By Haig Hovaness
In the early 20th century, the development of mass communications propaganda enhanced the ability of governments to secure public support for waging war. In America, WWI was “sold” to the public by a carefully planned public relations campaign directed by early pioneers of opinion manipulation, such as Edward Bernays. In 1928 Bernays published a definitive book, “Propaganda,” on the new science of influencing the public. In this book, he declares the purpose of this science bluntly:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.
Soon thereafter European dictators, like Hitler and Mussolini, used the tools of propaganda to rise to power and launch a terrible war. What the early students of propaganda did not foresee was that a time would come when the mechanisms of propaganda would no longer be subservient to the national objectives of powerful leaders but would become a dominant influence on the conduct of nations. This inversion of policy and propaganda is a fundamental reason why America’s “War on Terror” has become detached from rational policy objectives and serves as a kind of theater of cruelty for the amusement of the public, much like the bloody spectacles of the ancient Roman arena. In short, propaganda, which was invented as a tool to serve powerful leaders now dictates the actions of the leaders. Americans have become trapped in a world in which the propaganda of inciting irrational fear and hostility has become self-perpetuating, leading to an endless public spectacle called a war.
The German military theorist Clausewitz called war “a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.” By this he meant that after exhausting the resources of diplomacy nations may turn to war, but war should serve a nation’s interests. Today’s American War on Terror defies logical connection to any sound national interests. America’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are widely considered disastrous failures, and our military interventions in Libya, Syria and several other troubled nations have spread chaos and anarchy. These military adventures do, however, entertain the public. The evidence for this entertainment mechanism is the repeating patterns of the propaganda spectacles that are presented. Here are some examples:
Humiliating the captives – Guantanamo
In ancient Rome the parading of defeated captives was a part of the marches of triumph that celebrated victorious military campaigns. The triumphal procession would include caged or shackled captives, whose humiliation excited and pleased the Roman crowds. The US imprisoned suspected terrorists at Guantanamo, a military base in Cuba, presumed to be outside the legal jurisdiction of US Courts. Pictures of the shackled kneeling prisoners were widely publicized, as were descriptions of the harsh conditions of confinement and interrogation at Guantanamo. This pleased a public hungry for revenge after the shock of the 9/11 attacks. The crucial distinction between the practice of the Romans and the US in the display of captives is that the Romans did so after securing strategic triumphs like the conquest of Gaul. There has been no equivalent triumph in the open-ended US global War on Terror. It is widely believed that the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo and other sites has helped recruit Islamist militants worldwide. Even as a legal stratagem for punishing accused terrorists, Guantanamo has been a failure, since the maltreatment of the prisoners renders their prosecution untenable, leaving many of these prisoners in a legal limbo, possibly for the remainder of their lives.
Although President Obama campaigned on a promise to close the Guantanamo prison, he was unable to persuade Congress to do this. I believe the only credible explanation for this recalcitrance was the desire to maintain the public propaganda benefit of ritual humiliation of (suspected) terrorists: propaganda driving irrational policy.
Brandishing the weaponry – Shock, Awe, and MOAB
A U.S. aircraft dropped a GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, also known as a MOAB or ‘mother of all bombs’, on an area in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on April 13, 2017. The MOAB is a ten-ton bomb, the largest conventional weapon in the US arsenal. The dropping of this bomb had no effect whatever on the strategic situation of the US military intervention in Afghanistan, now in its 19th year. America lacks the military resources to fully suppress the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan which controls about two-thirds of the population and continues to inflict defeats on the US-backed Afghan government. The bomb did have significant propaganda value, however, because the images and videos of the effects of this weapon were widely reported.
The great danger of reliance on super weapon propaganda is that leaders may come to believe it. The use of super weapons to bolster public morale in a losing war was notable in WWII Germany. The German V1 cruise missile and V2 ballistic missile were revolutionary pilotless bombs that Hitler mistakenly believed would win the war. President Trump has boasted that he could win the war in Afghanistan by killing millions of Afghans, presumably with indiscriminate use of advanced American weaponry. Our super-weapons pose a greater threat to us than to our enemies: propaganda driving irrational policy.
Killing the Supervillains – Bin Laden, Al Baghdadi, and Soleimani
In Orwell’s prescient dystopian novel, “1984,” a key tool of state propaganda is focusing public rage on an archvillain who is responsible for all the evils of the nation’s enemy. In the novel, there is a daily assembly in which members of the public witness a video depiction of Emmanuel Goldstein, the leader of the enemy state. For two minutes, the audience is whipped into a frenzy of hatred that sustains their war fervor. In America’s War on Terror, a succession of supervillains has served a powerful propaganda purpose: Bin-Laden, Al-Baghdadi, and most recently Soleimani have been killed to symbolically defeat an ill-defined adversary power (terrorism). Yet the endless war continues.
From a strategic perspective, the killings of Bin-Laden and Al-Baghdadi, founders of Al Qaeda and ISIS, were irrelevant because these leaders had fled into hiding and no longer commanded significant forces. Killing Soleimani, the Iranian general aiding anti-American forces in the Mideast, was a strategic disaster because it brought the US and Iran to the brink of a full-scale war and persuaded the Iraqi parliament to request the departure of the remaining US troops in Iraq. Nonetheless, Trump is milking the propaganda value of the Soleimani assassination at political rallies, irrespective of the negative consequences for the US position in the Mideast: propaganda driving irrational policy.
The failures of US foreign policy in the global War on Terror have become so conspicuous that there is growing organized criticism of this reign of misrule. Recently the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft was formed by support from wealthy activists from opposite ends of the political spectrum (Charles Koch and George Soros). The first paragraph of the institute’s charter addresses the problem succinctly:
The foreign policy of the United States has become detached from any defensible conception of U.S. interests and from a decent respect for the rights and dignity of humankind. Political leaders have increasingly deployed the military in a costly, counterproductive, and indiscriminate manner, normalizing war and treating armed dominance as an end in itself.
I assert that a main reason why military conflict has become an end in itself is that the propaganda associated with the War on Terror is out of control and is now dictating irrational and counterproductive actions. War propaganda, once a servant of American politicians, has now become a master. Taming this monstrous former servant will be a crucial challenge for American democracy.
Interview with a Political Activist in El Alto
[Note: The following interview with a Bolivian activist in El Alto, whose name is being withheld for obvious security reasons, was conducted by The Organizer editorial board member Alan Benjamin on Sunday, November 17. The interview is reprinted from the November-December 2019 issue of The Organizer.]
Question: What is the situation in Bolivia in the aftermath of the coup? How is the resistance to the coup being organized?
Answer: After the conspiracy of the police, the military, and the right-wing leaders that led to the November 10 resignation of Evo Morales and placed the coup-plotters in the governmental palace, their first measure was to burn the Whipala, the flag that represents the Quechua-Aymara peoples and that is recognized as one of the nation’s two flags in the 2009 Political Constitution of the State.
The burning of the Whipala means the return to the heinous racism and discrimination by the traditional right wing. This action by the coup government, together with the self-proclamation by supposed “president” Jeanine Añez, has triggered the mobilization of scores of popular sectors, neighborhood councils, and youth from the city of El Alto, the main bastion of the struggles of October 2003 and 2005 that succeeded in ousting then-president Gustavo Sanchez de Lozada, known as the “Gringo Goni.” Workers and youth at that time had mobilized against Goni’s Hydrocarbons Law with protests that were met with large-scale repression, resulting in 60 deaths.
Since Monday, November 11, massive marches of people have descended every day from the city of El Alto to the seat of government in La Paz. Hundreds of police, military and armored cars have sealed off the Plaza Murillo (where the government palace is located), repressing the population with tear gas and arresting people who were not even participating in the mobilizations. People have been apprehended just for carrying a Whipala.
Likewise, the peasants and neighbors of the poorest areas around the southern zone of La Paz have been repressed savagely. Two people have been killed, as the local authorities have had to acknowledge.
Relatives of the killed activists have reported in the social media how the military are breaking into people’s homes and beating the activists and their families indiscriminately.
The media are silent, but the social networks are flooded with videos and images that show the savagery that has been unleashed against the population.
The most recent repression occurred on Friday, November 15, when peasants from the Cochabamba region were heading towards the center of that city in a peaceful march, but were intercepted at the Huayllani Bridge, in the Sacaba region, by the military and police forces, which fired lethal weapons at the unarmed population.
The result of this police-military operation was nine deaths and hundreds of wounded and arrested. The media have sought to present this as an “armed confrontation” between the military and the demonstrators — but the fact is that not a single police officer, not a single soldier, was killed.
The media have ignored the statement by Cochabamba public defender Nelson Cox, who declared: “Visiting the hospitals, we have not found a single wounded policeman or soldier. There can be no talk of confrontation when what occurred was an action by the military and police that harmed the lives of the civilians who were mobilizing peacefully.” (statement posted on the website of Chasqui Clandestina)
On the following day, Saturday, November 16, a widely attended Cabildo [a town-hall meeting, or popular assembly – Tr. note] took place in the city of El Alto. Neighbors, workers, and young people gathered behind the Whipala with a black emblem attached to it, to signify the people’s outrage over the repression by the military and police forces which, so far, has taken the lives of 23 people, with hundreds of people seriously wounded and/or arrested.
All 14 districts that make up the city of El Alto were represented at the Cabildo. Peasant representatives from the 20 provinces of the department of La Paz were also present, as were rural teacher delegations from Alto Beni (which is the eastern sector of Bolivia), among other sectors.
The leaders of the Federation of Neighborhood Councils (FEJUVE) of El Alto were disavowed on the grounds that they are corrupt and do not represent the interests of the people of El Alto. As a consequence a new leadership of the FEJUVE has been formed.
Among its main decisions, the Cabildo called for the resignation of self-proclaimed president Jeanine Añez and the immediate release of all detainees nationwide. It also declared an indefinite strike with the blockade of 1,000 street corners.
As the workers and people were gathered in the Cabildo in El Alto, the so-called president issued Supreme Decree 4078, which authorizes the armed forces and police to “restore internal order” without having to be held accountable for their criminal actions. This is nothing but a license to kill.
As we speak [Sunday, November 17] popular sectors, carrying out the decisions of the Cabildo, are currently taking up their positions at the designated blockade points. We don’t yet have information about what is happening with the blockades. We are certainly not going to get reports from the national media, which has been assigned the task of turning a blind eye to the savage repression and making the anger of the population at the measures of the so-called president Jeanine Añez invisible.
Question: What has been the policy of the Bolivian Workers Central — the historic COB confederation — in relation to the recent coup, and, more recently, to the resistance? Have there been discussions within the COB and/or its affiliates regarding the November 10 COB statement, which we in the United States found shocking, calling for Evo’s resignation “for the sake of the health of the nation”?
Answer: On November 10, as you point out, the main leader of the COB, Juan Carlos Guarachi, called for the resignation of Evo Morales in the name of “preserving the peace in the country.” A similar statement was issued by Orlando Gutierrez, leader of the National Mineworkers Federation (FSTMB), the backbone of the COB. This marked a right-wing break by the COB and its main affiliate with the government of Evo Morales.
In the aftermath of the resignation of Morales and in response to the ongoing popular mobilizations, the COB issued a resolution dated November 12 stating that the powers-that-be had 48 hours to come up with a “constitutional solution,” otherwise they would declare an indefinite general strike.
But what kind of “constitutional solution” can be reached when you have a self-appointed president, supported by the armed forces, who has trampled upon the Constitution? She cannot even muster a sufficient quorum in the Congress to have herself declared a rightful president. The COB has remained silent until now, even though the 48-hour deadline has come and gone.
Having said that, there is growing dissension in the union ranks.
Prior to the coup, mineworkers in the State sector — in Huanuni, Vinto, Coro Coro, and Colquir — denounced the fact that behind the “Citizen Mobilizations” lurked the old right-wing parties.
Recently, on November 12, the most combative union of the FSTMB — the mine workers’ union in Huanuni — adopted a resolution denouncing all those who have lent a hand to the right wing, highlighting the leader of Santa Cruz Civic Committee billionaire Luis Fernando Camacho as a racist. The resolution affirms that, “the struggle has begun” and that “a state of emergency has been declared in Huanuni” — but to date the union has not called for mobilization.
Question: Any further comments?
Answer: At this moment, the main demand of the mobilized sectors of the population — a demand with which I concur fully — is the resignation of Jeanine Añez, who symbolizes the return of the gorilla and racist right wing. If the COB and FSTMB were to join the mobilizations, this would mark a real show of strength by the workers’ and people’s organizations against the perpetrators of the coup.
He and I decided to go into the old city of Jerusalem yesterday. Because Yasser and his cousin, Lama, were both at work we went via the bus system. From Al-Ram, where Yasser and Lama live, there is no route to Jerusalem without having to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint located near the Qalandiya refugee camp, a well-known center of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s illegal occupation.
The distance between Al-Ram and Jerusalem is about 6 miles. Our journey took us nearly 2 hours. What we experienced is common for Palestinian people without cars. And on that day there were no additional delays imposed by the Israeli military at the checkpoints— just the “usual” waiting in long lines.
We left Yasser’s at around 9:00 am and were walking down the hill to the bus stop located on the town’s main street when a man in a car stopped and asked us where we were heading. We told him, he beckoned us to get in, we did, and he drove us to the bus stop, only a short distance away. A small bus was waiting, and once we learned it was heading to Qalandiya checkpoint, the first leg of our journey, we got on.
The buses that take passengers to the checkpoint are yellow mini-vans that hold up to 7 people. Like the majority of vehicles in the smaller towns in the West Bank, they tend to be battered—dusty inside and out, worn shocks, the upholstery clean but stained. Sometimes there are seatbelts, sometimes none are apparent or are broken or ripped. I never saw anyone wear one.
The driver (who was maybe in his 40’s) didn’t interact with his passengers, except to collect the bus fare and return any change to a hand at the front that passed it back to the paying passenger. Because I had a good view of the driver in the rear view mirror, I could see his face—I thought his dark eyes and face looked worn and tired, maybe bored, too, with deep creases across his forehead and along the sides of his cheeks and mouth. The exception was when a small child got on at one of the stops. His face brightened, his eyes lit up, and a small smile formed at the corners of his mouth. As everywhere, children here offer a spark of life—perhaps it’s even such momentary joy a child’s presence brings that helps keep total despair at bay.
For some unknown reason, the driver didn’t drop He and me off until we were about a ¼ mile past the checkpoint. He asked a man in one of the many shops on the street for directions. With the help of his Arabic phrase book, He managed to ask “How do we to get to Qalandiya checkpoint?”, and with hand gestures waving and pointing, the man directed us.
We turned back and headed down the shop-lined road, crowded with cars, vans, buses and pedestrians. But for one bright splash of a rose bougainvillea, it was dusty and bleak—stone rubble and trash on both sides of the road, a cement-block building with a demolished second floor, exposed rusted spines of steel holding the carcass together. We soon saw many other people heading in a particular way, so we followed.
At first we walked on the right side of the road, directly towards the gates where cars pass, but we heard a sharp whistle to get our attention, and a female soldier waved at us to move to the left side of the area. We climbed over and around temporary cement blocks and barriers and met another soldier—a young man, dark-skinned, small in stature, with a smile that softened the effect of his being fully equipped with weapons used to threaten, wound or kill. He gave us additional directions to the pedestrian Qalandiya checkpoint.
Later I remembered that not so long ago (September 2019) at this same checkpoint, a young Muslim woman had similarly seemed confused about where to go to reach the bus section. Apparently she did not turn back when warned, and so the private security guards hired by Israel chased her, shot her several times and then left her bleeding—medics of the Palestinian Red Crescent were prevented from getting to her to provide first aid. She later died in an Israeli hospital in East Jerusalem. Israel claimed she was carrying a knife.
We continued on to an official looking one-story white building with two Israeli flags flying from the flat roof—the location of the Qalandiya checkpoint that demarcates a boundary between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With many others, mostly young or old and seemingly poorer Palestinians, we walked up the steps and into the front entrance. We then needed to pass through a winding and walled, single-person-width passageway into a large room that branched into three separate smaller rooms. We stayed in the middle room designated for people going to Jerusalem.
An elderly couple with a battered piece of luggage and large black plastic bags looked around, clearly uneasy, and uncertain about where to go. The woman in traditional Muslim dress with a hijab (headscarf that covers the head and neck) and brown, unadorned thob (a long, full robe-like dress) took the lead and walked around examining the rooms and signs. After a brief and quiet discussion with her husband, the couple moved to the room on the right.
The next step in passing through the checkpoint was to go through a floor-to-ceiling metal turnstile big enough for one person at a time that allowed only a certain number of people to pass through before it stopped turning. As we exited, we were directed to another turnstile (similar to those for getting onto a train in a subway) where we were required to show our passport to an armed guard. Palestinians were required to show their ID card.
We moved through yet another floor-to-ceiling turnstile before we were required to put our backpacks, jewelry and other metal items onto an airport-type conveyor belt that moved through a machine checking for dangerous items stowed in the bags. And we, too, had to walk through a metal-detecting device so the Israeli guards could be ensured that we posed no security threat.
From that point, we were allowed to exit the building and go to the bus station, a large dirt-packed parking area with white coach-sized buses for passengers wanting to travel to the East Jerusalem bus station. Two full buses later, we were able to get onto a bus with vacant seats. And at 11:00 we arrived at the East Jerusalem bus station, 2 hours after leaving Yasser’s.
Such is the daily life for many Palestinians.
Sending this with love and with the commitment to work for the freedom and human rights of the Palestinian people,
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is two weeks away. The “People’s Mobe” will be held from September 20 to 23 in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly.
Members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective started organizing the People’s Mobe in May. Organizers sought to bring the issue of US violations of international law, such as when the State Department violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the Venezuelan Embassy on May 16, to the UN General Assembly and began to plan around September 21, the International Day of Peace. Organizers wrote:
At a time when all of the world leaders gather, we will say we’ve had enough of the US War Machine.
We demand the US be held accountable for its destructive acts. It’s time for the US government to obey the United Nations Charter by stopping regime change operations, ending the use of unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and ceasing military attacks.
We demand the US sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty, rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate treaty, disband NATO and close bases and outposts around the world.
We demand an immediate transition to a peace economy that uses our resources to meet human needs and protect the planet.
The People’s Mobe begins with the Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, an international day of action on the climate crisis, and ends with a solidarity evening uniting countries and popular movements around opposition to US intervention and respect for international laws that uphold sovereignty, human rights and protection of the planet.
The weekend will also focus on decolonization joining a protest for the liberation of Puerto Rico and black resistance to racism and militarism in the “Americas.”
Schedule of Events for the People’s Mobilization Against the US War Machine
Friday, September 20 – People’s Climate Strike. Starts at Foley Square at noon, then a march to Battery Park for a rally at 3:00 pm. We’ll bring messages connecting militarism and the climate crisis.
Saturday, September 21 – Puerto Rico Independence Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN. It’s time to decolonize Puerto Rico! Time TBA.
Saturday, September 21 – Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the “America’s” from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Green Worker Cooperative, 1231 Lafayette Ave in the Bronx.
Sunday, September 22 – People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet Rally and March, Herald Square near 34th St.and 6th Ave., 2:00 pm. Featuring Cornel West, Roger Waters, members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Chairman Omali Yeshitela, music by Ben Grosscup plus many solidarity, climate crisis, and resistance groups. More special guests to be announced.
Monday, September 23 – Solidarity evening with UN representatives from countries targeted by US sanctions and intervention. “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” Location: Community Church of New York 40 East 35th St., New York City, 10016. Hear from UN representatives and social movements. The Peace Memorial Prize will be awarded and David Rovics will perform. Time: 6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). You must register in advance. Register at http://bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. The event is free but we will accept donations to help cover the costs.
People’s Mobilization Shows Interconnections At Historical Moment
The People’s Mobe is connecting the issues of militarism, climate crisis, racism, and decolonization. We cannot achieve economic, racial and environmental justice or peace without forming a united people’s force that demands international law be obeyed by the greatest violator of laws, the United States.
We face multiple crisis issues that are reaching their breaking points. We are in a climate emergency as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and drought are becoming common experiences, destroying communities and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Even if the US government ignores climate science, people understand it and realize these conditions are worsening. As a result, the Global Climate Strike from September 20-27 was called. Popular Resistance will participate in the Strike in NYC; other peace activists are joining the Shut-Down DC Climate Strike. We urge peace activists throughout the country to support the Climate Strike and demonstrate the connection between militarism and climate.
The role of the US military in climate change is massive as oil is essential for the war machine. There is no such thing as a Green War. We cannot confront climate change without confronting US militarism.
Even though the US military produces more climate pollution than 140 countries combined, the US-made sure the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change from 1997, the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, excluded fossil fuel emissions by the military. Even the Paris Agreement, which Trump withdrew from, still enabled the US to avoid reporting Pentagon emissions.
As a result, the greatest fossil fuel polluter on the planet is excluded despite the fact that the US military accounts for 25% of the total US consumption of oil, which is itself 25% of the total world consumption. US military fossil fuel pollution is equivalent to 25 million additional cars on US roads. The US Air Force is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.
The US and allies learned in World War II that controlling the oil supply and cutting off Germany’s access to oil was essential to defeating Hitler. Since then, domination of oil reserves has been a central goal of US policy to ensure its role as the global superpower. Even with the rapid increase in US fossil fuel production, denying China access to oil from Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and other sources is critical to remaining the world’s dominant power. The US and its war machine drive the rise in greenhouse gases.
The ties between war and racism have been evident throughout US history since the “Indian Wars” of Manifest Destiny and the theft of one-fifth of Mexico during the US war with Mexico, which gave the US control of much of North America. As the US expanded its empire beyond the continent, the US fought wars against people of color all over the world and today is rapidly militarizing Africa.
As happens with empires, the empire turns against its own people to take as much as it can from its poor and working classes for the wealthiest. Not only has this resulted in an immense wealth divide and widespread poverty, homelessness and inadequate education for many people in the US, but it has also led to militarized police forces that use weapons and techniques of war against the people in the United States. The prime targets of domestic militarized police are communities of color, which have been left destitute from neglect and the funneling of wealth upwards in a racially-biased manner.
Part of being the largest empire in world history not only includes an empire of bases and dollar domination of trade and the global economy, but also the US remains a colonizer nation. While decolonization created scores of independent nations from 1945-1960, the United States did not decolonize. As a result states like Hawaii, which was an independent nation throughout most of its history, did not become independent and territories like Puerto Rico, which had broken from Spanish colonization only to be captured as a US colony, remain.
Uniting To End Empire and Militarization, and put People and Planet First
The Peoples Mobilization comes at a time when all of these fronts of struggle are coming together. Climate activists realize that ending wars for oil, closing bases and making serious cuts to military funding are essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and financing a global Green New Deal. Anti-war activists recognize that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essential for stopping endless wars.
It is time to stop the US war machine and for the US government to stop its global gangsterism. The US must obey international law and be held accountable for illegal and destructive acts. The Non-Aligned Movement countries made a commitment to do what they can this past July. Now, we need a global popular movement that pushes to make peace, justice, and a livable future a reality.
If you agree, sign onto the Global Appeal for Peace. We plan to deliver it to the United Nations while they are in session. Beyond that, we will continue to build a global solidarity movement to Stop The US War Machine and Save the Planet.
Private concerns are gutting the Amazon rainforest, contributing to fires, the loss of plant and animal species, and global warming through the release of carbon as trees are cleared. More than 74,000 fires have burned approximately 7,200 square miles this year in the Brazilian portion of the rainforest.
“Brazilian politicians are lobbying U.S. businesses like Cargill and Burger King for contracts by promoting the Amazon region for reckless and exploitative ranching, logging and mining operations,” said Craig Seeman, member of the Green Party’s Animal Rights Committee.
Green Party of the United States
For Immediate Release:
August 28, 2019
“The cattle sector of the Brazilian Amazon, incentivized by the international beef and leather trades, has been responsible for about 80% of all deforestation in the region. The lax enforcement of rules and regulations by leaders in Brazil and the United States have set the tone for widespread pillage of protected areas in both countries.”
Among other things, scientists recommend that we restore ecosystems and stop burning fossil fuels to avoid “irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements.”
“Greens have been at the forefront in calling for a strong international climate treaty,” said Steve Newman, Secretary of the Green Party of Florida and a member of the Green Party of the U.S. Eco-Action Committee. “The climate treaty reached in Paris in 2015 is inadequate to address the climate change crisis, and the current impasse at the international level displays a dangerous lack of commitment toward addressing a climate emergency. The Green Party calls for legally binding commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2020 and a 95% reduction by 2030 over 1990 levels.”
The Green Party further calls for:
- the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, biomass and waste incineration and biofuels;
- acknowledge that the bulk of the U.S. military budget is an indirect subsidy for oil & gas corporations, and redirect that spending into sustainable energy production regenerative agriculture and “green jobs”;
- work to provide a carbon neutral development path for developing countries to help them avoid burning cheap fossil fuels;
- a move to convert our food production to small-scale organic, regenerative agriculture (agroecology) systems to restore soil health, sequester carbon, foster biodiversity, discourage the currently unsustainable level of meat consumption, and secure robust ecosystem services for a sustainable future;
- acknowledgement and support the role of indigenous people and other local Brazilian activists who are fighting to save the rainforest. According to Amazon Watch’s Moira Birss: “Indigenous people of the Amazon have been sounding the alarm about risks to the rainforest for years and resisting the destruction — sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Now that the world is finally paying attention, it’s important to also understand that governments and companies around the world are emboldening Bolsonaro’s toxic policies when they enter trade agreements with his government or invest in agribusiness companies operating in the Amazon.”
Photograph: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov using data from August 27, 2019
6 charts show why thousands of fires in the Amazon rainforest matter to the world
Sergent, James; Elizabeth Lawrence, George Petras. USA Today, Aug. 23, 2019
Fires are devouring the Amazon. And Jair Bolsonaro is to blame
Miranda, David. The Guardian, Aug, 26, 201
Amazon: “Global Emergency”
Mendonca, Maria Luisa; Christopher Poitier, Moira Birss. Institute for Public Accuracy, Aug. 27, 2019
GOP Lobbyists Help Brazil Recruit U.S. Companies To Exploit The Amazon
Fang, Lee. The Intercept, Aug 23, 2019
Fires in the Amazon could be part of a doomsday scenario that sees the rainforest spewing carbon into the atmosphere and speeding up climate change even more
Baker, Sinead. Business Insider, Aug. 22, 2019
Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Region
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Global Forest Atlas
You And Meat Can Save The Planet
Rowland, Michael Pellman. Forbes, Aug. 23, 2019
The Amazon Fires Reveal the Dysfunction of the Global Community
Foer, Franklin. Defense One, Aug. 25, 2019
2018 Outside Spending, by Donors’ Industries
Center for Responsive Politics. OpenSecrets
Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines
Ceballos, Gerardo; Paul R. EHrlich, Rodolfo Dirzo. PNAS, Mar. 28, 2017
With Amazon Rainforest Ablaze, Brazil Faces Global Backlash
Andreoni, Manuela; Leticia Casado, Ernest Londono. NY Times, Aug. 22, 23, 2019
The controversy over Israel’s refusal to allow an official visit by two members of Congress highlights the negative effects of a misguided bipartisan attempt by representatives of both major political parties to attack and smear the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and freedom. By an overwhelming margin in July, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution to condemn the BDS movement and to endorse an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution. Legislatures in more than two dozen U.S. states have passed measures condemning the BDS movement or banning contracts with businesses involved with it.
Letter to the Editor
Published August 25, 2019
Such undemocratic action is divisive and violates free-speech rights. It is outrageous that lawmakers have supported legislation to penalize or vilify anyone who advocates a boycott of Israel for its oppressive treatment of Palestinians under a decades-old occupation.
BDS is a peaceful approach to change — part of the process of negotiation, now stalled — that is desperately needed to bring a just and lasting peace to Israel and Palestine.
Joseph Naham and Jim Brown
Newsday Editor’s note: The writers are chair and secretary, respectively, of the Green Party of Nassau County.
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Above photo: Anti-government protesters wave the American flag during a rally in Hong Kong earlier this month © Chan Long Hei/EPA-EFE/Shutterstoc
Hong Kong is one of the most extreme examples of big finance, neoliberal capitalism in the world. As a result, many people in Hong Kong are suffering from great economic insecurity in a city with 93 billionaires, second-most of any city.
Hong Kong is suffering the effects of being colonized by Britain for more than 150 years following the Opium Wars. The British put in place a capitalist economic system and Hong Kong has had no history of self-rule. When Britain left, it negotiated an agreement that prevents China from changing Hong Kong’s political and economic systems for 50 years by making Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR).
China cannot solve the suffering of the people of Hong Kong. This ‘One Country, Two Systems’ approach means the extreme capitalism of Hong Kong exists alongside, but separate from, China’s socialized system. Hong Kong has an unusual political system. For example, half the seats in the legislature are required to represent business interests meaning corporate interests vote on legislation.
Hong Kong is a center for big finance and also a center of financial crimes. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of suspicious transactions reported to law enforcement agencies rocketed from 32,907 to 92,115. There has been a small number of prosecutions, which dropped from a high of 167 in 2014 to 103 in 2017. Convictions dropped to only one person sentenced to more than six years behind bars in 2017.
The problem is neither the extradition bill that was used to ignite protests nor China, the problems are Hong Kong’s economy and governance.
The Extradition Bill
The stated cause of the recent protests is an extradition bill proposed because there is no legal way to prevent criminals from escaping charges when they flee to Hong Kong. The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism to transfer fugitives in Hong Kong to Taiwan, Macau or Mainland China.
Extradition laws are a legal norm between countries and within countries (e.g. between states), and since Hong Kong is part of China, it is pretty basic. In fact, in 1998, a pro-democracy legislator, Martin Lee, proposed a law similar to the one he now opposes to ensure a person is prosecuted and tried at the place of the offense.
The push for the bill came in 2018 when a Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, in Taiwan, then returned to Hong Kong. Chan admitted he killed Poon to Hong Kong police, but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement was in place.
The proposed law covered 46 types of crimes that are recognized as serious offenses across the globe. These include murder, rape, and sexual offenses, assaults, kidnapping, immigration violations, and drug offenses as well as property offenses like robbery, burglary and arson and other traditional criminal offenses. It also included business and financial crimes.
Months before the street protests, the business community expressed opposition to the law. Hong Kong’s two pro-business parties urged the government to exempt white-collar crimes from the list of offenses covered by any future extradition agreement. There was escalating pressure from the city’s business heavyweights. The American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham, a fifty-year-old organization that represents over 1,200 US companies doing business in Hong Kong, opposed the proposal.
AmCham said it would damage the city’s reputation: “Any change in extradition arrangements that substantially expands the possibility of arrest and rendition … of international business executives residing in or transiting through Hong Kong as a result of allegations of economic crime made by the mainland government … would undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations.”
Kurt Tong, the top US diplomat in Hong Kong, said in March that the proposal could complicate relations between Washington and Hong Kong. Indeed, the Center for International Private Enterprise, an arm of NED said the proposed law would undermine economic freedom, cause capital flight and threaten Hong Kong’s status as a hub for global commerce. They pointed to a bipartisan letter signed by eight members of Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Steve Daines and Members of the House of Representatives, Jim McGovern, Ben McAdams, Chris Smith, Tom Suozzi, and Brian Mast opposing the bill.
Proponents of the bill responded by exempting nine of the economic crimes and made extradition only for crimes punishable by at least seven years in prison. These changes did not satisfy big business advocates.
The Mass Protests and US Role
From this attention to the law, opposition grew with the formation of a coalition to organize protests. As Alexander Rubinstein reports, “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013. Major protests began in June.
Building the anti-China movement in Hong Kong has been a long-term, NED project since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred. In a 2016 Open Letter to Kurt Tong, these NED grants and others were pointed out and Tong was asked if the US was funding a Hong Kong independence movement.
During the current protests, organizers were photographed meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political unit chief of US Consulate General, in a Hong Kong hotel. They also met with China Hawks in Washington, DC including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Larry Diamond, a co-editor of the NED’s publication and a co-chair of research, has been openly encouraging the protesters. He delivered a video message of support during their rally this weekend.
Protests have included many elements of US color revolutions with tactics such as violence — attacks on bystanders, media, police and emergency personnel. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, e.g. violent street barricades. US officials and media criticized the government’s response to the violent protests, even though they have been silent on the extreme police violence against the Yellow Vests in France. Demonstrators also use swarming techniques and sophisticated social media messaging targeting people in the US.
Mass protests have continued. On July 9, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pronounced the bill dead and suspended it. Protesters are now calling for the bill to be withdrawn, Lam to resign and police to be investigated. For more on the protests and US involvement, listen to our interview with K. J. Noh on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).
What Is Driving Discontent in Hong Kong?
The source of unrest in Hong Kong is the economic insecurity stemming from capitalism. In 1997, Britain and China agreed to leave “the previous capitalist system” in place for 50 years.
Hong Kong has been ranked as the world’s freest economy in the Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom since 1995 when the index began. In 1990, Milton Friedman described Hong Kong as the best example of a free-market economy. Its ranking is based on low taxes, light regulations, strong property rights, business freedom, and openness to global commerce.
Graeme Maxton writes in the South China Morning Post: “The only way to restore order is through a radical change in Hong Kong’s economic policies. After decades of doing almost nothing, and letting the free market rule, it is time for the Hong Kong government to do what it is there for; to govern in the interests of the majority.”
The issue is not the extradition proposal, Carrie Lam or China. What we are witnessing is an unrestricted neo-liberal economy, described as a free market on steroids. Hong Kong’s economy relative to China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from a peak of 27 percent in 1993 to less than 3 percent in 2017. During this time, China has had tremendous growth, including in nearby market-friendly Shenzen, while Hong Kong has not.
As Sara Flounders writes, “For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world. In Shenzhen, wages have increased 8 percent every year, and more than 1 million new, public, green housing units at low rates are nearing completion.”
Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent. In China, the poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.
Hong Kong In The Chinese Context
Ellen Brown writes in “Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China,” that the Chinese government owns 80 percent of banks, which make favorable loans to businesses, and subsidizes worker costs. The US views China subsidizing its economy as an unfair trade advantage, while China sees long-term, planned growth as smarter than short-term profits for shareholders.
The Chinese model of state-controlled capitalism (some call it a form of socialism) has lifted 800 million people out of poverty and built a middle class of over 420 million people, growing from four percent in 2002, to 31 percent. The top twelve Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 are all state-owned and state-subsidized including oil, solar energy, telecommunications, engineering, construction companies, banks, and the auto industry. China has the second-largest GDP, and the largest economy based on Purchasing Power Parity GDP, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank.
China does have significant problems. There are thousands of documented demonstrations, strikes and labor actions in China annually, serious environmental challenges, inequality and social control through the use of surveillance technology. How China responds to these challenges is a test for their governance.
China describes itself as having an intra party democracy. The eight other legal “democratic parties” that are allowed to participate in the political system cooperate with but do not compete with the Communist Party. There are also local elections for candidates focused on grassroots issues. China views western democracy and economics as flawed and does not try to emulate them but is creating its own system.
China is led by engineers and scientists, not by lawyers and business people. It approaches policy decisions through research and experimentation. Every city and every district is involved in some sort of experimentation including free trade zones, poverty reduction, and education reform. “There are pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything under the sun, the whole China is basically a giant portfolio of experiments, with mayors and provincial governors as Primary Investigators.” In this system, Hong Kong could be viewed as an experiment in neoliberal capitalism.
The Communist Party knows that to keep its hold on power, it must combat inequalities and shift the economy towards a more efficient and more ecological model. Beijing has set a date of 2050 to become a “socialist society” and to achieve that, it seeks improvements in social, labor and environmental fields.
Where does Hong Kong fit into these long-term plans? With 2047 as the year for the end of the agreement with the UK, US and western powers are working toward preserving their capitalist dystopia of Hong Kong and manufacturing consensus for long-term conflict with China.
How this conflict of economic and political systems turns out depends on whether China can confront its contradictions, whether Hong Kongers can address the source of their problems and whether US empire can continue its dollar, political and military dominance. Today’s conflicts in Hong Kong are rooted in all of these realities.