For decades, the urgent need for climate action was stymied by what came to be known as “climate denialism” (or its more mild cousin, “climate skepticism”).
In an effort to create public confusion and stall political progress, the fossil fuel industry poured tens of millions of dollars into the pockets of foundations, think tanks, lobby groups, politicians and academics who relentlessly questioned the overwhelming scientific evidence that human-caused climate change is real and requires urgent action.
Thankfully, the climate deniers have now mostly been exposed and repudiated. Relatively few politicians now express misgivings about the reality or science of climate change (the current Republican nominee for U.S. president being a notable exception, along with some other conservative bright lights like Sarah Palin and Canadian MPCheryl Gallant).
That’s the good news.
The bad news is we face a new form of climate denialism — more nuanced and insidious, but just as dangerous.
By Kersplebedeb | Kersplebedeb, on September 26th, 2016
3. THE DEFUNDING OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT (2017 Budget: $246,644,617) AND THE REDIRECTION OF THOSE RESOURCES TO THE NEEDS OF OUR COMMUNITIES (INCLUDING RESOURCES FOR JOBS PROGRAMS, AFFORDABLE QUALITY HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, HOLISTIC HEALTH AND QUALITY SCHOOLS) ?4.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request I filed recently shows a disturbing abuse of your tax dollars. Money was wasted that could have been spent on doing something good, something positive, something useful for Collingwood. Download the report here. In the two-year period between mid-2014 and mid-2016, the town’s administration spent $340,000 of your tax dollars on … Continue reading “Your $350,000 wasted” . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Your $350,000 wasted
How do you get someone who is suicidal to change her ways? Wait, I know. How about 14-days in solitary confinement? Yeah, sure, a little mental torture should fix everything right up.
Military officials have sentenced Manning to 14 days in The Hole for her July suicide attempt. Manning was convicted on 3 counts of misconduct including interfering with the serenity of the glasshouse where she’s serving her 35-year sentence.
During the hearing, which Manning said took four hours, she was not allowed access to an attorney or advocate. No publicly available record or transcript of the hearing exists apart from Manning’s own description. . . . → Read More: The Disaffected Lib: Well, That Makes a Lot of Sense
It speaks volumes that Justin Trudeau’s position on the Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement is in lockstep with Stephen Harper’s. Those two and their parties are of one mind. Their kid sister, Elizabeth May, is with them even if her Green Party membership… . . . → Read More: The Disaffected Lib: Chris Hedges on Boycott, Divest, Sanction.
Last week, Mark Jaccard — a renowned climate policy analyst and professor at Simon Fraser University — published a short paper exploring federal approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report was quickly shared by other climate policy experts, including the University of Alberta’s Andrew Leach, Clean Energy Canada’s Dan Woynillowicz and York University’s Tzeporah Berman.
Unfortunately, many news outlets, including the Toronto Star and Metro, ran articles suggesting that Jaccard was petitioning against a carbon tax, with emissions reductions entirely accomplished via regulations.
That’s clearly not the case if one bothers to read the paper (a reality Jaccard spent much of the following days pointing out on Twitter).
Given the recent announcement by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that the government is examining carbon pricing as a tool to meet 2030 targets, actually reading Jaccard’s report is very much worth the time.
Really high. I was back and forth, this morning, with a friend who is very senior Clinton guy – he’s one of the ones who goes on TV for her – and I told him that basically “everyone up here in the Great White North is crapping themselves,” but that we hope tonight goes well. […] . . . → Read More: Warren Kinsella: How high are the stakes tonight?
Back in 2006 we first looked at how green roofs were becoming a development issue in Toronto, in 2009 Toronto implemented that green roof bylaw. Then in 2014 we took a look at how North America’s green roof industry is growing. This year, Toronto has become the hub for green roofs! Torontist took a look […]
I took some time this summer to look into the mental health affects of climate change. I put together a collection of links. Serious stuff – the Lancet, American Psychological Association, Center for Disease Control, that sort of thing.
It began with the burnout phenomenon. Professionals, scientists, directly and indirectly involved with climate change, month after month, who just can’t handle it and flee to industry or some backwater community college to protect what’s left of their sanity. Plenty of horror stories there.
Then it was on to the public at large – first those already savaged by severe weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves or cyclonic storms, the post-traumatic stress disorder crowd. That led me to an even larger group. This last group has not yet been hammered by climate change but they see it coming and it preys on their minds. They’re being called the “pre-traumatic stress disorder” victims. Climate change will drive you nuts.
As a provincial coroner and past palliative care physician, Dr. David Ouchterlony has seen suffering and death up close, experiences that have occasionally led to brief moments of sadness. But Ouchterlony describes such emotions as “trivial” compared to the dread he feels when thoughts about climate change linger, as they often do. He worries almost obsessively about a future he won’t see. How will younger generations be affected? Why are we failing to act on the threat?
“I was completely blind to it, and then five years ago it just hit me,” Ouchterlony, 74, said. “I went through this stage of losing sleep, thinking about my grandchild, wondering what I could do.”
He described the feeling as an “absence of hope” characterized by despair and, at times, exhausting guilt. Some researchers have called it a “pre-traumatic” stress disorder that, in some, is feeding anxiety and depressive thoughts.
Even the US National Wildlife Federation has weighed in.
“We may not currently be thinking about how heavy the toll on our psyche will be, but, before long, we will know only too well,” warned a 2012 report from the U.S. National Wildlife Federation.
It predicted that cases of mental and social disorders will rise steeply as the signs of climate change become clearer and more frequent, and as more people are directly affected by heat waves, drought and other extreme events that put pressure on clean water resources, food prices and public infrastructure.
“These will include depressive and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, suicides and widespread outbreaks of violence,” predicted the report. It singled out children, the poor, the elderly and those with existing mental health problems as those likely to be hardest hit.
“People may, indeed, suffer from anxiety about climate change but not know it. They will have a vague unease about what is happening around them, the changes they see in nature, the weather events and the fact that records are being broken month after month. But they won’t be sufficiently aware of the source, and furthermore, we all conflate and layer one anxiety upon another.” Bear in mind that what we’re seeing, what is making its way into the professional research and analysis, is all the “early onset” stuff. We’re now at 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. With the greenhouse gases we have already emitted we’ve “locked in” 1.5C of warming but it may take a decade or two to manifest. Every extra tank of SUV juice we burn adds to that 1.5C which is why we’re looking at a realistic 3+ degrees Celsius of warming by the time we get around to banning fossil fuels. But there’s a kicker. That is man-made global warming. That’s our part.
What’s not factored in to those numbers are sources of natural warming that have been triggered by the man-made component. The loss of Arctic sea ice, the retreat of glaciers and especially the Greenland ice sheet, the warming (and acidifying) oceans, the release of lakebed and seabed methane, major shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns (jet streams), the thawing of the permafrost – for starters. These are called “natural feedback loops” which are the tipping points we’ve been warned could trigger runaway global warming. These things that are underway now are the very things we were supposed to avoid triggering.
With this mental health blight setting in, and worsening, we’re left with yet another reason to transition Canada – our society and our economy – away from fossil energy as rapidly as possible. Yet our current prime minister, just like the prime minister he replaced, sees it as his solemn and overriding duty to pimp as much bitumen as he can onto world markets. Think of it as Justin Trudeau’s way of saying that he really doesn’t care what this may be doing to your mind. We have come to the point where we have to choose. No matter how much lipstick he puts on that pig, Trudeau has made his choice. . . . → Read More: The Disaffected Lib: It’ll Drive You Nuts
Fifty years ago, Star Trek – The Original Series – began. As a young person at the time, I was quite enthralled by a series that depicted a time when humanity had apparently solved its myriad problems on Earth and had expanded outward to seek out new life and new civilizations. Although Earth was never shown, one was left with the distinct impression that it had evolved into the closest thing to a Utopia, where harmony and understanding prevailed. The series served as a soothing counterbalance to the tumultuous nature of the Sixties, with war, race divisions, crime and poverty being our reality.
I am far from the somewhat optimistic lad I was 50 years ago, but visiting Word On The Street always reminds me of the idealized world that Star Trek presented: thousands of people milling about, examining, buying and discussing books, a diverse crowd both racially and demographically, citizens engaged and knowledgeable about the world. A hint of Utopia, one I found uplifting in part due to the fact that graybeards like me, although quite sizably represented as we tend to be, were flanked by much younger people for whom knowledge, information and engagement on issues are also very important. it gives me some hope.
We spent three hours at The Star tent, and were fortunate to have arrived early enough for seats, as it turned out to be standing room only. I won’t bore you with the details of what was discussed, but I will mention the response I got to a question I asked of Chantal Hebert, Paul Wells and Bruce Campion-Smith (Ottawa bureau chief), who were discussing Trudeau’s first year in power. They suggested that with the ousting of Harper, many Canadians feet they can get back to their ‘normal’ lives for the next four years, given that the polarization and divisiveness of the old regime ended with Harper’s ouster. I asked if that is likely to continue, given that issues such as CETA and pipelines will likely prove controversial for the government. The answer that I got is one I am not sure I agree with. The feeling was that few people follow free trade agreements like Ceta, and that pipeline issues are primarily of concern to those living in British Columbia.
I hope they are wrong. Judging by the very large attendance at the greatly expanded Star tent, they may just be.
In any event, I leave you with this letter from today’s Star. Clearly, some people are thinking about the issues:
It’s not like we don’t know how trade deals work. And NAFTA is small potatoes compared to CETA and TPP.
While we sit complacently, the Liberals have dispatched Chrystia Freeland to save CETA from wavering European politicians faced with voters actively taking to the streets in displeasure about more compromise on jobs, services, taxes and the environment, all in the name of further enriching the 1 per cent.
Under the guise of global trade have we not lost enough well-paying permanent jobs and seen a decline in important services such as education and health to know we are getting taken to the cleaners, again? Are the unimaginable billions already hidden in tax havens not sufficient for the proponents of one sided trade deals?
Shame on the Liberals who promised change. Shame on Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super Rich and shame on Canadians for not speaking up loud enough to be heard.
Nancy Stevens, Institute of Technical Trades, Toronto
Since it was you who made the public presentation regarding the NDP’s position on this matter, I am writing directly to you but please forward this letter to all NDP MPs since they have unanimously endorsed this highly questionable proposition.
I am writing to alert you that the NDP has made a very serious mistake in recommending to the federal government that Canada should nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. To some extent this error may be understandable in light of the fact that a commentator has recently said, “Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”
Nevertheless, instead of simply relying on the mainstream media for information on this issue, the NDP should have assigned someone to do in depth research on what the White Helmets entity really is. This is a complicated matter, and my research on this has resulted in a rather lengthy account, but it’s critically important for the NDP to know what is involved.
My research shows that the White Helmets do not operate in all of Syria but solely in Al Qaeda and other terrorist occupied parts of Syria. The question arises that if the White Helmets are supposedly not affiliated with any political party and that they are devoted to saving the lives of Syrian people wherever they are, how is it that they are found only in Al Qaeda and Al Nusra occupied parts of Syria, especially in the terrorist-occupied sections of Aleppo? When these terrorist groups shell and bomb Syrian government controlled areas, how is it that there are no While Helmets to help the people in these areas? After all, it is the terrorists who are responsible for the bulk of the casualties, despite what the American-based and Soros-funded Human Rights agency says.
For years the Syrian army has been trying to defeat and oust the Al Qaeda and Al Nusra forces from areas they had conquered since 2011. By being in these zones the White Helmets probably do save lives in the course of these battles. However, a case can be made that they are there primarily to be of propagandistic assistance to the terrorist groups that are trying to overthrow the legally elected secular Syrian government and replace it with a tyrannical Wahhabi religious regime. As such, this is a group that is hardly worthy of being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The reasons for the devastating war in Syria are well presented in an article dated February 23, 2016 by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – a personage who could hardly be accused of being an Assad apologist. The following are several excerpts:
While the compliant American press parrots the narrative that our military support for the Syrian insurgency is purely humanitarian, many Arabs see the present crisis as just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics. Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective.
In their view, our war against Bashar Assad did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead it began in 2000, when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, 1,500 kilometer pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey… . Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad. . . . Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by the Islamic State exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline… . And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible…… Qatar, which had the most to gain, invested $3 billion in building the insurgency and invited the Pentagon to train insurgents at U.S. bases in Qatar…… As predicted, Assad’s overreaction to the foreign-made crisis polarized Syria’s Shiite/Sunni divide and allowed U.S. policymakers to sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war.
Obviously, it is the USA that fomented and engineered the war in Syria. Doing this had nothing to do with “human rights and freedom”… it had everything to do with oil and natural gas policies that Syria had the audacity to oppose.
The Syrian war has been raging since 2011, leading to the deaths of an estimated 400,000 people, according to UN estimates. As Kennedy pointed out in his article, the conflict began when the US-backed opposition started an armed rebellion against President Assad’s government. Although this is regularly portrayed as a “civil war,” it is nothing of the kind. The US State Department has recently admitted that “an excess of 40,000 total foreign fighters have gone to the conflict [in Syria] from over 100 countries.” The war has been funded by billions of dollars, primarily by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and indirectly by the USA through its on-going CIA operations that provide military training and the latest weapons, including artillery and anti-tank guns.
A new report citing former CIA officers has revealed that the CIA was knowingly providing weapons, including tow missiles to fighters that were effectively part of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, and was continuing to arm “moderates” so long as they at least nominally kept their moderate names. As the war continued, these so-called “moderates” were defecting en masse to Al Nusra and other Al Qaeda forces. But so long as they retained their “Free Syrian Army” name the CIA could feign arming “moderates” – they didn’t care so long as they were arming a group that was fighting against the Syrian government. A Green Beret associated with the CIA programs has recently stated, “No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know we are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘Fuck it, who cares?’”
Contrary to the myth of the ‘moderate rebel’, they all operate basically as terrorists and these groups most often work together. For example, a top US-backed leader of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, is quite open about the fact that he works closely with ISIL-Daesh. The FSA has worked closely with the other main Al Qaeda group, Jabhat al Nusra, right from the very beginning.
So where do the White Helmets fit into this scenario? Our media portrays them as a group of Syrians volunteering as emergency first responders who scour through rubble in Syria after bombings to find survivors. They claim to be not affiliated with any political party and describe themselves as “neutral, impartial and humanitarian.” But if that is so, how is it that they do not operate anywhere in Syria except in areas held by Al Qaida forces, primarily in the Al Nusra occupied areas? The media openly admits that they “respond in the aftermath of Syrian government aerial bombings.” So where would this be other than in rebel/terrorist-occupied parts of Syria that the Syrian army is trying to recapture? If that is the case, how can be they claim to be “neutral, impartial and humanitarian” when they operate only in their so-called “liberated areas”?
It is a myth, and actually a lie, that somehow all on their own Syrian civilians such as construction workers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, painters, students, teachers, voluntarily came together, in the thousands, to form the White Helmet brigades. They are portrayed as a “non-governmental” organization, i.e., an NGO, but it is on record that so far they have received $23 million from the US Government, $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, and $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government. In addition, they receive material assistance and training, funded and run by a variety of other EU nations. This totals at least $60 million, so the White Helmets are not some poor unorganized locally based charity group. And are we to believe that all this money is used to just “scour through rubble” to try to rescue civilians in shelled and bombed war zones? How could all this money be used just for this purpose? There has to be something more to this.
Given this, how can the White Helmets be called an ‘independent relief organization’ when it is being funded by the US and other countries that directly and indirectly are involved in the military over-throw of Syria’s government?
Since the USA, the UK and their allies have had a long-standing objective to overthrow the Syrian government, with the cry “Assad must go!”, all this money that has been poured into White Helmets isn’t just to save the lives of “innocent civilians” in war zones – it appears that its primary purpose has been to further undermine Syria’s government and to create propaganda that supports military intervention by the U.S. and its allies.
In line with this, the White Helmets systematically ignore the atrocities carried out by Al Nusra and other Al Qaeda groups, but instead proceed to create media-friendly images of victims of the Syrian Army’s bombing of rebel-held areas. Considering the beheadings, torture and multiple other atrocities committed by these groups, it is hardly surprising that the Syrian Army, in the course of its campaign to defeat them, regularly bombs them.
The White Helmets, originally called “Syrian Civil Defence”, is an organization that was not created in Syria and nor has it been designed for the Syrian public at large – they operate solely in rebel/terrorist occupied parts of Syria. It was created by the UK and USA in March of 2013. Civilians from rebel/terrorist controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was headed by James Le Mesurier, a former British military officer and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai. The source of the $300,000 original seed funding is uncertain, but, as cited above, millions came in afterwards with open acknowledgements from the USA, UK and Holland.
In the first source cited above, a senior US State Department official has stated that their funding of this project “enables Syrian civilians to do something tangible in the face of the regime’s atrocities … in liberated areas of Syria.” Note that the reference is to “the regime’s atrocities … in liberated areas of Syria.” Hence, in line with US foreign policy, there is no mention of terrorist atrocities committed against the Syrian population and why the Syrian army is trying to recapture these so-called “liberated areas.” Moreover, what this reveals is that the USA’s sizeable funding of the White Helmets in “liberated areas” is somehow connected to its campaign that “Assad must go.”
If the White Helmets devoted their activities solely to save the lives of people caught up in war zones, that would be commendable and beyond reproach, but that is not the case. A major part of their activities is devoted to media reports and public relations, and it seems that this is what accounts for a major part of their funding – and it appears that this is the primary reason for their creation.
Central to their media campaign is the demonization of the Assad government – they paint the Syrian President and the Syrian Army as monsters slaughtering civilians, especially children; yet, when tracked back, all the stories come from utterly partisan sources. Combined with this is their appeal for a No Fly Zone and direct foreign intervention – just recall how well this turned out in Libya. Almost immediately after the White Helmets were formed they became very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook, and editorials in high profile newspapers. For example, in March of 2015 a White Helmet leader wrote a Washington Post editorial, concluding with the request for “a no-fly zone, if necessary.” This highly questionable barrage of consistently defamatory material is nothing more than outright propaganda.
The White Helmets phenomenon is clearly a public relations project which has received glowing publicity from HuffPo to Nicholas Kristof at the NYT. White Helmets have been heavily promoted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (U.S.IP) whose leader began a press conference by declaring “U.S.IP has been working for the Syrian Revolution from the beginning”.
To be blunt about this, it appears that the White Helmets use search and rescue activities as a cover-up to demonize Syrian President Assad and help terrorists overthrow the Syrian government.
The claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets (3,000) and the number of people rescued (60,000) are questionable. The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. For example, almost 90% of Aleppo’s population is in government controlled area, whereas eastern Aleppo, occupied by Al Nusra, used to have a million people but now it’s reported to have only about 200,000 or even much less as estimated by others. To escape Al Nusra’s mercenary fighters, the bulk of the population has been driven into safe pockets within Aleppo away from terrorist strongholds. So how is it possible for the White Helmets to have rescued 60,000 civilians when the most populous area occupied by al Nusra has only 200,000 or less?
It is the White Helmets themselves who have claimed that they have rescued 60,000 civilians; this has not been verified by any other source. Despite such a classic conflict of interest, searching for independent evidence and disqualifying self-serving claims from belligerent parties in Syria has been ignored in much of the western media. As such, this claim by the White Helmets without any verification is next to meaningless.
There are other troubling aspects regarding the White Helmets. Although it was the US and the UK that were behind the creation of this organization (apparently primarily for propaganda purposes), it is revealing that on April 19, 2016, the US State Department had blocked entrance into the United States by Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, and refused to say why, although it’s apparently because the FBI had placed him onto its no-fly list as a known terrorist. There was considerable consternation about this in the US media, but there is no denying that this happened.
A further disturbing aspect is the revelation of an Al Nusra video in which one of their members in Aleppo executes a civilian on May 5, 2015. Moments after the execution, several White Helmets appear on the scene to remove the body in a body bag. Afterwards the White Helmets had to respond to valid accusations of collusion, which they denied but it does show some type of symbiosis between the White Helmets and the “rebel” terrorist operatives. Shortly afterwards the video was deleted by YouTube. However, it was somehow saved and can be viewed on LiveLeak. An account of this has been presented by British journalist Vanessa Beeley in which she included four photos from the Al Nusra video, showing the execution and members of the White Helmets picking up the body.
In addition to this, Vanessa Beeley has provided further information on the White Helmets and includes several other informative videos. On their official website the White Helmets claim that they “have risked sniper fire to rescue SAA [Syrian Arab Army] bodies to give them a proper burial.” Contrary to this, however, one of the videos shows a senior member of the White Helmets describing the “throwing of Shabiha bodies in the trash”. Shabiha is a derogatory term used by the “rebel alliance” of Al Nusra/Al Qaeda forces for any member of the Syrian military, irrespective of whether they are Alawite, Sunni, or Shia. It is revealing how a supposed “neutral” White Helmet would use this derogatory term for dead Syrian soldiers, and what they do with the bodies of Syrian soldiers. Another video shows several White Helmet members standing on a heap of discarded dead bodies of Syrian soldiers and giving the victory sign. And still another video shows “neutral” White Helmets once again flash the victory sign as they cart off dead Syrian Army corpses, perhaps be thrown in the trash. This display of support for the Al Nusra extremist terrorists who have just massacred these soldiers demonstrates where their true allegiances lie.
A final video shows a White Helmet referring to Al Nusra saying, “They are our role models, the best of people and we have the honour to serve them.” Surely this is a curious turn of phrase for a supposed neutral, impartial humanitarian “moderate” organization – one that is being put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize.
One could try to dismiss these comments by members of the White Helmets as not being truly indicative of the nature of this organization as such, but the fact that they have been funded by more than $60 million by the USA, other NATO countries and the Gulf states – all determined to overthrow the Syrian government – is something that cannot be dismissed. For all this money to be poured into this project shows that the White Helmets are being viewed as an important asset in the attempt to depose the secular government of the Syrian state.
The tens of thousands of Wahhabi-inspired fanatics and mercenaries from over a hundred countries who have been funded, armed, trained and directed by the USA and its allies for the purpose of destroying a secular state is not an easy sell for the general public, despite the efforts of a compliant mainstream media. Many people can see that this is a clear violation of customary international law and the UN Charter.
It was a stroke of genius, at relatively low cost, to create a seemingly innocuous NGO front group that would do “altruistic good works” but at the same time actively encourage direct foreign intervention in Syria. Hence, it appears that the primary function of the White Helmets is propaganda that encourages direct foreign intervention to depose the secular Syrian government that is actually supported by the majority of its people, as shown in the election held in June of 2014. Although the terrorists attempted to disrupt the election and it was dismissed in the USA as “fraud,” turnout was 73% of registered voters, with 88% voting for Assad. Representatives from 30 countries reported that the election was “free, fair and transparent”.
The White Helmets venture, promoted by the entire mainstream media, has been amazingly effective. A recent effort has been the Netflix “White Helmet” documentary that premiered on September 16 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It appears to be essentially a promotion video with the “Kid rescued from rubble” as the standard shtick. After the hideous murder of British MP, Jo Cox, a special fund was established to raise money for three of her causes, one being the White Helmets. Seeing that this was done within hours of her death it seems to be a cynical and obscene exploitation of her murder to try to maintain the credibility of the White Helmets. Smart as Jo Cox was, it appears that she had been taken in by the media promotion of the White Helmets.
To show the effectiveness of the media campaign in its promotion of the White Helmets and the unjustified demonization of the Syrian government, on September 22 it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award, the so called “Alternative Nobel Prize”, is being given to the US/UK created White Helmets “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.” The judges were obviously oblivious to the fact that the White Helmets only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition. They may have come to a different conclusion if they had seen this video which portrays their collaboration with Syria’s terrorists. A further comment on this matter was presented on September 23 by Rick Sterling:
The Rights Livelihood press release says the White Helmets “remain outspoken in calling for an end to hostilities in the country.” That is false. The White Helmets actively call for US/NATO intervention through a “No Fly Zone” which would begin with attacks and destruction of anti-aircraft positions. Taking over the skies above another country is an act of war as confirmed by US General Dempsey. The White Helmets have never criticized or called for the end of funding to extremist organizations including Nusra/Al Qaeda. On the contrary, White Helmets is generally embedded with this organization which is defined as “terrorist” by even the USA. That is likely why the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the USA.
With all the evidence I have presented showing the propaganda nature of the White Helmets phenomenon, how could the NDP have decided to ask the federal government to have Canada support the nomination of the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize? For the NDP to promote an organization that is supportive of terrorists in Syria and which is a creation of the CIA and American foreign policy for such an honour is scandalous.
How is it that in the past, both the NDP and the Canadian government, opposed the American war on Vietnam and the war on Iraq? Also we opposed US intervention in Cuba and the US-initiated coup in Chile. But more recently, both Canada and the NDP supported the US-NATO “no fly zone” in Libya (with disastrous consequences) and the US-inspired coup in Ukraine. And now the NDP, by backing the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize, is supportive of the USA’s long-standing intervention in Syria, which is not based on humanitarian issues but on pipelines and geopolitics as pointed out in the article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
If the documentation that I have presented should be taken seriously, how will the NDP now proceed to extricate itself from this self-inflicted White Helmets debacle? It would seem to me that the honourable and principled thing for the NDP to do would be to retract its request to support the nomination of the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize, and to honestly explain the reason for the retraction.
Because this is such an important matter and something that the Canadian public should be made aware of, I am taking the liberty of having this published as an “open letter to the NDP.” Moreover, I am forwarding this letter to Stéphane Dion, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, to alert him to the folly of acting on the NDP’s request regarding the White Helmets.
I write this with sadness and dismay, as I had done last fall with regard to the NDP’s election strategy.
John Ryan, Ph.D., Retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar University of Winnipeg
Mainstream media would have most of us believe that the current struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota is all about clean water – that its only focus is stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from running through Indigenous reservation land. And, yes, it is about these things. But while such a narrative may create “hot headlines,” it fails to capture the full truth and essence of what‘s really going on there.
On September 9 through September 12, our Workers World Party delegation gathered with 8,000 others to support the national call to mobilize for support.
Resistance, unity and mass consciousness
Shortly after our flight into Bismarck, North Dakota, we drove directly to the State Capitol Building for a local protest there. I began to realize that this was much bigger than just a fight for water. Is water a central component to this struggle? Yes! Yes, it is. But as local members of the Indigenous community began to gather, as school-aged Native youth began marching down the street in pouring rain, I quickly realized that the current developments at Standing Rock were not only politically and culturally significant, but that this moment in time was becoming historic. This “local protest” had indeed become monumental.
Representatives of Indigenous Nations began pouring into Bismarck from all over the country. In spite of the rain, more and more people just kept coming. A protest had become a reunion, a reunion for some who had never even spoken to each other, a reunion many thought would never happen again. The struggle for water had performed the miracle of bringing nations together from all over the Western Hemisphere. Resistance had created both unity and mass consciousness.
It was Friday and we had just arrived. So much was unfolding, and we hadn’t even made it to the encampment at Standing Rock yet. We had merely decided to support a local protest we heard about via Facebook. We still needed to get settled and set-up for the evening. After the protest, we finally arrived at Main Camp of Standing Rock late Friday afternoon, just a few hours before dark. We debated for a half hour about where to pitch our tent, and finally, collectively found a spot.
Word broke during camp that evening that the Obama administration and U.S. government had decided to temporarily “halt” further construction of the DAPL in the immediate Lake Oahe area by Standing Rock. But the overall project had not been “ceased” in North Dakota, or elsewhere.
Indigenous Nations came from all over: Ontario and Vancouver (Canada), Hawaii, Ecuador, Jamaica, Arizona, Alaska, Massachusetts, California. There were elders and small children, women and men. Some drove. Some flew. Some even came in by canoe.
Main Camp organizers noted that over 260 nations had gathered, the largest of any such gathering since Wounded Knee in 1973. Morale was high from the decision to “halt,” but leaders and organizers were still quite leery. After 500 years of colonial lies, false promises and broken treaties, many of their elders had seen this story before. They reminded the media and informed the various nations to stay vigilant.
As organizer and Standing Rock Sioux elder, Phyllis Young stated: “Our freedom is in our DNA. Our culture is bigger than the U.S. Constitution. When one nation’s rights are violated, we are all violated.” On the subject of settler treaties, Young reminded us that “these agreements are problematic because they do not recognize our sovereignty. They have not kept their promises.”
Building collective memory
Our time and efforts were divided between four different encampments. If you’re coming from Bismarck, the first encampment you’ll approach is “The Frontline”. This was the site where private security firm, G4S, sprayed Water Protectors with pepper spray, prompting dogs to attack women and defenseless children.
Located just off the road, the camp is small in size but well-guarded. A few yards behind the company’s barbed wire gates, you can actually see the uprooted soil, courtesy of U.S. Army Engineers and private construction vehicles. North Dakota later issued a misdemeanor warrant for Democracy Now host, Amy Goodman at this same site. Goodman was simply documenting what was happening there.
Main Camp is where the masses resided — a 20-acre plot of flatland surrounded by sacred burial space, “Facebook Hill” (where people can pick up just enough cell service to post on social media), and scattered marsh remnants of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers. Main Camp is where most of the socializing and public assemblies took place.
Though much smaller, Sacred Stone is probably the camp most recognized by name. Sacred Stone is the location of the initial resistance, dating back to early spring of this year.
Last, but certainly not least, is Red Warrior Camp – the heavily targeted and radical youth encampment located just between Main Camp and Sacred Stone. It was Red Warrior Camp that initially took to social media and began to spread the word. And it’s Red Warrior Camp that has truly inspired and galvanized Native youth. We were honored to formally meet with them the day before we left. In return, we left the Red Warrior Camp much of our camping equipment and the remaining supplies that we could spare. Their spokesperson, Cody Hall, had just been arrested the day we arrived, and was being held without bail.
Main Camp, which housed over 7,000 people, was highly organized and well laid out. Tents and tipis were sporadically spaced at the site of your own choosing. The kitchen, dry storage and main assembly circle were all conjoined. While the main circle was open-air seating, all other stations were well constructed for the harsh conditions of North Dakota.
There was a medical room and camp infirmary, a freedom school and welcome center – a donation center and legal support station. There were safety teams and ground sanitation. Several thousand of us were fed for free, sheltered and provided for, every day. Many participants came merely on faith, and with very few resources. The ingenuity required to seamlessly feed three meals a day to thousands, is no small feat.
In addition to the elements of traditional dance, custom dress and tribal flags, there was also a special emphasis placed on remembrance — remembrance of the old names and Native languages that so many still fight to preserve, remembrance of past freedom fighters and political prisoners. Elders and youth alike noted the important contributions of Sitting Bull and Leonard Peltier, Russell Means and John Trudell.
With over 260 Indigenous nations represented, yes, of course, there were a few internal differences. But there was also a celebration of those differences, a moment of magic that so many were able to come together and build on their commonalities. Not only was there a collective sense of pride, urgency and organization — a collective memory was etched in communal stone, passed down to the next ‘Seven Generations.’
“We want our grandchildren to see this, to be here and touch the land,” said Chief Arvol Looking Horse. “I remember my grandmother teaching me about Wounded Knee, and we have to pass this down…the story of today.”
It was so important that the youth and children were able to witness this display of unity. This is the moment that they too, will pass down to their children — the preservation of culture, history, tradition — the interconnection of water, soil, air, life — the importance of respecting the land, animals and fellow human beings.
Water is life, not a business
Standing Rock is more than just a fight to stop construction vehicles from digging up the soil. What this is really about is the preservation of the Indigenous way of life — a way of life that walks in accord with the natural elements and resources around them — a way of life that not only honors each other, but also the Earth, the land, the water. It is a way of life that deeply respects the air we breathe, the sun, the soil — a way of life that seeks to live in unity with these elements, not to somehow profit from them. Water is life, not a business.
Standing Rock is not only a political struggle for the right to assemble, protest and create change. It is, as well, a cultural struggle for independence and autonomy, for sovereignty and complete liberation — a resistance against forced displacement and assimilation. There are also elements of class struggle here — a “stand-off” of the poor and working class against big oil companies and the super-rich.
This struggle is about supporting the right to be free from corporate greed and white supremacist domination, the right for Indigenous people to determine their own destiny, the right to function without the U.S. government meddling in the internal affairs of Native Nations.
What we saw at Standing Rock were the effects of colonialism continuing to play out, 500 years later. Some Indigenous have survived through surface-level assimilation, adopting more Eurocentric names, styles of dress and religious practices. Others have refused to assimilate and remain rooted in the old ways. Some favor prayer and non-direct actions; others embrace a more militant form of resistance by any means necessary.
The only negative aspect of our entire stay was the state repression. Drones, helicopters and aerial surveillance were an absolute constant. No kidding! Checkpoints, encampment warrants and threat of arrests were very real. Supporters and organizers were quite conscious of the repressive character of the state, yet refused to allow that presence to dampen the occasion. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re pursuing liberation.
Nearly 70 people have been arrested for simply standing up to the DAPL, but many more are springing to take their places. When we talk about #NoDAPL, it is so critical that we demand all charges be dropped against protesters, local supporters and those who are being targeted.
Standing Rock is, in many regards, no different than Black Lives Matter, no different than the Palestinian resistance and Latinx Movement. The struggle against capitalism, state violence and white supremacy will undoubtedly require all of us to stand together.
Much thanks to #StandingRock for allowing us to be there. Long live the Indigenous Nations! Free Leonard Peltier! All power to the people!
Lamont Lilly is a contributing editor with the Triangle Free Press and Human Rights Delegate with Witness for Peace and organizer with Workers World Socialist Party. He has recently served as field staff in Baltimore, Ferguson, Oakland, Boston and Philadelphia. In February 2015, he traveled to both Syria and Lebanon with Ramsey Clark and Cynthia McKinney.
Almost a century before the New Democratic Party rode the first “orange wave,” their predecessors imagined a movement that could rally Canadians against economic insecurity, win access to necessary services such as health care, and confront the threat of war. The party they built during the Great Depression, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), permanently transformed the country’s politics.
Past histories have described the CCF as social democrats guided by middle-class intellectuals, a party which shied away from labour radicalism and communist agitation. James Naylor’s assiduous research tells a very different story: a CCF created by working-class activists steeped in Marxist ideology who sought to create a movement that would be both loyal to its socialist principles and appealing to the wider electorate.
The Fate of Labour Socialism is a fundamental reexamination of the CCF and Canadian working-class politics in the 1930s, one that will help historians better understand Canada’s political, intellectual, and labour history.
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Owen Jones offers his take on how the UK’s Labour Party should proceed following Jeremy Corbyn’s most recent leadership victory – and while the exact circumstances may not apply to the NDP’s upcoming leadersh… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
Last week, two of the movers and shakers in the Prime Minister’s Office announced that they were giving back part of the money they had received to move from Toronto to Ottawa. They were followed by two other staffers — for Ministers Dion and Bains — who refunded another $55,000 to the federal coffers. Michael Harris writes:
After asserting that they had broken no rules, the PM’s prodigal aides followed a step further in [Mike] Duffy’s shoes. They both claimed that there were elements of their relocation expenses that made them feel uncomfortable at the time, just as Duffy had testified in his own defence.
But then they went further:
Butts and Telford expanded the Duffy Doctrine. In their ‘mea culpa,’ they said they now felt strongly that the rules they followed in filing their moving expenses were so utterly, egregiously, and inherently wrong that they voluntarily returned a portion of their jammy reimbursements.
The Conservatives, of course, were cackling — forgetting that it was they who made the rules:
If the rules are, as Conservative MP Candice Bergen claims, a personal ATM for the current government and its minions, it was Stephen Harper who handed out the debit cards. In fact, Harper’s PMO approved nearly $325,000 in relocation expenses during its tenure, including $93,000 in moving expenses for one senior ministerial aide. In court, they call that a precedent.
But arguing over who made the rules is pointless. Since Senator Duffy’s trial, things have changed. Our age is still officially recorded as “A.D.” But, in Ottawa, that acronym has taken on new meaning. From henceforth it will mean “After Duffy.”