Journal of a Futurist - 20 April 2005
10 REASONS WHY THE USA IS NOW THE MOST DANGEROUS NATION
AND 3 REASONS FOR HOPE
A recent poll reveals 32 per cent of Australians are very worried about US foreign policy. Heres why:
- Nuclear Revivalism. By expanding its stockpile of nuclear weapons and the ways it can deliver warheads, the US is re-charging the arms race. Having unexpectedly refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999, the US is poised to resume nuclear testing. In 2002, George Bush dumped the long standing Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia and revived the Reagan era nuclear program of national missile defence, also known as star wars.
- Nuclear Treaty Violations. The 1968 Non Proliferation Treaty provides that states without nuclear weapons must not acquire them and those that do must progressively reduce stocks. The US has flouted this provision, while trying to stop other nations from acquiring their own weapons. In addition, it is cranking out a new generation of nuclear warheads.
- Nuclear Brinkmanship. In 1994, the US reached an agreement with North Korea (the Framework Arrangements) to provide parts and technical help for the countrys nuclear power plants, which it failed to honour. This breach plus the nomination of North Korea as an agent of evil - has propelled Pyongyang into strategy of nuclear brinkmanship. We will continue to expand our atomic forces, it announced in April, for as long as the US tries to isolate and suffocate Korea.
Meanwhile, the Asian doomsday clock keeps ticking. India, Pakistan and China possess the bomb, Iran is accused of seeking one of its own, and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are presumed to share the same intentions. On top of this, the Pentagons list of nations targeted for possible nuclear attack has lately been revised. It now includes five non nuclear weapon states. (See Fact or Fission by Richard Bronoiwski, 2003)
- The militarisation of outer space, the fourth dimension of warfare. According to documents on its websites, US Air Force Space Command is developing nuclear warheads and versatile spacecraft that can strike any target on earth within minutes. The aim is to create an instantaneous global strike force, a range of exotic new weapons and achieve full spectrum combat dominance in space. This includes nuclear capability. The commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSC), Gen. Lance W. Lord, is refreshingly frank: We must protect and defend our interests in space, he told the 21st National Space Symposium in September, sponsored by weapons giants Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, Its critical to our security. Our nation depends on it. Tactics could include blowing up enemy satellites in the blackness beyond the atmosphere. Our message is clear. You cant go to war and win without space. General Lord said America has completed the transition from a nation interested in space to a nation with national interests in space.
In its Strategic Master Plan, published in October 2003, AFSC sets out its vision for the next 25 years: We will organize, train and equip space and missile forces to provide the President with a range of options to deter and defeat aggression or any form of coercion against the US. Our charter is to rapidly obtain and maintain space superiority and the nuclear, and conventional strike capabilities that produce desired warfighting effects.
However, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the US, specifies that harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies shall be avoided and states shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner. By 2011, according to its own documents, AFSC intends to field technologies that provide revolutionary capabilities in communications, propulsion, conventional and nuclear strike. The hatching of this plan makes the United States the first nation to break the 40 year global taboo against arming the heavens.
(Note: the quotes from the AFSC Master Plan are taken from the .pdf file still on its site in Feb 04, but since toned down. For a copy of the unrevised version, email me.
- Disregarding international laws, treaties and conventions, including those it has ratified.
A senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, Ivo Dalder, puts it in a nutshell: America will use international institutions and abide by international laws, when they advance its great mission. But it will abandon institutions and ignore international laws when they constrain its freedom to act. (SMH April 9/05). Isnt this the modus operandi of a professional criminal? The US is currently in flagrant breach of the Geneva Conventions and key articles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (especially Article 5: No one shall be subject to torture or to cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). In war zones, the US ignores treaties relating to the use of weapons, the protection of civilians, the rights of children and the obligation of occupying forces to restore infrastructure and maintain security. The US Militarys systemic disregard for treaties, laws and conventions, include:
- The kidnapping of suspects in foreign lands and removing them without due process to secret jails.
- Holding such people in solitary isolation indefinitely and failing to disclose their identities to the International Red Cross. The floating population of "ghost detainees", according to US and UK military officials, now exceeds 10,000.
- The outsourcing of torture.
- The insourcing of torture. (Even the Pentagon has admitted to over 100 deaths of those held in its own custody).
- The jailing of women & children, sometimes with the aim of flushing out a fugitive family member.
- The arrest and/or elimination of journalists, doctors, ambulance drivers and other witnesses of US operations.
In the early stages of the Iraqi invasion, President Bush was asked for his reaction to Iraqi TV footage of American POWs, and he said he expected them to be treated humanely
just like were treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. Bush promised that those who mistreat prisoners will be treated as war criminals. Instead, his senior officials who ordered, justified and condoned the torture of prisoners - 90 per cent of whom were innocent, according to the International Red Cross have been rewarded with his full support and promotions.
- Institutionalised cruelty. The brutality of todays US military is compounded by its culture of implausible denial. On April 15/04, as the Abu Ghraib revelations were starting to surface, the then US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, told a Washington press conference: We are the most humane military in the world. We punish our people when they exceed bounds, and we do it transparently. We regret every single civilian life which is lost
This is odd, seeing there had been numerous confirmed reports of families slaughtered at check points, bombed at outdoor markets and exterminated at wedding parties (in both Iraq and Afghanistan). Even today, three years after the US invasion, Iraqi children are dying limbless in hospitals without aspirin. Civilians are still being beaten and shot, sometimes while at prayer. Documents recently obtained not by the media - but by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), include detailed accounts of brutal beatings, "exercise until exhaustion," and sworn statements that soldiers were told to "beat the f**k out of" Iraqis. According to the ACLU, torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq has been routine and such treatment was considered an acceptable practice by U.S. forces. Teenagers were beaten until their jaws broke, often while blindfolded, zipcuffed or sandbagged. An unknown number of prisoners died and were buried without autopsies. Anal probes were routine. It was a military version of the Hellfire Club. Iraqi scientists were tortured to reveal the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction, the absence of which was already known to those who authorised the torture.
A secret network of US jails and military bases encircles the world, to which hordes of hooded captives are ferried back and forth night and day, rarely knowing where they are or what theyve done. The hub of this global gulag, according to The Guardian (19/ March/05) is Afghanistan, one huge jail, where the countrys the human rights commission has logged over 800 allegations of serious abuses committed against detainees by US troops. The Guardians lengthy report makes grim reading. Deaths during interrogation, improvised tortures, such as naked prisoners chained to stone floors in icy conditions, unmarked graves, and the enforcement of homosexual intercourse among the inmates by female guards. According to Michael Posner, director of the US legal watchdog, Human Rights First ,"The detention system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside international norms, but it is only part of a far larger and more sinister jail network that we are only now beginning to understand,"
- A serial war criminal. All cultures are shaped by their past, few more so than the US military. In the Second World War, three months after the defeat of the German army in May 1945, Europe was at peace and Japan was on the verge of surrender. At this time, on August 6, US President Harry Truman announced that an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base, though he was well aware the target was a city of 400,000 inhabitants. Despite Trumans pledge that the US wanted to avoid, as much as possible, the killing of civilians, the worlds first Atomic bomb was detonated without warning 600 meters above the Shima hospital in the center of the city during morning rush hour. Between a quarter and a half of its people were instantly incinerated, and over a thousand died slow agonising deaths. However, General Grove assured Congress that nuclear radiation caused no undue suffering in fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die. (On the eve of the Baghdad invasion George W Bush assured the world that Iraqi civilians would be spared in every way we can). Three days after bombing Hiroshima, the US dropped a nuclear bomb over the Roman Catholic cathedral in Nagasaki, with incredible effect, but for no apparent reason. The official July 1946 report on the Pacific air war by the US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded: Japan would have surrendered even if Atomic bombs had not been dropped.
The day before obliterating Nagasaki, the allies signed the London Agreement, which made crimes against humanity punishable in an international court. Awkwardly, the fourth Hague Convention of 1907, had banned the bombardment of civilians. However, the American war crimes prosecutor, Telford Taylor, decided that since air bombardment had become a recognised part of modern warfare, such acts had become customary law. As historian Sven Linqvist points out: rather than ruling that the allies especially the allies had committed this kind of war crime, the American prosecutor declared the law had been rendered invalid by the actions of the allies. (See A History of Bombing by Sven Lindqvist, Granta Books, London, 2001)
In 1963 President Eisenhower, the Allied commander in Europe during World War II, recalled how he had opposed dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. He told the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, that he was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon. His gut reaction was right. The chain reaction unleashed by the splitting of the atom, has been replicated on earth by the chain reaction of nations conspiring to acquire bomb. Should a nuclear bomb ever strike another city, the responsibility will be rightly sourced to those who chose to incinerate Hiroshima.
Aerial bombardment of civilians is still standard US practice, often involving the use of weapons outlawed by the 1977 Geneva Protocols. The US employed chemical weapons in Korea, napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in the first Gulf war, cluster bombs in Kabul, vacuum bombs in Tora Bora, phosphorous bombs in Falluja and most of the above various parts of the Iraq and Afghanistan. On the way are nuclear tipped bunker busters. Taken all for all, despite the best intentions of its citizens, the US Government has committed more acts of airborne terror than all the other nations of earth put together.
- The infliction of childhood deformities. The US Military continues to use depleted uranium (DU), both to armour its tanks and strengthen its shells, despite its well documented medical consequences. The soaring cancer, leukaemia and malignancy rates that followed the first Gulf War have been linked to the use of DU, and the weapons trail of radioactive dust can enter the food chain through the soil and the water table. Exposure to DU can cause kidney damage, cancers of lung and bone, neurocognitve disorders, chromosone damage and birth defects. (See The New Nuclear Danger, Helen Caldacot, 2002). During the second siege of Falluja, DU shells were used to blast through the dwellings of civilians.
Neither mounting statistics of deformities, nor heartrending documentary images of disfigured Iraqi babies, has altered Pentagon policy, despite the risks to its own troops. The department of defence admitted in 1998 that its own investigation into the potential health hazards of uranium point to serious deficiencies of what our troops understand about the health effect DU posed on the battlefield . A UN subcommission on human rights has condemned uranium munitions as weapons of indiscriminate destruction. What does this say about the morality of a military which uses such weapons, knowing they are capable of deforming the future unborn?
- The disinformation industry with a global reach. This all started years ago as an acceptable, almost charming, culture of exaggeration in advertising, tabloid journalism, PR, the movies, etc, and has since blossomed into a full blown mindscape of institutional distortion. So now the norm of civilised life in the 21st Century is to navigate spin, lies, illusions, propaganda, non core promises and plausible denials. Soon after the twin towers collapsed, another sound could be heard across the US; the mass media barons closing their minds. A typical outcome is the recent poll showing 57 per cent of Americans still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the start of the war, while six in 10 say they still believe Iraq provided direct support to al-Qaida.
Americans believe these lies not because they are stupid, notes Amy Goodman, host of New Yorks independent TV news show "Democracy Now, but because they are good media consumers. Our media have become an echo chamber for those in power. Instead of challenging the fraudulent claims of the Bush administration, the US media have become a megaphone for government propaganda, a cheer leader in the Terror Wars, a sanitising filter of everyday horrors. Six huge corporations control all the major media outlets. As Goodman points out, the lack of diversity in ownership helps explain the lack of diversity in the news.
The difference between the April 1937 bombing of Guernica and the 2004 razing of Falluja, is that the latter was more bloody minded, lasted much longer and has not yet produced a Picasso to capture the worlds conscience. The Falluja attack began with US forces storming the General Hospital, menacing doctors, dragging away patients, putting snipers on the roof and blocking attempts to help the citys wounded - all in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. And where was the media? In bed with the marines, which is why theyre referred to on the web as presstitutes.
Of the enormous numbers of women and children killed in Iraq since the invasion, the media have taken it upon themselves to self censor the images of human wreckage. Night after night our TV screens are filled with images of actors getting sliced and diced, but the false God of patriotism blocks the truth of what the worlds most expensive weapons are doing to the people we claim to be liberating.
- Eating the planet. America continues to act in its own self interest, regardless of the interest of the world as a whole. While this may have been okay 50 years ago, it is now the ethical equivalent of piracy. How can a country so innovative in its use of technology, become so stuck in the Darwinian swamp, when it comes lightening its earthly footprint? A landmark study backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries, has recently warned that almost two-thirds of the natural systems that support life are seriously degraded. The consequence, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report, are imminent abrupt changes that will harm humans, including the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of dead zones along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.
Like it or not, global survival depends on a mainstream mind-shift. While this is understood by many US citizens, the White House is still groping in the dark, dreaming of endless oil, space wars, and the Return of Christ.
It is reminiscent of the era when the Vatican burnt alive those who maintained the Earth was not the center of the universe. How long will it take our leaders to realise the ground has again shifted, that nature has no political borders, that fossil fuels are finite, the weather is getting wilder, the consumer society is getting ridiculous, and even the rich are depressed. Todays mindshift is both philosophical and practical, as we move away from a system based on extraction to one of restoration; from a lifestyle of waste to one of sustainability. This is the dawning of eco literacy; the emerging of a whole earth awareness that will jolt nations to see themselves as social units in a global family. A time when the national interest can no longer subvert the wider interest of global renewal.
In such matters, everyday citizens are far ahead of those who govern in their name. After the Boxing Day tsunamis, when both Canberra and the White House made offers of financial help publicly condemned as stingy, it was citizens who first emptied their wallets, shaming the politicians into upping their offers and preening before the media, to crow about their generosity, (which no truly generous person does.) Since the tsunami devastations, it is high schools which have been leading the way, with students and teachers from NSW raising over $1 million to date, in a spontaneous outburst of citizen diplomacy.
Washing its hands of Kyoto was a dumb move for America and Australia, whatever the protocols shortcomings. This is a vital mechanism of global co-operation. The American way of life is no longer not negotiable. The solutions are blowing in the wind, rising with the tide, soaring through solar panels. One day, shopping will cease to be the primary source of human fulfilment.
3 REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
- The flair and persistence of domestic dissent. Despite its anaemic trickle into the mainstream, free speech is alive and frothing in a myriad of tributaries. On the net, in thoughtful glossies, at concerts, in cafes, in Flash art, at public meetings, at poetry slams, in small town newspapers, even on military blogs, in docos, in ginger-group emails & on alternative radio and TV, such as the above mentioned Democracy Now. Todays alternative media thrive on foreign news sources, which offer a counterpoint to the head-in-the-sand corporate staples and, perhaps for the first time in decades, reveal the sad standing in which the US Government is widely held. It was the web audiences who first learned, via the surge of links to Der Spiegel, that the first glimpse of the US President on the big screens at the Popes funeral, was greeted with an outburst of deafening catcalls.
The blogs reap the reward of mainstream mendacity. From the first thud of the war drums, radical bloggers ridiculed the official reasons for invading Iraq and the manipulation of public hysteria. Long before Colin Powell addressed the UN with his bogus charts and anthrax props, such claims had been discredited. During the siege of Falluja, it was the bloggers who linked to the street lined images of child corpses and eye witness accounts of US atrocities, including the influential whatreallyhappened.com. In April, Rupert Murdoch confessed he had been wrong about this thing called the digital revolution, which didnt limp away, as he hoped. But now comes the scary bit. Murdoch plans to grasps this huge opportunity, and expand his reach!
- The revival of Protest music. This had completely passed me by, until a tip-off from extreme blogger, John Kaminski. Much of it is inspiring, embracing many genres, and every bit as revolutionary as the soundtrack of the years spanning the Civil Rights movement and the counter culture. The daughters of George Bush have reportedly presented their dad with an I-Pod. Here are suggestions for his playlist (all available online, if you know where to look): Falluja, by David Rovics; What Would You Do, Sonic Jihad; Know Your Enemy, Dead Prez; Its a Rich Mans War, Steve Earle; To Kill the Child, Roger Waters; We Cant Make it Here; James McMurtry; Self Evident, Ani Di Franco; Bomb the World, Michael Franti, who sums it all up: We can bomb the world to pieces, but we cant bomb it into peace.
- The growing legion of truth seekers. These are the freedom fighters of the information age, the foot soldiers of the NGOs, the anonymous cyber-mice who ferret out and post lost Government documents, as well as the few remaining investigative journalists who put truth telling before flag waving, as well as - yes! conspiracy theorists, maligned by coincidence theorists and others partial to official sources. While some alternative scenarios put forward to account for 9/11 seem delusional, that doesnt vindicate the version insisted upon by the White House, or its hand picked commission, where George Bush & Dick Cheney were allowed to testify in secret, together and not under oath. The Bush administration received dozens of urgent, credible warnings that the attacks were coming, including a Presidential Daily Briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S" , reporting "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." Nothing was done. Even today, it is still not known who really hijacked the planes. For more on this, and numerous other anomalies, you may profit from a sceptical tour of the waterfront with Steven T. Jones in the March 05 San Francisco Bay Guardian.
You might even agree that 9/11s most bizarre conspiracy theory of all is the one put forward by the White House. Anyway, thank God for free speech, even in its diminished version, which is all thats left between us and Orwells 1984.
According to a recent US poll, almost 50% of New York City residents believe some U.S. officials knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around 9/11/01 and that they consciously failed to act, which brings to mind the Reichstag fire. In the event, we may never know who struck the first match, but the whole world will go on feeling the heat for years to come. Thanks to the New Yorker, I have learned the 73rd hexagram of the I-Ching is interpreted such: Two towers fall. When smoke fills peoples eyes, they can be led anywhere. Only when the Government and the media are returned to the people, will the smoke will be blown away.
Update 21 March 2005
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)