and presenting alternatives, behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities are crystal clear. “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.”

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.'” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

The declaration ended with “the call for governments to support forest certification. The ‘gold standard’ of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council. Yet FSC has certified vast areas of monoculture tree plantations. FSC also certifies industrial logging in primary forests. But none of the 1,500 people in the meeting objected to any of this – or any of the other statements in the more than 9,000-word declaration.” [Source]

So-called “progressive” media (also financed by and dependent upon foundation funding) apparently have no interest in alternatives to carbon markets either. Bolivia continued to fight for Mother Earth during the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. The Bolivian delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the use and expansion of the carbon market as a tool to reduce emissions that cause climate change in the world and presented a proposal with alternative tools in carbon markets. But what use are such alternative tools in the growth of global capitalism? In the mind of the Western world, this is akin to a child handing a bow and arrow to a warrior who is accustomed to using an Uzi, when in fact the “civilized” is now dependent upon the “savage” for help in solving the problem of Earthly destruction. But it appears we would rather die a thousand deaths than actually take this under consideration. As the world hangs in the balance, there is no more time left for the Western world to hold such ideologies. Yet, this will more than likely be the mindset that the West, as a collective, takes to the grave – taking all of the world with it.

Like Bolivia’s alternative proposal for carbon markets, the essential People’s Agreement (April 2010, Cochabamba), has been also been vigilantly marginalized and buried by the non-profit industrial complex. There has been almost zero support for any of these ground-breaking proposals/declarations. When climate justice groups on an international climate justice listserv were asked openly if there were flaws in these alternative proposals, the response was silence. Rather, the environmental “movement,” dominated by the privileged left while residing in the leading GHG-obstructionist NATO states, prefers to condemn leaders of ALBA states as phony “extractivists.”

“I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.” Teju Cole

Imperialism and enslavement is a narrative as old as time. The transformation of Western influence over sovereign states of the world can be traced back to what transpired after the overthrow of French colonizers by Haitian slaves in 1804.

As a result of their audacious desire to be free – a basic human right co-opted mainly by global white male supremacy – the Haitian slaves traded physical oppression, which had been the norm to that juncture, for an economic domination that they were unable to resist. Since then, this has been the blueprint imposed by the West over all the nation states that have attempted to overthrow physical domination.The forms of subjugation have changed over these past 200 years, yet subjugation remains.

Reddy to Manipulate

Consider the following:

In the February 21, 2013 article (Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston) featured on the Pachamama Alliance website, the following information is reported, demonstrating the close relationship between Pachamama Alliance and The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). [8]

 

… [O]ther citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

 

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world….

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election. (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org …. [Further Reading: AVAAZ: IMPERIALIST PIMPS OF MILITARISM, PROTECTORS OF THE OLIGARCHY, TRUSTED FACILITATORS OF WAR]

It is clear and reasonable that the Indigenous populations would oppose the drilling of oil on their ancestral land and that they have every right to defend it. Yet, there is another grave threat to the forests and their ancestral lands. And this very real threat is REDD. Pachamama Foundation is certainly “lending a hand” in ensuring that the devastating impacts of drilling oil are understood in the Indigenous populations, yet when it comes to REDD, the market incentive is discussed as though it can somehow be “made to behave” and evolve into an ethical, non-threatening market mechanism. This is a clear example of how foundation dollars and Western interests come into play. Drilling for oil is an obvious threat to forests. However, REDD, although equally threatening, does not “look” like oil. Workers don’t show up in coveralls, work boots and dirty rigs. REDD arrives in a shiny new Land Rover, full of designer suits, new Italian shoes and shiny white faces. Like CO2, the commodification of the forests is invisible.

Video (Running time: 9:26). Chief Aritana Yawalapiti explains how his people and his region are aggressively targeted by NGOs (ISA) to agree on REDD+ projects. [Published August 22, 2010 by documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.]

On August 3, 2009, CONFENIAE (the logo and letterhead list of members includes organizations of the Shuar, Kichwa, Achuar, Waorani, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Zapara, Shiwiar and Andoa Peoples) demonstrated that they were vehemently opposed to REDD:

 “We reject the negotiations on our forests, such as REDD projects, because they try to take away our freedom to manage our resources and also because they are not a real solution to the climate change problem, on the contrary, they only make it worse.

“We inform COICA, of which we are a part, that, as Ecuadorian Amazonian representatives with the right to voice and vote, that no person, entity, NGO, etc., is authorized to speak on our behalf in favor or against any issue without our knowledge and participation.”

Yet, in a paper titled “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center published about a year later (December 2009), both CONFENIAE and COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Amazon region) are now identified as REDD partners with Pachamama Foundation, the World Bank, WWF, etc. on page 5. The Woods Hole Research Center’s work on REDD is financed by USAID, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, WWF and many others (page 2).

[“The WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, Wildlife Conservation Society and other ‘conservationist’ NGOs are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from REDD+.” Source]

“In recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in the REDD process, the Forum, in collaboration with COICA and the national Indigenous network in each country, convened three national-level workshops on REDD for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Partners in these workshops include EDF, IPAM and the Pachamama Foundation.” — “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center [Source]

The “forum” referred to in the above quote is the Forum on Readiness for REDD. EDF refers to Environmental Defence Fund USA and IPAM refers to the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (Brazil).

Demonstrating further disrespect for the State of Bolivia, which has been ardently opposed to REDD and carbon markets, “The Forum” conducted REDD workshops with Indigenous communities in Bolivia via FAN-Bolívia (Fundacion Amigos de la Natureza) [Funders and Donors] with REDD partner CIDOB (The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia). [“… various social sectors have been infiltrated by USAID, which openly funded CIDOB, by the NED, and by the army of NGOs, which unfortunately has become another mechanism for hegemony to evade responsibilities.” Source]

[CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE. ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONACNIE).]

As mentioned prior, documents demonstrate that Pachamama Foundation has also partnered with USAID-WCS.

Attorney and writer, Eva Golinger(winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico, 2009), speaking in reference to USAID/NED:

“This type of funding/aid/advice is very complex and effective because it enables US agencies to infiltrate groups of all spectrums. I am not alleging all of these groups and their members are US agents or receive US funding, but the evidence is quite clear that certain factions within them have close relations w/ US agencies and receive their funding. And, they share a common agenda, against President Rafael Correa. That is undeniable.

“I have never said all of CONAIE or Pachakutik receives funding from US agencies, I have always said sectors, individuals and elements connected to them do receive such funding and training.

“Anyone who dismisses receiving funding or training from NED/USAID and related agencies as having no impact on politics has no understanding of the complex workings of these US agencies. They attempt to recruit, infiltrate and capture influential groups, parties and people who then promote US agenda. This is fact. Unfortunately, they are quite successful.”

The emphasis on local participation, encouraged and even mandated by the foundations and financiers, laid the pivotal groundwork for Indigenous participation regarding REDD. In the 2007 report led by Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, for the Gates foundation (“Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”), this is referred to as “cultivating the fringe”: “If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

It is difficult to place any blame on the Indigenous communities/groups who have entered (or been coerced) into REDD partnerships. The manipulation by the elite foot soldiers within the complex is as smooth as fresh-churned butter. It is important to note that although many Indigenous Peoples are traditional, there are also those “selected” by the World Bank et al that have been completely assimilated by the Western culture and do fully understand that REDD, along with every organization and institution advancing/implementing it, is compromised or fraudulent, or both.

On December 14, 2013, it was reported that “At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave. USAID expects to close its doors in Ecuador by September 2014 due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with President Rafael Correa. This comes six months after it was kicked out of Bolivia.” The article quoted Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans who studies Ecuador, who stated “[T]hese countries are able to carve out independence from the US in a way they weren’t in the past. The idea they would have kicked out USAID 10 or 15 years ago is unimaginable…. In some ways these actions, and the [USAID decision] can be put in there too, are intended to say that we are an independent sovereign nation…. In the perspective of many in Latin America, and with good reason, USAID is seen as an agent of US imperialism.”

 

Next: Part III

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Counterpunch, Political Context, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas. He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

EndNotes:

[1] “Since 2008, we are a member of Accra Caucus, a coalition of civil society in countries with tropical forests, seeking recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and resources, and traditional uses of forest policies in fighting climate change.” [Source]

[2] “The UN-REDD Programme was launched in September 2008 to prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies in developing countries and was formed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN-REDD currently has 29 partner countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, of which 13 are receiving support for national programme activities, worth US$55.4 million.” [Source, June, 2011]

[3] The Pachamama Foundation is listed as an “actor” on the UN REDD Desk website, which states: “The Pachamama Foundation was created in 1997 in Ecuador as the sister organization of the Pachamama Alliance that was itself born in Ecuador following the visit of a group of tourists from California, USA, to the Achuar territory, home of an indigenous group that maintains its traditional lifestyle within the tropical rainforest in a remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.” [Source: http://theredddesk.org/countries/actors/pachamama-foundation]

[4] “Furthermore, through its ongoing REDD project, which got under way in May 2009, RFN and its local partners have sought to influence the REDD process in the DRC by disseminating information at the grassroots level on the opportunities and challenges of REDD – to local communities, small NGOs, and members of government and research institutions. RFN has also strengthened the capacity of a large number of Congolese civil society organisations to influence the REDD agenda of the DRC, both at the national and at the international level and has, alongside its partners, succeeded in securing civil society participation in the DRC’s National Steering Committee for REDD.” [Source] “There are many more layers that are pushing for legitimizing and expanding REDD+. For example, key funders that are promoting REDD+ are the Climate and Land Use Alliance (Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Climate Works, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation), the Clinton Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, Germany), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to name a few.” [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players]

[5] “This multi-donor trust fund states that “the final phase of REDD+ involves developed countries paying developing countries carbon offsets for their standing forests,” making it clear that they see REDD+ as a carbon trading scheme. [Source: June 2011]

[6] The following text appears March 8, 2010 in an article titled Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line, Two Decades in the Making: “It’s hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in ’92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen …. With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, ‘After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy’ at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the ‘name game’ as he knew most of the people in the room.”

[7] “Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate: Promises turn into ‘definite’ dollars. REDD+ finance, the money needed to set up and implement a system that pays countries to leave forests standing, has followed a long road since the 2007 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where nations pledged to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation. A 2008 study found it would cost between $17.2 billion and $28 billion per year to cut the global rate of deforestation in half. According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 through five multilateral funds and two bilateral funds, more than half of it to Indonesia and Brazil. About one-tenth of the pledges have been disbursed to projects on the ground.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rich-nations-agree-to-fund-forest-protection-for-climate&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20131120

[8] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Spanish: La Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) or CONFENIAE is the regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon or Oriente region. Nine indigenous peoples present in the region – Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Siona, Secoya, Shiwiar, Záparo and Cofán – are represented politicalily by the Confederation. CONFENIAE is one of three major regional groupings that constitute the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). It is also part of the Amazon Basin indigenous organization, COICA. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

Da’esh : Washington’s Proxy Army Trained to “Occupy” Syria [Brookings Institute]

Libya 360

November 27, 2014

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Smoke rises from the the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a strike from the US-led coalition as it seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

Is the US planning the occupation of Syria by training an unconventional insurgent invasion force?

Think regime change in Syria is off the drawing board? Think again. The bombing of the ISIL or ISIS in Syria is part of a brinkmanship campaign leading up to a potential non-conventional invasion, parallel to the re-introduction of the US military to Iraq.

The ISIL and the other anti-government forces in Iraq and Syria are not the only ones to disregard the Iraqi-Syrian border drawn by the British and French by Sykes-Picot in 1916. The US also disregarded the border and international law when it began to illegally bomb Syria.

The bombing campaign was not enough for some in the US Congress. In a joint statement on September 23, the arch-hawks US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for US troops to be sent into Syria too. Both of them praised the Pentagon’s illegal airstrikes in Syria and then argued for US ground troops as well.

Although McCain and Graham went out of their way to say that this would not be an occupation of either Syria or Iraq, this is almost exactly what they were calling for when they said that the military campaign had to also be directed against the Syrian government.

Since, and even before the calls for an invasion of Syria by McCain and Graham different suggestions have circulated about an invasion of Syria.

The dilemma is that Washington does not want the Pentagon to directly invade Syria itself. It wants to pull the strings while another force does the work on the ground. Candidates for an outsourced invasion of Syria include the Turkish military or other US regional allies. There, however is also an impasse here as Washington’s allies are also afraid of the consequences of an invasion of Syria.

This is where a third opinion comes into the picture: the construction of a multinational insurgent army by the US.

Using non-state actors to invade and occupy Syria

While there seems to be no consensus on a Syrian strategy within the US political, intelligence, and military establishments, the objective of regime change is universally adhered to across the board. Regardless of the existence of a consensus, the US is moving ahead with the creation of an anti-government invasion force.

The third option is slowly emerging.

A few days after the US began the bombing of Syria, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey made it clear that the Pentagon also planned on creating a viable anti-government army in Syria consisting of 12,000 to 15,000 insurgents.

There also seems to be a growing consensus among the realist and neocons for US President Obama’s preference of using a rebel army to invade Syria. The Brookings Institute has been a major cheerleader for this.

During this same timeframe, the Brookings Institute released an opinion piece clearly calling for US intervention. The text, authored, by former CIA analyst for monitoring the Persian Gulf and US National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack, stipulated that Washington’s “strategy cannot require sending U.S. troops into combat. Funds, advisers, and even air power are all fair game — but only insofar as they do not lead to American boots on the ground.”

Pollack played an influential role in getting support for the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. He worked at the Council of Foreign Relations as its director of national security studies. He made the above statement as the director of research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and goes well beyond it by publishing a drawn-out October 2014 proposal for creating a US-made rebel invasion force as a means of taking over Syria and eventually conducting regime change in Damascus.

The Brookings Institute proposal suggests that a rebel Syrian army “is best not done in Syria itself. At least not at first” (p.9). The report points to the US and NATO success in “covertly” creating armed forces around the world, including the assembly of a Croat military, and deduces that these experiences would make it “entirely realistic for the United States to build a new Syrian opposition army” (p.8). It also says that the ideology of the fighters does not matter by stating the following: “A great many of those recruited may well be religious, even highly religious, including Salafist. That is not the issue” (p.9).

Welcome to the Brookings Institute and its Saban Center

What is the Brookings Institute exactly and why do suggestions from this think tank and others like it, matter?

The Brookings Institute is an influential think tank that has a revolving door of personnel with the US government and major corporations. All that one needs to do is look at its trustees and executives, which include interlocked directorships with the Carlyle Group, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.

Brookings also has ties to Israel and a full branch dedicated to Washington’s Middle East strategies and policies called the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy. Martin Indyk – the former US ambassador to Israel, a former high-level lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the founder of AIPAC’s research arm (the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) – is the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Like Indyk, Kenneth Pollack was involved in shaping the Middle East policies of the Clinton Administration.

It is also worth noting that the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center is named after US-Israeli businessman and media mogul Haim Saban. Saban himself is on the board of trustees for Brookings.

There is a Qatari connection too. One may remember that Washington was hostile towards Al Jazeera when it first emerged as a news broadcaster, because of its coverage of US actions in the Middle East.

Saban tried to buy half of the Al Jazeera network from Qatar in 2004 and 2009, but failed. In the same timeframe as the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the first set of negotiations happened when he went to Qatar with Bill Clinton in 2003.

It is possible that Brookings may have played a role in pacifying Al Jazeera. In 2009, the Institute setup an overseas branch in Qatar called the Brookings Doha Center. The new chapter in Doha included Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family alongside people like Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Fareed Zakaria as chairs and advisors.

It was in the same year that the Brookings Institute published a report, which included Pollack and Indyk as authors, called Which Path to Persia? The report outlined a map for confronting Iran and alluded to the neutralization of Syria, in one way or another (including the procurement of a peace agreement with Damascus by Israel), to “mitigate blowback” from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians, specifically Hamas, as a prerequisite for an enabling an attack on Iran.

All in all, the ideas that come out of the Brookings Institute are discussed at the highest levels within policymaking and corporate circles.

Is the Syrian Invasion Force Slowly Emerging?

Is a rebel invasion force emerging to attack Syria? In no uncertain terms, Brookings argues that it is.

Pollack’s report stipulates the following: “Adopting such a strategy would mean first and foremost that Washington would have to commit itself to building a new Syrian army that will rule Syria when the war is over. Although [Obama’s] description of his new Syria policy was more modest and tepid than his explanation of the Iraq piece of the strategy, he does appear to have committed the United States to just that course. More than that, it will mean putting the resources, prestige and credibility of the United States behind this effort. The $500 million now appropriated is a good start, but it is only a down payment on a much larger project” (p.8).

The US goal of training rebels in Saudi Arabia and Turkey is an indication of this too. On September 10, about two weeks before it started bombing Syria, Washington declared that Saudi Arabia had given it the green light to train a rebel army in the Arabian Peninsula. “We now have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a full partner in this effort — the train-and-equip program — to host that program,” one official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

The Brookings Institute in its proposal for an invasion of Syria: “The Saudi offer to provide facilities to train 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters is one of reasonable possibility, although one of Syria’s neighbors would probably be preferable. Jordan already serves as a training ground for America’s current training program and it would be an ideal locale to build a real Syrian army. However, Turkey could also conceivably serve that purpose if the Turks were willing” (p.10).

About two months later, in November, after US Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, it was announced that Kirsehir would be used by Turkey to train Syrian anti-government forces that the US would equip against Damascus.

The report also makes it clear that building the new opposition army “should not mean bolstering the existing ‘Free Syrian Army’” (p.10). Instead, the existing US-backed insurgent groups will slowly be swallowed or destroyed by the new opposition force that the US and its allies are constructing.

In mid-November, the Pentagon also presented a proposal to the US Congress, saying that it wants to arm Iraqi tribesmen with Kalashnikov rifles, rocked propelled grenades, and mortars. What is omitted is the cross-border dispersion of these tribes in both Iraq and Syria and the possibility that these weapons could be used in an attack on the Syrian government.

What moderates?

The talk about supporting “moderates” is very misleading. It is already clear that the ideology of the proposed insurgent army is not a key issue in practice for many US officials. There is also enough evidence to show that the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra, the ISIL, and the other insurgent forces are also collaborating and trading fighters.

The Telegraph, for example, had this to say on November 10 about Saddam Jamal, a US-backed Free Syrian Army commander that became an ISIL commander: “Before joining ISIL, Jamal had been a drug dealer, then a commander in the western-backed Free Syrian Army, claiming contacts in the CIA.

It is also clear that religion is a mask for the ISIL too. The same British article writes the following testimony from Saddam Jamal’s body guard about his massacre of a Syrian family: “The ISIL commander felt no remorse for killing this Syrian family, his bodyguard said, nor did he believe he was fulfilling a God-given creed: for him being a member of the extremist group was a matter of business, not religion.

In the end the ISIL may be used to incubate fighters or collapse, like the Free Syrian Army, into the proposed invasion force to occupy Syria.

Invasion army or armies?

General Dempsey said that “the anti-ISIL campaign could take several years to accomplish.” Leon Panetta, the former head of the CIA and Pentagon, has also claimed that this war will turn into a thirty-year US military project that will extend to North Africa, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

According to Brookings: “At some point, such a new Syrian army would have to move into Syria, but only when it was ready. Only when a force large enough to conquer and hold territory – something on the order of two to three brigades -were ready should it be sent in” (p.11).

A war of attrition that that will take years of fighting is underway. This matches up with the ideas about training an insurgent invasion force over the years.

In their joint statement Senators McCain and Graham said that President Bashar Assad will not stop fighting the so-called “moderate” US-backed insurgents “that remain committed to his ousting- especially when the United States and [its] partners still, correctly, share the same goal and will now be arming and training Assad’s moderate opponents.” In other words, the US-trained Syrian forces will ultimately target the Syrian government.

 

[Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst.]