War on Terror v. Climate Change

Despite President Obama’s support for global cooperation on the pressing crisis of climate change, he was back at the more destructive and distressing business of cobbling together a new “coalition of the willing” for the latest expansion of the “war on terror,” as Danny Schechter notes.

By Danny Schechter

On Sunday, the world came together to demand climate justice with massive marches of solidarity and positivity. On Monday, the UN prepared for its global climate summit with more than l00 Heads of State, some there as ornaments, others as advocates for changes in environmental conditions that threaten the survival of many nations and peoples.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change Washington’s No. 1 priority. On Monday night, I was in New York with the visiting President of South Africa marking 20 years of freedom in that country after the overthrow of apartheid. I saw no American officials present.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, one of the new U.S. "allies" in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State and other targets inside Syria.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, one of the new U.S. “allies” in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State and other targets inside Syria.

Back home, on Monday evening, the news was out: the United States was then heavily bombing Syria for the first time with the support of a mélange of Arab dictators and theocracies, using planes we sold them, to make some point about Western commitment to freedom.

The jihadists are already vowing retribution, according to SITE, the pro-Israeli “intelligence” website that is relaying all of their videos, no doubt to frighten us more.

Washington claims support from 40 nations. The Christian Science Monitor reports, “Americans can be forgiven if this reminds them of the “coalition of the willing” President George W. Bush claimed to have when the US invaded and occupied Iraq 11 years ago.”

Adds political scientist Michael Brenner: “the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ will not amount to much except for its contribution of money to anti-IS forces of various hues, and the aforementioned American airstrikes. So long as no regional states are prepared to send in competent troops, their military role will be marginal at best. In regard to drying up IS’ supply of recruits from places beyond Syria and Iraq, the prospects are not promising.”

How fast we’ve moved from peace to war, from hope to despair.

Of course, like so many reports about U.S. military action, there was no mention of civilian casualties or other “collateral damage.” It was assumed by a press that marches in lockstep with the Pentagon that the strikes were surgical, hit their targets and damaged an enemy that earlier in the week released a video almost inviting such a strike, perhaps to show how bad and powerful they claimed to be.

The New York Times, to its credit, called the attacks “risky” and reported that “after six weeks of western air support in Iraq, Iraqi forces have barely budged Islamic State fighters.”

The U.S. government refused to estimate what all this would cost. And of course, there was this political calculation driving the turn to war, as revealed by Politico:

“With his new offensive against Islamic State terrorists in Syria, Barack Obama has a chance to revive his presidency, but the only way he can do that is to become a brand-new president, one who will be almost unrecognizable to his supporters. Obama must go from being the president who was elected to end wars, his most treasured self-image, to the president who finally leads one effectively. And he must now do it in two countries where for most of his presidency he has most resisted getting more deeply involved, Iraq and Syria.”

As the bombs fell, another video began airing, lacking the overproduction Hollywood glitz for which ISIS has become known, but, instead, offered up a simple stripped down “lecture” by British hostage John Cantlie, who says he is a doing it because his government abandoned him and he has no choice.

While it surely is a propaganda effort, Cantlie makes a point that most of our media has not had the guts to make, saying, quite sensibly and in an understated way, “In this program, we’ll see how the Western Governments are hastily marching towards all-out war in Iraq and Syria without paying any heed to the lessons of the recent past.” And then, the V-word was introduced for the first time: “Not since Vietnam have we witnessed such a potential mess in the making.”

Interestingly, a day earlier, I had an email from the Vietnamese-American filmmaker, Tiana, who is finishing a film on Vietnam’s victorious General Giap who held off the foreign invaders and turned the tide against them.

Tiana was asking for my advice on how to present the enormous scale of the body count after the first invasion. There were 500,000 deaths among the French forces, including civilians and the African people they brought to fight for them in a defense of colonialism that the U.S. supported first with money, then, threats of nuclear war and, finally, with some 60,000 American lives.

Remember that the U.S. escalation in Vietnam came during the presidency of a “liberal” Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, just as this war  (or show of war) is being launched by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Barack Obama. (Don’t forget that Henry Kissinger won the Nobel for his role as a peacemaker in that carnage, while his counterpart, the Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho, rejected and denounced the Prize.)

There are analysts who believe that by reacting the way Washington is to ISIS, the U.S. is actually playing into their script and building their prestige.

Ultimately, this is a propaganda war, not just a military conflict. It is to influence the direction of the Arab World. We have already seen interviews with ordinary people in Iraq who say that government-backed troops there have been more brutal to them than ISIS. They don’t feel like they have many good options.

Of course, most Americans stopped paying attention to Iraqi realities years ago, and never realized that we lost the war. Today, as crazy as this must sound to us, ISIS (IS) is posing as liberators, even as they march into the past. For many ordinary Sunni Arabs who have been humiliated by a succession of leaders we imposed, that “heroic” past, may sound better that a worsening present.

In some ways, the U.S. bombardment will conjure up bad memories for Iraqis and do what bombing always does: stiffen resistance.

The Commander in Chief seems to be glowing as he and his “team” reach into an overused playbook, says Michael Brenner:

“The most likely course will be for Washington to do what it’s accustomed to doing. That means leaning heavily toward employing military assets which are available in abundance. That carries with it a heavy liability. Every bomb dropped risks radicalizing those on the receiving end who may be innocent or relatives of combatants. When bullets fired by troops on the ground are added to the bombs, the negative effect is magnified. Moreover, the very knowledge that the United States is again killing Muslims may register in the same way. After a decade of killing (many Sunni) Muslims with no good cause, the claim the United States is now killing them with cause is less than wholly persuasive,”

They may be talking climate change at the UN, but the media world is showing pictures of bombs bursting in air and changing the global conversation about a planet in peril, a discussion that the world has been waiting for.

We will soon be back in the flag-saluting abyss of paranoia with predictable results once the “terries,” as they are known, strike their first blow here. So far, only a deranged vet has penetrated the White House perimeter, but who knows what’s next?

Actions produce reactions. Always have; always will. And, yes, sad to report, more Americans will die as things get worse, as they surely will. We have seen this movie before.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs daily at Newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org. He wrote two books and made a film about the Iraq war. Comments to [email protected].

6 comments for “War on Terror v. Climate Change

  1. Zachary Smith
    September 23, 2014 at 20:16

    Any author willing to exert himself a bit could quickly cobble together a readable tale linking terrorism and climate change. For a very brief reading assignment, consider this:


    Reid Bryson was a pioneer climatologist. He knew that things were getting weird, but worked at a time when atmospheric pollution could still overwhelm global warming from increasing CO2. However, that last sentence of his quote was dead-on:

    “… it is inconceivable that a major change in our climate would be beneficial.”

    Think about that the next time you see the claim by an amateur or professional Denier that more CO2 is just what we need!

    Skipping on to a book within easy reach on the shelf: “Climate and the Affairs of Men”. Winkless and Browning were flat-wrong about most of their theorizing, but they nailed the part that hard times isn’t good for civilization.

    6. People respond to hard times by disposing of their priests, their political leaders, and their excess baggage. War, migration, economic upset, and changing ethics mark hard times. Trouble rolls from the marginal regions along with people as food supplies fail, and the folks there move to where food may be found.”

    Much of the population of the US is on the coasts. Where are the people in those coastal cities going to go when rising seas force them out? That’s simply a little internal problem though. Think the 156 million humans in Bangladesh. A nation which is nearly as densely populated as Bangladesh is the Netherlands. Where are they going to go when their natural dunes and artificial dikes will no longer keep out the ocean? I very much fear they’ll arm themselves with WMDs and go take some higher ground from somebody less well equipped. Or die trying.

    That’s the problem with all-out war in our age. Modern weapons are just too good. You can engineer some hell-germs, vaccinate your own population, and turn them loose on the folks who must die if you are to live. Assume the target will try to go down swinging. Nukes are very easy for an industrialized nation to make and deliver.

    “Changing ethics…” – when people get really hungry their brain chemistry changes. They’re no longer the same person they were when well fed. The unthinkable becomes very thinkable. And we ARE the descendents of ancestors who chose not to starve if cannibalism was an option. (me? when I get even moderately hungry, I become moody, feel mean. I shudder to think about my thoughts if the situation persisted)

    Obama is a lawyer. By my standards, he’s a functional illiterate in terms of science. And his morality seems to be around the snake-navel level. He knows darned well that he and his family won’t suffer during the coming chaos. So all his promises about confronting climate change were ditched the moment he took office. He’s done nothing except run his mouth to check global warming. Less than nothing in fact, for he’s been an energetic fan of ‘fracking’ and facilitating the development of the Tar Sands in Canada.

    The rich people don’t care. I have a ‘tinfoil hat’ conspiracy theory about why that’s so. Ignoring the stupid types who inherited their wealth, some of the brainier ones have developed their own space programs. Musk and the new owner of the Washington Post don’t plan for their families to die in the coming disasters on the home planet. They’re scouting out the Moon and Mars. The Moon has two problems: low gravity and it is dangerously close to Earth. So Mars is the way to bet. Will they need to take along some servants? Probably, but not many.

    The Pentagon has some brainy people too, and a few of them get to write reports.


    On page 9 is this:

    “Many governments will face challenges to meet even the basic needs of their people as they confront demographic change, resource constraints, effects of climate change, and risks of global infectious disease outbreaks. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social
    tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence. The risk of conflict and mass atrocities may increase.”

    People under stress will behave badly. The world is going to get very ugly, and much sooner than most people would suppose. Count on it.

  2. F. G. Sanford
    September 23, 2014 at 19:58

    Air War Doctrine as a strategic discipline began with the Italian, Giulio Douhet and the American, Billy Mitchell. Ironically, they were both court-martialed for ridiculing their respective governments’ lack of vision, but were both later reinstated and became General Officers. Neither of their philosophies remain in vogue today, but they laid the groundwork. Achievement of air superiority followed by systematic destruction of the means to produce armaments followed by dismemberment of infrastructure to support logistics followed by air support for GROUND FORCES remains, however, the holy grail of what they envisioned. American doctrine was largely influenced by a little book written by the pilot whose tactics proved more effective than any other in the arena of ground support. In fact, he was consulted as an expert during the development of the American A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft, and his little book was once required reading for A-10 pilots.
    Of all the warriors in all the wars that have ever been fought in all the history of all the world, one man stands alone. No other real or mythical figure in all the tales of single combat derring-do can even come close. He flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, four armored trains, several bridges, a destroyer, two cruisers, and a battleship. Though flying an obsolete aircraft against a vastly superior numerical force, he prevailed. Attacked by one of the greatest fighter aces of World War Two, he flew into a valley to evade him, at times flying only 10 feet above the ground constantly performing brutal evasive maneuvers. His nemesis crashed in the pursuit. Wounded by antiaircraft fire, he suffered the loss of a leg but continued to fly with a prosthesis. The damage he personally inflicted against his country’s enemies extend into countless billions of dollars. He remains the most destructive single combat warrior of all time. But Hans Ulrich Rudel’s country lost the war. AIR STRIKES ACCOMPLISH NOTHING in the absence of ground forces which can benefit from their support. The Red Army eliminated the ground forces Rudel flew to defend. The Germans wouldn’t let him publish his little book because he was an inveterate Nazi and the book defended the invasion of USSR based on Nazi doctrine. That didn’t stop the Americans, but it is painfully obvious they are ignoring the lessons learned.
    I just read somewhere the other day that the Nobel Laureate in question has actually been involved in the bombardment of seven, not two but SEVEN countries. These include both conventional and drone strikes on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Schechter, I’m a fan. But Professor Pillar’s article begins, “As President Obama launched the first waves of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State and other targets in Syria, the risks of further military escalation or other expected developments abound”…and ends, “There also will no doubt be decision points ahead about whether a little more use of force will do the job, as the United States pursues the impossible to accomplish declared objective of “destroying” ISIS.”
    There is not one competent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NOT ONE, that doesn’t understand Air War Doctrine. They all know there is no “air superiority” to establish. They all know there is no “production capability” to destroy. They all know there is no “infrastructure” to dismantle, and they all know THERE ARE NO GROUND FORCES TO SUPPORT. In short, they all know this is a scam, but they’re going along with it anyway. OBVIOUSLY, THE PLAN IS TO START A WIDER WAR. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Elementary, my dear Watson”. And by the way, the best tool to do this job would be the A-10, but they cancelled the program. Rudel’s book was called, “Stuka Pilot”, and I believe its still in print.

    • Joe
      September 23, 2014 at 20:43

      It does seem that a wider war is planned, which must be against fixed targets (the Assad government). Air strikes against IS may deprive them of armor but cannot stop a perpetual insurgency, and there is little ground force to hold any territory they cannot hold.
      Unless the attacks merely contain IS to Sunni territory, they will likely lead to a few US casualties to be blamed on Assad. With Assad busy on several fronts, Israel is likely planned to depose him with the US support paid for by its midterm campaign money.

      • F. G. Sanford
        September 23, 2014 at 20:53

        The only military entity with suitable targets for the operation being conducted is the Assad government. This is a ruse to get the operation in place. ISIS is an amorphous guerrilla force with no air force, no war production, no infrastructure and no fixed military installations – except the ones they’ve stolen. This is all a fraud.

  3. michael
    September 23, 2014 at 17:32

    True enough summary well done!

  4. Zachary Smith
    September 23, 2014 at 17:28

    I was more annoyed than enlightened by this essay. It was chock-full of unsupported assertions like this one:

    In some ways, the U.S. bombardment will conjure up bad memories for Iraqis and do what bombing always does: stiffen resistance.

    Always? Not exactly.

    It’s probably safe to assume the BHO administration will screw up the bombing. That could be because they’re incompetent, or because they had that as a goal from the beginning.

    Finally, putting “Climate Change” in the title, then only casually mentioning the subject afterwards was more than a little deceptive.

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