Historic Climate Deal Reached
'This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of
history.'—Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International
By Andrea Germanos
teleSUR English spoke to author Jean Bricmont on how the industry and ideology of human rights has been used to justify imperialism and undermine the efficiency of the European and North American left.
teleSUR English: Your book “Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War” was released in English back in 2006 following the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and the British, so for those not familiar with the book could you briefly outline the contents and the argument and tell us what exactly inspired you to write it?
Jean Bricmont: It goes back to the Kosovo War when there was no opposition to the war in at least Belgium and France. In fact, there was widespread consensus on the left and the far left for that war because it was a war for “human rights” and we “had to stop genocide.” The opposition to the Iraq War was actually quite weak because people accepted sanctions and all sorts of things that led to the war, but there was at least a certain opposition to the war. But there was no opposition to the Libyan War to speak of and there's been indirect support for interventions in Syria and Ukraine. I think the left has completely lost its senses because they have totally lost any idea of the relationship of forces between nations in the world. Of course, this goes along with the liberal ideology of the market: Everyone goes to the market, everyone competes on the market and all the nations are equal, and then there's a superpower that's supposed to be the cop that's going to enforce human rights. And the human rights ideology, not the goal of human rights as such but the ideology that the West should always intervene and human rights organizations should always denounce, this ideology has totally wiped out the West including the left in the West and maybe more the left than the right. On the right there are still people who think of the national interest in terms of realpolitik, which I think nowadays is a lesser evil than waging war against everybody.
teleSUR English: Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day which celebrates the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly. Could you briefly chart the history of human rights in the 20th and 21st centuries and tell us what, in your opinion, went wrong?
Jean Bricmont: The Declaration of Human Rights is obviously full of good intentions. There is a right to education, there is a right to food and so on. But suppose I am hungry, how am I going to enforce those rights? Those rights cannot be enforced because rights can only be enforced within a state that has the power to enforce those rights. You need police, you need courts and so on and so forth. The problem mostly comes after the 1960s. Before that it's true that respect for state power was far too extreme, so I understand why people thought that they needed to protest against state power, but the problem is that they've never incorporated a desire for peace. The Declaration of Human Rights was introduced at the same time of the Nuremberg trials and the principles and charters of the U .N. The charter of the U.N. is also an important document to maintain peace because it assumes we have to have equal respect for states large and small, strong and weak.
“The ideology of human rights … has been used in a systematic way in order to undermine the sovereignty of weak states and justify intervention.”
The ideology of human rights however has been used in a systematic way in order to undermine the sovereignty of weak states and justify intervention, which has always existed and was one of the causes of World War II. One of the reasons why the U.N. charter was created after the war was to prevent the repetition of such events, and now we have chaos in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, we have chaos everywhere. Then there are refugees and then there's a xenophobic reaction to the refugees, but what do you expect? It's totally unrealistic to expect people to welcome millions of refugees and not protest, just as it's totally unrealistic to think human rights can be enforced through war. Eventually war makes the worst in human beings come to the fore. We say we have a responsibility to protect without asking who's responsible for the protection. The protection of course comes from the United States, but the United States is not a benevolent power as we've seen throughout history. It has its own agenda and it wages war against the countries it considers its enemies. It's not going to protect the Palestinians, it's not going to protect the Yemenis, it's not going to intervene in Saudi Arabia. And so we give power to an absolute sovereign who uses it as it sees fit. This has been a total subversion of human rights, which I of course respect as an idea but not the way it has been put into practice. That includes Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who have all been incredibly biased in their denunciation of human rights abuses.
teleSUR English: I was just going to ask you about the relationship between the left, the imperial governments such as the U.S., France and Britain, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as the U.N. itself? What's the relationship between these different actors?
Jean Bricmont: With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Bloc, the left needed a holy ghost to rally around and instead of socialism it chose human rights. The problem with that is that human rights were always used during the Cold War as a rallying cry for the right against the Communists. You don't need to be a Communist to be suspicious of this ideology of human rights. By embracing this ideology of human rights they thought they were subversive but they were not. The right was actually quite happy with the way it was used ideologically, they've always had those kinds of double standards. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, far from seeing the birth of a genuine left as people like Chomsky might have hoped for, what happened was a total capitulation and an embrace of the idea of the enemy. Now we have a sort of artificial division between the left and the right, for example in the area of gay rights which the right might not like, but when it comes to war, peace, the market and the economy there isn't any consistent thought, even in thinking of alternatives to neoliberalism.
teleSUR English: The British have just joined a coalition of airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria. The need to intervene by the pro-interventionists was firmly rooted in the rhetoric of humanitarianism. How do you read the situation in Syria and what role are the Islamic State group playing for outside powers?
Jean Bricmont: It's a bit complicated because in 2013 the West were debating whether to intervene because Assad allegedly used chemical weapons, and now they're intervening against the enemies of Assad. It seems to me there is no real thinking. First they were supporting the rebels fighting against Assad, and now they're in effect helping Assad despite not wanting to admit to it openly. So now they're fighting the worst enemies of Assad while claiming to not have any contact with the Syrian army, which makes no sense because if you want to be efficient then you should be in contact with the troops on the ground that are fighting ISIS, mainly the Syrian army.
“The priority seems to be a show of force, they want to show they're doing something despite not doing anything effective.”
However, they don't want to do that because of their human rights, so they're in a situation in which they're going to bomb and create hatred among those who could sympathize with them, and they're not going to be effective on the ground. I don't think they should do it but it would actually make sense for them to join the Russians and Syrians and fight ISIS together with troops on the ground, but that doesn't seem to be a priority. The priority seems to be a show of force, they want to show they're doing something despite not doing anything effective. What they won't even admit is that the policies contradict those they used to have when they tried to overthrow Assad. They helped the rebels, they gave them weapons, so it seems to me that even from the point of view of the government there isn't any strategic thinking. He may be right or wrong, but Putin is thinking strategically—he thinks one should defeat ISIS by cooperating with the Syrian forces. What I think the West is going to do is help the Syrian and Russian forces without admitting it. We will see. I just find it all a bit embarrassing.
teleSUR English: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jean Bricmont: People have actually supported the chaos in the Middle East, indirectly of course, but they have. In Syria for example, the left have failed to look at the relationship of forces, they have failed to ask questions about the opposition, the role of Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Instead, there's been total fantasy. Then there's the Palestinian question, which we've always been really weak on. The reason we've been weak is because of this struggle against anti-Semitism without making proper distinctions, with no respect for free speech. And now the left want to welcome refugees but it's a difficult situation, there are no jobs, there is real mass unemployment, so of course the refugees provoke a revolt. In France, there will be a huge victory for the far right and the left will be totally eliminated in the coming elections. You reap what you sow and the left have totally confused policy. You can't be for globalization and no borders while being for the destabilization of other countries and expect no chaos in your own country. And if you have chaos in your own country, then you're going to have a right-wing reaction because the population won't accept it.
“If restraint wasn't imposed by nuclear weapons we'd have a generalized war in the Middle East.”
The other thing is all this agitation about the COP21, climate change and so on. Many people are demonstrating about the climate, but France is going to war and I see nobody reacting to that. Nobody is saying anything. Of course we should demonstrate for the climate, but we're on the verge of a general war. If restraint wasn't imposed by nuclear weapons we'd have a generalized war in the Middle East. There is Iran, Russia, Syria, Iraq on one side. Then you have Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and its allies on the other side. This is a recipe for global war. Nobody wants a global war because of nuclear weapons but if it weren't for nuclear weapons there would be a global war and we'd be back in 1914. The situation is very serious. I’m actually quite scared.
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December 12, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Common
Dreams" - The global talks known as
Saturday with nearly 200 countries
agreeing to a carbon emissions-slashing
deal (pdf). But climate campaigners are saying that the
agreement doesn't go far enough, and that the real work is just
described the deal's adoption as "setting
the course for a 'historic' transformation of the world's fossil
fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global
warming," commentator George Monbiot
writes Saturday of the draft agreement, "By comparison to what
it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should
have been, it’s a disaster."
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi
Naidoo's take at the end of the talks was that the agreement marks
"only one step on long a road, and there are parts of it that
frustrate and disappoint me, but it is progress. This deal alone
won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less
Here's how environmental organization Earthjustice
sums up just what the Paris Agreement commits its signatories to:
- hold the increase in global temperature
average to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial
levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to
1.5 degrees, a goal that reflects the most current science on
the uppermost limit of warming if we are to reduce the risk of
the most catastrophic impacts of climate change
- review progress every five years, the first
before 2020, and bring countries back to the table to increase
their emissions reduction efforts
- robust transparency provisions to hold
nations accountable to carry through on their pledges
- provide support to poorer countries to help
them leapfrog to low-carbon development, adapt to climate change
and cope with unavoidable loss and damage.
reports that the deal "for the first time commits rich
countries, rising economies and some of the poorest countries to
work together to fight climate change."
"The overall agreement is legally binding," the
reporting adds, "but some elements—including the pledges to curb
emissions by individual countries and the climate finance elements
That was noted by Friends of the Earth Scotland,
who said that among the pact's problems is the fact that "[t]here is
no legally binding way forward to address the problem of lack of
ambition of current national contributions towards post-2020
action—a very weak "facilitative dialogue" in 2018 with no
obligation to actually improve these plans." And as far as the 1.5
degree limit is concerned, the language used—"to pursue efforts"—is
Naidoo said of the 1.5 degree limit, "That single
number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of
this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal
companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states."
"This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the
wrong side of history," Naidoo said. Indeed, similar to Reuters'
phrasing of the outcome, the Guardian wrote in its
reporting of the deal's adoption: "Governments have signaled an end
to the fossil fuel era." That laudable element aside, many of the
nations' pledges put the world on a path to warming of not 2 but
over 3 degrees, Earthjustice says.
On the issue of climate finance, says ActionAid,
the deal "lets the world’s biggest historical polluters off the
hook." Disappointments aside, the group's chief executive, Adriano
Campolina, said the deal "provides an important hook on which people
can hang their demands."
"And so our work is just beginning," Earthjustice
President Trip Van Noppen. "Whether we live in rich nations or poor
ones, in low-lying coastal communities or in the American heartland,
our fates are bound together."
Others at the Paris conference took to Twitter to
underscore the importance of grassroots movements now in forcing
governments to commit to making the changes required:
And that sentiment brought out thousands to the
streets of Paris—in defiance of a protest ban—on Saturday. Among
those is Philippine activist Joseph Purugganan from the organization
Focus on the Global South. "The message here is that the real
solution will come from the people," he
told the New York Times.
As Naidoo added in his statement, "To pull us free
of fossil fuels we are going to need to mobilize in ever greater
numbers." And there have been successes, he noted. "This year the
climate movement beat the Keystone pipeline, we kicked Shell out of
the Arctic and put coal into terminal decline."
"For us," he said, "Paris was always a stop on an
ongoing journey. Ultimately our fate will be decided over the coming
decades by the collective courage of our species. I believe we will
Sham Paris Climate Agreement
By Stephen Lendman
discussions from November 30 - December 11 among hundreds of
representatives from 196 UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) countries were dead on arrival.
They fell short of a
whimper, let alone a bang environmental and other civil society
groups hoped for - in vain.
Meaningful results were
entirely absent - impossible to achieve with America and its key
allies unwilling to address a potentially catastrophic future
problem without taking constructive action now.
Friends of the Earth
International (FEI) accused America and other “(r)ich countries
(of) mov(ing) the goal posts” to serve their powerful monied
interests, profiting hugely by despoiling planet earth -
ignoring a 19th century proverb more relevant today than ever,
“Only when the last tree
has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been
caught (and the air no longer safe to breathe and contaminated
GMO and other crops no longer fit to eat) will we realize we
cannot eat money.”
FEI called the deal
reached in Paris “a sham.” FEI’s climate justice and energy
coordinator Sara Shaw said “(t)hrough piecemeal pledges and
bullying tactics, (US-led) rich countries have pushed through a
very bad deal” - hype and deception substituting for vitally
needed meaningful tough measures.
Principles agreed on
reveal an agreement “fail(ing) humanity,” Shaw stressed.
Rich countries refuse to
cut their fossil fuel emissions or at least enough to matter.
Climate Justice Alliance coordinator Ananda Lee Tan said “(o)nce
again, world leaders have shown they lack the political courage,
decency, and integrity to stand up for the needs of the most
impacted communities around the world in the biggest ecological
crisis of our time.”
“Our assessment is that,
again, it is left up to us. We know it is people and communities
that have to lead us out of this ecological crisis” - never
major political leaders serving special interests exclusively.
US-led leading countries
bullied, bribed and threatened smaller poorer ones to go along,
the way imperialism always works.
On Saturday, “we will step
it up on the streets of Paris, but we need to continue to get
more people on the streets - block by block, community by
community - to fight this global confluence of governments and
corporat(e)” predators, Tan stressed.
Thousands of environmental
group activists and individuals on their own protested in Paris
on Saturday, defying an official ban. They demonstrated on the
Champ de Mars and held hands beneath the Eiffel Tower -
denouncing the sham deal announced on Friday, final adoption
scheduled for Saturday.
Their numbers stretched
over two km - from the Arc de Triomphe to La Defense business
Western media scoundrels
lied - claiming a first time ever deal, committing nearly all
countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to matter.
called terms reached a historic “turning point” on fossil fuel
use, promising a green transition.
The New York Times hailed
“a breakthrough” deal, meaningfully “address(ing) climate
change,” disgracefully praised by world leaders and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Washington Post
headlined “ ‘Historic’ climate pact nears final vote…putt(ing)
Earth on a path toward sharply reducing emissions from
The Wall Street Journal
said a “global agreement on climate change” is near fruition.
The Chicago Tribune said
“nearly 200 nations near (an) unprecedented deal to slow global
The Los Angeles Times
headlined “Climate change vote will mark a ‘historic turning
National Public Radio (aka
National Pentagon or Petroleum Radio) said with a final deal
imminent on Saturday, “(t)he main hall of the COP21 climate
meetings outside Paris echoed with applause from a standing
The BBC said the “world
awaits (a) landmark climate deal.”
London’s Guardian said
world leaders “inch toward historic climate deal.”
Once again, efforts to
address potential future ecological disaster fell flat.
Washington and its key allies intend dirty business as usual
going forward - while duplicitously claiming otherwise.
lives in Chicago. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org . His new book as editor and
contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for
Hegemony Risks WW III." -
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html - Visit his blog
site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.