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American Environmentalist Groups Run for Cover

Autonomedia writes: "Nature And Politics

by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

America's Greens Rally to Flag, Run for Cover

Hot to present themselves as staunch flag-waggers, some of
America's premier environmental organizations have
disgracefully ditched their principles.

The Sierra Club, America's oldest green group, has abruptly
turned off its campaign against the anti-environmental
program of the Bush administration.

We have secured an internal memo in which the club's high
command explains to its staff why it's suspending its
campaigns. "In response to the attacks on America," the memo
goes, "we are shifting our communications strategy for the
immediate future. We have taken all of our ads off of the
air; halted our phone banks; removed any material from the
web that people could perceive as anti-Bush, and we are
taking other steps to prevent the Sierra Club from being
perceived as controversial during this crisis. For now we
are going to stop aggressively pushing our agenda and will
cease bashing President Bush."

The memo then instructs club staffers on how to respond to
the press: "If you are asked about what this terrorism does
to the Sierra Club's agenda, please respond simply by saying
that right now the public needs to focus on comforting each
other and strengthening our national security to deal with
the crisis at hand."

Imagine if this craven posture spreads across the public
interest movement.

We could expect First Amendment defenders to say that they
were abandoning efforts to protect the Bill of Rights. We
could expect groups defending immigrants to say that
henceforth the INS should be given free rein.

Fortunately First Amendment defenders and defenders of
immigrants have stronger spines and principles than the
supposed defenders of the environment at the Sierra Club.
Are we now to expect the club to endorse drilling in the
Arctic National Wildlife Reserve as necessary "for national

Even groups that we here at Nature and Politics have admired
are now in pell-mell cowardly retreat.

The Berkeley-based International Rivers network, which has
been the main bulwark against the Three Gorges dam project
in China, now announces that it is suspending its planned
nationwide protest against Morgan Stanley, one of the dam's
principle financiers. Morgan Stanley had 50 floors of
offices in the World Trade Center. IRN has also announced
that "out of respect for the victims of this disaster, with
understanding of the strategic difficulties in conveying to
a shocked media and public our messages regarding the World
Bank and IMF, with concern for the integrity of security
systems in Washington DC, and for the safety of all, we will
refrain from participating in activities surrounding the
planned World Bank/IMF meeting this month. We are also
sharing our concerns with the leading organizations
responsible for planning and coordinating these activities."

The Ruckus Society, the direct action training group
involved in many demonstrations at the World Trade
Organization, simultaneously announced that it was canceling
its training camp, scheduled as preparation for the World
Bank meeting. This camp was to be cosponsored by the
Institute for Policy Studies, Jobs with Justice, and Global
Exchange. All these organizations have now backed out,
saying that now is not the time for such activity.

The Rainforest Action Network, based in San Francisco,
describes itself as being in a "wait-and-see mode." "Things
are definitely on hold," said RAN's Patrick Reinsborough.
But RAN staffers have complained to us that the leadership
of the group is adopting a line more similar to that taken
by Brent Blackwelder and Friends of the Earth, which has
announced that it would not participate in the protests
under any circumstances.

Blackwelder, it may be recalled, has made a point of
denouncing the robust flavor of recent demonstrations in
Genoa and elsewhere. In his zeal to distance himself from
the street protesters, Blackwelder made a particularly
disgusting comment on the McLaughlin Group, dismissing the
horrible death of a Spanish anarchist, as being probably
just "an anarchist. And governments have to move forward to
deal with anarchists and violent perpetrators."

Let's get this straight. If all resisters to the Bush
political program were to follow this shameful exhibition by
these green groups, we would see peace groups declining to
protest against nuclear attacks on Iraq and armed invasion
of Afghanistan. We would see civil rights organizations
sitting on their hands as racial and religious profiling is
used to persecute people of Middle Eastern descent.
Defenders of Palestinian rights would say that for the time
being they wouldn't protest the use of US Apache helicopters
against civilians in the West Bank towns and villages. What
nonsense! Principles are never more important than when it
is inconvenient or dangerous to stand up for them.

Chemical War in Manhattan

As the environmentalists are putting themselves into a state
of suspended animation, the citizens of Manhattan and
thousands of volunteer rescue workers mulling through the
rubble at the World Trade Center complex may well be in the
whirlwind of a toxic event, which has received little media
attention and almost no precautionary aid from FEMA or other
federal agencies.

Early reports from the Environmental Protection Agency
described the destruction of the World Trade complex as "an
environmental catastrophe," the air of Manhattan clotted
with asbestos, dioxin, and other poisons. Yet, rescue
workers found themselves with little more than surgical
masks between their lungs and the poisons emanating from the
smoldering ruins.

For years, the Pentagon and other terror pundits had been
warning of the vulnerability of American cities to attack by
biological and chemical weapons, the so-called asymmetrical
warfare. These apocalyptic scenarios held that terrorist
groups would unleash anthrax or sarin gas attacks in
subways, water supplies, or mega-office buildings like the
World Trade Towers. Well, it turns out that the attackers
didn't need to pack any chemicals; the buildings themselves
proved to be quite toxic enough. The attackers used American
planes as missiles and the buildings as chemical weapons.

Built during the height of the asbestos boom, the guts of
the World Trade Center may have been one of the world's
largest repositories of the carcinogenic fiber, used as
insulation in the giant towers.

Underneath the rubble, thousands of tires continue to burn,
sending plumes of pitch black smoke down the canyons of
Manhattan. This smoke is contaminated with dioxins and
assorted other poisons of the petrochemical age."