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Juan Cole, Playing Russian Roulette with Middle Eastern Oil

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Sometimes it seems as if it just never sinks in. I mean, it shouldn’t be that complicated anymore. It’s hardly news that 2023 was a year of unnerving heat globally — the hottest “by far” since records began to be kept — including month by month, May through December. And should you think that was an anomaly, 2024 has taken up the cudgel (so to speak), with each new month hitting a startling global record. March was the tenth in a row to do so. Worse yet, as should be all too painfully obvious by now, this isn’t the end of something but — given the continued massive burning of fossil fuels on this planet — just the beginning, with so much worse still to come. And don’t forget the dramatic heating of global oceans and seas, where records are now also being broken in an unnerving fashion.

Yes, of course we know why this is happening. It’s not exactly a mystery anymore. Humanity’s (mis)use of fossil fuels, sending greenhouse gasses soaring into the atmosphere, is all too literally creating a future hell on earth and a potentially unimaginable world for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And it’s not exactly a secret who’s truly responsible for so much of what’s now happening. As Thor Benson recently highlighted at the Common Dreams website: “A report released by Carbon Majors on Thursday says that 57 companies were responsible for 80% of the world’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and cement production between 2016 to 2022.”

And anyone who checks out the latest piece by TomDispatch regular Juan Cole, creator of the must-read Informed Comment website, won’t be surprised to learn that Saudi Aramco leads that list. Oh, and “in terms of investor-owned companies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP contributed the most to CO2 emissions. ExxonMobil alone was responsible for 3.6 gigatons of CO2 emissions over a seven-year period.”

Yet, strangely enough, as I’ve written elsewhere, we humans continue to fight wars with each other (pouring yet more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere) rather than facing the war on the planet that Big Oil and crew are conducting in a distinctly apocalyptic fashion. (I’ve long wondered what the CEOs of those companies would say to their kids and grandkids about profiting off the destruction of their world.) Anyway, let Cole take you onto the very planet we’re destroying in such a remarkable fashion, with an emphasis on the area in which he’s an expert, the distinctly overheating, fossil-fuelizing Middle East. Tom

Dead Last (With an Emphasis on Dead!)

Despite Hellish Heat Waves and Epic Floods, the Middle East Gets Failing Grades on Climate Action

Last September witnessed what used to be a truly rare weather phenomenon: a Mediterranean hurricane, or “medicane.” Once upon a time, the Mediterranean Sea simply didn't get hot enough to produce hurricanes more than every few hundred (yes, few hundred!) years. In this case, however, Storm Daniel assaulted Libya with a biblical-style deluge for four straight days. It was enough to overwhelm the al-Bilad and Abu Mansour dams near the city of Derna, built in the 1970s to old cool-earth specifications. The resulting flood destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings, washing thousands of people out to sea, and displaced tens of thousands more.

Saliha Abu Bakr, an attorney, told a harrowing tale of how the waters kept rising in her apartment building before almost reaching the roof and quite literally washing many of its residents away. She clung to a piece of wooden furniture for three hours in the water. “I can swim,” she told a reporter afterward, “but when I tried to save my family, I couldn’t do a thing.” Human-caused climate change, provoked by the way we spew 37 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon dioxide gas into our atmosphere every year, made the Libyan disaster 50 times more likely than it once might have been. And worse yet, for the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world, that nightmare is undoubtedly only the beginning of serial disasters to come (and come and come and come) that will undoubtedly render millions of people homeless or worse.

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Ellen Cantarow, A Shrapnel-Faced World

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When you watch the latest TV news on Israel’s war in Gaza, it feels as if its military had invaded another country. So, it’s important to remind ourselves that the tens of thousands of weapons the Biden administration has been sending to Israel since October 7th, including most recently, as the Washington Post reported, “more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs” — and keep in mind that those 2,000 pounders are “capable of leveling city blocks and leaving craters in the earth 40 feet across and larger” — are meant to be used to obliterate a 25-mile-long strip of land, smaller than some large American cities. It’s hard to remember a moment when such a relatively tiny area got quite such a pounding, day after day, week after week, month after month.

And keep in mind as well, that not many small areas of land are quite so densely populated (about 14,000 people per square mile), so the toll from those American weapons has been nothing short of devastating. In addition, a 2,000-pound bomb capable of destroying a city block won’t make any distinction between a member of Hamas and families with children. Nor, it’s now all too clear, has the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing compatriots had the faintest urge to make such a distinction. Otherwise, an estimated 10,000 Gazan children, or one of every 100 kids there, wouldn’t be dead and, in all too many cases, buried in the rubble of the buildings in which they lived.

In short, there can be little question that the present war not just in, but on, Gaza, is a crime against humanity (as, of course, was Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel). With that in mind — and worse yet, no end yet in sight for such a nightmare — let TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow, who long ago wrote about Israel for various American publications, offer a glimpse of hell on earth in the world of 2024. Tom

Dead on Arrival

Israel’s Blowback Genocide

Words can't express the horrors of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. To actually feel the nightmare, you would have to be there under the bombs, fleeing with Palestinians desperately seeking a safe place that doesn’t exist; seeing building after building destroyed; treading through blood in one of the few, only partially standing hospitals; and witnessing children and other patients sprawled on hospital floors, limbs amputated without anesthesia (Israel having blocked all medical supplies).

It has taken the Jewish state’s savagery to break decades of silence about its history of crimes against humanity. U.S. military historian Robert Pape has called the onslaught against Gaza “one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.” Former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour has said that we are witnessing “probably the highest kill rate of any military... since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.”

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William Astore, “Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”

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I was born on July 20, 1944, barely a year before the world (potentially) ended. On August 6 and 9, 1945, the U.S., which had already been torching Japanese cities from the air, dropped the first atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The explosions were unlike anything humanity had previously experienced. A single weapon from a single plane could devastate a city, wiping out tens of thousands of human beings (and leaving behind a nuclear residue or “fallout” that could cause horrific cancers in the years to follow). It was a grim, dark miracle of human invention and, within a decade, the weapons used on those two cities would seem all too modest compared to the new thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs the U.S. possessed that, within years, were capable of wiping out whole civilizations. (The estimate of Russian, Chinese, and other deaths from the carrying out of the Single Integrated Operational Plan for General Nuclear War developed by the U.S. military in 1960 was at least 600 million.)

Today, of course, nine countries (still led by the U.S.) have close to 13,000 nuclear weapons and, in the coming decades, my own country is planning to spend almost two trillion dollars (no, that is not a misprint!) on “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal while, at this very moment, two countries presently at war in a major fashion, Israel and Russia, are also nuclear powers and the leader of one of them has even threatened to use such weapons on the battlefield.

Consider it a miracle of sorts, given us humans and the kind of devastation we now know a nuclear war would bring to this world, that, for the last 78 years, while such ultimate weaponry spread and, one might even say, flourished on this planet, not one of them has ever been used again in war (though in those same years, there have certainly been countless wars). But will my great-grandson or great-granddaughter be able to say the same thing 78 years from now? Will they or anyone else even be here to say anything at all, or might we humans truly fulfill the prophecy of those two nuclear moments in 1945 and end our world, at least as we know it? With that in mind, let retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore take you onto a planet that couldn’t be more fragile or more worth saving. Tom

There Is Only One Spaceship Earth

Freeing the World from the Deadly Shadow of Genocide and Ecocide

When I was in the U.S. military, I learned a saying (often wrongly attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato) that only the dead have seen the end of war. Its persistence through history to this very moment should indeed be sobering. What would it take for us humans to stop killing each other with such vigor and in such numbers?

Song lyrics tell me to be proud to be an American, yet war and profligate preparations for more of the same are omnipresent here. My government spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined (and most of them are allies). In this century, our leaders have twice warned of an “axis of evil” intent on harming us, whether the fantasy troika of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea cited by President George W. Bush early in 2002 or a new one -- China, Russia, and North Korea -- in the Indo-Pacific today. Predictably given that sort of threat inflation, this country is now closing in on a trillion dollars a year in "defense spending," or close to two-thirds of federal discretionary spending, in the name of having a military machine capable of defeating “evil” troikas (as well as combatting global terrorism). A significant part of that huge sum is reserved for producing a new generation of nuclear weapons that will be quite capable of destroying this planet with missiles and warheads to spare.

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