Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Capitalism’s Cult Of Human Sacrifice

HOUSTONBryan Parras stood in the shadows cast by glaring floodlights ringing the massive white, cylindrical tanks of the Valero oil refinery.

He, like many other poor Mexican-Americans who grew up in this part of Houston, struggles with asthma, sore throats, headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and a host of other illnesses and symptoms. The air was heavy with the smell of sulfur and benzene. The faint, acrid taste of a metallic substance was on our tongues. The sprawling refinery emitted a high-pitched electric hum. The periodic roar of flares, red-tongued flames of spent emissions, leapt upward into the Stygian darkness. The refinery seemed to be a living being, a giant, malignant antediluvian deity.

Parras and those who live near him are among the hundreds of millions of human sacrifices that industrial capitalism demands. They are cursed from birth to endure poverty, disease, toxic contamination and, often, early death. They are forced to kneel like bound captives to be slain on the altar of capitalism in the name of progress. They have gone first. We are next. In the late stages of global capitalism, we all will be destroyed in an orgy of mass extermination to satiate corporate greed.

Idols come in many forms, from Moloch of the ancient Canaanites to the utopian and bloody visions of fascism and communism. The primacy of profit and the glory of the American empire—what political theorist Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism”—is the latest iteration. The demand of idols from antiquity to modernity is the same: human sacrifice. And our cult of human sacrifice, while technologically advanced, is as primitive and bloodthirsty as that which carried out killings atop the great Aztec temple at Tenochtitl├ín. Not until we smash our idols and liberate ourselves from their power can we speak of hope. It would have been far, far better for the thousands of activists who descended on Paris for the climate summit to instead go to a sacrifice zonesuch as Parras’ neighborhood and, in waves of 50 or 100, day after day, block the rail lines and service roads to shut down refineries before being taken to jail. That is the only form of mass mobilization with any chance of success.

Parras—who organizes protests and resistance in the community throughTexas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), a local group he co-founded with his father, Juan—was standing in Hartman Park. He pointed out the array of storage tanks and other equipment clustered around refineries run by Valero, LyondellBasell and Texas Petrochemicals. The neighborhood, known as Manchester, is hemmed in by the Rhodia chemical plant; a yard for trains that transport tar sands oil, gas, coal and toxic chemicals; a Goodyear synthetic rubber plant; a fertilizer plant; a molasses plant; wastewater treatment plants; and tanks of liquefied chicken. There are numeroussuperfund sites here. The neighborhood is one of the most polluted in the United States. A yellowish-brown dust coats everything. The corporations, Parras said, are not required to disclose the toxic chemicals they store and use to refine or treat their products. The people who live in this industrial wasteland, who dream of escape but remain trapped because they are poor or because no one will buy their homes, know they are being poisoned but they do not know exactly what is poisoning them. And that, he said, “is the really scary thing.”

The chemical operations “are killing people, although no one wants to admit this is happening,” he said. “And it is largely Mexican-Americans” being killed.

“Alarms go off inside the refinery,” he said, “but we in the community do not know what they mean. We live in a constant anxiety. We will see cops or fire trucks arrive. The 18-wheeler trucks fall in the ditches because the streets are so narrow. People die prematurely, often from cancer. There are schools here. Kids are often sick. Energy levels are depleted. I was always tired as a boy. There is a lot of hyperactivity. Children cannot concentrate. The chemicals add to problems of obesity, especially the diesel particular matter. The fruit and vegetables we grow in our gardens are black. The chemicals lead eventually to heart disease and lymphocytic leukemia. But the impact of the chemicals is not only biological or physiological. It is psychological. You feel you are less, especially when you see other communities.”

“We are near a port,” he went on. “There are men on ships for long periods of time. There is a lot of sex trafficking. There are a lot of drugs. There are more bars on these streets than stores. If you can’t escape, you end up, at best, in a low-paying service industry job or prostitution.”

“We have a metal crushing facility,” he said, pointing into the gloomy night haze. “There is a worldwide shortage of metals. They grind up cars, buses and appliances into shards of metal. There have been explosions. They do not always drain the liquids in the vehicles. There are combustibles. There have been fires. There are particulates thrown into the air. The noise from the crushing is 24/7.”

We walked down a narrow, sloped street past rows of small, ranch-style homes built by poor Mexican immigrants in the 1930s. Manchester is one of the most depressed neighborhoods in Houston. The beat and high-pitched wail of a Tejano ballad blared through the open windows of a shack. Parras told me as we walked along the unlit street how he and other young activists organize protests and photograph emission violations and how Valero’s private security personnel harass those engaged in such activities in the streets around the refinery.

“We are followed, photographed and have our license plate numbers taken down,” he said. “We don’t always know who [is watching us]. They drive black cars with tinted windows. There is a security threat [to the petrochemical equipment]. It is easy to walk up to these trains or into the Valero facility. But what we are doing is documenting their negligence. Our concern is for the people who live here and the employees. Do they really think we are going to shut down all these facilities? Houston is built on oil and gas. On top of that we have the endemic racism and colonialism towards Mexicans and Indians, any brown person. This is where Manifest Destiny began.”

We met up with other young activists including Yudith Nieto, who was reared in Manchester by her grandparents. She suffers at 26 with an array of health issues including asthma, a damaged thyroid and chronic back pain she suspects is the result of stress and heavy metal contamination. “I can’t afford a toxicologist to tell me if my pain is connected to what I have been exposed to in my environment,” she said. Nieto, Parras and other TEJAS activists, along with fellow activists from across the country, led a series of protests against the now-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in or near Houston.

“People are afraid to get involved,” Nieto said. “They are poor and often undocumented. Or they have been in and out of the prison system. The Border Patrol carries out raids. We are trying to educate people. We did an air-monitoring project over the summer and into the fall where we collected particulate matter. We go to City Council meetings. But our congressman, Gene Green, is pro-industry. He showed up at a chemical security hearing and said he was there to represent the industry.”

Nieto expressed frustration with wealthier, largely white sections of Houston that she said have failed to rally to the defense of her neighborhood and have “tokenize” her and other Mexican-American activists.

The activists took me to one of the seedy bars near the port. The sign out front read “Cobetasos,” slang for buckets of beer, and advertised a “Show de Bikini.” Four overweight women danced or drank at the bar with white and Mexican-American laborers. The bars, which prey on the impoverished women and the single men who work in petrochemical industries and on the tanker ships, offer the only signs of human activity late at night.

“Those who work in these industries come in from outside Houston,” said Yvette Arellano, also with TEJAS. “They live in cheap motels with a ‘20 days on and 20 days off’ schedule. It feels like I never meet another Houstonian. They are from Colorado, the Dakotas or Louisiana. We don’t have man camps. We have motels. These are mostly temporary workers. They are not full time. This creates issues with safety. No one wants to complain about safety when they know they might not have that job if they complain. And so no one says anything.”

The 21 international climate summits that have been held over the decades have produced nothing but empty rhetoric, false promises and rising carbon emissions. Paris was no different. We must physically obstruct the extraction, transportation and refining of fossil fuels or face extinction. Those who worship before the idols of profit will use every tool at their disposal, including violence, to crush us. This is a war waged between the forces of life and the forces of death. It is a war that requires us, in every way possible, to deny to these industries the profits used to justify gaiacide. It is a war we must not lose.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. More

© 2015 TruthDig

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Save Our Oceans: COP21 Climate Negotiators put Ocean Protection back in the COP 21 Climate Agreement!

Demand Ocean Protection is included within the COP21 Climate Agreement

Ocean Protection has been removed from the COP 21 Climate Agreement, its protection is fundamental in mitigating climate change and global biodiversity loss. Allowing removal of Oceans from the Agreement provides nations that don't care "a charter" to continue raping and destroying vital ocean biodiversity globally. We must fight to save what is left; if your care then NOW is your time to ACT. Support this campaign and within seconds of clicking SEND your message will be delivered to the COP21 negotiators in Paris.


Message to all CLIMATE NEGOTIATORS at COP21 Paris

Subject: SAVE OUR OCEANS: COP21 Climate Negotiators put Ocean Protectionback in the COP 21 Climate Agreement!

 

It is staggering that Ocean protection is to be removed from the COP21 Climate Agreement.

Oceans and their biodiversity are fundamental to managing climate change, stabilising planetary climate systems and providing a sustainable future food supply for mankind. There is no greater cause than to protect our Oceans; simply because they transcend political geographic boundaries does not mean you should not care and leave to somebody else, there is nobody else, please think again and fight for their and our survival by including them in the Agreement.

Thank you.

 

Yours sincerely, [Your Name]

 

Please go to Gaia: Defenders of Biodirversity to sign the letter

 

Monday, November 9, 2015

New MSF Report Details Horrific Carnage as US Bombed Hospital

As the U.S. continues to refuse an independent probe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday released its own damning report of the American military's bombing of the medical charity's Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital last month—describing patients burning to death in their beds and people shot by a circling plane while attempting to flee.

The image on the left shows the Doctors
Without Borders hospital in Kunduz,
Afghanistan on June 21, 2015,
before the U.S. military bombing.
The image on the right shows the
facility on October 8, 2015, following
the attack.

The review (pdf), the first installment of an ongoing investigation, gives a harrowing, chronological account of the bombing, which took place while at least 105 patients were admitted, surgeries were ongoing, and people—including children—were immobilized in the intensive care unit. The report confirms that 149 MSF staff and one International Committee of the Red Cross delegate were in the hospital compound during the time of the attack.

What's more, the investigation finds that MSF was fully in control of the hospital at the time of the bombing, and its rules were in effect—including prohibitions against weapons. In addition, there was no combat "from or in the direct vicinity" of the hospital before the bombings.

"Some public reports are circulating that the attack on our hospital could be justified because we were treating Taliban," said Christopher Stokes, MSF general director, in a statement accompanying the report. "Wounded combatants are patients under international law, and must be free from attack and treated without discrimination. Medical staff should never be punished or attacked for providing treatment to wounded combatants."

"The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy," Stokes continued. "But we don’t know why. We neither have the view from the cockpit, nor the knowledge of what happened within the U.S. and Afghan military chains of command."

MSF based its findings on 60 debriefings with its national and international staff employed at the trauma center, email and telephone records, and before and after photographs of the hospital. The organization also reviewed internal and publicly-available information about the bombing that killed 13 staff members, 10 patients, and 7 people whose bodies were unrecognizable.

Due to an escalation in fighting, MSF on September 29 re-confirmed its GPS coordinates to the U.S. Department of Defense and Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense and U.S. Army in Kabul—all of whom confirmed receipt, the report states. On Friday, October 2, before the bombings took place, MSF even placed its organizational flags on the roof of the hospital, to ensure its identity would not be mistaken.

But at roughly 2:00 AM, the U.S. military unleashed a horrific bombing on the hospital, which lasted at least an hour. During this time, MSF made at least 17 calls to Afghan, U.S., and United Nations officials in attempt to stop the bombings, according to a log displayed in the report.

The first room hit was the ICU, where staff were caring for patients, some of whom were on ventilators, and at least two of whom were children. "MSF staff were attending to these critical patients in the ICU at the time of the attack and were directly killed in the first airstrikes or in the fire that subsequently engulfed the building," the report states. "Immobile patients in the ICU burned in their beds."

The strikes then moved to the main hospital building, destroying the emergency room, mental health department, operating theaters, and other areas—killing two patients while they were undergoing surgery. MSF staff described a litany of horrors: amputations, fully or partially severed limbs, and people "running while on fire and then falling unconscious on the ground."

The report states some were "shot by the circling AC-130 gunship while fleeing the burning building."

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, surviving MSF staff fought for the lives of their colleagues and patients, inserting chest drains, halting severe bleeding, and treating shock—with at least two MSF staff dying on the operating table.

MSF's account shines light on an attack whose details have been murky, with the Pentagon changing its story at least four times, including initially denying responsibility. The U.S. and Afghan governments so far refused MSF's repeated calls for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission (IHFFC), which was established in 1991 under the Geneva Conventions. In addition to releasing Thursday's report to the public, MSF has also submitted it to the IHFFC. More

 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sheldon Wolin: Political Giant Dead At Ninety-Three - Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin, our most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age of 93.

Sheldon Wolin

In his books “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” and “Politics and Vision,” a massive survey of Western political thought that his former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the realities of our bankrupt democracy, the causes behind the decline of American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.

Wendy Brown, a political science professor at UC Berkeley and another former student of Wolin’s, said in an email to me: “Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive—even distinctively American—analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy statism forging what we now call neoliberalism, and in revealing the novel fusions of economic with political power that he took to be poisoning democracy at its root.

Wolin throughout his scholarship charted the devolution of American democracy and in his last book, “Democracy Incorporated,” details our peculiar form of corporate totalitarianism. “One cannot point to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as democratic,” he writes in that book, “surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.”

Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent

“Unlike the Nazis, who made life uncertain for the wealthy and privileged while providing social programs for the working class and poor, inverted totalitarianism exploits the poor, reducing or weakening health programs and social services, regimenting mass education for an insecure workforce threatened by the importation of low-wage workers,” Wolin writes. “Employment in a high-tech, volatile, and globalized economy is normally as precarious as during an old-fashioned depression. The result is that citizenship, or what remains of it, is practiced amidst a continuing state of worry. Hobbes had it right: when citizens are insecure and at the same time driven by competitive aspirations, they yearn for political stability rather than civic engagement, protection rather than political involvement.”

Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said when we met at his home in Salem, Ore., in 2014 to film a nearly three-hour interview, constantly “projects power upwards.” It is “the antithesis of constitutional power.” It is designed to create instability to keep a citizenry off balance and passive.

He writes, “Downsizing, reorganization, bubbles bursting, unions busted, quickly outdated skills, and transfer of jobs abroad create not just fear but an economy of fear, a system of control whose power feeds on uncertainty, yet a system that, according to its analysts, is eminently rational.

Inverted totalitarianism also “perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said when we spoke, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless and extravagant election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics. “Instead of participating in power,” he writes, “the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.”

Political campaigns rarely discuss substantive issues. They center on manufactured political personalities, empty rhetoric, sophisticated public relations, slick advertising, propaganda and the constant use of focus groups and opinion polls to loop back to voters what they want to hear. Money has effectively replaced the vote. Every current presidential candidate—including Bernie Sanders—understands, to use Wolin’s words, that “the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates.” The citizen is irrelevant. He or she is nothing more than a spectator, allowed to vote and then forgotten once the carnival of elections ends and corporations and their lobbyists get back to the business of ruling.

“If the main purpose of elections is to serve up pliant legislators for lobbyists to shape, such a system deserves to be called ‘misrepresentative or clientry government,’ ” Wolin writes. “It is, at one and the same time, a powerful contributing factor to the depoliticization of the citizenry, as well as reason for characterizing the system as one of antidemocracy.”

The result, he writes, is that the public is “denied the use of state power.” Wolin deplores the trivialization of political discourse, a tactic used to leave the public fragmented, antagonistic and emotionally charged while leaving corporate power and empire unchallenged.

“Cultural wars might seem an indication of strong political involvements,” he writes. “Actually they are a substitute. The notoriety they receive from the media and from politicians eager to take firm stands on nonsubstantive issues serves to distract attention and contribute to a cant politics of the inconsequential.

“The ruling groups can now operate on the assumption that they don’t need the traditional notion of something called a public in the broad sense of a coherent whole,” he said in our meeting. “They now have the tools to deal with the very disparities and differences that they have themselves helped to create. It’s a game in which you manage to undermine the cohesiveness that the public requires if they [the public] are to be politically effective. And at the same time, you create these different, distinct groups that inevitably find themselves in tension or at odds or in competition with other groups, so that it becomes more of a melee than it does become a way of fashioning majorities.”

In classical totalitarian regimes, such as those of Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. But “under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.

He continues: “The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.”

The corporate state, Wolin told me, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” To extinguish democracy, it rewrites and distorts laws and legislation that once protected democracy. Basic rights are, in essence, revoked by judicial and legislative fiat. Courts and legislative bodies, in the service of corporate power, reinterpret laws to strip them of their original meaning in order to strengthen corporate control and abolish corporate oversight.

He writes: “Why negate a constitution, as the Nazis did, if it is possible simultaneously to exploit porosity and legitimate power by means of judicial interpretations that declare huge campaign contributions to be protected speech under the First Amendment, or that treat heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations as a simple application of the people’s right to petition their government?”

Our system of inverted totalitarianism will avoid harsh and violent measures of control “as long as ... dissent remains ineffectual,” he told me. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.”

And the elites, especially the intellectual class, have been bought off. “Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system,” Wolin writes. “No books burned, no refugee Einsteins.”

But, he warns, should the population—steadily stripped of its most basic rights, including the right to privacy, and increasingly impoverished and bereft of hope—become restive, inverted totalitarianism will become as brutal and violent as past totalitarian states. “The war on terrorism, with its accompanying emphasis upon ‘homeland security,’ presumes that state power, now inflated by doctrines of preemptive war and released from treaty obligations and the potential constraints of international judicial bodies, can turn inwards,” he writes, “confident that in its domestic pursuit of terrorists the powers it claimed, like the powers projected abroad, would be measured, not by ordinary constitutional standards, but by the shadowy and ubiquitous character of terrorism as officially defined.”

The indiscriminate police violence in poor communities of color is an example of the ability of the corporate state to “legally” harass and kill citizens with impunity. The cruder forms of control—from militarized police to wholesale surveillance, as well as police serving as judge, jury and executioner, now a reality for the underclass—will become a reality for all of us should we begin to resist the continued funneling of power and wealth upward. We are tolerated as citizens, Wolin warns, only as long as we participate in the illusion of a participatory democracy. The moment we rebel and refuse to take part in the illusion, the face of inverted totalitarianism will look like the face of past systems of totalitarianism.

“The significance of the African-American prison population is political,” he writes. “What is notable about the African-American population generally is that it is highly sophisticated politically and by far the one group that throughout the twentieth century kept alive a spirit of resistance and rebelliousness. In that context, criminal justice is as much a strategy of political neutralization as it is a channel of instinctive racism.”

In his writings, Wolin expresses consternation for a population severed from print and the nuanced world of ideas. He sees cinema, like television, as “tyrannical” because of its ability to “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue.” He rails against what he calls a “monochromatic media” with corporate-approved pundits used to identify “the problem and its parameters, creating a box that dissenters struggle vainly to elude. The critic who insists on changing the context is dismissed as irrelevant, extremist, ‘the Left’—or ignored altogether.”

The constant dissemination of illusions permits myth rather than reality to dominate the decisions of the power elites. And when myth dominates, disaster descends upon the empire, as 14 years of futile war in the Middle East and our failure to react to climate change illustrate. Wolin writes

When myth begins to govern decision-makers in a world where ambiguity and stubborn facts abound, the result is a disconnect between the actors and the reality. They convince themselves that the forces of darkness possess weapons of mass destruction and nuclear capabilities: that their own nation is privileged by a god who inspired the Founding Fathers and the writing of the nation’s constitution; and that a class structure of great and stubborn inequalities does not exist. A grim but joyous few see portents of a world that is living out “the last days.”

Wolin was a bombardier and a navigator on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber in the South Pacific in World War II. He flew 51 combat missions. The planes had crews of up to 10. From Guadalcanal, he advanced with American forces as they captured islands in the Pacific. During the campaign the military high command decided to direct the B-24 bombers—which were huge and difficult to fly in addition to having little maneuverability—against Japanese ships, a tactic that saw tremendous losses of planes and American lives. The use of the B-24, nicknamed “the flying boxcar” and “the flying coffin,” to attack warships bristling with antiaircraft guns exposed for Wolin the callousness of military commanders who blithely sacrificed their air crews and war machines in schemes that offered little chance of success.

“It was terrible,” he said of the orders to bomb ships. “We received awful losses from that, because these big, lumbering aircraft, particularly flying low trying to hit the Japanese navy—and we lost countless people in it, countless.

“We had quite a few psychological casualties ... men, boys, who just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said, “just couldn’t stand the strain of getting up at 5 in the morning and proceeding to get into these aircraft and go and getting shot at for a while and coming back to rest for another day.”

Wolin saw the militarists and the corporatists, who formed an unholy coalition to orchestrate the rise of a global American empire after the war, as the forces that extinguished American democracy. He called inverted totalitarianism “the true face of Superpower.” These war profiteers and militarists, advocating the doctrine of total war during the Cold War, bled the country of resources. They also worked in tandem to dismantle popular institutions and organizations such as labor unions to politically disempower and impoverish workers. They “normalized” war. And Wolin warns that, as in all empires, they eventually will be “eviscerated by their own expansionism.” There will never be a return to democracy, he cautions, until the unchecked power of the militarists and corporatists is dramatically curtailed. A war state cannot be a democratic state

Wolin writes: National defense was declared inseparable from a strong economy. The fixation upon mobilization and rearmament inspired the gradual disappearance from the national political agenda of the regulation and control of corporations. The defender of the free world needed the power of the globalizing, expanding corporation, not an economy hampered by “trust busting.” Moreover, since the enemy was rabidly anticapitalist, every measure that strengthened capitalism was a blow against the enemy. Once the battle lines between communism and the “free society” were drawn, the economy became untouchable for purposes other than “strengthening” capitalism. The ultimate merger would be between capitalism and democracy. Once the identity and security of democracy were successfully identified with the Cold War and with the methods for waging it, the stage was set for the intimidation of most politics left or right.

The result is a nation dedicated almost exclusively to waging war

“When a constitutionally limited government utilizes weapons of horrendous destructive power, subsidizes their development, and becomes the world’s largest arms dealer,” Wolin writes, “the Constitution is conscripted to serve as power’s apprentice rather than its conscience.

He goes on: That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budget means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate. Similarly in his/her new status as imperial citizen the believer remains contemptuous of bureaucracy yet does not hesitate to obey the directives issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the largest and most intrusive governmental department in the history of the nation. Identification with militarism and patriotism, along with the images of American might projected by the media, serves to make the individual citizen feel stronger, thereby compensating for the feelings of weakness visited by the economy upon an overworked, exhausted, and insecure labor force. For its antipolitics inverted totalitarianism requires believers, patriots, and nonunion “guest workers.

Sheldon Wolin was often considered an outcast among contemporary political theorists whose concentration on quantitative analysis and behaviorialism led them to eschew the examination of broad political theory and ideas. Wolin insisted that philosophy, even that written by the ancient Greeks, was not a dead relic but a vital tool to examine and challenge the assumptions and ideologies of contemporary systems of power and political thought. Political theory, he argued, was “primarily a civic and secondarily an academic activity.” It had a role “not just as an historical discipline that dealt with the critical examination of idea systems,” he told me, but as a force “in helping to fashion public policies and governmental directions, and above all civic education, in a way that would further ... the goals of a more democratic, more egalitarian, more educated society.” His 1969 essay “Political Theory as a Vocation” argued for this imperative and chastised fellow academics who focused their work on data collection and academic minutiae. He writes, with his usual lucidity and literary flourishes, in that essay:

In a fundamental sense, our world has become as perhaps no previous world has, the product of design, the product of theories about human structures deliberately created rather than historically articulated. But in another sense, the embodiment of theory in the world has resulted in a world impervious to theory. The giant, routinized structures defy fundamental alteration and, at the same time, display an unchallengeable legitimacy, for the rational, scientific, and technological principles on which they are based seem in perfect accord with an age committed to science, rationalism and technology. Above all, it is a world which appears to have rendered epic theory superfluous. Theory, as Hegel had foreseen, must take the form of “explanation.” Truly, it seems to be the age when Minerva’s owl has taken flight.

Wolin’s 1960 masterpiece “Politics and Vision,” subtitled “Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought,” drew on a vast array of political theorists and philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Thomas Hobbes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Max Weber, John Dewey and Hannah Arendt to reflect back to us our political and cultural reality. His task, he stated at the end of the book, was, “in the era of Superpower,” to “nurture the civic consciousness of the society.” The imperative to amplify and protect democratic traditions from the contemporary forces that sought to destroy them permeated all of his work, including his books “Hobbes and the Epic Tradition of Political Theory” and “Tocqueville Between Two Worlds: The Making of a Political and Theoretical Life.”

Wolin’s magnificence as a scholar was matched by his magnificence as a human being. He stood with students at UC Berkeley, where he taught, to support the Free Speech Movement and wrote passionately in its defense. Many of these essays were published in “The Berkeley Rebellion and Beyond: Essays on Politics and Education in the Technological Society.” Later, as a professor at Princeton University, he was one of a handful of faculty members who joined students to call for divestment of investments in apartheid South Africa. He once accompanied students to present the case to Princeton alumni. “I’ve never been jeered quite so roundly,” he said. “Some of them called me [a] 50-year-old ... sophomore and that kind of thing.”

From 1981 to 1983, Wolin published Democracy: A Journal of Political Renewal and Radical Change. In its pages he and other writers called out the con game of neoliberalism, the danger of empire, the rise of unchecked corporate power and the erosion of democratic institutions and ideals. The journal swiftly made him a pariah within the politics department at Princeton.

“I remember once when I was up editing that journal, I left a copy of it on the table in the faculty room hoping that somebody would read it and comment,” he said. “I never heard a word. And during all the time I was there and doing Democracy, I never had one colleague come up to me and either say something positive or even negative about it. Just absolute silence.”

Max Weber, whom Wolin called “the greatest of all sociologists,” argues in his essay “Politics as a Vocation” that those who dedicate their lives to striving for justice in the modern political arena are like the classical heroes who can never overcome what the ancient Greeks called fortuna. These heroes, Wolin writes in “Politics and Vision,” rise up nevertheless “to heights of moral passion and grandeur, harried by a deep sense of responsibility.” Yet, Wolin goes on, “at bottom, [the contemporary hero] is a figure as futile and pathetic as his classical counterpart. The fate of the classical hero was that he could never overcome contingency or fortuna; the special irony of the modern hero is that he struggles in a world where contingency has been routed by bureaucratized procedures and nothing remains for the hero to contend against. Weber’s political leader is rendered superfluous by the very bureaucratic world that Weber discovered: even charisma has been bureaucratized. We are left with the ambiguity of the political man fired by deep passion—‘to be passionate, ira et studium, is … the element of the political leader’—but facing the impersonal world of bureaucracy which lives by the passionless principle that Weber frequently cited, sine ira et studio, ‘without scorn or bias.’ ”

Wolin writes that even when faced with certain defeat, all of us are called to the “awful responsibility” of the fight for justice, equality and liberty.

“You don’t win,” Wolin said at the end of our talk. “Or you win rarely. And if you win, it’s often for a very short time. That’s why politics is a vocation for Weber. It’s not an occasional undertaking that we assume every two years or every four years when there’s an election. It’s a constant occupation and preoccupation. And the problem, as Weber saw it, was to understand it not as a partisan kind of education in the politicians or political party sense, but as in the broad understanding of what political life should be and what is required to make it sustainable. He’s calling for a certain kind of understanding that’s very different from what we think about when we associate political understanding with how do you vote or what party do you support or what cause do you support. Weber’s asking us to step back and say what kind of political order, and the values associated with it that it promotes, are we willing to really give a lot for, including sacrifice.”

Wolin embodied the qualities Weber ascribes to the hero. He struggled against forces he knew he could not vanquish. He never wavered in the fight as an intellectual and, more important, in the fight as a citizen. He was one of the first to explain to us the transformation of our capitalist democracy into a new species of totalitarianism. He warned us of the consequences of unbridled empire or superpower. He called on us to rise up and resist. His “Democracy Incorporated” was ignored by every major newspaper and journal in the country. This did not surprise him. He knew his power. So did his enemies. All his fears for the nation have come to pass. A corporate monstrosity rules us. If we held up a scorecard we would have to say Wolin lost, but we would also have to acknowledge the integrity, brilliance, courage and nobility of his life. More

=================================

By Dusty Hinz

Sheldon Wolin passed away just under two weeks ago at the age of 93. He was an incredibly important thinker for our times. His book, "Democracy Incorporated", is a must-read as far as I am concerned. In it he lays out his critique of contemporary America and defines it as an "inverted totalitarian" society, in which politics have become subservient to economics.

If you can't read the book, read this article, if you can't read the article, just read these quotes:

"Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent."

"In classical totalitarian regimes, such as those of Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. But “under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

He continues: “The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed.”

The corporate state, Wolin told me, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” To extinguish democracy, it rewrites and distorts laws and legislation that once protected democracy. Basic rights are, in essence, revoked by judicial and legislative fiat. Courts and legislative bodies, in the service of corporate power, reinterpret laws to strip them of their original meaning in order to strengthen corporate control and abolish corporate oversight.

He writes: “Why negate a constitution, as the Nazis did, if it is possible simultaneously to exploit porosity and legitimate power by means of judicial interpretations that declare huge campaign contributions to be protected speech under the First Amendment, or that treat heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations as a simple application of the people’s right to petition their government?”

Our system of inverted totalitarianism will avoid harsh and violent measures of control “as long as ... dissent remains ineffectual,” he told me. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.""

 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Exxon's Climate Change Cover-Up Is 'Unparalleled Evil,' Says Activist

Exxon Mobil's decision to hide research that confirmed fossil fuels' role in global warming for decades amounts to "unparalleled evil," environmentalist Bill McKibben said.

Bill McKibben

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Guardian, the activist once called "the nation's leading environmentalist" said the oil giant set back by decades any effective action to curb climate change when it publicly disputed the very facts its research confirmed.

"To understand the treachery -- the sheer, profound, and I think unparalleled evil -- of Exxon, one must remember the timing," he wrote. "Global warming became a public topic in 1988, thanks to Nasa scientist James Hansen -- it’s taken a quarter-century and counting for the world to take effective action."

Over the past three weeks, the results of two independent investigations were published by the Pulitzer-Prize winning website Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times.

The evidence was damning.

By 1978, Exxon's senior scientists told management that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels warmed the planet, according to the investigations. By 1982, the company's own analysis of climate models found temperatures could rise up to 5 degrees from the "connection between Exxon's major business and the role of fossil fuel combustion in contributing to the increase in atmospheric CO2." By 1991, a senior researcher at the company's Canadian subsidiary said such temperature rises "will clearly affect sea ice, icebergs, permafrost and sea levels."

"If at any point in that journey Exxon -- largest oil company on Earth, most profitable enterprise in human history -- had said: 'Our own research shows that these scientists are right and that we are in a dangerous place,' the faux debate would effectively have ended," McKibben wrote. "That’s all it would have taken; stripped of the cover provided by doubt, humanity would have gotten to work."

Yet, publicly, Exxon funded institutes to cook up reports denying the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and, as it happens, its own researchers.

"[T]his company had the singular capacity to change the course of world history for the better and instead it changed that course for the infinitely worse," McKibben wrote. "In its greed Exxon helped -- more than any other institution -- to kill our planet."

Exxon did not return a call requesting comment. More

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Indonesia's fires labelled a 'crime against humanity' as 500,000 suffer

Raging forest fires across Indonesia are thought to be responsible for up to half a million cases of respiratory infections, with the resultant haze covering parts of Malaysia and Singapore now being described as a “crime against humanity”.

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been alight for more than two months as a result of slash and burn – the fastest and quickest way to clear land for new plantations.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and fires are frequently intentionally lit to clear the land with the resulting haze an annual headache.

But this year a prolonged dry season and the impact of El Ni├▒o have made the situation far worse, with one estimate that daily emissions from the fires have surpassed the average daily emissions of the entire US economy.

The fires have caused the air to turn a toxic sepia colour in the worst hit areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where levels of the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) have pushed toward 2,000. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous.

Endangered wildlife such as orangutans have also been forced to flee the forests because of the fires.

Six Indonesian provinces have declared a state of emergency.

Across the region Indonesia’s haze crisis has been causing havoc – schools in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia have been shut down, flights have been grounded, events cancelled and Indonesian products boycotted, as millions try to avoid the intense smoke.

In the worst affected parts, on Sumatra and Kalimantan, ten people have died from haze-related illnesses and more than 500,000 cases of acute respiratory tract infections have been reported since July 1. More

 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Roy Sesana's Speech Is One of The Most Powerful I have Ever Read: This Is What Leadership Looks Like

By Roy Sesana / survivalinternational.org

Roy Sesana gave this speech when he accepted the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm in 2005. We read this years ago and wanted to share it with you, because it's one of those rare speeches that we have wanted to read again and again over the years. It is profound and important beyond words.

Roy Sesana

Above all, it is so inspiring to us. This is what true leadership looks like. In its entirety it is wisdom that transcends time and culture, and perhaps that's why we think everyone will find something beautiful in this. - Films For Action

"My name is Roy Sesana; I am a Gana Bushman from the Kalahari in what is now called Botswana. In my language, my name is 'Tobee' and our land is 'T//amm'. We have been there longer than any people has been anywhere.

When I was young, I went to work in a mine. I put off my skins and wore clothes. But I went home after a while. Does that make me less Bushman? I don't think so.I am a leader. When I was a boy we did not need leaders and we lived well. Now we need them because our land is being stolen and we must struggle to survive. It doesn't mean I tell people what to do, it's the other way around: they tell me what I have to do to help them.

I cannot read. You wanted me to write this speech, so my friends helped, but I cannot read words – I'm sorry! But I do know how to read the land and the animals. All our children could. If they didn't, they would have all died long ago. I know many who can read words and many, like me, who can only read the land. Both are important. We are not backward or less intelligent: we live in exactly the same up-to-date year as you. I was going to say we all live under the same stars, but no, they're different, and there are many more in the Kalahari. The sun and moon are the same.

I grew up a hunter. All our boys and men were hunters. Hunting is going and talking to the animals. You don't steal. You go and ask. You set a trap or go with bow or spear. It can take days. You track the antelope. He knows you are there, he knows he has to give you his strength. But he runs and you have to run. As you run, you become like him. It can last hours and exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live. When I first hunted, I was not allowed to eat. Pieces of the steenbok were burnt with some roots and spread on my body. This is how I learned. It's not the same way you learn, but it works well.

The farmer says he is more advanced than the backward hunter, but I don't believe him. His herds give no more food than ours. The antelope are not our slaves, they do not wear bells on their necks and they can run faster than the lazy cow or the herder. We run through life together. When I wear the antelope horns, it helps me talk to my ancestors and they help me. The ancestors are so important: we would not be alive without them. Everyone knows this in their heart, but some have forgotten. Would any of us be here without our ancestors? I don't think so.

I was trained as a healer. You have to read the plants and the sand. You have to dig the roots and become fit. You put some of the root back for tomorrow, so one day your grandchildren can find it and eat. You learn what the land tells you. When the old die, we bury them and they become ancestors. When there is sickness, we dance and we talk to them; they speak through my blood. I touch the sick person and can find the illness and heal it.

We are the ancestors of our grandchildren's children. We look after them, just as our ancestors look after us. We aren't here for ourselves. We are here for each other and for the children of our grandchildren.

Why am I here? Because my people love their land, and without it we are dying. Many years ago, the president of Botswana said we could live on our ancestral land forever. We never needed anyone to tell us that. Of course we can live where God created us! But the next president said we must move and began forcing us away.

They said we had to go because of diamonds. Then they said we were killing too many animals: but that's not true. They say many things which aren't true. They said we had to move so the government could develop us. The president says unless we change we will perish like the dodo. I didn't know what a dodo was. But I found out: it was a bird which was wiped out by settlers. The president was right. They are killing us by forcing us off our land. We have been tortured and shot at. They arrested me and beat me.

Thank you for the Right Livelihood Award. It is global recognition of our struggle and will raise our voice throughout the world. When I heard I had won I had just been let out of prison. They say I am a criminal, as I stand here today.

I say what kind of development is it when the people live shorter lives than before? They catch HIV/AIDS. Our children are beaten in school and won't go there. Some become prostitutes. They are not allowed to hunt. They fight because they are bored and get drunk. They are starting to commit suicide. We never saw that before. It hurts to say this. Is this 'development'?

We are not primitive. We live differently to you, but we do not live exactly like our grandparents did, nor do you. Were your ancestors 'primitive'? I don't think so. We respect our ancestors. We love our children. This is the same for all people.

We now have to stop the government stealing our land: without it we will die.

If anyone has read a lot of books and thinks I am primitive because I have not read even one, then he should throw away those books and get one which says we are all brothers and sisters under God and we too have a right to live.

That is all. Thank you."

Roy Sesana - First People of the Kalahari, Botswana

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/roy-sesana-right-livelihood-speech/

 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Against Chevron and in Favor of Ecuadorians

The law has finally caught up with Chevron.

Today's unanimous decision from the Supreme Court of Canada opens the door for Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities to enforce their $9.5 billion USD verdict against Chevron and is a major victory for human rights and corporate accountability.

Chevron's deliberate dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water and 17 million gallons of crude into the Ecuadorian Amazon created a massive health crisis and remains one of the worst oil-related environmental crimes in history. After being found guilty of its drill and dump tactics in Ecuador, Chevron has been on the run, spending billions on retaliatory legal attacks seeking to delay justice rather than fulfilling its legal obligations to carry out a full-scale environmental clean-up and provide potable water and health care to the communities it poisoned.

Chevron's $15 billion USD in Canadian assets are more than enough to satisfy the verdict, and the Canadian court's decision to allow the Ecuadorian rainforest communities to pursue action to collect their verdict is a significant step towards justice long denied. The verdict should be a major wake-up call to Chevron shareholders and senior management that despite spending billions to make this issue go away, the company faces major risk to its assets and brand in Canada and beyond. Rather than spend hundreds of millions more on legal fees in Canada to delay justice further, it's time for Chevron to finally do the right thing. More

 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Palestine overwhelmed by Illegal American Immigrants

If there were a Palestinian Donald Trump, he’d be fulminating against illegal immigrants swamping the Palestinian West Bank. And he’d be complaining that fully 1 in 6 of these undocumented squatters are Americans.

Since Americans have trouble understanding the basic facts of the situation, it is worthwhile underscoring that the United Nations General Assembly’s partition plan for British Mandate Palestine in 1947 did not include Gaza or the West Bank of the Jordan. Those territories were never awarded to Jewish settlers or later Israelis by any legitimate authority (even the UNGC is not an executive body and the Security Council should have signed off to grant real legitimacy in law). Israel militarily conquered Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and have by now so altered the ways of life, economy and society of these occupied territories that the Occupation is illegal by the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 (designed to prevent atrocities against occupied populations of the sort the Axis carried out during WW II).

It is strictly illegal for the occupying power to attempt to annex occupied territory or to transfer its citizens into militarily occupied territory. Mussolini’s Italy pulled that stunt with the parts of France he occupied during WW II. When you hear that someone has violated the Geneva Convention, that isn’t just an abstract matter. It means that someone is acting the way the dictators acted during the war, because it is that kind of lawless behavior the conventions were attempting to forestall from happening again.

Israel illegally annexed part of the Palestinian West Bank to its district of Jerusalem and then settled it with Israeli squatters. Am I comparing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Mussolini in Menton, France? If the shoe fits . . .

Outside the territory annexed to Jerusalem, there are at least 350,000 Israeli squatters who have usurped Palestinian land.

This link explains the process of illegal Israeli squatting on and theft of Palestinian land (a process the International Court of Justice ruled is illegal in 2004).

Some 60,000 of the squatters, today’s equivalent of Mussolini’s Black Shirts , are Americans, according to a new study.

Those American politicians like Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, who make exaggerated and untrue statements against undocumented workers in the United States but who defend illegal Israeli immigration into the West Bank, are supreme hypocrites. The Israeli squatters, moreover, are often hostile and aggressive, excluding Palestinians from the townhouses they construct on stolen property. More

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To avoid counting civilian deaths, Obama re-defined “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone

Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were "militants" — even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed.

They simply cite always-unnamed "officials" claiming that the dead were "militants." It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.

This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of "militant" is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: "Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen").

This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with "three dozen of his current and former advisers." I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a "militant." The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths "did not significantly change" the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a "militant" to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage;

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. "Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs," said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the "single digits" — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it "guilt by association" that has led to "deceptive" estimates of civilian casualties.

"It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants," the official said. "They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are."

For the moment, leave the ethical issues to the side that arise from viewing "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants"; that’s nothing less than sociopathic, a term I use advisedly, but I discuss that in the separate, longer piece I’ve written. For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term "militants" to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By "militant," the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).

What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term "militant" means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda — not that that’s anything new, but this makes this clearer than it’s ever been. More

 

 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nuclear Nonproliferation

Our 70th Anniversary Homework: Confronting the Myths and Learning the Lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Seventy years ago, two nuclear weapons targeted against cities which met the criteria of having “densely packed workers’ homes,” killed more than 200,000 people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the years that have followed, many more have suffered and died from cancers, radiation disease, genetic damage and other fallout from the atom bombings.

The myths that the A-bombings were necessary to end the war against Japan and that they saved the lives of half a million US troops remain widely believed. The myths serve as the ideological foundation for continuing U.S. preparations for nuclear war, which in turn has served as the primary driver of nuclear weapons proliferation and the creation of deterrent nuclear arsenals

It is no accident that this wartime propaganda took on a life of its own. Japanese and other journalists’ film footage and photos of the devastation wrought by the A-bombs taken within days of the A-bombings, were seized by U.S. Occupation forces and were locked away in Pentagon vaults for more than two decades. In 1995, the Smithsonian Museum’s initially excellent 50th anniversary exhibition was censored beyond recognition to prevent people from seeing what the A-bombs inflicted on human beings. Also removed were the facts that U.S. Secretary of War Stimson had advised Truman that Japan’s surrender “could be arranged on terms acceptable to the United States” without the atom bombings. (That arrangement was later deemed acceptable – even necessary – by U.S. military occupation authorities.) Indeed, before it was sterilized, the exhibit included quotations from senior US wartime military leaders including Admiral Leahy and General (later President) Eisenhower who thought, “It wasn’t necessary to hit [Japanese] with that awful thing.”

Scholars now know that numerous factors contributed to Truman’s decision to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their civilian populations. These include Truman’s political calculations as he looked to the 1948 presidential election, vengeance, racism, institutional inertia, and the callousness that came with already having burned more than sixty Japanese cities to the ground.

But, as General Leslie Groves, the commander of the Manhattan Project, told senior scientist Joseph Rotblat, the bombs came to be designed for the Soviet Union. The determinative reasons for the A-bombings were to bring the war to an immediate end so that the US could avoid sharing influence with the USSR in Northern China, Manchuria and Korea and to intimidate Stalin and other Soviet leaders by demonstrating the apocalyptic power of nuclear weapons and Washington’s willingness to use them – even against civilians. Little Boy and Fat Man, as the bombs were named, announced the beginning of the Cold War.

Americans also continue to suffer from the misconception that nuclear weapons have not been used since the Nagasaki A-bombing on August 9, 1945. In fact, the US, and to a lesser degree the other nuclear powers, have repeatedly used their nuclear arsenals. Long ago, Daniel Ellsberg, a senior Pentagon nuclear war planner for Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, explained that the US has repeatedly used nuclear weapons “in the way that you use a gun when you point it at someone’s head in a confrontation….whether or not you pull the trigger...[and] You’re also using it when you have it on your hip ostentatiously.” During wars and international crises, the US has prepared and/or threatened to initiate nuclear war on at least thirty occasions - at least 15 times during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and crises with China, and at least 10 times to reinforce US Middle East hegemony. And each of the other eight nuclear powers has made such threats or preparations at least once.

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, reported last December to the International Conference on the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, attended by representatives of 158 governments that luck, not state policies and regulations, best explains why humanity has survived nuclear blackmail, reckless dependence on deterrence, miscalculations and nuclear accidents.

Still more sobering are the recent scientific studies demonstrating that even a “small” exchange of 50-100 nuclear weapons targeted against cities would result in fires, smoke that would cause global cooling, and up to two billion deaths from famine.

All of which lead to a series of existential questions: As we race against time to save our civilizations from the impending ravages of climate change, why are our governments preparing to inflict nuclear annihilation? Why do we tolerate the continued deployment and stockpiling of nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons, 90% of them in U.S. and Russian arsenals? Why have the P-5 nuclear powers (US, Russia, Britain, France and China) refused to implement their 45 year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation to begin negotiations for the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals? And why did the US condemn this past spring’s NPT Review Conference to failure by refusing to honor its long-standing commitment to co-convene a conference to lay the foundations for a nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East?

There are high costs to denying history and reality. In a worst case scenario, the failure of the US and the other nuclear powers to heed the warning of A-bomb survivors that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist is the end to life on earth as we know it.

The majority of the world’s governments are not in similar denial. The NPT Review Conference’s one achievement was the commitment of the vast majority of the world’s governments the Humanitarian Pledge. Initiated by Austria, 113 governments pledged “to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, states, international organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.” The gulf between the non-nuclear weapons states and the nuclear powers has widened, and in time the former may use their economic, political and other power in the struggle to secure humanity’s future.

On August 6, many in Japan will appreciate the silent presence of U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy at Hiroshima’s official 70th anniversary commemoration, but there will be no apology. And, even as we celebrate and work for the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, the sorry truth is that the US is now on track to spend one trillion dollars to “modernize” its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems, with the other nuclear powers following the U.S. lead. And, despite his pledge in Prague, President Obama has retired fewer nuclear weapons that any other US post-Cold War President.

As the US-Russian confrontation, marked by implicit and explicit nuclear threats remids us, we are living on borrowed time. Seventy years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombings, human survival still hanging in the balance. Midst the carnival of the 2016 presidential election, let us insist that those who seek to rule us and the world finally learn the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never again to anyone! No more Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No more nuclear weapons!