Western Hypocrisy on Afghanistan

As Hollywood has noted, and later U. S. records confirm, the predecessors to the Taliban, the U.S. funded and armed brutal Afghan Mujahideen or jihadist freedom fighters were instrumental in securing the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s , who were supporting the communist secular Afghan government in Kabul. A government it should be noted, who fully supported the rights of Afghan women to be educated, to work and live a life equal to men.

After several years of extreme violence and turmoil across Afghanistan, the Taliban came to power in the late 1990s,

As Consortium News notes: The triumphant Taliban imposed harsh Islamic law on Afghanistan. Their rule was especially cruel to women who had made gains toward equal rights under the communists, but were forced by the Taliban to live under highly restrictive rules, to cover themselves when in public, and to forgo schooling.

The Taliban also granted refuge to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who had fought with the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s. Bin Laden then used Afghanistan as the base of operations for his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, setting the stage for the next Afghan War in 2001.

After the 9/11 attacks in New York by Al Qaeda, the Taliban agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States. However their offer was refused, and instead President Bush launched a war to remove the Taliban from power beginning with a brutal bombing campaign in October 2001

If the purpose of Bush’s Afghan war was not to trap Osama bin Laden – what was the purpose?

The United States had been negotiating with the Taliban for an oil pipeline to traverse Afghanistan from Central Asian oil fields, and appeared to be on relatively good terms with them.

It was only much later that the hype about a humanitarian intervention for women’s rights etc came to the fore in Western media. However this supposed human rights agenda by the United States and the United Kingdom is contradicted by their wholehearted support for the brutal Mujahideen the Saudi regime, and their unconditional support for the Israeli genocidal actions against Palestinians (amongst many other brutal regimes supported and armed by Western governments)

This was simply one more racist colonial invasion; putting more money into the pockets of U.S. war profiteers.

See below, John Pilger’s video ‘Breaking the Silence’ from 10 years ago in Afghanistan

http://johnpilger.com/videos/breaking-the-silence-truth-and-lies-in-the-war-on-terror

As a Western person I oppose discrimination against any person of any gender or race- however I also oppose the barbaric use of violence to impose one’s will on others we do not agree with- something my country New Zealand has been complicit in along with other Western white countries.

Setting up an indigenous Afghan army funded and trained and managed by foreigners to oppose local people who they may in fact know by tribe or family, and who are trying to defend their country from invasion, was always a recipe for failure. Such troops’ only motivation could be their paycheck, not patriotism for their country: so when the occupation force goes in the dead of night, the money goes with them and the local funded military disintegrate- they have nothing to fight for.

Similarly a ‘democracy’ funded and approved and beholden to an occupying power is not a democracy -it is a mockery of ‘democracy’.- and an extraordinarily corrupt one at that– why else would you pretend to lead your country whilst under an occupying power?

As Marshall Auerback and Patrick Lawrence note in ‘The Scrum’: Ashraf Ghani, (the last of the U.S. appointed Afghan ‘Presidents’) was among the more preposterous creations of the Obama administration, a man who personified our American presumption that we can go around the world making all others in our image without reference to histories, cultures, or political traditions. 

We know the colonial occupation forces killed many thousands of civilians (through bombing campaigns, drone murders, the brutal occupation and destruction of villages and people’s homes and the use of torture at Bagram airbase and other locations in Afghanistan- civilian losses that the occupying forces continue to largely deny.

New Zealand’s ex-prime minister Helen Clark’s commentary on the resurgence of the Taliban might be interpreted as disingenuous, were it not for the fact that she is a United Nations employee and knows full well the extent of the indiscriminate murder, torture and destruction, let alone the phenomenal levels of corruption by NGOs supposedly ‘re-building Afghanistan’ committed by the occupying powers in their 20 year presence in Afghanistan.

We might also note the opium and heroin rat lines from the Afghan poppy
fields which miraculously came into full bloom (Afghanistan  now supplies by  far the largest  share of opium in  the world), after the American occupation
and which will now , once again, be shut down by the Taliban. Mysteriously drug trafficking explodes in volume in those areas where Western intelligence
operatives, and particularly the CIA, are heavily involved: Colombia,
Afghanistan, Laos….

The New Zealand presence in Afghanistan is one more shameful example of our complicity in the United States’ war crimes..

While there will be many in Kabul and other major Afghan cities who have come to enjoy Western values, comforts and the easy money that came with the occupiers, there will be many many more Afghans who are thankful that the brutality and systematic racism of the Western occupying powers is finally at an end.

The lessons other vulnerable countries have learnt from Western occupying powers’ brutal occupation of Afghanistan will not be soon forgotten..

Nor will the boys coming home from that 20 year war be immune to its effects on the psyche..

“One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.”
– Booker T. Washington

That is not to say Afghanistan is going to become some liberal, rights respecting country any time soon: traditional rigid views about women’s rights and other ethnicities and belief systems -particularly in rural areas, are gong to prevail for some time to come. And Sharia law is not exactly a very forgiving dogma; but there are signs that the new Taliban leadership recognise that they will have to adapt to the modern world if they are to be accepted by the wider international community, especially investment from Chinese and  other neighbouring countries. Certainly, as of 17th August 2021, the Taliban command have so far largely behaved with honour and discipline for the defeated.

It should also be noted that the Taliban are not ‘terrorists’ and in no way resemble ISIS or the earlier Mujahideen . While they may have sheltered Al Qaeda in the past, they have no record and no stated intent of terrorist actions outside (or within) Afghanistan.

And it should also be remembered that the Taliban’s astonishing victory in the past week has been at minimal cost of human life and suffering; a victory, as Pepe Escobar notes, contrived by ” lots of persuasion, tribal deals, zero columns of tanks (and) minimal loss of blood”.

It is  time now for the new Afghan  government to  demand reparations from all those Western  occupation governments for the deaths,  torture,  trauma and misery;  and land and property losses of the last 20  years.

Perhaps Westerners could also remember, for the future, that the way for outsiders to encourage change in any other society, is to demonstrate your positive values: your generosity, your honesty, your capacity to forgive and your willingness to listen…

Postscript

As Richard Falks  and others note, what follows next in Afghanistan  will  depend not only on how the Taliban keep  their promises of greater tolerance , but also  on  the United States and its Western  occupying allies respond to the Taliban in power.  To  date Western media is hyping up  the threat  and supposed savagery of the Taliban  to extraordinary  degrees  (my local  New Zealand  TV news channel  interspersed commentary of the Taliban  with video of ISIS troops marching in uniform) and the  U.S.  withholding of Afghan federal  reserve money  and aid by  other Western countries . Without the  Western aid that  Afghanistan infrastructure has come to  rely on  over the last 20  years,  severe hardship  and starvation will  be the lot of Afghans already  brutalised by  this pointless war.

It is now likely that  further Western brutal  adventures, such  as the Afghan occupation , will not be viable options , as China particularly expands its  somewhat  more benign influence in  the region.

______________________________________

Links

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/16/20-years-invasion-afghanistan-unnecessary-post-imperial-fantasy

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/126081418/utterly-surreal-and-devastating-former-pm-helen-clark-shellshocked-to-be-back-where-we-were-in-afghanistan-as-taliban-take-over

https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/08/16/diplomacy-not-bombs-anti-war-voices-say-afghanistan-shows-need-stop-any-further?

https://www.unz.com/pescobar/the-islamic-emirate-of-afghanistan-back-with-a-bang/

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/08/16/afghanistan-history-taliban-collapse-504977

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2021/08/afghanistan-taliban-press-conference-notes.html#more

https://consortiumnews.com/2021/08/16/hollywoods-dangerous-afghan-illusion-2/

https://thescrum.substack.com/p/and-now?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

https://scheerpost.com/2021/08/17/the-u-s-government-lied-for-two-decades-about-afghanistan/

https://scheerpost.com/2021/08/16/what-the-classroom-didnt-teach-me-about-the-american-empire/

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/we-failed-afghanistan-not-the-other?

https://www.sigar.mil/interactive-reports/corruption-in-conflict/lessons.html

As Kabul Is Retaken, Papers Look Back in Erasure

https://annebonnypirate.org/2021/08/17/afghanistan-the-end-of-the-occupation/

https://wikileaks.org/wiki/CIA_report_into_shoring_up_Afghan_war_support_in_Western_Europe,_11_Mar_2010

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1232167.shtml

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1232142.shtml

https://richardfalk.org/2021/08/23/everything-went-wrong-in-afghanistan/

John Pilger: The Great Game of Smashing Nations

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/wests-meddling-has-caused-calamity-afghanistan

The ‘Coming’ Climate Crisis

We are told that if we do not change our ways, reduce carbon emissions, ‘soon’ it will be too late.

If we haven’t guessed by now , that ‘soon’ is right now. We are already in a climate crisis- of massive fires out of control in the United States, in coastal Mediterranean areas, in Siberia to name just a few. Of “Once in a 100” or 200 year floods, of temperatures in parts of the world that are close to killing any living thing.. We are there – right now…and its not going to get better any time soon- no matter what we do.

This is not a ‘crisis’ that will go away if we just behave ourselves.

This is a crisis that will be with those who survive on this planet for at least the next thousand years- and many more years than that, if we cannot reduce our carbon consumption and start planting trillions of trees.

Even if we were to stop creating more carbon dioxide right now, the planet will continue to warm, the climate will become more unpredictable and unstable. And of course our great politicians are not talking about anything as radical as eliminating our carbon footprint any time soon!- no!- they want us to reduce the ‘rate of increase’ of carbon by 2030 or 2050 or – some other target date far away…that doesn’t impact on their corporate ‘sponsorship’.

However, right now that rate of increase of carbon emissions is just going higher and higher- we are indeed ‘accelerating towards the cliff’.

But somehow many of us continue to believe that those great human minds will save us with some new technology -perhaps detonating some nuclear bombs to provide a nuclear winter for us, or sending dust particles into the atmosphere!

Are we consuming more and more to cope with our fears for the apocalyptic future?- bigger and bigger cars, more and more tinsel and useless consumption, more and more glorification of killing of defenseless animals for pleasure- hunting and fishing ?

But the answer , while not immediate, is simple.

  1. We have to adjust to a world where the climate is warming rapidly- first by accepting that infinite ‘growth’ on a finite world is just plain stupidity. We need to rapidly traverse to global no-growth economies.
  2. We need to try and reverse our rapid destruction of nature around us- encourage insect, bird and other non human populations to rebuild in the face of a rapidly warming world- create new perpetual habitats for other species, stop the chemical spraying, return habitats to their natural states as much and as quickly as possible .. and most importantly, plant more indigenous forest- not for forestry- but for life!
  3. We need to acknowledge that technology is not going to ‘save’ us from the climate crisis- in fact it is one of the significant causes of species loss and habitat destruction that is killing our planet.
  4. We need to acknowledge that humans simply need to support nature to get back to doing its job of making this planet a living world for every remaining species here – there’s nothing fancy about it, it won’t create many new jobs, and it wont seem like ‘progress’ – but it will save us.
  5. We need to encourage politicians to stop lying about what they intend to do about the environment and the climate. There’s no money in it from their company ‘sponsors”, and its not going to boost their fragile egos.
  6. Saving the planet from global heating and species loss is not a side issue to any decisions any of us make. Every bit of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ we make as humans must now put the cost to the climate and species loss at the forefront of EVERY decision. In most cases, human ‘progress’ is not worth the cost to the planet.
  7. We need to accept that we don’t need ‘more’. Teaching people how to be thankful and at peace with what they have and how to re-build their connection with nature – along with a respect for all living things.-that we don’t have a God-given right to treat other living entities as resources.

It’s not going to be easy- but it is simple…..

______________________________________

Links

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01092-9.epdf?

https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-is-warmer-than-its-been-in-125-000-years/

https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

https://scheerpost.com/2021/08/09/code-red-for-humanity/

‘Planning’ our way to Environmental Catastrophe

We desperately need to understand and acknowledge that preserving and sustaining the living world around us is not just a vital thing to do in order that humans survive, but to acknowledge that our world is in reality a living entity; we do not have the right to destroy it, to market it, to unravel it.
All life is sacred.

A recent (May 19 2021) article in Common Dreams by Richard Heinberg highlights the fact that at least some planners have known since the 1950s that our current human civilization based on fossil fuels will end- and that unless we slow down our global economy (‘de-growth’) we are in a for a very very hard landing, and not far off.

Perhaps like the genial but simpleminded U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, we believe that, in the words of Charles Dicken’s Wilkins Micawber, ‘something will turn up’, to solve our environmental problems. Somehow, somewhere, some yet to be discovered masterpiece of human engineering will magically solve the anthropomorphic climate heating and catastrophic biodiversity loss humans have caused.

Or, like John Kerry’s older master, we believe that reducing the impact of climate heating and species loss can be done while creating more jobs that create more climate change and loss of species. While “Green” technology will reduce the use of coal fired electricity and less combustion engine vehicles, it will only minimally impact on human economic ‘growth’, which is the key driver in increasing environmental destruction of the web of life which sustains us all- for now.

Or, perhaps we can just ignore the whole issue and hope it will go away- like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. A country that is at the forefront of climate heating, with Siberia set this year (2021) to more than meet last years record temperatures in May of 10C higher than ‘average’

Or , we can, as most political ‘leaders’ do, spout all the right words about protecting the environment and launch some new project that is superficially ‘green’, and then support and fund countless other national and local projects which directly destroy the environment; more roads, more factories, more industrial jobs, more housing, more corporate agriculture, more importation of migrants from poorer countries, more international tourism…… the list goes on and on

Why do we need ‘growth’?- what is its purpose?- does it lead us somewhere when it is continuously destroying the web of life that keeps us all alive?

There are a multitude of possibilities for a significant proportion of national populations to live sustainable and ‘growth-free’ lives; growing and sharing the abundance of nature. But of course those simple lifestyles do not translate into taxes, into corporate expense accounts, into how big your GDP is, or into state expenditure on ‘important’ projects that swell the egos of politicians and that provide a military budget for threatening your neighbours, or subduing your own population.

Once those so-called ‘growth’ projects are eliminated, there will still be more than enough state resources for free health and education for all, and a sustainable future for our children and the planet

We desperately need to understand and acknowledge that preserving and sustaining the living world around us is not just a vital thing to do in order that humans survive, but to acknowledge that our world is in reality a living entity; we do not have the right to destroy it, to market it, to unravel it.

All life is sacred.

As the 2010 ‘Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth‘ unequivocally states in its First Article; (1)  Mother Earth is a living being, and (2)  Mother Earth is a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.

How could we have forgotten that?

Links

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/05/21/humanity-must-embark-new-relationship-natural-world-says-jane-goodall

https://www.unep.org/resources/making-peace-nature?

https://www.climateemergencyinstitute.com/

https://climate.copernicus.eu/latest-projections-future-climate-now-available

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/05/19/most-colossal-planning-failure-human-history

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/six-reasons-why-the-eu-isnt-as-green-as-it-claims/

Red Alert: Only One Earth

The International COVID 19 Vaccine Response

It is important to acknowledge the enormous grief and loss and suffering that a pandemic brings- those who lives were cut short , those who others relied on for their physical or emotional wellbeing, and those who made a wonderful contribution to a better life for all, while they were alive.

Prior to vaccine rollout in the ‘developed’ world, those countries that did best at reducing COVID deaths and infections were island nations- New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland, Australia and even South Korea whose mainland border to the north is almost completely sealed. Being able to restrict access by humans from other countries played a huge role in reducing risk, and a sea border is a very efficient border wall once passenger flights are stopped or very closely monitored.

The most marked exception to the sea border rule is China, whose COVID restriction practices, while repressive to a degree, resulted in more freedom as a result of the control of the spread of COVID infection.

The map below from Our WorldinData.org for 3rd May 2021 illustrates the wide variation in death rates across the globe. Infection and death rates are a far more reliable indicator of a country’s effectiveness in managing the Covid crisis than simple numbers. A case in point being India , with a current horrific number of deaths (226,188 as of 4th May- but a rate per million population of only 163.9, as opposed to for instance the current rate of deaths in Bulgaria of 2390 per million but ‘only’ 16,609 deaths in total.

The map would suggest that while poorer countries have less effective formal health systems, they have an advantage of less mobile populations to spread the virus, and often greater access to open spaces where virus particles can more safely disperse.

However, once vaccines began to roll out, we begin to see a different story. Britain, a country with the highest death rate per million population for much of the earlier pandemic as a result of government incompetency and corruption, has now seen a remarkable reduction in deaths over the past month as the vaccine has been rolled out in a very systematic way. Similarly the United States, and some of the more wealthy European countries like Germany and the Scandinavian countries are also beginning to show marked improvements in death rates; in part because of tight lockdowns and the onset of summer with people spending less time in enclosed spaces , but mainly due to the vaccine roll-out.

Unsurprisingly, ugly power games between countries vying to be ‘top dog’ in the world, have resulted in extensive propaganda by all sides in rolling out vaccines to the world. These global power plays and the truly appalling greed of the pharmaceutical companies has also played a part in ensuring that the poorest countries do not get adequate access to vaccines, despite all the hollow platitudes from the United Nations and the propaganda from states.

One sublime example of the propaganda at play is this Guardian article which argues that because many Western governments are refusing to use the Russian Sputnik V vaccine because it is Russian (and dares to have the Russian flag on the box!), it is therefore a Russian ploy to sow dissent in the West. The fact that the esteemed (U.K.) Lancet medical journal has stated that Sputnik V has an enviable efficacy rate of 91.6%, doesn’t rate a mention. Sadly the article is one more demonstration of the global degradation of investigative reporting skills, understanding the difference between allegation and fact, and the capacity to use logical analysis. (but anything to further the ‘West is good/Russia bad’ meme)

The COVID epidemic has graphically illustrated the incompetency of many world leaders, and a reminder of the brutal sadism of many of them to kill innocent people in far away lands because of petulant power plays, jingoism and systematic racism.

Along with state power and incompetency, we have also witnessed the capacity of global pharmaceutical companies to capture the enduring essence of capitalism:- profits at any expense, including the loss of millions of human lives.

We need a better way……..

___________________________________________

Links

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/apr/30/is-russias-covid-vaccine-anything-more-than-a-political-weapon-sputnik-v

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sputnik-v-vaccine-covid-brazil-russian-vaccine-ban-efficacy-recombination/

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/03/16/russia-slams-us-over-brazil-coronavirus-vaccine-pressure-a73250

https://ourworldindata.org/covid-deaths?country

https://thegrayzone.com/2021/03/24/chomsky-on-the-joke-of-russian-interference-and-the-savagery-of-us-sanctions/

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00234-8/fulltext

Ego Emere, Ergo Sum; (I buy, therefore I am)

J.G. Ballard’s ‘The Subliminal Man’, written in 1963, outlines a future 1960-ish world where the state ‘encourages’ the population to buy more useless things so that they work more hours to pay for them and therefore consume more… in a never-ending circle of supply and demand.

In ‘The Subliminal Man’, the population is locked into this endless cycle via subliminal messaging from huge electronic billboards next to the motorways…How far we have come since 1963!

Today one is struck by governments all over the world exhorting the public to go out and spend, go on holidays etc, once COVID 19 lockdowns are over, ostensibly to ensure that we have full employment and therefore more money in the system….

But the reality is that we are all locked into a crazy system that relies on ever increasing demand for ever increasingly useless items that need to be ‘sold’ to us as essential, as ‘must-haves’, or the ‘bucket-list’, so that we can afford to live the life we ‘choose’….

We are no longer consumers; we are the consumed.

The barrage of advertisements on our cellphones delivered via social media and the apps we use; the ever more strident advertisements on TV for another ‘latest product’; even the billboards on our highways, are all testament to the fact that those advertised things are really non-essential- otherwise they would not need to be ‘sold’ to us. We would simply purchase them when our old product stops working, when we really need them, or not purchase them at all.

The ongoing process to ensure ‘essential items’ are designed to be non-repairable, only replaceable, and that commodities are constructed with plastics and other materials that deteriorate rapidly, also ensures that we must continue to buy and consume.

Everything that humans now require to live becomes a commodity, a consumable, packaged and labelled and sold; from the food we eat to the water we drink, the sentient animals we depend on for food; perhaps soon too, the air we breathe. Only money now provides us with meaning …’we know the price of everything and the value of nothing’.

Given that societies’ globally almost all rely on this psychotic fragile consumer cycle – we are in deep sh*t.

We know our consumer behavior is pushing our living world to oblivion- destroying the remainder of the natural world and creating enormous amounts of toxic gases and plastics and ‘land-fill’-yet our governments continue to relentlessly promote this consumer society, while simultaneously talking about reducing carbon emissions and retaining biodiversity.

It is as if they don’t think there are any other options- but of course- there are- just not ones palatable to the businesses and global corporations feeding off our consumer addictions.

We all deserve a better life than this..

_______________________________

Links

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/01/could-we-live-in-a-zero-growth-society/

ANZACS- for King and Country

(Note: this is a slightly re-edited version of a NewAntarctica post first published in  2014)

Every  year in this fair little country of New Zealand, we “celebrate” Anzac Day on 25th  April. We remember our “glorious dead” who  fought in  all  those wars for king and country;  beginning way  back  then  with  the  Second Boer War of 1899 in South Africa, supporting our British  countrymen  in  the British  Empire’s  fight against  the “evil” Boers, to  ensure  South  Africa could become a safe place for English  speaking white men to  colonise and rule over the black man.

Since then we have had the First  World War where 100, 000 New Zealand  men  (and some women) were shipped overseas, out of a total  population of just over 1 million people. 18,500 New Zealanders  were killed in  that  ‘war to  end all  wars’ and  more than 40,000 wounded. Anzac Day  “celebrates” the day  New Zealand and Australian  troops along with  troops from other parts of the Empire,  India, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland,  India, and Newfoundland  as well  as French  forces invaded Turkey   (a German ally) at Gallipoli ( or Gelibolu  as the Turks call it). IfYeBreakFaith_Victorybondsposter

The “Great War”, as it was once known, was initially at  least, a European  war  to divide up  the spoils of empire, with  each  countries’  soldiers  the cannon fodder for money  and power.

‘Only’ 2799  New Zealand soldiers died at  Gelibolu attempting to  break  the Turkish  defences in  the harsh  hills above the beaches, where 87,000  Turks died defending their homeland. Nothing in comparison to the many thousands killed and wounded  in  the trenches  in Flanders and other parts of France;  machine gunned, shelled and gassed by  the “Hun” -the Germans.

Yet  New Zealand collectively now  glorifies  Gallipoli;  it was apparently (according to later  New Zealand historians who  should know)  our “nation-building”  exercise.  Yet after that  first  world war to end all  wars,  every  cenotaph

The Unknown Soldier
The Unknown Soldier

in  every  little town  and city across New Zealand which  named their dead, inscribed  the lines “Lest We Forget”.  In my imagination perhaps , it is ‘lest we forget’  those  who  died for nothing;  the horror,  the stupidity , the inhumanity to man of soldiers at  war;  not “lest we forget” our glorious war dead.

Let us not forget  also, those brave conscientious objectors who  also chose to  suffer because of their fundamental  objection to  war.

Let us not forget  either, the many thousands of women and children  who  suffered at  the hands of those damaged men returning from the wars;  the family  and community violence caused  by  the trauma of war  and death.

     The Send-off: a Poem  by  Wilfred Owen: -English  soldier poet, 1918

And then  we have the “good war”;  the war  against the Nazis and the Japanese between  1939 and 1945,  where 140,000  New Zealand men and women were conscripted to  fight overseas.  Kiwi soldiers, while comparatively  small  in  numbers, played a significant role in  the European war  against  Germany  and later   against  the Japanese in  the Pacific. Could  that war have been  avoided  without appeasement of Nazi  and Japanese supremacism?  There are many  historians who  say , that  had the terms of  the  Versailles Treaty  not been so  punitive against  Germany , German nationalistic fervour would   never have produced  such  a cancer as the national  socialists (Nazis). Similarly there are those who  argue that  had the Japanese also been able to  obtain  their  Imperial   “place in  the sun” , Pearl Harbour would never have happened.   Hindsight is a wonderful  thing.

New Zealand’s obligations for self-defence against  the Japanese is  inarguable;  The Japanese were planning to invade New Zealand as part of their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,  along with invading Australia.  The evil  of the Nazis  is also  inarguable, and the horrors committed by  them; New Zealand soldiers helped to bring  those horrors to an end.  Ultimately 11,900  New Zealand soldiers lost their lives  in the second world war. However New Zealand is implicated  in the war crimes resulting  from  the bombing missions undertaken  by  the Allies against  German dams   and the firebombing of Dresden; Tokyo  and Kyoto .

And, we might  ask, why  weren’t we opposing the Japanese in their 1937-1945 horrific  occupation of China prior to  Pearl Harbour in December 1941?

New Zealand’s role in wars since the second world war has (aside from  several  small  UN peace-keeping missions) been less than exemplary.  4,700 New Zealand soldiers fought  in Korea  between 25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953, with 49  men  killed in  action. New Zealand  (under U.N. auspices but without Russian attendance at  that  security council  meeting ) was a party to  the genocide committed largely by  the Americans carpet bombing  every North Korean  town and city over that period.

Fighting as part of ANZUS, New Zealand enthusiastically  supported the American  pretext  for invading Vietnam from  1963 to  1975   ( supposedly to halt the insidious spread of Communism  (the ‘YellowPeril”) across Asia), while the New Zealand national  government  supported the  bombing by  the U.S. of  cities and towns across Vietnam  Laos and Cambodia, causing more than  a million deaths.  37 New Zealand  soldiers were killed in that  war and many more  afflicted by  the  impacts of “Agent Orange”, the chemical warfare “defoliant” sprayed by   U.S.  planes  over the jungles and hamlets of  South  Vietnam. 33 New Zealand soldiers were  also killed in the preceding Korean War where millions of Koreans were killed in that  largely forgotten  genocidal  war.

Once again  supporting the U.S., New Zealand  inserted a small  number of troops into  southern  Iraq  near Basra during the second Iraq War.  While for most of its service there, NZ troops were confined to base, it is highly likely that  NZ troops were  well aware of  the  wide-spread  torture and murder of Iraqi  civilians in  that  area by  British troops . New Zealand  is,  by  its support of that  war,  also implicated in  the deaths of  the  hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who  died as a result of a war  based on  the pretext of Saddam’s  non-existent  “weapons of mass destruction.”

New Zealand continues its commitment to “freedom  and democracy” by  supporting the Americans in Afghanistan.  Initially promoted to the public as an incursion  to eliminate Al Qaeda as a threat   after the 9/11  bombing of the New York  towers,  the war has dragged on since its inception in  2001 and morphed into  the elimination of the Taleban  (an Afghan  Pashtun  tribal  entity with  previous links to Al Qaeda). New Zealand troops have likely been  involved in capturing Taleban  fighters and sending them  to  the US Bagram air base in Kabul  for torture. A rather dubious analysis suggest that  up  to  20,000  civilian  casualties alone have been  killed in  Afghanistan  since 2001- the mortality  figures for direct  war impacts are likely to be  in  the many many thousands. ( the U.S. doesnt “do  headcounts” anymore.)

New Zealand continues to  be a key  member of the U.S. run  western  intelligence community “Five Eyes”, which   attempts to  maintain the U.S state’s power and control  over most of the world, and while NZ has  publicly been  cast  in  the shadows of ANZUS because of its nuclear-free stance, it in  reality maintains an  extremely  active role.

However , even with  the huge  amount of information provided  by  internet   and phone tapping  provided to  “Five Eyes”  intelligence ‘experts”, it is clear  that  those security operatives have over the years since the second world war, acquired a farcical  level  of incompetence and  lack  of intelligence and judgment. Their wild misinterpretation of other  states’  and non-state entities’ intent and motives has resulted in  massive  suffering to  millions of  human beings. It is highly likely that  incompetence is not going to be changing any time soon.

In summary,  ANZAC Day;  that  tribute of poppies and wreaths and guns , celebrates not  our glorious dead, but  the utter farcical  futility of war and the greed of the powerful.

At  the time of writing,  the jingoistic   drumbeats of war  are sounding to  fight once more   the Russian  threat  against  “poor little”  Ukraine.

As the late and great  Pete Seeger sang: When  will  we ever learn?

whitepoppies

A Submission to my local Council on Environment Change

The Council’s 10 Year Plan’s ‘climate change’   position  is remarkable in its minimalism, absence  of vision and  lack  of understanding of the enormous impacts  climate change and biodiversity loss will do to the way we survive in our district  and around this country and the globe.  

All  previous measurements of CO2 levels in the past  indicate that while we are predominantly in  a latency  period as  oceans  continue to  absorb most CO2,  we are heading for long term  considerable  temperature and sea level  rises  for many millennium.

We cannot stop these changes occurring to our world, even if we were to  make good on our global  promises and reduce carbon  dioxide emissions substantially right now , but we can  take action now  to  somewhat mitigate the  extreme risks that climate change will bring to  both  humans, and other species that  we depend upon for our survival- both the known and the currently unknown species.

Additionally, there is now considerable evidence that the loss of species diversity globally is likely to significantly reduce  survivability risks for humans in the medium  to  long term. Retaining and restoring as much biodiversity in  our communities as possible is therefore just  as  vital as attempting to reduce the impact  of global heating.

Growing more trees that live for centuries is one of the key opportunities to reduce the impacts of rising levels of CO2, reduce species loss, provide some protection from intense weather events, enhance human wellbeing, and provide shade in summer and warmth in winter. 

BELOW ARE Just some of the key changes required :

  1. Develop  a  well-funded programme  to  develop  a local  nursery to grow native plants indigenous to  this locality, for both  Council  planting regimes,  and also  for property owners and community agencies.
  • Provide an educational resource (online and in person) on how to plant and grow more native vegetation and its importance to our communities and the planet.
  • Ensure all   available areas in the surrounding hills are replanted in native trees (not pines, which dry out the atmosphere and ground). This will not only create more habitat for native birds, insects and other biota, but also, once the trees are established, help restore rainfall levels in summer to what they were prior to settlement, and somewhat mediate temperature fluctuations.
  • Plant native plant corridors from the hills to the coast to ensure long term viability of native wildlife.
  • Ensure all existing non-pine tree’d areas are maintained and extended on public and private lands..
  • Plant all available park and reserve areas with native trees. There are far too many grass areas in our district with no trees, which serve no use, other than to employ lawn mowers and produce more CO2.
  • Ensure streams that have been buried in culverts are re-opened to the air, and the water margins planted in native plants.
  • Provide incentives for businesses to plant trees on their properties- e.g. rates rebates.
  • Provide stronger guidance  and enforcement of  local  agricultural  businesses  about their use of toxic pesticides,  artificial  fertilizers, and the considerable current threat  to  human  welfare of groundwater contaminated with fertilizer runoff, particularly nitrates.
  1. Financial and other encouragement for local food producers to become organic growers.
  1. Develop a project alongside other local councils and the NZ Transport Agency to develop a low emission public rapid light transit system using electric public vehicles.
  1. Council needs to be encouraging businesses and services to be truly sustainable and to use organic sources wherever possible whilst discouraging businesses that damage the remainder of our living environment through fines and regulation.
  1. Council needs to establish a bio-impact measure for all goods and services within its catchment. Ie a simple graded scale that measures a business’ impact on climate change and species loss, so that consumers can start to make more informed choices about the products they  consume.
  1. Long term planning for ocean level rises, which will progressively increase; particularly road access to our coastal towns.

________________________________________

Postscript

My Council’s response below to anyone who made a submission to them on climate change… As can be clearly seen, there is no recognition that traditional cost/benefit analysis processes do not work when it comes to nature, and no recognition of the gravity of the environmental crises that have started to impact us, and will increasingly do so.

Nor is there any recognition of the other equally disastrous impacts of environmental damage; particularly species loss.

This planning strategy of burying one’s head in the sand is an option pursued by many local and central governments across the world…

Climate Change

We are experiencing more frequent weather extremes and effects, including floods, droughts and fires as a consequence of our changing climate. We have a large coastline, inhabited by thousands of residents. Adding to the complexity, much of our public infrastructure is built near the coast. Where to spend our time, effort, and funds to best prepare the <x> community for the likely effects of climate change and mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions is a key decision we needed to make. We asked you which of two spending options you preferred for Council to take to respond to climate change.

We decided to proceed with an affordable level of investment spread over the next 10 years. Once we have measured Council’s baseline emissions, we will investigate methods to reduce our emissions. The <x> Climate Action Plan is designed to be a living document. Suggestions from submitters and new knowledge (e.g. results from our emissions measurements) can be incorporated into a review of the Action Plan. The financial implications can then be worked through in further detail and consideration given to including them in future Annual or Long Term Plans.

______________________________________________

References

https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2020/cities-and-biodiversity-.html

http://www.fao.org/3/w2598e/w2598e06.htm

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/09/1072292

The unraveling of the web of life

The Leaf in  the Concrete Pool
The Leaf in the Concrete Pool

A U.K.  February  2021 report by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta,  entitled ‘The Economics of Biodiversity’ outlines the ‘extreme risk’ the ‘world’, is being put by  not taking into  account the  ‘rapid depletion of the natural  world’.

While the overarching intent of the paper is to  be applauded in attempting to  reduce species loss,  the underlying assumptions outlined in  the paper  about humans’ relationships to  the rest of this living world  are,  to  put it mildly,  grotesque.

Prof. Dasgupta’s comment that  ‘Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them’, is truly bizarre.

The natural  world (including the human  species) does not exist  to provide ‘goods and services’. This arrogant and ignorant perspective of the living world around us  is the root cause of  why  the  living planet around us, is dying. All  living things on  this planet exist  in their own  right and to  construct  a web of  interdependent life around themselves; a web  that  humans have been  unravelling at  ever-increasing speed for the past 3000  years.

To  view other living organisms as ‘good and services’  for humans, is not only  to  debase the sanctity of life, but also confirms our  fundamental  lack of understanding of how life on  this planet life continues to  maintain  itself,  and once thrived. The more humans choose some organisms as being ‘worthwhile’  ( for humans),  and others not-  the more we destroy the web that  holds all  life on this planet together.

There are many humans on this planet who  have never known  what  it is to  be connected with  the living world around them – who  look  out their windows in  the morning at  the dead concrete jungle surrounding them  and think  this life. Who  truly do  think  of the living world as a commodity solely for humanities’  use, and who  never once consider that  the view from  their window  would have once been  a joyous riot of life-   of birds,  trees  insects and many other  animals. What  humans have not known, we do not miss. The more humans become immersed in  an inanimate world of concrete  and tar, the more it becomes ‘normal’.

We do  not comprehend what  we have done to  our world, and what  awaits us at the end of this journey  of ‘commodification’.

 


Links

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/02/economics-failure-over-destruction-of-nature-presents-extreme-risks

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review

Recognising the Environmental Impact of Consumption

Tena koutou
While the NZ Government’s decision to  declare a climate emergency  in New Zealand is to be applauded-  currently there appear few mechanisms  to   achieve a carbon-neutral  government by  2025. Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s touted response to  have all  government vehicles  electric,  is a case in  point of the contradictions in  environmental  policy. There is an  urgent  need for all  citizens to recognise the  impact of product and service consumption.
While electric cars will  reduce carbon  emissions through  vehicle  exhaust pipes, the production of the required number of  electric vehicles will  result in  further destruction of our environments-  lithium  mining for batteries ,  steel  production,  plastics production. to  name just  a few.  A sleight of hand process that  reduces emissions in  one area and replaces it with  more consumption in  another-  is simply deceitful  and will  not improve our environmental impact. Any  climate “emergency planning (an  ’emergency’  implies a short -term  problem- this is not a short-term issue)  must  also  address the collateral  bio-diversity loss that  is occurring in New Zealand and everywhere in  the world.
As a recent Israeli  study  amply demonstrates;  production of inert ‘stuff’  by  humans now literally out-weighs  the living  things on  this planet https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/09/human-made-materials-now-outweigh-earths-entire-biomass-study
We are replacing  living entities with  dead inert  matter at  a rapidly  increasing rate-  a recipe not just  for  an  emergency,  but a planetary  disaster.
While moving to  a steady  state economy is the only plausible  response to   the disaster rapidly unfolding  on our little plant; current levers of power and influence globally and in New Zealand clearly will not allow that  to  happen in  the short -term.
Consequently ,  rather than moving gently and steadily to  a slow-down  and cessation of human  ‘growth’ ,  we are  rushing headlong and ever faster  towards the precipice of environmental  catastrophe,  before we  fall over…and reach ‘steady-state’  in a way  that  will  cause huge immediate human  and other species’ suffering  and death.
To   hopefully avoid that precipitous  fall, I would suggest a measure that  will  in a relatively short  time ,  allow all  members of New Zealand society to   appreciate we cannot continue  this headlong dash  to  oblivion.
A requirement  that all animate and non-animate goods   and services in New Zealand carry  a warning label  which  indicates how much  the product has impacted on  both  climate change ( positive or negative) but also  ( and more crucially)  biodiversity. The labeling could be something similar to   cigarette warning labels and provide an  opportunity for purchasers to  be aware of the environmental  impact  of their purchase,  to  compare  goods’  environmental impact  and to encourage producers to  reduce their  environmental  footprint..
Over time this labeling would also  provide an opportunity for government  to   additionally tax those products and services  that  were  high in  environmental  impact,  once public support had reached an  acceptable level.
From  there, the public debate on how to  implement a  sustainable  steady  state economy  could proceed.
As you will  be well  aware, as you see the  data continue to   pile in at  an  ever increasing rate  on  global  warming and bio-diversity loss ,  we now  have little time and opportunity  to change our trajectory.
nga mihi

Footnote
The response to  my email   from  New Zealand’s Ministry of the Environment  courteously noted my suggestions,  but declined to  support it,noting that there were some unnamed private New Zealand companies interested in such  an idea.
Subsequently my daughter has suggested that  there would be web  companies out there who  could develop  an  app  which   could provide information online  for ‘consumers’  on  the relative  carbon  footprint and impact on  biodiversity of products being sold.
Yes please!

Enough is really Enough

The decision by  regional  delegates of the New Zealand Green  Party  to  endorse a coalition with  the New Zealand  Labour Party after the recent New Zealand elections,  has resulted in  the two  co-leaders of the Green  Party once again  acquiring  ministerial  portfolios outside of Cabinet. Co-leader James Shaw  is now ‘Minister of Climate’  and ‘Associate Minister for the Environment’,  while Marama Davidson  is now Minister for the ‘Prevention of Family and Sexual  Violence’ and ‘Homelessness’.

In exchange  for these small  shiny  baubles of power  in a Labour dominated Parliament, the NZ Greens  have sadly irrefutably demonstrated that  they  are more interested in  holding on to  ‘power’  rather than  having a mission to  save our environment.

The Greens would have been  able to  play  a far stronger advocacy  role for the natural  world and  a future for humanity  if they had stayed out of Labour’s centrist  and growth  oriented government.

Labour’s election  byline says it all- “Let’s Keep Moving”.  One might be tempted to  ask  ‘what for?’  and ‘where to?” : and what  happens when  we , in  the not so  distant future,  run out  of those natural  resources we have been   so relentlessly exploiting in New Zealand for the past 200  years to  ‘keep  us moving’?

A Greens/Labour coalition is therefore an  abomination for the natural  world and for our futures in New Zealand.  The coalition  agreement puts a green-wash  over the strategies and actions of this new government to  ‘expand’  the economy,  which  will  inevitably destroy  more of our living world-  more roads,  more concrete,  more houses, more agro-business …

It is not too  late to construct  a New Zealand political  party that  truly upholds sustainable environmental  principles: a no-growth steady-state party. A party that  acknowledges the realities  of the limits to  growth  and the importance of restoring much of  our living world.

It is simply not possible  for N.Z.  to  continue to  pursue a “growth” strategy  for the human  economy-  for money. We urgently need a government  that  places a priority  on protecting and expanding the living world, and which  acknowledges  the reality that  humans are an intrinsic  part of Nature-  not something separate. Without  a vibrant living world around us,  we  humans will inevitably  perish.

We need a  N.Z.  ‘Steady-State’  party now!


Other Relevant New Antarctica Links