Grappling With The Neoliberal Militarist Market

- Dennis Small

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year (Earth Overshoot Day - "We Do Not Need A Pandemic To Move The Date"). In 2020, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 22!

"Mining is like a search and destroy mission" (US Senator Stuart Udall, member of John F. Kennedy's Cabinet).

"Insanity of infinite growth" - in a letter to the Editor of the Press, correspondent David Evans remarks that: "We're collectively deluded if we think infinite growth on a finite planet is possible". He argues that the failure of the Christchurch City Council (CCC) on climate change is due to its obsession with "getting growth 'back on track' after the Covid hiatus. To suggest that growth is not essential is regarded as insanity. For a politician to take action that doesn't encourage growth could be fatal to their career. If we want them to take bold climate action, we need to show them that a majority of the voting public is behind that action. We need to take every opportunity to tell them so, or get out on the street and show them how you feel. Do something" (17/5/21).

"Urgency on climate change - in a similar letter to the Editor of the Press, correspondent Graham Townshend contends that the CCC is failing "over effective climate action. Here's why: Because local and national politicians just don't know what to do. Or rather they do know what to do but they know they'll be booted out of office if they do it. Why will they be booted out? Because while most voters now accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, few of us are actually prepared to make genuine lifestyle sacrifices to ensure our kids' future".

"We prefer to point the finger at other nations, or just shrug. So, it's not the Council, or the Government - it's us. It's each of us who still insists on our right to fly, to clog up the city with single-occupancy cars while we wait for some tech miracle to magically save us. If voters were prepared to bite the bullet - to accept that we're living beyond the carrying capacity of the ecosystems our economy depends on - maybe we'd see some worthwhile political action" (18/5/21).

"Humanity as a whole is currently using nature 1.6 times faster than our planet can regenerate - or using the equivalent to 1.6 Earths. In Aotearoa, we would need 1.7 Earths to keep up with demand" ("New Zealand Starts Living On Borrowed Time", Scoop. Press release from the World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF], 14/5/21).

"The (US) Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill (aiming) to boost US semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence [AI] and other technology in the face of growing international competition, most notably from China" ("Rare Unity As Senate Passes Tech Bill", 10/6/21).

"At least 30 times as much lithium, nickel and other key minerals may be required by the electric car industry by 2040 to meet global climate targets according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)" ("IEA: Mineral Supplies For Electric Cars 'Must Increase 30-Fold' To Meet Climate Goals", 5/5/21).

"Don't fall for the hype surrounding green technology (like electric cars). Start accepting the coming energy constraints and building them into the national future" (Susan Krumdieck, former Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, quoted in: "'Sustainability Is Wishful Thinking': Get Ready For The Energy Downshift", 14/11/20).

"All the clean technologies that we need to combat climate change - whether that's wind turbines, solar panels or batteries, they're all really, really mineral-intensive" - Lucy Crane, Cornish Lithium's senior geologist ("The New 'Gold Rush' For Green Lithium", BBC Future, 25/11/20).

"During questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo stated that the US's dependence on rare-earth supplies from China remains 'a very real concern for the agency'" ("The Rare Metals War: The Dark Side Of Clean Energy And Digital Technologies" (Guillaume Pitron, Scribe, 2018/20, p150).

"Hunter Biden (President Joe Biden's son) was certainly not the only American to prosper as a result of 20 years of CIA covert operations to pull Ukraine away from the Russian orbit. And once that happened, hundreds of American businesspeople just poured into Ukraine and assumed positions in many corporations. (US-born Natalie) Jaresko . . . (on) the day that she obtained Ukrainian citizenship, she became head of the Ukrainian Treasury Department" ("Inside The Organised Crime Syndicate Known As The CIA: An Interview With Douglas Valentine").

"Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign 'aid' organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources".

"Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation. I should know; I was an EHM" ("Confessions Of An 'Economic Hit Man' -The Shocking Inside Story Of How America REALLY Took Over The World", John Perkins, Ebury Press, 2005, Preface, p.ix).

"I dream of a world where nature protection is a priority. Where the design and planning of development projects consider environmental dimensions" (Ndiing'a O., Avaaz member in Tanzania, quoted in the results of Avaaz's annual poll of members' ideas for change, see Avaaz - The World in Action)

As humankind moves into the third decade of the 21st Century, the challenges swirling around us all continue to grow. Most dramatically at present, Covid-19 keeps on ravaging humankind. More and more, the impact of this pandemic on the world's economy is increasing in its adversity. This still unfolding crisis is interacting with other global threats like climate change and nuclear war risks.

Given that global capitalism has taken over human economies on planet Earth for all intents and purposes, the continuing commitment to industrial-style exploitation flies full in the face of the desperate imperative for genuine sustainability. Any long-term economic system must be grounded in properly formulated and genuine sustainable development. This means the adoption of cooperative engagement with the planetary environment in ways which can effectively cope with global warming and environmental limits.

Lamentably, however, the major nations - the US, China and Russia, and more minor powers - have broadcast their belief in limitless growth in one form or another - even if it means overshoot into outer space to try and mine the Moon, Mars, and asteroids, etc.! These major nations, as a consequence, have similarly expressed their willingness to compete aggressively on the world stage. Somehow enough of humankind has to mobilise in time to chart alternative pathways for our mutual survival.

Global Capitalism And Resource Constraints

At the root of the growing crisis is the central contradiction of global capitalism. Since the start of the industrial revolution, humankind has been able to exploit the planetary environment to the maximum and correspondingly increase its numbers. Now we are moving into more desperate modes of behaviour as we go deeper into evolutionary overshoot ("Overshoot: The Ecological Basis Of Revolutionary Change", William R Catton, Jr., University of Illinois Press, 1980).

Population and production/consumption growth beyond the Earth's carrying capacity constitute the underlying process at work (ibid.). Such growth at an increasing level beyond planet Earth's maximum supportable load is driven both by the cornucopian myth of limitless resources and the "delusion that technology will always save us", whatever our impact on ecosystems (ibid.). "In short, industrial life depends on a perpetual hunt for required substances" (ibid., p32). For sure: "Industrialisation (has) committed us to living again, massively, as "hunters and gatherers" of substances which only Nature can provide, and which occur only in limited quantity" (ibid.).

Writing back in 1980, Sociology Professor William Catton picked out copper as an example of the huge amount of one specific mineral that the US must find annually in order to provide more than a ton for each of its inhabitants (ibid.). It is certainly noteworthy that research has put this particular year - 1980 - as about the time humans exceeded their long-term carrying capacity on Earth.

Western civilisation and technocratic industrialism in general are certainly programmed for inevitable self-destruction unless humankind can somehow come to its senses. But in June 2021, the US Senate enthusiastically passed a bill to increase semiconductor production to help confront China ("Rare Unity...", op. cit.). America's "share of semiconductor manufacture globally has steadily eroded from 37% in 1990 to about 12% now, and as (a consequence) a chip shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the US supply chain" (ibid.).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spelt out the American "Social Darwinist" zero-sum credo in no uncertain terms: "The premise is simple, if we want American workers and American companies to keep leading the world, the federal Government must invest in science, basic research and innovation, just as we did decades after the Second World War" (ibid.).

Schumer further declared that: "Whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to be the global economic leader with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security as well" (ibid.). Schumer & co do not realise that he and his kind are already living in a surreal zombie bubble of suicidal stupidity, overshooting Earth's limits in myriad ways! Short-sighted tribalist nationalism is on the march in a gathering global power struggle!

Ironies run amok here as usual. For decades, US Administrations were happy to allow their corporations to invest in China where they were free to take advantage of the cheap, captive labour market and lack of environmental controls. For a long period, this was a big boost for economic growth but in turn generated the conditions for the rise of Trumpism. In a new policy twist, the bill just cited also has "'buy America' provisions for infrastructure projects"! (ibid.)

Technology and its relentless innovation comprise globalism's "deus ex machina". The prevailing "cargo cult" mindset or "cargoism" is now even being openly and stupidly proclaimed as the way to greater geopolitical competition, as well as economic growth. Yet all this in turn depends on diminishing raw materials, and so, ever greater pressure on the environment in multiple ways. It will thus inevitably ensue in population "die-off", as is so graphically happening now as demonstrated by the current coronavirus and the effects of global warming.

Dedicated To Planetary Meltdown?!

Despite the overwhelming scientific documentation of the rapidly compressing limits of our small planet, the economic mantra of evolutionary overshoot as expressed by global capitalism remains "grow baby, grow!" Except for the Greens, the dominant common meme regularly voiced in the NZ Parliament is the wish to speed up the rate of economic growth.

Even our Labour government, which has been so admirably innovative in its adoption of "well-being" budgets beyond the traditional parameters of gross domestic product (GDP), obviously still sees the economic recovery in pretty conventional terms. Yes, it may indeed be a lot more committed than the National Party to action on climate change and the environment, while ACT remains just a train wreck in relevant policy. But, Greens aside, the Government is still dragging its feet on various critical issues. It is still riven with capitalist contradictions, as are just about all of the world's governments for that matter!

Blinkered denial about the limits to growth is deeply engrained. Neoliberal capitalism rolls on whatever the overwhelming scientific evidence about the plight of Earth's ecosystems. Globalisation and free trade comprise materialist faiths ideologically formulated by human politico-economic doctrine. They thrive on denialist ignorance and hypocrisy. Today, in the throes of imploding global capitalism, the contradictions, paradoxes, and ironies are indeed running amok! I shall recount a couple of instances. During a general debate in Parliament (30/6/21), a stark contrast of viewpoints was even revealed within the semi-coalition Government (Parliament TV).

Green MP Julie Anne Genter gave a passionate incisive speech on the environmental limits to economic growth and the dire threat of global warming. Yet she was followed by two Labour MPs - Meka Whaitiri, Customs Minister, and Naisi Chen - who both rabbited on about boosting growth for the economic recovery post-Covid 19. Whaitiri even talked up the Government's programme to lift investment and exports as a "no-brainer", while Chen waxed lyrical about the huge surge in e-commerce across the world and NZ's part in this consumerist excess.

Meanwhile, North America was broiling in an unprecedented heat wave with blistering record temperatures right across the region. Yet American air conditioning and refrigeration depend primarily on fossil fuels, another of the many ironies and contradictions of the state of global capitalism. Climate change continues to take its toll throughout the rest of the planet as well. Antarctica is melting faster than ever!

Cheering On "Clean, Green" Growth - Yeah, Right!

Another glaring recent example of an exposition of this doctrine was a report by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and the Helen Clark Foundation, which said Covid-19 "provided an opportunity for NZ to reset to a high-wage, high-productivity economy", obviously facilitated and continuously greased along by technological innovation and foreign investment ("NZ's Changing Place In The World", Press, 11/6/21). Such is the blinkered outlook on the state of the world, and so much again for our "clean, green" bullshit image! Global crisis becomes just another nationalist capitalist opportunity!!

Meantime, the rightwing Parliamentary political Opposition are a real mess. ACT, of course, given National's woes, was egregiously helped into Parliament by the Rightwing mainstream media. This crony reactionary media guaranteed a big boost in the number of the Party's MPs from the lonely stance of its loony fundamentalist leader David Seymour, aka "The Weasel".

A host of neoliberal reasons have propelled the media's promotion and protection of ACT leader David Seymour and his Party: from facilitating upper-class greed to ensuring that corporately formulated "free market" aims get plenty of airing. ACT's latest denialist effort about global warming - as witnessed in its strongly signalled opposition to the report by the Climate Change Commission - does not seem to have affected the stance of the most purblind mainstream media, i.e., the TV channels, and associated online outlets.

There certainly needs to be far more national commitment a la the Greens to an integrated, circular, and far more sustainable economy. So much of the debate and discussion in the NZ Parliament, as elsewhere in the world, is quite surreal when matched against the unfolding realities of human ecology on planet Earth. But even the Greens can send out mixed messaging, as in the promulgation of "green technologies" and electric vehicles (EVs). I explore the issues relating to EVs, etc. in some depth in this article.

Blind Alley High Tech-Driving?

French researcher Guillaume Pitron has warned in his most important book "The Rare Metals War" (op. cit.) that there is no easy "tech fix" to climate change. Nowadays, electric cars are being touted as an environmentally benign answer to help address climate change. But Houston we have a problem also with this solution down on planet Earth! Even David Attenborough, who in recent years has been an international leader on the need for urgent action on global warming, lends a measure of credence to the potential of the electric vehicle (EV) option. He sets out the possibility in its most high-tech form as follows:

"Some analysts predict that the advent of autonomous vehicles will revolutionise the transport sector. Within only a few years, they expect city dwellers to abandon car ownership and order a car only when needed. These cars would all be electric, they would charge themselves from clean energy and might be managed directly by the car manufacturers themselves, encouraging the entire industry to improve its efficiency and reliability" ("A Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement And A Vision For The Future", Witness Books, 2020, p142).

This particular prediction is certainly the stuff of "sci-fi" fantasy, of "magic carpet" tales! "A few years" into the future would really mean many years even if this option had feasibility with the application of new electric cars in such a mode. At present, the electric car model and its promotion are very much predicated on the established practice of private ownership. Moreover, we are fast running out of time as well as resources. "Hybrid and electric cars can contain 20-25 pounds of rare earths" ("The Rare Metals War", op. cit., Appendix 5: "Overview Of The Rare Metals Contained In An Electric Vehicle", p217). These rare earths comprise cerium, lanthanum, zirconium, neodymium, europium, yttrium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium.

China has 95% of the light rare earth elements and also 95% of the heavy rare earth elements, besides the lion/dragon's share of the global supply of critical raw materials (Appendix 3: "Countries Accounting For The Largest Share Of Global Supply Of Critical Raw Materials", p215). These latter range from antimony to vanadium (ibid.). The geopolitical implications are clear as global competition heats up!

It is quite sobering - given "Minerals are the raw material of economic power" - that back in the early 1980s China had some measure of control over only four major minerals. Each of the four amounted to more than 5% of total international production at the time (see map no. 11 of 'Mineral Power' in "The New State Of The World Atlas", Michael Kidron & Ronald Segal, A Pluto Project, Pan Books, 1981/4 - 1987 revised & updated ed.).

These four major minerals then produced by China - antimony, manganese, tin, and iron - are also listed in Appendix 14: "Lifespan Of The Viable Reserves Of The Principal Metals Needed For The Energy Transition" of "The Rare Metals War", (op. cit., p230). It is pertinent to note here that antimony has the lowest lifespan, tin the next lowest, while manganese is ranked middling, and iron leans towards the longer part of the spectrum (ibid.).

Car Crunch!

Alternative path-charting environmentalist Edward Goldsmith observed that Western lifestyle has an insatiable "appetite for material goods and services. Indeed, it is in terms of access to them that our wealth, indeed our welfare, is normally gauged" ("The Way: An Ecological World-View", Themis Books, 1992/6, pp211/12). Our whole socio-economic system has correspondingly been geared about the private motor car.

And, so correspondingly too, new high-tech motorised innovation is being enthusiastically peddled by the likes of multi-billionaire Elon Musk and his Tesla, and other corporate pundits ("Electric Cars Are Coming And If You Don't Like It, Tough", Forbes, 9/3/21).

"The car, when it was first invented, was undoubtedly a luxury. Slowly, however, it became a necessity: as it came to be assumed that people possessed them, so they were expected to travel ever further to their place of work, to the schools where their children were educated, to shopping centres or recreational centres" ("The Way", op. cit., p212). Materialism, in turn, became the religion of the West, and increasingly of the rest of the world.

For many years, the car on a mass scale has also been a modern symbol of ever expanding economic and population growth, and resultant environmental damage: from the use of fossil fuels, the human and ecological cost of other mined minerals, and all coupled with the multiplying road network pushing ever further into wilderness areas, etc. The parking lot and disappearing trees that Canadian singer/songwriter Jodi Mitchell sang about in "Big Yellow Taxi" in 1970 have even more resonance today!

In Aotearoa/NZ, both the main political parties - National and Labour - have been possessed with the world vision of proliferating roads and related infrastructure - as well as housing estates - swallowing up arable and ecologically valuable land. Symbolically, expanding road networks on Earth are overshooting into the space race industry.

But, of course, as indicated by Edward Goldsmith, the private ownership of cars has been de rigueur for modernisation and progress as conventionally understood. It has indeed been absolutely essential for the functioning of our industrialised society with its very widespread and multiplying specialisation of roles and workplaces.

Blundering Along For "Business As Usual"

Bill Gates can be taken as someone epitomising American capitalism and its version of globalisation. Not only is Gates one of the world's richest men who has carved an eminently self-serving career for himself but he continues to be a leading advocate of market globalism. His computer company Microsoft has a pervasive presence across the planet. He has undoubtedly been the foremost "soft power" exponent of American imperial penetration via technological promotion, philanthropic aid, and corporate investment.

Gates is a "sci-fi" capitalist utopian. At bottom, environmental holistic systems and limits really mean nothing to him. He may talk in passing about protecting ecosystems and the need to "gain the benefits of a natural defence against climate change" but in overall context this amounts to just a ritualistic nod in passing ("How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have And The Breakthroughs We Need", Bill Gates, Allen Lane/Penguin, 2021, pp172/3).

Indeed, Gates is actually quite crazy and ignorantly denialist enough to embrace the "modern lifestyle" as something viable long-term as enacted by capitalist entrepreneurship and techno-industrialisation. Because he sees people getting richer and richer: "We should be glad that more people and goods are moving around" (ibid., p133) - spreading Covid-19, or whatever the ultimate real costs, eh Bill!?

Yet, of course, he can claim this is still the hegemonic world vision for human development in general. If new frontiers are getting harder and harder to exploit, the drive of evolutionary overshoot goes on, and bugger the eventual outcomes. This is why Gates launched his so-called "Breakthrough Energy, an effort to commercialise clean energy and climate-related technologies" (ibid.). There can be plenty of opportunities in a crisis to make more money!

He puts it plainly enough - not only is he "a rich guy with an opinion", he is "also a technophile". (As he says): "Show me a problem, and I'll look for technology to fix it. Techno-fixes are not sufficient, but they are necessary" (ibid., p14). In fact, his latest book as cited above shows him to be an environmentalist nightmare, eagerly embracing the path to extinction!

So appropriately enough, Gates is a big fan of EVs. He owns one and loves it! (ibid., p135). He heartily advocates getting "lots of EVs on the road as they become even more affordable" (ibid., p137). As he noted a bit earlier in his book, the dramatic fall in the cost of EVs in recent years has been "largely due to a huge drop in the cost of batteries - an 87% decrease since 2010 - as well as various tax credits and Government commitments to get more zero-emissions cars on the road" (ibid., p135). I take a look at the real cost of batteries later below. Meanwhile, the NZ government is enthusiastically using incentives and subsidies to promote EVs.

Electrifying Prospects Ahead?!

To return to the possible scenario sketched earlier above by Sir David Attenborough, one can imagine some privileged sectors across the globe might eventually experiment and trial projects using autonomous electric car pooling, and other options that reduce the practice of private car ownership. However, to take Aotearoa/NZ as an example, electric cars are projected by a new NZ Ministry of Transport (MoT) Green Paper (released in May 2021) to number approximately two million in the next 29 years.

Currently, there are about five and a half million cars in Aotearoa/NZ. Transport has been the sector of the NZ socio-economy with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In an official response, only electric cars are scheduled to be imported by 2035. The final report of the Climate Change Commission released in June 2021 advises that petrol and diesel cars should be banned, ideally by 2030 - "but no later than 2035" ("What Climate Change Commission Carbon-Cutting Plan Means For Us", Press, 10/6/21). The Government is now revving up the electric car choice with a raft of both rebates and corresponding penalties for the road-map ahead!

My comments in regard to David Attenborough's future scenario for electric cars have so far been set within the prevailing framework of societal assumptions, expectations and practices. Yet, if there were a revolutionary shift in understanding and resolution to really tackle the causes of global warming - as well as to implement judicious adaptation - Attenborough's scenario could gain substantially more practical likelihood and meaning. There could be potential on this scenario, no doubt modified in diverse ways according to circumstance and situation, for a drastic reduction in the number of private vehicles as part of a transition to much better sustainability.

Various future scenarios for Aotearoa/NZ have been outlined by the MoT. "On the most ambitious 'pathway', travel using light vehicles would fall by 57% in 2035, 27% of the light vehicle fleet would be electric or battery-powered, and there would be 6.2 megatonnes less carbon produced annually" ("Government Could Ban Fuel-Burning Cars By 2050, With Imports Ending 2035" Stuff, 14/5/21).

Getting To Grips With The Climate/Environment Crisis

The Climate Change Commission advocates a 5% input from organic matter biofuel, along with low-carbon modes of transport by 2035, i.e., via "more bikes, scooters, walking, buses, trains and ferries" ("What Climate Change . . . "op. cit.). Thankfully, the Green Party and Co-Leader James Shaw, as Climate Change Minister, have been driving much of this kind of policy package forward.

For sure, the Green Party in a personal statement to the writer well understands "that reducing our emissions will require a vast network of interrelated solutions". EVs are seen by the Greens as only "part of the plan to reduce mobility solutions". We need to reduce vehicle use overall through a range of measures - as outlined by the Climate Change Commission, and long promoted by the Green Party - with an emphasis on electric rail and public transport, and low-carbon or zero-carbon modes.

Working in partnership with the Labour Government, the Greens have done admirably in gaining more money for "green" initiatives, especially for decarbonising our society and economy. As a Party that rejects corporate donations on principle, it stands clear of so many vested interests and can critically evaluate and assess the choices we have on climate change.

Yet with regard to EVs, my concerns focus on the unacknowledged human and environmental costs of this means of transport. My concerns here also relate to so-called "green technologies" in general. There is a desperately urgent need for cooperative international action to address these costs and reduce them as much as possible.

Currently, EVs are being presented as the "sexy" and easy option for future transport. A key and most important way forward - indeed, the primary way! - is to keep the number of such vehicles as low as we can by redesigning our whole economy in a far more sustainable fashion a la the doughnut or circular model, and a whole host of related initiatives.

As we have seen, the whole reaction of the globalist economic system to the growing crisis - and this encompasses countries from the US to Russia, from China to Brazil, and from Britain to India - is to resist any difficult change, however urgent and necessary. Essentially, the ruling classes/elites want to maintain their lifestyles and continue to mislead the masses into thinking that they can share in perpetual wealth creation.

The basic solution to the global crisis is, in fact, the creation of more genuine pathways to sustainable development. This means not only integration with Nature's limits and imperatives but a dedicated commitment to fairness and social justice. There must be a concerted focus on effectively meeting the basic needs of peoples across the planet. As well, an international programme is required to humanely encourage and incentivise better birth control in order to balance demand and supply of resources with the natural foundations of life.

Growth Crunching Exploitation

Worldwide, as the competition for scarce resources increases between the major powers and also other lesser countries, wars loom over "dwindling supplies of precious natural commodities", as described and analysed by Professor Michael Klare back in 2001 ("Resource Wars: The New Landscape Of Global Conflict", Owl Books, 2001/02). Now, 20 years later in 2021, the minerals embedded in an electric car can highlight the contradictions of global capitalism grappling with efforts directed at both economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the mitigation of climate change, among other urgent problems.

In a Foreword to Guillaume Pitron's "The Rare Metal Wars" (op. cit.), former French Minister of Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine declares that the author "sounds the alarm on a serious geopolitical problem: the world's growing reliance on rare metals for its digital development in information and communication technologies. This includes the manufacture of devices such as mobile telephones, not to mention the much-lauded electric and/or hybrid car, which requires twice as many rare metals as the humble internal-combustion engine vehicle" (p.ix).

Regions around the planet are being plundered to supply these metals. In various areas, the exploitation of both ecosystems and peoples has been hugely harsh. Take the Congo in Africa for the worst example of this syndrome. "The Congo Basin is rich in mineral deposits and beneath the tropical rainforests there are massive quantities of gold, copper, diamonds, cobalt and rare minerals, including coltan (source of the elements niobium & tantalum) and cassiterite (the chief tin ore), which are in rapidly rising demand because they are needed in the manufacture of laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices. There is also a substantial quantity of oil" ("Rainforest: Dispatches From Earth's Most Vital Frontlines", Tony Juniper, Profile Books, 2018, p228). Rainforest timber, of course, is also subject to ongoing ruinous exploitation.

Globalist dependence is acute for some minerals. For instance, about 60% of the tantalum flowing into the global economy comes from the Congo region (including here closely adjoining countries). The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounts for some 30% with Rwanda supplying another 30%. In all, dozens of minerals used in today's popular electronics are sourced from the region.

Turning Natural Riches Into Benign Prosperous Wealth?

The DRC, to be sure, is widely considered to be the richest country on Earth for natural resources, i.e., above all, in its range and reserves of minerals. If the DRC and Rwanda together account for 60% of the tantalum used annually in world production, the DRC alone supplies at least 60% of the cobalt. The latter mineral is one of the most critical in the transition to "green" energy. As well, it is a vital component in cellphones, smartphones, laptops, and computers generally, along with various applications in batteries, magnets, alloys, jets, rockets, etc. But the environmental cost of its life-cycle is dire!

In particular: "Cobalt is used to build rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, an integral part of the mobile technology that has become commonplace in recent years. Tech giants such as Apple and Samsung, as well as auto-makers like Tesla, GM, and BMW, which are starting to produce electric cars on a mass scale, have an insatiable appetite for cobalt. But unfortunately, this appetite comes at a high cost, both for humans and for the environment" ("What You Should Know About The Cobalt In Your Smartphone" Treehugger Voices, 21/10/16).

On Google, in a response to a question people ask about the impact of cobalt mining in the DRC, the answer is: "Blasting and electricity consumption in cobalt mining is damaging to the environment. Eutrophication and global warming are the most affected impact categories. CO2 and NO2 emissions are highest from cobalt mining" ("Cobalt Mining In The Congo"). Cobalt has to be extracted chemically from copper or nickel using acids and heat. It is the most expensive component of EV batteries.

In a description of the situation in 2016: "All of the cobalt (went) directly to a single Chinese-owned company Congo DongFang Mining, which ships the mineral to China, refines it, and sells it to large cathode battery makers. These, in turn, sell cathodes to battery makers that supply major tech companies" ("What You Should Know..." op. cit.).

"EVs only just took over mobile phones and super-alloys for the aviation industry as the main source of demand for cobalt. Tesla, alongside Google, Apple and others were sued by a human rights group in December 2019 for artisanal cobalt mined under unsafe and unethical conditions, including the use of child labour in the sourcing of cobalt in their supply chains", with the focus on the Congo and its problems ("Mining Industry Of The Democratic Republic Of The Congo", op. cit.). Currently, the rising EV demand for cobalt is a constraint on the supply of this type of transport.

In The "Heart Of Darkness"

The Congo region has been subject to intense competition and conflict from both armed militias and other intervening African countries, while transnational corporations (TNCs) backed by foreign powers have been ripping out minerals for lucrative rewards. In the DRC, by the advent of the 21st Century "several internal factions and foreign powers (were) fighting for control over the lucrative gold and copper fields of the south and west" ("Resource Wars...", op. cit., p24).

Ongoing TNC predation constitutes another typical rampage - if a particularly egregious case - of capitalist globalism unleashed (for general context see e.g., "It's All For Sale: The Control Of Global Resources", James Ridgeway, Duke University Press, 2004; "The World for Sale: Money, Power And The Traders Who Barter the Earth's Resources", Javier Blas & Jack Farchy, Random House, 2021). As authors Javier Blas and Jack Farchy describe in their book "The World for Sale" capitalist traders "supply the world with oil, metal and food - no matter how corrupt, war-torn or famine-stricken the source" (ibid.). I have also noted China's especially prominent role in the exploitation of cobalt in the Congo.

In the Congo: "As well as major mining operations under the control of major transnationals, there is a huge informal mining sector that sustains the livelihoods of millions of people. Between them these activities now comprise the largest single economic sector”"("Rainforest...", op. cit.). For sure: "National Geographic describes miners in Congo as an 'ant-like army expending millions of calories and gallons of sweat to feed a vast and global industry'" (, 22/9/13).

But the Congo Basin has been plagued with human rights abuse and mass deaths. According to an organisation specialising in monitoring and countering the causes of genocide: "Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been embroiled in violence that has killed as many as six million (my emphasis). The conflict has been the bloodiest since World War II (WWII)".

It is an enormously sad fact that the United Nations (UN) has proved so handicapped in addressing the human and environmental/resource problems of the Congo. As far as Western nations are concerned this lack of action and neglect stems from the fact that the interests of these countries are not at issue. The West can freely carry on with its plunder of peoples and the planet's environment as it has done for centuries.

"The Resource Curse"

Congo's victims are poor, black and desperately vulnerable. Given such conditions, Western TNCs can happily help themselves to the region's resources. This happens despite the most admirable protests and campaigns of some non-government organisations (NGOs) to try and humanely regulate the trade of what are called "conflict minerals". Thus, the West has predictably proved callously indifferent to the suffering of the Congolese peoples. Today, the tragically long-ravaged African continent is being torn apart by competing imperialists in the form of the US, China, and of late even Russia, plus some like-minded countries on the continent itself.

The history of the Congo certainly carries a legacy of Western barbarity. In the late 19th Century and very early 20th Century, the country suffered the savage personal rule of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II. His slavery-enforced rubber extraction took a horrifically genocidal toll of as many as ten million lives, besides inflicting a myriad of other human rights abuses.

Much later on, in the wake of the region's tortured history, the American-engineered repressive dictatorship of Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko facilitated foreign control over the Congo (Zaire/DRC) during the period 1965-97. Mobutu's grievously corrupt rule enabled the "free hand of the market" to pillage the country's mineral riches.

In the context of the Indonesian genocide, note again the significance of year 1965! Mobutu seized suzerainty of Zaire/DRC in November of that very same year.

The Indonesian coup and ensuing bloody purge of political enemies had just started the month before in October. Western neo-colonialist intervention and manipulation propelled Mobutu into his crony capitalist dictatorship of Zaire, following the country's formal declaration of independence in 1960. Mobutu's elevation came after a complex power struggle, centred on getting control of the huge mineral wealth of Katanga province.

"US stakes in the Congo were large, less because of its direct investments in its rich copper, cobalt, or diamond mines, or important role in financing Belgian interests, but because of the potential impact on Europe and world copper prices were Congo supplies no longer to be available" ("Confronting The Third World: United States Foreign Policy 1945-1980", Gabriel Kolko, Pantheon, 1988, p193).

As a consequence - and, as well, inspired by fears of Soviet rivalry - the CIA acted in accordance with American Presidential orders and brutally murdered Congolese nationalist and Leftwing independence hero Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961 ("Patrice Lumumba: The Most Important Assassination Of The 20th Century", Guardian, 17/1/11). It was a joint US/Belgian/comprador Congolese operation, along with the other usual suspects like Britain's MI6.

Crunching Countries!

"The political and social order Mobutu imposed on Zaire (Congo/DRC) was possible only because of loyal American support for him after 1965. With all the resources for becoming a rich nation, it declined into one of Africa's most disastrous economies as unbridled corruption was systematically institutionalised until its loans from international banks led to control over its economy passing entirely into the International Monetary Fund's hands" ("Confronting The Third World...", op.cit., p199).

"In Congo, royalties from copper and uranium mining are thought to have netted long-term dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and his close associates several hundred million dollars per year" (ibid., p192). Meantime, the regime provided a base for the Rightwing white South African/US-supported UNITA guerrilla movement in Angola, while enabling it to gain "access to Congo's enormous mineral and timber wealth" ("Resource Wars...", op. cit., p210). UNITA benefitted as well from the illicit diamond trade (ibid., pp209/10).

More broadly, CIA-contrived destabilisation of Angola claimed yet another victim of American geopolitics, with the pernicious ramifications running deep right up to the present ("In Search Of Enemies: A CIA Story", John Stockwell, WW Norton & Co., 1978 - Stockwell was the former Chief of the CIA's Angola Task Force). "Destabilisation, said Stockwell, means 'hiring agents to tear apart the social and economic fabric of the (targeted) country'", ultimately enabling American control one way or another ("The CIA As Organised Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America And The World", Douglas Valentine, Clarity Press, Inc., 2017, p268).

For a time, besides UNITA, Mobutu's Zaire also backed another Rightwing guerrilla movement in Angola, the FNLA. But the FNLA was effectively eliminated in 1975. Angola had become another East-West conflict cockpit. There reigned a bloody struggle between the US/Zaire/South Africa/UNITA bloc versus the Soviets/Cubans and the Leftwing MPLA. Mozambique, another former Portuguese colony, suffered a similar fate, and still also suffers the consequences today. TNCs have freely plundered both lands for minerals and other natural resources.

The Disinformation/Propaganda PR War Goes On

Representatives of the Anglo-American power elite easily wash their hands of any responsibility of the butchery and misery to which they have contributed. For instance, a leading British international affairs analyst Gerald Segal, who was Director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies (IISS) during 1997-99, showed a callously cavalier attitude to Angola's fate.

After describing the Angolan independence struggle in a chronological overview, Segal notes that in the late 1980s/early 1990s there were repeated attempts at mediation and peacemaking ('Angola Unglued', in "The World Affairs Companion: The Essential One-Volume Guide To Global Issues", 1987/1996, 5th revised ed., p299). He next observes that: "The UN supervised (a national election for a new parliament and president] in September 1992 but when UNITA lost, it returned to the bush to wage war" (ibid.).

Segal concludes his brief overview of Angola with the remark that: "As time goes on, Angolans have no one but themselves to blame for their plight" (ibid., p300). You can hardly get more racist and hypocritical than that! Again, almost needless to say, a relevant short reading list does not include the book by John Stockwell cited above. Indeed, Segal's chapter does not even mention the CIA!

Mind you, to be fair, there is a telling observation as to how the US can use "soft power" to its advantage. To quote Segal again: "The Angolan events dealt a serious blow to (super-power) detente. Only during the Carter Administration (1976-80) did American policy toward Angola soften and American oil interests in Cabinda province were expanded" (ibid., p299). Oh boy, such fun!

Corporate Chain Reaction

Like Angola, colonisation and foreign control/intervention has surely ruined the Congo since European colonisation began. At the start of the 21st Century, "several internal factions and foreign powers (were) fighting for control over the lucrative gold and copper fields of the south and west" ("Resource Wars...", op. cit., p24). This kind of resource conflict in the Congo region is indeed epitomised by "wars involving various combinations of local and regional actors", along with outside powers like the US supplying "military aid" and other means of intervention (ibid., p221).

These days, the peoples of the DRC have to endure a whole plethora of problems. Corporate contortions go on. For example, as Africa's largest copper producer, the Congo/DRC continues to be racked with violent competition and politico-economic disputes over this mineral, among others. Australian freelance journalist Matthew Benns in the first chapter of his book "Dirty Money: The True Cost Of Australia's Mineral Boom" (William Heinemann, 2011) shows how "a highly profitable Australian-owned copper mine" was at the heart of an episode of corporate-mandated repression and foreign control.

This first chapter of Benn's book, titled "Death In The Congo", gives a most disturbing account of the Anvil Mining company's role in the deadly crushing of a rebel revolt (ibid.). Glencore, an Anglo-Swiss mining and commodities TNC, is the biggest Western company operating in the copper and cobalt rich Congo. There have been multiple "corruption and bribery charges targeting the miner" ("Glencore Hit By Another Probe Over Congo Dealings", 22/6/20).

Deepening Dependence On The Earth's Diminishing Riches

"Mining is a major threat to the world's tropical forests (my emphasis) - and most of all to those in Africa. Mining projects have often led to international controversy, particularly on the biologically unique island of Madagascar" ("Rainforest...", op. cit., p230). Some international outrage - at least among the minority who care - was especially provoked in recent times by the notorious "global mining giant Rio Tinto (Zinc/RTZ)", which developed "a huge mining project" in the south of Madagascar", backed by the World Bank (ibid.). In this part of the island, besides the unique wildlife, "there are also areas of unique spiny forest, 'again packed full of species' found nowhere else on Earth" (ibid.). The mine concerned produces ilmenite and zircon ("Rio Tinto/QMM Ilmenite Mine Madagascar", Environmental Justice Atlas).

As the owner here in Aotearoa/NZ of the Bluff/Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, RTZ continues to be a major focus of CAFCA's campaigning. This TNC's ongoing depredations certainly go back a long way ("River of Tears: The Rise Of The Rio Tinto Zinc Mining Corporation", Richard West, Earth Island Ltd., 1972; "Plunder", Roger Moody, CAFCA, 1991). For the most recent example, see "Reports Of Bluff Smelter's Demise Greatly Exaggerated", by Murray Horton, in Watchdog 156, April 2021. Ed.

The "river of tears" flowing from the trail of destruction continuously created by RTZ's harmful activities stands testament to a series of major deleterious impacts over many years. RTZ's operations in Papua New Guinea were a crucial catalyst of the bloody Bougainville separatist crisis. Similarly, the fall-out from Freeport's copper/gold Grasberg mine in the Indonesian colony of West Papua/Irian Jaya represents another disastrous episode in which RTZ has also played a crucial part. A horrible host of other human harm, cultural damage, and environmental ruin go on accumulating in a grim record of shame.

This even includes the wanton recent ruin of a historic, hallowed Aboriginal heritage site at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia by the TNC's Brockman 4 mine (26/5/20). Australian-connected corporate mining giants, as exemplified by RTZ, have trampled over indigenous people and public interest in general right up to the present ("Dirty Money...", op. cit.; "Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom And Australia's Future", Paul Cleary, Black Inc., 2011).

Belligerent And Bloody Methods For "Model Pupils"

It is most important to also register at this point how the establishment of imperialist economics can be implemented in the most calculatedly bloody fashion. Indonesia has been the "model pupil" in this regard according to Anglo-American tutelage, courtesy of its so-called "Five Eyes" intelligence/covert action club incorporating the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and NZ ("The Model Pupil" in "The New Rulers Of The World", John Pilger, Verso, 2002/03, pp17-47). Indeed, Indonesia has been an outstanding pupil in a number of significant ways!

Even during the actual period of a continuing CIA-contrived genocide of the Leftwing opposition and other groups across Indonesia during 1965-70, Western and Japanese politico-investors were marshalling like vultures to pick over the opportunities now exposed for exploitation. Leftwing President and independence hero Sukarno had been deposed by America's man General Suharto. To quote US President Richard Nixon in 1967, Indonesia was South-East Asia's "greatest prize" and its "richest hoard of natural resources". That same year saw the booty brazenly handed out.

To be sure, the spoils of the genocide were divided up and distributed in the most gloatingly vampirical way as the CIA rubbed its hands over what it called "the greatest massacre of the second half of the 20th Century" ("Complicity In A Million Deaths", Mark Curtis, in "Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism And Its Triumphs", ed., John Pilger, Jonathan Cape, 2004, pp501-15). In 1967, the natural resources of "the world's fifth largest nation" were systematically carved up at an extraordinary conference in Geneva convened by the Time-Life Corporation, which had openly celebrated the genocide in its publications while carefully camouflaging any "Five Eyes" involvement (ibid., p502).

John Pilger set the scene in his introduction to an article by the British historian Mark Curtis: "All the corporate giants of the West were represented: the major oil companies and banks", and TNCs from General Motors to British American Tobacco; from Imperial Chemical Industries to Goodyear; and from US Steel to the International Paper Corporation (ibid.). Corporate globalisation was thus explicitly designed and coordinated in this specific case to take over a targeted major country. And it all came in the wake of a calculated and orchestrated genocide that the media charted and cheered in line with the CIA's propaganda script.

"They were led by arguably the most powerful capitalist in the world, David Rockefeller. Across the table were Suharto's men, known as the 'Berkeley Mafia', as several had enjoyed US government scholarships at the University of California in Berkeley. They were eager to comply; the spoils would be divided with the new dictatorship they represented" (ibid.).

Later, in wake of the original 9/11*, 1973, Milton Friedman's "Chicago Boys" would carve Chile up for American corporates to grab the copper resource, and other country assets. In recent years, Chile has been a major producer of rare earth metals for the global market. * September 11, 1973, was the date of the Pinochet military coup in Chile. Ed.

A Gruesome Carve-Up!

In the carve-up of the Indonesian economy and the apportioning of natural resources: "The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. An American and European consortium got West Papua's nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. A group of American, Japanese and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra, West Papua and Kalimantan" (ibid.).

Suharto ensured that this plunder was tax free while secret control of the Indonesia was handed over to the Intergovernmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), comprising the US, UK, Canada, Europe and Australia, and others (ibid.). The IGGI, which was established in 1967, also incorporated the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It acted as a joint donor agency to foster foreign investment and oversee capitalist development. NZ, a "Five Eyes" member complicit in the genocide, was an observer in this IGGI foreign control arrangement.

Mark Curtis, in his own article proper on the genocide and its outcome, notes in his conclusion that: "A combination of Western advice, aid, and investment helped transform the Indonesian economy into one that, although retaining some nationalist orientation, provided substantial opportunities and profits for Western investors. President Suharto's increasingly corrupt authoritarian regime kept economic order" (ibid., p514).

The World Bank, like the IMF, became an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Suharto regime, blatantly proclaiming it as a model for "Third World" development. But when, finally, the regime crumbled in the late 1990s, the Bank and other former supporters opportunistically rounded upon the dictatorship with hypocritical and face-saving denunciations!

Greedy Capitalist Globalisation At Work

But the stagecraft previously set in motion for a show-case of Western-fostered capitalism in action had been carefully and systematically cultivated. "By the mid-1970s, a British CBI (Confederation of British Industry) report noted that Indonesia presented 'enormous potential for the foreign investor . . . RTZ, BP, British Gas and Britoil were some of the companies that took advantage" (ibid.).

An American self-confessed "economic hit man" (EHM) John Perkins was working in Indonesia in the early 1970s for the Asian Development Bank and the US Agency for International Development (AID) ("Confessions Of...", op. cit.). He was starting to reflect deeply on his role in the so-called "less developed countries" (LDCs).

Perkins wrote in his journal at the time:

"Is anyone in the US innocent? Although those at the very pinnacle of the economic pyramid gain the most, millions of us depend - either directly or indirectly - on the exploitation of the LDCs for our livelihoods. The resources and cheap labour that feed nearly all our businesses come from places like Indonesia, and very little ever makes its way back... They will have to allow our corporations to ravage their natural resources, and will have to forego education, health, and other social services merely to pay us back" (ibid., p48).

Such imperialist abuse goes on relentlessly. RTZ's outrageous mineral sands mining operation as mentioned above in Madagascar is located in Fort Dauphin (Tolagnaro) in the south-eastern Anosy region ("Rainforest...", op. cit.; "Rio Tinto/QMM...", op. cit.; "Rio Tinto in Madagascar", World Rainforest Movement).

Environmentalist Tony Juniper remarks: "It was during an investigation into this project in 1994 that my mentor Andrew Lees, Friends of the Earth's Campaigns Director met his death. He went to film in the threatened forest and was never seen alive again. Despite an international campaign, the mine was subsequently built, earning Madagascar revenues from exports but, in the process, it caused the extinction of countless animals and plants" ("Rainforest", ibid.).

It should be noted that the murder or mysterious disappearances of NGO human rights and environmental activists have increased in the last couple of decades as the frontlines of such struggles get even more acute across our planet. Avaaz, the online activist organisation, reports that: "One Earth defender is killed every 48 hours". These are primarily indigenous people trying to protect the rainforests.

Half the planet's rainforests are now gone. Both legally mandated (often greased by corruption) and illegal loggers, miners, and settlers - along with poachers, etc. - are destroying these precious and so essential ecosystems. TNCs like RTZ & co are rampant in this ongoing pillage of resources. The human condition on Earth is surely set for plenty of angst ahead as we confront all the challenges!

Opposing The Imperial Order

Until the Suharto regime was overthrown in 1998 owing to its flagrantly incestuous corruption, the ruling clique operated as an American enforcer. Former EHM John Perkins refers to a popular Bandung politician opposed to US President Nixon and this particular person's unfortunate demise. The politician "was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver" ("Confessions Of...", op. cit., p46). Perhaps this anti-Nixon proponent was the victim of a different kind of hit man!

Bandung, incidentally, had significance as a venue in the growth of the non-aligned movement (NAM), an international forum which still exists today with 120 member nations. NAM was formally founded in 1961, with its headquarters in central Jakarta, Indonesia. But prior to its formation, the "first large-scale Asian-African or Afro-Asian Conference - also known as the Bandung Conference" was held "on 18-24 April, 1955, in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia", representing 54% of the then world population.

NAM, formally founded in 1961, actually had its headquarters in Central Jakarta, Indonesia (ibid.). The founders were Sukarno, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (ibid.). Sukarno and Indonesia were prime Anglo-American targets for a whole host of imperialist and geopolitical reasons!

Lessons Taught And Learned Per The "Model Pupil" For A "New World Order"

Hence, I consider the Indonesian genocide the most important of all the US's murderous covert operations in its import for vulnerable nations across the globe. In essence, there are two basic reasons: Firstly, it is no wonder the CIA and the American power elite celebrated it as an outstanding success story on their own terms. For one thing, it has worked pretty well in Indonesia ever since in their interests - as they define these interests - to the present day at least.

But there has been plenty of blowback elsewhere, and to a degree even in Indonesia flowing on from the 2002 Bali bombings. Secondly, the genocide incorporated all the key elements of a successful intervention that such an operation should have according to the principles of covert action. An inspiring model was thus set to be imitated as much as possible.

These Key Elements Are As Follows:

(a) The CIA's covert coup operation in 1965 came after years of attempted Anglo-American subversive efforts to topple the Sukarno government. As noted above, Indonesian independence leader and nationalist hero Sukarno had had an especially prominent role in the wider liberation movement of "Third World" nations. He was a leading mover in NAM, which endeavoured to stand free of both capitalist countries and communist countries, cultivating a strong anti-colonialist/anti-imperialist tradition.

Consequently, and with his Leftwing orientation, Sukarno was a marked man for the Western imperialists. "Laissez-faire" capitalism requires plenty of secret "dirty work" and militarist back-up, as well as economic bullying and leverage, along with various forms of "soft power". Chinese communist influence in the 1960s was seen as a growing threat to the West, with all the paranoia about "falling dominoes" throughout Asia. Today, the "Yellow Peril" is viewed as riding high again - albeit, ironically enough, in combined "commie"-cum global capitalist guise and style.

For its Western master-mind instigators, the 1965-70 Indonesian genocide both demonstrated and signalled abroad that the then perceived communist threat could be ruthlessly crushed. In the words of James Reston, the New York Times' leading foreign policy columnist, it was "A Gleam Of Light In Asia". The West could keep its demonstrably predatory grip on the planet's bounty!

(b) The CIA regarded the genocide as a brilliantly conceived and executed triumph on its part. Its covert manipulations and accompanying propaganda were the focus of enthused self-congratulation. This genocidal coup became almost instantly a model to be imitated of covert dirty work and psychological warfare. For certain, it was the most ideal model of all. Enemies and opponents in Indonesia were wiped out in one big clean sweep, with apparently no obvious Western role or responsibility for the bloody coup at all! Indonesia, with Anglo-American connivance and encouragement, has repeatedly put the basic bloody form of the model into practice, viz. East Timor (Timor Leste) in 1975, and the ongoing subjugation of West Papua (Irian Jaya).

John Pilger says that: "According to CIA operations officers I interviewed, the Suharto terror provided another 'model' - for the American-backed overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later, and for 'Operation Phoenix' in Vietnam, whose American-run death squads assassinated up to 50,000 people" ('Complicity In A Million Deaths', op. cit., p502). Writing in 2004, Pilger observes that "a similar campaign is planned to combat the resistance in American-occupied Iraq" (ibid.). This campaign, of course, did take place, being adapted and modelled in turn on American death squad operations in El Salvador during the Reagan/Thatcher era of the 1980s.

It was called the "Salvadoran Option", and was associated with a very nasty bunch of State terrorist counter-insurgency strategists and practitioners, including Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense (January 2001 to December 2006); General David Petraeus (later also CIA Director); General Stanley McChrystal; Australian adviser David Kilcullen; and Central American "dirty work" specialist James Steele.

(For Steele, see: Guardian, 6/3/13; (Colonel) "James Steele (United States Army Officer"); "The CIA As Organised Crime", op. cit., pp144-9). Almost needless to say, this murderous counter-insurgency got scant coverage in the Western media!

The State Terrorist Teachers Maintain Foreign Control

(c) The Indonesian genocide and its outcome were certainly warmly appreciated throughout the Anglo-American axis. What I have found so stunning over the years is the way in which the Western mainstream media have got away with openly cheering on mass murder time and again (ch. 5: "Human Rights: The Pragmatic Criterion", in "Year 501: The Conquest Continues", Noam Chomsky, Verso, 1993). Mind you, a conspiracy of silence is the "golden rule" nowadays on the Indonesian case!

What is especially stunning too is how the West can fiercely denounce the atrocities of enemies but at the same time in stark contrast justify the atrocities of their proxies and their own more evident dirty work. Most ironically, even supposedly despised and feared enemies like Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda have been used for geopolitical purposes (viz. the former in Cambodia after the Vietnamese invasion, and the latter in Syria, Libya, etc.).

At one level, of course, this simply reflects the tribalist warfare propaganda of the ages. But, given how our culture purports to value democracy, human rights and rationality, the attitudes and practices identified all add up to an excoriating revelation. In truth, they reveal the extent to which the rich and powerful determine Western foreign policy in their own interests. Ultimately, we dig down to the deeply institutionalised, self-serving hypocrisy of Western civilisation on democracy and human rights. Racism and white supremacism account for so much of the culture of capitalist gain in historical context. The Social Darwinist syndrome still prevails.

(d) For certain, the 1967 Western prescribed and organised carve-up of Indonesia's natural resources is again remarkable in its systematic planning for market exploitation. There was a concerted impetus for the extorted profits of the corporate market. This capitalist takeover in the wake of orchestrated State terrorism, mass slaughter, brutal widespread imprisonment, etc., went almost like clockwork.

(e) The fall-out from the genocidal coup resulted in increased landlessness "as land ownership became more concentrated; the peasants were afraid to organise, and the prospects of fundamental economic changes to primarily benefit the poor were successfully eradicated even though poverty levels were reduced" ("Complicity In A Million Deaths", op. cit., p515).

(f) Later, in 1998, the egregious corruption and repression under Suharto was freely denounced by representatives of the same capitalist forces that had formerly installed him in power. Another window of opportunity opened for these same forces to posture helpfully for Indonesia's people. Ironically, it was the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis that led to Suharto's fall in the following year.

Foreign financiers, facilitated by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), had lent huge sums of money, generating "unimaginably large debts" ("Blowback: The Costs And Consequences Of American Empire", Chalmers Johnson, TimeWarner, 2000/02, p218 - incidentally, note the irony of the publisher!). These debts were grossly unsecured by company investment. Financial panic set in and the economy started to unravel.

"The countries (like Indonesia) that had followed recent American economic advice most closely were most seriously devastated" (ibid.). Long-time free trade/market enforcer, the IMF, eagerly stepped in with its normal austerity solution to guarantee export-led growth. "By the time the IMF was finished with Indonesia, over a thousand shopkeepers were dead (most of them Chinese), 20% of the population was unemployed, and 100 million people - half the population - were living on less a dollar a day" (ibid., p220).

Multi-Millionaire Marauding For Minerals

To return to the egregiously notorious role of RTZ, this TNC can indeed serve as a "model" of corporate exploitation. For many years, the lack of public contextual comment by the NZ mainstream media about RTZ's history and ongoing performance elsewhere around the globe has been blatantly biased. This studiously selective silence and failure to place the Anglo-Australian-owned and the world's second biggest metals and mining company (after BHP) in due context is revelatory indeed of our own country's power structure and globalist capitalist commitment.

Ilmenite, mined by RTZ in Fort Dauphin in Madagascar, is one of the "principal metals needed for the energy ransition" (see "Appendix 14" in "The Rare Metals War . . .", op. cit., p230). It is a major source of titanium dioxide, one of the world's most common inorganic chemicals. The latter's uses "range from a pigment in paint and sunscreen to an electronic material in experimental solar cells and batteries" (8/06/17). Titanium oxide is also used in other electronic component applications, including a type of semi-conductor. It is probably the most used "nano-material".

As Guillaume Pitron observes: "Extracting minerals from the ground is an inherently dirty operation. The way it has been carried out so irresponsibly in the most active mining countries casts doubt on the virtuous vision of the energy and digital transition. A recent report by the Blacksmith Institute identifies the mining industry as the second-most-polluting industry in the world, behind lead-battery recycling, and ahead of the dye industry, industrial dumpsites, and tanneries" ("The Rare Metals War", op. cit., pp33/4). Incidentally, note the challenges we can face even in recycling!

Contradictions and paradoxes go on piling up. For instance, the mining of rare earths and metals in China itself is causing enormous environmental damage and even increasing human health problems (ibid., note in particular chapters 1 to 3). This mining fall-out intersects with the rest of China's mounting ecological ruin - from being the "biggest emitter of greenhouse gases" of any nation to having "80% of its groundwater unfit for human consumption", and over a million and a half people dying "per year due to air pollution alone" (ibid., p31).

To return to the plight of the Congo, RTZ has been there too, exploring for diamonds and iron. RTZ has indeed long been assiduously active on the African continent ("Rio Tinto In Africa", IndustriALL Global Union). Lately, the very opportunistic, predatory giant TNC has been extending its tentacles further into Africa. Ironies are multiplying here. "Diplomatic tensions between China and Australia have led Beijing to ban imports of Australian coal, but China is still dependent on Australian iron ore.

Beijing has been looking to diversify its supply of iron ore, including through a joint project venture with United Kingdom-Australian firm Rio Tinto to develop the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea", the world's largest known iron ore deposit of its kind ("Rio Tinto Seeks Closer Cooperation With Chinese Partners",: 1/4/21; "Congo Strips Australia's Sundance Resources Of Iron Ore Project" 21/12/20).

Most ironically, half of the iron ore shipped to China has come from RTZ's operations in Pilbara, Western Australia ("Rio Tinto Seeks...", ibid.). At the same time, RTZ has been reported as expecting "to receive financial and technological support from the Chinese side to accelerate the project" in Guinea (ibid.). In the usual manner, too, of neo-colonial manipulation for resource plunder, the project will require both a long railway and a deep-water port to export the ore (ibid.). Sadly enough, there is obviously going to be plenty of environmental damage stemming in multiple forms from this particular project.

Bizarrely enough, while RTZ is cosying up with China in Guinea, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) has been giving the boot to another Australian-connected company on charges of incompetence and the failure to pay royalties ("Congo Strips Australia's..." op. cit.). This company, Sundance Resources, has also been involved in iron ore mining (ibid.). The firm replacing Sundance Resources evidently has Chinese backing. To be sure, geopolitics and the global mining industry are weaving a pretty contorted and weird web!

Growing Challenges For Car-go Cult Futurism

Former French Minister Hubert Vedrine in his Foreword to Pitron's book goes on to succinctly stress that the first problem about the rare metals is that "most of these resources are in the hands of China - an advantage it is naturally tempted to exploit" ("The Rare Metals War", op. cit., pp.ix/x). Thus, the Asian nation is positioned as having a "global monopoly" over rare metals and rare earths (ibid., p.x). From "super magnets to long-range missiles", Vedrine opines that the West has been acting "inconsistently or entirely without foresight" (ibid.).

The second predicament is that "extracting and refining rare metals is highly polluting, and recycling them has proved a disappointment. We are therefore faced with the paradox that the latest and greatest technology (and supposedly the greenest to halt the ecological countdown) relies mostly on 'dirty' metals. Thus, information and communication technologies actually produce 50% more greenhouse gases than air transport. It's an especially vicious circle"! (ibid.).

Given the key problems analysed by Guillaume Pitron in "The Rare Metals War", as highlighted above by Hubert Vedrine in his Foreword to this book, we clearly confront a compounding set of geopolitical and ecological challenges. Meanwhile, global demand for the resources to build and operate electric cars is set to sky-rocket! ("IEA: Mineral Supplies For Electric Cars...", op. cit.). As Guillaume Pitron himself remarks, the "rare metals 'gold rush'" has become a kind of modern "cargo cult". He aptly says: "In short, the Western world honours the 'cargo cult' (outlook) founded in the Pacific Islands" ("The Rare Metals War", op. cit., p80). "But everything comes at a cost" (ibid., p81).

He rightly goes on to observe how "the globalisation of supply chains gives us consumer goods while taking away knowledge of their origin" (ibid.). We have forgotten the planetary realities of "scarcity", the supposed starting point of modern economic theory, which instead proceeds to absurdly embrace the concept of "infinite growth"! (My relevant research study: "The Cost Of Free Trade: Aotearoa/New Zealand at Risk", CAFCA, 1996, simply echoes in its general theme what so many environmentalists have declared for decades). Covid-19-generated disruptions seem to have woken up more people to the very precarious nature of globalisation!

Grappling With Car-Ridden Conundrums

In sum, the whole supply chain for electric cars and their use is problematic - from mining the necessary minerals to disposing of the toxic waste. There are many issues to deal with. A BBC report points out that even if electricity were fed "from renewable sources, there would still be an environmental cost. One is "the zero-carbon fantasy" ("The Five Major Challenges Facing Electric Vehicles", BBC News, 19/9/19).

"Sourcing the minerals used for batteries, dismantling batteries which have deteriorated, and building and delivering vehicles to customers worldwide all involve substantial CO2 emissions. It is impossible to break all of the links" (ibid.). Of course, the basic argument for electric cars is that, overall, they can make a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil fuel vehicles. But for a raft of reasons, as already outlined, EVs are surely no silver bullet and should be used sparingly and judiciously. As well, and most importantly, we need a comprehensive examination and assessment of the life-cycle of the new "green" technologies in general. So far, I have pointed out in particular some key concerns.

Take lithium for another example of rare metals sought for EV batteries. Lithium is a very light alkali metal. "Lithium is a comparatively rare element, although it is found in many rocks and some brines, but always in very low concentrations. There are a fairly large number of both lithium mineral and brine deposits but only comparatively few of them are of actual or potential commercial value" ("Lithium").

Many of the deposits are very small, while "others are too low in grade" (ibid.). Currently, Australia is the highest annual producer. What is called the "Lithium Triangle" - comprising the Latin American countries of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia - contains over half of the world's lithium. The white metal lies beneath the salt flats of these three countries ("The Rare Metals War", op. cit., p32). "It is considered critical by the US, and demand is expected to soar on the back of the electric car boom that has jacked up its global production" (ibid.).

Given the history of the US-led systematic imperialist exploitation of Latin America, these countries are certainly vulnerable to the further pillage of their resources at the expense of peoples and the environment. But in this half of the Americas: "Large-scale lithium mining now sparks environmental activism" (ibid., p33). Greenpeace has been protesting the "pure greenwashing" PR of the mining industry in Latin America (ibid., pp32/3). Yet, overall, lithium does not even rate much of a mention in Guillaume's book with rarer metals taking the limelight. In "Appendix 14: Lifespan Of The Viable Reserves...", lithium has the largest reserves of any of these metals (ibid.).

Lighting The Way With Lithium?

Rare metals are scattered in minute amounts among far more abundant materials. As Guillaume Pitron puts it: "These 30 odd metals are seen as 'the key to green capitalism' (my emphasis): the replacement of resources that emit billions of tonnes of CO2 with resources that do not burn and therefore do not generate the slightest gram of it" (ibid., p4).

Both "green" technologies and digital technologies harnessing the rare metals subject of Guillaume's study are touted by "futurist" pundits as giving humankind further "promethean" power to transform the world (ibid.). For certain, the whole thrust of Western civilisation has been to try and control, dominate, and so transform Mother Nature - to shape the Earth to serve its techno-industrial utopian goals. Even in the face of global warming, these "sci-fi" fantasies still prevail, with economic growth the ruling paradigm as ever.

Of the "principal metals needed for the energy transition", lithium - as indicated - is ranked as having the longest resource lifespan ("Appendix 14: Lifespan Of The Viable Reserves...", ibid.). Yet, as also recorded above, lithium can be hard to extract in a meaningful way by commercial methods. "The growing adoption of electric lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles is driving the increasing demand for lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel. Significant amounts of lithium supply will need to be brought online to meet demand growth from the global lithium market. Globally, lithium supply is expected to fall short of the demand for this metal by 2023" ("Mining Industry Of The Democratic Republic ...", op. cit.).

There is now an urgent drive to try and get lithium from more accessible and even more ecologically benign sources (e.g., "The New 'Gold Rush' For Green Lithium...", op. cit.). One project is focused on getting lithium from old Cornish mines (ibid.). It has got some recent NZ media attention (TV3, Newshub Live At 6pm, 22/6/21). An item titled the "Hidden Cost Of The EV Boom", posed the fundamental question as to whether EVs are good for the planet? (ibid.).

TV3's British-assigned reporter Lloyd Burr reported that lithium mining typically pollutes soil and water and emits carbon (ibid.). However, a NZ company, GEO40 - with experience in Taupo's thermal areas - is helping local firm Cornish Lithium extract the mineral from brine down in old mines, and doing this in an environmentally friendly way (ibid.).

Exploring and developing better methods of extracting lithium is a vital approach. But, as usual, we would be very silly to rely on "tech-fix" solutions for better environmental outcomes on a large scale. Some commentators are ultimately over-optimistic about lithium and "tech-fixes" despite problems (e.g., New Zealand's EV revolution may not come easy, The Spinoff, 4/3/21).

To Recap, And Elaborate Some More

In this article, I have reviewed and examined the general challenge of what we can call the "rare metals war". This is yet another phase in a very long-running geopolitical competition for natural resources that sometimes flares up into open conflict. So, I have set this competition in the context of the ongoing Western imperial pillage of Earth's resources. In the course of this review, I have highlighted a number of key issues and relevant examples.

Growing competition around our planet is officially acknowledged by the Western political Establishment ("Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World", a publication of the [US] National Intelligence Council, March 2021). "At the international level, the geopolitical environment will be more competitive - shaped by China's challenge to the US and Western-led international system", as asserted by the appointed assessors of American security intelligence (ibid., p11).

Meantime, mining and commodity trading TNCs like RTZ are expressing concerns about rising costs and "resource nationalism". But humans are scrambling about more than ever in the hunt for minerals - from deep seabed mining to reaching up heavenwards to planets and asteroids in evolutionary overshoot. "Climate change and environmental degradation will contribute to and reflect a more contested geopolitical environment. Countries and other actors are likely to compete over food, mineral, water, and energy sources made more accessible, more valuable, or scarcer" (ibid., p48).

The melting Arctic is opening up new sea routes and opportunities to exploit "natural gas and oil deposits, rare earth metals, and fish stocks", among a range of desired resources (ibid.). A melting Antarctica, the "last of lands", is increasingly also becoming the object of similar motivations. With regard to technological manufacture and innovation, especially the hi-tech sector, the Biden Administration is gearing up for the greater contest it sees ahead.

As recorded in one of the opening quotes to my article, this Administration - with the full support of Congress - has been passing a bill to boost American production of semiconductors, AI, and other hi-tech stuff ("Rare Unity As Senate...", op. cit.). Lifting the bar to compete better with China is the overriding aim! Outfits like "IQT, a not-for-profit investment firm working on behalf of the US national security community", have been pressing hard for this sort of approach ("The Innovation Wars: America's Eroding Technological Advantage", Christopher Darby & Sarah Sewall, in Foreign Affairs, "Decline And Fall: Can America Ever Lead Again", March/April 2021). Given the "deep state" grip of the military-industrial complex on the US, the hi-tech imperative is a commitment to the final Holocaust. We have to try and counter this institutionalised insanity more fervently than ever before!

Computer Power And Geopolitical Contest

A Wikipedia entry and answers to related questions gives the big picture on semiconductors ("Semiconductor Industry"). The global semiconductor industry is dominated by companies from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the US, and the Netherlands. Furthermore: "The semiconductor business is very interlinked "with raw materials coming from Japan and Mexico (and other source countries) and chips made in the US and China". However, much of the world's supply of computer chips comes from Taiwan".

Overall, China - as emphasised throughout my article - is a prime position for the mounting contest over the control of vital rare metals and earths. It also plays a key role in the distribution of "green technologies". Significantly: "China is the world's largest producer and exporter of solar panels and wind turbines" ("Global Trends 2040...", op. cit., p46). Semiconductor production, on the other hand, depends on an apparently very common and mundane mineral - sand, or more precisely here, silicon. Indeed, silicon is the most common element in the Earth's crust.

But even the human and environmental costs of sand mining are multiplying too, as described in the very surprising and revealing study by Vince Beiser ("The World In A Grain: The Story Of Sand And How It Transformed Civilisation", Penguin Books, 2019). Certain kinds of silicon are best for computer chips and the relevant sand categories are getting scarcer. The sands of time are surely running out in more ways than one.

Confronting And Grappling With The Challenges

So, to stress again, we must face up to and address the challenges presented by so-called "green technologies" and the growing "rare metals war". A former Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, Susan Krumdieck, has charted a far more sustainable and practical path ("Sustainability...", op. cit.). She has expounded her views in an important publication "Transition Engineering".

An introduction by reporter John McCrone in an interview with Professor Krumdieck states the case in plain terms: "Don't fall for the hype surrounding green technology. Start accepting the coming energy constraints and building them into the national future" (ibid.). According to Krumdieck's vision, we have to learn 'how to make do with less' - returning to a 1950s scale energy budget - is how any engineer ought to be thinking if actually asked to write the long-term sustainability roadmap for NZ" (ibid.). In my opinion, this is a most essential step forward for the future.

At the most basic level, Professor Krumdieck well argues that we cannot "expect that economic growth can continue on blithely in a world of zero carbon and a green energy transition" (ibid.). We have to wake up to the implications of real energy limits and make appropriate adaptations. For example, Krumdieck rubbishes the EV roadmap. She observes that it is being sold as a "sound investment in a green transition" (ibid.). But she goes on to comment: "However, it is a business-as-usual approach that leaves us with a world relying on a poor" energy efficient result, i.e., when everything relevant is taken fully into account (ibid.).

"Every electric car represents the embedded energy cost of a vehicle built in an overseas factory. There is the battery cost, not to mention the cost of all the road and parking infrastructure that goes with car use" (ibid.). For sure, a BBC report declares that: "A large shift away from motorised vehicles is the only way fundamentally reduce transport's contribution to climate change, however hard and politically unpalatable that may be" ("The Five Major Challenges...", op. cit.). EVs are certainly "no panacea" for reducing transport's GHG emissions" (ibid.).

Costing Out Our Options

Instead of electric cars, Professor Krumdieck says we should be moving to lower carbon options such as: walking; ordinary bikes; e-bikes; what she calls "locally-built delivery 'golf carts'"; and public transport embodied in "a national electrified network", with a return to trains and trams" ("Sustainability...", op. cit.). The costs of green technologies - aside from production and distribution - also include the problems of suitable locations and power storage. For instance, location becomes a significant issue for both solar power and wind power in order to achieve reliability and reasonable returns on both investment and actual worthwhile usage.

It is so very ironic that Aotearoa/NZ's greatest renewable asset for coping with climate change - hydro-electric power - can become a victim as it were of the very process of global warming. Low hydro lake levels in the past couple of years have led to a lot more coal being imported from Indonesia. Despite all this, the fantasies of limitless growth go on, whether peddled by politicians, economists, technocrats, futurists, or any others of those who embrace and exemplify evolutionary overshoot. As Professor Krumdieck contends, what we should accept and endeavour to operate properly is an "energy downshift". The Government needs to wheel out a new energy programme, and steer an alternative pathway, putting the brakes both on fossil fuels and the exploitation of scarce resources!

Forwards For A Survivable Future!

The human future is more contested than ever on planet Earth. There are all the dangers and threats of mounting competition, division, and conflict over so many issues. Yet the international cooperation to date against Covid-19 - however lacking it might be so far in what is ultimately required - still points to ways in which we can work together for a better world; or at least a survivable future in the interim while striving for eventual improvement and real sustainability.

This global Covid-19 crisis has given us the opportunities to help make really meaningful changes to our materialist, technologically obsessed way of life. Humans can live together in greater harmony with Nature. We can learn to live less energy-intensive lives and cooperate both domestically and internationally to safeguard the structure and functioning of societies that meet basic needs in a transition to far more genuinely sustainable lifestyles. But we have to choose and act now!


It takes a lot of work to compile and write the material presented on these pages - if you value the information, please send a donation to the address below to help us continue the work.

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa.



Return to Watchdog 157 Index