Harding: After a Decade of Shock and Awe

Here’s Dr. Jim Harding’s latest column. Worth a read.

After a Decade of Shock and Awe

by Jim Harding

It’s common to recap events in decades. We often even adopt decade identities – the rebellious sixties, the greedy eighties, etc. Might we call the first decade of the 21st century the “shock and awe” decade?

The decade is mostly defined by the aftermath of the Sept. 11th 2001 bombing of New York’s Twin Towers. The hysteria generated after this was instrumental in starting two destructive “wars on terrorism”, which trudge on. The Security State has grown along with insurgencies and the politics of fear, none of which are good foundations for building sustainable societies. But much more happened! The decade saw a global economic crisis, devastating natural disasters, extreme storms and deepening of the climate crisis controversy, all of which will shape the coming decade.

BUBBLES AND LIVES BURSTING

Many corporate bubbles burst in the last decade. The S & P 500 lost 25% of their stock value; the dot.com bubble burst as markets plummeted after 9/11. The decade ended when the real estate bubble burst and the world entered the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. While a few got richer, the majority did not. Many people lost jobs and large amounts of their pensions. The trillion dollar and growing debt from the U.S’s ongoing “wars on terrorism” and economic bailouts will continue to destabilize that country. In the 1990’we were talking of the U.S. being the world’s only superpower. This last decade likely ended that.

Those facing natural and climate disasters had more fundamental challenges than securing their retirement. The tsunami that followed from the earthquake off Sumatra on December 24, 2004 left 230,000 persons dead. The May 12, 2008 earthquake at Sichuan, China killed another 70,000. And the May 2, 2008 cyclone in Burma killed 140,000 more. In the west we likely know far more about the August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina which killed about 2,000 persons. As with the Haitian earthquake, which killed 230,000 persons, social position and political marginalization played a major role in shaping vulnerability.

Extreme weather events and the magnitude of storms propelled worldwide support for actions to prevent irreversible climate change. But the politics of fossil fuel dependency and resistance to moving beyond our carbon economy has won out, so far. Greenhouse gases continued to rise during the last decade, and the Canadian government got a deserved international reputation for undermining climate justice. At the same time the shift towards a green economy and support for renewable energy accelerated worldwide, including in Saskatchewan; the climate controversy won’t be on the back-burner for long.

Over the last decade the politics of fear clearly ascended. One-quarter of Americans now believe they are at risk from a terrorist attack, while, realistically, they face greater dangers from their cars. Our moral sense of proportion became even more warped during the past decade. How do we compare the 2,900 innocent civilians who died so tragically in the Twin Towers or those dead or suffering from occupational hazards after intervening in the ordeal, to the many more soldiers and insurgents who have died at war? Or to the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have died from these terrifying wars? Or to the many more who will now live traumatized lives? Or to those forced to eke out an existence on war-poisoned land? The end-justifies-the means mentality of the last decade is simply not sustainable.

MORE OF SAME?

We humans have huge capacity for denial and dissociation. I, too, look forward to World Cup soccer or Canada-U.S. hockey games, and hope that international sports is making us more accepting of human diversity. But I know that sports and entertainment celebrity culture can also blind us from human suffering and glaring inequalities. How quickly beer-drinking Olympic-mania replaced coverage of the millions still grieving and struggling in Haiti! It’s hard not to conclude that achieving sustainability will require a massive resurgence of human spirituality. Perhaps this has been going on underneath all the shock and awe we have collectively experienced and this will continue to blossom in coming years. Perhaps!

For many the election of President Obama was a sign of moderation and hope, but it was premature to present him with a Peace Prize without any track record. Moving towards more peace and security is a challenge to us all. It is heartening that the U.S. and Russia are talking of nuclear weapons reductions, but nuclear proliferation remains a global threat, with the help of the spreading of nuclear technology. It hasn’t helped the cause that, as the British Inquiry on the War on Iraq is now confirming, the US and UK manipulated fears about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to justify their planned invasion of Iraq. All of us can contribute to peace and security by resisting such disinformation campaigns, and demanding more participation and transparency within our democracies. Do we ever need this in Canada now!

The huge changes occurring in the last decade clearly set us up for either more of the same or embracing the needed shift towards sustainability. There will be no tech-fixes in this evolutionary endeavour, but the growth of the internet and other mass communications likely sets the stage for the coming decade. Will the globalizing of communications help us to get a more accurate and compassionate view of the challenges facing humanity? Will this create even more narcissism and attention deficit among those bonding to the new technology market? The last decade vividly shows the challenges to not living in bubbles and to continually enhancing connaection. Perhaps down deep, after all the shock and awe, many will be whispering “enough is enough.” And, like spring winds, whispers can grow.

Next time I’ll explore how population growth affects sustainability.

Originally published in RTown News, February 26, 2010
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Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option

Go here.  Now!

They’re crazy!

Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option, NATO Told

by Ian Traynor

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the “imminent” spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new NATO by five of the west’s most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of NATO and a new pact drawing the US, NATO and the European Union together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.

Talk about defeatist!  Talk about lowering the world’s expectations!!  Talk about effing stupid!!!

Now, look at the authors:

The Authors:

John Shalikashvili

The US’s top soldier under Bill Clinton and former NATO commander in Europe, Shalikashvili was born in Warsaw of Georgian parents and emigrated to the US at the height of Stalinism in 1952. He became the first immigrant to the US to rise to become a four-star general. He commanded Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq at the end of the first Gulf war, then became Saceur, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, before Clinton appointed him chairman of the joint chiefs in 1993, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.

Klaus Naumann

Viewed as one of Germany’s and NATO’s top military strategists in the 90s, Naumann served as his country’s armed forces commander from 1991 to 1996 when he became chairman of NATO’s military committee. On his watch, Germany overcame its post-WWII taboo about combat operations, with the Luftwaffe taking to the skies for the first time since 1945 in the Nato air campaign against Serbia.

Lord Inge

Field Marshal Peter Inge is one of Britain’s top officers, serving as chief of the general staff in 1992-94, then chief of the defense staff in 1994-97. He also served on the Butler inquiry into Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and British intelligence.

Henk van den Breemen

An accomplished organist who has played at Westminster Abbey, Van den Breemen is the former Dutch chief of staff.

Jacques Lanxade

A French admiral and former navy chief who was also chief of the French defense staff.

All boys who want to play with more toys!  Nuff said!

Male Military Vets Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

This is US data, but it makes one wonder how Canadian veterans fare in this regard.  Surely we are better placed to prevent such horrific statistics, by simply being a less militaristic culture than our southern neighbours. Mind you, with Harper and Hillier at the helm, we may be doomed to echo the patterns of the USians.  From AlterNet: War on Iraq:

Why Male Military Veterans Are Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

A recent DOJ report found that vets are twice as likely to be jailed for sexual assault than non-veterans.

A recent study by the Department of Justice found that military veterans are twice as likely to be incarcerated for sexual assault than nonveterans. When asked about the finding, Margaret E. Noonan, one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press, “We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why.” The intrinsic and systemic connection between militarism and violence against women, however, makes this finding far from surprising.

Sexual violence has been a de facto weapon of war since the beginning of the patriarchal age. Raping and assaulting women is seen as a way to attack the honor of the enemy, and women have always been the spoils of war. The result is that many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism, including the indirect effects on civilian populations both during hostilities and after the conflict ends and soldiers go home. These include:

  • Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within the military and perpetrated on civilian populations
  • Domestic violence
  • Prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Honor killing

Read the rest of the article

Tory MP defends Karzai?

What follows is an excerpt from the letter my MP, Dave Batters, sent in response to my concerns about the deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan. As you read, keep in mind that it was Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Parliament that voted a woman, duly elected to serve in the Parliament, out of it.

We also recognize that important progress is being made in Afghanistan because of the sacrifices of those serving in the Canadian Forces. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan had no free elections, women had no rights, and most Afghan children were denied the opportunity of basic public education. Because of Canada’s important role:

* Over five million children have been enrolled in school, one-third of whom are girls
* Free and fair elections, backed by a national constitution, have allowed 10 million Afghans to have their voices heard and their interests represented
* A new Canadian-led project is enabling 1,500 women to develop home-based fruit and vegetable gardens to supplement family diets and generate income
* Medical attention is now accessible to 77% of the population, up from only 10% in 2001, and 7.2 million children vaccinated against polio
* 4000 houses and shelters have been constructed
* 63,000 soldiers have been disarmed and demobilised and 334,000 mines have been defused and removed.

I assure you that the work of our Armed Forces with NATO in Afghanistan has helped to enrich the lives of millions of Afghan citizens and safeguard Canada against the threat of terrorists. I would encourage you to consider what the world has gained from the sacrifice of these brave men and women in uniform.

When Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai visited Canada’s House of Commons on September 27, 2006, he thanked our country’s soldiers for their work and the sacrifices they have made. He stated: “If the greatness of a life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada’s sons and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan stand among the greatest of their generation.”

Regarding a diplomatic solution, clearly this is always the preferred means of resolving conflict. However, the Taliban are extremists and murderers who show no regard for human rights and the rule of law. I have attached a list of atrocities recently committed by the Taliban to illustrate why a diplomatic solution is probably not feasible or achievable in dealing with this radical group.

Wars are never entered into easily and we take our commitment in Afghanistan very seriously. It is important that Canada leave the local population better off than when we began our operations and that we ensure that Afghanistan remains a responsible participant in the international community. Our Conservative government will continue to support our troops as they work for the advancement of human rights and security in Afghanistan and around the world.

Interesting spin, isn’t it? How an elected official of one country can condone the creation of a culture of fear in another country and call it advancing human rights is completely and utterly beyond me.

BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!

Canadian-led campaign unites women’s organizations on six continents

On the first anniversary of P’n’P entering the Blogosphere comes a call to sign on to the Nairobi Declaration:

Drafted by representatives of women’s rights organizations from six continents and endorsed by leading international human rights advocates including Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Nairobi Declaration is founded on the experiences of women and girl survivors of sexual violence and the expertise of activists and jurists who are helping them rebuild their lives. At the Declaration’s core is the belief that justice for women and girl survivors of sexual violence will never be achieved if reparations programs are not informed and directed by those they are meant to serve. The Nairobi Declaration aims to correct the systemic flaws of national Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and existing reparation schemes and to inform those being developed by the International Criminal Court.The Nairobi Declaration asserts that reparation programs must go beyond mere compensation and restitution. According to the Declaration, adequate reparation and remedy must:

  • Empower women and girls, support their efforts to rebuild trust and relations and foster their participation in social reconstruction. Decision-making about reparations must include victims as full participants.
  • Address social inequalities and discrimination in existence prior to conflict, which lie at the root of violence against women and girls in times of conflict.
  • Promote social justice and encourage the transformation toward a fair and equal society.
  • Emphasize the importance of truth-telling in order to allow women and girls to move ahead and become true citizens. Abuses against women must be named and recognized in order to raise awareness about these crimes and violations, to positively influence a more holistic strategy for reparation and measures that support reparation, and to help build a shared memory and history.

Reparations should provide women and girls with the tools to rebuild their lives not as they were prior to war or conflict, but in ways that address and transform sociocultural injustices and structural inequalities that predate the conflict,” says Ariane Brunet, coordinator of the Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations. “Women and girls’ right to reparation is not only about restitution, compensation and access to judicial redress, it is about women playing an active role in repairing the social fabric and building afresh a just and equal society.”

The Nairobi Declaration is the first stage in a long-term international campaign on gender reparation. It is intended as a tool to be implemented by States, multilateral agencies, regional agencies and national entities, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.

Read the Nairobi Declaration

Sign the Nairobi Declaration

“other people’s shit on their heads”

Thanks to Purple Library Guy over at POGGE for the link to a powerful new Arundhati Roy interview at Zmag.org.  I admire Roy’s activism particularly in that she isn’t afraid to speak truth or, if she is, she doesn’t hold back from speaking it.

On India’s Growing Violence: ‘It’s Outright War and Both Sides are Choosing Their Weapons’

Arundhati Roy interviewed by Shoma Chaudhury

You have been traveling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?

Huge question — what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-fascism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, MNCs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide — now calling itself Dow Chemicals — in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge international cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to erupt once again? I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture, a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people — human scavengers — earn their living carrying several kilos of other people’s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

Grandmother to do time

From the inbox, this, from an American grandmother who dares to challenge the military industrial complex:

Dear family and friends,

In nine days, on March 21, I will report to the Sacramento County Jail for
my 60 day sentence for unauthorized trespassing onto military property.  I
think you all know by now that this is consequence of my action at
Ft.Benning Army Base in Columbus, GA last November 19.  I participated ­
along with 22,000 others, including 1000 Grandmothers ­ in the annual
protest and vigil to close down the controversial School of the
Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)
which has been in operation since 1946.   Going to a county jail is
something new for us federal misdemeanorites.  In the past, it has been
federal prison or fed. prison camp.  I had become familiarized with the Fed.
System, but I do not know what to expect from county jails since every one
can be different.  Not all of us 16 are assigned to county jails, but I am.
Conveniently, it is just 2 hours away for my house.

My address will be, should you wish to drop a line.  I hope to be able to
write backŠ

Catherine M. Webster  #92948020

Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center
12450 Bruceville Road
Elk Grove, CA 95757

I am perfectly fine with this upcoming ³change of venue²; I feel no anxiety
(other than leaving my family behind), nor shame.  I do feel resolute in
calling to citizens¹attention what our taxes are paying for, and thus what
we as a nation are participating in.  As a prisoner of conscience, I am in
good company, stretching back centuries.

I will also be participating in and promoting the Close The SOA Fast, April
25-27.  This is a juice/water only fast for three days in anticipation of a
May vote in Congress to defund the SOA/WHINSEC.  Lobbying Congress has been
a year round effort for sixteen years.  The Fast is to create more energy in
our cosmos to encourage Congress to do the right thing.  I hope and
encourage you to participate as well.  You can get the details on the
SOAWatch website, www.soaw.org <http://www.soaw.org/> .  1000 Grandmothers
is promoting it in Chico.  This action is what soulforce is about.

I¹ll be sending letters to be posted on the 1000grandmothers website,
www.1000grandmothers.net <http://www.1000grandmothers.net/>  , and hopefully
calling in to my local radio stations during my stay.  Meanwhile, peace to
you all.  Thanks for your prayers and support.

I expect to spring out on May 19 ­ just in time for the Bay to Breakers run
in SF, May 20.

Paz, Cath