And now for something really dangerous
And now for something really dangerous
Our newspapers and TV news have been full of reports lately on how the Bush administration "cherry-picked" intelligence to shore up the various claims it was making as it prepared for a long-desired, long-planned invasion of
In the most recent Nation magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who some months back wrote the single best account I've seen of the Bush assault on the environment, penned a hair-raising new report on Bush science in the raw, included below, in which he concluded:
"Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration--aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals--are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact 'for partisan political ends.'"
On no subject, perhaps, has this administration gone further in flattening the earth and then threatening to push the rest of us off of it than in the way it's protected the worst global warmers on the planet, the people who want us to use all their oil all the time. On global warming Kennedy comments:
"The Bush Administration's first instinct when it comes to science has been to suppress, discredit or alter facts it doesn't like. Probably the best-known case is global warming. Over the past two years the Administration has done this to a dozen major government studies on global warming, as well as to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its own efforts to stall action to control industrial emissions. The list also includes major long-term studies by the federal government's National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences, and by scientific teams at the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, and a 2002 collaborative report by scientists at all three of those agencies."
But, as it happens, not quite every part of the government has denied the reality of global warming. While
This is really quite a story. After all, we have an administration in which the Pentagon has regularly taken over tasks that would once have been delegated to the State Department, the CIA, or other agencies of government. In the context of the "war" on terrorism, the Pentagon, like the Blob of 1950s sci-fi movie fame, has eaten everything in sight. It's moved to become not just the last superpower's global gendarme, but its global diplomat, global spy, and through its own advanced research arm DARPA, global scientist.
Of course, when the Pentagon takes over tasks meant for others, it quite naturally does them the military way and with war-making on the brain. For the last two years improving relations with other countries has largely meant improving military-to-military relations, getting new basing rights, increasing military aid programs, bolstering foreign military forces, supporting military-to-military exchange programs and the like. In the process, the Pentagon's budget has soared and will only continue to do so. These days, if the Pentagon takes something seriously, it matters in a way that nothing else matters. Even in the wake of the Iraqi disaster, this remains the case.
Engaged in a post-Cold-War global arms-race-of-one, the Pentagon is the sole part of our government determinedly focused on planning for the distant future rather than making hay while the sun shines now. We're talking, of course, about people (or their predecessors) who, from the 1950s on, spent remarkable amounts of time, in Herman Kahn's phrase, "thinking the unthinkable." They are all-stars at war-gaming the nuclear destruction of the Earth or, more modestly, the deaths of hundreds of millions of us humans in various first, second, and third-strike scenarios.
By the way, for those of you who think all this has ended, wake up and smell the fumes. In a post-Cold-War world where paths to nuclear abolition were never considered, nuclear-armed nations abound. Putin's Russia only recently conducted large-scale nuclear games with its aging nuclear arsenal. Based on possible first-strike scenarios, they actually test-fired ICBMs from submarines in two tests that went disastrously amiss (which may almost be more frightening than tests that go well).
In the meantime, as Bruce Blair, an exceedingly sober (and sobering) expert on our own nuclear war-fighting capabilities, recently wrote at the Center for Defense Information website, the
"What is misleading about the [nuclear] briefing [the president gets on taking office] is that the president's supporting command system is not actually geared to withhold retaliation in the event of enemy missile attack, real or apparent. It is so greased for the rapid release of
Anyway, setting our hair-trigger nuclear situation aside, it turns out that "thinking the unthinkable" is a phrase no less applicable to the present moment than it was to the Cold War one. For Bush's strategists, "global warming" has been a phenomenon not to be thought about. Since arrival, this White House has been intent on unthinking the unthinkable on the subject. (To do anything more, after all, they would have to hurt the interests of crucial corporate sectors supporting their Energy 'R Us administration.) And yet the one government agency planning for the distant future -- bombers, missiles, and "enhanced" soldiers for 2030, 2040, 2050 -- turns out to be more than willing to take global warming not only seriously but to its most serious extremes. Remember, as the Pentagon has noticed, there's "war" -- and so a role for them -- in global warming.
"A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."
This is indeed scary stuff and the news made its way around the web with a speed only countered in this country by its almost complete absence from the world of print or television. Given that this is scary stuff, perhaps the Observer can be forgiven a dose of hype; but as far as I can tell, their "secret, suppressed" report is the same "unclassified" document, completed late last year, that the Pentagon "agreed to share" with the American business magazine Fortune a few weeks back ("Climate Collapse, The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare," 2/9/04), largely to a resounding silence in the rest of our media. (By the way, I'd love to know what -- or rather who -- that "agreed to share" really stands in for.)
According to Fortune's David Stipp, the cast of characters behind this Pentagon report is worth the price of admission in itself, starting with Andrew Marshall, the man who commissioned it. He's runs a secretive think tank in the bowels of the Pentagon aimed at future security threats, is known inside the five-sided building as "Yoda," and was the guru for Donald Rumsfeld's attempted "transformation" or "revolution" in the military. He, in turn, tapped Peter Schwartz, former head of planning at the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, who, according to Stipp, "has since consulted with organizations ranging from the CIA to DreamWorks -- he helped create futuristic scenarios for Steven Spielberg's film Minority Report." (You remember those final underwater scenes, don't you?)
As Stipp reports:
"The threat that has riveted their attention is this: Global warming, rather than causing gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world's climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a decade -- like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over."
There is a certain counterintuitive quality to the idea that a "global warming" world might tip the Northern hemisphere into a new ice age, but the science behind it, while recent, is quite compelling. It seems that what stands between our present temperate northern climate and an ice age is the
"In quick summary, if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of
The Pentagon took this science quite seriously and, thanks to a former oil man who consults on futuristic disaster films and teams of people who have undoubtedly been creating sci-fi scenarios in the Pentagon for a long time (after all, that's really what war-gaming is), they conjured up a future that only the Pentagon could love, a world in which war is the norm and security everything. Here are just a few of the gory details from the report as filtered through Fortune:
"A particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees in the
"History shows that whenever humans have faced a choice between starving or raiding, they raid. ... Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Oil supplies are stretched thin as climate cooling drives up demand. Many countries seek to shore up their energy supplies with nuclear energy, accelerating nuclear proliferation.
And so on. If you want to get a little, bare-bones summary of the report, check out the Observer sidebar ("Key Findings of the Pentagon,"
The fact that via the Observer this story can be "broken" for a second time several weeks after the Fortune piece and still hardly penetrate our major newspapers tells us much that we need to know about how far denial on the subject of global warming and our role in it extends beyond the Bush administration. And, of course, if the only governmental body to seriously attend to the phenomenon turns out to be the Pentagon, you can expect "solutions" involving more of what we've already witnessed these last two years: "homeland security" and global war with a passion or, as the report evidently puts it with a certain delicacy, solutions that involve identifying "'no regrets' strategies to ensure reliable access to food and water and to ensure our national security."
Once you turn your military into spies, diplomats, scientists, and environmentalists, then diplomacy, spying, science, and environmentalism are going to be about war and war-making. You can't expect the Pentagon to put itself out of business. So not surprisingly, the same people who brought you
Back when Fortune first released news of this Pentagon study, Religion professor Ira Chernus wrote a piece at the Common Dreams website that put this into perspective. He said in part (Pentagon Goes Crazy for Massive Climate Change):
"The Pentagon report does say we should 'explore ways to offset abrupt cooling.' But that is only a minor theme. Mostly it urges us to take care of Number One and keep the U.S. Number One, through an era of death and suffering beyond our wildest imaginings... Fear not, though. The strategy works. The
"It may seem crazy to deny reality with so much at stake. But the fantasy of security is irresistible,.. [Yet] climate change is so dangerous precisely because there are no borders in nature... When you take the global view that nature insists on, the idea of any one nation planning a 'no regrets' strategy, or even worrying about 'national security,' is just plain crazy. Especially when we have years of advance warning to plan for global cooperation.
"Nature is telling us loud and clear that we must change radically, from a world of competition to a world of cooperation. Only that radical shift in thinking will give us a chance to survive. If we can tear ourselves away from outdated nationalistic fantasies and get real, nature is giving us a chance to learn new ways to cooperate around the world... To do anything else would be crazy."
Of course, if the Pentagon is anywhere near right, then those mad dreamers of our last half century who wanted to beat a path to the abolition of nuclear weapons will someday be considered the only sane people on a mad planet, while those who fought -- and still fight -- so hard to preserve such weaponry will be seen in another light entirely. Consider the Pentagon scenario -- all those future madmen waving nuclear weapons and fighting desperate resource wars -- in the context, for instance, of the Bush administration's own nuclear plans. As Glen Millar wrote today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (
"The Bush administration favors a nuclear free-for-all, confident that it will be able to intimidate or destroy all adversaries with a varied arsenal of increasingly sophisticated weapons. Numerous international arms-control treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have been abandoned or ignored by the
Someday, the Bush administration's years in office may be seen as a genuine "reign of terror" in a very different sense than we now use the word "terror." The White House's success, you might say, is that it managed to inflate relatively small, if quite dangerous, groups of associated jihadis and angry fanatics into a vast bogeyman of an Enemy; an enemy large enough to launch World War IV against. Osama bin Laden's henchmen, of course, lent the hand of all hands in this task. His "legions" -- a mere 19 men, mostly Saudis, armed with whatever makeshift weapons they could smuggle onto four airplanes -- created their own disaster movie for the rest of us (and don't believe for a second that some of them hadn't watched such movies either).
Their stroke of genius was to carry-out a double assault in
There's a bumper sticker worth remembering here: Nature bats last. Perhaps the saddest thing, though, is that in its last licks it's likely initially to go to bat among peoples who contributed least to global warming, who burn next to no fossil fuels but live at the peripheries of the industrialized world on the low-lying atolls and islands of the Pacific or in our formerly icy, now melting northlands.
Recently, AgnÃ¨s Sinai wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique ("The world's fragile islands," 2/04):
"Some 600 idyllic islands in the South Pacific make up
"Joseph Komo, a member of the official Micronesian delegation to the ninth United Nations conference on climate change in
In the Maldive Islands, Sinai tells us, islanders are already preparing for the worst by building an "an artificial island: Hulhumale... 2 metres above sea level, 20 minutes from the archipelago's overcrowded capital, MalÃ©; it should eventually be home to 100,000 people." There's another irony for you. Only on the
Oh, and if the Pentagon's right, and the United States suffers least in its giant fortress state; if our children or grandchildren still have holidays in 2050, and the money to take them, let me offer a suggestion. Once they've made it past those boat people, and the small countries waving their large weapons, and the dust bowls, and future ice bowls, perhaps they'll want to spend a few days down
After all, as Kathy Marks of the British Independent tells us (2/23/04), writing about the Great Barrier Reef, considered one of the world's natural wonders and one of Australia's great tourist attractions:
"One of the bleakest prognoses on the future of the
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]