Bruce Gagnon / Jill Stein Interview c. 2012-09-01

[All emphases mine.]

Bruce Gagnon: … share briefly why you’re running for president?

Jill Stein: (00:26) …We’re in crisis; people are losing their jobs, their homes, affordable health care and higher education, decent wages; our civil liberties are under attack and the climate is melting down and the wealthy few are making out like bandits and the political establishment is not only not fixing it, they’re making it worse, imposing austerity on everyday people while they squander trillions of dollars on wars, Wall-Street bailouts, and tax breaks for the wealthy. What’s not to love about this picture? People are at the breaking point and I’m in this campaign to offer people a way to turn the breaking point into a tipping point to take back our democracy and the future we deserve. So we’re giving people a voice. There is a movement for peace, justice, and democracy that’s alive and well out there; it deserves to have a political voice, and it deserves to have some real solutions on the table that people already support; those solutions need to be a part of the political debate, especially because there is majority support for them, from providing jobs, taxing the wealthy, downsizing the military. These are things that we have to do. It’s absolutely unacceptable and unconscionable for us to be leaving the real solutions to this critical, absolutely catastrophic situation that we’re in; we’re not talking about the problems and putting the solutions out there that we actually could move forward right now. (02:13)

Gagnon: It’s true, 70% of the American people want us out of Afghanistan but none of the two mainstream candidates are talking about that at all, are they? (02:23)

Stein: It’s absolutely preposterous. If they’re talking about it, it’s not important, and if it’s important, it’s off the table.

Gagnon: Several days ago the New York Times ran a story entitled “US arms sales make up most of global market”; I just want to read a couple of sentences from that article. They say “weapon sales by the US tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms deals with Persian-Gulf allies”, the right-wing cruel monarchies there. “Overseas weapons sales by the US totaled 66.3 bn$; Russia was in a distant second place with 4.8 bn$” imagine that, . . . so in one year from 2010 to 2011, US arms sales jumped from 21.4 bn$ to 66 bn$; could you comment on that? (03:27)

Stein: Yeah, this is really staggering. We see the foreign-policy corollary of this, which is that the president and this White House with the support of the congress — both political parties are on the take here from the weapons industry and have embraced this concept that we get security by pouring gasoline on the various conflicts, ethnic political and religious, all around the world and they have an absolutely devastating approach to international relations which is [to] militarize it and make it an opportunity for weapons sales and we’re paying the price here with a cost of war and a cost of our military budget that has doubled in size over the past decade, at a time when we are, you know, not we, but they who are in power, are sabotaging our opportunities for the future; they’re cutting schools, public higher education, health care, housing, you name it, it’s all on the chopping board. The flip side of austerity is this absolutely reckless and destructive militarism. Barack Obama trashed the UN treaty — there was an international treaty that was very close to being passed to actually contain this weaponization of international relations, to establish rules and limits on the international arms trade. The US scuttled it and now it’s very clear why they did this. Yet only weeks before that happened, the high commissioner on human rights with the UN made the point that Syria is the disaster that it is because weapons are flowing in on both sides.  So this is a human-rights disaster as well as an international security disaster that is the basis of profiteering, again by a very small sector of the economic elite who unfortunately is pulling the strings inside of the Democratic and the Republican parties. (05:54)

Gagnon: What does it say about the soul of our nation when our #1 industrial export product is weapons?

Stein: This is a tragic commentary on, I think, less the soul of our nation than the politics of our nation and unfortunately it reflects poorly on all of us but it is not a decision we have made; it’s a decision that has been made, again, by that less-than-one-percent that is making out like bandits while the American people and the people of the planet are paying in blood, sweat, and tears for this incredibly tragic and cruel and foolish foreign policy.

Gagnon: Obama has become known as the drone president and all signs point to a very long occupation in Afghanistan; what do you think the US is up to in Afghanistan?

Stein: I think it’s another case where there’s more going on than what meets the eye. Allegedly we were in Afghanistan to contain Osama bin Laden and the threat of al Qaida, so Osama bin Laden is no longer in the picture, yet, we remain committed now; Obama has announced that our forces would be largely withdrawn by 2014 but right on the heels of that announcement we learn that the US has an indefinite military commitment to protect and defend the government of Afghanistan at least through 2024 so it’s not clear as you point out that we are moving out at all and it’s interesting to consider what’s behind this, so, in part, Afghanistan, is it part of the containment of Iran?  Is it part of an overall plan to contain China and to buttress the US presence in Eurasia?  Is it in part a means of establishing control over the energy resources that Afghanistan is on the pipeline for?  So there are a variety of reasons that may be motivating this administration and because military policy is so connected to energy policy, it makes it really important for us to be transitioning to … clean renewable energy and energy self-reliance so that we don’t have this open-ended military commitment that is just devastating for our budget and human rights.

Gagnon: Obama has also announced a pivot of US foreign and military policy into the Asia Pacific; right now the US negotiating with Vietnam to go back into the navy base at Cam Ranh Bay; US is forcing the South Korean government to build a navy base on Djei Djeu (?) Island; Guam, O’Canal (??) and many other places throughout the Asia Pacific now, arrangements are being made to create basing agreements in all those places. What do you think is going on in this situation?

Stein: Again, it looks like our growing economic competition with China is being militarized. When you have a bloated military, unfortunately it tends to spill over as the dominant theme of international relations and foreign policy, and that is what appears to be going on here. Why else are we constructing bases around the perimeter of China? This is very problematic; it puts a number of our treaties at risk; the ABM treaty with the constructing of the supposedly missile defense systems, our nuclear-weapons treaties and so on. It lays the groundwork for a whole new generation of nuclear weapons and a whole new escalation of the arms race, so this is extremely misguided.

Gagnon: Each year, my organization, the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space organizes a week called Keep Space for Peace Week, this year October 6 through 13th, where our affiliate groups and our allies around the world organize local events to expand the consciousness of the public about the arms race moving into space. The US Space Command‘s (!) logo reads “master of space” and they say that with Pentagon control and domination of space that they will be able to control the earth on behalf of corporate globalization because all warfare today is coordinated and directed by space technology.  So could you comment on this expanding the arms race into space?

Stein: It’s frightening on several counts. One is that it does violate the existing arms treaties and the nuclear-weapons treaties and the treaties against the militarization of space so it takes us into a no-man’s-land where there are no agreements and that’s very dangerous territory. It’s also very problematic because it threatens to absorb a whole new wave of resources to invest again in — (Gagnon: in fact the Pentagon and the aerospace industry has long bragged that Star Wars would be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet Earth) — Stein: yes, exactly, and I think some people hear the word “space” and so they think, oh, Star Wars, it’s in another universe, we don’t need to worry about it, but we really need to change our thinking to realize that space is just one step removed from where we are; it still encircles the Earth; things go up and down; they crash; they explode; they blow up; if we weaponize space it’s not different from weaponizing our own back yards. So it’s not only in the production of these materials but especially in their transport, and then just the incredible drain on our resources and dollars that it will take to do this. And it’s not as though the war then takes place somewhere else, that war happens here and as we advance spy technology for military purposes, in the same way we’ve seen our local police and security forces being militarized and weaponized here in a very dangerous way, people are very well advised to wake up and realize that what we do to others will be done to us; the Golden Rule is very important to think about here; it’s not only that some other nation may visit drones upon us, but that our own government has begun to do so in the case of drones, and spying is taking place on American citizens in all kinds of ways, so it’s not just that this needs to be discussed and debated, but it also needs to be stopped; this is just plain a violation of human rights and civil liberties and all the things that we pride ourselves on as being the higher vision that our country is supposed to represent.

Gagnon: The nuclear industry now views space as a new market and so NASA and the private aerospace companies are creating technology to put nuclear-powered mining colonies on the moon and mars and other planetary bodies. They’re working on a nuclear rocket for heavy-lift resource extraction missions to these heavenly bodies. So imagine a host of launches carrying Pu-238, the most toxic substance ever invented, on rockets that blow up on occasion. How do you feel about nuclear power in space?

Stein: I feel about nuclear power in space the way I feel about nuclear power in my or your back yard. And it’s a mistake to think that space is different because we produce that technology here and we have to transport it in and out of our atmosphere, the skies above where we live, so it’s a mistake to think that because it’s in space it’s not in your back yard, because it will be in your back yard if it isn’t already. And in the same way we need to move quickly towards a nuclear-free planet, and that means free of nuclear energy and free of nuclear weapons. We need to include within that safe space — you know we need a safe haven for life, and that needs to include the outer wrapper of our living planet and that is the upper atmosphere and what we would call space.

Gagnon: Research by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s economic department shows that military production creates far fewer jobs than if we put those same tax dollars into public education, weatherizing homes, health care or building rail systems. Do you support conversion of the military-industrial complex?

Stein: Absolutely. This is the centerpiece of our campaign agenda and of the Green Party’s agenda, that we are calling for a Green New Deal, so we are not only calling for conversion of military to peaceful purposes, but a broad-based conversion of poisonous and dangerous economic enterprises across the board. And this is a wonderful time to do it and as you pointed out, in that study from Amherst, and in many other studies, it’s been long established that we basically get three times the bang for our buck if we are investing in the healthy, sustainable, green economy. And as we do that, we basically stop climate change, we make wars for oil obsolete, and it also just so happens that we create an infrastructure for health through pollution prevention, through a healthy re-localized organic food system and a public and active healthy transportation system; that’s what a real health-care system looks like, not the sick-care system that we have, which gobbles up two trillion dollars of our tax and private money; it’s a two-trillion-dollar-per-year system that maintains us in a state of chronic disease. We need to get healthy at the level of our communities, which is the same thing as getting to a green and peaceful economy. So it’s a win-win-win all around.

Gagnon: And the big obstacle to all that is this corporate oligarchy that really has drowned democracy in America; how does the public change that equation?

Stein: By standing up and reclaiming our political courage and our political voice, as well as by fighting the predator on every front, and that means we must have a social movement, which is what we’ve got, we have a social movement in the form of Occupy and in the form of the student protests and the eviction blockades, in the peace movement, in the opposition to the Keystone pipeline, you name it, in the opposition to the weaponization of space, we have a social movement for democracy and justice which is alive and well, and it needs a political voice and it deserves a political voice and historically it’s been the alliance of those two critical actors, a social movement on the ground together with a political movement that gives it a voice, that drives those demands into electoral politics, and that’s when you really begin to see things move. If we ignore the political realm and if we only act in the street, if we’re only voting with our feet, and not voting with our votes, we put everything at risk that we accomplish out on the street because it will all be crushed by the repression that emanates from the voting booth. That’s not to say that the voting booth is an even-handed and fair place, but it’s not an even-handed and fair place outside of the voting booth either. Enough of the politics of fear; it has delivered everything that we’ve been afraid of. It’s time to stand up to the politics of fear with the politics of courage and let ourselves define what that future is. In some sense, we’ve already won the battle, because we’ve got the facts, justice, truth, and political support on our side on all of these issues. So it’s time for us to realize that win, to actually accomplish that win and put it into effect, including in the voting booth, and by pushing forward as hard and fast as we can, including in the course of this election. for people to join the team and become a part of the fight — the fight that we’re doing out in the street in the sphere of fighting against weaponization and the nuclearization of our lives and our economy and our foreign policy — we have to fight that fight, and we must also include the fight in the voting booth. Vote with your feet, but also vote with your vote, and become a part of the team. There are the makings of a Tahrir Square in this country as well; we have a generation that is locked out of the future, is effectively indentured servants; that is a real powerful tool for change, and this campaign is the one thing that is bringing that energy and those issues into the political forum, so don’t underestimate the power of ourselves and especially the younger generation, that has nowhere else to go except what this campaign can help drive forward. So join the team,

Gagnon: Thank you Jill. (to audience) And thanks for watching another edition of _This Issue_. Thanks for watching, good luck to you all, and please, get organized.

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