miércoles, 30 de septiembre de 2015

Kissinger poisoned the Middle East: America is living in a quagmire of his making

"Step by catastrophic step he laid the groundwork for the region’s spiraling crises of the present moment..."

Kissinger poisoned the Middle East: America is living in a quagmire of his making

W made matters worse, but the Middle East's radicalization can all be traced to our support of the Shah of Shahs

Kissinger poisoned the Middle East: America is living in a quagmire of his making
(Credit: Reuters/Pascal Lauener)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.
The only person Henry Kissinger flattered more than President Richard Nixon was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. In the early 1970s, the Shah, sitting atop an enormous reserve of increasingly expensive oil and a key figure in Nixon and Kissinger’s move into the Middle East, wanted to be dealt with as a serious person. He expected his country to be treated with the same respect Washington showed other key Cold War allies like West Germany and Great Britain. As Nixon’s national security adviser and, after 1973, secretary of state, Kissinger’s job was to pump up the Shah, to make him feel like he truly was the “king of kings.”
Reading the diplomatic record, it’s hard not to imagine his weariness as he prepared for his sessions with the Shah, considering just what gestures and words would be needed to make it clear that his majesty truly mattered to Washington, that he was valued beyond compare. “Let’s see,” an aide who was helping Kissinger get ready for one such meeting said, “the Shah will want to talk about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, the Kurds, and Brezhnev.”
During another prep, Kissinger was told that “the Shah wants to ride in an F-14.” Silence ensued. Then Kissinger began to think aloud about how to flatter the monarch into abandoning the idea. “We can say,” he began, “that if he has his heart set on it, okay, but the President would feel easier if he didn’t have that one worry in 10,000 [that the plane might crash]. The Shah will be flattered.” Once, Nixon asked Kissinger to book the entertainer Danny Kaye for a private performance for the Shah and his wife.
The 92-year-old Kissinger has a long history of involvement in Iran and his recent opposition to Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, while relatively subdued by present Washington standards, matters.  In it lies a certain irony, given his own largely unexamined record in the region.  Kissinger’s criticism has focused mostly on warning that the deal might provoke a regional nuclear arms race as Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia line up against Shia Iran. “We will live in a proliferated world,” he saidin testimony before the Senate. In aWall Street Journal op-ed co-authored with another former secretary of state, George Shultz, Kissinger worried that, as the region “trends toward sectarian upheaval” and “state collapse,” the “disequilibrium of power” might likely tilt toward Tehran.
Of all people, Kissinger knows well how easily the best laid plans can go astray and careen toward disaster. The former diplomat is by no means solely responsible for the mess that is today’s Middle East. There is, of course, George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq (which Kissinger supported). But he does bear far more responsibility for our proliferated world’s disequilibrium of power than anyone usually recognizes.
Some of his Middle East policies are well known. In early 1974, for instance, his so-called shuttle diplomacy helped deescalate the tensions that had led to the previous year’s Arab-Israeli War. At the same time, however, it locked in Israel’s veto over U.S. foreign policy for decades to come. And in December 1975, wrongly believing that he had worked out a lasting pro-American balance of power between Iran and Iraq, Kissinger withdrew his previous support from the Kurds (whom he had been using as agents of destabilization against Baghdad’s Baathists). Iraq moved quickly to launch an assault on the Kurds that killed thousands and then implemented a program of ethnic cleansing, forcibly relocating Kurdish survivors and moving Arabs into their homes. “Even in the context of covert action ours was a cynical enterprise,”noted a Congressional investigation into his sacrifice of the Kurds.
Less well known is the way in which Kissinger’s policies toward Iran and Saudi Arabia accelerated the radicalization in the region, how step by catastrophic step he laid the groundwork for the region’s spiraling crises of the present moment.
Guardian of the Gulf
Most critical histories of U.S. involvement in Iran rightly began with the joint British-U.S. coup against democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, which installed Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne. But it was Kissinger who, in 1972, greatly deepened the relationship between Washington and Tehran. He was the one who began a policy of unconditional support for the Shah as a way to steady American power in the Persian Gulf while the U.S. extracted itself from Southeast Asia. As James Schlesinger, who served as Nixon’s CIA director and secretary of defense, noted, if “we were going to make the Shah the Guardian of the Gulf, we’ve got to give him what he needs.” Which, Schlesinger added, really meant “giving him what he wants.”
What the Shah wanted most of all were weapons of every variety — and American military trainers, and a navy, and an air force. It was Kissinger who overrode State Department and Pentagon objections and gave the Shah what no other country had: the ability to buy anything he wanted from U.S. weapons makers.
“We are looking for a navy,” the Shah told Kissinger in 1973, “we have a large shopping list.” And so Kissinger let him buy a navy.
By 1976, Kissinger’s last full year in office, Iran had become the largest purchaser of American weaponry and housed the largest contingent of U.S. military advisors anywhere on the planet. By 1977, the historian Ervand Abrahamian notes, “the shah had the largest navy in the Persian Gulf, the largest air force in Western Asia, and the fifth-largest army in the whole world.” That meant, just to begin a list, thousands of modern tanks, hundreds of helicopters, F-4 and F-5 fighter jets, dozens of hovercraft, long-range artillery pieces, and Maverick missiles. The next year, the Shah bought another $12 billion worth of equipment.
After Kissinger left office, the special relationship he had worked so hard to establish blew up with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the flight of the Shah, the coming to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (and its occupants as hostages) by student protesters. Washington’s political class is still trying to dig itself out of the rubble. A number of high-ranking Middle East policymakers and experts held Kissinger directly responsible for the disaster, especially career diplomat George Ball, who called Kissinger’s Iran policy an “act of folly.”
Kissinger is deft at deflecting attention from this history. After a speech at Annapolis in 2007, a cadet wanted to know why he had sold weapons to the Shah of Iran when “he knew the nature of his regime?”
“Every American government from the 1950s on cooperated with the Shah of Iran,” Kissinger answered. He continued: “Iran is a crucial piece of strategic real estate, and the fact that it is now in adversarial hands shows why we cooperated with the Shah of Iran. Why did we sell weapons to him? Because he was willing to defend himself and because his defense was in our interest. And again, I simply don’t understand why we have to apologize for defending the American national interest, which was also in the national interest of that region.”
This account carefully omits his role in greatly escalating the support provided to the Shah, including to his infamous SAVAK torturers — the agents of his murderous, U.S.-trained secret police-cum-death-squad — who upheld his regime. Each maimed body or disappeared family member was one more klick on the road to revolution. As George Ball’s biographer, James Bill, writes: considering the “manifest failure” of Kissinger’s Iran policy, “it is worthy of note that in his two massive volumes of political memoirs totalling twenty-eight-hundred pages, Kissinger devoted less than twenty pages to the Iranian revolution and U.S.-Iran relations.”
After the Shah fell, the ayatollahs were the beneficiaries of Kissinger’s arms largess, inheriting billions of dollars of warships, tanks, fighter jets, guns, and other materiel. It was also Kissinger who successfully urged the Carter administration to grant the Shah asylum in the United States, which hastened the deterioration of relations between Tehran and Washington, precipitating the embassy hostage crisis.
Then, in 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran, beginning a war that consumed hundreds of thousands of lives. The administration of Ronald Reagan “tilted” toward Baghdad, providing battlefield intelligence used to launch lethal sarin gas attacks on Iranian troops. At the same time, the White House illegally and infamously trafficked high-tech weaponry to revolutionary Iran as part of what became the Iran-Contra affair.
“It’s a pity they can’t both lose,” Kissinger is reported to have said of Iran and Iraq. Although that quotation is hard to confirm, Raymond Tanter, who served on the National Security Council, reports that, at a foreign-policy briefing for Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan in October 1980, Kissinger suggested “the continuation of fighting between Iran and Iraq was in the American interest.”  Having bet (and lost) on the Shah, Kissinger now hoped to make the best of a bad war.  The U.S., he counselled Reagan, “should capitalize on continuing hostilities.”
Saudi Arabia and the Petrodollar Fix
Kissinger’s other “guardian” of the Gulf, Sunni Saudi Arabia, however, didn’t fall and he did everything he could to turn that already close relationship into an ironclad alliance. In 1975, he signaled what was to come by working out an arms deal for the Saudi regime similar to the one he had green-lighted for Tehran, including a $750 million contract for the sale of 60 F-5E/F fighters to the sheiks. By this time, the U.S. already had more than a trillion dollars’ worth of military agreements with Riyadh. Only Iran had more.
Like Tehran, Riyadh paid for this flood of weaponry with the proceeds from rising oil prices. The word “petrodollar,” according to the Los Angeles Times, was coined in late 1973, and introduced into English by New York investment bankers who were courting the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Soon enough, as that paper wrote, the petrodollar had become part of “the world’s macroeconomic interface” and crucial to Kissinger’s developing Middle Eastern policy.
By June 1974, Treasury Secretary George Shultz was already suggesting that rising oil prices could result in a “highly advantageous mutual bargain” between the U.S. and petroleum-producing countries in the Middle East. Such a “bargain,” as others then began to argue, might solve a number of problems, creating demand for the U.S. dollar, injecting needed money into a flagging defense industry hard hit by the Vietnam wind-down, and using petrodollars to cover mounting trade deficits.
As it happened, petrodollars would prove anything but a quick fix. High energy prices were a drag on the U.S. economy, with inflation and high interest rates remaining a problem for nearly a decade. Nor was petrodollar dependence part of any preconceived Kissingerian “plan.”  As with far more of his moves than he or his admirers now care to admit, he more or less stumbled into it.  This was why, in periodic frustration, he occasionally daydreamed about simply seizing the oil fields of the Arabian peninsula and doing away with all the developing economic troubles.
“Can’t we overthrow one of the sheikhs just to show that we can do it?” hewonderedin November 1973, fantasizing about which gas-pump country he could knock off. “How about Abu Dhabi?” he later asked. (Imagine what the world would be like today had Kissinger, in the fall of 1973, moved to overthrow the Saudi regime rather than Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.) “Let’s work out a plan for grabbing some Middle East oil if we want,” Kissinger said.
Such scimitar rattling was, however, pure posturing. Not only did Kissinger broker the various deals that got the U.S. hooked on recycled Saudi petrodollars, he also began to promote the idea of an “oil floor price” below which the cost per barrel wouldn’t fall. Among other things, this scheme was meant to protect the Saudis (and Iran, until 1979) from a sudden drop in demand and provide U.S. petroleum corporations with guaranteed profit margins.
Stephen Walt, a scholar of international relations, writes: “By the end of 1975, more than six thousand Americans were engaged in military-related activities in Saudi Arabia. Saudi arms purchased for the period 1974-1975 totaled over $3.8 billion, and a bewildering array of training missions and construction projects worth over $10 billion were now underway.”


Corbyn enterró al “Nuevo Laborismo” de Blair


Corbyn enterró al “Nuevo Laborismo” de Blair

En su discurso de ayer el nuevo líder laborista se pareció a un Mahatma Gandhi que responde a los ataques con buen humor y, sin renunciar a sus convicciones, propone una política más amable basada en el respeto mutuo y el debate de ideas.
Primer discurso de Jeremy Corbyn ante el congreso anual del Partido Laborista.
Imagen: EFE
 Por Marcelo Justo

Página/12 En Gran Bretaña
Desde Londres
Jeremy Corbyn redefinió el laborismo y la izquierda británica en su primer discurso ante el congreso anual partidario televisado en directo a toda la nación. En esta suerte de cadena nacional que son los congresos partidarios que definen la agenda política británica de los próximos 12 meses, Corbyn enterró el “Nuevo Laborismo” de Tony Blair al anunciar que avanzaría con la estatización de los ferrocarriles, extendería los derechos sociales a millones de cuentapropistas, combatiría frontalmente las políticas de Austeridad y llevaría adelante una nueva política exterior basada en los derechos humanos.
Con la mayoritaria prensa conservadora presentándolo como a un Lenin británico decidido a tomar por asalto el Palacio de Buckingham, con la derecha de su propio partido fluctuando entre el estupor, la expectativa y la conspiración, Corbyn adoptó un estilo que un analista no corbynista del The Guardian, Michael White, definió como “calma zen” ante las tormentas. Lejos del rabioso revolucionario decidido a lanzar una emboscada marxista contra el parlamento y 10 Downing Street (la prensa ha adoptado un tono desembozadamente macartista en las últimas semanas), el nuevo líder laborista se pareció a un Mahatma Gandhi que responde a los ataques con buen humor y, sin renunciar a sus convicciones, propone una política más amable, basada en el respeto mutuo y el debate de ideas.
Con este toreo “gandhiano” a la implacable embestida mediática, Corbyn habló de un patriotismo basado en una solidaridad de medidas inclusivas. “No queremos una sociedad en la que la gente cruce la calle cuando ve a alguien que está en dificultades. Queremos solidaridad, respeto del punto de vista de los otros, “fair play”. Este “fair play” es un valor fundamental de los británicos, una de las razones por la que amo a este páis y su pueblo. Me eligieron para que lleve adelante esta política: una política más amable y una sociedad más bondadosa”, indicó Corbyn.
El mensaje puede sonar banal, ingenuo o abstracto, pero es una manera de redefinir el patriotismo luego de la abusiva catarata de críticas que recibió por no cantar en un acto público el “God save the Queen” (en un país monárquico, Corbyn es republicano) que, en la práctica, funciona como himno nacional (algo discutible por no ser un Acto o ley del Parlamento). El líder laborista ancló el patriotismo en la solidaridad y la ética del “fair play” para, de paso, responder a otra crítica: que su mensaje no abarca a los que aspiran a mejorar su situación vital con su propio esfuerzo. “Queremos que los cuentapropistas tengan derecho a la licencia por paternidad y maternidad y que tengan cobertura social en caso de enfermedad. El laborismo creó el Estado de Bienestar. Este Estado de Bienestar tiene que ser para todos”, indicó Corbyn.
Unos cuatro millones y medio de trabajadores (uno de cada siete) son cuentapropistas, algo que, según los conservadores, muestra el espíritu emprendedor de los británicos, aunque muchos son microempresas montadas a falta de otros empleos como lo demuestra el ingreso anual promedio del conjunto, muy por debajo de la mitad del salario promedio nacional. Corbyn buscó llevar el mismo mensaje modernizador con su apoyo a la pequeña y mediana empresa, la propuesta de un Banco de Desarrollo y la inversión en infraestructura y un programa de vivienda. En la misma vena, planteó que los derechos humanos debían estar en el centro de la política exterior británica, tanto en el caso de Siria como en el de los refugiados, y retó al primer ministro David Cameron a que le exigiera a uno de los grandes clientes de la poderosa industria armamentista británica, Arabia Saudita, que dé marcha atrás con la crucifixión y decapitación de Ali Mohammed Anama, un activista que a los 16 años tuvo el atrevimiento de participar en una manifestación.
Corbyn no eludió temas conflictivos y volvió a rechazar la renovación del sistema nuclear Trident que nos “costará 100 mil millones de libras, una cuarta parte del presupuesto de defensa”, pero el tono de su discurso fue inclusivo respecto a las otras facciones del partido, con elogios abiertos a los tres candidatos que derrotó en las elecciones internas del 12 de septiembre. En esta vena conciliadora Corbyn criticó la decisión de ir a la guerra con Irak, pero no pidió públicamente perdón a los británicos, algo que hubiera reabierto las heridas con el blairismo y los parlamentarios –la mayoría– que apoyó la invasión y derrocamiento de Sadam Hussein. Aun así, tarde o temprano, el laborismo tendrá que encontrar una salida a las profundas divisiones internas entre corbynistas y blairistas sobre Trident o el posible bombardeo a Estado Islámico en Siria.
El impacto a nivel nacional del corbynismo es más enigmático. La prensa conservadora decidió desde hace mucho tiempo que lo atacará con todo su arsenal más allá de lo que diga o deje de decir. Con bastante humor, Corbyn comenzó su discurso refiriéndose a la prensa. “Habrán notado que algunos periódicos se interesaron en lo que yo hacía en estas dos primeras semanas tan tranquilas que he tenido.” Según un titular, “Jeremy Corbyn da la bienvenida a la posibilidad de que un asteroide borre a la humanidad de la faz de la Tierra”. Dado que los asteroides son tan controversiales no me gustaría que este congreso adoptara una política al respecto sin tener antes un debate a fondo”, señaló ante las risas del auditorio que se transformaron en carcajadas cuando Corbyn citó al diario Daily Express y su descripción de la bicicleta que usa para ir al parlamento como “una bicicleta estilo presidente Mao Tse-tung”.
Esta ofensiva mediática continuará. El tema es el impacto que tiene sobre la población y si Corbyn puede superar esta muralla mediática desde la oposición. Las primeras opiniones recogidas por la BBC fluctúan entre los que piensan que es “inelegible” o “vive en la luna” y los que creen que es “una esperanza” y una “voz nueva”. En temas económicos y sociales el laborismo sale bien parado de este congreso con un mensaje a la vez renovador y reformista. Más complicado es en temas internacionales y de defensa, tan sensitivos en un país con dos guerras mundiales detrás, un ex imperio y la segunda industria militar del planeta. En términos concretos, los votos se empezarán a contar en mayo próximo con las elecciones en Londres, Bristol, Gales, Escocia y municipios ingleses, momento en que se verá el impacto del corbynismo en el Reino Unido y su mensaje para el resto de la izquierda en Europa.

martes, 22 de septiembre de 2015

"Bold Cultural Revolution" Needed to Save Planet from Climate Change & Consumerism

Pope Francis: "Bold Cultural Revolution" Needed to Save Planet from Climate Change & Consumerism


In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change, Pope Francis has called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear "the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor." He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a "throwaway" consumer culture, and an end to "obstructionist attitudes" that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical "imperative" for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests. A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. "We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet," he said. We speak to Naomi Klein, author of "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate." She has been invited to speak at the Vatican, where she will speak at the "People and Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course" conference. And here in New York is Nathan Schneider, columnist at America magazine, a national Catholic weekly magazine published by the Jesuits.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the Vatican, where Pope Francis has called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear, quote, "the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor." Earlier today, the Vatican published the pope’s long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change. Pope Francis called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a, quote, "throwaway consumer culture" and an end to obstructionist attitudes that sometimes put profit before the common good.
POPE FRANCIS: [translated] Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest. Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: "till and keep the garden" in which he was placed. I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine.
AMY GOODMAN: Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative, for believers and nonbelievers alike, that should supersede political and economic interests. He also dismissed those who argue that technology will solve all environmental problems and that global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. He said, quote, "We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, we destroy the planet." Environmental groups have welcomed the pope’s action on climate change. Giuseppe Onufrio is the executive director of Greenpeace in Italy.
GIUSEPPE ONUFRIO: [translated] As Greenpeace, we have already expressed our gratitude to his holiness, because we, too, see climate change as a mostly moral and ethical issue. Climate change is already happening, and its effects have already been disastrous on the poorest countries and the poorest people, who don’t have the means to defend themselves from it. They are also part of the human population who have the least responsibility for what is happening, being that they consume less fossil fuels. So we are absolutely grateful for this encyclical, that for us is a source of inspiration.
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined now by two guests. Naomi Klein is the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. She’s been invited to speak at the Vatican, where she will speak at the "People and Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course" conference. She’s joining us by Democracy Now! video stream from Canada. And here in New York, Nathan Schneider joins us, columnist at America magazine, a national Catholic weekly magazine published by the Jesuits.
Thank you both. Naomi, let’s begin with you. Respond to the pope’s encyclical on climate change and the environment.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yes, good morning, Amy and Nermeen. And before I begin, I would really like to express my deep, deep sadness and outrage at the hate crime in Charleston. This is a grief-struck morning that we’re having this conversation. And it was an attack on a religious institution, which is also worth bearing in mind, as well as an attack on African Americans.
You know, I think that this encyclical, we can’t overstate the importance of it, the impact that it will have. It’s hard to respond to a document that runs close to 200 pages, when it was just released in non-draft form a few hours ago. We’re all still digesting it, Amy. But it is very clear that a door has just been opened, and a gust of wind is blowing through, where it is now possible to say some very powerful truths about the real implications of climate change, really the root causes.
And I think a lot of the discussion about the encyclical in the U.S. media cycle has focused and will continue to focus on the impact on Republicans and on climate deniers, many of whom are Catholic. And it is certainly a challenge to that demographic in the United States, because the pope is coming out so clearly on the side of climate science in saying this is real and this is happening. But I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.
And I think probably the most significant part of it, the big picture, is the foregrounding of the culture of frenetic consumption in the wealthy world and among the wealthy. And this is really significant, because I think large parts of the climate change discussion tries to have it all ways and say, "No, we’ll just have green growth. We’ll just have—we’ll consume green products." And, you know, this goes a lot deeper than that and says, no, we need to get at the underlying values that are feeding this culture of frenetic consumption that is entirely unsustainable.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Naomi Klein, you mentioned the fact that the pope calls repeatedly in the encyclical for radical change. I want to ask you about a specific citation from the leaked document that appeared earlier this week. He said, "In a corrupt culture, we can’t believe that laws will be enough to change behaviors that affect the environment." Could you talk specifically about that, about the laws that he may be referring to there?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think, when he’s referring to corruption, I believe he’s referring to the influence of polluting companies, of multinational corporations, which he also goes after in the encyclical. And I think this is one of the most significant things about the document. One might expect of a religious document about climate change to erase difference, right? to say, "Well, we’re all in this together," and certainly it talks about the Earth as our common home. But it also recognizes explicitly the power dynamics in capitalism, which is to say that there are forces within the system that are actively working against change. And that is probably what he’s referring to when he’s talking about how there may be laws, but the laws aren’t enforced. And, you know, indeed the laws are also inadequate, which is also addressed in the document, and it has some very specific calls for another level of environmental law, which is a part of the document that I haven’t been able to look at, you know, closely enough.
And another thing I have to say is, you know, I am—I have accepted this invitation to speak at a conference which is about digging more deeply into the document, because there’s an understanding that it does take time to digest a document of this length, this multilayered, and it requires that kind of deeper analysis. And I think that this intervention, five months ahead of U.N. climate conference in Paris, is tremendously significant. It’s going to push political leaders to go further. It’s going to be a tool for social movements.
A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like "ecological debt." The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.
So, it is very important in that way. But, I mean, I have to say, on a personal level, that as thrilled as I am that the Vatican is leading in this way and that this pope is leading in this way and bringing together the fight against poverty with the fight to act on climate change, that doesn’t mean that there’s a complete merger between the climate justice movement and the Vatican here. I mean, obviously there are huge differences that remain over issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights and freedom, to name just a few.
AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Schneider, you’re a columnist with the Catholic weekly,America. You have been covering Catholic engagement with climate change. Talk about the scope of this—I mean, just for people to understand what this encyclical is, the number of languages it’s been released in, how large it is, and what it means for the Catholic community.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Well, this is really the first Third World encyclical. You know, this is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana. So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics, but the emphasis and that—the language of climate debt, the language—the recognition that there is a divide here between the rich countries and the poor. And this is a cry from the developing world, from what has been labeled the Third World, for change.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and when we come back, we’ll hear the words of Cardinal Peter Turkson himself of Ghana. We urge you to stay with us. This isDemocracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guests are Naomi Klein, author ofThis Changes Everything: Captialism vs. the Climate—she is headed to the Vatican to participate in a major conference there. And we’re joined by Nathan Schneider, columnist at America magazine, a national Catholic weekly published by the Jesuits. But we’re going to turn now to a clip.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: One of the authors of the encyclical, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, spoke earlier this morning at the Vatican.
CARDINAL PETER TURKSON: [translated] Pope Francis has a positive outlook for the possibility to change tack on the environmental issue. Humanity says Pope Francis still has the capacity to work to build our common home. Human beings are still capable of intervening positively.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana speaking this morning. Nathan Schneider, can you comment on that and the fact, as you pointed out earlier, that this is the first Third World encyclical? Pope Francis is the first pope from the Global South?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: That’s right. That’s right. And I think we see a real change of emphasis here as a result. You know, we see a highlighting of the global inequality that has been exacerbating climate change, and we see an emphasis on the impact on the poor, that this is not an elite kind of luxury-style environmentalism, this is an environmentalism of the poor that puts the concerns and the needs of the poor first.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is global, but we are in the midst of a presidential campaign. Soon, we will never be out of a presidential campaign season. But I want to turn to someone who’s considered one of the more moderates of the Republicans, and that is Jeb Bush, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Speaking at a town hall event in New Hampshire, he commented on the pope’s encyclical.
JEB BUSH: Well, I want to read it, but—I love—first of all, Pope Francis is an extraordinary leader. He speaks with such clarity. He speaks so differently, and he’s drawing people back into the faith, all of which I’m—as a converted Catholic now of 25 years, I think is really cool. I don’t get—I hope I’m not like going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or from my pope. And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues, before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. I’d like both of you to comment. Let’s start with Nathan Schneider and then go to Naomi Klein. He’s a converted Catholic.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Absolutely, and it’s a very strange statement. I mean, Catholics don’t divide our faith between the private and the public. You know, we might disagree, we might struggle with teachings that come from the church, but we still have to engage with them. And to dismiss it in this way is very strange to hear and, I think, very inconsistent. You know, I think this—one of the things that’s so distinctive about this document is it’s measured. You know, it’s a unity document. It’s calling people to a common conversation. You know, it’s not radical, in certain senses, in that it invites us all to find ourselves as part of a common community. And I think it’s an invitation to Jeb Bush, too, and I hope it’s one that the Republican candidates will take seriously in the coming months.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, Jeb Bush saying the pope should stay out of politics?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s interesting that he defines it as this—as a political document. It isn’t merely a political document.
And I think probably it’s—the most threatening part of the document is the way that it engages directly with this argument over what it means to have dominion over the Earth, which is the part of the Bible that the climate change denier movement uses most, right? They talk about—and, you know, I’ve been to these climate change denier conferences hosted by the Heartland Institute, and there’s always a strong religious presence there basically making the argument that God gave us the Earth, and now we can do whatever we want with it, and it is blasphemous to say otherwise. So, the document that—the encyclical is very pointed in rebuking that interpretation, and is saying, actually, the Earth is a sacred gift, and it is ours to take care of and steward, and when we destroy it, we are committing sin. You know, here I’m paraphrasing, obviously; this is not my religion. But it speaks to something—a through line through basically every belief system, every cosmology in history which has seen the Earth as sacred, as something to respect and fear, whether a Mother Earth, a living system or a gift from God. And really, this document is a challenge to that, to this idea that we have the right to act as gods on Earth.
And this is intimately related to climate change, because it really was fossil fuels that allowed humanity, or parts of humanity, to convince themselves that we had this godlike power. And climate change is coming and saying, oh, actually, all this time that you were, you know, making the world flat—to quote Thomas Friedman—and acting as if we had these powers, these godlike powers over geography, and that we were really masters of the Earth, that we could treat the Earth as a machine, we were burning carbon, it was entering the atmosphere. And now comes this response that shows us, actually, that we are guests here, and we can be evicted for bad behavior.
So, I think that—you know, I don’t think Jeb Bush wanted to be having to get into an argument with the pope on his first day on the campaign trail. This is obviously not good for his campaign, obviously not good for a campaign whose main selling point has been that he has an appeal with Latino voters, obviously a very powerful Catholic constituency who I think would probably choose the pope over Jeb Bush. So, you know, this has big implications, Amy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum, a practicing Catholic, was asked about the pope’s actions on climate change during a recent interview conducted by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
CHRIS WALLACE: You don’t think the pope has a right to talk about this?
RICK SANTORUM: But there are—the pope can talk about whatever he wants to talk about. I’m just saying what should the pope use his moral authority for. And I would make the argument—
CHRIS WALLACE: Well, he would say he’s protecting the Earth.
RICK SANTORUM: I would say that that’s an important thing to do, but I think there are more pressing problems confronting—confronting the Earth than climate change.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Naomi Klein, your response to what Rick Santorum said?
NAOMI KLEIN: Look, I mean, it’s just another example of what an awkward situation so many Republicans are in right now. I mean, Marc Morano, a Fox News climate change denier type from the Heartland Institute, you know, is talking about the unholy alliance between the Vatican and the United Nations. You know, you’re not going to out-Catholic the pope. And this is what they’re trying to do.
But, you know, the document is not just about climate change. It is about a broader ecological crisis, and it is also about the crisis of inequality. And I think the most significant aspect of the document, and certainly why I’ve been invited to speak at this conference to go the Vatican, is because they are trying to make the conversation about the failures of our economic system, which is a very live conversation around the world, and the conversation about climate change come together, because they are so often segmented. And this is true, for instance, in Europe right now, where Europe is in the grips of an austerity crisis, and poverty is exploding, and there’s this idea that first you have to solve the economic crisis, and then we can care about climate change. And, you know, this—Rick Santorum is saying, "I think there are more pressing issues than climate change," right? I think it’s the holistic nature of the analysis that is its power, because what Pope Francis is saying is that the roots of poverty and the roots of climate change are the same. It is this logic of domination and endless greed that has created a broken economy and that is breaking the planet, and that the way out of the crisis, of both crises, is the same. It is another economic model that lives within nature’s limits.
AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Schneider, we give you the last word.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: The pope is calling here for us to change how we live, how we—what we do with our resources. You know, this is not just moving from one kind of consumerism to another. This is a kind of spiritual renewal and also a material renewal, that—in which we turn ourselves toward an economy that’s sustainable, that’s life-giving, both for humanity and the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Nathan Schneider of the Catholic magazine America, and Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, thanks so much for joining us.

sábado, 12 de septiembre de 2015

What does Jeremy Corbyn think?

What does Jeremy Corbyn think?

A brief summary of the beliefs and policy proposals of the newly elected Labour leader

On the economy

Corbyn is opposed to austerity and plans to bring down the deficit by growing the economy and taxing the wealthy instead.
He intends to introduce a “people’s quantitative easing”, which would allow the Bank of England to print money to invest in large-scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects, partly through a national investment bank.
Corbyn says he will fund this by reducing the “tax gap” and ending corporate tax reliefs.

On tax

Corbyn says there is £20bn in tax debt uncollected by HMRC every year and another £20bn in tax avoidance and a further £80bn in tax evasion that needs to be addressed.

On education

Corbyn has proposed a National Education Service, which he says would be “every bit as vital and as free at the point of use as our NHS”. The service would begin with universal childcare, give more power to local authorities, rethink the role of free schools and academies, introduce a minimum wage for apprentices and put more money into adult learning.
Corbyn has said he will also look at abolishing the charitable status of private schools but admitted it would be “very difficult to do”.
He wants to scrap tuition fees and restore student maintenance grants. This will be funded by increasing national insurance on those earning more than £50,000 a year and increasing corporation tax by 2.5%, or by slowing the pace of deficit reduction.
He has apologised to students who have had to pay fees because of Labour.
I want to apologise on behalf of the Labour party to the last generation of students for the imposition of fees, top-up fees and the replacement of grants with loans by previous Labour governments. I opposed those changes at the time – as did many others – and now we have an opportunity to change course.

On housing

Corbyn would introduce rent controls in expensive places like central London so that families on welfare are not pushed out of the area, which he says is an example of “social cleansing”. He will also suspend council right-to-buy schemes in such areas and will lift borrowing restrictions on councils so that they can build more than half of the 250,000 new homes he says are needed each year.
Corbyn has proposed the idea of linking private rents to local average earnings and introducing a right to buy for private tenants of large-scale landlords, a scheme that would be funded by withdrawing some of the £14bn of tax allowances given to buy-to-let landlords.

On immigration

Corbyn has consistently argued that immigration is not a drain on the economy and has campaigned on behalf of asylum seekers, most recently over the need to rescue Mediterranean refugees. He has said the debate on immigration has been “poisoned” and that migration is a global phenomenon that has been going on for hundreds of years.

On welfare

Corbyn was one of the 48 Labour rebels who defied the party whip and voted against the government’s welfare reform bill. He said:
We are one of the richest countries in the world and there is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to live in poverty.
Corbyn intends to withdraw from Nato and opposes the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
He is in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament and has called for a “radically different international policy” based on “political and not military solutions”.
He has indicated that he would block any attempt by David Cameron to launch airstrikes in Syria, stating that bombing the country will “kill many people” and may not defeat Isis. Cutting off the supply of money and arms to Isis from “some of our supposed allies in the region” would be more effective, he added.

On public ownership

Corbyn plans to renationalise the energy companies to bring energy prices back down. He said privatisation of the sector has created a “false market” which allows for a great deal of money to be made by gas and electricity companies at the expense of everyone else.
Corbyn also plans to renationalise the railways, which he says will allow the public to “get the benefit” of the current investment in infrastructure. He said:
I believe in public ownership, but I have never favoured the remote nationalised model of the postwar era. Like a majority of the population and a majority of even Tory voters, I want the railways back in public ownership. But public control should mean just that: so we should have passengers, rail workers and government too, cooperatively running the railways ... in our interests and not for private profit.

On Europe

Corbyn has indicated that he is likely to support the campaign to stay in the European Union, but has refused to rule out campaigning for a no vote because:
Cameron quite clearly follows an agenda which is about trading away workers’ rights ... environment protection ... much of what is in the social chapter.
He maintains that Britain should play a crucial role in Europe by making demands on issues such as workers’ rights, the environment, tax and wage protection “rather than saying blanketly we’re going to support whatever Cameron comes out with whenever he finally decides to hold this referendum”.
When pressed, Corbyn has said his preferred position is to stay in a reformed EU. But he has also cited the union’s treatment of Greece as a justification for potential exit. He said:
Look at it another way: if we allow unaccountable forces to destroy an economy like Greece, when all that bailout money isn’t going to the Greek people, it’s going to carious banks all across Europe, then I think we need to think very, very carefully about what role [the EU] are playing and what role we are playing in that.

On healthcare

Corbyn has promised a “fully funded NHS, integrated with social care, with an end to privatisation in health”. His website states that the “principle of universal healthcare which is free at the point of use is something that we all deserve and should be absolutely protected.”
Corbyn has also pledged to tackle the “mental health crisis” and improve mental health coverage in the country. He will grow rather than cut mental health budgets and ensure mental health education is taught in schools.

On the monarchy

Though Corbyn is a republican, he has said abolishing the monarchy is “not the fight I’m going to fight” due to huge public support for the royal family.

On the arts

Corbyn has said he will create a cabinet committee for the arts and creative industries to bring ministers from across the departments together, making policy more effective.

On gender equality

Corbyn has pledged to do more to address discrimination in the workplace, at home and on the streets. He has called for an end to the cuts to public services and welfare that drive women and families into poverty, including the cuts to women’s refuges and services for domestic violence.
He also wants all companies to publish details of their equal pay arrangements, intends his cabinet to be made up of 50% women and wants to “work towards” 50% of all Labour MPs being women.
Corbyn has floated the idea of reintroducing women-only carriages on trains to cut sexual assault cases. He says this is not his preferred choice but he will consult women on the proposal after being contacted by women lobbyists.

On foreign policy

Corbyn was opposed to the Iraq war and has suggested that Tony Blair should stand trial as a war criminal over it.
Corbyn has hinted that Britain should seek greater diplomatic relations with Russia. He previously described the Kremlin’s state propaganda channel Russia Today as “more objective on Libya than most” and believes that the Ukraine crisis was caused by the west and Nato.
Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty [...] Still, the hypocrisy of the west remains unbelievable,” he said. “Nato has sought to expand since the end of the cold war. It has increased its military capability and expenditure. It operates way beyond its original 1948 area and its attempt to encircle Russia is one of the big threats of our time.
Corbyn has also said he supports Israel’s right to exist but opposes what he describes as the country’s “occupation policies”. He has reportedly attended an event in the past hosted by a Holocaust denier and has been criticised for describing Hamas and Hezbollah as friends, which he says was a throwaway word he used to create an amicable atmosphere during discussions. “You don’t make peace unless you talk to everybody,” he said.

"Mama Merkel has consigned the ‘ugly German’ to history"

Yes, Munich will be for ever linked with the bierkeller where Hitler made his first rabble-rousing speeches. But now it will be remembered too as the place where in 2015 uniformed police greeted a trainload of exhausted Syrian children with soft toys. In future, the sight of a vast German crowd will recall not just Nuremberg, but those signs held up by football fans declaring: 'Refugees welcome.'

Mama Merkel has consigned the ‘ugly German’ to history

The nation is dramatically changing its reputation, but idealistic rhetoric can also mask self-interested motives

German football fans hold 'refugees welcome' banners
‘In future, the sight of a vast German crowd will recall not just Nuremberg but those signs held up by football fans declaring: Refugees welcome.’ Photograph: Daniel Bockwoldt/AP
The nation is dramatically changing its reputation, but idealistic rhetoric can also mask self-interested motives

There was a time, in living memory, when refugees clamoured to board trains to get out of Germany. Today they yearn to board trains going in. “We want to go to Germany because we will get our rights, we are welcome there,” one refugee told the Guardian’s John Domokos, as he walked alongside a group making the journey on foot through Hungary, en route to what they saw as the ultimate place of sanctuary: the promised Deutschland.
The Syrian refugees massed at Budapest station chanted the word “Germany” over and over. Others speak of the German chancellor as Mama Merkel. One refugee has named her baby Angela Merkel Ade.

If history can offer a more dramatic turnaround in the perception, and perhaps reality, of a nation, then it’s hard to think of it. Seventy years agoGermany was a byword for tyranny and murderous violence: the land of racial supremacism and unending cruelty. That association lingered and has never quite gone away. Hitler, the Nazis and the apparatus of the Holocaust remain lodged in the global folk memory.
But soon there will be a new set of memories. Yes, Munich will be for ever linked with the bierkeller where Hitler made his first rabble-rousing speeches. But now it will be remembered too as the place where in 2015 uniformed police greeted a trainload of exhausted Syrian children with soft toys. In future, the sight of a vast German crowd will recall not just Nuremberg, but those signs held up by football fans declaring: “Refugees welcome.”
This has been no overnight transformation. Germans have spent decades reckoning with their past in a way few nations can match. Nevertheless the embrace Germany is currently offering to the dispossessed of Syria – while so much of Europe closes its doors or quibbles over tiny numbers – has altered perceptions anew. People are speaking of Germany the way they used to talk of Scandinavia, as a kind of right-on oasis defined by its progressive, pacific instincts. One rightwing academic this week slammed the country as “a hippy state being led by its emotions”. That’s quite a change from the caricature of old, the land of Teutonic conformity and rigid, rules-obsessed bureaucracy. So what explains the shift?

Part of the answer is very recent. Not two months ago Merkel came face to face with a Palestinian girl about to be deported from Germany. The chancellor showed sympathy and tried to give the girl a hug, but remained adamant: Germany simply could not take in all those who wanted to come. “We just can’t manage it,” she said.
Then, only a few days ago, Merkel sent the exact opposite message to those fleeing from Syria. She suspended the rules, ushering in an expected 800,000 refugees this year alone. (David Cameron has committed Britain to take 20,000 by 2020, the same number Munich received last weekend.) We are a strong country, she said, and can handle it.
What happened between those two events is telling. It was a picture that changed the calculus, but it was not the photograph of the drowned Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi. Rather, it was footage from the town of Heidenau, near Dresden, where racist thugs attacked a refugee camp, hurling abuse and worse at new arrivals. TV news showed the refugees’ tents in flames.
According to Christoph Schwennicke, editor of Cicero, a political monthly: “As soon as they saw those pictures, the German people said, ‘That’s not us. Let’s show the world we’re not like them.’” In the images from Heidenau, the echoes of the Nazi past were just too strong. Germans are taught in school the two-word mantra “never again”, says Schwennicke. “That is in our genes.”
And Merkel is no different. Observers say she is ultra-sensitive to anything that hints at Germany’s darkest history, castigating political allies – even, on one occasion,Benedict, the German-born pope – for any failure to stand firm on, for example, anti-Jewish hatred. So when her country appeared once again to be turning on a community of outsiders, she felt she had to act.
Others suspect it’s events of the past five years, rather than five weeks, that have been pivotal. Throughout the euro crisis Germany was cast in parts of the continent as the hard-faced villain, imposing searing austerity on the benighted people of Greece. Not much of that had penetrated German public consciousness until the crisis reached its peak this summer, says Hans Kundnani of the German Marshall Fund. Suddenly Germans saw Merkel depicted on Greek placards as Hitler, cracking down on the poor Greeks. Confronting that image of the “ugly German” was, says Kundnani, a shock. He reckons Germany’s current embrace of Syrian refugees is partly an effort to replace that austere image with a kinder, gentler one. They don’t like to be seen as the continent’s bully, for reasons of history that are obvious.
Still, it’s not all about the shadow cast by the Third Reich. Germany has pragmatic motives for taking in refugees in vast numbers. The country has a serious demographic problem: it has the world’s lowest birthrate, failing to produce the workforce that might provide for an ageing society. By one estimate, Germany would need to bring in 533,000 immigrants a year just to hold steady. In this light, it makes self-interested sense that Germany would only too gladly welcome Syrian engineers, doctors and graduates – all with proven energy and resilience – who are bound to infuse the country with new vigour.
But that argument is rarely made out loud in Germany. Kundnani says Germans prefer to hear policy couched in the universalist language of high ideals rather than selfish national interest. So the euro is exalted as the latest stage in a project to guarantee peace on a continent ravaged by war, rather than a mechanism to keep German exports cheap and competitive. The Baltic states may look at Berlin’s low defence spending and think the country is not doing its bit for European security, but Germany prefers to think it keeps the lid on its military because these days it is a placid neighbour.
Perhaps the sceptics are right. Perhaps Germany’s motives are not always as pure as it likes to think, even when, as now, it is providing a haven for those who need it most. But if that’s true, if Germans can only speak of their national interest in whispers lest they wake the beast of nationalism, then that too is admirable. It suggests a country that is not in denial of its past, but fully conscious of it – and determined to do all it can never to repeat it.