G21 World Forum

January 19, 2003

A Proposal to Pre-empt War Itself

Dear President George W. Bush,

The rest of the world is watching in disbelief as you pursue what can only be interpreted as a petty, vindictive, callous, cynical, ill-advised, unjustified and potentially disastrous campaign of political and corporate expediency (and mass media distraction) against Iraq.

Despite having the ill fortune to be ruled by Saddam Hussein, what have the people of Iraq done to deserve the anguish of being targeted once again by the world's most ferocious high-tech weapons systems?

Will you "liberate" them by slaughtering beloved sons, fathers, husbands, and fiances in one-sided "battle" ム with the lost lives of mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, young boys and babies dismissed as "collateral damage"? Will the U.S. convince them of its benevolence and the superiority of advanced industrialized democratic Christian civilization by again destroying their homes and vital infrastructure ム their water supply systems, their power stations, their sewage systems ム and then blocking medical supplies?

Last week, your staunch ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair showed apparent willingness to resuscitate the Middle East peace process. Your administration had recently stated support for a separate homeland for the Palestinians, and even proposed a date for its implementation. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon then flatly refused to let Palestinian delegates travel to attend Blair's conference in the UK. Does the U.S. really have so little influence in Israel that you couldn't persuade him to take a longer view and facilitate that necessary step towards a peaceful solution? Does the immense amount of military aid that the U.S. pours into Israel give you no leverage at all? The rest of the world can only conclude that Israel, not the U.S., is the dominant partner in this relationship. Apart from the contempt shown for sub-junior partner Blair, and the aspirations of the Palestinians, this raises further serious questions about your plans for Iraq and the entire Middle East ム a region where imposed plans tend to twist out of control and into unforeseen chaos.

The United States' obsession with policing United Nations resolutions in Iraq's case, while totally ignoring the many U.N. resolutions that require Israel to withdraw from occupied territory, is simply hypocritical. (It would hardly take more than a few hours for inspectors to locate weapons of mass destruction in Israel). This double standard is outrageous, and it destroys all credibility in U.S. foreign policy. Using the U.N. in this way to legitimate attacking Iraq is easily interpreted as no more than a trumped-up excuse for a predatory invasion to appropriate material underground assets ム and to prove to the world that the post-9/11, post-Afghanistan U.S. is still armed and dangerous.

I would like to ask you this: What do you want your presidency to be remembered for?

President Eisenhower was an eminently capable military leader, but he is best remembered and respected now for his sincerity and humanity in warning the world of the threat of military-industrialism: "Every gun and rocket that is fired, every warship launched, signifies, in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

He also said this: "Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in this world must first come to pass in the heart of America."

Mr President, I implore you to think beyond the short-term benefit of the U.S. oil industry, and U.S. corporate business interests. You do not need to invade Iraq. With your position comes a far greater responsibility, involving the greater good of the world as a whole.

It is a well-documented fact that just 30% of the world's annual military budget would pay for all of the most pressing needs of the planet's inhabitants (as noted below*). If the U.S., with the world's most exorbitant military appropriations, were to take the initiative in transforming that spending, by investing a truly significant proportion of its taxpayers' money on actively promoting peace instead of violence ム both inside and outside the U.S.A. ム the world and its political landscape could be positively changed in ways we can at present only dream of. This would be real preemption of war, an absolutely unprecedented investment in international stability, in hope, in humanity, in the future of the human race. This is a challenge worthy of America, that could restore your nation's now negligible international standing.

In One World Ready or Not , William Greider says this: "Everyone's values are defined by what they will tolerate when it is done to others. "

As President and commander-in-chief of the U.S.A., you are in the position not only to direct vast death-dealing forces of military intervention, but also to motivate and facilitate even greater forces of generosity of spirit and humanitarian concern on behalf of all your fellow inhabitants of the world. Each of us have just one short life to live, and we all share temporary residency on this same one-and-only miraculous planet Earth ム and our hopes and concerns for our children, and all future generations.

Only you, as an individual, can stand before your God ム and the world ム and choose what you will be remembered for.


Ken Rodgers
Managing Editor, Kyoto Journal

*Global Military Expenditures 2002

Global military expenditures currently exceed $800 BILLION.
The top military spenders are:

United States $343.2 billion
Russia* $60
China* $42
Japan $40.4
United Kingdom $34
Saudi Arabia $27.2
France $25.3
Germany $21
Brazil $17.9
India $15.6
Italy $15.5
South Korea $11.8

Based on 2000 funding (most recent year available)

Global Priorities

For approximately 30% of Annual World Military Expenditures (~$810 billion), all of the following could be accomplished:

- Eliminate Starvation and Malnutrition ($19 billion)
- Provide Shelter ($21 billion)
- Remove Landmines ($4 billion)
- Build Democracy ($3 billion)
- Eliminate Nuclear Weapons ($7 billion)
- Refugee Relief ($5 billion)
- Eliminate Illiteracy ($5 billion)
- Provide Clean, Safe Water ($10 billion)
- Provide Health Care and AIDS Control ($21 billion)
- Stop Deforestation ($7 billion)
- Prevent Global Warming ($8 billion)
- Stabilize Population ($10.5 billion)
- Prevent Acid Rain ($8 billion)
- Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Energy Efficiency ($33 billion), Renewable Energy ($17 billion)
- Stop Ozone Depletion ($5 billion)
- Prevent Soil Erosion ($24 billion)
- Retire Developing Nations Debt ($30 billion)

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Severn Suzuki: Report from the World Summit on Sustainable Development

2002 is the ten year anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit. And to commemorate the event, the UN hosted an even bigger event in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Skyfish Project made a debut here, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Me-- Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Jeff Topham, Aaron Mate (all from Canada), Ian Cheney (USA) and Bertus Louw (South Africa) were its representatives.

Johannesburg had to prove itself to the skeptics that said Africa couldn't host an event like this, with some 40 000 people attending, as well as some 180 heads of State. The city geared up for the event, putting welcoming billboards up everywhere, clearing the streets of unwanted residents (in the tradition of Rio) and the fancy Sandton Convention Center was full of intense military surveillance; helicopters hovered overhead.

Jeff and I arrived on day 2 of the Summit, picked up by Bertus, my awesome South African friend, and then we picked up Aaron, staying with his Greenpeace uncle. We drove to Waverley to the Still family home, where Ian had already arrived. (Tony Still is the head of Johannesburg water.) Tyler Welti and Brendan MacKennany (sp?) from Yale also stayed with us. We set up the Skyfish compound there, we had our own apartment and the backyard had a ping-pong table and tennis courts; pretty nice. We hit the ground running-- headed out to the Summit to get registered.

In the Sandton Convention Center, I spent a lot of time in the bull-pen-- the media center-- a huge room full of monitors and stressed-out journalists drinking coke and coffee from disposable cups. Upstairs were six floors of convention rooms, suits and security. It was impossible not to feel completely overwhelmed. The issues being discussed at the plenaries were on a global scale: how to end global poverty, how to provide global sanitation and clean drinking water, how to prevent loss of biodiversity. Conferences like this are made of Caucuses, committees, panels and discussion groups, and many, many versions of documents, as negotiators lobby for the phrases that best serve their interests. A lot of paper gets pumped out, to be replaced by the next day's versions.

We had a booth for the Skyfish Project at the NGO forum at NASREC, a convention center about a 40 minute drive away from the Sandton Convention Center on the outskirts of town. Since there was no public transit and the taxis were quite expensive, going back and forth was out of the question. It definitely left something to be desired. We would split up, some of us going to the Summit, some others going to NASREC. There we met other NGOs and got people to sign our Recognition of Responsibility. Reps for the NGOs were pretty amazing, from people who are working on water and agricultural practices to literacy programs to a group of Tibetan exiles who are traveling all over to get their message out. Meeting them was pretty humbling.

One thing we did have was the attention of the media. The press, bored with the conference-ness of the conference, were eager to talk to "the 12 year old in Rio" who was now 22 and back at the Summit. Because of that angle, I did interviews on BBC, NHK, CNN, SABC and many other African TV and radio stations.

We also had a documentary film crew with us, making an expose of the Summit, as seen through our perspective. That was a bit trippy, having a film crew with us all the time. They were great though. And I was glad that they were into exploring outside the Summit; we visited several townships and the South African cameraman took us to visit some friends of his in the slums of the inner city.

On the political front of the Summit:

Kofi Annan, was, as ever, trying to keep the perspective of the conference and trying to remind the leaders of their responsibility for each other and especially for the poor and the oppressed, and asked them to "stop being on the economic defensive and become politically courageous." I think he's a really good guy.

Blair re-committed England to the support of Africa, his "passion." Bragged that England will exceed their Kyoto numbers, and upped England's aid by 50%.

Mugabe gave a speech renouncing European advice or aid and got a standing ovation from the African leaders at the plenary.

When the US representative, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke, two days late, he got booed and protesters in the crowd ("protesters" being members of the plenary audience) unfurled banners saying "shame on Bush", which they also chanted throughout his speech. Poor guy. The anti-American sentiment was tangible by the end of the two week conference.

Throughout the Summit the US aggression towards Iraq was just developing, so this was an outside political issue that was pushing in. The pressure of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts were evident too-- there were several Anti-Israel protests, as Shimon Peres was representing Israel at the summit.

The Summit re-confirmed for me the problems with conferences like this and the stark contrast of talk and action. I did a long interview with Nitin Desai (the Secretary General of the Summit) for the documentary. I couldn't help asking him straight out if I could address the plenary, like in Rio. He gave a bureaucrat's answer, saying that he was just a facilitator of the summit, that individuals have gone through an extensive process in order to be here, so his hands are tied in the face of the process. This is one of the dilemmas of conferences like this, where the lengthy process becomes everything, in the name of democracy and diplomacy.

By day three we were already pretty exhausted by the Summit. Luckily, we bumped into Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, who let us know about the Landless People's rally-- finally a hint of what was going on outside the summit. We were very excited to see what was going on.

The Landless People's rally was held in a crumbling old movie set on the outskirts of town, near NASREC. It's been changed into a sort of small stadium. We got there and the building was full of the "landless people" -- singing and swaying in the bleachers.

The singing was so powerful and just so different from what we'd been seeing at the Convention center… it made me want to cry. Then the camera swung in my face, so that stopped that. Pretty powerful though. Many of the people had their land taken by the government for development reasons (malls) and were transported to other areas of the sprawling city. Literally carted off in big trucks, and told that there would be building materials at the other end… Now they have nothing to lose, so were here, preparing for the march from the township of Alexandra to Sandton. These were the infamous "poor" that were being discussed in the Convention Center everyday. Yet they were out here, trying to be heard.

We participated in the 15 000 people March held two days later, and marched from the shanty houses of Alexandra to the towers of Sandton for some 5 hours. We were surrounded by Africans singing and dancing the whole way, and by people from all over the world here for the summit. There were people from every sector, every nook and cranny of social and environmental activism. It was really amazing. Tanks and soldiers lined the streets, but there was such a sense of solidarity and peacefulness in the march. Only when the march stopped at Sandton and became a rally did things get a little restless, and I was sad to see an Israeli flag being burned (an instant focus for the press) and heard many contradicting statements about different political leaders (Mugabe et. al).

Overall, a very moving experience and unlike anything I've ever been a part of before.

One day, on a Greenpeace tip, we went out with a woman who runs a small volunteer organization called CLAW that goes out into some of the poorest communities and runs veterinary clinics, giving pets shots and flea baths. It was a pretty intense picture: we arrived to a shanty town and she and her volunteers set up their van-clinic as dozens of children lined up carrying their dogs. She says that treating the pets helps the sanitation of the communities, teaches them about how to care for them. It was evident that she also has become an informal social worker in the communities; she says that they sometimes find orphans who have lost their parents to AIDS, and she helps them find help.

The visit with CLAW, the Landless People's Rally and the March were inspiring things to witness and be a part of. Action and passion and movement… things hard to see on the Summit side.

Other highlights:

Went up to the fifth floor where the plenary was happening and saw a familiar man walking ahead of me-- it was Mandela!!! He and Graca were walking along the corridor!! I caught up and walked alongside of them, gawking at Madiba in his classic Madiba shirt… it never occurred to me to actually talk to him! Wow.

At the landless people's rally I gave a message of solidarity to the people from us in Canada. That was pretty intidimating and empowering at the same time, what an adrenaline rush. Afterwards I sat down next to a white woman… and suddenly I realized she was Maude Barlow. I interviewed her on a pile of rubble outside the rally. That was great.

Being in Africa and the Summit craziness with my friends-- sharing such a surreal experience with buddies was amazing. The discussions and ideas that were provoked were great. I learned so much from them.

Results of the Summit:

The negotiations for the Political declaration and the Plan of Implementation went right to the wire, the JUSCANZ (Japan, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) countries acting as a block, and the US basically isolating itself against everyone. When it finally came out, it was 9 o'clock at night, the conference had already ended. People working on sanitation issues were very happy that the target of halving the number of people without clean water by 2015 was put into the Plan of Implementation. I scanned through the Declaration and realized that the line acknowledging the Earth Charter (I good document I was on a UN Commission for) had been cut. A little group of people were gathering, the Human Rights Caucus, and they called together what press they could to renounce the document because all acknowledgement and support for the upholding of human rights had been cut from the declaration.

So, I left with the film crew, feeling quite dejected about the four page document, the legacy of the Summit. You can look it up- the Political Declaration and Plan of Implementation at http://www.johannesburgsummit.org

I don't know what the concrete results of the march was, whether the South African government is addressing the demands of the landless people. I don't know what the impact of the rally and march was on the Summiteers. I just hope that it got media attention to the rest of the world, showing that not everyone was represented at the Summit and that real action is really needed. Same old issues.

The film will be aired on "the Nature of Things" on January 16th. I'm a bit nervous about it, I really hope it's a good show! * * *

I'm now in my home of Vancouver, finally, dealing with the responses to the trip and trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing with all this. After the giant issues of Johannesburg I still really believe in our Recognition of Responsibility because it's about walking all this talk!!! We're now at some 500+ signatures. Hey, it's a start. The comments that people have written on the website are wonderful. It's pretty encouraging. I also getting ready for my trip to Japan, which is very exciting. Lots to think about, I wonder what that trip will bring. Lots to look forward to.

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