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Vietnam a Half Century after the Gulf of Tonkin August 5, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, History, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: The entirely “unnecessary” Vietnam War cost nearly 60,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands wounded and emotionally and physically destroyed.  But this doesn’t begin to approximate the cost in lives and physical destruction to the Vietnamese people.  There were more than a million deaths, a large percentage civilian.

Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were the commanders in chief who were directly responsible for the slaughter, but Eisenhower and Kennedy served as presidents during the the early years of American political and military intervention.  Of course there were many more, including the 98 senators who fell for the Bay of Tonkin hoax.  My generation will well remember such warmongers as Secretary of Defence (i.e. WAR) McNamara and General Westmoreland (Waste more land).  And then there is always Napalm (Dow Chemical) and Agent Orange (Dow and Monsanto).  And let’s not forget the vultures of the war profiteering arms industry.

The above named mass murderers will never be indicted, except perhaps by “history,” for what that’s worth.

I am reminded of Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov’s musing about his crime of murdering a despised old money lender versus the hundreds of thousands killed in Napoleon’s wars.  A single mother convicted of shop lifting to feed her children will suffer more at the hands of the criminal justice system than than the astute politicians, military and corporate elites mentioned above.  I don’t know why, but this somehow offends my sense of justice.

And why does all this seem not just a matter of history, but just as relevant today?

 

oped.com, August 4, 2014

napalm

HOI AN, VIETNAM. “I believe that history will record that we have made a great mistake,” Sen. Wayne Morse (D, OR) declared fifty years ago this week. He was referring to congressional passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the decisive step into one of the greatest tragedies in American history. That resolution would be used for nearly a decade by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon as authorization to conduct war in Vietnam.

A look at Vietnam today makes plain just how mistaken and tragic the American venture into war there was. First, though, a brief summary of how the decisive turn into that disastrous mistake a half century ago occurred.A BLANK CHECK FOR WAR

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Lyndon Johnson signing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution
(image by
Wiki Commons)

Nearly unanimous (of the 516 members of Congress who voted, only Morse and Sen. Ernest Gruening of Alaska opposed) passage of the resolution was secured on August 7, 1964, on the basis of the claim that three days earlier North Vietnamese boats had launched an unprovoked attack on two American ships. Believing that the argument that he was “soft” on communism and the fight in Vietnam was the only thing that Republican nominee Barry M. Goldwater had as a potentially effective argument against him in the November election, President Johnson seized upon the apparent attack to get what he had wanted for months: a Congressional resolution giving him a blank check to conduct whatever military operations in Vietnam he deemed necessary and that would pass “quickly, overwhelmingly, and without too much discussion of its implications.”AN ATTACK THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN

As Johnson was moving to launch retaliatory airstrikes against North Vietnam on August 4, reports reached the Pentagon from the scene off the coast of North Vietnam that there was serious doubt that an attack had occurred and from Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Jr., at Pacific Command in Hawaii, suggesting that “a ‘complete evaluation’ be undertaken before any further action.” There is no indication that Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara informed the President of these communications during the crucial hours when the airstrikes were being set in motion.A 2000 National Security Council historical study reached an unambiguous conclusion about the alleged North Vietnamese attack on August 4: “No attack happened that night.” But an event that didn’t happen led to a resolution that served as the concept sketch for the script of a major tragedy.

Fifty years later, the magnitude of that mistake is unmistakable in Vietnam.

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Poster in front of bar in Hue, Vietnam, May 2014
(image by Robert McElvaine)

VIETNAM AND CHINAAmong the reasons given for undertaking the war, the most prominent were to block the expansion of Chinese influence into Southeast Asia and to oppose communism.

What was needed to accomplish the first objective was a strong, unified Vietnam. The Vietnamese have hated China for two thousand years, and having a communist government would not alter that basic fact in any way. Ho Chi Minh was by far the best bet to achieve this American goal.Less than four years after Hanoi’s reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the Communist regime was engaged in a brief but bloody border war with its putative comrades from China. And currently tensions between the two countries over islands in the South China Sea (Vietnam rejects that name and calls it the Eastern Sea) are high. Vietnam and the United States find themselves virtual allies in opposing Chinese expansionism.

MORE SOCIAL DARWINIST THAN SOCIALIST

As for the other main war aim, how communist is Vietnam in 2014?There is a store in Hanoi called “Shop Aholic.” There must be steel cables restraining the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh so it doesn’t spin in its glass coffin in the nearby mausoleum.

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Versace store, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
(image by Robert McElvaine)

On a walk in Saigon–its current official name notwithstanding, it is not now and never has been Ho Chi Minh’s city–from Notre Dame down Dong Khoi (the famous Rue Catinat in the days of the French Empire, when it was considered Saigon’s Champs Élysees) to the Hotel Continental, the Opera House, and beyond, one passes all the familiar ration outlets of a communist country: Cartier, Versace, Dior, Piaget, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Rolex . . . . “Dong Khoi” means “Total Uprising Street.” The total uprising taking place along it and throughout Vietnam is an explosion of capitalism.

When one visits the still more-or-less-communist country of Cuba, among the many indelible impressions is the nearly complete absence of trucks on the highways. They have no products to move around. Has anyone ever seen “Hecho en Cuba” on anything? They make, in a word, nada. Superimpose the roads in Vietnam on those in Cuba and the result would be a chiaroscuro painting. Vietnam’s highways are clogged with trucks moving goods around, reflecting the entirely market-based economy in this nominally socialist country.If they look at many aspects of Vietnam today, conservative Republicans in the United States might see the paradise of which they dream. This “socialist” nation has a paddle-your-own-canoe-or-sink economy. There is no welfare, no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, no national healthcare, no old-age pensions for most people, no free education beyond middle school ….

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Shrine to Ho Chi Minh, Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
(image by Robert McElvaine)

Ho Chi Minh’s countenance appears everywhere in contemporary Vietnam, benevolently smiling upon policies that he strongly opposed. It is much like the situation with many “Christians” in the United States who do the opposite of what Jesus taught. The farther self-identified followers get from the teachings of their supposed leader, the louder they proclaim his name. Uncle Ho has been deified–to the point of being portrayed like the Buddha on a lotus blossom. But when it comes to actual economic practice in Vietnam today, the altars at which worship takes place are those of William Graham Sumner and Ayn Rand.

But outside the economic realm the role of government is large. Vietnam remains a one-party political system in which corruption is rife and basic freedoms are restricted. The Vietnamese receive none of the benefits of positive government, but bear all the burdens of negative government. There are neither political nor economic checks and balances.A proposal was made in 2013 to change the country’s official name from the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” back to what Ho had named it in 1945: the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam.” That would constitute a lateral move–from one wholly inaccurate name to another, equally inaccurate, one. By no stretch of the imagination is contemporary Vietnam either socialist or democratic.

If they want to adopt a name that reflects reality, they should call the nation the “Social-Darwinist Dictatorship of Vietnam.”A WAR FOR NOTHING

American policymakers in 1964 sought a Vietnam that was capitalist, would block China, and with which they could have good relations.The United States fought a war at terrible cost to achieve those ends and lost. Today, though, Vietnam is staunchly capitalist, adamantly opposed to China, and friendly to the United States. Had the war never been fought, it is highly likely that all of those ends would have been achieved at a much earlier date.

What, then, was this “b*tch of a war,” as Lyndon Johnson would later call it, to which the President proposed marriage a half century ago this week, with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as the engagement ring, good for?Absolutely nothing.

Two Faux Democracies Threaten Life On Earth July 26, 2013

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Roger’s note: Somehow I missed the article by the respected scholar, Amitai Etzioni,  reproduced here below, when it was published in the Huffington Post on July 2.  If it is true that the Pentagon in fact has in place a plan for what would be in effect a preemptive nuclear attack on China, then it seems to me that that Etzioni’s “whistle-blowing” overshadows even that of Edward Snowden.  How can it be that this explosive (pun intended) item is being ignored by the Congress and the mainstream media?  Am I misunderstanding something here?
During the Korean War (excuse me, the Korean Police Action), the commander of US forces, General Douglas MacArthur, continually undermined the strategy of then President Harry S. Truman, including advocating the use of nuclear weapons against China and bringing the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan into the conflict.  Eventually, Truman fired World War II hero MacArthur.  Since then, the effective control of military decisions by civilian authority has continued to decline and reached a low point under Barack Obama.  
OpEdNews Op Eds 7/25/2013 at 10:15:48
By (about the author)
israel-cost-us-jpg_12495_20130725-842
Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question : “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event. Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized  out-of-control   US military endangering Americans and the rest of the world.

Etzioni is correct that this is a momentous decision made by a neoconized military. China is obviously aware that Washington is preparing for war with China. If the Yale Journal knows it, China knows it. If the Chinese government is realistic, the government is aware that Washington is planning a pre-emptive nuclear attack against China. No other kind of war makes any sense from Washington’s standpoint. The “superpower” was never able to occupy Baghdad, and after 11 years of war has been defeated in Afghanistan by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban. It would be curtains for Washington to get into a conventional war with China.

When China was a primitive third world country, it fought the US military to a stalemate in Korea. Today China has the world’s second largest economy and is rapidly overtaking the failing US economy destroyed by jobs offshoring, bankster fraud, and corporate and congressional treason.

The Pentagon’s war plan for China is called “AirSea Battle.” The plan describes itself as “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”

Yes, what does that mean? It means many billions of dollars of more profits for the military/security complex while the 99 percent are ground under the boot. It is also clear that this nonsensical jargon cannot defeat a Chinese army. But this kind of saber-rattling can lead to war, and if the Washington morons get a war going, the only way Washington can prevail is with nuclear weapons. The radiation, of course, will kill Americans as well.

Nuclear war is on Washington’s agenda. The rise of the Neocon Nazis has negated the nuclear disarmament agreements that Reagan and Gorbachev made. The extraordinary, mainly truthful 2012 book, The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, describes the post-Reagan breakout of preemptive nuclear attack as Washington’s first option.

During the Cold War nuclear weapons had a defensive purpose. The purpose was to prevent nuclear war by the US and USSR each having sufficient retaliatory power to ensure “mutually assured destruction.” MAD, as it was known, meant that nuclear weapons had no offensive advantage for either side.

The Soviet collapse and China’s focus on its economy instead of its military have resulted in Washington’s advantage in nuclear weaponry that, according to two US Dr. Strangeglove characters, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, gives Washington first-strike capability. Lieber and Press write that the “precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces,” have created a situation in which neither Russia nor China could retaliate to Washington’s first strike.

The Pentagon’s “AirSea Battle” and Lieber and Press’ article in Foreign Affairs have informed China and Russia that Washington is contemplating pre-emptive nuclear attack on both countries. To ensure Russia’s inability to retaliate, Washington is placing anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s borders in violation of the US-USSR agreement.

Because the American press is a corrupt government propaganda ministry, the American people have no idea that neoconized Washington is planning nuclear war. Americans are no more aware of this than they are of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent statement, reported only in Germany, that the United States no longer has a functioning democracy.

The possibility that the United States would initiate nuclear war was given reality 11 years ago when President George W. Bush, at the urging of Dick Cheney and the neocons that dominated his regime, signed off on the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.

This neocon document, signed off on by America’s most moronic president, resulted in consternation and condemnation from the rest of the world and launched a new arms race. Russian President Putin immediately announced that Russia would spend all necessary sums to maintain Russia’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The Chinese displayed their prowess by knocking a satellite out of space with a missile. The mayor of Hiroshima, recipient city of a vast American war crime, stated:

“The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called ‘useable nuclear weapons,’ appears to worship nuclear weapons as God.”

Polls from all over the world consistently show that Israel and the US are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace and to life on earth. Yet, these two utterly lawless governments prance around pretending to be the “world’s greatest democracies.” Neither government accepts any accountability whatsoever to international law, to human rights, to the Geneva Conventions, or to their own statutory law. The US and Israel are rogue governments, throwbacks to the Hitler and Stalin era.

The post World War II wars originate in Washington and Israel. No other country has imperial expansionary ambitions. The Chinese government has not seized Taiwan, which China could do at will. The Russian government has not seized former constituent parts of Russia, such as Georgia, which, provoked by Washington to launch an attack, was instantly overwhelmed by the Russian Army. Putin could have hung Washington’s Georgian puppet and reincorporated Georgia into Russia, where it resided for several centuries and where many believe it belongs.

For the past 68 years, most military aggression can be sourced to the US and Israel. Yet, these two originators of wars pretend to be the victims of aggression. It is Israel that has a nuclear arsenal that is illegal, unacknowledged, and unaccountable. It is Washington that has drafted a war plan based on nuclear first strike. The rest of the world is correct to view these two rogue unaccountable governments as direct threats to life on earth.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

Preparing to Go to War With China

If you have never heard of the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept, you are in the good company of most Americans. Since 2009 the Pentagon has been fleshing out this operational concept, which prepares the United States, among other contingencies, for an all-out war with China. You may say, “Wait a moment; surely the military has a contingency plan for everything, even for an alien invasion” — and you would be correct. Air-Sea Battle, however, is moving beyond the contingency phase to implementation, including force restructuring and significant budget allocations, changes that are difficult to reverse once they are set in motion.

The challenges that led the Pentagon to develop Air-Sea Battle are indeed formidable. Military leaders point out that potential adversaries of the U.S. have acquired increasingly sophisticated “anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities,” which is Pentagon-speak for weapons and technologies that threaten the United States’ freedom to enter, maneuver within, and defend the global commons “of the air, sea, cyberspace, and space.” For instance, anti-ship missiles. In response, ASB calls for greater cooperation among the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army for the execution of “networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”

Officials emphasize that ASB is not directed at any one nation. However, no country has invested nearly as much in A2/AD as China and few international environments are more contested — than the waters of the Asia-Pacific. Hence, while in the past the U.S. could send in a couple aircraft carriers as a credible display of force, as it did in 1996 when the Chinese conducted a series of missile tests and military exercises in the Strait of Taiwan, in the not-so-distant future Chinese anti-ship missiles could deny U.S. access to the region. Thus, it is not surprising that one senior Navy official overseeing modernization efforts stated that, “Air-Sea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition.”

Although much of the ASB remains classified, in May of this year the Navy released an unclassified summary that illuminates how the concept is beginning to shape the military’s plans and acquisitions. In 2011, the Pentagon set up the Air-Sea Battle Office to coordinate investments, organize war games, and incorporate the ASB concept in training and education across all four Services. A Congressional Research Service report notes that “the Air-Sea Battle concept has prompted Navy officials to make significant shifts in the service’s FY2014-FY2018 budget plan, including new investments in ASW, electronic attack and electronic warfare, cyber warfare, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle].”

Critics of Air-Sea Battle warn that it is inherently escalatory and could even precipitate a nuclear war. Not only will the U.S.’s development of ASB likely accelerate China’s expansion of its nuclear, cyber, and space weapons programs, but according to Joshua Rovner of the U.S. Naval War College, the early and deep inland strikes on enemy territory envisioned by the concept could be mistakenly perceived by the Chinese as preemptive attempts to take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into “a terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma.” Hence, some call for “merely” imposing a blockade on China along the first island chain (which stretches from Japan to Taiwan and through the Philippines) in order to defeat an aggressive China without risking a nuclear war.

Although Air-Sea Battle is often criticized as being a plan without a strategy, it actually reflects a major strategic shift, namely, to defeat China rather than accommodate its rise as a regional power. By seeking to guarantee the United States’ unfettered access to China’s backyard — by a preemptive mainland strike if necessary — Air-Sea Battle goes way beyond the containment strategy employed against the USSR and its allies during the Cold War. It merely sought to keep the USSR from expanding any further. Not to use military might to cow and if need be defeat the other side.

The Pentagon is doing its job. It identified a new threat and is preparing to face it in the ways it knows how. In doing so, it is propelled by a strong preference within the military — after more than a decade of being bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan — to fight conventional battles rather than dirty ‘shadow’ wars against terrorists and insurgents. And, one cannot help but assume, is egged on by defense contractors that stand to gain by producing all the new hardware.

The rub, as demonstrated by a study just published by yours truly in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, is that it seems the White House has not approved ASB — because it has not yet reviewed it or developed a coherent China policy. It is not at all clear that civilian officials have weighed the Pentagon’s assessment of the threat posed by China against input from other sources, such as the State Department, Treasury, and the intelligence community. Such a thorough review is called for, before the U.S. slips into a major military buildup without first testing the thesis that China is much too preoccupied with major domestic challenges of its own to become a global power or to consider confronting the United States.

One thing is clear though: If you are a Chinese leader and read that the U.S. military is debating whether to hit the mainland of your country or “only” deprive China of the energy and raw materials it desperately needs by imposing a blockade, you are surely going to pursue a military buildup of your own. We hence face the danger that two major powers, each best served by focusing on problems at home, will again be caught up in preparations for war that may well end up in an all out military conflagration. Surely the ASB plan deserves public debate and a careful review on the highest level.

A panel discussion of the ASB will take place at The George Washington University on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 from 4 to 6 pm. For more information, please contact icps@gwu.edu.

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at The George Washington University and the author of Hot Spots: American Foreign Policy in a Post-Human-Rights World.

Statement: Canada-China Investment Agreement October 26, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis.
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Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
House of Commons October 24, 2012

Mr. Speaker, here is your 60 second briefing on the Canada-China investment treaty, the most significant treaty of its kind since NAFTA.

I requested a technical briefing from the Minister of International Trade on September 27. I got it one hour ago, so I can update folks.

It confirms that Chinese state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.

It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.

No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty. I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this House gets.

Canada-China FIPPA agreement may be unconstitutional, treaty law expert says October 25, 2012

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The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act(FIPPA), Canada’s biggest foreign trade treaty since NAFTA, will come into effect at the end of October and bind both the federal and provincial governments of Canada to its clauses for the next 31 years until 2043. International investment law expert and Canadian citizen Gus Van Harten says provinces have a strong case for challenging the treaty on constitutional grounds.

Beth Hong
Posted: Oct 17th, 2012
Vancouver Observer

 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, in the Great Hall of The People in Beijing, China. PMO photo by Jason Ransom.

With two weeks remaining before the controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA) is ratified, international investment law and treaty expert Gus Van Harten says BC has the option of delaying the treaty’s ratification through the courts.

“The province can call for an injunction in the BC Superior Court, requesting the courts to order the federal government not to ratify the treaty until the constitutional issues are resolved,” Van Harten told The Vancouver Observer.

The other option, Van Harten added, was an upswelling of public opinion against the treaty that will pressure elected officials in Parliament as well as provincial legislatures.

According to international law, a foreign investment protection agreement (FIPA) treaty binds the state regardless of changes in federal or provincial governments.

“It’s a done deal between the two countries—by signing a treaty, the Harper government can bind future governments and bind the Canadian electorate for 31 years,” Van Harten said.

Van Harten—who has a PhD in international law from the London School of Economics, and teaches law at Osgoode Law School—is one of five internationally recognized experts in Canada on international investment and treaty law and how they work on a practical basis. He said that he is an outlier for speaking out, based on his experience.

“The difference between me and many others is that a lot of academics work in the system as lawyers or arbitrators or experts, and they’re much more cautious about saying things that are critical of the system,” he said.

He noted that FIPPA is a good news for lawyers, who stand to profit off potentially multi-million dollar lawsuits.

“The lawyers who work in this field will like that—their business is to sue,” he said. “It’s not good for Canadian taxpayers.”

Any province with Chinese investors in natural assets over the next 31 years has right to challenge constitutionality of FIPPA

BC isn’t the only province that has a strong case in courts against the federal government over FIPPA because they face potentially serious fiscal risk if Chinese companies invest in major assets.
“It could be Ontario down the road, it could be the ring of fire—which is a strip of mineral rich land in Northern Ontario. In the north, there could be development of mines in northern Canada,” Van Harten said. “Same with Saskatchewan, with the mineral right there.”
“In Alberta, the Alberta economy is going to have a significant portion of Chinese ownership in its resource sector, and if Alberta was concerned for a long time about not having control over its resources vis-à-vis the federal government, how does it feel not having control over its resources vis-à-vis Chinese investors?”

The only provincial governments that shouldn’t be concerned about FIPPA are the ones which won’t expect to be getting any significant Chinese ownership of assets, Van Harten said.

“I don’t think any responsible government can assume that that’s going to be the case. In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31-year commitments are finalized on October 31 In fact, they should be assuming the opposite and asking the questions now before the 31 years kicks into effect on October 31.”

Van Harten’s concerns “speculative”: BC Environment Minister Terry Lake

Van Harten also sent letters to premiers of all across Canada, including BC Premier Christy Clark. He did this to help the provinces understand the scope of the fiscal risks this treaty will have on them and taxpayers.

Clark’s Press Secretary Michael Morton confirmed that Clark’s correspondence branch received the letter. Clark did not respond to questions from The Vancouver Observer about her reaction to any of the concerns it raised.

BC Minister of Environment Terry Lake responded to Van Harten’s letter to the Premier and concerns about FIPPA in a written statement, calling the letter “speculative”:

“We are intervenors in the hearing and examining  issues that are critical to our five conditions that must be met on all pipeline projects in BC. At the same time we are working with our federal counterparts on [Northern Gateway Proposal] related issues where BC’s interests are at stake.”

“As this is ongoing work and international treaties are the purview of the federal government I am not going to comment on speculative comments by Mr. Van Harten.”

No response from feds about concerns over FIPPA

FIPPA is the biggest foreign trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). FIPPA is an agreement with provisions to protect Chinese investors in Canada, and vice-versa. However, it also contains many clauses that have alarmed Van Harten and opposition MPs such as Green Party MP Elizabeth May. May requested an emergency debate on the treaty at the beginning of October to the House Speaker. Her request was denied.

Van Harten wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast last week outlining his concerns as a legal expert and Canadian citizen, but has yet to get any confirmation on whether his letter has been recieved.

A spokesperson for Minister Fast responded to questions from The Vancouver Observer  about Van Harten’s letter and concerns with the following written statement:

“With regards to investor-state dispute settlement, it is Canada’s long-standing policy to permit public access to such proceedings. Canada’s FIPA with China is no different. As we do with all other investor-to-state disputes, this FIPA allows Canada to make all documents submitted to an arbitral tribunal available to the public (subject to the redaction of confidential information).

It is also important to note that under this treaty, both Canada and China have the right to regulate in the public interest. Chinese investors in Canada must obey the laws and regulations of Canada just as any Canadian investor must.

We’ve been clear that Canada wants to continue to expand its relationship with China, but we want to see it expand in a way that produces clear benefits for both sides. By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, and enhancing predictability of a market’s policy framework, this FIPA will allow Canadians to invest in China with greater confidence.”

Harper government rushing FIPPA, not allowing enough debate

However, Van Harten disagrees on with the Minister on various points.

“Why it is being concluded now in a form that is not advantageous to Canada is perhaps because the Harper government wants to pass it quickly while it has a majority in Parliament, and has been prepared to give away things that it would not have given away presumably as a minority government because it would not have been able to pass it through Parliament”

He added that the bulk of the responsibility for FIPPA lies at the majority Conservative government.

“To be honest, the provinces didn’t start this. It’s the federal government which has taken this reckless step,” he said.

NDP MP Don Davies proposed a motion in the Standing Committee on International Trade to debate, study, and recommend amendments to FIPPA on October 2.

After the majority Conservative committee voted for a confidential, in-camera meeting, the motion was removed from the Committee’s agenda.

International Trade committee member and Liberal MP Wayne Easter decried the killing of the motion, saying it was hindering Parliament from doing due diligence.

“We should be doing what Parliament is supposed to do and hold a consultation so that we know just exactly what is happening under the investment agreement, and so that we can look at the implications,” Easter said.

Two weeks won’t be enough time to fully debate and study the implications for all provinces, hence Van Harten’s recommendation for provinces to request a delay, and then the courts for an injunction based on constitutional grounds.

“I just want to emphasize to you the actor who is to blame at the moment is the federal government,” he said.

“The provinces would be to blame if they sat on their hands despite the implications of this treaty.”

Hillary Clinton’s Incendiary Global Tour July 20, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, Imperialism.
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Crossposted at wsws.org

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary 13-day tour of Asia and the Middle East represented an incendiary mix of provocation and hypocrisy and signals a new eruption of American militarism on a global scale.

Clinton’s itinerary included stops in nine nations: France, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel. It focused on two interrelated US foreign policy objectives. The first is the elaboration of Washington’s counterrevolutionary strategy for asserting hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The second is to promote the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, which is aimed at containing Chinese economic, political and military influence through a combination of US military encirclement and the inflaming of regional tensions.

In the course of her travels, the secretary of state proclaimed that “support for democracy and human rights” was the “heart” of American strategy.

Clinton began her trip on July 5 with a conference in France of the “Friends of Syria” and consultations with the French government on operations by the US and its allies to foment and arm a sectarian civil war in Syria and prepare for direct military intervention aimed at regime-change–all in the name of “democracy and human rights.” At the same time, she issued a dark threat that both Russia and China would be made to “pay a price” for failing to bow to American demands for intervention.

 She concluded the journey on July 17 after final stops in Egypt and Israel. In the first country she paid homage to the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces junta and its chief, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, reaffirming Washington’s reliance on the Egyptian military as the bulwark of counterrevolution against the democratic and social aspirations of the country’s multi-millioned working class.

Officially, Clinton claimed that she was promoting a “democratic transition,” a phrase mouthed by the Obama administration since its failed attempts a year-and-a-half ago to prop up its long-time ally, the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

In Israel, she made new war threats against Iran, insisting that Washington and Tel Aviv are “on the same page” and that the US is prepared to employ “all elements of American power” against Iran’s nuclear program.

The second leg of Clinton’s tour took her to Afghanistan, where, together with the US-backed puppet president, Hamid Karzai, she announced Washington’s designation of the country as a “major non-NATO ally,” placing it on a diplomatic par with South Korea and laying the foundations for its indefinite occupation by tens of thousands of US troops.

Clinton also played the hypocritical human rights card in Asia, using a speech in Mongolia to promote the oligarchical regime there as a beacon of democracy and prosperity, in supposed contrast to one-party rule in China. That the masses of Mongolia live in poverty, while a thin layer at the top has enriched itself off of a mining boom, is of no more concern to Clinton than the endemic social inequality in the US itself.

The New York Times pointed to the real conditions of the Mongolian people in an article Monday, referring to masses living on the outskirts of the capital “in crowded Yurt slums some locals refer to as Mongolia’s favelas. Unemployment is rampant there; electricity and drinkable water are not. The less fortunate take shelter in the sewers, where they huddle beside hot-water pipes when the temperature plunges to 40 below.”

The secretary of state’s claim that Washington’s alliances are determined by “universal principles” of democracy are belied by its close ties to the torture regime in Uzbekistan, a key link in its supply route for the Afghanistan war, and the dictatorial government in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer of uranium, not to mention the long historical record of US backing for military dictatorships from Indonesia to South Korea.

Clinton’s tour also included a visit to Laos, the first by a US secretary of state in 57 years. Over the course of a decade, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, American imperialism turned Laos into the most bombed country per capita on the face of the earth, dropping 0.84 tons of explosives for every inhabitant of a nation with which the US was not at war. In addition to the 30,000 Laotians killed in this firestorm, another 20,000 have died since from unexploded munitions.

Clinton told embassy staffers in Vientiane that with her visit, “The United States is deepening our engagement in the Asia Pacific. We’re practicing what I call forward-deployed diplomacy.” In other words, through its “back to Asia” strategy, US imperialism is seeking to turn the scene of its last criminal war in the region into a forward operating base for the next one.

In Cambodia, Clinton participated in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference, which Washington’s provocative interventions in the region helped bring to a stalemate. For the first time, the participants failed to agree on a final joint statement because of sharp divisions over maritime territorial disputes pitting China against the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.

Since 2010, the US has invoked its status as a “Pacific power” to claim the South China Sea, with its strategic trading routes and vast potential energy reserves, as an American lake, asserting its “national interest” in the area.

Clinton’s visit to the region is being followed by that of two top Pentagon officials. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, the new chief of the US Pacific Command, flew to the Philippines, where he met with top political and military officials and reminisced about his days as a junior officer at the giant Subic Bay naval base, clearly implying that a new US military presence is in the offing to further an anti-Chinese alliance.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter began a 10-day Asian tour Tuesday for what a Pentagon spokesman described as “detailed discussions on what the US military’s approach to the Asia-Pacific will mean in practice.”

The Pentagon’s buildup in the region and the provocations staged by Secretary of State Clinton are both expressions of US imperialism’s strategy of offsetting its economic decline and containing the rise of a potential strategic rival in China through the threat and use of military might.

Driven by the intensifying crisis of US and world capitalism, this reckless strategy carries with it the danger of a new global conflagration, threatening the lives of hundreds of millions.

Obama drops bombshell: Announces trade embargo against China and Saudi Arabia April 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Democracy, Humor, Latin America.
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In one of the most bizarre moments ever witnessed at a presidential news conference, President Obama was taken aback when confronted by the  former doyenne and rare iconoclast amongst White House correspondents Helen Thomas.  The latter, who had lost her credentials for anti-Israel comments, apparently was able to enter the presidential briefing disguised as New York times columnist David Brooks.  Just returned from his highly successful Cartagena Summit, where only a handful of his Secret Service protectors got caught underpaying Colombian hookers (in violation of the principles of the proposed US Colombia free trade agreement and the War on Sin), the President re-iterated his opposition to Cuba’s participation in the OAS  (where only 33 Latin American presidents stood up against the US and Canada, in other words, a technical minority).

 PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Cuba, unlike the other countries that are participating, has not yet moved to democracy, has not yet observed basic human rights. I am hopeful that a transition begins to take place inside of Cuba. And I assure you that I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.

It was at this point that Thomas qua Brooks went where no White House correspondent had gone before and asked the President how Cuba was any different on human rights violations and democracy than major US trading partners China and Saudi Arabia.  President Obama, a legal scholar and a man known for transparency, honesty and loose change you can believe in, responded with: “Oh my God, you’re right.  I hadn’t noticed.”

The President then surprised everyone by postponing the rest of the conference so that he could confer with his economic advisors to consider this new information.

Several hours later the President returned to announce trade sanctions against the undemocratic and totalitarian regimes of China and Saudi Arabia.  In his statement Obama belittled the loss of Saudi oil, saying that it only represents 11% of US imports and that could be made up by draining more oil from our loyal Canadian neighbors, where the Harper Conservative government (a government with an absolute majority in parliament despite only 40% of the popular vote — a singular strength of Canadian democracy) was the only support against the Latin American ingrates ganging up against North American largesse in Cartagena.  The President added that he had his eyes on all that Canadian fresh water as well.

The President admitted, however,  that the Chinese embargo might present more of a problem for Americans in that amongst China’s major exports to the United States included apparel, footwear and toys and sports equipment.  “As with our successful interventions to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan”, the President noted, “the American people have shown themselves to be more than willing to make sacrifices in the name of democracy.”  The President added that he was particularly concerned about the loss of toys for American children, the vast majority of which come from totalitarian, undemocratic, Communist China (thanks to that notorious pinko Richard Nixon).  He therefore announced that his government would be buying up all the toy outlets from the nation’s number one toy retailer and renaming it Democracy “R” Us.  Children from every nook and corner of America will be invited to learn about democracy in sessions where they will debate and vote on resolutions authored by lobbyists from the military and major corporations including arms manufacturers, big Pharma, Dick Cheney’s oil buddies,  the prison-industrial complex, major HMOs and other paragons of American democracy.

 When asked for a comment, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stated that he was too busy trying to find a way to convince Evangelical Christians that Mormonism is not a cult and that his grandparents probably were not polygamists to be able to make a statement at the moment.  He added, however, that we could count on hearing at least two conflicting opinions from him in the near future.

 

 

 

Look Out, Obama Seems to Be Planning for a Lot More War May 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
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Jack Smith, Asia Times, May 8, 2010

Judging by the Barack Obama administration’s reports, pronouncements and actions
 in recent months point to even greater war-making across the planet.

May 8, 2010  |  
 

There’s more war in America’s future – a great deal more, judging by the Barack Obama administration’s reports, pronouncements and actions in recent months.

These documents and deeds include the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Ballistic Missile Defense Report, the nuclear security summit in New York and the May 3-28 United Nations nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, as well as the continuing wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the 2011 Pentagon war budget request.

The United States government presides as a military colossus of unrivalled dimension, but the QDR, which was published in February, suggests Washington views America as being constantly under the threat of attack from a multitude of fearsome forces bent on its destruction. As such, trillions more dollars must be invested in present and future wars – ostensibly to make safe the besieged homeland.

The NPR says the long-range US goal is a “nuclear-free” world, but despite token reductions in its arsenal of such weapons, the Pentagon is strengthening its nuclear force and bolstering it with a devastating “conventional deterrent” intended to strike any target in the world within one hour. In addition this document, published in April, retains “hair-trigger” nuclear launch readiness, refuses to declare its nuclear force is for deterrence only (suggesting offensive use) and for the first time authorizes a nuclear attack, if necessary, on a non-nuclear state (Iran).

Meanwhile, Obama is vigorously expanding the George W Bush administration’s wars, and enhancing and deploying America’s unparalleled military power.

The Obama administration’s one positive achievement in terms of militarism and war was the April 9 signing in Prague of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia that reduces deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads each. It was a step forward, but all agree it was extremely modest, and it does not even faintly diminish the danger of nuclear war.

The QDR is a 128-page Defense Department report mandated by congress to be compiled every four years to put forward a 20-year projection of US military planning. A 20-member civilian panel, selected by the Pentagon and congress, analyzes the document and suggests changes in order to provide an “independent” perspective. Eleven of the members, including the panel’s co-chairmen – former defense secretary William Perry and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley – are employed by the defense industry.

Although the Pentagon is working on preparations for a possible World War III and beyond, the new report is largely focused on the relatively near future and only generalizes about the longer term. Of the QDR’s many priorities three stand out.

The first priority is to “prevail in today’s wars” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and wherever else Washington’s post-9/11 military intrusions penetrate in coming years. Introducing the report February 1, Bush-Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued this significant statement: “Success in wars to come will depend on success in these wars in progress.” The “wars to come” were not identified. Further, the QDR states that military victory in Iraq and Afghanistanis “is only the first step toward achieving our strategic objectives”.

Second, while in the past the US concentrated on the ability to fight two big wars simultaneously, the QDR suggests that’s not enough. Now, the Obama administration posits the “need for a robust force capable of protecting US interests against a multiplicity of threats, including two capable nation-state aggressors.”

Now it’s two-plus wars – the plus being the obligation to “conduct large-scale counter-insurgency, stability and counter-terrorism operations in a wide range of environments”, mainly in small, poor countries like Afghanistan. Other “plus” targets include “non-state actors” such as al-Qaeda, “failed states” such as Somali, and medium-size but well-defended states that do not bend the knee to Uncle Sam, such as Iran or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and some day perhaps Venezuela.
 Third, it’s fairly obvious from the QDR, though not acknowledged, that the Obama government believes China and Russia are the two possible “nation-state aggressors” against which Washington must prepare to “defend” itself. Neither Beijing nor Moscow has taken any action to justify the Pentagon’s assumption that they will ever be suicidal enough to attack the far more powerful United States.

After all, the US, with 4.54% of the world’s population, invests more on war and war preparations than the rest of the world combined. Obama’s 2010 Pentagon budget is US$680 billion, but the real total is double that when all Washington’s national security expenditures in other departmental budgets are also included, such as the cost of nuclear weapons, the 16 intelligence agencies, Homeland Security and interest on war debts, among other programs.

Annual war-related expenditures are well over $1 trillion. In calling for a discretionary freeze on government programs in January’s state of the union address, Obama specifically exempted Pentagon/national security expenditures from the freeze. Obama is a big war spender. His $708 billion Pentagon allotment for fiscal 2011 (not counting a pending $33 billion Congress will approve for the Afghan “surge”) exceeds Bush’s highest budget of $651 billion for fiscal 2009.

At present, US military power permeates the entire world. As the QDR notes: “The United States is a global power with global responsibilities. Including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 400,000 US military personnel are forward-stationed or rotationally deployed around the world.”

The Pentagon presides over 1,000 overseas military bases (including those in the war zones), great fleets in every ocean, a globe-spanning air force,  military satellites in space and nuclear missiles on hair trigger alert pre-targeted on “enemy” or potential “enemy” cities and military facilities. A reading of the QDR shows none of this will change except for upgrading, enlarging (the Pentagon just added six new bases in Colombia) and adding new systems such as Prompt Global Strike, an important new offensive weapon system, which we shall discuss below.

The phrase “full spectrum military dominance” – an expression concocted by the neo-conservatives in the 1990s that was adopted by the Bush administration to define its aggressive military strategy – was cleverly not included in the 2010 QDR, but retaining and augmenting dominance remains the Pentagon’s prime preoccupation.

The QDR is peppered with expressions such as “America’s interests and role in the world require armed forces with unmatched capabilities” and calls for “the continued dominance of America’s Armed Forces in large-scale force-on-force warfare”. Gates went further in his February 1 press conference: “The United States needs a broad portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of conflicts.” Obama bragged recently that he commanded “the finest military in the history of the world”.

Evidently, the Pentagon is planning to engage in numerous future wars interrupted by brief periods of peace while preparing for the next war. Given that the only entity expressing an interest in attacking the United States is al-Qaeda – a non-government paramilitary organization of extreme religious fanatics with about a thousand reliable active members around the world – it is obvious that America’s unprecedented military might is actually intended for another purpose.

In our view that “other purpose” is geopolitical – to strengthen even further the Pentagon’s military machine to assure that the United States retains its position as the dominant global hegemon at a time of acute indebtedness, the severe erosion of its manufacturing base, near gridlock in domestic politics, and the swift rise to global prominence of several other nations and blocs.

The QDR touches on this with admirable delicacy: “The distribution of global political, economic and military power is shifting and becoming more diffuse. The rise of China, the world’s most populous country, and India, the world’s largest democracy, will continue to reshape the international system. While the United States will remain the most powerful actor, it must increasingly cooperate with key allies and partners to build and sustain peace and security. Whether and how rising powers fully integrate into the global system will be among this century’s defining questions, and are thus central to America’s interests.”

At the moment, the QDR indicates Washington is worried about foreign “anti-access” strategies that limit its “power projection capabilities” in various parts of the world. What this means is that certain countries such as China and Russia are developing sophisticated new weapons that match those of the US, thus “impeding” the deployment of American forces to wherever the Pentagon desires. For instance:

    China is developing and fielding large numbers of advanced medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, new attack submarines equipped with advanced weapons, increasingly capable long-range air defense systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft and counter-space systems. China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope and ultimate aims of its military modernization programs, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions.

To counter this trend in China and elsewhere, the Pentagon is planning, at a huge and unannounced cost, the following enhancements: “Expand future long-range strike capabilities; Exploit advantages in subsurface operations; Increase the resiliency of US forward posture and base infrastructure; Assure access to space and the use of space assets; Enhance the robustness of key ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities; Defeat enemy sensors and engagement systems; and Enhance the presence and responsiveness of US forces abroad.”

In addition, the US not only targets China with nuclear missiles and bombs, it is surrounding the country (and Russia as well, of course) with anti-ballistic missiles. The purpose is plain: In case the US finds it “necessary” to launch ballistic missiles toward China, the ABMs will be able to destroy its limited retaliatory capacity.

According to an article in the February 22 issue of China Daily, the country’s English-language newspaper: “Washington appears determined to surround China with US-built anti-missile systems, military scholars have observed … Air force colonel Dai Xu, a renowned military strategist, wrote in an article released this month that ‘China is in a crescent-shaped ring of encirclement. The ring begins in Japan, stretches through nations in the South China Sea to India, and ends in Afghanistan’.”

Compared to the Bush administration’s 2006 QDR, there has been a conscious effort to tone down the anti-China rhetoric in the current document. But it is entirely clear that China is number one in the QDR’s references to “potentially hostile nation states”.

According to the February 18 Defense News, a publication that serves the military-industrial complex, “Analysts say the QDR attempts to address the threat posed by China without further enraging Beijing. ‘If you look at the list of further enhancements to US forces and capabilities … those are primarily capabilities needed for defeating China, not Iran, North Korea or Hezbollah,’ said Roger Cliff, a China military specialist at Rand. ‘So even though not a lot of time is spent naming China … analysis of the China threat is nonetheless driving a lot of the modernization programs described in the QDR’.”

Incidentally, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, this year’s Chinese defense budget, for a country four times larger than the United States, is $78 billion, compared to the $664 billion for the Pentagon (without all the national security extras harbored in other department budgets). China possesses 100-200 nuclear warheads compared to America’s 9,326 (when both deployed and stored weapons are included). China is contemplating the construction of an aircraft carrier; the US Navy floats 11 of them. China has no military bases abroad.

In our view, China appears to be constructing weapons for defense, not offense against the US – and its foreign policy is based on refusing to be pushed around by Washington while doing everything possible to avoid a serious confrontation.

Russia as well is treated better in the new QDR than in 2006, but it is included with China in most cases. Despite Moscow’s huge nuclear deterrent and abundant oil and gas supplies, it’s only “potential enemy” number two in terms of the big powers. Washington feels more threatened by Beijing. This is largely because of China’s size, rapid development, fairly successful state-guided capitalist economy directed by the Communist Party, and the fact that it is on the road to becoming the world’s economic leader, surpassing the US in 20 to 40 years.

It seems fairly obvious, but hardly mentioned publicly, that this is an extremely dangerous situation. China does not seek to dominate the world, nor will it allow itself to be dominated. Beijing supports the concept of a multipolar world order, with a number of countries and blocs playing roles. At issue, perhaps, is who will be first among equals.

Washington prefers the situation that has existed these 20 years after the implosion of the Soviet Union and much of the socialist world left the United States as the remaining military superpower and boss of the expanded capitalist bloc. During this time Washington has functioned as the unipolar world hegemon and doesn’t want to relinquish the title.

This is all changing now as other countries rise, led by China, and the US appears to be in gradual decline. How the transition to multi-polarity is handled over the next couple of decades may determine whether or not a disastrous war will be avoided.

Jack A Smith is editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter in New York State and the former editor of the Guardian Newsweekly (US). He may be reached at jacdon@earthlink.net

Up, Up and Away: The West’s Hysterical Reaction to North Korea April 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, North/South Korea.
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Posted on Apr 17, 2009, www.truthdig.com








AP photo / Ahn Young-joon

South Koreans watch a TV news program on the launch of a North Korean missile.


By Scott Ritter


Six minutes before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, on Jan. 23, a 173-foot-tall, two-stage rocket lifted off from Northeast Asia. Capable of carrying a giant 33,000-pound payload, the rocket’s liquid-fuel engine, supplemented by two solid-fuel strap-on booster rockets, generated nearly half a million pounds of thrust before giving way to the second stage, likewise powered by a liquid-fuel engine. After reaching a height of nearly 430 miles, the rocket released into orbit a 3,850-pound satellite, along with seven smaller probes. Other than the small community of scientists interested in the data expected to be collected from the “Ibuki” Greenhouse Gases Observatory Satellite (GOSAT), the rocket’s main payload, very few people around the world took notice of the launch. The United Nations Security Council did not meet in an emergency session to denounce the launch, nor did it craft a package of punitive economic sanctions in response. 


The reason? The rocket in question, the H-2A, was launched by Japan, at its Tanegashima Space Launch Facility. Deemed an exclusively civilian program, the H-2A has been launched 15 times since its inaugural mission on Aug. 29, 2001. Four of these launches have been in support of exclusively military missions, delivering spy satellites into orbit over North Korea. Although capable of delivering a modern nuclear warhead to intercontinental ranges, the H-2A is seen as a “non-threatening” system since its liquid-fueled engines require a lengthy fueling process prior to launching, precluding any quick-launch capability deemed essential for a military application.







In contrast, on April 5, at 11:30 in the morning, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket called “Unha,” or “Milky Way,” which it claimed was carrying a single small communications satellite weighing a few hundred pounds. Like the H-2A, the “Unha,” better known in the West as the Taepodong-2, is liquid-fueled, requiring weeks of preliminary preparation before launch. Although North Korea declared the vehicle to be intended for launching a satellite, the launch was condemned even before it occurred as “dangerous” and “provocative,” unlike Japan’s similar efforts.


The Taepodong-2 launch was the second attempt by the North Koreans to get this particular design airborne. In 2006, the first effort ended in failure when the rocket exploded some 40 seconds after liftoff. The second launch, by all accounts (except North Korea’s, which announced that its satellite was successfully orbiting the Earth, broadcasting patriotic music), was likewise a failure. The first stage, based on a Chinese design derived from the CSS-2 missile, seemed to function as intended, given the fact that it splashed down in the Sea of Japan in the area expected. However, the second stage, together with the smaller solid-fuel third stage designed to boost the satellite into orbit, fell several hundred miles short of its anticipated impact area, indicating a failure of the second stage to perform properly and, ultimately, launch the satellite. Western hysteria, which labeled the North Korean rocket a direct threat to the western United States, prompting calls for the missile to be shot down, proved unfounded.


In October 2006, in response to North Korea’s announcement that it had conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon, the Security Council of the United Nations passed Resolution 1718. This resolution, passed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, condemned the North Korean nuclear weapon test and called for the imposition of economic sanctions until North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was dismantled and its nuclear program as a whole reintegrated into the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. It also singled out North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, demanding that Pyongyang “not conduct any further … launch of a ballistic missile” and “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching” and “abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” 


The April 5 launch was widely condemned by the United States and others (including Japan, which assumed a leading role in framing the North Korean test as “destabilizing” and “dangerous”). President Barack Obama characterized the North Korean launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions and pushed for the council to punish Pyongyang. However, not everyone shared the sentiments of the United States and Japan. Both Russia and China questioned whether the launch was in fact a violation of Resolution 1718, noting that North Korea had every right to launch satellites. The best the United States and Japan could get from the U.N. Security Council was a statement issued by the council president condemning the launch as a “contravention” of Security Council Resolution 1718 and demanding that North Korea “comply fully” with its obligations under the resolution. The statement also demanded that North Korea not shoot off any more rockets or missiles.


Thus it appears that the United Nations Security Council, and not North Korea, is acting in a manner inconsistent with international law. On March 5, 2009, North Korea notified Russia that it was joining the 1966 Outer Space Treaty. Russia is one of three depository states for that treaty (the other two being the United States and the United Kingdom), and North Korea’s announcement made the commitment binding. At the same time, North Korea informed the U.N. secretary-general that it was joining the 1974 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched Into Outer Space. The Outer Space Treaty proclaims “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind,” and that “outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States.” North Korea’s joining the 1974 convention, while not mandatory, put it in compliance with the established practices of other nations having space launch programs, including Iran, which signed the treaty back in 1967, and which on Feb. 2, 2008, successfully launched a satellite on board its two-stage Safir-2 (“Ambassador”) vehicle. While the United States and others strongly criticized the Iranian action, Russia noted that Iran had not violated international law. The same holds true of the North Korean launch.


A major problem confronting President Obama and others who fear that North Korean and Iranian launches are merely a cover for the development of technologies useful for military ballistic missile programs is that, unlike in the nuclear field, where the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) seeks to control nuclear weapon technologies and activities within a framework of binding international law, there is no corresponding treaty vehicle concerning ballistic missiles. In 1991, the U.N. Security Council did impose restrictions on ballistic missile technology for Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, but this was a case-specific action which, in defining its mandate, had to turn not to an existing body of binding international law-based definitions, but rather to a voluntary arrangement known as the Missile Technology Control Regime [MTCR], brought into being in 1987. Today the MTCR consists of 34 members, all of which have agreed to abide by a regime that controls the availability of missile-related technology to nonmember states. But the MTCR does not carry with it the force of law, and has become politicized over the years through the inconsistent application of its mandate to the point that it is viewed by many nonsignatory nations as sustaining the military advantage of the member nations.


While both North Korea and Iran have come under strong international criticism and sanctions for their respective nuclear and missile activities, it should be noted that neither nation has acted in a manner which violates international law. North Korea withdrew from the NPT prior to testing its nuclear weapon, and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program operates with full transparency and in keeping with its obligations under the NPT. As signatories to the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, both nations are legally permitted to pursue space launch activity, and the MTCR does not ban ballistic missile development, but rather merely prevents signatory nations from providing such technology to nonsignatory nations. But the lack of international outrage and demands for sanctions against nations such as Israel, Pakistan and India (all of which possess nuclear weapons programs operating outside the NPT, as well as military ballistic missile programs designed to deliver these nuclear weapons) undermines the legitimacy of the current attention on North Korea and Iran. 


On the day North Korea launched its “Unha” vehicle, President Obama delivered a speech in Prague, the Czech Republic, which was hastily redrafted to take the North Korean action into account. “North Korea broke the rules,” Obama said. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” These bold statements were made at the same time the president was calling for a global abolition of nuclear weapons and a strengthened NPT as “a basis for cooperation,” one which would require “more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections” and deliver “real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.” The president outlined a valid (if vague) course of action concerning nuclear weapons, but having linked nuclear weapons with ballistic missile delivery vehicles, he remained conspicuously mute on how he envisioned containing and controlling that threat. 


Expansion of the MTCR is not a viable option, although in its most recent plenary session the MTCR underscored the importance of the regime working closely with the United Nations to follow through on measures put in place under Security Council Resolution 1540, passed in 2004 under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Those measures require all states to “establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons and means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials, and adopt legislative measures in that respect.” The resolution specifically said that none of its obligations should be interpreted “so as to conflict with or alter the rights and obligations of State parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or alter the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).” This reflects the reality that there is established, binding international agreement on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. There is no such agreement on ballistic missiles.


This is the missing link in Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world. It will be difficult enough to convince entrenched domestic special interests, both economic and political, that we would be safer without nuclear weapons. It will be impossible to sell such a program internationally unless it is coupled with a similar undertaking involving the very missiles and related technology the MTCR seeks to restrict. Such a restriction cannot be limited to those nations which do not currently possess such technology, but rather must be binding on all nations. While the world was focused on the launch of the North Korean missile, almost unmentioned was the testing of an SS-25 intercontinental missile by Russia on April 10. This missile, designed and equipped to deliver a single 500-kiloton nuclear warhead, flew 6,000 miles before hitting its designated target area (the warhead used was a dummy). And what about February’s test launch of a U.S. Navy D-5 ballistic missile from a Trident submarine? This missile flew some 4,000 miles and was equipped with multiple warheads. There was hardly any mention of the test of a U.S. Minuteman III missile in July 2006, made six days after the U.S. orchestrated Security Council condemnation of North Korea’s failed launch of a Taepodong-2 space launch vehicle. India, Pakistan and Israel have all conducted recent tests of their respective nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenals. If the world is going to be serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons, then it must also address the issue of eliminating those delivery vehicles which provide the most viable vector for nuclear attack—ballistic missiles.


Combining the goals and intent of the MTCR with the 1966 Outer Space Treaty would be a good place to start. Banning ballistic missiles yet maintaining space launch capability are not mutually exclusive objectives. The technologies might be similar, but the employment methodologies are not. Military ballistic missiles are deployed in secrecy and rapidly prepared for launch. Space launch vehicles are operated in full transparency, on declared schedules with announced objectives. If the list of technologies currently controlled by the MTCR was expanded to include all technologies associated with missile launch activity, and access to such technologies made conditional on their use in declared, carefully monitored space launchings controlled by a binding international treaty, it would be possible to rid the world of the scourge of global nuclear attack by not only removing the nuclear weapons but also the most effective means of their delivery. Obama and others who criticize North Korea and Iran would do well to reflect on such a possibility the next time they embark on the ineffective and hypocritical path of assailing those who simply seek to acquire what we already have—whether it be nuclear weapons, nuclear technology, ballistic missiles or space launch capability.







Scott Ritter was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and a U.S. Marine intelligence officer. He is author of “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and the forthcoming “On Dangerous Ground: Following the Path of America’s Failed Arms Control Policy,” also published by Nation Books. 

Why I’ll Get Arrested To Stop the Burning of Coal February 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Uncategorized.
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On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben will join demonstrators who plan to march on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he’s ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.

by bill mckibben, www.e360.edu.yale, February 9, 2009

It may seem odd timing that many of us are heading to the nation’s capital early next month for a major act of civil disobedience at a coal-fired power plant, the first big protest of its kind against global warming in this country.

After all, Barack Obama’s in power. He’s appointed scientific advisers who actually believe in… science, and he’s done more in a few weeks to deal with climate change than all the presidents of the last 20 years combined. Stalwarts like John Kerry, Henry Waxman, and Ed Markey are chairing the relevant congressional committees. The auto companies, humbled, are promising to build rational vehicles if only we give them some cash. What’s to protest? Why not just give the good guys a break?

If you think about it a little longer, though, you realize this is just the moment to up the ante. For one thing, it would have done no good in the past: you think Dick Cheney was going to pay attention?

More importantly, we need a powerful and active movement not to force the administration and the Democrats in Congress to do something they don’t want to, but to give them the political space they need to act on their convictions. Barack Obama was a community organizer — he understands that major change only comes when it’s demanded, when there’s some force noisy enough to drown out the eternal hum of business as usual, of vested interest, of inertia.

Consider what has to happen if we’re going to deal with global warming in a real way. NASA climate scientist James Hansen — who has announced he plans to join us and get arrested for trespassing in the action we’re planning for March 2 — has demonstrated two things in recent papers. One, that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” And two, that the world as a whole must stop burning coal by 2030 — and the developed world well before that — if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number.

That should give you some sense of what Obama’s up against. Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down — or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere — will be incredibly hard. Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money — the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.

And if you think it’s tough for us, imagine the Chinese. They’ve been opening a coal-burning power plant a week. You want to tell them to start shutting them down when that coal-fired power represents the easiest way to pull people out of poverty across Asia?

The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It’s bad when you mine it, it’s bad for the city where you burn it, and it’s bad for the climate.

Happily, there’s no place that makes that point much more easily than the power plant Congress owns not far from the U.S. Capitol building. It’s antiquated (built today, it wouldn’t meet the standards of the Clean Air Act). It’s filthy — one study estimates that it and the other coal-fired power plants ringing the District of Columbia cause the deaths of at least 515 people a year. It’s among the largest point sources of CO2 in the capital. It helps support the mining industry that is scalping the summits of neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. Oh, and it would be easy enough to fix. In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely.

Not only that, but it’s owned by Congress. They don’t need to ask any utility executives. They could just have a vote and do it — as easy as you deciding to put a new, clean furnace in your basement. It would even stimulate the local economy.

All of which means it’s the perfect target. Not because shutting it down would do much, except for the people who live right nearby. But becase it’s a way to get conversation started.  When civil disobedience works, it’s because it demonstrates some willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for some larger end — a way to say, “Coal is bad enough that I’m willing to get arrested.” Which is not the biggest deal on earth, but if you’re going to be asking the Chinese, say, to start turning off their coal-fired plants, you can probably keep a straighter face if you’ve made at least a mild sacrifice yourself.

There are dangers in this kind of strategy too. It could turn people off, make them think that global warming protesters are crazy hippies harkening back to the ’60s. I don’t mind hippies in the slightest, but when the writer Wendell Berry and I sent out the original invitation to this action, we asked that those who wanted to be arrested wear their dress clothes. And not just because it’s serious business — but also in hopes of discouraging the hardcore anarchists and troublemakers attracted to such events, sort of in the way that convenience stores play classical music to keep folks from loitering outside.

The other danger is that it might convince activists that this is the most important work to do, the main tool in the toolbox. That’s almost certainly not true, which is why it’s appropriate that Powershift, the huge gathering of young people the same weekend in D.C., will focus on lobbying on Capitol Hill that Monday morning of the protest. Lobbying first, sitting-in second. And third, and most important of all, the suddenly swelling movement toward symbolic action next fall on a global basis. 350.org, the campaign I helped found, is looking for new ways to make a point, with a global day of action on Oct. 24 that will link people up from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef to… Your Town Here.

A little Facebook, a little Twitter, and a little sitting down in the street where the police don’t want you. We’ve got to see what works!

POSTED ON 19 Feb 2009 IN Climate North America 

Activists ‘shocked’ at Clinton stance on China rights February 21, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.

Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.

“But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

“The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues,” he said.

“But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights in China,” he said.

Students for a Free Tibet said Clinton’s remarks sent the wrong signal to China at a sensitive time.

“The US government cannot afford to let Beijing set the agenda,” said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of the New York-based advocacy group.

China has been pouring troops into the Himalayan territory ahead of next month’s 50th anniversary of the uprising that sent Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into exile in India.

“Leaders really need to step up and pressure China. It’s often easy to wonder whether pressure makes a difference. It may not make a difference in one day or one month, but it would be visible after some years,” Dorjee said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had sent a letter to Clinton before her maiden Asia visit urging her to raise human rights concerns with Chinese leaders.

Before she left, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said human rights would be “an important issue” for Clinton and that she would “raise the issue when appropriate.”

China has greeted President Barack Obama’s administration nervously, believing he would press Beijing harder on human rights and trade issues than former president George W. Bush.

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