The Manitoba government has lost a two-year-long court battle against the federal government’s carbon pricing plan.
A Federal Court judge rejected Manitoba’s argument that Ottawa should not have imposed an escalating minimum price on carbon, since the province was planning its own emissions plan that could have been just as effective, The Canadian Press reports.
“The (Ottawa) decisions were consistent with the statutory purpose of reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions by putting a price on them,” Justice Richard Mosely wrote in a judgment released Tuesday.
“The inclusion of Manitoba on the list (of provinces subject to federally imposed pricing) was consistent with the statutory purpose and the guideline of ensuring that emissions pricing is applied broadly in Canada.”
Former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister planned to introduce a flat C$25 per tonne price on carbon. That was lower than the federal figure, but Pallister said Manitoba deserved credit for billions of dollars spent on clean hydroelectric projects, which utility customers continue to pay for.
Ottawa brought in a “backstop” carbon price on provinces that did not develop a carbon pricing or cap-and-trade plan that met or exceeded the federal one. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario argued the federal government was interfering in provincial jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last March that Ottawa was within its constitutional authority.
The Manitoba government continued with its more limited court argument that the federal government had no right to impose a carbon pricing plan in a province where one already existed to reduce emissions equally.
Pallister said Manitoba’s emissions plan, which included wetlands improvements and subsidies for fuel efficiency in the trucking industry, could meet or exceed federal targets without imposing a high carbon tax.
The judge said not only was Manitoba’s plan not enacted at the time of the court challenge, the province’s math was wrong.
“Manitoba relies on a misreading of its own evidence,” Mosley wrote. “According to Manitoba’s own evidence, Manitoba’s plan is 76,000 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) less effective in 2022 than a price in accordance with the (federal criteria).”
Pallister stepped down as premier last month. The Progressive Conservative government said Tuesday it would review the ruling.
“The province will consider its options, now that Canada has again opened the door for jurisdictions to propose carbon pricing systems of their own beginning in 2023,” Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said in a prepared statement.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the court fight was wrong from the start.
“Manitobans want a government that fights the climate crisis, not pointless legal battles.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 26, 2021.Read More
A U.K. biomass power plant which received more than £800 million (C$1.36 billion) in government subsidies for renewable energy production last year has been pegged as the country’s largest source of CO2 in the country in a new analysis by the climate think tank, Ember.
The Drax plant, which generates electricity by burning wood pellets, is also one of the biggest sources of dangerous particulate (PM10) pollution in the entire EU, writes Skye News.
Drax has roundly disputed the findings on CO2 emissions, telling the Independent that Ember got things “completely wrong”, asserting that the emissions generated from burning biomass have already been accounted for in the ongoing carbon-capturing process of forest regrowth.
That thinking has undergirded both the U.K’s and the EU’s own approaches to biomass emissions: both “trea[t] bioenergy as immediately carbon neutral on the assumption that forest regrowth soaks up the carbon again,” the news report states.
The trouble with that assumption, however, is that forests grow too slowly to sequester enough carbon at the rate needed to avoid breaching a 1.5°C threshold on global heating.
Skye News cites a 2018 study which estimated that “it would take 40 to 100 years or more for forests to recapture the carbon emissions from burning the wood pellets.” The study added that with the world’s forests increasingly subject to disease and wildfire, they may never recover enough to balance out pellet-burning emissions.
The reputation of biomass as a climate saviour took another hit this January with the European Academies Sciences Advisory Council (EASAC) declaring that the technology is “not effective in mitigating climate change.”
In February, more than 500 scientists petitioned the EU to revoke the technology’s “carbon neutral” status. “Regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change,” the scientists wrote.
Questions of regrowth in the case of Drax are particularly concerning. While the company has repeatedly claimed it sources its pellets from wood waste, such as slash and leftovers from lumber and furniture making, both its parent company, Enviva—the world’s largest wood pellet company—and Pinnacle, a British Columbia wood pellet operation that Drax bought in April 2020, have been implicated in the harvest of mature and old-growth trees to feed their wood pellet supply chain.
Ember’s analysis dropped just a week before Drax appeared at an innovation summit hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The company was showcased at the October 19 event as one of 12 exhibiting “the best of U.K. innovation and green technology,” qualities that are “helping cement the U.K’s position as a science superpower and the world’s number one centre for green technology,” according to government promotional material.
The Independent notes that the dozen invitees are all strong supporters of Johnson’s 10-point climate plan.
Critics condemned the inclusion of Drax—whose 2020 emissions were equivalent to Ghana’s, according to Ember—at the recent summit. “If the U.K. government wants to showcase the best of our green economy, there are amazing businesses, big and small, leading the charge to prevent the climate crisis that should be in the spotlight,” said Green Alliance Head of Politics Chris Venables.
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The US Owes Reparations to Afghan Women, Starting With an Open Borders Policy
Twenty years ago this week, the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, whose origins date back to 1979 when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the administration of George W. Bush embarked on a “global war on terror”: It invaded Afghanistan and, a year later, after having toppled the Taliban government, raised the specter of an “Axis of Evil” comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, thereby preparing the stage for more invasions. Interestingly enough, Saudi Arabia, whose royal family, according to certain intelligence reports, had been financing al-Qaeda, was not included on the list. Instead, it was Iraq that the U.S. invaded in 2003, toppling a brutal dictator (Saddam Hussein) who had committed most of his crimes as a U.S. ally and was a sworn enemy of al-Qaeda and of other Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations because of the threat they posed to his secular regime.
The outcome of the 20-year war on terror, which ended with the Taliban’s return to power, has been disastrous on multiple fronts, as Noam Chomsky pointedly elaborates in a breathtaking interview, which also reveals the massive level of hypocrisy that belies the actions of the global empire.
C.J. Polychroniou: Nearly 20 years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. With nearly 3,000 dead, this was the deadliest attack on U.S. soil in history and produced dramatic ramifications for global affairs, as well as startling impacts on domestic society. I want to start by asking you to reflect on the alleged revamping of U.S. foreign policy under George W. Bush as part of his administration’s reaction to the rise of Osama bin Laden and the jihadist phenomenon. First, was there anything new to the Bush Doctrine, or was it simply a codification of what we had already seen take place in the 1990s in Iraq, Panama, Bosnia and Kosovo? Second, was the U.S.-NATO led invasion of Afghanistan legal under international law? And third, was the U.S. ever committed to nation-building in Afghanistan?
Noam Chomsky: Washington’s immediate reaction to 9/11/2001 was to invade Afghanistan. The withdrawal of U.S. ground forces was timed to (virtually) coincide with the 20th anniversary of the invasion. There has been a flood of commentary on the 9/11 anniversary and the termination of the ground war. It is highly illuminating, and consequential. It reveals how the course of events is perceived by the political class, and provides useful background for considering the substantive questions about the Bush Doctrine. It also yields some indication of what is likely to ensue.
Of utmost importance at this historic moment would be the reflections of “the decider,” as he called himself. And indeed, there was an interview with George W. Bush as the withdrawal reached its final stage, in the Washington Post.
In the Style section.
The article and interview introduce us to a lovable, goofy grandpa, enjoying banter with his children, admiring the portraits he had painted of Great Men that he had known in his days of glory. There was an incidental comment on his exploits in Afghanistan and the follow-up episode in Iraq:
Bush may have started the Iraq War on false pretenses, but at least he hadn’t inspired an insurrection that turned the U.S. Capitol into a combat zone. At least he had made efforts to distance himself from the racists and xenophobes in his party rather than cultivate their support. At least he hadn’t gone so far as to call his domestic adversaries “evil.”
“He looks like the Babe Ruth of presidents when you compare him to Trump,” former Senate Majority Leader and one-time Bush nemesis Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada) said in an interview. “Now, I look back on Bush with a degree of nostalgia, with some affection, which I never thought I would do.”
Way down on the list, meriting only incidental allusion, is the slaughter of hundreds of thousands; many millions of refugees; vast destruction; a regime of hideous torture; incitement of ethnic conflicts that have torn the whole region apart; and as a direct legacy, two of the most miserable countries on Earth.
First things first. He didn’t bad-mouth fellow Americans.
The sole interview with Bush captures well the essence of the flood of commentary. What matters is us. There are many laments about the cost of these ventures: the cost to us, that is, which “have exceeded $8 trillion, according to new estimates by the Costs of War project at Brown University,” along with American lives lost and disruption of our fragile society.
Next time we should assess the costs to us more carefully, and do better.
There are also well-justified laments about the fate of women under Taliban rule. The laments sometimes are no doubt sincere, though a natural question arises: Why weren’t they voiced 30 years ago when U.S. favorites, armed and enthusiastically supported by Washington, were terrorizing young women in Kabul who were wearing the “wrong” clothes, throwing acid in their faces and other abuses? Particularly vicious were the forces of the arch-terrorist, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, recently on the U.S. negotiating team.
The achievements in women’s rights in Russian-controlled cities in the late ‘80s, and the threats they faced from the CIA-mobilized radical Islamist forces, were reported at the time by a highly credible source, Rasil Basu, a distinguished international feminist activist who was UN representative in Afghanistan in those years, with special concern for women’s rights.
During the [Russian] occupation, in fact, women made enormous strides: illiteracy declined from 98% to 75%, and they were granted equal rights with men in civil law, and in the Constitution. This is not to say that there was complete gender equality. Unjust patriarchal relations still prevailed in the workplace and in the family with women occupying lower level sex-type jobs. But the strides they took in education and employment were very impressive.
Basu submitted articles on these matters to the major U.S. journals, along with the feminist journal Ms. Magazine. No takers, wrong story. She was, however, able to publish her report in Asia: Asian Age, on December 3, 2001.
We can learn more about how Afghans in Kabul perceive the late years of the Russian occupation, and what followed, from another expert source, Rodric Braithwaite, British ambassador to Moscow from 1988 to 1992, and then chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, also author of the major scholarly work on the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Braithwaite visited Kabul in 2008, and reported his findings in the London Financial Times:
In Afghanistan today new myths are building up. They bode ill for current western policy. On a recent visit I spoke to Afghan journalists, former Mujahideen, professionals, people working for the ‘coalition’ — natural supporters for its claims to bring peace and reconstruction. They were contemptuous of [US-imposed] President Hamid Karzai, whom they compared to Shah Shujah, the British puppet installed during the first Afghan war. Most preferred Mohammad Najibullah, the last communist president, who attempted to reconcile the nation within an Islamic state, and was butchered by the Taliban in 1996: DVDs of his speeches are being sold on the streets. Things were, they said, better under the Soviets. Kabul was secure, women were employed, the Soviets built factories, roads, schools and hospitals, Russian children played safely in the streets. The Russian soldiers fought bravely on the ground like real warriors, instead of killing women and children from the air. Even the Taliban were not so bad: they were good Muslims, kept order, and respected women in their own way. These myths may not reflect historical reality, but they do measure a deep disillusionment with the ‘coalition’ and its policies.
The policies of the “coalition” were brought to the public in New York Times correspondent Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA. The goal was to “kill Soviet Soldiers,” the CIA station chief in Islamabad declared, making it clear that “the mission was not to liberate Afghanistan.”
His understanding of the policies he was ordered to execute under President Ronald Reagan is fully in accord with the boasts of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski about their decision to support radical Islamist jihadis in 1979 in order to draw the Russians into Afghanistan, and his pleasure in the outcome after hundreds of thousands of Afghans were killed and much of the country wrecked: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”
It was recognized early on by informed observers that the Russian invaders were eager to withdraw without delay. The study of Russian archives by historian David Gibbs resolves any doubts on the matter. But it was much more useful for Washington to issue rousing proclamations about Russia’s terrifying expansionist goals, compelling the U.S., in defense, to greatly expand its own domination of the region, with violence when needed (the Carter Doctrine, a precursor of the Bush Doctrine).
The Russian withdrawal left a relatively popular government in place under Najibullah, with a functioning army that was able to hold its own for several years until the U.S.-backed radical Islamists took over and instituted a reign of terror so extreme that the Taliban were widely welcomed when they invaded, instituting their own harsh regime. They kept on fairly good terms with Washington until 9/11.
Returning to the present, we should indeed be concerned with the fate of women, and others, as the Taliban return to power. For those sincerely concerned to design policies that might benefit them, a little historical memory doesn’t hurt.
The same is true in other respects as well. The Taliban have promised not to harbor terrorists, but how can we believe them, commentators warn, when this promise is coupled with the outrageous claim by their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid that there is “no proof” that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack?
There is one problem with the general ridicule of this shocking statement. What Mujahid actually said was both accurate and very much worth hearing. In his words, “When Osama bin Laden became an issue for the Americans, he was in Afghanistan. Although there was no proof he was involved” in 9/11.
Let’s check. In June 2002, eight months after 9/11, FBI Director Robert Mueller made his most extensive presentation to the national press about the results of what was probably the most intensive investigation in history. In his words, “investigators believe the idea of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon came from al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan,” though the plotting and financing apparently trace to Germany and the United Arab Emirates. “We think the masterminds of it were in Afghanistan, high in the al Qaeda leadership.”
What was only surmised in June 2002 could not have been known eight months earlier when the U.S. invaded. Mujahid’s outrageous comment was accurate. The ridicule is another example of convenient amnesia.
Keeping Mujahid’s accurate statement in mind, along with Mueller’s confirmation of it, we can move towards understanding the Bush Doctrine.
While doing so, we might listen to Afghan voices. One of the most respected was Abdul Haq, the leading figure in the anti-Taliban Afghan resistance and a former leader of the U.S.-backed Mujahideen resistance to the Russian invasion. A few weeks after the U.S. invasion, he had an interview with Asia scholar Anatol Lieven.
Haq bitterly condemned the U.S. invasion, which, he recognized, would kill many Afghans and undermine the efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within. He said that “the US is trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose.”
Haq was not alone in this view. A meeting of 1,000 tribal elders in October 2001 unanimously demanded an end to the bombing, which, they declared, is targeting “innocent people.” They urged that means other than slaughter and destruction be employed to overthrow the hated Taliban regime.
The leading Afghan women’s rights organization, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), issued a declaration on October 11, 2001, strongly opposing the “vast aggression on our country” by the U.S., which will shed the blood of innocent civilians. The declaration called for “eradication of the plague of the Taliban and al-Qaeda” by the “uprising of the Afghan nation,” not by a murderous assault of foreign aggressors.
All public at the time, all ignored as irrelevant, all forgotten. The opinions of Afghans are not our concern when we invade and occupy their country.
The perception of the anti-Taliban Afghan resistance was not far from the stance of President Bush and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Both dismissed Taliban initiatives to send bin Laden for trial abroad despite Washington’s refusal to provide evidence (which it didn’t have). Finally, they refused Taliban offers to surrender. As the president put it, “When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations.” Rumsfeld added, “We don’t negotiate surrenders.” E.g., we’re going to show our muscle and scare everyone in the world.
The imperial pronouncement at the time was that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. The shocking audacity of that proclamation passed almost unnoticed. It was not accompanied by a call to bomb Washington, as it obviously implied. Even putting aside the world-class terrorists in high places, the U.S. harbors and abets retail terrorists who keep to such acts as blowing up Cuban commercial airliners, killing many people, part of the long U.S. terrorist war against Cuba.
Quite apart from that scandal, it is worth stating the unspeakable: The U.S. had no charge against the Taliban. No charge, before 9/11 or ever. Before 9/11, Washington was on fairly good terms with the Taliban. After 9/11, it demanded extradition (without even a pretense of providing required evidence), and when the Taliban agreed, Washington refused the offers: “We don’t negotiate surrenders.” The invasion was not only a violation of international law, as marginal a concern in Washington as the anti-Taliban Afghan resistance, but also had no credible pretext on any grounds.
Furthermore, ample evidence is now available showing that Afghanistan and al-Qaeda were not of much interest to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate. They had their eyes on much bigger game than Afghanistan. Iraq would be the first step, then the entire region. I won’t review the record here. It’s well-documented in Scott Horton’s book, Fool’s Errand.
That’s the Bush Doctrine. Rule the region, rule the world, show our muscle so that the world knows that “What we say goes,” as Bush I [George H.W. Bush] put it.
It’s hardly a new U.S. doctrine. It’s also easy to find precursors in imperial history. Simply consider our predecessor in world control, Britain, a grand master of war crimes, whose wealth and power derived from piracy, slavery and the world’s greatest narco-trafficking enterprise.
And in the last analysis, “Whatever happens, we have got, The Maxim gun, and they have not.” Hilaire Belloc’s rendition of Western civilization. And pretty much Abdul Haq’s insight into the imperial mindset.
Nothing reveals reigning values more clearly than the mode of withdrawal. The Afghan population was scarcely a consideration. The imperial “deciders” do not trouble to ask what people might want in the rural areas of this overwhelmingly rural society where the Taliban live and find their support, perhaps grudging support as the best of bad alternatives. Formerly a Pashtun movement, the “new Taliban” evidently have a much broader base. That was dramatically revealed by the quick collapse of their former enemies, the vicious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, along with Ismail Khan, bringing other ethnic groups within the Taliban network. There are also Afghan peace forces that should not be summarily dismissed. What would the Afghan population want if they had a choice? Could they, perhaps, reach local accommodations if given time before a precipitous withdrawal? Whatever the possibilities might have been, they do not seem to have been considered.
The depth of contempt for Afghans was, predictably, reached by Donald Trump. In his unilateral withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, he did not even bother to consult with the official Afghan government. Worse still, Bush administration foreign policy specialist Kori Schake reports, Trump forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters and relax economic sanctions. He agreed that the Taliban could continue to commit violence against the government we were there to support, against innocent people and against those who’d assisted our efforts to keep Americans safe. All the Taliban had to do was say they would stop targeting U.S. or coalition forces, not permit al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to use Afghan territory to threaten U.S. security and subsequently hold negotiations with the Afghan government.
As usual, what matters is us, this time amplified by Trump’s signature cruelty. The fate of Afghans is of zero concern.
Trump timed the withdrawal for the onset of the summer fighting season, reducing the hope for some kind of preparation. President Joe Biden improved the terms of withdrawal a little, but not enough to prevent the anticipated debacle. Then came the predictable reaction of the increasingly shameless Republican leadership. They were barely able to remove their gushing tributes to Trump’s “historic peace agreement” from their web page in time to denounce Biden and call for his impeachment for pursuing an improved version of Trump’s ignominious betrayal.
Meanwhile, the Afghans are again hung out to dry.
Returning to the original question, the Bush Doctrine may have been formulated more crudely than the usual practice, but it is hardly new. The invasion violated international law (and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution), but Bush’s legal team had determined that such sentimentality was “quaint” and “obsolete,” again breaking little new ground except for brazen defiance. As to “nation building,” one way to measure the commitment to this goal is to ask what portion of the trillions of dollars expended went to the Afghan population, and what portion went to the U.S. military system and its mercenaries (“contractors”) along with the morass of corruption in Kabul and the warlords the U.S. established in power.
At the outset, I referred to 9/11/2001, not just 9/11. There’s a good reason. What we call 9/11 is the second 9/11. The first 9/11 was far more destructive and brutal by any reasonable measure: 9/11/73. To see why, consider per capita equivalents, the right measure. Suppose that on 9/11/2001, 30,000 people had been killed, 500,000 viciously tortured, the government overthrown and a brutal dictatorship installed. That would have been worse than what we call 9/11.
It happened. It wasn’t deplored by the U.S. government, or by private capital, or by the international financial institutions that the U.S. largely controls, or by the leading figures of “libertarianism.” Rather, it was lauded and granted enormous support. The perpetrators, like Henry Kissinger, are highly honored. I suppose bin Laden is lauded among jihadis.
All should recognize that I am referring to Chile, 9/11/1973.
Another topic that might inspire reflection is the notion of “forever wars,” finally put to rest with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. From the perspective of the victims, when did the forever wars begin? For the United States, they began in 1783. With the British yoke removed, the new nation was free to invade “Indian country,” to attack Indigenous nations with campaigns of slaughter, terror, ethnic cleansing, violation of treaties — all on a massive scale, meanwhile picking up half of Mexico, then onto much of the world. A longer view traces our forever wars back to 1492, as historian Walter Hixson argues.
The Bush legal team determined that the UN Charter, which explicitly bars preemptive/preventive wars, actually authorizes them — formalizing what had long been operative doctrine. From the viewpoint of the victims, history looks different from the stance of those with the maxim gun and their descendants.
In March 2003, the U.S. initiated a war against Iraq as part of the neoconservative vision of remaking the Middle East and removing leaders that posed a threat to the interests and “integrity” of the United States. Knowing that the regime of Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, possessed no weapons of mass destruction and subsequently posed no threat to the U.S., why did Bush invade Iraq, which left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and may have cost more than $3 trillion?
9/11 provided the occasion for the invasion of Iraq, which, unlike Afghanistan, is a real prize: a major petro-state right at the heart of the world’s prime oil-producing region. As the twin towers were still smoldering, Rumsfeld was telling his staff that it’s time to “go massive — sweep it all up, things related and not,” including Iraq. Goals quickly became far more expansive. Bush and associates made it quite clear that bin Laden was small potatoes, of little interest (see Horton for many details).
The Bush legal team determined that the UN Charter, which explicitly bars preemptive/preventive wars, actually authorizes them — formalizing what had long been operative doctrine. The official reason for war was the “single question”: Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. When the question received the wrong answer, the reason for aggression instantly switched to “democracy promotion,” a transparent fairy tale swallowed enthusiastically by the educated classes — though some demurred, including 99 percent of Iraqis, according to polls.
Some are now praised for having opposed the war from the start, notably Barack Obama, who criticized it as a strategic blunder. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I don’t recall praise for Nazi generals who regarded Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa as a strategic blunder: They should have knocked out Britain first. A different judgment was rendered by the Nuremberg Tribunal. But the U.S. doesn’t commit crimes, by definition; only blunders.
The regime-change agenda that had defined U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration was apparently behind NATO’s decision to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya in the wake of the “Arab Spring” revolutions in late 2010 and early 2011. But as in the case of Iraq, what were the real reasons for dealing with the leader of an alleged “rogue state” that had long ceased being one?
The Libya intervention was initiated by France, partly in reaction to humanitarian posturing of some French intellectuals, partly I suppose (we don’t have much evidence) as part of France’s effort to sustain its imperial role in Francophone Africa. Britain joined in. Then Obama-Clinton joined, “leading from behind” as some White House official is supposed to have said. As Qaddafi’s forces were converging on Benghazi, there were loud cries of impending genocide, leading to a UN Security Council resolution imposing a no-fly zone and calling for negotiations. That was reasonable in my opinion; there were legitimate concerns. The African Union proposed a ceasefire with negotiations with the Benghazi rebel about reforms. Qaddafi accepted it; the rebels refused.
At that point, the France-Britain-U.S. coalition decided to violate the Security Council resolution they had introduced and to become, in effect, the air force of the rebels. That enabled the rebel forces to advance on ground, finally capturing and sadistically murdering Qaddafi. Hillary Clinton found that quite amusing, and joked with the press that, “We came, We saw, He died.”
The country then collapsed into total chaos, with sharp escalation in killings and other atrocities. It also led to a flow of jihadis and weapons to other parts of Africa, stirring up major disasters there. Intervention extended to Russia and Turkey, and the Arab dictatorships, supporting warring groups. The whole episode has been a catastrophe for Libya and much of West Africa. Clinton is not on record, as far as I know, as to whether this is also amusing.
Libya was a major oil producer. It’s hard to doubt that that was a factor in the various interventions, but lacking internal records, little can be said with confidence.
The debacle in Afghanistan has shown beyond any doubt the failure of U.S. strategy in the war on terror and of the regime-change operations. However, there is something more disturbing than these facts, which is that, after each intervention, the United States leaves behind “black holes” and even betrays those that fought on its side against terrorism. Two interrelated questions: First, do you think that the failed war on terror will produce any new lessons for future U.S. foreign policymakers? And second, does this failure reveal anything about U.S. supremacy in world affairs?
Failure is in the eyes of the beholder. Let’s first recall that Bush II didn’t declare the global war on terror. He re-declared it. It was Reagan and his Secretary of State George Shultz who came into office declaring the global war on terror, a campaign to destroy the “the evil scourge of terrorism,” particularly state-backed international terrorism, a “plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself [in a] return to barbarism in the modern age.”
The global war on terror quickly became a huge terrorist war directed or supported by Washington, concentrating on Central America but extending to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The global war on terror even led to a World Court judgment condemning the Reagan administration for “unlawful use of force” — aka, international terrorism — and ordering the U.S. to pay substantial reparations for its crimes.
The U.S. of course dismissed all of this and stepped up the “unlawful use of force.” That was quite proper, the editors of The New York Times explained. The World Court was a “hostile forum,” as proven by the fact that it condemned the blameless U.S. A few years earlier it had been a model of probity when it sided with the U.S. in a case against Iran.
The U.S. then vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to observe international law, mentioning no one, although it was clear what was intended. I’m not sure whether it was even reported.
But we solemnly declare that states that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. So the invasion of Afghanistan was “right” and “just,” though ill-conceived and too costly. To us.
Bush II didn’t declare the global war on terror. He re-declared it.Was it a failure? For U.S. imperial goals? In some cases, yes. Reagan was the last supporter of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, but was unable to sustain it. In general, though, it extended Washington’s imperial reach.
Bush’s renewal of the global war on terror has not had similar success. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the base for radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorism was largely confined to a corner of Afghanistan. Now it is all over the world. The devastation of much of Central Asia and the Middle East has not enhanced U.S. power.
I doubt that it has much impact on U.S. global supremacy, which remains overwhelming. In the military dimension, the U.S. stands alone. Its military spending eclipses rivals — in 2020, $778 billion as compared to China’s $252 billion and Russia’s $62 billion. The U.S. military is also far more advanced technologically. U.S. security is unrivaled. The alleged threats are at the borders of enemies, which are ringed with nuclear-armed missiles in some of the 800 U.S. military bases around the world (China has one: Djibouti).
Power also has economic dimensions. At the peak of U.S. power after World War II, the U.S. had perhaps 40 percent of global wealth, a preponderance that inevitably declined. But as political economist Sean Starrs has observed, in the world of neoliberal globalization, national accounts are not the only measure of economic power. His research shows that U.S.-based multinationals control a staggering 50 percent of global wealth and are first (sometimes second) in just about every sector.
Another dimension is “soft power.” Here, America has seriously declined, well before Trump’s harsh blows to the country’s reputation. Even under Clinton, leading political scientists recognized that most of the world regarded America as the world’s “prime rogue state” and “the single greatest external threat to their societies” (to quote Samuel Huntington and Robert Jervis, respectively). In the Obama years, international polls found that the U.S. was considered the greatest threat to world peace, with no contender even close.
U.S. leaders can continue to undermine the country, if they choose, but its enormous power and unrivaled advantages make that a hard task, even for the Trump wrecking ball.
A look back at the 9/11 attacks also reveals that the war on terror had numerous consequences on domestic society in the U.S. Can you comment on the impact of the war on terror on American democracy and human rights?
In this regard, the topic has been well enough covered so that not much comment is necessary. Another illustration just appeared in The New York Times Review of the Week, the eloquent testimony by a courageous FBI agent who was so disillusioned by his task of “destroying people” (Muslims) in the war on terror that he decided to leak documents exposing the crimes and to go to prison. That fate is reserved to those who expose state crimes, not the perpetrators, who are respected, like the goofy grandpa, George W. Bush.
There has of course been a serious assault on civil liberties and human rights, in some cases utterly unspeakable, like Guantánamo, where tortured prisoners still languish after many years without charges or because the torture was so hideous that judges refuse to allow them to be brought to trial. It’s by now conceded that “the worst of the worst” (as they were called) were mostly innocent bystanders.
At home, the framework of a surveillance state with utterly illegitimate power has been established. The victims as usual are the most vulnerable, but others might want to reflect on Pastor Niemöller’s famous plea under Nazi rule.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday that it would be extending a moratorium on evictions until July 31. This will be the last time the CDC extends the moratorium, the Biden administration said.
The moratorium was originally scheduled to end at the end of this month on June 30. Over 6 million Americans are behind on rent payments, according to recent Census Bureau data, meaning that many are likely to face the possibility of eviction when the moratorium is lifted. The Biden administration is hoping that the extension will help to stymie a potential crisis, officials said, but emphasized that the postponement will last only “one final month.”
The goal, a senior administration official told reporters, per Politico, is to use “these 30 days to do everything possible to mitigate harmful evictions and prevent a flood of evictions when the moratorium ends.”
The administration also announced several other initiatives on Thursday meant to help mitigate a flood of evictions. Officials issued new guidance for state and local governments to use $47 billion in emergency rental assistance from Congress and the Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta released a letter urging courts to actively explore alternatives to evictions.
Gupta in her letter warned that “eviction filings are expected to overwhelm courts across the country.” However, the federal guidance for governments and courts is not binding, and experts fear evictions will skyrocket despite these words of caution.
A group of House Democrats sent a letter to Joe Biden and CDC director Rochelle Walensky Tuesday asking the president and CDC to “extend and strengthen” the eviction moratorium.
“Without further action, in just eight days, the CDC moratorium will expire, and millions of renters will once again face the threat of eviction,” the letter signed by over 50 Democrats, including members of the progressive “squad,” read. “Evictions take lives and push households deeper into poverty, impacting everything from health outcomes to educational attainment.”
The Democrats also point out in their letter that eviction doesn’t threaten everyone equally. “The eviction crisis is a racial justice issue,” they write, pointing to data that shows that nonwhite households are more likely to report being behind on rent payments than their white counterparts. They did not specify the length of time they wanted the moratorium to be extended.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), who spearheaded the Democrats’ letter, thanked Biden for the extension on Twitter on Thursday night. “Thank you to [Biden] and [Walensky] for heeding our calls to extend the eviction moratorium. This pandemic isn’t over and housing is a human right.”
But housing advocates are skeptical that delaying the lifting of the moratorium for only one month would be effective. “We’re simply going to have a horrific crisis in August instead of July,” Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told Politico. Thirty days, Yentel pointed out, may not be enough time to distribute enough resources to the millions of renters in need.
Indeed, though the Biden administration is saying that this is the last time the moratorium will be extended, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) said on Twitter that it should be extended again. “We have urgent work to do over the next month to secure real rent relief for the millions of people still facing eviction and to further extend and strengthen the moratorium,” she wrote on Thursday evening.
State and local governments have also launched initiatives to help prevent an “eviction cliff.” California officials recently announced that they would be using $5.2 billion from federal pandemic aid to help renters pay off their past-due rent payments. The state’s eviction moratorium was set to expire at the end of the month, however, which likely wouldn’t have been enough time to help many renters secure relief. Additionally, the relief will only help a small portion of renters, pointed out Dean Preston, tenant attorney and progressive district supervisor in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, the eviction crisis overlaps with urgent public health concerns: Princeton’s Eviction Lab recently found that, in cities across the country, the neighborhoods with the most eviction filings are also the neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates, due partially to vaccine equity issues.
“The CDC eviction moratorium is, for many tenants behind on rent, the last remaining protection from the threat of displacement,” wrote the Eviction Lab. “As its expiration nears, few protections stand in the way of a family losing their home, and potentially contracting a life-threatening virus.”
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I am a first-generation American. My Jewish parents fled Germany as the horrors of the Holocaust were unfolding. They left behind family who perished in camps and were killed as they fled from their homes while being chased and shot at by Nazis.
My great-grandfather, grandfather and father had a thriving butcher business in Frankfurt. They lived in the apartment building next to the butcher shop. My father always said he barely realized he was Jewish until Hitler arrived. It was always Deutschland über alles.
My mother’s family were wheat traders in Wetzlar. After the rise of Hitler, my mother fled Germany first so that she could learn the language in her new country and make enough money to bring over her parents and brother. They came to the U.S. without much money and like many, had to build a life from the bottom up.
Once the war was over, Germany gave my father reparations for the loss of his business as well as for the crime of persecution. He received a monthly check until his death at the age of 91. Both of my parents were welcomed back by the German government and told they could get their passports and citizenship returned.
Those born to Holocaust survivors who can prove that their father was forced from his homeland between the years 1933-1945 have the right to become German citizens along with all of their children, grandchildren and all future progeny forever. Last year, my children, grandchildren and I became German citizens, and were given European passports.
As I think about my own family and its history, I wonder why the 750,000 Palestinians forced from their homes and land in 1948 when Israel was founded are not entitled to the same treatment my family received after WWII ended. But the war on Palestinians was never over. Instead, Israel continues to this day its policy of ethnic cleansing, as evidenced by the current expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of East Jerusalem.
B’Tselem, a human rights organization in Israel, and Human Rights Watch have documented and denounced the continuing maltreatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government and the settler movement, including the confiscation of Palestinians’ lands and houses; the restrictions on movement; the limitations on rights of free speech and assembly; the denial of building permits; the denial of many basic civil rights and the terrorizing by Jewish settler extremists backed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Human Rights Watch has concluded that conduct toward the Palestinians amounts to persecution and apartheid, which are crimes against humanity under international law.
It is somewhat ironic that thousands of Jews in Israel are getting reparations and passports from Germany because of expulsion, loss of property and persecution, yet Israel will not allow Palestinians to return to a land from which they were expelled.We recently witnessed the brutal bombing of Gaza, where 2 million Palestinians have been strangled by a 14-year blockade. Using the most sophisticated weaponry made in the United States, the IDF has targeted civilian population centers, hitting 18 hospitals and clinics, apartment buildings and killing scores of children and other innocent bystanders.
I ask myself: How is it possible that the victims of the Holocaust and their progeny can so brutally victimize another people on racial grounds? I ask myself why Palestinians don’t have the same rights to reparations and return afforded to my family after Germany accepted responsibility for their crimes. Shouldn’t Palestinians be entitled to reparations and the right of return? Shouldn’t they have the same rights to self-determination that Israel itself claims?
Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were displaced is well-established in international law. The first source of support is UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 1948, in which the UN General Assembly, “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.”
It is somewhat ironic that thousands of Jews in Israel are getting reparations and passports from Germany because of expulsion, loss of property and persecution, yet Israel will not allow Palestinians to return to a land from which they were expelled.
I simply cannot reconcile these profound contradictions that obviously preclude any possibility for peace in the region.
I am deeply ashamed and angry that these acts are committed in the name of the Jewish people and that my government provides the money and arms to support these Israeli crimes.
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Rejecting Big Pharma’s assertion that lower medication costs would stifle innovation and competition, and affirming efforts by House Democrats to change U.S. law so that Medicare can seek lower prescription drug prices, over 80% of Americans surveyed in a poll published Thursday said they support empowering the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. “Americans aren’t buying the claim that attempts to rein in drug prices will stifle innovation and devastate the pharmaceutical industry.”—Tim Lash, West Health
The West Health/Gallup survey (pdf) of more than 3,700 U.S. adults found that 97% of respondents who identified as Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans agreed with the statement that “government needs to play a major role in negotiating prescription drug prices with Medicare in order to control costs.”
Survey participants were also asked whether “allowing government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare will hurt pharmaceutical competition and innovation.” Only 19% of overall respondents concurred, including just 3% of Democrats, 20% of Independents, and 39% of Republicans.
Fully 90% of all survey respondents also agreed with the statement that “drug pricing needs to undergo major reform in order to control costs.”
The survey’s findings come as a broad coalition of over 150 House Democrats led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is demanding that Medicare expansion—including a provision that would allow the federal program to negotiate prescription drug prices—is included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package.
The negotiations which other nations conduct with drugmakers for lower prices are currently outlawed in the United States, which pays an average of 256% more for brand-name medications than 32 other countries, according to a recent RAND Corporation report.
While campaigning for president, Biden promised to repeal what he called “the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare.” The lawmakers calling for Medicare expansion cited estimates showing that such a move would save the federal government $450 billion over the next decade.
For too long, brand-name drug companies have used anticompetitive strategies to extend their monopolies, forcing Americans to pay more for their medications and discouraging innovation in the pharma industry.
Chair @RepMaloney has had enough. WATCH: pic.twitter.com/7zKLFnqho6
— Oversight Committee (@OversightDems) April 29, 2021
On broader healthcare issues, 71% of those polled in the new survey said the government should play a major or moderate role “in making sure that all Americans have access to healthcare coverage,” with 47% of all participants saying that role should be major.
For this question, respondents were broken down into groups based on income, not party affiliation. At 53%, support for government playing a major role in delivering healthcare access was strongest among people earning over $120,000 annually, while 50% of those earning less than $48,000 and 43% of respondents earning between $48,000 and $120,000 concurred.
“There is little question that substantial public support exists for more government action when it comes to addressing drug costs,” Gallup senior researcher Dan Witters said in a statement. “And while there are differences across the political spectrum, even among Republicans, sentiment for public action is substantial.”
Tim Lash, chief strategy officer for the nonprofit, nonpartisan West Health group, added that “Americans aren’t buying the claim that attempts to rein in drug prices will stifle innovation and devastate the pharmaceutical industry.”
“These misleading arguments are meant to preserve profits rather than protect patients,” said Lash. “The time has come to finally enable Medicare negotiation. Americans are becoming increasing restless for it to happen even if the pharmaceutical companies are not.”
Americans want the government to play a major role in reining in skyrocketing drug costs. Nearly all Democrats (97%) & the majority of Republicans (61%) support empowering Medicare to negotiate. More on the results of our latest survey with @Gallup here. https://t.co/VHlEtasuCx
— West Health (@WestHealth) June 3, 2021
As Common Dreams has reported, pharmaceutical industry consolidation—with mergers and acquisitions often executed to boost stock prices and acquire highly profitable blockbuster drugs—harms both competition and consumers.
Belying Big Pharma claims, a January report from the office of Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) found that as U.S. drug prices have soared in recent decades, pharmaceutical companies’ “investment in research and development have failed to match this same pace.”
“Instead, they’ve dedicated more and more of their funds to enrich shareholders or to purchase other companies to eliminate competition,” the report said, noting that “in 2018, the year that [former President] Donald Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy went into effect, 12 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies spent more money on stock buybacks than on research and development.”
The report also underscored that large pharmaceutical companies are generally not responsible for most major new drug breakthroughs, and that innovation is largely driven by small firms reliant upon taxpayer-funded academic research. These smaller companies are then often purchased by pharma giants, which avoid the risks inherent in product development while reaping the rewards of owning the latest blockbuster drug.
“Instead of producing lifesaving drugs for diseases with few or no cures, large pharmaceutical companies often focus on small, incremental changes to existing drugs in order to kill off generic threats to their government-granted monopoly patents,” the report stated.
After a federal judge rejected a $2 billion class-action proposal from Bayer to avert future lawsuits alleging its popular Roundup herbicide causes cancer, the pharmaceutical and chemical giant announced Thursday that it would consider ending sales of the glyphosate-based weedkiller for residential use in the United States.”Removing glyphosate from residential use would be a step in the right direction.”—Ken Cook, EWG
In a statement, Bayer said that it “will immediately engage with partners to discuss the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market” in a move aimed at “mitigating future litigation risk.”
“None of these discussions will affect the availability of glyphosate-based products in markets for professional and agricultural users,” the Germany-based company added.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected Bayer’s $2 billion plan to settle future lawsuits as “clearly unreasonable,” saying that while the proposal would “accomplish a lot for Monsanto”—the Roundup maker acquired by Bayer for nearly $63 billion in 2018—it “would accomplish far less for… Roundup users.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling against Monsanto that found the chemical maker liable for the cancer afflicting users of Roundup, the world’s bestselling weedkiller. Thousands of Roundup users allege the herbicide gave them non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
While Bayer claims Roundup is safe, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in 2015 that glyphosate “is probably carcinogenic to humans.”
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Digital rights and anti-domestic violence groups are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation to protect survivors from stalking and harassment, but advocates are facing a powerful lobbying group for the wireless industry, which aims to weaken the bill.As The Guardian reported Thursday, the Safe Connections Act, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in January, aims to ensure companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint allow survivors to remove themselves from family cell phone plans and end their wireless contracts in order to stop their abusers from accessing information about them.
Companies would be required to let a survivor out of their plan and contract within 48 hours after the person requests to be released and provides police reports or an affidavit describing the abuse. Survivors would be permitted to keep their phone number and to be released from their contract even if they owed back payments on the account.
Cell phone companies would also be required to remove domestic abuse hotlines from their call and text records, to protect their privacy should their abusers see the records.
As The Guardian reported, the wireless industry lobbying group CTIA is working to change the language of the bill, making corporations’ compliance voluntary and protecting them from civil litigation should they fail to comply.
CTIA said in January when Schatz introduced the bill that it looked forward “to continuing to work with these legislators on the shared objective of protecting survivors of domestic violence.”
Survivors have often been forced to stay on their family plans due to the high cost of ending a contract early and the disruption a changed phone number would cause, according to the Clinic to End Tech Abuse (CETA), Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other groups which urged lawmakers to pass the bill in a letter (pdf) last year.
An inability to easily leave a family phone plan can put a survivor in danger, the advocates said.
“Family phone plans can become tools of stalking and other abuse,” the groups wrote to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which unanimously passed the legislation last week. “Several plans offer ‘parental’ controls or apps that an abuser can use to monitor where a victim’s or child’s phone is—and a history of where the phone has been during the past seven days—as well as what numbers the victim or child has been calling or texting. This information can help the abuser follow, harass, and threaten the victim or other family members. It can also discourage the victim from reaching out to others for help.”
The Safe Connections Act would provide survivors with “a pathway to safety,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence told The Guardian.
“The survivor is able to separate their phone line and make plans maybe to separate from the abuser,” Elaina Roberts, the group’s technology safety legal manager, said. “They can reach out to family and friends, or a direct service provider without being monitored or without that being known, so they can plan for their safety.”
On social media on Thursday, proponents of the Safe Connections Act shared an open letter calling on their representatives in Congress to support the legislation and fight CTIA’s efforts to weaken the legislation.
“Ignore the seemingly heartless greed of CTIA and wireless companies who try to ignore their involvement in abusive domestic relationships,” the letter reads. “Since these companies won’t do the right thing—because they seem to care more about money than human life—please do what’s right and help protect vulnerable Americans.”Read More
Forty leaders from the world’s top greenhouse gas-polluting nations where hosted by the Biden administration on Thursday for an all-virtual summit to discuss the global climate emergency and the pathways—including individual emission reduction goals—that governments must take to stave off the worst impacts of global warming and runaway destruction of the planet’s natural systems.Just ahead of the gathering, President Joe Biden announced new U.S. commitments to meeting the goals set forth in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and said that the nation will now aim to reduce annual carbon output by 52% compared to 2005 levels.
“Our clean energy plan will create millions of good-paying union jobs, ensure our economic competitiveness, and improve the health and security of communities across America,” Biden said in a declaration released ahead of the summit. “By making those investments and putting millions of Americans to work, the United States will be able to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.”
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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s release of a partial Fiscal Year 2022 federal budget seems to maintain the defense-spending status quo, despite hopes that it would mark a significant decrease, says Council for a Livable World, the nation’s oldest advocacy organization focused on sound national security policy including reducing nuclear threats. The administration, and Congress, must do more to cut wasteful defense spending and set this country down a more sustainable strategic path. The new request reportedly includes $715 billion in Pentagon spending, which does not include defense-related spending from the Department of Energy and miscellaneous smaller sources.
In response, Council for a Livable World Executive Director, former nine-term Congressman John Tierney, released the following statement:
“While President Biden’s military budget request is less than former President Donald Trump planned to ask for, it should still be further reduced during congressional budget consideration. The fact is, we cannot allow a three-quarters-of-a-trillion-dollar Pentagon budget to be considered normal in any way. Much work remains to divest ourselves of legacy weapons systems and strategies intended to fight the Cold War. We must reduce wasteful spending to meet the moment we find ourselves in now.
The United States continues to spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined and our current Pentagon budget rivals defense spending at the height of the Vietnam War.
At the same time, the United States remains bogged down in small wars around the world with no clear metrics for success while maintaining about 800 military bases around the world.
But in a year when more Americans have died from a virus than in all of the wars we have fought in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is time to realize that throwing more money at the Pentagon does not make us safer. Congress should work with the administration to build a new national security strategy that will prepare us for the realities we face now and tomorrow, not the bloated military fantasies of yesterday.”Read More