Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and About that Hard Drive

Raúl Reyes’ Hard Drives
by Maurice Lemoine

The first of 10 smart bombs guided by GPS hit its target at 00.25 on 1 March 2008, less than two kilometres from the Ecuador-Colombia border, along the Putomayo river. Four Blackhawk OH-60 helicopters appeared out of the darkness with 44 special commandos from Colombia’s rapid deployment force on board. But there was no fighting: The temporary camp of the FARC (the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) had been destroyed by the explosions and 23 people killed in their sleep. Among them was Raúl Reyes, the FARC’s second-in-command and the group’s “foreign minister.” His remains were taken back to Colombia by ground troops as a trophy.

Early that morning Colombian president Alvaro Uribe contacted his Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, to brief him on the raid: The Colombian airborne unit had been attacked from within Ecuador and had pursued the rebels in legitimate self-defence. But, he assured Correa, their return of fire came from Colombian territory and didn’t violate Ecuador’s airspace. Colombia’s defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, gave the same assurance later.

Initially Correa took Uribe at his word. Until this incident they had been on good terms and spoke on the phone every day. Two weeks before, Correa had said in private to one of the close advisers of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez: “Tell Chávez that I get on very well with Uribe and that if he wants I can help smooth things out between them.” Correa felt betrayed, a feeling compounded when Ecuadorian military personnel arrived at the bombed camp: not only had the Colombians violated Ecuadorian territory, they had also, as Correa put it in a press conference on 2 March, conducted “a massacre”.

Reyes’ death sparked a crisis. Ecuador severed diplomatic relations with Colombia and deployed 11,000 men along its border. Venezuela also sent 10 battalions to its border. “We don’t want war,” Chávez warned, “but we won’t allow the [North American] empire, nor its little dog [Colombia], to weaken us.” Nor were they willing to allow it to act with impunity on its neighbours’ territory.

Unanimously rejected
The word “condemnation” was avoided, but South American governments unanimously “rejected” Colombia’s incursion. The United States supported Bogotá in the name of the “war on terror.” Craig Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, explained: “What we have said is firstly that a state must defend itself against the threat of terrorism and that when you talk about a border, you have to consider the general context, which [in this case] is a continual violation of the borders by the FARC.” An interviewer asked: “Does that mean that, for example, if Mexico pursued drug traffickers into the US, the United States wouldn’t have any objection to Mexican forces entering its territory?” Kelly replied: “I’m not going to get into a theoretical discussion.”

There has been speculation about the planes used on 1 March. Five Brazilian-made Supertucanos EMB314s and three US-manufactured A-37 attack aircraft have been mentioned, but the bombs couldn’t have been released from either of those planes. One thing is certain: Weapons of the same sophisticated kind did a lot of damage during the US invasion of Iraq.

The long arm of Washington was also discernible when Correa made other discoveries, notably that his military command had lied to him. Tension peaked when General Jorge Gabela, the Ecuadorian air force commander, revealed that the radar nearest to Santa Rosa, the zone where the FARC camp was located, had been down for maintenance for several days. Correa sacked the head of the army’s intelligence services, Colonel Mario Pazmiño, and announced in a broadcast to the nation that “the CIA has totally infiltrated some of Ecuador’s military intelligence bodies.” He also replaced defence minister Wellington Sandoval with loyalist Javier Ponce. Correa’s reassertion of his authority also led to the resignations of the joint chief of staff and the heads of the army, navy and air force.

Correa soon began to see the consequences of his actions. He had announced in his election campaign that he would close the US base at Manta. The lease on this “foreign operating location” granted to the United States in 1999 expires in 2009. On 28 February the assembly set up to “refound the country” adopted an article which asserts that “Ecuador is a land of peace; foreign military bases or foreign installations with military purpose will not be allowed.” With its state-of-the-art technology, Manta plays a key role in US military support for Colombia. During the operation on 1 March it would have controlled the air space the mystery planes overflew.

Opening salvo
The Colombian government announced that during the raid its army had seized a laptop (later increased to three laptops) belonging to Reyes, which revealed that both Chávez and Correa have close links to the FARC.

In the absence of hard evidence, questions arise. Reyes’ main camp is known to be in Colombia near the border. In that region the FARC have many hiding places, secret shelters and secondary camps. Yet the guerrilla leader had apparently gone to Ecuador with three laptops, two hard drives and three USB drives -- everything but the kitchen sink. According to the Ecuadorian army, the 10 missiles made craters 2.4m wide and 1.8m deep and destroyed the vegetation all around, yet the computers emerged without a scratch.

What a tale those laptops told. The Spanish daily El País, which is the spearhead of a campaign against the progressive governments of Latin America, didn’t stop to question the authenticity of the revelations. On 12 March its readers learned in an article, “FARC finds refuge in Ecuador,” that “guerrillas drive around the north of Ecuador in vans, as a member of the OEA (Organisation of American States) attested. He privately expressed astonishment at encountering fully equipped guerrillas in restaurants in border country.”

What readers didn’t see was a letter sent to the editor of El País on 15 March by the OEA’s secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, in which he expressed his “astonishment and indignation”: “I can assure you that this claim is absolutely false. The OEA does not have special missions, nor does it have representatives at any level deployed on Ecuador’s northern border, therefore it is impossible that any member of the organisation could have made such a statement.”

Reyes and his guerrillas were in Ecuador. Reyes had for months been the key contact for the representatives from France, Spain, Venezuela and Ecuador negotiating hostage releases, including that of the French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt. The FARC have long been intransigent over their demand for direct dialogue with the Colombian government. They insisted on “humanitarian exchange” -- hostages for guerrillas -- or nothing. Their aim is political: to achieve the status of legitimate combatants by gaining recognition from the Colombian government. The FARC have been on the list of terrorist organisations since 2002 but have never accepted that they are terrorists. Uribe wanted to avoid giving them recognition at all costs.

Chávez mediates
The mediation which Chávez set in motion on 31 August 2007 broke a stalemate that had lasted since 2002. The guerrillas freed seven hostages unconditionally, leading Caracas to say: “The FARC are using a more political logic, which is a positive sign for how things could develop.” But hostages warmly thanking members of the Venezuelan government dressed in red must have been a great source of irritation to the Colombian president.

Open dialogue had been ongoing in Caracas through the intermediary of FARC leaders Iván Marquez and Rodrigo Granda, and sometimes even with Reyes at the camp in Ecuador. The French and Ecuador governments knew this. A troubling detail is that a week before the 1 March raid, French representatives met Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, in Panama. Restrepo told them they should stay in contact with Reyes. “He’s the one who can help you. He’s your man. He can help you get Ingrid freed.” This explains Correa’s fury: “Look how low Alvaro Uribe has sunk! He knew that in March 12 hostages were going to be freed, including Ingrid Betancourt. He knew that, and still he used his contacts to spring this trap.” Kill the negotiator and you kill the negotiation.

But the hostage aspect of this crisis took second place to the revelations at a news conference on 3 March by the director general of the Colombian police, General Oscar Naranjo. He revealed that, based on computer equipment found near Reyes’ body, there was an “armed alliance” between the FARC and the Venezuelan government, as well as political and economic links between Correa and the guerrillas from the time of his election campaign.

Media revelation
The media went to town with these “explosive documents” from the seized computers, which the Colombian intelligence services had helpfully filtered. Prominent were the Spanish El País and the Colombian daily El Tiempo, which is owned by the Santos family, to which both the vice-president and the defence minister belong. On 4 March El País ran with “Bogotá unmasks the FARC’s support”. On 10 May, in the first of a series of articles by Maite Rico, “The FARC papers point the finger at Chávez”, readers learnt that “without raising an eyebrow Chávez approved a request for $300m” from the guerrillas. On 12 May the article condemned by the secretary general of OEA appeared. The day before Rico had written of “groups linked to Chávism which regularly train in FARC camps in Venezuela”. There were even claims of waiting lists to take part in their courses.

When The Economist wrote about Chávez’s generosity in providing $300m to the FARC on 24 May, it mentioned as its source a message from Raúl Reyes reproduced in El País and the Colombian weekly Semana. It also quoted from a document obtained by the Wall Street Journal: “The Venezuelan interior minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, asked the FARC to train Venezuelan soldiers in guerrilla tactics.” It’s unclear whether the Wall Street Journal copied the Miami Herald, which printed the same claim.

The improbable was followed by the bizarre: between 2000 and 2002, the FARC and ETA allegedly planned an attack in Madrid on prominent Colombian figures -- the current vice-president Francisco Santos Calderón, the former head of state, Andrés Pastrana, and the former ambassador in Spain Noemi Sanín (El Tiempo, 2 June). BBC Mundo reported on 5 March that the FARC had tried to get hold of uranium to make a dirty bomb.

According to the Reyes documents, Chávez’s friendship with the Colombian rebels dated back at least as far as 1992. When he was imprisoned for a failed coup attempt in February that year, he received $150,000 from the FARC (Le Figaro, 5 March and Wall Street Journal, 11 March). He must have spent it all in the prison canteen, because when he was released in 1994, he had no money and had to stay in a small apartment in central Caracas belonging to his future minister of the interior, Luis Miquilena, who also lent him a car.

Though it was more cautious, Le Monde ran a piece on 12 March about a FARC deserter: “According to the deserter, the FARC leader Iván Marquez and its commander-in-chief Manuel Marulanda are staying in Venezuela.” That will stick in the reader’s mind, as will the Figaro heading “Dangerous liaisons between the FARC and Chávez” (15 May).

In Venezuela, the dailies El Nacional and El Universal, along with the private channels Radio Caracas Télévisión (RCTV) and Globovisión, are having a field day. They are only too happy to broadcast the views of the governor of Zulia state or the former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, accusing president Chávez of betraying the country.

One of the many editorials in the Washington Post about Venezuela sums up this media firestorm: “If managed correctly, the laptop scandal will surely deepen the domestic political hole into which the would-be ‘Bolivarian’ revolutionary is sinking.”

Verified by Interpol
Throughout, Bogotá and the media have relied on a seemingly unimpeachable line of defence: the validity of seized documents has been verified by Interpol. And yet, closer examination yields interesting results.

General Naranjo requested Interpol’s independent opinion of the eight key “exhibits” (the computer equipment) on 4 March. Interpol’s report was presented in Bogotá on 15 May by its secretary general, the American Ronald Noble. He paid extensive tribute at his press conference to General Naranjo, who was seated beside him, and to the Department of State Security (DAS), the political police. Naranjo, the former head of the Colombian anti-drug police, had to stand down after his brother, Juan David, was arrested in Germany in March 2007 for drug trafficking. He was implicated by the Venezuelan interior minister for his links with the “narco” Wilmer Varela (assassinated on 29 February). As for the DAS, its former director, Jorge Noguera, was arrested on 22 February 2007 for allowing paramilitaries to use its resources.

According to Noble’s report and statements, Interpol’s role was limited to “(a) determining the actual data contained in the eight seized FARC computer exhibits, (b) verifying whether the user files had been modified in any way on or after 1 March 2008, and (c) determining whether Colombian law enforcement authorities had handled and examined the eight seized FARC computer exhibits in conformity with internationally recognised principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement.” But “the remit of the IRT and Interpol’s subsequent assistance to Colombia’s investigation did not include the analysis of the content of documents, folders or other material on the eight seized FARC computer exhibits. The accuracy and source of the user files contained in the eight seized FARC computer exhibits are and always have been outside the scope of Interpol’s computer forensic examination.”

Interpol’s team of experts, who came from Singapore and Australia and didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t examine the contents of the files. Perhaps this is understandable: In the 609.6 gigabytes in the eight “exhibits” there were 37,873 text documents, 452 spreadsheets, 210,888 images, 22,481 web pages, 7,989 email addresses (no reference to emails, though they were widely quoted in the media), and 983 encrypted files. “In non-technical terms, such a volume of data would correspond to 39.5 million full pages in Microsoft Word format and… would take more than a thousand years to go through it all at a rate of a hundred pages per day.”

That’s a lot of data for one man to produce. Especially Raúl Reyes, constantly on the move in the jungle, living the dangerous life of a guerrilla. But it wasn’t too much data for the Colombian government, which within a few hours had begun releasing a continuous stream of revelations from the files. Nor was it too much for journalists who wove the documents (authenticated by Interpol) into their own stories.

A troubling lack of rigour
The Interpol report shows a troubling lack of rigour. It says Reyes and Guillermo Enrique Torres, alias Julián Conrado, a FARC commander, were killed in the operation (page 10). But Bogotá, which had announced the death of Conrado on 1 March, had to retract that after a DNA examination of the only body (apart from Reyes) brought back by their forces. Similarly, the statement “FARC has been designated a terrorist organisation by Colombia, other governments and Interpol” (page 10) requires qualification. The designation has only been adopted by the US, Colombia, Peru, the EU, and Israel (31 countries in all), or 17% of the 186 countries that are Interpol members.

More significantly, the statement: “the eight seized FARC computer exhibits belonged to Raúl Reyes” or: “the eight seized FARC computer exhibits” (both page 10) should more properly have been: “the eight exhibits given to Interpol by the Colombian authorities.” Interpol has accepted the Colombian version of events, though there was no witness present to verify that the equipment was actually found near the body of the FARC leader. This provoked Correa to say on 13 May when he visited Paris: “Who can show that the computers were indeed found in the FARC camp?”

In the first fax Naranjo sent on 4 March to request Interpol help, he mentioned “three computers and three USB devices” (Appendix 2 of the report). In his reply of 5 March, Noble agrees on behalf of his organisation to examine “three computers and three USB keys” (Appendix 3). But on 6 March, in a letter to Interpol from the director of DAS, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the equipment has become “three laptop computers, the three USB keys and [for the first time] two hard-disc drives” (Appendix 4). Where did these hard drives come from? Had no one noticed them before?

The overall conclusion of the report is that “no data were created, added, modified or deleted on any of the these exhibits between 3 March 2008 at 11.45 am [the date and time when they were entrusted to the computer forensic specialists of the Colombian Judicial Police] and 10 March 2008 when the exhibits were handed over to Interpol’s experts to make their image discs” (page 29). It also states that “access to the data… [during the same period] conformed to internationally recognised principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement” (page 28).

But what happened between 1 March and 3 March? An officer of Colombia’s anti-terrorist unit “directly accessed the eight seized FARC computer exhibits under exigent and time-sensitive circumstances” (page 30) and they were all connected to a computer “without prior imaging of their contents and without the use of write-blocking hardware” (page 31). As a result of this, during those three days, “access to data . . . did not conform to internationally recognised principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement” (page 8). This is not insignificant, as Interpol discovered that a total of 48,055 files “had either been created, accessed, modified or deleted as a result of the direct access to the eight seized exhibits by Colombian authorities between the time of their seizure on 1 March 2008 and 3 March 2008 at 11.45am” (page 33).

No court of law anywhere could rely on the results of such a report to pass judgment on anyone. But that doesn’t stop the rumours or the headlines. The rumour mills are now turning in Ecuador and Venezuela. Even if today the conditions are not yet right for Venezuela to be classed as a terrorist or rogue state, this campaign is creating the right conditions in public opinion. According to Maximilien Arvelaiz, an adviser to President Chávez: “George Bush wants to leave behind a time bomb so that, whatever the outcome of the election in November, it will be very difficult to soften US policy on Venezuela.”

But an unforeseen turn of events can never be ruled out -- as has been shown by the spectacular, surprise release by Colombian troops of the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, held for years by FARC guerrillas in jungle captivity.

Maurice Lemoine is a journalist and writer, and an expert on the Latin American political scene. -- Translated by George Miller.

© 2008 Le Monde diplomatique

Behind Haiti's Food Crisis

A dynamite, 17-minute story by Avi Lewis was broadcast on Al Jazeera on July 4 and is posted to You Tube. Please watch it and make it known. Patrick Elie is one of those interviewed for the story.

Haiti Solidarity BC

"From the food market in Port au Prince, I'm Avi Lewis. We look at Washington's role in Haiti's food crisis."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Disaster Capitalism: State of Extortion

lookout-The Nation
by Naomi Klein
This article appeared in the July 21, 2008 edition of The Nation.

July 1, 2008

Once oil passed $140 a barrel, even the most rabidly right-wing media hosts had to prove their populist cred by devoting a portion of every show to bashing Big Oil. Some have gone so far as to invite me on for a friendly chat about an insidious new phenomenon: "disaster capitalism."

It usually goes well--until it doesn't.

For instance, "independent conservative" radio host Jerry Doyle and I were having a perfectly amiable conversation about sleazy insurance companies and inept politicians when this happened: "I think I have a quick way to bring the prices down," Doyle announced. "We've invested $650 billion to liberate a nation of 25 million people. Shouldn't we just demand that they give us oil? There should be tankers after tankers backed up like a traffic jam getting into the Lincoln Tunnel, the Stinkin' Lincoln, at rush hour with thank-you notes from the Iraqi government.... Why don't we just take the oil? We've invested it liberating a country. I can have the problem solved of gas prices coming down in ten days, not ten years."

There were a couple of problems with Doyle's plan, of course. The first was that he was describing the biggest stickup in world history. The second, that he was too late: "We" are already heisting Iraq's oil, or at least are on the cusp of doing so.

It's been ten months since the publication of my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which I argue that today's preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis. With the globe being rocked by multiple shocks, this seems like a good time to see how and where the strategy is being applied.

And the disaster capitalists have been busy--from private firefighters already on the scene in Northern California's wildfires, to land grabs in cyclone-hit Burma, to the housing bill making its way through Congress. The bill contains little in the way of affordable housing, shifts the burden of mortgage default to taxpayers and makes sure that the banks that made bad loans get some payouts. No wonder it is known in the hallways of Congress as "The Credit Suisse Plan," after one of the banks that generously proposed it.

Iraq Disaster: We Broke It, We (Just) Bought It

But these cases of disaster capitalism are amateurish compared with what is unfolding at Iraq's oil ministry. It started with no-bid service contracts announced for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total (they have yet to be signed but are still on course). Paying multinationals for their technical expertise is not unusual. What is odd is that such contracts almost invariably go to oil service companies--not to the oil majors, whose work is exploring, producing and owning carbon wealth. As London-based oil expert Greg Muttitt points out, the contracts make sense only in the context of reports that the oil majors have insisted on the right of first refusal on subsequent contracts handed out to manage and produce Iraq's oil fields. In other words, other companies will be free to bid on those future contracts, but these companies will win.

One week after the no-bid service deals were announced, the world caught its first glimpse of the real prize. After years of back-room arm-twisting, Iraq is officially flinging open six of its major oil fields, accounting for around half of its known reserves, to foreign investors. According to Iraq's oil minister, the long-term contracts will be signed within a year. While ostensibly under control of the Iraq National Oil Company, foreign firms will keep 75 percent of the value of the contracts, leaving just 25 percent for their Iraqi partners.

That kind of ratio is unheard of in oil-rich Arab and Persian states, where achieving majority national control over oil was the defining victory of anticolonial struggles. According to Muttitt, the assumption until now was that foreign multinationals would be brought in to develop brand-new fields in Iraq--not to take over ones that are already in production and therefore require minimal technical support. "The policy was always to allocate these fields to the Iraq National Oil Company," he told me. This is a total reversal of that policy, giving INOC a mere 25 percent instead of the planned 100 percent.

So what makes such lousy deals possible in Iraq, which has already suffered so much? Ironically, it is Iraq's suffering--its never-ending crisis--that is the rationale for an arrangement that threatens to drain its treasury of its main source of revenue. The logic goes like this: Iraq's oil industry needs foreign expertise because years of punishing sanctions starved it of new technology and the invasion and continuing violence degraded it further. And Iraq urgently needs to start producing more oil. Why? Again because of the war. The country is shattered, and the billions handed out in no-bid contracts to Western firms have failed to rebuild the country. And that's where the new no-bid contracts come in: they will raise more money, but Iraq has become such a treacherous place that the oil majors must be induced to take the risk of investing. Thus the invasion of Iraq neatly creates the argument for its subsequent pillage.

Several of the architects of the Iraq War no longer even bother to deny that oil was a major motivator. On National Public Radio's To the Point, Fadhil Chalabi, one of the primary Iraqi advisers to the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the invasion, recently described the war as "a strategic move on the part of the United States of America and the UK to have a military presence in the Gulf in order to secure [oil] supplies in the future." Chalabi, who served as Iraq's oil under secretary and met with the oil majors before the invasion, described this as "a primary objective."

Invading countries to seize their natural resources is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. That means that the huge task of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure--including its oil infrastructure--is the financial responsibility of Iraq's invaders. They should be forced to pay reparations. (Recall that Saddam Hussein's regime paid $9 billion to Kuwait in reparations for its 1990 invasion.) Instead, Iraq is being forced to sell 75 percent of its national patrimony to pay the bills for its own illegal invasion and occupation.

Oil Price Shock: Give Us the Arctic or Never Drive Again

Iraq isn't the only country in the midst of an oil-related stickup. The Bush Administration is busily using a related crisis--the soaring price of fuel--to revive its dream of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). And of drilling offshore. And in the rock-solid shale of the Green River Basin. "Congress must face a hard reality," said George W. Bush on June 18. "Unless members are willing to accept gas prices at today's painful levels--or even higher--our nation must produce more oil."

This is the President as Extortionist in Chief, with gas nozzle pointed to the head of his hostage--which happens to be the entire country. Give me ANWR, or everyone has to spend their summer vacations in the backyard. A final stickup from the cowboy President.

Despite the Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less bumper stickers, drilling in ANWR would have little discernible impact on actual global oil supplies, as its advocates well know. The argument that it could nonetheless bring down oil prices is based not on hard economics but on market psychoanalysis: drilling would "send a message" to the oil traders that more oil is on the way, which would cause them to start betting down the price.

Two points follow from this approach. First, trying to psych out hyperactive commodity traders is what passes for governing in the Bush era, even in the midst of a national emergency. Second, it will never work. If there is one thing we can predict from the oil market's recent behavior, it is that the price is going to keep going up regardless of what new supplies are announced.

Take the massive oil boom under way in Alberta's notorious tar sands. The tar sands (sometimes called the oil sands) have the same things going for them as Bush's proposed drill sites: they are nearby and perfectly secure, since the North American Free Trade Agreement contains a provision barring Canada from cutting off supply to the United States. And with little fanfare, oil from this largely untapped source has been pouring into the market, so much so that Canada is now the largest supplier of oil to the United States, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Between 2005 and 2007, Canada increased its exports to the States by almost 100 million barrels. Yet despite this significant increase in secure supplies, oil prices have been going up the entire time.

What is driving the ANWR push is not facts but pure shock doctrine strategy--the oil crisis has created the conditions in which it is possible to sell a previously unsellable (but highly profitable) policy.

Food Price Shock: Genetic Modification or Starvation

Intimately connected to the price of oil is the global food crisis. Not only do high gas prices drive up food costs but the boom in agrofuels has blurred the line between food and fuel, pushing food growers off their land and encouraging rampant speculation. Several Latin American countries have been pushing to re-examine the push for agrofuels and to have food recognized as a human right, not a mere commodity. United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has other ideas. In the same speech touting the US commitment to emergency food aid, he called on countries to lower their "export restrictions and high tariffs" and eliminate "barriers to use of innovative plant and animal production technologies, including biotechnology." This was an admittedly more subtle stickup, but the message was clear: impoverished countries had better crack open their agricultural markets to American products and genetically modified seeds, or they could risk having their aid cut off.

Genetically modified crops have emerged as the cureall for the food crisis, at least according to the World Bank, the European Commission president (time to "bite the bullet") and Prime Minister of Britain Gordon Brown. And, of course, the agribusiness companies. "You cannot today feed the world without genetically modified organisms," Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestlé, told the Financial Times recently. The problem with this argument, at least for now, is that there is no evidence that GMOs increase crop yields, and they often decrease them.

But even if there was a simple key to solving the global food crisis, would we really want it in the hands of the Nestlés and Monsantos? What would it cost us to use it? In recent months Monsanto, Syngenta and BASF have been frenetically buying up patents on so-called "climate ready" seeds--plants that can grow in earth parched from drought and salinated from flooding.

In other words, plants built to survive a future of climate chaos. We already know the lengths Monsanto will go to protect its intellectual property, spying on and suing farmers who dare to save their seeds from one year to the next. We have seen patented AIDS medications fail to treat millions in sub-Saharan Africa. Why would patented "climate ready" crops be any different?

Meanwhile, amid all the talk of exciting new genetic and drilling technologies, the Bush Administration announced a moratorium of up to two years on new solar energy projects on federal lands--due, apparently, to environmental concerns. This is the final frontier for disaster capitalism. Our leaders are failing to invest in technology that will actually prevent a future of climate chaos, choosing instead to work hand in hand with those plotting innovative schemes to profit from the mayhem.

Privatizing Iraq's oil, ensuring global dominance for genetically modified crops, lowering the last of the trade barriers and opening the last of the wildlife refuges... Not so long ago, those goals were pursued through polite trade agreements, under the benign pseudonym "globalization." Now this discredited agenda is forced to ride on the backs of serial crises, selling itself as lifesaving medicine for a world in pain.


About Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002).

Canada Needs a Free Press

Please join us at a small Corporate Media event

Why? To tell our local Corporate Media that we want honest news - and the truth - from them ... not just the Corporate news and the Corporate truth. And to give our fellow citizens the same message ... that democracy cannot long survive without a free press, and one of the greatest threats to our democracy is Corporate ownership of the media.

When? Tuesday, July 8, from 10 AM to 10:45 ... short and sweet

Where? 1420 Broad St. The home of A-Channel TV and CFAX Radio. These are 2 members of our local Corporate Media, both owned by CTV-GlobeMedia, one of the large conglomerates that own and control almost all of Canada's radio, TV, and daily papers - CTV GlobeMedia is controlled by Canada's wealthiest family, the Thomsons.

What? Peaceful and friendly. We'll have a few signs. We'll present management with a letter outlining our concerns. It's a busy corner and lots of people can see us. AND, we'll be sending out a press release to virtually all the media in BC and the major players nation-wide (both Corporate and Free) so hopefully word will get out about this event and the desperate need for citizen awareness and real change.

Winning our battles - on social issues, environmental issues, political, economic or health issues - is going to be almost impossible until we can get our own media, or at least let people know that the existing media has been almost totally corrupted and should not be trusted or believed in any way...

The Corporations know exactly how important 'mainstream' Media is ... that's why they own it.

So please join us in this ongoing fight for democracy.

RSVP if you can ... but please attend anyways. Tuesday, July 8, 10 AM, corner of Broad and Pandora.

Any questions:

Jack Etkin

Derek Skinner

WHY is there almost nothing in the Corporate Media about the SPP? Who has decided that we Canadians should not be told about this corporate attack on our nation? Why no coverage last month when climate scientist James Hansen of NASA, testifying before the US Congress, said that oil company CEO's should be put on trial for crimes against humanity? Is that not news? Or is it something that the corporate owners of the media have decided we should not be told?

Why is there nothing about TILMA? What about the corrupt privatization of BC Rail? How about a debate on the impact of record corporate profits on homelessness and food bank use in Canada?

What about the Agribusiness destruction of the family farm, the connection between Enron and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the Bush family funding of Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930's? Why no questions about 911 - when our Prime Minister tells us we are at war in Afghanistan because of it? And why the never-ending coverage of crime and violence and sports and entertainment behind which the truth is kept hidden?

The Corporate Media deliberately decided not to inform us about the oncoming disaster of climate change for decades ... has never held to account the corporations that knowingly and deliberately damaged the ozone layer in the name of profit maximization. They never mention the name of Percy Schmeisser, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and so many other heroes.

The Corporate owners of the Media have willingly participated in the ongoing destruction of our democracy; they have a lot to answer for and they have got to be held accountable for their actions, preferably in courts of law.