Also in Counterpunch.
There are things we are not supposed to know and the corporate controlled news industry is not going to tell us. Totally absent from the obedient media is one of the most important stories of all time: war creates climate change.
The story of how this knowledge has been repressed is essential to understanding how the government and military are at the heart of climate counter-offensive and what it will take to stop them.
The Government Rules by Force, Fraud and Deception
The information blockade starts with the military itself. The military purposely restricts information plus its immense size and bureaucratic complexity means that it is so hard to grasp that political leaders cannot themselves understand the institution they are supposed to command.
You want proof? Just try reading the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2016 report which could not figure out just how much oil the military burns. The GAO concluded: “[C]ongress does not have full visibility over the amount of fuel volume the military services require on an annual basis for their activities…”
This should not come as a surprise. Since its inception in 1950 or so the modern military has resisted any accounting of costs in violation of Article I, Section 9, of the US Constitution. In 2018 the Pentagon failed its first ever audit. It’s not just about the missing 6.5 trillions dollars, (although that really matters too) it’s that the opaque accounting system is armor — a defensive weapon used to neutralize anyone that wants to understand, let alone oppose, the US government.
This massive fraud is just the financial side of the serial political con committed by the US government. Article 1, Sec. 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution clearly gives Congress, and only Congress, the right to declare war — but that has never stopped the Pentagon or the President or the Congress or the Courts from betraying their duty to defend the Constitution.
Not only can’t the government regulate corporations it cannot regulate itself in line with what is supposed to be the highest law of the land— the US Constitution.
But shift your vantage point to see the merger of the corporation and the state and then you see a military perfectly regulated in keeping with a corporate empire that equates profit with power and actively promotes both without limit. The liberal state is no more.
For example, the War on Terror increased the Pentagon’s appetite for power and secrecy at the cost of environmental justice. According to legal scholar Hope Babcock,
“[O]ne response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 has been a significant erosion of basic civil liberties. Congress has given unprecedented power to the President and his law enforcement agencies to wage this war against terror….The military has sought, and largely received, permission from Congress to weaken environmental and public disclosure laws as part of the arsenal of “tools” it needs to fight this war.”
If weakening “environmental and public disclosure laws” is a weapon of war — then “destroying the planet to save it” is the outcome.
The Dirtiest Of All Dirty Secrets
This very big, very dirty secret — that war drives climate change — is carefully guarded. To keep things hush-hush the military is excused from oversight or obligation. This exception to the rule of law has always been the practice but G.W. Bush formalized it demanding language to that effect in the 1997 Kyoto Accords, which he later refused to sign anyway.
“The complete U.S. military exemption from greenhouse gas emissions calculations includes more than 1,000 U.S. bases in more than 130 countries around the world, it’s 6,000 facilities in the U.S., its aircraft carriers and jet aircraft. Also excluded are its weapons testing and all multilateral operations such as the giant U.S. commanded NATO military alliance and AFRICOM, the U.S. military alliance now blanketing Africa. The provision also exempts U.S./UN-sanctioned activities of “peacekeeping” and “humanitarian relief.”
The Kyoto exemption set the pattern for subsequent climate meetings at Copenhagen 2009, Cancun 2010, Durban 2011, and Doha 2012. In a typically toothless and incremental fashion the Paris Accords replaced the mandatory exemption for the military with voluntary reporting on non-binding goals, disguising further deception as progress.
Speaking of toothless, Obama’s much heralded 2015 Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gases specifically exempted all overseas activities of the intelligence and military agencies from having to report contributions to climate change or limit pollution. The military is responsible for 80% of all government fuel consumption.
The Democratic Party’s version of deception is the denial that anything can be done outside of stimulus for so-called markets. Obama’s support for alternative energy was a small part of an “all of the above approach” that provided cover for dramatically increasing oil production, and expanding oil infrastructure for an otherwise archaic and unproductive energy economy.
30 years of elite efforts to address the crisis did not capture the public imagination because they offered nothing of substance. Emissions only continued rising, as “Global Banks Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact.” Decades-old oil wars continue and expand as the US aims to capture and control Venezuelan and Iranian reserves with the backing of both corporate parties.
Trump seized on this record of weakness, withdrawing from Paris, rescinding Obama’s Executive Order and enforcing the Republican brand of total climate denial (a denial that even the oil companies and military they serve do not share). Trump’s climate death-wish is enabled by the failed outcomes of the non-binding agreements, exemptions and slick tricks like “all of the above” or Biden’s middle ground. These efforts will do nothing to “keep it in the ground” and that is a true measure of success.
Trump and the climate deniers so easily mock the liberal attempts at addressing the climate crisis because the liberals make a mockery of themselves.
In fact, US government is the historic agent and manager of climate change.
“In all past international conferences it was again and again the U.S. government that sabotaged the meetings and refused to be bound by any treaty. The Obama Administration on Aug. 27 again confirmed that at the UN meeting in New York in September to prepare for the 2015 Paris meeting that only a non-binding agreement could be put forward.”
And so the Paris Accords undermined themselves by design. From the first international climate conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to Paris 2016, we witnessed a series of performances by the most accomplished actors on the world stage. By every critical measure the elite climate meetings have failed — except they have succeeded in offering false hope and distraction away from the massive movements it’s actually going to take to bring about change.
These treaties did not fail for lack of an executive power to enforce limits on member nations. NAFTA, IMF, WTO, and the World Bank all create and enforce the rules of global corporate order by imposing international financial regulations and punishing all restraint of global trade. “Who elected the IMF to be the ministry of finance for every country in the world?’’ asked Julius Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania. Well no one, but that is exactly how the IMF operates.
On a twin track, the US government/military enforces the political rules of empire. The empire aims for total hegemony, known in military lingo as “full spectrum dominance” and will do whatever it takes to prevent the emergence of a multi-polar world. We spend trillions and kill millions policing the world.
But when it comes to climate change — where is a cop when you need one?
Well, there are far too many cops but they are busy enforcing the global order and a fossil-fuel economy that would collapse tomorrow if the true costs of oil and war had to be reckoned with.
Despite the fact that the recent UN’s IPCC report has succeeded in sounding the alarm that we have precious little time before irreversible climate damage, it also continues earlier UN shortcomings by not mentioning the military’s role in climate change. As bad a future as the IPCC report predicts, is it does not include military pollution in its calculations.
Naomi Klien’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The Climate fails to recognize the US government and military as a key player in the climate crisis. Why so? To accept government’s role would be to upend her claim that free-market fundamentalism is to blame and government regulation is to wish for. And despite all the good work done by 350.org their website hardly refers to government, let alone the military, as a source of climate destruction.
Disarming The Green New Deal
It is within this context of 70 long years of secrecy, special legal exemptions, deception, fraud, lies by omission, non-binding agreements — and the global role of militarism as climate crisis multiplier — that we can best evaluate the Democratic Party’s version of the Green New Deal (GND).
We owe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez our sincere thanks for bringing the GND to the world’s attention. The GND now has overwhelming public support and that is truly a great accomplishment. The Democrat’s version has many fine ideas linking inequality and social justice to efforts to fight climate change — and those ideas are all true. There can be no “just transition” to a new economy without security for workers and the communities most impacted by climate change. But in its current form the plan also uses the language of market solutions and technical fixes that sadly repeat the weakest features of failed climate “action” already offered by elites.
But most important, the Democrat’s GND — once again — omits the US government and military as a cause of climate disaster. The other — almost unbelievable omission — is the failure of the Democrat’s GND to explicitly call for dramatic reductions in the use of fossil fuels. In fact, the words “oil” “gas” “coal” or “fossil fuels” do not even appear in the final document that established the committee. It’s just amazing. It’s a dangerous replay of how we got sold the substandard ACA: take universal health care off the agenda from the very beginning and then craft a corporate “solution.”
The Democrat’s GND remains a vague non-binding wish. The 2050 deadlines are standard political dodge-ball. When faced with crisis, corporate politicians always want to ‘kick the can down the road” — postponing real action until the damage is already done and someone else takes the blame. Adaptation to disaster and management of the crisis rather than prevention of climate chaos is the hidden but actual program of the Democrat’s GND.
The climate committee lacks subpoena power and the ability to draft legislation as Pelosi and Pallone commanded. What then will it do? In keeping with other corporate-style plans it will likely only propose cosmetic changes to a social order that is no longer viable.
Given the far-reaching influence of big oil, the near total dysfunction of Congress, and the sharp divisions among Democrats themselves, the GND committee is likely to remain yet another exercise in fraud and deception. Republican members of the committee have terrible voting records on environmental issues and like some Democrats have significant financial connections to oil. The New Yorker reported:
“Forty-one of the House’s four hundred and thirty-five members have pledged “to not take contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industry…” But only one pledge-taker… is on the new climate committee. The rest, as E&E News reported, have fossil-fuel connections…”
Pelosi staffed the committee to kill it. Ocasio-Cortez was invited but chose not to serve. Why? Most likely she does not want to waste her time or spoil her reputation on a loser committee. Meanwhile we twist in the wind. Meanwhile 224 Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, voted to subsidize fracking and gas infrastructure, spending $580 million to open up new fossil fuel markets tied to the US as a rebuff to Russia. Russiagate and “security” trumps climate again. A real GND would ban fracking right now.
Like the Paris Accords, the Democrat’s GND is designed to fail us. All the decades of exemptions, denials, omissions and non-binding agreements gave the impression of action being taken. But they were all Orwellian theatrics scripted to distract from the vast consumption of fossil fuels and the military’s enforcement of a world order dependent on oil, gas and coal.
Ocasio-Cortez’s great contribution was to let the genie of the GND out of the bottle. It’s our job to make sure it never goes back in.
What is Viable?
The same historical context suggests that a program like the Green Party’s Green New Deal — the idea that inspired Ocasio-Cortez — gives us a real fighting chance because it accurately identifies the political and military roots of climate change. Such are the contradictions of the political crisis. A small, poorly funded and too often ignored organization like the Green Party is nonetheless freed by its independence to make a historic contribution to the most important issue of our time. Now, with Howie Hawkins the “Original New Green Dealer” running to be the Green Party’s candidate for President we can hope for a sharper public debate on climate change.
The environmental crisis is beginning to reconfigure political debate. Incremental change is no longer an option. This is precisely what happens in a revolutionary situation: prevailing wisdom and common sense are turned on their heads. Ideas once dismissed as utopian become the practical answer.
Threatened with climate destruction is there any real meaning left to the “lesser of two evils?” Do we vote for permanent damage in 12 years as opposed to 8? Wouldn’t that be so cunning and clever? At least you couldn’t be accused of “purity.” Even the arguments about “viability” — designed to silence dissenters — are being weakened by the obviously unsustainable form of government we now have.
What is viable? Any strategy, form of government, political party, or economic system that gives us a mere 10 years before irreversible climate chaos is not viable. Here is our paradox: watered-down programs like the Democrat’s GND is totally inadequate to the task at hand but may (or most likely may not) be politically “viable.” The Green Party’s GND — if enacted — would actually give us a real fighting chance against climate destruction but we are told it is not “viable” within the existing system.
Make your own judgements but make no mistake: the most powerful jury is not out; the verdict is in. Mother Nature has spoken: it’s the existing order that is not viable.