Wednesday, April 14, 2010

After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Towards Social Collapse?

By Emily Spence

April 13, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- Recently, Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the DoE, announced that worldwide oil availability had reached a “plateau”. However, his statement was not made known through a major U.S. mainstream media outlet. Instead, it was covered in France’s “Le Monde” as follows: article in Le Monde.

One could assume that the U.S. assessment of the oil decline was exposed through this particular publication perhaps due to some arrangement that Barack Obama made with Nicolas Sarkozy. (Maybe it is an indirect way to alert the French while keeping most Americans still in the dark on the topic so that the latter bunch can ignorantly carry onward as usual. After all, no unsettling prognosis should disturb their slow return into shopoholic ways that keep the economy, particularly China’s on which the U.S. federal government depends for loans, going strong.)

All considered, there was not, as far as I know, even a ten second blurb about Glen Sweetnam’s message issued via newscasts in New England where I live. At the time of his declaration, their reports primarily covered ad-nauseam the recent flood again … and again.

In a similar vein, no reporter discussing the deluge dared to raise the point that worsening extreme weather is on the way with climate change consequences in the mix, along with oil’s relationship to these outcomes. Moreover, imagine the effect on the Dow or NASDAQ if Glen Sweetnam’s estimation and a discussion of connected economic ramifications got splashed all across the U.S.A.

What exactly are the implications? In Life After Growth, Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute, states, “In effect, we have to create a desirable ‘new normal’ that fits the constraints imposed by depleting natural resources. Maintaining the ‘old normal’ is not an option; if we do not find new goals for ourselves and plan our transition from a growth-based economy to a healthy equilibrium economy, we will by default create a much less desirable ‘new normal’ whose emergence we are already beginning to see in the forms of persistent high unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and ever more frequent and worsening financial and environmental crises—all of which translate to profound distress for individuals, families, and communities.”

In other words, we collectively have to stop our delusions about perpetual economic growth and find another way to live from this point forward. We need to stop pretending that all is well because our myopic view of life shows no oil or other major shortfalls in the very near future. If we do not face up to the truth, the repercussions are clear.

Instead of an “ignorance is bliss” outlook, it’s markedly better to have long range vision and see the coming monster so that

meaningful preparations can be made. Scrutiny of the landscape behind and ahead followed by timely adaptation is required. A suitable response is preferable to someone or some group blindly sticking to the same old patterns that could have worked well in the past, but are no longer functionally viable. (Shortsighted government leaders trying to wring the last drops of oil out of the Earth to continue globalized commercial goals certainly provide a clear case in point.)

Certainly, reality does not conform to fanciful hopes and dreams regardless of the degree that they are compelling due to familiarity or any other reasons. A willful adherence to past choices and whimsies just won’t help under the circumstances. As John Adams suggested, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

At the same time, our current standard of living clearly is provided by our ability to burn through unimaginable amounts of fossil fuels, including an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil a year whilst roughly 40 percent of global energy consumption stems from petroleum. Conversely, people without access to such rich energy sources, whether in developed or developing nations, rightfully equate prosperity and access to material goods with fossil fuel use.

After all, no “green” substitute can even come close to the energy density obtained by their derivatives. As such, Robert Bryce, managing editor of “Energy Tribune” and author of the newly released Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy, and the Real Fuels of the Future, points out in Let’s Get Real About Renewable Energy at online WSJ: “We can double the output of solar and wind, and double it again. We’ll still depend on hydrocarbons.”

In his view, the reason is that we can never, in a reasonable amount of time, reach the colossal scale needed to supply sufficient energy by alternative means. Likewise, “[renewables] cannot provide the baseload power, i.e., the amount of electricity required to meet minimum demand, that Americans want.”

At the same time, access to fossil fuels will increasingly be a major driver of small and large conflicts around the world with the biggest contenders — most notably the U.S.A., China and Russia — using ever more forceful means to gain advantage over rivals. As such, the current Middle East and African wars are diminutive in scale compared to the contention that lies ahead.

In addition, the pending oil shortfall will cause products, services and food that rely on oil to skyrocket in cost. Moreover, petroleum derivatives serve as the foundation for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, transportation of goods to markets, the majority of the grocery packaging operations (i.e., the manufacture of containers in addition to the bottling and canning processes, etc.) and, of course, operational farm machinery.

All considered, imagine just farms alone being run without sufficient oil. Would they be capable to supply enough food for close to seven billion people without it? How will they provide for the nine to ten billion expected to be on the Earth in approximately forty years?

Henry Kissinger stated, “Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.” However, he perhaps neglected to consider that our food, practically all industry and finance are deeply tied to energy and that, in turn, is tied to fossil fuels.

According to a Greenpeace USA report released last month, “‘Nearly 71 percent of U.S. electricity comes from fossil fuels, including 53 percent from coal. Of the remainder, 21 percent is generated from nuclear power, 15 percent from natural gas, 7 percent from hydro, and less than 2 percent from other renewable sources.’ As a result of this energy mix, the U.S. emits more than 2,500 million metric tons of C02 (MMtC02) every year.”

In addition, coal and gases, that can be converted into power supplies, are not endlessly abundant. So in light of our energy dilemma, what can be expected in times ahead?

According to Thomas Wheeler in It’s the End of the World as We Know It, “The consensus is the suburbs will surely not survive the end of cheap oil and natural gas. In other words, the massive downscaling of America – voluntary or involuntary – will be the trend of the future. We are in for some profound changes in the 21st century. The imminent collapse of industrial civilization means we’ll have to organize human communities in a much different fashion from the completely unsustainable, highly-centralized, earth-destroying, globalized system we have now. There will need to be a move to much smaller, human-scale, localized and decentralized systems that can sustain themselves within their own landbase. Industrial civilization and suburban living relies on cheap sources of energy to continue to grow and expand. That era is coming to an end. One of the most important tasks right now is to prepare for a very different way of life.”

Nonetheless, Barack Obama and his cohorts have recklessly decided to try to extend our period of dependence on oil for “business as usual” instead of using a significant portion of it, along with a lavish amount of federal funds, to establish a firm foundation for alternative energy provision and the massive, societal changes that are on the way. In other words, they are still trapped in an all-out effort to support globalized industry (including its offshored job market and gargantuan transportation network) instead of their preparing the public for post-peak oil lifestyles in which human welfare and regionalized community development are emphasized.

Assuredly, facilitation of such a constructive switch would help America across the board. The reason is that the redirection of wealth away from horrific resource wars, macro-scale business and pernicious corporate bailouts towards the creation of robust decentralized economic bases would yield many benefits. The action could generate jobs, serve to protect the raw materials and the natural environments on which communities rely and curb fossil fuel use since many products would be created and used locally. It could, also, lead individuals and groups into gaining the necessary skills and understandings to create assorted merchandise, foster developments of co-ops and other innovative organizations like Simple Gifts Farm, as well as strengthen the U.S. economy at the grassroots level.

Moreover, their backing of transnational corporate agendas is plainly ruinous for environmental well-being and multitudinous societies across the globe. It, also, ensures that the most affluent class continues to make staggering financial gains at the expense of others. As such, many people face increasing deteriorating circumstances while, in tandem, their surrounding natural world falls apart due to resource plunder and environmental disasters.

As Bruce Sterling indicates, “No civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base.” Indeed, closed resource and energy systems have built-in limits to growth regardless of whether there are increases in population, resource consumption or energy demands.

The results of exceeding the constraints are undeniably clear. They include armed invasions and resource grabs from populations least capable to defend their assets and lands from aggressors, dwindling supplies of critical commodities as thresholds are reached and, ultimately, diminished economic gains, anyway.

All the same, any government employee who advocates for a cutback in energy use or globalized trade would be committing political suicide. He would, also, face a hostile public, including industrialists and farm owners, along with his being shunned by lobbyists and reelection campaign contributors alike.

Simultaneously, it is apparent that ‘revolving door‘ politics between corporate executives, politicians and bureaucrats with whom global-scale moguls sometimes collude do, in fact, exist and even lead, in some instances to regulatory capture. The overall outcome from such a pattern is unchecked corporate exploitation, deceit and power mongering during which time nations’ general populations become progressively destitute. Meanwhile, the über-class, without meaningful regulatory brakes on free market enterprise, obtain ever greater control over worldwide resources and the financial wherewithal to seize even more control over time.

Likewise, the overall arrangement leads to multinational business owners seeking ever cheaper labor wherever it exists and even if it involves young children or unsafe practices, ever new consumers and an endless supply of raw materials from developing regions with lax (if any) conservation regulations. They, also, abandon countries in which coveted materials, when not already commandeered, are protected by stiff environmental laws. Concurrently, jobs continue to drain from nations if their standard minimum wages are not the absolute lowest to be found or there are no new stores of resources to tap.

In relation, Jan Lundberg indicates, in The People Of The Brook Versus Supermarket Splendor, “Social relations are defined today by tolerance of tyranny: of harmful industrial profit schemes, unfair ownership of huge property holdings, and astronomical financial wealth. As soon as the post-peak oil house of cards topples, ‘new’ social structures will be (re)established. There’s a growing number of people already welcoming the end of false wealth’s tyranny and of civilized arrogance.”

Clearly, our choices in terms of the future that we want to create will in time be largely determined by limitations in oil and other resources. It stands to follow that we can either have a last man standing orientation in which only the most affluent and powerful people have lavish supplies of expensive energy and material goods or we can foster deglobalization, which leads into equitable sharing of resources, job creation, strengthening of community ties, assurance that local resource bases are not exceeded and creation of a social foundation that does not increasingly divide the world between the rich and the poor members of society.

The second option, also, protects against the sort of widespread financial collapse that occurs in the buoy model. In such an arrangement, a descending buoy, when additional buoys are hooked by a line to a sinking one, drags the others to some degree downward based on proximity wherein the ones having the closest connections are pulled down the most. Alternately put, guess about what happens next when one’s own economy, assets, social well being and so forth are precariously linked to declining partners. Is it a structurally safe arrangement?

All considered, it is easy to notice that some individuals and countries faring relatively well throughout the ongoing recession are ones whose economic foundations have been largely isolated from worldwide influences. Moreover, the nations mostly immune to the downturn tend to be oriented towards serving the needs of their own populations, have been largely regionalized in focus, and generally have smaller, comparatively simple, manageable economies, as the U.S. and other countries, in my opinion, should aim to duplicate as much as possible.

In the end, “Our country’s leaders have three main choices: Taking over someone else’s oil fields until they are depleted; carrying on until the lights go out and Americans are freezing in the dark; or changing our life style by energy conservation while heavily investing in alternative energy sources at higher costs,” according to Charles T. Maxwell. I would add to his perspective that our leaders and the rest of us must, in fairly short order, start creating self-reliant, ecologically healthy communities, ones that are durable and flexible so as to reasonably withstand difficult outside forces, such as lack of sufficient oil or, in the least, the crippling post-peak oil prices, that will come to pass. Only if we successfully do so can we avoid the most dire consequences from the severe deficits to come.

With the current peak-oil interval, we have a grace period when oil is still fairly inexpensive and abundant. At the same time, we cannot expect our government leaders to help society transition off of heavy oil dependence on account of their being controlled by “big business” interests. Therefore, it is up to average citizens to create the reforms that lead into localized economic and social development. If the enterprise is not actively taken in a timely fashion, the resultant chaos, as pointed out by Dmitry Orlov in "The Five Stages Of Collapse", will be unavoidable.

Washington considers a decline of world oil production as of 2011

By: Matthieu Auzanneau
25 march 2010

The U.S. Department of Energy admits that “a chance exists that we may experience a decline” of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 “if the investment is not there”, according to an exclusive interview with Glen Sweetnam, main official expert on oil market in the Obama administration.

This warning on oil output issued by Obama’s energy administration comes at a time when world demand for oil is on the rise again, and investments in many drilling projects have been frozen in the aftermath of the tumbling of crude prices and of the financial crisis.

Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the DoE, does not say that investments will not be “there”. Yet the answer to the issue of knowing when, where and in which quantities additional sources of oil should be put on-stream remains widely “unidentified” in the eyes of the most prominent official analyst on energy inside the Obama administration.

The DoE dismisses the “peak oil” theory, which assumes that world crude oil production should irreversibly decrease in a nearby future, in want of sufficient fresh oil reserves yet to be exploited. The Obama administration of Energy supports the alternative hypothesis of an “undulating plateau”. Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the DoE, explains : “Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a decline.”

Glen Sweetnam, who heads the publication of DoE's annual International Energy Outlook, agrees that what he identifies as a possible decline of liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 could be the first stage of the “undulating plateau” pattern, which will start “once maximum world oil production is reached”.

M. Auzanneau - After 2011 and until 2015, do you acknowledge that if adequate investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a first stage of decline in the “undulating plateau” you describe ?

GLEN SWEETNAM - I agree, if the investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a decline. If we do, I would expect investment in new capacity to increase if there is still demand for oil.

Glen Sweetnam acknowledges the possibility of a close-by and unexpected fall of world liquid fuels production in an email interview, after several requests of details about a round-table of oil economists that Mr Sweetnam held on April 7, 2009 in Washington, DC.

The DoE April 2009 round-table, untitled “Meeting the Growing Demand for Liquid (fuels)“, was semi-public. Yet it remained unnoticed and unjustly, as it put forward forecasts that are far more pessimistic than any analysis the DoE has ever delivered.

Page 8 of the presentation document of the round-table, a graph shows that the DoE is expecting a decline of the total of all known sources of liquid fuels supplies after 2011.

The graph labels as “unidentified” the additional supply projects needed to fill in a gap that is expected to grow after 2011 between rising demand and decline of known sources of supply that the DoE supposes will start that year. The declining production foreseen by the DoE concerns the total of existing sources of liquid fuels plus the new production projects that are supposed to come on-stream before 2012.

The DoE predicts that the decline of identified sources of supply will be steady and sharp : - 2 percent a year, from 87 million barrels per day (Mbpd) in 2011 to just 80 Mbpd in 2015. At that time, the world demand for oil and other liquid fuels should have climbed up to 90 Mbpd, according to the presentation document.

“Unidentified” additional liquid fuels projects would therefore have to fill in a 10 Mbpd gap between supplies and demand within less than 5 years. 10 Mbpd is almost the equivalent of the oil production of Saudi Arabia, world top producer with 10.8 Mbpd.

After the oil demand went through an air pocket in 2009, it is to rise afresh this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises the OECD countries. Now set at 86.5 million barrels per day, the world consumption is slightly higher than in 2008, when the financial crisis stroke. All the growth of the demand is now coming from non-OECD countries. This growth should continue at a firm pace in developing economies over the next years, says the IEA.

According to the presentation and the transcript of DoE's April 2009 round-table, many oil producing regions should see their extractions diminish before 2015.

Non-OPEC conventional oil extractions (more than half of the world crude oil production today) should already be in decline, from 46.9 Mbpd in 2008 to 44.8 Mbpd in 2011, shows the graph page 8 of the DoE round-table presentation.

Total non-OPEC liquid fuel production has been stable since 2008, says the IEA in Paris. But the IEA does not provide figures dealing with just conventional crude oil extractions. In 2005, in the French newspaper Le Monde, the IEA chief economist Fatih Birol predicted that non-OPEC oil production would decline “soon after 2010″.

Till 2015, among the top 15 oil producing countries, only 6 will manage to significantly increase their liquid fuel production, shows the graph page 9 of the DoE round-table presentation.

7 of the 15 biggest producers are supposed to evolve towards substantial reductions of their outputs over a period starting in 2007 and ending in 2015 : Russia (- 0.15 Mbpd), China (- 0.2), Iran (- 0.4), Mexico (- 0.9), the United Arab Emirates (- 0.3), Venezuela (- 0.25) and Norway (- 0.7).

Iraq’s and Kuwait’s supplies should remain practically flat.

The U.S DoE expects that the largest increase of production will need to come from within the United States : a 1.8 Mbpd boost over 8 years (from 2007 to 2015) that would equal to more than a quarter of the present U.S oil production. Since the early 70’s, U.S oil production has been steadily plummeting.

This huge U.S liquid fuel production increase should be achieved through what Glen Sweetnam described as “the ethanol ramp-up” during the round-table, according to its

This “ethanol ramp-up”, initiated during the Bush administration, may stand for even more than the 1.8 Mbpd increasing expected by the DoE, as U.S crude oil extractions have been decreasing for four decades, and because there are no fresh oil reserves of significant scale coming on-stream in Alaska or elsewhere in the ‘Lower 50s’.

One-quarter of all the grain crops grown in the United States already ends up as bio-fuel, according to an analysis of 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture published by the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington ecologist think-tank.

Will investments in new and “unidentified” oil projects be able to compensate for the decline of the existing sources of supply, in order to fill in within less than 5 years (between now and 2015) the 10 Mbpd gap between demand and identified supplies that the DoE foresees ?

It takes at least 7 years to get any new oil project running, acknowledges the DoE.

During the Spring 2009 conference, Glen Sweetnam said that the recent discoveries of ultra-deep oil off the shores of Brazil were “sort of the bright spot for now (…) till we get to the Arctic”.

OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri warned in February 2009 that out of the 135 projects due to come on-stream in the next few years, OPEC members have put 35 projects on hold to after 2013, as the “current prices threaten the very sustainability of planned investment”.

By 2007, despite huge profits, the top 5 international oil companies were spending a mere 6 percent of their free cash on exploration, compared to 34 percent on share buybacks, according to a Rice University study cited by The New York Times. Back in 1994, those top oil companies were spending 15 percent of their free cash on exploration. Many experts assume that this shift in strategy is forced by a lack of access to new oil reserves, while the world keeps clamoring for more oil.

The prospects of the Washington Department of Energy on oil now sound far more pessimistic than the kind of analysis the DoE used to release not so long ago. In 2004, under the Bush administration, the DoE published a study in which oil production was supposed to be able to rise strongly at least until 2037.

In 2008, Glen Sweetnam published for the DoE a long term base case scenario in which the “undulating plateau” was not to be reached until 2030, and would last until 2090 before world oil production would enter its final fall.

But Mr Sweetnam’s 2008 study also presented a “more unfavorable above ground factors” scenario under which the undulating plateau occurs during the present decade.

Glen Sweetnam, who is supervising in Washington the preparation of the next annual International energy outlook, now seems to wonder whether his “more unfavorable” scenario isn’t the right one, when he contemplates, in his interview with me, a decline of world liquid fuels production starting in 2011.

Such a sense of uncertainty cast by the Department of Energy is unseen. The DoE usually stands among the most optimistic sources regarding the issue of depletion of world oil reserves.

Glen Sweetnam’s warning comes after a long set of warnings dealing with possible troubles ahead on the supply side of the world oil market. Those warnings have been emitted over the last years through a range of sound sources such as The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle (main daily newspaper of the world capital of crude oil trade), the CEO of Brazilian oil company Petrobras, a former n°2 of Saudi national oil company Aramco, an International Energy Agency ‘whistleblower’, the chief economist of the IEA himself, the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security, or legendary-wildcatter-turned-renewable-tycoon T. Boone Pickens.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

US Military Warns Oil Output May Dip Causing Massive Shortages By 2015

By Terry Macalister

April 12, 2010 "The Guardian" -- The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."

The US military says its views cannot be taken as US government policy but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with "an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide out future force developments."

The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil – the moment when demand exceeds supply – from a distant threat to a more immediate risk.

The Wicks Review on UK energy policy published last summer effectively dismissed fears but Lord Hunt, the British energy minister, met concerned industrialists two weeks ago in a sign that it is rapidly changing its mind on the seriousness of the issue.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency remains confident that there is no short-term risk of oil shortages but privately some senior officials have admitted there is considerable disagreement internally about this upbeat stance.

Future fuel supplies are of acute importance to the US army because it is believed to be the biggest single user of petrol in the world. BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said recently that there was little chance of crude from the carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands being banned in America because the US military like to have local supplies rather than rely on the politically unstable Middle East.

But there are signs that the US Department of Energy might also be changing its stance on peak oil. In a recent interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, main oil adviser to the Obama administration, admitted that "a chance exists that we may experience a decline" of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 if the investment was not forthcoming.

Lionel Badal, a post-graduate student at Kings College, London, who has been researching peak oil theories, said the review by the American military moves the debate on.

"It's surprising to see that the US Army, unlike the US Department of Energy, publicly warns of major oil shortages in the near-term. Now it could be interesting to know on which study the information is based," he said.

"The Energy Information Administration (of the department of energy) has been saying for years that Peak Oil was "decades away". In light of the report from the US Joint Forces Command, is the EIA still confident of its previous highly optimistic conclusions?"

The Joint Operating Environment report paints a bleak picture of what can happen on occasions when there is serious economic upheaval. "One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest," it points out.

Why There Are no ‘Israelis’ in the Jewish State Citizens classed as Jewish or Arab nationals

by Jonathan Cook
Global Research
April 6, 2010

A group of Jews and Arabs are fighting in the Israeli courts to be recognised as “Israelis”, a nationality currently denied them, in a case that officials fear may threaten the country’s self-declared status as a Jewish state.

Israel refused to recognise an Israeli nationality at the country’s establishment in 1948, making an unusual distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality”. Although all Israelis qualify as “citizens of Israel”, the state is defined as belonging to the “Jewish nation”, meaning not only the 5.6 million Israeli Jews but also more than seven million Jews in the diaspora.

Critics say the special status of Jewish nationality has been a way to undermine the citizenship rights of non-Jews in Israel, especially the fifth of the population who are Arab. Some 30 laws in Israel specifically privilege Jews, including in the areas of immigration rights, naturalisation, access to land and employment.

Arab leaders have also long complained that indications of "Arab" nationality on ID cards make it easy for police and government officials to target Arab citizens for harsher treatment.

The interior ministry has adopted more than 130 possible nationalities for Israeli citizens, most of them defined in religious or ethnic terms, with “Jewish” and “Arab” being the main categories.

The group’s legal case is being heard by the supreme court after a district judge rejected their petition two years ago, backing the state’s position that there is no Israeli nation.

The head of the campaign for Israeli nationality, Uzi Ornan, a retired linguistics professor, said: “It is absurd that Israel, which recognises dozens of different nationalities, refuses to recognise the one nationality it is supposed to represent.”

The government opposes the case, claiming that the campaign’s real goal is to “undermine the state’s infrastructure” -- a presumed reference to laws and official institutions that ensure Jewish citizens enjoy a privileged status in Israel.

Mr Ornan, 86, said that denying a common Israeli nationality was the linchpin of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Arab population.

“There are even two laws -- the Law of Return for Jews and the Citizenship Law for Arabs -- that determine how you belong to the state,” he said. “What kind of democracy divides its citizens into two kinds?”

Yoel Harshefi, a lawyer supporting Mr Ornan, said the interior ministry had resorted to creating national groups with no legal recognition outside Israel, such as “Arab” or “unknown”, to avoid recognising an Israeli nationality.

In official documents most Israelis are classified as “Jewish” or “Arab”, but immigrants whose status as Jews is questioned by the Israeli rabbinate, including more than 300,000 arrivals from the former Soviet Union, are typically registered according to their country of origin.

“Imagine the uproar in Jewish communities in the United States, Britain or France, if the authorities there tried to classify their citizens as “Jewish” or “Christian”,” said Mr Ornan.

The professor, who lives close to Haifa, launched his legal action after the interior ministry refused to change his nationality to “Israeli” in 2000. An online petition declaring “I am an Israeli” has attracted several thousand signatures.

Mr Ornan has been joined in his action by 20 other public figures, including former government minister Shulamit Aloni. Several members have been registered with unusual nationalities such as “Russian”, “Buddhist”, “Georgian” and “Burmese”.

Two Arabs are party to the case, including Adel Kadaan, who courted controversy in the 1990s by waging a lengthy legal action to be allowed to live in one of several hundred communities in Israel open only to Jews.

Uri Avnery, a peace activist and former member of the parliament, said the current nationality system gave Jews living abroad a far greater stake in Israel than its 1.3 million Arab citizens.

“The State of Israel cannot recognise an ‘Israeli’ nation because it is the state of the ‘Jewish’ nation … it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations.”

International Zionist organisations representing the diaspora, such as the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, are given in Israeli law a special, quasi-governmental role, especially in relation to immigration and control over large areas of Israeli territory for the settlement of Jews only.

Mr Ornan said the lack of a common nationality violated Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which says the state will “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex”.

Indications of nationality on ID cards carried by Israelis made it easy for officials to discriminate against Arab citizens, he added.

The government has countered that the nationality section on ID cards was phased out from 2000 -- after the interior ministry, which was run by a religious party at the time, objected to a court order requiring it to identify non-Orthodox Jews as “Jewish” on the cards.

However, Mr Ornan said any official could instantly tell if he was looking at the card of a Jew or Arab because the date of birth on the IDs of Jews was given according to the Hebrew calendar. In addition, the ID of an Arab, unlike a Jew, included the grandfather’s name.

“Flash your ID card and whatever government clerk is sitting across from you immediately knows which ‘clan’ you belong to, and can refer you to those best suited to ‘handle your kind’,” Mr Ornan said.

The distinction between Jewish and Arab nationalities is also shown on interior ministry records used to make important decisions about personal status issues such as marriage, divorce and death, which are dealt with on entirely sectarian terms.

Only Israelis from the same religious group, for example, are allowed to marry inside Israel -- otherwise they are forced to wed abroad – and cemeteries are separated according to religious belonging.

Some of those who have joined the campaign complain that it has damaged their business interests. One Druze member, Carmel Wahaba, said he had lost the chance to establish an import-export company in France because officials there refused to accept documents stating his nationality as “Druze” rather than “Israeli”.

The group also said it hoped to expose a verbal sleight of hand that intentionally mistranslates the Hebrew term “Israeli citizenship” on the country’s passports as “Israeli nationality” in English to avoid problems with foreign border officials.

B Michael, a commentator for Yedioth Aharonoth, Israel’s most popular newspaper, has observed: “We are all Israeli nationals -- but only abroad.”

The campaign, however, is likely to face an uphill struggle in the courts.

A similar legal suit brought by a Tel Aviv psychologist, George Tamrin, failed in 1970. Shimon Agranat, head of the supreme court at the time, ruled: “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people. … The Jewish people is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of diaspora Jewries.”

That view was echoed by the district court in 2008 when it heard Mr Ornan’s case.

The judges in the supreme court, which held the first appeal hearing last month, indicated that they too were likely to be unsympathetic. Justice Uzi Fogelman said: “The question is whether or not the court is the right place to solve this problem.”


This article raises an important issue. Israel describes itself as a democratic state which quite simply is not true. Jewish citizens in Israel have superior rights as compared to non-Jewish citizens. Arabs are treated with disgust, a direct violation of the "golden-rule ethic" and in the case of Gaza and much of the West Bank, Israel is guilty of crimes against humanity.

Modern day Israel is in fact a Zionist apartheid regime intent upon the destruction of its own Palestinian Arab population. The United States makes a mockery of its own status as a representative constitutional democracy through its unquestioned support of Israel. Since the end of apartheid rule in South Africa, Israel is perhaps the most egregious human rights abuser among the developed nations. Given her record, it is tragic that the US continues to gift Israel over 3 billion dollars annually. This aid should end unless Israel is willing to alter its overtly racist behavior.

There will be no peace in the Middle East as long as the United States allows Israel to perpetuate its current non-democratic apartheid policies. Given the power of the Zionist Lobby, it seems unlikely that the situation will change any time soon.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The United States Takes the Matter of Three-headed Babies Very Seriously.

By William Blum

April 06, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- - When did it begin, all this "We take your [call/problem/question] very seriously"? With answering-machine hell? As you wait endlessly, the company or government agency assures you that they take seriously whatever reason you're calling. What a kind and thoughtful world we live in.

The BBC reported last month that doctors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are reporting a high level of birth defects, with some blaming weapons used by the United States during its fierce onslaughts of 2004 and subsequently, which left much of the city in ruins. "It was like an earthquake," a local engineer who was running for a national assembly seat told the Washington Post in 2005. "After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was Fallujah." Now, the level of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than in Europe.

The BBC correspondent also saw children in the city who were suffering from paralysis or brain damage, and a photograph of one baby who was born with three heads. He added that he heard many times that officials in Fallujah had warned women that they should not have children. One doctor in the city had compared data about birth defects from before 2003 — when she saw about one case every two months — with the situation now, when she saw cases every day. "I've seen footage of babies born with an eye in the middle of the forehead, the nose on the forehead," she said.

A spokesman for the US military, Michael Kilpatrick, said it always took public health concerns "very seriously", but that "No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues." 1

One could fill many large volumes with the details of the environmental and human horrors the United States has brought to Fallujah and other parts of Iraq during seven years of using white phosphorous shells, depleted uranium, napalm, cluster bombs, neutron bombs, laser weapons, weapons using directed energy, weapons using high-powered microwave technology, and other marvelous inventions in the Pentagon's science-fiction arsenal ... the list of abominations and grotesque ways of dying is long, the wanton cruelty of American policy shocking. In November 2004, the US military targeted a Fallujah hospital "because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties." 2 That's on a par with the classic line from the equally glorious American war in Vietnam: "We had to destroy the city to save it."

How can the world deal with such inhumane behavior? (And the above of course scarcely scratches the surface of the US international record.) For this the International Criminal Court (ICC) was founded in Rome in 1998 (entering into force July 1, 2002) under the aegis of the United Nations. The Court was established in The Hague, Netherlands to investigate and indict individuals, not states, for "The crime of genocide; Crimes against humanity; War crimes; or The crime of aggression." (Article 5 of the Rome Statute) From the very beginning, the United States was opposed to joining the ICC, and has never ratified it, because of the alleged danger of the Court using its powers to "frivolously" indict Americans.

So concerned about indictments were the American powers-that-be that the US went around the world using threats and bribes against countries to induce them to sign agreements pledging not to transfer to the Court US nationals accused of committing war crimes abroad. Just over 100 governments so far have succumbed to the pressure and signed an agreement. In 2002, Congress, under the Bush administration, passed the "American Service Members Protection Act", which called for "all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by ... the International Criminal Court." In the Netherlands it's widely and derisively known as the "Invasion of The Hague Act". 3 The law is still on the books.

Though American officials have often spoken of "frivolous" indictments — politically motivated prosecutions against US soldiers, civilian military contractors, and former officials — it's safe to say that what really worries them are "serious" indictments based on actual events. But they needn't worry. The mystique of "America the Virtuous" is apparently alive and well at the International Criminal Court, as it is, still, in most international organizations; indeed, amongst most people of the world. The ICC, in its first few years, under Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, dismissed many hundreds of petitions accusing the United States of war crimes, including 240 concerning the war in Iraq. The cases were turned down for lack of evidence, lack of jurisdiction, or because of the United States' ability to conduct its own investigations and trials. The fact that the US never actually used this ability was apparently not particularly significant to the Court. "Lack of jurisdiction" refers to the fact that the United States has not ratified the accord. On the face of it, this does seem rather odd. Can nations commit war crimes with impunity as long as they don't become part of a treaty banning war crimes? Hmmm. The possibilities are endless. A congressional study released in August, 2006 concluded that the ICC's chief prosecutor demonstrated "a reluctance to launch an investigation against the United States" based on allegations regarding its conduct in Iraq. 4 Sic transit gloria International Criminal Court.

As to the crime of aggression, the Court's statute specifies that the Court "shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted ... defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime." In short, the crime of aggression is exempted from the Court's jurisdiction until "aggression" is defined. Writer Diana Johnstone has observed: "This is a specious argument since aggression has been quite clearly defined by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3314 in 1974, which declared that: 'Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State', and listed seven specific examples," including:

The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof; and

Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State.

The UN resolution also stated that: "No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression."

The real reason that aggression remains outside the jurisdiction of the ICC is that the United States, which played a strong role in elaborating the Statute before refusing to ratify it, was adamantly opposed to its inclusion. It is not hard to see why. It may be noted that instances of "aggression", which are clearly factual, are much easier to identify than instances of "genocide", whose definition relies on assumptions of intention. 5

There will be a conference of the ICC in May, in Kampala, Uganda, in which the question of specifically defining "aggression" will be discussed. The United States is concerned about this discussion. Here is Stephen J. Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, speaking to the ICC member nations (111 have ratified thus far) in The Hague last November 19:

I would be remiss not to share with you my country's concerns about an issue pending before this body to which we attach particular importance: the definition of the crime of aggression, which is to be addressed at the Review Conference in Kampala next year. The United States has well-known views on the crime of aggression, which reflect the specific role and responsibilities entrusted to the Security Council by the UN Charter in responding to aggression or its threat, as well as concerns about the way the draft definition itself has been framed. Our view has been and remains that, should the Rome Statute be amended to include a defined crime of aggression, jurisdiction should follow a Security Council determination that aggression has occurred.

Do you all understand what Mr. Rapp is saying? That the United Nations Security Council should be the body that determines whether aggression has occurred. The same body in which the United States has the power of veto. To prevent the adoption of a definition of aggression that might stigmatize American foreign policy is likely the key reason the US will be attending the upcoming conference.

Nonetheless, the fact that the United States will be attending the conference may well be pointed out by some as another example of how the Obama administration foreign policy is an improvement over that of the Bush administration. But as with almost all such examples, it's a propaganda illusion. Like the cover of Newsweek magazine of March 8, written in very large type: "Victory at last: The emergence of a democratic Iraq". Even before the current Iraqi electoral farce — with winning candidates arrested or fleeing 6— this headline should have made one think of the interminable jokes Americans made during the Cold War about Pravda and Izvestia.

1. BBC, March 4, 2010; Washington Post, December 3, 2005 ↩
2. New York Times, November 8, 2004 ↩
3. Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2009 ↩
4. Washington Post, November 7, 2006 ↩
5. Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, January 27/28, 2007 ↩
6. Washington Post, April 2, 2010 ↩

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Can We Achieve a World Without Wars

Mayors for Peace
Global Research,
April 6, 2010

May 2010 sees once again the 5-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty taking place in New York. It is now 40 years ago since this treaty came into force and although currently there are 189 party states to the treaty, India, Pakistan and Israel are non-signatories and North Korea, first ratified, later violated and finally withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

The treaty is frequently talked of in terms of its 3 pillars of: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear technology as if all had equal importance whereas the treaty was designed for non-proliferation. The treaty also gives special recognition to the 5 nuclear weapon states somehow giving them the right to have these weapons.

In 1996, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion ruling that the use or the threat of use of nuclear weapons would violate various articles of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the light of the above, World without Wars and without Violence:

1. Denounces the hypocrisy of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council who believe they have some kind of inalienable right to possess nuclear weapons and who since the end of the Cold War have made little or no attempts to fulfill their obligations to disarm under article 6 of the treaty.

2. In particular denounces the USA and her allies who threaten countries they declare as “rogue states” with war and the use of nuclear weapons.

3. Denounces Pakistan, India and North Korea for spending billions of dollars of their countries meager income on developing nuclear technology at the expense of the suffering of their peoples.

4. Denounces Israel for destabilizing the whole of the Middle East region by possessing nuclear weapons, and denounces the US for having supplied them the knowledge to develop them in violation of article 1 of the treaty.

5. Denounces NATO countries for deploying US nuclear weapons on foreign soil in violation of articles 1 and 2 of the treaty.

In addition, World without Wars and without Violence:

1. Declares the NPT to be a failed treaty, having failed to produce the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation required by the planet’s population.

2. Calls on all States to start immediate negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, making the failed NPT redundant.

3. Calls on those NATO countries that host US nuclear weapons to have them returned.

4. Pledges to work side by side with all other organizations working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons who share the methodology of nonviolence and non-discrimination.

5. Calls on the people of the planet to join in massive mobilizations between the 1st of May and the 9th of May 2010 to raise awareness of the NPT conference in the world’s media and to pressure their national politicians and diplomats to work in the conference in New York with a real willingness to negotiate in good faith to finally do what public opinion demands and that is: to disarm now. This message was vividly manifested during October 2nd 2009 and January 2nd 2010 when in 100 countries the World March for Peace and Nonviolence took the message of disarmament around the world.


While admittedly imperfect, the agreement signed this past week by the United States and Russia is at least a step in the right direction in that it focuses the two major nuclear states attention on the importance of making significant reductions in their nuclear arsenals. It is hypocritical in the extreme for those NPT signatories who possess nuclear weapons to object to the nuclear weapons development programs of alleged proliferator's when they have not complied with their own disarmament responsibilities under the treaty.

It may be premature to totally abandon the NPT just when the two nation states with the largest nuclear arsenals have indicated a willingness to make significant reductions.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert