January 29, 2007
All of us like a comfortable life. If we don’t have it, then we strive to achieve it. That attitude will kill us all, unless changed very soon. The comfortable life of today uses a lot of carbon based energy and carbon producing processes such as deforestation. The result is the emission of very harmful gases referred to as Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). These gases end up in the atmosphere, the oceans and miscellaneous other places. They cause Global Warming.
Millions of people already die each year due to pollution. Somehow that does not seem to bother us. Even so, these carbon intensive, expensive and dangerous habits may be taken away from us quite soon. That may be the good news from Global Warming.
Here is what no one wants to tell you. Global Warming will change your life much sooner than you’d ever believe. It won’t necessarily be that much worse in the long run, at least for our kids. It may end up far better. But there will, at best, be a period of sacrificing what billions of us work and wish for. No one knows exactly when, what or how much will in fact happen. At best, some “comfortable” parts of our life will not be feasible. At worst, this planet will not be habitable to humans.
It is possible that things won’t work out with Global Warming. We may be past the point of no return. If we aren’t yet, we will be shortly unless drastic measures are taken. That’s the apocalyptic version of what we face. No one knows.
You will not hear such blasphemy from George W. Bush, EPA, NOAA, the UN, EU, NASA, the Stern Report or thousands of other recognized organizations and studies. That is because they cover up the worst news. They know telling the truth straight is not good for their grants, popularity polls and job security. I do not have to worry about that.
This series of essays will discuss exactly what is going on in great detail. The discussion will focus on things actually happening right now, not on fancy and complex forecasts. Anyone reading or watching the news today is aware that something is going on.
Unfortunately, different agendas get in the way of straight talk. Neoconservatists such as George W. Bush hate to talk about it. Most industries hate spending the cost to reverse the death path we are on. Politicians hate it, run for cover and issue meaningless platitudes. Scientists love it but spend too much time fighting each other. People do not want to consider the personal sacrifices that are needed. After all, do you really care about thawing tundra and melting glaciers? Maybe not yet, but you will.
I have my own agenda. I hope I will make a contribution to human survival. That’s all.
Below are some introductions and a Table of Content. If you already know this material you can use the button below to skip to the main content. Use the TOC button or the Back button in your browser to return here. If you are new to the material, just keep going.
About the Essay and The Seven Parts
I split the essay into seven posts numbered 1 through 7 because of its size. Click here for more details. Use the TOC button to return here.
- The first post examines the basic reasons why we ended up in this dreadful mess.
- The second post covers the political and UN scene.
- The third post deals with rising temperatures.
- The fourth post discloses secrets about the forecasting business.
- The fifth post explains the contribution of rising populations to our problem.
- The sixth post looks at ill effects caused, right now, by Global Warming.
- The seventh post provides a view of possible solutions.
There is an elaborate link and TOC (Table of Content) system to help you get around this mass of material. Use it to find what is of your most immediate interest. Just below, there is a TOC (Table of Content) button that lets you enter the navigation system. Enjoy.
|Blog Home||Home Site||Portfolios|
- This Post: GlobalWarming:1 – Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains
- Allegro To “There ain’t no Global Warming”
- Adagio To the Krill
- The Stuff We Breathe
- The Deadly Vandals
- How Greenhouse Gases Work
- Why They Happen
- The Real Bad News
- From Where Does the Bad Stuff Come?
- Here are the Villains
- Bad Stuffs Do Bad Things
- GlobalWarming:2 – Politics, Scandals, Mass Committees
- GlobalWarming:3 – Few Like It Hot
- GlobalWarming:4 – Forecasting Disaster
- GlobalWarming:5 – Just Too Many Of Us
- GlobalWarming:6 – Terrifying Evidence
- GlobalWarming:7 – Cataclysmic Apocalypse?
Odes, Ballads, Songs and Arias
This essay contains real life mini stories about usually small effects of Global Warming. The aim is to make you consider reality, survival, pain and the future. I cite simple stories about how some of us (humans, animals, plants, oceans and everything else) are already in, or cause, deep trouble. Here are links to the various little puzzle pieces:
- Allegro to “There Ain’t No Global Warming”
- Adagio to the Krill
- Mountain Top Chorale
- Tiger in Your Tank Two Step
- Ballad of the Lemmings
- Ode to an Ancient Past
- Tale of the River
- Northeast Song
- Chant for the Confused
- Hymn to the North
- Parchment Míddjarn
- Anthem to the Oceans
- Aria for the Polar Bear
Images in this essay
I’ve chosen to illustrate some of the essays with images from my portfolios. After all, I’m a photographer. I’ll use mostly night scenes that may emphasize the seriousness of the topic. I like night scenes, with their dramatic and quite tricky light. The extremes in contrast, the deep blacks and the graininess appeal to me. Most of the images are shot handheld with an 85mm F1.2 lens and Delta 3200 film, push developed about 1/2 stop. This post GlobalWarming:1 does not contain any of my photos.
I produced all of the graphs based on my own databases, combining data from many sources. A few graphs and photos coming from various places complement the content.
This blog, its design, text content (except quotes from others) and my own images and graphs are copyright © Leading Design, Inc 2006-2007. All Rights Reserved. I make absolutely no claims on images or quotes from other sources.
I like to insert little life stories about Global Warming as we all work through this massive set of facts, evidence, graphs, photographs, controversy and opinions. That might make this mess more palatable. I choose recent little articles that may not individually mean all that much to most people. Hopefully the little pieces will add up to a real picture in your mind.
There is not much secrecy to the fact I am concerned about a few issues. One is Global Warming. I believe that is a great threat to my life, those of my kids as it is to yours. Another concern of mine is this strange War on Terrorism that George W. Bush insists on escalating in the face of impossible odds by violating lots of laws and treaties. I actually oppose any war because wars hurt people. I don’t like that.
I’m not a liberal, democrat, Neoconservatist, republican, communist, atheist, religious-right or neo Nazi. I’m a photographer and artist, curious about life. I tend to obsess about issues usually far beyond my control. I try to be honest about myself as is required for me to be an artist. You be the judge.
Since this is going to be a long story about how bad this Global Warming thing is, why not in all fairness start out with a song about why “There Ain’t No Global Warming”. Here is my little Allegro, gathered from various sources:
“It is amazing that so many people believe global warming is real and is caused by humans. This myth has been largely promoted by the major media that gives much attention to those who support it and very little to those who debunk it. For example, in December, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma chaired a “Climate Change and the Media” meeting. He said that global warming is a hoax. The meeting received almost no major media attention.”
“The Oscar-nominated documentary An Inconvenient Truth was to have been shown at a school science class in Federal Way, Wash., a Seattle suburb, until one of the children’ s fathers angrily attacked the idea and got its showing temporarily scrubbed for the entire district. Frosty E. Hardiman, father of seven and an evangelical Christian, objected to the film because it blamed the United States for global warming. He believes the change in climates to be one of the signs of Jesus’ imminent return.“
“An increase in CO2 would increase oxygen production by plants which each one of us breathes. Therefore, there is no global warming due to CO2 gas. If there is global warming it is because the sun is putting out more radiant energy and has been observed to vary in intensity over time.”
“Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.”
“They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.“
“Zell Miller of Georgia, who earlier this year quoted from the Book of Amos on the Senate floor: “The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread or of thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord!”)”
“[Supportive] politicians include some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government, as well as key environmental decision makers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and quite possibly President Bush.”
“And those politicians are just the powerful tip of the iceberg. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.”
“Last year, Inhofe invited a stacked-deck of fossil fuel-funded climate-change skeptics to testify at a Senate hearing that climaxed with him calling global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” James Inhofe might be an environmentalist’s worst nightmare. The Oklahoma senator makes major policy decisions based on heavy corporate and theological influences, flawed science, and probably an apocalyptic world view — and he chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.”
“Inhofe’s staff defends his backward scientific positions, no matter how at odds they are with mainstream scientists. “How do you define ‘mainstream’?” asked a miffed staffer. “[Is it] scientists who accept the so-called consensus about global warming? Galileo was not [a] mainstream [person].”
That’s the entire Allegro of the Non-Believers. These quotes are not 20 years old, they are current views of allegedly grown up people. You certainly may classify some as lunatics. Maybe you should be concerned a few of them still hold seats in the US Congress. Of even more concern is that one of these fruit cakes is the current President of the United States of America.
These people have no clue what horrors Global Warming might bring. They categorically reject that part and expect divine release at the hands of a benign God. They may receive it sooner than they like. That is what the Allegro to “There Ain’t No Global Warming” is all about.
By the way – here are synonyms to the title of the essay:
- Culprit: con, convict, criminal, delinquent, evildoer, ex-con, felon, fugitive, jailbird, malefactor, miscreant, offender, rascal, sinner, transgressor, wrongdoer, yard bird
- Scoundrel: bad egg, bad news, bastard, black sheep, blackguard, caitiff, cheat, creep, crook, dastard, good-for-nothing, heel, imp, incorrigible, knave, lowlife, maggot, mischief-maker, miscreant, ne’er-do-well, prick, rascal, reprobate, rogue, scalawag, scamp, sleaze ball, slime bucket, thief, vagabond, villain, wretch
- Villain: SOB, antihero, bad guy, bastard, blackguard, brute, caitiff, creep, criminal, devil, dirty dog, enfant terrible, evildoer, heel, knave, libertine, lowlife, malefactor, meanie, mischief-maker, miscreant, monkey, offender, profligate, rapscallion, rascal, reprobate, rogue, scamp, scoundrel, sinner, sleaze ball, slime bucket, snot, wretch
Not everyone, in fact very few, involved in the Global Warming issue are fairly described in any of the above terms. Most are better described in opposite terms. Probably no one can be accused of all of the above. But some can be fairly accused of at least of some of the above. A few of those are in very powerful positions. Some are leaders of industry and governments. One still believes he is the leader of the Free World. The point I rudely make is that these people might kill us all while pursuing head in the sand, egotistical goals.
“Krill populations, the basis of the marine food chain, are in free fall in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, according to new research by scientists with the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, a marine science center associated with the federal agency Fisheries and Oceans Canada.”
“A probable cause, the scientists say, is global warming, and the risk is a reduction in the number of whales and fishes in these waters. Since 2000, half the usual numbers of humpback, fin, sei and blue whales come to feed on krill each summer in front of Tadoussac, a town on the Saguenay Fjord that has become famous for its whale watching opportunities.”
“The loss of sea ice in Antarctica brought on by global warming may be causing a decline in numbers of the crustacean krill“; ” The amount of krill in the southwest Atlantic has fallen by about 80 percent since 1979,”; “A drop in krill population has clearly adverse effects on species that feed on it, such as fur seals, black-browed albatrosses, and gentoo, macaroni penguins and whales”
“The 900-mile-long Antarctic Peninsula which sticks out from the main continent is warming up at a greater pace than the world average. There the ice is melting rapidly, and huge chucks of ice sheets are braking off. The Adelie penguins there have to swim ever longer distances to get food, and there is also less food, especially krill, small shrimp-like animals that depend on the sea ice. If the warming continues, they will be unable to survive there.”
“As would be expected, a warmer climate produces warmer oceans. In turn, warmer oceans wreck havoc with the food chain, beginning with krill at the bottom. Krill are free-floating, 1- to 2-inch shrimp-like crustaceans. They anchor this sea chain and are a key food source for marine life from sea birds to cod to whales. Heat the water, and cold-water-dependent krill disappear.”
“In the Antarctic seas, another potentially devastating feedback loop is taking place. Populations of krill have plummeted by 80% in the last few years due to loss of sea ice. Krill are the single most important species in the marine food chain, and they also extract massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. No one predicted their demise, but the ramifications for both global warming and the health of marine ecosystems are disastrous. This, too, will likely feed on itself, as less krill means more carbon stays in the atmosphere, which means warmer seas, which means less ice, which means less krill and so on in a massive negative spiral.”
Truly caring about the poor krill is not easy. You probably never considered the plight of macaroni penguins before. It’d seem the food for whales is not really your concern. You may be right on all three accounts. But you’ll view it differently if it is YOUR food suddenly declining by 80%. That is not a far reached, cry-wolf, bleeding heart liberal invention. It might actually happen.
The air around us is what keeps us alive, yet, in the end, it might destroy us. Earth is not the only “near by” planet with an atmosphere. Venus has one consisting largely of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent GHG. Temperatures are far too high for human life. Jupiter’s and Saturn’s atmospheres are mostly hydrogen and helium which is quite different from that of Earth. Mars’s very thin atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. Our own little moon does have traces of a very thin and unstable atmosphere. None of these planets provide life conditions anywhere close to those of Earth.
Let’s be grateful for the unique atmosphere we have had for so long, supported all living things. Let’s not destroy it as we are right now. Read on to find out how and why.
The large part of Earth’s atmosphere is quite stable at 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% Argon. Then a lot of trace gases make up the balance of about .04% of the total. Nitrogen and oxygen are quite necessary to life. Argon does not do much one way or another – it’s used as an industrial gas. The devil, as you will see, is in the details – those .04% seemingly insignificant amounts of trace gases are, in some cases, quite deadly.
The atmosphere has not always been stable. The oxygen content has been as high as 37% and as low as 15%. These variations happened between 100 and 550 million years ago. About 40 million years ago, the oxygen content was 23%, slowly declining to today’s 21%. Scarily, no one knows the reasons for these variations except a certainty the atmosphere content will continue to change long term. At less than 15% oxygen, fires do not burn. At more than 25%, even the wettest of organic matter will easily burn.
Luckily, our immediate concern is not these parts of the atmosphere and what will happen millions of years from today. Unluckily, we have to deal with the minor trace gases – the killers of today. But first, a few words about the big gases:
The 21% oxygen is what we so desperately need to breathe. Unless its level is at or above normal levels, we suffocate. Oxygen is generated by photosynthetic organisms, mostly algae in the oceans and many terrestrial plants. There is evidence that Global Warming affects the photosynthetic process negatively.
The 78% nitrogen is a required part of all living things. The main source of nitrogen is the atmosphere. Living things “fix” this gas into amino acids and other useful things. The nitrogen is eventually returned to the atmosphere by denitrification of soil and dead organic matter. There are many issues related to the nitrogen balance, such as the excessive use of nitrate fertilizers, the treatment of human and animal waste and the production of gases such as nitrogen oxides, which are GHGs.
Argon makes up 1% of the atmosphere. It is used by various industrial processes such as lamp bulbs, welding and wine making. It partly comes from decay of a version of potassium. It’s not a major factor in our quest on Global Warming.
While the oxygen and nitrogen content in the atmosphere carry its own baggage of environmental issues that may one day be quite deadly, they are not the focus of Global Warming. It is the remaining .04% of the atmosphere we’ll have to deal with. All of a sudden, there is a lot of complexity and unknown territory. My database lists well over 100 trace gases, all with their own characteristics. Many of those are GHGs. Many are extremely potent but luckily very small parts in the atmosphere mix.
This graph uses a logarithmic scale or you would not be able to see the concentration of trace gases compared to the much larger nitrogen and oxygen components. While the carbon dioxide part looks almost as big as that of nitrogen, nitrogen is almost 3000 times as prevalent. Put another way, most of the trace gases are very rare. Many are around .1 PPBv (parts per billion on volume).
An allegorical perspective: Earth population currently is about 6.5 billion people. Most of these gases are the volume equivalent of less than one person out of the 6.5 billion. Imagine that single “person” is a terrorist wearing the latest nuclear suicide belt. We know he or she is out there but have no idea where. How do you catch him/her and neutralize the treat? Moreover, suppose there are at least 25 of them, all equally invisible, totally different and enormously dangerous. Maybe 9/11 will look like a minor event after all. In fact, each of these gases carries a potential power exceeding that of nuclear bombs.
About 4.5 million people die each year from air pollution due to asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide are both major pollutants, mainly from combustion. Formaldehyde is another killer as are others in the graph above. Smog, one form of very visible pollution, typically comes from nitrogen oxides, ozone, peroxiacetylnitrate and other PANs, VOCs and R’Os, most of which are present in the graph above.
Ozone is a pollutant on the ground level, where it is part of the smog problem. At a height of 10-50 kilometers, ozone plays a very different role. It filters out short wave ultraviolet light, protecting us all from skin cancer and other issues. The ozone content is and was threatened by Freon and other pollutants. Regulations have reduced Freon emissions to manageable levels although ozone holes still exist.
About 35 years ago, Global Warming was not the concern. The opposite was feared due to high concentrations of sulphur dioxide. This gas comes mostly (at the time) from industrial smoke stacks. It caused acid rain, destroying a lot of forests. It is a cooling gas and the prevailing concern was a possible ice age looming. This possible disaster was largely avoided by the US Clean Air Act of 1970, relatively simple, but not cheap scrubber technology and similar measures elsewhere. Today, some SO2 is still emitted by industrial processes.
Major volcanic activities throw enormous quantities of SO2 into the air which can have a substantial, temporary impact on climate and temperatures. Some, including the US Government considers emitting SO2 into the atmosphere on a massive scale to be one emergency response to Global Warming. The trouble is that SO2 is a poisonous gas, killing people. More later.
Here is the meat: the Greenhouse Gases and their presence in the atmospheric mix. Again, the scale is logarithmic and the mix of most of the gases is extremely low. All but three are below a level of 10 parts to the TRILLION. We literally deal with a few molecules flying around doing a very dirty job.
By them selves, GHGs are not harmful to humans in the low, prevailing concentrations. We breathe OK. They are very harmful to the way climate works. Climate works by receiving warming energy from the Sun, then reflecting excess warming energy back out into space. Just about everything on this planet relies on the inflow of energy, the use of energy and the outflow being in balance.
If the inflow, use and outflow of energy gets out of balance, all hell breaks lose. Ice Ages happen or are reversed. Oceans rise dramatically or drop. Temperatures go up or down. Species die. The life of the planet Earth changes irrevocable. Some times that works out fine, sometimes not. The human race probably evolved thanks to a warming abnormality millions of years ago. But many other species went extinct. They still do.
Over millions of years, Earth has handled the balance of the energy, controlling climate all on its own in concert with the Sun. Many times things have been pretty bad. Ice ages are no fun. Neither is the disappearance of coastal areas under 50-150 meters of rising oceans. These things happened and Earth always came back. After all, we are here today, aren’t we? We are here today because Earth has been pretty good at reversing those bad times and returning conditions into balance.
Today things have changed. Our understandable desire for comfort is putting an incredibly strong and unprecedented pressure on Earth’s ability to maintain a balance compatible with human life. That’s because the man made GHGs from energy generation, transportation, deforestation and much else cause concentrations to rise because the natural cleaning act can’t keep up. These gases, once in the atmosphere in excess quantities, allow the Sun’s energy to come in but reduces the reflection of excess energy back out into space. Temperatures rise. Just about everything goes out of whack due to these very unnatural, not to mention offensive but “understandable” acts of ours.
Why? There are several reasons, many of which will have to be covered in the rest of this essay series. For now, the outstanding one is the growth in populations demanding products that make their life comfortable or even possible. The second reason is that satisfying this demand causes too many harmful gases to enter the atmosphere. That’s quite simple, really.
Each individual in any part of the world uses products and services that cause carbon emissions into the air. Ranging from simple camp fires to industrial power plants, from the poorest to the richest, people cause GHGs to enter the atmosphere. The issue is that populations started to grow very quickly hundreds of years ago. They are still on a fast upwards path. Take a look:
This graph, going all the way back to Year 0, shows the extremely rapid growth in world population starting in the 1700s. Prior to that, populations grew quite slowly. Not so any more – since the 1700s, world population is up TEN TIMES without any real sign of an overall slowdown.
A lot of factors contributed to that sudden and ever lasting rise: medical breakthroughs, global transportation and communication, industrialization and money exchange systems, urbanization, agricultural breakthroughs, innovations and, not least, carbon energy.
Are medical breakthroughs stopping? Are global communications being reduced? Is innovation declining? How about agriculture, banking systems and industrialization in, say India and China? Slowing, flattening or declining? Will death rates go up and birth rates go down? None of that will happen on a voluntary basis.
Stopping growth in overall populations is real hard. Even China’s 25 year old One Child policy isn’t quite working – fertility still is somewhere from 1.6 to 2.6 children per female. There are even signs of easing the policy. India still has a high growth rate, not expected to slow dramatically.
Overall, less developed countries will increase significantly which will accentuate a labor force supply and demand issue becoming more controversial, in particular in Africa. There is no accident we see civil wars, ethnic cleansing, famines, mass murder, civil disorder and diseases being far more common in Africa than elsewhere.
Populations are stagnating in most of the industrial world. The cause is the general aging of the population, resulting in a 1) relatively shorter fertile period, and a 2) declining birth rate because of more females in the work force as well as 3) birth control and 4) the high price of a child over a twenty year period. The US is an exception where populations will continue upwards.
European fertility is around 1.5 children per female, down from 2.5 in 1960. It’s as low as 1.2 in some Eastern countries. A rate of about 2.1 maintains a stable population. Russia is losing some 750,000 people each year because of a high death rate and a low birth rate, including very high use of abortions. The death rate is almost twice a normal one, much due to male alcoholism. The fertility rate is 1.3. Few people immigrate to Russia compared to the US or Europe.
The little green slice at the bottom right shows the US. It looks quite small, doesn’t? Hard to see how that little piece can be the biggest polluter in the World and, diminishing, the one remaining world power.
Next, compare that growth in population to the growth of world carbon dioxide concentrations, going back a little less than 650,000 years, as measured mostly from Antarctica ice core samples:
The scale is a bit funny: the left third the graph covers 647,000 years while the right two thirds covers about 3,000 years. That’s the way the data comes out of the Antarctica ice cores.
There are three very important points made in this graph: First, in ancient times, there was quite a bit of volatility in GHGs – that’s why there were ice ages, why dinosaurs died and mankind evolved. Second, for 2,800 years up to the year 1700, GHG levels were very stable at about 280 PPMv (parts per million by volume). Third, 1750 rolled around with the industrial revolution. Energy was needed. Populations took off. GHG concentrations started their meteoric rise. Compare the population graph with the concentration trend. Both are way out of historical experiences as of today. There is no sign of an overall slowdown; not in populations or in concentrations. The current all time high concentration is 385 PPMv.
Another important point is that a level of GHGs is necessary in the atmosphere. If it falls too low, we freeze to death in a monumental ice age. If it is too high, all living creatures will be affected with many, possibly all, going extinct in an unstoppable evil feedback loop called Global Warming.
Here is the same concentration data expressed as growth over time. I’m using a logarithmic scale so you can see history clearly. The overall growth for the first 649,750 years (ignoring the early ups and downs) was very low – only averaging about 1/1000 of a percent a year. From 1750 it rose steadily. Today, the rate is 0.25 percent per year.
A flat growth rate (horizontal level in the graph) represents very fast exponential growth. What you see is an accelerating rate, trending upwards. That is very bad news. That trend must be reversed.
Here is what we deal with so far: A bunch of very low concentration gases whose mix in the atmosphere changes at a very low rate. After all, who wouldn’t be happy with a credit card interest rate of 0.25% rather than 25.25%? Why care about something so infrequent it’s hard to even imagine it? The problem is that even a low, and accelerating, growth rate results in concentrations increasing exponentially over very long periods of time. Further, Earth’s balancing climate act is very sensitive to even the slightest change.
Above, I only talked about GHG concentrations. That concentration in the atmosphere is not stable. It is subject to a very complex chain of factors that include the exchange between the air and “carbon sinks” such as biomass and the oceans in a never ending cycle of give and take. Both the oceans and biomass store huge amounts of historical GHG emissions. If that complex balance is disturbed, or if the storages fill up or even reverse their role, releasing their GHGs back into the atmosphere….. Well, that’s what is happening right now.
The storage mechanism is getting unstable. But why would such a system stop working after being mostly fine for millions of years? It is because we humans eject billions of tons of GHGs into the atmosphere in our quest for a better life. This has never happened before. It is disabling the natural system of checks and balances. Disaster looms.
The worldwide emissions of GHGs grew from around 0.2 million tons in the year 0 to 6.8 billion tons in 2006. That is an overall growth rate of 0.1% per year over the 2000+ years. The graph looks a lot like the population graph above, so is the rise just a matter of more people? No, it is not – here is the same graph on a per capita basis. The time scale is depressed so it covers 1700 till today. Then you can actually see the changes:
The per capita emissions increased as well. That means population growth alone does not explain the total growth in emissions. Working through the math, total emissions grew by 1.1 percent per year from 1800 to 2006. Per capita emissions grew by .7 percent per year. That leaves .4 percent per year to other factors, mostly industrialization.
In short – the increase in emissions leading to a potential disaster is caused by population growth (65 percent) and technology (35 percent) as we strive for a “better life”. That is looking over a 200+ year perspective. In real simplistic terms: Convince people to use less carbon based products and to abandon bad ideas such as deforestation. That could go a long way towards a solution. Now, that’s not only simplistic, it’s naive. People will not do that. So let’s keep looking.
Next, let’s examine the US in more detail as an example of how economic trends play a big role:
This really is quite a remarkable graph. The US has managed over 4% growth in Industrial Production quite consistently for more than 200 years. The graph uses a logarithmic volume scale so a straight line represents a constant percent growth rate. The rate has slowed a bit since the 1970s but it still is a tremendous economic performance. But what’s the price? Here it is:
Here I go back to the common linear scale. The emissions (greenish in the graph) truly took off in the mid-late 1800s. The growth rate for CO2 emissions from 1785 till today is over 5% per year. That’s why the US is the biggest and saddest cause of Global Warming.
In the background, you can see a reddish trend that represents a forecast of emissions based on 1) US population and 2) economic activity as measured by Industrial Production. In tandem these two factors explain the rise in emissions. The story is simple: more and more people want more and more comfort, leading to a lot of cars, toasters, air conditioners, heaters, air planes, oil wells, farting cows, refineries, power plants, fertilizers, barbeques and trucks, all producing GHGs.
Here is another graph for all of you statistics fans: it shows the same relationship of emissions vs. population and Industrial Production. It simply amplifies the strong relationship between the number of people, the goods they desire and the resulting emissions. I use a multiple, polynomial regression technique in case you are really curious. No? Well, ignore it.
We have seen no good news so far, but the full scope of the possible disaster is by no means yet clear. We need to dive much further down to understand the cause and effect. Why bother? You should bother because your life and those of your kids depend on actions that are not easy to accept. Read on.
On the one hand, we throw billions of tons of harmful gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, concentrations of these gases are very low. What gives? Simple – the world’s atmosphere is very, very large – it actually has a mass of about 5,000 trillion tons. In simplistic terms, the oxygen content is maybe 1,000 trillion tons. CO2, the most common GHG, makes up a mere 2 trillion tons. The very potent Sulfur hexafluoride gas makes up maybe 0.002 trillion tons. These are big numbers but very small compared to the 5,000 trillion total mass. Here are some details:
Beware of the logarithmic scale: nitrogen (green for OK) is over 2,000 times as common as carbon dioxide(red for Bad). The green Oxygen is almost 6 million times as prevalent as Chloromethane. The red GHGs are very rare. Unfortunately, it is neither mass nor volume that counts.
CO2 outweighs all others GHGs by a mile or two. Luckily for us, it is one of the least harmful of gases by the ton. Other GHGs are much more powerful potential creators of Global Warming. These gases are not very common, I’m happy to report. If they were common, then I wouldn’t be able to report to you at all. Nor would you read this. Mankind would not exist. Did you ever watch the movie or read the book “On the Beach”? If not, please do and use your imagination.
The graph below shows the Global Warming Potential of most GHGs on a 100 year perspective. I use the logarithmic scale. As an example, the Sulfur hexafluoride gas I already mentioned is 22,200 times as harmful as CO2.
What you see in the graph is a lot of awful stuff. It certainly would make sense to minimize the emissions causing the problem, wouldn’t it? That’s a good idea but not that easy to implement. One big problem is that once the gases are emitted, they hang around for a long time.
Using a logarithmic scale, this graph shows the shelf life of most GHGs. A few go away fairly quickly after entering the air. Most do not. Many ethers, for instance disappear quickly. Freon-14, on the other hand, may hang around for 50,000 years. There are 17 gases, including CO2, which will be present for more than a hundred years after release.
The long shelf life of the gases creates a lot of inertia in the system. For instance, CO2 emitted today will not reach its full Global Warming impact for up to a hundred years. There is only a limited amount of actions available to us to tackle that issue. The one sure thing is that continuing to emit these gases is a very bad idea.
On the one hand, we have warming potential. On the other hand, we have concentrations. High warming potential is bad. Low concentration is good. But do they offset each other? Here is a simplistic attempt to find out:
Still using a logarithmic scale, I multiplied the warming potential with the concentration of the various gases. That may (or not) be a reasonable measure what danger we face from each of the gases. I’m happy to report, assuming my theory is right, we really only have to be terror struck by three of them: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrious oxides. There are a few border cases , mostly Freon type. The rest may be potent but their low concentrations prevent major impacts, given my no doubt oversimplified assumption.
We face two issues. The first and obvious one is to reduce emissions. As I’ve pointed out, that immediately leads to many people issues and political time bombs. Consider the Religious Right that finds the extinction of mankind its ultimate blessing. Consider those that have inevitably found ways to cash in on Global Warming. Consider the mass of people that will ignore any issue.
The second issue – can we clean up the already polluted air? The answer is maybe – some technologies are available but none are operational. This is complicated by the large amount of gases involved. The graph above shows 75 different greenhouse gases, each with its own behavior and origin. There is a big price tag attached to this and any other solution.
Speaking of origin, where does all this awful junk come from? Who should be blamed? Hopefully you have got the message. All of us are to be blamed. But some will be blamed more than others.
Industrialization and urbanization led to a lot of new processes and material introduced into our eco system. We needed more food to feed more mouths, leading to deforestation and the use of copious amounts of carbon based fertilizers. We needed cars, air planes, trucks, ships, SUVs and motorcycles to get that food into our heated or air conditioned homes. We needed indoor lights and some needed outdoor lamps to display their carbon fertilized gardens. Our homes were and are built from all kinds of hazardous materials, many nonrenewable. Each home consumes enormous quantities of energy. So does most living creatures on Earth. So do our toys.
So far, we have identified two villains of Global Warming: population and, vaguely, technology. Let’s look for some more specifics. We need to consider several layers, starting on a National level, drilling down to Industry behavior and finally, the people level.
Industrialized countries possess a large infrastructure and investment built around carbon energy and products. That infrastructure successfully delivers not only what the people demands for their standard of living, but is intertwined into almost all aspects of a country’s social, economic and industrial fabric. It is a vital national asset. Unfortunately, it became a liability as well.
Global Warming is a political quagmire of monumental proportions. It largely revolves around a United Nations initiative called the Kyoto Protocol. This deeply flawed agreement depends on international cooperation that is inequitable by dividing the world into those that pay and those that receive. It directs money from a few developed countries to highly polluting less developed countries including rapidly growing countries such as China and India. OPEC is also doing its best to capitalize. So are numerous banks, clearing houses and individual consultants.
The Kyoto Protocol is one problem. Another issue is the inability of politicians to deal with bad, expensive news that do not, right now, directly and visibly benefit themselves or their constituency. Today, most of the obvious signs of the impact of Global Warming occur in remote areas – Greenland, the Arctic and deep in the oceans. It is not yet affecting most suburban neighborhoods. Hence, politicians can afford to avoid the whole mess. And that they do, with a few exceptions.
I know well this is oversimplifying. There are many very concerned people, even politicians, taking a an active interest in Global Warming and its cure. Some even act in various ways. There is a clear trend of increasing concern. But so far there is little evidence any initiative has a substantial and proven impact on Global Warming. We most definitely still deal with a major time bomb.
Global Warming is not just an environmental or social issue such as the protection of whales or pygmy hogs. It is a difficult political issue of world wide scope. Different countries have vastly different agendas. They also contribute to Global Warming in different manners. Let’s look at some of the national differences:
The US leads the way in total emissions. Europe and China come close. Transitory economies (mostly the former Soviet sphere of interest) emit a lot although their emissions are down as the Soviet empire collapsed and took with it high pollution, non competitive industries. But are we comparing apples and oranges here? These countries and areas are vastly different. For instance, consider the same data on a per capita basis:
Suddenly, the picture changes from before. The US, Canada and Oceania (mostly Australia) are the top polluters on a personal basis. India and China, both heavy polluters on a total basis, are at the bottom of the scale. Their huge populations and fast development is offset by a major imbalance: some of their areas are highly developed while other parts are not much different than from hundreds of years ago. The picture is not yet complete: we need to consider economic differences:
Here again, the picture changes. The graph shows emissions per unit of economic activity – a measure of how efficiently a country uses carbon resources from an emission point of view. The US, Europe and Japan are highly developed and quite efficient. They drop to the bottom. Less developed areas and Indonesia jump to the top of offenders. You will shortly see why.
Now, let’s combine the effect of populations and economic activity to see who the high and low emitters are. This is done by using well established statistical methods:
The green line represents the expected emissions given a country’s population and economic activity. The red line in the graph tells you the US and China emits more than expected while Europe emits less. Here is more detail, expanding on the difference between actual and expected emissions. The data is the same as in the graph above:
So here is the conclusion so far: Western Europe and Japan are efficient users of carbon technology. China and the US are not efficient users. Neither is the Mideast where its huge oil industry emits a lot of harmful gases. Russia, another poor performer, still carries a lot of inefficient industry around while also being a major energy producer results in high emissions.
This is not the final conclusion – some of the areas the look good above have some very bad habits as we’ll shortly see. I simply go step by step towards some solution to the villain issue. This is actually a case where there is no real stopping point. Every anomality has its reasons and making simplified, naive statements is quite easy and possibly very unfair. Regardless, some issues stand out very clearly and that is what I want to identify.
Finally, let’s consider growth in emissions by major countries as expressed by units of economic activity:
This graph introduces “Annex 1″ and “Non Annex 1″ countries. This classification comes from the Kyoto Protocol. Annex 1 countries are essentially the industrialized countries. These are subject to restrictions and mandatory reductions in carbon gas emissions. Non Annex 1 countries are mostly less developed countries that are subject to no mandatory reductions. Emissions are rising much faster in Non Annex 1 countries than in the industrial Annex 1 countries. Middle East and its oil industry increased emissions the most, followed by Korea, China and India. Western Europe, the US and Japan increased emissions modestly relative to their economic base. The former Soviet block emissions declined sharply as parts of their high pollution industry was forced to shut down.
What is the overall picture in terms of “villains”? Overall, China is the leading poor performer, as are the fast growing emerging economies in general. The less developed areas emit more than the developed areas on a comparable basis. The US is not doing well, neither is Canada or Australia. The best performers are Western Europe and Japan. Now we will drill down to find out the reasons for these differences.
Here is the world wide picture of the activities that produce GHGs, expressed as percent of total emissions.
Of all things, deforestation is the worst villain in the emissions game? What about agriculture, livestock and manure ranking high as poor performers? That road traffic, building heating and cooling together with emissions from oil and gas processing rank high is hardly unexpected.
Add up agriculture, live stock and deforestation and you look at 37% of total emissions. Transportation makes up 14% and buildings (heating and cooling, mostly) amount to 15%. The rest of the many activities make up the remaining 34%. Some activities actually absorb carbon gases: reforestation and afforestation are positive factors.
Here is another step down in our search for villains. We’ll look at the same data broken out by type of gas:
Narrowing things down: CO2 emissions in deforestation (18.3%), buildings (15.3%) and transportation (13.8%); methane (CH4) in livestock, manure (including human) and landfills (7.6%) and, finally, nitrous fertilizers (1%). These five categories represent 56% of the world wide emissions. Now, let’s look at where these emissions are happening. Here is the first clue:
Now, here is a real clear picture: the emissions from Industrial nations (Annex 1) come mostly from the Electricity, Heating and Transportation sectors while Less Developed countries cause most of their emissions from Land Use (Deforestation, mostly) and Agriculture.
Let’s keep tracking down the villains first by looking at the energy section we already know dominates the industrial world but not the less developed countries. Here is what I call the Cost of Comfort since the main part of the energy is used to control temperature (comfort) in buildings.
No question about the guilty party here. The US emits twice as much CO2 to satisfy its heaters and air conditioners as the second on the list, Japan. The US out-pollutes the less or emerging countries by a factor of 9:1. That is a pretty high price to pay by not only the US but the rest of the world as well.
Broadening the scope a bit, here are the emissions broken down into Energy versus Land use by country:
Categorizing the emissions as “Expedience” versus “Deforestation” is perhaps generalizing a bit too far. The point is that developed countries, with the US in the lead, cause emissions for entirely different reasons than the less developed countries. Developed countries produce emissions due to energy demand, the less developed world cause emissions mostly from agriculture and deforestation activities. You might make a note of China’s emissions coming from industrial sources rather than land use and agriculture. So do India’s emissions.
Here is a drill down on Land Use emissions:
The pattern remains clear. Tropical areas with forests are busy cutting down timber for sale or pursuing slash and burn techniques to make room for farming. The scope of depleting a vital world wide resource is staggering and has a major impact on Global Warming. Under the Kyoto Protocol, these countries have no obligation to change the very destructive actions. In fact, there are numerous ways to make big money out of these practices. At stake are 100s of billions of dollars. I will cover this in detail later.
Note that the US Land Use account is negative. That means that returning deforested areas to its natural state actually helps clean up the air from emissions. That is a trend happening in many developed countries.
Deforestation is the single largest emission source. Let’s see what countries are involved:
I use a logarithmic scale so you can see the emissions from the smaller countries. In effect, there are only four countries with a large emission impact: Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and Myanmar (ex-Burma). The importance of the emissions from these countries, essentially due to greed, is worth a note: their practices accumulate to about 12% of the world’s total emissions.
Here is an update on the villain analysis: CO2 emissions from Deforestation in Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and Myanmar (12%), other Non Annex 1 Land Use emissions (25%), emissions from Electricity and Heat in the US, China and Transitory countries (18%) and the same in other Annex 1 countries (19%). These four categories add up to 74% of all emissions.
Let’s continue our quest just a little bit longer by examining the transportation sector.
There is not much of a contest here. The US wins hands down, followed at a distance by the EU25, essentially Europe. The US emissions, due to transportation, are 5.4% of the world total emissions with Europe following at 2.8%.
Here is a closer look at the transportation sector in the UK:
Cars and trucks lead with a huge margin over all other sources of transport emissions of GHGs, CO2 mostly. I was surprised to see airplanes so far down the range, I expected far more emissions from this sector. Part of the explanation is that international air traffic is excluded which is a large part of UK’s total air program. Likewise, keep in mind that the UK is a small country relative to the US. That means long range domestic truck freights are far less common than in the USA.
Compare with the US picture:
Both trucks and cars are still the top polluters although the order of the two reversed. Aircrafts are a surprisingly small factor as it was in the UK. But there are some unique aspects to the US market – here is the growth in emissions by type of vehicle:
Light trucks are the second fastest growing polluters in the US. This segment includes vans, mini-vans, SUVs and pickup trucks. The vehicles are mainly used as a substitute for regular cars – the US love of gas guzzlers has not changed. This category even enjoys a totally absurd tax break. The cars hardly increased emissions at all.
Breaking down the light truck&car growth tells an important story. Cars declined from 80% to 47%. SUVs went from nothing to 27% while all other reached 26% from 20%.
The “light truck” segments emit 68% of the US Transportation emission. The US Transportation emissions amount to 6.5 % of the world’s total emissions. Thus, US SUVs, hummers, mini vans and a few more represent almost 4.5% of the world’s total emissions. It exceeds the total energy sector emissions of Japan as well those of India. That is pretty outrageous. Especially considering they also get tax breaks.
Commercial airlines in the US hardly increased emissions, seen from 1990 to 2003. However, up till 9/11 airline emissions were up 20%. Then 9/11 caused a drastic cut in traffic. That explains the low emission growth over the full period. Emissions today are increasing. Still emissions compare favorably to passenger miles. The airlines are getting more efficient operationally.
The large US truck segment grew their emissions rapidly. Part is due to the decline in rail freight, benefiting trucks. As long range trucking increased, so did emissions. Not only that, gas mileage declined as rigs got larger.
A last transportation issue: an ever increasing mode to get to work in the US is going there, all alone, in your car. That mode went up from 64% in 1980 to 76% in 2000. Carpooling, public transportation (always a minor part in the US) and walking/biking all declined. As I have said, comfort is a major driver of sky rocketing GHG emissions.
Here is the final list of major emission offenses around the world:
The major countries: the US, China and Indonesia. The major areas: Deforestation, Electricity & Heat and Transportation, in particular SUVs and the like in the US. Fixing these emissions would go a long way towards a solution. It won’t happen. At least not given today’s situation where the comfort, biases, reluctance and pass-the-buck attitude of most “decision makers” still rule.
Let’s cut to the chase again. Here is the ultimate list as far as I can break down the data. First the 10 worst performing areas by activity, then – why not – the best performing areas in terms of GHG emissions. You’ll find some of the same names in both the best and the worst categories:
Here we are: the ten worst performers in Global Warming as specific as I can be. The US and China keep their top bad guy positions. Electricity & Heat sectors remain major problems in Industrial and emerging nations. The US love of SUVs, Hummers and cars in general isn’t doing the world any good.
Indonesia’s forestry practices not only show up poorly here: the smoke, haze and pollution result in running eyes and abused lungs of its own people and those in surrounding countries. Governments in Singapore and elsewhere are not amused. Here are some details (Source: here):
Indonesia’s forests are being degraded and destroyed by logging, mining operations, large-scale agricultural plantations, colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuel wood. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest, to 68 percent in 1982, to 53 percent in 1995, and 49 percent today. Much of this remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest.
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, generating upwards of US$5 billion annually, and more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country’s remaining forests) are concessioned for logging.
The fastest and cheapest way to clear new land for plantations is by burning. Every year hundreds of thousands of acres hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years—especially during strong El Niño years—these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare.
Fires in Indonesia’s peat swamps are particularly damaging due to the high carbon content of the ecosystem—Dr Susan Page, of the University of Leicester, estimates that Southeast Asian peat lands may contain up to 21 percent of the world’s land-based carbon. The 1997 fires released 2.67 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Now, that’s how you get to a top spot in the evil emission game. Greed, expedience, winds carrying the pollution elsewhere and great profits fuel the practices. Meanwhile, together with the other rain forest countries cashing in; not only do the burns produce GHGs, the biomass’ ability to store CO2 is destroyed and actually reversed. This hurts on a world wide scale.
Let’s flip the coin. Here are the winners – those that actually contribute to a small part of the solution. Recent studies claim significant reforestation occurs in many industrial countries. That view is supported here:
For once, here the US is leading the pack in a positive manner. China and India are doing quite well, too, negating a small part of their other offences. These biggest overall villains do a little piece of good in the forestry area. Most of the reforestation is natural through fast growing hardwoods. Some parts are supported by planting and seedling programs. The US gain in negative emissions amount to about 2% of world wide emissions – not a big number but significant, especially considering the overall 18% going the opposite way thanks to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil.
So far, this discussion has covered the fact that populations and industrialization caused a lot of bad gases to enter the atmosphere. It’s time to cover why that is dangerous and may cause a very substantial impact on mankind.
Think about it this way. We live on a small planet in an infinitely large Universe. If we move outside the slim protection of this planet’s atmosphere, as some brave people do, we enter a very hostile environment in which we cannot live without very complex support systems. Even under the best of circumstances, the chances of our long term survival against these overwhelming external forces must be very remote.
Planet Earth established a very unique system allowing life going back millions of years. That system depends on a give and take balancing act to function. The balance act is all that protects us from the very hostile Universe outside. Without it fully functioning, we’re literally toasted.
Upsetting the balance in any way is like playing Russian roulette with your kids. Or building a nuclear bomb in your garage. Or imagining you can fly off tall buildings. As some do literally. Less literally, we are playing Russian roulette with the balance act of Earth. We have done that for some 250 years and Earth has taken about all it can. Alarm bells are ringing but very few of us are listening.
The immediate impact of the emissions, throwing the balance off, is rising global temperatures. That is creating havoc in the Arctic and elsewhere far beyond what any layman would expect from the change of a degree or two. But whatever you believe as a layman, politician or scientist, very scary things are happening right now.
I’ll jump to the bottom line. Below are some of the conclusions of this series of essays, based on events happening right now. It’s quite a long list but it is based on solid facts. No forecasts. No politics. Plain facts that will be thoroughly covered as I publish the next parts of this series:
Extremely Critical: Populations: The two subjects, populations and emissions, are up, up and then up. There is a natural reason why that is happening. Humans breed and they like a comfortable life. Nothing in the historical data indicates that will change. Heck, common sense tells you no one will want that to change, especially on a personal level. A further complication is the disparity between the have’s and the have not’s. The have not’s want what the have’s have. That, again is perfectly natural from the perspective of the have not’s. It’s all in human nature, deeply burnt in and very difficult to change.
Unfortunately, all evidence of Global Warming indicates a drastic change is required. Otherwise mankind may not survive. A 60-70% reduction in carbon emissions might save us. That will be painful. Anyone may doubt if such sacrifice can happen. Politicians don’t want to even hear about it. Look at that last graph again and ask yourself if it is possible for it to actually become reality
Extremely Critical: Temperatures: Four original questions, four answers:
- First, is the temperature rise consistent with historical patterns – is it simply a natural cyclical matter of limited, temporary importance? Answer: The current climate pattern is without modern historical precedent and may become as severe as that of the ice ages, inversed. The ice ages produced enormous upheavals on the few living at the time. Given the size of today’s populations, the current issue is far more severe than that of the ice ages.
- Second, is the rise caused by non-human events such as a natural increase in CO2 or perhaps the natural and temporary effects of solar activity? Answer: Essentially, who cares? The only effect of a possible cyclic pattern is to make matters that much worse, not better.
- Third, is the data reliable? Some accuse the UN of falsifying historical data to make its points more plausible. Answer: I don’t know. I doubt the UN deliberately is misleading the world using fraud. That would simply be too risky.
- Fourth, much of the climatic research relies on high speed computers and complex models that have never been accurate, thereby casting doubts on any conclusions. Answer: This concern is valid. Never expect black boxes to make believable decisions for you. They are only tools assisting old-fashioned thinking.
Very Critical: Carbon gases 1 (GHGs): Carbon gas concentrations are up. So are temperatures. Just about all scientific studies acknowledge a causal relationship between gases and climate. Arguments to the contrary are not credible. There is no believable evidence that the increase in carbon gas concentrations will slow over the short term or even mid term (5-20 years).
Not critical: Carbon gases 2 (GHGs): Here is something for astronomy buffs. Check out the planet Venus. Venus atmosphere is quite different from ours. It lacks very much in oxygen. But it contains some 13,000 times as much CO2. That means Venus’ atmosphere is 97% CO2. Guess what? Venus is a very hot place where no life (in our sense) is possible. Its surface temperature is about 480 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit). Some call Venus a case of runaway greenhouse effect.
Almost hopeless: Politics, economics: The rhetoric, fearful, outrageous platitudes and evasions suggest no proactive or decisive actions any time soon, at least internationally. The official attitudes of major polluters are worse than sad, they are criminal. The controversial CERs (carbon credits) are the only major, observable economic events seen today, apart from some minor tax cases. The lack of results from the 2006 Nairobi Conference fuels widespread frustration. It proves that the current Kyoto Protocol is well on the way towards irrelevance. Can it be fixed? Currently, the answer is most likely no. With US, China and India taking on strong leadership – maybe.
Very critical: Ecosystems: I examined three ecosystems: coral reefs, species at risk and ocean acidification. There are many more. These three samples showed clearly that the Earth ecology is already under attack by Global Warming. Coral reefs are dying. Species are going extinct. Ocean Acidification kills millions of creatures throughout the oceanic ecosystem and beyond.
Critical: The Arctic and tundra: No good news comes out of this section. The Arctic and the tundra are under vicious attack from Global Warming. Ecosystems are destroyed. Possibly the commercial opening up of new exploration areas is good news to some large corporations that will claim they do us all a favor. They don’t. Exploitation will lead to worsening Global Warming. We may not be able to enjoy, for very long, the Arctic diamonds or the gas refined from the new oil supplies.
Very critical: Glaciers and ice packs: Except for most of Antarctica, glaciers and ice packs are melting at a high and accelerating pace, whether on Greenland or in the Alps. The white surfaces decline which contributes to even warmer temperatures. The impacts on the ecosystems and food cycles are serious and potentially catastrophic. A multitude of animals are threatened, including whales, seals and polar bears. Melting polar ice packs affect all the oceans’ currents with a potential for disaster. The extra-warm Arctic temperatures spread beyond its borders to surrounding fishing grounds – not good news at all for our food supplies. The retreats of glaciers in non polar areas have significant impact locally on wildlife and on fresh water supplies.
Very critical: Changing oceans, changing currents: The complexity of the oceanic environment makes meaningful conclusions almost impossible. Most research concentrates on relatively limited sections of the whole system. Although there are major, comprehensive and complex models, many assumptions and relationships fed into such models are not fully understood, nor completely researched or even quantified in all the required detail. What we do know is that the oceans are overwhelmingly powerful: the energy content of surface ocean currents exceeds the world total energy demand by a factor as big as a thousand times. A minor, unforeseeable upset in that energy balance could have devastating effects. This renders most issues, including Global Warming, almost meaningless, much less foreseeable.
- Critical factors: Greenland glacial rundown reduces Northern ocean saline levels and may slow the thermohalide process. A weakening of this process could slow or stop surface and deep water currents, leading to devastation of many areas. Higher temperatures, increased evaporation, higher saline levels in the lower latitudes make more precipitation and extreme weather very likely outcomes.
- Factors too complex to evaluate: Arctic ice packs, air pressures, sea level rise and flooding, ecosystems, sedimentary (ocean bottom) impacts, oceanic CO2 storage capacity and other effects from higher temperatures. See text for details.
- Factors probably less critical: Antarctica, sea bottom rise (tectonic uplift), erosion, overall density/volumes of seawater, human/industrial salt water use as a substitute for dwindling fresh water supplies (in terms of effect on oceans). See text for details.
Less critical: Ozone depletion: The impact of the ozone layer is mostly a health concern. That concern is diminished as the layer restores itself after harmful pollution decreases. There may be a slight contribution to Global Warming if the layer grows thicker or contains a higher ozone concentration.
Somewhat critical: El Nino: Is Global Warming related to El Nino? The conventional answer is no, El Nino is a local cyclic pattern while Global Warming is a global trend. But the increased frequency of El Nino years coupled with the warming trend leave many scientists wondering. Considering, for instance, the severe drought in Australia, the answer is important. Obviously, a generally warmer sea temperature will lead to conditions somewhat similar to El Nino off South America’s West Coast.
Less important: Bioengineering: It is easy to write off bio engineering as crack pot ideas. None are implemented today. Certainly some current approaches appear a bit far out. It is, though, an established science. The idea of pouring SO2 into the atmosphere comes from a very brilliant Nobel laureate. The expectation that conservation will cure Global Warming may be unrealistic. That would make bio or geo engineering ideas quite important, especially as an emergency remedy.
Extremely important: Storing and converting gases: Storing GHGs underground in reservoirs is clearly a viable and potentially excellent idea. The technology is well known and used successfully today. It should be strongly encouraged by the authorities. Politicians should see a golden opportunity to take low risk (to them) action with a potentially significant positive impact (on us). There are many approaches to convert GHGs to useful or harmless components. It’s impossible not to view these technologies as perhaps the most positive sign of relief so far.
Less important: Reforestation: The net effect on carbon assimilation is not known but the reported reforestation trend is a positive sign. It takes many years to rebuild an ecosystem, assuming it is not permanently destroyed. The growing cycle of timber, for instance is anywhere from 50 to 100 years. Considering continued deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia, I can’t accept this to be a major positive impact on overall biomass and carbon assimilation any time soon.
Extremely important: Carbon taxes, CERs: Get the EU, the US and Canada, Japan and Russia to enact a coordinated, had core tax system. Once these major countries have effective and agreed on programs in place, place strong pressure on China and India to join. At that point, over 70% of GHG emissions would be controlled by an equitable system. The rest of the world could join the club only if they prove willing to accept the responsibility, not subsidies, to reduce their emissions.
Extremely important: Imposing limits: Extending the Clean Air Act to cover GHG emissions is an obvious, simple common sense initiative. That would curb the disastrous US carbon gas emissions. CAA has a proven, successful track record. Extending the CAA concept internationally could reduce many ill effects of Global Warming. Criminally incompetent and corrupt, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney see it differently. They do their best to go the opposite way. They force us all to face disaster.
Here is a little reminder of a car less society. The picture was taken during the US depression of the 1930s. The Kyoto Protocol and most science studies call for a roll back in energy use to the levels of the 1930s. This is what the 1930s looked like to most people. At least the trains seemed to run. I sure will miss my Mini Cooper.
The current GlobalWarming:1 discussed why Global Warming happened, who and what causes it, ended up with a list of villains. It did not go into the consequences of Global Warming. It didn’t discuss what is happening to the oceans, the Arctic, Greenland, El Nino, eco systems, weather impacts, tundra, ice packs, the Kyoto Protocol or the Stern reports or many other Global Warming topics. That is yet to come.
GlobalWarming:2 covers two main subjects. The UN provides a real mixed bag of positive and negative influences on the fight against Global Warming. The positive is that they try. The negative is that they fail. The Kyoto Protocol is not reducing emissions, nor is its associated reports. The CER system is causing more trouble than good. Industrial and national politics do not ensure a safe future. Although simple solutions exist, they are not acted on.
Global Warming:3 examines the basic root cause of our problem: rising temperatures. Is the increase real and does it matter? Is it natural or caused by man? Are the temperatures unusual compared to history? Do GHGs actually cause the increase? What can past temperature variations tell us about what we face today. Can you even trust the basic data and analysis of temperatures? Those and other questions are answered in detail.
GlobalWarming:4 shows Global Warming is not the first disaster forecast ever done, published and hyped. There have been many in the past and as a rule they failed. The disaster in question did not happen. So the question is – why would this particular doom and gloom outlook be right? What is different this time? As you will see, plenty is different.
GlobalWarming:5 reviews the role and issues of population growth. This is a vital issue for future emissions as shown in GlobalWarming:1. Historically over the past 250 years, the explosive growth in populations explains two thirds of the increase in GHG emissions. The rise in personal carbon use must be reversed as must other issues related to unbalanced growth in populations.
GlobalWarminng:6 is the meat of this series. It gets into the details of what is happening right now in the some 25 different real life areas, impacted by Global Warming. These are not forecasts, assumptions or opinions but verifiable hard facts. The picture seen in full is quite frightening and very indicative of your future. The every day signs get worse by the day.
GlobalWarming:7 paints three scenarios (not forecasts) of what might happen in the future. There is a pessimistic, an optimistic and a middle of the road picture. The three scenarios are based on simple, common sense assumptions, very different from the elaborate, multi million $ systems enjoyed by the UN, the Stern Report, EPA and others. These big systems rely on a myriad of assumptions as input, many of which aren’t really known and/or subject to lots of complexity.
I’m by no means competing with the “big” studies or the smart people putting them together. I used to be a forecasting guru working for the UN, the World Bank, FAO, OECD, the EU and many Fortune 500 companies. I guess I have a right to an opinion. No one is required to consider my views.
I am completely nonaffiliated. I have no axe to grind. I receive no monetary compensation, grants or sponsorship. I have no obligations to fulfill. There are no office politics around here. I need not to promote any agendas except mine – the survival of us all.
GlobalWarming:2-7 will follow together with other commentaries and follow ups. Hang in there. The links below help you navigate this monster essay. It’s all quite important to your health.
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January 23, 2007
These are the posts you readers like the most in this blog. It includes the War on Terror, Global Warming, Reality, War, Politics, a bit of Celebrity stuff, Ethics and much else.
First, thanks to everyone of the 15,000 of you that spent time with my blog. I hope it provided some value for you. It certainly provides me with some joy. I think.
There really is a lot of stuff to read in this blog. It usually is not that easy to navigate around a blog with a lot of content. I’m trying to reduce that problem by providing a lot of navigational help. I’ll add even more in the future. Right now, I have a Table of Content page (TOC in the top menu) that provides links to posts, grouped by subject area. And there is another helper located at a new page “Top 12″ (see menu on top). It lists and links to the most popular posts on the blog. Here goes:
- On Reality – Part 3a (Update)- Famous Faked Photos and How to Make Them?: This is a pretty short post, by my standards, discussing a set of very questionable photos. This update of the original Part 3a (below) adds some material and makes it easier to follow the discussion.
- On Reality – Part 3a – What about those faked, staged famous photographs in Part 3? This post discusses some strange photos. For this to make sense, you need to refer to Part 3, below. It might be easier to read the update above.
- The two (three actually) posts on the War on Terror (Part 1,2 and 2a)- “Bad Strategies Lose a Bad War on Terror” and “Consequences of a Lost War on Terror” are well received. Today I uploaded an update inspired by the State of Union Address coming up in a few hours: ” State of The Union – The War on Terror Death March“.
- Can Celebrities shoot? Here is a light hearted look at photos taken by nineteen more or less famous celebrities. I review their photos and offer some unwanted advice to artists-in-disguise from Rudy Guiliano to Carmen Electra. I liked the pictures by Nathan Purdee, Brendan Frasier, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Bridges. A lot of the rest I did not like.
- On Reality – Part 3 – More on Photojournalism: a post that discusses various photo journalistic flops. There are references to other more or less famous controversial photos. These photos are discussed in more detail in the top two posts above.
- On Ethics – Part 1 – Just a point of view?: Do ethics matter on any real life level? The post examines some famous philosophers and their take on ethics. These philosophers have a major impact far beyond what most people might think.
- About Stanley Kubrick, the Photographer: A great film maker, a great photographer. Do check out this one.
- Why we are losing the War on Global Warming is not doing quite as well as it should. Wake up, please – this is important stuff. It is a preview of my upcoming, major essay on Global Warming.
- On Ethics – Part 6 – We the People: Here we just jumped by the Ethics posts 2-5 and a lot of crucial views. I do recommend at least glancing at the posts in order. Part 6 covers Ethics on a personal level and how those ethics are influenced by our individual experiences and environments.
- On Reality – Part 5 – How Perceptions and Illusions destroy Reality: The main message of the Reality series is that Reality is something us humans know preciously little about. We think we do, which makes it even worse. Read the post and find out why.
- On Gordon Parks- Segregation, Hollywood, Fashion and more…: Gordon Parks was an immensely talented man. This posts tells his story in a too short manner. View his photos and I think you’ll see truth that is seldom so obvious.
That’s the current Top 12. Check out the Table Of Content for more navigational help. You’ll see the posts organized by main subject areas, making it easier to find what you care about.
Here is a bonus graph showing the readership of the main areas of this blog. Enjoy:
January 23, 2007
The US War on Terror continues its apocalyptic road towards even greater disasters. No matter what, George W. Bush continues to disregard common sense and global opinion. Refusing to face truth, he escalates a lost, meaningless war, sacrificing American lives, not to mention those of the Iraqis. That is not even mentioning the $ trillions to be spent on a hopeless and unethical cause.
This post is a follow up to my two previous posts on the War on Terror: 1) Bad Strategies Lose a Bad War on Terror and 2) Consequences of a Lost War on Terror. Both of these essays go into details of how the War on Terror, at first, was supportable following 9/11, then why it fumbled into misguided and non winnable wars against two independent states with no real connection to the 9/11 terrorism. Not only that, Bush pursued a series of illegal actions to amass personal authority totally incompatible with US and World ethics.
There is more to come in the War on Terror series. This post is a quick update of current events as of mid January 2007. Tonight, as I write this, Bush will give his State of the Union address. Some expect him to moderate his views some. I very much doubt it.
Recent Developments (Jan 23, 2007)
On Jan. 10th 2007, George W. Bush announced yet another brand new strategy for winning the war on terror, that is, the war against religious cults in Iraq. No one expected anything but a rehash of what has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. That is exactly what we got. As expected, the Baker Iraq Study Group’s report was sent to an undisclosed location where it will never be seen again. Instead of listening to the many, Bush choose to escalate the Iraq War. Repeating the same mistakes over and over, expecting a better result is ignorant and bullheaded. Which is exactly what we all expected and we all got from Mr. “Makes-No-Mistakes” W. Bush.
But the opposition to escalating the war is massive. A Democratic Congress sees an opportunity to demonstrate its new power. Republicans up for 2008 reelection suddenly see the light. Domestic and worldwide opinion is flabbergasted and shocked at the Don Quixote moves by a beleaguered, isolated and confused President with no curiosity about what really matters.
By mid/late January 2007, George W. Bush and his fewer and fewer allies are increasingly isolated. Republicans and Democrats alike are in rebellion against Bush’s latest attempt to save face. To Bush, Iraq is by now a mission of rescuing his legacy. He is alone in that concern. Republicans up for a 2008 election are concerned about their own legacy. Democrats worry about how not to screw up this phenomenal opportunity to gain power for a long time. The vast US and world wide majority want to end failed foreign interference in Iraqi politics and long standing tribal sectarianism.
Perhaps the massive opposition to the War is finally wearying some of the Bush Clan down. They all have to realize just how tainted they are for the rest of their lives. The lucrative talk shows, memoirs and lobbying jobs may not materialize.
Who supports this lost war? Dick Cheney likes it and so does, I suspect reluctantly, Condi Rice. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News jokes think it is a splendid idea. John McCain can’t get out of his too well published support. Hillary Clinton, a long time war supporter, is changing her song. Barak Obama is new and lucky enough to have little baggage to jettison. Rudy Guiliano is walking the tightrope of a tyrant Liberal masking as a Republican. John Edwards does have his luggage but, like Clinton, is dumping it out the back window. Not that the guy has a chance. Bill Richardson, the well respected liberal underdog, wants the troops out of Iraq but who will listen?
Polling the people
US Conservative Christians form the biggest pro War organization. Apparently 2/3rds of them still support the Iraq War. But their private Presidential candidate, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, mixes an anti-abortion and anti-gay stand with actually opposing more troops to Iraq. That shows just how scared the right wingers are of this war.
Compare the current 68% Religious Right war approval rating with the following Newsweek polls: in 2003, 69% of Americans approved of the War. Today, mid January 2007, that has dropped to 24%. The Religious right makes up roughly 1/4 of the US population, perhaps voting for the war at a 68% rate in the Newsweek survey. Using some simple math, this indicates the NON Religious Right population’s support for the Iraq War is as low as 11%.
Other recent polls: An international survey of 25 countries claims: 73% disapprove of the war. A dismal 29% believe the US is a positive factor compared to 36% a year ago and 40% two years ago. 49% view the US as negative international influence. In the US, 57% believe the US is good for the world, down from 71% two years ago. Internationally, 68% believe the US presence in the Mideast provokes more violence. 67% disapprove of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (who on Earth approves of this obscenity?).
Out of the 25 countries, five are significantly more supportive of the US than the others. One is the US itself. The other four are Kenya, the Philippines, India and Nigeria. Exclude these five and the numbers for the remaining 20 countries will look a whole lot worse.
Take Australia: 78% oppose the US handling of the Iraq war. 77% disapprove of Guantanamo. 68% oppose the US (non) stand on Global Warming. 66% despise the US role in the recent Israel vs. Hitzbullah/Lebanon conflict. 63% are disappointed by the Bush handling of the Iran nuclear program.
That is a dismal view by and scorecard from a friendly country. Let’s look at a few other opinions.
Tony Blair, the golden boy gone awry, is desperately trying to divert the attention to other quite worthy cases such as AIDS, the non-Iraq Middle East and Global Warming. Jacques Chirac of France, not a supporter but loving to put the US down, is laughing all the way to the TV studio. German Chancellor Angelica Merkel is busy saying nothing at all, wanting to improve US relations after a long winter.
Perhaps Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki is supportive in some sort of a manner. He has wisely declared if he could get out of his tenuous position today, he would be the happiest man in Iraq.
Other war supporters, I expect, include otherwise irrelevant Osama bin Laden of who-knows-where, Kim Jong-il of the proudly nuclear Korea, Nashar al-Assad of preying, devious Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of no-holocaust soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. All have good reasons to enjoy a weakened US exercising its few options in a well contained Iraq.
Nixon versus Bush
Most domestic and world public opinions reject Bush policies, in particular as related to Iraq. So do the countless experts and even politicians that demand an exit plan from Iraq. Does Bush listen? No, he escalates. Here is what President Nixon said about his own quite similar quagmires:
Defensiveness: “I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war”; “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now”.
Defiance: “I can take it. The tougher it gets, the cooler I get”; “When the President does it that means that it’s not illegal“; “Nobody is a friend of ours. Let’s face it”; “Politics would be a helluva good business if it weren’t for the goddamned people“.
Confession: “I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government, but think that it’s all too corrupt”; “Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?“
Let’s look at a few Bush quotes:
Ignorance: “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people”; “Bring them on”; “Everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear“; “The tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free”; “The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom”; “There’s no bigger task than protecting the homeland of our country”: “We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace“; “Mission accomplished”.
Divine justification: “I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom”; “The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.”
Aggressiveness: “Any government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes“; “Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups or seeks to possess weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world and will be confronted“; “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either, you are with us, or you are with the terrorists“; “Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.”
Defiance: “I understand everybody in this country doesn’t agree with the decisions I’ve made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand.”; “Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror, we must not waver” ; “I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me”; “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best.”
Confession: “I’m open to any ideas or suggestions that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq’s democratic government succeeds.”; “Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead. Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq’s young democracy continues to progress.”
While these quotes highlight some differences between the two worst Presidents in American History, they really only accentuate the emptiness of two failed men with way too much power for their own and anyone else’s good.
The problem remains
The Iraq solution remains the same as ever before. The US has to get out of Iraq. The problem also remains the same. George W. Bush doesn’t want to get out of Iraq. At some point common sense has to prevail. The US must completely change its agenda towards true moral leadership and peace. My essays on the War on Terror and Global Warming both work on that point. Both issues will shape the world of the future. Actually, they already are.
On the State of Union Address: “President Bush will discuss his determination to defeat terrorists who are part of a broader extremist movement that is now doing everything it can to defeat us in Iraq,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said at a briefing last week. It’s all business as usual. Steady as we go.
According to the leaked statements about the State of Union address tonight, Bush will claim “I’m still relevant”. He wants focus on bold domestic initiatives. He wants reach out to the Democrats. Fat chance. This is one of the all time least popular President at a current approval rating of 33%. Congress is controlled by his opponents. We’ll find out soon enough if the Democrats have the will and guts to make a difference.
The Democrats promised an intensive first 100 hours creating important policies and passing great laws as they took over Congress after the first of 2007. They did make progress – minimum wage, student loan interest rates, some Medicare reform, stem research support, more cargo inspections in ports, less tax breaks for the oil industry. There are also promises about Global Warming and threats about cutting Iraq war funding. But it remains to be seen what of all of this will actually be real.
In particular, the Democrat opposition to the Iraq War and the War on Terror is a bit too vague for my taste. On the one hand, they will supply all the money “needed to support out troops”. On the other hand, they want to stop increased US involvement. Any support for a real “get the hell out” strategy is sketchy or nonexistent although it is the only initiative that will actually work.
The real problem is that a lame duck President is the last thing the US needs. My own agenda is to help stopping this Iraq disaster and to contribute to resolving the battle of Global Warming. Either of these resolutions requires strong Washington DC leadership. From where?
Global Warming: Dubious signs of hope
Global Warming is a related issue where the Bush Doctrine needlessly and foolishly goes against the rest of the world. A sign of pragmatic hope is the recent coming out of the closet of some major companies on Global Warming. Walmart, Lehman Brothers, DuPont, GE, Alcoa, Caterpillar, Florida Power&Light, PG&E and PNM all suddenly see the light.
“This is the first time big business has come forward to support major environmental legislation. These CEOs understand the danger if we let climate change go unchecked – as well the huge upside economic opportunity of taking action.” Funny, the point is to make more money. What do you know?
These companies should pay huge penalties/taxes on the carbon gases they release as an incentive to clean up their act. I doubt that is what they implied when claiming to “support major environmental legislation”. Maybe I’m just cynical.
This followed the ExxonMobil’s PR problem where they had to admit very shady attempts to discredit valid Global Warming research and to manipulate public opinion in their favor in a clandestine manner. They obviously read the same books as George W.
In another curious development, evangelistic leaders put aside the never ending creationism/evolutionary issue, declaring they want to work together with scientists on the Global Warming issue. I’m not sure that will save the planet, but any positive act is a good one. I hope.
Here is the last quote for the day from French professor and author Daniele Ganser:
In my research, I put forward evidence that these secret armies not only existed in Italy, but also in all Western Europe: in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Luxembourg and Germany. In the beginning, we thought that there existed only one guerrilla-structured organization, and therefore, that all these secret armies had participated in the strategy of tension, and therefore, in terrorist acts.
What’s he talking about? Al Qaeda? Hamas? Hitzbullah? No, he is discussing CIA and NATO clandestine operations in Europe over the last 50 years. True or not, I don’t know but it is indicative of how Europe feels about the proven terrorist actions of the US.
The next issue of my War on Terror series will deal with what it takes to get out of the horrible mess of Iraq and the aftermath of 9/11 knee jerk policies. My ultimate goal is to find out what it takes to restore US ethics and international standings.
Images in this essay
I illustrate this essay with images from my portfolios. After all, I’m a photographer. I use mostly night scenes that may emphasize the starkness of the topic. Professionally, I like night scenes, with their dramatic and quite tricky light. The extremes in contrast, the deep blacks and the graininess appeal to me. Most of the images are shot handheld with an 85mm F1.2 Canon lens and Delta 3200 film, push developed about 1/2 stop.
Thank you, Karl
January 12, 2007
George W. Bush pursues disastrous policies in his fictitious War on Terror. He created a grossly inefficient Department of Homeland Security. He started wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. He bullied through unconstitutional and illegal laws, policies and executive orders. He violates human rights by decree. He allows and encourages torture, detention, ignoring habeas corpus and illegal surveillance. He does not have the sense or maturity to withdraw from lost causes.
Every policy enacted by Bush goes straight against longstanding wisdom on how to control terrorism. The huge resources in both lives and money thrown at this single issue are totally out of proportion with the possible benefit. The only results, after five years, are increased terrorism, hundreds of thousands dead and costs in the $ trillions. There are zero benefits to justify this gross mismanagement.
A historical perspective on failed strategies
The new Bush strategy simply escalates a non winnable war in Iraq by sending more troops. Let’s look at another war where a similar strategy ruled the day:
The beginning: In 1961, President Kennedy sent 400 Special Forces advisers to Vietnam. By late 1963, there were about 16,000 advisers in the country. August 14th 1964 saw 21,000 advisers to the South Vietnam military. A few days later, air attacks on North Vietnam started after the alleged Gulf of Tonkin naval attacks.
Legislative action: Congress approved the Southeast Asia Resolution giving President Johnson unique powers to conduct a non-declared war.
The escalation: In March of 1965, 3,500 additional Marines were dispatched, setting up camp at Da Nang. President Johnson authorized US independent ground force attacks on the enemy, rapidly sending more troops. By the end of 1965, the US had 184,000 troops in Vietnam. That rose to 389,000 by the end of 1966. Late 1967 welcomed a total of 486,000 American personnel. In 1968, an average of 1,200 Americans died in Vietnam each month.
Disappearing public support: The 1968 Tet Offensive made it obvious the US was not winning the war. Public US support plunged. President Johnson’s approval rating fell as low as that of President Bush today. Johnson decided against a second term. Peaceful and some violent demonstrations took place around the globe. President Nixon declared numerous plans to end the War in Vietnam, none of which were believed by the public.
Limits of military force: By 1969, there were 553,000 American troops in South Vietnam. The US military found it could not use its enormous fire power on an enemy it could not see and could not engage on its terms. North Vietnam quickly found ways to kill Americans. The war spread to Laos and Cambodia. Massive air bombings did not change the course of the defeat.
Withdrawal: Eventually, the US plan was to vietnamize the War. In 1971, several of the US “allies” withdraw from the scene. US troops declined to about 197,000 in 1971. In 1972, the (almost) last US ground troops left Vietnam. Massive bomb attacks against North Vietnam continued into 1973.
Peace: The Paris Peace Accord went in effect the same year. The US gradually withdrew all support to the South Vietnam and Saigon fell in 1975, finally ending a war that started in the 1940s, involving the US, Australia, Korea, France, Russia, China, Cambodia, Laos and others. Tiny North Vietnam prevailed.
Clearly, the Vietnam War was very different from that of Iraq. At the same time, there are sufficient similarities to provide some lessons to those that are teachable. The Vietnam War was a bad idea supported by almost no one. There was no ethical or moral justification. Superior fire power did not win against a determined, skilled and underrated combatant. Nor did almost unlimited financial resources bring the expected results. Massive ground troop escalation did not help. Advising, equipping and training the friendly forces ended up as too little, too late tactics.
The Russians did not win in Afghanistan. Nor do they win in Chechnya. Iraq did not win against Iran. Napoleon did not win against Russia. Nor did the Swedes in the late 1700s or Hitler almost 200 years later win over the Russian Winter. Mussolini lost every war he entered. Germany is known for starting but not winning wars. So is France. The British did not win wars in North America.
The French War on Terror in Algeria in the early 1960s is a splendid example of Algerian, Muslim insurgents winning its war against the mighty France. The Algerians used common insurgent tactics and the French military had no answer. France lost and got out. As will happen in Iraq, civil war followed. That war is still going on – over forty years later.
Wars are lost by powerful countries. It is not a matter of superior fire power, perceived just causes, industrial and financial might, determination or staying the course while accepting the sacrifices deemed justifiable. Many wars are lost because the enemy found a way, not necessarily militarily, to beat you. Other wars are lost because the idea was so bad no one, internationally or domestically, supported it.
George W. Bush will not win the Iraq war, mostly because it was and is a terrible, unethical idea. It is a classic example showing that winning the (initial) battle does not imply winning the war. Going to war without knowing who the enemy is, nor how to win against him is a stupid idea. Depending on the resolve of the Democratic Congress, the war will likely continue till the end of his term. Then the next president will have to do the withdrawal that should happen right now. How many American lives – 3,000? 50,000? How many Iraqis – maybe a few hundred thousand? What if the war spreads – any casualty number to the millions is possible. Then of course, there is the financial cost which will be, minimum, in the several trillions.
Back to regular programming
This is Part 2 of my four part series on this gruesome issue. Part 1 detailed the specifics of the Bush actions related to the wars. This part will discuss the consequences of these actions.
Like most others in the US and around the World, I woke up that 9/11 2001 morning, turned on the TV and life changed. I witnessed almost 3,000 people die in one of the deadliest terrorist attack ever. Nothing I will say can diminish the horror of the crime of that day or the honor of countless courageous people. Enacting a strong policy to catch and punish the perpetrators of that act was and is the right thing. But things went very wrong as discussed in Part 1. Here I’ll show just how wrong it went.
In four separate but connected parts, I discuss some fundamental reasons why the War on Terrorism turned into a disaster.
This is Part 2 – Consequences of a Lost War on Terror
Deny disaster: No one has won a military war on terror because it means making war on an invisible enemy. That is especially true if the military force is not ingenious. Bush spent thousands of lives, exhausted the US military, wasted some 1/2 trillion dollars and created MORE terrorism. It backfired massively as seen by the people of the US, Congress and the rest of the world.
- Ignore the disastrous consequences
- The Scorecard
This post is a quick update of current events as of mid January 2007. Tonight, as I write this, Bush will give his State of the Union address. Some expect him to moderate his views some. I very much doubt it.
Part 3 – Exiting a Lost War on Terror
Botch priorities: Terrorism is an insignificant part of mortality. One of the deadliest terrorist attacks,9/11, caused less than 3,000 casualties. As tragic as it is, that loss is limited compared to other events. Mao’s Great Leap Forward killed 70 million people. The deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler and Kim Jong-Il easily exceed 100 million. George W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon caused fewer casualties but far exceed any threat to human life from terrorists.
Jumble goals: The notion of “war” against ideas and/or tactics is simply silly. You can declare, and win, wars on nations, such as Panama, Grenada or Japan. You cannot declare generic wars on terrorism, gay marriage, drugs, abortions, crime, illiteracy or AIDS. You cannot win unless you know what specific enemy you fight, how to eliminate that specific enemy threat and when the mission is accomplished. In five years, the White House has yet to define what terrorism is.
Ignore failure: The resources thrown at the War on Terror are out of proportion with any possible benefits. The cost is enormous and the benefits are negative. The War sacrifices thousands of lives; it does not save lives or reduce terrorism. George W. Bush ignores the “right” ways to fight terrorism and, no wonder, fails. Can he deal with withdrawal as he must? Perhaps history can guide but probably not. George W. does not see it the way others do.
Part 4 – Preserve Life, Not War
Overlook alternatives: Instead of Mr. Bush’s policy “Protect American lives by fighting Terrorism”, act on “Protect life by fighting Death”. Stop wars and genocides. Combat famines and plagues. Protect against flooding, wind and eruptions. Fight Global Warming. Make safer and more efficient cars, ships and airplanes. Fight ordinary health hazards. Defend human rights. Stop war crimes. Place a proper priority on fighting terrorism and use the right tools.
Images in this Essay
With a few exceptions, the images in this part of the essay are my own. Almost all of them show people doing ordinary things. There are a few images associated with terrorism shot by other people. I wanted to convey that, ultimately, callous government acts hits real people. This essay is about human rights violations by the American government. This essay is about people.
I felt pictures of ordinary people doing, mostly, ordinary things was the right way to go. People generally likes to do everyday things. They do not want to fight wars, kill kids or destroy homes and families. They certainly do not like to bury their siblings, sons or daughters killed in some incomprehensible distant war.
Terrorism is not a daily concern, nor a threat, to most people outside Baghdad and a few other places. It is an insignificant factor in mortality statistics. George W. Bush thinks differently. It would be better if he learnt to look into the eyes of the people – American or not – rather than believing his fate is to defend the world from illusions only existing in his own mind.
Bush’s policies delegated the US from a world leadership role following “winning the cold war” to an isolated, secondary has-been. The US lost the moral war and thereby any chance of leading the world. It demonstrated military weakness. Super weapons do not work against invisible enemies.
Here is the 101 course in “How to Fail in International Affairs”. The Bush White House pursues failure with a curious mix of gusto, ruthlessness and ignorance. The result is International Relations in Shambles:
- Lose International Credibility: The US was the last super power and its actions are still examined intensely and nervously by allies and foes. Any controversial issue becomes an international event, with the White House typically the last to know. The Vietnam war is perhaps the most obvious case but both the Iraq war and the War on Terrorism approaches similar levels of “anti American” sentiments across the globe. The net effect is isolation of the US in a hostile world.
- Intimidate Friendly or Neutral States: In their desperately heavy handed search for “allies” against Iraq, Bush and Rumsfeld managed to insult Germany and France into rejection of most US policies at the time. Dick Cheney has a flair for insulting Russia. Although relations improved, the memory will last indefinitely, both in America and overseas. Surprising as it may seem, several Arab states traditionally have been US supporters. Bush’s unquestioned support of Israel, no matter how many civilians slaughtered, damaged or destroyed those relations.
- Alienate Non-allied States: The Famous “Axis of Evil” nonsense not only angered North Korea and Iran to the point of pursuing nuclear weapons, it also alienated traditional supporters of, or stake holders in, the “evil” countries: China, France, Russia, South Korea, Syria and many others.
- Lie: This includes: 1) produce false evidence of Iraqi WMD in front of the UN, 2) declare “Mission Accomplished” when it is not, 3) claim success and progress when there is none, 4) hide torture and human rights abuse as a top level policy, 5) deny the reality of the Iraqi Civil War and 6) blame others for policy failures.
- Use the Wrong Tactic at the Wrong Time: The US military will not win the War on Terrorism. The use of the US military damaged international relations and demonstrated political and military weakness. The result is an encouraged terrorism.
- Allow Nuclear Proliferation: The US openly supports India’s development as a nuclear power. It implicitly allows Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions as a thank-you for its role against terrorism. It allows Israel’s long standing nuclear program and is faced with a potential Israeli nuclear attack on Iran. It is powerless against the Iran and North Korea ambitions.
- Enable Terrorism: Practically every single “anti terrorism” policy, act or initiative from the Bush White House has backfired, causing more world wide terrorism rather than less. A foreign policy disaster, it not only causes more terrorism but also polarizes the US itself.
Does any of the above make any difference? One result is that other governments and ordinary people reject the US as a leader. Again – so what, the US rules no matter what, right? Consider this: in 2005, the US exported $1,750 billion of goods, services and income receipts. Meanwhile, the US imported a comparable $2,450 billion of stuff. Foreign owned assets increased by almost $1,200 billion. In 2005 alone, foreigners invested in/lent to the US $1,900 billion. The US national debt is $8.5 trillion. About $2 trillion is held by foreigners, in particular China and Japan. The US economy heavily depends on foreigners and overseas markets.
That is a lot of financial clout held by foreign countries. These countries have no interest in bringing the US or the dollar down as it would hurt them as much as it would hurt the US but the uncertainty remains. Can the system spiral out of control? Of course, it can. Can foreigners use their financial clout to influence US policies, especially international policies? You bet – they do it all the time.
Terrorism goes back as far as civilization itself, yet dealing with it poses major difficulties because of its covert, invisible and convoluted nature. Inflexible, unimaginative and ignorant policies from George W. Bush view terrorists as a clearly defined bunch of murderous lunatics and outcasts. That is a big and disastrous mistake. Defining “terrorism” is next to impossible (Sources: here, here, here and here):
- Twelve separate international conventions have been signed, each covering a specific type of criminal activity seizure of airplanes, political assassination, the use of explosives, hostage-taking, etc. Broad ratification of these treaties has been difficult to achieve. The more fundamental issue of creating a comprehensive, binding international convention against terrorism has been set aside. Rrepeated efforts remain unresolved. The UN says “the question of a definition of terrorism has haunted the debate among States for decades.”
- The lack of international definitions of terrorism leads to chaos in dealing with terrorism, for instance: The U.N. does not regard Hitzbullah or Hamas as terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia uses this distinction to get away with funding Hamas, while Iran and Syria use it to provide funds and support to Hitzbullah.
- Without a clear definition of terrorism, U.N. member states — including the liveliest terror sponsors — pay no penalty for interpreting these measures in any warped way they might choose, or effectively ignoring them altogether. The U.N. passed resolutions a few years ago sanctioning a highly abbreviated list of a few hundred Taliban and al Qaeda affiliates worldwide. The sanctions are at best erratically enforced.
- The ultimate result of this lack of understanding will be that terrorists, protected by their patrons at the U.N. itself, will use its graphic and ruinous terms to define the meaning of terrorism for us.
- The Bush doctrine is both naive and vague: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” In declaring a War on Terrorism, Bush defiantly stated his intent to pursue nations providing aid or safe haven to terrorism. His suggestion that every nation had a decision to make on the issue is heavy handed, insulting and out of line of any diplomatic convention. Five years later, the White House has yet to define clearly what constitutes a terrorist organization. Fewer and fewer countries are willing to decide any matter George W. Bush’s way. US Congressmen feel the same way, even Republicans.
- In the Bush lexicon, terrorism is a catch-all term for interpreting diverse conflicts, from separatist movements to paramilitary activity to arms and narcotics trafficking. The failure to define terrorism enabled the White House to label almost anybody opposed to its policies as a terrorist organization. Groups as diverse in structure and objectives as Peru’s Shining Path, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Basque Fatherland and Liberty, the Communist Party of the Philippines and Hamas are on the State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
- The White House further narrowed its focus by applying the al-Qaida label to virtually any Islamic group labeled a terrorist organization on the shakiest of evidence. Regional, independent groups are suddenly al-Qaida supporters or affiliates. The administration implies that the sole enemy is a global conspiracy of Islamic groups. The Islamic bias is clearly wrong as the government’s own terrorism reports demonstrate.
Here are a few nouns, all of which are more or less related to “terrorism”: separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, reactionary, vigilante, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, jihadi, mujaheddin, fedayeen, death squad, anti-terrorist, anarchist, partisan, instigator, provocateur, revolutionist, communist, ultraist, intelligence agent, right winger, left winger, insurgent, fanatic, religious nut, pro-lifer, activist, extremist, zealot, freak, maniac, pro-animal-righter, nationalist, anti-nationalist, militant, assassin, ex-employee, high school student, veteran, mercenary, suicide-by-police….. There is a least a hundred “names” for terrorists as a result of its diverse nature.
The Department of Homeland Security sponsors and pays the bills of the National Memorial Institute for The Prevention of Terrorism, formally an independent non-profit organization. MIPT maintains a public database on terrorist organizations and events. The database is available here and is called TKB for short. Effectively, this is the government’s official list or terrorist organizations. The database contains information on 31,275 terrorist events, accusing organizations of causing 45,954 fatalities and 108,680 wounded. Of the 32,275 events, 21,668 are attributed to an “Unknown” or “Other” category. There are 880 named groups, responsible for a total of 8,607 events and 19,933 fatalities.
Of the 880 named groups, 550 are not accused of causing any fatalities at all. Of the remaining 330 groups, only 38 are associated with more than 100 fatalities. Only 5 of the groups are directly linked to US fatalities in the TKB database. That’s the official data, contrasting wildly with official rhetoric. It also does not reflect reality – a subject I’ll return to later in this essay.
Here is a valid point: thousands of terrorist organizations are active at any point in time. They all have different goals, come from unique backgrounds and employ different tactics. The vast majority are local groups posing no threat to the US, the international community or even their homeland. There is no way to generalize or find a single way to deal with all these fractions, nor is there a need to deal with most of them or worry about their actions.
Is the US innocent of terrorism? Consider the US government level support for or conduct of terror. Needless to say, none of these events are listed in the TKB database:
- In 1931 Nicaragua, the US established training schools for right-wing militia, dismantled two liberal governments, and helped to orchestrate fake elections.
- The US helped overthrow the democratically elected Allende government in Chile in 1973.
- In 1981 Nicaragua, the CIA organized the “Contras” to overthrow the progressive Sandinista government. Many Contras had already received training from the U.S. military as members of the Somoza National Guardsmen.
- The US supported a right-wing junta in El Salvador that ended up being responsible for 35,000 civilian deaths between 1978 and 1981.
- The US trained thousands of Latin American military personnel in torture methods at the School of the Americas.
- The US bombed a suburban Beirut neighborhood in March 1985. This attack killed 80 people and wounded 200 others.
- The US bombed Libya in 1986. This event is listed by the UN’s Committee on the Legal Definition of Terrorism as a “classic case” of terrorism.
- The US attempted assassinations, exploded boats and manufactured explosive cigars, conducted industrial sabotage and the burned sugar fields in Cuba. Castro survived.
- The US supplied arms to various combatants in the Middle East, including massive support, in funds and arms, for Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians.
- The US provided over $7 billion in arms, funds and training, to the Mujahideen in its Afghan war against the USSR in the 1980s. Part of the Mujahideen is today known as the Taliban.
- The US actively supported Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s as an ally against Iran and as a potentially profitable future source for raw materials such as oil and a market for exports.
- The US conducts chemical warfare in Colombia: crop-duster planes spray broad-spectrum herbicides onto the Colombian countryside and the people who live there, leading to widespread illness, displacement, and hunger.
Some say terrorism is borne out of three factors: first, the terrorist’s only option is using violence to protest his anguish – he or she is beyond hope. Second, the terrorist is compelled to draw attention to his/her cause using the only means available – violence. Third – it is a convenient, low cost way to achieve a specific goal, especially as state sponsored terrorism. These three factors are valid in many cases but not all. Many extreme organizations have lots of opportunities to further their cause peacefully but chose not to. Bombers of abortion clinics or animal farms are prominent examples.
The bottom line: terrorism is an incredibly complex issue and requires sophisticated responses. Without a clear view of what and who you fight, there is no win. You must know why you fight and how you fight, depending on the precise target. You must realize the target is not one generic bunch of fanatics but an incredibly diverse group of states, parties, factions, interest groups and ordinary citizens. The Bush doctrine fails all of these points.
Take the USA Patriot Act – one of many examples: The “War on Terrorism” threatens the US Constitutional Rights in at least the following areas (Source: here):
- First Amendment – Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and the press.
- Fourth Amendment – Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
- Fifth Amendment – No person is to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
- Sixth Amendment – Right to a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, right to be informed of the facts of the accusation, right to confront witnesses and have the assistance of counsel.
- Eighth Amendment – No excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment shall be imposed.
- Fourteenth Amendment – All persons (citizens and non citizens) within the US are entitled to due process and the equal protection of the laws.
Here are some of the actual violations of Constitutional Rights (Source here, with additions by me):
- 8,000 Arab and South Asian immigrants have been interrogated because of their religion or ethnic background, not because of actual wrongdoing.
- Thousands of men, mostly of Arab and South Asian origin, have been held in secretive federal custody for weeks and months, sometimes without any charges filed against them. The government has refused to publish their names and whereabouts, even when ordered to do so by the courts.
- The press and the public have been barred from immigration court hearings of those retained after September 11th and the courts are ordered to keep secret even that the hearings are taking place.
- The government is allowed to monitor communications between federal detainees and their lawyers, destroying the attorney client privilege and threatening the right to counsel.
- New Attorney General Guidelines allow FBI spying on religious and political organizations and individuals without having evidence of wrongdoing.
- President Bush has ordered military commissions to be set up to try suspected terrorists who are not citizens. They can convict based on hearsay and secret evidence by only two-thirds vote.
- American citizens suspected of terrorism are being held indefinitely in military custody without being charged and without access to lawyers.
- The government maintains lists of individuals suspected of terrorism or terrorist related activities. These lists are proven to be wildly inaccurate. Air lines maintain similar lists. Some of these lists are simply racial profiling.
- Federal detainees allegedly associated with terror are classified as enemy combatants with no rights under US law or the Geneva Convention in spite of court orders to the opposite.
- Such detainees are subject to religious contempt and disrespect in violation of the Geneva Convention and US law.
- Such detainees are subject to harsh treatment, including torture, even murder, as approved and endorsed from the White House and down in violation of numerous treaties and US laws. The purpose is to extract information in violation of the Geneva Convention.
- US, and other, citizens are subject to illegal surveillance by various US agencies, such as NSA. This includes cell and land phone tapping, tracking Internet usage such email and chat room activity, monitoring bills, such as credit cards and phone records, and tracking bank statements. No doubt this list is incomplete.
These are just a few examples. It is by no means a complete picture of the abuses. Earlier, I listed 15 separate laws and acts, most passed in response to 9/11 and Iraq. None of these extremely objectionable cases have, to my knowledge, prevented any credible act of terrorism or saved lives. They mostly abuse innocent people by removing basic parts of human and civil rights.
Do illegal detainment, torture, intimidation and other US tactics effectively prevent terrorism? The answer is simply NO. None of these acts prevents terror according to many authoritative studies on the subject. At the best, they are a minor deterrent which any determined terrorist easily bypasses. At the worst, they actually lead to more terror as retaliation. Many terror acts are blackmail aimed at the release of associates held in custody.
The US government use illegal tactics. Quite possibly it commits war crimes. The tactics are ineffective and counterproductive – they encourage, not suppress, terror as has been repeatedly proven in history. They attract strong criticism from the entire world with disastrous effects on US credibility and ability to lead in any area, contributing to a vicious cycle of escalating terrorism such as is obvious in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let me quote yet another lost cause related to George W. Bush’s dim view of international laws. After all, he has stated the Geneva Convention no longer is relevant. He is thumping his nose at the UN Charter, the Hague Convention, the Nuremberg Charter and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, just to name a few. Here are the facts about the Geneva Convention:
Note: This is a reprint of parts of my essay On Ethics – Part 5:
The four Geneva Conventions protect POWs and restricts certain kinds of warfare. They are some of the most successful international treaties. They clearly define and relate to Ethical standards. They have evolved over time in different versions. The first version was adopted in the 1860s. The last major revision dates to 1949. Signatory nations (about 200) are required to pass national laws making it a crime to violate the Conventions.
In 1997, two protocols to the Geneva Conventions were added. They give protection to guerrillas in civil wars or wars of national liberation. A third protocol was added in 2006.
Article 4 of the current Conventions may be of interest, considering the current debate of denying the rights of the Conventions to certain “terrorists”. Please do judge for your self. Here is a much shortened version:
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Conventions, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:
a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
c) That of carrying arms openly;
d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
I am no lawyer. But it seems to me the above applies to many individuals currently denied the rights of the Geneva Conventions. Here is an excerpt of those rights:
Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Conventions. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.
Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favorable as that granted to men. Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.
Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he willfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status.
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
Does this sound like what is known to be going on in prison/POW camps around the World? Do you trust George W. Bush to come up with a better version? Or is his version simply a way to cover his behind from prosecution? Some White House lawyers think so:
- The White House’s top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for “war crimes” as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue.
- The lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes—defined in part as “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions.
- Noting that the law applies to “U.S. officials” and that punishments for violators “include the death penalty,” Gonzales told Bush that “it was difficult to predict with confidence” how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions—such as that outlawing “outrages upon personal dignity” and “inhuman treatment” of prisoners—was “undefined.”
What makes us think we can beat terrorism? Every one knows no conventional army will ever win a war against terrorists. The point is well proven in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Somalia, Indonesia, Bali, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Cambodia, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Congo, the Balkans, Central America, Colombia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho. That’s just mentioning a few modern time examples. If you go back over the centuries, you will find thousands of similar examples.
Terrorism is not reduced by laws, illegal detention, torture, executions, killings of a few, shots in the kneecaps, B-52s, awe and thunder, disposing some dictator or repressive regime, Special Forces, data mining, freezing assets, wire tapping, threatening relatives, destroying homes, offering candy, building schools, training police forces or any of the countless methods tried throughout history.
A modern government, most of all that of the US is incapable of preventing acts of terrorism. That is not to say it is easy to commit an act of terror. It is quite difficult outside obvious hot spots such as Iraq, Israel, Palestine and some less developed areas.
Take a clue: the lack of Russian success in controlling major terrorism out of Chechnya, Israel losing the recent battle against Lebanon’s Hitzbullah, Sri Lanka’s untenable battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Irish IRA fought successfully for almost 30 years before accepting a political solution, not a military victory or defeat. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all are engaged in long unsuccessful campaigns against all kinds of terrorist groups. The Philippines have fought various uprisings/terrorists for the last fifty years, battling Communists, Islamic and Muslim Fronts and various Revolutionary Councils. In Mexico, there is terrorism in Nuevo Laredo; groups like Zapatista National Liberation Army, People’s Revolutionary Army and Revolutionary Army
of the Insurgent People are the most prominent Mexican insurgent groups but there are at least twenty other active groups – not to mention countless criminal organizations.
In the 1970s, the US experienced the actions of some 20 different groups, labeled as terrorists by some, as freedom fighters by others. Today, none of these groups are active. That is not thanks to George W. Bush’s War on Terror or illegal laws. It is due to two factors – 1) many were defeated by plain ordinary, if sometimes excessive, police work and 2) others grew older and experienced changing priorities. This is an excellent example how terrorism can be beat. I’ll come back to this example. Similar trends were seen in much of Europe and Japan.
Never has the US influence been in as steep decline as it is now. Watergate and Vietnam were no high points but this is worse. Part of the reason is that not only is the War on Terror and all its related disasters such clear losers, so are other issues important to the world. Global Warming is the principal reason for justified overseas anger. Then the stark US arrogance and heavy handedness wins no friends. Here are additional factors:
U.S. military superiority doesn’t produce proportional results. The military cannot fight insurgents or terrorists. No matter the huge firepower, it cannot be used on invisible enemies. Nor does it do much good against suicide bombers. Moreover, practically the entire US military might is concentrated in one minor theater – Iraq. No one believes the US could take on another foe.
New rivals are eroding American economic influence. China, India, soon-Russia, the EU are nabbing at the US heels in technology, education, finance as examples.
The U.S. globalized faster than policy makers have been able to adjust. The US budget and trade deficits must be financed somehow. China, Japan are investing, relying on the US somehow stays solvent. We wish you the best of luck.
Foreign influence on U.S. economic health has grown dramatically while the American policy response hasn’t kept pace. Foreign owned assets in the US amount to some $13 trillion. Plenty of aggressive and skilled competition raises the stakes – and the strangle hold on US companies.
America’s technological gap is shrinking. Maybe Microsoft or Intel would disagree. But both outsource to India and China, giving away invaluable skills and technologies. The US educational system falls further and further behind those of hungry competitors.
Political polarization hurts U.S. leadership. The remaining US political will is concentrated in a few limited areas: the infamous and irrelevant War on Terror. Impractical and uneducated ideas about gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion, school prayer, Mexican border fences and immigrant labor. Important issues are ignored: medical insurance, social security, deficits, global warming, R&D, education and much else.
Terrorists look for weakness to capitalize on. The loss of US prestige makes us all the more likely terrorist targets. It is well known throughout the world that the 1.4 million active duty US war machine is running out of steam. The Baker report states: “U.S. military forces, especially our ground forces, have been stretched nearly to the breaking point by repeated deployments in Iraq”. Repeated combat tours wear out personnel and equipment: less than one-third of Army units are currently at the required combat readiness levels. That is weakness not just in numbers but morale as well. Terrorists will capitalize.
Another element of the Bush policy is supporting Israeli actions no matter what, refusing to consider Arab views. This is a clear shift from more moderate policies of the past. The moderate policies produced opportunities for peace while Bush’s policy destroys such hopes. The payback certainly will not be less terrorism, but more. Remember Carter on the White House grounds getting Begin and Sadat to shake hands after two weeks with the three of them holed up in peace negotiations at Camp Davis back in 1978? Egypt and Israel are still at peace. Imagine Bush doing something similar. Nah – won’t happen.
Sooner or later, some sanity and accountability has to enter any enterprise, policy or activity. In the War on Terror, there are two kinds of costs: human life and $$$s. On the benefit side, you have security, prosperity and freedom. On the accountability side, you have, depending on the precise issue, organizations such as the UN, governments or business entities. Let’s stick with the accountability of governments, specifically that of the US. Let’s compare the cost versus the benefits.
Terrorism over the past 20 years has cost the lives of about 20,000 people, world wide. That includes 9/11, the Beslan school massacre, the Moscow Theatre incident, Russian apartment bombings, attacks on US embassies in Africa, the Bali bombings, the Beirut Marine bombing, the air plane bombings, including Lockerbie, and subway attacks in London and Madrid.
The terrorism death toll is some 7,000 Americans of which about 6,000 are due to 9/11, the Afghan and Iraqi wars. Add some 300 allies (including domestic terror) and 50,000 to 700,000 Iraqi civilians. The Afghan civil death toll is perhaps 20,000, of which about 4,000 in 2006; no one knows nor cares.
Over the last 20 years, US traffic fatalities killed almost a million people. Heart attacks claimed almost 11 million lives. The 7,000 victims of terror and war in Iraq and Afghanistan are tragic because they lack meaning. But so do the 142 times as many traffic fatalities. Looking strictly at numbers, a slight improvement of 0.7% in car safety would save more lives than any war on terrorism can. A 0.06% improvement in saving heart attack victims would do too.
Speaking of human life, how come NATO permits Afghanistan to be the #1 producer of opium, compared to producing almost none under the Taliban regime? “Not a military issue”, the generals say. The 2006 crop is up 60% supplying 90% of the world demand. How many lives are lost to heroin addiction from Afghan opium?
The opium trade threatens Afghanistan falling back into its corrupt heritage and war lord dominance. The Taliban may well get back in control as a result. Some say the Taliban is largely behind the explosive growth in opium production. They use it as a way to control the farmers – and the people – while discrediting the government and immobilizing the foreign troops. Drug money will feed terrorism.
True cost starts with $1/2 a trillion of US funds and $16 billion from the UK. Then there are unknown funds from other “allied” countries and unknown cost to Iraq or Afghanistan. What’s your guess? Who knows, maybe around $700 billion?
Assume this was a War on Terror only. Then the cost is equal to $100 million (round number) for each of the 6,000 American terrorism and war causalities. If you only count the actual American terrorism victims, the cost is $200 million for each victim. If you include civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost drops to as little as $1 million per victim, although I’m sure no one cares about such a number.
That’s the cost. Now, where are the benefits? They better be pretty big. Let’s look. We have a huge hole in Manhattan where no recovery is in sight. We have two devastated countries, Iraq more than any. We have lurking civil wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran and North Korea realize the US is a paper tiger and act accordingly. So do most of the world. The whole Mideast is a disaster waiting to be ignited. Only huge amounts of money will save this horrible mess. Guess who’s going to pay?
So the direct cost is maybe $700 billion. Then we have the so called benefit side. The benefit side only contain additional costs such as rebuilding a couple of countries, pacifying the Mideast and making the US safe. How much? No one knows. Maybe it reaches a couple of $ trillion? Let’s call the real cost somewhere around $3 trillion mostly out of US pockets. That’s not as bad as it might sound. It boils down to a modest $40,000 per US household. You can afford it – right?
Unfortunately, the $3 trillion will not win the War on Terror. It will intensify it. Most likely, some of the trillions will end up with enterprises such as the Taliban Adventure Camp Grounds Co., the Iranian N.Clear PPY., The Baghdad Fireworks, Inc. and the Al Qaeda Special Effects LLP. Very likely, after collecting, they will pay us a visit.
The Part 1 judgment on the Bush Doctrine was pretty harsh:
- Create a Department of Homeland Security: DHS is an 186,000 people behemoth with far more failures than successes. I know of no proven prevention of terrorist operations. I know of no lives saved. Today, you rarely hear about the Department. I hear it is almost impossible to find their offices.
- Fight overseas rather than at home: How do you take a limited, targeted war to some one else’s land? Bush simply invaded a couple of them. Neither the Taliban, nor Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. The War on Terror became something entirely different: a lost, undefined cause benefiting no one but terrorism itself. Consequently, terrorism increased.
- Protect national interests: The War on Terror has nothing to do with the War on Iraq. Iraq was never involved in 9/11 or any other act of international terror. After years of denial, Bush admits the control of the oil is vital. The Baker Report confirms that statement. The Iraqi War is finally illegal. Terror increased dramatically following the invasions.
- Make your own laws: The US government’s preference for secret, illegal operations is an ethical, legal and international catastrophe. Bush et al stand a real and fair risk of War Crime convictions. Even US courts are fed up. The administration is desperately pushing through unconstitutional laws to defer the risks. This endorses the notion and validity of terrorism.
Here is the scorecard for Part 2 – the Consequences of Bad Strategies:
- Destroy International Relations: The US lost international credibility by using the wrong political, diplomatic and military tactics. It intimidates friendly or neutral States. It loses leverage by alienating non-allied states, allowing nuclear proliferation and enabling terrorism. It is viewed as an unreliable and unpredictable liar, more dangerous than rouge states.
- Doesn’t know the terrorist enemy: The Bush administration sees terrorism in incredibly naive black and white terms. It defines anything not to its liking as terrorist driven or supported, be it drugs, bombs, Congress, abortion or Islamic. After five years, the Bush administration has not told anyone exactly who they declared war on. In fact, they do not know. How do you win a war when you do not know who the enemy is?
- Threaten Human Rights: The Bush administration and George W. Bush personally, ignores and violates more laws and treaties than any administration in history, in the US but also internationally. That includes the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It allows unethical acts on an unprecedented scale.
- Ignore international treaties: This is a partial list being broken by George W. Bush: the UN Charter, the Hague Convention, the Nuremberg Charter and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Under international law, he is liable for war crimes.
- Disregard the Geneva Convention: The Geneva Conventions are among the most respected international treaties ever. Even Nazi Germany respected them for Western POWs. George W. Bush breaks them as he sees fit without a notion of the consequences. He ignores 900 years of Habeas Corpus legal principles without losing sleep.
- Can’t win militarily: The inability to militarily win a war on ideas such as terror is documented in history over and over: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Somalia, Indonesia, Bali, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Cambodia, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Congo, the Balkans, Central America, Colombia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho all are such failures. Why not learn from past mistakes?
- Destroy US influence: Never has the US influence been in as steep decline as it is now. Watergate and Vietnam were no highlights but this is worse. The War on Terror turned from supportable goals to clear losers, as have other issues important to the world. Global Warming is another principal reason for justified overseas anger. Then the stark US arrogance and heavy handedness wins no friends.
- Sacrifice Human life: How can 3,000 lives tragically lost on 9/11 lives justify the extermination of hundreds of thousand other lives? How is that put in perspective with cars killing a million people in the US over the last 20 years? Terrorism is an insignificant part of mortality, anywhere on Earth, except Baghdad where the US is ultimately accountable for the mindless killings.
- Create Economic waste: What cost/benefit analysis justifies a price of $ trillions with no demonstrated benefits except actually making terrorism more of a threat, not less. What sane person throws more money at an item that promises to cost even more while providing ever increasing pain? Sane or not, that is what George W. Bush has done, is doing and insists on continuing to do.
The score remains a miserable 100% failure. That isn’t good. If you have any insights in positive factors, please comment on this post and I will certainly respond. As Bush said in his January 10 “New Strategy” speech: “Anyone with a better idea, do speak up”.
Part 3 (”Part 3″ button below) will discuss the possible ways to withdraw from this mess. If you like, the “Part 1″ button takes you to; you guessed it, “Part 1″. That is all for Part 2 of this series on the War on Terror. Stay tuned.
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Here are some of the photographer’s secrets that many of us don’t really want to talk about. It all started in Part 3 of this series ( follow this link to the original Part 3 if you like) which contained seven photographs. All except one image were either staged or faked in some manner. I thought maybe you’d like some background information on each of them. Here are the stories of each of them. The accounts of each may differ – after all, we are dealing with legends.
Originally published August 18th, 2006, this post is still very popular. I decided to upgrade it a bit and republish it. For one thing, I added the photos I discuss so you don’t have to go back and forth to Part 3 of the series to view and read as you had to earlier.
The first picture shows the execution of a prisoner. It is not a fake – the man really died after being shot in the head by South Vietnam Lt. Colonel Ngyen Ngoc Loan, Saigon Chief of Police. The picture was taken by Eddie Adams in 1968’s Saigon. So what is wrong? The execution was originally to take place inside a nearby building. The Colonel decided that the photographers needed more drama, better angles and light, not to mention keeping the inside of the building clean. The execution was staged on the street with a careful setup of the photo opp. Apparently it was important to the Colonel how his profile was displayed. Mr. Loan later became a General, was evacuated to the US where eventually he died in peace. Mr. Adams won a Pulitzer Price. The prisoner simply died and disappeared. His wife never found out what happened to him. No trial and no one seem to know the exact crime committed.
The second picture (two actually) is the root of the 2006 summer Hajj journalism crisis. Here is the “After” version paired with the “Before”, original version. The ethics are thoroughly discussed in Part 3. No need to add anything except my view is that the whole thing was quite overblown. I still think the original version is far superior to the fake one. Not that either is that great.
The third photograph shows Bigfoot, or something, laboring away in the snow. There are dozens of Bigfoot pictures just as there are photos of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters and other legends. These pictures invoke strong passions in some people. TV Documentaries are made. Museums devoted to the subject pop up. Self proclaimed experts make speeches. Souvenir shops make money. Photographically, all or most can easily be explained as faked, staged or both. They may even be “real” enough to be explainable by natural events. This photographic trend goes far back. We will examine that in more detail later. To me, this picture may simply show a heavily clad man climbing a snowy hill, shot by a focus challenged photographer.
Picture number four is one of the most famous of all times. It is – rightly so – a living symbol of courage, triumph, the American spirit and victory over evil. It certainly is a phenomenal image – taken by Joe Rosenthal on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in February of 1945. It earned him a Pulitzer Price and everlasting fame, even though he never seemed to use his fame – he was a staff photographer in San Francisco after the war for a long time. Three of the six Marines died shortly after the flag raising. The memory of all, in particular the three survivors, gained some more fame in the recent Clint Eastwood film, following the John Wayne movie of 1949. So what is the controversy? Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
“Following the flag raising, Rosenthal sent his film to Guam to be developed and printed. Upon seeing it, AP photo editor John Bodkin exclaimed “Here’s one for all time!” and immediately radiophotoed the image to the AP headquarters in New York at seven A.M., Eastern War Time. The photograph was picked up off the wire very quickly by hundreds of newspapers. It “was distributed by Associated Press within seventeen and one-half hours after Rosenthal shot it—an astonishingly fast turnaround time in those days.”
However, the photo was not without controversy. Following the second flag raising, Rosenthal had the Marines of Easy Company pose for a group shot, which he called the “gung-ho” shot. This was also documented by Bill Genaust. A few days after the picture was taken, back on Guam, Rosenthal was asked if he had posed the photo. Thinking the questioner was referring to the ‘gung-ho’ picture, he replied “Sure.”
After that, Robert Sherrod, a Time-Life correspondent, told his editors in New York that Rosenthal had staged the flag-raising photo. TIME’s radio show, ‘Time Views the News’, broadcast a report, charging that “Rosenthal climbed Suribachi after the flag had already been planted… Like most photographers (he) could not resist reposing his characters in historic fashion.” As a result of this report, Rosenthal has repeatedly been accused of having staged the picture, or covering up the first flag raising.
One New York Times book reviewer even went so far as to suggest revoking his Pulitzer Prize. For the decades that have followed, Rosenthal has repeatedly and vociferously refuted claims that the flag raising was staged. “I don’t think it is in me to do much more of this sort of thing… I don’t know how to get across to anybody what 50 years of constant repetition means.” Genaust’s film also shows the claim that the flag raising was staged to be erroneous.”
Besides, there are many “versions” of the photo: here are two of them – the lower one above is the same as that shown in Part 3; the upper one published in the Wikipedia article quoted above. Now we are back to the “Reality” thing. Apart from the general controversy, which of these versions represent “Reality”? Both of them are manipulated as you can clearly see, one by a liberal dose of dodging to brighten the center, the other much darker and less detailed..
What about picture number five? Robert Capa was one of the most famous ever of war photographers. He covered just about every war from the Spanish civil war to the early part of the Vietnam wars. His D-day photos, most of which were destroyed in a London lab, are some of the most harrowing war pictures ever shot. They famously inspired Steven Spielberg in the very grim opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Capa was killed by a Vietnamese land mine in 1954. Yes, there was a Vietnam War that early.
Now, examining the picture, it looks real enough. The soldier is shot in the head. Part of his brain is shattered as shown behind his head. This is clearly a dead man. The trouble is that some sources report the man being well and alive after the allegedly staged picture was taken. In fact, it is said he thoroughly enjoyed his evening meal but was killed shortly thereafter. Whatever the truth of this photograph, no one disputes Capa was one of the greatest war photographers of all time. Personally, I think the photo is real.
Mr. Capa led quite an interesting life. He always stayed in hotels – never had a home – and was constantly broke. He was known to misplace his Leicas, requiring the delivery of new ones from suspicious editors. For a while, he was the hero of Hollywood but went back to war. He was one of the founding fathers of the legendary Magnum Photo Agency, still the premier photographer society and agency of the World. Check out their superb essays in New York Times.
Let’s continue to photograph six. It is from 1840, France. This is a rather tragicomic affair. The apparently dead person is the photographer himself, Mr. Hippolyte Bayard. Magically, he could take his own picture after dying by drowning. He also managed to drag his dead body out of the river into the pose in the picture. Even more astonishing, he managed to send the death picture to his antagonists with a suicide note attached to the back. It seems Mr. Bayard was jealous of more successful inventors of photographic processes and made a strong stand. Incidentally, if the picture is indicative of his photographic process – we did not miss much.
To my astonishment, doing the research on this particular photo, I found that death hoaxes like this are quite common. Most might be somewhat more believable than Mr. Bayard’s pioneering effort but faking death happens all the time. Live and learn.
Photo number seven dates to the American Civil War. The war coincided with photographers becoming sufficiently mobile to do field work. Maybe some other time I’ll get into the history of photography during the time. I guarantee it is both hilarious – the tragedy of the war notwithstanding – and indicative how a new craft can go berserk in pursuit of fame and money. There is an incredible amount of faked, staged, altered photographs from this era. It’s not just an American phenomena – the same thing happened in the Crimean War. Alexander Gardner is the photographer of record of this Confederate soldier killed in the Gettysburg battle of 1863. The photograph is quite famous – in fact, it is viewed as one of the best to come out of the Civil War. Yet it is a fake. Here are some quotes:
“Of course, I had seen the photo of the dead “sharpshooter” lying before his stone wall between the large boulders many times over the years. It really is doubtless the greatest photo shot of a dead soldier to come down to us from the Civil War. And it has become more known since it was “discovered” to be a fake. Until 1995, I wasn’t aware of a stereo view that also existed showing the same scene. The four photos taken down the hill were new to me also, and I was, of course, in awe that the photographers had moved the body to make them.”
“Frassanito further wrote that the body was first photographed DOWN the hill and then, on inspiration, the photographer’s carried the body some 75-yards UP the hill to make the much more interesting composition at what would become known as “The Sharpshooter’s Home”. Source: here
And now a little bonus of magic and wizardly since you all seems to like the subject:
Many of you probably have seen this fake photograph in various political campaigns. The event never happened. The photo is a composite of two photos taken separately of each of the two equally famous individuals. The two photos involved in the composite were taken about a year apart. The picture is a complete fake – they never met or were at the rally simultaneously or if all..
Perhaps more than the other photos in this essay, this image raises a real ethical issue. Where is the true limit? Darkening the sky over Beirut? Moving a soldier into a more photogenic position? Faking one’s death in a deranged manner? Or is an utterly cynical fraud and smear campaign such as this photo beyond any reasonable limit? You be the judge.
Here is another cynical example of the irresistible urge to make money on other people’s agony. This, of course, is a sample of the gross, myriads of fake pictures from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, killing hundreds of thousands. As you can easily tell, the fake is not very well done. For instance, no one is watching, in despair, the huge wave seemingly feet away. In fact, no one seems very concerned about their allegedly imminent death. And, oddly, every one must be on the beach, yet dressed for anything but the beach.
Incidentally, there are lots of fake 9/11 “photos” floating around, equally disgusting. There’d appear there is enough hardship, real pictures available without having to produce these hacks.
The next two are a bit lighter. How can you avoid monsters and UFOs in a discussion such as this? There is nothing complicated about these two samples. They are, of course, fakes.
Maybe you ask yourself – how do you do things like this? There is the old and the new way with many variations on pretty simple schemes. The old way relied mostly on darkroom work. The simplest form was to manipulate a print from a negative by dodging, burning or masking. Dodging means you reduce the light reaching the photo paper while exposing the negative on the paper. You can use a mask, a piece of paper or your hand to lessen the exposure of some part of the image. The result is that the print is “bleached” where ever you reduced exposure. The “bleaching” can go as far as to totally remove the original image from the print. Burning is the opposite of dodging; you add extra exposure to some part of the print, again by using various tools such as your hands covering the areas you don’t want to burn. The result is a print that is darker in the areas you burnt. Again, you can totally remove the original image, or part thereof, if you so desire.
There are many ways to manipulate the final print by using more than one negative, thereby combining several images into one final print. There are so many ways of doing this that it’s hard to summarize any particular darkroom technique. An example might be that you use one negative for half the exposure of the photo paper and another negative for the second half of the exposure. Then you have a print combining, equally, the two negatives. That may not be all that exiting a print but when you combine masks, dodging and burning, then you have a set of very powerful tolls available to you.
Yet another technique is to produce a new negative from one or more others. You can, for instance, produce a print using several negatives as I just described. Then you can take a photo of that print and now you have a new negative which you continue to manipulate in some fashion.
Other tools in your arsenal include special chemicals, both in developing the negative and in processing the print. Again, there are countless ways to proceed. A simple example is the “old fashioned” sepia print – it is simply a regular print processed with a special chemical.
There are many types of photo paper with different characteristics available. In black and white processing there are filters for higher and lower contrast as well as different intensity or flavoring of the print, such as warm colored or cool colored flavors. Color processing adds some more tools, for instance, the ability to change the mix of differently colored lights by using color filters in the printing process.
Let’s not forget the camera itself. There are countless ways to manipulate the image. You can use hundreds of filters. You fit exposure and depth of field to your perception of what you want as a final image.
Next, years ago we entered the digital photo world. Tools such as Photoshop have been around for many years. In its basic form, Photoshop does all of what I described above as dark room techniques. Burning, dodging, masking, combining images and applying filters are essential features of Photoshop. Then Photoshop adds many more tools for convenience and making the workflow from the camera to the print shop easier.
You’d probably be surprised to know there are not that many things (within reason) that Photoshop can do that you cannot do in an old fashioned darkroom. The main difference is that it is usually quicker to do it in Photoshop. But the flip side is that few Photoshop users can beat a master printer’s dark room work. There still, in my mind, is a trade off between the “simplicity” of digital processing versus the incredible quality of a proper darkroom print.
Does all of this sound like esoteric geek speech by a pro photographer? Well, I am a pro photographer and there is not a single thing discussed above that I have not practiced. In fact, just about all pro photographers practice these methods and use the same tools. Perhaps the foremost practitioner of these “tricks” was Ansel Adams. He even wrote three books on the subject.
Practically all professional photographs that you have seen are manipulated in some fashion. So why are some viewed as “fakes” and others as “art”? The distinction is subjective. What is art to one person is rubbish or fake to another. It really boils down to the perceived intention of the photographer. Is the photographer manipulating you for some utilitarian reason or is he/she demonstrating artistic insight on some divine level? Most of the pictures above are pretty obvious manipulations with little or no artistic value or intention. Those are the simple ones. The “fine art” scene is not a simple one.
What about the remaining two picture sequences above? Both are from the nineteen thirties and the USSR. It’s easy to see that the picture on the right seems to lack the image of some person. You got to hand it to the Russians. They were real good at purging millions and they were pretty skilled at erasing any evidence the purged people even had existed at some point. That included manipulating photographs to reduce quesions on an embarrsing level for some obscure reason.
Finally, to the left is a little satiric fake of my own. Who can tell what Cheney’s legs really look like? Considering his priorities do not include being part of real shooting War while being a bit careless with shotguns in a friendly manner.
So here you are – knowing, perhaps a bit more about photographic history and how fakes and stages are done. They seem to be driven by a mix of tragedy, comedy, greed and stupidity. Coming up, we’ll look at more examples and reasons for these manipulations. So please stay tuned. Leave comments as you see fit – I really appreciate them.
January 1, 2007
George W. Bush declared War on Terror. He threw the might, money and prestige of the US behind it. This war is not winnable. It is a misguided waste of huge resources. Hundreds die each day for no good reason. Unethical and illegal behavior damaged US influence world wide. The US entered two equally non winnable full scale wars and destabilized the whole world, in particular the Mideast. The US is viewed as a greater danger to peace than North Korea or Iran by almost the entire world.
Like most others in the US and around the World, I woke up that 9/11 2001 morning, turned on the TV and life changed. I witnessed almost 3,000 people die in one of the deadliest terrorist attack ever. Nothing I will say can diminish the horror of the crime of that day or the honor of countless courageous people. Enacting a strong policy to catch and punish the perpetrators of that act was and is the right thing. But things went very wrong.
Here is what Went wrong
George W. Bush’s War on Terrorism quickly became a War on Islam and then the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. It became an excuse to change America towards totalitarianism allowing torture, illegal detention, big brother surveillance, suppressed human rights and obstruction of long standing laws and international treaties. By 2006, anyone can see the war is (1) lost and (2) destabilizing the world.
All wisdom gained by others in their fight against terrorism over a thousand years is disregarded by George W. Bush. He favors some black and white idea about a steadfast Ranger out to clean up injustices in the world ranch land. The bad guys all are the same – they are not red blood, church going American Republicans supporting America’s right to rule as it pleases. With me or against me. Black and white. Aryan or not Aryan…. ah well, perhaps this last one goes a bit too far at this time. But the step to totalitarianism is a lot shorter than you think.
The US, mostly through CIA, set up secret but now well known or sometimes rumored international concentrations camps in Cuba, Diego Garcia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, not to mention in Iraq and the US itself.
The governments of Canada, Germany, the UK, Spain, Ireland Italy, France and Sweden officially protested various other related, illegal CIA operations on their territory. That includes the capture and detention of their citizens by the CIA.
Some of these programs are now subcontracted to foreign forces such as Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and others to neutralize the bad publicity and to avoid the explicit EU investigation into the issue. These counties are known for harsh and abusive treatment of prisoners. They are not much concerned about human rights.
George W. Bush and his loyal Cabinet, in particular Dick Cheney, consistently defend such practices as necessary in the alleged fight against terrorism. There is absolutely no proof that is true. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
In four separate but connected parts, I discuss some fundamental reasons why the War on Terrorism turned into a disaster.
This is Part 1 – Bad Strategies Lose A Bad War on Terror
Pursue bad strategies: The George W. Bush’s strategy is three fold: 1) centralize the security of the US into a huge bureaucracy, 2) fight terrorism overseas with military force, secret operations and 3) claim exceptional power to override longstanding rights of US citizens and others. The first point is yet another example of federal madness. Most of the last two points are illegal. The strategies so far cost up to $1/2 trillion, countless lives and the moral high ground required for world leadership. They saved no lives but caused a dramatic increase in terror.
Subjects in this first part of the essay:
- Bush’s goal: Preserve American Lives by Fighting Terrorism
- The knee jerk 9/11 strategy and tactics
- The Scorecard
Part 2 – Consequences of a Lost War on Terror
Deny disaster: No one has won a military war on terror because it means making war on an invisible enemy. That is especially true if the military force is not ingenious. Bush spent thousands of lives, exhausted the US military, wasted some 1/2 trillion dollars and created MORE terrorism. It backfired massively as seen by the people of the US, Congress and the rest of the world.
This post is a quick update of current events as of mid January 2007. Tonight, as I write this, Bush will give his State of the Union address. Some expect him to moderate his views some. I very much doubt it.
Part 3 – Exiting a Lost War on Terror
Botch priorities: Terrorism is an insignificant part of mortality. One of the deadliest terrorist attacks, 9/11, caused less than 3,000 casualties. As tragic as it is, that loss is limited compared to other events. Mao’s Great Leap Forward killed 70 million people. The deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler and Kim Jong-Il easily exceed 100 million. George W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon caused fewer casualties but far exceed any threat to human life from terrorists.
Jumble goals: The notion of “war” against
ideas and/or tactics is simply silly. You can declare, and win, wars on nations,
such as Panama, Grenada or Japan. You cannot declare generic wars on terrorism,
gay marriage, drugs, abortions, crime, illiteracy or AIDS. You cannot win unless
you know what specific enemy you fight, how to eliminate that specific enemy threat
and when the mission is accomplished. In five years, the White House has yet to
define what terrorism is.
Ignore failure: The resources thrown at the War on Terror are out of proportion with any possible benefits. The cost is enormous and the benefits are negative. The War sacrifices thousands of lives; it does not save lives or reduce terrorism. George W. Bush ignores the “right” ways to fight terrorism and, no wonder, fails. Can he deal with withdrawal as he must? Perhaps history can guide but probably not. George W. does not see it the way others do.
Part 4 – Preserve Life, Not War
Overlook alternatives: Instead of Mr. Bush’s policy “Protect American lives by fighting Terrorism”, act on “Protect life by fighting Death”. Stop wars and genocides. Combat famines and plagues. Protect against flooding, wind and eruptions. Fight Global Warming. Make safer and more efficient cars, ships and airplanes. Fight ordinary health hazards. Defend human rights. Stop war crimes. Place a proper priority on fighting terrorism and use the right tools.
Images in this Essay
With a few exceptions, the images in this part of the essay are my own. I shot them during a recent mock (as in film making) replica of the Seattle WTO demonstrations a few years ago. It was a rather dreary Sunday morning with the fake demonstrators marching back and forth with great enthusiasm or at least loads of patience.
I wanted to convey that, ultimately, cold and seemingly distant government acts hits real people. This essay is about civil rights violations by the American government. I felt a civil demonstration was the right thing to use. Even if the WTO subject maybe is off the mark a bit, the thought is not.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, a shocked American people welcomed any decisive action by its government. Bush, after waking up from his apparent coma following the attacks, consulted his neoconservatists friends and ended up with a knee jerk, poorly defined The War on Terror. The American people and the world supported the stated concept, emotionally welcoming any action. Clearly, those responsible for the horrible acts had to be tracked down and punished. Had that simple, clear strategy been enacted and kept in clear focus, we would not be in the mess we are in, collectively throughout the world.
Over five years from that awful day, knee jerk reactions and naive revenge acts should be done with but aren’t. Osama bin Laden enjoys his freedom, taking delight in mocking a weaker and weaker US. Al Qaeda remains active. Terror surges. There are hundreds of new terrorist organizations. A few are very powerful. Iraqi insurgents, fighting a local tribal and religious civil war, now kill some 5,000 people a month. But the original goal of finding those guilty of 9/11 no longer truly matters.
Almost all attention today is on the war in Iraq. This war has no connection with 9/11 or terrorism. It is a lost cause with horrifying and very expensive consequences with no favorable outcomes for the US. The war in Afghanistan closed a few terrorist camps that probably relocated to Denmark, Cuba, Sudan, Idaho or wherever. The Afghan war, led by NATO, is heading towards defeat with Taliban controlling more and more territory. Finding those guilty of 9/11 now hardly matters.
There was a hidden strategy: Enhance Presidential power to disregard almost any law and treaty. Dominate the world by force, threats and intimidation. Protect territorial and energy interests. Show that the US can do what it pleases given aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, Marines and B-52s. Dump human rights of any one not “supporting the one and only right view”, whether guilty or not. Punish and humiliate anyone standing in the way, especially the Islam world, courts and Congress. Put reluctant allies in their proper place. Enrich friends and supporters, such as Israel, neoconservatists, the oil industry and Halliburton. All in all, show those bastards, whether congressmen or foreigners, who the Boss is.
The strategies were all deeply flawed. On whom did Bush declare the War on Terror? No one seems to know, assuring failure, best forgotten. The Iraq war became a disaster growing worse by the day. In Afghanistan, Taliban is staging its comeback. Terror is, literally, exploding.
The hidden goals failed as well. The influence of the US Presidency and that of the US declined. US political and moral leaderships are defunct. The US military does not dominate the world. Intimidating Congress and the world backfired. Friends go to jail, leave office or lose out some other way.
The man just doesn’t give in. In December of 2006, Bush wants to send perhaps 70,000 more US troops, “surging” Baghdad. James Baker’s bipartisan “Iraq Study Group” and practically the whole world want a withdrawal, the sooner the better. Bush declared his by now desperate, opposite view. A chorus on neoconservatists and others jumped all over the Baker report and “defeatists” around the globe.
The Democratic Congress may or may not demand a disengagement plan, depending on the winds de jour. Look for Bush’s resistance and vetoes to any opposition to his illusionary “Win” goal. By now, his denials are similar to those of Richard Nixon in his last weeks as President. They are no more believable than those of the famously irrational Baghdad Bob who at least was funny.
On Dec 9th, 2006, a survey states a record 71% of Americans disapprove of the Bush war strategy. The war cost Republicans control of both houses and much of local state influence. The few and only original Coalition “allies” do all they can to get out of the mess. So does the US military.
The simple and clear policy “punish the devils causing 9/11″ somehow required a total flip-flop of American policies and of international values. The Bush strategy focused on these goals:
- Create a Department of Homeland Security (to cover your behind)
- Fight overseas rather than at Home (and solve some old grievances)
- Protect national (or some one’s) interests
- Make your own laws (to protect your behind)
George W. Bush’s War on Terrorism policies ended up violating US laws and international treaties. The principal goals deteriorated into 1) heightening Presidential power, 2) rewarding friends and 3) staying out of War Criminal Tribunals. Currently debated, who is the worst President ever? Mr. Bush is leading the contest, beating Richard Nixon. The moral deficiencies of the White House encourage terrorism by showing weakness.
Recognizing that the government may be vulnerable by ignoring the many signs of 9/11 ahead of time, what better way to neutralize such an inconvenience than reorganizing all involved agencies into a totally inefficient behemoth? Hence the DHS, which is mostly known for issuing consternating alerts, vague security warnings and for harassing any one unlucky enough to be in their power. It makes air line passengers take off their shoes and dump their deodorants. People wait in endless airport queues on incompetent new federal security personnel practicing their aimless jobs. This is the outfit that could hardly find its way to a drowning New Orleans or keep track of the famous 11,000 mobile homes destined for housing relief.
Never mind that any idiot could smuggle a nuclear bomb, 10 grams of polonium (apparently capable of wiping out the whole US population – in theory) or a ton of anthrax into any US harbor. Or a thousand insurgents invading Philadelphia or Seattle in some old scow complete with Iranian missiles, AK-47s, IEDs, SAMs, mines, car bombs, suicide belts and RPGs and the rest of the stuff seen daily on the streets of Baghdad.
What can you expect from the 186,000 employee outfit with a 27 billion budget that screwed New Orleans so spectacularly after Katrina? This outfit has no apparent contingencies for truly dealing with homeland security, such as protecting chemical plants or nuclear power plants, each one capable of killing millions? Do you trust the biggest federal bureaucracy in modern history to do a credible job, considering warrant less searches, forced vaccinations, federal neighborhood snitch programs, federal information databases and an “Information Awareness Office” using military intelligence to spy on domestic citizens?
Its officials state: “we don’t do the doing, we do the coordinating”. It takes 186,000 coordinators and $27 billion to keep something or another coordinated? Who is “Doing”? The outfit spent $6.4 million on radiation detectors that claim ceramic tiles, granite, marbles, cat litter and bananas are actually nuclear bombs while missing several shipments of uranium.
Are we safer? No, we are not, only poorer.
It’s better to kill terrorists overseas than have them come here to attend flight school, collect Social Security, blow us all up and embarrass the President. That makes sense. According to Mr. Bush, thousands of terrorists have been tracked down overseas and disposed of in some manner, presumably by execution, torture or illegal detention in secret camps around the world. The bin Laden head of the serpent may remain alive but the rest is hacked off, skinned and neutralized. So Mr. Bush likes us to think.
First, if that is true, what on Earth are we doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan? How come our troops suffer from all these insurgents and suicide bombers? Why are the US troops encamped behind sand bags, barbed wire, blast walls and vehicle traps instead of spreading the gospel of Democracy and winning the hearts of the population? Why is there a need for the Green Zones? Why are private, very expensive body guards/mercenaries needed to protect any one moving around in the Mideast?
Second, quite a few terrorists/insurgents are obviously still alive and very deadly indeed. They have no difficulty enlisting additional man power (as opposed to the US Army). It is nice that these rapidly growing armies so far stay in the Mideast rather than invading the US.
Why can’t these highly financed, well managed and very skilled groups get on an airplane, ship, balloon or submarine heading for the US en masse? It’s hard to believe the 176,000 coordinators of the DHS will save us all. And how is the US war in Iraq preventing such a possibility?
There are a number of prominent US dignitaries studying the matter of the Iraq war. The Baker report spread some light on the Iraq war but is discarded due to Bush’s standard of blind sided, stubbornly closed mind. The new Democratic Congress will yelp and Bush will veto. In 2009, a new President will inherit the mess. Nowhere are there any signs that the basic, original issue of punishing the criminals of 9/11 is addressed in a credible manner.
Unfortunately, no one seems to study or even care about the War on Terror in its original form. It’s out of fashion. Could the cost of these lost wars be put to better use? After all, we talk about 1/2 trillion dollars or more. Who thinks killing perhaps 700,000 Iraqis will save the US from terrorism?
If the Iraq war is not about terrorism or the fabled WMD, what is it about? Personally, I think it is about George Bush Sr. being the target of an alleged Hussein murder plot in Kuwait 1993. George W. Bush, the son, said: “The fact that he tried to kill my father and my wife shows the nature of the man. He’s cold-blooded. He’s a dictator, and he’s a tyrant.” No kidding.
There is the Texas factor, walking with a swagger and all that. Bring’m on. All Texans know about oil. That’s valuable stuff, easily worth a few hundred thousand lives. Dick’s old Halliburton outfit could use a lift as well. How much has that poor little corporation made in Iraq? While on the subject, add its profits from Katrina to the modest total.
The Iraq Study Group, as opposed to the deafening silence of almost all others in the government and Congress, does clarify that oil is a prime reason for controlling Iraq. The report states that “It has the world’s second-largest known oil reserves”. It continues to say, in Recommendation 63:
The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil
sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize
the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency,
transparency, and accountability.
To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts
to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing
Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing,
and reviewing audits.
The United States should provide technical assistance to
the Ministry of Oil for enhancing maintenance, improving the payments process,
managing cash flows, contracting and auditing, and updating professional training
programs for management and technical personnel.
This is not a hands-off policy or recommendation. It’s filled with control measures and involvement of the US on several levels. Who are the “international communities and energy companies” – Exxon, Gulf, Chevron or Shell? “Post all contracts etc on the web” – then what remedies are in effect if the numbers don’t add up? The US/World Bank is to “ensure best practices… create templates” = control business terms such as price and supply? Iraq needs “US assistance to…. organize payment processes…. manage cash flow…. set up contracting” – what a glorious business opportunity for, say, Halliburton. There are easily billions to be earned.
Who can claim oil is not a main motive to US involvement in Iraq? Add Bush’s recent statement that withdrawing US troops would turn the oil fields over to the insurgents. That is not acceptable. The bottom line is that control of the oil, less so WMD or whatever, is the major US goal.
The US invaded Iraq with some support from the UN. That support was based on vague statements of terrorist support by Saddam and very precise but untrue statements on Saddam’s WMD. The need to control oil was certainly not mentioned for good reasons. The UN would never support such a goal as it is an illegal infraction on a country’s sovereignty and assets.
Allowing control of Iraq’s oil to insurgents bent on revenge on the US is clearly not a good idea. Could it happen upon a US withdrawal? Perhaps it could, perhaps not. However, that oil will not flow without major rebuilds, the funds for which are not available in Iraq. Hence, US presence in Iraq to control the oil is just an economic goal, not one of controlling terrorism.
We are not in Iraq to control terrorism or to catch 9/11 criminals; we are there for selfish, macho and irrelevant reasons, chief of which is oil.
Since 9/11 2001, an astonishing amount of laws, acts, orders and policy statements deal with the aftermath of 9/11. They cover the wars, the treatment of detainees and abuses of the American people. A common theme throughout is deception, evasiveness and plain old protecting your behind.
Human Rights laws and War treaties come in many forms. The original idea of Habeas Corpus goes back to the 1100s and Magna Carta. In November of 2001, George W. Bush declared the right to hold anyone suspected of terrorism or of being an “enemy combatant” in custody indefinitely, without charges being filed, without court hearings and without access to legal consultants. That invalidates 900 years of justice and it’s just for starters.
The government is clearly violating all kinds of laws and treaties in the name of “protecting the American people”. The general strategy is one of drastically increasing Presidential power without any checks or balances. Judicial and legislative counter responses have largely been ineffective.
Here are some of the legislation violated: The US Constitution, The US Bill of Rights, The Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, the Hague Convention, the Nuremberg Charter, and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, just to name a few. Surely this is a record for any US President and without parallel world wide with a few exceptions such as Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong Il and perhaps Idi Amin and ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier.
How is this abuse preventing terrorism? Easy – it isn’t. Wiretap and spy – forget it, too easy to bypass. Torture and harsh, illegal treatment of detainees – never stopped any true terrorist. Abuse the American people’s rights – come on. Ignore longstanding laws and treaties – so do the terrorists assuming they heard of them. Control assets and flow of funds – ask the Colombian drug lords or Corporate America how effective that is. Increase security at airport or a harbor or two – every one knows both leak as sieves. Publish the vulnerability of unprotected chemical or nuclear power plants and the possible loss of millions of lives – why not send out the blue prints as well? Ban exploding shoes and nuclear shaving cream – now that’s a good idea. Exclude, by law, terrorists not only from Presidential events but also “other events” – another impressive concept.
A bunch of hardly legal, bad laws will not stop terrorism. These laws are subject to domestic and international astonishment and contempt. The laws act only to destroy the reputation, status, influence and power of the US around the world, encouraging terrorism. Ignoring longstanding international treaties and Protocols will encourage, not diminish, terrorism. Holding the moral high ground is essential in the fight against terror.
Here are the sordid details:
- The US Constitution of 1789: 1) incorporates the concept in Article 1, Section 9: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” 2) Article 3, Section 3: Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. 3) No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
- The US Bill of Rights of 1791 states: 1) The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
- Authorization for the Use of Military Force of Sept 14, 2001: 1) Granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. 2) The Act is used by the administration for engaging in electronic surveillance without obtaining a warrant from Court as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
- Executive Order of Sept. 23 2001: 1) Defines terrorist and associated individuals and organizations as “Designated”, 2) blocks all property and interests in property of designated individuals or entities, 3) blocks any transaction or dealing by U.S. persons for the benefit of designated individuals or entities, 4) deters donations or contributions to designated individuals or entities, 5) heightens public awareness and knowledge of individuals or entities linked to terrorism 6) alerts other governments to U.S. concerns about individuals or entities aiding terrorism, and promotes due diligence by such governments and private sector entities operating within their territories to avoid associations with terrorists, 7) disrupts terrorist networks, thereby cutting off access to financial and other resources from sympathizers and 8 ) encourages designated entities to get out of the terrorism business.
- Financial Anti-Terrorist Act of Oct. 17 2001: 1) Increases the federal government’s powers to investigate and prosecute the financial supporters of terrorism. 2) It’s folded into the Patriot Act.
- USA Patriot Act of Oct 26, 2001: 1) … dramatically expanded the authority of American law enforcement for the stated purpose of fighting terrorism in the United States and abroad. 2) …. restricted due process for individuals involved in terrorism, 3) … private financial institutions are asked to enhance transaction transparency, to search for a common customer identification system, and to find ways to prevent their financial services from being used for money laundering or the funding of terrorism, 4) restricts immigration of certain allegedly terrorist risks and 5) criminalizes “material support” to terrorists and to foreign terrorist organizations.
- Airport and Transportation Security Act of Nov 19 2001: 1) Replaced private employees with 44,000 federal employees, 2) Provided deadlines for luggage scanning (never met), 3) Intensified checks of carry-on items, 4) Supervised air and sea security operations, 5) Improved onboard security – reinforced, locked cockpit doors, surveillance devices, security agents and 6) Improved airport security.
- Terrorism Risk Protection Act of Nov 29 2001: 1) The Act provides for the continued availability of insurance against terrorism risks and addresses multiple insurance and liability issues arising out of the September 11th attacks. 2) The bill today allows access to the frozen assets of terrorists, terrorist organizations, and terrorist sponsor states.
- Homeland Security Act of Nov. 25 2002: 1) creates the Department of Homeland Security by combining 22 government agencies. 2) I already discussed this Act above. 3) The act is updated each year as part of the budget process.
- The USA Patriot Act II, or the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of March 28 2003: 1) The government would no longer be required to disclose the identity of anyone, even an American citizen, detained in connection with a terror investigation, 2) Current court limits on local police spying on religious and political activity would be repealed, 3) The government would be allowed to obtain credit records and library records without a warrant , 4) Wiretaps without any court order for up to 15 days after terror attack would be permissible, 5) Release of information about health/safety hazards posed by chemical and other plants would be restricted, 6) The definition of terrorism would be expanded – individuals engaged in civil disobedience could risk losing their citizenship; their organization could be subject to wiretapping and asset seizure, 7) Americans could be extradited, searched and wiretapped at the behest of foreign nations, whether or not treaties allow it, 8 ) Lawful immigrants would be stripped of the right to a fair deportation hearing and federal courts would not be allowed to review immigration rulings.
- The USA Patriot Act Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, March 9 2006: 1) Makes most of the expiring Patriot Act permanent, 2) Permits the records of ordinary Americans to be secretly obtained without adequate safeguards, 3) Continue to gag recipients of records demands without any prior court finding, with new criminal penalties, 4) Allows sneak-and-peek searches under a broad standard; new time limits would still allow such searches to continue to remain secret for weeks, months or even years. 5) Allows secret eavesdropping and secret search orders that do not name a target or a location with enhanced court oversight, 6) Omits modest limits on a host of additional Patriot Act surveillance powers, 7) Creates additional death penalties, 8 ) llows Justice Department, not federal courts, to determine that a state has a competent death penalty system, 9) Expands the jurisdiction of the Secret Service to impose “exclusion zones” – which cannot be entered on pain of federal imprisonment – to non-Presidential events, 10) Force more organizations to check people against flawed government lists, through increased Treasury Department penalties.
- National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (stalled): 1) permits eavesdropping by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) without the court oversight, 2) telephone calls are monitored without obtaining a warrant as required.
- Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 (pending): 1) A statutory framework, with congressional and judicial oversight for the President to conduct electronic surveillance on the international communications of suspected terrorists, while protecting the rights and liberties of American citizens, 2) The bill mandates that the President obtain a warrant for surveillance on a suspected terrorist once he has sufficient evidence to do so, 3) for those unusual cases where the President does not have sufficient evidence to obtain a court order, but still wishes to conduct surveillance on a suspect, the bill requires that the Attorney General certify, under oath, that continued surveillance is necessary to protect the United States, 4) a Terrorist Surveillance Subcommittee within the Senate Intelligence Committee with the exclusive jurisdiction to oversee and monitor the details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act of 2006 (proposed): 1) Requiring the US Supreme Court to review all appeals of cases challenging the legality of the domestic surveillance program acknowledged by the president last December; 2) Requiring the US Attorney General to provide semi-annual reports to the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees to “fully inform” them of any electronic surveillance undertaken without a court order. Only chairmen of each congressional intelligence committee would have access to the documentation; 3) Allowing the government to conduct warrant less taps of communications between parties outside the US, even if Americans are involved in those exchanges; 4) Extending the deadline from 72 hours to 168 hours for authorities to make after-the-fact applications for warrants in “emergency” situations; and 5) Authorizing the addition of lawyers and judges to the various agencies charged with implementing and overseeing the surveillance program.
- Secure Fence Act of October 26 2006: 1) Constructs hundreds of additional miles of Southern border fences, 2) constructs more vehicle barriers and checkpoints 3) provides more electronic surveillance, including flying drones.
The above is just a sample of the various federal and state laws, acts, executive orders, policies, regulations and who knows what. Just count them: 15 separate items containing 54 more or less important points. Confusing? Well, it’s meant to be. First, much of it is a smoke screen to cover very shady and largely illegal actions by the highest echelons of government right down to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib with side trips to uncontrolled NSA surveillance and secret “terrorist” data bases. Second, it’s a vast example of protecting your butt from War Criminal Tribunes.
Here is more from various sources – clear evidence of the evasive, illegal path of the White House refusing to acknowledge the findings of the Supreme Court of the USA:
- On January 11, 2002, the United States announced that it was refusing to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. The United States explained that the prisoners taken in Afghanistan and Pakistan [and elsewhere] were not actually prisoners of war, but were in fact “unlawful combatants.”
- On June 29 2006: The Supreme Court struck down the military commissions President Bush established to try suspected members of al-Qaeda. It emphatically rejected a signature Bush anti-terrorism measure and the broad assertion of executive power upon which the president had based it. The high court’s justices said President Bush had overstepped his power when he created a system of military tribunals for foreign-born alleged terrorists.
- On July 12 2006, The Bush administration agreed to apply the Geneva Conventions to all terrorism suspects in U.S. custody, bowing to the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of policies that have imprisoned hundreds for years without trials.
- On August 14 2006: White House worked with Congress on the military tribunals Mr. Bush invented for Guantanamo Bay. But the president remains determined to have his way on the other big issue — how jailers treat prisoners to allow interrogators to continue abusive practices plainly banned by the conventions and to make sure they cannot be held accountable.
- On Sept. 7 2006: Bush urged Congress to authorize him to wage the war on terrorism on his terms. At stake is defining how the rule of law governs the executive branch as it deals with captives who it suspects are terrorists. The Bush administration’s proposal to bring leading terror suspects before military tribunals met stiff resistance.
- On Sept. 29 2006: Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA), a bill ceding enormous powers to the executive branch to name enemy combatants and “unlawful enemy combatants” potentially from among U.S. residents. It also abolishes the basic right of Guantanamo detainees to ask a judge to consider whether there is legal cause to imprison them — the right of habeas corpus. Ironically, this bill leaves potentially innocent and low-level detainees imprisoned forever, while providing military tribunals for the 14 recently-transferred and suspected al-Qaeda high-level operatives.
- On Oct 17, 2006: President Bush signed the MCA into law on October 17, amid demonstrations at the White House which resulted in arrest for 17 protesters dressed as detainees. Legal experts declared the Act to be utterly flawed, an embarrassment and plain unconstitutional.
- On December 15, 2006: U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled in support of the Military Commissions Act. He declared that detainees at the military’s Guantanamo Bay facility are not entitled to challenge their imprisonment in the normal United States court system, but must go through the process outlined in the MCA.
The point is this: there is a clear pattern of civil rights abuses through most of these Act and Orders. Most are plainly illegal and unconstitutional. Others may be border cases. But all violate the ultimate test. They do not reflect the ethical standards of America. They are utterly inconsistent with a true democracy. They abuse US citizens and citizens in all of the world’s countries. They roll back centuries of common decency, experience and liberty. What is the Supreme Court doing to defend the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Please ask them.
This being New Years Eve, I just read this “The Bill of Wrongs – The 10 Most Outrageous Civil Liberties Violations In 2006” in Slate. Read it, I’ll only repeat the Top 10 list:
- The Hubris By George W. Bush (Blame the victim with utmost arrogance)
- The Military Commissions Act of 2006
- The Abuse of Jose Padilla
- Extraordinary Rendition (Shipping alleged subjects around the world)
- Government Snooping
- The State Secrets Doctrine
- Slagging the Courts
- Slagging the Media
- Guantanamo Bay
- Attempt to get Death Penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui
That isn’t a bad list. How about adding my own:
- Escalating an illegal, expensive, deadly War in Iraq, citing a fictitious War on Terror
- Ignoring Global Warming, citing cost (see item 1)
- Allowing Torture as a Policy, leading to….
- Slagging up to a thousand US and international laws and treaties, leading to….
- Ducking War Crimes Courts by inventing new laws, then….
- Slagging the American People
- Slagging the UN
- Slagging Islam
- Slagging Everybody
- Slagging Me
The final – in this Part 1 – word and judgment on the Bush Doctrine:
- Create DHS: DHS is an 186,000 people behemoth with far more failures than successes. I know of no proven prevention of terrorist operations. I know of no lives saved. Today, you rarely hear about the Department. I hear it is almost impossible to find their offices.
- Fight overseas: How do you take a limited, targeted war to some one else’s land? Bush simply invaded a couple of them. Neither the Taliban, nor Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. The War on Terror became something entirely different: a lost, undefined cause benefiting no one but terrorists. Consequently, terrorism increased.
- Consider national interests: The War on Terror has nothing to do with the War on Iraq. Iraq was never involved in 9/11 or any other act of international terror. After years of denial, Bush admits the control of the oil is vital. The Baker Report confirms that statement. The Iraqi War is finally illegal. Terror increased dramatically following the invasions.
- Make you own laws: The US government’s preference for secret, illegal operations is an ethical, legal and international catastrophe. Bush et al stand a real and fair risk of War Crime convictions. Even US courts are fed up. The administration is desperately pushing through unconstitutional laws to defer the risks. This endorses the notion and validity of terrorism.
The score is a miserable 100% failure. That isn’t good. Part 2 (”Part2″ button below) will discuss the consequences of these failures. That is all for Part 1 of this series on the War on Terror. Stay tuned.
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