Foreign Policy News Stories
Secret International Trade Agreement (MAI)
Undermines the Sovereignty of Nations
The apparent goal of the latest international trade negotiations
is to safeguard multinational corporate investments by eliminating
democratic regulatory control by nation-states and local governments.
The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) plans to set in
place a vast series of protections for foreign investment. It
would threaten national sovereignty by giving corporations nearly
equal rights to those of nations. MAI delegates from 29 of the
world's richest nations have been meeting secretly in France since
1995. A draft of their work was leaked in January of 1997. More
wide-reaching and one-sided than NAFTA or GATT, MAI would thrust
the world economy much closer to a transnational laissez-faire
system where international corporate capital would hold free reign
over the democratic wishes and socioeconomic needs of people.
Pushed by the International Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Council
on International Business, the major goal of the MAI is to safeguard
direct foreign investment, defined broadly as encompassing any
assets-factories, products, services, currency, stocks, etc.-which
may be located in one country, but owned by a company, corporation,
or individual in another country. U.S. direct foreign investment
alone has more than doubled in the last ten years.
Traditionally, foreign investment has involved enormous risk,
most notably in developing nations where the social, political,
and economic climate is not always as conducive to foreign investment
as corporations would like. Governments have commonly also put
into place tariffs and subsidies favoring their home economies.
These provisions shrink foreign profit margins and reduce the
dollar amount multinational corporations can take out of a host
The new and controversial MAI agreement requires "national
treatment" for all foreign investors. Governments will no
longer be able to treat domestic firms more favorably than foreign
firms. It will be illegal to implement restrictions on what foreign
firms can own. Subsidy programs focused on assisting and developing
domestic industries will be eliminated. Host nations will also
be liable and can be sued by corporations for lost competitiveness
and profits. There are no provisions for localized citizen and
community legal recourse.
The MAI will also have devastating effects on a nation's legal,
environmental, and cultural sovereignty. It will force countries
to relax or nullify human, environmental, and labor protection
in order to attract investment and trade. Necessary measures such
as food subsidies, control of land speculation, agrarian reform,
and the implementation of health and environmental standards can
be challenged as "illegal" under the MAI. This same
illegality is extended to community control of forests, local
bans on use of pesticides and hormone-induced foods, clean air
standards, limits on mineral, gas and oil extraction, and bans
on toxic dumping.
A telling example involves the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation's
suit against the Canadian government. A Canadian law bans the
use of MMT, a gasoline additive and known toxin which Ethyl produces.
Under the NAFTA protocols which serve as a "model for the
MAI," Ethyl is suing Canada for $251 million, arguing that
the regulation is unnecessary and violates their rights as a firm
under NAFTA. While still pending, the case is an excellent example,
and will test what corporations can claim as their rights under
transnational policies like NAFTA and GATT. MAI would go a step
further and allow corporations to directly sue any level of government-state,
municipal, or federal-for what they perceive as losses based on
legislative action, strikes, or boycotts.
Most at risk are developing nations and the natural resource
and common property resource base. MAI would seriously exacerbate
the pressure on undeveloped nations to deplete their own agricultural,
mining, fishing, and forestry assets. The conditions of the agreement
would undermine the capacity of local communities and municipalities
to govern sustainably and democratically.
First proposed by the World Trade Organization just after
the passage of GATT in 1995, MAI negotiations continue among the
member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD). The 29-member OECD, an association composed
of 29 of the world's richest countries, originated in the aftermath
of World War II to administer U.S. aid to Europe.
UPDATE by author Joel Bleifuss: ' The Multilateral Agreement
on Investment(MAI) has been described by Renato Ruggerio, the
director general of the World Trade Organization as 'the constitution
for a new global economy.' Yet this is a constitution that has
been written outside of the public gaze by anonymous trade bureaucrats.
And while there has been almost no citizen participation in the
process, the United States Council for International Business,
representing 600 corporations as the U.S. affiliate of the International
Chamber of Commerce, has been integrally involved in the MAI negotiations.
In fact the group has reported, that it has 'helped shape the
U.S. negotiating positions by providing business views and technical
advice on specific policy issues at regular meetings with U.S.
negotiators immediately before and after each MAI negotiating
"By late 1998, the negotiations at the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had reached an impasse.
Some countries thought that the World Trade Organization should
oversee implementation of the agreement, while others, principally
the United States, wanted MAI kept within the confines of the
much more exclusive OECD.
"The mainstream press has almost completely ignored the
MAI negotiations. MAI will likely only become a 'story' when the
negotiations are finalized and the treaty is submitted to the
Senate for ratification. And at that point there will be no room
for public or legislative discussion over what such a treaty should
entail. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch [Tel: (202)546-4996;
http://www.citizen.org] and the Preamble Center [Tel: (202) 265-3263;
http:// www. preamble.org] are the two organizations doing the
most to monitor the MAI negotiations and to raise public awareness
of how the treaty will affect the U.S. and world economics."
Monsanto's Genetically Modified Seeds
Threaten World Production
Over the 12,000 years that humans have been farming, a rich
tradition of seed saving has developed. Men and women choose seeds
from the plants that are best adapted to their own locale and
trade them within the community, enhancing crop diversity and
success rates. All this may change in the next four to five years.
Monsanto Corporation has been working to consolidate the world
seed market and is now poised to introduce new genetically engineered
seeds that will produce only infertile seeds at the end of the
farming cycle. Farmers will no longer be able to save seeds from
year to year and will be forced to purchase new seeds from Monsanto
On March 3, 1998, Delta Land and Pine Company, a large American
cotton seed company, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
announced that they had been awarded a patent on a technique that
genetically disables a seed's ability to germinate when planted
a second season. This patent covers not only the cotton and tobacco
varieties, but, potentially, all cultivated crops. Scarcely two
months after the patent was awarded, Monsanto, the world's third
largest seed corporation and second largest agrochemical corporation,
began the process of acquiring Delta Land and Pine and with it
the rights to this new technology.
It is noteworthy that the USDA stands to earn 5 percent royalties
of net sales if this technology is commercialized. Historically
the USDA has received government money for research aimed at benefiting
farmers, but recently the USDA has been turning more and more
often to private companies for funding. As a result, for the first
time in history, research is being done for the benefit of corporations,
sometimes in direct opposition to farmers' interests.
In an interview with Leora Broydo, Melvin Oliver, USDA researcher
on the patent-producing technique, stated that the research is
a way to put "billions of dollars spent on research back
into the system." When Broydo called back to ask exactly
whose billions would be recouped by USDA's patent, Oliver said
he had been instructed not to speak to the press any further.
Dubbed "Terminator technology" by Hope Shand of
the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), Monsanto's
new seeds have diverse implications, including the disruption
of traditional farming practices around the world, the altering
of the earth's biodiversity, and possible impacts on human health.
Monsanto has euphemistically called the process by which seeds
are disabled the "technology protection system." A primary
objective of Terminator technology is to grant and protect corporate
rights to charge fees for patents on products that are genetically
modified. Terminator technology offers no advantage by itself,
but when coupled with the production of the strongest, highest
yielding seeds, farmers may be compelled to buy single-season
plants. Due to the nature of modern farming, many farmers will
have little choice. Up to this point the boldest attempt at policing
crops has been made by Monsanto, who hires Pinkerton agents to
ferret out wayward American farmers who save patented soybean
seeds for reuse or trade. However, this method is minimally effective
in foreign markets.
Genetic engineering is still in its early stages and the effects
of flooding the environment with extensive transgenic monocrops
are unpredictable. Traits from genetically engineered plants can
sometimes be passed on to wild relatives in the area, causing
genetic pollution, which has the potential to alter ecosystems
in unknown ways for an indefinite period of time.
Terminator plants, if introduced on a wide scale, will effectively
constrict worldwide crop diversity by preventing farmers from
engaging in the seed selection and cross breeding that has, for
thousands of years, given them the ability to adapt crops to local
conditions. Crop uniformity increases vulnerability to pests and
disease and heightens the potential for mass famine.
UPDATE by authors Hope Shand and Pat Mooney: "[the] story
on Terminator seed technology alerted the world to a dangerous
new genetic technology that threatens to eliminate the right of
farmers to save seeds from their harvest. This technology offers
no agronomic benefit to farmers-it is designed simply to increase
seed industry profits by forcing farmers to return to the commercial
seed market every year.
"Terminator technology is a threat to global food security
because it is aimed for use in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,
where over 1.4 billion people-primarily poor farmers-depend on
"There is an avalanche of public opposition to this technology.
When we learned that Monsanto had entered into negotiations with
the USDA to obtain an exclusive license on the Terminator patent,
we launched an international email protest campaign on our Web
site. In recent months over 3,500 people have written to U.S.
Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman from 60 countries, urging
him to cease negotiations with Monsanto, abandon research on Terminator,
and withdraw patent claims that are pending in over 87 countries.
"The specter of genetic seed sterilization is so serious
that the world's largest network of agricultural researchers adopted
a policy in October 1998 prohibiting the use of the technology
in its Third World plant-breeding programs. India's agriculture
minister says he will ban the import of Terminator seeds because
of the potential harm to Indian agriculture. Terminator technology
is on the 1999 agenda of two United Nations agencies. Civil society
organizations and national governments aim to reject the Terminator
patent on the basis of public morality."
For more information: http://www. rafi.org.
UPDATE by author Brian Tokar: "The Ecologist magazine's
special issue on Monsanto has helped crystallize a growing, worldwide
opposition to the company's aggressive promotion of its genetically
engineered crop varieties. When The Ecologist's printer of 26
years refused to release the magazine and discarded 14,000 copies,
citing fears of a libel suit, the ensuing controversy helped contribute
to Monsanto's rapidly deteriorating image all across Europe and
worldwide. Public controversies over genetically engineered foods
have escalated throughout Europe, as well as in Latin America,
East Asia, and elsewhere. A farmers' movement in southern India
burned test plots of Monsanto's pesticide-secreting cotton in
November of 1998, calling for a worldwide campaign to 'Cremate
"The Ecologist story has received little play in the
United States, outside of alternative outlets such as Z Magazine,
the Multinational Monitor, and various electronic mailing lists
for opponents of biotechnology. Still, opposition is growing here
as well, and Monsanto has faced declining stock values and the
collapse of its planned merger with the pharmaceutical giant American
Farmers report persistent problems with Monsanto's genetically
engineered corn and cotton varieties, and there is growing evidence
that biotech crops contaminate neighboring fields with their pollen.
A new coalition of biotech opponents and environmental activists
in the Northeast has called for a nationwide campaign against
the sale of genetically engineered seeds."
New England Resistance Against Genetic Engineering c/o Institute
for Social Ecology P.O. Box 89, Plainfield, VT 05667 (802) 454-8493
Biodevastation Network c/o Edmonds Institute 20319-92nd Avenue
West Edmonds, WA 98020 (425) 775-5383 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gateway Green Alliance P.O. Box 8094 St. Louis, MO 63156 (314)
London-based genetics e-mail list: email@example.com
Campaign for Food Safety http://www.purefood.org
Rural Advancement Foundation International http://www.rafi.ca
U.S. Weapons of Mass Destruction
Linked to the Deaths of a Half-Million Children
For the past seven years, the United States has supported
sanctions against Iraq that have taken the lives of more Iraqi
citizens than did the war itself. The Iraqi people are being punished
for their leader's reticence to comply fully with U.S.-supported
U.N. demands "to search every structure in Iraq for weapons
of mass destruction." Ironically, 1994 U.S. Senate findings
uncovered evidence that U.S. firms supplied at least some of the
very biological material that the U.N. inspection teams are now
seeking. Although the United States defames the Iraqi government
for damaging the environment and ignoring U.N. Security Council
resolutions, it has itself engaged in covert wars in defiance
of the World Court, and left behind a swath of ecological disasters
in its continuing geopolitical crusade. Blum considers the U.S.
demands both excessive and hypocritical.
A 1994 U.S. Senate panel report indicated that between 1985
and 1989, U.S. firms supplied microorganisms needed for the production
of Iraq's chemical and biological warfare. The Senate panel wrote:
"It was later learned that these microorganisms exported
by the United States were identical to those the United Nations
inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare
program." Blum writes that shipments included biological
agents for anthrax, botulism, and e-coli. The shipments were cleared
even though it was known
at the time that Iraq had already been using chemical and
possibly biological warfare since the early 1980s. The Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Los Angeles reported in 1990 that more than 207 companies
from 21 western countries, including at least 18 from the United
States, were contributing to the buildup of Saddam Hussein's arsenal.
In one stunning incident in September 1989, according to Bernstein,
U.S. military officials invited several Iraqi technicians, along
with some 400 other participants from 20 countries, to attend
a crash course on how to detonate a nuclear weapon. The course
was held at the Red Lion Inn in Portland, Oregon. Sponsors included
several military agencies, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Honeywell,
Hewlett-Packard, and Sperry/Unisys, among others.
The sanctions imposed on Iraq are causing shortages of food,
medical supplies, and medicines. Since the war ended, more than
half a million children under the age of five have died. UNICEF
reports that 150 children are dying every day. Moreover, countless
have been caused by exposure to depleted uranium (DU) weapons
left behind at the end of Desert Storm. According to Space and
Security Neus, DU can be linked to birth defects known to be caused
by radiation exposure. In the last seven years the rate of cancer
among Iraqi children has increased dramatically. DU has a half-life
of millions of years. Attempts at cleanup will be largely futile
and are a low priority for a people faced with finding the basic
necessities of food and medicine. Iraqi children wade daily through
this poisoned "playground."
The United States holds the position that sanctions against
Iraq must continue until it can be proven that the country is
unable to build biological and chemical weapons. Noam Chomsky
observed in a 1990 PBS appearance that, since the 1940s, U.S.
foreign policy has been one of maintaining control over the abundant
energy resources in the Gulf region. Blum contends that the true
purpose of the sanctions is to ultimately oust Hussein from power
and lessen any threat to U.S. control of the region's oil resources.
UPDATE by author Dennis Bernstein: "As of this writing,
the United States and Great Britain have just concluded Operation
Desert Fox, a massive four-day bombing of Iraq, unleashing more
explosives on the country in 96 hours than during the entirety
of the 1991 Gulf War. The timing of the high-tech missile attack
was curious, to say the least. It began the day before impeachment
hearings were due to commence in Washington, DC and ended on Ramadan,
the Muslem high holy day.
"U.S. officials denied the assault was timed to distract
attention from Clinton's impending impeachment or to push the
process into a new congress with a slimmer republican majority.
Instead, they claimed the bombings were a result of a brand-new
UNSCOM report compiled by chief inspector Richard Butler, which
stated that Iraq failed to fully cooperate with U.N. inspectors.
But the bottom line of the Butler Report was that the overwhelming
majority of inspections were going forward with Iraqi cooperation
and that officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency received
'sufficient cooperation to carry out all the inspections they
"So then, beyond the obvious impeachment distractions
and the longstanding U.S. policy of dominating and controlling
Middle Eastern oil resources, why the desperate need to bomb now?
Critics and supporters of the bombing seem to agree that it was
an attempt to destabilize Iraq, so America's former good friend
and ally, Saddam Hussein, could be overthrown by CIA-supported
opposition forces. Defense Secretary William Cohen denied that
was the U.S. objective, but stated it would certainly be a welcome
outcome. The real significance of 'Made in America' is not only
that the U.S. and its allies played a significant role in arming
Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, but that those companies
and politicians that were responsible for this lucrative but deadly
policy were never held accountable. And there has been no attempt
to take them to task.
"'We know that, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, companies
in the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, Britain, and elsewhere were
providing technology and advice to the Iraqis,' said Middle East
expert, Phyliss Bennis. 'We don't know if that's still going on.
We don't know the sources because UNSCOM has been forbidden from
making that public. That has to change. If they were serious about
disarmament, rather than serious about providing justifications
for bombing, they would take up the disarmament issue in a regional
context and go after the suppliers,' said Dennis."
UPDATE by author most Rev. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col.,
USAF, Ret: "Few Americans are aware of the enormous human
toll of our continuing war against Iraq. Five months after the
publication of our article, the mainstream press reported Iraq's
'claims' of dying children and soaring cancer rates. But one TV
'expert' after another denied that depleted uranium could have
caused these effects. One said, 'After all, it's just what the
name says-depleted.' Another described it as just 'the scrap metal
left when you take out radioactive uranium.'
"The truth is, depleted uranium is just as radioactive
as 'natural' uranium. A11 that's gone is the U-235 isotope which
gives off excess neutrons required for a fission chain reaction.
The U-238 left gives off alpha particles, creating Thorium-234.
This, in turn, gives off beta and gamma radiation, creating Protactinium.
The chain continues through a dozen radioactive isotopes, finally
producing the stable element lead. Every hunk of depleted uranium
contains all these other radiation byproducts, with half-lives
ranging from a few millionths of a second to a quarter of a million
years. The stuff gives off every type of natural radiation, both
the beta and gamma rays-which attack the body from without, even
through clothing-and the alpha, which is deadly if ingested and
becomes trapped inside the body. What's more, it's water-soluble
and (unlike the plutonium in RTGs) capable of getting into the
food chain. And this Chernobyl was no accident!"
To learn more, see http:l/www.ramausa. org.ccnr.org, or http://www.
U.S. Nuclear Program Subverts
U.N.'s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
When scientists in India conducted a deep underground test
on May 11, it was seen as a violation of the United Nation's Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, two months before, the United
States carried out a test that went largely unnoticed by the American
media. Code-named "Stagecoach," the U.S. experiment
called for the detonation of a 227-pound nuclear bomb at the Department
of Energy's (DOE) Nevada Test Site, which is co-managed by Bechtel
Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and Johnson Controls. While perceived
as a hostile act by many nations of the world, government officials
claim that since it was a "subcritical" test, meaning
no nuclear chain reaction was maintained, it was "fully consistent
with the spirit and letter of the CTBT." Furthermore, they
claim it was necessary to ensure the "safety and reliability"
of America's aging nuclear arsenal.
Disputing this "safety and reliability" claim, foreign
leaders believe that "Stagecoach" was in fact designed
to test the effectiveness of America's weapons if, and when, they
are ever used again. Though India refused to sign the Treaty because
it wasn't comprehensive enough, the countries that did felt the
CTBT would halt new weapons development and promote the move toward
disarmament. The European Parliament issued an official warning
to the United States declaring that further experiments might
open the door for other nations to progress to full-scale testing.
Leaders from China and Japan also harshly criticized the United
States, calling for America to stop "skirting its responsibility
for arms reduction."
Underground experiments aren't the U.S. government's only
method of subverting the treaty, says The Nation. In July 1993,
Clinton introduced the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) which
allots $45 billion over the next 10 years to finance new research
facilities. Even when adjusted for inflation, this amount is larger
than the per-year budget during the Cold War when much of the
cost went to actually producing the nuclear arsenal. While the
CTBT prohibits the "qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons,"
this program will fund the building of nuclear accelerators, giant
x-ray machines, and the largest glass laser in the world.
One of the most controversial elements of the SSP is the Accelerated
Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), which is intended to develop
a "full-system, full-physics predictive code to support weapons
designs, production analysis, accident analysis, and certification"-in
other words, a virtual nuclear testing program. The ASCI will
create a $910 million network of powerful super-computers that
will allow scientists to continue developing and testing new weapons
without attracting the wrath of actual experimentation. Despite
this, DOE officials still insist the SSP was born only to maintain
the safety of the current stockpile.
Other government officials claim the U.S. nuclear policy is
heavily influenced by non-scientific factors. Referring to the
powerful nuclear lobby, one anonymous Clinton Administration official
explained that, "In order to get the treaty through Congress,
we had to buy off the labs." While the SSP may be viewed
as the U.S. "cost" of the Test Ban, further testing,
real or virtual, could have untold consequences for the world.
UPDATE by author Bill Mesler: "On December 9, the United
States Department of Energy (DOE) conducted its fifth sub-critical
nuclear weapons test at the Nevada test site. A DOE press release
claimed that the test was carried out to 'ensure the safety and
reliability of the stockpile without nuclear testing.' On the
same day as the U.S. test, Russia conducted a sub-critical test
at its site at Novaya Zemlya. In defending the experiment to the
press, Russian officials pointed to the U.S. test as proof that
sub-critical tests of nuclear weapons are permissible under the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
"There are no signs that either country will change its
policy on sub-critical nuclear testing. Nor does the DOE appear
ready to end other activities in the Stockpile Stewardship Program
(SSP) that violate the principals and goals of the CTBT. Many
American anti-nuclear groups remain reluctant to raise these issues
because they fear it will hamper already difficult efforts to
get the Republican Congress to ratify the treaty itself. Despite
overwhelming opposition to nuclear testing, the vast majority
of Americans remain ignorant of the controversy surrounding the
In August of 1999, on the anniversaries of the nuclear bombing
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Peace Action Network will hold a demonstration
at Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, to demand an
end to sub-critical nuclear testing and the SSP.
To learn more about this issue and what you can do to help
stop continued nuclear weapons testing, contact:
The Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Tel: (202) 289-6868; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace Action Network, contact Bruce Hall, Tel: (202)862-9740.
U.S. Tax Dollars Support Death Squads in Chiapas
On December 22, 1997, in the village of Acteal, in the highlands
of the Mexican state of Chiapas, 45 indigenous men, women and
children were shot as they were praying, their bodies dumped into
a ravine. Elsewhere throughout the state of Chiapas, unarmed indigenous
women face down armies "with fists held high in rebellion
and babies slung from their shoulder." In Jalisco, more than
a dozen young men were kidnapped and tortured. One of them, Salvador
Jimenez Lopez, died, drowning in his own blood when his tongue
was cut out. The group responsible for these and other atrocities
are allegedly members of the Mexican Army Airborne Special Forces
Groups (GAFE)-a paramilitary unit trained by U.S. Army Special
Mexican soldiers are being trained with U.S. tax dollars to
fight an "alleged" War on Drugs. The real motive driving
the U.S.-supported war, say peasant activists, is the protection
of foreign investment rights in Mexico. "In Chiapas, U.S.
tax money pays for weapons and military...to destroy a movement
for social justice...because it stands in direct opposition to
the right of international economic interests to maintain control
of our lives. Any such movement for greater economic justice and
political democracy means cutting into Wall Street's profits.
The call for democracy, liberty, and justice isn't good for business,"
says the Zapatismo.
The United States transfers aid to the Mexican military in
cash, weapons, and counterinsurgency training. The 1998 Clinton
Administration budget earmarked more than $21 million dollars
for the Mexican Drug War, including $12 million for Pentagon training
in "procedures for fighting drug traffic." Anti-drug
effort seems to continue to focus on the Chiapas region where
80 percent of the communities are in conflict zones.
According to the Zapatismo Papers (Wood), acts of inhumanity
by GAFE were led by Lt. Col. Julian Guerrero Barrios, a 1981 graduate
of the U.S.-sponsored School of Americas (SOA). Although it remains
unknown how many of the 15 soldiers charged in the Acteal incident
were trained at U.S. bases, the Pentagon has admitted that some
of the soldiers arrested were U.S. trained.
The number of Mexican military officers and personnel receiving
U.S. specialized training has been increasing significantly since
1996. According to a February 26 Washington Post report, the United
States is now training Mexican officers at a rate of 1,067 a year
at 17 bases. An estimated 3,200 Mexican soldiers will have received
training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina from the U.S. Army 7th
Special Forces (aka Green Berets) from 1996 through 1999. In the
past 18 months, 252 Mexican officers have taken a 12-week course
at Fort Bragg, also known as the "School of Assassins."
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is now training an elite
90-member intelligence unit, says Wood.
According to an article published by Slingshot in the summer
of 1998, Mexico's military purchases from the United States have
increased sharply since 1997. The Mexican government also wants
the people of Chiapas to become accustomed to, and even dependent
on, having the armed soldiers in their midst. The government has
been providing and withholding health care based on political
affiliation, and even resorting to involuntary sterilization.
Armed soldiers have blockaded clinics, preventing residents of
Zapatista communities from getting care. Harassment of foreign
visitors has increased, forcing human rights observers to keep
a low profile to avoid deportation. The war in Chiapas is not
an ethnic or religious conflict, says the Zapatismo Papers (Wood),
but rather "a conflict over the control of resources."
UPDATE by authors, Slingshot Collective: ''Since the article
'Mexico's Military: Made in the USA' appeared ... during the summer
of 1998, the U.S. military has trained hundreds of thousands more
Mexican officers in counterinsurgency tactics, which these officers
then use against Mexicans struggling for self-determination, all
under the guise of U.S. efforts against drugs.
"The U.S. government is so anxious to fight the War on
Drugs that they have waived any right to oversee how U.S. military
training is used back in Mexico. As a result, training that these
officers receive, supposedly to conduct anti-drug activities,
is being used to fight democracy advocates in Mexico. U.S. officials
admit that the 'counter-narco' training offered on U.S. bases,
like the School of the Americas in Georgia, and at Fort Bragg,
North Carolina in the 1990s, is highly similar to training in
'counterinsurgency' tactics, used in El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Nicaragua in the 1980s to fight communism during the Cold War.
"In testimony before the House International Relations
Committee Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on July 29, Joel
Solomon of Human Rights Watch recounted the results of this reckless
policy. The Mexican army, fighting the Zapatista resistance (EZLN)
in Chiapas, as well as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) in
Guerrero and Oaxaca, is increasingly guilty of gross human rights
violations. According to Solomon, there have been hundreds of
arbitrary arrests, forced confessions, temporary disappearances,
torture, and even extrajudicial executions as the Mexican military
has increased efforts against the EZLN and the EPR. Officers trained
by the U.S. military have been implicated in these violations,
including three senior officers listed in a letter by Rep. Joseph
Kennedy II (D-MA).
"Reports from Americans living in Chiapas and observing
the conflict zones describe how Mexican counter-drug agents accompany
patrols engaged in counter Zapatista raids against pro-rebel communities.
"Resistance to U.S. military training of Mexican officers
is increasing. On November 22 of this year, 2,319 nonviolent protesters
trespassed at Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the School of
the Americas (SOA), which is located there. Although the SOA is
now primarily training Mexicans, in the past the SOA has trained
military officers from all over the Americas, including the officers
who killed six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador in
1989, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, Nicaraguan General Anastasio
Somoza, and El Salvadoran death squad leader Robert D'Aubuisson.
"Most Americans don't support the use of U.S. tax dollars
for the kind of training found at the School of the Americas.
Only increased publicity about this issue, together with citizen
action, can stop U.S. training programs for Mexican armies."
Environmental Student Activists
Gunned Down on Chevron Oil Facility in Nigeria
On May 28,1998, Nigerian soldiers were helicoptered by Chevron
employees to the Chevron owned oil facility off the coast of Nigeria
in order to attack student demonstrators who had occupied a barge
anchored to the facility. After multiple attacks, two students
lay dead, and several others were wounded. The students had been
peacefully protesting at the site since May 25. One hundred and
twenty-one youths from 42 different communities had gathered to
oppose the environmental destruction brought on by Chevron's oil
For decades, the people of the Niger Delta have been protesting
the destruction of their wetlands. Discharges into the creeks
and waterways have left the region a dead land, resulting in the
Niger Delta becoming one of the most heavily polluted regions
in the world.
The students claim they had voiced their concerns many times
and had scheduled a number of meetings with the company, but the
meetings had been repeatedly canceled by Chevron. As a next step,
the students organized the protest around the Chevron barge in
order to draw Chevron's attention to the goal of environmental
According to student leader Bola Oyinbo, approximately 20
of the 121 students surrounding the barge in small boats went
on board to meet with a Nigerian Naval officer who was working
for Chevron. Oyinbo stated that the students wanted to speak to
a Mr. Kirkland, Chevron's managing director. Although the director
never came, other Chevron officials did arrive the next day and
promised to set up a meeting with the students at the end of May.
The students agreed to leave the barge on May 28 in order to attend
the proposed meeting.
As the students were getting ready to leave the barge, three
helicopters piloted by Chevron employees attacked the student
protesters. Oyinbo remembers the moment, "they came like
eagles swooping on chickens. We never expected what came next."
Soldiers in the choppers fired on students while in the air and
after landing. "They shot everywhere," he says. "Arulika
and Jolly fell. They died instantly. Larry, who was near them
rushed to their aid, wanting to pick them up, but he was also
shot." Eleven students were detained by the military group
and taken to Akure for prosecution. Chevron filed a complaint
against the group, saying they were pirates and should be interrogated.
During his imprisonment, one activist said he was handcuffed
and hung from a ceiling fan hook for hours for refusing to sign
a statement written by Nigerian federal authorities.
U. S. Media / Promotes Biased Coverage of Bosnia
In August 1992, media coverage of the civil war in Yugoslavia
gained unprecedented influence on military decision-making processes
in the West. Reports of horrifying conditions in camps run by
the Bosnian Serbs galvanized world opinion. A visit to the camps
of Omarska and Trnopolje by a British team from Independent Television
(ITN) on August 5, 1992, gave rise to the image of the Serbs as
the new Nazis of the Balkans. A widely published photo taken by
ITN pictured an emaciated Muslim behind barbed wire with comrades
imprisoned behind him. This famous photo became the symbolic link
between the Bosnian Serbs and the Nazi concentration camps of
World War II. International politicians sent troops into Bosnia.
A wave of sanctions against Bosnian Serbs were established. In
the United States, presidential candidate Bill Clinton took the
initiative in his campaign, making references to the ITN pictures
as he requested military action against the Serbs. The world became
convinced that Bosnia was full of "bad Serbs" persecuting
ITN's photo was not, however, as accurate as it seemed. The
men in the photo were not standing behind barbed wire. In fact
the Hague Tribunal confirmed that there was no barbed wire surrounding
the Belsen '92 at Trnopolje. ITN's photo was taken looking outward
from a small fenced enclosure inside the camp, not from outside
looking in as the photo implies. The emaciated Muslim shown with
his shirt off was in fact a very ill man selected to be featured
in the photo. The other men in the photo look healthier and are
clothed. Trnopolje was not a concentration camp, it was a refugee
and transit center. Many Muslims traveled there for protection
and could leave whenever they wished.
While the coverage of this image was not directly responsible
for international diplomacy and military planning, it was the
trigger that brought on an avalanche of actions. This was aided
by Croatian secessionists and Bosnian Muslims who hired Ruder
Finn (an American public relations firm) to advance their cause
by targeting key publics in the United States who would respond
appropriately to their demonization of the Serbs. Ruder Finn focused
their public relation releases to target women and the Jewish
community in the United States. The Western press was soon filled
with stories of rape camps, death camps, and horrendous attacks
by Bosnian Serbs with little or no verification of particular
events, and little coverage of the Bosnian Serb side of the war.
As the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina got underway in mid-1992, American
journalists who repeated unconfirmed stories of Serbian atrocities
could count on getting published. On the other hand, there was
no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that Serbian
"rape camps" did not exist (German TV reporter Martin
Lettmayer). Nor was there a market for reporters who wrote stories
about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs (Belgian journalist
Georges Berghezan). It became increasingly impossible to challenge
the dominant interpretation in the major media. Western editors
seemed to prefer to keep the story simple: one villain and as
much blood as possible.
Foreign news has always been easier to distort. TV crews sent
into strange places, about which they know nothing, send back
images of violence that give millions of viewers the impression
that "everyone knows what is happening," and an aggressor
is easily identified as the evil villain in need of the discipline
of outside moral authorities.
UPDATE BY AUTHOR DIANA JOHNSTONE: "The truth about Yugoslavia
may well be the most important censored, self-censored, distorted,
and misunderstood story, not only of 1998, but of the whole decade.
A drastic critical reevaluation is urgently necessary to prevent
even greater disasters in the foreseeable future-notably in Kosovo.
There, the one-sided anti-Serb bias has given both Albanian and
Serb residents the impression that NATO is ready to support armed
ethnic Albanian secessionists.
"Not only mainstream media, but even alternative outlets
have turned down stories that fail to fit established stereotypes.
However, even when journalists produce balanced reports, the effect
is often offset by extremely biased editorials, cartoons, and
commentaries, not to mention statements by Western government
officials deliberately exploiting a troubled situation in order
to justify a new expanded mission for NATO.
"By the end of 1998, it was clear that the conflict in
Kosovo was merging dangerously with the debate over NATO's new
strategy, with both scheduled to dominate the news in the spring
of 1999, when NATO's 50th anniversary meeting appeared destined
to coincide with the spring offensive of the armed ethnic Albanian
separatists in Kosovo.
"There is no quick fix for understanding this story.
A vast amount of information is available, but it takes time,
experience and above all judgment to sort out truth from falsehood,
and to evaluate the meaning of events. An excellent current source
of information about Kosovo is the Web site of the Decani monastery:
UPDATE BY AUTHOR THOMAS DEICHMANN: "Since the publication
of my article there have been few discussions in the media about
it. Many editors ignored the story. Supportive comments often
were overwhelmed by smear articles coming mostly from the London
Observer and Guardian that questioned my professional and personal
integrity. Despite the slurs, no evidence disputing my story has
"ITN chose to use the repressive British libel laws to
keep my story under wraps in the U.K. The writ threatens the very
existence of LM magazine which published my piece. This action
is a serious threat to the freedom of the press. Since the writ
was served, the plaintiffs have done little to get the case to
court. The many delays suggest that ITN is reluctant to do so.
LM has already spent around £50.000, and is anxious to start
the proceedings so all matters can be up for public discussion.
"During the Bosnian war, some reporters started following
a morally-driven agenda. My article invited a discussion about
how this dangerous trend has started. From the response to my
piece however, it is obvious that I questioned an established
orthodoxy which is not allowed to be challenged.
"BBC world affairs editor John Simpson alluded to this
in his recently published book Strange Places, Questionable People.
With reference to my story and the anti-Serb media coverage of
intolerant liberals and right-wingers, he recalled Salman Rushdie's
remark that religious people have 'a God-shaped hole in their
lives.' Simpson concluded that 'one of the strangest coalitions
of modern times seems to have a crusade-shaped hole in their lives,
and Bosnia was cut and shaped to fit it.'
"You can find all information about my story and the
libel case, and about ways to support LM at: http://www. informinc.co.uk/ITN-vs-LM/.
You can contact LM at: Im@informinc.co.uk, Tel: (44) 171 269-9231,
Fax: (44) 171-2699235. A German website with the article can be
found at: http://www.novo-magazin.de/. If you want to get further
involved in the issue you can reach me at: Thomas. Deichmann@t-online.de."
Global Oil Reserves Alarmingly Overestimated
Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrere, two independent oil-industry
consultants, predict that global production of conventional oil
will start to decline within the next 10 years, and be unable
to keep up with demand. Their analysis contradicts oil-industry
reports which suggest we have another 50 years worth of cheap
oil to sustain us. As the independent report points out, economic
and political motives cause oil-producing companies and countries
to publish the inflated figure, and this affects all of us.
An estimate of existing oil reserves is one of the factors
used to predict the ultimate recovery of oil, that is, all the
c heap oil there is to be had. Even with modern technology, says
Scientific American, estimating reserves is an inexact science.
Petroleum engineers express reserves in terms of probability.
Geologists may calculate that an oil field has a 90 percent chance
of containing 700 million barrels of recoverable oil, but only
a 10 percent chance of containing 2,000 million barrels of oil.
Many companies and countries, however, freely report their reserves
using any figure between 10 and 90 percent depending on which
figures serve them best. For example, exaggerated estimates can
raise the price of an oil company's stock. Also, a government
may use inflated reserve estimates in order to enhance their political
clout and their ability to obtain loans.
Member nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) have an even more tangible reason to inflate
their reported reserve estimates: the higher their reserves, the
more oil they are allowed to export. This represents immediate
income for those countries. During the 1980s, 6 of the 11 OPEC
nations reported huge increases in their reserve amounts, ranging
from 42 to 197 percent. There is good reason to suspect that this
was done to increase their export quotas.
Many people believe that improved technology will get more
oil out of the ground. It will, but oil companies routinely take
improved technology into account when calculating reserve estimates.
Current calculations already include improvements in recovery.
Campbell and Laherrere's analysis takes other factors into account.
For instance, the rate of oil consumption has been rising at over
2 percent per year. The rate of discovery of new oil has been
declining. Large reserves of unconventional oil such as heavy
oil, tar sands, and shale oil exist, but it is not economically
feasible to extract them. Also, to do so might cause extreme environmental
damage. Tar-sand oil has to be strip-mined, and heavy oils contain
sulfur and heavy metals which must be removed.
Perhaps the biggest reason oil companies grossly inflate cheap
oil estimates is that it removes a major motivation to develop
alternative energy sources which would directly compete with oil
as an energy source The longer the oil companies (and countries)
lull us into thinking there is plenty of cheap oil available,
the longer we delay developing solar power, fuel cells and other
technologies that could replace oil.
UPDATE BY THE AUTHOR C.J. CAMPBELL: "'The End of Cheap
Oil" covered a subject of the utmost importance to our subspecies.
Hydrocarbon Man is today virtually the sole surviving human subspecies.
He was born 150 years ago and will have become extinct by the
end of the next century. The peak of oil production within the
next decade will be a turning point with immense political and
economic consequences. With about half of the remaining conventional
oil Iying in five Middle East countries, world tensions are likely
to erupt as the industrial countries vie with each other for access.
Failure to understand that depletion is a natural phenomenon may
lead to misguided military intervention.
"'The End of Cheap Oil' emphasized the atrocious state
of public data on production and reserves, which have been corrupted
by vested interests. Accordingly, the study evolves all the time
as new information on the status of depletion in different countries
comes in. The interpretation of the data is, however, simply a
case of solving the equation: Peak Discovery + Time = Peak Production.
"The article has been subject to comment in a wide range
of serious journals in many countries, including the Observer
newspaper of London, Barron's Science, Science News, Geopolitique,
and Die Stern. It has also led to lectures, seminars, and broadcasts.
Even aircraft manufacturers and Walt Disney have reacted, seeing
the impact on their businesses. But perhaps the most important
response is the position of the International Energy Agency, the
world's premier authority on energy supply, which has advised
the G8 of the impending peak."
Further information and updates may be obtained from Campbell
(etanjou@ perigord.com); Laherrere (j.h.laherrere @infonie.fr);
and http://www.oil.crisis. com/laherrere