Saturday, December 27, 2014

Germans Ask; "Who is Pegida?"

Germany: Tens of thousands protest against ultra-right Pegida movement

 by Christoph Dreier - WSWS

27 December 2014

Thousands of supporters of the right-wing extremist Pegida movement gathered once again at a demonstration in Dresden on Monday. According to the police, there were 17,500 participants, 2,500 more than the previous week. While tens of thousands more demonstrated in several cities against anti-immigrant chauvinism and racism, leading politicians announced they would enter dialogue with the right-wing radicals.

The Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Western World (Pegida) called for a gathering in front of the Semper Opera in Dresden to sing Christmas carols. As in previous weeks, large numbers of right-wing extremists from across the country attended, carrying countless German flags from almost every German state.

Anti-immigrant and racist slogans could be seen on banners and placards. According to the police, the aggressive atmosphere at Pegida’s tenth demonstration culminated in an attack on an opposing protester who was taken to hospital with injuries.

In other cities where groups supporting the right-wing extremist movement have been formed, only several hundred gathered to protest. In Bonn, the demonstration was organised by a former official of the fascist National Democratic Youth (JN), Melanie Dittmar, among others. In Leipzig, supporters of the right-wing conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD), are planning demonstrations for January.

Tens of thousands took to the streets across Germany to protest against the Pegida demonstrations. In Munich alone, the organisers estimated that 25,000 people gathered in front of the state opera to protest against anti-immigrant chauvinism. Dresden saw a protest of more than 5,000. Further demonstrations occurred in Kassel, Bonn and Wurzburg.

While the counter-demonstrators expressed their genuine concerns about the march by the right-wing extremists, the organisers sought to avoid the central political issues and lead the protests into a blind alley. Churches, party representatives and organisations stated that the struggle against the right was purely a moral question, and portrayed the sudden emergence of Pegida as a spontaneous development.

In fact, the mobilisation of the right-wing dregs of society is connected with a deliberate campaign in the media and by politicians of all the main bourgeois parties. From the outset, the protests received overblown media coverage and were supported by government representatives such as interior minister Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union, CDU). Over the last week, representatives of all parties in parliament and numerous commentators expressed their understanding for the actions of the fascist mob and offered dialogue.

It is no accident that the demonstrations have been engineered in the capital of Saxony. The integration of the state government with the right-wing extremist scene is more advanced in Saxony than in any other German state.

Exemplary of this development is Steffen Flath, a former chairman of the CDU faction in the Saxony state parliament. Flath was a member of the CDU in East Germany prior to German reunification and is a speaker on behalf of the Christian fundamentalist organisation “March for Life,” which vehemently opposes abortion. Flath also has close ties to the arch-conservative splinter group “Action to stop the left trend … which opposes what it calls the “creeping Islamisation” of Germany.

Its section in Saxony was well known for its links to the right-wing extremist and anti-Islamic website Politically Incorrect, which now calls for the Pegida demonstrations.

Former justice minister in Saxony, Steffen Heitmann (CDU), declared as far back as the mid-1990s his “great concern for this, our western society.” In keeping with the Pegida demands, he stated, “Hordes of foreigners are endangering the right of Germans to realise their identity in some areas.”

The right-wing terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) was able to go underground for years in the Saxon town of Zwickau, relying on an extensive support network. There is considerable evidence that this network was largely composed of intelligence agents and police employees.

Acts of criminal violence by right-wing extremists in Saxony are regularly written off as non-political clashes. When right-wing radicals pursued a group of South Asians in the small town of Mügeln with the cry “foreigners out!” and attacked them, then Interior Minister Albrecht Buttolo called it a “scuffle which escalated.” Even though “right-wing extremist slogans” had been used, this did not mean that the crime had right-wing extremist motives.

But the judiciary in Saxony takes ruthless action against those who oppose right-wing extremism. When thousands of people demonstrated against a Nazi march on February 13, 2012, the police took brutal action against the participants. The state prosecutor then lodged charges against the anti-Nazi demonstrators.

Together with large sections of the CDU, the AfD also supports the demonstrations. The state chairman of the AfD in Saxony, Frauke Petry, announced a meeting with the Pegida leaders in January. “Others are speaking about Pegida, we will speak with them,” said Petry. “It will be an initial meeting to understand what these people want, and to exchange views without any obligations.”

Alexander Gauland, AfD fraction leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, was the first high-ranking politician to attend the Pegida demonstrations in Dresden last week. The former CDU politician described Pegida’s main demands as “things that one could sign up to.”

Gauland’s attendance at the protest, accompanied by a cabal of journalists, makes clear what the Pegida movement is about. The most backward layers are to be mobilised to impose Germany’s new aggressive foreign policy and attacks on social conditions against opposition from workers.

Gauland is in favour of this more than any other politician. Two years ago, in an article in the Berlin-based Tagespiegel, he proclaimed the Germans had a “troubled relationship with military force” and a “lack of appreciation for the German army.” The “pacifist obsession” had to be finally abandoned, he argued, in favour of participation in military interventions against Libya and Syria. In line with Bismarck, he declared that the decisive issues of the day would be resolved with “blood and iron.”

This programme is now to be implemented with Pegida’s assistance. In this, Gauland serves as a conduit between the openly right-wing extremists and the CDU. He is well connected in the ultra-conservative circles of Saxony’s CDU under Alfred Dregger, and maintains close ties to his former party colleagues.

The current state president in Hesse, Volker Bouffier, was state secretary along with Gauland at the end of the 1980s in the Hesse state government under Walter Wallmann (CDU). Today, he states that the Pegida demonstrators can’t “be labelled extremists.” Instead, they must be “taken seriously” and spoken to.

Yet the downplaying and embrace of Pegida is not confined to the right wing of the CDU. In the same way that all of the parties have been involved in the revival of German militarism, they are opening up to the right-wing mob in order to force through these policies.

The mayor of the Berlin district of Neuköln, Heinz Bushkovsky, defended Pegida and attacked the counter-demonstrators instead. It was entirely normal that people have fears about foreigners, and official politics had to take up these fears and concerns, the Social Democratic politician said.

The first Left Party state president, Bodo Ramelow, also spoke out in favour of dialogue with Pegida demonstrators who were motivated by the fear that immigrants would take jobs away from them. It had to be explained that such fears were unfounded, Ramelow said.

The support for Pegida from the media and politicians is directly bound up with the revival of an aggressive German foreign policy and militarism. As was the case in the 1930s, once again the preparations for war are being accompanied by the deliberate propagation of nationalism and racism and the building up of far-right organizations.

Why a Flailing Empire Wants War

The Empire is Crumbling, That is Why it Needs War

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

Last night, in Beijing, I sat in a historic Szechuan restaurant with a friend who happens to be a Chinese diplomat. We exchanged some stories, ordered food, and then, suddenly, my throat felt dry and my eyes got misty.

I bowed and thanked her for the heartfelt offer China made to rescue Russia.

Just before leaving my hotel, I read the news on the RT:

“China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in Yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.
‘Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation,’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists. China Daily reported Monday: ‘If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity.’”

By no means was I representing the Russian Federation here, in Beijing, nor was my friend representing China that night, at the dining table. It was an informal meeting attended by just a few friends, nothing more.

Not to mention that I am not really, ‘technically’ a Russian. Yes, I was born in Leningrad but almost my entire life I spent elsewhere… all over the world, to be precise. And in my veins, not that it really matters; it is also all confused… there circulates an explosive mixture of Russian, Chinese and European blood.

But lately, to be Russian, to me and to many others, is much more than just about blood. ‘I am a rebel; therefore I am Russian’, to paraphrase Albert Camus. Or: ‘I am Russian because I refuse to abandon the struggle.’

‘Ya Russkii!’ or ‘Cubano soy!’ It simply feels good, and makes one proud, and stronger.


The world is in turmoil. Like in the early 1940’s, something tremendous is gaining shape, something irreversible.

Almost all of us who have been analyzing the Empire fighting against the propaganda and nihilism it spreads, and its venomous tentacles extending to every corner of the globe, know that ‘appeasing’ Western imperialism is clearly impossible, as it is impractical, and even immoral.

Just as George W. Bush (clearly borrowing from fundamentalist Christian rhetoric), liked to say: “You are either with us or against us”. Countries are now evidently put on the spot: ‘they either accept the Western neo-colonialist doctrine’, or they get destroyed, one after another, as were Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

No logic can help, no negotiations, no international mediation from the United Nations. The willingness to compromise is mocked. Appeals for simple human compassion do not move the rulers of the Empire even an inch.

It is clear that the Empire is preparing for the final assault. It will not back down. It will attack, destroy and annihilate. No idea when, but it will. And it will happen sooner rather than later, and with tremendous force.

Some would ask, why now? Why is there suddenly such a rush to fight the final battle for the total control over the planet?

The answer is very clear: for the first time disgust with the Empire is widespread, and worldwide. Many people are getting cured from blindness.

The mask of benevolence and rationality has been torn off by powerful media outlets based in the countries of Latin America, in Russia, China, Iran, but also in North America where the independent media is playing an increasingly important role. It is not even a matter of some elaborate ‘objectivity’, anymore. To get things right, it is enough to call fascism by its real name, as it is sufficient to identify mass murder perpetrated by the Empire on all continents!

The mask has fallen and what is now exposed is horrifying: the face of a monster, with blood and pus, a greedy grin and merciless fangs. It is a monster that is still in love with itself, unable to see its dreadfulness. It remains proud of its fundamental religious dogma, which it often doesn’t even see as ‘religious’. It dwells on self-righteousness, and at the same time, on its twisted market-fundamentalist faith that everything and everybody are for sale. It is a monster full of complexes – both those of superiority and inferiority.

It is not a happy monster and the people it produces are mostly miserable, lonely and scared. But it cannot change, it cannot back-up, it cannot let go. It would rather destroy its children and the world, than to admit that it went totally wrong, for years, decades and centuries.

Now many people have had enough, and some have even forgotten how to be scared! And the monster knows it, and it is actually scared itself, of those who are not scared of it.

The voices of the voiceless are now resonating louder and louder – we make sure that they are!

Except in the countries where the intellectuals and ‘elites’ have totally sold out, like in Indonesia or Malaysia, the horrendous deeds of the colonialism and neo-colonialism of Europe and North America, are finally being discussed, analyzed, and understood.

And the monster, the Empire, knows that it is the beginning of the end.

It cannot live as an equal. Therefore, it will fight its final battle. It will try to win. Or, it will try to destroy the world. Because life is not worth living for it, if it is not in full control; if its God is not in control, if it is not perceived as the enforcer of the divine manifesto.


When I visit a barbershop in Beirut or Amman, and am asked ‘where are you from?’ (It used to be a painfully confusing and complex question to answer, just a few years ago), I now simply reply: “Russia,” and people come and hug me and say, “Thank you.”

It is not because Russia is perfect. It is not perfect – as no country on Earth could or should be. But it is because it is standing once more against the Empire, and the Empire has brought so many horrors, so much humiliation, to so many people; to billions of people around the world… and to them, to so many of them, anyone who is standing against the Empire, is a hero. This I heard recently, first hand, from people in Eritrea, China, Russia, Palestine, Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa, to name just a few places.

And that is why the Empire is now ‘in such a hurry’, unwilling to wait any longer, trying to provoke Russia, to bring it, metaphorically speaking, into yet another open epic battle, like the one that was fought in ancient times, on the thick ice, by Alexander Nevski.

The Empire is in too much of a rush, it is too scared to think, to understand, to remember, what every invader had to learned the hard way: Russia can be attacked and Russian people can be murdered by millions. There can be devastation and fire; there can be ruins, tears and graves, graves, graves… Mothers burying their sons, and sons returning back home, to only encounter ashes. But Russia cannot be defeated. When the survival of the world is at stake, Russia stands up, enormous, powerful and frightening. And it fights as no other nation can; it fights for humanity, not only for itself. And it wins.

When such a moment comes, there is only one possible way to defeat Russia: it is to destroy the entire world.

Are you ready for that, Mr. Obama? Are you ready for it, corporate America and Europe? Are you ready for it, Pentecostal Christians, Televangelists and other morally defunct beings?

Think twice. One more step, and you will find yourself facing two enormous nations, and dozens of smaller ones, ready to fight for the survival of a mankind.

Your only strength is in your weapons of mass destruction, and therefore in spreading fear. And most of your arguments have no foundations in truth, only in deception and lies.

This year, I witnessed your deeds in Iraq, in Eritrea, China, Ukraine, all over Africa and the Middle East.

This year, somehow, it appears that you went too far, that the proverbial drop has had fallen on Earth.

Stop! And stop torturing this Earth. Do not provoke, do not trigger yet another world war!

Stop, or there will be a fight. And you will lose, or we will all lose, but you will lose no matter what, because this time, Russia and China, Venezuela and Cuba, and others and many others, will not back down, anymore, while others will join.


Despite all of its terror, propaganda and brainwashing called ‘education’, the Empire is well aware that it is losing its grip on global power. And it is horrified, because it does not know how else to live, except with a whip in its hand. Planet Earth realizes that the ruler is sinister, ruthless and degenerate – some people realize it clearly using logic, others just sense it, intuitively. If there was really a global democracy, the people of our planet would throw the existing power structure straight to the dogs. But there isn’t, there still isn’t! Just look at the toothless, constantly humiliated United Nations. Almost everywhere, voting has become nothing more than an act of sticking a piece of paper into a box, and not much more.


The year 2015 is approaching. During that year, it will become clear who is fighting for the survival of our human race, and who is on the side of oppression, of imperialism, and of the Empire.

Next year, more and more countries will get destabilized or attacked. Perhaps millions of people will get killed, as they get killed every year, but most likely, this time, many more will. The ‘opposition movements’ manufactured by the West, as well as various Christian groups and other right-wing religious factions, will continue standing firmly on the side of imperialist oppression and market fundamentalism. Conservative petite bourgeoisie in the West and in almost all ‘client states’ will be battling to uphold their privileges. Fascist family structures will continue intimidating children and young people, preventing them from thinking, from rebelling and from living.

The Empire has many allies, all over the world, but most of them are of an extremely sinister nature. But their closest allies are always ignorance, servility and fear.

While our revolutions, the true ones, as well as the resistance and battles for a better world, are always based on knowledge, and in summary are nothing else other than an act of love.


The fight ahead of us will be extremely tough; it will be an epic struggle, involving great nation states, as well as groups and movements.

As the grungy Russian bear is being battered and provoked into a military conflict, great Chinese dragons are determined to form a protective circle, and this time, are declaring indirectly but clearly that they will come to the rescue of weaker nations attacked by the West. As even The New York Times reported:

“Mr. Xi did not mention the United States by name but took an unmistakable jab at Washington, saying, ‘The growing trend toward a multi-polar world will not change’, a reference to the Chinese view that America’s post-Cold War role as the sole superpower is drawing to a close.”

The goal is to never allow Western imperialism and colonialism to take control over the planet again, as it mercilessly did at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, at the cost of tens of millions of human lives.

After the centuries of plunder, rape and occupations, the West has no mandate to govern the world.

After constantly justifying and glorifying its terrible deeds, brainwashing our planet into believing that it actually brings progress and rationality to the savages (the rest of the planet), it cannot be trusted with ‘informing’ and ‘educating’ the people.

That is why we now have independent media, as well as powerful state-controlled media outlets based in the countries that are not willing to succumb to European and North American propaganda and indoctrination.

This media and education institutions should and will redraw the entire historical and contemporary narrative.

Some examples?

Instead of glorifying the wisdom of Founding Fathers of the United States, we should recall that North America was created on the unimaginable suffering of the indigenous people, on Christian bigotry and forced conversions, on genocide, and on theft of the land. And that it was not done by some new and extraterrestrial breed or race called ‘Americans’, but by the same European puritans and religious hordes that had already murdered for centuries, all over Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

‘New America’, both North and South, was predictably created on fear, violence and on theft.

We should recall the slaves who were brought in shackles from Africa. Most of them died when traversing the Ocean, women raped and humiliated, children raped and marked forever, men with their dignity taken away from them.

Women and young girls were then chained in the fields, becoming sexual toys for those ‘puritan’ white farmers. Men and children, at least those who survived, were made to work days and nights, until falling dead from exhaustion.

All this done under the shadow of the cross, progress, and ‘democracy’!

This is how America was built. This is the true story, the true narrative, of those ‘great beginnings of the land of free’!

And those theatres of Europe, cathedrals and churches, palaces and parks – all created from loot and genocides, colonialism and the Crusades, ‘military adventures’.

This is how the regime, how the Western establishment always functioned. Rape is love. Indoctrination is education and information. Fear is belief. Slavery is freedom!

Do we want this kind of world for several more decades, even centuries?

I am not asking Parisians, Londoners or New Yorkers. I am not asking corrupt businessmen in Jakarta or deranged preachers in Kinshasa, top military brass in Kigali or the murderous feudal lords in Guatemala.

No humanist, no compassionate human being wants this sort of shit!

And for the first time, people are not afraid to say it, or at least to hear it, or read it!

I am not afraid to write this. Are you scared to read it? I don’t think so.


The ‘peace’, we were told about again and again, is something that has to be achieved and upheld by all means.

But what kind of peace are we aiming at, and peace for whom?

The Empire want a ‘peace’ arrangement, in which countries like Cuba and Russia, Venezuela and China, just back down, give up, and surrender. That is not peace!

We are asked, ordered, to live peacefully in a world ruled by European and North American masters, as some slaves crawling in filth.

Are we expected to succumb to the one and only religious dogma on which this entire racist, imperialist and capitalist system is built?

What a prospect, what a peace!

To them, to the imperialist West, peace means only one thing: unopposed rule over the planet.

If one fights for his people, he is a terrorist, a bandit. Then, it is a war!

The Nazis called resistance fighters in Ukraine or France, ‘terrorists’.

The Israeli military calls Palestinian resistance by the same name.

The West calls any legitimate rebellion, ‘terrorist’. Even MRTA in Peru was a ‘terrorist group’; MIR resistance against Pinochet was ‘terrorist’. The mainly social movement in Lebanon – Hezbollah – is defined as ‘terrorist’, and so is the entire proud Eritrean state.

Shia Muslims are ‘terrorists’, because the West is supporting Sunni monsters in the Gulf.

Che Guevara was a terrorist, and so were Fidel and sub-commandant Marcos. So was Lumumba.

To the West, to its lackey regimes and NGO’s, true peace will come only if all natural resources were offered to the multi-national companies. All left-wing, Communist and socialist movements would be butchered, if Russia were to return to that humiliated and shapeless shit it was converted into, for a short time, under the sneaky and brutal alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, if China turned back to the Deng Xiaoping days of only providing cheap products, labor and almost no global fight against imperialism! If Venezuela was to supply crude and fuck its own people, as it used to, before the heroic revolution of Hugo Chavez, if Cuba sold its women and booze and cigars for a pittance, before its most dignified revolution took place!

‘Peace’ would be, if billions of miserably poor people were quietly and un-confrontationally dying in their slums, while the capitalists, preachers and landowners several neighborhoods further were enjoying their private clinics and private schools!

But such peace will never again be accepted!

To fight for a better world, and for the oppressed, is like writing a poem.

War is when you plunder and rape, when you murder in order to oppress, and to control others!

Peace can only be based on justice, on social justice especially; otherwise it is not peace.


Russia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fought for its survival on many occasions. Germans attacked it, then after the Revolution in 1917, the West Europeans and North Americans attacked, and then the Germans again. Tens of millions vanished defending the Motherland. Not one apology ever came from Washington or London!

China was forced open, humiliated, ransacked, including its capital city Beijing. Those who did it, the Brits and French, are now lecturing China about ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’. It is truly grotesque!

Look at the other nations that are now standing up against Western imperialism!

Iran, colonized, destroyed when it took a socialist path, and then infected by a Suharto-style maniac, the Shah, later attacked by Iraq, after the West had armed Baghdad.

Latin America – was ruined by colonial and neo-colonial expeditions, for centuries, reduced to nothing by the ‘Monroe Doctrine’, with death squads trained in the US; trained how to kidnap and torture, and how to rape children in front of their parents.

Should we go on? Korea: tens of thousands of civilians were burned alive by US troops in tunnels. It was one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind, aptly described by the most brilliant investigative journalist of the 20th century – Wilfred Burchett.

Indochina – 7 million were killed, bombed to death, or burned alive. Will we ever know how many? Vietnam is now an ally!

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eritrea…

Yes, this is our alliance. Some 2 billion people who are living in the countries that were terrorized, brutalized, reduced to ashes, but that stood again and decided to fight, rather to live like slaves.

These are all imperfect countries, but countries peaceful to the core, countries that exist mainly in order to improve the lives of their men, women and children… and those all over the world.

And look at the other nations that are resisting Western attacks – Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea – ostracized, surviving countless terrorist attacks, subversions, propaganda, and destabilizing campaigns. And then, when they mobilize, ready to protect themselves, they are designated, and defined as ‘hermit states’ or ‘beastly dictatorships’!

Who forced them into a corner?

It is all twisted. Never again! Enough!


Do you hear that silence, after the US decided to ‘normalize’ its relationship with Cuba? We all know why there is such a terrible silence, don’t we? Because we realize that, based on the centuries of US involvement in Latin America, this will be part of a new destructive tactic, a new attack: that Cuba may now actually be facing the greatest danger in decades! We don’t know exactly what will happen, but we are somehow certain, that something very terrible will.

Is the West going to manufacture a ‘Cigar Opposition Movement’ in Cuba? Or is it going to be yet another color?

2015 will see many battles.

But the most important first step has just been made.

China made a great symbolic gesture: calmly, respectfully, but decisively. The message is clear: “You shall not be allowed to destroy others!” Not anymore.

The Empire is decomposing; it is sick, unsustainable.

But it is also toxic, and its illness is contagious. Its propaganda is mighty and its dogmas are violent.

Let us make sure that it goes away, crumbles, step by step, without destroying the world, without dragging it into WWIII.

Let us unite, individuals and nations, movements and parties. At least until the most dangerous period passes.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Canadian Media Mendacity in Ukraine Reporting

The "Blame Russia" Mainstream Media Chorus over Ukraine as Viewed from Canada

by Roger Annis - New Cold War

Dec. 19, 2014

The Globe and Mail is the only newspaper in Canada spending time and resources to report from the war zone of eastern Ukraine.

Seasoned Globe reporter Mark MacKinnon has been in and out of there for many months. The newspaper published a substantial article by him in its Saturday edition of Dec. 6.
Shelling in Luhansk region early July 2014, 
photo RIA Novosti, Valeriy Melnikov

The article is a useful reference point for examining how mainstream media is presenting the story of the war in Ukraine to Canadians, for good and for bad.

Canada has been an enthusiastic partner with the United States and European Union in supporting the right wing government that came into power in Ukraine in February of this year, following the overthrow of the elected president. The new government went to war against its population in the east of the country (the region called ‘Donbas’) in April. That was its response to popular demands for more political autonomy and democracy for the region. Kyiv calls its war an “Anti-Terrorist Operation”.

Kyiv would have carried a war into Crimea as well, where opposition to the new government was also very high. But the population there took a decisive step to prevent that by voting on March 16 to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. (See my lengthy article of Dec. 10 telling that story.)

Canada has been supplying military equipment to Kyiv, and now we have learned that the first Canadian military personnel have hit the ground in Ukraine, in the form of a contingent of ten military police. Canada and Ukraine have signed an agreement providing for Canadian military personnel to commence a support role for the Ukrainian armed forces. The agreement is outside the framework of NATO and it explicitly states that is it not subject to any existing international treaties or conventions of war. Welcome to the new cold war.

[An abridged version of this article is published in Ricochet, a new, progressive media platform in Canada.]

‘We have no homeland’

MacKinnon’s article recounts the story of four families from the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine who have been displaced by the war. One family is near Kyiv in a refugee camp. It is enduring threats and harassment by right-wing paramilitaries who drop by regularly to tell the family members they are not welcome.

The extreme right does not distinguish friend from foe among those fleeing the war in eastern Ukraine. They are all ‘outsiders’ and should stay home. And if they are loyal to Kyiv, they should take up guns against their fellow citizens. It’s a cruel circumstance for the family because the male head says he favored the change in government that took place in Kyiv in February.

Another family has stayed in Donetsk and is living in harrowing circumstances. The woman family head says, “We sit in the house all day on the sofa and count the missiles as they fly over.”

A third family—a mother, grandmother and daughter– has opted to move to Russia and start anew. They have ended up in eastern Siberia, 9,000 kilometers away from Ukraine because there are promises of jobs and a roof over their head.

A fourth family, a single mother with two children, is living in Russia just across the Ukraine border. They are “well off as refugees go”, explains MacKinnon.

MacKinnon provides a sympathetic description of the families’ circumstances. He also describes their divided opinions on what has caused the catastrophe that has befallen their Donbas homeland. The title of his article is drawn from the lament by the head of the family stuck near Kyiv: “We have no homeland”. But the reader is left bewildered by it all. The scale of the catastrophe might suggest that a complex set of factors is involved. But MacKinnon has only one explanation: Russia did it. It goes something like this.

Blame Russia

The root of the story, according to MacKinnon is 80 years old, during the time of the Soviet Union under the rule of Joseph Stalin. “Ukraine is once more seized by a tumult largely made in Moscow.” So it seems the evil Russia is as omnipresent as ever in the life of Ukraine.

“It [the present-day conflict] began as a simple trade dispute and escalated into war.” We’re told that the conflict is “in response to a pro-Western revolution in Kiev [in February 2014]”. That is, the people and forces which opposed that change, including Russia, are to Blame. Russia, specifically, is accused of fomenting the opposition of so many Ukrainians to the authoritarian government that emerged from the ‘Euromaidan’ protest movement outcome.

The other party specifically named as at fault for the war raging in eastern Ukraine is “the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, a Russian-backed entity at war with the Ukrainian state”.

In case the reader missed the point of who sparked the war in eastern Ukraine, MacKinnon cites additional causes, including the “annexation” of Crimea by Russia in March and the declarations of independence by the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (provinces) of Donbas in April and May. Russian president Vladimir Putin inspired those moves by Donetsk and Luhansk, we’re told, by using incendiary language referring to the conflict region as ‘Novorossiya’, which roughly translates as ‘New Russia’.[1]

In the journalistic world of Russian “annexations” and “aggression” in Ukraine, most of the key events of the past year that have truly caused the political crisis are made to disappear, as if by magic:
  • The right-wing government that came to power in February following the overthrow of President Victor Yanukovych proposed a sharp rupture of Ukraine’s existing political and economic ties with Russia in favour of association with austerity Europe and dependence on the IMF for government financing.
  • The overthrow of Yanukovych was spearheaded by the cadre of the parties and paramilitary militias-in-formation of the extreme right. The extreme right paramilitaries have served as the shock troops of the war in the east because many of Ukraine’s conscript soldiers have been reluctant to kill or be killed.
  • The “Anti-Terrorist Operation” launched in April was Kyiv’s response to the demands of the populations in the east and south of Ukraine for more political autonomy, election of provincial governors and a halt to the rush into association with Europe (including the deep cuts to social services and to price supports for essential items that the IMF has demanded from the outset).
  • The people of Crimea were attached to Ukraine by a bureaucratic decision of the Soviet Union 60 years ago. Crimea became an autonomous region of Ukraine with its own regional, elected assembly. Decades later, it was the elected assembly that decided to organize the March referendum and a large majority of Crimeans voted to secede.
  • The government in Kyiv, located in modern and democratic Europe, has for the past six months been shelling and bombing the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine, including, as uncovered by Human Rights Watch and the New York Times, the use of cluster weapons. The bombings are destroying life support systems such as electricity, water, home heating, sanitation and communication. Kyiv has cut banking services, delivery of medical supplies and social service payments to the people of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Poof! All gone from the news. Such are the strident biases framing the entirety of coverage of Ukraine by mainstream media in the West. All of the above and much, much more are simply ‘disappeared’ from the news and from political discourse.

The argument that frames the media bias is that Russia’s actions have provoked the whole mess. Accusations of direct intervention by Russian troops into eastern Ukraine are regularly trotted out, sometimes accompanied by suggestive photos of military equipment on the move. The follow-up proof is never offered. Soon after, the next cycle of invasion accusation begins.

The true story is complex, but decipherable. Russia is a big capitalist country that has considerable economic as well as national security interests in preventing Ukraine from following the 11 other former countries or Soviet republics of eastern Europe that have joined the NATO military alliance and the European Union. (NATO promised to the crumbling Soviet Union that it would not seek to take advantage of the chaotic circumstances to expand eastward, but that was a commitment it never intended to keep.) But invading Ukraine? There is only one plausible case of direct intervention. At the end of August in the very southeast of Ukraine, a large-scale intervention by rebel forces dealt a crushing blow to the most geographically advanced units of the Ukraine army and extreme-right militias. It’s unlikely that such a blow could have been delivered without direct Russian assistance.

Following that decisive setback to Ukraine, a very unstable ceasefire was signed in Minsk, Belarus on September 5. The ceasefire was highly unsatisfactory and disadvantageous to the rebel forces because it left half of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts under Kyiv’s control. From there, Kyiv has continued its shellings of cities, including the two large cities of Donetsk (pre-war population of 900,000) and Luhansk (450,000). But that was the limit set by Russia. It decided it would not allow Kyiv to crush the anti-austerity and anti-NATO rebellion, but neither would it give free reign to a rebellion it did not control.

Otherwise, Russian assistance to the rebel forces in eastern Ukraine has taken two forms—it has provided life-saving humanitarian aid and it has refused the demands of NATO that it police the rebel movement into submission by preventing the movement across the Russia-Ukraine border of the considerable human and material resources that Russian citizens are providing.

The IMF and austerity Europe: A ‘nation-building project’

MacKinnon summarizes the new political situation beginning in February 2014 in these words: “Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea resisted the nation-building project under way in the rest of the country…”

Yes they did refuse the pro-Europe ‘project’, and for good reason. Economic association with Europe means the effective dismantling of much of the existing economy of the country, including in the heavily industrialized Donbas. An article in Business New Europe two months ago summarized the devastating factory closings already suffered by the communities and workers of industrialized Ukraine. There is much worse to come as the IMF oversees the scuttling of the trade ties and government programs that have shaped Ukraine for decades.

Ukraine’s workers and communities are not taking the economic dismantling lying down. Important protests against factory closings and against deep cuts to the social wage in Ukraine are on the rise. The country’s largest trade union federation says it will stage a general strike on December 23 if the government does not begin to heed its concerns. Unions are discussing with each other how to create better trade union coordination.

MacKinnon provides an historical sketch of Ukraine by way of explaining context to today’s events. The sketch becomes downright bizarre in its revisionist presentation of the German Nazi invasion and occupation of 1941-45 that laid Ukraine to waste. He writes, “The Maidan [the protest movement in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of Yanukovych] and the war in Donetsk and Lugansk are just the latest skirmishes in this long and often-violent clash [in Ukraine] over history. It’s an angry argument about whose grandfathers were on the right side of the Second World War, when Hitler fought Stalin in Ukraine.”

Huh? There was a “right side” and a “wrong side” in the war against Hitler and German fascism? Did Canada, the U.S. and democratic Europe perhaps fight on the wrong side? The reputations of those who collaborated in the Nazi slaughter of Jews, Poles, communists and other resistance fighters in Ukraine during WW2 are indeed, getting a renaissance in the new, right-wing Ukraine. And the infection is spreading.

MacKinnon makes another, odd reinterpretation of history in a Dec. 15 Globe article on the current political situation in Hungary. The article chastises Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-winger, because he is improving his government’s relations with Russia in an effort to rebuff the heavy-handed influence that the large countries of the EU and NATO are trying to exercise over Hungary. But MacKinnon neglects to mention Orban’s most egregious actions—the ideological drive by his party and government to whitewash the country’s World War Two collaboration with Nazi Germany and a related crackdown on progressive political movements in the country today.

Who is accusing Russia?

The ‘blame Russia’ scenario is universal in mainstream media, but it is very much at odds with the facts of the situation in Ukraine. Dispelling its ideological grip over discourse of Ukraine requires examination of the credentials of the accusers. It’s now official that the lead country egging the Kyiv government on to war—the United States—is a rogue torture state. That’s the inescapable conclusion of the report of the U.S. Senate released on Dec. 9. The Senate report as released to the public is a heavily redacted summary, 528 pages long, of the full report prepared by the body’s ‘Intelligence Committee’. It is primarily concerned with the fact that torture didn’t produce great results in obtaining information.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed has written a sharp reminder in Alternet that CIA and U.S. government torture practices have not ended under President Obama. He writes, “Much of the media coverage of this issue is missing the crucial bigger picture: the deliberate rehabilitation of torture under the Obama administration, and its systematic use to manufacture false intelligence to justify endless war”.

The Guardian reports that 20 European states are likely complicit in the U.S. policy of illegal detentions and torture. At least three NATO member countries are known to have hosted CIA torture centers on their territories—Romania, Lithuania and Poland.

The Canadian government is trying to evade the stain of association with the U.S. government and CIA policy depicted in the Senate report. Stephen Harper pronounced, “This is a report of the United States government. It has nothing to do with Canada.” But the record shows otherwise–Canada has a disgraceful record of complicity with the U.S. torture program in Afghanistan and in other countries. Its varied record of complicity in torture is detailed by Toronto Star columnist and editor Haroon Siddiqui in a Dec. 11 column, ‘Canada must own up to its complicity in torture

To this can be added the 2011 directive by the federal government to Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, that the agency may henceforth use evidence obtained by torture from foreign governments or police agencies to guide its work. (See also a recent article on this subject by Linda McQuaig.)

Coincidentally, the Globe and Mail is waging a laudable news effort to expose grim practices in Canada’s prisons, specifically the one called ‘solitary confinement’. A growing number of countries are cutting back or stopping the practice because it is known to destroy the psychology of the victim and degrade the humanity of the practitioner. That’s ‘torture’ by any reasonable definition, even if the editors of the Toronto Star chose to call it otherwise (“prisoner abuse”) in a Dec. 13 editorial. In Canada, the practice is growing.

One reason for Canada’s ease of mind in practicing solitary confinement is that, along with the U.S., it is not a signatory to the 1992 Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention against Torture (1984). Among other things, the protocol allows for international inspection of jails and other places of detention. (See a open letter on the subject dated Dec. 10, 2014 and addressed to the Canadian government.)

The solitary confinement policy in Canada’s prisons is doubly concerning because notwithstanding occasional federal government lip service to the rights of Aboriginal people—for example, the 2008 formal ‘apology’ for Canada’s racist and genocidal past policies–the jails are filling up faster than ever with them. A justice department report that the government tried to keep under wraps shows a 97 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal women in jail over the past ten years. Four per cent of Canadian women are Aboriginal, but Aboriginal women make up a whopping 40 per cent of women prisoners in the country. The editors of the Toronto Star call the situation a “blight” on the reputation of Canada.

Can we trust a biased media for anything to do with Russia?

The falsehoods or distortions in news reporting of Russia are not limited to the war theatre in Ukraine. Nothing can be trusted, it seems.

When Russia announced it was cancelling the South Stream natural gas pipeline that would run under the Black Sea to Europe, estimated to cost $40 billion, this was presented by much of mainstream media as a huge blow to Russia’s economic fortunes. Not only would the cancellation of the project diminish Russia’s prospects for selling gas, it would lose the $4 billion it had already spent to build it.

Mark MacKinnon reported in the Dec. 8 Globe that, “[South Steam’s] death leaves Mr. Putin’s energy plans in tatters and his country more reliant than ever on partners like China and Turkey. They are using the moment to extract better deals from the Kremlin, which can ill afford any more bad economic news.”

But the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, doesn’t see matters this way. He is angry at Russia’s decision and wants the pipeline to be built. EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic also wants South Stream to be revived, according to an in-depth analysis of the whole Europe-Russia natural gas issue published in Eurasian News.

Investment analyst Chris Weafer who advises clients on investment in Russia says South Stream was a “bad commercial decision” that Russia is better off without. A commentary by him appeared in the Moscow Times on Dec. 4. A similar tone, that Russia is better off without the project, is sounded by Binoy Kampmark of RMIT University in Melbourne.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Russia and Turkey for an alternative pipeline to South Stream. Chris Weafer notes that economic relations between the two countries are growing. Concerning the threat of more sanctions by the EU against Russia, he closed his commentary with some advice for Brussels: “Be careful what you wish for.”

As for the lost $4 billion on South Stream, the head of Russia’s Gazprom, Alexei Miller, says much of that can be repurposed for the alternative route that Russia is now planning with Turkey.

The growing military buildup in eastern Europe and against Russia to which Canada has contributed a warship, fighter aircraft and soldiers now sees Canadian ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine. It’s an exceptionally provocative and dangerous course that Canada and its allies are embarked upon.

The NATO imperialist countries are engaged in a political and military offensive in which ALL the peoples of the region–Ukrainian, Russian, Crimean and more–are threatened and already suffering. The international left needs to step up effort to provide all available assistance so that a common struggle for social justice and national and language equality can be forged. That should include opposing the economic embargos against Russia and Crimea.

Roger Annis writes frequently on events in Ukraine for Truthout and other publications. He is an editor of the new website, The New Cold War: Ukraine and Beyond. His previous article there is ‘The propaganda war over Crimea’s break from Ukraine, Dec 10, 2014.


[1] ‘Novorossiya’ is a term used for centuries, including long before Ukraine became a national entity, to describe the territory lying along the northern coast of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov (not including Crimea). Right-wing nationalists in Ukraine take great offense at the term, but it is a gross exaggeration to call usage of it by a Russian president as provocative and akin to supporting secessionism.

Kyiv Fascists Block Humanitarian Aid, Act Like "Renegade Gangs": Amnesty International

Humanitarian Disaster Looms in Eastern Ukraine as Food Aid Blocked

by AI

Pro-Kyiv volunteer battalions are increasingly blocking humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine in a move which will exacerbate a pending humanitarian crisis in the run up to Christmas and New Year, said Amnesty International.

“As winter sets in, the already desperate situation in eastern Ukraine is being made even worse by the volunteer battalions preventing food aid and medicine from reaching those in need. It is no secret that the region is facing a humanitarian disaster with many already at risk of starvation,” said Denis Krivosheev, acting Director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International.
“These battalions often act like renegade gangs and urgently need to be brought under control. Denying food to people caught up in a conflict is against international law and the perpetrators must be held to account.”

Amnesty International has received information that the pro-Kyiv battalions, which include Dnipro-1 and Aidar, have blocked aid entering territories controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR).

The Dnipro-1 volunteer battalion, along with members of Donbass battalion and Pravyi Sector militia, are reported to have blocked 11 roads leading into the DNR-controlled territory. They have refused to allow most aid convoys through, because they believe food and clothing are ending up in the wrong hands and may be sold instead of being given as humanitarian aid. They also insist on the release of prisoners held by the separatist forces as a condition for granting access to the humanitarian aid to the east.

Humanitarian trucks stopped in Donetsk by Dnepr-1 
Battalion Dec 14, 2014. photo Rinat Akhmetov Foundation

At least four convoys sent by the humanitarian foundation of Rinat Akhmetov, one of Ukraine’s richest men, were blocked on the roads leading to the separatist-controlled territory by the Dnipro-1 battalion last week.

After stopping one of the convoys Vladimir Manko, deputy commander of the Dnipro-1 battalion, told the Ukrainian media: “We don’t have any control on the other side. It turns out that we’re at war with them and we’re spilling our blood, but in the same time we’re feeding them.”

Over half of the population in these areas are now entirely dependent on food aid as wages, pensions and social benefits are not being paid regularly as a result of the conflict that began in May. The decision of the Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv to essentially cut off the region from the Ukrainian financial system in November is also contributing to the hardship of the local population.

An aid worker from the Luhansk Region has informed Amnesty International that Aidar battalion is also stopping and searching cars that travel from Starobil’sk to Luhansk and vice versa. Members of the battalion, which was previously implicated in arbitrary detention and torture, are reportedly stopping food and medicines getting through to the region.

The aid worker recalled a particular case when medicines for four elderly people in Krasnodon, who are suffering from heart and blood pressure conditions, were snatched from a bus at a checkpoint.

“Checking the content of humanitarian convoys crossing frontline is one thing. Preventing it is another. Attempting to create unbearable conditions of life is a whole new ballgame. Using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is a war crime,” said Denis Krivosheev.

The population of the region has suffered from six months of fighting between Kyiv-controlled and pro-Russian separatist forces. More than 4,700 people have died and thousands more live in fear of being caught in the crossfire or being entirely cut off from vital food and medical supplies.

Amnesty International reiterates its call for the Ukrainian authorities to reign in the volunteer battalions and to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who desperately need it.

* * *

See also:
Address of Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center on detention of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance, Dec. 14, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Condemning Police Critics After Targeted Cop Killings

Rot In the Big Apple: Bashing Critics Of Brutality Betrays Efforts To Reform Police

by Linn Washington Jr. - This Can't Be Happening

Last fall an apparently unbalanced survivalist steeped in anti-government paranoia murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper and seriously wounded another Trooper during a sniper attack. Recently an apparently unbalanced man with a criminal past murdered two New York City policemen as they sat in their patrol car hours after he allegedly shot a former girl friend.

Authorities said Eric Frien, the man now charged with attacking the State Troopers, acted out of anti-government beliefs to “wake people up” because he wanted to make a “change in government.”

Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who executed those two New York City policemen before he shot himself on a subway platform acted out of beliefs opposed to police brutality according to announcements from authorities based on Brinsley’s Internet postings.

Brinsley shot the officers as revenge for the police killings of Eric Garner in the Staten Island section of New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, authorities claimed, based on his internet messages. He reportedly rode a bus from Baltimore to NYC, authorities said. After shooting his former girl friend. In NYC, he then went to Brooklyn, where he randomly shot Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were on a temporary assignment there in a squad car.

The murderous act of the unbalanced Eric Frien, who is white, and the murderous act of the unbalanced Brinsley, who is black, however, have triggered starkly different responses from law enforcement supporters.

Few of those law enforcement supporters publicly berated the entire anti-government movement during or after the 48-day search that ended in the capture of Frien -– a manhunt that cost Pennsylvania over $10-million.

Yet, shortly after those brutal murders by Brinsley, many supporters of law enforcement unleashed a barrage of caustic barbs at the anti-brutality movement and persons targeted by law enforcement supporters for backing anti-brutality protests. Law enforcement supporters have been incensed by the anti-brutality protests that have roiled cities across the country during the past few weeks.

Those law enforcement supporters that linked the lone act of Brinsley to all critics of police brutality significantly did not link the lone act of Frien to all critics who consider government to be the enemy. While anti-brutality protests have been predominately peaceful although sometimes raucous, anti-government activism includes vocal proponents whose adherents have a long history of violent and often murderous attacks police and prosecutors, and even on the public, terrorism actions that have killed dozens, including children.


Ismaaiyl Brinsley and Eric Frien, two crazed cop-killing self-styled vigilantes, 
 two completely different responses from media and police defenders.
The starkly different responses from law enforcement supporters to these two recent murderous attacks on police in Pennsylvania and NYC make it abundantly clear that police defenders are not working to ensure that the American justice system is truly just.

Law enforcement supporters vigorously and persistently oppose both criticism of police abuses (criticism protected by First Amendment rights) and even the most limited reforms initiated to reduce police abuses -– even limited reforms that ironically would reduce the need to criticize the police. In 1992, New York City police staged a violent protest outside that that town’s City Hall in opposition of then Mayor David Dinkins' support of an independent civilian complaint review board to monitor abuses by police.

Law enforcement supporters consistently claim critics of police abuses are characterized by a blind hatred of all police. Supporters imply that this hatred is practically embedded in the collective DNA of critics. Yet, as one NYC activist noted on the eve of the 1999 trial for one of the NYPD officers charged with the brutal beating and broomstick sodomizing assault on Abner Louima:

“We’re not anti-police. We’re anti-police state.”

Anti-brutality protestors condemn the legacy of double standards under which authorities on the one hand will proclaim their allegiance to “law-&-order,” while on the other they will remain oblivious to illegal brutality by police. A 1994 report on police corruption in NYC stated police department supervisors encouraged a tolerance of unnecessary force.

America’s legacy of accommodation toward abuses by law enforcement was cited in an April 2014 report from the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee. That report, virtually uncovered by American mainstream media condemned excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, racial profiling by police and racial disparities in the criminal justice system among other human rights violations in the United States.

“The Committee is concerned about the still high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces...,” that U.N. reported stated. That report urged American authorities to prosecute “perpetrators” of police abuse -– a suggestion not implemented in the cases of Brown, Garner and other news-making police abuse incidents in the months following released of that U.N. report.

The conclusions of that UN report clash with views of law enforcement and their supporters. The head of the national police union, Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury, said “I don’t believe there are systemic problems in law enforcement,” during a recent “Meet the Press” television program. Canterbury also said, “We believe the existing system works,” countering criticisms leveled at failures of grand juries and police department internal investigators to hold police accountable for abusive misconduct.

Caustic criticism from some law enforcement supporters in the wake of the tragic New York City police murders have elevated the inane to the absurd.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, speaking on Fox TV, blasted current NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and civil rights activist Al Sharpton for having “blood on their hands” for the murders of the two NYPD officers.

Kerik linked De Blasio and Sharpton to Brinsley’s contending their criticism of ongoing police abuses was an impetus for Brinsley’s rampage. De Blasio and Sharpton (along with millions nationwide) have condemned the failure of a grand jury to indict the NYPD officer who killed Garner with a chokehold that violated NYPD procedures. The death of Garner was captured on cell phone video that ended with a NYPD officer smiling at the camera.

Kerik, it should be noted, is the former law enforcement official who served a short sentence in federal prison after he pled guilty in 2009 to corruption charges, including criminal conspiracy and lying under oath. Kerik is also the former law enforcement official (including a stint as head of NYC’s prison system) who pled guilty to ethics violations and paid $221,000 in fines three years before that federal guilty plea. And Kerik is the official who withdrew his nomination by then President George W. Bush to head Homeland Security because he had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny. His tainted past did not stop the law enforcement supporters at FOX News from giving him a televised platform to assault critics of police abuse, though.

Other law enforcement supporters repeated that “blood on their hands” tar brush theme advanced by Kerik. Those supporters included former NYC federal prosecutor and mayor Rudy Giuliani and current NYC police union head Patrick Lynch.

Giuliani harangued U.S. President Barack Obama and black leaders for stoking “anti-police hatred.” 

Giuliani, during his two mayoral terms, was dismissive of critics who opposed the assault on Abner Louima, the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo and a chain of other police brutality incidents in America’s largest city. A 1998 Human Rights Watch report on police brutality in America criticized Giuliani for his “persistent and seemingly automatic defense of officers accused of abusive treatment –- even when he lacked a factual basis to do so.”

Police union head Lynch quickly assailed brutality critics after the recent police killings – a contrast to his reserved posture expressed in the wake of the September 2014 police assault on a pregnant woman who was slammed onto a sidewalk belly first. That 1998 HRW report stated police unions in NYC have often been the “primary obstacle” to efforts at implementing reforms.

Critics of police abuses have long contended that too many police departments in America act more like occupying armies in poor and non-white communities than as organizations charged with protecting and serving the public.

America’s Declaration of Independence, issued in 1776, assailed the then King of England for having armed troops occupying the then America colonies. The Declaration pointedly criticized the King for “protecting [those troops] from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants” of the American colonies.

Writer Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant treasurer in the administration of Republican icon Ronald Reagan, stated in a recent commentary that the U.S. justice system is “no longer concerned with justice.”

Roberts argued that with the justice system focused on the careers of prosecutors, punishing the powerless and protecting the powerful “it is hardly surprising that police lack any concept of justice.”

Gorilla Radio 2014 X-mas Special with Chris Cook, Franklin López, Janine Bandcroft Dec 24, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

"Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Solstice, Greetings O! Returning Light in Desperate Times of Persistent Darkness," and welcome to GR's 2014 Xmas special. It's important we celebrate and acknowledgement Humanity's higher ideals, and potentiality now and then; especially because we spend most of our lifetimes enslaved to the basest of our species' instincts: fear, anger, avarice, gluttony, etc.

From the intimacy of our homes, and within our relationships at school, or in the workplace, tyranny is always either directly present or lurking, ready to spring from just below the surface of our everyday.

Listen. Hear.

So, tonight we'll commemorate our collective better nature by looking in again on Franklin López, the Puerto Rico-born and raised, now Canadian hell-raising anarcho-syndicalist, award-winning director of films featured on Canadian mainstream teevee screens and at online places like, GNN, Current, BET, and DemocracyNow!

Atlanta, Georgia's 2003's Emerging Artist of the Year, López may be familiar to most through the release of his 2005 video remix of Kanye West's 'George Bush Don't Like Black People' following the post-Katrina failures of both New Orleans, and the US federal government. He's also an artist, media activist, and founding member of subMedia, whose raison d'être is to stimulate "resistance movements that are working towards stopping the flows of hydro carbons, mineral extraction, natural resources and capital, through grassroots and underground organizing..." amongst other things.

Now, López is celebrating the release of the ' A Decade of Subversion' DVD. It's a chronicle of a "decade of flaming subversion..." and is "a loving collection of foul-mouthed anarchy."

Franklin López from San Juan, Puerto Rico in the first segment.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus author, and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our city and beyond there too in the coming weeks.

And; we'll have some Christmas surprises thrown in too. Like this, now traditional kick off for the Gorilla Radio X-mas Specials going way back, Ini Kamoze's 'All I Really Want for Christmas'.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: And now heard at Simon Fraser University's . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Homeless in Gaza: Dispossessed by War, Abandoned by Int'l Community

Homeless Gazans Dig for Memories

by Mohammed Omar - Middle East Eye

isappointment for desolate children in Shejayeh, east Gaza City, hunting for abandoned toys as the UN starts clearing the rubble after the war - See more at:
 GAZA CITY - Four-year-old Retaj Ayyad presses her 30-year-old father, Ayman Ayyad, to keep looking under the ruins of their home in search of her drawings, clothes, colouring pencils and teddy bears. All are irreplaceable but are now lost under the ruins of the family home, which was utterly demolished by Israeli military bulldozers during the war this past summer.

This is the first time since the conflict ended this August that the family has returned to their ruined home in Shejayeh, east of Gaza City.

They have to search by hand, having no heavy equipment with which to lift the rubble that remains after a bulldozer - part of a project under a Swedish-funded United Nations Development Program – helped to cleared the ruins of this and other demolished homes in Shejayeh, east of Gaza City.

Ayman eventually finds a bag of clothes, but the material has rotted after rainfall over the past few weeks. The discovery creates mixed feelings, and he wavers, unsure of what else he might come across as he digs.

“I am still looking for my belongings, clothes and furniture. For many months we have been given nothing like that from aid groups,” he said, raising his voice to make sure he is heard above the noise of the bulldozer, which continued to smash into rubble nearby.

“I am looking for everything I once owned. Thirty years of collecting things, the remnants of everything I once owned, have been knocked down in a matter of minutes," he said.

But now he has been forced to search for the simple things which can help him start his life again. He explained that the way he sees it, the international community has abandoned Gazans to cope with post-war reconstruction themselves and have offered no support.

According to the UN, the 51-day Israeli bombardment, destroyed more than 96,000 homes, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

In October, around 50 countries pledged a total of $5.4 bn in aid to reconstruct Gaza. The European Union member states said they would contribute $570 m to Gaza, while Qatar’s foreign minister Khalid al-Attiyah pledged $1 bn.

Yet the money has been slow to arrive, and even the cash that has come in, has largely not been able to get to Gaza, which remains under an Israeli blockade. It’s main route of entry, the Rafah crossing with Egypt, has also overwhelming remained closed, with only a small trickling of aid being allowed through.

Israel is concerned that building supplies will fall into the hands of Hamas, but international charity Shelter Cluster, co-chaired by the UN refugee agency and the Red Cross, said that at the current rate of aid delivery, it would take 20 years to rebuild Gaza.

“It hurts me to see all my assets in pieces. Nothing is left. It makes me wonder where are we heading and if, or when, we will ever see our homes built again?” Ayyad asked.

His children, two boys and two girls, have all been traumatized by recent events - a shock that is only further aggravated by them having to dig through the remnants of their own homes to find their precious belongings.

Retaj reminds her father that before the house was demolished, her mother had bought her new clothes for Eid. "I still want to wear them, daddy," the little girl begged.

Ayyad tried to make her understand that those new clothes had gone, buried beneath the ruins, but when he tried to explain why Israel had destroyed their home she couldn’t understand. She kept on asking the same question “but why?” but Ayyad could not find the words to explain something so difficult to the four-year-old/

Next to the Ayyad family in Shejayeh, stood11-year-old Salem Saed, who had also returned to the area to try and dig among the ruins of what used to be his home, or what he believes was his home before last summer. It all looks so different now that he's not quite sure he's really back.

The whole block of houses was crushed completely, and none of the residents are sure of just where their former homes now lie amidst the vast mess around them.

But everyone in a while, every once in a while a former resident strikes it lucky and occasional victorious shout can be heard ringing through to say that someone has found their old refrigerator a few hundred meters away, or has managed to pull out a toy, a photo album or a lonely piece of cooking equipment.

“I would love to find my bicycle or plastic car,” said Salem as he continued to dig amid the ruins.

Salem says he had to run with his parents and brothers into a shelter on the morning Israeli tank shells began falling around them. “We ran into Saladin school and had to leave everything behind,” he says.

When Salem returned, together with his 11 siblings, there was nothing to find except the burnt-out ruins of what used to be their streets, gardens and neighbours' homes.

After hours of digging with his 12-year-old cousin Ibrahim, however, the pair have found little. Only some old sweets that stood hidden beneath the rubble of what used to be a supermarket where they also unearth some melted chocolate, sticky candy and old jam.

Another cousin, Mahdi Salem, was also busy searching for his bike nearby, saying that he had grown tired of going to school without his bicycle, especially in this cold.

"God willing, I will find my bicycle. Part of me is happy to see the rubble of our old homes removed, but the other part of me is scared, because I remember the war that took it all away," he said.

Everything Falling Together While Coming Apart

Everything’s Coming Together While Everything Falls Apart: The Climate for 2015

by Rebecca Solnit  - TomDispatch

It was the most thrilling bureaucratic document I’ve ever seen for just one reason: it was dated the 21st day of the month of Thermidor in the Year Six. Written in sepia ink on heavy paper, it recorded an ordinary land auction in France in what we would call the late summer of 1798. But the extraordinary date signaled that it was created when the French Revolution was still the overarching reality of everyday life and such fundamentals as the distribution of power and the nature of government had been reborn in astonishing ways. The new calendar that renamed 1792 as Year One had, after all, been created to start society all over again.

In that little junk shop on a quiet street in San Francisco, I held a relic from one of the great upheavals of the last millennium. It made me think of a remarkable statement the great feminist fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin had made only a few weeks earlier. In the course of a speech she gave while accepting a book award she noted, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

That document I held was written only a few years after the French had gotten over the idea that the divine right of kings was an inescapable reality. The revolutionaries had executed their king for his crimes and were then trying out other forms of government. It’s popular to say that the experiment failed, but that’s too narrow an interpretation. France never again regressed to an absolutist monarchy and its experiments inspired other liberatory movements around the world (while terrifying monarchs and aristocrats everywhere).

Americans are skilled at that combination of complacency and despair that assumes things cannot change and that we, the people, do not have the power to change them. Yet you have to be abysmally ignorant of history, as well as of current events, not to see that our country and our world have always been changing, are in the midst of great and terrible changes, and are occasionally changed through the power of the popular will and idealistic movements. As it happens, the planet’s changing climate now demands that we summon up the energy to leave behind the Age of Fossil Fuel (and maybe with it some portion of the Age of Capitalism as well).
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Challenging the Divine Right of Big Energy

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: With this post, TomDispatch closes for the holidays. We’ll be back on the morning of Tuesday, January 6th, ready to roll into 2015. In the meantime, we wish you the best holiday season possible. I couldn’t end the year without thanking Managing Editor Nick Turse, who will help open 2015 with a new piece on U.S. special ops forces and continue his groundbreaking work on the American military in Africa and elsewhere on this planet. Thanks also go to crackerjack Associate Editor Andy Kroll who enters the last phone booth on Earth daily and emerges in his non-TD role as a super-reporter for Mother Jones magazine; to our social media director Erika Eichelberger, who strums Twitter like a guitar; to our never-miss-a-beat-or-an-error copy editor extraordinaire from Tokyo, Christopher Holmes; to our old buddy and techo-whiz Joe Duax; to the director of the Nation Institute (which houses this website), Taya Kitman, whose magic touch makes such a difference; and to that Institute wonder-worker Annelise Whitley. Let me not forget all the TD authors whose superlative work makes this site -- I’m proud to say -- something different in the online world. There’s also the amazing Anthony Arnove and the whole team at Haymarket, including Jim Plank and Rory Fanning, who make books that look like gems, and are giving meaning to my private dreams of DIY publishing by turning Dispatch Books -- including Ann Jones’s powerful They Were Soldiers and Rebecca Solnit’s indie bestseller Men Explain Things to Me (on every best of the year list in town) -- into a thriving reality. Finally, there’s Lannan Foundation, which makes it all happen when it comes to TomDispatch. Without all of you, I would be high and dry somewhere, wondering about the point of life. So a deep bow of thanks. You collectively make TomDispatch what it is.

Only one figure was left out of that last paragraph -- and that’s you, the reader. And yet without you, TD has no meaning at all. So my deepest bow goes to you and especially to the more than 120 of you who showed staggering generosity by contributing to our year-ending drive for donations. You’ve ensured that we’ll start 2015 with the kind of backing that should help make it a banner year! Of course, 2014 isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. If you still want to contribute, just check out our donation page where, for $100 (or more), you can get a variety of signed, personalized books, including my latest, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (which "Moyers & Co." just put among its top 20 of the year!). See you in January! Tom]

No one would call TomDispatch a traditional website. Still, we do have our traditions. Among them, none is more “traditional” -- a full decade old at a website that just turned 13 this November -- than having Rebecca Solnit end our year. Sometimes as the year winds down, she’s dreaming of the future, sometimes thinking about the past, sometimes focused on the last few seconds, but always, as was true from her very first moment at this website, she offers some version of hope in the face of a reality that others find almost too grim and obdurate to consider.

As this year ends, Solnit, the author of the 2014 hit book Men Explain Things to Me and an even more recent collection of essays, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, considers humanity’s latest breakthrough into the apocalyptic. She takes on climate change in a clear-eyed way without losing her sense of hope and purpose. As ever, it’s an impressive performance and a reminder to all of us that the future remains ours, if only we care to focus on what truly endangers us. Someday, those who sent the most recent rounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere utterly wittingly, with profits on the brain -- and I’m talking, of course, about the CEOs of Big Energy (and the various figures who run the energy operations we’ve given names like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and “Saudi America”) -- will be remembered as the greatest criminals in history, the true terrorists (or as I’ve called them, “terrarists”) of our age. It's one of the jokes of our time that we Americans have literally plowed trillions of dollars into what’s called “national security” in the post-9/11 years without seriously facing climate change, a phenomenon that, if not brought under control, guarantees us a kind of insecurity we’ve never known. Call it irony or call it idiocy, but call it something.

And let me end 2014, the year that revealed to all of us so much more about the hidden world of surveillance that is ours, with my own New Year’s wish: if I could be granted one relatively modest thing to end 2014, it would be the release from prison of former Army private Chelsea Manning and former CIA Agent John Kiriakou, and the release from exile of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. For their genuine service, for letting us know what no one else would about the nature of the American world we inhabit, they deserve so unbearably much better from this country than they’ve gotten. Someday, when those who jailed or exiled them are forgotten or scorned, they will, I’m convinced, be remembered as heroes of our moment. In the meantime, a guy can hope, can’t he? I take my hat off to all three of them as 2014 ends. Tom


Everything’s Coming Together While Everything Falls Apart: 

The Climate for 2015

by Rebecca Solnit

How to Topple a Giant

To use Le Guin’s language, physics is inevitable: if you put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the planet warms, and as the planet warms, various kinds of chaos and ruin are let loose. Politics, on the other hand, is not inevitable. For example, not so many years ago it would have seemed inevitable that Chevron, currently the third biggest corporation in the country, would run the refinery town of Richmond, California, as its own private fiefdom. You could say that the divine right of Chevron seemed like a given. Except that people in Richmond refused to accept it and so this town of 107,000 mostly poor nonwhites pushed back.

In recent years, a group of progressives won election to the city council and the mayor’s seat, despite huge expenditures by Chevron, the corporation that also brought you gigantic oil spills onshore in Ecuador and offshore in Brazil, massive contamination from half a century of oil extraction in Nigeria, and Canadian tar-sands bitumen sent by rail to the Richmond refinery. Mayor Gayle McLaughin and her cohorts organized a little revolution in a town that had mostly been famous for its crime rate and for Chevron’s toxic refinery emissions, which periodically create emergencies, sometimes requiring everyone to take shelter (and pretend that they are not being poisoned indoors), sometimes said -- by Chevron -- to be harmless, as with last Thursday's flames that lit up the sky, visible as far away as Oakland.

As McLaughin put it of her era as mayor:

“We’ve accomplished so much, including breathing better air, reducing the pollution, and building a cleaner environment and cleaner jobs, and reducing our crime rate. Our homicide number is the lowest in 33 years and we became a leading city in the Bay Area for solar installed per capita. We’re a sanctuary city. And we’re defending our homeowners to prevent foreclosures and evictions. And we also got Chevron to pay $114 million extra dollars in taxes.”

For this November’s election, the second-largest oil company on Earth officially spent $3.1 million to defeat McLaughin and other progressive candidates and install a mayor and council more to its liking. That sum worked out to about $180 per Richmond voter, but my brother David, who’s long been connected to Richmond politics, points out that, if you look at all the other ways the company spends to influence local politics, it might be roughly ten times that.

Nonetheless, Chevron lost. None of its candidates were elected and all the grassroots progressives it fought with billboards, mailers, television ads, websites, and everything else a lavishly funded smear campaign can come up with, won.

If a small coalition like that can win locally against a corporation that had revenues of $228.9 billion in 2013, imagine what a large global coalition could do against the fossil-fuel giants. It wasn’t easy in Richmond and it won’t be easy on the largest scale either, but it’s not impossible. The Richmond progressives won by imagining that the status quo was not inevitable, no less an eternal way of life. They showed up to do the work to dent that inevitability. The billionaires and fossil fuel corporations are intensely engaged in politics all the time, everywhere, and they count on us to stay on the sidelines. If you look at their response to various movements, you can see that they fear the moment we wake up, show up, and exercise our power to counter theirs.

That power operated on a larger scale last week, when local activists and public health professionals applied sufficient pressure to get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation banning fracking statewide. Until the news broke on December 17th, the outcome had seemed uncertain. It’s a landmark, a watershed decision: a state has decided that its considerable reserves of fossil fuel will not be extracted for the foreseeable future, that other things -- the health of its people, the purity of its water -- matter more. And once again, the power of citizens turned out to be greater than that of industry.

Just a few days before the huge victory in New York, the nations of the world ended their most recent talks in Lima, Peru, about a global climate treaty -- and they actually reached a tentative deal, one that for the first time asks all nations, not just the developed ones, to reduce emissions. The agreement has to get better -- to do more, demand more of every nation -- by the global climate summit in Paris in December of 2015.

It’s hard to see how we’ll get there from here, but easy to see that activists and citizens will have to push their nations hard. We need to end the age of fossil fuels the way the French ended the age of absolute monarchy. As New York State and the town of Richmond just demonstrated, what is possible has been changing rapidly.

Three Kinds of Hero

If you look at innovations in renewable energy technologies -- and this may be an era in which engineers are our unsung heroes -- the future seems tremendously exciting. Not long ago, the climate movement was only hoping against hope that technology could help save us from the depredations of climate change. Now, as one of the six great banners carried in the 400,000-strong September 21st climate march in New York City proclaimed, “We have the solutions.” Wind, solar, and other technologies are spreading rapidly with better designs, lower costs, and many extraordinary improvements that are undoubtedly but a taste of what’s still to come.

In parts of the United States and the world, clean energy is actually becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. The price of oil has suddenly plunged, scrambling the situation for a while, but with one positive side benefit: it’s pushed some of the filthier carbon-intensive, cutting-edge energy extraction schemes below the cost-effective point for now.

The costs of clean energy technology have themselves been dropping significantly enough that sober financial advisers like the head of the Bank of England are beginning to suggest that fossil fuels and centralized conventional power plants may prove to be bad investments. They are also talking about “the carbon bubble” (a sign that the divestment movement has worked in calling attention to the practical as well as the moral problems of the industry). So the technology front is encouraging.

That’s the carrot for action; there’s also a stick.

If you look at the climate reports by the scientists -- and scientists are another set of heroes for our time -- the news only keeps getting scarier. You probably already know the highlights: chaotic weather, regular records set for warmth on land and at sea (and 2014 heading for an all-time heat high), 355 months in a row of above-average temperatures, more ice melting faster, more ocean acidification, the “sixth extinction,” the spread of tropical diseases, drops in food productivity with consequent famines.

So many people don’t understand what we’re up against, because they don’t think about the Earth and its systems much or they don’t grasp the delicate, intricate reciprocities and counterbalances that keep it all running as well as it has since the last ice age ended and an abundant, calm planet emerged. For most of us, none of that is real or vivid or visceral or even visible.

For a great many scientists whose fields have something to do with climate, it is. In many cases they’re scared, as well as sad and unnerved, and they’re clear about the urgency of taking action to limit how disastrously climate change impacts our species and the systems we depend upon.

Some non-scientists already assume that it’s too late to do anything, which -- as premature despair always does -- excuses us for doing nothing. Insiders, however, are generally convinced that what we do now matters tremendously, because the difference between the best- and worst-case scenarios is vast, and the future is not yet written.

After that huge climate march, I asked Jamie Henn, a cofounder of and communications director for, how he viewed this moment and he replied, “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart,” a perfect summary of the way heartening news about alternative energy and the growth of climate activism exists in the shadow of those terrible scientific reports. This brings us to our third group of heroes, who fall into the one climate category that doesn’t require special qualifications: activists.

New technologies are only solutions if they’re implemented and the old carbon-emitting ones are phased out or shut down. It’s clear enough that the great majority of fossil fuel reserves must be kept just where they are -- in the ground -- as we move away from the Age of Petroleum. That became all too obvious thanks to a relatively recent calculation made by scientists and publicized and pushed by activists (and maybe made conceivable by engineers designing replacement systems). The goal of all this: to keep the warming of the planet to 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit), a target established years ago that alarmed scientists are now questioning, given the harm that nearly 1 degree Celsius of warming is already doing.

Dismantling the fossil-fuel economy would undoubtedly have the side effect of breaking some of the warping power that oil has had in global and national politics. Of course, those wielding that power will not yield it without a ferocious battle -- the very battle the climate movement is already engaged in on many fronts, from the divestment movement to the fight against fracking to the endeavor to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and others like it from delivering the products of the Alberta tar sands to the successful movement to shut down coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and prevent others from being built.

Climate Activism: Global and Local Movements

If everyone who’s passionate about climate change, who gets that we’re living in a moment in which the fate of the Earth and of humanity is actually being decided, found their place in the movement, amazing things could happen. What’s happening now is already remarkable enough, just not yet adequate to the crisis.

The divestment movement that arose a couple of years ago to get institutions to unload their stocks in fossil fuel corporations started modestly. It is now active on hundreds of college campuses and at other institutions around the world. While the intransigence or love of inertia of bureaucracies is a remarkable force, there have been notable victories. In late September, for instance, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund -- made fat upon the wealth of John D. Rockefeller’s founding role in the rise of the petroleum industry -- pledged to divest its $860 million in assets from fossil fuels. It is just one of more than 800 institutions, including church denominations, universities, cities, pension funds, and foundations from Scotland to New Zealand to Seattle, that have already committed to doing so.

The Keystone pipeline could have been up and running years ago, delivering the dirtiest energy from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast with little fanfare, had activists not taken it on. It has become a profoundly public, hotly debated issue, the subject of demonstrations at dozens of presidential appearances in recent years -- and in the course of this ruckus, a great many people (including me) were clued in to the existence of the giant suppurating sore of sludge, bitumen, and poison lakes that is the Alberta tar sands.

Canadian activists have done a similarly effective job of blocking other pipelines to keep this landlocked stuff from reaching any coast for export. One upshot of this: quite a lot of the stuff is now being put on trains (with disastrous results when they crash and, in the longer term, no less disastrous outcomes when they don't). This exceptionally dirty crude oil leaves behind extremely high levels of toxins in the mining as well as the refining process.

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported:

“The Keystone XL pipeline was touted as a model for energy independence and a source of jobs when TransCanada Corp. announced plans to build the 1,700-mile pipeline six years ago. But the crude-oil pipeline's political and regulatory snarls since then have emboldened resistance to at least 10 other pipeline projects across North America. As a result, six oil and natural-gas pipeline projects in North America costing a proposed $15 billion or more and stretching more than 3,400 miles have been delayed, a tally by the Wall Street Journal shows. At least four other projects with a total investment of $25 billion and more than 5,100 miles in length are facing opposition but haven't been delayed yet.”

The climate movement has proved to be bigger and more effective than it looks, because most people don’t see a single movement. If they look hard, what they usually see is a wildly diverse mix of groups facing global issues on the one hand and a host of local ones on the other. Domestically, that can mean Denton, Texas, banning fracking in the November election or the shutting down of coal-powered plants across the country, or the movement gearing up in California for an immense anti-fracking demonstration on February 7, 2015.

It can mean people working on college divestment campaigns or rewriting state laws to address climate change by implementing efficiency and clean energy. It can mean the British Columbian activists who, for now, have prevented a tunnel from being drilled for a tar-sands pipeline to the Pacific Coast thanks to a months-long encampment, civil disobedience, and many arrests at Burnaby Mountain near Vancouver. One of the arrested wrote in the Vancouver Observer:

“[S]itting in that jail cell, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. One that I was only partially aware that I have been carrying for years now. I am ashamed by Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty and our increasingly contemptible position on climate change. If these are the values of our society then I want to be an outlaw in that society.”

Making the Future

Just before that September climate march in New York, I began to contemplate how human beings a century from now will view those of us who lived in the era when climate change was recognized, and yet there was so much more that we could have done. They may feel utter contempt for us. They may regard us as the crew who squandered their inheritance, like drunkards gambling away a family fortune that, in this case, is everyone’s everywhere and everything. I’m talking, of course, about the natural world itself when it was in good working order. They will see us as people who fiddled while everything burned.

They will think we were insane to worry about celebrities and fleeting political scandals and whether we had nice bodies. They will think the newspapers should have had a gigantic black box above the fold of the front page every day saying “Here are some stories about other things, BUT CLIMATE IS STILL THE BIGGEST STORY OF ALL.”

They will think that we should have thrown our bodies in front of the engines of destruction everywhere, raised our voices to the heavens, halted everything until the devastation stopped. They will bless and praise the few and curse the many.

There have been heroic climate activists in nearly every country on the planet, and some remarkable things have already been achieved. The movement has grown in size, power, and sophistication, but it’s still nowhere near commensurate with what needs to be done. In the lead-up to the U.N.-sponsored conference to create a global climate treaty in Paris next December, this coming year will likely be decisive.

So this is the time to find your place in a growing movement, if you haven’t yet -- as it is for climate organizers to do better at reaching out and offering everyone a part in the transformation, whether it’s the housebound person who writes letters or the 20-year-old who’s ready for direct action in remote places. This is the biggest of pictures, so there’s a role for everyone, and it should be everyone’s most important work right now, even though so many other important matters press on all of us. (As the Philippines’s charismatic former climate negotiator Yeb Sano notes, “Climate change impinges on almost all human rights. Human rights are at the core of this issue.”)

Many people believe that personal acts in private life are what matters in this crisis. They are good things, but not the key thing. It’s great to bicycle rather than drive, eat plants instead of animals, and put solar panels on your roof, but such gestures can also offer a false sense that you’re not part of the problem.

You are not just a consumer. You are a citizen of this Earth and your responsibility is not private but public, not individual but social. If you are a resident of a country that is a major carbon emitter, as is nearly everyone in the English-speaking world, you are part of the system, and nothing less than systemic change will save us.

The race is on. From an ecological standpoint, the scientists advise us that we still have a little bit of time in which it might be possible, by a swift, decisive move away from fossil fuels, to limit the damage we’re setting up for those who live in the future. From a political standpoint, we have a year until the Paris climate summit, at which, after endless foot-shuffling and evading and blocking and stalling and sighing, we could finally, decades in, get a meaningful climate deal between the world’s nations.

We actually have a chance, a friend who was at the Lima preliminary round earlier this month told me, if we all continue to push our governments ferociously. The real pressure for change globally comes more from within nations than from nations pressuring one another. Here in the United States, long the world’s biggest carbon-emitter (until China outstripped us, partly by becoming the manufacturer of a significant percentage of our products), we have a particular responsibility to push hard. Pressure works. The president is clearly feeling it, and it’s reflected in the recent U.S.-China agreement on curtailing emissions -- far from perfect or adequate, but a huge step forward.

How will we get to where we need to be? No one knows, but we do know that we must keep moving in the direction of reduced carbon emissions, a transformed energy economy, an escape from the tyranny of fossil fuel, and a vision of a world in which everything is connected. The story of this coming year is ours to write and it could be a story of Year One in the climate revolution, of the watershed when popular resistance changed the fundamentals as much as the people of France changed their world (and ours) more than 200 ago.

Two hundred years hence, may someone somewhere hold in their hands a document from 2021, in wonder, because it was written during Year Six of the climate revolution, when all the old inevitabilities were finally being swept aside, when we seized hold of possibility and made it ours. “Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings,” says Ursula K. Le Guin. And she’s right, even if it’s the hardest work we could ever do. Now, everything depends on it.

Rebecca Solnit, who has ended TomDispatch’s year for years now, grew up reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s books. Her own most recent book is The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (Trinity University Press), and her 2014 indie bestseller, Men Explain Things to Me (Dispatch Books), released in May, is ending up on best of the year lists everywhere.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Rebecca Solnit