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Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Divided Highways

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Politics, Public Health on October 18, 2017 at 1:22 am

By Tom Lewis, Delanceyplace.com

In 1963, the U.S. government seriously contemplated using nuclear bombs in the construction of federal highways:

“[The] Interstate [Highway System] … reflected some­thing … about mid-twentieth-century American thinking: engineering hubris. Engineers knew they had the ability to put a highway anywhere, including places where automobiles had never been, and many reveled in the sheer joy of building without attention to the consequences. Forget following the contours of the natural landscape, just pound the road through. Should a mountain prove too high, just blast the top off or tunnel through. Should a ravine prove too deep, just fill it with stone and dirt. No river, lake, or arm of the ocean should be too wide or too deep for a bridge or causeway. For many engineers the structure itself was the goal rather than the structure in relation to the land. Engineers found they were not alone, for many progressive planners regarded the highway, speed, and efficiency to be of primary importance.

“There is, perhaps, no greater example of engineering hubris than one that, thankfully, did not take place in the Bristol Mountains about mid­way between Barstow and Needles, California. In 1963, the Santa Fe Rail­road was seeking a way to shorten its route across the Mojave Desert, and the highway department was looking for a route for Interstate 40. Both the railroad and the highway were hindered by the mountains that rise sharply and suddenly about twelve hundred feet from the desert floor. In mid-1963, engineers decided to consider what they delicately called ‘the nuclear option.’ The engineers’ plan was simple: Bury twenty-two atomic bombs beneath the surface of the mountains and vaporize them. ‘Our main focus was on whether it was feasible and practical and what savings might be realized in building the Interstate,’ Robert Austin, the engineer for the project, recalled. Perhaps because the United States had tested nuclear weapons in the desert before­ though not in this area — Austin paid little attention to the effects the bombs would have had on the environment.

“Since President Kennedy had recently proposed ‘Operation Plow­share,’ an extension of Dwight Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ pro­gram ‘to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind,’ the Atomic Energy Commission was looking for ways to use nuclear weapons peace­fully. It was enthusiastic about the idea. Yes, the twenty-two bombs with their combined force of 1.73 million tons of TNT (133 times greater than the force of the two bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki) would produce a dust cloud that would take several days to dissipate. But engineers were more taken with the idea of moving sixty­-eight million tons of earth and rock with a single blast, almost instantly cutting a channel 325 feet wide and nearly 11,000 feet long. While it would have saved $8 million in construction costs, the explosion also would have contaminated much of the Southwest, especially Kingman, Flagstaff, and Phoenix, Arizona directly east of the site. Knowing that the nuclear explosions would evoke some public interest, Austin scouted out a place for a reviewing stand for the press and VIPs on a ridge about ten miles away from the blast site.

“Fortunately, the plan had posed one question that scientists could not answer: How long would it take for the radiation levels at the immediate blast site to return to a safe level for humans? No one could predict how many weeks or months would elapse after the explosion before it would be safe for workers to build the highway. Unable to get an answer, Austin and the California Highway Department finally abandoned the plan in 1965 and decided to build the Bristol Mountains section of Interstate 40 with conventional blasting for about $20 million. The road opened in 1973. ‘Given what we know today about radiation, it’s a good thing we didn’t do it,’ said Robert Ramey, a civil engineer who worked on the project, adding wistfully, ‘I am kind of disappointed we couldn’t have seen how an experiment of this type would have worked.'”

 

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Nobel winner says goal is to make nukes unacceptable

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on October 10, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Associated Press, OCTOBER 09, 2017 , UNITED NATIONS
The head of the anti-nuclear campaign that won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize said Monday its goal is to make nuclear weapons unacceptable in the minds of people in every country — and have all nuclear-armed nations listen to their citizens and give up their arsenals.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons known as ICAN, told a news conference that for a long time nuclear weapons have been seen as “an issue of the past” that isn’t relevant.

But she said a potential nuclear arms race with nuclear nations modernizing their weapons and threats by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un to use nuclear weapons “makes this an urgent issue again.”

“I think that this Nobel Peace Prize can really bring about a much bigger movement against nuclear weapons,” Fihn said. “This gives us an enormous opportunity to reach out to new audiences, and to mobilize people once again.”

ICAN, currently a coalition of 468 organizations in 101 countries, is expecting to expand.

Ray Acheson, an ICAN steering committee member from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, told reporters that since the Nobel prize announcement on Friday the campaign has received “a lot of new partnership requests.”

The Nobel committee cited Geneva-based ICAN for its work that led to the first-ever Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was agreed to by 122 countries at the United Nations in July. It opened for signature on Sept. 20 and already 53 countries have signed and three have ratified.

Fihn said ICAN’s “ambitious goal” is to get the 50 ratifications needed for the treaty to enter into force before the end of 2018.

The United States, which boycotted negotiations along with other nuclear powers, reacted to ICAN’s award saying the treaty “will not make the world more peaceful, will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon, and will not enhance any state’s security.”

Fihn said the U.S. reaction was “quite expected,” but it shows the treaty is having “an impact on them.”

She stressed, however, that the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t going to make Trump give up nuclear weapons.

“But I don’t think that’s really what we’re doing here,” she said. “What we’re trying to do here is to make nuclear weapons unacceptable in the minds of the people, and that’s where civil society has the power. That’s really what is changing things. And in the end, governments have to do what their people say.”

As for North Korea, Fihn said, North Korea won’t disarm as long as it thinks nuclear weapons are acceptable, legitimate and justified.

The nuclear weapon states and those countries under their nuclear umbrella currently maintain they are necessary for security, she said.

“I think that is what this treaty is about — stop allowing them to justify having weapons of mass destruction that are only meant to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians,” Fihn said.

She said it’s been during previous times of big crises that “the most progress” has been made toward nuclear disarmament.

Five years after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the Treaty of Tlatelolco was signed prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and later the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, she said. And during heightened Cold War tensions talks in Reykjavik, Iceland between then U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 resulted in the treaty to eliminate intermediate and shorter-range nuclear and conventional missiles the following year.

Fihn said these crises, and the current escalating U.S.-North Korean tensions, “also bring about public mobilization.”

“I think that that’s where this peace prize is extremely timely, and very urgently needed attention on this issue,” she said.

 

Text of Nobel Peace Prize award to anti-nuclear campaign ICAN

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 7, 2017 at 11:13 pm

> The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
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> The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.
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> We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.
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> Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.
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> Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap. An important argument in the rationale for prohibiting nuclear weapons is the unacceptable human suffering that a nuclear war will cause. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe.
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> The coalition has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. To date, 108 states have made such a commitment, known as the Humanitarian Pledge.
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> Furthermore, ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the endeavor to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. On 7 July 2017, 122 of the UN member states acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
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> As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states, the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and will be binding under international law for all the countries that are party to the treaty.
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> The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty.
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> The Committee wishes to emphasize that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.
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> Five of the states that currently have nuclear weapons – the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – have already committed to this objective through their accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970.
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> The Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons.
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> It is now 71 years since the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, advocated the importance of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon-free world. With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to pay tribute to ICAN for giving new momentum to the efforts to achieve this goal.
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> The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel’s will.
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> The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament.
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> ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.
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> It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor.
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> Reporting By Alister Doyle

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s New Bill is a Necessary Next Step in Addressing the Climate Change Crisis

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on September 27, 2017 at 12:35 am

MARK SCHLOSBERG, Sep 25 2017

The OFF Act takes aggressive action on climate and energy legislation.

This is an opinion piece by Mark Schlosberg, Organizing Co-Director, Food & Water Watch

Almost three weeks ago, as the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey still inundated Texas and Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, EPA chief Scott Pruitt commented that it was “insensitive” to talk about the relationship between climate change and the storms. But just two weeks later, as Hurricane Maria forges a path of destruction across Puerto Rico and beyond, as we continue to see the impacts from massive floods in Asia and Africa, and as wildfires in our own Western states burn nearly year-round, the real insensitivity is not talking about climate change. It is more critical than ever that we talk about it and do something to address it, before increased climate chaos dooms us all. Thankfully, a solution exists.

Recently Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act), the strongest, most aggressive climate change legislation we’ve got. But it’s up to us to build the pressure to help make the OFF Act a reality. And we must.

Representative Gabbard’s OFF Act responds to the urgency of our climate crisis with a clear roadmap of where we need to go to rapidly move off fossil fuels and onto 100 percent clean, renewable energy on a timeline that will give us a fighting chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate catastrophe. The bill requires a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, but also compels immediate reductions in a major way, requiring 80 percent renewable in the next ten years. It transitions the auto industry to zero-emissions by 2035, halts new fossil fuel projects, bans the profit-driven export of oil and gas overseas, ends foolish subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, promotes environmental justice, and provides a just transition for displaced oil and gas workers.

Introduced just a few weeks ago, the OFF Act already has the support of more than 350 organizations, including Progressive Democrats of America, National Nurses United, Friends of the Earth, Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network and the American Sustainable Business Council. This early support represents the vanguard of a growing consensus that we must act immediately and decisively.

Now we need our elected representatives to understand our demand for action and feel the urgency behind it.

This week, members of Congress are at home in their districts. Now is the time for them to hear from us with meeting requests, letter deliveries, phone calls, letters in local papers, calls to radio stations and more. The message is simple and clear: The future of our planet is at stake. We must move off dangerous, destructive fossil fuels now. Rep. Gabbard’s OFF Act is the best way to do it.

We know that with the current conservative makeup of Congress, the OFF Act won’t pass tomorrow. But just as we’ve seen with the significant recent progress made in the single-payer health care movement, building strong support for the OFF Act now will put us in a position to make this critical legislation the law sooner rather than later.

We need to act now. Let’s get to work.

@
Eric Weltman
Senior Organizer
Food & Water Watch
347-778-2743
eweltman@fwwatch.org
147 Prince Street, 4th Fl., No. 7
Brooklyn, NY 11201
http://www.FoodandWaterWatch.org

Time to Restrict the President’s Power to Wage Nuclear War

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 1:54 am

By JEFFREY BADER and JONATHAN D. POLLACK SEPT. 12, 2017
For the first time in a generation, there is widespread anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, stimulated by the extreme tensions between North Korea and the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has advised Americans that they can sleep safely at night, a reassurance that most people probably wish they did not need to hear.
Mr. Tillerson offered his soothing counsel to deflate media hype about recent threats and counterthreats exchanged between Pyongyang and Washington. His words also reflect profound unease about the temperament and judgment of the two leaders who could trigger inadvertent war: President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim appear to believe that bombast serves their domestic needs. Both seem to think that they can dominate and intimidate through the direst of threats. However, words can easily have consequences that neither leader seems to grasp.
Should we be living in a world where two leaders can stumble into a nuclear holocaust? North Korea’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly requires a much-enhanced containment and deterrence policy by the United States and its allies to prevent Mr. Kim from undertaking ever-riskier options. But what can be done to constrain the actions of an American president whose stability is now openly questioned, even by the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee?
To limit the possibilities of an almost unimaginable conflict, there is a need to pursue a long overdue legislative remedy.
Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. Yet during America’s numerous wars since World War II, presidents have never sought such authorization. The major reason? Nuclear weapons. There was widespread agreement that the president needed maximum flexibility to respond to a Soviet attack and that involving Congress would cause undue delays in a moment of crisis. As a result, the president has had essentially unchecked power to wage war, including launching a nuclear strike.
However, strategic planners understood the risks of enabling a single officer in a silo in North Dakota, perhaps under the most stressful conditions imaginable, to initiate a nuclear strike. The nuclear command-and-control system therefore entailed a “two key” system requiring simultaneous actions by two officers to activate a launch.
The time is long overdue to introduce comparable checks at the highest levels of the executive branch. The strategic circumstances faced by the United States today are altogether different from those during the Cold War. Despite heightened tensions triggered by Russian revanchism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, the real risk of nuclear war emanates from a rogue actor, and North Korea heads the list. Almost casual presidential invocations of fire and fury have rendered circumstances far more dangerous.
The United States should in no way diminish its ability to respond to a nuclear or conventional attack by North Korea against United States territory or the territory of an ally. However, we should put in place a system of constraints to ensure that a preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States must be evaluated through a careful, deliberative process.
Congress should therefore amend the War Powers Act to cover the possibility of preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strikes. This would ensure that the president could not simply provide the codes to his military aide carrying the nuclear “football” and launch such an attack on his own authority.
Legislation should provide for a small group of officials, possibly including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the four leaders of the House and Senate, to give unanimous consent to any such nuclear strike. It would ensure that multiple sets of eyes, equipped with stable emotions and sound brains, would be able to prevent such a nuclear strike undertaken without appropriate deliberation.
This proposal would raise difficult constitutional questions. All presidential administrations have deemed the War Powers Act to be unconstitutional. Giving officers appointed by the president and subject to his direction formal veto power over military decisions could be problematic and precedent setting. If so, confining the veto power to the congressional leadership might be a preferable alternative.
Even during the Cold War, there was great risk in ceding to one person the ability to kill millions in a flash. There is no good reason to enable an American president to retain absolute authority in circumstances completely unlike those faced during the Cold War.
Assurances that nuclear weapons remain an option of absolute last resort, to be considered only after the concurrence of leaders from the executive branch and from the Congress, would also calm the nerves of United States allies deeply troubled by loose talk about the resort to nuclear weapons.
This is not to suggest that President Trump nurses some secret desire to launch a nuclear attack. However, the United States needs to act very prudently in dealing with an isolated and uniquely adversarial state. For its part, Congress has the power to prevent hair-trigger responses or impulsive actions that could lead to nuclear war.

Jeffrey Bader was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on Asia from 2009 to 2011. Jonathan D. Pollack is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in Korea and China, and was a professor at the United States Naval War College.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2017, on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Stumbling Toward A Nuclear Holocaust.

Banking on Uranium Makes the World Less Safe

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on September 11, 2017 at 6:05 am

by LINDA PENTZ GUNTER

There is a curious fallacy that continues to persist among arms control groups rightly concerned with reducing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. It is that encouraging the use of nuclear energy will achieve this goal.

This illogical notion is enshrined in Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which rewards signatories who do not yet have nuclear weapons with the “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Now comes the international low-enriched uranium bank, which opened on August 29 in Kazakhstan, to expedite this right. It further reinforces the Article IV doctrine— that the spread of nuclear power will diminish the capability and the desire to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The uranium bank will purchase and store low-enriched uranium, fuel for civilian reactors, ostensibly guaranteeing a ready supply in case of market disruptions. But it is also positioned as a response to the Iran conundrum, a country whose uranium enrichment program cast suspicion over whether its real agenda was to continue enriching its uranium supply to weapons-grade level.

The bank will be run by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose remit is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.” Evidently the IAEA has been quite successful in this promotional endeavor since the agency boasts that “dozens of countries today are interested in pursuing nuclear energy.”

A caveat here, borne out by the evidence of nuclear energy’s declining global share of the electricity market, is that far more countries are “interested” than are actually pursuing nuclear energy. The IAEA numbers are more aspiration than reality.

Superficially at least, the bank idea sounds sensible enough. There will be no need to worry that countries considering a nuclear power program might secretly shift to nuclear weapons production. In addition to a proliferation barrier, the bank will serve as a huge cost savings, sparing countries the expense of investing in their own uranium enrichment facilities.

The problem with this premise is that, rather than make the planet safer, it actually adds to the risks we already face. News reports pointed to the bank’s advantages for developing countries. But developing nations would be much better off implementing cheaper, safer renewable energy, far more suited to countries that lack major infrastructure and widespread electrical grid penetration.

Instead, the IAEA will use its uranium bank to provide a financial incentive to poorer countries in good standing with the agency to choose nuclear energy over renewables. For developing countries already struggling with poverty and the effects of climate change, this creates the added risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident, the financial burden of building nuclear power plants in the first place, and of course an unsolved radioactive waste problem.

No country needs nuclear energy. Renewable energy is soaring worldwide, is far cheaper than nuclear, and obviously a whole lot safer. No country has to worry about another’s potential misuse of the sun or wind as a deadly weapon. There is no solar non-proliferation treaty. We should be talking countries out of developing dangerous and expensive nuclear energy, not paving the way for them.

There is zero logic for a country like Saudi Arabia, also mentioned during the uranium bank’s unveiling, to choose nuclear over solar or wind energy. As Senator Markey (D-MA) once unforgettably pointed out: “Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar.” But the uranium bank could be just the carrot that sunny country needs to abandon renewables in favor of uranium.

This is precisely the problem with the NPT Article IV. Why “reward” non-nuclear weapons countries with dangerous nuclear energy? If they really need electricity, and the UN wants to be helpful, why not support a major investment in renewables? It all goes back to the Bomb, of course, and the Gordian knot of nuclear power and nuclear weapons that the uranium bank just pulled even tighter.

Will the uranium bank be too big to fail? Or will it even be big at all? With nuclear energy in steep decline worldwide, unable to compete with renewables and natural gas; and with major nuclear corporations, including Areva and Westinghouse, going bankrupt, will there even be enough customers?

Clothed in wooly non-proliferation rhetoric, the uranium bank is nothing more than a lupine marketing enterprise to support a struggling nuclear industry desperate to remain relevant as more and more plants close and new construction plans are canceled. The IAEA and its uranium bank just made its prospects a whole lot brighter and a safer future for our planet a whole lot dimmer.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development.

The Silence of the Good People

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Poetry, Public Health, Race, War on September 9, 2017 at 12:06 am

By Paul Street

Trutdig, Sept. 6, 2017

Editor’s note: This essay was written before Hurricane Irma emerged in the Caribbean. Irma is another historic superstorm whose fury is significantly fueled by climate change.

I naturally disapprove strongly of the virulent white racists who gathered to violently defend Confederate “slave power” statues in Charlottesville, Va., two weekends ago, but I’ll say one thing for them: At least they seem to care quite a great deal in urgent, if vile, ways about politics and current events.

The older I get, the more I am struck by the bloodless social and political indifference and lethargy of millions upon millions of my fellow Americans.

Tyranny feeds on mass apathy and docility as much as it does on the marshaling of dark and reactionary forces. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. … In end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“He who passively accepts evil,” King added, “is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Ecocidal Evil in Power

Look at the rolling national atrocity that is the quasi- and perhaps pre-fascist Donald Trump presidency. Every week, it seems, the orange-tinted beast comes forward with new threats and offenses to basic civilizational decency. Look at recent events: the crazy game of thermonuclear chicken Trump continues to play with Kim Jong Un; the dog-whistling cover Trump gave to the Nazis and other white supremacists in Charlottesville; the president’s threat to “shut down the federal government” if Congress doesn’t pay for his criminally idiotic and racist border wall; his granting of an early, pre-sentencing pardon to diabolical Joe Arpaio, the former longtime racist-fascist sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County.

Behind the scenes of “This Week in Trump” (TWIT), the “Insane Clown President” has been effectively advancing a hard-right agenda directly through the nation’s executive branch. The federal bench is being remade in the image of the radically reactionary and arch-regressive Federalist Society. Financial regulations are being rolled back along with environmental, consumer and civil rights protections. Trump is doing everything he can to slash health coverage for poor people short of his failed efforts to repeal Obamacare—this while he angles to pass a plutocratic tax cut for the rich in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 percent already has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The worst and least discussed part of the Trump outrage may be the White House’s climate change-denialist commitment to the deregulation of energy and the dismantling of environmental protections. Humanity stands on the precipice of full-on environmental collapse, with anthropogenic (really capitalogenic) global warming (A/CGW) leading the grave threat to livable ecology. Trump’s radically reckless response is to pull the United States out of the moderate Paris Climate Accords, to remove all references to climate change from federal websites, and to head the Environmental Protection Agency with a fellow petro-capitalist climate change-denier who is dedicated to crippling that federal department.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for a 16 percent cut to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors all things climate- and weather-related. The White House wants to slash $513 million from that department’s satellite program.

On Aug. 15, 10 days before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Trump signed an executive order repealing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, established under Barack Obama in 2015. The standard required the federal government to factor in climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.

Meanwhile, as Houstonians struggle to recover from an epic storm clearly rooted in A/CGW, Trump proposes to lop off $667 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). His budget slashes disaster preparedness and response programs and FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program. It would wipe out the agency’s entire national flood insurance analysis program.

This is exterminist, ecocidal madness on steroids.

At the same time, Trump calls for $2.6 billion to finish his big, stupid, racist wall. In Phoenix two weeks ago, he threatened to “shut down the federal government” if it fails to fund that great monument to white-nationalist nativism. All this while advancing major tax breaks for the wealthy few and their giant corporations.

The Destructive Ideology of ‘I Voted’

This is big, existentially dire stuff. Talk about evil. And yet I routinely confront abject indifference and aversion to anything and everything political on the part of ordinary white middle-class Americans. If I were to try to engage people on these topics in downtown Iowa City, Iowa, right now (I am writing on a sunny, football-perfect Saturday afternoon here), people would politely step past me with no more consideration than what they give to a Jehovah’s Witness. “Go Hawks” (short for the Iowa Hawkeyes), they’d tell me. Yes, there is a significant increase in occasional liberal and progressive activism and protest under Trump. But it’s nowhere close to matching the level of dangerous and malicious criminality in Washington.

Millions of “good Americans” go through life in a chilling state of morally idiotic self-obsession and consumerism, chattering endlessly about their vacations, purchases, home repairs, automobiles, ailments, jobs and purely private dramas. The fact that the world’s most powerful state is headed by a racist, sexist and eco-exterminist white-nationalist, nuke-wielding malignant narcissist atop a team of right-wing, arch-plutocratic, planet-killing, science-denying enemies of peace, justice and democracy somehow doesn’t register as worthy of mass civil unrest in most American minds—white minds especially.

Masses of good Americans have other things to worry about. A well-dressed liberal and white-haired white lady I often see downtown is perpetually on her computer planning her and her retired husband’s next flight to some city abroad (today it’s Amsterdam, last month it was Jakarta, Indonesia). I asked her recently if she thinks she makes the world any better by flying around it again and again. She shot me an angry look and said, “I voted. For Hillary.”

It’s one thing to tell a pollster that you think government should work for social justice and common good. It’s another thing to forgo your drunken football tailgate or your next planet-cooking travel adventure in order spend your time and money differently, for movements to bring your purported noble ideals into fruition.

Trump and his noxious cadres of sociopathic ecology-wreckers and plutocratic racists calculate that masses of good Americans are so pervasively indifferent, self-absorbed (often to the point of pathological narcissism), preoccupied, distracted, diverted, disinterested and demobilized that they can get away with just about anything while pounding his ugly and angry white base to make the world yet more precarious and vile.

There’s something else that Trump counts on: mass acceptance of the childish notion that going into a two- [capitalist-] party ballot box for two minutes once every two or four years is a great and glorious exercise in popular self-rule. “Rejoice citizens,” the U.S. wealth- and power-elite and its ubiquitous commercial media tell the people: “You had your input on Election Day.”

Under the American religion of voting, Noam Chomsky told Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson last year, “Citizenship means every four years you put a mark somewhere and you go home and let other guys run the world. It’s a very destructive ideology … basically, a way of making people passive, submissive objects. … [We] ought to teach kids that elections take place but that’s not politics.”

Remember what Trump tweeted on the second day of his presidency in response to historic, large-scale protests of his inauguration: “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?”

Beyond the weird assumption that the people who marched against him didn’t vote against him, the real problem with that statement was the notion that a narrow-spectrum, candidate-centered election contest between two capitalist candidates once every 1,460 days grants a serious popular say on the direction the nation should take.

The marches against Trump’s inauguration were historic in scale. They were completely tied in with the election cycle, however. And, all of them (with all due respect for the airport and town hall protests in defense of Muslim travel rights and health care) have been remotely replicated in response to the actual policies—as opposed to the electoral advent—of the openly geocidal, racist and corporate-kleptocratic Trump presidency.

“The really critical thing,” the great radical American historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens.” As Zinn explained in an essay on the “Election Madness” he saw “mesmerized liberals and radicals alike” as Barack Obama rose toward the White House in the spring of 2008:

The election frenzy seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us. … Would I support one [presidential] candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. … But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.
‘The Real Issue to Be Faced’

But here Zinn was not radical enough. “Changing national [and state and local] policy” (Zinn) is only the tip of the iceberg of the transformation required. Near the end of his life, Dr. King wrote in his final essay that “the real issue to be faced” beyond “superficial” matters (like the color or partisan identity of a U.S. senator or president) was “the radical reconstruction of society itself.” He wrote that the black struggle of his time was “exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws.”

Those sage words ring with even greater relevance today than they did half a century ago. The U.S. didn’t get to its current horrific state simply through the machinations of the Trump campaign and the Republican Party. The real and deeper causes are systemic, institutional, cultural, moral and intellectual-ideological. As Naomi Klein notes in her new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” the shocking Trump ascendancy is “not just [about] an individual or even a group of individuals. … [It’s about the neoliberal capitalist] system that has elevated them to such heights.” A system, writes Klein, under which the “Democratic Party establishment [is] also enmeshed with the billionaire class.”

Hurricane Harvey is no aberration, no freakish fit of nature. It’s another terrible example of the new normal created by U.S-led global petro-capitalism, headquartered to no small degree in the “petro-metro” of Houston itself—the nation’s fourth largest city. As the environmental writer Robert Hunziker noted last Friday:

The human footprint is driving climate change to hyper speed. … Today’s rapidly changing climate is the upshot of the Great Acceleration or post-WWII human footprint into/onto the ecosystem. … Abnormal is now normal. One-hundred-year floods are passé. … Epic floods and historic droughts are the norm. It’s all happened within the past couple of decades. It was only [five] years ago that Hurricane Sandy caused $75B in damages as the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. In France in 2003, the hottest heat wave in over 500 years killed approximately 15,000, as well as 70,000 throughout Europe. Stifling heat hung in the air for months, no movement, atmospheric troughs of jet streams stood still, likely influenced and altered by global warming, specifically via radical changes in the Arctic, which is losing its bright reflecting ice cap that used to reflect up to 90% of solar radiation back into outer space. … Meanwhile, drought clobbered the Middle East, especially Syria, experiencing its worst-ever drought in 900 years, displacing one-to-two million farmers.
This is the handiwork not of humanity per se but of Homo sapiens under the command of capital—as it has been for just a small slice (roughly half a millennium) of its history. Harvey is yet another deadly reminder that “nature bats clean-up” and will not let Homo sapiens off the hook for letting its capitalist “elite” drive global temperature to deadly extremes with excessive carbon emissions that are a direct consequence of modern capitalism’s lethal addiction to endless accumulation, commodification and quantitative “growth.”

‘The Time Is Always Right to Do Right‘

Those who persist in thinking that we can “wait” for the next election (assuming that Trump doesn’t take action to suspend the next presidential electoral extravaganza)—and then the next one after that and so on—to address the pressing issues of our time might want to read the following passage from a forgotten speech Dr. King gave at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1966:

The great challenge facing the nation today is to get rid of a system that is evil and that is morally wrong. Now, in order to get rid of this system, it will be necessary to develop massive action programs. The problem will not work itself out. In order to develop massive action programs, we’ve got to get rid of one or two myths that are quite prevalent and that we hear a great deal around various communities. One is what I often speak of as the myth of time … the argument that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. Only time can bring integration into being. And so those who set forth this argument tend to say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, just be nice and just be patient and wait 100 or 200 years and the problem will work itself out.

I think there is an answer to that myth. That is that time is neutral, it can be used either constructively or destructively. And I’m absolutely convinced that in so many instances the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme righteous of our nation have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people who would bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say wait on time.

Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes though the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so it is necessary to help time and to realize that the time is always right to do right.
As I’m sure Dr. King would observe were he alive today (he’d be 88 years old), climate change—the biggest issue of our or any time—is a problem that is not going to “work itself out.”

More to the main point of this essay, we don’t have time to wait for it to do so. The fourth chapter of Klein’s new book is properly titled “The Climate Clock Strikes Midnight.” Tell me, dear reader, when did then-senior Exxon scientist James Black write that “man has a time window of five to ten years before the need to make hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical” because of how “mankind is influencing the global climate … through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels”? As Klein notes, those words were penned in 1978—the very year, for what it’s worth, when I (a budding young former-juvenile-delinquent-turned-bibliophilic-Marxist) read the great eco-socialist Barry Commoner’s urgent 1971 book “The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology” and then promptly forgot about the environmental issue for 15 years.

It is one thing to speak the standard “liberal” and “pragmatic” language of gradual, step-by-step progress—the discourse of “not making the perfect the enemy of the good”—when it comes to issues like poverty, inequality, mass incarceration, school funding, health care, taxation and the right to form unions. With these and other problems, Bill McKibben noted seven years ago, it is sometimes acceptable “to split the difference between different positions, make incremental change, and come back in a few years to do some more. It doesn’t get impossibly harder in the meantime—people will suffer for lack of health care, but their suffering won’t make future change impossible.”

Global warming is different for two reasons. First, as McKibben observed, it is “a negotiation between human beings on the one hand and physics and chemistry on their other. This is a tough negotiation, because physics and chemistry don’t compromise. They’ve already laid out their nonnegotiable bottom line: above 350 [carbon] parts per million [ppm in the atmosphere] the planet doesn’t work.” Second, as Klein writes, “Climate change … ha[s] a different relationship to time.” She further says:

With the politics of climate change … we don’t get to try again in four years. Because in four years, the earth will have been radically changed … in the interim, and our chances of averting an irreversible catastrophe will have shrunk. … Lots of social movements have adopted Samuel Beckett’s famous line: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” as a lighthearted motto. I’ve always liked the attitude; we can’t be perfect, we won’t always win, but we should strive to improve. The trouble is, Beckett’s dictum doesn’t work for climate—not at this stage in the game. If we keep failing to lower emissions … there won’t be more opportunities to fail better.
Talk about what King called “the fierce urgency of now.” And talk about evil: The greenhouse gassing-to-death of life on Earth will make the Nazis, the sadistic Southern U.S. slave owners and the perpetrators of the Belgian genocide in the Congo all look like small-time criminals.

Mother Nature is a harsh and demanding mistress. We are anthrosuicidal fools to ignore her ever more pressing entreaties. 350? We passed 410 ppm earlier this year. We are on a pace for 500 by 2050 [which means so-long Antarctic, which means the end of the planet’s life-support system. As Klein notes, relaying what the world’s leading Earth scientists recently told her, “the window during which there is time to lower emissions sufficiently to avoid truly catastrophic warming is closing rapidly.”

If we are serious about averting environmental catastrophe in the next generation, we cannot take a “letter grades” approach. We are in pass-fail territory—and failing badly—in that policy realm. By all Earth science indications, it’s not about gaining a little bit this year, a little bit next year. We are approaching a chasm: We either take the leap or it’s game over, and, as Chomsky told Occupy Boston five years ago, “everything else we’re talking about won’t matter.” Hence the name of a recently formed Canadian statement platform for socially just, democratic, and environmentally sustainable policy: The Leap Manifesto.

Since Dr. King’s time, the United States has made some shining progress around questions of identity, civil liberties, bigotry and sexuality. It has made zero progress and, in fact, moved backward on economic justice and, most dangerously of all, on the intimately related environmental question, which now hangs over us like a great global Grim Reaper daring us to care about the fate of our own and countless other species.

A recent report on Moyers & Company shows that left-leaning social, political and environmental/climate progressives are the nation’s “new silent majority.” Now would be the time for that silence to find a voice. King’s line from the introduction to this essay bears repeating: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

 

Paul Street holds a doctorate in U.S. history from Binghamton University. He is former vice president for research and planning of the Chicago Urban League. Street is also the author of numerous books.

The Freeze-for-Freeze Solution: An Alternative to Nuclear War

In Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 8, 2017 at 11:37 pm

 

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War, WorldBeyondWar.org
http://worldbeyondwar.org/freeze-freeze-solution-alternative-nuclear-war/

On August 5, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster informed MSNBC that the Pentagon had plans to counter the “growing threat” from North Korea—by launching a “preventative war.”

Note: When someone armed with world-ending weapons is speaking, language is important.

For example: a “threat” is merely an expression. It may be annoying, or even provocative, but it is something that falls well short of a physical “attack.”

“Preventative war” is a euphemism for “armed aggression”—an action the International Criminal Court identifies as “the ultimate war crime.” The slippery phrase “preventative war” serves to transform the aggressor into a “potential” victim, responding to a perceived “future crime” by acting in “self-defense.”

The concept of “preventative violence” has a domestic counterpart. An investigation by London’s The Independent found that US police killed 1,069 civilians in 2016. Of those, 107 were unarmed. Most of these individuals died because of the concept of “preventative war.” The typical defense from the officers involved in deadly shootings was that they “felt threatened.” They opened fire because they “felt their lives were in danger.”

What is intolerable on the streets of America should be equally unacceptable when applied to any country within range of Washington’s globe-straddling weaponry.

In an interview on the Today Show, Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted: “There will be a war with North Korea over their missile program if they continue trying to hit America with an ICBM.”

Note: Pyongyang has not “tried to hit” the US: It has only launched unarmed, experimental test missiles. (Although, listening to Kim Jong-un’s heated, over-the-top rhetorical threats, one might think otherwise.)

Living in the Shadow of a Frightened Giant

For all of its unparalleled military might, the Pentagon has never been able to assuage Washington’s abiding suspicions that someone, somewhere, is plotting an attack. This fear of a constant “threat” from foreign forces is invoked to channel massive tides of tax dollars into an ever-expanding military/industrial pond. But policies of perpetual paranoia only make the world a more dangerous place.

On September 5, Russian President Vladimír Putin, responding to journalists’ questions about the worrisome face-off between the US and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), issued this warning: “[R]amping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end. It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean Issue, save that peaceful dialogue.”

Putin dismissed the efficacy of Washington’s threat to impose even harsher economic sanctions, noting that the proud North Koreans would sooner “eat grass” than halt their nuclear weapons program because “they do not feel safe.”

In a commentary posted in January 2017, Pyongyang underscored the fears that prompted the DPRK to acquire its nuclear arsenal: “The Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya, after surrendering to the pressure from the US and the West, which were attempting to subvert their regime[s], could not avoid the fate of doom as a consequence of . . . giving up their nuclear program.”

Time and again, the DPRK has railed against the ongoing joint US/ROK military exercises staged along Korea’s contentious borders. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has characterized these events as “preparations for the second Korean War” and “a dress rehearsal for an invasion.”

“What can restore their security?” Putin asked. His answer: “The restoration of international law.”

Washington’s Nuclear Arsenal: Deterrent or Provocation?

Washington has expressed alarm that the latest long-range tests by the DPRK suggest that Pyongyang’s missiles (sans warhead, for now) may be able to reach the US mainland, 6,000 miles away.

Meanwhile, the US maintains its own long-established and launch-ready atomic arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs. Each can carry up to three nuclear warheads. At last count, the US had 4,480 atomic warheads at its disposal. With a range of 9,321 miles, Washington’s Minuteman missiles can deliver a nuclear blow to any target in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and most of Africa. Only Southern Africa and parts of the Antarctic are beyond the reach of America’s land-based ICBMs. (Add the Pentagon’s nuclear-armed submarines, and nowhere on Earth is beyond Washington’s nuclear reach.)

When it comes to defending its nuclear missile program, North Korea uses the same excuse as every other atomic power—the warheads and rockets are solely intended as a “deterrent.” It is basically the same argument employed by the National Rifle Association, which asserts the right to self-protection involves the right to bear arms and the right to use them in “self-defense.”

If the NRA were to apply this argument at the global/thermonuclear level, consistency would require that organization stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kim Jong-un. The North Koreans are simply insisting on their right to “stand their ground.” They are only claiming the same status that the US grants to other existing nuclear powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia.

But somehow, when “certain countries” express an interest in pursuing these weapons, a nuclear-armed missile is no longer a “deterrent”: It instantly becomes a “provocation” or a “threat.”

If nothing else, Pyongyang’s truculence has done the nuclear abolition movement a great service: it has demolished the argument that nuclear-tipped ICBMs are a “deterrent.”

North Korea Has Reason to Feel Paranoid

During the brutal years of the 1950-53 Korean War (called a “peace action” by Washington but remembered by survivors as “the Korean Holocaust”), American aircraft dropped 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm over North Korea, destroying 78 cities and obliterating thousands of villages. Some of the victims died from exposure to US biological weapons containing anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. It is now believed that as many as 9 million people––30% of the population—may have been killed during the 37-month-long bombardment.

Washington’s war on the North stands as one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The US blitz was so merciless that the Air Force eventually ran out of places to bomb. Left behind where the ruins of 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, and more than a half-million homes. The Air Force also managed to bomb bridges and dams on the Yalu River, causing farmland floods that destroyed the country’s rice harvest, triggering additional deaths by starvation.

It is worth recalling that the first Korean War erupted when China honored a 1950 treaty obliging Beijing to defend the DPRK in the event of a foreign attack. (That treaty is still in effect.)

The Continued US Military Presence in Korea

The “Korean conflict” ended in 1953 with the signing of an armistice agreement. But the US never left South Korea. It built (and continues to build) a sprawling infrastructure of more than a dozen active military bases. The Pentagon’s military expansions inside Republic of Korea (ROK) are frequently met with dramatic eruptions of civilian resistance. (On September 6, 38 people in Seonju were injured during a confrontation between thousands of police and demonstrators protesting the presence of US missile interceptors.)

But most troubling to the North are the annual joint military exercises that deploy tens of thousands of US and ROK troops along the DPRK’s border to engage in live-fire exercises, marine assaults, and bombing runs that prominently feature nuclear-capable US B-1 Lancer bombers (dispatched from Anderson Airbase on Guam, 2,100 miles away) dropping 2,000-pound bunker-busters provocatively close to North Korean territory.

These annual and semi-annual military exercises are not a new strategic irritant on the Korean Peninsula. They began just 16 months after the signing of the armistice agreement. The US organized the first joint military deployment—”Exercise Chugi”—in November 1955 and the “war games” have continued, with various degrees of intensity, for 65 years.

Like every military exercise, the US-ROK maneuvers have left behind landscapes of scorched and bombed earth, bodies of soldiers inadvertently killed in mock-combat accidents, and vast profits reliably tendered to the companies that supply the weapons and ammunition expended during these martial extravaganzas.

In 2013, the North responded to these “show of force” maneuvers by threatening to “bury [a US warship] in the sea.” In 2014, Pyongyang greeted the joint-exercise by threatening “all out war” and demanding the US halt it’s “nuclear blackmail.”

The “largest ever” military drill was held in 2016. It lasted two-months, involved 17,000 US troops and 300,000 soldiers from the South. The Pentagon characterized the bombings, amphibious assaults, and artillery exercises as “non-provocative.” North Korea responded predictably, calling the maneuvers “reckless . . . undisguised nuclear war drills” and threatening a “preemptive nuclear strike.”

Following Donald Trump’s incendiary threat to strike Kim with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the Pentagon opted to bank the flames even higher by proceeding with its previously scheduled August 21-31 air, land, and sea exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. The verbal slugfest between the two combative leaders only intensified.

While most of the US media has spent the past months obsessing over North Korea’s nuclear program and its missile launches, there has been less reporting on Washington’s plans to “decapitate” the country by removing the Korean leader.

A “Wide Range of Options”: Assassination and Covert Ops

On April 7, 2917 NBC Nightly News reported that it had “learned exclusive details about the top secret, highly-controversial options that are being presented to the president for possible military action against North Korea.”

“It’s mandatory to present the widest possible array of options,” Nightly News’ Chief International Security and Diplomacy Analyst Adm. James Stavridis (Ret.) stated. “That’s what enables presidents to make the right decisions: when they see all the all the options on the table in front of them.”

But the “wide array of options” was dangerously narrow. Instead of considering diplomatic options, the only three options placed on the President’s table were:

Option 1:

Nuclear Weapons to South Korea

Option 2

“Decapitation”: Target and Kill

Option 3

Covert Action

Cynthia McFadden, NBC’s Senior Legal and Investigative Correspondent, laid out the three options. The first involved reversing a decades-old de-escalation treaty and shipping a new assortment of US nuclear weapons back to South Korea.

According to McFadden, the second option, the “decapitation” strike, was designed to “target and kill North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of missiles and nuclear weapons.”

Stravridis, however, cautioned that “decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you’re faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader.” (The words are freighted with a chilling irony given that the description fits Trump as well as Kim.) According to Stravridis, “The question is: what happens the day after you decapitate.”

The third option involves infiltrating South Korean troops and US Special Forces into the North to “take out key infrastructure” and possibly stage attacks on political targets.

The first option violates numerous nuclear nonproliferation agreements. The second and third options involve infringements of sovereignty as well as gross violations of international law.

Over the years, the Washington has used sanctions and military provocations to harass the North. Now that NBC News has been given the go-ahead to “normalize” the political assassination of a foreign leader by presenting Kim’s murder as a reasonable “option,” the geopolitical stakes have grown even higher.

http://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/916621379597” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Washington has imposed sanctions (a form of economic water-boarding) on a wide array of targets—Syria, Russia, Crimea, Venezuela, Hezbollah—with negligible results. Kim Jong-un is not the kind personality that responds well to sanctions. Kim has ordered the execution of more than 340 fellow Koreans since he assumed power in 2011. HIs victims have included government officials and family members. One of Kim’s favorite means of execution reportedly involves blowing victims to pieces with an anti-aircraft gun. Like Donald Trump, he’s use to getting his way.

And so, it is doubtful that overt US threats calling for Kim’s murder will do anything more than harden his determination to empower his military with “offsetting” weaponry that can “send a message” to Washington and to the tens of thousands of American soldiers surrounding North Korea to the south and east—in Japan and on Okinawa, Guam and other Pentagon-colonized islands in the Pacific.

The Fourth Option: Diplomacy

While the Pentagon cannot guarantee what impact its actions may have on the future, the State Department has significant data on what has worked in the past. It turns out that the Kim regime has not only approached Washington with invitations to negotiate an end to hostilities, but past administrations have responded and progress has been made.

In 1994, after four months of negotiations, President Bill Clinton and the DPRK signed an “Agreed Framework” to bring a halt to the North’s production of plutonium, a component of nuclear weapons. In exchange for abandoning three nuclear reactors and its controversial Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing facility, the US, Japan, and South Korea agreed to provide the DPRK with two light-water reactors and 500,000 metric tons of fuel oil a year to offset the energy lost while replacement reactors were constructed.

In January 1999, the DPRK agreed to meetings designed to deal with missile proliferation matters. In exchange, Washington agreed to remove economic sanctions imposed on the North. The talks continue through 1999 with the DPRK agreeing to halt its long-range missile program in exchange for a partial lifting of US economic sanctions.

In October 2000, Kim Jong Il sent a letter to President Clinton in a gesture designed to affirm the continued improvement of US-North Korean relations. Later, in an op-ed written for the New York Times, Wendy Sherman, who served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, wrote that a final agreement to terminate the DPRK’s medium- and long-range missile programs were “tantalizingly close” as the Clinton Administration came to an end.

In 2001, the arrival of a new president signaled an end to this progress. George W. Bush imposed new restrictions on negotiating with the North and publicly questioned whether Pyongyang was “keeping all terms of all agreements.” Bush’s sally was followed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s brusque denial that “imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the case.”

On March 15, 2001, the DPRK sent a heated response, threatening to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the new administration for its “black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” Pyongyang also cancelled ongoing administrative talks with Seoul that had been intended to promote political reconciliation between the two estranged states.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush branded the North as part of his “Axis of Evil” and accused the government of “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.”

Bush followed up by formally terminating Clinton’s “Agreed Framework” and halting the promised shipments of fuel oil. The DPRK responded by expelling United Nations weapons inspectors and restarting the Yongbyon reprocessing plant. Within two years, the DPRK was back in the business of producing weapons-grade plutonium and, in 2006, it conducted its first successful nuclear test.

It was an opportunity lost. But it demonstrated that diplomacy (although it takes attention and great patience) can work to accomplish peaceful ends.

“Dual Freeze”: A Solution that Could Work

Unfortunately, the current resident of the White House is an individual with a short attention span and is notoriously lacking in patience. Nonetheless, any avenue that takes our nation down a path not labeled “Fire and Fury,” would be a road best travelled. And, fortunately, diplomacy is not a forgotten art.

The most promising option is the so-called “Dual Freeze” plan (aka the “Freeze-for-Freeze” or “Double Halt”) recently endorsed by China and Russia. Under this tit-for-tat settlement, Washington would stop its massive (and massively costly) “invasion games” off North Korea’s border and shores. In exchange, Kim would agree to halt the development and testing of destabilizing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Most mainstream media consumers might be surprised to learn that, even before the China-Russia intervention, the North itself had repeatedly proposed a similar “Dual Freeze” solution to resolve the increasingly dangerous stand-off with the US. But Washington repeatedly refused.

In July 2017, when China and Russia partnered to endorse the “Dual Freeze” plan, the DPRK welcomed the initiative. During a June 21 TV interview, Kye Chun-yong, North Korea’s ambassador to India, declared: “Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of freezing nuclear testing or missile testing. For instance, if the American side completely stops big, large-scale military exercises temporarily or permanently, then we will also temporarily stop.”
“As everybody knows, the Americans have gestured [toward] dialogue,” North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In-ryong told reporters. “But what is important is not words, but actions . . . . The rolling back of the hostile policy toward DPRK is the prerequisite for solving all the problems in the Korean peninsula . . . . Therefore, the urgent issue to be settled on Korean peninsula is to put a definite end to the US hostile policy toward DPRK, the root cause of all problems.”

On January 10, 2015, the KCNA announced that Pyonyang had approached the Obama Administration offering to “temporarily suspend nuclear tests that concerns the US [and] . . . sit face to face with the US.” In exchange, the North requested that the “US suspend joint military exercise temporarily.”

When there was no response, North Korea’s minister of foreign affairs made public note of the rebuff in a statement posted on March 2, 2015: “We already expressed our willingness to take a reciprocal measure in case that the US halts joint military exercise in and around South Korea. However, the US, from the very beginning of the New Year, outright rejected our sincere proposal and effort by announcing ‘additional sanction’ toward North Korea.”

When the Trump administration rejected the latest Russia-China “Freeze” proposal in July 2017, it explained its refusal with this argument: Why should the US halt its “lawful” military exercises in exchange for the North agreeing to abandon its “illicit” weapons activities?

However, the the US-ROK joint-exercises would only be “legal” if they were provably “defensive.” But, as past years (and the NBC leaks cited above) have shown, these exercises are clearly designed to prepare for internationally outlawed acts of aggression—including violations of national sovereignty and the possible political assassination of a head of state.

The diplomatic option remains open. Every other course of action threatens an escalation towards a potential thermonuclear clash.

The “Dual Freeze” seems a fair—and wise—solution. So far, Washington has dismissed Freeze-for-Freeze as “a non-starter.”

ACTIONS:

Tell Trump to Stop Threatening North Korea

Roots Action Petition: Sign Here.

Tell Your Senators: No Military Action Against North Korea

Write your Senators today insisting upon a diplomatic – rather than a military – solution to the conflict with North Korea. You can amplify your impact on this issue by calling your Senators as well. The Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) will connect you.

Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He will be speaking at the World Beyond War three-day conference on “War and the Environment,” September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.)

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate.

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What the Media isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 5, 2017 at 10:09 am

By Mike Whitney
September 04, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Here’s what the media isn’t telling you about North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Last Monday, the DPRK fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The missile landed in the waters beyond the island harming neither people nor property.

The media immediately condemned the test as a “bold and provocative act” that showed the North’s defiance of UN resolutions and “contempt for its neighbors.” President Trump sharply criticized the missile test saying:

“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”

What the media failed to mention was that, for the last three weeks, Japan, South Korea and the US have been engaged in large-scale joint-military drills on Hokkaido Island and in South Korea. These needlessly provocative war games are designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (Re: Kill) the regime. North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un has asked the US repeatedly to end these military exercises, but the US has stubbornly refused. The US reserves the right to threaten anyone, anytime and anywhere even right on their doorstep. It’s part of what makes the US exceptional. Check out this excerpt from an article at Fox News:

“More than 3,500 American and Japanese troops kicked off a weeks-long joint military exercise Thursday against the backdrop of an increasingly belligerent North Korean regime. The exercise, known as Northern Viper 17, will take place on Hokkaido — Japan’s northern-most main island — and will last until Aug. 28….

“We are improving our readiness not only in the air, but as a logistical support team,” Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “We are in a prime location for contingency purposes and this exercise will only build upon our readiness in the case a real-world scenario occurs.” (US, Japanese troops begin joint military exercise amid North Korea threat”, Fox News)

Monday’s missile test (which flew over Hokkaido Island) was conducted just hours after the war games ended. The message was clear: The North is not going to be publicly humiliated and slapped around without responding. Rather than show weakness, the North demonstrated that it was prepared to defend itself against foreign aggression. In other words, the test was NOT a “bold and provocative act” (as the media stated) but a modest and well thought-out response by a country that has experienced 64 years of relentless hectoring, sanctions, demonization and saber rattling by Washington. The North responded because the Washington’s incitements required a response. End of story.

And the same is true of the three short-range ballistic missiles the North tested last week. (two of which apparently fizzled out shortly after launching.) These tests were a response to the 3 week-long joint-military drills in South Korea which involved 75,000 combat troops accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers. Was the North supposed to sit on its hands while this menacing display of brute military force took place right under its nose???

Of course not. Imagine if Russia engaged in a similar operation over the border in Mexico while the Russian fleet conducted “live fire” drills three miles outside of San Francisco Bay. What do you think Trump’s reaction would be?

He’d blow those boats out of the water faster than you could say “Jackie Robinson”, right?

So why the double standard when it comes to North Korea? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

North Korea should be applauded for showing that it won’t be intimidated by the schoolyard bully. Kim knows that any confrontation with the US will end badly for the North, even so, he hasn’t caved in or allowed himself to be pushed around by the blustering, browbeating thugs in the White House. Booyah, Kim.

By the way, Trump’s response to Monday’s missile test was barely covered in the mainstream media, and for good reason. Here’s what happened two days later:

On Wednesday, a US-led flight-group of F-35B fighters, F-15 fighters and B-1B bombers conducted military operations over a training range east of Seoul. The B-1B’s, which are low-altitude nuclear bombers, dropped their dummy-bombs on the site and then returned to their home base. The show of force was intended to send a message to Pyongyang that Washington is unhappy with the North’s ballistic missile testing project and is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the North if it fails to heed Washington’s diktats.

So Washington is prepared to nuke the North if they don’t straighten up and do as they are told?

It sure looks that way, but who really knows? In any event, Kim has no choice but to stand firm. If he shows any sign of weakness, he knows he’s going to end up like Saddam and Gaddafi. And that, of course, is what’s driving the hyperbolic rhetoric; the North wants to avoid the Gaddafi scenario at all cost. (BTW, the reason Kim has threatened to fire missiles at the waters surrounding Guam is because Guam is the home of Anderson Airforce Base which is the point-of-origin for the B-1B nuclear-capable bombers that have been making threatening flyovers on the Korean Peninsula for some time now. The North feels like it has to respond to that existential threat.

Wouldn’t it help if the media mentioned that fact or does it better serve their agenda to make it look like Kim is barking mad by lashing out against the ‘totally innocent’ United States, a country that only seeks to preserve the peace wherever it goes?

Give me a break!
It is so hard to find anything in the media that doesn’t reflect Washington’s bias and hostility. Surprisingly, there was pretty decent article at CBS News last week written by a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia. It’s the only article I’ve found that accurately explains what’s really going on beyond the propaganda. Check it out:

“Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, North Korea made it clear it was prepared to give the new U.S. administration time to review the policy and come up with something better than President Obama’s. The only wrinkle was that if the U.S. went full-steam ahead with its annual joint exercises with South Korea (especially if that were accompanied by more talk of “decapitation” and more flights of strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula), the North would react strongly.

In short, the U.S. did, and the North reacted.

Behind-the-scenes contacts went up and down, but couldn’t get traction. In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paraded new missiles as a warning, to no effect. The regime launched the new systems, one after another. Still, Washington’s approach didn’t change.” (Analysis: Pyongyang’s view of the North Korea-U.S. crisis”, CBS News)

Okay, so now we know the truth: The North gave it their best shot and came up snakeeyes, mainly because Washington doesn’t want to negotiate, they’d rather twist arms (Russia and China), tighten the embargo and threaten war. That’s Trump’s solution. Here’s more from the same piece:

“On July 4, after North Korea’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, Kim sent a public signal that the North could put the nuclear and missile programs “on the table” if the U.S. changed its approach.

The U.S. did not, so the North launched another ICBM, very deliberately deeming it a warning to the U.S. that they were to be taken seriously. Still, more B-1 bombers flew over the Peninsula, and the U.N. Security Council passed new sanctions.” (CBS News)

So, the North was ready to do some serious horse-trading, but the US balked. Kim probably heard what a wheeler dealer Trump was and figured they could work something out. But it hasn’t happen. Trump has turned out to be a bigger bust than Obama, which is pretty bad. He not only refuses to negotiate but he also delivers bellicose threats almost every day. This isn’t what the North was expecting. They were expecting a “non interventionist” leader who might be receptive to a trade-off.

The current situation has left Kim with no good options. He can either cave in and terminate his missile program altogether or increase the frequency of the tests and hope that they pave the way for negotiations. Kim chose the latter.

Did he make a bad choice?

Maybe.

Is it a rational choice?

Yes.

The North is betting that its nuclear weapons programs will be valuable bargaining chits in future negotiations with the United States. The North has no plan to nuke the west coast of the United States. That’s ridiculous! That doesn’t accomplish anything. What they want is to preserve their regime, procure security guarantees from Washington, lift the embargo, normalize relations with the South, extricate the US from the political affairs of the peninsula, and (hopefully) end the irritating and endlessly provocative 64 year US occupation. Yankee go home. Please.

Bottom line: The North is ready to deal. They want negotiations. They want to end the war. They want to put this whole nightmare behind them and get on with their lives. But Washington won’t let them because Washington likes the status quo. Washington wants to be a permanent feature in South Korea so it can encircle Russia and China with lethal missile systems and expand its geopolitical grip bringing the world closer to nuclear Armageddon.

That’s what Washington wants, and that’s why the crisis on the peninsula will continue to boil.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.
This article was first published by Counterpunch –

The Road to Charlottesville: Reflections on 21st Century U.S. Capitalist Racism

In Human rights, Justice, Politics, Public Health, Race on September 3, 2017 at 7:06 am

by PAUL STREET

 

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/25/the-road-to-charlottesville-reflections-on-21st-century-u-s-capitalist-racism/

 

Racism’s Surface and Deeper Levels

The United States, where median Black household wealth is less than 7 cents on the white household dollar and where the mild slogan “Black lives matter” is considered controversial, is still very much a racist nation. Grasping the nature of this national racism in 21st century means looking at the different levels on which race operates here. One level is at the nation’s discursive and symbolic surface. It is about language, imagery, signs, the color of elite personnel, representation, and, well, symbols.

A different and deeper level is institutional and structural. It’s about how labor markets, the financial sector, the real estate industry, the educational system, the criminal justice complex, the military state, the corporate system, the dominant media, and capitalism more broadly all work to deepen, maintain, and/or reduce racial oppression and inequality.

At the surface and symbolic level, racism has experienced significant defeats in the United States since the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the middle and late 1950s. Open public bigotry has been largely defeated in the nation’s corporate-crafted public culture. Prejudiced whites face public humiliation when they voice openly racist sentiments in a nation that took “Whites Only” signs down half a century ago. Favorably presented Black faces are visible in high and highly public places across the national media and political landscape. The United States, the land of slavery, put a Black family in the White House in November of 2008.

Even in the South, a racially mixed Black couple now does not generally have to fear white violence and insults as they walk down a city street. The formerly all-white University of Kentucky basketball team now routinely competes for the NCAA championship with nearly all-Black teams before tens of thousands of screaming white fans and white cheerleaders. Black players dominate on the perennial college football champion in the heart of Dixie – the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nightly television news teams are racially mixed across metropolitan America. Images of smart and handsome Black people are standard in commercial advertising, public relations, and human resources programs.

At the deeper institutional and societal level, however, racism is alive and well beneath the public and representational surface. It persists in the more impersonal and the more invisible operation of social and institutional forces and processes in ways that “just happen” to reproduce Black disadvantage. This deeper racism is so ingrained in the social, political, and institutional sinews of capitalist America that it is taken for granted – barely noticed by the mainstream media and other social commentators. It includes widely documented racial bias in real estate sales and rental and home lending; the funding of schools largely on the basis of local property wealth; the excessive use of high-stakes standardized test-based neo-Dickensian “drill” and grill curriculum and related zero-tolerance disciplinary practices in predominantly black public schools; the concentration of black children into over-crowded and hyper-segregated, pre-incarceratory ghetto schools where a highly disproportionate share of the kids are deeply poor; rampant and widely documented racial discrimination in hiring and promotion; the racist “War on Drugs” and the related campaign of racially hyper-disparate mass black arrest, incarceration and criminal marking. The technically color-blind stigma of a prison history and felony record is “the New N word” for millions of Black Americans subject to numerous “new Jim Crow” barriers to employment, housing, educational and other opportunities.

Place and Race

Persistent de facto residential and educational race apartheid/segregation is a very underestimated underpinning of the institutional racism that lives on beneath the “color-blind” mythology supported by the rise of highly successful and publicly visible Black Americans like Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas. This is because place of dwelling is strongly connected to economic status and opportunity. As sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton noted in their important 1998 book American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass “housing markets…distribute much more than a place to live; they also distribute any good or resource that is correlated with where one lives,.” The relevant goods and resources include jobs, education, safety, access to green spaces, civic community, healthy food, public and social services, and wealth in the form of home equity.

By concentrating poor and working class Black people in a restricted number of geographical places, including “downstate” (in Illinois) and “upstate” (in New York and Michigan) prisons , U.S. de facto race apartheid reinforces Blacks’ persistently disproportionate presence in the lowest socioeconomic places. It also renders Black experience largely invisible to most whites. This makes many Caucasian Americans susceptible to fantastically exaggerated and socially decontextualized media-generated notions of Black success and power (LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama) and – on the evening news, often delivered by “good Black” newscasters – to equally inflated images of “bad Black” criminality and “thuggery.”

Slavery Lives

Another critical and underestimated part of the societal racism that lives on beneath the representational and symbolic surface is the steadfast refusal of the white majority nation to acknowledge that the long (multi-century) history of Black chattel slavery – the vicious torture system of mass racist labor exploitation (itself the key to the early rise of American industrial capitalism, as the historian Edward Baptist has shown) that the Confederacy arose to sustain in 1861 and which prevailed across the U.S. South until the Civil War – and its Jim Crow aftermath are intimately related to the nation’s stark racial disparities today. There is something significantly racist about the widespread white assumption that the white majority United States owes Black America nothing really in the way of special, ongoing reparation for the steep and singular Black disadvantages that have resulted from centuries of overt, explicitly racist, and brutal oppression and exploitation. As anyone who studies capitalism in a smart and honest way knows, what economic actors get from the present and future so-called “free market” is very much about what and how much they bring to that market from the past. And what whites and blacks bring from the living past to the supposedly “color-blind” and “equal opportunity” market of the post-Civil Rights present (wherein the dominant neoliberal authorities and ideology purport to have gone beyond “considerations of race”) is still significantly shaped by not-so “ancient” decades and centuries of explicit racial oppression. Given what is well known about the relationship between historically accumulated resources and current and future success, the very distinction between past and present racism ought to be considered part of the ideological superstructure of contemporary white supremacy.

Even if U.S. capitalism was being conducted without racial discrimination – and vast volumes and data demonstrate that it is not (see my own discussion here) there would still be the question of all the poker chips that white America – super-rich white capitalist America in particular – has stacked up on its side of the table over centuries of brutal theft from Black America. Those surplus chips are not quaintly irrelevant hangovers from “days gone by.” They are living, accumulated weapons of racial inequality in the present and future. (For a more detailed discussion of this question, please see my recent Truthdig essay, “A Lesson on Slavery for White America”)

Not Glass Half-Full

It is tempting, perhaps, to see America’s split race decision – anti-racist victory on the surface and doggedly persistent racial disparity and oppression underneath – as a case of glass half-empty versus glass half-full. It’s more dark and complicated than that. For, perversely enough, the deeper level of racism may be deepened by surface-level Civil Rights victories insofar as those victories and achievements have served to encourage the great toxic illusion that, as Derrick Bell once put it, “the indolence of blacks rather than the injustice of whites explains the socioeconomic gaps separating the races.”

It’s hard to blame millions of white people for believing that racism is dead in America when U.S. public life is filled with repeated affirmations of the integration and equality ideals and paeans to the nation’s purported remarkable progress towards achieving it and when we regularly celebrate great American victories over surface-level racism (particularly over the open racial segregation and terror of the South). As the Black law professor Sheryl Cashin noted in 2004, five years before the existence of a first black U.S. president, there are [now] enough examples of successful middle- and upper-class class African-Americans “to make many whites believe that blacks have reached parity…The fact that some blacks now lead powerful mainstream institutions offers evidence to whites that racial barriers have been eliminated; [that] the issue now is individual effort . . . The odd black family on the block or the Oprah effect — examples of stratospheric black success,” Cashin wrote, “feed these misperceptions, even as relatively few whites live among and interact daily with blacks of their own standing.”

One of the many ways in which Barack Obama’s presidency was problematic for the cause of racial justice is the way it proved to be something of a last nail in the coffin for many white Americans’ already weak willingness to acknowledge that racism is still a major problem for Black Americans. This is something that Martin Luther King, Jr. anticipated to some degree. “Many whites hasten to congratulate themselves,” King noted in 1967, “on what little progress [black Americans] have made. I’m sure,” King opined, “that most whites felt that with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, all race problems were automatically solved. Most white people are so removed from the life of the average Negro,” King added, “there has been little to challenge that assumption” (emphasis added).

Note the importance of segregated experience in King’s reflection half a century ago. The media image of black triumph and equality trumps the reality of persistent racial inequality in white minds so easily thanks in part to the simple fact that whites have little regular contact with actual, ordinary black Americans and little understanding of the very different separate and unequal ways in which most Blacks’ experience life in the United States. This is one of many ways in spatial and residential and school segregation – all still quite pronounced in the U.S. – matters a great deal.

More than just feeding illusions that racism has been overcome, the victories over surface-level racism and the related celebration of Black success in the reigning media-politics culture have helped feed the illusory belief that Blacks are getting more money and power than whites – that Black Americans are unfairly “getting over” on whites thanks to the nefarious actions of “liberal and left elites.” Poor, working-class, and middle-class whites who are struggling to keep their heads above water and not become “surplus Americans” (Charles Derber) in neoliberal New Gilded Age America (where half the population is poor or near-poor and the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent while white working class life expectancy has gone into a chilling decline thanks to rampant alcoholism, opiate addiction, and related gun suicide) have shockingly little real-life contact with the nation’s disproportionately poor and struggling Black population. They do, however, regularly view images of wealthy Black celebrities and watch news broadcast by racially mixed and affluent talking heads. To many whites, these surface-level Black victories are no small status insult added to class-based economic injury. As the great Black American Marxist W.E.B. DuBois once noted, racism has long granted the white working-class a false but potent compensatory “psychological wage” of whiteness: the belief that while one may occupy a relatively low and insecure position in capitalist America one was at least more elevated and honored than “them”: that is, than Blacks.

To Defend “the Largest and Most Powerful System of Slavery in the Modern World”

This is essential context for understanding the terrible events in Virginia two Fridays and Saturdays ago. The shameful events there followed the decisions of the liberal University of Virginia-hosting campus down of Charlottesville to take down a statue of the Confederate War General Robert E. Lee and to rename the park in which that statue sits “Emancipation Park.” At the one level, the conflict is symbolic. Make no mistake: many of not most of the virulent racists (including Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis) who showed up the “Unite the Right” rally to protest Charlottesville’s courageous civic decisions would love to see Black chattel slavery re-instituted across the U.S. today. But most white defenders of the southern Confederate symbols claim that they are about “culture,” an appreciation of “history,” and “regional” identity, and a belief in “states’ rights,” not slavery. That’s how the history Confederacy and the Civil War are still taught in most southern U.S high schools to this day.

Falsely taught, I should say, for the simple textbook historical fact of the matter is that the Confederacy was formed to preserve, by any means deemed necessary, the South’s “peculiar institution” – the arch-racist and mass-murderous torture and exploitation regime of Black Chattel Slavery. The Confederacy was a secession government formed among southern states whose ruling elites had determined that the election of Abraham Lincoln spelled the end of their vicious slave system. As the retired University of Virginia historian Edward Ayers told the “P”BS NewsHour last eleven days ago, “even if …individual [Confederate] soldiers were not slaveholders [plenty were- P.S.], they were fighting to defend a nation that was based on slavery… The fact is, had they won, you would have had an independent nation overseeing the largest and most powerful system of slavery in the modern world.”

The Road to Charlottesville

But beneath the historical argument at the symbolic surface, three forces drove the madness of the racist white nationalists who flocked to Charlottesville, including a young man from Ohio, were three basic forces. The first is a deeply fear-based sense that Blacks are “getting over” on them, violating the “psychological wage” and threatening to obliterate good hard-working white Americans with the help of white middle and upper class liberal and left elites. The nationalists tellingly chanted “you will not replace us” – as if Robert E. Lee had been turned down on a job or college application because of affirmative action – as they marched through the University of Virginia campus. Their fear is rooted in the very real and long-running neoliberal global-capitalist assault on working- and middle-class economic security, a persistent racial-spatial apartheid that makes real Black lives largely invisible to most whites, and in an exaggerated celebration of Black advancement and success that oddly combined with an equally exaggerated reporting of Black criminality in the dominant media that provides most whites their main images of Black America. It reflects the underlying and interrelated, racially toxic impacts of capitalist class rule, racial segregation (persistent American race apartheid), and corporate media

The second driving force is the right-wing, fascist, white-supremacist, and “alt-right” (neofascist) political media, from FOX News and talk radio to Alex Jones and Breitbart and the Websites of the shockingly large number of white nationalist and neo-Nazi hate groups themselves (see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s chilling “Hate Map” for a geographical mapping and naming of the nation’s many white hate groups, very disproportionately concentrated in former Confederate states). These virulent manufacturers of “blood and soil” white nationalism fan the flames of white racial sentiment, feeding the paranoid-style conspiratorial sense that a nefarious liberal and Left elite (replete with back-stabbing white “race traitors”) is pushing whites down while elevating people of color – who are slated to out-number white Americans by 2050- above them. The white hate groups have, incidentally, killed significantly more Americans on U.S. soil than any Islamic extremist forces in the post-9/11 era. They are the leading agents of lethal terrorism in the U.S.

The Imperial Wizard in the White House

The third driving force has been the quasi-fascistic Trump phenomenon and presidency. There’s was something naïve about liberal calls for Trump to be more forceful and concerned for national racial healing and unity in his response to the fascist protests and violence in Charlottesville. This is a president, son of a man arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally, who entered the last presidential sweepstakes by advancing the ultimate racist “blood and soil” argument that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. As a real estate developer, Trump was heard saying that he didn’t want Black people handling his money (he preferred Jews in that role, he said) and was sued repeatedly for racist housing discrimination. As a presidential candidate, Herr Donald:

+ Refused to disavow the support he received from the former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Grand Wizard David Duke and otherwise failed to properly distance himself from the Klan.

+ Offered to pay the legal bills of a white man who viciously sucker-punched a black protester at a Trump rally.

+ Responded to the racial turbulence sparked by repeated video-captured police killings of Black Americans and the rise of Black Lives Matter by calling for the “restor[ation of] law and order” to “control our cities” and for a “national stop and frisk law”—that is, for a declaration of national racist martial law.

+ Continued his noxious backing for the malicious racist railroading of the “Central Park Five”—five young black men who were wrongfully convicted (with Trump leading the charge) of raping a white woman in New York City in 1989. (The subsequently exonerated five spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit).

+ Gave a commanding position in his campaign to Steve Bannon, the director of Breitbart, an openly white-nationalist, paranoid-style and alt-right (proto-fascistic) website.

+ Absurdly charged without evidence and in so many words that people of color would commit massive voter fraud in the 2016 president election.

As president, Trump appointed one of the nation’s leading elected racists (Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions) as Attorney General (of all things) and kept the white-nationalist “populist” Bannon and Steve Miller on as top political advisors. He appointed the Hungarian fascist Sebastian Gorka, as his top “Counter-Terrorism adviser” and hired Gorka’s anti-Muslim wife Katherine as a top “policy adviser” in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He has exhibited a practically psychotic obsession with dismissing anything and everything remotely positive that might be associated with the nation’s first Black president. He has repeated the preposterous, racially loaded voter fraud charge, ridiculously claiming to have won the popular vote but for ballot shenanigans. (The charge turns history on its head, Orwell-style: Trump owned his victory in key battle ground states to the legal and illegal suppression of non-white votes). The Trump administration is actively stripping away civil rights protections and appointing enemies of racial justice and equality to a federal bench that is being made over the image of the right-wing Federalist Society. It is even turning the Orwellian table on race regarding college admissions by “preparing,” the New York Times reports, “to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.”

Trump has given the white-nationalist movement good reason to think that they have their first real champion in the White House. Of course Trump has failed to properly condemn white supremacy, bigotry and Nazism and cloaked his condemnation of the racist violence in Charlottesville with dog-whistles to the “alt-right.” Trump isn’t merely “reluctant to alienate [white] backlash voters, who are among his most loyal supporters” (E.J. Dionne). He is himself a backlashing white nationalist, albeit an atypically super-wealthy one. Expecting heartfelt moral leadership on racial justice (or anything else) from Donald Trump is like expecting a beagle to write a respectable doctoral thesis on particle physics. It’s like expecting me to become a starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.

Towards Truth and Reconciliation

What should be done? Miller and the Gorkas and other vicious racist white nationalists in the White House need to follow Bannon out the door, either voluntarily or not. So does the shameful Orange Beast and Imperial Wizard Donald Trump, who has become a grave nuclear threat to national and global security (the former top national U.S. intelligence official James Clapper is right about that, darkly enough) and who is very possibly now fantasizing about how he can enlist the nation’s vast white police state in the suspension of the 2020 elections on the pretext of a civil emergency or a corrupted voting system. (Recall that Trump would promise to honor the results of the 2016 election only if he won. He would likely refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of an Electoral College count not in his favor in 2020).

The neo-fascist white right-wing needs to be disarmed, its hate-mongering leaders silenced and placed along with their followers in psychological treatment programs like those run by “Life After Hate”– a highly successful organization run by a recovered former leading white supremacist. Trump’s DHS recently slashed a grant the Obama administration had slated for “Life After Hate.” That grant should be restored and dramatically expanded.

We need to convene a national truth and reconciliation commission on the racist crimes committed against Black people in British colonial North America and in the U.S. from original British settlement through the present day. A key mission behind such a commission would be to educate Americans on the difference between getting a few Black faces in high places and real racial equality and justice. Other key themes would include the living relevance of centuries of Black chattel slavery for understanding contemporary racial inequality; the role of segregation in reducing Black opportunity and making Black experience invisible; and the ways that American racial oppression has harmed ordinary middle and working class white Americans as well as Blacks. It has done so by undermining their ability to join with Blacks in forming powerful grassroots organizations to fight the capitalist elite and by offering them the poison and false-compensatory “psychological wage” of whiteness.

It is long past time to massively de-incarcerate Black America, transferring billions of dollars spent on surveilling, arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating (the racist Trump is an active champion for the private-, for-profit prison industry), and branding Black people into meeting the vast swath of dire social needs that go neglected in contemporary America: schools, housing, health care, green space, and so much more.

We need to begin accelerated racial literacy and empathy programs to bring white Americans into Black and other nonwhite communities to confront the harsh realities of American racial apartheid and disparity – and to make real and un-threatening human, face-face connections with real Black and other nonwhite people. (“Life After Hate” does good work in this vein). This will counter the exaggerated images of Black success and wealth and Black criminality purveyed in the dominant media and to put racially blind whites in contact with real and all to ghettoized and oppressed Black lives.

Beyond just tearing down Confederate (Slave Power) symbols and monuments, we need to litter the nation and especially the South with signs and monuments reminding ordinary Americans of the monumental racist torture regime and holocaust that was Black chattel slavery and its Jim Crow aftermath. Lynching sites should be marked, with the names of victims and the circumstances surrounding their deaths included. Places where Black slaves and neo-slaves were bought, sold, whipped, exploited, worked to death, tortured, raped, and beaten should be gravely commemorated with names and plaques providing basic historical descriptions of what happened there. Done right, such a monument construction project – to be built by racially mixed teams under Black supervision – would create literally thousands of structures across the country and not just in the South.

The commission must be charged among other things with the design of a reasonable and properly targeted and serious program of racial reparations for the monumental injustices imposed by centuries of racial oppression from slavery through Jim Crow oppression, ghettoization, and the age of racist mass incarceration and criminal branding. It is long past time for a monumental payback – paid out of giant taxes on the absurdly rich U.S. financial and corporate elite. The class specificity of the payment us critical. We shouldn’t charge lower- and working-class whites a penny for the sins of slavery. American racial oppression, it should always be remembered, has harmed ordinary middle and working class white Americans as well as Blacks. The point bears repetition and elaboration. From the nation’s colonial origins through the present, the Machiavellian, ruling class-imposed color line (see Edmund Morgan’s truly classic 1976 study American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia) has hurt ordinary whites as well as people of color. Elite-crafted racism has undermined working-class and poor whites’ willingness and ability to join with Blacks and other nonwhites in forming the powerful grassroots alliances and solidarities required to wrest a durably decent living and a democratic society from the Wealthy Few. In the place of these necessities, the pervasive and living culture of racism – so doggedly persistent that (to repeat) the mild phrase “Black lives matter” is somehow controversial more than half a century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act – has offered poor and working-class whites the poison, false-compensatory “psychological wage” of whiteness. The always embattled actual American Left has always said something else: “Black and White Unite and Fight” in solidary against the ruling class masters. That slogan was no small reflection of how the American industrial workers movement was built in the 1930s and 1940s.

Unlikely under capitalism….

Can reparations (due also to Native Americans and nations abroad where untold millions/billions of people have been devastated by U.S. imperialism) be properly and meaningfully introduced under the existing U.S. regime of class rule called capitalism? Almost certainly not – as with the demand for a shift to an ecologically sustainable economy and society. It must therefore be considered a revolutionary demand and be combined with multi-racial working-class struggle to remove the “One Percent” (a catchy euphemism for the capitalist ruling class) not just from its wealth but also and above all from its command of the structuring and purpose of “our” (their) political economy. It must be interwoven with the struggle for the broad redistribution of wealth and power and for peoples’ socialism. This is very different from the reactionary, “divisive,” and zero-sum way in which reparations is advanced by its bourgeois champions both white and Black.

 

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)