April 24, at the Defense, National Security, and Climate Change Symposium in Washington, D.C., Brigadier General Stephen Cheney stepped up to the podium to discuss “conflict and climate change.” Although Cheney is CEO of the American Security Project think tank, he identifies first as a retired Marine who likes to talk about “war fighting.” That’s fitting for a gathering that revolved around the “war on climate change”—a phrase used by journalist Cyril Mychalejko to describe the tendency to fit the world’s coming climatological upheavals into a “national security framework.”
Denialism still holds some sway in Congress, with seven GOP senators expressing outrage in May that FEMA asked states to plan for climate change, but among the military and defense technology elites gathered at the symposium, no time was wasted on debating the science. Instead, the Obama administration’s warning in February that the warming of the planet is “an urgent and growing threat to our national security” set the agenda.
Read the rest here where it was originally published at In These Times:
My appearance on the great podcast Radio Dispatch:
“Todd Miller joins us to discuss the Israeli border security company helping to up-armor the border between the US and Mexico, the US government has begun classifying virtually every element of Afghan reconstruction, and listener mail with Molly from the past.”
“For years now, the Mexican-American border has been a place of experimentation, where United States military, security, and technology corporations have tested and refined many of their products in the effort to control immigration. In the past year, however, that market has opened up to foreign security companies, who are procuring new contracts from the U.S. government…”
It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”
Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology — the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.
Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.
Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”
An excerpt from “Border Patrol Nation,” Chapter 7: “America’s Back Yard.”
The first thing that I want to do when I arrive in Dajabón, one of the Dominican Republic’s border towns with Haiti, is find a good place to eat. After all, it is a five-hour bus ride from the capital of Santo Domingo, through a lush, mountainous landscape with many small towns, all with baseball fields on their edges. As soon as I get off the bus it’s obvious that I’m in borderlands again. There is the roar of a cumbersome green helicopter that will circle the town for hours. A mere three blocks away is Haiti, a nation where more than nine million people earn less than a dollar per day. Between the spot where I step off the bus and Haiti is the Massacre River, representing the border that divides the island of Hispaniola into two countries.
Here’s the description: “Todd Miller joins us to discuss how the US is militarizing the southern border of Mexico, Malala Yousafzai wins the #NobelPeacePrize for her struggle against the suppression of children, and all sorts of listener mail.”
When an exodus of Central American children occurred this summer, the U.S. media focused on the arrival of more than 60,000 children in Nogales, Arizona, and McAllen, Texas, where the Department of Homeland Security detained thousands of kids in warehouses and Air Force bases. Border hawks were quick to pontificate about the porosity of the U.S.-Mexico divide, perhaps fetishizing a new Berlin Wall, armed with guards with shoot-to-kill orders. Never mind that parts of the U.S. southern international boundary already have massive walls where its guards have shot and killed across the line. What most coverage has ignored, though, is that only one part of the border battle with the refugee children is happening at the U.S. border. Thousands of miles to the south, the Mexican government is taking action to prevent migrants from moving north, essentially performing the tasks of the U.S. Border Patrol.
The U.S. border enforcement apparatus has thus been extended south, in what Border Patrol chief Mike Fisher calls a “layered approach.” As he says, according to the 2012–2016 Border Patrol strategy, “the U.S.-Mexico border is our last line of defense.” Now undocumented Central American border crossers confront such a layer in southern Mexico, 1,000 miles before touching U.S. soil.
Since July, there has been a surge of Mexican immigration agents, federal police and military — with a gauntlet of roadside checkpoints and sophisticated surveillance equipment at their disposal — in an enforcement belt that goes hundreds of miles into Mexico’s interior. “Subordination,” said Miguel Angel Paz of the Mexican immigration rights organization Voces Mesoamericanas, “is part of the relationship Mexico has with the United States.” The U.S. border enforcement regime has gone beyond policing the U.S.-Mexico divide to patrolling south to Central America, targeting the men, women and children seeking refuge in the north.
A week ago was when I first saw the picture that appeared in the The Telegraph of children in the Gaza Strip trying to break the Guinness world record for kite-flying. The kites floating mid-air off the Mediterranean shore were a sight to behold. I was taken with the photo and the happiness of the Gazan children on the beach, considering that all the news had been about the sustained Israeli bombardment of that besieged Palestinian territory. At first glance, it seemed like a triumph of the human spirit, or at least of the joy of childhood in the face of war. But then I realized that the picture had been taken at a previous time.
Again, I looked at the photo of all the children grouped on the beach, with the breaking, blue waves in the distance. Flying kites was still quite a feat with an unseen Israeli naval blockade six miles out to sea. However, with the sustained attack on the Gaza Strip, which has been going on since July 7, I realized that it was possible—if not probable—that some of these children were dead.
This U.S.-funded Israeli attack (on a 72-hour ceasefire since Tuesday, August 5) was a rallying point for several Los Angeles-based organizations to organize a march on July 25 to protest the visit of President Barack Obama, who was on a trip to raise money for the Democratic Party and its upcoming election campaigns. But there was another reason for the protest. As that march moved forward down the L.A. streets in the mid-day heat, it was visually dominated by people holding flowing flags from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The defense of Palestinian and immigrant children converged, as a response to the similar strategies of dehumanization used to justify violence against them.