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“Cashing In On Fear”: Agenda 21, The U.N. Conspiracy That Just Won’t Die

It’s been called “the most dangerous threat to American sovereignty”; “An anti-human document, which takes aim at Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions,” that will bring “new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind,” and “abolish golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads,” in the name of creating a “one-world order.”

It’s been the subject of several forewarning books and DVDs; there are organizations dedicated to stopping it and politicians have been unseated for supporting it. Glenn Beck has spent a good portion of his career making people scared of it.

Not sure what it is? You’re not alone.

The Daily Beast got a sneak peek at a new report by Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, which deconstructs the mythology of Agenda 21 and the organizations, individuals, and even elected officials who’ve spent years promulgating the conspiracy theory surrounding it.

Before diving into the fiction that has inflated Agenda 21 to fear mongering status, we must first understand the facts. What, exactly, is Agenda 21?

While the name might sound a bit ominous, Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan that offers suggestions for sustainable ways local, state and national governments can combat poverty and pollution and conserve natural resources in the 21st century. (That’s where the ’21’ comes from. Get it?) 178 governments—including the U.S. led by then-President George H.W. Bush—voted to adopt the program which is, again, not legally binding in any way, at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

It wasn’t long after Agenda 21 was introduced that right wing opposition began to swirl. The SPLC points to Tom DeWeese as one of the first to pounce on the U.N. plan. In 1998 DeWeese founded the American Policy Center, a group based in Remington, Virginia that focuses on “environmental policy and its effect on private property rights” and “the United Nations and its effect on American national sovereignty.” The SPLC report quotes DeWeese as describing Agenda 21 as a “blueprint to turn your community into a little soviet,” promoted by non-governmental organizations that pressure governments to enforce it. According to DeWeese, “It all means locking away land, resources, higher prices, sacrifice and shortages and is based on the age old socialist scheme of redistribution of wealth.”

DeWeese has continued to deride the dangers of Agenda 21 well into the 21st Century, making appearances on Fox News and fitting in nicely with the Tea Party movement. The American Policy Center was just the first of many anti-Agenda 21 organizations to spring up in the past 15 or so years and the SPLC points out the 11 most pervasive.

To those who don’t closely follow the carryings on of fringe conspiracists, Glenn Beck might be the most recognizable face of the modern Anti-21 movement. Particularly during his reign at Fox News, Beck used his cable TV soapbox to scare his loyal viewers. “Those pushing…government control on a global level have mastered the art of hiding it in plain sight and then just dismissing it as a joke,” the SPLC quotes Beck saying around 2011 while waving a copy of the 294-page Agenda 21 document on his show. “Once they put their fangs into our communities and suck all the blood out of it [sic], we will not be able to survive.”

Never one to miss an opportunity to cash on in people’s fears, Beck published a dystopian science fiction novel in 2012 called Agenda 21, about a version of America where mating partners are arranged, children are raised away from their parents in group homes, and the book’s heroine spends hours walking on a sort of treadmill that generates energy in an apartment in a planned community. In the book’s afterword, Beck warns, “[I]f the United Nations in partnership with radical environmental activists and naive local governments get their way, then the themes explored in this novel may start to look very familiar, very quickly.”

But while Glenn Beck can technically be dismissed as nothing more than a fringe figure, a conspiratorial talking head—no matter how large his audience may be—the elected officials who have taken a similarly strong stance against Agenda 21 cannot. In the report, the SPLC points out Newt Gingrich, who said he would “explicitly repudiate” the plan if elected president during his 2012 White House bid; Oklahoma Sen. Sally Kern and Arizona state Sen. Judy Burges who both introduced anti-Agenda 21 legislation that ultimately failed; and former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers who “organized a four-hour, closed-door anti-Agenda briefing in October 2012” during which “attendees were told President Obama was using ‘mind control’ techniques to push land use planning, and that the U.N. planned to force Americans from suburbs into cities and also was implementing mandatory contraception to curb population growth.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has claimed that Agenda 21 sought to abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.”

And as recently as 2012, the SPLC writes, the Republican National Committee’s platform included the line, “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.”

Several anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups have also jumped on the anti-Agenda 21 bandwagon, seizing the opportunity to blame the controversial document on none other than the Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is basically a conspiracy theory,” the American Jewish Committee’s Ken Stern told the SPLC. He explains how neo-Nazis have linked Agenda 21 to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a falsified document that is alleged to reveal a secret Jewish plot to take over the world. “It’s Jews conspiring to harm non-Jews, and that conspiracy explains a lot of what goes wrong with the world,” Stern said.

To be sure, not all of Agenda 21’s opponents are on the far right of the political spectrum. The group Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21 hosted a conference on the plan in California in 2011. Its founder, “self-described lesbian feminist Rosa Koire,” wrote the book Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21, which claims the the plan will ultimately lead to the U.S.’s economic demise.

In fact, the anti-Semitic crowd’s interest in the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory sort of explains why it appeals to all of its followers, regardless of political leanings.

“Any time you get some sort of UN program that suggests any kind of change in the way people live, even if it seems outwardly benign and even voluntary, it’s going to be taken up by people with a conspiracist bent,” Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University political scientist and scholar of conspiracy theories, told the SPLC.

At this point in the explanation, it bears asking whether any of this matters. Is the federal government—or any state or local subsidiaries—even considering implementing any of the plan’s suggestions for sustainable development? The SPLC report states plainly: “For all the agitation, it’s not clear.” 98 percent of people who responded to a June 2012 poll by the American Planning Association said they didn’t know enough about Agenda 21 to support or oppose it. Six percent said they were against it, while nine percent stated that they were in favor.

The SPLC does note that some politicians, like Chattanooga, Tennessee Mayor Ron Littlefield, have denounced the anti-Agenda 21 conspiracists as modern-day Joseph McCarthy’s who will finally tire the public with their scare tactics. Still, they write, “an enormous number of politicians, commentators, activists, conspiracy theorists and others have swallowed the story of the anti-Agenda 21 zealots making any kind of rational discussion of the environment and related issues extremely difficult.”

“And that is the basic problem,” the report continues. “Dealing with the serious problems that confront our nation and our planet becomes incredibly difficult when the public discussion is poisoned with groundless conspiracy theories.”

 

By: Caitlin Dickson, The Daily Beast, April 13, 2014

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Domestic And International Obstructionist’s”: Senate GOP Kills United Nations Disabilities Treaty

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) made a rare Senate appearance this morning, sitting in a wheelchair just off the floor so that members would have to see him as they entered the chamber. Why? Because they were poised to vote on ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Dole hoped to send a message.

It didn’t work. The Senate killed the treaty this afternoon, with a final vote of 61 to 38, which seems like a lopsided majority, but which fell short of the two-thirds necessary for ratification. Eight Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats in support of the treaty, but the clear majority of the Senate GOP voted to block it.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, for those who’ve forgotten, is a human rights treaty negotiated by the George H.W. Bush administration, which has been ratified by 126 nations, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

But most Senate Republicans saw it as a threat to American “sovereignty,” even though the treaty wouldn’t have required the United States to change its laws. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty with bipartisan support in July, Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) explained the proposal simply “raises the [international] standard to our level without requiring us to go further.”

In other words, we wouldn’t actually have to do anything except say we like the treaty — and then wait for other signatories around the world to catch up to the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act.

The treaty was endorsed by Dole, John McCain, and Dick Lugar, among other prominent Republican figures, but it didn’t matter. The GOP’s right-wing base, led in part by Rick Santorum, raised hysterical fears about the treaty, and most Senate Republicans took their cues from the party’s activists, not the party’s elder statesmen.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 4, 2012

December 5, 2012 Posted by | Human Rights, United Nations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shadow Knows: Darth Vader “Cheney” Vents

Why is it not a surprise to learn that Dick Cheney’s ancestor, Samuel Fletcher Cheney, was a Civil War soldier who marched with Sherman to the sea?

Scorched earth runs in the family.

Having lost the power to heedlessly bomb the world, Cheney has turned his attention to heedlessly bombing old colleagues.

Vice’s new memoir, “In My Time,” veers unpleasantly between spin, insisting he was always right, and score-settling, insisting that anyone who opposed him was wrong.

His knife-in-her-teeth daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, helped write the book. The second most famous Liz & Dick combo do such an excellent job of cherry-picking the facts, it makes the cherry-picking on the Iraq war intelligence seem picayune.

Cheney may no longer have a pulse, but his blood quickens at the thought of other countries he could have attacked. He salivates in his book about how Syria and Iran could have been punished.

Cheney says that in 2007, he told President Bush, who had already been pulled into diplomacy by Condi Rice: “I believed that an important first step would be to destroy the reactor in the Syrian desert.”

At a session with most of the National Security Council, he made his case for a strike on the reactor. It would enhance America’s tarnished credibility in the Arab world, he argued, (not bothering to mention who tarnished it), and demonstrate the country’s “seriousness.”

“After I finished,” he writes, “the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”

By that time, W. had belatedly realized that Cheney was a crank whose bad advice and disdainful rants against “the diplomatic path” and “multilateral action” had pretty much ruined his presidency.

There were few times before the bitter end that W. was willing to stand up to Vice. But the president did make a bold stand on not letting his little dog be gobbled up by Cheney’s big dog.

When Vice’s hundred-pound yellow Lab, Dave, went after W.’s beloved Scottish terrier, Barney, at Camp David’s Laurel Lodge, that was a bridge too far.

When Cheney and Dave got back to their cabin, there was a knock at the door. “It was the camp commander,” Cheney writes. “ ‘Mr. Vice President,’ he said, ‘your dog has been banned from Laurel.’ ”

But on all the nefarious things that damaged America, Cheney got his way for far too long.

Vice gleefully predicted that his memoir would have “heads exploding all over Washington.” But his book is a bore. He doesn’t even mention how in high school he used to hold the water buckets to douse the fiery batons of his girlfriend Lynne, champion twirler.

At least Rummy’s memoir showed some temperament. And George Tenet’s was the primal scream of a bootlicker caught out.

Cheney takes himself so seriously, flogging his cherished self-image as a rugged outdoorsman from Wyoming (even though he shot his Texas hunting partner in the face) and a vice president who was the only thing standing between America and its enemies.

He acts like he is America. But America didn’t like Dick Cheney.

It’s easier for someone who believes that he is America incarnate to permit himself to do things that hurt America — like torture, domestic spying, pushing America into endless wars, and flouting the Geneva Conventions.

Mostly, Cheney grumbles about having his power checked. It’s bad enough when the president does it, much less Congress and the courts.

A person who is always for the use of military force is as doctrinaire and irrelevant as a person who is always opposed to the use of military force.

Cheney shows contempt for Tenet, Colin Powell and Rice, whom he disparages in a sexist way for crying, and condescension for W. when he won’t be guided to the path of most destruction.

He’s churlish about President Obama, who took the hunt for Osama bin Laden off the back burner and actually did what W. promised to do with his little bullhorn — catch the real villain of 9/11.

“Tracking him down was certainly one of our top priorities,” Cheney writes. “I was gratified that after years of diligent and dedicated work, our nation’s intelligence community and our special operations forces were able on May 1, 2011, to find and kill bin Laden.”

Tacky.

Finishing the book with an account of the 2010 operation to put in a battery-operated pump that helps his heart push blood through his body, he recounts the prolonged, vivid dream about a beautiful place in Italy he had during the weeks he was unconscious.

“It was in the countryside, a little north of Rome, and it really seemed I was there,” he writes. “I can still describe the villa where I passed the time, the little stone paths I walked to get coffee or a batch of newspapers.”

Caesar and his cappuccino.

 

By: Maureen Dowd,  Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 27, 2011

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Constitution, Dick Cheney, Dictators, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iran, Iraq, Liberty, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Defection Track In Libya: Pragmatic And Correct

Everybody has questions and anxieties about our policy in Libya. My own position is this: I oppose the policy the Obama administration has described in various public statements. I support the policy the administration is actually executing.

The intellectual, cultural and scientific findings that land on the columnist’s desk nearly every day.

The policy the administration publicly describes is constricted and implausible. The multilateral force would try to prevent a humanitarian disaster from the air, but then it remains maddeningly ambiguous about what would happen next: what our goals are; what our attitude toward the Qaddafi regime is; what an exit strategy might be.

Fortunately, the policy the Obama administration is actually implementing is more flexible and thought-through.

It starts with the same humanitarian purpose. People sometimes think of President Obama as a cool, hyper-rational calculator, but in this case he was motivated by a noble, open-hearted sentiment: that the U.S. cannot sit by and watch tens of thousands of people get massacred when it has the means to prevent it.

President Obama took this decision, I’m told, fully aware that there was no political upside while there were enormous political risks. He took it fully aware that we don’t know much about Libya. He took it fully aware that if he took this action he would be partially on the hook for Libya’s future. But he took it as an American must — motivated by this country’s historical role as a champion of freedom and humanity — and with the awareness that we simply could not stand by with Russia and China in opposition.

In this decision, one could see the same sensitive, idealistic man who wrote “Dreams From My Father.”

As president, of course, one also has to think practically. The president and the secretary of state reached a hardheaded conclusion. If Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is actively slaughtering his own people, then this endeavor cannot end with a cease-fire that allows him to remain in power. Regime change is the goal of U.S. policy.

There are three plausible ways he might go, which inside the administration are sometimes known as the Three Ds. They are, in ascending order of likelihood: Defeat — the ragtag rebel army vanquishes his army on the battlefield; Departure — Qaddafi is persuaded to flee the country and move to a villa somewhere; and Defection — the people around Qaddafi decide there is no future hitching their wagon to his, and, as a result, the regime falls apart or is overthrown.

The result is a strategy you might call Squeeze and See. The multilateral forces ratchet up the pressure and watch to see what happens. The Western nations are reaching out to senior Libyan figures to encourage defection (the foreign minister has already split, and more seem to be coming). There is an effort to broadcast television signals into Libya to rival state TV. In the liberated areas, the multilateral alliance is sending aid to build civil society and organize the political opposition. The U.S. is releasing billions of confiscated Libyan dollars to the opposition to ensure its staying power.

Eric Schmitt had a fabulous piece in The Times this week detailing what the air assault actually involves. It’s not just hitting Libyan air defenses. It also involves psychological warfare inducing Libyan soldiers to defect. It involves messing with Libyan communications systems, cutting off supply lines and creating confusion throughout the command structure.

All of this is meant to send the signal that Qaddafi has no future. Will it be enough to cause enough defections? No one knows. But given all of the uncertainties, this seems like a prudent way to test the strength of the regime and expose its weaknesses.

It may turn out in the months ahead that we simply do not have the capacity, short of an actual invasion (which no one wants), to dislodge Qaddafi. But, at worst, the Libyan people will be no worse off than they were when government forces were bearing down on Benghazi and preparing for slaughter. At best, we may help liberate part of Libya or even, if the regime falls, the whole thing.

It is tiresome to harp on this sort of thing, but this is an intervention done in the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr. It is motivated by a noble sentiment, to combat evil, but it is being done without self-righteousness and with a prudent awareness of the limits and the ironies of history. And it is being done at a moment in history when change in the Arab world really is possible.

Libyan officials took Western reporters to the town of Gharyan this week to show them the grave of a baby supposedly killed in the multilateral bombing campaign. But the boy’s relatives pulled the reporters aside, David D. Kirkpatrick reported in The Times. “What NATO is doing is good,” one said. “He is not a man,” another whispered of Qaddafi. “He is Dracula. For 42 years it has been dark. Anyone who speaks, he kills. But everyone wants Qaddafi to go.”

By: David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 31, 2011

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Dictators, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Libya, Media, No Fly Zones, Politics, President Obama, Qaddafi, United Nations, War | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s First New War: The New Paradigm For Middle East Conflicts

As a fleet of French airplanes lacerated a column of Libyan army vehicles near Benghazi on Saturday, President Obama stuck to his prearranged schedule in Brazil, receiving whispered updates from his aides. Within three hours, more than 100 cruise missiles had hit two dozen targets in Libya. That’s just “the first phase,” William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

What he didn’t say: It’s the first phase of what will become Barack Obama’s first new war. By directing the military to hit targets inside Libya, the Obama administration is trying to strike an incredibly delicate balance between a strong disinclination to invade a Muslim country and their determined desire to avoid looking like they’re walking away from the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents.

When Muammar el-Qaddafi first struck back against protesters, Obama hoped that tough sanctions and material support to the opposition would be enough to force the dictator from power. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned him that a “no fly zone” would be ineffective and essentially commit the country to war. By Monday night, it was clear to Obama that this policy wasn’t working. Countries like Iran were getting the wrong message. The Libyan military was selectively testing the patience of the world by striking opposition strongholds. The opposition was pinned down in the port city of Benghazi, swelled by tens of thousands of refugees. Qaddafi kept using a phrase that stuck in Obama’s head: “no mercy.” And France, smarting from seeming to abandon Egyptians during their time of trouble, along with the U.K., were champing at the bit to use force. The Arab League had kicked Libya out and was closer to the French position. It risked its own legitimacy, already questioned by many in the region, if it didn’t side with the rebels.

On Tuesday, during a meeting of his national security team, Obama said he wanted a new policy. “Clearly, what we’re doing is not enough,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes kept by a participant. A “humanitarian disaster” was imminent unless something was done. He wanted more options.

Gates wanted to game out scenarios, knowing that any effective no-fly zone would necessitate a cascade of other military actions that would look a heck of a lot like an invasion, no matter how carefully it was done.

Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser and one of the gatekeepers of Obama’s foreign policy, was worried about the strategic implications of both allowing Qaddafi to succeed in retaking control of Benghazi as well as what would happen down the road in other countries if a successful military response ousted him from power with a minimum of bloodshed. Even the lightest military footprint would result in civilian casualties, he warned. Almost as inevitable would be the death of a coalition soldier or the downing of an airplane.

Hillary Rodham Clinton said instability in Libya threatened to clip the democratic aspirations of its two neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. She was also worried about the message to Iran if the U.S. and its allies did nothing in Libya: America was so afraid of committing its military to protect Muslims and Arabs that it would allow virtually anything to happen.

The meeting broke up.

Donilon would take charge of a rapid-fire series of conference calls and meetings and would, by that night, bring to the president three new policy proposals, each of which would call for a mix of diplomatic, military and intelligence actions against Libya. Obama had dinner with his combat commanders, and solicited their input about what challenges the military would face. At 9 p.m. that night, he reconvened only his principals. (Clinton was represented by her deputy, James Steinberg.) Donilon laid out his proposals. After about an hour, the Situation Room had come to a rough consensus: a no fly zone wouldn’t work, but more words would not work either. Obama instructed his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, to inform the Security Council that France’s resolution, which called for a no fly zone and little else, was insufficient. He asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to turn into him by the next evening a Concept of Operation Plan, or CONPLAN, for a NATO-executed military campaign in Libya that would be assisted by Arab countries.

In closed session at the U.N., Rice laid out the U.S. position. The situation was urgent and dire. But the world had to know precisely what it would mean to keep Libyan troops from murdering their own citizens. Any resolution would have to include language authorizing strikes against Libyan military infrastructure on the ground to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. “We are not going to hide pooch,” Rice said in the meeting, according to a U.S. official. “We must be completely clear about what we are going to do and why.” And Arab countries must participate, she insisted, in some visible way, in the campaign. She proposed a number of amendments that added significant heft to the resolution.

For the next 24 hours, Clinton and Rice tag-teamed Arab countries and members of the Security Council. They argued that if nothing was done, despots and beleaguered leaders everywhere would vow never to repeat the “mistake” of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who yielded power without foreign military intervention. Iran, in particular, would find itself with an incentive to continue to spread its proxy forces to other countries and further repress its own citizens. And Rice has made the reinvigoration of the United Nations one of her prime goals as ambassador. The legitimacy of that body was at stake too, she argued.

On Wednesday, at about 6:30 p.m., Mullen and Donilon presented Obama with their CONPLAN for Libya. Its contents are mostly classified; an official said the air strikes on Saturday were one part of a larger campaign that includes a variety of overt and covert actions. Published reports suggest that U.K. special operations forces were secreted in the country, scouting out the battlefield in preparation for air strikes. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command moved several tactical air teams to a small base on Crete. In order to try and disguise their movements, the U.S. planes changed their call signs once they entered airspace over the Mediterranean, but commercial software that tracks their transponders revealed the shift, and word leaked out on Twitter. These teams would coordinate the air assault but are capable of parachuting into a region and directing them from the ground.

On Friday, the U.S. moved a Rivet Joint signals intelligence plane to Souda Air Base on a Greek Island, bearing the provocative call sign of “SNOOP 55.” Subs capable of launching Tomahawk missiles idled near Italy. The USS Florida, armed with more than 100 Tomahawks, moved into firing range. Twenty four hours after the U.S. introduced its amendments, it got its resolution, 10-0. Obama spoke with his counterparts in France and the UK and agreed that they’d give Qadaffi 24 hours to turn heel and retreat. If he didn’t, France would begin the bombardment.

It was important to the U.S. that Libyans and the world understand that this coalition of the willing was more than a U.S. rhetorical construct. An hour before bombing began Saturday, Clinton spoke to the press in Paris. Asked why military action was in America’s interest, she gave three reasons and implied a fourth. A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.

The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on. The new elements include the direct participation of the Arab world, the visible participation of U.S. allies, as well as a very specific set of military targets designed to forestall needless human suffering. Though the Libyan situation is quite unique – its military is nowhere near as strong as Iran’s is, for one thing – Obama hopes that a short, surgical, non-US-led campaign with no ground troops will satisfy Americans skeptical about military intervention and will not arouse the suspicions of Arabs and Muslims that the U.S. is attempting to influence indigenously growing democracies.

By: Marc Ambinder, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic, March 20, 2011

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Dictators, Foreign Policy, Libya, No Fly Zones, Obama, Qaddafi, United Nations, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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