Climate wars threaten billions
More than 100 countries face political chaos and mass migration in global warming catastrophe
November 4 2007
A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.
This stark warning will be outlined by the peace group International Alert in a report, A Climate of Conflict, this week. Much of Africa, Asia and South America will suffer outbreaks of war and social disruption as climate change erodes land, raises seas, melts glaciers and increases storms, it concludes. Even Europe is at risk.
‘Climate change will compound the propensity for violent conflict, which in turn will leave communities poorer and less able to cope with the consequences of climate change,’ the report states.
The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’
Consider Peru, said Smith. Its fresh water comes mostly from glacier meltwater. But by 2015 nearly all Peru’s glaciers will have been removed by global warming and its 27 million people will nearly all lack fresh water. If Peru took action now, it could offset the impending crisis, he added. But the country has little experience of effective democracy, suffers occasional outbreaks of insurgency, and has border disputes with Chile and Ecuador. The result is likely to be ‘chaos, conflict and mass migration’.
A different situation affects Bangladesh. Here climate-linked migration is already triggering violent conflict, says International Alert. Droughts in summer combined with worsening flooding in coastal zones, triggered by increasingly severe cyclones, are destroying farmland. Millions have already migrated to India, causing increasingly serious conflicts that are destined to worsen.
In Africa, rivers such as the Niger and Monu are key freshwater resources passing through many nations. As droughts worsen and more water is extracted from them conflicts will be inevitable.
In Europe, most countries are currently considered stable enough to cope with global warming, apart from the Balkans; wars have left countries such as Serbia and Montenegro politically weakened. As temperatures rise and farmland is reduced, population pressures will trigger violence that authorities will be unable to contain.
Some nations on the risk map, such as Russia, may cause surprise. ‘Moscow’s control of Russia as a whole will not be undermined by global warming,’ said Smith. ‘But loss of farmland in some regions will lead to local rebellions like those already triggered in Chechnya.’
Conflict triggered by climate change is not a vague threat for coming years, he added. ‘It is already upon us.’
Low Morale Has U.S. Troops in Iraq Pretending to Patrol
October 26, 2007
By Dahr Jamail
Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here in upstate New York say that morale among US soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed “search and avoid” missions.
Phil Aliff is an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August 2005 to July 2006, in the areas of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, both west of Baghdad.
“Morale was incredibly low,” said Aliff, adding that he joined the military because he was raised in a poor family by a single mother and had few other prospects. “Most men in my platoon in Iraq were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan.”
According to Aliff, their mission was to help the Iraqi army “stand up” in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, but in fact his platoon was doing all the fighting without support from the Iraqis they were supposedly preparing to take control of the security situation.
“I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own,” said Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). “The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi army unit was for publicity.”
Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. “We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralized, so we decided the only way we wouldn’t be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time.”
“So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine,” he said, adding, “All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command.”
Aliff, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), refused to return to Iraq with his unit, which arrived in Kirkuk two weeks ago. “They’ve already lost a guy, and they are now fostering the sectarian violence by arming the Sunnis while supporting the Shi’ites politically … classic divide and conquer.”
Aliff said he is set to be discharged by the military next month because they claim his PTSD “is untreatable by their doctors”.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD increased nearly 70% in the 12 months ending on June 30.
The nearly 50,000 VA-documented PTSD cases greatly exceed the 30,000 military personnel that the Pentagon officially classifies as wounded in both occupations.
VA records show that mental health has become the second-largest area of illness for which veterans of the ongoing occupations are seeking treatment at VA hospitals and clinics. The total number of mental health cases among war veterans increased by 58%; from 63,767 on June 30, 2006, to 100,580 on June 30, 2007, according to the VA.
Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying orders so as not to be attacked so frequently.
“We’d go to the end of our patrol route and set up on top of a bridge and use it as an over-watch position,” Eli Wright, also an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division, said. “We would just sit with our binoculars and observe rather than sweep. We’d call in radio checks every hour and say we were doing sweeps.”
Wright added, “It was a common tactic, a lot of people did that. We’d just hang out, listen to music, smoke cigarettes, and pretend.” The 26-year-old medic complained that his unit did not have any armored Humvees during his time in Iraq, where he was stationed in Ramadi, capital of the volatile al-Anbar province.
“We put sandbags on the floors of our vehicles, which had canvas doors,” said Wright, who was in Iraq from September 2003 until September 2004. “By the end of our tour, we were bolting any metal we could find to our Humvees. Everyone was doing this, and we didn’t get armored Humvees in country until after we left.”
Other veterans, like 25-year-old Nathan Lewis, who was in Iraq for the invasion of March 2003 until June of that year while serving in the 214th field artillery brigade, complained of lack of training for what they were ordered to do, in addition to not having armored Humvees for their travels.
“We never got training for a lot of the work we did,” he explained. “We had a white phosphorous mortar round that cooked off in the back of one of our trucks, because we loaded that with some other ammo, and we weren’t trained how to do it the right way.”
The “search and avoid” missions appear to have been commonplace around much of Iraq for years now.
Geoff Millard served nine years in the New York Army National Guard, and was in Iraq from October 2004 until October 2005 working for a general at a Tactical Operation Center.
Millard, also a member of IVAW, said that part of his duties included reporting “significant actions”, or SIGACTS, which is how the US military describes an attack on their forces.
“We had units that never called in SIGACTS,” Millard, who monitored highly volatile areas like Baquba, Tikrit and Samarra, said. “When I was there two years ago, there were at least five companies that never had SIGACTS. I think ‘search and avoids’ have been going on there for a long time.”
Millard said “search and avoid” missions continue today across Iraq. “One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time,” he explained, “He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything and to please just leave them alone.”
America’s Armageddonites Push for More War
October 22, 2007
By Jon Basil Utley
Utopian fantasies have long transfixed the human race. Yet today a much rarer fantasy has become popular in the United States. Millions of Americans, the richest people in history, have a death wish. They are the new “Armageddonites,” fundamentalist evangelicals who have moved from forecasting Armageddon to actually trying to bring it about.
Most journalists find it difficult to take seriously that tens of millions of Americans, filled with fantasies of revenge and empowerment, long to leave a world they despise. These Armageddonites believe that they alone will get a quick, free pass when they are “raptured” to paradise, no good deeds necessary, not even a day of judgment. Ironically, they share this utopian fantasy with a group that they often castigate, namely fundamentalist Muslims who believe that dying in battle also means direct access to Heaven. For the Armageddonites, however, there are no waiting virgins, but they do agree with Muslims that there will be “no booze, no bars,” in the words of a popular Gaither Singers song.
These end-timers have great influence over the U.S. government’s foreign policy. They are thick with the Republican leadership. At a recent conference in Washington, congressional leader Roy Blunt, for example, has said that their work is “part of God’s plan.” At the same meeting, where speakers promoted attacking Iran, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay glorified “end times.” Indeed the Bush administration often consults with them on Mideast policies. The organizer of the conference, Rev. John Hagee, is often welcomed at the White House, although his ratings are among the lowest on integrity and transparency by Ministry Watch, which rates religious broadcasters. He raises millions of dollars from his campaign supporting Israeli settlements on the West Bank, including much for himself. Erstwhile presidential candidate Gary Bauer is on his Board of Directors. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson also both expressed strong end-times beliefs.
American fundamentalists strongly supported the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. They consistently support Israel’s hard-line policies. And they are beating the drums for war against Iran. Thanks to these end-timers, American foreign policy has turned much of the world against us, including most Muslims, nearly a quarter of the human race.
The Beginning of End Times
The evangelical movement originally was not so “end times” focused. Rather, it was concerned with the “moral” decline inside America. The Armageddon theory started with the writings of a Scottish preacher, John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). His ideas then spread to America with publication in 1917 of the Scofield Reference Bible, foretelling that the return of the Jews to Palestine would bring about the end times. The best-selling book of the 1970s, The Late, Great Planet Earth, further spread this message. The movement did not make a conscious effort to affect foreign policy until Jerry Falwell went to Jerusalem and the Left Behind books became best sellers.
Conservative Christian writer Gary North estimates the number of Armageddonites at about 20 million. Many of them have an ecstatic belief in the cleansing power of apocalyptic violence. They are among the more than 30% of Americans who believe that the world is soon coming to an end. Armageddonites may be a minority of the evangelicals, but they have vocal leaders and control 2,000 mostly fundamentalist religious radio stations.
Although little focused on in America, Armageddonites attract the attention of Muslims abroad. In 2004, for instance, I attended Qatar’s Fifth Conference on Democracy with Muslim leaders from all over the Arabian Gulf. There, the uncle of Jordan’s king devoted his whole speech to warning of the Armageddonites’ power over American foreign policy.
Armageddonite Foreign Policy
The beliefs of the Armageddon Lobby, also known as Dispensationalists, come from the Book of Revelations, which Martin Luther relegated it to an appendix when he translated the Bible because its image of Christ was so contrary to the rest of the Bible. The Armageddonites worship a vengeful, killer-torturer Christ. They also frequently quote a biblical passage that God favors those who favor the Jews. But they only praise Jews who make war, not those who are peacemakers. For example, they vigorously opposed Israel’s murdered premier Yitzhak Rabin, who promoted the Oslo Peace Accords.
Based on this Biblical interpretation, the Armageddonites vehemently argue that America must protect Israel and encourage its settlements on the West Bank in order to help God fulfill His plans. The return of Jews to Palestine is central to the prophetic vision of the Armageddonites, who see it as a critical step toward the final battle, Armageddon, and the victory of the righteous over Satan’s minions. There are a couple internal inconsistencies with this prophecy, such as the presence of Christians already living in the Holy Land and the role of Jews in the final dispensation. In the first case, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other Religious Right leaders tried to pretend that Christians already in the Holy Land simply didn’t exist. As for Jews, they needed to become “born again” Christians to avoid God’s wrath (or, according to some Armageddonites, a separate Jewish covenant with God will gain them a separate Paradise).
Everyone else — Buddhists, Muslims (of course), Hindus, atheists, and so on — are then slated to die in the Tribulation that comes with Armageddon. As described in the bestselling Left Behind series, this time of human misery ends with Christ then ruling a paradise on earth for a thousand years.
Armageddonites know little about the outside world, which they think of as threatening and awash with Satanic temptations. They are big supporters of Bush’s “go it alone” foreign policies. For example, they love John Bolton. They were prime supporters for attacking Iraq. And, with very few exceptions, they were noticeably quiet about, if not supportive, of torturing prisoners of war (only with a new leadership did the National Association of Evangelicals finally condemn torture in May, 2007). Their support of the Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani shows that they consider aggressively prosecuting Mideast war (to help speed up the apocalypse) more important than the domestic programs of these socially liberal politicians.
On other foreign policy issues, they are violently against the pending Law of the Seas Treaty, indeed any treaty which possibly circumscribes U.S. power to go it alone. They want illegal immigrants expelled and oppose more immigration. They fear China’s growth. They despise Europeans for not being more warlike. The UN figures prominently in their fears, and the Left Behind books present its Secretary General as the Antichrist. Domestically, they strongly support the USA PATRIOT Act and all of President Bush’s actions, legal or illegal.
Armageddonites and Fascism
Author and former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges argues that worldview and reasoning of the Armageddonites tend toward fascism. In his book American Fascists, Hedges focuses on their obedience to leadership, their feelings of humiliation and victimhood, alienation, their support for authoritarian government, and their disinterestedness in constitutional limits on government power. Theirs was originally a defensive movement against the liberal democratic society, particularly abortion, school desegregation, and now globalization, which they saw as undermining their communities and families, their values, and livelihood. Their fundamentalism is very fulfilling and, Hedges writes, “they are terrified of losing this new, mystical world of signs, wonders and moral certitude, of returning to the old world of despair.”
Hedges, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, also shows that fundamentalists are quite selective. They don’t take the Bible literally when it comes to justifying slavery or that children who curse a parent are to be executed. The movement is also very masculine, giving poor men a path to re-establish their authority in what they perceive as an overly feminized culture. Images of Jesus often show Him with thick muscles, clutching a sword. Christian men are portrayed as powerful warriors.
The overwhelming power and warmongering of the Armageddonites has inspired some resistance from other fundamentalists, but they are a minority. Theologian Richard Fenn writes, “Silent complicity (by mainline churches) with apocalyptic rhetoric soon becomes collusion with plans for religiously inspired genocide.” Their death-wishing “religion” is actually anti-Christian and should be challenged openly by traditional Christians.
The next election will likely loosen their grip on the White House. However, their growing ties to the military industrial complex will remain. Exposure of their war wanting as a major threat to America and the world may well become as destructive for them as was the famous Scopes trial in the 1920s. But that will only happen if Americans become as concerned as foreign observers about the influence of the Armageddonites.