Wolf Killings are Based on the Most Cynical of Premises January 18, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada.
Tags: animal protectiion, brigitte bardot, Canada, conservation, norway, roger hollander, RUSSI, russia, wildlife, wolf extermination, wolf hunt, wolf killing, wolves
add a comment
Governments in Russia, Canada and Scandinavia claim they need to protect lesser species and habitats – while continuing their smash and grab raid on natural resources
A wolf hunter in Hasselforsreviret, Sweden. (Photo: Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple of weeks ago, the former actress warned that if two circus elephants thought to be carrying tuberculosis are killed as a result of a ruling by a French court, she will follow Gérard Depardieu by applying for a Russian passport:
“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants … then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery”.
As a general principle, I think anyone who threatens to move to another country if they don’t get their way should be obliged to do so. This, for example, would rid the United Kingdom of some of its greediest and most demanding bankers who, despite their promises, are still here. And Tracey Emin.
But if Bardot does move to Russia, which I reckon is about as likely as Vladimir Putin being elected to the board of Amnesty International, she’ll find that France’s record on the treatment and protection of animals, while often brutal, is almost exemplary by comparison to her adopted country’s. Take for example the decree on Tuesday by the president of the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia) in Siberia.
There are 3,500 wolves in Sakha, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the republic is the size of India. President Yegor Borisov wants to reduce the population to 500 through an intensive three-month hunt, supported by a state of emergency, bounties for every wolf shot and a prize of 1m roubles for the hunters who kill the most.
This “emergency” massacre is necessary, he claims, because wolves are killing too many domestic animals. Last year, apparently, they incurred 5m roubles’ (£103,500) worth of losses – considerably less than the likely cost of the wolf hunt. Would it not make more sense to use the money to compensate the farmers? Would it not make more sense to protect the wolves’ natural prey: animals such as hares which are currently being overhunted by people, driving the wolves to look elsewhere for food?
In November, when I wrote about plans to exterminate wolves in Norway, some of those who supported the killings wrote to me to explain that there are plenty of wolves in Russia, so why bother protecting them in Scandinavia? Doubtless the Russian supporters of Borisov’s bloodbath will respond that there are plenty of wolves left in Canada, so why bother protecting them in Russia?
Well they too are likely to be disappointed, as similar massacres are being planned there, on the most cynical of premises.
In Alberta, the province systematically corrupted and brutalised by the oil curse, and whose polluted politics are now corrupting public life throughout Canada, the government plans to carry out a mass killing of wolves by shooting them from helicopters and poisoning them with strychnine.
The reason, ostensibly, is to protect the woodland caribou, a subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus caribou), whose numbers have been diminishing rapidly. This, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, is because wolves have been killing them.
So what is this Alberta Caribou Committee? As you might expect, it represents all the usual environmental organisations, such as, er, PetroCanada, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Petroleum, TransCanada Pipelines, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the pulp company Daishowa Marubeni.
Between them they have decided – and apparently convinced both the provincial and federal governments – that the problem afflicting the province’s caribou is not the fragmentation of their habitat by seismic lines, pipelines, roads, oil platforms, timber cutting and the transformation of pristine forest into wasteland by tar sands operations, but the natural predator with which the species has lived for thousands of years.
Never mind that analysis of wolves’ feces show that they eat very few caribou, as they prefer to hunt deer. Never mind that the woodland caribou is highly susceptible to disturbance, and that all the evidence points to the destruction of their habitat as the major factor causing their decline. Something other than the smash and grab exploitation now raging across Saudi Alberta must be to blame. And what better scapegoat could there be than the animal demonised for centuries on both sides of the Atlantic?
Wolf killing is the excuse the federal government needs to remove protection from all but 5% of pristine woodland caribou habitat. As Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association points out “The plan gives the appearance of doing something, but the details read ‘business as usual’ for Alberta oil sands, oil and gas and forestry.” Killing wolves suggests that the caribou are being protected, even while they are being driven to extinction by scarcely regulated industry. Already, hundreds of wolves have been shot and poisoned: now the government intends to intensify this effort.
Something similar is happening in British Columbia. In November a wolf-killing competition, sponsored among others by the Peace River Rod and Gun Club, was announced. It will take place across the winter, and offers cash prizes for the hunters who kill the biggest and smallest wolves. The wolves are driven to exhaustion by snowmobiles, then shot.
Like Alberta’s, the provincial government of British Columbia plans to relax the regulations governing the killing of wolves and to wipe them out in some parts of the province. Again, the excuse is to protect caribou; which again are threatened primarily by human activities.
You cannot rely on other countries to do what you refuse to do at home. There’s only one place in which a government can be sure of protecting wildlife, and that’s the place over which it has jurisdiction.
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com
Your chance to free the women of Pussy Riot September 25, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Russia.
Tags: amnesty, artistic expression, Criminal Justice, free speech, human rights, pussy riot, putin, roger hollander, russia
add a comment
|Pussy Riot appeal begins Monday. Help bring them home.|
“Daddy, I’m going to get mommy out of jail with a bulldozer.”
That’s four-year-old Gera speaking about her plan to free her mother Nadya, one of the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.
As an Amnesty activist, you know we don’t need a bulldozer to free a prisoner – just the power of our voices. And we need your voice more than ever as Pussy Riot faces an appeal hearing on October 1st.
Turn up the volume of protest to end the political persecution of Pussy Riot. Send your message calling for the unconditional release of Nadya, Masha and Katja.
Nadya and the other members of Pussy Riot went to the cathedral to give Russia – and the rest of the world – a wake-up call. They felt it was their civic duty to expose the corruption and repression they saw.
Pussy Riot stood up for their ideals. As artistic expression. Nonviolently. Legally.
Except, of course, in Putin’s Russia, where their dissent was stifled and condemned as “hooliganism.”
But there is hope. The world is watching. Last week, Pyotr Verzilov travelled with his daughter Gera to the United States to work with Amnesty to raise awareness for his wife’s case. During the Amnesty International Youth Town Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Pyotr and Gera and called for the release of the women. With Amnesty at her side, Yoko Ono gave the band the LennonOno Grant for Peace to honor their courage.
During their visit, Pyotr expressed how moved he was by your advocacy on behalf of his wife and the other courageous women imprisoned for expressing their opinions peacefully:
“We are grateful to Amnesty International for your work on the case and all of your support. The most important thing you can do is rally people. We need your voices.”
Use your voice to tell the Russian authorities to release Nadya, Masha and Katja. Take a stand for free speech and human rights before Pussy Riot’s Oct. 1 appeal hearing.
Michelle Ringuette Chief of Campaigns & Programs Amnesty International USA
|© 2012 Amnesty International USA | 5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001 | 212.807.8400|
Pussy Riot and the Two Russias August 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Russia.
Tags: dissent, free speech, katrina vanden heuvel, political protest, protect, protest music, punk rock, pussy riot, putin, roger hollander, russia, russia opposition, russia patriotism, russian orthodox
add a comment
(Credit: Igor Mukhin)
Pussy Riot is here to stay. International attention has mounted over the months since three members of the punk rock/protest group were imprisoned for a fifty-one-second stunt. All the more so this week, as their trial—on “hooliganism” charges—finally began.
As I’ve described before, members of the group seized the stage of Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral just before the country’s March elections, performing (and recording) a musical plea to the Virgin Mary to oust Vladimir Putin. The cadre of Russian artists and activists descended from the performance artists Voina (“War”), who were influenced by the US punk movement Riot grrrl. Its story might have ended there, if not for a truly authoritarian response from the Russian government. Three alleged participants were arrested, threatened with seven years of imprisonment, and placed in a pre-trial detention that’s been extended for months. Now, Pussy Riot is world famous—as is its stunt. The longer they’re in prison, the more attention they get.
It’s been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for these women. It’s come from insiders and outsiders alike, in Russia and abroad. Key Putin backers have broken with him on Pussy Riot. More than 400,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting their arrest and detention. The Washington Post editorialized in defense of the activists. Punk artists around the world have voiced their solidarity. British writer Stephen Fry has called on his more than 4.6 million Twitter followers “to do everything to help Pussy Riot” and “pressure Putin” in connection with the trial. Amnesty International named Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience; its US activists have planned a guerilla art exhibit and a solidarity concert at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.
The crackdown on Pussy Riot is part of a broader attack on dissent in Russia. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the introduction and rapid passage of a quartet of laws that undermine Russia’s democratic ambitions: (Re-)criminalization of “defamation”; a blacklist of “harmful” websites; punitive fines on participants in “unsanctioned” protests; and a mandate that nonprofits declare foreign funding and brand themselves “foreign agents.” Russia, alas, is not the only country cracking down on political freedom. But these broadly worded, swiftly passed laws represent another wave in Russia’s de-democratization, a process started under Boris Yeltsin and continued under Putin.
The righteousness of the Pussy Riot cause is clear-cut: courageous activists up against punitive suppression. As someone who’s worked with the women’s movement in Moscow, and as a longtime student of Russia, it’s horrific to watch the mistreatment of these women, and heartening to see them draw the support they deserve, both outside the country and within it.
But lost in much of the coverage is a sobering reality: there are two Russias. The country’s deep divisions are reflected in the polling on Pussy Riot, with only a 43 percent plurality telling pollsters that a potential two-to-seven-year sentence is disproportionate. Why? There’s more in place here than simple offense at their act.
To many Russians, Russia feels like two different countries: one is urban, hyper-Westernized, aggressively modern, and seems condescending in its attitude to ordinary people; the other is the Russian heartland in the regions and provinces, where people are suffering economically and believe they’re guarding the country’s traditional values and religious convictions. This is the lens through which some Russians view Pussy Riot’s imprisonment: not individual freedom of conscience versus the state but national pride and religious faith versus a well-off, urban elite. Putin has masterfully stoked such resentments, framing the resistance to his authority as an affront to the values of the nation (a segment on state TV last month called protests in defense of Pussy Riot a “vanity fair”). Too many Western journalists ignore or underestimate the effectiveness of that appeal.
Putin’s key partner in this has been the Russian Orthodox Church. In recent years, the church has grown in clout while growing ever closer to the Kremlin. The church’s spokesperson announced that God had personally shared with him, “just like he revealed the gospels to the church,” that He “condemns” what Pussy Riot did. Cynically or in earnest, church leaders are nurturing a patriarchal, paternalistic form of patriotism, and its power and popularity are growing as a result (US readers: this may sound familiar). The prosecution’s indictment against the artists cites “blasphemous acts” and “weighty suffering” of believers—despite Russia’s supposed separation of church the state. That’s a sign of how flimsy the legal case against Pussy Riot is, but also of the church’s role in modern Russia.
In a case replete with ironies, here’s the final one: even as Putin reaps political benefit from the resentments of this other Russia, his economic and social policies are poised to hit its citizens hardest—and his most prominent critics in the opposition are on board as well. Last month ushered in a fairly dramatic increase in utility and transit costs. And austerity, Russia-style, is coming to other sectors as well: neoliberal “reforms” are on the way in education, housing and pensions. These changes will mean socio-economic disaster for already-suffering Russians, many in regions far-flung from Moscow. What is little reported in the West is that Putin’s own critics, those who’ve led many of the street protests in Moscow, also back these measures. These include elite critics like former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Boris Nemtsov and Ksenia Sobchak, once the Paris Hilton of Russia until she became its Pasionaria. Perhaps that should be no surprise: they’re not the ones about to get hurt.
It is heartening to see the broad attention being paid to the three women of the Pussy Riot group. But perhaps it’s time for some reporting on the millions of working or unemployed Russians who will bear the brunt of economic policies hatched by the Putin government and supported by many of its opposition critics. Putin’s repression has sparked vibrant pro–Pussy Riot activism. The efforts on behalf of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Fear have been important. But if the opposition really wants to mobilize a mass movement for political, social and economic change, it will have to bring the Two Russias back together. That will mean developing a program that calls for fair elections and combating corruption, while also resisting neoliberal measures that will privatize public education and gut pensions. Simply put, the activism we’ve witnessed in these last months will need to expand to encompass Freedom from Want. The fate of the next Pussy Riot could depend on it.
Tags: david krieger, john bolton, john yoo, new york times, non-proliferation, nuclear, nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons, peace, roger hollander, russia, start, treaty, war
add a comment
by David Krieger
Let me answer the question posed in the title of their article. The Senate should support and ratify this treaty because it will strengthen U.S. national security by:
- reducing the size of the bloated nuclear arsenals in both countries, creating a new lower level from which to make further reductions;
- reinstating verification procedures that ended with the expiration of the first START agreement in December 2009;
- building confidence in the Russians that we stand behind our agreements; and
- sending a signal to the rest of the world that we are taking steps to fulfill our legal commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament.
The downsides of failing to ratify the treaty would be to remove restraints on the size of the Russian arsenal, forego inspection and verification of the Russian arsenal, undermine Russian confidence in U.S. commitments, and encourage further nuclear proliferation by other countries thereby increasing the possibilities of nuclear terrorism. Further, if the treaty is not ratified before the new Congress is seated in January 2011, its future ratification will be far more difficult.
What do Bolton and Yoo say they want? First, to remove language in the treaty’s preamble, which is not legally binding, that says there is an “interrelationship” between nuclear weapons and defensive systems. That language only recognizes a reality. Of course, there is a relationship between missiles and missile defenses. Second, they don’t want the U.S. to be limited in putting conventional weapons on formerly nuclear launch systems. But that is a price, and a fair one, that each side will pay for lowering the other side’s nuclear capabilities. Third, they want a Congressional act for the financing, testing and development of new U.S. warhead designs before the treaty is ratified. In other words, they want guarantees that the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be modernized. They seek long-term reliance on the U.S. nuclear threat, but this means that U.S. citizens will also remain under nuclear threat for the long-term.
Bolton and Yoo are an interesting pair. The first would lop ten floors off the United Nations, the second do away with the laws of war when they aren’t convenient. Do they deserve their own opinions? Of course. Do their opinions make any sense? Only in the context of the American exceptionalism and militarism that were the trademarks of the Bush II administration and have done so much to weaken the spirit, values and resources of the country while continuing to haunt us in our aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One must wonder what possessed the New York Times to publish their rantings. Additionally, using the word “Nukes” in the title suggests somehow that nuclear weapons are cute enough to have nicknames and not a serious threat to the very existence of civilization. That Bolton and Yoo could rise to high positions in our country is a sad commentary on the country, but perhaps understandable in the context of the Bush II administration’s persistent flaunting of international law. That the New York Times would find sufficient merit in their discredited opinions to publish their article is an even sadder commentary on the editorial integrity of one of the country’s most respected newspapers.
Tags: ballistic missile, Barack Obama, barack obama china india intelligence iran israel japan law media military north korea npt nuclear nukes obama pakistan ritter russia security south korea wmd, china, India, intelligence, Iran, israel, japan, law, Media, military, missile, non-proliferation, north korea, npt, nuclear, nukes, outer space treaty, pakistan, ritter, roger hollander, russia, security, security council, south korea, UN Charter, wmd
add a comment
Posted on Apr 17, 2009, http://www.truthdig.com
|AP photo / Ahn Young-joon|
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.
A Choice Between Peace and Peril February 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, ahmadinejad, aipac, Bush, chris hedges, Clinton, dennis ross, enriched uranium, europe, hamas, hezbollah, hillary, intelligence, Iran, iranian missiles, iranian nuclear scientists, Iraq, israel, jundullah, kurdistan, lebanon, Middle East, military, mossad, mujahedin, netanyahu, nuclear, nuclear reactor, Obama, pakistan, peace, politics, revolutionary guards, roger hollander, russia, security, shiite, shimon peres, sunni, Syria, Taliban, United Nations, uranium, war
add a comment
Posted on Feb 23, 2009, www.truthout.com
|AP photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian|
By Chris Hedges
Bibi Netanyahu’s assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.
Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.
Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israel’s main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.
“Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony at President Shimon Peres’ official residence. “The terrorist forces of Iran threaten us from the north,” the presumptive prime minister said in reference to Lebanon and Syria, where Israel says Tehran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. “For decades, Israel has not faced such formidable challenges.”
Netanyahu, whose arrogance is as outsized as his bellicosity, knows that for all his threats and chest thumping, Israel is incapable of attacking Iranian targets alone. Israel cannot fly its attack aircraft over Iraqi air space into Iran without U.S. permission, something George W. Bush refused to grant, fearing massive retaliatory strikes by Iran on American bases in Iraq. Israel’s air force is not big enough to neutralize the multiple targets, from radar stations to missile batteries to Revolutionary Guard units to bunkers housing Iran’s Soviet- and Chinese-made fighter jets and bombers, and also hit suspected nuclear targets. The only route to a war with Tehran for the Israeli military is through Washington.
Netanyahu’s resolve to strike Iran means that we will soon hear a lot about the danger posed by Iran—full-page ads in American newspapers from Israel lobby groups have appeared in the past few days. Allowing this rhetoric to cloud reality, as we did during the buildup to the war with Iraq, would shut down the best chance for stability in the Middle East—a negotiated settlement with Iran. This may not finally stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but a stable relationship with Iran would do more to protect Israel and our interests in the Middle East than massive airstrikes and a war that would bleed into Iraq and Lebanon and see Iranian missiles launched against Israeli cities.
“If you go into a problem with a mistaken assumption, you come out with a bad policy,” said Sam Gardner, a retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College, and who opposes the Israeli campaign to strike Iran.
Iran’s nuclear program is currently monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had amassed about 2,227 pounds of low-enriched, or reactor-grade, nuclear fuel by late January, according to the latest updates from the arms control watchdog for the United Nations. To produce the 55 pounds of highly enriched, or weapons-grade, uranium needed for an atomic warhead, Iran would need 2,205 to 3,748 pounds of low-enriched uranium. It apparently has this amount—which is why Netanyahu refers to Iran as “an existential threat” to the Israeli state. But Iran has made no move to enrich the uranium and until it does cannot be accused of having a nuclear weapons program. Iran also does not have enough high-speed centrifuges at its facility in Natanz to further refine the uranium, according to the United Nations.
Iran has turned to its old nemesis Russia for assistance as Israel has become more strident. The work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor will soon be assisted by 3,000 Russian technicians. And Russia has promised to sell the S-300 missile to Iran to boost that nation’s air defense systems. The Russian Federation Security Council and the State Council’s new national security strategy statement says that the primary focus of the struggle over the next decade will be on hydrocarbons. The Middle East and Central Asia are mentioned specifically. In these areas, according to the document, the struggle could develop into a military confrontation. And, while the document does not mention the United States, there is no other rival military force in the region that can match the Russian machine. The more we push Iran the more Iran flees into the arms of the Russians and the closer we come to a new Cold War struggle for control of diminishing natural resources. Iranian officials have barred inspections of facilities producing centrifuge parts, a move which worries arms control specialists. Iran may be planning to build an undeclared centrifuge facility separate from Natanz. Iran has also barred inspectors from its heavy-water reactor near Arak, an action that has concerned inspectors who hope to examine the site for possible telltale “clandestine” features that could be used in a weapons program. These signs would indicate that Iran could begin a nuclear weapons program. But as of now there is no such program. We should stop speaking as if one exists.
The destruction of Iraq as a unified state has left Iran the power broker in the Middle East. This was the result of our handiwork and the misguided militarism of Israeli politicians such as Netanyahu. Iran, like it or not, holds the power to decide the outcome of several conflicts that are vital to American security. It has enormous influence with Hamas and Hezbollah and can accelerate or diminish the conflict between Israel and these groups. It and the U.S. are now the major outside forces in Iraq. The Shiite-led Baghdad government consults closely with Iran and for this reason has told the Iranian resistance group the MEK that it has 60 days to leave Iraqi territory and may see its leaders arrested and tried for war crimes. Once American forces leave Iraq, it is Iran, more than any other nation, that will determine the future of any Iraqi government. And, finally, Iran has for centuries been embroiled in the affairs of Afghanistan. It alone has the influence to stabilize the conflict, one that increasingly threatens to spill over into Pakistan. Afghan politicians have sharply criticized the Iranian government for deporting more than 30,000 Afghans who had fled to Iran since October. Many, unable to find work or return to their villages, have signed up to fight for the Taliban, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
Iran has endured our covert support for armed militant groups from the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) to the Free Life Party of Kurdistan to the repugnant Jundullah, also known as the Army of God, a Sunni fundamentalist group that operates with U.S. support out of Pakistan. Jundullah has carried out a series of bombings and ambushes inside Iran. The militant group has a habit of beheading Iranians it captures, including a recent group of 16 Iranian police officials, and filming and distributing the executions. Iran has coped with nearly three decades of sanctions imposed by Washington. The U.S. support for the militant groups and the sanctions, meant to help change the regime in Tehran, have failed.
There is a lot riding on whom President Obama names as his special envoy to Iran. If, as expected, it is Dennis Ross, a former official of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we will be in deep trouble. Ross, who is expected to be placed in charge of the Iranian portfolio this week, is a vocal supporter of Israel’s call for increased pressure on Iran. He is distrusted, even despised, in the Muslim world and especially in Tehran. With good reason, he is not viewed as an impartial broker.
Ross has called for more draconian sanctions against Iran, something Russia or the five companies that provide Iran’s refined petroleum products are not likely to support. (The companies include the Swiss firm Vitol, the French giant Total and the Indian firm Reliance.) Ross backs the covert support for proxy groups and, I would assume, the alleged clandestine campaign by Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. Mossad is rumored to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported “gas poisoning” in 2007, according to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. “Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli ‘hits,’ intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the program, according to the analysts,” the paper reported.
It remains unmentioned that Israel, which refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—signed by Iran—is in possession of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads, perhaps the single most important factor in the Middle East nuclear arms race.
“For the US to shape a peaceful relationship with Iran will be difficult under any circumstances,” Stephen Kinzer, author of “All the Shah’s Men,” wrote recently. “If the American negotiating team is led by Ross or another conventional thinker tied to dogmas of the past, it will be impossible.”
Obama has an opportunity to radically alter the course we have charted in the Middle East. The key will be his administration’s relationship with Iran. If he gives in to the Israel lobby, if he empowers Ross, if he defines Iran as the enemy before he begins to attempt a negotiated peace, he could ignite a fuse that will see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolve into a regional conflagration. This may be the most important decision of his presidency. Let’s pray he does not blow it.
Bush Excluded by Latin Summit as China, Russia Loom December 17, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Latin America.
Tags: ahmadinejad, Brazil, caribbean, china, Colombia, correa, Cuba, DEA, Ecuador, Evo Morales, foreign policy, Free Trade, George Bush, hu jintao, Hugo Chavez, Iran, joshua goodman, Latin America, Lula, monroe doctrine, oas, Obama, Peru, peter romero, raul castro, russia, summit, uribe, Venezuela
add a comment
December 17, 2008
By Joshua Goodman
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — Latin American and Caribbean leaders gathering in Brazil tomorrow will mark a historic occasion: a region-wide summit that excludes the United States.
Almost two centuries after President James Monroe declared Latin America a U.S. sphere of influence, the region is breaking away. From socialist-leaning Venezuela to market-friendly Brazil, governments are expanding military, economic and diplomatic ties with potential U.S. adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran.
“Monroe certainly would be rolling over in his grave,” says Julia Sweig, director of the Latin America program at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington and author of the 2006 book “Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century.”
The U.S., she says, “is no longer the exclusive go-to power in the region, especially in South America, where U.S. economic ties are much less important.”
Since November, Russian warships have engaged in joint naval exercises with Venezuela, the first in the Caribbean since the Cold War; Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a free-trade agreement with Peru; and Brazil invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a state visit.
“While the U.S. remains aloof from a region it no longer sees as relevant to its strategic interests, other countries are making unprecedented, serious moves to fill the void,” says Luiz Felipe Lampreia, Brazil’s foreign minister from 1995 until 2001. “Countries in the region are more aware than ever that they live in a globalized, post-American world.”
A Castro Triumph
The two-day gathering, called by Brazil at a beach resort in Bahia state, is also a diplomatic triumph for Cuban President Raul Castro, making his first trip abroad since taking over from his brother Fidel two years ago. The communist island was suspended from the hemisphere-wide Organization of American States in 1962 over its ties with the former Soviet Union.
“A lot of this is designed to stick it in the eye of the U.S.,” says Peter Romero, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere from 1999 to 2001. “But underlying the bluster, there’s a genuine effort to exploit the gap left by a distant and distracted U.S.”
The effort is most evident in the bloc of countries allied with the anti-American president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
Bolivian President Evo Morales last month expelled the Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that DEA agents were conspiring to overthrow him; U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed the charges as absurd and suspended trade privileges for the Andean nation.
In Ecuador, meanwhile, President Rafael Correa has refused to renew the lease on the U.S.’s only military outpost in South America, a critical platform for the U.S. war on drugs.
For Brazil, tomorrow’s summit caps a decade-long diplomatic drive to use its growing economic and political stability to play a bigger role in the world.
While little concrete action is expected from the first-ever Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development, the fact that the U.S. wasn’t invited has symbolic importance, says Lampreia.
The summit reinforces such regional initiatives as the Union of South American Nations, which was formed in May by 12 countries to mediate conflicts such as political violence in Bolivia, bypassing the U.S.-dominated OAS.
Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, says the nature of American influence is only changing, not declining, as the region matures.
No Invitation Sought
The U.S. “didn’t ask to be invited” to the summit, he says, although it had discussed with Brazil and Mexico ways the meeting’s agenda could be used during the U.S.-backed Summit of the Americas, in April in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We don’t subscribe to the hydraulic theory of diplomacy that when one country is up, the other is down — that if China and Russia are in the area our influence has somehow waned,” Shannon said in a telephone interview.
The fact that “there’s no warfare, weapons proliferation, suicide bombers or jihadists” in Latin America may make its issues “less urgent,” though no less important, Shannon said. The U.S. remains the region’s dominant investor and trading partner: Foreign aid to Colombia to fight drug traffickers and Marxist rebels totals $700 million a year, and remittances from Latin Americans living in the U.S. totaled $66.5 billion last year.
The Monroe Doctrine, which dates back to 1823, declared Latin America off-limits to European powers. Whether welcomed by the region or not, it has been invoked whenever real or imagined security threats to U.S. interests arise, says Gaddis Smith, a retired Yale University historian of American foreign policy.
“Its essence is unilateralism; no Latin American country had any say in it,” says Smith, whose more than a dozen books on American foreign policy include “The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine.”
The real battle is for a larger share of the region’s abundant resources and expanding economies, and China has led the way.
Two-way trade with the region shot up 12-fold since 1995 to $110 billion last year, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. China’s share of the region’s imports also jumped, to 24 percent from 9.8 percent in 1990, while the U.S. share shrunk to 34 percent from 43 percent. Two years after reaching a bilateral free-trade agreement, China’s demand for copper made it Chile’s biggest export market in 2007, replacing the U.S.
Since making his first of three trips to Latin America in 2004, China’s President Hu Jintao has spent more time in the region than Bush — 22 days to 20 for the U.S. president. In October, as the global credit crunch dried up lending in the region, China joined the Inter-American Development Bank with a $350 million loan to finance small businesses. This month it pledged $10 billion in loans to state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA so Brazil can develop the Western Hemisphere’s largest oil discovery since 1976.
“The Chinese play up the development side of diplomacy so much better than the Americans,” says William Ratliff, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who has a Ph.D. in Chinese and Latin American history. “Deals come with none or very few strings attached.”
Even Colombia, which is spending $115,000 a month lobbying the U.S. Congress to approve a stalled free-trade pact, signed an investment treaty last month with China. During this year’s U.S. campaign, President-elect Barack Obama said he opposed the accord over concerns that Colombia isn’t doing enough to stamp out violence against labor organizers.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe today canceled his plans for the summit to monitor rescue efforts involving 200,000 people affected by flooding over the weekend.
Changing relationships are also evident in arms deals. Chavez turned to Russia for at least $4.4 billion in weapons after the U.S. blocked sales of aircraft parts. Brazil, the region’s largest economy, is also shopping around: Defense Minister Nelson Jobimsaid in Washington this month that his government will only buy weapons from countries that agree to transfer technology for local production.
Plans to purchase 36 new fighter jets, in which Boeing’s F- 18 is competing for a contract against Stockholm-based Saab AB and France’s Dassault Systemes SA, “can only be justified politically if they contribute to national development,” Jobim said.
Brazil may sign a deal with France for four nuclear submarines intended to help secure its oil basins in the Atlantic when French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva this month.
Reactivating a Fleet
The U.S. plan to reassert its naval presence by reactivating the Fourth Fleet after 58 years to patrol the Caribbean has triggered negative reactions ranging from Chavez’s threat to sink the convoys to the more-diplomatic Lula’s demand for explanations from the Bush administration.
Latin American leaders are looking to Obama to restore relations after the Bush presidency’s initial pledges of greater engagement gave way to a focus on the 9/11 terror attacks and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the honeymoon with Obama may be short-lived, says Michael Shifter, vice president of the Inter- American Dialogue in Washington. He says that the issues that have dominated Latin American relations — including Cuba, immigration and U.S. trade barriers on agricultural products — may remain in dispute.
“Latin America wants the U.S. to be engaged, but in very different terms that it has in the past,” says Shifter. “In any case, they’re not waiting around for the U.S. to change its mindset.”
Last Updated: December 15, 2008 10:40 EST
Cold War Hawks Nesting With Obama November 14, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
Tags: 9/11 attacks, Add new tag, Afghanistan, Barack Obama, bush foreign policy, cold war, cold war hawks, George Bush, georgia, Jimmy Carter, John McCain, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin laden, Robert Gates, Robert Scheer, roger hollander, russia, russian aggression, soviet union, vladimir putin, zbigniew brzezinski
add a comment
Posted on Nov 11, 2008, www.truthdig.com
|AP photo / Shakh Aivazov|
So, Vladimir Putin was right: It was Georgia that started the war with Russia, and once again it was President Bush who got caught in a lie. As The New York Times reported last week, “Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the long-standing Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.”
The Bush White House knew—but kept from the American public—facts concerning provocation by Georgia’s U.S.-trained forces, which killed civilians in the capital of South Ossetia before Russian troops crossed the border. The provocation has also been documented in a BBC investigative report and by a growing consensus of other reliable sources.
No surprise, but it is a reminder of just how eager some are for a new Cold War and how indifferent they are to the truth of the matter. The career hawks are influential in both political parties, as was evidenced by the knee-jerk response of both presidential candidates, who claimed that the Russians had launched a totally unprovoked attack.
Sen. John McCain, whose top foreign policy adviser had been a paid lobbyist for Georgia, was most eager to confront the Russians, while Sen. Barack Obama was a bit more cautious. But as recently as in his Oct. 29 infomercial, Obama promised to “curb Russian aggression,” which hardly suggests the change we need from the unilateral belligerence of the Bush foreign policy.
The result of that policy has been increased estrangement from the one country whose cooperation is totally indispensable in the effort to control the spread of nuclear weapons, given that Russia possesses roughly half of the world’s nuclear arsenal and the ready means to build more nuclear arms. Yet instead of putting up a common front against nuclear proliferation, and even before the Georgia fracas, the Bush administration insisted on placing missiles on Russia’s borders in a deal-breaker with Putin, whom President George W. Bush had previously embraced.
Improved relations with Russia are critical to the change toward a more peaceful world that Obama has promised, but it is disquieting in the extreme that some of his closest advisers are inveterate hawks with a history of needlessly provoking tension with the Russians during the Cold War days. Key among them is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, as President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, engineered the U.S. involvement on the side of Islamic fanatics in Afghanistan.
Of course, the official story line at the time was that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan to support their ally, which happened to be the governing power in Kabul, against the fanatic mujahedeen rebels, whom President Ronald Reagan would later officially embrace as “freedom fighters.” Those freedom fighters came to be united by our CIA with the likes of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks.
It was decades later that the truth came out that the Soviets invaded only after being deliberately provoked by U.S. hawks. One of them was Robert Gates, who worked for Brzezinski in the Carter administration and who is currently the secretary of defense; President-elect Obama is now reported to be considering retaining Gates in that position. A 1996 press release promoting Gates’ memoir promised the revelation of “Carter’s never-before-revealed covert support to Afghan mujahedeen—six months before the Soviets invaded.”
The Gates revelation prompted an interviewer for the French publication, Le Nouvel Observateur, to ask Brzezinski in a 1998 interview whether he regretted “having given arms and advice to future terrorists,” and Brzezinski replied: “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? … What is most important to the history of the world? … Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
That was three years before those “stirred-up Muslims” attacked us on 9/11, but Brzezinski has not lost his nerve for escalating wars. While advising Obama, he gave interviews hyping the Russian “invasion” of Georgia as the occasion for a new global conflict, telling journalist Nathan Gardels that Putin’s action “was ominously similar to Stalin’s and Hitler’s in the late 1930s.”
I know, Obama is not yet in office. I voted for him with enthusiasm in part because he does seem to have transcended the preoccupations of the Cold War. But as a buyer, I have to beware of those unrepentant Democratic hawks now hovering.