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Issue #1798      October 11, 2017

Culture & Life

Hurricanes, hoaxes and nuclear holocaust

At first sight, it seems curious that right-wingers can be so adamant that global warming is some sort of Commie plot. Until you realise that denying climate change – and especially denying that it has anything to do with the burning of fossil fuels – benefits some of the most reactionary sectors of capital: those businesses that make their money from the extraction and use of oil and coal.

People wade through a flooded street in Houston.

William Rivers Pitt, commenting on the recent devastating hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria said in Truthout “Four massive storms in a row, each rewriting meteorological history with their sheer size and strength ... This is what climate change looks like: More water in the atmosphere makes for larger, stronger storms. ...

“And, of course, this will be ignored, because climate denial feeds the profits of the few. This is the United States, where Jim Inhofe can bring a snowball to the well of the Senate as evidence that climate change is a hoax. Rush Limbaugh spent a week telling his millions of listeners that the Irma warnings were ‘fake news’ before fleeing his own Florida home just before the storm hit.”

Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas, playing havoc with that state’s oil industry and spreading pollution throughout the region. President Donald Trump, however, is a confirmed climate change denier and since he changed the personnel in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency that body now does as he says: so according to the EPA, all is well in Texas.

That kind of head-in-the-sand approach to serious environmental catastrophes cannot be sustained for long. Sooner rather than later, reality will force its way into the conversation and even the Trumpites in Washington will be called upon to take action.

Not that reality particularly worries the Donald, of course. Just look at the way he campaigned for election on a platform to “make America great again”. And the way he shamelessly denies that his outrageous courting of Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other racists is responsible for the surge in racist violence in the USA. He waited days after an anti-racist protester was deliberately killed hoping he could avoid having to condemn her murder.

When his advisers made it clear he would have to speak up, he tried to apportion blame to “all sides” negating the benefits his advisers had hoped his speech would generate. But Trump, in his arrogance, believes he can lecture – or threaten – the rest of the world with impunity. Look at the fiasco of his recent performance at the UN, where he blamed the political and economic crisis in Venezuela on Socialism!

Surely all diplomats, especially those from Latin America – and, indeed, from developing nations almost anywhere – are well aware that the disturbances and economic disruption in Venezuela are the result of gross interference in the country’s internal affairs by the US?

Trump not only tried to blame it on the Venezuelans themselves, but specifically on the Bolivarian Revolution: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” he said.

I’ll bet his speech-writer thought that was a real zinger. In fact, after he said it and presumably in accordance with the instructions embedded in his speaker’s notes being projected on the small monitor screen in front of him, Trump dramatically paused for applause. And was greeted by a “painfully awkward” silence – and some scattered laughter.

“Eventually, some in the hall quietly applauded the comment – but only after Trump waited desperately for several long moments,” noted Jake Johnson in US journal Common Dreams.

It was Trump’s first address before the UN General Assembly, a body created amidst the death and destruction of WW2 for the express purpose of preserving world peace, and he behaved exactly as his growing army of critics in the US anticipated: in Johnson’s words, “he used the occasion to threaten North Korea with ‘total’ destruction (a remark critics denounced as ‘genocidal’), ponder a ‘military option’ in Venezuela, and boast about the stock market.”

It is easy – in fact too easy – to deride Donald Trump’s crassness and to mock his ignorance and oafish persona, but we must never forget that lots of people also found Hitler a joke, until the reality of the slogan “Fascism means War” was brought home to them in the worst possible way and 60 million people perished. And that was before anyone had nuclear weapons.

The US has been threatening the nuclear destruction of the DPRK (North Korea) for decades but has been deterred by the knowledge that Russia and China could not stand idly by while the US carried out its threat. However, Donald Trump seems even less likely to be amenable to popular pressure or even common sense than any other post-war occupant of the Oval Office.

The risk of a belligerent, boastful braggart – interested only in boosting his own property and investment portfolio – taking us all into a nuclear war to satisfy his rampant ego, is too great to contemplate with equanimity.

Russia and China can threaten the US with nuclear retaliation and we would all hope that the Pentagon can convince the White House that the threat is not only real but not survivable, so that war talk remains just talk.

At the same time, the rest of us need to put all the pressure we can on governments of every stamp to stand up for peaceful policies and the development of renewable energy, because the alternative is too awful to contemplate. We would be pretty stupid if we avoided nuclear war only to destroy the planet’s capacity to sustain life, wouldn’t we?

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