Add Climate Havoc to War Crimes: Pentagon’s Role in Global Catastrophe

By Sara Flounders

In evaluating the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen -- with more than 15,000 participants from 192 countries, including more than 100 heads of state, as well as 100,000 demonstrators in the streets -- it is important to ask: How is it possible that the worst polluter of carbon dioxide and other toxic emissions on the planet is not a focus of any conference discussion or proposed restrictions?

By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

The Pentagon wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; its secret operations in Pakistan; its equipment on more than 1,000 U.S. bases around the world; its 6,000 facilities in the U.S.; all NATO operations; its aircraft carriers, jet aircraft, weapons testing, training and sales will not be counted against U.S. greenhouse gas limits or included in any count.

The Feb. 17, 2007, Energy Bulletin detailed the oil consumption just for the Pentagon's aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities that made it the single-largest oil consumer in the world. At the time, the U.S. Navy had 285 combat and support ships and around 4,000 operational aircraft. The U.S. Army had 28,000 armored vehicles, 140,000 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, more than 4,000 combat helicopters, several hundred fixed-wing aircraft and 187,493 fleet vehicles. Except for 80 nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, which spread radioactive pollution, all their other vehicles run on oil.

Even according to rankings in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, only 35 countries (out of 210 in the world) consume more oil per day than the Pentagon.

The U.S. military officially uses 320,000 barrels of oil a day. However, this total does not include fuel consumed by contractors or fuel consumed in leased and privatized facilities. Nor does it include the enormous energy and resources used to produce and maintain their death-dealing equipment or the bombs, grenades or missiles they fire.

Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, reports: "The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007. ... The war emits more than 60 percent of all countries. ... This information is not readily available ... because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under U.S. law and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change." (, Dec. 10) Most scientists blame carbon dioxide emissions for greenhouse gases and climate change.

Barry Sanders in his new book, "The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism," says that "the greatest single assault on the environment, on all of us around the globe, comes from one agency ... the Armed Forces of the United States."

Just how did the Pentagon come to be exempt from climate agreements? At the time of the Kyoto Accords negotiations, the U.S. demanded as a provision of signing that all of its military operations worldwide and all operations it participates in with the U.N. and/or NATO be completely exempted from measurement or reductions.

After securing this gigantic concession, the Bush administration then refused to sign the accords.

In a May 18, 1998, article entitled "National security and military policy issues involved in the Kyoto treaty," Dr. Jeffrey Salmon described the Pentagon's position. He quotes then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen's 1997 annual report to Congress: "DoD strongly recommends that the United States insist on a national security provision in the climate change Protocol now being negotiated.

According to Salmon, this national security provision was put forth in a draft calling for "complete military exemption from greenhouse gas emissions limits. The draft includes multilateral operations such as NATO- and U.N.-sanctioned activities, but it also includes actions related very broadly to national security, which would appear to comprehend all forms of unilateral military actions and training for such actions."

Salmon also quoted Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, who headed the U.S. delegation in Kyoto. Eizenstat reported that "every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got. This is self-defense, peacekeeping, humanitarian relief."

Although the U.S. had already received these assurances in the negotiations, the U.S. Congress passed an explicit provision guaranteeing U.S. military exemption. Inter Press Service reported on May 21, 1998: "U.S. law makers, in the latest blow to international efforts to halt global warming, today exempted U.S. military operations from the Kyoto agreement which lays out binding commitments to reduce 'greenhouse gas' emissions. The House of Representatives passed an amendment to next year's military authorization bill that 'prohibits the restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol.'"

Today in Copenhagen the same agreements and guidelines on greenhouse gases still hold. Yet it is extremely difficult to find even a mention of this glaring omission.

According to environmental journalist Johanna Peace, military activities will continue to be exempt from an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Peace states, "The military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal government's energy demand.", Sept. 1)

The blanket exclusion of the Pentagon's global operations makes U.S. carbon dioxide emissions appear far less than they in fact are. Yet even without counting the Pentagon, the U.S. still has the world's largest carbon dioxide emissions.

More than emissions

Besides emitting carbon dioxide, U.S. military operations release other highly toxic and radioactive materials into the air, water and soil.

U.S. weapons made with depleted uranium have spread tens of thousands of pounds of microparticles of radioactive and highly toxic waste throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans.

The U.S. sells land mines and cluster bombs that are a major cause of delayed explosives, maiming and disabling especially peasant farmers and rural peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For example, Israel dropped more than 1 million U.S.-provided cluster bombs on Lebanon during its 2006 invasion.

The U.S. war in Vietnam left large areas so contaminated with the Agent Orange herbicide that today, more than 35 years later, dioxin contamination is 300 to 400 times higher than "safe" levels. Severe birth defects and high rates of cancer resulting from environmental contamination are continuing into a third generation.

The 1991 U.S. war in Iraq, followed by 13 years of starvation sanctions, the 2003 U.S. invasion and continuing occupation, has transformed the region -- which has a 5,000-year history as a Middle East breadbasket -- into an environmental catastrophe. Iraq's arable and fertile land has become a desert wasteland where the slightest wind whips up a dust storm. A former food exporter, Iraq now imports 80 percent of its food. The Iraqi Agriculture Ministry estimates that 90 percent of the land has severe desertification.

Environmental war at home

Moreover, the Defense Department has routinely resisted orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated U.S. bases. (Washington Post, June 30, 2008) Pentagon military bases top the Superfund list of the most polluted places, as contaminants seep into drinking water aquifers and soil.

The Pentagon has also fought EPA efforts to set new pollution standards on two toxic chemicals widely found on military sites: perchlorate, found in propellant for rockets and missiles; and trichloroethylene, a degreaser for metal parts.

Trichloroethylene is the most widespread water contaminant in the country, seeping into aquifers across California, New York, Texas, Florida and elsewhere. More than 1,000 military sites in the U.S. are contaminated with the chemical. The poorest communities, especially communities of color, are the most severely impacted by this poisoning.

U.S. testing of nuclear weapons in the U.S. Southwest and on South Pacific islands has contaminated millions of areas of land and water with radiation. Mountains of radioactive and toxic uranium tailings have been left on Indigenous land in the Southwest. More than 1,000 uranium mines have been abandoned on Navajo reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.

Around the world, on past and still operating bases in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama and the former Yugoslavia, rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon.

The best way to dramatically clean up the environment is to shut down the Pentagon. What is needed to combat climate change is a thoroughgoing system change.

IAC wins award for the Project Censored twenty-five "Most Censored" News Stories of 2009-10:

The Contamination of Iraq with Depleted Uranium Causes

Health Concerns

Validated Independent News

Hundreds of tons of Depleted Uranium (DU) were used during the invasion of Iraq. The US forces have forbid any kind of (DU) related exploration programs or research.  They have also covered up and denied DU’s damaging health effects, and refused to release information on the amounts, types and locations of these weapons within Iraq. As a consequence, thousands of Iraqi children and their families are suffering from different low level radiation (LLR) related diseases such as congenital malformations, malignancies, congenital heart diseases, chromosomal aberration and multiple malformations.  Women in the contaminated areas suffered high rates of miscarriages and sterility

Child and mother Child with depleted uranium Birth Defects
Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons are manufactured from radioactive waste generated during the enrichment process of natural uranium as part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

American and British armed forces fired DU bullets and projectiles for the first time against the human population and environment in Iraq during the Gulf War, 1991. When DU munitions hit the target, they ignite prophetically and generate heat that reaches a temperature of 3000-6000. This heat causes a sublimation of DU and other metals to form a gas or aerosol that is considered as (nano- particles). The nano particles cross the lung blood barrier and gain entrance to the cells and create free radicals. Some effects that the people are facing are, immune and hormonal systems damage, distribution of thyroid function and tetrogenic toxicity where soluble DU oxides crosses the placenta to the fetus, as a result damages might range from behavioral problems to mental retardation and congenital malformations.

The Minister of Environment under the occupation government finally admitted in 2007 the existence of more than 350 highly contaminated DU site, along with the existence of high rates of cancer in Iraq due to the use of DU weapons.

Title:  Crime of the Century:  Contaminating Iraq with Depleted uranium
Publication: B Russells Tribunal –
Date of Pub: September 19, 2010 (Pages #s) 28
Author: Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi – Associate Professor in Environmental Engineering, Iraq.
Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, Sonoma State University
Student Researcher: Rosa Caldera, Sonoma State University

US is Dancing to India's Tune

President Obama and the First lady dancing to Indian Music

It is time to deconstruct the prevailing narrative on US-India relations.

Robert Grenier Last Modified: 13 Nov 2010 11:44 GMT

More than just an embarrassing photograph? [AFP]
It is an amusing photograph, and one can readily empathise with its subject. Politicians, after all, are always being pressed to do undignified things at public appearances, whether it is wearing silly hats or kissing squalling babies. But despite the insistent entreaties of the dance troupe at Mumbai's Holy Name High School this past week, Barack Obama, the US president, really ought to have kept his seat.  For in taking the stage to engage in some slightly awkward gyrations before the press cameras, he was unintentionally providing an apt metaphor for current US policy: the US is dancing to India's tune.

There is an evolving US policy narrative concerning India which has gained great momentum over the past 10 years or so, is uncritically parroted by the US press, and which generally runs like this: India, the world's second-largest country, is a rapidly-developing nation of huge economic potential, beginning to take its place as one of the great powers of the 21st century. Distrustful as it is of its even larger neighbour to the north, it is therefore a natural strategic ally of the US in the latter's efforts to contain an increasingly assertive and often belligerent China. As a frequent victim of Islamic extremists, India and the US therefore are also natural allies in the 'war on terror'. Moreover, as the world's two largest democracies, India and the US share deep and abiding values, and are similarly devoted to the benefits of expanded international trade and economic globalisation.

And so, the narrative continues, the US must recognise and promote India's emerging status on the global stage, foster expansion of bilateral economic and trade ties, and develop a far-reaching geostrategic relationship which goes well beyond the narrow construct of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry, to which Indian policy has been traditionally confined.

Building on foundations begun by President Clinton and greatly advanced by George W. Bush, Obama therefore has used his recent three-day Indian trip to add further to the edifice of this putative partnership. He has stood before the Indian parliament to promise US support for India's accession to the UN Security Council. He has made a gift of lifting export controls on a host of militarily sensitive technologies. And despite the recent unpleasantness of a renewed popular uprising against repressive Indian rule in Kashmir, Obama has made clear to his Indian hosts that the US will not interfere in the dispute. Indeed, on repeated occasions during the past week, the US president has asserted that the relationship between India and the US is "the defining partnership of the 21st century".

Deconstructing the prevailing narrative

Honestly. With all respect, and even allowing for the natural exuberance of political rhetoric, that formulation is pure blather. To see why, we should take some time to deconstruct the prevailing narrative.

India is indeed a huge country with a rapidly-growing economy of enormous potential, with which US economic relations are destined to become increasingly important. The fact is, however, that those economic and trade relations are moving forward on their own momentum and of their own accord, quite independently of any US effort to forge a "strategic partnership".

Indeed, US-India trade relations are virtually impervious to other aspects of the official relationship between them. For the US government to suggest an important role in promoting continued private sector relations with India is rather like taking credit for a rising tide or the falling rain.

US promotion of India as a strategic counterweight to China, depending upon who is propounding it, is either disingenuous or simply wrong-headed. Yes, India harbours distrust of China as a result of past border disputes and the latter's close ties with Pakistan. Those concerns are not reciprocated in anything approaching full measure on the Chinese side, however. Chinese hegemonic designs are focused on East and South-East Asia, not some minor enclaves in the Himalayas. Pakistan aside, the areas of geo-strategic interest between China and India do not overlap; those between the US and China do.

To suggest that India would somehow allow itself to be used by the US as a stalking-horse, exerting military pressure on China - its largest trading partner, by the way - to promote interests other than its own, is a hopeless exercise in wishful thinking. If US firms can make profits selling sophisticated weapons to India, fine for them; but do not expect those weapons to be deployed in furtherance of US policy.
As true regional experts such as Teresita Schaffer have recently pointed out, India has a long history of strategic autonomy. Americans may have quickly forgotten about India's legacy as a champion of "non-alignment," its past firm orientation with the old Soviet Union and its testy Cold War relations with the US, but Indians have not.

As columnist Tom Friedman, a promoter of US-India strategic relations, has recently acknowledged in the pages of The New York Times, Indian elites are more likely to be preoccupied with US "hegemony" and "imperialism" than they are to worry about how to promote some broad, open-ended strategic alliance with the US.

Nowhere is that Cold War hangover more evident than in the Indian intelligence and security services.  Their relations with their US counterparts have traditionally been frosty, at best, and I understand them to be little improved now.

While US counter-terror concerns are literally global, India's are very narrow and particular, focused on organised Kashmiri militants and domestic extremists. In short, while the US can be of considerable help to India - as evidenced when, according to press reports at the time, the US was able to broker effective information-sharing between India and Pakistan concerning the militants responsible for the November, 2008 Mumbai attacks - India is able to do precious little for the US in return.

A motivator of terrorists

Rather than focusing on India's status as a victim of terrorism and a putative ally in combating it, the US would do better to focus on India's role as a motivator of terrorists, and press it to reform.

Part of the backdrop of Obama's visit, conveniently ignored by most Americans, is the renewed popular uprising against the massive, armed Indian occupation of the Kashmir valley, and the continuation of India's traditional means of combating it: the arbitrary detentions, the torture, the "disappearances," the systematic rapes.

As Indian writer Arundhati Roy has pointed out, it is just as armed militancy in the Kashmir valley, long supported by Pakistan, progressively fades, that a new generation of unarmed Kashmiri youth picks up stones in the struggle for self-determination.

For the US, this is not "merely" a matter of humanitarian concern, but of core security interests: how does the US expect to counter a "terrorist narrative" which appeals to Muslims hungry for justice in part by attacking the US as an ally of their oppressors, when the US willfully ignores the demands of justice in Kashmir?

The US decision to turn a page by negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation pact with India in 2008 has a compelling logic behind it. US counter-proliferation policy had been hopelessly outdated, and needed to take account both of current realities and of the basic national security concerns which influence nations' nuclear related decisions.

Arguably, it was the literal-minded and inflexible application of past US counter-proliferation policy - which ignored India's "indigenous" nuclear programme, while punishing Pakistan's efforts to seek international assistance for a parallel effort which it felt its national survival required - had the unintended effect of forcing Pakistan down a rogue path, and ironically exacerbated the South Asian nuclear arms race.

Rather than using the new Indian agreement as a rough model for its dealings with others, to include Pakistan, however, the US has made the Indian agreement exceptional. Thus, in a repeat of history, it has again forced Pakistan to turn to China for assistance. Predictably, the Chinese have been forthcoming, negotiating their own civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan this year, but one which arguably provides substantially fewer proliferation safeguards than a US-negotiated deal would otherwise have achieved.

Ironically, one of the US motives in reaching a civilian nuclear agreement with India was to promote US nuclear power exports. Given the stringent accident liability regime imposed by the Indian parliament, however, private US civilian nuclear suppliers are destined to be frozen out. The exceptional nuclear cooperation deal, which only the US could push through, will redound instead to the commercial benefit of Russia and France.

Romantic fantasy

The reason for the clear disparity between US and Indian benefits in the relationship as currently constructed is that while the US is engaging in a form of romantic fantasy regarding India, the Indians remain focused on their interests - as very narrowly defined.

A number of observers, including this writer, have argued in the past that US relations with Pakistan should be less "transactional" - less oriented around demands and rewards - and more broadly conducive to a genuine partnership. Given the important disparities in the two countries' estimates of their tactical national interests, however, and given the importance attached by the US to assistance only Pakistan can provide, relations between the two countries are nonetheless condemned to remain fundamentally transactional.

With regard to India, by contrast, the US would do well to make its dealings more transactional, not less. In return for promotion of India's admission to the club of great powers, the US should insist that it take on the responsibilities of one. Currently, the political deficit in US relations with India is measured not so much in costs, but in lost opportunities - ironically not just for the US, but for India, as well.

For example, both the US and India have a common interest in a stable Afghanistan whose space is denied as a haven to international terrorists. An Indian policy of rational restraint in Afghanistan, rather than its current pursuit of zero sum advantage over Pakistan, would make it far easier for the US to gain active Pakistani assistance in achieving such an outcome, to India's ultimate benefit.

Similarly, a stable Pakistan no longer in thrall to, or threatened by the same Islamically-inspired extremists who pose a physical threat to India is very much in India's interest. A settlement of the Kashmir dispute which recognised the legitimate rights of Kashmiris, and which thereby provided a politically face saving way for Pakistan to accept an agreement which inevitably, and by any objective measure, would favour India while undercutting support for the extremists, should be very much on the cards. Given India's manifest inability to achieve such an outcome on its own, moreover, the US should insist on a quiet role in brokering such a deal, to the benefit of all concerned.

US demands of India, in other words, should not involve a sacrifice of India's national interests, which it would not concede in any case. Rather, the US should be coaxing India toward an enlightened and far-sighted approach to achieving those national interests. The fact that the US is wooing India like a lovesick adolescent, offering blandishments and making concessions in the vain hope of gaining what India will not and cannot provide, while at the same time eschewing pressure for those things India could and should provide, is simply unconscionable.

Should India refuse to pursue a more enlightened self-interest, as well it may, at least the US should stop promoting it as though it were.

In short, it is time for the reverie to end. For the benefit of both countries, the US must stop dancing heedlessly to the Indian tune.
Robert Grenier was the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Al Jazeera


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Embracing the World with Our Arms

by Jim Hightower

The good news is that America is No. 1. Once again, the US of A is at the top of the heap, not only besting every other nation on the globe, but beating out all other nations combined. Go USA!
The bad news is that this spectacular achievement is in the sales of military weaponry. Yes, your country and mine is the top arms supplier to the world. In 2008, America’s corporate weapons-makers peddled nearly $38-billion-worth of everything from attack helicopters to small arms. This was $13 billion more than the previous year, and it totaled more than two-thirds of all sales in last year’s global arms bazaar. Our closest “competitor” was not Russia, not China, not Iran, but—of all places—Italy. It tallied $3.7 billion in sales.
armsIn its annual report on the arms market, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service noted that last year’s surge in U.S. sales was “extraordinary,” given the fact that a global recession restricted the ability of many countries to lavish such funds on war toys. Apparently, however, our arms dealers did a bang-up job of rustling up buyers. Especially fruitful were sales efforts in developing nations, which the report calls “the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers.”
Indeed, such developing countries as Morocco, India, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates accounted for almost $30 billion of our overall sales, giving U.S. suppliers 70 percent of this lucrative market. Russia was second, earning $3.3 billion for helping arm the developing world.
What a fine example of a national achievement this sets for all the boys and girls of our land. No doubt they’ll bust with pride—unless, of course, they end up having to battle some of the governments we’re now arming.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and winner of the 2009 winner of the Nation/Puffin Prize. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

Peace demonstration What It Takes

to Build a Movement

by Mark Rudd

Since the summer of 2003, I’ve crisscrossed the country speaking at colleges and theaters and bookstores, first with The Weather Underground documentary and, starting in March of this year, with my book: Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen (William Morrow, 2009). In discussions with young people, they often tell me, “Nothing anyone does can ever make a difference.”

The words still sound strange: it’s a phrase I never once heard forty years ago, a sentiment obviously false on its surface. Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, I and the rest of the country knew about the civil rights movement in the South, and what was most evident was that individuals, joining with others, actually were making a difference. The labor movement of the Thirties to the Sixties had improved the lives of millions; the anti-war movement had brought down a sitting president, LBJ, March 1968 and was actively engaged in stopping the Vietnam War. In the forty years since, the women’s movement, gay rights, disability rights, animal rights, and environmental movements have all registered enormous social and political gains. To old new lefties, such as myself, this is all self-evident.

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