Of Empire, Terror and Climate Change

November 2015

Perhaps I was prescient last Tuesday (Nov. 17) when I wrote:

“My greatest fear about the [Friday, Nov. 13] Paris attacks is that they will be used as an excuse to crack down on the Real Enemy, non-violent protesters who will come to Paris en masse later this month to demand that world leaders at the COP21 climate talks take real action to protect the Earth from further climate degradation, and maybe, horror of all horrors, end the wars which are the primary drivers of climate change.”
The following day, France announced that because of “security concerns,” the COP21 opening day march, slated to draw 200,000 climate activists, was canceled. Up to 5,000 protesters will be permitted to protest in a sealed off box far from the conference. Meanwhile, 30,000 police officers will keep close watch on climate activists.

Meanwhile, bars, restaurants, concert halls and sporting arenas, targets of the Friday the 13th attacks, will likely continue with business as usual, unhampered by French “security concerns.”

What a joke! There wasn't a single climate activist involved in the Friday the 13th attacks in Paris that claimed the lives of 129 victims. Purportedly, there wasn't a single refugee involved either. Yet, those who are most responsible for creating some 60 million refugees, use the attacks in Paris as an excuse to wash their hands of responsibility for the catastrophe. In its lust for revenge, France, vowing to wage “pitiless war,” has stepped up the bombing of Syria, creating even more refugees.

But maybe it wasn't prescience. Maybe it was just so obvious and predictable, I couldn't miss it.

Deja vu? Yes. Remember 9/11? The first casualty was protest, rational discussion, and independent thought. Everyone was expected to toe the party line and get behind the lust for revenge. First Afghanistan was attacked and destroyed. Never mind that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 15 Saudis and 4 others from Egypt, Lebanon and United Arab Emirates — not a single Afghan among them — nor a single Iraqi either. Iraq was the second country to be attacked and destroyed in our lust for revenge.

We are supposed to feel sorry for the French, having been attacked on their own soil; but who in the United States feels any compassion at all for France's victims? Who feels compassion for those whose homes have been destroyed and loved ones killed by French bombs? Who feels compassion for those whose land has been destroyed by rising sea levels, unprecedent storms and megadroughts — all resulting from climate change brought about primarily by the life-style in wealthy countries like France.

France has a long history of terrorizing its victims. A century ago, France's colonial empire was second only to the British, and so was their bestiality and cruelty.

Algeria: The French occupied Algeria in 1830. Soon the local population was slashed to a fraction of its former size to make way for French settlers. In 1961, 200 Algerians, participating in a march against colonialism, were murdered in Paris, many tortured by the police, their bodies thrown in the Seine. In 1962 Algeria won its independence from France, after a long bloody war and at the cost of many thousands dead.

Central Africa: Whole villages were wiped out, just for sport. Here's an example of cruelty and bestiality from the 1898 French Central African Expedition:
“I had done nothing to them. I gave them everything they asked for. They ordered me to hand over six horses and thirty head of cattle within three days. I did so. And yet they killed everyone they could get hold of. A hundred and one men women and children were massacred.” —Chieftain Kourtey, Sansan-Hausa Village (quoted in “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Sven Lindqvist, p166)
Haiti, Syria, Vietnam — the list goes on. After World War I, the British and French carved up the Middle East and ruled as they saw fit with little regard for the peoples who lived there. France took what is now Syria; the British, Iraq and Palestine.

We think of the Vietnam disaster as ours, but Vietnam was a French colony long before the first US soldier set foot upon Vietnamese soil.

But if you believe we here in the United States are morally superior to the French, think about the Trail of Tears, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, My Lai... and if you want a more recent example, take last month's unprovoked bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. 31 doctors and patients including children died in the hour-long bombardment which completely destroyed the only functioning hospital in the area.

Unlike concert halls, sports arenas, bars and restaurants, hospitals are by international law protected spaces. Attacking a hospital is a War Crime — PERIOD.

So now, with the Pentagon in total disarray, the French are returning — waging “pitiless war,” bombing their former colonies — first Mali, now Syria. The Friday the 13th attacks offer an excellent excuse to do what imperialists love to do best, spread terror and destruction. It couldn't have worked out better if they had planned it themselves — well — maybe they did. Like 9/11 — whatever the government's complicity in the attacks may have been, France is taking full advantage of the situation: waging “pitiless war” abroad while stifling dissent at home — and as a plus, garnering much sympathy from other imperial powers. Just as the UN Security Council endorsed the bombing of Afghanistan 14 years ago, they now endorse French atrocities in Syria without so much as listening to a word from France's victims or adversaries.

Bombing is a wonderful thing. Especially when your adversary has no air force. You can kill your enemy's loved ones with impunity. This is how Europe and the United States created their great empires — killing from afar with impunity. Technology and Might make Right — and let no one dare strike back. AKs, rocks, IEDs and such are the puny weapons of terrorists and illegal combatants. Real armies use drones, depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs and daisy cutters to “shock and awe” their victims.

Now I wait to see what the climate activists will do. This may be a wake-up call for climate activists. So much of the movement to combat global warming and runaway climate change has ignored the military — as if we could avoid climate disaster while the US military alone remains the largest single user of fossil fuels and the largest single creator of greenhouse gases. There is little opposition to the Pentagon's almost unlimited budget and mandate to fight wars in every corner of the globe, not even from climate activists who should know better.

But, perhaps that is changing. I'm beginning to see articles linking climate justice and peace. This one by Nick Dearden is a good example. However, the broad acceptance by the climate justice movement of the French crackdown on climate protests at the all-important COP21 conference, simply makes me want to puke.

I think Katherine Ball said it best, “The most eco-friendly thing you can do is be anti-war.” And indeed, if War and Climate Change continue apace, there is unlikely to be much left to fight over or save from climate destruction, or many people left to do the fighting or saving.

Note: Before writing this article, I reread Sven Lindqvist's “Exterminate All the Brutes.” “Exterminate ...” is an inquiry into 19th Century European colonial depredations in Africa and provides background material to Joseph Conrad's classic novel on the subject, “Heart of Darkness.” I highly recommend both books.