Uncategorized | Columnist Service | Opinion


This column is available for visitors to the IPS website only for reading. Reproduction in print or electronic media is prohibited. Media interested in republishing may contact romacol@ips.org.

WASHINGTON, Mar 23 2011 (IPS) - Japan lies on and near known tectonic fault lines, but the earthquake of March 11, magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, was the strongest in recent Japanese history, 1000 times more powerful than the magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti last year which killed more than 250,000 people. Earth tremors in Japan are not unexpected, but we still cannot predict the precise moment and location they will strike. Some animals seem to know, but with short warning time.

In Japan high rise buildings were built with tons of concrete and steel, strong and flexible, like the cherry tree branch yielding to let snow slide off. They sway at a low frequency in an earthquake, with things falling off shelves, but they remain standing up straight. The same principle was used for Japan’s 55 nuclear power plants. But the warnings from the people who suffered nuclear genocide in Hiroshima and Nagasaki fell on deaf ears.

Many of those nuclear power plants were built close to beaches to use the nearby sea water for cooling -in the country that gave the giant flood-wave its name, tsunami.

The epicentre of the huge earthquake was 130 kilometres offshore. The tsunami, up to seven meters high with a speed of 700 kilometres per hour, hit 650 kilometre of the coastline, flowing inland, reaching the city of Sendai -population one million- crushing everything in its way, killing, demolishing, carrying away houses, cars, trucks, buses, planes, factories, corpses, living people in their last minutes, cracking bridges and roads, then washing back out to sea.

The six nuclear power plants at Fukushima were destroyed more by the tsunami than the quake. Now Japan is bracing itself for the possible meltdown of one or more reactor cores.

The scientists knew the risk of tsunamis yet did not shout DON’T DO IT!! to the nuclear enthusiasts committed criminal neglect.

I once studied chemistry and physics myself and know both scientists’ formidable skills in deciphering nature’s riddles and also their incredible narrowmindedness and arrogance. These severe acts of omission cry to the heavens. Yet I expect as little reflection on their part as from all those heads of state and “security experts” with their “nobody could have predicted this” chorus when an oil price shock hit in 1973, the Cold War ended in 1989, buildings were hit in New York and Washington on 9/11 2001. All were highly predictable.

There were warnings, but they were dampened by strong interests and the lure of profits. Hidden by power plants, nuclear weapons can be built. Japanese hawks, craving to restore Japan’s might in this way, kept the conflict with North Korea hot. Were Westinghouse and General Electric, after being hit by the Three Mile Island disaster of 1979, invited by the Japanese government to reduce its trade surplus? In any case, scientists, who have prestige and power, kept shamefully silent.

We deeply mourn the victims and feel for the bereaved. We know Japanese resilience. The cherry tree will rise, there will be a sakura. There will be a reconstruction bolstering the economy, if short-selling finance hyenas are kept off a Japanese stock exchange artificially open to “globalisation”.

We pray and hope: no more Chernobyls. Stop! We know enough to close all nuclear plants. There are alternatives.

Far from Japan, in Libya, the Israeli-English-French war on Egypt 1956 is being reenacted, without Israel, but with the US plus 7 UN Security Council members. The US again got Clausewitz’s formula “by all necessary means” into the text. Minus 5 UNSC members who abstained from voting: Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) and Germany.

The key western powers have been eager to get at Gaddafi ever since he deposed King Idris in September 1969, and remarkably, his old flag -and the French tricolour- is now in Benghazi. We shall soon see who supports the anti-Gaddafi forces. The rebels have good reasons, but seeing Libya only as an uprising against a brutal dictatorship is like thinking about earthquakes without tsunamis. There is nothing historical about using the UN for Anglo-American-French politics, with or without humanitarian pretexts. A no-fly zone over Bahrain, let alone Gaza two years ago, would have been historical. But the UN was not made for that.

The dereliction of the African Union and the Arab League is deplorable. Libya is a major country in both. They could have offered mediation from the very beginning. If rejected, they could have authorised the entry -from land, sea or air- of peacekeeping, not “peace-enforcing”, troops. Shamefully, they left the game to old suspects. Do better next time. There will be many occasions.

A ceasefire offer was rejected in a country full of contradictions. The Arab world (minus some elites) is enraged over one more Western intervention, with poodle puppy Norway -now on its third war against a Muslim country- joining in. “Mission accomplished” will elude them, like it does in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten years of war in Libya, with countless killed? We fear yes. We hope no.

BRIC + Germany are now called upon. Abstention is not enough. Be on the side of history and support the Arab liberation from Western European-US-Israel dominance, from an economy that is causing ever more inequality and misery, and from autocracy. The Abstaining Five have experience in fighting such pathologies.

BRIC+G, A5: The ball is in your court. Play it well. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Johan Galtung, director of the TRANSCEND Peace University, is author of “A Theory of Conflict” and “A Theory of Development”.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags