Archive for the ‘World Hunger’ Category

We Are in a Bad Fix

October 12, 2007

We Are in a Bad Fix

This is a planet in denial. While the existential question gets a red hot “apocalypse now” for an answer, our stock markets seem to have regained paradise lost.

We are witnessing nothing less than history’s first confluence of unsustainable “peaks.”

Perhaps, we are incapable of piecing them all, for when crude oil reached an all-time intra-day high of $84.10 per barrel on Sept 20, its entitlement to a front pager screamer was conceded to the tale of a few thousand empty — or emptying — American homes.

It was like the Butterfly Effect, with a twist. The flapping rooftops of confiscated homes were now whipping up an economic tsunami worldwide.

Here is how it works.

US mortgage lenders, voracious as ever for “more,” had extended loans to the default-income group, who, were in turn hit by bad economic management. Credit card issuers followed suit to bloat consumer fantasies, and banks tightened the noose with additional loans for cars, tuition and businesses.

In the world of finance, debt is ironically regarded as an “asset.” Think of the rock-solid house that can be repossessed in the event of a default.

Debts, with the outward promise of a steady cash flow, are regularly pooled, “securitized” and converted into a bewildering array of financial products along an upward chain, where, they are hawked off by fund managers to the global market

This money buys up commodities, stocks, and yes, more “securities and derivatives,” along with junk bonds and blue chips.

It was easy come, easy go, wherever the money takes you…a 24/7 electronic casino…a Las Vegas without borders.

London bankers were toasting to the dawn of “the haves and the have yachts” at cocktail parties where sauvé qui peut was the vintage.

One of the greatest scams in recent memory was unfolding, exposing a pyramid scheme of epic proportions.

When this reached the point of metastasis, stock markets began to collapse.

The bottom feeders could not pay up anymore. Even the middle class were finding it difficult to pass the buck upwards.

This is called a liquidity crisis, and it happens when the laws of gravity finally exert a pull on the cash flow.

Still the champagne flowed. Lip-smacking advertorials continued to gush over “securities,” “derivatives,” and “comprehensive financial suites,” set in a Jacuzzi lilting to Ponzi’s version of “money for nothing and chicks for free.”

The pyramids may come crashing down, but the missing capstones are free to roam, investing in gold here, financial products there and junk bonds everywhere.

To avert a panic run though, central banks worldwide pumped $400 billion to maintain liquidity’s equilibrium.

Stock markets were no longer in the bearish or bullish mode; rather they were cancroidal, allowing fund managers to sidewheel from one market to another in search of profits, suckers, and a subtle pullout before the big bang.

It was the dawn of the crab, of cancer in stock market terminology, if one was needed. Suspicions were mounting. European banks were facing insolvency.

For three days beginning Sept. 14, savers across the United Kingdom removed £2 billion ($4 billion) from Northern Rock, Britain’s fifth largest lender. The Bank of England had to step in to guarantee all deposits in all banks — a move with little or no precedence.

However, the banks were not convinced either. Inter-bank lending, which profitably cycled cash from one bank to another as demand dictated, was now deemed an inter-bank debt trap. Available cash was hoarded up.

The Bank of England’s cash auction of £10bn — at a rate of 6.75% over three-months — has been shunned for the third consecutive week.

Either the “have yachts” have sailed away, or banks may actually find it difficult to repay the Bank of England.

Worldwide, the full weight of the “asset-backed” collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and structured investment vehicles (SIVs) may run into more than the $400 billion which central banks coughed up to keep the system afloat.

CDOs and SIVs are the sleek-sounding trillion-dollar apexes built on loans taken from simple homeowners.

Banks are still tallying what is real and redeemable, and what was created and whirling in thin air. Their best bet now is for a deux ex machina.

Bull in the China Shop

The biggest economic success story of our times was the product of Western consumerism. It created a real supply and demand situation, which forced the relocation of factories to the Third World of cheap labor.

China was the champion recipient. Demand for toys, screws, machinery, computers and cellphones could never ebb, whether it came leaded or unleaded. Beijing’s policymakers decided that the perennial flow of greenbacks demanded a domestic infrastructural revolution dictated by the export market — a first in history if there was one.

Factories, coal-fired plants, superhighways, skyscrapers were springing up at breakneck speed to fulfill the export craze. Excessive pollution and the plight of “unregistered” migrant workers from rural China mattered little.

What mattered were prestige, kickbacks and $1.2tr in hard currency-based reserves. It did not matter that China’s domestic consumption vis a vis its GDP was actually decreasing; it was more a matter of consumer opiates, of who was boss in the center of the universe.

It did not matter that Chinese cities were shrouded in toxic gray, where “only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union.”1

The Chinese may cough but the ‘days when the world caught a cold whenever Uncle Sam sneezed was over.” Or so it seemed.

Uncle Sam sneezed.

Global finance began hemorrhaging, and it had to be resuscitated through an intravenous flow of taxpayer money.

Western consumers finally realized that girths had to be tightened, and what to better way than to curb spending, and let a market correction take place in the import sector.

An entire supply chain leading to China’s factories are in danger of folding up. Mineral resources from Africa, semiconductor plants in Malaysia, raw textile products elsewhere, now face acute market uncertainty.

China is in a bad fix. However, this is not deterring factories from coming online next year to meet the projected “global demand.” If Western consumers are scaling down their purchases, Africans are not in a position to be the replacement buyers, and without a market, they will not be able to sell their raw products either.

In such circumstances, moods can shift. When “Beijing rolled out the red carpet for more than 40 African heads of state last November, billboards depicting Africans clad in leopard skin underwear, and an indigenous man from Papua New Guinea, plastered the city.”2 It is no wonder that China’s list of “allies” is getting shorter by the day.

Events in Myanmar are not proving helpful. China enjoys a near monopoly over Myanmar’s estimated 2.46 trillion cubic meters of gas and 3.2 billion barrels of crude oil. Beijing had plans to develop two parallel oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380-km to link the deepwater port of Sittwe to Kunming, in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Upon completion, a good portion of Middle Eastern oil and gas is expected to bypass the Straits of Malacca.

The quid pro quo was arms supply and support at the UN for Myanmar’s military junta. Any new government now might negate all existing deals, and pull Yangon into the US orbit. This is a timely revolution from Washington’s perspective.

North Korea too is seeking rapprochement. There is enough operational space now to tackle Tehran, Damascus and the Hezbollah.

China can of course play the spoiler by providing arms to these regimes via a proxy. It is still a bad idea as the Israelis are just itching for war.

The IAF recently destroyed a Syrian installation that was purportedly an embryonic nuclear facility, but may well turn out to be a Kolchuga-type passive radar system, ideal for downing B2 stealth bombers. Coincidentally, the Russians have pledged to upgrade Syrian radar defenses after the attack.

If a wider conflagration breaks out in the Middle East, there will be no oil flowing from the Straits of Hormuz to China, either through Sitte, or through the Straits of Malacca.

The best option for Beijing will be to lock its oil and gas grid to the Russian Far East at a breakneck speed, and clean up some level of air pollution in time for the 2008 Olympics.

If an all-out war in the Middle East is our worst nightmare, think of the following unfolding crises…

The Peak Crises and its plural

Peak Oil: Fossil fuels, compressed and formed over aeons in subterranean geological layers are now releasing the telltale sibilant whispers of a punctured gas tank — low as it was on petrol in the first place. With crude oil hovering above $80 per barrel, the various subsidies built into national economies are bound to burst at the seams, and precipitate price increases for basic necessities.

There is however a unique solution — falling consumer demand worldwide. That would crimp industrial demand for fossil fuel. It is no wonder oil majors were reluctant to build new refineries when profits seemed guaranteed in the era of “peak oil.” This day would surely come!

Peak oil is also tied to the current dollar crises. With the US dollar dipping against other major currencies, crude oil should come cheaper for Washington.

Oil and other commodities are traded in dollars, and dollar-denominated assets outnumber assets weighed in other currencies. Beijing can dump its hundreds of billions in dollar reserves for euros, only to trade them back into dollars to buy crude oil, gold and other assets.

The dollar blackmail will not work, especially with the US Army entrenched in the oil-rich Middle East.

Doomsday theorists are however predicting another Great Depression ahead, where the value of the dollar may mean little in the event of a global financial meltdown.

If this occurs, a global depression will have to deal with the following phenomena that was absent in the 30s.

Peak Urbanization: More than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas in just… a few months, according to a United Nations Population Fund report. That translates to 3.3 billion people in an urban concentration camp of shantytowns and high-rise pigeonholes.

Children are growing up in a peculiarly boxed-in environment, removed from the soil that births their identity. They do not wake up to the sound of a crowing rooster, which is nature’s way of sowing repentance and a turning of mindsets outside the conventional thinking box.

They wake up to beastly clangor instead. It is either the alarm clock or the barking dog, installed as “pets” to yelp any perceived intruder during the morning rush hour. The urban jungle is an industrialized Ziggurat, which pecks out a hierarchy from childhood. The ones right at the bottom will be the ones shouldering more concrete, or the biggest debt burden.

Close human proximity also leads to petty competitiveness and conflict. That is why “civilization” is held at gunpoint; by the police, by the army and by “treaties.”

The urban life is delicate and vulnerable to all sorts of hazards, from plagues to a breakdown in the utilities, communications and transportation services. And political upheavals. A disaster will grind down traffic to a gridlock, far from the escapist countryside.

What if an energy warfare broke out? What if a global depression hits us? Can three billion people grow a patch of greens on their balconies?

When it comes to greens, the outlook is not at all verdant…

Peak Grain: Global grain stockpiles are down to their tightest levels in three decades after two years of unusual weather patterns. Heatwaves have wilted crops in the granaries of the world while floods and other environmental scourges have devastated some of the poorer “self-sustaining” regions.

Global wheat stockpiles will fall to a 34-year low by June 2008, according to the International Grains Council. U.S. stockpiles will fall to lowest level since 1951-52. Wheat futures in Chicago reached $9.3925 a bushel late September when major supplier Ukraine slashed exports.

The price of a bushel has more than doubled in the past year.

The bushel of woes includes rice, barley, soybeans, sorghum, oats and lentils as well, and they are all sagging under record prices. The grapes of wrath have gone on to stalk eggs, cheese, milk, meat and the a la carte menu.

There may come a point when the industrial food chain has little choice but to pass the rising costs to consumers in a dramatic fashion.

Creeping upticks in the price of milk and bread are turning Europeans livid. Milk is now dubbed as the “new white gold.”

It is not just bad weather to blame. Rising demand from China is pushing up prices, despite the fact that only half of its urban population has basic health insurance. Tragically, processed food re-exported through Beijing’s food chain is causing a global health nightmare.

But why pick on China? The current biodiesel craze is inducing farms to purpose-plant their crops for the profitable bioenergy industry, according to the Hamburg-based Oil World.

“It is high time to realise that the world community is approaching a food crisis in 2008 unless usage of agricultural products for biofuels is curbed or ideal weather conditions and sharply higher crop yields are achieved in 2008,” it added

Bad news gets worse.

Peak Water: There is not enough freshwater around to sustain the planet’s inland ecosystem and its human population. Rivers that help supply drinking water are laden with toxic industrial wastes. Population growth is already straining the capacities of water treatment plants worldwide while desalination plants remain the prerogative of wealthy nations. According to the Pacific Institute: “Over 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water; more than 2 billion lack access to adequate sanitation; and millions die every year due to preventable water-related diseases. Water resources around the globe are threatened by climate change, misuse, and pollution.” It estimates that “over 34 million people might perish in the next 20 years from water-related disease — even if the United Nations ‘Millennium Development Goals,’ which aim to cut the proportion of those without safe access by half, are met.”3

Lots of water will be diverted to industries and agriculture, or the highest bidder as privatization of water supply gains currency. In some regions, the situation is so acute that water diversion in one country may precipitate conflict with a neighbor. As early as 1974, Iraq reportedly mobilized its army to target Syria’s al-Thawra dam on the Euphrates. Israel has cast its own eyes on Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “The next war in the Near (Middle) East will not be about politics, but over water.”

If this watery grave is not enough, think of the next one…

Peak Fish: There is some fishy business going on in our oceans. Like oil and water, we are trawling deeper and deeper for our fish supplies. Such piscatorial adventures have led to a global decline in fish stocks. “Ecologists worry that entire fisheries will collapse as… ‘junk fish’ are used up.” Aquaculture, which substitutes marine catches to an extent, comes with its own environmental problems.4

The Times of London paints a similar gloomy scenario. According to some experts, 90% of fish around British waters “will disappear within 20 years” in the absence of an immediate intervention.

With 75% of fish stocks fully exploited, declining numbers across species worldwide hint at a collapse point by 2048, beyond which replenishment is not possible.

Peak Fish “comes at a time when their nutritional value is recognized more than ever.”

“World Health Organisation officials recommend a weekly intake of 200 to 300 grams of fish each week but today’s catches can only just meet this target. Since the 1950s an estimated 60 per cent of stocks in British waters have collapsed…”

The Times invokes the paradox that “measures proposed to limit fishing to a sustainable level will only place a cap on the nutritional flow for the coming decades.”5

The full circle

What began as sub-prime woes in the US housing sector may ripple into something we cannot yet imagine. Will there be a severe global recession, or worse? If wars are yet contained, bidding wars will yet emerge over wheat, water, fish, medicines and oil. What will the future hold in this ecology of crises?

Here is a refrain from the book of Hosea (4:3):

Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying.

  1. As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes, NYT, Aug 26, 2007.
  2. Beijing police round up and beat African expats Guardian, September 26, 2007.
  3. Global Water Crisis Pacific Institute.
  4. Water shortages will leave world in dire straits USA Today, 26th Jan 2003.
  5. Fish will vanish from British waters in 20 years, says author Times Online, Sept 15, 2007.

Mathew Maavak can be found online at www.maavak.net Read other articles by Mathew.

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The Ethanol Scam: One of America’s Biggest Political Boondoggles

October 5, 2007

The Ethanol Scam: One of America’s Biggest Political Boondoggles

From Issue 1032

JEFF GOODELL (Rolling Stone Mag)

Posted Jul 24, 2007 1:36 PM

The great danger of confronting peak oil and global warming isn’t that we will sit on our collective asses and do nothing while civilization collapses, but that we will plunge after “solutions” that will make our problems even worse. Like believing we can replace gasoline with ethanol, the much-hyped biofuel that we make from corn. Ethanol, of course, is nothing new. American refiners will produce nearly 6 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year, mostly for use as a gasoline additive to make engines burn cleaner. But in June, the Senate all but announced that America’s future is going to be powered by biofuels, mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. According to ethanol boosters, this is the beginning of a much larger revolution that could entirely replace our 21-million-barrel-a-day oil addiction. Midwest farmers will get rich, the air will be cleaner, the planet will be cooler, and, best of all, we can tell those greedy sheiks to fuck off. As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, “Everything about ethanol is good, good, good.”

This is not just hype — it’s dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn’t burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption — yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.

So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America’s energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51 billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 — twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon — about half of ethanol’s wholesale market price.

Three factors are driving the ethanol hype. The first is panic: Many energy experts believe that the world’s oil supplies have already peaked or will peak within the next decade. The second is election-year politics. With the first vote to be held in Iowa, the largest corn-producing state in the nation, former skeptics like Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain now pay tribute to the wonders of ethanol. Earlier this year, Sen. Barack Obama pleased his agricultural backers in Illinois by co-authoring legislation to raise production of biofuels to 60 billion gallons by 2030. A few weeks later, rival Democrat John Edwards, who is staking his campaign on a victory in the Iowa caucus, upped the ante to 65 billion gallons by 2025.

The third factor stoking the ethanol frenzy is the war in Iraq, which has made energy independence a universal political slogan. Unlike coal, another heavily subsidized energy source, ethanol has the added political benefit of elevating the American farmer to national hero. As former CIA director James Woolsey, an outspoken ethanol evangelist, puts it, “American farmers, by making the commitment to grow more corn for ethanol, are at the top of the spear on the war against terrorism.” If you love America, how can you not love ethanol?

Ethanol is nothing more than 180-proof grain alcohol. To avoid the prospect of drunks sucking on gas pumps, fuel ethanol is “denatured” with chemical additives (if you drink it, you’ll end up dead or, at best, in the hospital). It can be distilled from a variety of plants, including sugar cane and switch- grass. Most vehicles can’t run on pure ethanol, but E85, a mix of eighty-five percent ethanol and fifteen percent gasoline, requires only slight engine modifications.

But as a gasoline substitute, ethanol has big problems: Its energy density is one-third less than gasoline, which means you have to burn more of it to get the same amount of power. It also has a nasty tendency to absorb water, so it can’t be transported in existing pipelines and must be distributed by truck or rail, which is tremendously inefficient.

Nor is all ethanol created equal. In Brazil, ethanol made from sugar cane has an energy balance of 8-to-1 — that is, when you add up the fossil fuels used to irrigate, fertilize, grow, transport and refine sugar cane into ethanol, the energy output is eight times higher than the energy inputs. That’s a better deal than gasoline, which has an energy balance of 5-to-1. In contrast, the energy balance of corn ethanol is only 1.3-to-1 – making it practically worthless as an energy source. “Corn ethanol is essentially a way of recycling natural gas,” says Robert Rapier, an oil-industry engineer who runs the R-Squared Energy Blog.

The ethanol boondoggle is largely a tribute to the political muscle of a single company: agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. In the 1970s, looking for new ways to profit from corn, ADM began pushing ethanol as a fuel additive. By the early 1980s, ADM was producing 175 million gallons of ethanol a year. The company’s then-chairman, Dwayne Andreas, struck up a close relationship with Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, a.k.a. “Senator Ethanol.” During the 1992 election, ADM gave $1 million to Dole and his friends in the GOP (compared with $455,000 to the Democrats). In return, Dole helped the company secure billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks. In 1995, the conservative Cato Institute, estimating that nearly half of ADM’s profits came from products either subsidized or protected by the federal government, called the company “the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history.”

Today, ADM is the leading producer of ethanol, supplying more than 1 billion gallons of the fuel additive last year. Ethanol is propped up by more than 200 tax breaks and subsidies worth at least $5.5 billion a year. And ADM continues to give back: Since 2000, the company has contributed $3.7 million to state and federal politicians.

The Iraq War has also been a boon for ADM and other ethanol producers. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was pushed by Corn Belt politicians, mandated the consumption of 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels by 2012. After Democrats took over Congress last year, they too vowed to “do something” about America’s addiction to foreign oil. By the time Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chair of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, proposed new energy legislation this spring, the only real question was how big the ethanol mandate would be. According to one lobbyist, 36 billion gallons became “the Goldilocks number — not too big to be impractical, not too small to satisfy corn growers.”

Under the Senate bill, only 15 billion gallons of ethanol will come from corn, in part because even corn growers admit that turning more grain into fuel would disrupt global food supplies. The remaining 21 billion gallons will have to come from advanced biofuels, most of which are currently brewed only in small-scale lab experiments. “It’s like trying to solve a traffic problem by mandating hovercraft,” says Dave Juday, an independent commodities consultant. “Except we don’t have hovercraft.”

The most seductive myth about ethanol is that it will free us from our dependence on foreign oil. But even if ethanol producers manage to hit the mandate of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, that will replace a paltry 1.5 million barrels of oil per day — only seven percent of current oil needs. Even if the entire U.S. corn crop were used to make ethanol, the fuel would replace only twelve percent of current gasoline use.

Another misconception is that ethanol is green. In fact, corn production depends on huge amounts of fossil fuel — not just the diesel needed to plow fields and transport crops, but also the vast quantities of natural gas used to produce fertilizers. Runoff from industrial-scale cornfields also silts up the Mississippi River and creates a vast dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every summer. What’s more, when corn ethanol is burned in vehicles, it is as dirty as conventional gasoline and does little to solve global warming: E85 reduces carbon dioxide emissions by a modest fifteen percent at best, while fueling the destruction of tropical forests.

But the biggest problem with ethanol is that it steals vast swaths of land that might be better used for growing food. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs titled “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor,” University of Minnesota economists C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer point out that filling the gas tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn — roughly enough calories to feed one person for a year.

Thanks in large part to the ethanol craze, the price of beef, poultry and pork in the United States rose more than three percent during the first five months of this year. In some parts of the country, hog farmers now find it cheaper to fatten their animals on trail mix, french fries and chocolate bars. And since America provides two-thirds of all global corn exports, the impact is being felt around the world. In Mexico, tortilla prices have jumped sixty percent, leading to food riots. In Europe, butter prices have spiked forty percent, and pork prices in China are up twenty percent. By 2025, according to Runge and Senauer, rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide.

Despite the serious drawbacks of ethanol, some technological visionaries believe that the fuel can be done right. “Corn ethanol is just a platform, the first step in a much larger transition we are undergoing from a hydrocarbon-based economy to a carbohydrate-based economy,” says Vinod Khosla, a pioneering venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. Next-generation corn- ethanol plants, he argues, will be much more efficient and environmentally friendly. He points to a company called E3 BioFuels that just opened an ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska. The facility runs largely on biogas made from cow manure, and feeds leftover grain back to the cows, making it a “closed-loop system” — one that requires very few fossil fuels to create ethanol.

Khosla is even higher on the prospects for cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel that can be made from almost any plant matter, including wood waste and perennial grasses like miscanthus and switchgrass. Like other high-tech ethanol evangelists, Khosla imagines a future in which such so-called “energy crops” are fed into giant refineries that use genetically engineered enzymes to break down the cellulose in plants and create fuel for a fraction of the cost of today’s gasoline. Among other virtues, cellulosic ethanol would not cut into the global food supply (nobody eats miscanthus or switchgrass), and it could significantly cut global-warming pollution. Even more important, it could provide a gateway to a much larger biotech revolution, including synthetic microbes that could one day be engineered to gobble up carbon dioxide or other pollutants.

Unfortunately, no commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants exist today. In one venture backed by Khosla, a $225 million plant in central Georgia is currently being built to make ethanol out of wood chips. Mitch Mandich, a former Apple Computer executive who is now the CEO of the operation, calls it “the beginning of a real transformation in the way we think about energy in America.”

Maybe. But oil-industry engineer Robert Rapier, who has spent years studying cellulosic ethanol, says that the difference between ethanol from corn and ethanol from cellulose is “like the difference between traveling to the moon and traveling to Mars.” And even if the engineering hurdles can be overcome, there’s still the problem of land use: According to Rapier, replacing fifty percent of our current gasoline consumption with cellulosic ethanol would consume thirteen percent of the land in the United States – about seven times the land currently utilized for corn production.

Increasing the production of cellulosic ethanol will also require solving huge logistical problems, including delivering vast quantities of feedstock to production plants. According to one plant manager in the Midwest, fueling an ethanol plant with switchgrass would require delivering a semi-truckload of the grass every six minutes, twenty-four hours a day. Finally, there is the challenge of wrestling the future away from Big Corn. “It’s pretty clear to me that the corn guys will use all their lobbying muscle and political power to stall, thwart and sidetrack this revolution,” says economist C. Ford Runge.

In the end, the ethanol boom is another manifestation of America’s blind faith that technology will solve all our problems. Thirty years ago, nuclear power was the answer. Then it was hydrogen. Biofuels may work out better, especially if mandates are coupled with tough caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. Still, biofuels are, at best, a huge gamble. They may help cushion the fall when cheap oil vanishes, but if we rely on ethanol to save the day, we could soon find ourselves forced to make a choice between feeding our SUVs and feeding children in the Third World. And we all know how that decision will go.

Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly

October 5, 2007

Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly

Global Research, September 29, 2007

eshop.whtt.org

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Eight years of Biofuels (ethanol) policy and legislation has cemented in place the first world wide food cabal, which promises a humanitarian disaster, a famine more serious than those caused by any tsunami, earthquake or drought. This crisis is not in the dim future, it is here.

Congress has, in a series of acts passed in this millennium, handed the perfect monopoly to what appears to be few giant agribusiness companies that already have enormous economic power, but which may be a much broader cabal.

If you can afford $6.00 a gallon for milk, $4.00 for a loaf of bread and still have money left over for a $50.00 steak at Outback, you may be prepared for 2008, but what about the future? Even if you and I may think we are prepared financially to buy food, whatever the cost, we must have concern for the billion souls who are not and who are condemned to starvation by the corn-to-alcohol conversion scheme.

Subsidies do not make the giant agribusiness firms criminals, only opportunists. Their Public Relations distortion about the value of grain alcohol as fuel is criminal. Congressmen are the real cheats, for they could acknowledge this if they wanted to, but they do not, so they share in the crimes—grand theft and murder by starvation. This being a “Christian” society, it falls to those who heed Jesus Christ’s repeated admonitions to feed the needy and protect those who cannot protect themselves to stop corn-to-alcohol conversion. Make no mistake this is a moral issue.

Many of us Americans still think we have a layer of financial fat and can afford a doubling or tripling of food costs without going hungry. Not so in the third world, and with some in America as well. A friend reminded me, “Meat is not good for us anyway.” Some would not mind giving up meat sometimes, but in Darfur or Uganda, there may be no meat or luxury foods to give up. When the price of rice or corn, or beans rises suddenly by a third or half, many will go without. This recently happened in Mexico City with corn tortilla shells; in the third world, the price of corn may be the difference between life and death. Commodity markets are now world markets, when price of corn rises in Chicago the impact is felt in India and Russia.

Engineering a food monopoly

Political leaders of both parties have appropriated billions of dollars to subsidize major agribusiness corporations to destroy food; the latest appropriation was $14 billion. They call the process “bio-fuel” or ethanol production, but because the amount of fuel produced is less than the amount of fuel it takes to produce it, the only correct term for the process is systematic destruction of the food consumed in the process. Agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, whose income was $44 billion last year, are subsidized to burn up America’s surplus food (mostly corn), while they carry out their principle business, marketing the remaining food which is made more scarce, expensive, and profitable in the process. Congress has created over us the first nearly foolproof, open-ended, food monopoly. This finacial scam is to big and too well sheltered not to come from the highest level of banking and politics.

Corn is the most abundant readily storable and amazingly cheap basic foodstuff, and it is being wasted in an age when millions of grain eaters face starvation for lack of vegetable calories. Darfur is only one of many well-publicized examples in central and southern Africa where corn (maize) is a staple but will not grow because of a water shortage. Darfur needs imported grain, not occupation…food and water will solve its problem armies can. But when the price of commodities go up the quantity of gifts to the poor go down simply because we all define what we give in dollars, not pounds of food, and our dollars buy less food.

The corn-to-alcohol scheme may well be the largest single financial crime of all time in its impact on people. Its cost to consumers in higher food prices, disregarding the direct subsidies, will exceed the total cost of the so-called war in Iraq, plus the cost of the escalated oil prices. It will dwarf the cost of every war, going back and including Vietnam and World Wars II and I. It will even exceed the cost of the oil increase to $81.00 per barrel. There cannot be a bigger issue than food. No problem in America comes close to it in importance, because no one can escape depending on food for survival — and we are talking about doubling or tripling its cost of basic grain commodities on which the non-rich survive.

The problem we will expose in this brief paper is not a natural one like drought, tidal wave or earthquake. It is totally man-made for the profit of a few, and it is based on a preposterous, proven lie–that ethanol is a good fuel to burn in autos. The Ethanol subsidy is “take from the poor and give to the rich,” scheme. A humanitarian food crisis is a moral issue requiring us to act in the interest of those who cannot act for themselves. Men of faith should lead.

The perpetual ethanol boondoggle started with laws passed by Congress to subsidize the fermenting of corn and other foods to create grain alcohol, which was supposed to burn in cars instead of fossil fuel to reduce “global warming” and to save precious natural fuel, or so we are told. It is every bit as evil a scheme as if it forced all of us to drink the 13 billon gallons of “white lightning” now being produced from corn in America. (1)

Ethanol, known as grain alcohol, was in a diluted and impure fprm called “moonshine” or “white lightning” in the long past years called “Prohibition.” Ethanol has many chemical uses and certain medical properties, but a fuel to run autos it is not, poor in performance, expensive to make, difficult to transport, all well documented by qualified scientific experts.

We will introduce a few whose scientific works explain that corn to ethanol has been an unworkable scam from the very start and exists only because consumers are forced to subsidize it. Those who predicted that ethanol was an economic farce and it would never be economical have been vindicated. What too few foresaw was how bio-fuels were in fact a scam to bring basic food commodities under monopoly price control.

We Hold These Truths believe rising food costs and controlled and engineered world famine may well be a planned results of ethanol legislation. Our conclusions are not based on complex scientific evidence, though such evidence has been available for years, and is too obvious to have been overlooked at the top. Common sense and the simple laws of the marketplace are our guides, and there is no better place to begin than at the filling station.

If you look at the gas pump, you’ll see a little sign: “Contains 15% (or 10%) ethanol.” So, if your tank holds 20 gallons and you fill it for a total cost of $50.00, three of the 20 gallons you pump into the tank are grain alcohol made from corn. One study tells us the subsidy to those who make ethanol cost taxpayers $2.21 per gallon of fossil fuel replaced, or $6.63 for three gallons. (The lowest estimate of direct subsidies we find is $.51 per gallon, or $1.53 for your three gallons of alcohol.) This subsidy is over and above the $7.50 you pay for the three gallons of alcohol you pumped into your tank, which will not take you as far as the fuel farmers burned to raise the corn that went into the alcohol! No wonder agribusiness wants to build more plants and distill more corn into alcohol. The three gallons of ethanol are distilled from about 70 pounds of corn that would otherwise have been converted into beef, chicken, eggs, milk, pork or catfish. Corn would and does sustain human life quite nicely as a main staple for those who cannot afford meat, eggs, or milk.

USA Agribusiness already claims to have the capacity to produce about 13.5 billion gallons of ethanol, which will result in the destruction of over 5 billion bushels of corn. Its capacity is skyrocketing, because the more corn agribusiness destroys, the more subsidies they “earn”. Agribusiness spokesmen have voiced plans to consume 25% of the country’s approximate 1.4 billion bushel corn harvest; the price of corn in the marketplace clearly tells us the scheme has already effectively dried up most of the corn reserves…it is likely that we will discover that there are no longer significant grain reserves in the USA.

Starvation is the issue

Grain alcohol, or “white lightning” as it was once called, is reputed to have driven many to insanity. It is your author’s terrible vision that the monopoly created to make it will drive many Americans out of the middle class, and it will condemn many millions of third world children to starvation. Huge as the subsidy to grain alcohol distilling is, it is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg; it is this hidden effect that concerns We Hold These Truths–the impact on world food availability, an issue rarely discussed. The enormous, unjustifiable subsidies to agribusiness may not bring famine, but the food shortage that results from food burning for profit will bring famine and slow starvation. Those who have food will control those who do not. This shortage of food will profit agribusiness just as the shortage of oil from the shutdown of Iraq is benefiting big oil now.

Burning food—technically, distilling grain to grain alcohol–was mandated by Congress, probably because they were lobbied by US agribusiness, and no one objected. It was well known that ethanol burned inefficiently in our autos, could not solve the energy problem, and costs taxpayers incalculable billions at the gas pumps. It can be shown that most of what we pay for ethanol goes directly into the pockets of big Agribusiness in the form of subsidies. (1)

Make no mistake about it; the manufacturing of ethanol (grain alcohol) is no different from burning corn needed for human food in most of the third world. Well-researched reports by academic and industry sources make it clear that ethanol is counterproductive in a variety of ways, including economically, and produces a negative result on the environment.

How Big Is The Corn-to-alcohol Fraud?

The Renewable Fuel Association, a trade organization of big agribusinesses, lists 129 existing plants with 76 more under construction, and projects the total production capacity to a staggering 13,429 billion gallons of ethanol every year. All but a few small, experimental ones burn corn. (2)

History shows an explosion of production in recent years:

2001 1,770 (billions of gallons)

2002 2,130

2003 2,800

2004 3,400

2005 3,904

2007 13,429 Projected

(2) The Renewable Fuel Association

Figures on subsidies and industry profits are hard to come by, but there is no shortage of experts who say the industry exists on subsidies. One very credible report was done by David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell, and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkley, a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn and “bio-diesel” from soybean and sunflower plants. Their report is published in Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76). We cite a summary report entitled “Producing ethanol and bio-diesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy.” Physorg.com quotes Dr. Patzek: (3)

“In terms of renewable fuels, ethanol is the worst solution…it is the highest energy cost with the least benefit.”

“In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that: –“corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;” Soybeans and other fuel sources are no better.

“Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation’s energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment

Professor Pimentel of Cornell added in the same paper:

“Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits.” “There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel.” “These strategies are not sustainable.”

As negative as the Pimentel-Patzek 2004 study, Science Daily’s Energy Bulletin summarized a later study by Dr. Patzek in its 1 Apr 2005, headline, Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units of Energy to Produce Just One, stating the results:

“Dr. Patzek published a fifty-page study on the subject in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Science. This time, he factored in the myriad energy inputs required by industrial agriculture, from the amount of fuel used to produce fertilizers and corn seeds to the transportation and wastewater disposal costs. All told, he believes that the cumulative energy consumed in corn farming and ethanol production is six times greater than what the end product provides your car engine in terms of power.” (5)

The report warns:

“In 2004, approximately 3.57 billion gallons of ethanol were used as a gas additive in the United States, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). During the February State of the Union address, President George Bush urged Congress to pass an energy bill that would pump up the amount to 5 billion gallons by 2012. UC Berkeley geoengineering professor Tad W. Patzek thinks that’s a very bad idea.”

However, it appears as of this writing the 5 billion gallon ethanol production goal has already been surpassed, according to The Renewable Fuel Association, which lists the present capacity of the industry at over 13.4 billion gallons. Our simple arithmetic tells us this would use up about five billion bushels of corn each year, exceeding 25% of the entire USA new corn harvest! (2)

The bottom line of alcohol energy non-efficiency

Imagine, according to the most conservative estimates, one must spend 1.29 calories of fossil fuels to raise enough corn to get back 1 calorie of ethanol. This seems to be the best case, and it may be much worse. This is the obscene economics of ethanol. But for taxpayers and consumers it gets much worse. It seem we are forced to pay three times for alcohol fuel; first to subsidize those who make it from corn; next, we pay in higher priced fuel at the pump that does not take us as many miles as if we had no alcohol in our tanks; and lastly (and much the worst) in the perpetual higher cost of food that is destroyed and never to be recovered.

The astonishing subsides

Zfacts reports ethanol from corn subsidies totaled $7.0 billion in 2006 for 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol. That’s $1.45 per gallon of ethanol (and $2.21 per gallon of gas replaced)”… resulting in a “$5.4 billion dollar windfall of profits paid to real farmers, corporate farmers, and ethanol makers like multinational ADM (Archer Daniels Midland).” According to this study, consumers paid $3.6 billion extra at the pump. * Subsidies for corn ethanol (4)

1. 51¢ per gallon federal blenders credit for $2.5 billion = your tax dollars.

2. $0.9 billion in corn subsidies for ethanol corn = your tax dollars.

3. $3.6 billion extra paid at the pump.

In summary our Congress has licensed big agribusiness to burn food in exchange for worthless alcohol. Yes, worthless is the right word for corn made ethanol as fuel because it requires more calories to produce than it returns when you burn it. Having a negative value is indeed “worthless” except to those paid to make it by destroying valuable food.

Ethanol is 200 proof “white lightning.” The infamous days of “Prohibition” created laws that made it profitable for a few who raised corn to have a still. Today’s corn-to-alcohol scheme produces almost two gallons of white pure white lightning for every man woman and child on the face of the earth! This means the entire world population could be kept stupified most of the time on the grain alcohol U.S. Agribusiness will produce in just one year…by destroying valuable food.

The scarcity factor in burning food

As outrageous as $7 billion of subsidies in one year are, the worst part of burning food is the shortage of humanly consumable calories and animal food that are an inevitable result. The same agribusinesses that destroys corn, also sell what they do not destroy for food! They are the big wholesale food beneficiaries from the shortage they are paid to create, what a brilliant monopoly. Corn burning has an even more sinister side. It is the primary and greatest direct cause of higher food prices we all feel already, and is a direct threat to the subsistence nutrition of the third world poor. Ethanol subsidies are the key to controlling the food chain. Agribusiness industry giants can control and set the price of food to whatever level they wish to maintain, much as a few companies now control the price of petroleum, so long as they are subsidized to burn surplus corn in unlimited quantity. As long as subsides are available there seems to be no limit to the scheme.

American corn surpluses are a blessing to mankind that has kept world grain prices down for years, a gift to the world from American farmers, and a gift from God! The largest surplus in the world was corn, attesting to the incredible efficiency of the American farmer. If Agribusiness giants can destroy America’s surplus and set the price we pay for corn and everything that substitutes for corn. They can and will then ration food worldwide and determine who lives and who dies.

We have already described the process by which distilling alcohol from corn consumes more energy in fossil fuels than it creates. It is also logical to observe that petroleum prices have gone up very steadily since ethanol became mandatory in gasoline. Crude oil just touched $81.00 per barrel, up 400% from day 911. If ethanol did alleviate the energy shortage, why would we not be seeing lower demand and prices for crude oil?

Every American is paying for this subsidized destruction of corn, not once, but three times. First we pay the subsidized ethanol makers billons (we assume someone pays for what our congress gives away) to create a non-economic product we are forced to use; then we pay at the pump because alcohol is poor auto fuel; finally, we again pay in higher food prices resulting from the massive destruction of corn and other food surpluses. We pay this, by far the worst cost over and over again every time we eat a hamburger, buy a gallon of milk or a box of cereal.

Corn is not the only food being burned by American agribusiness giants, but it is the only one they need to burn in their drive to control all food prices. Corn triggers the rest. Poor Mexicans were the first to complain. They felt the pinch from a 30% increase in the price of white corn after the wholesale alcoholization of field corn caused the price to shoot up to $4.00 per bushel in 2006…when ethanol finally absorbed most of the corn surplus. Corn is an international market, and the poor in Mexico City felt the pinch immediately even though they eat foods made of white, not yellow, corn.

Corn, a native crop to the Americas, is a blessing to mankind–a truly cheap food, rich in calories and capable of sustaining life. The average wholesale price of corn was less than $.02 per pound in 2000; but by 2007, thanks to the new alcohol refineries in the Midwest, the average price doubled to $.06 per pound. Even after doubling in price, corn is still our cheapest foodstuff, so what is the problem? You might not eat much corn at your house, a few tacos once in a while, a little corn syrup, maybe some in the dog food, but for the most part you eat bread, meat, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, so who cares about the price of corn?

The problem is that when the price differential among commodities exceeds the difference in food value, the prices of other grains go up too. Farmers also switch what they raise, from what is cheap to what is hot in the marketplace; this year they switched en masse to raising corn. Now wheat has tripled and soybean prices have more than doubled! The runaway corn price finally bubbled over into the soybean and wheat markets in 2007. Soybeans, another food staple, now sell for more than ten dollars a bushel, more then double.

In 2001 the average price of wheat was about $2.50 per 60 pounds or $.04 per pound; right now the price is $9.25 per 60 pounds or $.15 per pound, and has gone up more than 350% since our government started to burn corn. Wheat prices have more than doubled in 2007. Everything made from wheat is already on the rise. We only recently got used to paying $3.00 for a loaf of bread, but this week I bought my first $4.00 dollar loaf of bread, thanks to those who burn corn.

Consider the effect of the wheat price skyrocket in the one huge starvation experiment being carried on in the world today, the 1.3 million citizens of the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a fenced compound with no significant means of foreign exchange other than gifts. Gaza is therefore almost totally dependent upon the wheat elevated over a fence and dumped on the ground near its northern border with Israel. Israel does not interfere with the humanitarian efforts of European countries and private agencies. Imagine the impact of tripling of the price of wheat? Suppose the European Union, which pays for most of the wheat, defines its gift in Euros. With a tripling of wheat prices the amount of bread available inside the wall drops from three loafs to one. Assuming a substance diet inside Gaza 2/3 of the population will now starve unless someone comes up with three times as many Euros. (6)Grain of Hope for Gaza Residence

Meat is made from corn

It is obvious we ask what will happen to meat prices when grain prices have doubled twice; how much will be future chicken, eggs, pork and milk prices? If milk was to doubles twice, as grains have, it will be about $8.00 per gallon! It takes a certain factor of grain to produce a pound of beef on the hoof; it’s a direct ratio, so corn costs translate into beef pork chicken cost of production. There is delayed action in the meat market, before the cost of production hits the dinner table, a boom-bust effect in the marketplace. The grain price explosion has already happened, but the meat explosion is still quietly fizzling away like steak on the grill, ready to explode. It will…it must.

The hungry all over the world that live on corn are the most immediately affected; many more will starve, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where corn is a staple of the diet. But a large part of the American middle class is about to become vegetarian, whether we like it or not, because a meat shortage is right around the corner, and many will soon find meat an unaffordable luxury.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:

The world market for food has been tipped upside down by the creation of a government funded, privately run, monopoly with the power to alter the available supply by destroying surpluses of corn or other grains. Prices have only started the upward spiral to shortage and famine.

The US monopoly which we call “corn-to-alcohol” is dominated by big agribusiness in the USA and it has eliminated the surplus of corn in a few short years and this has resulted in instant shortages of other grains as well. Now prices of grains are exploding in the world markets, meat prices will follow. Unlike past “bull markets” in commodities, this one cannot correct itself by increases in world crop productions because the corn-to-alcohol monopoly has open-ended subsidies to buy and destroy as much corn as they find necessary to prevent surplus. Plus, when their monopoly drains its treasury, Congress will just appropriate more, there is no limit so long as there is no public outcry.

Surpluses of food are a blessing of freedom; shortages play into the hands of tyrants. Surpluses are Godly and are talked of in the Bible (the wise Pharaoh stored a 7-year supply of wheat).

The Ethanol monopoly could not exist without massive subsidies to agribusiness giants, who in turn can pay giant lobbies to control your Congressmen. The present system assures shortages for everyone except the subsidized ethanol plants seen along our highways. The monopoly’s capacity to burn food is unlimited, so long as Congress pays for the subsidies. No other argument is relevant, no excuses should be accepted. The subsidy is the only issue that counts.

This paper only scratches the surface of the criminal acts surrounding ethanol. America has been known as the land of plenty and the land that shares its plenty. The corn-to-alcohol monopoly is the engine of planned poverty for the entire world. Who will stop it?

Congress has total responsibility for creating the corn-to-alcohol monopoly, but it will never reverse itself unless absolutely forced to do so because most of its members are bought and paid for.

This is a moral issue. The 80% of Americans that are professing Christians have a responsibility before our God not to allow corporate and political criminal elements among us to cast a pall of planned starvation over the planet. Leaders in Christian churches, who have become quite political of late, now must help fix the problem of starvation that they failed to prevent by giving carte blanche support to those most politically responsible.

Endnotes to Part I

(1) Biofuels Policy and Legislation

http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/legislation.shtml

 

(2) How big is Bio Fuels, The Renewable Fuel Association? 

http://www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/locations/

 

(3) Producing ethanol and biodiesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy, Physorg Magazine: http://www.physorg.com/news4942.html  

 

(4) Zfacts.com, Subsidies for corn ethanol:
http://zfacts.com/p/63.html

 

(5) Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One

http://www.energybulletin.net/5062.html

 

(6) Grain of Hope for Gaza Residence

 http://whtt.org/index.php?news=2&id=1591

 

(7) The High Costs of Ethanol, New York Times Sep 19, 2007

 http://whtt.org/index.php?news=2&id=1773

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Half of Iraq ‘in absolute poverty’

July 31, 2007

Iraqi children are most at risk from the mounting crisis, the joint report says [EPA]
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“Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment,” said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).

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The report also says two million people within the country are currently displced, while more than two million are refugees.

Most of those refugees have fled to Jordan and Syria.

 

‘Grim picture’

 

“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings”

Said Arikit, spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq

Read the joint report

Said Arikit, a spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, told Al Jazeera the report painted a “grim picture”.

 

“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings,” he said.

 

“The government of Iraq is definitely the authority in Iraq and it bears responsibility for the welfare of its people.”

 

Iraqi services have been left in crisis as most of those seeking refuge are professionals, according to the report.

 

“The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country,” it said.

 

The entry of Iraqi refugees to neighbouring countries has placed a growing strain on health, education and social services in the two countries.

 

Ration crisis

 

Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 per cent in 2004, the report said.

 

The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003.

 

The lack of effective sanitation was also highlighted by the joint report, which said 80 per cent of people in Iraq did not have safe access.

 

The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently.

 

“Despite the constraints imposed by the government of Iraq, the UN and the international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering,” the report said.

 

One recommendation called for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, to decentralise the distribution of aid to local authorities, and make it easier for civil society organisations to operate.

 

Deaths fall

 

Meanwhile in Iraq, officials from the US military say they have seen a drop in US troop deaths in July.

 

In April, the number of US soldiers who died was 104, increased sharply in May when 126 servicemen died, and decreased slightly with 101 troops dead in June.

 

For the month of July, at least 69 US soldiers have died, about half the casualties in May.

 

Iraq’s police say the number of civilian deaths also decreased by 36 per cent, from an estimated high of 1,900 in May to 1,342 in June.

 

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, said: “The sheikhs and the tribes and the leaders have banded together and made a decision to oppose al-Qaeda and that has resulted in a substantially improved security situation.”

 

Despite what appears to be at least a temporary let-up in both military and civilian deaths, many say there will be no security without a stable Iraqi government.

 

What Comes After The U.S. Empire?

July 21, 2007

What Comes After The U.S. Empire? 

Introductory Speech at the TRANSCEND International Meeting – 6-12 June 2007, Vienna, Austria

By Johan Galtung 

07/20/07 “ICH — – I first want to say a few words about the current G8 meeting, and then talk about major conflicts in the world. This will cover much of the world situation, a reflection on global capitalism, and the US Empire and its imminent demise and what will happen after that. 

            The G8 meeting is actually an act of sabotage, and in my view a deliberate one. It sabotages and undermines the UN. In 1975, the meeting was established as a small forum for intimate meetings between 3 leaders from each participating country. However, from a purely economic agenda it has become much more, incorporating a lot of UN agenda items (security issues and global warming etc.) and thereby actually hijacking the subjects of global importance to about 8 countries only. Russia, which was invited under Yeltsin, is the black sheep in the community. Also, not inviting Chindia is a guarantee for sabotage, as is talking about Africa without having even one African representative present. The good news is that there were 100’000 demonstrators, and the bad news is that there were some violent idiots. 

            If the nonviolent majority could practice the technique of 20 nonviolent encircling every violent one in a nonviolent way, incapacitating their capacity for violence, it would be an enormous feat. There is, however another piece of what I would call bad news; the 100’000 without constructive, positive ideas. I’ve gone through the whole rigmarole of the slogans. Personally, I don’t like the slogans against globalization; there is no way in the world to stop globalization because it is driven by things we all love: communication and transportation. We are not going to turn that backwards. A good slogan would be “another globalization is possible” and spelling out that better globalization as opposed to the economically exploitative process we know. 

            So, having said that, we have dark days in front of us. We have impending climate and economic disaster and on top of that a political military issue, the so-called Shield. There isn’t hardly a person in the world who believes it is against Iran. It is a part of a policy started in 1996, counter-posing against each other, on the one hand NATO and AMPO (the US-JAPAN arrangement), and on the other hand the SCO countries, the biggest alliance in human history: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with 6 full members and 3 observers. The 6 members are China, Russia and four of the former Central Asian republics, excluding Turkmenistan. The three observers are India, Pakistan and Iran. Together, it’s about 50% of humanity, confronting a relatively small country called the United States of America, with only 300’000’000, not a very impressive size these days. 

            I have said this, knowing that of the 10 points of the Project for the New American Century–written by people who are still in power, although there is an erosion among them–point number 7 is to change regime in China. I am of the opinion that whatever be the method, that the Chinese will rather do the change of regime themselves, and are not enthusiastic about being encircled. It is the major conflict confrontation of the world today, between NATO/AMPO and SCO, and since it is the major one, it is also the one least talked about. The Shield has to neutralize missiles from Russia and China. I think Putin understood it correctly in Munich, and sees it in the light of the cancellation of the ABM treaty, which was a cornerstone of the peaceful development during the Cold War. It was canceled unilaterally by the United States, The anti-missile capacities in the Czech Republic and Poland come on top of the US and NATO breaking the promises made to Gorbachev at the end of the Cold War: that the Soviet Union would withdraw from Eastern Europe, including Eastern Germany, and the United States would not follow suit, whereupon the United States had filled almost every base opportunity, and enrolled practically speaking all the countries in NATO. That has heightened the tension immensely. Whether it will dominate the Heiligendamm [G8 meeting] meeting, I don’t know, but I would imagine that it could be quite important. The guess is that the US would do anything they can in order to bribe the citizens of the villages selected in Poland and the Czech Republic with high amounts of money in order not to demonstrate against. So, G8 spells only bad news, as introduction to the six conflicts: 

1.         Economic Contradiction: Global Capitalism 

            Let me just say a word about global capitalism. The two antidotes to the market mechanism that have been effective have been, on the one hand, a welfare state, and on the other hand, protectionism. Microcredit, you can forget about it, these are small drops in the bucket, giving relief to some small groups. The countries that practice it most, Bangladesh and Bolivia, are still at the bottom, economically speaking. The combination of selective protectionism and welfare state, that is the real stuff. The way Japan did it, the way Taiwan did it, the way South Korea did it, the way Hong Kong did it, the way Singapore did it, the way Malaysia did it, with considerable success. You find in the whole of the East Asia/South East Asia conglomerate countries that have been doing exactly this. That is important, and the neo-liberal free market syndrome is of course against that. They are doing everything they can to eliminate the two factors. That means that the global market place becomes a vertical assembly line for the transportation of capital from the bottom to the top. And this works with three mechanisms: monetization, privatization and globalization, border-free market, of which globalization is the least important. The most important is monetization, setting a monetary price on everything. It is the most important because it means that those who have no money have no chance, and they are about 1’000’000’000. Their option, that is very clear, is to join the ranks of the dying; 125’000 dying every day with 25’000 starving and 100’000 dying from preventable and curable diseases,  for which cures exist, but they are monetized. User’s fees in Africa are a disaster. All of this is known today! Adam Smith warned against unmitigated markets; David Ricardo warned against unmitigated labor markets in periods with high labor supply, saying that it would have lasting unemployment as a result, and extreme poverty among the labor. 

            From global capitalism as it is operating today, we can expect no solution to these problems. So let me then add the kind of approach that I, as one person, would advocate; taming capitalism, by introducing at the same time about 14 other types of economies. In other words, it is a little bit like the thinking about energy: we don’t say an unconditional no to hydrocarbons, but we introduce 6, 7, 8 other methods. The energy profile becomes complex. Time does not permit me to get into all 14, I’ll not do it, some of you have the manuscript and the book A Life-Sustaining Economy is close to completion. The point I am arguing is a pluralistic economy. There is no single formula that covers all the alternatives, and the pluralistic profile must be adjusted to the preconditions in space and time. 

2.         Military Contradiction: Terrorism and State Terrorism 

            Number two on this list is the military contradiction between terrorism and state terrorism. The USA state contradiction on terrorism has now entered military intervention number 73 since the Second World War; Number 73 being what they are doing in Lebanon right now: killing Palestinians. There are 470’000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, almost half a million, scattered in camps from the north to the south. We now know the number of the people who were driven out of the territory that became the Jewish state during the Naqba, the Catastrophe: the number of Palestinians driven out was 711’000, very far from ‘a couple of thousand’. It is a very major number for a small nation. Some of them, not necessarily in that period, found their way to Lebanon. This is number 73 and the number of people killed in overt Pentagon-driven military action after the Second World War is now between 13 and 17 million. The number of people killed in covert action is at least 6 million. The number of people killed by structural violence could be 125’000 people per day, but for that the USA is not alone responsible. What the USA is responsible for is giving the military cover for that economic system. You can go through the total amount of interventions, 243, since Thomas Jefferson started, and you will find that almost without exception the interventions are triggered by some political action that sounds like or might lead to redistribution of wealth and power somewhere in the world. So, you get this endless pairing: intervening when the Sandinistas are in power but not when Somoza is in power, intervening when Chavez is in power but not when, for instance, Jimenez is in power. Both of them were darlings of the International Monetary Fund, a solid pillar of exploitation. 

Iraq 

            Right now the major arena is Iraq, the coming arena may be Iran. One particularly gifted journalist, Andreas Zumach, has written an article saying that for the Iran war everything is prepared. It is totally wrong to assume that because the US has problems in Iraq it will not attack Iran. I will also say that it is totally wrong to assume that the US is losing in Iraq. You will only assume that if you assume that the major goal of the United States is a cohesive Iraq entity that has some semblance to parliamentary democracy. If you look at the real goals, oil and military bases, they may ever be winning. There could be an oil law, the chances that it could be passed are not that small. And it is the Paul Bremer concept they are working on that essentially presupposes that the oil resources are put on the global market, bought up by the 5 big companies, with 100% repatriation of profit. 

            It is sometimes pointed out that the US Empire is not colonial. That is correct. They had colonies in the past, after they in 1898 stepped into the Spanish empire and acquired some major indigenous problems. One interesting thing about colonialism, however, is that it gave colonizers some paternalistic sense of responsibility that you can forget about when it comes to what’s going on under imperialism. 

            Let me just add one point to that. I find the idea of pulling out of Iraq one of the most cowardly, dishonorable ideas I can imagine, so let me immediately formulate an alternative. Shed the uniform, and start helping the Iraqi people you have brutalized. Compensate, apologize, you have a lot of infrastructure at your disposal, you US army could still do a decent job. And one of the worst proposals in addition to that is to say “Just go to your bases and stay there”. Those bases are for the coming war with SCO, that’s why they are there. Have a look at the analysis of the length of the runways and you will see the purpose behind them. 

            Let me come back for a second to the idea of pulling out, which in my mind is such a bad idea that we could expect it from the US. What it means is that you pull out so that you don’t suffer any humiliating defeat. You make yourself unavailable for defeat. I can understand the reason, it is not difficult. The 30th April 1975, the humiliating defeat in Vietnam became a major trauma. To avoid that situation is the priority of course, pulling out better than to continue killing, but, I just think one should call a spade a spade, and no way I see cut and run as peaceful action. We shouldn’t, I would say, contaminate the concept of peace with cowardice, trying to “save face” after having killed 750’000 so far. Multiply that by 10 for the bereaved–the persons who feel the loss of a friend, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a child, a parent, a colleague, a neighbor–multiply 750’000 by 10 and you have an estimate of the hatred that has been created. Add to that the 4 million who are displaced, some of them among the 7,5 million I just mentioned; and add to that the psychosis induced in the high number of US military who have been to Iraq; and add to that the about 25’000 wounded who have come back to the US and you may probably add 10% of them dying. The definition of a person of the US army personnel killed in the war is that he dies in Iraq, that means “Put them on the plane get them to Walter Ried as quickly as possible, don’t let them die in Iraq”. I am not saying that to get somewhere closer to realism when discussing this enormity. 

            Why don’t the USA with some allies win? Because they are against an enemy that is unconquerable, and why is that? Because of “asymmetric warfare” is too sterile. Of course they are using “improvised explosive” devices against these sophisticated things that the US army used. But they have two more arms at their disposal: time and space. 

            An unlimited time perspective. There is no point called “capitulation” in their rules, that can just be forgotten, it belonged to the old days. We are dealing with a type of warfare where what used to be called the weaker party has any amount of time at its disposal. These people are trained in fighting a government empire for 400, 500 years, like the Serbs were fighting the Turks for 500 years. The Orthodox, among the three Christianities, have a time perspective very similar to the Islamic one. I don’t think you will find 500 years patience in Washington, maybe not even 5 months for that matter. 

            And, they have space, there are 57 members of the OIC, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. 56 of them are states, number 57 are the 160 million or so Muslims in India. Most of the borders of the 56 countries are drawn by the West; they are borders that make no sense to Islam at all. That doesn’t mean there are no fault lines inside Islam. More important than Shia-Sunni is probably Arab-non-Arab. The non-Arab countries are in the majority, of the 56 only 22 are Arab. Of the 1.350.000.000 Muslims, 300.000.000 are Arab. If the Arabs feel that the religion is essentially theirs, then they are in a minority position. That is becoming something interesting, and of course the US plays on those fault lines. It seemed to work as long as they were dealing with Khomeini, he is a Shia, the “bad” Islam. But, bin Laden, a Wahab, was a Sunni, and didn’t look much more attractive than Khomeini. So something went wrong somehow with that Harvard University distinction. 

            Harvard University, by the way, is the university that by far has contributed most economists to the neo-liberal attack on humanity. Like Jeffrey Sachs, a major person in the destruction of Bolivia and of Russia, and now proceeding to the whole world. He has changed his rhetoric, even humanized the rhetoric. But if we look at the measures, they look very much like what he did to Bolivia and Russia. 

            Having said that, if you have time and space on your side, then you are dealing with enormous resources. In principle, the whole Islamic world is on the other side. This constitutes the “Clash of Civilizations” that Samuel Huntington’s publisher stole from Bernard Lewis, a far more important intellectual, professor at Princeton University, and a major advisor to Cheney. One of those who, more than anybody else, has whispered in Cheney’s ears “Attack Iraq!”. Everybody is blaming Samuel Huntington, best read the book, you’ll find almost nothing about civilization. Read Bernard Lewis, and you will find quite a lot, particularly about Islam. 

            It is a complete mistake to talk about this as a civilizational-religious clash only. It’s economic, military, political, it’s the full house. The more one says the “clash of civilizations”, the more is one inclined to forget the economic, political, military interests hidden underneath. It must be wonderful for Washington to have all this clash-of-civilization-talk and establish 14 military bases, and then try to put your paw on all the oil. “Keep them discussing civilization”. And this of courseis why we need the concept of imperialism, because it is holistic, one reason why the concept does not have a very high standing in the USA. The war of state terrorism against terrorism is an elitist warfare against peoples warfare. The people’s war is close to unbeatable, but it may take time. That holds for Iraq and it holds for Afghanistan. Anybody who knows a little bit of the history of Afghanistan and the British attacks in 1838 and 1878 and the Soviet attack in 1978, also know how it ended; with humiliating defeats. The one in 1878 ended even with the massacre in the British embassy in Kabul in 1883. I think they would have wished for good life insurances for those people. 

            How is it possible to enter a thing when so much knowledge would indicate otherwise, with all these negative indicators? Is it permissible to be that ignorant of history? To deny entirely a whole lot of facts that nevertheless somehow play a role? I myself think we give much too much credit to facts, but some facts are quite useful. It tells a lot to have a President who has both ignorance and denial fitted into his mental framework, but I would warn strongly against associating the calamity with Bush alone. 

            The US empire is resting on a deep structure and a deep culture. Let me take the deep culture first. There is both Chosenness, the vision of past and present glory, and a strong sense of trauma. There is Dualism, Manichaeism, and the sense that Armageddon will solve it. But, this is no Republican monopoly. It is found in both corporate parties, with some fringes that feel some uneasiness. And, of course, of those, the Republicans have suffered the humiliation of losing the elections. But the two parties re-cohered, voted for the “surge”, voted for 100 billion more money, adding some clauses. In other words, we are faced with a Republican Democrat entity, a Repucrat, Repurat, whatever we want to call it; a single-party coalition with two wings. That was the bad news, the good news are the 50% who don’t vote. Somewhere in those 50% there is a solution, not as one person. In other words, there is good news and bad news. 

            How does a person like Andreas Zumach, very well informed, think that the war against Iran will be? It could be based on a provocation, constructed, fake and false. Like Racak in Kosovo. A Finnish forensic specialist has now released her report which was silenced by Joschka Fischer at a critical moment, and the report on Racak is very clear: there was a gun-powder slam, but, the slam was on their hands and not on the neck. In other words, it was on those who had been shooting, not on the executed victims. Killing had been done in an ordinary manner and they then assembled the corpses and lay them out. They need a US ambassador to make that, it bears the stamp of William Walker. The total number of killed in Kosovo was not 150’000, but 8’000 over the years, 5’000 Albanians and 3’000 Serbs. I am just saying that because we have been treated to lies, and if there is the war against Iran it will be initiated by lies. To propagate those lies we have the corporate press, meaning press owned by the corporation. Information is easily arranged. 

            From the plans that have emerged it looks as if the 100’000 targets have been identified in Iran. These targets include not only some nuclear arrangements, but the total military infrastructure of the country, that means any kind of center of command, naval points, air bases, anything that has to do with missiles. But that would only amount to one half of the 100’000 targets, the other targets would be anything that has to do with civilian infrastructure in the sense of railroads, airports, roads of course, sewerage, bridges, canals or watering, electric power plants, anything that keeps the civilian population going. Starting at 5 am some morning, 100’000 targets, in association with Israel. As far as I understand the Iranian counterattack will be considerable. I don’t know, but I could guess there could be dirty bombs inside the US, ignited by remote control. Only an idiot will use missiles. They will of course use totally different methods. So I mention it as an example of what we may be facing. 

Afghanistan 

            In March I was invited to give a talk for three ministries in the UK, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry or Department of Defense, and the Department for International Development (DFID). It was organized by the latter. I was a little surprised when I was asked to give the keynote address, and in the chair was the former Foreign Minister. The keynote was about Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. And since I have just been mentioning Afghanistan, let me say some words about what I saw as possible solutions. The basic point I have just made: you can forget any possibility of winning. You may have a lull, and God bless you when it comes to what happens after the lull: Osama bin Laden. You can also forget calling your enemy Taliban, Talib means “student”, it’s a highly anti-student type of word, you can forget about that too. We are essentially dealing with the Afghan people. I remember a discussion I had myself in that meeting, with an Afghan general. He gave a talk about how many small weapons he had confiscated, 90’000, and how his forces were fighting. And I said to him “General, tell me a little bit more about that fighting”, and he looked at me and said, “Of course it doesn’t work. I cannot ask my Afghan troops to kill Afghans, it makes no sense for them. The Russians, no problem.” He didn’t say, but he was thinking “Americans, no problem”, but that was not politically correct at such a conference in London. I will never forget how the twinkle in his eyes met with the twinkle in mine, twinkle meets twinkle, and we understood each other perfectly. 

            The 5 points that would give a solution to Afghanistan would be the following from the TRANSCEND mediation in Peshawar in February 2001. 

1.         Make a Coalition Government with the Taliban. 100% Taliban is intolerable. But the Taliban has a moral fiber, which most others don’t have. If you eliminate them you will get heroin and corruption and not much more. They are needed. 

2.         Afghanistan is the material from which a Federation is made, not a unitary state, even if the Northern Alliance based on Tadjiks and Pashtuns with Kabul in the middle, count for half. There are at least ten others. To call potential Prime Ministers “warlords” is an insult. You have to be very much removed from reality to believe that by insulting them you can eliminate them or make them your friends. 

3.         A Central Asian Community surrounding Afghanistan with the countries that contribute to the national mosaic that is Afghanistan, the Pashtuns from Pakistan, the Tadjiks from Tadjikistan and the Dari-speaking from Iran, and so on and so forth, would make a lot of sense. That will include Kashmir, and Pakistan, and Iran. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has almost realized it. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization does not publish much, but moves in very, very clever, slow, movements. It moves so slowly that the journalists do not discover it, because it would have to move from day to day in order for a jour-nal to record it. 

4.         Make Basic Needs the leading line of the Government policy. That means food, education, health, clothing, whatever is needed for the somatic human being, shared by all, and available to men and women alike. That last problem can only be solved on a Quranic basis, and is being solved in a number of Islamic countries. One of the most interesting solutions was by Saddam Hussein, number 3 of the 14 good things he did. He told the Iraqi women, “From tomorrow on you decide whether to wear the hijaab or not. Only you. And if anybody tries to change your view come to me.” Now, to come to Saddam Hussein was not a very appetizing invitation, so this was definitely under threat, but it worked. It created a very, very vibrant group of women in Iraqi society. That of courseis now all disappearing. 

5.         Security, provided by cooperation between the UN Security Council and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The UN Security Council has a veto nucleus of 4 Christian powers, and one Confucian. It has no legitimacy whatsoever in the Muslim world, that has to be understood. To believe that one can organize a UNSC-sponsored security operation in a country that hates the UN, not only because of the composition of the Security Council, but for having killed 1 million through the Iraq sanctions, is naive. And they gave a very clear expression for their hatred by killing the Secretary-General’s representative in the Iraq UN building. It doesn’t help much to call the people who did it “extremists”. In the war we had against the German occupation in Norway, the people who did violent acts were extremists, and most people were sitting on the fence, applauding. But, don’t be confused, don’t call the fence-sitters moderates. They were waiting for the wind to blow a little bit more clearly and then jumped down taking a clear stand. 

            With those 5 points, I think one could arrive at something. It is not for us to impose any solution on anybody, and TRANSCEND in this case was essentially the Canadians. I was an adjunct. One of them was an Afghan Canadian, Seddiq Veera, of considerable diplomatic acumen. When that report was read in front of the working groups, a former Cabinet Member said “This is the best I’ve ever seen, the only problem is it has no chance… Why, because,” he added, “the Americans will attack us in October 2001, because they want to control pipelines, and they want bases.” So I asked him, “How do you know that?”. And he said, “Would you mind coming to my room this evening?” The room was very dark, and had a considerable amount of electronics, and quite good assistants who were very discrete, and he presented quite a lot of very interesting pictures. “When the Americans attack in October, they will put their military bases exactly here”, he took a map and put his finger exactly where a major base is today. You will of course remember that this was to be exact seven months before 9/11. 

            But having said that, the question comes up: “How does one move a plan like those 5 points?” Well, the reports from the conference, with the keynote address, is there, circulated to all kinds of governmental circles, not only in England. I don’t know, but we need a better dissemination technique. The corporate press will do their best to deny us that access, because we are uncontrollable, unpredictable. And I think they want it to remain like that, and so do we. 

3.         Nations and States Contradiction: 200 States, 2000 Nations 

            Let me go on to number three, very briefly, 200 states, 2000 nations. In Kosova they are now practicing the principle of self-determination. They are not practicing it in Republica Srpska, they are not practicing it in Transdniestria, they are not practicing it for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. They are practicing it where they want to practice it. What TRANSCEND tries to do is to open the space between independence and unitary states. And we have a lot of research done and a lot of experience when it comes to the range of in between points. And the three best known points are of course federation, confederation and devolution. Those are in-between parts. We did not have any success so far in Sri Lanka. The parties are not convinced that they can win, but they are convinced that they can deprive the other side from winning. Not quite the same, but almost equally good. If both of them want to deprive the other side of winning it can go on for a considerable amount of time, because you won’t even have the mechanism of victory or capitulation which sets some full stop, for some period. They needed of course the cease-fire agreement brokered by the Norwegian government in order to arm and re-deploy, and both parties make use of it. During that period, there was not a single serious effort to solve the conflict; certainly not by the Norwegian government, nor by the others. A very sad picture. And I’m afraid that whatever beautiful peace-building efforts one can make, it has limited impact. There has to be a solution. The good news from my own experience: the moment you do have a solution, it is incredible how much bad sentiment and behavior can evaporate quickly because the solution is there. 

4.         Cultural Contradiction: Islam vs Christianity 

            Number four, the cultural one. Imagine that you take the TRANSCEND 5 point diagram and you simply say Islam hates Christianity, wants to kick it out, and Christianity hates Islam, wants to kick it out. That formula is called intolerance. We are against that. There is the neither/nor possibility they may both conclude that there is something crazy in both religions. Let us turn to Buddhism, or let’s become secular. Secularism, I think, can partly be traced back to the 30 years war in Europe (1618 – 48). I don’t have the historical evidence, but I have at least the hypothesis that a high number of people came to the conclusion that if these are two Christianities that both define themselves as the only correct one, and that’s the way they treat each other, there must be something basically wrong in the whole Christian message. At the time, they did not have alternative religion, so they turned to secularism. 

            Secularism supported itself as science, and they fell into a very deep dark hole. Science, as you know, is based on data as the ultimate arbiter between hypotheses. But, data come from the past. In opting for science you give the past practically speaking 100 percent of the power. I have been struggling almost all my life to develop epistemology that does not take that dramatic position, but maneuvering even-handedly between past and future. It means that you give the potential, the negatively non-existing, as much praise as the positively existing. The moment secularism allies itself with science, it allies itself with the past. It is very easy to understand why they do it: because they are Christians, maybe Jews, maybe Muslims, and God created the world, and if God is perfection then His work must also be perfection. To talk about an alternative future is to challenge the creation. Any alternative future from a science point of view is speculation. From that point of view Darwinism and intelligent design are very very similar. The driving forces are in the past. What could be a true global future of this relation? We should draw on the potential of future wishes, of the dreams and the wishes and the values as an equally important part of the intellectual enterprise, and here I am not with Noam Chomsky. Brilliant, he is a digger for facts, and I dig him too. But he is chemically free from any concrete, constructive and creative future. There isn’t one single idea except “writing a letter to your Congressman”. And he has proven again and again and again how futile that exercise is. He is called the major intellectual in the world. 

            So, having said that, I am very much attracted by a statement by an Iranian, and that statement by an Iranian is as follows. I will read it to you in English. It is the 14th Century Persian Sufi poet Hafiz and his ultimate words about the distinction and struggle between Christianity and Islam: 

            “I have learned so much from God that I can no longer call myself a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew. The truth has shed so much of itself in me that I can no longer call myself a man, a woman…”. 

            The latter is going a little bit too far, I’m not sure I can follow him into that! 

            “…An angel or even a pure soul, love has befriended Hafiz so completely, has turned to passion, freed me of every concept and image my mind has ever loved… man/woman, thing.” 

            And that is what I for reasons of time will say about number 5 on the list: 

5.         Sufism 

            It comes straight out of the Axis of Evil. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter of 18 pages to Bush, a little bit repetitive at times, but a fascinating letter. What an indictment of the Western civilization that they are not even able to answer that letter. Nobody is of course expecting any answer from George Bush, but he has a couple of people: couldn’t Condi try her hand at it for instance? I mean, she is a bright woman. Why not? 

            A quote from Daoism: 

            “Sharing the suffering of others, the life and joy of others. Use the good fortune of others as your own good fortune. View the losses of others as yours.” 

            This is “we-ness”, this is swinging in harmony, two persons, or, humanity swinging in harmony, sensing each other’s delight and suffering. Compare that with the profoundly egoistic lex talionis: “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” Why is it so profoundly egoistic? Because it ends up with my ego, somebody should do something good to me, but I’m so smart that I know that the best way to get that is to be nice to that person, you get much more from him with that method. If you treat him badly you might get nothing or worse. A light-year away from the Daoism of creating we’s. This is the kind of thing that I find fascinating in connection with religion: it is not neither/nor, it is not the compromise, it is not one dominating over the other. Better, try to take the both/and, pick up the gems from all of them, make them coalesce, cohere somehow! A fascinating challenge, a little bit ahead of its time, or then maybe not. Maybe a lot of people think that way, it only has to be released, perhaps, in public space. 

6.         The US Empire 

            Let me introduce number 6, with a quotation from the South African Nobel Prize winner in literature J.M. Coetzee. Absolutely brilliant. The essay he wrote and published in 1974, when he was 34 years old, was about South Africa and the Vietnam War. He wrote a statement about the USA, putting it in the working of a specialist in a U.S. think tank in California, southern part. The project he is working on is how to break the wild of the Vietcong, and substitute for Vietcong goals goals that are compatible with the sincere US love for the Vietnamese people. He writes: 

            “If the Vietnamese had come singing towards us through the hails of bullets, we would have knelt down and embraced them.”

            If they can come singing through the hails of bullets. A good way of putting it. Yes, if only it’s exactly what happens. The idea that we can bomb the people into submission, and make them love us, is insane. When the Germans were “bombed into submission”, it actually strengthened the Nazi party. What then happened to the Germans was something else. At a certain point they realized that their whole project was doomed, the whole Nazi project was wrong wrong wrong. They were not taught a lesson by being bombed. “If only they would come singing through the hail of bullets, we would go down on our knees and embrace them.” The perception of their own project came from the inside. What Coetzee leads up to is psychosis, diagnosis maybe a combination of narcissism, megalomania and paranoia, maybe with elements of a fantastic detachment from reality. But we are not dealing with psychopaths, we are dealing with socio-paths. Maybe lovely individuals, but with an image of the world totally devoid of any humanitarian reality when those attacked refuse to do what Reagan said when he was entering a helicopter, in connection with Nicaragua. “Mr. President, what do you want them to do?” “All I want them to do is to say ‘Uncle'”, meaning “I submit.” 

            It doesn’t work like that with a deep culture and a deep structure at work. US political science and US economics have no concept of history, and, it seems, only two concepts of structure, hierarchy and anarchy. If you come from a Nordic country, or from the European Union, you have no problem what equity is about, even if I had to make up the word “equiarchy”, to add to hierarchy, polyarchy and anarchy. Their only approach to equity was and is the signed agreement, contract, regardless of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th level consequences. Similarly, solution to them means settlement, a signed document, and I would argue it isn’t good enough, solution is deeper. 

            So how is the US Empire performing these days? There are 15 contradictions at the end in the hypothesis made in the year 2000. Let me say what the basic theory is about. An Empire is a transborder arrangement that combines economic, military, political and cultural power. It’s an enormous power display that obviously brings with it contradictions. Contradictions are problems you cannot solve unless you change the system, but you can coexist with a couple of contradictions. When the contradictions start multiplying, synchronizing and synergizing, they become serious. 

            For the Empire people hit by an Empire start understanding that they have a common cause: get rid of the Empire – like colonialism, like slavery. 

            I can now pick up some of them, such as the amount of Euros passing the Dollars in circulation last December, Toyota passing GM in January, and you have the number of patents in the world with the US proportion sinking in comparison with other countries passing the US in one domain after the other. There is all of this happening, and much much more. 

            Let me point to a key factor. It hasn’t happened yet. But, many Europeans have felt bothered, and the moment they meet people in the Iraqi resistance movement and they compare notes, a sense of a common cause may start arising. If I now take all of these 15 points, some of them also inside the US, and Americans also sense that they are better off without the US Empire, the moment that common cause factor comes about, the US Empire is doomed. That is what happened to the Soviet Union. My prediction made in 1980 was that the wall would fall before 1990 and that the Soviet Empire would follow and they performed on time. The prediction of the US Empire is by 24 October 2020, the UN day and also my 90th anniversary, and you are all invited to celebrate. And let us combine it with a TRANSCEND meeting, but we need to make a jump, because they are now in odd years. 

What comes after the U.S. Empire? 

A.        The European Union as Successor 

            And then what? Three possibilities. 1) A Successor Country or Countries, 2) A Regionalizing World, 3) Another Globalization. Let me say a couple of words on all three. And you will take note, of course, that the end of an Empire is the most natural thing in the world. Empires come and go, it’s been like that all the time. No empire lasts forever. However, this one happens to be so brutal, so killing, so intervening, doing so much damage that you would expect it to be more short-lived than many of the others. It didn’t have the decorum and the sense of responsibility sometimes exercised by the English and the French, to a large extent by the Spanish, to a minor extent also by the Dutch, much less by the Portuguese and the Belgians. You will of coursealso remember that the Portuguese in Brazil, with the US, were hanging onto slavery more than any other. So there is a tradition here. 

            But leaving that point aside, I think China is one of the least likely successor candidates. On my list, candidate number one is the European Union. You need a sense of universalism, China has nothing of that. They are still convinced that it is surrounded by barbarians. They are willing to buy quite a lot. The annual global income is 54 trillion dollars, and China’s reserves are more than one trillion. The US currency reserves right now amount to 47 billion, which is nothing. That means when you want 100 billion for more fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to take more loans. That they get those loans is something still a little bit strange, but they do pay something in return, namely access to the US markets. So, having said that, a likely successor is the European Union, very universalist, with the 11 major colonial powers all members, and all concerned about their part of the world. And they are willing to say “I’ll not protest if you do something in your part if you’ll not protest when I do something in my part”. It is European political common market. There is much more to the European Union, but this is one important aspect. 

            We had a conference on peace studies in Hull in England one week ago, about democracy and peace. And I launched the idea of the European Union as a successor, after 19 reasons why the hypothesis of “democratic peace” is false, even a fraud, but I leave out all of that. The point I’m making is simply that the European Union has the deep culture and the deep structure it takes to become an empire. There were protests to the effect that there was no such plan also from Members of the European Parliament. Back then, a German from the European Commission raised his hand and said: “I’ll tell you one thing, I work in the European Commission, but occasionally I go over to the Council of Ministers and whenever I am in the building, so many of the people walking around are in uniform, they suddenly disappear into some room, and it is very clear that the doors are closed.” There is of course also the Tindemans plan, and the Tindemans plan is exactly what they need for that successor purpose. So let me proceed to what I think is most likely, regionalization. 

B.        Regionalization 

            We have 4 regions or maybe 5, EU, AU, SAARC and ASEAN. Number 5 is the G8, it’s not contiguous, but it doesn’t have to be contiguous to be a region. And we have 4 regions that are coming, and they have one thing in common: they are not going to ask Washington for permission. 

            The first one is the Estados Unidos de America Latina y el Caribe, the United States of Latin America and the Caribbean. The common currency will be a Bolivar. Nine of the countries met in La Paz in December and drew up the basic plans for the Charter. A basic pattern of thinking is what they call a “social economy” and about that one I will just say one or two lines. When sanctions came to Cuba in 1960, or 1961 rather, the only trading possibility was with the Soviet Union, meaning sugar in return for shoddily manufactured goods. The Soviet Union collapsed, so did the trade, and Washington was already looking forward to the collapse of Cuba. What did they do then? First of all they switched to organic agriculture to be self-sufficient. In industrial products, they have enormous shortages, but they have some trade possibilities. And then you would immediately say that it was obvious, but not everybody thought about it. “We have human material, let us process that human material to as high a level as possible.” That started university education to an extent unknown in most other countries, with a science and training center outside Havana for the training of doctors, dentists, engineers, social workers, educators, teachers of all trades. Thousands and thousands of them, ready to go to Latin America. But they didn’t have the money till Chavez. He had the money, and a messianic complex. He is the Messiah with a budget. Imagine Jesus Christ with an oil budget? You see the triangular theme? Chavez pays Cuba for providing the manpower for lifting the bottom level of those 9 countries, starting with the slums, and they pay Chavez a certain allegiance to the Estados Unidos, which is evolving everyday today. Venezuela then, a couple of weeks ago left the World Bank and the IMF. You cannot leave it unless you have paid all your debts and Venezuela paid them some time ago. The other countries cannot leave because they haven’t paid their debts, so Venezuela is going to pay their debts for them. The Messiah with a budget. The difficulty of it is, that Messianism might go to his head and make his populist democracy, as opposed to the usual Latin American elitist democracy, similar to people’s democracy in Eastern Europe, as opposed to any democracy. As it is obvious I like his policies, I would hate to see that happen. 

            The second one is an Islamic community from Morocco to Mindanao. 1’300’000’000 Muslims crossing almost 1’300’000’000 Hindus, from Nepal to Sri Lanka, like two highways, but at the same level. A major potential for a major conflict, making small riots in India look microscopic. I use that as an exercise for diplomats and say, “Please come up with 5 solutions for this one”. 

            Third, an East Asia Community, without Japan and with India, possibly combined with SCO. 

            And fourth, possibly, Putin could pull it off, but he may not be the man for it, is a Russian Union with a Chechnya having as much autonomy as the Netherlands in the European Union. Today widely off the mark. Tomorrow? Maybe. It would be widely in Russia’s interest. The problem is that Putin came to power by being anti-Chechen. So, let us see. Maybe somebody can come to power by being pro-Chechen. 

            In a regional world we do not have any guarantee for peace. As a matter of fact, the country that will benefit most from the decline and fall of the US Empire will be the US Republic. They may start sleeping well at night, and they might use their enormous natural and human resources for innovative projects and their capacity for cooperation, all of that, for better purposes, and make a decent country out of the USA. 

C.        Another Globalization 

            That means of course a stronger UN with globalization through the United Nations. I was advisor to the Commission for Global Governance. They had a lot of good ideas whose time had not come, so let me just say the three that for me are most important. 

            Abolish the veto power. They may meet, in the G8, but put their agenda on the UN agenda, and if they don’t like what they come up with, outvote them by expanding the Security Council to 54 members like the Economic and Social Council, and see to it that all parts of the world are there. That’s point one. 

            Point two, democratize the United Nations. They can mobilize an enormous amount of initiatives through a democratic United Nations. Maybe with one representative for each 1 million inhabitants, some say for each 10 million. 

            And, point three, take the United Nations out of the United States and put it somewhere else. Put it in a more friendly environment. This can all be done within a span from 5 to 20 years. If democracy is such a good idea, then why not practice it? 

            My own book on The Decline and Fall of the US Empire–And Then What? is scheduled for next Spring. The book on alternative economics is also for next year, and so is the book on deep culture. Books, books, books, what matters more is peace, peace. 

            So let me end by simply saying that I was asked to say something on the state of the world. I’ve done that. And, if anybody can come up with ideas on how to speed up constructive, creative, concrete development, please don’t hesitate! 

            Thank you.
Johan Galtung, Dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies; Founder, TRANSCEND, a peace and development network ( www.transcend.org )

15 contradictions of the US 

ECONOMIC 

1.         Between growth and distribution: overproduction, 1.4 billion below 1 dollar a day, 100’000 die a day from preventable and curable diseases and 25’000 from hunger; 

2.         Between productive and finance economy: currency, stocks, bonds, overvalued, crashes, unemployment, contract jobs, not positions; 

3.         Between production/distribution/consumption and nature: ecocrisis, depletion/pollution, global warming; 

MILITARY 

4.         Between US state terrorism and terrorism: blowback; 

5.         Between US and allies: except UK-Germany-Japan, allies will say “enough”; 

6.         Between US Eurasia hegemony and Rus-Chindia triangle with 40% of humanity; 

7.         Between US-led NATO and the EU army: a Tindemans follow-up; 

POLITICAL 

8.         Between USA and the UN: the UN ultimately hitting back; 

9.         Between USA and the EU: vying for Orthodox/Muslims support; 

CULTURAL 

10.       Between US Judeo-Christianity and Islam: the UNSC nucleus has four Christian, and none of 56 Muslim countries; 

11.       Between US and the oldest civilizations: Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Aztec, Inca, Maya; 

12.       Between US and EU elite cultures: France, Germany etc. 

SOCIAL 

13.       Between state-corporate elites and working classes of unemployed and contract workers; the middle classes? 

14.       Between older generation and youth: Seattle, Washington, Praha, Genova and ever younger youth. The middle generation? 

15.       Between myth and realities: the US dream and US reality.

UN warns it cannot afford to feed the world

July 17, 2007

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UN warns it cannot afford to feed the world

By Javier Blas and Jenny Wiggins in London

Published: July 15 2007 22:01 | Last updated: July 15 2007 22:01

Rising prices for food have led the United Nations programme fighting famine in Africa and other regions to warn that it can no longer afford to feed the 90m people it has helped for each of the past five years on its budget.

The World Food Programme feeds people in countries including Chad, Uganda and Ethiopia, but reaches a fraction of the 850m people it estimates suffers from hunger. It spent about $600m buying food in 2006. So far, the WFP has not cut its reach because of high commodities prices, but now says it could be forced to do so unless donor countries provide extra funds.

Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, said in an interview with the Financial Times: “In a world where our contributions are holding fairly steady, this [cost increase] means we are able to reach far less people.”

She said policymakers were becoming more concerned about the impact of biofuel demand on food prices and how the world would continue to feed its expanding population.

The warning could re-ignite the debate on food versus fuel amid concerns biofuel production will sustain food inflation and hit the world’s poorest people.

The WFP said its purchasing costs had risen “almost 50 per cent in the last five years”. The UN organisation said the price it pays for maize had risen up to 120 per cent in the past sixth months in some countries.

Biofuel demand is soaking up grain production as is rising consumption in emerging countries for animal feed.

“We face the tightest agriculture markets in decades and, in same cases, on record,” Ms Sheeran said. Global wheat stocks have fallen to the lowest level in 25 years, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Ms Sheeran added: “We are no longer in a surplus world.”

Article Courtesy of Financial Times

Photo by Mike Wells, UK