Earth Day

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Mommy, why does they think you’re a terrorist?

Five years ago, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. In the summer of 2011, 1,200 people were arrested outside the White House.

Protests were held once again around the country in a national day of action urging President Obama to reject Keystone’s construction. President Obama also faces continued pressure from backers of the Keystone XL. In their latest push for the project, House Republicans have announced plans to tie the pipeline’s construction to the upcoming vote on raising the nation’s debt ceiling. Well, on Monday, delegates at the 2013 International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit that was held in Suffern, New York, called on Obama to reject the Keystone, saying, quote, “There is no single project in North America that is more significant than Keystone XL in terms of the carbon emissions it would unleash. … As women who are already seeing the tragic impacts of climate change on families, on indigenous peoples, and on entire countries, we urge you to choose a better future by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

Tzeporah Berman talking;

The tar sands are the single largest industrial project on Earth. The scale is almost incomprehensible, if you’ve never been there. And they are not only the single reason that Canada’s climate pollution is going up, that we will not meet any of the targets, even the weak targets that have been set, but they’re also the most toxic project in the country. They’re polluting our water and our air. The tar sands produces 300 million liters of toxic sludge a day, that is just pumped into open-pit lakes that now stretch about 170 kilometers across Canada.

And, you know, one of the important things about what’s happening in Canada right now is that Canadian policy on climate change, on environment, on many issues, is being held hostage to the goal that this federal government, the Harper government, and the oil industry have of expanding the tar sands no matter what the cost. You know, oil corrodes. It’s corroding our pipelines and leading to spills and leaks that are threatening our communities, but it’s also corroding our democracy. What we’re seeing in Canada is the—literally, the elimination of 40 years of environmental laws in the last two years in order to make way for quick expansion of tar sands and pipelines. I mean, the Keystone is not the only pipeline this industry is proposing. It’s a spider web of pipelines across North America, so that they can try and expand this dirty oil as quickly as possible.

It’s really dirty because it’s—the oil is mixed with sand. So, in order to get that oil out, they have to use natural gas. More natural gas is used in the tar sands than all the homes in Canada. So, they use natural gas and freshwater to actually remove the oil from the sand, and the result is that each barrel of oil from the tar sands has three to four times more emissions, more climate pollution, than conventional oil.

this is an export pipeline. What the industry wants is, they want to get this oil off the continent, because they’ll get a better price. And so, all of the pipelines that are currently being proposed are in order so that the industry can export the oil. So, the Keystone, for example, will go all the way from Alberta straight down through the United States and out to the Gulf. And it’s not for U.S. consumption. The majority of that oil is destined to—you know, the U.S. is really just in the Canadian oil industry’s way. And the result is that this is a pipeline that is—presents enormous risk to the American people as a result of the terrible record of oil spills and leaks, and not a lot of benefit.

the government has shut down the majority of scientific research in the country that had to deal with climate change. This is a government in denial, and they do not want to talk about climate change. So, last year they shut down the atmospheric research station, which was one of the most important places in the world to get climate data. They shut down the National Round Table on Environment and Economy. They fired hundreds of scientists, and the ones that are left are being told that they can’t release their research to us, even though it’s taxpayers-funded research. They’re also being told that they can’t speak to the press unless they have a handler and it’s an approved interview; they have to have a handler from the prime minister’s office.

So the scientists that I’ve talked to are—they’re embarrassed, they’re frustrated, they’re protesting. Last week in Canada, we had hundreds of scientists hit the streets in their lab coats protesting the federal government, because they can’t speak. They’re being muzzled—you know, to the extent that the, you know, quiet eminent journal Nature last year published an editorial saying it’s time for Canada to set its scientists free.

Most of the scientists that I’m talking to in Canada can’t speak to the media at all. And if they want to talk about climate change, they’re definitely not going to get those interviews approved. But it’s not just the scientists that are being muzzled and the climate research that’s being shut down and people that are being fired. We’ve also seen an unprecedented attack on charitable organizations that deal with environmental research. The Canadian government has the majority of environmental organizations under Canadian revenue audit, and so the result is you have the majority of the country’s environmental leaders not able to be a watchdog on what the government is doing.

And secret documents reveal, through freedom of information this year, show that the government eliminated all these environmental laws in Canada at the request of the oil industry, because the environmental laws were in their way. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline crosses a thousand streams, and those—that would normally trigger an environmental assessment process. Well, when you have no laws, you have no environmental assessment. So when they eradicated all the environmental laws, 3,000 environmental assessments for major industrial projects in Canada were canceled. Now those projects are just approved without environmental assessment.

Dr. Hansen has referred to the Keystone XL pipeline as the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet. And he says that his studies are showing that if we allow the tar sands to expand at the rates that the government and industry want it to expand, then it’s game over for the planet.

One night at dinner, my son, who was eight at the time, turned to me and said, “Mommy, why does the government think you’re a terrorist?” Which is not really the conversation you want to have with your son. Because he had heard on the radio that on the Senate floor, the Harper government was proposing that we change the definition of the term “domestic terrorism” in Canada to include environmentalism.

Canadians who care about these issues are under attack by our own government, and we’re being told that if we—that what we do is not in the national interest, unless we support the oil industry’s agenda. But I think this government has overreached, and we are now finding—you know, our phones are ringing off the hook. People are joining the campaign and stepping up. And let’s be clear: Canadians want clean energy. Canadians, many of them, are very embarrassed about what our government is doing internationally, so our movement is growing. And so far, we have slowed down all of these pipelines and the expansion.

the alternative for Canada is not only clean energy, renewable energy, which now we can build at scale—we know that—but it’s also supporting other aspects of our economy, because when you support only one aspect of your economy, the most capital-intensive sector in the country, then it starts to destroy your manufacturing base, your service industry, your tourism industry. We need a diversified economy in Canada, and that’s not—and that’s entirely possible.

- source

Tzeporah Berman, a leading environmental activist who has campaigned in Canada for decades around clean energy and is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction and building new oil pipelines. Berman is also the co-founder ForestEthics and the author of This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.

Please reduce oil consumption.

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Building an enemy

In the early 2000’s, the Bush Administration made a disastrous decision to put all of these warlords on the CIA payroll and they came up with this name called The Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. I tracked down some of these warlords when I was in Somalia and in Kenya. They, basically, had them acting as an assassination squad. Most Somalia experts said that there were no more than a dozen Al Qaeda-connected individuals in Somalia right after 9/11. So, the CIA hires these warlords ostensibly to go in and hunt these people down. Well, they end up murdering vast numbers of people who were imams or religious scholars, and in some cases, I was told that they would literally like chop peoples heads off and then bring them to their American liaison and say this is so and so, and I’ve killed them.

So, you have this utterly thuggish collection of warlords murdering people and doing so, they believed, with the backing of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world. That sparked, then, a revolt against the warlords. So, what happened was that these coalitions of religious figures from different regions of Somalia formed something called the Islamic Courts Union, and basically it was 12 Sharia courts, meaning that there were 12 regional authorities who had imposed some version of law in the areas that they controlled. They came together and united as one body and they started to pool their resources in an effort to overthrow the CIA’s warlords from Mogadishu.

There was a 13th unofficial member of the Islamic Courts Union and that was Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen which is al-Shabaab. So, at al-Shabaab that was the only faction within the Islamic Courts Union that had any presence of foreign fighters, and they were the least powerful, they had the least credibility in Somalia, the least visibility. So, when Islamic Courts Union took Mogadishu they expelled the CIA warlords, they imposed a brutal but effective form of governance on Mogadishu, effective in the sense that it stabilized the city. Crime rates plummeted, they reopened the ports. There were also all sorts of vicious, violent punishments meted out against people who violated what they perceived to be the tenets of Islamic Sharia law. almost everyone except probably Bush-era officials would agree that it was the only moment from the time Siad Barre’s regime fell in the early-1990’s until 2006 that there was anything vaguely representing stability in Mogadishu.

The CIA’s warlords are kicked out, the Islamic Courts Union is in control. The U.S. then covertly partners with the Ethiopian dictatorship and Ethiopia launches an overt invasion of Somalia to overthrow of Islamic Courts Union. The fact that they were called Islamic probably — you know, Bush is like batting a ball of yarn in the back while Dick Cheney is running the country and they hear Islamic and it’s like, oh, we got to overthrow them. So, I mean, that’s basically what happened. It was this knee-jerk reaction. If you actually look at the people who made up the Islamic Courts Union, there was a mishmash of people. Yes, there were people who were extremists, but most of them were not. Most of the them were people that more closely represent the Taliban Government, not the Taliban movement, but the Taliban Government. I mean, it’s, by all standards a brutal form of government, but, these were not people who wanted to attack the United States at all. There was no U.S. interest in doing this except this for except for knee-jerk sort of neo-con reactionary politics.

So, they overthrow that government and then JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA use the cover of this over-invasion to go in and start hunting people, and they want to take out all of the leaders of the Islamic Courts Union. They are looking for people who were attacked — involved with the 98 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and they start this assassination campaign. They use drones and they’re using AC-130 gun ships, and basically the Islamic Courts Union is totally dismantled.

Somalia then returns or reverts to this state of brutality and civil war, and you then have the Ethiopians committing rape, murdering civilians, torturing peoples, setting up their own prisons, rendering people back to Ethiopia, it becomes an utter disaster. What ends up happening is that Shabaab, this group of relative nobodies for so many years, who were sort of on the periphery of this movement, start to say, well, we will be the vanguard in the fight against the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion, and we will take up arms we will defend Somalia. And they started mixing together the ideas and rhetoric of Osama bin Laden with a sort of Somali nationalist politics and end up getting a tremendous amount of support because they were the only people fighting. So, what happened there, I mean, this is incredible, is that Osama bin Laden tried to take credit for the Black Hawk Down incident in the early 1990’s, and it was a complete lie. They had nothing to do with it. Maybe there was some people that were — could reasonable be called jihadists that were involved with that, but, it was not Osama bin Laden’s plot, and yet, Osama bin Laden tried to take responsibility for it. 18 U.S. soldiers were killed. thousands and thousands of Somalis were killed. It is basically one of the only things most people know about Somalia, was Black Hawk Down. Most people don’t even know. It is like when we talk about the Vietnam War, people know that there were 65,000 U.S. troops killed. Do people know that multimillion Vietnamese were killed? It’s the same with the Black Hawk Down incident. I mean, thousands of Somalis were butchered in the aftermath of that.

President Clinton ended up pulling the Army Rangers and the whole U.S. presence out of Somalia, but they were hunting Mohamed Farrah Aidid, this warlord, who had basically destroyed Mogadishu and created the situation where you have the civil war in Somalia. The point I’m getting at here is that al-Shabaab was largely a non-player in Somalia and al-Qaeda had almost no presence there. And the U.S., by backing these warlords and then overthrowing the Islamic Courts Union made the very force that they claim to be trying to fight the most powerful force in Somalia.

initially, it started with a sort of knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. The fact was that there were major terrorist events that happened as a result of Somalia’s lawless situation. There were people being harbored in Somalia that were involved with the 1998 embassy bombings. I think that Rumsfeld and Cheney, early on after 9/11 developed this program called Next Steps, and they were citing all these countries that they intended to go into, and Somalia was on the early list of countries. And you had the State Department, Colin Powell and others, cautioning against it, and saying we shouldn’t go in here, but there were people in the Pentagon who wanted to run the deck all over the world and wanted to send people in there.

there are natural resources. It has the largest coastline of any nation in Africa. There is a very, potentially lucrative fishing industry that exists there. It is part of why you see the rise of piracy, is that European and other shipping companies are coming in they’re dumping the Somali waters. But, also Illegal fishing is happening all the time. When people eat lobster and they are told it is Kenyan lobster, it almost certainly is actually from the Somali coastline or from the Somali waters. So, I don’t think there is some nefarious conspiracy behind the scenes, but Somalia — if Somalia was a stabilized country, there is tremendous natural resources and wealth in Somalia. but, I think it has more to do with this narrow U.S. view of terrorism being this epic global threat and reacting in that way constantly or consistently.

US have this huge counter terrorism base that they’ve built at the airport in Mogadishu and they’re paying Somali thugs, basically, to go out and do the bidding of the United States. So, we are basically back to where we are when Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney and others decided to start arming and backing warlords. It is just — Somalia is just in utter hell and it’s some of the greatest suffering on planet Earth and the U.S. has played a very significant role in destabilizing Somalia for many, many years.

During President Obama’s at the U.N. General assembly, my jaw sort of hit the floor. He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world. I mean, it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism, and I don’t use that word lightly, but it really is. I mean, he pushed back against the Russians when he came out and said I believe America is an exceptional nation. He then defended the Gulf War and basically said that the motivation behind it was about oil and said we are going to continue to take such actions in pursuit of securing natural resources for ourselves and our allies. I mean, this was a pretty incredible and bold declaration he was making, especially given the way that he has tried to portray himself around the world. On the other hand, you know, remember what happened right before Obama took the stage is that the president of Brazil got up, and she herself is a former political prisoner who was abused and targeted in a different lifetime, and she gets up and just blasts the United States over the NSA spy program around the world.

It was such a major scandal that the president canceled her state dinner with President Obama. This was not just like sitting in the Oval Office or something. This is a thing where they create a huge menu and they invite all these people and it was meant to sort of secure this relationship of these 2 huge western hemisphere powers. Brazil is a rising power in the western hemisphere and this was to be a very important moment in the history of relations between the U.S. and Brazil and for the Brazilians to cancel it just shows you the severity of this scandal. I mean, all around the world right now in the aftermath of the Wiki leaks, cables being revealed, now you have the Edward Snowden documents. People around the world have access to documentation that in some cases is bolstering what people already thought was going on, but in other cases it is revealing the extent of dirty tricks that the United States is playing on other nations around the world, not to mention its own citizens.

We are at this moment where President Obama appears at the U.N. and only made passing reference really to the NSA scandal. My understanding is that he was in the car when the President of Brazil was speaking and I don’t know if he heard her speech or not. Maybe they already had access to it because they are all up in her e-mails; but at the end of the day you have this democratic president who won the Nobel Peace Prize who then goes and stands in front of the United Nations and basically stakes out a neo-con vision of American foreign policy and owns it and kind of wraps it in this cloak of democratic legitimacy. I think when we look back at Obama’s legacy, this is going to have been a very significant period in U.S. history where the ideals of very sort of radical right wing forces were solidified and continued under Mr. Constitutional Law Professor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner. It is really kind of devastating what is going on right now and I think if you take the long view of it or you step back and look at it and don’t just see the tress but look at the forest, President Obama has been a forceful, fierce defending of empire and I think that is going to be the enduring legacy of his presidency is that he was an empire president.

The drone strike both in Yemen and in Pakistan the U.S. is continuing forward with its not so covert war and I think, remember President Obama in May gave this big speech at the National Defense University where he owned the fact that they had killed 4 American citizens and then asserted that the United States is going to continue to do this, this is going to go on and on. This isn’t stopping any time soon.

- source

Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” and also the author of the book by the same name. This weekend the film has its South American premiere at the Rio International Film Festival in Brazil. On October 15, Dirty Wars will be released in the United States via Netflix and iTunes, as well as on DVD.

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Never make deal with devil

Ricardo Alarcón talking:

there were several meetings, in fact. René was referring specifically to one that took place in Havana in July 1998, after some private exchanges between the two countries, the two governments, including President Clinton and a very well-known writer, García Márquez, who served as a go-between between us and them. They came down here, and they got a lot of information—recordings, videos, details of terrorist plots, and the addresses, the phone numbers, everything—so much that at the end of the meeting, the FBI officials thanked Cuba and said that they will need some time to process, though, that information, and they will go back to us. They never went back to us. They did act against the five, clearly to help to protect the terrorists. That is the substance of this process, of this trial.

According to the indictment, the FBI, they knew already the activities of the five, what they were doing. And that is a very interesting point. They knew what they were doing, and they didn’t act against them—for a very simple reason: What they were doing was nothing against the interests, the real interests, of the United States. They were not threatening their security. They were not posing any harm or any damage to your people and your society. What happened is that when they got that information, remember that the guy, when he said—before saying goodbye in Havana in July 1988, told us that they will need some time to process that information. I am sure that the very first thing that they did was to get in touch, in contact with a local FBI in Miami to check that information, to process the thing. And when they knew that, they tried—they tried to act against the five to divert the attention, to stop the possible cooperation between the two governments, and that was the beginning of this story. The person, the FBI agent or officer in Miami at that time, had been publicly recognizing that it was for him a very difficult task to persuade their chief to act against the five, probably because some people in Washington remember that they were talking to the Cubans precisely around those terror facts. There is an excellent book that was recently published in Canada by Professor Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water, which had a very well-documented description of those days and what happened. And I think that it’s very useful in answering that question that you asked me.

in those very days, the 12 and the 13 of July, 1998, on the front page of The New York Times, Luis Posada Carriles appeared, interviewed by some, well, U.S. journalist, and there, he did recognize spontaneously. He said that he was responsible for every terrorist act taking place in Havana in those days. More than that, he said who was paying him for that. And he referred to the Cuban American National Foundation and Mr. Mas Canosa at that time. All that was front page in The New York Times.

They have been 15 years in prison. Against them, apart from minor violations of papers, whatever, there are two main charges. Conspiracy to commit espionage, which according to the court of appeals in Atlanta unanimously was wrong, was unconstitutional, was unlawful, the sentence imposed against three of the five on that count—that’s why they ordered a resentencing. And that’s why Antonio and Ramón got out of the maximum security prisons and are now at a lower-level prison and without a life term. The other count, conspiracy, again, to commit murder. The president, Obama, only needs to look at what the U.S. attorney general office wrote in May 2001 recognizing that that was impossible to demonstrate that charge and asking for the modification of the indictment in order not to have that accusation, because they were going to lose. They have two arguments: a federal appeals court saying that there was no espionage and the U.S. attorney general office recognizing that they couldn’t prove the other allegation, the other supposed crime. And those four individuals have been in prison for 15 years, on two counts that the prosecutors, in one case, or a court of appeals, in the other, have recognized that were unfounded.

The only thing that can be done—that should be done, and the only suggestion that I would make to President Obama, is to do what for 200 years many presidents have done, time and again: to withdraw the accusation or to consider the ending the punishment, deciding simply to get those people out of jail, right now, unconditionally. Nothing will happen against him. He will not lose anything. He will gain a lot. If President Obama is really interested in projected a more positive image of U.S. policy abroad, if he is interested in improving relations with Latin America, he better listen to what many governments in Latin America have been telling him: Simply, free the five.

René González talking:

I was born there. I have family there, good people, people who don’t—of course, they don’t have my political opinions, but they supported me all the way since I was arrested. They supported my wife. They supported my daughters. And they are good Americans, like a lot of Americans that I met. I met good people everywhere. I met good officers in jail, people who were professional, who were decent. I met good people who was in prison, but they weren’t bad people. And I would say to all those people, to the American people, that we have more in common than separates us, that we should live together as neighbors, relate to each other through the things that make us human beings, through the things that unite us as people, and that it’s been too long for the two countries to be separated by politics.

As to the U.S. government, to listen to a whole continent that is telling them to change their relations with Cuba, to sit down with the Cuban government and talk about everything. The Cuban government has said that again and again. And I believe it’s time the U.S. government, for Obama, if he wants to leave a legacy as a president in the continent, to sit down with Cuba, and a lot is going to change, both with Cuba and with Latin America.

- source

Ricardo Alarcon, former foreign minister of Cuba and past president of the Cuban National Assembly.

René González, former Cuban intelligence agent and freed member of the Cuban Five.

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If everybody contributed then …

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US role in Rwandan Genocide

the 1994 genocide did not come from the blue. Of course there were raids of Tutsi group RPF, which was based in Uganda. It was led by General Kagame, who is presently president of Rwanda. The group was–RPF was supplied by both Ugandan forces, but also by the United States. There was a very close link between them and the United States. It grew from very insignificant group to a force of thousands of well-armed men.

General Kagame at the time was–he was intelligence chief of Ugandan military, of Ugandan army. Can you imagine a foreigner actually being intelligence chief in the foreign country?

And then what was happening is that, as was told to me by a former ambassador of the United States to Rwanda, Mr. Flaten, the relationship was very close and very–and there was a direct–there was direct supply, direct training, direct support of the United States for RPF. After the genocide, after 1994, when many Hutus actually fled to neighboring Congo, Rwanda became a place which was used, together with Uganda, to fulfill geopolitical and economic ambitions of the United States and European Union in that area, meaning Congo, which is one of the richest places on earth in terms of natural resources–it has coltan, which we use for our mobile phones [incompr.] uranium, diamond, gold, and so on. Congo was actually plundered by RPF, by Rwandan forces, but also by Ugandan army, on behalf of the U.S. and European multinational companies, and some would say on behalf of the governments.

Now, just to show you how close the relationships were and are, some people, like Tony Blair, the prime minister of U.K., after retiring, he became, actually, a direct adviser to Paul Kagame. Bill Clinton was very close to the government. And also, as we probably all know, Kagame before and after was several times visiting United States. He received military training at the U.S. bases. And his son is also receiving military training–received military training in the U.S. So this is just a short overview.

What happened after–other very important lesson is that truth always has to be learned, because we are always talking about the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, and of course it was horrible and people died, and 800,000 people died. But as I was told by Congolese presidential candidate at the time, /bɛnkəˈlɑːlɑː/, he said, well, we are talking about 800,000 people, and I’m very sorry for them, but look what happened in Congo. Between six and, by now, between six and ten million people died. Ten million. That’s the worst genocide, actually, that happened after the Second World War. It was probably worse than partition between Pakistan and India. And nobody’s talking about it. It’s a total taboo subject.

So we also have to–one thing we can learn is that if one thing is left unchecked, if the history is not being addressed, like the history of 1994, a horrible bloodletting or genocide, then the conflict can spread all over the region, as it can destroy many more lives. So in this case, in the case of Congo, it was perhaps ten times more people who vanished than those who died during the [incompr.] genocide itself.

Also what we have to learn is that geopolitical interests of the West should by no means be allowed to destroy entire nations. I mean, we have what happened in Rwanda in 1994 again is somehow very similar or it is resembling the events in Indonesia in 1965 or in Chile in 1973.

So there are many lessons that we can learn. But definitely some very powerful ones about neocolonialism, and also about the truth, about the truth not being told.

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Cuban Five

Fifteen years ago, five Cuban intelligence agents were arrested in the United States. Four remain locked up. The fifth will join us today from Havana. They say they were not spying on the United States but trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups here responsible for attacks inside Cuba.

The Berlin Wall comes to an end in the fall of 1989. The Soviet Union comes to an end in November 1991. The Cuban economy is going into a free fall. And the Cuban exiles decide that they have to enhance the attacks that they’re going to carry out on Cuba.

In 1990, René González hijacked a plane in Cuba and flew it to Miami. Shortly afterwards, he joined Brothers to the Rescue. He was followed by Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Fernando González. Years later, these men would be known as the Cuban Five, Cuban intelligence agents whose job was to penetrate violent exile groups.

In Cuba, the five are seen as national heroes. They were spying on a group of exiles in Florida that had carried out a string of deadly attacks, including the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455, killing all 73 people on board, and the 1997 hotel bombings in Havana.

One of the groups in Florida the men infiltrated was called Brothers to the Rescue, founded by a CIA-trained exile named José Basulto, who flew planes from Florida and Cuba to provoke the Cuban government. In 1996, Cuba shot down two of the group’s planes after they flew into or near Cuban airspace. Four people died. The Cuban Five also infiltrated Alpha 66, the F4 Commandos and the Cuban American National Foundation.

In 1998, the five were arrested. Charges included conspiracy to commit espionage, acting as an agent of a foreign government and, in one case, conspiracy to commit murder. Instead of deporting the spies back to Cuba, the U.S. put them on trial in Miami, a move widely criticized. Robert Pastor, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser for Latin America, said, “Holding a trial for five Cuban intelligence agents in Miami is about as fair as a trial for an Israeli intelligence agent in Tehran.”

René González talking:

for my generation Cubans, it was part of our development or common experience to have seen people coming from Miami raiding our shores, shooting at hotels, killing people here in Cuba, blowing up airplanes. So, we were really familiar with the terrorist activities that the Cuban people had been suffering for almost four years back then. So it wasn’t hard for me to accept the mission of going there and monitor the activities of some of those people, who had been trained by the CIA in the ’60s. Some of them had participated in Bay of Pigs. Some of them had gone then—after that, had gone to South America as part of the Operation Condor. And if you look at the history of those people, you can see their link to the worst actions of the U.S. government, be they Iran-Contras—even the Kennedy assassination plot was linked to them. So, it wasn’t hard for me to accept the mission and to go there to protect the Cuban people’s lives, and that’s what I did.

if we are talking about that, we should start by Luis Posada Carriles, who’s still in Miami. He’s living there under the protection of the U.S. government. Posada Carriles has a long story of terrorism against not only Cuba, but also even in the United States. He was responsible for the blowing up of the Cubana airliner in 1976 in Venezuela. And later on, when we were in Miami, he was also organizing the bombs which were placed on the hotels in Havana. But it’s not only him. I mean, he doesn’t work alone. The sad part is that he was being paid for by the Cuban American National Foundation, which is a legal organization linked to the Washington establishment, an organization which has a lobby in Washington, which has paid for the election campaigns of guys like Ileana Ros or Lincoln Diaz-Balart. And those people were paying these terrorists—that terrorist to put bombs in Havana in 1997. So that’s an example of the whole scheme that we were facing there.

And, of course, there were some other people, like José Basulto, who founded Brothers to the Rescue, but before that he had a long history of terrorism against Cuba. We had Orlando Bosch, who together with Luis Posada Carriles, was involved in the plot in Venezuela to blow up the Cubana airliner. And we have, for example, the Novo Sampoll brothers, who were linked to the assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington with a car bomb. So the list is long, but those are the—those were the people we were watching on, and that was our mission there.

I was a pilot here in Cuba. So I was flying with the skydiving operations here for sports operations. And, well, I took a chance and stole a plane, and I landed in Key West. Of course, I had been born in the United States, so when I landed there, I showed my birth certificate, and then they allowed me to go back to my family’s house. And then I ended up with Brothers to the Rescue, which was the first organization that I infiltrated there. And the rest was just linking up with all those people and, you know, going from one group to another to find out their plots against the country.

Brothers to the Rescue was founded by—I mean, he’s a main celebrity, I would say he was—José Basulto, was a young guy trained by the CIA during the Bay of Pigs invasion. But he was part of what was called back then the infiltration teams. So it wasn’t only him, but a bunch of guys from the infiltration teams, they were the ones who created Brothers to the Rescue. Initially, it was—I would say it was more of a psych-op operation. They tried to incite people to leave Cuba by boats or rafts, and then they would pretend that—let’s say, they would rescue some of them and, you know, make propaganda out of that rescue operations. It was a very intelligent operation, because, you know, it was premised on a—on a team that appeals to humanitarian feelings of the people—rescuing rafters, saving lives.

And at the beginning, they grew up, out of the support from the people in Miami. But then, after 1995, when the immigration agreements were signed off between Cuba and the United States, they resorted to invading the Cuban airspace, going—or, flying Havana, launching things. And they started to develop some other plans, which even included the use of some explosive to plant in Cuba. So, they began really dangerous. By 1995, they were already trying to do some different things than the ones they had done at the beginning. And, you know, those were the activities I was reporting on.

that was presented as evidence on the trial. He devised a weapon which would be like a flare. Let’s go back to the beginning, because even when he was saving lives, he called me once, and he asked for my advice to introduce some explosives in Cuba. It was in 1992. His idea back then was to blow up some power lines. back then, in 1992, the economic situation in Cuba was really hard, and we had blackouts every day. So, maybe he decided that he could do something to make those blackouts more common. And he was already devising a scheme to introduce in Cuba with his airplanes some explosive to be planted on the power lines. But that was back in 1992.

Then, after that, he was involved in some plots to buy some leftover military Russian planes. I remember he was trying to buy an L-39, which was a Czechoslovakian military training plane. He was trying to buy a MiG-23, which was a Soviet-built plane.

By the middle of 1998, there was an opportunity for the two governments, Cuba and the United States, to work together against terrorism. An FBI delegation had visited Havana for some days in June of that year. And before they left Cuba for the United States, they assured the Cuban government that they would do something about the voluminous information that had been given to them on terrorist activities against Cuba, based mainly in Florida. And three months after that meeting, all of a sudden things changed, and the FBI raided our homes, and we all were arrested on September 12th, 1998. They put us in solitary confinement for a year and a half. And then, the whole story started to develop.

In Miami, they did everything in their power to break us down. They put us in solitary confinement. They kept us in a hole for a year and a half. They used the conditions of confinement to prevent our access to the evidence of the trial, which is one of the grounds why the United Nations group on arbitrary detentions rejected the trial, by the way, and also Amnesty International. They used my family also to punish me. They didn’t allow me to see my daughters, for some reason they came up with. And it applied only to me, because nobody else in that building had that limitation. So, I could say—I will like to say, but they were very brutal during our time in Miami.

But, well, when you go to Pennsylvania, you’re not anymore. And that’s one of the reasons that we say the trial couldn’t be held in Miami, because once you leave Miami, then you are a normal person again.

the other members of the Cuban Five, the four who are still in prison. Fernando, he should finish his sentence in February next year. And I hope he comes right away to Cuba, because he’s not a U.S. citizen, so he should be deported from the U.S. And then is Antonio, who is still four years away. Ramón is already—is still 11 years away, which is—it would be a crime to keep him in jail. And then Gerardo, who is still dealing with one life sentence.

they’re scattered all over the United States. Antonio, he went to the prison where I’m at now, Marianna. Fernando is in Arizona in a prison, in an immigration prison, I believe low-level prison. Ramón is in Ashland in Kentucky, I believe it is. And Fernando is in—Gerardo is in Victorville in California.

my main hope is that the nature of the trial is too murky, is too perverse, to withstand the pressure of the best people in the world. I believe that this injustice, this trial, is going to go down in history as one of the worst example of what they call U.S. justice. And I hope that the U.S. government, little by little, is going to feel that the weight of this injustice is costing them more than the solving the problem.

the deadliest airline terrorism in the hemisphere was 1976, was the downing of the Cubana airliner in Venezuela that took out the entire Cuban Olympic fencing team, killed 73 people on board. Ultimately, Posada Carriles was convicted in absentia by Panama, who lives in Miami.

my first reaction was shock on September 11, 2001. Of course, nobody can forget that day. I was in my cell, and all of a sudden somebody called me: “Look at this!” And, you know, I just walked out of the cell, and there was a TV set, and the first plane had already hit the first tower. So I was—you know, I thought that it was an accident at first. So we were talking about that accident, how it happened, whatever. And then, all of a sudden I saw the second hit, and I just couldn’t believe it. And, of course, it was—it was shocking. I was moved by all those—I can never forget those people having to jump from buildings. It’s something that you don’t wish would happen to anybody. And, you know, the first reaction was just the shock of—at something so horrible.

And then you have to think a little more about that. And, well, I believe—on my elocution to the judge, I talk about it a little bit. I believe that as long as somebody believe that there are some good terrorists and some bad terrorists, terrorism is going to be there. And it’s a pity because, as I said to the judge, and you can be a capitalist, you can be Jew, you can be a Catholic or a Muslim, and be a good person. But a terrorist is a sick person; it’s not a good person. And for me, the fact that some people, like my prosecutors, for example, believe that some terrorists deserve to be protected and some don’t, I mean, is a—I can’t believe that in the 21st century this is happening yet.

the definition of “terrorism” doesn’t go that far on Cuba shooting down the Brothers to the Rescue plane. Terrorism, although I acknowledge the definition is too politically sometimes, politically motivated, but my definition is that it is a—it’s the imposition of violence indiscriminately to instill fear among the surviving people. And I don’t see how it fits what happens on February 1996. We are talking about a guy who was trying to be a terrorist, who all of a sudden discovered that he’s a humanitarian, and he creates an organization. He’s flying for years in front of the Cuban coast without any incident at all, while he is saving rafters. Cuba doesn’t interfere on his activities. And all of a sudden he decides that he can break into the Cuban airspace, do whatever he wants in Cuba, and he even starts devising plans to introduce explosives in Cuba and to introduce weapons in Cuba using those planes. And, I mean, anybody would accept that defending the country against those actions is an act of sovereignty.

- source

René González, former Cuban intelligence agent and freed member of the Cuban Five.

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Canceling the debt

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Terrorism of tomorrow

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is set to issue, Friday, it’s strongest warning yet that climate change is caused by humans and will cause more heat waves, droughts, and floods unless governments take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The IPCC releases their report every six years. It incorporates the key findings from thousands of articles published in scientific journals. The IPCC began meeting earlier this week in Stockholm ahead of the report’s release.

The IPCC report is expected to conclude with at least 95% certainty that human activities have caused most of earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future. That is up from a confidence level of 90% in 2007 report, the last or the assessment came out. Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute released a report this week by group of climate change skeptics called a Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC. The 1200 page report disputes the reality of man-made climate change.

Jeff Masters talking:

we only see one of these reports every six years, and it lays out a very authoritative and unarguable case, that climate change is happening, humans humans are mostly responsible, it’s going to accelerate and there are things we can do to slow down this sort of climate change upon us.

It is what you’d expect from basically lobbyists who are working for the fossil fuel industry, whose profits are threatened by the scientific findings of the IPCC. You would expect this sort of blowback by the fossil fuel industry to dispute the science, to cast doubt, to play up some of the arguments against it, which really aren’t under dispute by scientists.

The IPCC is kind of a unique hybrid because it is not just a scientific organization. All of its results have to be approved by government representatives. So, this week in Stockholm, the scientist have presented their information and each government — 195 in total — have to go line by line through the report and approve it. So, the politicians have a say in what is in the final report. As a result, the report is very conservative because everyone has to agree — it’s unanimous approval required.

We have to do two things, we have to cut down our emissions of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide and we have to adapt, we have to get prepared for the coming climate change storm as I call it. It is already here. We are already seeing the impacts, and we better get ready.

They have reduced their amount of certainty that we’ve already seen changes in intense hurricanes due to human causes. So, that reflects kind of the going scientific work that has been happening which is not sure. There is a lot of variability in hurricanes naturally; hard to tell if they are actually changing now due to a changing climate. So, that is one positive maybe we can take out of the report. We’re not sure we’re actually seeing an impact on hurricanes and typhoons.

One thing we are pretty sure of is that climate change is already causing an increase in extreme rainfall events, particularly in North America. These are the type of events that we saw this year in Colorado and again in Asia. We have seen an increasing number of very heavy precipitation events, the kind that are most likely to cause some of the extreme floods we’ve seen in recent years.

Kumi Naidu talking:

Obama hardly mentioned climate change. The thing about it is, even the CIA and Pentagon in 2003 in a report that was present even to President Bush, which he chose to bury it as somebody who was in effect an agent of the fossil fuel industry. That report suggests in the coming decades, the biggest threat to peace, security and stability will not come from conventional threats of terrorism and so on, but will come from the impacts of climate change. So, if any head of state, any political leader is concerned about peace, security, and stability, then they should be using the platforms at the United Nations now to talk about the biggest urgency this planet has ever faced. We are talking already of serious impacts, particularly in the developing world. We are seeing lives being lost. Darfur, I would argue, as the Secretary General of the United Nations argue, the genocide in Darfur, was certainly intensified, and exacerbated as a result of climate impacts. Lake Chad, one of the largest inland seas in the world that neighbors Darfur has largely, to use the words of the Secretary General of the U.N., shrunk to the size of a pond. And then, the Sahara Desert is marching from Senegal to the Sudan southwards at the rate of one mile a year. So, water scarcity, land scarcity and together food scarcity was the trigger. So, when you see all that happening, when heads of state are talking about all these sort of interventions around chemical weapons, all of which are important, but the biggest threat to peace and security is coming already from climate change and it is going to intensify. In that sense, I was deeply disappointed that President Obama didn’t make that connection.

The U.S. needs to recognize, firstly, that they are compromising their economic future because the U.S. needs to forget about the arms race, space race, and so on. The only race that is going to matter in terms of which countries and companies will be competitive in the future is those countries and companies that get as far ahead of the green race as possible. The U.S. needs to take leadership. The world is hungry for U.S. leadership in climate negotiations and the thing about it is, that case, the way it gets read, speaking beyond climate change now, is an approach by the U.S. of do as we tell you to do, don’t do as we say — sorry, do as we say, not as we do. Because, the U.S., if you take on torture, they are signatories to the anti-torture conventions, but we’ve got waterboarding, we’ve got Guantanamo, we’ve got extraordinary rendition. On respecting human rights and not violating peoples privacy without their knowledge — people around the world are saying things like, we had so much optimism in Obama. President Obama was saying, yes we can, yes we can, but with all of this NSA spying, maybe he was saying, yes we scan, yes we scan, yes we scan.

This is a tragedy that what was a innovative and creative way of ensuring that people and nature were actually protected has not been responded to by the international community. It is a reflection of a skewed sense of where we should be investing our global resources at the moment. If we look at the amount of money that is going into — taxpayer money — that is going into fossil fuel subsidies, to the tune of $1,4 trillion [$1.4 trillion] a year annually. A fraction of that money — tiny fraction of that money could have actually secured this very, very fragile part of the world. People need to realize, in the past when people talked about protecting forests, it was seen as it’s all about biodiversity, protecting certain species, and if you like nature. Today, people misunderstand that forests are the lungs of the planet. It is fundamentally connected to the challenge of climate change. Forests capture and store carbon safely. And the more we deplete our forests — and the rate we are depleting our force at the moment is every two seconds a forest the size of a football field is disappearing as we speak. So, our political leaders, but especially in rich countries who have not come up with the money I think history will judge them very, very harshly.

I think that underscores the disconnect with regard to getting our priorities right. And also, I think what you’re seeing, is that so long as the countries who historically built their economies on fossil fuels, the U.S. and most of the developed countries of the world, if they continue to be saying, we’re going to continue with further fossil fuel like the tar sands and fracking, and so on, it makes it really difficult for organizations like Greenpeace to actually lobby with developing countries to say, you’re going to have to leave that coal in the ground and the oil in the soil. When they say, but those folks are still continuing. So, we are playing political poker with the future of the planet and the future of our children. And what you are seeing is a terrible case of cognitive dissonance. All of the facts are telling us we are running out of time, and our leaders continue as business as usual.

Jeff Masters talking:

Drought is the number-one threat we face from climate change because it affects the two things we need to live, food and water. The future projections of drought are rather frightening. We see large areas of the world, particularly the ones that are already dry, are expected to get drier, and that’s going to greatly challenge our ability to grow food there and provide water for people. I was a little disappointed in the leaked draft that I’ve seen of the IPCC report. It doesn’t mention drought at all in the text. There is a mentioned of drought in a single table that they have there showing that, well, we are not really sure we’ve seen changes in drought due to human causes yet, but, we do think the dry air is going to get drier and this is going to be a problem in the future. So, yeah, a huge issue, drought. Really not addressed very well in the summary. I’m sure the main body of the report, that will be released Monday, will talk a lot about drought. The second issue you raised, the acidity of the oceans, yeah, that we’re sure we have seen an influence. There’s been a 26% increase in the acidity of the oceans since pre-industrial times and the pH has dropped by 0.1 units. That’s going to have severe impact on the marine communities we think and it’s only going to accelerate. They’re saying, pretty much with 99% certainty the oceans are going to get more acidic and it is due to human causes.

In Syria, they’re having their worst drought in over 70 years. There have been climate model studies done showing that the drought in that region of the world in particular is very likely more probable due to human causes. If you run a climate model both with and without the human increase in greenhouse gases, you see a large perturbation in the drought conditions there in the Mediterranean region. So, we’re pretty sure that drought is a factor there. And in Syria in particular, I mean, people have migrated over a million people have had to leave their homes because of drought. They moved into the cities. They don’t have jobs there. It’s caused more unrest and directly contributed to the unrest there.

Kumi Naidu talking:

Others have actually pointed to the big trigger for the conflict in Syria as being climate impacts particularly drought. But, if you look at even Egypt and you look at all the countries that went through the so-called Arab spring — I say so-called because I don’t think the struggle for justice is a seasonal activity. But, the Arab resistance, you see in all of those countries there has been water stress as well. Some of us have been saying for more than a decade now, the future wars will not be fought over oil, but it will be fought over water if we don’t actually get it right. I mean, our political leaders must understand people cannot drink oil, that people need — I mean, if you look at fracking in the United States, right, the potential danger that has to water security because of the impact on the water table, it is really taking risks. And in South Africa, by the way, Shell has got a contract to start fracking in the Karoo. And again, extremely water stressed area to start with. So, we really need our political leaders to connect the dots. Because, basically, what you see as a problem is a silo mentality to governance. Because we put environment and climate change here, and we put peace and security here, we put food and agriculture here. All of these things are connected and we need the leadership we need now is leaders who can think in an intersectoral way and understand the connections of the different global problems we face.

Jeff Masters talking:

This is only the first part of a big four-part series. This only talks about what has actually happened to the climate and what the models predict — project will happen. In March, there is going to be a whole other section which is going to talk about what are some of the impacts of this? And then there will be a further report, what can we do about it? How can we reduce the impacts? So, this is going to take over a year to play out.

skeptics are paying a lot of attention to a part of the leaked report. The IPCC said the rate of warming between ’98 and 2007 was about half the average rate since 1951.

They like to put in a frame something which they can use to challenge the report. I look at that sort of incidents as a speed bump on kind of the highway of climate change. We expect natural variability to play a role here. We’ve got various cycles in the atmosphere, in ocean, El Niño and La Niña, the sun changes it’s brightness some. We expect to see these sorts of slowdowns, and we expect this accelerations as well. If you go back and look at the 15-year period ending in 2006, the rate of warming was almost double what it was the previous 15 years. Nobody paid attention to that.

We can say that those sorts of events become more common. You roll the dice — you load the dice in favor of more extreme precipitation events. So, you role double sixes more often and maybe every now and then you can roll a 13.

Kumi Naidu talking:

if I could just jump in, there’s a lesson from history in the United States here that is helpful. If you look at when the scientific evidence around tobacco was clear and the consensus was clear that tobacco was bad for you, there was still a very powerful lobby of scientists funded by the tobacco industry to actually contaminate the public conversation, delay the policy changes that were necessary and so one. We are seeing a carbon copy of that same approach. And I would say to the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, also there is another thing you need to learn from. When anti tobacco litigation started in the early days, the CEOs of tobacco companies were arrogant and said it will never succeed, they never took it seriously. Climate litigation is starting now and the fossil fuel companies are actually being dismissive. I say to the fossil fuel industry leaders, go and ask your CEOs of tobacco companies which is the biggest amount of money that they have to have in their annual budgets [unintelligible], because it has to be — it is often in the legal department because of the scale of settlements. So, I think one expectation once the report is out is that the huge amount of money that goes into lobbying is going to do everything to actually rubbish this report and try and take selectively pieces of information. I think the American people in particular must interrogate the fact for every member of Congress there is between three and seven full-time lobbyists paid by the oil, coal, and gas sector. And they have actually held back the possibility of the U.S. being a global leader in renewable technology and that’s going to hurt the U.S. economy in the future.

- source

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground. On Friday he’ll host the Weather Channel’s live coverage of the release of the IPCC’s report

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The great big unguarded piles of money

Matt Taibbi talking:

The primary focus of my piece, there were a couple of things. Number one, how did these funds come to be broke the first place? I think everyone realizes that states are in fiscal crises or having trouble paying out their obligations to workers. One of the reasons is that at least 14 states have not been making their annual required contributions to the pension fund for years and years and years. So essentially, they have been illegally borrowing from these pension funds, sometimes going back decades. Another focus of the piece was the solution that a lot of sort of Wall Street funded think tanks are coming up with now is to get higher returns by putting these funds into alternative investments like hedge funds. In a lot of cases what I’m finding is that the fees that states are paying for these new hedge funds and these new types of alternatives investments are actually roughly equal to the cuts that they are taking from workers. Like in the state of Rhode Island, for instance, they have frozen the cost of living adjustment and the frozen cola roughly equals the fees that they’re paying to hedge funds in that state. So essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops, and firemen to billionaire hedge-funders.

decades ago, pension funds used to invest conservatively, basically in bonds, because they knew that this was retirement money of workers that they couldn’t risk. But increasingly then over the last 20 to 30 years, they have shifted more of their money into the stock markets, to the gambling of the stock market, so when the market went down then suddenly the investment returns of these pension funds went down and they were stuck then because they were projecting continued increases on those returns.

Among the problems here is that state and municipal pension funds are actually not covered ERISA which is the federal law governing pensions. So if there is no prudent man rule that requires a certain level of reasonability or prudence in investment, hedge funds probably would not have been a typical public or municipal investment a long time ago, but now they are being used in some cases 10%, 15 to 20% of these state funds are being put into these alternative investments. If you look on the prospectuses of a lot of these investments, they say right in the front, in huge letters, these are high risk investments, you may lose everything. It is exactly the opposite of what you want to put public money into.

John Arnold is a former Enron energy commodities trader who became a billionaire, one of the world’s most successful commodity traders after the collapse of Enron and he is sort of the new Koch Brothers figure. He is on a crusade. He has created something called the Arnold Foundation which is funding pension reform efforts in multiple states all across the country from Montana to Kentucky to Florida to Rhode Island where I spend a lot of time. In Rhode Island Arnold donated a lot of money to a 501(c)4 organization called Engage Rhode Island which helped promote the pension reform policies of the sort of Wall Street friendly treasurer they have in that state. And this is sort of the new formula, you have in the Citizen’s United age you have some person, a hedge fund guy like John Arnold, who gives a whole bunch of money to some shadowing organization which advertises this crisis that we can’t afford to pay workers any more so we have to do things differently. We gotta make cuts and then we gotta put all the money in Wall Street managed funds. That is sort of his playbook.

But the average retiree from the Detroit government is receiving a pension of $19,000 a year. We’re not talking about golden parachutes here, yet these are the very pension funds that are now under attack.

there is a huge corruption case that just broke open this morning. What I would say about that, is what did Willie Sutton say about why he robbed banks? That’s where the money is. Look, pension funds are sort of the last great big unguarded piles of money in this country and there are going to be all sorts of operators who trying to get their hands on that money. During the crisis era, it was Wall Street banks who were essentially looting these funds by selling them toxic, fraudulent mortgage backed securities. In Detroit, it was the workers themselves who were taking the money. They’re giving themselves what they called 13th checks, taking advances of their own money. But across the country the more typical narrative is not some worker who is making $19,000 who is really making out in this kind of corruption. It is the hedge fund who is making $50 and $60 million in fees managing state funds. That is the much more typical narrative.

16 major firms may have received early data from Thompson Reuters. That story came out actually earlier this year. There was a whistleblower who worked at Thompson Reuters. There was a key economic indicator that Thompson Reuters is contracted with the University of Michigan to release. It affects the fed’s projections and some of the fed’s moves. If you have early access to that data you definitely have a trading advantage and it has subsequently come out that some firms, 16 of the biggest banks and hedge funds in the world, have been getting that data up to an hour early.

That means that they are able to trade ahead of that information. I spoke with a market research firm who looked at the trading data and he said, look you are seeing these huge spikes in activity just before the data is officially released, which means that a whole bunch of people who had a lot of money were gambling on inside information and this is going on all over the place.

- source

Matt Taibbi, Contributor editor at Rolling Stone magazine.

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