• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 18 april 2015

Henk Hofland en de Massa 47


In De Groene Amsterdammer van 8 april 2015 begint Henk Hofland onder de kop 'Chaos als vijand' zijn column met de vermelding dat het

bijna 36 jaar geleden [is] dat in Teheran de gijzeling van de Amerikaanse ambassade door revolutionaire studenten begon.

Deze aanhef voert de mainstream-opiniemaker tot de opmerking dat:

In de Arabische wereld iedere vooruitblik een wankele speculatie [is] waarbij we met alles rekening moeten houden. Een oorlog tussen Iran en Saoedi-Arabië lijkt nu absurd. Maar hetzelfde gold vier jaar geleden voor de zelfverwoesting van Syrië. In deze Arabische wereld is steeds meer mogelijk.

om ten slotte te eindigen met de conclusie dat een oorlog tussen Saoedi-Arabië en Iran 'de mogelijke gevolgen' zullen zijn van een

plaatselijke conflict in Jemen: Iran weer op weg naar de status van kernmogendheid en het Westen in conflict met zijn grootste olieleverancier. Verder reikt onze verbeeldingskracht niet. Een groeiende chaos heeft één zekerheid: de verrassingen worden steeds groter.

Ervan uitgaande dat Hofland vanuit zijn verheven zetel hier niet de pluralis majestatis-vorm gebruikt, en namens zijn publiek spreekt, is zijn bekentenis dat 'onze verbeeldingskracht niet verder [reikt]' volkomen juist. De 'verbeeldingskracht' van hem en dus van zijn publiek 'reikt' inderdaad 'niet verder' dan het bekende simplistische beeld. De oorzaak is niet moeilijk te traceren: Hoflands visie wordt beperkt door zijn ideologische voorstelling van zaken, gekoppeld aan een chronisch gebrek aan kennis over de regio. Allereerst negeert de 'beste journalist van de twintigste eeuw' nog steeds het gegeven dat 98 procent van de Iraniërs geen Arabier is. Opgesplitst in etnische groeperingen bestaat de bevolking uit: 'Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%.' Dit mag een onbenullige fout van Hofland lijken, maar is het niet. Om zijn argumenten kracht bij te zetten bespeelt Hofland de bekende onderhuidse racistische sentimenten van zijn Nederlandse publiek. Dus suggereert hij dat Iran tot 'de Arabische wereld' behoort, waarvan 'de beschaving,' volgens hem, 'failliet' is. Dat het koloniale en neo-koloniale Westen hierbij al een eeuw lang een rol van betekenis speelt, verzwijgt de eminente polderjournalist. Geen woord van hem over de gewelddadige, door het Westen afgedwongen, Iraanse regime-change in 1953, toen de CIA en de Britse MI6 de democratisch gekozen regering van premier Mossadeq ten val brachten, nadat die de euvele moed had gehad de Iraanse oliebronnen te nationaliseren. Om te voorkomen dat de westerse belangen werden benadeeld steunden Washington en Wall Street het terreurbewind van de Sjah. Als we 'ons' even beperken tot het representatieve Iran: in zijn boek Iran. A People Interrupted (2007) wijst de Iraans-Amerikaanse Hamid Dabashi, hoogleraar aan de prestigieuze Columbia University in New York, op het overduidelijke historische en economische feit dat

the accumulated capital in major industrial economies has necessitated the ever increasing expansion of a global capitalism in which a few get incessantly richer, while the overwhelming majority get inevitably poorer by the day.

The mechanism that has globalized that accumulated capital and generated this global condition of calamity and destitution is called colonialism — whereby European merchants and Christian missionaries have got together with a good number of mercenary Orientalists and their counterparts among the soldiers of fortune and gone around the world ruling people, plundering their wealth, forcing them into slavery, writing a subservient history for them, and then telling them, in a good 'Christian manner,' to turn the other cheek. Colonialism is not accidental to the operation of accumulated capital but in fact definitive to it. The ideological disposition that has given universal validity, in moral and normative terms, to the global operation of capital is called modernity, and the way that much of the rest of the world has received this modernity must perforce be called colonial modernity.

Het onderscheid tussen 'moderniteit' en 'koloniale moderniteit' is voor de hand liggend: de 'moderniteit' in het Westen ging uiteindelijk gepaard met talloze materiële en geestelijke verworvenheden van de bevolking, terwijl de 'koloniale moderniteit' zich manifesteerde in de vorm van onderdrukking, uitbuiting en zelfs moord, tot aan genocide toe. Habashi:

At its European origin, Enlightenment modernity was a self-raising/other lowering project that, to benefit a small fraction of the world's population code-named 'Europe,' disenfranchised the overwhelming majority of humanity, which it called 'the Orient.'

De Europese moderniteit was en is, evenals het hele postmoderne Westen, 

at its core racist and essentialist, and as such excluded (not by omission but by a deliberate, Kantian and Hegelian, commission) the vast majority of the world,

waardoor er een scherpe scheiding ontstond tussen de rijkdom in het Westen en armoede in de rest van de wereld, zowel in het oosten als het zuiden. Opnieuw professor Habashi:

Capitalism from its very inception was contingent (mogelijk. svh) on the global circulation  of accumulated capital, cheap labor, raw materials, and expansive markets. The economic mechanism of that global operation of capitalism was ipso facto colonialism, which is in fact nothing but the abuse of labor by capital writ global. What we have in Iran, as indeed in much of the rest of the world, is thus not modernity but colonial modernity — and the difference here is between day and night. European modernity is not universal, and as we have received it, it is categorically European in its texture and disposition, and as such it has privileged a few, by giving them agency and endowing them with the primacy of reason and progress, at the horrendous cost of denying such prerogatives to the overwhelming majority of the world's population.

Om het zichtbare onzichtbaar te maken, draaien nu westerse mainstream-opiniemakers als Henk Hofland en Geert Mak de wereld op zijn kop, door te beweren dat het Westen, onder aanvoering van de VS, 'als ordebewaker en politieagent' functioneert en daarom 'vredestichtend' te werk gaat, terwijl in werkelijkheid wereldwijd een neoliberaal kapitalistisch systeem met massaal geweld werd afgedwongen, waardoor nu 85 miljardairs even rijk zijn als de helft van de mensheid tezamen. Door het verzwijgen van niet alleen de historische werkelijkheid, maar ook de huidige al dan niet geheime westerse interventies met hun 'legacy of ashes,’ om president Eisenhower te citeren, probeert Henk Hofland de situatie in het Midden-Oosten te verkopen als 'plaatselijke conflicten,'  die — buiten de schuld van het Westen — als 'mogelijke gevolgen' hebben dat 'Iran weer op weg naar de status van kernmogendheid' gaat 'en het Westen in conflict' komt 'met zijn grootste olieleverancier,' Saoedi-Arabië, waarbij geldt dat '[e]en groeiende chaos één zekerheid [heeft]: de verrassingen worden steeds groter.' Opnieuw doet Hofland het voorkomen dat er geen correlatie bestaat tussen de gewelddadige westerse interventies en de 'groeiende chaos' in het Midden-Oosten en de Maghreb. Dat beeld wordt door de 'politiek-literaire elite' bij het commerciële weekblad De Groene Amsterdammer klakkeloos als de hoogste waarheid aangenomen. Men negeert daarvoor het feit dat

The idea of anti colonial modernity is predicated on a fundamental contradiction at the heart of colonial at the heart of colonial modernity, namely a modernity that needed an extended colonial domain to have its moral and material disposition assayed and mapped out. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of this earth were promid=sed Enlightenment emancipation at precisely the moment that they were denied political agency.

Net als zijn Zweedse collega hoogleraar Sven Lindqvist in Exterminate All the Brutes constateert Hamid Dabashi in zijn boek Iran. A People Interrupted dat

[w]hat has triggered the European soul-searching of the terror of Enlightenment modernity, namely the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, has been definitive to the structural violence at the heart of European colonialism around the globe. Joseph Conrad's Kurtz in Heart of Darkness is the key iconic figure to that structural violence, linking the internal blind spot of Europe to its colonial savageries around the world. 

Het racisme is in de westerse cultuur volledig geïnternaliseerd. Het is ook niet vreemd dat geen enkele columnist van De Groene Amsterdammer 'allochtoon' is. Sterker nog: van alle redactieleden en columnisten van het weekblad is slechts één redacteur een 'allochtoon,'  zoals dit in Nederland zo stigmatiserend genoemd wordt. Kortom, gezien het feit dat '[z]o'n 21,4 procent van de Nederlandse bevolking allochtoon [is],' zouden er ten minste vier 'allochtoonse' redacteuren en columnisten bij De Groene werkzaam moeten zijn. Het feit dat dit niet het geval is vloeit voort uit het al dan niet bewuste personeelsbeleid bij dit weekblad, dat graag als progressief wil doorgaan. Het zal duidelijk zijn dat als de verhouding allochtonen en autochtonen zou worden recht getrokken, de columns van Hofland niet meer zo onweersproken zouden worden gepubliceerd, of dat in elk geval er een tegengeluid zou komen. (In dit verband is het kenmerkend dat ik geen enkele reactie van de redactie gekregen op de kritiek die ik, als collega, al anderhalve maand publiceer). Het is één van de symptomen van het diep verankerde institutionele racisme in Nederland. De Groene Amsterdammer is een blank weekblad, met blanke opvattingen, gemaakt voor en door blanken uit de middenklasse, het milieu waarin ik  me mij levenslang heb bewogen. Ik ken het racisme van dit milieu van binnen en van buiten. Ik weet tevens dat niets het onderhuids racisme van de Hoflanden en Makken kan bestrijden, omdat het niet rationeel is. Wat ik de zelfbenoemde 'politiek-literaire elite' verwijt is haar schrikbarend gebrek aan kennis en inlevingsvermogen. Het werk van Hamid Dabashi of Sven Lindqvist bestudeert zij niet. Haar oordelen zijn vaak uiteindelijk gebaseerd op vooringenomen sentimenten, niet op rationele argumenten. Wanneer Henk Hofland in De Groene voor de zoveelste keer Iran probeert te stigmatiseren door te stellen dat voor dit land het 'bezit van de kernbom onderdeel [is] van de Iraanse buitenlandse politiek die al jaren wordt gekenmerkt door het streven naar expansie zo niet een overwicht in de regio,' zonder erbij te vermelden dat na de westerse terreur en de Israelische dreiging met terreur het land volkomen terecht Washington en Brussel wantrouwt, dan is er sprake van eurocentrisch racisme.  De enige rationele conclusie is dat alleen het bezit van een kernbom een einde zal maken aan de westerse interventies. Dat is ook de reden waarom de nucleaire staten over kernwapens beschikken. Hofland is evenwel niet in staat zich in de positie van De Ander te verplaatsen, iets waarin de Adviesraad Internationale Vraagstukken wel is geslaagd. Zijn uit 2012 daterende 'Advies' aan de regering 'over het nucleaire programma van Iran' begint zonder omwegen met de volgende context:

Voor een goed begrip van de Iraanse politiek is het van belang de geopolitieke positie en het zelfbeeld van Iran nader te beschouwen. Iraniërs zijn door de eeuwen heen grootgebracht met een sterk historisch bewustzijn waarin de glorie van hun oude beschaving en de macht van het Perzische rijk centraal staan. Anderzijds hebben
de invasies van Mongoolse en Arabische legers door de eeuwen heen van Iran een natie gemaakt die wantrouwen koestert jegens de buitenwereld. Toch is Iran ondanks lange periodes van Arabische overheersing niet gearabiseerd en in staat gebleken zijn culturele eigenheid en trots te behouden. Door deze geschiedenis is een mengeling van een sterk gevoel van eigenwaarde en argwaan kenmerkend voor de houding van Iran tegenover de buitenwereld.1
In de moderne geschiedenis werd Irans soevereiniteit vooral ondermijnd door Westerse machten: eerst het Britse Rijk en Rusland die een onderlinge strijd over de hegemonie in Centraal-Azië uitvochten ten koste van Iran, vervolgens door de Verenigde Staten en de Sovjet-Unie die Iran tot speelbal maakten van hun Koude Oorlogsrivaliteit.De Irakese oorlog tegen Iran in de jaren tachtig van de vorige eeuw, gesteund door zowel diverse Arabische landen als Westerse mogendheden, heeft in belangrijke mate bijgedragen aan de vervreemding en het wantrouwen van Iran ten opzichte van zijn Arabische buren en Westerse mogendheden.3

In tegenstelling tot Hoflands hetze, sluit het officiële rapport met het de-escalerende advies:
De AIV adviseert het Nederlandse beleid in internationale fora te richten op voorgaande stappen naar de-escalatie van de nucleaire crisis rond Iran, en de band die de Nederlandse regering heeft met de regering van Israël te benutten om die regering te waarschuwen tegen de gevaren en averechtse gevolgen van een militaire aanval op Iraanse nucleaire installaties. 
Zowel de toon als de kennis van de AIV staan in schril contrast met de opgewonden hetze en het gebrek aan kennis van de éminence grise van de polderpers. Het zou de 87-jarige columnist sieren als hij het rapport van zowel de deskundigen van de AIV als de boeken van Hamid Dabashi alsnog leest. Dan zal hij bijvoorbeeld kunnen nadenken over de volgende beschrijving van de Iraans Amerikaanse hoogleraar, die vanuit kennis van zaken in het 'postscript' van Iran. A People Interrupted het volgende stelt:
An obvious and perfectly legitimate question to ask at this point is why the Islamists won the game, outmaneuvered all other possible and potential normative claims on Iranian cosmopolitan political culture and established an Islamic republic (and one might add here precisely at the moment that Fukuyama thought 'the West' had won the game). The most immediate answer is the sociological fact that the Shi'i clerics in particular have historically been closest to the poorest and the most disenfranchised, and because the secular left and liberal center could not break through the class barriers of their ideological formation. The success of the clerical class, because of its organicity with the urban poor and the impoverished peasantry, is tantamount to its destructive force in breaking down the organicity of the Iranian cosmopolitan culture into a retrograde clerical tribalism that then successfully subsumes and radically changes the face, the form, and even the substance of Iranian culture. 
Professor Habashi, auteur van 'highly acclaimed scholarly books and articles on Iran, medieval and modern Islam,' wiens werk in talloze talen is verschenen vat het probleem van Iran met deze woorden samen:
the triumphant clerical culture has no room for the secular, and the alienated secular no patience for the clerical, but if one were to take a step away from them both and look at the wider spectrum of Iranian culture, there is an evident cosmopolitanism that transcends and embraces them both, accounts for their fictive bipolarity, and can still include more.
Het cosmopolitische element van de Iraanse cultuur blijkt ondermeer uit het feit dat Iran het oude geloof inwisselde voor de Islam, en dat de invloed van de Perzische beschaving en iconografie op de hele regio buitengewoon groot is, zoals iedereen die door de buurlanden reist onmiddellijk opvalt. Maar omdat Henk Hofland, net als de overgrote meerderheid van de Nederlandse opiniemakers, te weinig heeft gereisd en zich te weinig heeft verdiept in andere culturen begrijpt hij niet welke krachten er allemaal meespelen. Hofland komt niet verder dan de beschuldiging dat het 'bezit van de kernbom onderdeel [is] van de Iraanse buitenlandse politiek die al jaren wordt gekenmerkt door het streven naar expansie zo niet een overwicht in de regio.' Het 'streven naar expansie' kan Hofland onmogelijk bewijzen, de feiten geven juist het tegendeel aan. En 'het streven' naar 'een overwicht,' roept de vraag op: so what? Welk bezwaar heeft 'onze' hoogbejaarde, die hemelsbreed meer dan 4000 kilometer van Teheran af woont, dat Iran, met zijn millennia-oude beschaving, 'een overwicht in de regio' heeft? Alleen vanwege een hogere olieprijs? Of dat daarmee de macht van Washington en Wall Street afneemt? In Europa hebben Duitsland en Frankrijk al lange tijd een 'overwicht' en dat beschouwt Hofland als doodnormaal. Zoals uit de geschiedenis blijkt kan Iran bogen op een veel kosmopolitischere cultuur dan bijvoorbeeld het naar binnen gekeerde provincialisme van het zionisme dat op een agressieve combinatie van superioriteitsgevoel en  minderwaardigheidscomplex is gefundeerd. Maar over dit alles zwijgen Hofland en alle andere mainstream-praatjesmakers in de polder domweg omdat zij niet geïnformeerd zijn en met hun pedante gekwek in Nederland wegkomen. Habashi:
That cosmopolitanism is the modus operandi of the anti colonial modernity that has been the result of more than two hundred years of fighting against colonialism, wherein a new historical person has been born who is neither European in modernity nor Islamic (Oriental) in the presumptions of any tradition — but a historical person with at once local and global agency, and in this particular case with a proverbial Persian accent to her or his prose and poetry of dissent and defiance. 

Moskee van Isfahan. 

Als blanke Europese woordvoerder van de economische elite zal Hofland zich nooit verplaatsen in de positie van de onderdrukte, waardoor hij ook niet kan beseffen dat de 'single most definitive fact of our lives, over the last two hundred years has been our consistent battle against the colonial and imperial domination of our destiny,' aldus Dabashi. Hoe moet de intellectueel gecorrumpeerde spreekpop van de 'masters of the universe' beseffen dat 
Our modernity, as a result, is not attained via a borrowed piece, or a stolen page, of a promissory note from European Enlightenment; for ours is a modernity that we have earned on the battlefields of our anti colonial struggles, a struggle we have shared with our neighbors and comrades from Asia to Africa to Latin America, with comrades in the equally brutalized sites internal to the so-called cosmopolitan West.
Hoe waar deze woorden zijn, demonstreert, of all people, Henk Hofland zelf. Het wil niet tot zijn botte hersenen doordringen dat wanneer hij het nazi-bombardement op Rotterdam kwalificeert als 'één van de grootste misdaden' in de geschiedenis, precies hetzelfde opgaat voor de Amerikaanse bombardementen op Hiroshima, Hanoi, Bagdad, Afghanistan, Irak, Libië en de toekomstige bombardementen op bevolkingscentra, die Hofland in De Groene Amsterdammer impliciet aanprijst als de, ik citeer: 'Libische manier.' Hoflands autisme verhindert hem in te zien dat volgens het internationaal recht en de moraliteit zijn 'Libische manier' een even 'enorme infame daad' is als het bombardement op Rotterdam. Het enige verschil is dat vandaag de dag de burgerslachtoffers veel talrijker zijn dan op 10 mei 1940. De Derde Wereld is inderdaad 'equally brutalized' door de westerse koloniale machten, inclusief Nederland, en dit alles met steun van de 'vrije pers.' Niets heeft Hofland en zijn claque van de Tweede Oorlog geleerd, behalve dan misschien dat als zij harder meppen dan hun tegenstander, zij winnen, maar dat is niet meer dan de wijsheid van de mafiosi. Niet alleen zitten 'we' in de polder nu opgescheept met een misdadig politiek regime, dat vanuit het Pentagon, Wall Street en het Witte Huis wordt aangestuurd, maar bovendien met een tot op het bot moreel gecorrumpeerde zelfgenoegzame 'politiek-literaire elite.' Zij is intellectueel geenszins voorbereid op de grote omwenteling waarvan het begin zich al voltrekt. Ik eindig deze aflevering met de scherpzinnige Hamid Dabashi wiens laatste woorden van zijn boek Iran. A People Interrupted de volgende zijn:
The abiding fact that determines the cosmopolitanism I propose here and shapes the anti colonial modernity that becomes the breeding ground of historical agency is history itself. For much of the rest of the world, those with the patience of a solemn river running quietly through the elongated valleys of any notion of home and habitat, history has not ended. For them history has just begun — for they have just entered it, for they never exited it. Them is also us — for the anti colonial modernity I propose here embraces as much the disenfranchised and radicalized minorities within the so-called Metropolitan West as much as it does the rest of the world — and thus the only way that Americans can help promote democracy in Iran or anywhere else in the world is by first and foremost restoring and safeguarding it in their own country.
Hofland was de journalist van de bloedigste eeuw in de geschiedenis. Om de economische belangen van de westerse metropolis te dienen, werd met grof geweld de periferie onderdrukt en uitgebuit, en gingen de koloniale machten op zoek naar Lebensraum  elkaar afslachten. Inmiddels is het Westen niet langer meer de enige metropolis. In het oosten is een nieuwe economische macht opgestaan. Het enige dat Hofland kan doen, is naar het koloniale verleden verlangen, maar meer ook niet. De ondergaande zon kan men beschrijven maar niet tegenhouden, merkte Kierkegaard eens op. Sommige fenomenen zijn zo eenvoudig om te begrijpen dat het verbijsterend is hoe stupide de polder-intelligentsia kan zijn. De stem van Hofland is die van de periferie geworden. 'We' leven in de 21ste eeuw. Volgende keer meer. 

Geen Jorwert Zonder Brussel 28

Rights groups: EU leaders don’t care about drowning immigrants

  
7
Coffins of dead migrants in Lampedusa. [European Commission] 
Rights groups lashed out at the EU on Wednesday for scrapping rescue operations in the Mediterranean, saying it had endangered the lives of thousands of desperate migrants making perilous journeys across the sea.
The criticism came as the Italian coastguard said that no more survivors had been found from a shipwreck off the coast of Libya on Sunday, which may have killed 400 people.
"European governments' ongoing negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015," Amnesty International said in a statement.
"How many more people have to die before European governments acknowledge that relying on a patchwork quilt of resources for search-and-rescue operations is not enough?" the group's Gauri Van Gulik said.
The EU stopped funding Italy's Mare Nostrum rescue mission last year, in favour of the surveillance patrols currently being carried out by its border agency, Frontex.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that Europe should do more to end the wars that led people to embark on the world's most deadly smuggling route.
Italian coastguard spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said that even before the latest sinking more than 500 migrants, many refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, had died so far this year trying to cross to Europe.
In a particularly tragic twist to Sunday's tragedy, the boat appears to have overturned because of the excitement caused by the sighting of rescuers.
Survivors who were brought to Italy told charity workers that as many as 400 others perished.
According to the International Organization for Migration, which has interviewed some of the survivors, between 500 and 550 people, many of them young, were crammed onto the vessel at the time.
The charity Save The Children said some were thought to be unaccompanied children.
6,500 migrants in two days 
Italian coastguard vessels, which intercepted 42 boats on Sunday and Monday alone carrying 6,500 migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing to Europe, confirmed that they had saved 145 people from the sunken boat and found nine bodies.
Coastguard Commander Filippo Marini told AFP that they had not found any more "survivors or anything else which would indicate more victims".
He said he could not exclude that more lives had been lost, and said the kind of vessel from which the 145 were rescued usually carried many more people. Search operations were continuing in the area on Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch researcher Judith Sunderland stated that "The intolerable number of victims is only going to grow if the EU does not guarantee rescue operations in the Mediterranean."
'A global issue' 
Without mentioning maritime rescue efforts, Mogherini said: "There are instruments the European Union has that can be used more and better."
She was referring to the Dublin Convention, which determines which EU state should be responsible for each refugee.
With conflict and crisis acting as "the root cause of people deciding to risk everything and travel", she also said that rising unrest, and a lack of policing in Libya, was contributing to the surge in people smuggling to Europe's coastlines.
"The majority of the flow goes through Libya, which means that the other... thing we have to do is try to solve the Libyan crisis," she said.
Calling for "more solidarity" among EU states in dealing with the influx, Mogherini said the surge was "a global issue that we cannot pretend not to see".
Italian authorities say that more than 15,000 migrants have arrived so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year, and an average of 25,000 each month between June and September.
Italy is divided over what to do with refugees and migrants once they arrive on its soil.
The interior ministry has ordered regional prefects to find emergency housing for 6,500 migrants -- a move condemned by the opposition, which argues that the policy of rescuing immigrants encourages others to attempt the risky sea journey.
Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigrant Northern League, on Tuesday urged local officials not to cooperate.
EXTERNAL LINKS: 

Fossil Fuel Jump 2

ENVIRONMENT

With Fossil Fuels the Focus of First 100 Days, New Congress Has No Results to Show


The 114th Congress has focused on divisive anti-environmental proposals that the American public widely opposes.
Photo Credit: Georgie Pauwels/Flickr
In the first 100 days of 2015, the new Congress has cast more roll call votes on energy and environmental issues than on any other legislative area, with the Senate casting 44 percent of its votes on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline; efforts to block action to reduce carbon pollution; proposals to sell America’s public lands; and other fossil-fuel and energy-related legislation. However, not one of the energy- or environment-related bills and amendments on which the new Congress has voted has become law.
Whereas congressional leaders often aim to achieve signature legislative achievements during their first 100 days, the energy and anti-environmental agenda of the 114th Congress has come off the rails before leaving the station. The Senate and House devoted weeks of debate to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, knowing full well that President Barack Obama would veto the legislation if it were sent to his desk. Moreover, rather than advancing and voting on the stated energy priorities of the new congressional leadership, a Center for American Progress analysis of roll call votes shows that this Congress has instead focused on divisive anti-environmental proposals that, according to public opinion research conducted by Hart Research Associates for CAP in December, the American public widely opposes.
 
House and Senate roll call votes
The 114th Congress has cast a total of 279 roll call votes, more than 30 percent of which were on energy- and environment-related topics. In the House, more than 17 percent of votes focused on energy and environmental issues, the lion’s share of which was aimed at blocking efforts to address climate change. In the Senate, 59 roll call votes were on energy and environmental issues, well ahead of the number of votes dedicated to economic, health care, and national security issues combined.
The high number of votes cast on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline—8 in the House and 22 in the Senate—is consistent with now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) December pledge to put the controversial pipeline at the top of the agenda for the new Congress. Yet the Senate has also cast dozens of votes on other energy and environmental issues, including 18 roll call votes on whether to preserve or weaken protections for public lands, wildlife, and clean water. In fact, the Senate has cast more votes—five—to remove protections of wilderness areas, block new parks, and sell public lands than it has votes—four—to address defense, veterans, and transportation issues combined.
CAP’s analysis found that on 74 percent of the energy and environmental votes since the start of the new Congress, a majority of senators supported the anti-environment position. On 8 of the 11 votes related to climate change, a majority of senators supported the anti-environment position. Following Sen. McConnell’s vow “to do any and everything I can to stop” the Environmental Protection Agency’s, or EPA’s, efforts to cut carbon pollution, 49 senators—all Republicans—voted to deny that “climate change is real” and that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” A majority of senators also voted to block President Obama’s agreement with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions, though the proposed amendment did not receive the 60 votes required for passage.
A Senate agenda that is off the rails
In 2013 and 2014, coal, oil, and gas companies spent more than $720 millionto help ensure that a new Congress would advance an agenda focused on fossil fuels. That investment paid off in a big way, with the November midterm elections sweeping in conservative majorities in both houses. The incoming chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), pledged to prioritize a wishlist of fossil-fuel industry priorities, including fast-tracking U.S. oil and natural gas exports, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and opening new areas for offshore drilling.
Although Sen. Murkowski has begun to hold committee hearings on some of the priorities she outlined in a 2013 policy paper and in January comments, she has endured setbacks and is experiencing slow progress in at least three key areas. The first of these areas is oil exports. In January 2014, Sen. Murkowski delivered a high-profile speech that called for the lifting of oil export restrictions, but since taking over the chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she has taken a self-described “methodical” approach to the issue. An amendment to lift oil export restrictions was pulled from the floor in January out of concern that it did not have enough votes to pass.
The second area is natural gas exports. Sen. Murkowski’s committee held a hearing in January on the subject, but a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to expedite liquefied natural gas exports failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass. The third area deals with allowing oil and gas development in new areas. Neither Sen. Murkowski’s committee nor the full Senate has voted on legislative proposals to open new federal lands offshore or onshore to oil and gas development. The oil and gas industry claims that this is one of its top priorities, notwithstanding the fact that energy companies are sitting idle on 21.9 million leased acres of federal lands onshore and 26.9 million leased acres of federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf.
With the exception of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and failed attempts to block the Obama administration’s efforts to cut carbon pollution, Senate leadership has dedicated little time and few resources to advancing its top-tier energy priorities. Instead, a review of Senate hearings and floor activity reveals that Sen. Murkowski and other Senate leaders have gotten sidetracked by a series of highly partisan and divisive anti-environmental legislative proposals. News accounts have documented Sen. Murkowski’soutrage at the Obama administration’s protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, including threats to cut the Department of the Interior’s budget and force layoffs of park rangers in retaliation against the administration. Sen. Murkowski subsequently brought amendments to a vote in the Senate that would release wilderness-quality lands in the lower 48 statesfrom wilderness protection and facilitate the sale or transfer of public lands to private or state ownership. The December public opinion research shows that the concepts reflected in Sen. Murkowski’s amendments against public lands, along with other anti-wildlife and anti-public land amendments brought to a vote on the Senate floor, are unpopular with voters of all parties.
Leadership needed
With the failure of the new Congress to enact any of its top energy priorities in its first 100 days, congressional leaders will now have to decide how to get their energy and environment agenda back on track. Continuing to focus on dismantling protections for public lands, clean air and water, and wildlife appears to be a deeply unpopular and losing strategy, particularly in the Senate. Meanwhile, the big-ticket priorities of the fossil-fuel industry—including expanding oil exports, blocking the EPA from cutting carbon pollution, and expanding onshore and offshore drilling—have thus far not acquired the momentum or political support needed to pass.
Congressional leaders will need to forge an alternate path of consensus building and bipartisanship if they hope to achieve meaningful legislative results. Expanding renewable energy production, for example, is a top priority for both Republican and Democratic voters, according to the December public opinion research. Likewise, a broad bipartisan majority supports new protections for parks, wilderness, and public lands. The new Congress would be wise to reset its direction on energy and environmental issues and to tie its agenda to the priorities expressed by the majority of the public rather than those of the fossil-fuel industry.
Note: Authors’ analysis of roll call votes is based on a review of records collected by the clerk of the House and the Senate bill clerk and compiled by the Library of Congress. The information is available on the Library of Congress website at Congress.gov.
Matt Lee-Ashley is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Public Lands at the Center for American Progress.
Claire Moser is a Research and Advocacy Associate with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress.

Robert Parry 30


How Ukraine Commemorates the Holocaust


Exclusive: Pundit Thomas Friedman says the new Ukraine regime “shares our values” but – as much of the world marked the 70th anniversary of the Nazi Holocaust finally being ended by Russian and U.S. armies – politicians in Kiev were busy honoring Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators, writes Robert Parry.


The U.S.-backed Ukrainian government came up with a curious way to commemorate the 70thanniversary of the Holocaust being brought to an end. The parliament in Kiev voted to extend official recognition to Ukrainian fascists who collaborated with the Nazis in killing Jews.
Though Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. media continue to dutifully ignore the key role played by neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s February 2014 coup and in the post-coup regime’s subsequent military offensives against ethnic Russians in the east, Ukrainian politicians can’t stop their arms from snapping into Heil Hitler salutes like the fictional character Dr. Strangelove. They can’t hold back this reflex even as the world stopped this week to recall the Nazi barbarity that claimed the lives of some six million Jews as well as other minorities.
Peter Sellers playing Dr. Strangelove as he struggles to control his right arm from making a Nazi salute.
Peter Sellers playing Dr. Strangelove as he struggles to control his right arm from making a Nazi salute.
On April 9, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill making the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army eligible for official government recognition, a demand that has been pushed by Ukraine’s current neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movements, the same forces that spearheaded the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and then the slaughter of thousands of ethnic Russians who resisted the new order.
Ukraine’s honor-the-Nazi-collaborators vote came amid increased repression of opposition politicians and journalists who dare to criticize the U.S.-backed regime as it moves to repudiate the political settlement envisioned by February’s Minsk-2 agreement and instead prepares for a resumption of the war to crush the resistance in eastern Ukraine once and for all. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s ‘Poison Pill’ for Peace Talks.”]
Emergence of ‘Death Squads’
Over the past several months, there have been about ten mysterious deaths of opposition figures – some that the government claimed to be suicides while others were clearly murders. It now appears that pro-government “death squads” are operating with impunity in Kiev.
On Wednesday, Oleg Kalashnikov, a political leader of the opposition Party of Regions, was shot to death in his home. Kalashnikov had been campaigning for the right of Ukrainians to celebrate the Allied victory in World War II, a gesture that infuriated some western Ukrainian neo-Nazis who identify with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich and who now feel they have the current government in their corner.
On Thursday, unidentified gunmen murdered Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina, a regime critic who had protested censorship being imposed on news outlets that didn’t toe the government’s propaganda line. Buzina had been denounced by a pro-regime “journalistic” outfit which operated under the Orwellian name “Stop Censorship” and demanded that Buzina be banned from making media appearances because he was “an agent of the Kremlin.”
This week, another dissident journalist Serhiy Sukhobok was reportedly killed in Kiev, amid sketchy accounts that his assailants may have been caught although the Ukrainian government has withheld details.
These deaths are mostly ignored by the mainstream U.S. news media – or are mentioned only in briefs with the victims dismissed as “pro-Russian.” After all, these “death squad” activities, which have also been occurring in government-controlled sections of eastern Ukraine, conflict with the preferred State Department narrative of the Kiev regime busy implementing “democratic reforms.”
But many of those “democratic reforms” amount to slashing old-age pensions, removing worker protections, and hiking the price of heating fuel – as demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $17.5 billion bailout for Ukraine’s collapsing financial structure.
Similarly, the decision by the Ukrainian parliament to bend to the demands of neo-Nazi and other ultra-right groups to honor Ukraine’s World War II fascists is also downplayed or ignored by the major U.S. media.
The Holocaust in Ukraine
During World War II, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, an offshoot of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, collaborated with the Nazis in their orgy of mass murder against Jews, Poles and other minority groups. The UIA also joined with the Nazis in fighting against the Soviet Union’s Red Army, although some UIA elements did ultimately turn against the Germans over their occupation of Ukraine.
Ukraine was the site of several major Holocaust atrocities including the infamous massacre at Babi Yar in Kiev, where local Ukrainian fascists worked alongside the Nazi SS in funneling tens of thousands of Jews to a ravine where they were slaughtered and buried.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned Ukraine’s recognition of the UIA as well as a second bill that equated Communist and Nazi crimes.
“The passage of a ban on Nazism and Communism equates the most genocidal regime in human history with the regime which liberated Auschwitz and helped end the reign of terror of the Third Reich,” said Wiesenthal Center director for Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff, adding:
“In the same spirit the decision to honor local Nazi collaborators and grant them special benefits turns Hitler’s henchmen into heroes despite their active and zealous participation in the mass murder of innocent Jews. These attempts to rewrite history, which are prevalent throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, can never erase the crimes committed by Nazi collaborators in these countries, and only proves that they clearly lack the Western values which they claim to have embraced upon their transition to democracy.”
Not Seeing Nazis
Despite propaganda efforts by the Obama administration and the major U.S. news media to play down western Ukraine’s legacy of Nazi collaboration, one of the heroes honored during the Maidan protests, which led to the Feb. 22, 2014 coup, was Stepan Bandera, an OUN leader who worked with the Nazis before falling out with them over issues of Ukrainian independence.
After spearheading the 2014 coup, the neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist militias from western Ukraine were enlisted as the shock troops to attack ethnic Russian cities in eastern Ukraine, which had been the political base for ousted President Yanukovych. Even though some of those militias sported Swastikas and SS symbols, the mainstream U.S. news media either ignored those inconvenient realities or acknowledged them in the final paragraphs of long stories. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]
The recognition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was demanded last October by Ukraine’s right-wing and neo-Nazi groups, including the Svoboda party and the Right Sektor, which surrounded the parliament in Kiev with 8,000 protesters.
At that time, with U.S. officials sensitive to the image of the Ukrainian government caving in to rioters carrying neo-Nazi banners, the legislation was defeated. However, in recent weeks with the Kiev leadership leaning more heavily on the neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists to carry out the war against ethnic Russians in the east, more concessions are being made to the extremists.
Lurches to the Right
These lurches to the right have again been largely ignored by the mainstream U.S. media, which continues to blame the ethnic Russians for not submitting to the post-coup regime in Kiev and to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin as the supposed instigator of all the trouble.
But the Jerusalem Post noted, “While Jewish worries over anti-Semitism have been on the back burner due to the war [in Ukraine], several recent developments have shown that antipathy toward Jews, or at least indifference toward such attitudes when held by important military or political figures, still exists in Ukraine.
“Last November Jewish organizations expressed their displeasure when it was disclosed that the newly appointed police chief for the Ukrainian province in which Kiev is located came under fire after it was alleged that he had past ties with a neo-Nazi organization.”
The Jerusalem Post also took note of the Kiev regime’s recent appointment of right-wing extremist Dimitri Jarosch, who organized many of the fighters behind the February 2014 putsch, to be an official adviser to the army leadership.
The larger historical context is that Nazism has been deeply rooted in western Ukraine since World War II, especially in cities like Lviv, where a cemetery to the veterans of the Galician SS, a Ukrainian affiliate of the Nazi SS, is maintained. These old passions were brought to the surface again in the battle to oust Yanukovych and sever historic ties to Russia.
The muscle behind the U.S.-backed Maidan protests against Yanukovych came from neo-Nazi militias trained in western Ukraine, organized into 100-man brigades and bused to Kiev. After the coup, neo-Nazi leader Andriy Parubiy, who was commander of the Maidan “self-defense forces,” was elevated to national security chief and soon announced that the Maidan militia forces would be incorporated into the National Guard and sent to eastern Ukraine to fight ethnic Russians resisting the coup.
As the U.S. government and media cheered on this “anti-terrorist operation,” the neo-Nazis and other right-wing battalions engaged in brutal street fighting against Russian ethnic rebels. Only occasionally did this nasty reality slip into the major U.S. news media. For instance, an Aug. 10, 2014 article in the New York Times mentioned the neo-Nazi paramilitaries at the end of a lengthy story on another topic.
“The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat,” the Times reported.
“Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]
Meeting the Nazis
The conservative London Telegraph offered more details about the Azov battalion in an articleby correspondent Tom Parfitt, who wrote: “Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’… should send a shiver down Europe’s spine.
“Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.”
Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the reality of the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis.
Andriy Biletsky, the Azov commander, “is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly,” according to the Telegraph article which quoted a commentary by Biletsky as declaring: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
In other words, for the first time since World War II, a government had dispatched Nazi storm troopers to attack a European population – and officials in Kiev knew what they were doing. The Telegraph questioned Ukrainian authorities in Kiev who acknowledged that they were aware of the extremist ideologies of some militias but insisted that the higher priority was having troops who were strongly motivated to fight. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ignoring Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]
Since the coup, the New York Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets have decried any recognition of the significant neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine as “Russian propaganda.” So, Ukraine’s new initiative to honor Nazi collaborators – in legislation coinciding with the commemoration of the end of the Holocaust – also must be ignored.

The pro-coup propaganda in the U.S. media has been so pervasive that a powerful “group think” took hold with the Kiev regime revered as white-hatted “good guys,” certainly not brown-shirted neo-Nazis. Or as the New York Times’ dimwitted foreign policy pundit Thomas L. Friedman declared in a column earlier this year, the new leaders of Ukraine “share our values.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.