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June 2010

Vol 10, No.6

THE FLOTILLA TRAGEDY: A TURNING POINT? By Chandra Muzaffar

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n the wake of the flotilla tragedy of 31st May 2010, are there signs to suggest that the struggle of the Palestinian people and other Arabs for justice and peace has entered a new phase? Are some elements of the shift more obvious than others? How should we encourage the change that may be taking place? There are five signs that we may want to focus upon. One, the flotilla has underscored the growing significance of people’s movements and citizens’ groups in the Palestinian struggle. In a sense, people’s movements have always been part of the resistance to Zionism. It was people’s movements that first stood up to the intensification of organized Zionist colonization of Palestine, following the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The general Arab uprising of 1936 was an example of this. However, after Israel was established in 1948, Arab states played a big role in resisting Israeli aggression. All the early wars—1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973—involved states. Of course, Palestinian groups such as Al-Fatah were also at the heart of the resistance. In November 1987, people power came to

the fore once again through the first Intifada. Since then, people’s initiatives have remained important. In the last 20 years there has been a proliferation of people’s movements and citizens’ groups in the Palestinian struggle, including groups that are part of the Palestinian Diaspora. People’s movements and citizens’ groups are a source of strength to the Palestinian cause. Since they are less constrained by considerations that inhibit governments from committing themselves totally to the Palestinians— considerations such as their relationship with the United States in an international system dominated by the West—these forces are able to adopt principled positions on behalf of the oppressed and the dispossessed. Though US and Western dominance is declining, there are still many governments in the Arab and Muslim world that are eager to project themselves as allies of Israel’s most devoted patron and protector. In such a situation, it is not surprising that people’s movements and citizens groups have been able to campaign with much greater vigour and vitality for Palestinian rights. Two, the flotilla has also shown

that the movement for Palestine is becoming more and more multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-national. There were a number of prominent individuals from outside the Muslim and Arab world in the six ships that were part of the 31st May flotilla and in earlier flotillas—the most notable of whom was the Irish Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire. Equally significant, the active and extensive involvement of Turkish nationals has taken the Palestinian struggle beyond Arab boundaries. Of course, even in the past, there were non-Arabs and non-Muslims who defended the Palestinian cause. It is not widely known that Mahatma Gandhi was one such public figure who expressed his support in writing way back in the late nineteen thirties, in the midst of creeping Zionism. There is no need to emphasize that over the decades there have been scores of Jewish intellectuals and activists committed to Palestine. The Palestinian movement should be encouraged to become more diverse in every sense of the word. It is when it embraces the whole of humanity that it will have the moral might and power to continued next page

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ISRAEL—MASSACRE

THAILAND’S TROUBLES AREN’T O VER

AT S EA ..... The coldblooded massacre of 9 unarmed peace activists by commandos from the Israeli army in the eastern Mediterranean .................................................................. P.4

NPT 2010: A STEP FORWARD ............. The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) welcomes the consensus achieved at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ......................................... P.4 N UCLEAR E NERGY : T HE B RAZIL T URKEY -I RAN I NITIATIVE ............ The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) is disappointed with US President Barack Obama for rejecting outright the Brazil-Turkey initiative ................................... P.5

By Ismail Wolff ........................................... page 6

REFLECTIONS

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By Michael Allan ........................................ page 7

TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS: REFLECTIONS ON THE GLOBAL WAR TERROR

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By Hans Köchler ....................................... page 8

CAN CAPITALISM FIX THE CLIMATE? By Simon Butler ......................................... page11


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continued from page 1 overcome Israel and Zionism, with their inordinate influence over US elites in every sphere of life. Some Muslim groups that tend to see the Palestinian struggle in exclusive religious terms will have to learn to appreciate the imperative importance of an all-encompassing movement that transcends the Muslim ummah. Three, the flotilla episode has also highlighted the value and virtue of peaceful, non-violent protest. The flotilla was a protest against the inhuman, unjust, illegal, blockade of Gaza imposed by the Israeli regime since 2007. None of the boats was armed. None of the passengers carried weapons. If violence erupted on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, it was because the Israeli commandos who hijacked the ship in international waters intended to kill some of the peace activists. It is when they started shooting that some of the activists retaliated with knives and sticks and pistols they had seized from the commandos. This is the allegation made by the leader of the Malaysian team of 11 activists on the Marmara, who claims to have seen the commandos’ hit list. According to the autopsies performed, many of the nine Turkish males who were killed were shot four or five times, and at close range. It is this brutal barbarism of the Israeli commandos in contrast to the humanitarian mission of the flotilla that has created so much moral outrage among decent men and women everywhere. When stark violence is employed to crush peaceful protest, human sympathy is transformed into human solidarity with the victim. It is because the Israeli regime under Benjamin Netanyahu knows that nonviolent resistance to Israeli power has tremendous psychological impact upon people that he is going all out to convince the world that the Marmara activists were violent. Israeli propaganda in fact reinforces the case for non-violent resistance and non-violent protest. And indeed, non-violent resistance and nonviolent protest has been gaining more and more adherents in recent years. Apart from flotillas, there have also been attempts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza through land routes. Groups in Turkey, Malaysia and Britain have pledged that they will continue to organize many more land and sea missions to bring food,

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medicines and other essentials to the beleaguered people of Gaza. Universities in Britain have voted to boycott Israeli academics; churches in the US have divested from Israeli companies that operate in the occupied West Bank; and Swedish workers have launched a weeklong blockade of Israeli ships and goods arriving in that Scandinavian nation. As non-violent opposition to the Israeli regime gathers momentum, as rejection of Israel’s arrogance and intransigence becomes a global phenomenon, it will be totally isolated in the international arena. Even its ardent defenders would be too embarrassed to come to its aid. Israel’s isolation brought about through its own haughtiness will eventually compel its protector, the US, to force Israel to change its policies and to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This is why Palestinian freedom fighters themselves should not at this critical juncture undermine their own struggle by resorting to acts of senseless, mindless violence. Killing Israeli civilians or indulging in revenge for its own sake, will not advance the Palestinian cause. The goodwill and support generated by the flotilla tragedy should be harnessed to the hilt to strengthen the struggle. Four, as a consequence of the flotilla episode, advocates of Palestine should step up efforts to tell the world their story. The world is at the moment in a mood to listen. An oppressed people who have justice on their side should not hesitate to convey the truth to millions who still do not know how the Palestinians became the dispossessed; how Zionism and Colonialism conspired to deprive them of their land; how the UN betrayed its own Charter and the inalienable right of the Palestinians to selfdetermination in order to create the state of Israel; and how over the last 62 years through wars, expulsions, usurpation of land, and territorial expansion, successive Israeli regimes have sought to cleanse an ancient land of its indigenous population. Compared to Israel and the Zionist propaganda machine whose tentacles extend to every nook and cranny of the planet, the Palestinians have been rather ineffective in sharing their pain and anguish with their fellow human beings. It is not only the Palestinian case that should be put across with intelligence and eloquence; Israeli manipulations and machinations, its distortions and its

MAIN ARTICLE fabrications, its atrocities and its injustices should be disseminated as widely as possible. Because of Zionist media control, not many people know that Israeli discrimination against its Palestinian –Arab citizens is so pervasive and so extensive that it is even worse than the apartheid of the old racist Pretoria regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appalled by Israeli apartheid. So was Nelson Mandela who once described Palestine “as the greatest moral issue of our time.” Advocates of the Palestinian cause should inform the general public of all this through both the conventional and alternative media. The alternative media has been a boon to the cause. It is partly because of the new channels of communication that the truth about the flotilla tragedy reached a huge segment of society. Much more can be accomplished through the alternative media. Five, if the flotilla tragedy has succeeded in bringing almost the whole of the human family together in condemnation of the Israeli action, can it help to unite the two warring Palestinian groups? Is there anything to suggest that the Palestinian Authority that administers the West Bank and Hamas that is in charge of Gaza, will now bury the hatchet? If PA and Hamas cannot work together, if their feud continues unabated, will all the other changes that we have talked about here mean anything at all? Without unity and cohesion, without a single overriding purpose that transcends group interests, what hope is there for the Palestinian struggle? Perhaps the Turkish leadership which has been playing such a positive role in Palestine and the Middle East, can help to bring the PA and Hamas together. And after the flotilla tragedy that impacted directly upon Turkish nationals, Ankara may be more inclined to try its hand at resolving the intra-Palestinian conflict. For their part, Palestinian leaders from the PA and Hamas should realize that if they do not turn to one another in amity, the flotilla tragedy of 31st May might not be a turning point in the Palestinian struggle for justice and peace. 7 June 2010 Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies, at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.


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TRIBUTE I never cease to be amazed at the power of the human spirit to survive. During my last visit to Gaza in October 2008 I was amazed and deeply moved by the power of the people I witnessed. In a triumph of hope over adversity and tremendous suffering, love still abides. Gaza comprises a small strip of land 27 miles long and 6 miles wide. This coastal strip is bordered by Israel on the one side, the Mediterranean Sea on the other and to a lesser extent by Egypt at the southern end. With one and a half million inhabitants Gaza is the fifth most densely populated place on the planet, 50% of which are under the age of 18. Two thirds of the total population hold refugees status, and comprise the victims and their descendants of previous acts of Israeli aggression. Gaza’s people have suffered an Israeli occupation for over 40 years and even though Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005 it has continued to control every aspect of life in the tiny coastal strip. Hamas was democratically elected to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections and has governed the Gaza strip since the summer of 2007. It was at this time in 2007 that Israel commenced its devastating blockade of the strip. Essentially the blockade represents a draconian policy by Israel. A minimum amount of basic subsistence goods are allowed to enter the strip with the intention of holding a malnourished population just short of outright starvation. Coupled to the severe food shortages are the restrictions / ban on basic essentials such a medicine and desperately needed reconstruction materials. This blockade constitutes “Collective Punishment” of a civilian population an act illegal under Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention. But the Culture of Impunity, under which Israel operates, means Israel continues to ignore international law with many of the world’s governments and international bodies remaining silent. In the words of one Israeli professor, Israel has made Gaza into the largest open-air prison in the world. Whether by land, sea or air the one and a half million inhabitants of Gaza are trapped, their 6 border crossings are closed (including the Raffah crossing with Egypt), their airport destroyed and their port and coastal waters shut down by a naval blockade. The people are forced to

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TO THE PEOPLE OF By Mairead Maguire

live a suffocating life of misery and hardship. The closure has impacted every imaginable aspect of their existence both physical and emotional. Lives are constantly lost for lack of access to hospital treatments unavailable in Gaza. Bright and willing students are deprived of an opportunity to progress their studies; places offered abroad in universities can not be accepted as student are unable to leave. The Israeli policy of divide, blockade and conquer used against the Palestinian people strikes right to the heart to family life. Families in Gaza can no longer visit their relatives in the West Bank. Wives are torn from husbands and husbands from wives. Many are forced to live apart some in the West Bank others in Gaza. All across the Occupied Palestinian Territories there is a common shared experience of humiliation. The West Bank is constantly shrinking under a deluge of illegal Israeli Settlements and new settlement construction. The countless thousands of Gazans left homeless after the Israeli bombings can find paler shadows of the same existence among their friends and family in East Jerusalem where forced evictions and house demolitions are a daily occurrence. The children of Gaza are the ones who suffer most. During my visit to Gaza in October 2008, I went to visit the area of Khankhounis. In all my years of visiting areas of poverty and devastation, I have never witnessed anything so terrible. The area had been hit by floods which had washed away the roads, forming a river which flooded the houses of many hundreds of people with mud. We walked through home after home completely destroyed and yet some families made vain attempts to salvage what they could and live in the midst of this horrific destruction. The children played on the destroyed roads and footpaths, amidst raw sewerage and the mothers did their best to protect their young ones all too aware of the dangers of disease lurking in the open puddles which, children being children persisted in playing in. Community leaders explained that they were unable to reconstruct homes, roads and repair open sewers as Israel would not permit the materials and equipment to enter Gaza. Teachers had no writing materials, the doctors not enough medicines and the children were suffering

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GAZA from malnutrition and showing signs of stunted growth. One father asked, ‘if I give you some money, next time the Free Gaza boat comes in will you bring in some milk, the children have no milk’. (In June, 2009, twenty-one of us tried to sail on the Freegaza boat to Gaza, but our boat was hijacked in international waters by Israeli navy and we were all forcibly taken to Israel, put in prison for a week and then deported.) Since 2008 all of this suffering has only magnified and worsened due to the shattering effect of operation “Cast Lead” Israel’s brutal attach on Gaza which took place in December/January 2008/2009. Disease from raw sewerage and shortage of medicines are not the worst things to affect the children these days. During the Israeli assault on Gaza, bombs and white phosphorus were dropped on Palestinian civilians and of the l,400 people who died, over 400 were children. The agricultural land is now radiated with depleted uranium and holds it own terrible dangers for the people of Gaza. Many who depended on the land for their livelihood have seen their stock and crops destroyed and the soil poisoned. Where is the hope? Where is the love in the midst of such suffering and injustice? The international community has all but failed in its duty of care and seems unwilling or unable to take a stand against Israeli brutality but thankfully there are those who still refuse to stand aside. And so in an expression of love and solidarity the “Freedom Flotilla” takes to the water in an attempt to breach the siege on Gaza. The Freedom Flotilla comprises 8 boats; in a joint effort including Turkey and Greece, over 600 people from over 60 countries will sail to Gaza in May 2010. The flotilla will be joined by a cargo boat from Ireland, the MV Rachel Corrie. Its large cargo includes tonnes of construction material, cement, medical equipment and a special donation of printing paper from Norway. This trip will again highlight Israel’s criminal blockade and illegal occupation. In a demonstration of the power of global citizen action we hope to awaken the conscience of all. We hope the Freedom Flotilla will provide a way to open up the sea. When we arrived in Gaza on the Freegaza boat in October 2008 last we stayed at Marna continued next page


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continued from page 3 House, the hotel owner was overjoyed as he invited us to sign the register. He explained his joy telling us that, with closure of their port to the outside world, we were the first people to enter Gaza by port and stay in his hotel in over 40 years of Israeli occupation. It would be wonderful if the sea passage could be permanently opened for the people of Gaza so they can freely enter and leave their own land, and be reunited again as a part of the Mediterranean family, selling their produce and buying what they need

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without let or hindrance. This journey, by boat, will be my third with The Freegaza Movement and it has shown me that people can make a difference. The Freegaza Movement was started by a few people with an idea and the courage to make it happen. If people wish to support their work and follow us on the boat journey to Gaza visit their website at www.freegaza.org But above all we are inspired by the people of Gaza whose courage, love and joy in welcoming us, even in the midst of such suffering, gives us all hope. They

represent the very best of humanity and we are all privileged to be given the opportunity to support them in their nonviolent struggle for human dignity and freedom. 25 May 2010 Ms Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate and one of the most principled champions of justice and human dignity in the world today. She was on one of the ships in the flotilla, the MV Rachel Corrie. Ms Maguire is also a member of the JUST International Advisory Panel (IAP). Source: Contercurrents.org

STATEMENTS ISRAEL—MASSACRE The cold-blooded massacre of 9 unarmed peace activists by commandos from the Israeli army in the eastern Mediterranean in the early hours of 31st May 2010 has once again revealed to the world what this rogue regime is all about. It is evil incarnate. The regime has as always tried to camouflage its evil by fabricating outrageous lies such as that the 620 peace activists on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, were terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda and the “Global Jihad”. The activists have also been accused of carrying an assortment of weapons. A Malaysian peace activist who helped to coordinate the flotilla of 3 cargo ships and 3 passenger ships (of which Marmara was one) swears that those involved— journalists, human rights advocates, professionals, academics and NGO personalities—from a number of countries in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, are men and women committed to the non-violent struggle for peace and justice. The sharpest weapon that some of them have in their possession is a pencil. The Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Turkish Parliament has also refuted the

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allegation about terrorists aboard the Marmara as a “lie”. Anyone familiar with the behaviour of the Israeli regime should not be surprised that it used so much force to crush activists sailing to Gaza to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to the besieged citizens of that small strip of Palestinian land. Resorting to massive violence to thwart any challenge to what is perceived as Israeli security interests is the modus operandi of Israeli leaders. After murdering 9 peace activists, the Israeli propaganda machine is telling the world that its commandos acted in selfdefence. Those of us who are committed to the Palestinian cause should counter these lies and fabrications through effective dissemination of the truth through various channels especially the alternative media. We should let the whole world know what Israel is and why it is rightly described as a rogue state that has utter contempt for international law and civilized norms of conduct. Why the Palestinian cause is just and what the possible solution is to the Israeli– Palestinian/Arab conflict should also be widely publicized. It is a pity that

Palestinian peace activists have not done enough work of this sort. At the same time, in the wake of the Israeli massacre of peace activists, efforts should be intensified to isolate Israel in the international arena. The UN Security Council, it is hoped, will adopt a strong, unanimous resolution condemning the massacre. One must also explore the possibility of dragging the Israeli regime to the World Court since its attack upon the Mavi Marmara occurred in international waters, 65 kilometres from Israel. All countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel should also review their relations with the rogue state with immediate effect. Since a number of its citizens were killed, Turkey in particular may want to suspend—if not rescind—its diplomatic ties with Israel. Civil society groups should also accelerate their divestment and boycott programs which are already gathering momentum. It is because Israel has lost so much legitimacy in the last few months, that its massacre of the innocent on the high seas may well be the tipping point. Chandra Muzaffar 1 June 2010

NPT 2010: A STEP FORWARD The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) welcomes the consensus achieved at the 2010 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 3 to 28 May 2010. That consensus was achieved, and a final document adopted, is a

victory of sorts for the non-nuclear weapons states that constitute the overwhelming majority of the 189 member nations of the NPT. The last NPT Review Conference in 2005 failed to achieve a consensus or to produce a final document. The two most significant proposals to emerge from the 2010 NPT

are its appeal to the five recognised nuclear weapons states—Russia, the United States, Britain, France and China—to work towards total disarmament and report back to a preparatory committee in 2014, after which the 2015 NPT Review Conference continued next page


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will take stock, and its request to the UN Secretary-General to convene a conference in 2012 to seek “the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).” By asking the ‘Big Five’ to report to a preparatory committee of the NPT and by asserting the right of the next NPT Review Conference to evaluate the progress made by the Big Five, the NPT nations are in fact exercising a degree of moral authority over the powerful. This is important in itself. It is a reflection of the growing desire of hitherto marginalised states to play their rightful role in determining the fate of the human family. These states in the Global South and the Global North are no longer prepared to allow a handful of powerful actors to ride roughshod over their interests. Similarly, by pushing for a Middle

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East that is free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, the NPT is signaling to the only state in the region that possesses nuclear weapons to come clean. It is asking Israel to get rid of its stock of about 400 nuclear warheads. The NPT knows that Israel’s nuclear arsenal will only encourage other states in the region to also acquire the weapon, thereby intensifying tensions and conflicts in the world’s most volatile region. Israel, which is not a signatory to the NPT, has already rejected the NPT’s demand for the elimination of WMDs. It has made it clear that it will not allow the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities. It is partly because of Israel’s intransigence and arrogance that the NPT nations should go beyond the final document that they adopted on the 28th of May. The Non-Aligned bloc within the NPT, comprising 118 states, should

S T A T E M E N T S launch a massive campaign through the media, especially the alternative media, to ban all weapons of mass destruction everywhere. In this campaign, the NonAligned Movement (NAM) should work closely with NGOs and religious bodies. JUST would like to propose that NAM initiate a meeting for this purpose. There is no need to emphasise that in order to create the momentum to persuade the Big Powers and Israel to act positively, we have to mobilise global public opinion immediately. Popular sentiment is undoubtedly in favour of the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. To enhance the credibility of NAM in this endeavour, NAM leaders should first coax the only two countries within NAM who possess nuclear weapons—namely India and Pakistan— to get rid of their arsenal. Chandra Muzaffar 31 May 2010

NUCLEAR ENERGY: THE BRAZIL-TURKEY-IRAN INITIATIVE The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) is disappointed with US President Barack Obama for rejecting outright the Brazil-Turkey initiative on Iran’s nuclear programme. Obama could have welcomed it as an important first step towards building trust between Western powers and Iran. Iran’s agreement with Brazil and Turkey is significant because Iran is willing to ship most of its low enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for higher enriched non-weapon grade fuel rods used for research in cancer treatment. The US and its allies have all along insisted that Iran allows external actors to exercise a degree of control over its nuclear enrichment programme. They have also demanded that any nuclear swap should take place in foreign territory. And yet when Iran complies with some of their conditions, its action is summarily dismissed “as a delaying tactic” aimed at averting a new round of even harsher sanctions that may soon be imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). US officials have even responded to the BrazilTurkey-Iran (BTI) agreement by stigmatizing the Iranian leadership as “unworthy of trust.”

The sanctions that the US, other permanent members of the UNSC, and Germany are proposing indirectly target Iran’s military capability and its financial arteries. The real objective is clear: to emasculate Iran. The approach adopted by the US government parallels what it did to Iraq a decade ago. Sanctions were tightened from phase to phase. Any positive response from the Iraqi government was treated with contempt as “untrustworthy” or “a delaying tactic.” Horrendous lies were fabricated about Iraq’s non-existent nuclear weapons programme. The culmination was of course the US-helmed invasion and occupation of Iraq. As was the case with Iraq, it is Israel and the Zionist and Christian Zionist lobbies in Washington that are pushing the US to crush Iran. In a sense, the Israeli regime has for years regarded Iran as the greatest threat to its existence. It explains why in 2002, former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, suggested that from Israel’s security standpoint it is Iran that the US should first attack. It is only too obvious that tightening the screws on Iran is central to Israel’s agenda. It is a dangerous agenda because it could lead to war. This

is why the world should reject the new US proposed sanctions resolution submitted to the UNSC on the 18th of May. Those who endorse the resolution should withdraw their support immediately. Russia and China in particular should realize its full implications. In this regard, it is encouraging that China has welcomed the BTI agreement. As a permanent member of the UNSC, it has to go further. Indonesia has also come out in full support. One hopes that Malaysia will endorse the BTI agreement soonest. There is a larger significance about supporting the Brazil-Turkey-Iran initiative. It is the clearest example so far of two middle powers working closely with a third to resolve the latter’s problem. It is a reflection of changing patterns of power in international politics. The emergence of middle powers prepared to defend their interests and to uphold certain principles that serve the larger good of humanity is an important historical development. In the transition from superpower politics to multi-polar politics, middle powers would be crucial role players. Chandra Muzaffar 22 May 2010


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THAILAND’S TROUBLES AREN’T OVER By Ismail Wolff The consensus that held Thailand together is crumbling. Recent events will cement the bitter divides and lead to more bloodshed. My first experience of Bangkok was in 1995. I felt as if I had stepped on to the set of Blade Runner; a scattered and disjointed fusion of skyscrapers and tangled neon-soaked streets bustling with life. It left me electrified and entranced. Six years later, I made this city my home. Friends were envious. I was excited. No one was warning me against it. “Bangkok is much safer than London” has been my recurrent refrain whenever asked about living in this sprawling capital. However, while I may have been mugged in my hometown of London, I have never seen anyone shot there by a sniper. At least 70 people have been killed and well over a thousand injured in recent political violence in Bangkok. Areas of the city were turned into a war zone as troops battled with protesters for more than five days before finally – and brutally – crushing the redshirt “resistance”. To suggest that this chaos and destruction came as a surprise would be disingenuous. I have had serious misgivings about the state of affairs in Thailand for several years, but have, like many others, pushed them to one side lest they interfere with my enjoyment of the weather, lifestyle and, of course, the food that has kept me so content in this country for nearly a decade. I was in a bar with three friends earlier this month. A little drunk and excitable, two of the friends, a journalist and a photographer, sought to convince the third, who works for a large US-based multinational, that Bangkok was a city on the brink of chaos. “Why are you laughing? This country is going to hell. Mark my words, there will be deaths on these streets that you cannot imagine,” the journalist said to the sceptical office worker. Perhaps her laughter was born from nervousness. I’m not sure, but despite living here for eight years, she did not seem to recognise the storm clouds. Four days later at least four people had been shot dead on a street one minute’s walk from that bar, and the office

worker had evacuated her apartment to go and live in another part of the city. But it wasn’t just the latest tensions – two months of protests, 25 deaths and 800 injuries on 10 April and the increased military presence on the streets – that portended darker days. Ignited by a military coup and against the backdrop of rising anxiety over the deteriorating health of the king and the continued meddling of a divisive, ousted prime minister from self-imposed exile overseas, protest movements have been growing, with opposing groups increasingly pushing their agendas on the streets rather than in parliament. Years of tensions have uncovered stark social and political fissures. As I watched television last Tuesday morning, a military commander, in a pooled presentation on all free-to-air stations, showed images from YouTube and other public websites of “terrorists” among the redshirts. While there are armed elements among the protesters, almost all those shot so far have been unarmed. As the urban battles continued, the government and military pushed their propaganda on television each day – these are “terrorists”, we must defend ourselves and the king and country. A significant number of Thais agree. This makes me uneasy. The rhetoric is nothing new. The delivery is nothing new. I can’t help but identify these generals with a bygone era. But many in Thailand, it seems, do not want a new future; they are emotionally devoted to their past and fearful of what may come if the redshirts win. In May 1992, when dozens of protesters were shot dead by soldiers, the military also claimed it was acting in self-defence. Today there is no grilling from the local media. Many continued to support the crackdown, despite the rising death toll. International media, such as CNN, have been accused of pro-redshirt bias. Vile and hateful messages calling for the deaths of the protesters were unashamedly plastered on Facebook and other social sites. At a television awards ceremony on the evening of 16 May, as the fighting continued on the streets outside, an actor received his statuette and, as stars have done in the past, took the opportunity to make his political feelings known. “If you

hate father, if you don’t love father any more, then you should get out of here!” he said defiantly, in reference to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who Thais often refer to as “father”, and the alleged antimonarchy sentiments of some redshirts. “Because this is father’s home! Because this is father’s land!” The well-dressed audience of the glitterati and lightskinned actors and actresses gave a standing ovation, punched the air in defiance; some wept. Such scenes of obsequious devotion and intense emotion are common when it comes to the monarchy. Due to societal and legal pressures, there is no room for discussion of the monarchy – a culture of selfimposed censorship increasingly ingrained over the 63 years of King Bhumibol’s reign, permeating all areas of social and political interaction and defining, in many cases, what it means to be “Thai”. Everyone has an opinion on what the real issue behind this enduring crisis is: class struggle against uncaring elite; a scorned megalomaniac former prime minister fighting to recover his ill-gotten gains and power; a battle to fend off a republican revolution. But what no one seems to have is a clear answer to how this all will end. I don’t have any answers either. As I sit here in my apartment, awaiting another night of curfew, watching the sun set on a city still smouldering from a week of tragedies, I can’t help but think that recent events will only further cement the country’s already bitter divides and lead to more bloodshed. The consensus that held Thailand together and saw decades of economic advance is crumbling. Thailand must build a new future under a new image, but I fear this divided nation is not yet ready to face that painful truth. 23 May 2010 Ismail Wolff is a Bangkok-based writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, and on BBC, Reuters and Press Association among others and is currently undertaking his first solo effort at authoring a book. Source: The Guardian, “Comment is Free”


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REFLECTIONS In responding to the tiny number of grievances about the ubiquitous coverage of the 2008 US presidential election, we were assured of its importance with analogies of “If America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”. On reflection, the analogy is actually quite good, for not only does it suggest the global influence of the United States, but also associates it with disease. So what then of the United States’ partner in crime, or ‘ally’, as the corporate media prefer to call it? No, not Israel—although you can award yourself marks for that particular answer, but rather, the United Kingdom. In this case it seems, we are not ‘fortunate’ enough to be treated with saturation coverage of the recent British general election. There are no talking heads analysing the dresses that the wives of Brown, Clegg and Cameron were wearing, nor even what kind of dresses Brown, Clegg and Cameron themselves wore! A thoroughly bland election one feels. Supposed spice for the election came in the form of “leaders debates”—the first time ever to be held in Britain. I couldn’t stomach to watch them, besides, I had managed to hunt out some wet paint in need of watching. After a short period of time however, I abandoned the paint when analysis of the ‘debate’ began to appear on the internet. Apparently Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, the UK’s ‘third’ party, had done rather well and therefore, with full immaturity as to the actual significance and meaning of the debate, Nick Clegg was suddenly going to be our next Prime Minister while Cameron’s Murdoch-backed cavalry did what it could to produce thunder stealing polls to the benefit of Mr Cameron—naughtiness uncovered

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by Britain’s ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, Mr Craig Murray (http://

anti-war party, lead by Mr. George Galloway, lost its parliamentary voice.

www.craigmurray.org.uk/).

As the three ‘debates’ unfurled, the focus given to Britain’s current wars, one of them clearly illegal, caused much discontent amongst a number of distinguished analysts and journalists, for example, UK based journalism and political analysis website, ‘Media Lens’, wrote: “By the end of the second debate on April 22, the word ‘Iraq’ had been mentioned a total of five times over the course of the three hours of discussion.” They continued: “One day later, April 23, a wave of bombings in Baghdad were reported to have killed 58 people and wounded more than 100. Seven people also died that day in a series of bombings in the western town of Khalidya... By the end of the following day, the death toll had risen to 85 with hundreds seriously wounded from a total of 16 bomb attacks.” It is right to be angry that these wars, and the necessity to stop them, were essentially ignored by Brown, Clegg and Cameron each aided and abetted by the corporate media’s now consistent soft-balling on these matters. However, the apparent near triviality of the 8.5- and 7-year-old killing fields in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, as applied to a leaders debate, was actually fully understandable, because all the politicians have the same warsustaining policy! So what’s to debate? Such a situation is truly shocking: that in the UK there is no major political force one can support in order to bring an end to these hellish wars. It is interesting to note that perhaps the most well known (however small)

This is made all the more distasteful given that in the recent election, the old canards of “democracy is in action” or “the voice of the people is being heard” were being articulated without so much as a hint of irony, and now that we have a hungparliament (a tantalizing prospect), we hear even more allegations of ‘democracy’ in which logic warps and each party claims its plan for forming the next government is more democratic than the others. It is also very sad to see, but has already become established tradition, that faith-based core values got even less prominence than the war, or perhaps, maybe there is a connection? I personally did NOT vote, was utterly proud in doing so and I appealed for others to do likewise. I refuse to endorse or legitimize a system that will cause mass death. With regard to those who did vote for the main parties, I wonder what they will feel (if anything) once a government finally does form, and news starts to come in of the next massacred family or wedding party, or farmers, teachers, charity workers or peasants. What justification will they conjure up to prevent the image of screaming children exploding before their mind’s eye? I think here we have a powerful demonstration that the mirror is in fact, well and truly broken. Broken mirrors are never fixed, they are totally discarded and new ones brought in to take their place. Will this happen vis-à-vis the British political system? I very much doubt it. 10 May 2010 Dr Michael Allan is a member of the JUST Executive Committee and a university lecturer.


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HUMAN RIGHTS: REFLECTIONS ON THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR AND

By Hans Köchler I. For almost half a century – since the end of World War II – the world lived in the fear of a devastating nuclear war. After this threat had receded with the end of the Cold War, brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union, mankind got only a short reprieve of roughly a decade before our minds were again consumed by an allpervasive fear – in that case of a large invisible enemy by the name of “terrorism.” Since the fateful events of the year 2001 in the United States, a “global war on terror” has been proclaimed by that country’s administration, with the “international community” – in actual fact the group of states aligned, in one way or the other, with the U.S. – following suit, albeit reluctantly and with much hesitation. While it is obvious that the term “war” is used in this phrase in a metaphorical sense, this development has reintroduced into international affairs an essentially Manichaean worldview according to which mankind is divided into good and evil – with no intermediate ground. This dichotomy does not only apply to states, but to peoples, civilizations, and religions alike. The decisive events of this “war,” so far, namely the armed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, have made obvious the extreme fragility of the international rule of law in the face of what is presented as an almost metaphysical danger: “international terrorism.” These all-out military confrontations will also have made us aware, by now, that a mythical, vaguely defined global “war on terror” – as an effort at eradicating forces that are perceived or determined as evil – may never end; to the contrary, it will itself become part of a global cycle of violence. It is against this background that the new U.S. administration has begun to cautiously distance itself from the doctrine as well as the term,

suggesting that it be replaced by the more neutral and less ambitious phrase “Global Contingency Operation.” However, no unified stand has been taken on the issue so far, and the term continues to be used by officials of the U.S. administration, especially the military establishment. Because of the vagueness of its goals, the lack of precision of the very notion of “terrorism,” and the discretionary dilemma inherent in any preventive use of force, this war will eventually become a self-defeating undertaking – unless it is made part of a comprehensive and truly universal (i.e. global) political effort, comprising a large majority of United Nations member states and not only the allies of the hegemonic power of the moment. Such a strategy will have to be aimed at eradicating the root causes of terrorist violence such as poverty, exploitation, and other forms of economic and social injustice, foreign occupation, denial of selfdetermination, etc. If considerations of justice are excluded, the “global war on terror” will become a campaign of global revenge, a development that will ultimately bring about a multiplication of the terrorist threat in virtually all corners of the globe. Only if terrorism is also understood as a form of reactive violence, and if one is prepared to undertake the intellectual effort at analyzing its specific causes, will one understand that further reactive violence – in the form of a global war on terror – can merely deal with the symptoms of the underlying conflict(s) and, in many circumstances, may even aggravate the situation. The course of events in Afghanistan is a drastic example of this dilemma: Seven and a half years into the conflict, the foreign armies are still fighting a largely invisible enemy and are losing control over ever larger parts of the territory –

with first a British commander, then the President of the United States admitting that this may be a war that cannot be won militarily and, thus, hinting at the urgent need for a political approach. II. This dilemma between an exclusively military and a more comprehensive political approach directly brings in the human rights dimension not only of terrorist violence, but also of counterterrorism (in the form of the “global war on terror”) – and in different respects and at different levels: In the first place, terrorist violence is often (though not always) a kind of reactive violence, namely a reaction to perceived violations of basic human rights (such as foreign occupation, oppression of civil liberties, denial of self-determination, etc.). It is to be stated that acknowledging this causal relationship does in no way mean condoning specific acts of terrorism. Politically motivated acts of violence against civilians – which is a kind of operative definition of terrorism accepted by international consensus – cannot be justified under any circumstances. Nonetheless, refusing to acknowledge the specific motives behind terrorist acts will make us incapable to respond rationally and to develop a comprehensive, effective and sustainable counter-terrorist strategy. Such a “rejectionist” attitude would also make us victims of a desire for blind revenge and would make of the supposedly reactive use of force which many describe as “global war” a battle against windmills – since this war would only target symptoms, not the causes of terrorist violence (about which the strategy is ignorant in such a scenario). By definition, acts of terrorism are always a negation of the most basic continued next page


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human rights. Using violence against non-military targets to instill fear upon people is not only intrinsically evil in general moral terms; it is tantamount to violating the very rights that are derived from the inalienable dignity of the human being. Those rights are enshrined in the respective international covenants and in domestic constitutions; they include, first and foremost, the right to life; the right to live free from fear and intimidation; the right to form one’s political opinion free from manipulation and in an open public discourse – and not as a result of “blackmail” in the form of politically motivated violence; etc. It is to be emphasized, in this context, that no double standards must be allowed in the use of the term “terrorism” insofar as the negation of fundamental human rights is concerned: Acts of terrorism are a negation of the dignity of the human person and a denial of human rights independently of their motives and irrespective of whether they are committed by individuals, loosely organized groups, large and welldisciplined organizations, or regular armed forces; furthermore, the human rights aspect also relates to all acts of state terrorism. Since the global war on terror was effectively proclaimed towards the end of the year 2001, the international public has increasingly become aware of a third human rights aspect related to terrorism and to the spiral of violence in which the perpetrators of this war may get entangled: The measures against terrorism, whether undertaken as part of a “global war” or within a domestic political and legal framework, must not themselves violate human rights. International humanitarian law applies in all such situations. To counter acts that negate human rights – namely acts of terrorism – by means of further violations of human rights is not only a self-contradictory undertaking, but will completely undermine the credibility of the antiterrorist effort and may stir up even more terrorist violence – because such lawless counter-terrorist measures will create a sense of desperation and

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humiliation among those brutally treated. Since the fourth quarter of the year 2001, the examples of systematic human rights violations, committed as part of a global anti-terrorist campaign abound. Torture as a standard element of interrogation techniques; detention without trial; so-called “secret renditions” of terror suspects; their detention in secret prisons all around the globe; the denial of an accused person’s right to a defense of his own choosing in a court of law, etc.: all these practices constitute serious violations of human rights – that have already been widely and controversially discussed in connection with the ongoing global discourse on the war on terror – and may eventually turn a proclaimed and all-encompassing anti-terrorist effort into a “terrorism-generating” campaign. What is portrayed as necessary and unavoidable measures to fight terrorism may itself become a self-defeating strategy, bearing the hallmarks of (state) terrorism. The risks and pitfalls of such tactics, not to speak of their immoral and technically illegal nature, have become more than evident in the anti-Western hatred triggered by the appalling human rights violations in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Furthermore, a Swiss member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has documented many of the human rights violations committed not only by the United States, but also by European Union member states as the former’s accomplices, as part of the “global war on terror,” especially as regards the secret “renditions” of terror suspects. It is to be hoped that the incumbent President of the United States will make good on his electoral promises and not only revise, but reverse, the doctrine and policies that have been behind those measures, and that he will, without any further delay, close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba and annul his predecessor’s order by which socalled “military commissions” have been established to try terror suspects.

A R T I C L E S The procedures laid out in this order are in clear and open violation of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Third Geneva Convention of 1949). It cannot be emphasized often enough: the moral high ground will inevitably be lost – and with devastating consequences for a country’s international reputation – if a war against terror is conducted through measures that include systematic human rights violations. Such a war will not be perceived as an exercise of legitimate self-defense, but will more resemble a campaign of outright revenge, fuelling a never-ending cycle of terrorist violence. The proclamations about a “terrorist threat” and the need to counter it by preventive measures may thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As aptly stated by a young American officer in an analysis of the United States’ anti-terrorist campaign: “mortgaging the principles established by the nation’s founders in the pursuit of short term gains will result in a series of successful battles, followed by a lost war.” It is further to be hoped that, in the not too distant future, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be in a position to exercise jurisdiction over all cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity – whether those are committed as part of terrorist or counter-terrorist campaigns. At present, the hands of the Court are tied because many of the countries whose citizens were – or still are – involved in or are suspects of the commission of such crimes have not become parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, first and foremost among them the United States. For the Court to wait for “political” referrals of situations by the Security Council – as in the case of Sudan – cannot be an option. Many of the human rights violations that are being committed in the course of the global war on terror constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined in the Rome Statute or in other international legal instruments such as the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Those governments that pursue the “global war continued next page


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on terror” – in whichever strategic or tactical framework – should not further try to prevent the International Criminal Court from executing its universal mandate. If they continue to do so they document, by such obstruction, that they do not take seriously international human rights standards and the rule of law – and they will finally defeat their own anti-terrorist campaign because they will de-legitimize it in the eyes of the international public. As the new global discourse on secret renditions, detention in secret prisons, systematic use of torture as part of routine interrogation techniques, etc., has amply demonstrated, the citizens of the world will simply not tolerate such illegal methods any longer. III. Not only for tactical, but for essentially ethical reasons, it is of utmost importance that the war against terror be conducted in a manner that respects the inalienable human rights not only of the population – the citizens to be protected –, but also of terror suspects. The principles and values of a democratic polity do, under no circumstances, allow the erection of an effectively totalitarian system under the disguise of emergency measures supposedly necessitated by the fight against terror.

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a metaphorical sense – will have to be waged for the safeguarding, or restoration, of human rights in a comprehensive and all-encompassing sense, including civil and political, social, economic and cultural rights, on all continents. However, such an effort will not succeed as a unilateral undertaking; it will have to be part of a long-term global development policy in a multilateral framework such as that of the United Nations or regional organizations like the European Union or ASEAN. Only this kind of strategy will produce sustainable results – through the eradication of the root causes of terrorism (which we have identified under category 1 above in the analysis of the human rights dimension of terrorist violence). The ongoing global economic crisis and its impact on the developing countries should serve as a stark reminder of what is at stake. A global “war” – if we may again use the term in a metaphorical sense – against poverty and all forms of injustice will ultimately make a hot “global war on terror” obsolete. In any way, short-term military measures against violence can never replace a comprehensive long-term strategy.

In order to minimize the need for measures due to which those rights might be violated, the human rights policy governing a state’s reaction to a terrorist threat must be complemented by a proactive human rights strategy – domestically and at the international level. If human rights are indeed taken seriously, a kind of reverse strategy has to be adopted in the definition of the scope of the “global war on terror.” The development of such a strategy will be an element of preventive self-defense in the genuine sense – unlike the forms of preemption that have been defined as the rationale of the ongoing war on terror in ever more theaters of operation.

If the “global war on terror” is only fought in the form of a reactive use of force that ignores the human rights implications in the three different dimensions we have outlined above, and if it exclusively remains in the military domain, such tactics may well lead to a perpetual confrontation that will condemn mankind to live in a state of constant fear – and that will ultimately undermine the very foundations of human rights on which a legitimate global order, the “international rule of law,” is to be built. David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, has aptly expressed the fundamental challenge: countries must respond to terrorism by “championing the rule of law, not subordinating it.”

A “battle” – if we may use the term in

As explained more than two centuries

A R T I C L E S ago by Immanuel Kant, there can be no lasting peace without respect for human rights and the rule of law, and there will be no end to the terrorist threat, indeed to the cycle of violence triggered by the sequence of terrorist and counter-terrorist operations, unless the global war on terror is superseded by a genuine global and multidimensional effort for the enforcement of human rights. This – and not the mere technicalities of the use of military force – is the historical challenge which the human race is faced with at a junction of history where it is not yet clear whether the absence of a balance of power will lead to a state of global anarchy – with the never-ending fear of terror as basic ingredient – or to the gradual emergence of a multipolar order that is founded on the principle of sovereign equality of states and peoples alike and, by implication, on the universal respect of human rights. Those states and leaders who are seriously concerned about the threat of terrorism – and whose agenda goes beyond the realm of propaganda, shortterm domestic political considerations, and a desperate defense of doomed imperial rule – will certainly take into consideration the second option; they shall engage in a proactive human rights policy that will make the first possibility (namely a state of global anarchy) a little less likely. 21 May 2009 Dr Hans Köchler is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and a member of JUST’s International Advisory Panel (IAP). Source: IPO (International Progress Organization) Online Publications


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CAN CAPITALISM FIX THE CLIMATE? By Simon Butler Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It has taken capitalism about 250 years to generate enough waste and pollution to press dangerously against nature’s limits. With such a damning record, there should be no grounds to expect a different outcome in the future. Yet the mainstream discussion about how to tackle the climate crisis still assumes that, this time around, capitalism can be made sustainable. In an April 3 Sydney Morning Herald piece arguing for capitalists to take a leading role in resolving the climate crisis, Paddy Manning said it “was an article of faith for this column” that a free market could respond effectively to the challenge of climate change. But, struggling to come up with Australian capitalists responding positively to the challenge, he was forced to admit: “Faith is needed, because climate change is proof of colossal market failure.” The appeal of green capitalism — what US ecologist Amory Lovins has dubbed “the profitable solution to climate change” — is obvious. It promises to save the planet, maintain economic growth and make lots of people lots of money. It offers the hope that there is an easy way out of the crisis — that we can halt climate change without resorting to fundamental social change. But it ignores the fact that capitalism’s need for endless growth and ever-higher consumption is the root cause and main driver of the Earth’s environmental distress.

market failure ever seen.” He said strong action to cut emissions “must be viewed as an investment, a cost incurred now and in the coming few decades to avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future.” It sounds great. But delve into the report a bit deeper and its conclusions are chilling. Stern said: “Paths requiring very rapid emissions cuts are unlikely to be economically viable.” And: “It is difficult to secure emission cuts faster than about 1% per year except in instances of recession.” “These limits to the economically feasible speed of adjustment constrain the range of feasible [emissions] stabilisation trajectories,” he concluded. Yet what is feasible for maintaining capitalist economic growth is unfeasible for the future of human civilisation. To have any chance of avoiding runaway climate change, far bigger cuts are needed in a much shorter timeframe than the market system can tolerate. For example, the group of leading climate scientists who authored the 2009 report, The Copenhagen Diagnosis, said industrial nations like Australia must cut emissions by 40% below 1990 levels in just ten years. That’s about four times faster than Stern allowed for. The gap between the economics and the science cannot be bridged. Either we choose a “healthy” capitalist economy or we choose a healthy planet. We can’t have both.

Given the dire climate threat we face, which requires immediate action to cut emissions, the illusion of green capitalism is also a dangerous diversion.

At December’s Copenhagen climate conference Bolivian President Evo Morales caused a stir when he put the blame for global warming squarely on capitalism: “We are here to save Mother Earth … The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the Earth then we must end that economic model.”

Take British economist Nicolas Stern’s 2006 review on the economics of climate change. Stern famously called climate change “the greatest and widest-ranging

Too extreme? Too simplistic? For Australian author David McKnight the answer would be yes. He told the April 3 Sydney Morning Herald that “waiting

Capitalism is an infinite project on a finite planet.

until capitalism is abolished means accepting that climate change will continue to occur in the meantime.” But opposing capitalism is hardly the same as just waiting for the revolution. We are running out of time to stop climate change — no delay in action can be accepted. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere already. To succeed, we need a broad social movement strong enough to take on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of change. Such a movement has the potential to democratise society, overturning the dictatorship of capital. The point is that the climate movement should not be afraid of its own conclusions. If it allows its goals to be shaped by what is feasible in a capitalist economy then it has already failed. However, if it refuses to compromise on the measures needed to fix the climate then it will ultimately have to confront, and remake, the whole system. McKnight is an old lefty who has become more conservative as time has passed. But the climate crisis has prompted others to shift their political views in the other direction. One example is James Gustave Speth, a former environmental advisor to the Carter and Clinton administrations and onetime head of the United Nations Development Program. Once known as the “ultimate insider,” Speth now doubts climate change can be dealt with at all under capitalism. It hasn’t meant he has given up. Rather, Speth has fired up. In his 2008 book, Bridge at the Edge of the World, he said: “In the end, we need to trigger a response that in historical terms will come to be seen as revolutionary — the Environmental Revolution of the twenty first century. Only such a response is likely to avert huge and even catastrophic environmental losses.” 17 April 2010 Simon Butler is a member of Australia's Socialist Alliance and a staff writer for Green Left Weekly. Source: Greenleft.org.au


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Just Commentary June 2010