The Truth About Diego Garcia: 50 Years of Fiction About an American Military Base

Diego Garcia

Originally published on Monday, June 15, 2015 on commondreams.org

By David Vine

The U.S. military facility on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean represents a horrific example of the human costs of war and imperialism.

First, they tried to shoot the dogs. Next, they tried to poison them with strychnine. When both failed as efficient killing methods, British government agents and U.S. Navy personnel used raw meat to lure the pets into a sealed shed. Locking them inside, they gassed the howling animals with exhaust piped in from U.S. military vehicles. Then, setting coconut husks ablaze, they burned the dogs’ carcasses as their owners were left to watch and ponder their own fate.

The truth about the U.S. military base on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is often hard to believe. It would be easy enough to confuse the real story with fictional accounts of the island found in the Transformers movies, on the television series24, and in Internet conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

While the grim saga of Diego Garcia frequently reads like fiction, it has proven all too real for the people involved. It’s the story of a U.S. military base built on a series of real-life fictions told by U.S. and British officials over more than half a century. The central fiction is that the U.S. built its base on an “uninhabited” island. That was “true” only because the indigenous people were secretly exiled from the Chagos Archipelago when the base was built. Although their ancestors had lived there since the time of the American Revolution, Anglo-American officials decided, as one wrote, to “maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos [were] not a permanent or semi-permanent population,” but just “transient contract workers.” The same official summed up the situation bluntly: “We are able to make up the rules as we go along.”

And so they did: between 1968 and 1973, American officials conspired with their British colleagues to remove the Chagossians, carefully hiding their expulsion from Congress, Parliament, the U.N., and the media. During the deportations, British agents and members of a U.S. Navy construction battalion rounded up and killed all those pet dogs. Their owners were then deported to the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, 1,200 miles from their homeland, where they received no resettlement assistance. More than 40 years after their expulsion, Chagossians generally remain the poorest of the poor in their adopted lands, struggling to survive in places that outsiders know as exotic tourist destinations.

During the same period, Diego Garcia became a multi-billion-dollar Navy and Air Force base and a central node in U.S. military efforts to control the Greater Middle East and its oil and natural gas supplies. The base, which few Americans are aware of, is more important strategically and more secretive than the U.S. naval base-cum-prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Unlike Guantánamo, no journalist has gotten more than a glimpse of Diego Garcia inmore than 30 years. And yet, it has played a key role in waging the Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and the current bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Following years of reports that the base was a secret CIA “black site” for holding terrorist suspects and years of denials by U.S. and British officials, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic finally fessed up in 2008. “Contrary to earlier explicit assurances,” said Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Diego Garcia had indeed played at least some role in the CIA’s secret “rendition” program.

Last year, British officials claimed that flight log records, which might have shed light on those rendition operations, were “incomplete due to water damage” thanks to “extremely heavy weather in June 2014.” A week later, they suddenly reversed themselves, saying that the “previously wet paper records have been dried out.” Two months later, they insisted the logs had not dried out at all and were “damaged to the point of no longer being useful.” Except that the British government’s own weather data indicates that June 2014 was anunusually dry month on Diego Garcia. A legal rights advocate said British officials “could hardly be less credible if they simply said ‘the dog ate my homework.’”

And these are just a few of the fictions underlying the base that occupies the Chagossians’ former home and that the U.S. military has nicknamed the “Footprint of Freedom.” After more than four decades of exile, however, with a Chagossian movement to return to their homeland growing, the fictions of Diego Garcia may finally be crumbling.

No “Tarzans”

The story of Diego Garcia begins in the late eighteenth century. At that time, enslaved peoples from Africa, brought to work on Franco-Mauritian coconut plantations, became the first settlers in the Chagos Archipelago. Following emancipation and the arrival of indentured laborers from India, a diverse mixture of peoples created a new society with its own language, Chagos Kreol. They called themselves the Ilois — the Islanders.

While still a plantation society, the archipelago, by then under British colonial control, provided a secure life featuring universal employment and numerous social benefits on islands described by many as idyllic. “That beautiful atoll of Diego Garcia, right in the middle of the ocean,” is how Stuart Barber described it in the late 1950s. A civilian working for the U.S. Navy, Barber would become the architect of one of the most powerful U.S. military bases overseas.

Amid Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, Barber and other officials were concerned that there was almost no U.S. military presence in and around the Indian Ocean. Barber noted that Diego Garcia’s isolation — halfway between Africa and Indonesia and 1,000 miles south of India — ensured that it would be safe from attack, yet was still within striking distance of territory from southern Africa and the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia.

Guided by Barber’s idea, the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson convinced the British government to detach the Chagos Archipelago from colonial Mauritius and create a new colony, which they called the British Indian Ocean Territory. Its sole purpose would be to house U.S. military facilities.

During secret negotiations with their British counterparts, Pentagon and State Department officials insisted that Chagos come under their “exclusive control (without local inhabitants),” embedding an expulsion order in a polite-looking parenthetical phrase. U.S. officials wanted the islands “swept” and “sanitized.” British officials appeared happy to oblige, removing a people one official called “Tarzans” and, in a racist reference toRobinson Crusoe, “Man Fridays.”

“Absolutely Must Go”

This plan was confirmed with an “exchange of notes” signed on December 30, 1966, by U.S. and British officials, as one of the State Department negotiators told me, “under the cover of darkness.” The notes effectively constituted a treaty but required no Congressional or Parliamentary approval, meaning that both governments could keep their plans hidden.

According to the agreement, the United States would gain use of the new colony “without charge.” This was another fiction. In confidential minutes, the United States agreed to secretly wipe out a $14 million British military debt, circumventing the need to ask Congress for funding. In exchange, the British agreed to take the “administrative measures” necessary for “resettling the inhabitants.”

Those measures meant that, after 1967, any Chagossians who left home for medical treatment or a routine vacation in Mauritius were barred from returning. Soon, British officials began restricting the flow of food and medical supplies to Chagos. As conditions deteriorated, more islanders began leaving. By 1970, the U.S. Navy had secured funding for what officials told Congress would be an “austere communications station.” They were, however, already planning to ask for additional funds to expand the facility into a much larger base. As the Navy’s Office of Communications and Cryptology explained, “The communications requirements cited as justification are fiction.” By the 1980s, Diego Garcia would become a billion-dollar garrison.

In briefing papers delivered to Congress, the Navy described Chagos’s population as “negligible,” with the islands “for all practical purposes… uninhabited.” In fact, there were around 1,000 people on Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 500 to 1,000 more on other islands in the archipelago. With Congressional funds secured, the Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, summed up the Chagossians’ fate in a 1971 memo of exactly three words: “Absolutely must go.”

The authorities soon ordered the remaining Chagossians — generally allowed no more than a single box of belongings and a sleeping mat — onto overcrowded cargo ships destined for Mauritius and the Seychelles. By 1973, the last Chagossians were gone.

“Abject Poverty”

At their destinations, most of the Chagossians were literally left on the docks, homeless, jobless, and with little money. In 1975, two years after the last removals, a Washington Postreporter found them living in “abject poverty.”

Aurélie Lisette Talate was one of the last to go. “I came to Mauritius with six children and my mother,” she told me. “We got our house… but the house didn’t have a door, didn’t have running water, didn’t have electricity. And then my children and I began to suffer. All my children started getting sick.”

Within two months, two of her children were dead. The second was buried in an unmarked grave because she lacked money for a proper burial. Aurélie experienced fainting spells herself and couldn’t eat. “We were living like animals. Land? We had none… Work? We had none. Our children weren’t going to school.”

Today, most Chagossians, who now number more than 5,000, remain impoverished. In their language, their lives are ones of lamizer(impoverished misery) and sagren (profound sorrow and heartbreak over being exiled from their native lands). Many of the islanders attribute sickness and even death to sagren. “I had something that had been affecting me for a long time, since we were uprooted,” was the way Aurélie explained it to me. “This sagren, this shock, it was this same problem that killed my child. We weren’t living free like we did in our natal land.”

Struggling for Justice

From the moment they were deported, the Chagossians demanded to be returned or at least properly resettled. After years of protest, including five hunger strikes led by women like Aurélie Talate, some in Mauritius received the most modest of compensation from the British government: small concrete houses, tiny plots of land, and about $6,000 per adult. Many used the money to pay off large debts they had accrued. For most, conditions improved only marginally. Those living in the Seychelles received nothing.

The Chagossian struggle was reinvigorated in 1997 with the launching of a lawsuit against the British government. In November 2000, the British High Court ruled the removal illegal. In 2001 and 2002, most Chagossians joined new lawsuits in both American and British courts demanding the right to return and proper compensation for their removal and for resettling their islands. The U.S. suit was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the judiciary can’t, in most circumstances, overrule the executive branch on matters of military and foreign policy. In Britain, the Chagossians were more successful. In 2002, they secured the right to full U.K. citizenship. Over 1,000 Chagossians have since moved to Britain in search of better lives. Twice more, British courts ruled in the people’s favor, with judges calling the government’s behavior “repugnant” and an “abuse of power.”

On the government’s final appeal, however, Britain’s then highest court, the Law Lords in the House of Lords, upheld the exile in a 3-2 decision. The Chagossians appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling.

A Green Fiction

Before the European Court could rule, the British government announced the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago. The date of the announcement, April Fool’s Day 2010, should have been a clue that there was more than environmentalism behind the move. The MPA banned commercial fishing and limited other human activity in the archipelago, endangering the viability of any resettlement efforts.

And then came WikiLeaks. In December 2010, it released a State Department cable from the U.S. Embassy in London quoting a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official saying that the “former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” U.S. officials agreed. According to the Embassy, Political Counselor Richard Mills wrote, “Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed… be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling.”

Not surprisingly, the main State Department concern was whether the MPA would affect base operations. “We are concerned,” the London Embassy noted, that some “would come to see the existence of a marine reserve as inherently inconsistent with the military use of Diego Garcia.” British officials assured the Americans there would be “no constraints on military operations.”

Although the European Court of Human Rights ultimately ruled against the Chagossians in 2013, this March, a U.N. tribunal found that the British government had violated international law in creating the Marine Protected Area. Next week, Chagossians will challenge the MPA and their expulsion before the British Supreme Court (now Britain’s highest) armed with the U.N. ruling and revelations that the government won its House of Lords decision with the help of a fiction-filled resettlement study.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the Chagossians’ return, the African Union has condemned their deportation as unlawful, three Nobel laureates have spoken out on their behalf, and dozens of members of the British Parliament have joined a group supporting their struggle. In January, a British government “feasibility study” found no significant legal barriers to resettling the islands and outlined several possible resettlement plans, beginning with Diego Garcia. (Notably, Chagossians are not calling for the removal of the U.S. military base. Their opinions about it are diverse and complicated. At least some would prefer jobs on the base to lives of poverty and unemployment in exile.)

Of course, no study was needed to know that resettlement on Diego Garcia and in the rest of the archipelago is feasible. The base, which has hosted thousands of military and civilian personnel for more than 40 years, has demonstrated that well enough. In fact, Stuart Barber, its architect, came to the same conclusion in the years before his death. After he learned of the Chagossians’ fate, he wrote a series of impassioned letters to Human Rights Watch and the British Embassy in Washington, among others, imploring them to help the Chagossians return home. In a letter to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, he said bluntly that the expulsion “wasn’t necessary militarily.”

In a 1991 letter to the Washington Post, Barber suggested that it was time “to redress the inexcusably inhuman wrongs inflicted by the British at our insistence.” He added, “Substantial additional compensation for 18-25 past years of misery for all evictees is certainly in order. Even if that were to cost $100,000 per family, we would be talking of a maximum of $40-50 million, modest compared with our base investment there.”

Almost a quarter-century later, nothing has yet been done. In 2016, the initial 50-year agreement for Diego Garcia will expire. While it is subject to an automatic 20-year renewal, it provides for a two-year renegotiation period, which commenced in late 2014. With momentum building in support of the Chagossians, they are optimistic that the two governments will finally correct this historic injustice. That U.S. officials allowed the British feasibility study to consider resettlement plans for Diego Garcia is a hopeful sign that Anglo-American policy may finally be shifting to right a great wrong in the Indian Ocean.

Unfortunately, Aurélie Talate will never see the day when her people go home. Like others among the rapidly dwindling number of Chagossians born in the archipelago, Aurélie died in 2012 at age 70, succumbing to the heartbreak that is sagren.


 

David Vine, a TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. His latest book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, is part of the American Empire Project(Metropolitan Books). He is also the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications. For more of his writing, visit www.davidvine.net.

Islanders Unite to Resist a New Pacific War

The U.S. military's "Pacific Pivot" is bringing grave environmental, political and economic crises to Asia-Pacific islanders.

The U.S. military’s “Pacific Pivot” is bringing grave environmental, political and economic crises to Asia-Pacific islanders.

by Koohan Paik

Last September, I attended a remarkable gathering in Okinawa of impassioned young people from all over the Asia-Pacific. They convened at a critical moment to urgently discuss ramped-up militarism in their region. Thousands of hectares of exquisitely wild marine environments, peaceful communities and local democracy are now under extreme threat. Participants hailed from: Taiwan; Jeju (South Korea); the Japanese Ryukyu islands; Indonesia; New Zealand; and the Japanese Ogasawara islands. I was invited to represent Hawaii, where the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command (PACCOM) are located, and where decisions are made that have profound consequences for these young activists, and the rest of the world. These include missile base-building on pristine islands, rampant navy war games that destroy coastlines, reefs and other vital ecosystems, not to mention adding to climate change, pursued with no regard for local opinion.

It’s all a result of the “Pacific Pivot,” announced by President Obama in 2011, to move 60% of U.S. Navy and Air Force resources from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. The stated goal is to maintain “balance” in the ongoing battle with China for regional military and economic hegemony. A particularly dangerous expression in this effort came a few weeks ago, when a U.S. missile-carrying warship challenged China by passing through disputed waters surrounding China’s artificial island bases in the South China Sea. It is the latest example of brinkmanship after years of provocative moves by the U.S. in the so-called interest of balance. But, the grim fact is there is no balance in the Pacific. The little publicized reality is that the United States, located thousands of miles from China’s coast, already maintains over 400 military installations and 155,000 troops in that part of the world. Meanwhile China, even with its newest artificial island-bases in the South China Sea, will have a grand total fewer than ten.

At the conference, entitled “Peace for the Sea Camp” it was noted that one of the most destructive developments has been Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s 2015 campaign to forge a new network of aggressive bilateral agreements with militaries from other countries such as South Korea, the Philippines, Australia — and most insidiously, Japan — to augment American dominance. These alliances are reinforced economically by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an essential component of the fool’s endeavor to contain China within its own hemisphere. However, no one at the conference took sides with one hegemon or the other. China was also criticized for having smothered thousands of acres of healthy reef with concrete and crushed coral, to build its artificial islands. To be sure, one of the primary purposes of the gathering was to establish a global voice against all military desecration of islands and the seas. Here’s the full story on the crisis and resistance.

Outsourcing Military Force

A seismic event took place on the first day of the conference that underscored the gathering with new urgency. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had managed to push through highly unpopular legislation to disempower Japan’s “peace constitution,” implemented in 1947 by General Douglas MacArthur. Abe acheiieved this despite 100,000 protestors shouting “NO WAR” for weeks in front of the Japanese Diet. The following day, Abe’s public approval rating plummeted to 38.9 percent. Now, Japan’s military is permitted to act offensively, no longer only in self-defense mode. It can also surveil other countries for the first time in modern history, and establish a global arms industry (imagine, Honda-quality drones and tanks). According to a Pentagon official, this will give Japan “greater global presence.” According to The Nation’s Tim Shorrock, it will turn Japan into America’s proxy army in Asia.

China is correct to view the watered-down constitution as yet another provocation, especially since it has cleared the way for a turbo-charged reworking of the 64-year-old U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to take effect. The revised treaty essentially encourages Japanese aggression toward its neighbors — a 20th century scenario that Asia-Pacific people do not want to relive. For them, Abe’s politics are like a zombie risen from the dead. Since taking office in 2012, Abe has boosted the military budget, taken an aggressive stance toward China and has also denied Japan’s role in forcing hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slavery for its troops during World War II. He is the perfect, barbaric accomplice to carry out the Pentagon’s audacious designs on Asia.

For islanders like those at the Okinawa conference who live on the front lines of this new world, the new treaty poses immediate threat. It allows four lovely islands in the Ryukyu archipelago to be transformed into state-of-the-art military bases — with missiles pointed at China. It’s a way the U.S. can “outsource” base-building to client states like, in this case, Japan.

Outsourcing base-building is a fairly new Pentagon strategy. It came about partially due to the U.S. wearying of growing global disgust with its foreign basing. For example, the routine protests of tens of thousands of intractable Okinawans has already succeeded in stalling new base construction there for the past 20 years — a big headache for the Pentagon. The solution, surrogate base-building, is also an enormous cost-saving measure. For example, the construction of the Jeju naval base is South Korean in name, but it fulfills the Pentagon’s directive to contain China. It will also port U.S. aircraft carriers, attack submarines and Aegis-missile carrying destroyers. Because the base is “officially” South Korean, costs are externalized — of construction, of environmental responsibility, and of policing eight years of still ongoing protests. Now four Japanese Ryukyu islands will also be put to service to menace China — at no direct expense to the U.S.

The Ryukyu basing project, now under construction, would not have been able to move forward without the culmination of a longstanding collaboration between the U.S. and Japan to finalize three milestones during 2015. The milestones, which work together symbiotically, are: 1) Disabling Japan’s pacifist Constitution; 2) Beefing up of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty; and 3) Reaching a TPP agreement which would work hand-in-glove with military force to pair economic dominance with military hegemony. More on this later.

Environmental Impacts

The Ryukyu Islands stretch like a strand of emeralds 900 miles south from mainland Japan to Taiwan. They are rich with crystalline rivers, vital reefs, and endemic flora and fauna. The Japanese people, still coping with the post-apocalyptic effects of a triple-reactor meltdown at Fukushima, understandably celebrate the Ryukus (those which are still pristine) as priceless natural treasures. But alas, Japan’s government has begun carving up mountains, dredging coral and bulldozing forests in order to rapidly build the massive, multi-island military infrastructure. To witness the lush habitats of hundreds of remarkable species ripped off the face of the Earth is a sobering spectacle, equivalent to the Taliban blasting away the 1,700-year-old Buddha statues carved into Afghan cliffs.

Though the bases would be Japanese in jurisdiction, their function would be essentially American. They are intended to extend the encirclement of China started by South Korea’s Jeju base and those on Okinawa. Three lush, wondrous islands — Amami-Oshima, Miyakojima, and Ishigaki — are now slated for missile-launching capability and live-fire training ranges. On Yonaguni, so far south it is only 69 miles from Taiwan, the plan is to build microwave radar antennas to spy on China — an activity that would have been illegal before the implementation of the new constitution. Yonaguni residents are not happy. “There’s a lot of worry that the island could become a target for attack if a base is built there,” a Japanese defense ministry official told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Oddly, the defense ministry first revealed the base construction plans directly to the national media, but not to the island residents. Mayumi Arata, a respected elder of Amami-Oshima, the most northerly island slated for construction, said the only information that people were given was a 15-minute talk by a government official in July 2014. The bureaucrat said troops would be stationed on the island. Nothing was ever mentioned of the missile base, the radar station, the firing range, the heliport, or any accoutrements. It wasn’t until newspapers published the plans that the people learned they were to be heavily militarized. Anti-base groups quickly formed on all the affected islands, but not without blowback from the draconian Abe regime. On Miyakojima, a lawsuit was filed against the government for blacklisting protestors from employment.

The 275-square-mile island of Amami-Oshima is a place so teeming with biodiversity that it has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. Seventy-three thousand people live on 30 percent of the island. The other 70 percent is comprised of rolling hills that are entirely wild and carpeted with a thick green tangle of endemic, original forest. A crab-filled mangrove swamp is set inland. Ringing the island is a coral reef with adorable pufferfish noted for sculpting astonishing undersea sand mandalas, and loads of calico-shelled cone snails. Drinkable water bleeds from cracks in fern-covered cliffs. The island is home to 300 species of birds, butterflies as big as your hand, jade and gold frogs, salamanders, sea and freshwater turtles, the unique Ryukyu ayu fish, endemic orchids and rare ficus trees. The small-eared Amami rabbit, one of many species found only here, is sometimes called a “living fossil” because it represents an ancient Asian lineage that has elsewhere disappeared. There has even been a sighting off the coast of the extremely rare North Pacific right whale, a species of which it is believed only 30 remain.

Needless to say, a firing range in the forest and state-of-the-art missile base will decimate Amami-Oshima’s natural wonders. Mamoru Tsuneda, a natural park counselor of the Environmental Ministry, laments, “There are no laws to protect the nature on this island.”

Residents have economic concerns as well. Kyoko Satake, an artist and boutique owner, observed, “We see how the United States has only the very rich or the very poor. That’s because you spend all your money on war. We don’t want to be like that. We want to keep our middle class.”

The most southerly island to be militarized is the 11-square-mile island of Yonaguni. It is strategically positioned less than 100 miles from the uninhabited Senkaku islands, a piece of geography being hotly contested with China. When I visited Yonaguni before the activist gathering began, I saw herds of wild, endemic ponies roaming freely on fenceless pastures and even on streets. But now their main watering hole has been replaced by bulldozers churning out a radar surveillance station, scheduled for completion in 2017. Entomologists are alarmed that the radar will kill many of the island’s celebrated, but fragile, butterfly species.

As on Amami-Oshima, there has been no transparency in its construction, let alone any kind of Environmental Impact Statement. Residents were told that such information is “top secret.” It wasn’t until the bulldozers began that they saw that the high-intensity microwave antennas were to be only about 600 feet from neighborhoods, including an elementary school. Several mothers with young children decided to move off the island forever.

At a certain point, all this preparation for war becomes indistinguishable from war itself. The fight against terror becomes terror itself. No one knows that better than the Jeju islanders of South Korea, whose farms, fisheries and freshwater springs were destroyed to build a base. The Okinawans also know it. They live daily with military jets and helicopters searing through the skies. It seems the same hellish fate is in store for all people and creatures of the islands targeted for militarization. A high school science teacher and Amami-Oshima native, Hirohumi Hoshimura, observed, “Tokyo says my island is for defense. But to me, this is my home.”

Meanwhile, defense industries on both sides of the Pacific are salivating. Japan’s Ministry of Defense has a proposed a record-high budget, to equip the new bases with 17 Mitsubishi anti-submarine warfare helicopters, 12 Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, three Northrop Grumman Global Hawk drones, six F-35 fighter planes and Aegis destroyers (both manufactured by Lockheed Martin), one Kawasaki military transport aircraft, three Boeing Pegasus tanker aircraft, and 36 maneuver combat vehicles. Other purchases include BAE Systems amphibious assault vehicles and mobile missile batteries. And Japanese arms manufacturers have begun – for the first time ever — producing armaments for export. It’s a merger between militarism and corporate capitalism.

Butter, Guns and the TPP

From a strictly trade perspective, the TPP is confounding. From a geopolitical perspective, it makes a lot of sense. Jean-Pierre Lehmann elaborates in Forbes:

“TPP is a really strange mélange of 12 members, including five from the Americas (Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the US), five from Asia (Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam), along with Australia and New Zealand. … Missing are large Asian economies, notably South Korea, India and Indonesia, all three members of the G20. Also missing of course is China; but that would seem to be deliberate … to contain China. Thus TPP is above all a geopolitical ploy with trade as a decoy.”

Given the dearth of economically significant Asian member nations in the pact, it is not perplexing why many analysts were predicting early on that the whole deal would collapse if Japan never signed on. It finally did in 2013. But as recently as April 19, 2015, gridlock prevailed at a Tokyo meeting between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japan’s Economic Minister Akira Amari. The U.S. wanted Japan to eliminate its extremely high tariffs on agriculture — hundreds of a percent on rice and beef. Japan wanted to sell more cars in the U.S. but wasn’t keen to reciprocate by buying American cars.

It took the perceived threat of China establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other international deals to loosen the logjam. “The growing Chinese presence in the region has prompted Japan and the United States to speed up talks,” Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities in Tokyo, told Agence France-Presse at the time. “Japan and the United States are feeling pressed to take the initiative before China crafts its own rules.”

So, only eight days after the Tokyo trade meeting flopped in April, Shinzo Abe arrived for a much-regaled week-long visit to Washington. He landed the same day that his Defense Minister Nakatani and Foreign Minister Kishida met in New York with Secretary of State John Kerry and Ashton Carter. There, the four cabinet members settled on a new set of defense guidelines that would expand Japan’s military.

The new guidelines articulated that Japan would now be permitted to take part in “an armed attack against a country other than Japan,” a radical departure from the original treaty. Other new activities included minesweeping to keep sea lanes open, intercepting and shooting down ballistic missiles, and disrupting shipping activities providing support to hostile forces – all responsibilities that the Ryukyu missile bases would be perfectly positioned to execute.

Apparently, granting Japan military powers was what it took to secure the TPP concessions. The next day, Abe and Obama were all smiles and waves in the Rose Garden, boasting about their new defense treaty in the same breath that they stressed they were committed to reaching a “swift and successful conclusion” to the TPP. And the very next day, Abe promised Congress he would have “his” legislature dismantle the peace Constitution by summer, so the new defense guidelines could take effect. He got a standing ovation.

It was not the following summer, but rather in autumn, that Abe made good on his word, managing to push through his aggressive interpretation of the constitution, much to the sorrow of the Japanese people. Sixteen days later, like clockwork, the TPP was reached.

TPP: It’s Not Just about Tariffs and Toyotas

When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in April, “The TPP is as important to me as an aircraft carrier,” he revealed the inextricable connection between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and militarism. Until that statement, the TPP had been treated as nothing other than the biggest, baddest free trade agreement to come along since NAFTA, CAFTA, TTIP and the rest. However, unlike the TPP, none of these other global trade deals were implemented to thwart a rival world power. President Obama summed things up last spring when he said of the TPP, “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules in that region.” So, TPP provides the rules; the Pentagon enforces them.

A look at the map clarifies how forces at play in the Asia-Pacific give a geopolitik context to the TPP. Off the southeast coast of China lies the South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion worth of trade passes annually, after squeezing through the Strait of Malacca. This is also the gateway through which all oil from the middle-east passes before it reaches China, Japan, and South Korea. Whoever controls the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea controls Asia’s economy, which, in turn, drives the world economy. In order for the U.S. to maintain authority over these far-flung hotspots, it must project military might – the most resented and costly form of power. That’s why Ashton Carter needs the TPP so bad: to justify mega-militarizing Pacific trade routes.

Is it any coincidence that all the Asia-Pacific TPP signatories, with the exception of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, can be found surrounding the South China Sea? Those nations are Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam. For years, they, along with the Philippines and Taiwan, have been in heated disagreement with China over territory that includes critical sea lanes. China is claiming most of the sea for itself, a move which would castrate the TPP. (What good is a trade agreement without access to trade routes?) The stakes are so high that China went so far as to build seven artificial islands, totaling 2,000 acres, in the middle of the disputed Spratly Islands. China claims sovereignty over the new islands, as well as the surrounding sea within twelve nautical miles.

In such unpredictable circumstances, solid alliances with the China-vulnerable countries are indispensable to the Pentagon. Their membership in the TPP exacts deference to U.S. hegemony. In exchange, they get the American muscle they need to stake out their own territorial claims, such as the warship that Carter sent directly into the contentious waters surrounding the artificial islands. This military excess is shaping 21st-century Asia, warping cultures, destroying countless ecosystems, and costing billions of dollars. Other examples: four Littoral Combat Ships (at about $700 million apiece) have been ported in Singapore; Marines have begun rotating between bases in Australia, Okinawa, Guam and Hawaii. Most ecologically destructive are the unprecedented number of joint naval exercises taking place in the western Pacific with tens of thousands of troops at a time. Participating militaries come from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, and Timor Leste. Across both northern and southern hemispheres, the fury of torpedoes, sonar and bombs blasts through reefs and marine habitats almost year-round with no meaningful environmental regulation whatsoever.

To put it bluntly, the TPP is not merely a set of rules; it locks in and justifies a defense empire to counter China.

But many U.S. lawmakers need more incentive to sign onto any trade deal. “When the administration sells me on this, it’s all geopolitics, not economics: We want to keep these countries in our orbit, not China’s,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “I agree with that. But I need to be sold on the economics.”

Teens Stand Up to Oppose War Law

In Japan, those who remember the horrors of war have always been stalwart pacifists. So it came as an enormous surprise when legions of the younger generation camped out for a month in front of the Diet, chanting and beating drums, as Abe forced through his despised militaristic legislation. Spearheading the movement has been Students’ Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), a group that skyrocketed to popularity by incorporating a hip-hop aesthetic into its political messaging. Other organizations sporting their own acronyms have popped up like mushrooms: Teens Stand Up to Oppose War Law (T-ns SOWL), MIDDLEs and even OLDs. Regardless of age, though, they all brandish signs with the same message, such as “War is Over,” “Change the Prime Minister” and “TPP – NO! People’s Pacific Partnership – YES!”

Equally significant is the wide-sweeping, movement of young Asia-Pacific visionaries that seemingly came out of nowhere to organize Peace for the Sea Camp. Its very trans-national quality flies in the face of what a Pentagon official on Guam once told me: “Unlike European countries, Asian countries will never be able to get along – that’s why we’re there, in Asia.”

But they didn’t come out of nowhere; they had emerged from the highly organized Christian movement opposed to base construction on Jeju Island, South Korea. The ferociously peaceful opposition had attracted pilgrim pacifists from across Asia, and every other peopled continent. They had come to take part in daily religious services that blocked traffic at the gates of the construction site for the past eight years. It was a tearful irony that it was during the Peace for the Sea Camp when the first Aegis-missile destroyer ported at the Jeju base.

One evening of Peace for the Sea Camp was devoted to screening a 2014 Irish documentary about the Jeju navy base protests. The announcer voice-over posited that the completion of the base will herald the beginning of the Cold War in the 21st century, between the U.S. and China. Hindsight has proven him correct; in only one year, tension has increased with the U.S. race to solidify an anti-China political bloc through Japan’s shady new legislation, trade, and epidemic joint military exercises. Not to mention the inflammatory plan to lasso China with a string of new missile bases in the Ryukyu Islands.

Shortly after the conference, the activists produced a manifesto to articulate the voices of those impacted by the Pacific Pivot. Here is an excerpt:

“We fully understand that this shift will not bring about greater human security but will instead yield the conditions for a far greater risk of war and tremendous environmental destruction. We further recognize that these changes have been fueled by the global weapons industry, which reaps enormous profits from increased military tension and conflict, while ordinary people and the wider ecosystem suffer the inevitable consequences.

We cannot leave this work to political leaders and governments, which largely answer to corporate interests and the military-industrial complex. We challenge the prevailing assumptions behind the current configuration of geopolitics that takes for granted the precedence of nation-states, military interests, and capitalist accumulation.

We will instead create another kind of geography. Through our Peace for the Sea Camp and similar projects, we are already creating alternative political communities based on a sustainable economy, the ethics of coexistence, and our shared responsibility to preserve peace.”

Apparently, the Pentagon official’s belief that Asian countries are incapable of getting along, is wrong.

Koch Brothers’ Connection to Catholics in Congress: Why Pope Francis Is Concerned about America’s Climate Inaction

koch-catholics-slider

 
Click here to view the PDF version.
 
As Catholics’ spiritual leader, Pope Francis, arrives in Washington D.C. for an historic address to the United States Congress (one-third of which is Catholic), new research by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) reveals that the oil billionaire Koch Brothers spent at least $23 million to elect 62 Catholic Congressmen. Charles and David Koch—who have more money than Bill Gates—outspend all other oil companies to oppose the urgent climate policy actions that Pope Francis calls for in his ecological encyclical, Praised Be, to protect poor people, and the planet.

Today’s climate catastrophes are increasing in their intensity and frequency due to growing carbon emissions, as predicted by scientific consensus.  The Koch network (or Kochtopus) funds a range of activities to obfuscate climate science, elect like-minded candidates, and block policies from passing Congress because pricing carbon pollution would reduce Koch’s fossil fuel fortune.  The result from Koch’s spending is expanding emissions and more climate catastrophes globally.  See below for stories from poor communities suffering climate catastrophes, then share these victim’s voices.

Most Catholics in Congress do not receive support from Koch, but those who do are cause for concern.  They should heed Pope Francis’s call for moral action on climate justice by supporting immediate and drastic reductions of deadly carbon emissions, ideally by putting a price on pollution.
 
THE SENATE

Financial figures below are from data sourced by IFG, whose methodology can be found on Kochproblem.org.[ii] The amounts of money from Koch include all entities in IFG’s Kochtopus.  Information on the religions of Congressmen is from Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.[iii]

  • 37% of Catholic Senators got cash from Koch;
  • 30% of Koch’s contributions to Senators support Catholics;
  • 20% of Senators who are supported by Koch money are Catholic;
  • 100% of Catholic Senators funded by Koch voted in 2015 for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada where Koch owns more acreage than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined.

 

U.S. Catholic Senators supported by Koch

U.S. Catholic Senators Koch support in $ * Pro-planet voting %*
Tillis, Thom (NC) 18,674,863 n/a
Sullivan, Daniel (AK) 1,830,572 n/a
Toomey, Patrick (PA) 1,711,028 9%
Rubio, Marco (FL) 719,322 9%
Ayotte, Kelly (NH) 71,169 23%
Vitter, David (LA) 69,226 5%
Hoeven. John (ND) 38,701 14%
Murkowski, Lisa (AK) 35,993 20%
Risch, Jim (ID) 30,790 11%
Collins, Susan (ME) 29,650 65%
Total (10): 23,211,314 Avg:  19.5%

* Koch support in $ is calculated by KochProblem.org, an online tool tracking comprehensive spending in support of candidates by all entities in the Koch network, not just direct contributions from Koch Industries to candidates campaigns.

** “Pro-planet voting %” is from the League of Conservation Voters’ ranking of voting records, or “National Environment Scorecard,” a measure of pro-environmental votes by Members of Congress throughout their careers in Congress. LCV score is measured in percentage where LCV Score = (pro-environmental votes)/ (total votes cast on environmental issues)[iv]
 
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The data on Koch support for Catholics in the House of Representatives was compiled by IFG using numbers from the Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics that compiles information on campaign funding. [v] The data found in the table below includes campaign funding from the Koch Industries Political Action Committee to candidates’ campaigns in the 2014 election cycle. House figures are much smaller than those of the Senator’s above because the available data for the House covers only Koch Industries PAC, whereas figures for Senators include—thanks to KochProblem.org—support from outside groups affiliated with Koch.

  • $1,432,000 is the amount of total money Koch Industries PAC spent so support individual campaign funds – $336,350 of that went to support Catholic Members of the House of Representatives
  • 23% of the money Koch Industries PAC spent supports Catholic Members of the House of Representatives
  • 23% of the Members of the House of Representatives Koch Industries PAC supported in the 2014 election are Catholic.

 
Catholics in the House of Representatives

Catholic Congressmen Koch Cash
Barletta, Lou $1,000
Larson, John B $1,000
Vargas, Juan $1,000
Collins, Doug $2,000
Chabot, Steve $2,500
Fitzpatrick, Michael G $2,500
Fleischmann, Chuck $2,500
King, Steven A $2,500
Ratcliffe, John Lee $2,500
Royce, Ed $2,500
Trott, Dave $2,500
Wenstrup, Brad $2,500
Ayotte, Kelly $3,500
Palazzo, Steven $4,500
Brady, Kevin $5,000
Curbelo, Carlos $5,000
Emmer, Tom $5,000
Katko, John $5,000
Latta, Robert E $5,000
Meehan, Patrick $5,000
Murphy, Tim $5,000
Poliquin, Bruce $5,000
Reed, Tom $5,000
Rounds, Mike $5,000
Wagner, Ann L $5,000
Walters, Mimi $5,000
Mooney, Alex $6,000
Tiberi, Patrick J $6,000
Brooks, Susan $6,250
Pitts, Joe $7,500
Renacci, Jim $7,500
Yoho, Ted $7,500
Mulvaney, Mick $8,000
Hill, French $8,100
Benishek, Dan $10,000
Comstock, Barbara $10,000
Davis, Rodney $10,000
DeSantis, Ron $10,000
Guinta, Frank $10,000
Harris, Andy $10,000
Heck, Joe $10,000
Huelskamp, Tim $10,000
Joyce, David P $10,000
Kelly, Mike $10,000
McCaul, Michael $10,000
McHenry, Patrick $10,000
Nunes, Devin $10,000
Risch, James E $10,000
Rothfus, Keith J $10,000
Vitter, David $10,000
Duffy, Sean P $11,000
Valadao, David $11,000
Total (52): $336, 350

 
THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change, often called global warming, is the phenomenon caused by the excessive emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the earth’s atmosphere. The emission of these gases has led to a progressive increase of earth’s atmospheric temperature over time. This rise in temperature is compounded by an increase in ocean temperatures and a continual rise in sea level, which occurs as glaciers melt.  These result in increased extreme weather events that create climate catastrophes.

Rising temperatures and ocean levels, which increase the amount of moisture in Earth’s atmosphere, have been scientifically linked to exaggerating the detrimental effects of earth’s natural disasters. Minor storms have become more frequent, and storm surges have been significantly increased. Furthermore, greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons add energy to weather storms, further intensifying the effects of their destruction. Global warming may be making the destructive impact of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones (which have always tormented earth’s coasts) far worse. [vi]

While the rhetoric supporting the fight against global warming and fossil-fuel producers has been gaining steady ground in recent years, climate change activists often fail to stress the deadly and destructive power of weather storms in their arguments. This could be because, at first, these storms were mostly occurring in the Global South, in countries such as the Philippines and India, and had little effect on the developed world. However, the effects of severe storms in the developing world should be of utmost concern because they are extremely damaging.  Many third world communities lack the financial resources or proper infrastructure to prepare for weather disasters, so, when they are suddenly struck with storms, these disasters end thousands of lives and destroy millions of homes.

Recently however, there have been more and more visible incidences of freak storms that ravage communities in the United States as well. This has at last helped draw media attention in the United States to the issue of weather catastrophes caused by climate change.  The storms that have left the largest stain on the national psyche in the U.S. are Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.  In light of these two storms, Americans have become more aware of climate change and the role it plays on enhancing deadly weather conditions.   It is important for Americans to take a closer look into why climate policy is facing such an uphill battle in U.S. politics, and to understand key political players who are blocking action on climate change policies.

In 2007, the negotiations under the United Nations prepared a road map known as the Bali Action Plan (BAP), an agreement in which all developed countries committed to undertake drastic reduction of their emission of greenhouse gasses. The BAP was constructed in hopes of lowering the global temperatures. In the BAP developed countries are expected to reduce target amounts of emissions over time, paving the way for the reversal of global warming’s effects in the future.[vii]  However, many developed countries defaulted on those promises via the Kyoto Protocol Commitments.[viii]

The current United States Congress has refused to pass many climate change policies that would help reduce carbon pollution.  Fossil fuel industry leaders, most significantly the Koch Brothers, are trying to fight against carbon control measures so they can keep amassing private profit from their oil industry investments. The public needs to understand the damaging effects of climate change, and urge policy action against both global warming and those who are attempting to stop solutions. More information about the Koch Brothers, and their influence of climate change policy, can be found through the International Forum on Globalization: www.ifg.org.
 
EXAMPLES OF EXTREME WEATHER & CLIMATE CATASTROPHIES

As explained in the introduction, the most detrimental effects of climate change can be seen by the increase of the scale of natural disasters hitting the poor the hardest. Below are examples of severe storms that plague poor countries and poor communities; flooding in India’s Himalayan Mountains, typhoons in the Philippines, and the United States’ Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The causes and effects of these weather disasters point to the importance of action to change climate policy.
 
INDIA: Flooding in the Himalayan Mountains

The Himalayan Mountains are the source of water for nearly half of humanity.  They contain the third-largest landmass of snow and glaciers on our planet, after the Antarctic and Arctic. Glacial runoff from the Himalayas is the largest source of fresh water that feeds into Asia’s rivers, supporting billions of people. [ix]  While the melting of glaciers and snow in the Arctic and Antarctic due to climate change is frequently reported, the effects of climate change and rising global temperatures on the Himalayan Mountains are often overlooked.

In June 2013, melting glacial sediment cause the natural dam of a glacial lake located in northern India to burst.  The dam’s collapse sent a deluge of water down the mountains into the village of Kedarnath.  As many as 6,000 people were presumed dead.  The flood, which was caused in part by rising temperatures associated with climate change, also destroyed an eight-century temple, smashed dozens of houses, and caused many people to become refugees.[xi] Additionally, Kedernath is “the home of a deeply revered Hindu temple that attracts many (religious) pilgrims,” all which werewashed away in this Himalayan Tsunami.[xii]“Burst of clouds causes ‘Himalayan Tsunami’!” Pakistan Weather Portal, June 22, 2013[x]

These types of floods are called Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), or nicknamed Himalayan Tsunamis, and can be directly linked with global warming.  Rising global temperatures create glacial lakes of melt-water, held in place by dams formed from glacial sediment. As global temperatures rise and glaciers continue to melt, the lakes fill and pressure increases on the dams. Once that pressure reaches a tipping point, a small event such as; a heavy rainfall, a landslide, or an earthquake, can breach the dam and send a deadly torrent of ice, rock, and water down on the people living below.[xiii]
In the weeks following the June 2013 GLOF disaster, tens of thousands of people were evacuated across the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.[xiv] Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Banugunga spoke about the widespread infrastructure damage caused by the GLOF:  “Around 200 of my bridges have been washed away, nearly 5,000 roads damaged, connectivity to 4,300 villages snapped, electricity and water supplies disrupted, telephone lines collapsed.”[xv]

As temperatures continue to increase world wide due to global warming, the occurrence of GLOF disasters will also continue to rise.  More than 20,000 glacial lakes exist in the Himalayan range, and more than 200 of them have been classified as potentially dangerous.[xvi] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “glaciers in the Himayalas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high.”[xvii] The IPCC report states that the total area of glaciers in the Himalaya will shrink from 1,930,051 square miles to 38,000 square miles by 2035.[xviii]

In addition to the dangers of GLOF disasters, climate change is also affecting prosperity in the Himalayan deserts. In Ladakh, the northern most region of India, snow that falls to the ground and provides the moisture for farms and pastures, and has supported human survival in Ladakh for centuries. However, climate change is changing Ladakh drastically. Less snow is falling, so there is less moisture for growing crops and the ability to farm the land is declining. In contrast, although less snow is falling to support agriculture, heavy rainfall, which was previously unknown in the high altitude desert, has become frequent and has had horrible consequences for the unprepared communities. Flash floods have washed away countless homes, fields, trees and livestock.[xix]  In conclusion, global warming is causing unfathomable suffering for the people living in the Himalayas. These people are the victims of climate change, and if apathy about expanding emissions continues, harm to their land and lives will inevitably continue.
 
THE PHILIPPINES: Typhoon Bopha

The people of the Philippines have faced several typhoons in recent years. Each year, the typhoons become more and more powerful, leaving greater amounts of people dead, missing and displaced. The increase in these typhoons and their power is correlated to climate change, and the people of the Philippines are paying the price for global warming.[xx]

Typhoon Bopha entered the Philippines in early December 2012. Bopha winds were measured up to 160 mph, and flattened villages, wiped out banana plantations, and caused massive mudslides and floods.[xxii]  The hardest hit region was the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha triggered landslides and floods along the coast, and in inland farming and mining towns. Typhoon Bopha was the worst storm ever recorded on Mindanao.[xxiii] [xxi]
Residents cross a damaged road destroyed at the height of Typhoon Bopha in the village of Andap,New Bataan town, Compostela Valley province. (Ted Aljibe/Getty Images)

In addition to the human death toll, an extreme amount of damage to agriculture and infrastructure on Mindanao occurred. Irrigation reservoirs atop mountains had given way, sending large volumes of water down into the valleys. Many bridges and roads were not only damaged, but completely destroyed.[xxiv] These disasters had detrimental effects on families’ ability to earn an income and recover from the tragedy of the typhoon.  By December 9, one week after its initial landfall, Bopha had begun to dissipate. In its wake it left 1,020 people declared dead and 844 reported missing. Additionally, the typhoon displaced 1.2 million more people.[xxv]

In the past, a storm like Bopha would not have been able to produce enough energy to gear up into a full-blown typhoon. But because global warming adds heat and energy to Earth’s weather systems, typhoons like Bopha now possible.[xxvi] Thus, climate change is making typhoons more intense and altering their paths of destruction to reach regions that never before need to prepare for such severe storms.  According to Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters, although “Mindanao… rarely sees strong typhoons due to its position close to the Equator,” Bopha was possible due to climate change.[xxvii]

According to the Global Climate Risk Index; “the Philippines are fourth on the list of countries most at risk from climate disasters. In 2011, the country had the world’s highest death toll caused by weather related disasters, with 1,659 people who lost their lives to typhoons, floods, landslides and heavy rains.”[xxviii]  Furthermore, new research suggests that the Pacific Ocean is warming at the fastest rate it has in 10,000 years.[xxix] The increasing ocean temperatures will only further the severity of typhoons and other ocean storms. Thus, the Philippines and many other island-states are on the frontlines of the climate change disaster.
 
THE UNITED STATES: Hurricanes Katarina and Sandy

Although the damage caused by global warming to the developing world is more widespread, the effect of climate change can also be seen by the two massive hurricanes that struck the United States in the past decade – Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Like storms documented in the Global South, hurricane strength is directly correlated to the heat of the water where the storm forms.  Greater amounts of water vapor in the air, caused by evaporating oceans and aided by increasing global temperatures, add fuel to hurricanes.[xxxi] Global temperatures have been steadily increasing over the past 100 years, making the last decade the warmest on record.[xxxii] Thus, it can be inferred that global warming and climate change may have indeed increased the strength of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.[xxx]katrina-flooding-9th-wardjpg-b8fc5ef5b7290815

Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in late August 2005, was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the United States. The storm slammed the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines moving between a Category 3 through 5 storm with winds measured up to 175mph.[xxxiii] Katrina caused severe damage to many costal cities. Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi were completely obliterated, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, several major levees collapsed and the city went underwater.[xxxiv] Thousands of people living in New Orleans sought refuge in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome, and the U.S. National Guard was called in to assist with home evacuations. Hurricane Katrina caused monumental property damage and a loss of life, which stretched across a huge expanse of land that extended through Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

An estimated 1,833 people died in the hurricane and from subsequent flooding. Millions of others were left homeless along the Gulf Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified Katrina as the most destructive storm to ever hit the United States, with $108 billion dollars in damage. Moreover, it ranks as the sixth strongest ever-recorded Atlantic hurricane. The storm’s deadliness lay not only in its power, but also its unusually large size—at its peak, force winds spanned at least 75 nautical miles east from the center of the storm. [xxxv]

Hurricane Sandy occurred seven years after Hurricane Katrina, in October-November 2012.  Sandy first formed as a tropical depression in the Caribbean.  Sandy moved through the Caribbean as a Category 1 storm off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Then, Sandy made a sharp turn towards the northwest, heading towards New Jersey. At this point the hurricane began to interact with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process and becoming stronger.  Hurricane Sandy ravaged Washington, D.C., with high winds and rain toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. Sandy’s center then touched land near Atlantic City, New Jersey. [xxxvi][xxxvii]
new-hurricane-sandy-report-recommends-stronger-construction_70536_600x450
Sandy’s unusual path along the southeast made its storm surge disastrous for New Jersey and New York. This is because a cyclone’s strongest winds and highest storm surge are contained in the front and right quadrants of its circulation – where the power of its strongest winds are increased with its forward motion.[xxxviii] According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S.—making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind Hurricane Katrina.[xxxix] The destruction of Sandy resulted in the deaths of 159 people; who died mostly due to drowning.  The storm also damaged or destroyed at least 650,000 homes, 300,000 business properties and 250,500 vehicles. According to the NOAA, the surges caused by Sandy set historical records for high water levels in at least five New England cities.[xl]

There is no doubt that global warming contributed to the strength Hurricane Sandy. The heating of the Gulf and Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean creates high-energy water – leading to more frequent and ferocious storms. A recent report from University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Ice and Climate said “hurricanes in the southeast Atlantic have become more frequent over the past 90 years.”[xli]  Their study shows that this increase occurs in tandem with the amplification of global warming over the past century, with more storms occurring during years in which water temperature is higher.[xlii] Furthermore, this evidence was corroborated at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, where researchers said “climate change likely made Hurricane Sandy much worse than it otherwise would have been.”[xliii]
 
CONCLUSION

In conclusion, as shown in the data and stories above, the public needs to be informed of the grim future that is inevitable if there is no ambitious effort to counter the effects of global warming.

Climate change has recently been ravaging the Global South by means of monstrous atypical storms, and now the United States is starting to be confronted with the effects of global warming as well. A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences journal states that global warming has doubled the risk of Hurricane Katrina-magnitude storm surges in the United States.[xliv]

Americans, and the rest of the world, are paying the price for global warming with their lives, safety, and property. Thus, the public needs to take a stand for climate change action, and be vocal against those profiteers, such as the Koch Brothers, who are responsible for perpetuating global warming before our planet is polluted beyond repair.

Pope Francis explains in his ecological encyclical everyone’s moral responsibility to act by quoting the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew:

“to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and against God.”

 
Click here to view the PDF version.
 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Researched and written by Stephanie Kumar and Abigail Sellman, editorial direction by Victor Menotti.
 
ENDNOTES

[i] Image: Reuters, Sourced from Business Day Live, http://www.bdlive.co.za/world/asia/2012/12/13/typhoon-bopha-kills-hundreds-in-philippines

[ii] “Methodology,” KockProbelm.org, http://www.kochproblem.org/methodology

[iii] “Koch Industries,” Open Secrets: The Center for Responsive Politics, http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000186&cycle=2014

[iv] “National Environmental Scorecard,” League of Conservation Voters, http://scorecard.lcv.org/

[v] Religion and Congress, Microsoft Excel, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate

[vi] “Storm Surge Risk Amplified by Climate Change, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, March 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/storm-surge-risk_n_2902823.html

[vii] “Now, up to, and beyond 2012: The Bali Road Map,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Last updated 2014, http://unfccc.int/key_steps/bali_road_map/items/6072.php

[viii] “Q&A: The Kyoto Protocol,” BBC News, February 16, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4269921.stm

[ix] Shiva, Vandana, “Climate Change in the Himalayas,” Navdanya, http://www.navdanya.org/climate-change/in-the-himalayas

[x] Image: “Burst of clouds causes ‘Himalayan Tsunami’!” Pakistan Weather Portal, June 22, 2013, http://pakistanweatherportal.com/2013/06/22/burst-of-clouds-causes-himalayan-tsunami/

[xi] Overdorf, Jason, “Climate change’s nasty new natural disaster: ‘Himalayan tsunamis,’” global post, July 29, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130725/climate-change-s-nasty-new-natural-disaster-himalaya

[xii] Jethrow, Mullen, “India grapples with ‘Himalayan tsunami’ that has left 150 dead,” CNN, June 20, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/20/world/asia/india-floods/

[xiii] Perera, Amantha, “Fears Grow of a Himalayan Tsunami as Glaciers Melt,” TIME, May 27, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/05/27/fears-grow-of-a-himalayan-tsunami-as-glaciers-melt/

[xiv] Overdorf, Jason.

[xv] Overdorf, Jason.

[xvi] Overdorf, Jason.

[xvii] Shiva, Vandana.

[xviii] Shiva, Vandana.

[xix] Shiva, Vandana.

[xx] Henn, Jamie, “Hurricane Sandy’s Sister, Typhoon Bopha,” Huffington Post, December 7, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-henn/hurricane-sandys-sister-t_b_2258957.html

[xxi] Image: “Dec. 5 Photo Brief: Typhoon Bopha, Tripoli clashes, snowstorms in Sweden and Korea,” The Baltimore Sun, December 5, 2012, http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2012/12/dec-5-photo-brief-typhoon-bopha-tripoli-clashes-snowstorms-in-sweeden-and-korea/#1

[xxii] Taylor, Alan, “Typhoon Bopha,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2012/12/typhoon-bopha/100421/

[xxiii] De Castro, Erik, “Typhoon kills at least 283, hundreds missing, in Philippines,” Reuters, December 5, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/05/us-philippines-typhoon-idUSBRE8B306420121205

[xxiv] De Castro, Erik.

[xxv] Ahmed, Amir, “Death toll from Typhoon Bopha tops 1,000 in the Philippines,” CNN, Decemer 17, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/16/world/asia/philippines-typhoon/

[xxvi] Henn, Jamie, 350.org.

[xxvii] Masters, Jeff, “Typhoon Bopha hits the Philippines at Cat 5 strength; at least 40 killed,” Weather Underground, December 4, 2012, http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/typhoon-bopha-hits-the-philippines-at-cat-5-strength-at-least-40-kill

[xxviii] Henn, Jamie.

[xxix] Mann, Michael E, “Pacific Ocean Warming at Fastest Rate in 10,000 Years,” Huffington Post, December 31, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-e-mann/pacific-ocean-warming-at-_b_4179583.html

[xxx] Image: Anderson, Kathy, Times-Picayune archive, Sourced from nola.com, http://www.nola.com/katrina/index.ssf/2012/09/katrina_damage_judgement_again.html

[xxxi] Welsh, Teresa, “Was Hurricane Sandy Caused by Global Warming?” U.S. News & World Report, October 30, 2012, http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/10/30/was-hurricane-sandy-caused-by-global-warming

[xxxii] “U.S. and Global Temperature,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Last updated September 22, 2015, http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/weather-climate/temperature.html

[xxxiii] Zimmerman, Kim Ann, “Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath,” Live Science, August 27, 2015, http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html

[xxxiv] Zimmerman, Kim Ann.

[xxxv] Zimmerman, Kim, Ann.

[xxxvi] Drye, Willie, “A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction,” National Geographic, November 2, 2012, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/02/a-timeline-of-hurricane-sandys-path-of-destruction/

[xxxvii] Image: Cedeno, Ken, Corbis Images, Sourced from Consortium for Ocean Leadership, http://oceanleadership.org/hurricane-sandy-report-warns-of-rising-sea-more-storms/

[xxxviii] Drye, Willie.

[xxxix] Mulvihill, Geoff, “Tallying Hurricane Sandy Deaths And Damage a Complex Task for Officials,” Huffington Post, January 23, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/hurricane-sandy-deaths_n_4164333.html

[xl] Rice, Doyle and Alia E. Dastagir, “One year after Sandy, 9 devastating facts,” USA Today, October 29, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/29/sandy-anniversary-facts-devastation/3305985/

[xli] Welsh, Teresa.

[xlii] Welsh, Teresa.

[xliii] Main, Douglas, “Climate Change Partly to Blame for Hurricane Damage,” Live Science, November 5, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/24566-hurricane-sandy-climate-change.html

[xliv] “Storm Surge Risk Amplified by Climate Change, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, March 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/storm-surge-risk_n_2902823.html

The Koch-Backed Coup Behind Boehner’s Bye-Bye

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by Victor Menotti, as published in Daily Kos
 
“The crazies have taken over the party,” is what Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said it signaled when House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) resigned Friday under pressure from hardline conservatives who wanted Boehner to take a tougher stance in budget talks, even if it shut down the federal government. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared “disarray” as the order of the day for Congress’s ruling party.

However, a closer look at the financial and ideological forces behind the “renegade” Republicans points not to any aimless clan of “crazies” but to a clear-eyed, calculated coup backed by Washington’s two largest donors, the Koch Brothers.

What it means is that America—indeed, the world—is entering yet another new stage of oligarchic control by the world’s two wealthiest men, Charles and David Koch. Together, the two oil billionaire brothers have more money than Bill Gates, plus an expanding political influence network they’ve been funding for forty years. It also means that America’s progressive movements must urgently organize powerful grassroots opposition to Koch’s extremist agenda or else Koch will keep cooking our planet beyond repair.

CORNERED BY KOCH’S “FREEDOM CAUCUS”

Boehner was under pressured from members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), founded in January 2015 by Koch-backed members of the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) who felt it had grown too large and unwieldy.

“Freedom” is largely defined by this cabal as “economic freedom,” articulated on Koch’s website www.economicfreedom.org. The brother’s unprecedented spending on 2014 elections won conservatives a new majority in the Senate and consolidated their control of the House.

HFC founding members (Rep. Scott Garrett, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. John Fleming, Rep. Matt Salmon, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Raúl Labrador, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Mark Meadows) formed their smaller, more strident group to advance a libertarian agenda championed by Koch.

Most HFC members score above 90 percent—with its leaders closer to 100 percent—on the Koch-funded Club for Growth online scorecard, which ranks elected officials’ voting records on the economic freedom agenda. Rumored to be the next Speaker, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) scores 73%.

Only one month ago today, the Kochtopus’s top “astroturf agent,” Americans for Prosperity (AFP), feted HFC honcho (and ex-Chair of RSC), Rep. Jim Jordan (OH). “The Washington Award is the organization’s highest honor, offered to those who not only stand for the group’s values, but make progress toward policies that spread economic freedom and prosperity,” says AFP’s website.

Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation run by hardcore Koch-head Jim DeMint, instantly declared Boehner’s departure a victory for non-Establishment conservatives. Emboldened by their success, they hope to have one of their own as the next House Speaker.

EXTREMISTS NOW POSSESS “THE POWER OF THE PURSE”

Koch-funded politicians now possess “the power of the purse” and aim to use it as leverage to advance their extremist agenda. Call it a tightened death-grip by the Kochtopus over government, increasing Koch’s oligarchic influence over federal operations from the overall size of spending to food stamps to severe weather forecasting.

The new deadline for forging a fiscal compromise, and raising the debt ceiling, is now forecast to be December 11, which is also the last day of negotiations for a new global climate deal at the U.N. summit in Paris.

Having an inherent hatred for the U.N., Koch’s financial interests extend to stopping any international commitments to the U.S.’s cutting its carbon emissions. Koch has more tar sands assets in Alberta than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco combined, meaning Koch may bear more risk in today’s carbon bubble than anyone else on Earth.

Setting this double-deadline means the Obama White House will be distracted from fully focusing on delivering a solid climate deal since they will be buried facing down Koch’s anti-climate, anti-poor, anti-government extremists threatening to shut down federal funding if they don’t get the budget deal they want in Washington.

While Americans are increasingly aware of the Koch’s name, and with astoundingly negative opinions, we must now turn into effective action that replaces Koch candidates with progressive climate champions. Stay tuned for more updates from frontline efforts to do exactly that.

 
Image Source: infostormer.com

White Earth Tribe Members Voice Pipeline Concerns

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White Earth tribal members in Northern Minnesota held a drum ceremony to begin the first of eleven public hearings on Enbridge’s proposed pipeline that would carry Koch’s tar sands through their traditional territory in the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. Protecting America’s mightiest river at its source is not only at risk from tar sands pipelines that inevitably leak the corrosive, Canadian crude (known to sink, making clean-up impossible) but also the North American continent’s only indigenous grain, wild rice, as well as the peoples whose survival depends on it. While “rice is everything” to the native Ojibwe people, expanding oil infrastructure is essential to monetizing Koch’s massive tar sands assets in Alberta, as exposed in IFG’s Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb.
 
Click here to read the full MPR News article.