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Stranger Than Fiction: How to Keep an Antiwar Movement Down

by Emma Quangel

May 9, 2016

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Imagine, if you will, the year 2016. It is a year of war. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkey – just a handful in a long list – are under attack. Covert operations angling at “regime change” take place in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The African continent is engulfed in conflict, the threat of “regime change” knocking against even South Africa’s door. The BRICs are threatened, destabilizing. Thousands drown every year in the Mediterranean while millions more flood Europe, desperate for refuge from the violence and poverty that plagues their homelands. The right is on the rise across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. The global economy is sagging under the weight of its own contradictions.

The United States government, that acts as the hired guns of a global class of jet-setting billionaires, imprisons 2.3 million of its own people. 3.2 per cent of its citizens are under correctional control. The descendants of those once kidnapped and enslaved are particularly tormented – one in three black males in the USA will spend some time in prison. 12,000 children in Flint, Michigan are poisoned by lead in the water. 60,000 people in New York City are homeless. Nearly 1,000 people were killed by the police in the United States last year. Thousands more are tortured – even boiled alive – in US prisons. In the state of Louisiana, black men in chains pick cotton for slave wages while overseers toting shotguns monitor them from horseback. The electoral system is rigged, disenfranchises millions, and offers the same solution, year after year: submit or be crushed.

Imagine, if you will, the year 2016 without a revolutionary movement against such conditions.

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The Black Panther Party was possibly the highwater mark for American revolution in the 20th century because it existed in concert with, and gave guidance to, a broad-based antiwar movement. While the labor struggles of the working class at the turn of the century were integral in improving the lives of millions of Americans and providing a platform for revolutionary socialism, it wasn’t until the radical labor movement started to speak out against the First World War that they were persecuted in full by the government, lynched, deported and imprisoned. Likewise, the Black Panthers were most heavily targeted when they developed a line that connected the suffering of the American people to the suffering inflicted on others by the United States abroad. In both instances, the culprit was imperialism, capitalism made flesh in the form of guns and planes that could stamp out challenges to its hegemony.

That the Black Panther Party even existed should one of the greatest points of pride among radicals in the United States. Indeed, Black Panthers are still on the run from the FBI or languishing in prisons, sometimes for decades under solitary confinement. They were able to serve the people while educating them about the world we lived in. To the Black Panthers, to anyone who would call themselves a dialectical materialist, the idea that the United States Government is an institution that can be reformed is simply absurd. The United States Government, to Marxists, does not exist as a faulty waiter failing to bring free health care and universal housing with the check, but rather, to mediate class conflict in favor of the bourgeoisie – not just in the United States, but worldwide. The Black Panthers saw this, and declared themselves in solidarity with the victims of imperialism. They toured the world, meeting with revolutionaries from North Korea to Vietnam. And this, along with organizing among poor black communities in the United States, is what brought down the wrath of the state on their heads.

It is possible to say that a revolutionary movement in the United States can only exist when there is praxis that recognizes the relationship between oppression in the US and imperialism. I would further venture to say that there can be no praxis without the two elements being present concurrently, and that no honest effort at building a revolutionary movement in the US can be made without recognizing that there must be an antiwar movement to join, and that this antiwar movement must be anti-imperialist.

After all, the wars of today differ greatly from the wars of the early 20th century, the wars that threw Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood in jail. We no longer have the draft – the popular rage over Vietnam saw an end to that – and the US spends more time launching air strikes from unmanned drones than digging trenches or preparing for bayonet combat. Likewise, imperialism doesn’t always take place at the end of a gun. The IMF and World Bank, created at the end of World War II, helped to exert influence over economies and governments where a heavier, more direct hand was once required. The creation of NATO and the Cold War made imperialism seem a war of ideologies, rather than the ham-fisted grab at resources that it was. Now, it seems that while American bombs and bullets murder so many worldwide, we are encouraged to side with imperialism as socialists. We are expected to take on the reasoning of George W. Bush and Samantha Power so long as it is dressed up and marketed in a way that pleases us, even if we consider ourselves “Left” leaning politically. Like soda and smartphones, we are exhorted to find identity in our positions, to represent ourselves by our consumer choices.

An alarming trend is on the rise in the United States and in the English-speaking world more generally: the ubiquitous Op-Ed. What was once relegated to just one page of the newspaper (the term Op-Ed meaning something that ran on the page opposite to Editorial) now makes up large sections of online news media. I imagine it is cheaper to pay a freelancer $250 (optimistic!) for their opinion than finance a foreign bureau. Whole TV networks run on an audio-visual version of the Op-Ed. It is a form of news that directly tells its reader how to think about the current events. Many gain their information on a topic simply from reading Op-eds. Today’s columnist and pundit is a TV show, someone that we can tune into on a regular basis for entertainment and flattery. If one show is boring, if you don’t like what they’re saying – simply switch the channel. It doesn’t matter, as all are trying to sell you a ruling class agenda. And, above all else, in our 24 hour news cycle, we are never allowed to present news in a boring way. The VICE lifestyle brand turned global news channel, with its correspondents pulled from content marketing’s central casting, is a prime example of the desire to “sex-up” news by letting opinions lead coverage. It is a way to engage the youth, as it boasts openly, to not only consume brands, but also official narratives, with enthusiasm.

A narrative example from the Op-ed world of news could be as follows: In Syria, democratic protesters are fighting against a brutal regime that slaughters them with impunity. These democratic protesters, now called rebels, are always at risk of being annihilated by state violence and torture because the Western Left has “failed” them.We must all support these rebels and pressure our government to do the right thing,whatever that might be.

Some articles might be run in conjunction, many that might contradict this narrative. We might learn from respected journalists with years of experience and lauded professional histories that things aren’t so simple. We might learn from State Department press transcripts that these brave rebels take quite a lot of money from the US Government. But it doesn’t matter if half of the paper contradicts the other half. When we are told how to read the news, through the eyes of these pundits, we are happily oblivious of whatever facts might contradict our chosen authority. After all, Thomas Friedman is far more influential and famous than some no-name stringer for The Times. Anyone who might disagree with the official narrative, even if they are respected journalists, scholars or activists, are now called conspiracy theorists, “hacks” or worse.

But while journalists are still nominally held to professional standards, the pundit owes no such thing to her audience. After all, this is just her opinion, and she is not expected to have thoroughly researched differing narratives – nor is she obligated to present opposing views, or to present anything evenly – when publishing her Op-ed. This is not unexpected, nor is it dishonest to the job description of a “pundit”. It’s up to the publication to decide how much of its material is news, and how much of it is entertainment packaged as Op-eds.

Yet, there is danger when a pundit or entertainer decides to call herself a journalist without having been subjected to the same standards we would expect from the NYT stringer. Facts are not checked and sources are not vetted. So-called journalists, such as Michael Weiss or Molly Crabapple, rely heavily on anonymous sources who slip them scintillating information or photographs. And yet, I am unsure who these sources are, who has vetted them, and how they did so. Indeed, as this new generation straddles the line between journalist and pundit, the means by which they communicate are themselves in question. My own WhatsApp number is from Iraq, though I have not lived there since October 2015. So, I think it’s natural to ask how these sources are processed, especially if the Op-ed writers posing as journalists are writing whole books based on their testimony, appearing on talk shows as experts, and building careers off promoting wars. While the content may be biased and one-sided, laden with marketing copy and convenient omissions, we should be incredibly wary on how we define, protect, but also how we verify the “source”. Indeed, I wouldask how these pundits find, vet and receive information, but as many already tried to have me fired from my last job for asking such questions, it’s pointless to attempt from my position – though I welcome corrections and inputs from editorial.

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As it stands, The Guardian admitted last week that it had been fed stories on Syria by the UK Home Office operating from behind a PR firm that was operating a Syrian advocacy campaign. Breakthrough Media joins its American agency Purpose (via The Syria Campaign) in pushing advocacy for pro-intervention narratives on the Syria conflict. What is left out of the discussion of whether or not public funds are being used to propagandize war to the tax-paying public is the disclosure of who the freelance “journalists” are that are being paid or otherwise lobbied to write on Syria. We would expect that journalists taking money or in kind contributions from campaign staff disclose such information when writing on the election – why not the same expectation from those who write on foreign policy matters? Perhaps it is because, in the long run, such issues are far weightier than whatever new jab a candidate throws on social media or a cable news talk show. One of the more chilling revelations from The Guardian, one seemingly lifted straight from my book, is that some of the journalists reported they were unaware that they were being utilized in this way.

If we knew that Fred Hampton or Emma Goldman were taking money from public relations firms (who may or may not have been receiving marching orders from governments) when speaking or writing on the wars they opposed, wouldn’t that change the way we see their positions? And certainly, if we were to discover that some of our favorite, cherished personalities who regularly tell us how to read the news were taking money from PR firms, to confuse, mislead, attack or threaten activists who might otherwise try and build a case against the US government’s wars abroad and at home, wouldn’t that be a scandal?

There may be no antiwar movement today because we live in a media environment that seeks to destroy it in its nascence. Andrew Bacevich, in his recent instructive essay for Harper’s called “American Imperium”, makes the case that:

The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party.

Indeed, before there can be a peace party, there must be an antiwar critique. And the “trivializing din” that Bacevich speaks of is not simply drowning out antiwar critique, it is merciless in seeking to destroy and discredit ideas such as the fact that the United States enjoys unprecedented military, economic, ideological and strategic domination over the entire world. Such ideas, when voiced publicly, are met with derision and laughter. As if, with dozens of bases and tens of thousands of soldiers surrounding Russia, one could seriously argue that Russia is imperialist, or an equal threat to world peace as the US. There are no Russian bases and no Russian soldiers garrisoned on our borders. We cannot even know, as the numbers are not publicly available, how many US soldiers and bases are currently in the Middle East – indeed, how many are currently in Iraq and Syria, where much conflict is currently taking place. Whereas before, reliable journalists and their supportive editors might have been successful in discovering such figures, they are now too focused on revenue and survival. This opens wide the door for propagandists who wish to deride and discredit any remaining “Left” antiwar sentiment in the US. Until this is resolved, building an anti-imperialist antiwar movement will remain an uphill battle, even among smaller groups, as subjectivity and sophistry continues to be taught and promoted over objectivity, materialism, serious study and clear thinking.

 

[“Emma Quangel is the woman who bravely contributed to the outing of Nazi murderer/”Last Rhodesian” Dylann Storm Roof’s blog, which probably spoiled Roof’s chances at the inexorably successful—for white supremacists—insanity defense.  After Quangel, an insanity verdict for Roof would be an insanity verdict for the U.S. white supremacist system: which is to say, in lieu of Aristotelian-bourgeois justice, Artaudian ritual magic, a self-reparative exorcism.”]

Fog of War

Public Good Project

March 18, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

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War fog by Marc Manigrasso

 

In Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex, Patrick Henningsen reveals ‘perception management’ by the NGO sector as ‘co-marketing’ of foreign policy objectives of the US State Department, Pentagon and NATO. As Henningsen notes, leading human rights organizations — such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — “have become virtual clearinghouses for interventionist propaganda”.

Says Henningsen, in the Balkans, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen — where they supported regime change — “NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France”. To successfully frame geopolitical narratives on which these NGOs derive their fundraising campaigns, the lucrative revolving door between NGOs, government and media “converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance”.

Underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations, these organizations have well-developed links “leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex”. Blinded by the fog of mass media and bombarded with faux moral imperatives, public opinion is led by these NGOs into supporting western-backed rebels and terrorists “under the banner of ‘human rights’.”

 

 

 

[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. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex

UK Column

March 15, 2016

by Patrick Henningsen

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Human rights in the West: does the reality live up to the rhetoric? On the surface, the cultural narrative seems innocent enough: billionaire philanthropists, political luminaries and transnational corporations, along with legions of staff and volunteers – all working together in the name of social justice, forging a better, fairer and more accountable world.

The story reads well on paper, and well it should. After all, the 20th century saw a string of failures by various governments to curb and halt some of the most horrific exhibitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. The door has been opened for many charities and human rights organizations to play a bigger role in moderating international affairs. Upon more rigorous inspection, however, what emerges is one of the most unfortunate realities of 21st century geopolitics. Though many human rights charities still market themselves as ‘neutral’ and ‘nonpartisan’, the reality is something very different. With public skepticism at an all-time high, the danger is clear: if conflicts of interest are not addressed in a serious way, they threaten to undermine the credibility of the entire non-governmental organization (NGO) sector internationally.

One difficult aspect in analyzing this struggle for ‘perception management’ is that most human rights and aid organizations are staffed and run by good, hard-working and extremely well-educated individuals, many of whom carry out their roles with an altruistic heart and with the best of intentions. For the most part, many remain unaware or uninterested in who actually funds their organisations and what those financial strings mean in terms of the what a given organisation’s stance will be on any range of geopolitical issues or military conflicts. It’s certainly true that over the years, sincere and dedicated campaigning by organisations has helped to free individuals who where unjustly imprisoned and achieved due process and justice for the dispossessed. It’s also true that many of these same organizations have helped to raise awareness on many important social and environmental issues.

Due to increased funding from corporate interests and direct links to government and policy think tanks in recent years, these organisations have become even more politicised, and more closely connected with western ‘agents of influence.’ As a result, an argument can be made that, on many levels, these ‘human rights’ organisations may be contributing to the very problem they profess to be working to abate: causing more suffering, death and instability worldwide through their co-marketing of the foreign policy objectives of Washington, London, Paris and Brussels.

The problem is both systemic and institutional in nature. As a result, many of the western world’s leading human rights organizations based in North America and Europe have become mirror reflections of a western foreign policy agenda and have become virtual clearing houses for interventionist propaganda.

Writer Stephanie McMillan describes the new role of the non governmental organizations in the 21st century:

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction.

Outsourcing Consensus Building

Shaping western public perception and opinion on major international issues is essential if major world powers are to realise their foreign policy goals. Not surprisingly, we can see that many of the public positions taken by NGOs are exactly aligned with western foreign policy. In the Balkans War of the 1990’s, human rights groups supported partitioning. In the Ukraine in 2014 and with both Syria and Yemen in 2016 they supported regime change. In each instance NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France. This collusion is manifest throughout the upper echelons of these organizations whose streamlined agenda conforms through a lucrative revolving door which exists between a cartel of western NGOs, government and media.

As western governments find themselves more heavily involved in long-term conflicts around the globe, the need to outsource their ethics and morals to NGOs becomes more apparent. Continuity between these symbiotic entities is essential if governments are to successfully frame the geopolitical narratives on which international human rights organizations so often derive their own public relations and fundraising campaigns. Together, all of these things converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance which could be described as a type of ‘government-media-human rights’ industrial complex.

Nowhere is this complex more evident than with the United States-led foreign policy towards Syria. By framing the Syrian Conflict (2011 to present) as a “civil war”, both western media and human rights organizations did their part in propping-up an important western foreign policy narrative. Inaccurate and distorted, this narrative has helped shield the US-led clandestine proxy war which has been allowed to carry on almost unimpeded below the surface narrative of western public perception. For mainstream US audiences, if truly known, the reality of Syria might be too much to bear – a US-backed guerrilla war where Washington and Ankara, along with NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies, flooding Turkey and Syria with weapons, cash, equipment, social media teams, military trainers and foreign fighters from as a far away as Pakistan. When analyzed from this wider perspective, very little is ‘civil’ about the Syrian Conflict.

The Human Rights Industry

What was once a 20th century adjunct to an emerging international progressive movement has since mushroomed into a 21st century multi-billion dollar, internationalised ‘third sector’ concern – underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations. This impressive labyrinth is led by organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Worldwide Human Rights Movement (FIDH). Each of these organisations has well-developed links leading directly into central governments, and perhaps more surprisingly, links leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex. Safely cloaked under the official guise of ‘charity organisation’, many of these entities push a political agenda and effectively serve as public relations outlets for US and NATO forward military planning.

Working behind the public-facing human rights industrial complex is another key component which helps set the geopolitical agenda. Leading western governmental efforts are the White House and the US State Department. Behind the political facade, however, is where the real work takes place; a myriad of think tanks which serve as an unofficial academic-like support structure for managing policy planning, rolling out grand strategies and other big ideas. Some recognisable names in this industry are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Foreign Policy Initiative (the heir apparent to PNAC). These think tanks and foundations are also referred to as ‘policy mills’ because of their ability to churn-out volumes of policy ‘white papers’, surveys and strategic studies which are then disseminated through various industry journals and at functions, conferences and events in Washington DC and New York City. Certain think tanks, like the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, were set-up in the 1990’s to push through specific foreign policy objectives – like kick-starting the war in Iraq. Where you find a war, you most certainly will find a think tank advocating behind it.

Follow the Money

To find the common thread between think tanks, foundations and human rights charities, one needs only to follow the money.

Many of these entities receive large portions of their funding from the same sources – transnational corporations. One large contributor of annual funding for human rights organisations, including HRW, is the controversial Wall Street billionaire George Soros, through his NGO the Open Society Institute. Other human rights organisations like FIDH which draw together some 178 organizations from 120 countries, receives funding from the US State Department by way of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Here we have a direct financial link which forms a ring connecting western governments, NGOs and charities.

One can argue, and successfully, that this nexus ensures that the output, ideas and marketing messages of each leg of a human rights campaign conforms to western foreign policy language and objectives.

Smart Power: Formerly of the US State Dept., now an NGO luminary, Suzanne Nossel

Washington’s HR Revolving Door

It’s no secret that a revolving door exists between the US State Department and many of the western world’s leading human rights organisations. That relationship can be gleaned from this CFR policy paper which states:

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war … Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership – diplomatic, economic, and not least, military – to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

That passage, taken in the context of the Syrian conflict, reveals a stark picture of how Washington really works. It was written by Suzanne Nossel, one of Washington’s most high-profile humanitarian advocates who managed to transition seamlessly from her position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organisations at the US State Department – directly into an executive director position at Amnesty International USA in 2012. Prior to the State Dept., Nossel was also served as chief operating officer for Human Rights Watch, vice president of strategy and operations at the Wall Street Journal and a media and communications consultant to CFR founding corporate member, law firm McKinsey & Company.

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

2012 Amnesty International USA PR campaign.

Around this time, Amnesty USA launched a new PR campaign aimed at millennials and selling the following geopolitical narrative: “NO MORE EXCUSES: Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions while continually supplying arms, causing the violence to worsen.”

This digital and print campaign was also backed by rallies and other live events used to promote their anti-Russia and Anti-Syria PR effort. At one event in 2012, young school children in Nepal could be seen holding up signs that read, “Russia: Stop Arms Transfer to Syria!”.

When you consider its mirror reflection of foreign policy lines emanating from the US State Dept., it’s easy to see how this catchy slogan had little if anything to do with human rights, but but could easily be viewed as trying to isolate both the Russian and Syrian governments geopolitically.

In truth, Amnesty’s narrative was a complete inversion: while attempting to lay the blame on Russia as being responsible for the escalation and sustained violence in Syria, the country was being over-run by tens of thousands of foreign terrorist militants, illegally trafficked weapons, along with CIA and other foreign assets, as part of the wider US-led Coalition presently waging a proxy war in Syria.

Soft Power vs Smart Power

Despite its foreign policy aspirations, the West still needs public opinion backing for any military action. While the public are none the wiser, blinded by the fog of mass media coverage and bombarded with faux moral imperatives and ‘ticking bomb’ style scenarios demanding that, “we must act now to save innocent lives” – soft power agents have provided the crucial communication bridge for most interventions.

Both media and NGOs fall under the classification of ‘soft power’, and it is this soft power complex which provides the soft cushion upon which soft-sounding foreign policies like “humanitarian intervention” and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) can comfortably rest on in western discourse. In reality, these foreign policies are anything but soft, and in the absence of declaring war between nation states – these policies now serve as the tip of an imperialist spear. If you surveyed any of the millions of Middle Eastern residents on the receiving end of the west’s recent humanitarian interventions they will tell you it was anything but soft – especially for the people living in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Inside Washington’s inner sanctum, ‘soft power’ has given way to Smart Power. Indeed, it was Susan Nossel who coined the term “Smart Power” while working alongside US humanitarian hawks like Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, and also with Washington’s lesser known Atrocity Prevention Board, all of whom worked to successfully implement this new range of intervention marketing concepts including humanitarian intervention and R2P.

In this age of professionally staged colour revolutions and ‘Arab Springs’, and wars fought by proxies and front organizations – vaunted human rights organisations should really acknowledge that there are nation-states and central governments who are not long for this world, and who are literally fighting for their survival. Governments who find themselves under the western hammer cannot always afford the luxury of settling internal disputes nicely, or putting down armed rebel factions and terrorists with all affordable due process. If these rebels or terrorists are western-backed, or GCC-backed, then this condition becomes more acute. Certainly, the United States and its NATO allies, or Israel for that matter, do not afford such civility for any of its victims of collateral damage’ or during a protracted ‘humanitarian intervention’.

‘Agents of Change’ & Emotive Appeals

By now, it’s also a well-documented fact that America’s CIA and Pentagon intelligence departments have used an array of charities, aid organisations, and even religious missionary organisations as fronts for conducting espionage overseas, and with the prime directive of to further foreign policy objectives.

In recent years, however, under the banner of ‘human rights’, the US has developed some new and innovative methods of intelligence gathering and achieving an increased military footprint in new countries.

To reach these objectives, western governments enlist ‘change agents’.

No story serves as a better example of how a human rights organisation can be applied as a sharp tool of foreign policy than Kony 2012, described by the Atlantic Magazine as a viral video campaign which “reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.”

As viral social media campaigns go, Kony 2012 set a new standard for speed and efficiency in penetrating the western youth market. This effort was not with out help from mainstream corporate media in the US, and also from the US government in Washington DC.

Here, soft power was applied in order to manufacture public consent through an emotive public appeal which was eventually exposed as a gross distortion of reality. In this case, the antagonist was the illusive warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army. According to their campaign, if the president could send a military force to “find Kony”, then many children would be saved in the process. The only problem was that no one had actually seen Kony in over 6 years, with rumors abound that Kony may even have died years earlier. This did not deter the campaign though, as organisers pressed ahead, raising millions along the way. The human rights charity which fronted the project, Invisible Children, actually targeted their viral campaign and fundraising drive at under aged American school children, and even drafted primary school students to raise money on the charity’s behalf. In the end, the project collapsed, but the ultimate objective was achieved: culminating with a successful public relations event and photo opportunity at the White House, and under cover of the Kony 2012 media campaign – President Barack Obama publicly deployed US military assets to Uganda under an expansion of US AFRICOM operations in Africa.

Trapped inside their own ideological controlled environment where every decision is a virtual fait accompli, western media and government officials will routinely refer to the human rights industry in order to provide a necessary moral back-stop for any foreign policy objective. This same practice is also repeated by the United Nations too, which often cites the very same statistics and reports used by Washington to back-up its foreign policy moves.

Independent human rights activist Rick Sterling explains this all too familiar cycle in today’s international affairs:

There is a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of US and Western military intervention in countries around the world: In Gulf War 1, there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty International ‘verified’ the false claims. Ten years later, there were reports of ‘yellow cake uranium’ going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction. One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers ‘drugged on Viagra and raping women as they advanced.’ In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by ‘pro-Assad Syrian militia’ but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army”. All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

Strange Bedfellows: NATO, Amnesty and HRW

It’s no coincidence that nearly every foreign policy front the US State Department has prioritised is mirrored by Amnesty International USA. The US State Department together with the Pentagon, will also utilise social justice issues in order to advance a foreign policy objective. The most potent of these has to be gender identity politics, seen through the western lens as “woman’s rights”. By projecting this issue on to a non-favoured’ nation, western war planners can quickly construct an important leg in foreign policy messaging.

In 2012, Amnesty International USA ran a national billboard campaign with images depicting Afghan women and girls, accompanied by the slogan: “NATO: Keep the Progress Going.” Not surprisingly, at this same moment, western media were referring to NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan as “the first feminist war.” In its totality, this is one example of near perfect streamlined marketing campaign which tied together all branches of the interventionist network – the US State Department, the Pentagon, the mainstream media and Amnesty International. This cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion by Amnesty International, on behalf of the Pentagon and Brussels, could be traced back to one Amnesty patron, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who in the 1990’s, famously remarked, “We think the price is worth it,” referring to the death of a half million Iraqi children as a result of crippling US economic sanctions.

In early 2015, Ken Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted out an aerial image purporting to be from Kobane, Syria, showing a neighborhood reduced to rubble which he described as, “a drone’s eye tour of what Assad’s barrel bombs have done to Aleppo.” It turned out that Roth’s tweet was a forgery. The image he used was actually taken from Gaza the previous summer, showing the destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods at the hands of Israel’s IDF. This was another example of slipshod propaganda disseminated by high profile human right organization – expressly designed to demonise a foreign government that Washington nation builders are seeking to overthrow. It’s no surprise then that HRW would also appoint CIA operative Miguel Diaz to serve on its advisory board, or that Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO and architect of the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (a war which HRW itself condemned in 2000) also serves on HRW’s board of directors.

Beyond the slick marketing and celebrity endorsements, in all actuality HRW is nothing more than a Cold War era propaganda relic which has been retrofitted to serve a 21st century Atlanticist geopolitical agenda. According to Washington DC-based transparency advocate Keane Bhatt, “HRW was originally called Helsinki Watch. It was created in 1978 during the Cold War to scrutinize and criticize the crimes that were being committed by the USSR and its allies. That Cold War ideology has long played a role in the kinds of priorities and advocacy that HRW engages in”.

Syria’s NGO Kaleidoscope

One of the most egregious examples of a NGO being used to reinforce a US-led geopolitical narrative is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), created in 2006. Beyond the grandiose name, this ‘organisation’ is basically a one-man show which until recently, was run out of a one bedroom apartment in Coventry, England. SOHR is run by a Syrian dissident named Osama Ali Suleiman, commonly known in the media as “Rahmi Abdul Rahman”. The SOHR has played the key role in developing the all-important “facts on the ground” story for the Washington-London-Paris Axis seeking to topple the government in Damascus through its stoic policy of ‘regime change’ in Syria. When it comes to ‘official’ death toll numbers out of Syria, almost every mainstream report in the US and Europe has cited the SOHR as its data source with hardly a passing thought as to either the accuracy or the credibility of its numbers, and under which category death tolls are counted.

Despite the fact that the SOHR is closely affiliated with the US and UK-backed Syrian opposition, its data sets will often include casualty figures of ‘rebel forces’ (which will often include known foreign terrorist fighters) within its civilian casualty figures. These dubious figures are also used by a number of UN agencies, as well as leading human right organisations. Similarly, US, UK and European officials will frequently attribute a figure of 250,000 ‘Syrian deaths’ to civilians killed by “the regime” embodied by President Bashar al Assad. One week, a western official will quote a number of 150,000, and the next week it will be 350,000. As a result, most mainstream reports of Syria’s casualty figures are rife with bias and methodological inconsistencies, and as a result no one really seems to know the real figure. The larger the number, the more passionate the plea for western military intervention. Even the Council of the Foreign Relations is on record stating that the numbers being cited by the likes of John McCain simply don’t add up. Micah Zenko and Amelia M. Wolf of the CFR admitted in 2014 that, “most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command.” Meanwhile, western media, politicians and human rights organisations routinely ignore the fact that over 100,000 deaths since 2011 have been Syrian Army and Security personnel killed by foreign-backed militants and terrorists. Zenko later added that, “the types of interventions that proponents have endorsed for Syria … have almost nothing to do with how Syrian non-combatants are actually being killed.”

While the Syrian Conflict is a messy and tragic affair, with brutality and violence affecting every side of the fighting, readers should note exactly how this subtle, yet relentless western campaign of disinformation feeds neatly into the western policy of regime change embodied in the rhetorical demand that “Assad must go.” John Glaser from Antiwar.com adds here:

A common policy proposal to mitigate the mass suffering in Syria is for the U.S. to help the rebels and undermine the Assad regime, a scheme that just becomes ludicrous after looking at the data.

It should also be noted that the SOHR receives its funding directly from the EU, and also enjoys substantial support from the British Foreign Office – both of whom are actively seeking to overthrow the government in Syria through guerrilla proxies. At the very least this could be described as a conflict of interest. The SOHR is hardly ‘non partisan’ and more likely to be used as a tool to manufacture consensus for humanitarian intervention in Syria.

Intervention Digital Marketing

They say that ‘the road to tyranny is paved with good intentions’. That old adage couldn’t be more true today, despite all of our seemingly wonderful internet tools and ‘activist’ platforms online.

A key set piece in any nation building or humanitarian intervention is the ‘No Fly Zone’. Made famous during NATO’s Balkans War in Yugoslavia, the US-led Gulf Wars for Iraq, and later with NATO Libya, securing a No Fly Zone is essential for dictating the terms and conditions of any interventionalist program. The term has since developed an elastic quality and has been subtly altered into what many now refer to a “Safe Zone”, the idea being that by securing the skies above with western air power, the people below will be ‘safe.’

However, it’s still become a hard-sell because of negative connotations associated with past unpopular operation that have been viewed western wars of aggression. New technology is needed in order to repackage and market this damaged brand.

WANTED FULL 2

The internet and social networking have provided just that, where a myriad of social networking online petition web portals have been launched in recent years, the most prominent of which is the online organization Avaaz.org was co-founded in 2007 by Res Publica and Moveon.org, and whose funding sources include the George Soros’ Open Society umbrella foundation network. Key founders and players include Tom Perriello, Ricken Patel, Tom Pravda, Jeremy Heimans, David Madden, Eli Pariser and Andrea Woodhouse, each of whom have working relationships with the UN and World Bank, and coordinate with US-controlled institutions like the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council.

According to the Avaaz website, their mission is to “organise citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”

Non-profit Avaaz works closely with its for-profit arm, New York City-based PR firm Purpose, which refers to itself as a “proud public benefit corporation.”

It is important to understand that by their own admission, these organizations are not meant to be purely altruistic, but rather are enterprise businesses. In her article entitled “The Rise of the Movement Entrepreneur and its Impact on Business”, writer Allison Goldberg explains the ‘big idea’ which is used a wrapping for their self-styled social license:

The rise of new technology has drastically lowered the barrier to movement creation while providing an alternative to established institutions, formerly seen as the route to reform. Instead of relying on government bodies or other established organizations often weighed down by bureaucracy, entrepreneurs are utilizing the power of social media to mobilize the masses in favor of large-scale change. As a result, organizations have arisen such as Avaaz.org, which defines itself as “the campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision-making worldwide.” Avaaz now boasts seven million members worldwide.

Together, Avaaz and Purpose create the language and the online consensus-building tools. While maintaining the illusion of grassroots activists advocating for human rights, the core function of their public relations campaigns are outcome-based, or to help herd public opinion in order to provide a pretext for multilateral institutions like the the IMF and NATO to implement programs like economic sanctions, or  military intervention.

One of the Avaaz ‘Safe Zone’ campaigns for Syria in 2012-2013

In 2012 and 2013, Avaaz campaigns featured a number of large online petitions which demanded that international bodies (like the UN) send “3,000 international monitors” into the country, and that Western military powers (like NATO) impose a ‘No-Fly Zone’ over the entire country in order to “save innocent lives.” One petion read as follows:

To the Arab League, European Union, United States, and Friends of Syria: As global citizens, we call on you to take immediate action to stop the deadly terror in Syria. Enough is enough. We ask you to immediately demand a ceasefire to stop the bloodshed so that parties can come to the negotiating table to agree on a way forward. Until a ceasefire is reached, we call on you to work together and with the international community to enforce a no fly zone to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.

Again, another NGO public relations messaging campaign mirroring foreign policy planks from the US State Department and Washington’s defense community.

On Avaaz’s website you can often find a number of sensational claims. During their No-Fly-Zone campaign cycle this statement appeared:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

Unfortunately, the incident in question never actually happened.

Rick Sterling explains:

Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration outlines to sequence of events that eventually lead to Avaaz calling for a ‘No Fly Zone’ in Syria.

One organization championed in Avaaz marketing campaigns is a ‘neutral’ organization called the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the ‘White Helmets‘.

Writer Vanessa Beeley explains the all-too familiar funding sources for the White Helmets in her article entitled, Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I:

The White Helmets were established in March 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, and is headed by James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’-British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Le Mesurier is a product of Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and has also been placed in a series of high-profile pasts at the United Nations, European Union, and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The origins of The White Helmet’s initial $300k seed funding is a little hazy, reports are contradictory but subsequent information leads us to conclude that the UK, US and the ‘Syrian opposition’ (or Syrian National Council, parallel government backed an funded by the US, UK and allies) are connected. Logistical support has been provided and given by Turkish elite natural disaster response team, AKUT. A further $13 million was poured into the White Helmet coffers during 2013 and this is where it gets interesting. Early reports suggest that these “donations” came from the US, UK and SNC with the previously explored connections to George Soros in the US. However, subsequent investigations reveal that USAID has been a major shareholder in the White Helmet organisation. The website for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that, “our work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.” In a USAID report update in July 2015 it is clearly stated that they have supplied over $ 16m in assistance to the White Helmets.

Regarding USAID, Beeley adds that:

The USAID track record as a primary US Government/CIA regime change facilitator is extensively documented. From South America to the Ukraine and in the Middle East, USAID serve a malevolent and ultimately destructive role in the dismantling of sovereign nations and their reduction to western hegemony vassal states, as always, all in the name of freedom and democracy.

Even more crucial in this case, is evidence that links the White Helmets to militant fighting groups in Syria, including al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria). While this does not prove anything beyond association between members of both organizations, it’s significant when one considers that both organizations are receiving material and financial support from the same member nations of the US-led Coalition.

Geopolitically Correct

For all practical purposes, as a moral and ethical tenet, ‘human rights’ is an anomaly in any western military action.

How one frames a story determines its thesis. In the 21st century, the concept of human rights has been weaponised, pointed at nonaligned and independent nation-states who are seen as obstacles to American and European market-makers and nation builders. A number of target states not geopolitically aligned with the US, NATO or the GCC, are yet to be absorbed, seduced, conquered, or as in the case of Libya, completely collapsed, or in the case of Syria – completely dismembered. These include states listed by former US General and NATO Supreme Commander, Wesley Clark, in his Commonwealth Club speech in San Francisco in 2007. During the event, Clark intimated a conversation he had after a classified defense briefing where a Pentagon source had told him weeks after 9/11 of the Pentagon’s plan to attack Iraq, as well as a “coup” being plotted by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz along with “a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for the New American Century”. According to Clark, his told him about seven countries which were slated for overthrow: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

It should also be noted that both Wesley Clark and George Soros serve on the board of trustees of The International Crisis Group.

For any of these unlucky states, a sustained US or ‘Coalition’ military campaign means that a nation can be under attack 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet, that nation and its residents are given no quarter by western human rights organizations, governments or media. A perfect example of this is Saudi Arabia’s highly illegal undeclared war of aggression against its neighbor Yemen which began in the spring of 2015.

It’s worth noting here, that despite its own hotly contested human rights record, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was somehow managed to get elected to the UN’s prestigious Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Evidence suggests that this appointment was facilitated in part by British officials as part of a larger quid pro quo arrangement. According to classified Saudi foreign ministry files that were passed to Wikileaks in June 2015, and translated by Geneva-based UN Watch and revealed how UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support. Eventually, both countries were elected to the 47 member state UNHRC. The following passage from the leaked cables reveals how a clear deal was struck:

The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to The Guardian another cable revealed a Saudi Arabia transfer of $100,000 for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016”. At the time of their report, no one knows how this money was spent.

In addition, it was later shown that Saudi Arabia pledged $1 million to UNHRC prior to winning the its seat. Then rather amazingly (or not), in the fall of 2015, the UN appointed Saudi as Chair of the UNHRC.

When pressed on the matter, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said, “as is standard practice with all members, we never reveal our voting intentions or the way we vote.”

This was followed by a standard, throwaway PR platitude:

The British government strongly promotes human rights around the world and we raise our human rights concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities.

While its commendable that Saudi officials would want to take a leading role in advocating for international human rights, one cannot ignore the political hypocrisy at play considering Riyadh’s own soiled laundry regarding this issue which includes, among other items, the sanctioning of more than a 150 beheadings in 2015 – a number believed to be even higher than Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).

To make matters worse, the controversial Saudi appointment also took place amid the a new diplomatic row over a lucrative UK prison building contract in the Kingdom and the proposed execution of 17 year old Shia student activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was sentenced to ‘death by crucifixion’ for joining an anti-government demonstration.

Consider the amount of political and media campaigning against the government of Syria over numerous and largely unfounded allegations, where an international network comprised of the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) lobby, HRW and humanitarian interventionist luminaries are all backing a policy of regime change in Syria – and then contrast this with Saudi Arabia’s proven record on human rights and abuse of power. It’s impossible not to see the double standard.

As far as the Western political establishment are concerned, if there are any human rights violations or any local casualties mounting in one of its many dirty wars, geopolitical correctness dictates that these are either ignored or neatly filed away as an inconvenient consequence of America’s ‘national security’ or an unfortunate byproduct “collateral damage” along the road to international progress, peace and prosperity (democracy). Because it crosses swords with the US State Department, or NATO HQ, pubic pressure by humanitarian organizations like HRW and Amnesty USA is relatively nonexistent.

Outside of the theater of combat, the international community is also faced with the inconvenient dilemma of illegal detentions of supposed ‘enemy combatants’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture) and ‘extrajudicial killings’ (assassinations). These are the politically correct terms for the age of western militarisation.

Again, because of “bad optics” in Washington DC very little attention or pressure is applied by marquee international human rights charities.

The human rights industry also has its own politically correct lexicon and identifiers like ‘defectors’, ‘detainees’, ‘activists’ and a new emerging category of ‘activist-journalists’. Sometimes these terms can be accurate, but in a war theater like Syria, they are often euphemisms for actors in full spectrum information warfare. In the case of Syria, this information warfare is designed to embolden a foreign-backed opposition, but more importantly, to apply sustained public relations pressure towards an end goal of regime change.

The WMD Ritual

Conjuring a ‘WMD’ subplot in order to trigger a humanitarian intervention has become commonplace in western foreign policy. After being exposed as a momentous lie in Iraq in 2003, this set-back did not stop Washington from aggressively  pursuing the same narrative in Syria in 2013. Fortunately, the Syrian WMD narrative collapsed in the aftermath of a failed false flag Sarin gas attack that turned out to be orchestrated by US Coalition-backed ‘moderate’ rebels52. It was hardly a coincidence then to discover that HRW was the NGO tasked with providing the ‘smoking gun’ Washington and London needed to make their R2P case in August 2013.

Elizabeth Palmer reported for CBS News at the time, “on Tuesday, the group Human Rights Watch issued a report that said evidence strongly implies that Syrian government troops’ firing of rockets containing a nerve agent into a Damascus suburb on August 21 that the U.S. said killed over 1,400 people.” In the end, this turned out to be another epic lie.

While the US-led ‘Coalition’ is quick to seize upon spurious WMD narratives against its geopolitical targets, it will routinely ignore common Geneva Convention violations like Israel’s use of deadly white phosphorous in Gaza, the use of depleted uranium munitions by American military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabian cluster bombs being dropped on Yemeni civilians.

Western Institutionalised Bias

Wars, whether conventional or covert, are a dirty business.

One argument that the western human rights industry judicially avoids is that an armed opposition cannot rightly be classified as a ‘political opposition’, so long as it is armed. This could certainly be the case in Syria. Syrian president Assad explained this dilemma during his 2015 interview with CBS News anchor Charlie Rose, stating that “whenever you hold a gun, and kill people, and destroy public buildings, destroy private properties, that’s terrorism.”

Although most foreign policy officials in Washington DC would beg to differ, especially if the opposition in question is receiving weapons, cash or logistical support from the US or its allies. Assad futher clarifies the position and also exposes the fallacy in western rhetoric, explaining:

The word opposition, everywhere in the world, including your country, is a political opposition. Do you have military opposition in the United States? Would you accept it? You wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t. No-one accepts military opposition.

During his speech at Columbia University in 2006, Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger explained:

The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries.

Pilger’s reference can especially be applied to the institutional media bias that has underpinned the long running international war which the Middle East and Central Asia finds itself currently embroiled in. Some might argue that even if western human rights organisations could somehow be cured of their systemic bias towards Washington and CFR foreign policy narratives –  their needs to be an overhaul in defining the concept and the context of what ‘human rights’ are in real terms. A fresh look needs to take into account a level of western subterfuge which maybe western politicians and media are not yet ready  to acknowledge.

In Conclusion

Indeed, it was ‘human rights’ campaigning which led directly to the illegal bombing of Libya (NATO’s aggressive bombing campaign in Libya was not authorized in the UNSC Resolution 1973 which only called for a ‘No-Fly Zone’, and should therefore be considered illegal under international law), where the West’s sole intent was to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Regrettably, thousands of innocent civilians died in the process and the nation state of Libya quickly collapsed, separating into sub-regional, tribal and lawless militant enclaves.

The lesson of Libya was stark. The world should have taken note, but unfortunately it did not. Instead, onlookers saw then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, when asked during a CBS News interview about the removal of the Libyan president, could only cackle and laughingly joke, “we came, we saw, he died.”

Is this the new tone of humanitarianism?

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly solicit support from Hollywood celebrities and international recording artists, and spend millions of dollars per year producing films which depict situations around the world through their own political lens. To date, they have yet to produce a film showing the other unsavory side of the ‘rebel insurgency’ in Syria. Is this because that might undermine the entire US and NATO member foreign policy?

The public and private sponsors of NGO’s like HRW and Amnesty have invested, not donated, hundreds of millions collectively into these organisations so that they can portray world events in such a way that will enable their own corporate aspirations to be met. No matter how idealistic the rhetoric might sound coming from leading human rights organisations, the money could stop flowing if they discontinued manufacturing consent for wars.

This also raises the question of whether or not a non-governmental organisation that champions the issue of human rights can remain apolitical – as many such organizations claim to be. What would happen should such an organisation dare to adopt a truly righteous geopolitical (not political) stance advocating opposition to destructive western imperialist policies? Would western governments move to withdraw their 501c3 or tax exempt status which allows these charities to maintain their viability as a nonprofit organisation?

Once again, if conflicts of interest and revolving doors between government and charities are not properly addressed, it could eventually undermine the integrity of the entire NGO sector internationally. Corruption at the top of the pyramid also threatens to damage countless other small to medium sized organisations who do not have access to the US State Department or Hollywood, but who are still performing important services and engaged in real civic aid projects.

For human right organisations to be in lock-step with the US State Department, or hiring military operatives as board members and chief executives, is simply inexcusable by any social standard.

If the international community is to advance beyond defunct neocolonialist paradigms, it will need to place compassion ahead of policy, and humanity ahead of profits. Only then can the reality live up to the rhetoric.

 

[Author Patrick Henningsen is founder and editor of the news and analysis website 21st Century Wire, and is an independent foreign and political affairs analyst for RT International. He is also the host of the SUNDAY WIRE radio program which airs live every Sunday on the Alternate Current Radio Network. Find out more at: www.patrickhenningsen.com]

Western Aggression: The Highest Form of Terrorism

Image: Mark Gould

Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale.. The U.S. invaders of Iraq in 2003 proudly announced a “shock and awe” purpose in their opening assault, clearly designed to instill fear; that is, to terrorize the victim population along with the target security forces. And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.

How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.). This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “They kill reporters, don’t they?” Yes–as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians, Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Metropolitan, 2014).

But even if the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians, including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information, is both a war crime and terrorism. Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder.1

A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces–they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media. This rationale may placate the home population but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules.

The same is true of the retaliation defense. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.

Of course, all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including but not confined to the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e., Western and even many non-Western leaders, not publics) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S.aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowledged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict.2 )

Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria and Russia.

These rules also apply to the major human rights groups. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish. Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target — mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002). Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”

In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC.3

Similarly the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) who are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice.4  The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with “aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court! The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gaddafi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.

In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy–against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds.

All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war OF terrorism.” The propaganda system is, in fact, a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.

 

• First published in Z Magazine, February 2016

 

  1. How America Gets Away With Murder, Pluto, 2004, 46-56 [?]
  2. John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2014 [?]
  3. Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, Real News Books, 2014, 66-70. [?]
  4. On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty, Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice, Baraka Books, 2014. [?]

 

[Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.]

(New Book) Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism

Zero Anthropology

October 12, 2015

by Maximilian Forte

 

onepiececoverpb

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Friends and allies, partners and protégés, extensions and proxies—the vocabulary of US power in the form of multiples of itself has become so entrenched that it rarely attracts attention, and even less so critical commentary. Force multiplication is about “leverage”: using partners and proxies in an expanding network, but where power still remains centralized. Forces are conceptualized in multi-dimensional terms. Anything in the world of cultural systems, social relationships, and material production can become force multipliers for imperialism: food security, oil, electricity, young leaders, aid, social media, NGOs, women’s rights, schoolgirls, democratization, elections, the G8, the European Union, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, AFRICOM, development, policing, borders, and epidemics, among others. This takes us to related conceptualizations of “full-spectrum dominance,” “three-dimensional warfare,” and “interoperability,” in what has become an imperial syndrome. Chapters in this volume present diverse examples of force multiplication, ranging from Plan Colombia to Bulgarian membership in NATO and the US-Israeli relationship, from the New Alliance for Food Security to charitable aid and the control of migration, to the management of secrecy.

This volume is timely on numerous fronts. The time spanning the production of this book, from late 2014 to late 2015, has witnessed several new and renewed US interventions overseas, from Ukraine to Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and the non-withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, where a disastrous war stretches into its 14th year. On the academic front, and particularly in North American anthropology where the word “imperialism” is virtually unspeakable and the subject of deliberate or unconscious censorship, seminar participants have taken on a bold and unusual challenge.

Chapters in this volume speak directly to the alliance and coalition aspects of force multiplication, in military and economic terms. The Introduction (“Force Multipliers: Imperial Instrumentalism in Theory and Practice”) is not a mere formality, running 87 pages in length. Instead it is an in-depth exploration, using US and some British government documents, of the “science of control” as expressed in this murky concept, “force multipliers,” a concept that receives its first serious treatment in this volume. Anyone thinking of engaging in false debates of “imperialism vs. agency” or “conspiracy vs. coincidence,” ought to first read this chapter. I shall also be serializing that chapter on this site over the next days and weeks, with summarizing slides presented on Twitter and Facebook.

Chapter 1, “Protégé of an Empire: The Influence and Exchange of US and Israeli Imperialism,” by John Talbot, deals with the question of Israel as a force multiplier of US empire in the Middle East. Talbot’s research sought to uncover how the relationship between the US and Israel impacts the foreign policy and global actions of both. Furthermore, his work seeks to understand what exactly is the “special” relationship between the US and Israel. His chapter explores two prominent answers to these questions and posits his own. One answer is that there is a significant and powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US which has a grappling hold on the US Congress, media, and within universities—suggesting that these are Israel’s own “force multipliers”. The Israel lobby’s actions create ardent support for Israel’s actions and pro-Israel foreign policy even when this goes against US interests. The second position argues that the US is not being manipulated; rather it is acting according to its own imperial interests. The argument assumes Israel was, and is, in a strategic position which works to protect the US’ imperial and economic interests. Both the vast reserves of oil in the Middle East and the spread of cultural imperialism are of interest to the US empire. The chapter ends with a position that the relationship is neither one-sided nor symbiotic. The US is supporting a protégé in the realms of nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, exceptionalism, state violence, heavy militarization, the creation of a state of emergency, and empire. Israel is acting as the US itself does while relying on its support. Understanding this relationship alongside the other standpoints can help make sense of otherwise irrational actions in which each actor may engage on the global stage. Talbot’s work has added significance in that it was produced just as the Concordia Students’ Union (CSU) officially supported the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli occupation, a decision that was the product of a historic vote by a majority of Concordia undergraduate student voters, reinforcing the decisions by graduate students and other campus bodies.

In chapter 2, “The New Alliance: Gaining Ground in Africa,” Mandela Coupal Dalgleish focuses on the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which claims that it will bring 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. He examines the origins of the New Alliance as well as the narrative that fuels New Alliance strategies. The chapter also considers how the value chains, growth corridors and public-private partnerships are furthering the interests of corporations while causing the further impoverishment of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The relaxation and reduction of regulations and laws related to trade and ownership, which are required for African countries to participate in the New Alliance, are enabling occurrences of land grabbing, contract farming and the loss of diversity and resilience in African farming systems. This chapter is also very much related to discussions of “connected capitalism” (see the Introduction), the existence of the corporate oligarchic state at the centre of imperial power, and of course by invoking “alliance” the chapter’s contents relate to force multiplication. In this instance, force multiplication has to do with gaining productive territory and projecting power by remaking food security into something controlled by Western transnational corporations and subject to Western oversight.

In chapter 3, “Cocaine Blues: The Cost of Democratization under Plan Colombia,” Robert Majewski asks: Is the “war on drugs” in Colombia really about drugs? Majewski finds that the situation is more complex than simply a war on drugs. Instead he shows that rather than limiting actions to controlling and eradicating drug production, the US is on a imperialist quest of forging Colombia into a country able to uphold US ideals of democracy, capitalism and the free market. Through the highly militarized Plan Colombia that came to light in 2000, the US has utilized a number of mechanisms to restructure the country to its own liking. The ways in which US imperial aims are being attained are both through ideological and more direct means. Ideologically, the rule of law acts as a legal basis for the implementation of Americanized democracy. In a more direct manner, the US is training the Colombian army and employing private military security companies to carry out its objectives. As Majewski argues, the final aim is to create a secure environment for foreign capital to flourish, an environment that is even today seen as under threat by insurgent groups such as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (known by their Spanish acronym, FARC). As we see in the Introduction, the US’ cultivation of ties to the Colombian military is an excellent example of what Special Forces and US Army documents describe when speaking of force multipliers and “foreign internal defense,” allowing the US a presence by proxy inside the Colombian polity.

Chapter 4, “Bulgarian Membership in NATO and the Price of Democracy,” by Lea Marinova, examines Bulgaria’s membership in NATO—where Bulgaria now serves as one of the newer force multipliers of a force multiplying alliance that works to project US dominance. Some of the central questions raised by this chapter in examining the nature of Bulagria’s NATO membership are: What are the main arguments on the side of NATO which favour Bulgarian participation in the Alliance, and to what ends? How is Bulgaria advantaged from this allegiance? Through the examination of the Bulgarian government’s “Vision 2020” project and the participation of Bulgaria in NATO missions, it is argued that NATO is an instrumentalization of US imperialism. Through the exposition of specific socio-historical predispositions which led to that association, the link between the interests of the US in having Bulgaria as an ally by its side in the “global war on terrorism” is demonstrated. Marinova argues that it is important to produce critical investigation of organizations such as NATO, which claim to promote “democracy, freedom and equality,” because behind this discourse there is a reality of creating political and economic dependency, while public and political attention is removed from this reality as the country’s internal problems continue to escalate.

Chapter 5, “Forced Migrations: An Echo of the Structural Violence of the New Imperialism,” by Chloë Blaszkewycz, shows how borders too can be used as force multipliers, or feared as force diminishers—either way, Blaszkewycz brings to light the territoriality of the so-called new imperialism which is routinely theorized as being divorced from the territorial concerns of the old colonial form of imperialism. Her chapter explores migratory movement as being influenced by the structures supporting the new imperialism. Harsha Walia’s concept of border imperialism is used as a starting point to understand the different level of oppression and forms of violence coming from the US new imperialism. Even though scholars are less likely to talk about the territorial forms of domination in the new imperialism, when analyzing migratory movement one is confronted with the fortification of borders, both material and psychological ones. Therefore, adding the concept of the border into imperialism is paramount, Blaszkewycz argues. Border imperialism legitimizes structural, psychological, physical and social violence towards migrants through narratives of criminalization and apparati of control such as detention centres that are an extension of the prison system. In brief, in a paternalistic way the US is compelling the migration trajectory of Others and forces people to be in constant movement. Therefore this is also a significant contribution for bridging migration studies with studies of imperialism.

Chapter 6, “Humanitarian Relief vs. Humanitarian Belief,” by Iléana Gutnick, continues themes that were heavily developed in the fourth of our volumes, Good Intentions. It plays an important role in this volume for highlighting how humanitarian doctrines, NGOs, and development, are forms of foreign intervention that also serve as force multipliers for the interests of powerful states. Moreover, Gutnick argues that humanitarian aid discourse is voluntarily misleading in that it shifts the public’s focus of attention towards seemingly immediate yet irrelevant ways of coping with the world’s problems. The pursuit of development has become the basis of action for foreign intervention in all sectors. This chapter tries to present the actual causes of “poverty” in an attempt to recontextualize it within its political framework to shed light on possible solutions, if there are any.

Chapter 7, “On Secrecy, Power, and the Imperial State: Perspectives from WikiLeaks and Anthropology,” which has been written and redeveloped since 2010, focuses on the demand for secrecy that is occasioned by an imperial state relying heavily on covert operations and whose own forms of governance are increasingly beholden to the operations of a “shadow state”. This chapter is thus related to discussions of “connected capitalism” and the corporate oligarchic state discussed below. I proceed by examining how WikiLeaks understands strategies of secrecy, the dissemination of information, and state power, and how anthropology has treated issues of secret knowledge and the social conventions that govern the dissemination of that knowledge. In part, I highlight a new method of doing research on the imperial state and its force multipliers, which rests heavily on the work of anti-secrecy organizations, of which WikiLeaks is paramount.

This is the fifth volume in the New Imperialism series published by Alert Press, the first open access book publisher in anthropology and sociology. However, for the time being, this volume will be the last. As always it has been my pleasure and honour to serve as the editor for such a collection, despite the fact that this year has been particularly challenging for personal reasons. Given the costly and time-consuming nature of these endeavours, and the fact that the seminar itself is not likely to be offered for the next couple of years at least, it will be a while before readers can hope to see a new volume in this series. Until next time then, I thank the reader for taking the time to study the contents of this volume.

 

[Maximilian C. Forte has an educational background in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Spanish, International Relations, and Anthropology. He lived and studied for seven years in Trinidad & Tobago, for four years in Australia, and for three years in the U.S. He is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen, and had previously achieved Permanent Resident status in Trinidad & Tobago. His primary website is that of the Zero Anthropology Project.]

Obama’s Legacy: Permanent War and Liberal/Radical Accommodation?

Black Agenda Report

February 18, 2015

by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka

“African American radicals – unlike many white radicals – cannot afford the luxury of being unclear about the nature and interests of the white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial/capitalist order.”

The announcement by the Obama administration that it will seek congressional authorization to expand the war on ISIS in Syria and possibly send more heavy weapons to its client government in Ukraine did not generate the kind of muscular opposition and sense of urgency that one would expect from the anti-interventionist liberals and significant sectors of what use to be the anti-imperialist and anti-war left.

Outside of a few articles written by some of us confined to the marginalized and shrinking left, the reports that the administration was considering both of these courses of action were met with passing indifference. It is as if the capitalist oligarchy’s strategy of permanent war has been accepted as a fait-accompi by the general public and even significant numbers of the left.

The fact that the U.S. President could launch military attacks in Syria, supposedly a sovereign state and member of the United Nations, for six months without any legal justification and not face fierce criticism in the U.S. and internationally demonstrates the embrace of lawlessness that characterizes the current epoch of Western imperialist domination.

And the acquiescence of much of the left in the U.S. and Europe on the issue of Syria and the U.S.-supported coup in Ukraine reveals the moderating and accommodating forces within the faux left that attempts to bully and intimidate anti-imperialist critics.

To oppose the dismemberment of Syria or criticize the dangerous collaboration between the U.S. and racist neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine was reduced to the silly and intellectually lazy arguments that one was “pro-Assad” or a dupe for Putin!

“It is as if the capitalist oligarchy’s strategy of permanent war has been accepted as a fait-accompi by the general public and even significant numbers of the left.”

The current ideological environment did not evolve by accident or by the particular confluence of historical events. The disappearance of anti-imperialism among the cosmopolitan left in the U.S. and Western Europe is reflective of a monumental ideological accomplishment by the propagandists of empire. The professional propagandists of empire and Western dominance were able to adroitly “introject” into the center of the radical world-view and consciousness a liberal ideological framework that privileged “anti-authoritarianism over anti-imperialism.

The political consequence of this shift in consciousness has been disastrous for oppositional left politics throughout the West but particularly in the U.S. As the U.S. increasingly turned to lawless violence to advance its interests over the last seven years of the presidency of Barack Obama, “leftists” in the U.S. objectively aligned themselves with the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination through their silence or outright support in the name of opposing authoritarian regimes.

The human consequence of this collaboration with U.S. and Western militarization by progressive forces in the U.S. and Europe has translated into unrestrained violent interventions from Libya to Syria and back to Iraq. Along with the escalations of direct military interventions, economic warfare and subversion directed at the state and people of Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and other progressive states in Latin America has resulted in the unnecessary suffering of millions.

And while the left and millions of Europeans will mobilize to condemn the 17 lives lost in the incident in Paris and defend “Western values,” there is no massive moral outrage from the Western public for the millions that have died at the hands of Western imperialism and the death and destruction that is promised with policies being considered for Syria and the Ukraine by the ruling elite in the U.S.

Fortunately, despite the political confusion of many leftists and the moral duplicity of liberals, signs of growing opposition to U.S. war-mongering are emanating from a historically familiar place – African American young people.

“While the left and millions of Europeans will mobilize to condemn the 17 lives lost in the incident in Paris and defend “Western values,” there is no massive moral outrage from the Western public for the millions that have died at the hands of Western imperialism.”

Similar to what occurred in the 1960s when opposition to the Vietnam war was catalyzed by the student organizers of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) working on the frontlines of struggle in the deep South, “Black Lives Matter” activists and the many other formations and tendencies crystalizing out of the Ferguson and anti-police violence movements are making the connection between violence and militarization in the internal colonized areas of the U.S. and the state violence being waged by the U.S. state beyond its’ borders.

Resistance to the logic of white supremacist colonialist/capitalist domination on the part of these young activists is leading them to a resolute anti-imperialist and anti-war stance, just like the young black activists of SNCC some fifty years ago.

Alicia Garza one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement offers a welcomed lesson to the faux left:

“There is absolutely a link between the militarization and the use of force to police black communities in the US and the role of the military to police people of color and Black people in the global South. In both scenarios, the police and the military are used to protect private property and the interests of the elite, but are also used to dampen and or eliminate any resistance to the status quo.”

The experiences of these activists in the U.S. and their increasing connections with struggling peoples’ throughout the world is making it clear to them that the slogan “to protect and serve – capital, ” not only applies to the occupation forces that police the racialized colonies inside the U.S. but also the role of the U.S. military abroad.

Black against empire,” is not only a title to a book; it also captures the radical stance that conscious black radicals in the U.S. must assume.

The systemic degradation that characterizes the social experiences of African American workers, the marginalized poor, and working class of all of the oppressed and colonized nations and peoples’ by the U.S. empire, strips away the pretense of a benevolent hegemon. The lived experience of oppression means that African American radicals – unlike many white radicals – cannot afford the luxury of being unclear about the nature and interests of the white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial/capitalist order. It is and will be the primary enemy.

“The slogan “to protect and serve – capital, ” not only applies to the occupation forces that police the racialized colonies inside the U.S. but also the role of the U.S. military abroad.”

On Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the attack in New York city and before it was clear what forces were behind the attack, neoconservative pundits revealing the pre-determined strategy that was to guide U.S. policy in the 21st century, were forcefully arguing that the U.S. must be prepared to use force in the world and in the immediate period to declare war on “militant Islam.” The countries identified for immediate attack included Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, with China thrown in as well.

Permanent war and lawless gangsterism to protect and advance U.S. global economic and political interests was codified in the National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by President Bush on Sept. 21, 2002.

And while the pursuit of that strategy made President Bush the symbol of U.S. arrogance and generated vociferous liberal and progressive opposition, Barack Obama has faithfully carried out that very same neocon strategy becoming the smiling brown face of U.S. polices as morally repugnant as his predecessor – but without progressive, popular opposition.

However, the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.

When/if that happens, there will be a much needed rebirth of the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement and radical activism in the U.S. will take a qualitative leap forward.

[Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com.]

 

The Intercept’s Interference: Notes on Media, Capitalism, & Imperialism | Part II: Non-Governmental Force Multipliers

Cats, Not War

April 6, 2014

civil-participation-in-policy-making-ucranian-examples-3-638

In wondering whether Marcy Wheeler could plausibly claim legitimate doubt about the activities of Pierre Omidyar’s NGO in Ukraine, Tarzie asked whether an NGO could ever be anything other than an arm of soft imperialism. The answer to that latter question is actually yes, conceivably and even probably, although I can’t think of any such NGOs off the top of my head. The reason to believe that an NGO can be something other than a soft arm of imperialist power is that there are just so damned many of them. To shine a light on this, we have Eyal Weizman, to whose work I will return several times in this post. He offers specifics on the explosion of NGOs in just a few slivers of the world:

‘While in 1980 there were about 40 NGOs dealing with the Ethiopian famine, a decade later 250 were operating during the Yugoslavian war; by 2004, 2,500 were involved in Afghanistan.’

One must now imagine how many NGOs are operating worldwide. They serve a wide range of purposes, receiving money from a wide range of donors. The question as it pertains to Marcy Wheeler and The Intercept more generally is not about any old NGO; it’s about an NGO funded by USAID, a worldwide organization that shares funding and partnerships with the CIA and the State Department, and, in Ukraine, an oligarch, Pierre Omidyar. Therein lies the proper question: can this specific kind of NGO ever be anything other than the soft arm of imperialism? Of course not, I say.

A ‘transparency’ NGO against a rival regime of the United States plays a very particular role, which is why I mentioned multiple locales of NGOs in my last post about The Intercept. The meaning of an NGO funded by USAID in Ukraine is quite different from the meaning of a humanitarian NGO operating in the West Bank. The first is, in Ames’ words, ‘a force multiplier’ for the goal of regime change; the second is mainly a humanitarian agent, very often nominally aligned against Israel’s military occupation, or at least against the general spirit of it, but nonetheless tolerated by Israel. In both cases, the NGOs, as I mentioned before, obscure class consciousness; the reason is that the fascist state–as an absorber of superfluous capital and, through its police forces, protector of private property–is fundamentally opposed to the emergence of the communistic movements of the societies they are tasked with governing, by which I mean controlling and containing.

I’ll begin with the Israeli case and then work back to Ukraine. In the case of Israel, NGOs exist in lieu of the military policies and architecture that have ghettoized hundreds of segments of society within historic Palestine. Palestinians have been separated from Israelis; Druze have been separated from Palestinians; Palestinians have been separated from Palestinians (think of the distance between Gaza and the West Bank); Palestinians have been separated from Ethiopian refugees, which have in turn been separated from Israeli Jews, and you are beginning to get an idea of the utter fragmentation that Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategies have produced. But one more fragmentation must be mentioned, among the most crucial: class fragmentation, which includes even the strategic placement of the Israeli working and under classes in relation to the upper classes. In physically organizing its society according to relatively modern identities it’s helped to shape, Israel has thus far successfully thwarted communistic threats to its power (albeit not very often with ease), and that success increases if these respective identity groups embrace as political projects in themselves the various identities given to them by power. The political dilemma of identity cannot be ignored, as there are real differences between the marginalization of the Israeli working class and that of Palestinians under Israel’s racializing project. (As the Palestinians experience a more advanced form of alienation, it is the job of the Israeli working class to offer proper solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.) But this is not to say that the procurement of identity makes for a worthy political end goal in itself. Should these groups treat identity formation as a critique and a resistance in itself, they will, as subjects of Israeli power, from Israeli working classes to the Druze to the Palestinians, overlook the demands of their own struggles, as well as the possibilities hinted at by famed Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani in a 1972 interview (a possibility again hinted at by the Qassam Brigades on November 17, 2012, as mentioned in the above-linked article by Max Ajl):

‘So you do see contradictions within the Israeli population which can divide them in the future, and provide the Palestinian resistance with allies within Israeli society?

‘Of course. But this will not happen easily. First of all, we must escalate the revolution to the stage where it poses an alternative to them, because up to now it has not been so. It is nonsense to start talking about a ‘Democratic Palestine’ at this stage; theoretically speaking it establishes a good basis for future debates, but this debate can only occur when the Palestinian resistance is a realistic alternative.

‘You mean it must be able to provide a practical alternative for the Israeli proletariat?

‘Yes. But at the moment it is very difficult to get the Israeli working-class to listen to the voice of the Palestinian resistance, and there are several obstacles to this. These include the Israeli ruling class and the Arab ruling classes. The Arab ruling classes do not present either Israelis or Arabs with a prospect of democracy. One might well ask: where is there a democracy in the Arab world? The Israeli ruling class is obviously an obstacle as well. But there is a third obstacle, which is the real, if small, benefit that the Israeli proletariat derives from its colonialist status within Israel. For not only is the situation of Israeli workers a colonialist one, but they gain from the fact that Israel as a whole has been recruited to play a specific role in alliance with imperialism. Two kinds of movement are required to break down these barriers, in order for there to be future contact between an anti-Zionist Israeli proletariat and the Arab resistance movement. These will be the resistance movement on the one hand and an opposition movement within Israel itself; but there is no real sign of such a convergence yet, since, although Matzpen exists, what would be necessary is a mass proletarian movement.’

Within the primarily Palestinian space of the West Bank, countless NGOs have cropped up, which leads to another Tarzie question: can’t the Israeli working class work with NGOs in the West Bank? The answer is, once again, conceivably, but that’s as far as it goes. This has not been the case, and we must account for the reasons. The first question worth asking is, why does Israel, a state that typically gets away with whatever brutality it wishes to exact, tolerate so many NGOs working nominally against it in territories under its direct military control? Answering that question requires another question: what do these NGOs do? There are two primary types of NGOs in the West Bank: humanitarian ones, those which offer general health supplies to the brutalized Palestinian population, and informational NGOs, those which provide the brutalized population with a space for political organization, things like publishing pamphlets and setting up lectures and panel discussions.

The humanitarian NGOs working in Palestine have, according to Weizman, adopted an essentially theological ethos to address the issue of suffering. (This would not be the first or only time social justice movements have adopted monotheistic tenants to meet the world’s problems; I hope to address this in a future post.) Weizman proposes that the main theological presupposition animating humanitarian impulse in an occupation situation is St. Augustine’s principle of lesser evil: lesser evils are to be tolerated when they are deemed unavoidable. More:

‘The lesser evil is the argument of the humanitarian agent that seeks military permission to provide medicines and aid in places where it is in fact the duty of the occupying military power to do so, thus saving the limited military resources. The lesser evil is often the justification of the military officer who attempts to administer life (and death) in an “enlightened” manner; it is sometimes, too, the brief of the security contractor who introduces new and more efficient weapons and spatio-technological means of domination, and advertises them as “humanitarian technology”. In these cases the logic of the lesser evil opens up a thick political field of participation bringing together otherwise opposing fields of action, to the extent that it might obscure the fundamental moral differences between these various groups. But, even according to the terms of an economy of losses and gains, the concept of the lesser evil risks becoming counterproductive: less brutal measures are also those that may be more easily naturalized, accepted and tolerated—and hence more frequently used, with the result that a greater evil may be reached cumulatively.’

So there it lies. A calculation that seeks to alleviate a suffering tacitly accepts the endurability of that suffering and ultimately prolongs it. The Israeli ruling class is, like most imperialists, not stupid; it knows that humanitarian NGOs pose zero threat, and so it tolerates them.

Informational NGOs in the West Bank are more so the hangouts of those foreigners too politically savvy to get caught up in the obvious pitfalls of liberal humanitarianism, which is really just so Daily Show and Obama ’08. Here is where young foreigners of a more radical bent can go to exchange political ideas with Palestinians, perhaps even to set up times and dates for attending demonstrations so that they can make themselves useful by obstructing an IDF’s soldier’s path when he attempts to arrest a Palestinian. And these young internationalist activists will likely help with lectures from guest speakers around the world and will help to publish pamphlets detailing the harsh realities of Israeli occupation. It is telling how these outlets are staffed so overwhelmingly with volunteers from around the world, as opposed to Israeli proles, but not necessarily surprising. This is the class makeup that can be expected in the wake of Israel’s forcible fragmentation of the society underneath it: the class makeup of the propaganda NGO is first of all a function of Israeli structure. After all, who can afford to take up life in the West Bank, an area deprived of water and job opportunities (outside these NGOs, of course) and right to movement? Not Israeli proles, generally speaking, but rather upper class students from the United States and Europe. And Israel tolerates this form of Palestinian political expression because it allows Palestinians a vent for their frustrations without forming the kinds of political bonds that can easily (if at all) upend the Zionist system. In this sense, these NGOs play the same role as state-sanctioned demonstrations in the United States, allowing people the illusion of impact because people are, at the end of the day, ‘doing something.’ There simply is no comparison between a bond formed between a Palestinian and an international student only in Palestine for a semester or two (and with a bright future to lose) and a bond formed between a Palestinian and an Israeli worker condemned to existence in Israeli society for the long haul. Not all bonds are equally dangerous.

The role of NGOs in places where the U.S. desires regime change is markedly different, because the situation is markedly different. Admittedly, when examining the situation in Ukraine, claims about U.S. regime change require more work to prove, because the policy there is less overt than was regime change in, say, Iraq. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is the main dilemma of detailing imperialism in the age of Obama. But it is worth noting still that even in those instances of overt regime change, brought about through land invasion and long-term occupation using ground troops, NGOs played an important role in U.S. policy. To quote Weizman once again, ‘After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, American NGOs funded via USAID were informed by the US Administration that “their cooperation was linked inextricably to America’s strategic goals.”‘ Weizman notes that Colin Powell referred to these NGOs operating in Iraq as a ‘force multiplier,’ which perhaps explains where Mark Ames picked up the phrase.

One way of knowing that Pierre Omidyar knew what he was getting into when he decided to share an investment with USAID in Ukraine is that USAID’s worldwide purpose is openly available knowledge, especially to those money men with a direct financial interest in USAID’s purpose. Powell and the ‘U.S. administration’ acknowledged it. If one fails to be satisfied by the open declarations of the U.S. regime, one can of course consult its ‘private’ correspondences about USAID, revealed in leaked Wikileaks cables. As with open declarations, the private dialogues of the U.S. regime are loaded with euphemism; ‘regime change’ is described as a ‘transition to democracy.’ Over at the Anti-Empire Report, William Blum quotes a cable mentioning USAID’s activities in Venezuela:

‘During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.’

Blum goes on to describe these initiatives as ‘a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.’ These initiatives were to be taken against Chavez and ‘his attempt to divide and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community.’ Eventually the cable becomes mercifully frank about the efforts USAID and OTI must take against this hateful rhetoric (also know as class conscious agitation): ‘1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez Internationally.’ Sounds like a recipe for regime change to me.

As I mentioned in my previous article, NGOs participate in PsyOps. Among the most common forms of PsyOp is the attempt to convince a subject population (or potential subject population) that the United States supports it. One way this is done is by providing aid to underclass populations; the example I provided was the aid Junglas provide to rural Colombians. As these PsyOps are simple and common, one can easily learn about them–and USAID’s role in them–by doing a simple Wikileaks search. Here USAID’s PsyOps efforts in Nigeria are described:

‘Nigerians reacting to Mission-sponsored media reports June – September 2003 on U.S.-Nigeria partnership successes on health, HIV/AIDS, agriculture, education, and conflict resolution, say they are amazed at the level of support given to Nigeria by the U.S. Government.  They expressed similar sentiments on their assessment of media reports on the Ambassador’s Self-Help and the Ambassador’s Girl Scholarship programs, as well as the Widernet’s university interconnectivity program.  The positive impact of the success stories was clearly evident during the recent defeat of stiff conservative northern opposition to the August polio vaccination rounds.  Reactions have been very positive on USAID’s contributions towards revival of agriculture, especially gum arabic trade, and the LEAP program to upgrade primary educational standards in northern Nigeria.  The Basketball for Peace Project is another success story that Nigerians say they value greatly because the program targets jobless youths in the crisis-prone Kaduna State.  Radio listeners, television viewers and Hausa readers in 19 northern States, including conservative Muslim radicals in Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Borno, Plateau, Zamfara, and Jigawa States, say the success stories surprised them because they never knew the U.S. was doing so much for Nigeria. Hopefully, these images may change some of their negative views about the U.S.’

I especially like this example because it includes mention of a basketball program–my Colombia example included mention of basketball courts constructed for poor Colombian youth. So because the function of USAID’s programs is so obvious, it is reasonable to say that Omidyar knew what he was getting into when he decided to collaborate with USAID in Ukraine. So reasonable that it is not necessary to assume anything. USAID’s goals in Ukraine are clearly described in other leaked cables; they are economic goals in which any sensible billionaire would interested–the most salient example being intellectual property rights to be ensured by the World Trade Organization, that is, ‘types of intellectual property rights that will be protected by the State Customs Service… or the customs regimes in which Customs will intervene to protect these rights. Customs reform that is anchored into a modern code consistent with international standards, will be critical for greater market integration.’ In other words, in order for international investors to make profits off of investments in Ukraine, the legal standards must first exist by which corporate conduits can extract those profits and deliver them to individual oligarchs. If you’re wondering how intellectual property accomplishes this, do yourself a favor and read Kevin Carson’s definitive essay on the subject.

Those are just a few examples. I. Could. Go. On. All. Fucking. Day. About. This. USAID. Shit.

We know what kinds of interests Omidyar held in the Ukraine, and we know even more about the means by which he tried to secure them. But even if we didn’t know these matters exactly, we’d have enough information to reach reasonable conclusions about the activities of this billionaire. That some progressive journalists think we don’t seems to me, well, counterintuitive. Either that, or the effect of a billionaire buying progressive journalists is that progressive journalists cease to be skeptical of billionaires, which rather cancels out the ‘progressive’ part. It’s a matter of rich men removing ‘Eat the Rich’ from the political program, for self-explanatory reasons. In addition to that, the employees of rich men are marshaling group acceptance and ostracizing those hungry for the rich. More on that, specifically on our favorite celebrity journalist, Glenn Greenwald, in the next and final post of this series. See you tomorrow for that one, everybody.

 

Further Reading:

Introduction: The Intercept’s Interference: Notes on Media | http://catsnotwar.blogspot.ca/2014/03/the-intercepts-interference-notes-on.html

Part 1: Financial Capital is Destructive Capital | http://catsnotwar.blogspot.ca/2014/04/part-i-financial-capital-is-destructive.html

Part 2: Above

Part 3: A Return to Conspiracy and Its Theories | http://catsnotwar.blogspot.ca/2014/04/part-iii-return-to-conspiracy-and-its.html

 

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part V of an Investigative Report] [A Thinking Person’s Nightmare]

The Art of Annihilation

September 4, 2014

Part five of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

+++

Land Grabs, Green Illusions, and Privatization of Forests

As one example (of hundreds) of land grabs under the guise of conservation carried out by NGOs within the non-profit industrial complex, in December of 2011 Kenya’s Samburu people were violently evicted. The eviction occurred following the”purchase” of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The two US “conservation” NGOs “gifted” the Samburu’s 17,100 acres of ancestral lands to Kenya’s government (November 2011) in order to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

In the above video (1:58) Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), claimed they purchased the land with the understanding that no one resided on it. When the Samburu protested and took legal action, the land was swiftly “gifted” to the government. Police officers carried out the vicious eviction/attack on a Friday market day, when the men were away, leaving women, elders and children alone in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000-acre Eland Downs Ranch, the police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan media as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families then petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle. The suit has been filed by the Samburu against the AWF and the former President. [Source]

Pension funds began investing in commodities (including food and farmland) only recently.Capital allocated to agriculture investment grew from approximately $6 billion in 2001 to $320 billion in 2011, with hedge funds accounting for a further $100 billion. In 2011, investors expected these numbers to double within a few years. By the end of 2012, this figure rose from $320 to $428 billion. [Source]

“Farmland values across the globe between 2002 and 2010 have risen up to 1,800%, according to the Global Farmland Index compiled by U.K.-based real estate firm Savil. The biggest upswings have been in emerging markets, such as Romania and Hungary.” Global farmland offers potential for asset deals, Sept 26, 2013

The broad gains in commodity markets seen during recent years – dubbed the commodity “super cycle” – have taken a hit in 2013. It was Calpers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Ceres Board Member, partner) that helped pioneer pension funds’ foray into indexes that track wheat, energy, metal and other commodities. The money flooded in from big institutions (pension funds and college endowments), turning the market on its head. Economists blamed these new “index speculators,” who had no stake in the underlying commodities, for creating a volatile market. [Source] As of August 2013, the funds decreased from $428 million (2012) to $363 million (Barclays).

Yet not all “commodities” are created equal.

“Timber has attracted $60 billion of institutional money, or almost double that of agriculture, as governments and mills sold “sizable” assets, he said. The lumber market is valued at $425 billion…” Bloomberg, Dec 5, 2012

 

“Farmland has become the darling of alternative investing, sending hedge funds and wealthy investors into bidding wars for plots of land once deemed ordinary. And it is not just big money getting in on the game. From Stockholm to Chicago to Vancouver, ordinary investor money is pouring into fields around the world.” – BBC Capital, June 6, 2013

 

“According to numerous surveys within the industry, pension fund managers are seeking to invest in farmland – a new asset class offering annual returns of 10–20% – as never before.” June 20, 2011, Grain, Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab

Included in such “green” portfolios will be massive land grabs and the appropriation of natural resources under the guise of conservation. “Sustainable” plantations (biomass/biofuels/agrofuels; feed for industrialized livestock), REDD+, Carbon Development Mechanisms (CDM) and so-called carbon sink projects comprise a green façade to justify the long-term objective of acquiring control of communally owned territory in the global South. In the long term, the goal is unbridled corporate capture of fertile land with access to cheap and plentiful water and labour, for producing export food crops that will deliver guaranteed high profits. Geo-engineering will place a further emphasis on food gentrification and large-scale monoculture industrial plantations – undoubtedly playing a pivotal and leading role in the accelerating obliteration of Earth’s natural biodiversity. Sovereign nations, peasants, farmers, campesinos, Indigenous Peoples and whole cultures will be annihilated in the process – a feat of 21st century corporate colonialism.

 “Farmland investments are particularly attractive as prices are supported by solid long-term fundamentals that have little to do with the performance of traditional assets such as equities. In the long-term, farmland values rise as demand for food weighs against a limited supply of good quality land, with farmland prices having been shown to rise in line with population growth and economic expansion in developing nations. This effectively generates a return on investment in the long term, regardless of the performance of the wider economy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

 

“They see in farmland what they call good ‘fundamentals’: a clear economic pattern of supply and demand, which in this case hinges on a rising world population needing to be fed, and the resources to feed these people being finite.” — Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab, June 20, 2011

 

“Of a total $23 trillion of asset under management within the pension fund space, around $100 billion is believed to be invested in commodities, of which between $5 billion and $15 billion is invested directly into farmland investments. A majority of analysts project that institutional investments in farmland and commodities are expected to double by 2015.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

 

“The Global AgInvesting Conference hosted at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan in June attracted some 600 institutional investors representing agriculture investment assets under management of almost $11 billion, and with plans to expand those holdings to almost $20 billion by 2014, a rise of almost 70%. Over 200 attendees were from the pension fund sector, and the majority intend to invest in farmland as the mainstay of their agricultural investment strategy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

According to Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, agricultural land represents an $8.4 trillion market, of which institutional investors currently own approximately $30-$40 billion. This represents a fragment of the (monetary) value of farmland globally, estimated at about $8.4 trillion. Key regions targeted include Brazil and Argentina. Thus far, only 6 percent of institutional investment in primary agriculture has been in Africa due to geopolitical barriers. Yet, it is critical to note that investors perceive Africa as “having the most scope to open new areas of arable farmland.” [Institutions are blazing a trail in CIS farming, December 2, 2013, Source]

An industrialized economic system that voraciously consumes Earth’s natural resources, with zero regard toEarth’s replenishing cycles/laws of nature, ensures that agriculture is one clear and unmistakable source of pay-off for institutional investors. The new surge in money will push up global food prices (as we have already witnessed), hitting hardest those most vulnerable. As an example of investment driving up the market, food costs in 2012 came within 10 percent of the record set in February 2011 (United Nations Food Price Index). According to the World Bank, it is estimated that global food production will need to rise 70 percent to feed an additional 2 billion people on the planet. This will be a most miraculous attainment considering that as global temperatures increase beyond any temperature witnessed during the Holocene, agricultural yields will only further decline. Translation: food will be afforded, more and more, only by the wealthy.

“I see a massive change in agriculture coming … the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families… as food scarcity issues are likely to arise in the future, such land will rise in value too.” — Laguna Bay Pastoral chief executive Tim McGavin, Nov 18, 2013

Farmer loses farm. Investor or corporation now leases out farm (as well as related farming and irrigation infrastructure). Farmer now rents farm, etc. from investor or corporation while “the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families”.

Welcome to 21st century agro-colonialism.

And although Friends of the Earth knows full well that divestment does not address the finance of land-grabs (view Friends of the Earth endorsement in the civil society statementon the finance of land grabs, June 2012: Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped),they make no mention of it when promoting (one example) the divestment campaign led by 350.org.

 “Pension funds are, at present, reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors’ in farmland worldwide. Yet the money used here is workers’ retirement savings. This means that wage earners and citizens may be implicated in massive violations of the human rights of local farming communities, including their rights to food, land, water, an adequate standard of living, their cultural rights and their right to self-determination – in breach of international law.” — Friends of The Earth Press Release, June 2012

More and more tragedies involve land grabbing, which is happening at an unprecedented rate all over the planet under the guise of “conservation” and “green economy.” For example, Hundreds Left Homeless in Olkaria Eviction in Kenya due to a large-scale geothermal project that has attracted both multinational and bilateral donors, with the World Bank being the main financier of the project. (Another video of the July 26, 2013 attack on the Maasai village in Olkaria is here). The short documentary film, Seeds of Discontent, exposes how a Swedish investment firm, Dutch pension fund and Norwegian church endowment actively engaged in land grabbing in Mozambique.

In Canada, the Algonquin people are fighting threats to land and water from an open-pit mining project for hybrid car batteries. Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada (TRECan), a Canadian subsidiary of Japan-based Toyota Tsusho Corporation, plans to build an open-pit Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE) mine directly next to Kipawa Lake, the geographical, ecological, and cultural centre of the Kipawa First Nation. Rare earths are a group of 17 elements found in the Earth’s crust. They are used to produce electronics for cell phones, wind turbines, and car batteries. Rare earths are notorious for their environmentally costly extraction process, with over 90 per cent of the mined raw materials classified as waste. [Source: Toyota Prius Not So Green After All]

Welcome to the “green economy”: classist, racist and utterly disgusting.

Yet another example in Canada, the Alberta Conservation Association is just one of thousands of NGOs working with corporations (in this case Shell, Suncor, the Canadian Government – see partners below) to commodify Earth’s last remaining resources under the guise/greenwash of conservation. The newly acquired and named “Shell Forests” are just a few examples.

As with the Keystone XL oil pipeline campaign, one is wise to watch the stock market in order to gain a sense of where the economic growth is expected to boom. In addition to both Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gates’s fairly recent stock acquisitions (in addition to their newly acquired/built rail empire) of John Deere and GMO crops, amidst the global rush to control the planet’s water, Buffett has been “loading up on the agricultural giant” Archer Daniels Midland (a focus on soybeans and ethanolFebruary 20, 2013) while eyeing farmland in Africa with plans to expandMonsanto’s biotechnology for “drought-tolerant corn” onto the Saharan landscapes.

 “Brazil’s agricultural sector remains one of the most exciting markets around. Don’t take our word for it. George Soros, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, all major investors and farmers in the Bahia region of Brazil, believe Brazil to be the best location for their alternative investments…. The buzz around Brazilian farmland has sparked interest from a wide range of different institutions, from hedge funds to private investors, pension funds and even foreign government entities from China, India, Europe and Africa have been making agricultural land enquiries within Brazil.” — Brazil’s Farmland is Still Ripe for Investment, March 18, 2013

In stark contrast, what lies beyond “modern” industrialized agriculture mirrors what we left behind in our collective past – a simple, nourishing work and respect of the soil, the land, the plant, the crop. In fact, millions of farmers are already advancing agriculture for themselves utilizing the same methods that have worked to feed humans for the past 10,000 years. [Source]

There has been a steady, building backlash against pension funds investing in massive land grabs (that have increased and continue to increase food prices, displace peasant farmers, and increase poverty and hunger). Because of this backlash, pension funds have been “afraid to go into the field alone, and they want to spread their bet or their risk by having partners join them.” In some societies not yet absorbed into the (pathological and insane) industrialized western mindset, land is sacred and the sale of land in some societies is not acceptable. [March 6, 2013, Pension funds join forces to invest in farmland. Source]

A Future of Unprecedented Coups

Ukraine, the most recent state to fall to a US-backed coup, was/is not only coveted for strategic geographic/geopolitical position (aka control of oil/gas), but also for its rich black soil. Soil is the new oil of the 21st century. “Ukraine, formerly the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, is now a major crop producer for the world market. The country has over 32 million hectares (ha) of arable land, which is equivalent to roughly one third of the arable land in the entire European Union (EU). Its location on the Black Sea and its fertile black soil – it possesses 25 percent of the world’s so-called Chernozem – make Ukraine attractive to agricultural producers and investors. Moreover, agriculture is now considered as a main business opportunity in the Black Earth (Invest Ukraine, 2011).”Oligarchs and transnational capital have taken over the land with their share in the GDP at 42.3 percent, against 5 percent for farmers (Ministry of Agriculture, 2012). [Source]

Environmental Colonialism | So-called “Conservation”

“It is no secret that millions of native people around the world have been forced off their homelands to make way for oil, mines, timber, and agriculture. But few people realize that the same thing has happened for a cause which is considered by many as much nobler: land and wildlife conservation. Indigenous peoples evicted from their ancestral homelands, for conservation initiatives, have never been counted; they are not even officially recognised as refugees. The number of people displaced from their traditional homelands is estimated to be close to 20 million – 14 million in Africa alone. These expelled native peoples have been living sustainably for generations on what can only be reasonably regarded as their ancestral land.” [Watch: Conservation Refugees – Expelled from Paradise (24:18)

One NGO at the helm of stealth land grab ventures is Conservation International. Since its inception in 1987, Conservation International has continued to use “its considerable financial resources, political influence and environmental sweet talk to quietly access, administer and buy biodiverse areas throughout the world and put them at the disposal of transnational corporations.” [Conservation International: privatizing nature, plundering biodiversity, October 2003] Not to be lost is the fact that Conservation International has utilized the same soft power strategies in their ecotourism ventures (also dependent on Indigenous knowledge/peoples) as they have in their land/big pharma exploits in partnership with Monsanto and Novartis. [Further reading: Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part I of an Investigative Report]

 “REDD+ is driven by profit interests and is structured to allow polluters to continue polluting while increasing profits and enclosing lands.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012

21st century market-based climate mitigation strategies are merely business opportunities to further corporate power. By normalizing such opportunistic exploitation, rather than exposing/rejecting it, one is complicit in promoting, thus prolonging, the dominant development model that is unjust, unethical, genocidal and ultimately, suicidal. The WWF certification schemes are but one set of such false solutions and green illusions. At present, WWF et al are waiting for the windfall that is slowly beginning to come into fruition under the much sought-after market mechanism REDD (which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

It must be understood that REDD will not mitigate further ecological degradation and collapse (under the guise of so-called conservation). Rather, REDD will only serve to further strengthen corporate power as well as gained access and control of the Earth’s last remaining forests.

“This is an effort to address the varying assumptions from the academic journals – that REDD+ can be fixed with more governance, finance and/or community engagement – through a critique of the wider neoliberal climate regime, issues of ‘governance’ as an unproblematised category, and by exploring, from de-colonialist and environmental justice perspectives, the issues of real participation and sustainability. We conclude that REDD+ is framed within an epistemological understanding of forests and lands which supports the domination of nature by humans for economic profit, regardless of financial input, governance and/or participation from communities, and therefore will not be a successful means of climate mitigation or forest protection.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012 [Emphasis added]

[Further reading on REDD: Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II]

Millions of hectares of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia have been grossly and violently exploited. Cleared for palm oil (to manufacture processed foods for the wealthy states plagued with obesity), the palm oil plantations have destroyed whole communities, cultures, and thriving living ecosystems along with the flourishing wildlife within them. The degradation and pillage that have resulted are so severe that palm oil investors are now turning to the west coast of Africa as the industry’s next frontier. A recent forest burning in Sumatra resulted in one of Southeast Asia’s worst air-pollution crises in history, blanketing neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia with record levels of smog. As a result, in May 2013 Indonesia extended a moratorium on the issuance of new plantation and timber concessions in primary forests and peatland. Desperate to ensure growth of the vile industry, Norway has agreed to provide the country with up to $1 billion in financing to “help reduce deforestation.” [Source]

Everything Changes. Everything Stays the Same | Green Colonialism and Forest Policies in South India, 1800-1900

“Going green” has become a popular slogan in the discourse of environmental conservation, and one that has been gaining wider popularity as global warming begins to threaten the very existence of the biotic world. The global environmental crisis has created a context in which the protection of forests has become a top priority in environmental conservation strategies. The preservationist and restorationist discourses advocate forest conservation as a means to save the Earth from environmental disaster. However, in spite of this strong emphasis on the preservation of forests, their destruction continues. In most of the present-day developing countries of Asia and Africa, this contradiction between advocated preservation and effective destruction of forests is a legacy of British colonial rule.

In a bid to expand the knowledge frontier on forest conservation, the British government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. H. Cleghorn in 1851, which produced a report on the condition of Indian forests. It’s the main point was that the process of deforestation was due to the irrational exploitive methods of the natives, most notably the shifting cultivation practised by the tribes. The committee strongly advocated state intervention to restore the forest cover, as the very welfare of the country depended upon its existence. The preservation and expansion of green cover, they argued, was necessary to save India’s climate and irrigation systems.

Dr. Cleghorn, first conservator of forests in the Madras Presidency, brought out his classic book, Forests and Gardens of South India, in 1861. It hardly discussed desiccationist ideas (the notion that cutting down a tree reduced the amount of rainfall on the spot where the tree had stood), but rather concentrated on silviculture and plantations. Nevertheless, again Cleghorn identified the shifting agricultural practices of tribes as mainly responsible for deforestation and the consequent ecological changes. It is important to note that this desiccationist discourse was informed by a presumption of racial superiority, where the colonizers branded the native farmers as destroyers of forests. Thus, desiccationist discourse was used not only as a justification for colonial forest policies, but also as a means to control the access of natives to forests.

The history of desiccationist discourse in South India shows how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians although it was actually the colonial state that was responsible for the severe deforestation of South India. The desiccationist discourses of colonial scientists emanated from a context of anxiety over the wood requirements of the colonial state. Existing studies on desiccationist discourse in India project it as a moral reflection of the colonial scientific community. The history of colonial forest policies, however, indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Desiccationist ideas were articulated not by scientists alone, but also by different sections of the colonial bureaucracy and policy makers. The narrative of the climatic influence of forests was a contested issue within the colonial bureaucracy at one level, and by the local people at another. The desiccationists advocated the protection of forests mainly on mountain slopes, where rivers originate. Their ideas, however, were used as a justification for the expansion of state control over most of the forest landscape in South India. The alarmist narratives were used as a catalyst for the imposition of the state’s administrative and legislative control over forests, but the main guiding force of colonial forest policies was the seeking of revenue and resources.

This legacy has had an explicit influence on the forest policies of independent India. Most policy interventions since independence – including social forestry, joint forest management and community forest management – have been justified with desiccationist discourse. [1] [Source: Green Colonialism and Forest Policies in South India, 1800-1900]

In 2013, the song remains the same.

Just as South India demonstrates how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians (rather than those responsible: corporations and capitalism), today’s industrialized nations impose scientific and moral hegemony over Earth’s forests with the ultimate goals being 1) the implementation of REDD 2) the commodification and corporate capture of the Earth’s last remaining forests, and 3) the continuance of an ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples. And just as the British empire was responsible for the degradation they blamed on the Indians, today this transfer of responsibility is undertaken by NGOs. NGOs as key instruments of empire are utilized to manipulate the Indigenous Tribal peoples by convincing them that their ancient methods of burning are the primary drivers of climate change and destroying the planet, thereby guilting (and bribing) Indigenous Peoples into signing away their rights for their ancestral land, thus imposing REDD, thus imposing moral hegemony. In South India, the history of colonial forest policies indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Today, climate change (very real) is grotesquely exploited by the elites as the ultimate catalyst for the commodification of Earth’s remaining resources.

 

 

The colonial scientific community’s discourse on the climatic importance of forests continues to this day, as does the underlying racism that attempts to pardon the colonizers’ greed, self-centeredness and voracious pillage.

It is critical to recognize that the push towards the illusory green economy is not driven by the vital necessity for the privileged to live within their means, rather it is serving as a driver for the infinite expansion of industrial production. This must be achieved by producing more raw materials to supply more sweatshops/factories, hence requiring more energy supplied by so-called “green” biofuels/biomass. The key words being “more”: more, more, more and more. The call of scientist Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) for a required and planned recession by developed states goes ignored.

Blue Gold

 major investment banks think the number of people served globally by investor-owned water companies is expected to rise 500% over the next 10 years.” — Energy & Capital, A Background and Primer for Water Investments, Source

 

“Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” — Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s top economist, 2011

WaterShutOffsinDetroit

Photo: July 18, 2014.Water shut-offs continue in Detroit

“A major international conference in Edinburgh aimed at conserving wildlife is coming under fierce attack from campaign groups for trying to sell off nature to multinational corporations. The first ‘World Forum on Natural Capital’ later this month is due to attract business and conservation leaders from across the globe to debate how to give natural resources a monetary value in order to try and protect them. ‘The presence of big business, such as RBS, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto and KPMG, at the World Forum on Natural Capital exposes the event’s real purpose – putting a price on nature so that a small minority can profit…. [B]illions of people around the world depend on free access to forests, rivers and fertile soils for their survival. Putting a price on these common resources leaves all of us more exposed to the forces of the global economy.'” — Nick Dearden, Bid to ‘sell off nature’ to companies under fire, Nov 13, 2013 [Emphasis added]

Water investments represent yet another “sustainable”/green fund responsible investment that would be considered a “green” alternative to fossil fuel investment. Such investment funds are also marketed as “clean technologies.”

“They transform water from a resource openly available to all into a private good whose access must be negotiated and is often based on the ability to pay. Water grabbing thus appears in many different forms, ranging from the extraction of water for large-scale food and fuel crop monocultures, to the damming of rivers for hydroelectricity, to the corporate takeover of public water resources. It also inheres in a model of development which is underwritten by a trade in virtual water.” [Source]

The December 21, 2012 article titled The New “Water Barons”: Wall Street Mega-Banks and the Tycoons are Buying Up Water at Unprecedented Pace, published by The Market Oracle, must be considered essential reading. Author Jo-Shing Yang observes:

“A disturbing trend in the water sector is accelerating worldwide. The new ‘water barons’ – the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires – are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace. Familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water. Wealthy tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens, former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan and other Filipino billionaires, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world….

 

“Now, in 2012, we are seeing this trend of global consolidation of water by elite banks and tycoons accelerating. In a JP Morgan equity research document, it states clearly that ‘Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies.’ Indeed, Wall Street is preparing to cash in on the global water grab in the coming decades. For example, Goldman Sachs has amassed more than $10 billion since 2006 for infrastructure investments, which include water. A 2008 New York Times article mentioned Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Carlyle Group, to have ‘amassed an estimated $250 billion war chest – must of it raised in the last two years – to finance a tidal wave of infrastructure projects in the United States and overseas….

 

“In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water ‘the petroleum for the next century’ and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual ‘Top Five Risks’ conference. Water is a U.S. $425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel. Goldman Sachs has convened numerous conferences and also published lengthy, insightful analyses of water and other critical sectors (food, energy).

 

“Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to gobble up water utilities, water engineering companies, and water resources worldwide. Since 2006, Goldman Sachs has become one of the largest infrastructure investment fund managers and has amassed a $10 billion capital for infrastructure, including water.”

 

Many pension funds have forayed into the water investment sector. As an example, Canadian pension funds CDPQ (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages public pension funds in the province of Québec) and CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) have acquired England’s South East Water and Anglian Water, respectively. [Source] There are also several water indexes, index funds and hedge funds. Credit Suisse partnered with Ceres partner General Electric (GE Infrastructure) in May 2006 to establish a U.S.$1 billion joint venture to profit from privatization and investments in global infrastructure assets. [Source]

The 2011 Ceres report Aqua Gauge is telling. All definitions within the paper are sourced from “Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector” (WBCSD, IUCN, 2010). The paper also notes thatBloomberg has announced plans to launch a water-focused data service that would provide supply-and-demand models, water data, and news and briefings on water scarcity. [“Our research notes, analyst reactions and market outlooks enable investors to identify upcoming changes and validate opportunities for growth.” [Bloomberg’s once-launched water-focused data service has since been removed: http://about.bnef.com/markets/water/]

The list of corporations that Ceres is strategically aligned with is far more telling. Goldman Sachs (Ceres Financial Services Companies), JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS (Bruno Bertocci of UBS serves on the Ceres 21CI Advisory Committee, acronym for The 21st Century Investor), Deutsche Bank (Ceres INCR member), Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays (Ceres financial backer), Allianz, HSBC, Bank of America (Ceres Company), Morgan Stanley, the very water barons highlighted by Yang in the above article, are all associated with Ceres funders / associates / partners / members / prominent conference speakers.

It is of interest to note that Ceres highlights many of these same banks, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Fortis, Merrill Lynch, Mitsubishi UFJ, and Morgan Stanley as the “carbon trading leaders.” [Source: Ceres 2008 Banking Sector Report.] At this point you may wish to remind yourself that many trusted NGOs are partners with Ceres and many have served on the advisory board since its inception.

Note that in 2013, “Morgan Stanley created the Institute for Sustainable Investing with the goal of mobilizing capital to address sustainability challenges at scale, building on the firm’s existing efforts. The Institute focuses on developing sustainable investing products and solutions, thought leadership and cross-sector partnerships. As part of the Institute’s launch, Morgan Stanley announced a five-year goal of $10 billion in total client assets in investments that seek to deliver market-rate returns and positive environmental and social impact. Ceres President Mindy Lubber serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, which is chaired by Morgan Stanley’s Chairman and CEO James Gorman.” [Emphasis added] [Source]

The Ceres president serving on Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing advisory board is yet another fine example of the interlocking directorate – a contagion that thrives in the non-profit industrial complex. (The Rebecca Adamson example will follow.)

While water investments continue to skyrocket, Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc., a Ceres coalition member, and Allianz (Ceres associate)represent two of the “best” recognized water-focused mutual funds: The Calvert Global Water Fund [Class A (CFWAX)] has returned a whopping 27.65 percent over the past year; 15.98 percent over the past three years; and 16.06 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (CFWAX), having held $42 million in assets in 2010, now holds assets of $564.86 million as of July 4, 2014. [Source] The Allianz Global Water Fund [Class A (AWTAX)] has had a staggering return of 25.12 percent over the past year; 11.10 percent over the past three years; and 14.34 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (AWTAX) having held assets of $54 million in 2010, now holds assets of $348.3 million as of June 30, 2014. [Source] These two Ceres associates hold positions number two (AllianzGI ) and number five (Calvert) for “Best Mutual Funds” under the fund category of “Natural Resources” by U.S. News.

It is critical to note that Calvert has held a position on the Ceres Board of Directors from 2001*-2006 via Julie Fox Gorte.Gorte’s background is extensive and not limited to the following:

“Gorte serves as Chief Social Investment Strategist and Vice President at Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Small Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc.- Calvert Social Small-Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Ameritas Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series Inc – Calvert VP SRI Equity Portfolio, and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP SRI Balanced Portfolio. She served as Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Group, Ltd., Calvert Variable Series, Inc – Ameritas Small Company Equity Portfolio and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Mid Cap Value Portfolio. She served as a Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Investment Management, Inc. and Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc. Prior to that, Dr. Gorte served as Director of Calvert Asset Management’s social research department, where she managed its team of social and environmental analysts as well as shareholder advocacy.” [Source] [*Several requests to Ceres for annuals reports prior to 2001 have been unsuccessful.]

Today Gorte serves as the Senior Vice President of Sustainable Investing at Pax World Management Corporation. Under Pax, Gorte has continued her board member status on Ceres from 2006 to present. “Gorte oversees environmental, social, and governance-related research on prospective and current investments as well as the Pax’s shareholder advocacy and work on public policy advocacy. She serves as Portfolio Manager of Pax World Funds Series Trust III – Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund.” [Source]

Not to be outdone, Rebecca L. Adamson, President, First People’s Worldwide, serves on the Board of Trustees of Calvert. In the March 13, 20123 article, The Corporate Buy-In, the author writes:

“As I wrote in Too Good to be True, Rebecca Adamson’s value to energy extraction corporations is that of broker, helping multi-national corporations to corrupt tribal leadership through corporate buy-ins. By making grants to tribes through investments in Adamson’s international NGO First Peoples Worldwide, Shell Oil and other notorious corporations pave the way for industrial development in the Fourth World.”

At this juncture it must be noted that Calvert has given financial support to Ceres since, at minimum, 2001, and possibly from inception.

One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, has been at the helm of those aggressively pursuing water and infrastructure investment worldwide. JPMorgan’s own analysts estimate that the emerging markets infrastructure is approximately U.S.$21.7 trillion over the next decade. [Source] Ceres works closely with JPMorgan Chase and many other powerful banks and financial institutions in achieving their goals:

“Stakeholder engagement: Ceres, working with our coalition of investors and advocacy groups, engages with a number of financial services firms including Bank of America, State Street, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan [sic] Chase and Citi to help them assess their performance on environmental and social impacts and risks, and identify opportunities for improvement.” [Source]

In the June 16, 2014 article titled Wasted Energy: Fossil Fuel Divestment, author Jay Taber notes that “divestment won’t change a thing environmentally. It will only change ownership of some shares from public institutions to private ones – like the banks we bailed out with our tax dollars. Given the money to be made on the booming fossil fuel industry, I’m sure the banks will be delighted to acquire these shares, and in turn leave the public with no voice at future shareholder meetings.” It is more than likely that Yang (author of the aforementioned Water Barons article) would agree. In the 2008 article, Why Big Banks May Be Buying up Your Public Water System, Yang astutely notes:

“I detailed how both mainstream and alternative media coverage on water has tended to focus on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. I argued that the real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving ‘interlocking globalized capital’: Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms – often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds – are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.”

Yang’s words will serve to be prophetic as the divestment campaign unfolds.

Ceres has done a formidable job in serving the corporate interests that fund their work. With skillful precision, Ceres strategically and effectively exploited and continues to exploit the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced in order to secure and further all “climate wealth” opportunities for the oligarchs. In the wave of urgent reports published in November of 2012 [Oligarchy Sends Signal for Green Economy], Ceres promptly seized the moment. On November 20, 2012 the Guardian published the articleInfluential Investors (CERES) Call for Action on ‘Serious Climate Danger’:

“A coalition of the world’s largest investors called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally. The group called for dialogue between investors and governments to overhaul climate and energy policies.”

Author Yang perhaps summarizes Cere’s work best:

“The elite multinational and Wall Street banks and investment banks have been preparing and waiting for this golden moment for years. Over the past few years, they have amassed war chests of infrastructure funds to privatize water, municipal services, and utilities all over the world. It will be extremely difficult to reverse this privatization trend in water.”

The Thinking Person’s Nightmare

TarSandsCoalitionImage5

 

During the last four years, Americans have been coerced into focusing on a single, symbolic campaign to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. This campaign was funded in large part by the Tides Foundation, which distributes the funds (from other foundations) to qualifying NGOs and groups. The number one funder of the Tides Foundation leading up to and during this time period was none other than the NoVo Foundation, founded on monies provided by Warren Buffett. [“NoVo was created in 2006 after Warren Buffett pledged to donate 350,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to the foundation.”] It is maintained by Warren Buffett’s son, Peter Buffett (co-chair) and partner Jennifer Buffett (president and co-chair).

As it has been clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that the Euro-American Left, collectively, far prefers fiction over reality, perhaps it is futile to explain that the Tides Foundation also channels hundreds of thousands of dollars into Ceres. In 2010, TIDES granted $100,000 to Ceres, specifically earmarking the funds for a “tar sands campaign.” [TIDES 990, 2010] In 2008, Ceres received $50,000 from Wallace Global, also designated for a tar sands campaign. [***Further information on the relationship between the Tides Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, Ceres and NoVo’s stocks in Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway is disclosed in an upcoming segment of this investigative report.]

Tides 990 2010 Donation to Ceres Tar Sands Campaign

And all while, Warren Buffett built an entire 21st century American Rail Empire with absolutely no dissent. “Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation is the parent company of the BNSF Railway (formerly the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway). The railroad is now wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by investor Warren Buffett.” [Source] As the crude-via-rail industry (ignored by the NGOs) continued to skyrocket, the non-profit industrial complex continued to declare glorious victories while key segments of the KXL pipeline (much of the pipeline having already been built before the campaign even began) quietly went into operation. And while a theatre performance worthy of the Palau de la Música Catalana was playing to a sold-out audience (quite literally), Ceres was expanding its tentacles throughout the globe.

Ceres GICCC

 

Next: Part VI

 

[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]

 

EndNotes:

[1] http://www.globalenvironment.it/Kumar.pdf

 

 

 

Ukraine’s Weapons in the Information War

Boston Mail

June 17, 2014

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How a small country was able to answer the Kremlin propaganda machine

In recent months, the attention of many Europeans has focused on Ukraine, where nine months ago, political stability gave way to economic and social crisis. Reports from the Donetsk region, where the Kiev authorities are trying to suppress a pro-Russian militia, have become commonplace for European newspapers and television channels – the whole world is watching the progress of the military conflict. However, at the same time, on the internet another war has developed – an information war. In Europe, it is of interest only to a narrow circle of specialists, although it is progressing much more rapidly than the armed confrontation in the Donetsk region. Without stopping for a second, it affects a lot more people, and the financial burden of its execution may exceed the costs of Kiev’s anti-terrorist operation. Its features, tools and key players are covered in detail in a confidential report by the German consulting company Mediasoprotivlenie, which has been obtained by this editorial office.

The authors of the document provide detailed analysis of the actions of the Ukrainian side, which has allowed one of the poorest countries in Europe to lead an active propagandistic role in the Russian blogosphere, by using Russian bloggers. The financial assistance provided to Euromaidan by Ukrainian oligarchs and U.S. government funds USAID, NED, IRI and NDI has been of considerable help in backing this goal. Via these channels, organizations have conducted funding to liberal journalists, opposition members and whole parties that are popular in the Russian segment of the Internet. Ukrainian businessmen have entered into a kind of pact to achieve this goal during the political crisis.

The conveyors of Euromaidan’s values in Russia are an already existing network of Internet experts and influential speakers, whose names are also listed in the document. At the same time, the most influential figures in this group are not always known to a wide range of internet users. Thus, the name of Oleg Kozlovsky means little to an ordinary Russian citizen, but it it appears in the report as one of the central elements of the propaganda machine. A small informational note reports that he has been actively cooperating with the IRI fund for several years, and was one of the most important mayoral campaign activists for Alexei Navalny last summer. It reports that his resource Stopfake, which reveals Russian “propaganda,” also received a grant from the American foundation, beating out competitors’ projects. According to experts, the effectiveness Stopfake is at a relatively high level, although in Russia demand for it and its popularity are much lower than in Ukraine. In addition, some “fakes” denounced by the project’s experts are apparently provocations themselves created by Euromaidan activists.

As noted above, in the struggle for a counter-propaganda grant, Kozlovsky outperformed his competitors, and at this point pops up the name of another campaigner for Navalny. Maxim Katz was previously known around the world as a poker enthusiast – he was an active and successful player, and then became a backer who sponsored capable players’ participation in tournaments. However, in 2011 he became interested in politics and he began consistently promoting liberal views and criticism of Russian authorities on his blog. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Katz has taken an openly anti-Russian stance, and even for a time ran the Antipropaganda project. Using Katz’s own methodology, it determines the amount of informational distortion in news materials from Russian and foreign media. Antipropaganda’s research results have repeatedly been criticized by pro-Kremlin bloggers – according to its research, Ukrainian journalists did not allow themselves to manipulate the facts while stories in the Russian media studiously avoided the truth. The moment the Russian Federation’s authorities adopted amendments that impose restrictions on anonymous funds transfers, Antipropaganda suddenly closed as quickly as it had opened. Currently the opposition is considering opening a Kiev branch of its urban initiative City Projects, the funding for which is likely to have already been made by European figures.

Another name mentioned by American experts more often than others is Vitaly Shushkevich. This opposition internet technologist makes no secret that he receives funding from the IRI and is a regular at events organized by the foundation in European countries. In March this year he was one of the most aggressive critics of the annexation of Crimea, calling on Ukrainians not to repeat the mistakes of Saakashvili and kill “Russian agents” on the spot. According to information given in the report, Shushkevich is now helping to lead election campaigns of several opposition candidates for the Moscow City Duma.

However, criticism of the government by liberal activists is a rather traditional phenomenon for Russia and does not cause any surprise. What did surprise many was the support for the Ukrainian revolution from the right-wing party Democratic Choice headed by Vladimir Milov. Milov called the burning alive of several dozen pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa “local resistance in the most vividly illustrated form.” Following this, the politician issued an appeal to the people of Donbass, in which he stated that they were “not Russian” and demanded that they “do not entangle Russia in their internal conflict.” It is noteworthy that one of Milov’s party companions – blogger Stanislav Yakovlev – criticized the liberal opposition and in describing the situation in the Donbass took a consistently pro-Ukrainian side.

According to the information provided in the report, the source of financing of Milov’s political party is structures that are close to the new president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. This explains the sharp ideological turn taken by the party nine months ago.

The report also notes the extreme effectiveness of the opposition movement’s anonymous, humorous Twitter accounts. Due to the lack of actual control over the system of microblogging and anonymous authors, fighting their posts is practically impossible for the Russian authorities, and Ukrainians are actively taking advantage of this in Russia.

Experts note that the increase in the number of blogs and social media users in Russia to a certain point played into the hands of the liberal public, primarily because the middle class had access to it and they tend to be liberal thinkers. However, in the last few years the main growth in this area has been achieved by the inhabitants of the provinces, among whom are high numbers of supporters of the authorities. This phenomenon significantly changed the balance of opinion in the Russian blogosphere, and, according to experts, the promotion of propaganda among this section of the population is currently the most important task of Ukrainian “agents.”

Photo by bloomberg.com

Fresh Evidence of How the West Lured Ukraine Into its Orbit [or, The U.S. Demonization of Putin]

Demonization Campaign Against Putin {

Above: Newsweek: August, 2014: The Putin demonization campaign in full swing.

The Telegraph

August 9, 2014

By Christopher Booker

How odd it has been to read all those accounts of Europe sleepwalking into war in the summer of 1914, and how such madness must never happen again, against the background of the most misrepresented major story of 2014 – the gathering crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine, as we watch developments in that very nasty civil war, with 20,000 Russian troops massing on the border.

For months the West has been demonising President Putin, with figures such as the Prince of Wales and Hillary Clinton comparing him with Hitler, oblivious to the fact that what set this crisis in motion were those recklessly provocative moves to absorb Ukraine into the EU.

There was never any way that this drive to suck the original cradle of Russian identity into the Brussels empire was not going to provoke Moscow to react – not least due to the prospect that its only warm-water ports, in Crimea, might soon be taken over by Nato.

And still scarcely reported here have been the billions of dollars and euros the West has been more or less secretively pouring into Ukraine to promote the cause: not just to prop up its bankrupt government and banking system, but to fund scores of bogus “pro-European” groups making up what the EU calls “civil society”.

When the European Commission told a journalist that, between 2004 and 2013, these groups had only been given €31?million, my co-author Richard North was soon reporting on his EU Referendum blog that the true figure, shown on the commission’s own “Financial Transparency” website, was €496?million. The 200 front organisations receiving this colossal sum have such names as “Center for European Co-operation” or the “Donetsk Regional Public Organisation with Hope for the Future” (the very first page shows how many are in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, with their largely Russian populations).

One of my readers heard from a Ukrainian woman working in Britain that her husband back home earns €200 a month as an electrician, but is paid another €200 a month, from a German bank, to join demonstrations such as the one last March when hundreds of thousands – many doubtless entirely sincere – turned out in Kiev to chant “Europe, Europe” at Baroness Ashton, the EU’s visiting “foreign minister”.

However dangerous this crisis becomes, it is the West which has brought it about; and our hysterical vilifying of Russia is more reminiscent of that fateful mood in the summer of 1914 than we should find it comfortable to contemplate.

 

Read more about “US NGOs in Ukraine” – “Washington’s Foreign Policy Tools or Biden Visits Kiev (I)“, April 23, 2014:

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2014/04/23/us-ngos-in-ukraine-washington-foreign-policy-tools-biden-visits-kiev-i.html