As we close this year on the low of Congress
giving Bush more billions for war, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto
in Pakistan, let's remember some of the year's gains that can revive our
spirits for the New Year. Here are just ten.
1. With the exception of
the White House, this has been a banner year for
environmental consciousness and action. Al Gore and the scientists
of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Green building and renewable energy have exploded. Congress passed the
Green Jobs Act of 2007, authorizing $125
million for green job training. Over
700 U.S. mayors, representing 25 percent
of the U.S. population, have signed a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases
by 2012. Illinois became the 26th state to require that some of the state's
electricity come from renewable sources and Kansas became the first state
to refuse a permit for a new coal-fired power plant for health and environmental
reasons. That's progress!
2. On the global environmental
scene, the Bush dinosaurs were tackled head on. When the US delegation
at the UN climate change conference in Bali tried to sabotage the negotiations,
the delegate from tiny Papua New Guinea threw diplomatic niceties to the
wind and said that if the U.S. couldn't lead, it should get out of the
way. Embarrassed by international and domestic outrage, the U.S. delegation
buckled, and the way was cleared for adopting the "Bali
road map." Although it is a weak mandate, it lays the groundwork
for a stronger climate agreement post-2012 when the first phase
of the Kyoto Protocols ends.
3. Imagine living in a
waste-free urban society? Well, it's no longer a utopian dream
but a well-thought-out plan for India's state of Kerala. The plan to be
"waste-free" within five years
includes waste prevention, intensive re-use and recycling, composting,
replacing unsustainable materials with sustainable ones, training people
to produce these materials, and providing funds for setting up sustainably
run businesses. The ground-breaking plan, spearheaded by a local grassroots
movement, demonstrates how citizen groups can advance pioneering policies
to heal the planet.
the war in Iraq rages on, a new war was stopped. The specter of
war with Iran loomed large throughout the year, with Washington accusing
Iran of killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq and being a nuclear threat. Then
in December came the National Intelligence Estimate showing that the Bush
administration knew all along that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons
program in 2003. It exposed the Administration claims of an Iranian
threat as unjustifiably inflated, and the winds of war were suddenly subdued.
Nothing is guaranteed, but a U.S. military attack on Iran is less likely
now than it was earlier in the year.
year also brought a decrease in tensions with North Korea. Hostilities
flared after North Korea successfully conducted a nuclear test in 2006.
But the Bush administration, bogged down in Iraq and pushed by international
pressure, agreed to negotiate. Following a series of six-party talks involving
North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the U.S, on March
17, 2007, an historic agreement was reached. North Korea agreed to shut
down its main nuclear facility and submit a list of its nuclear programs
in exchange for fuel and normalization talks with the U.S. and Japan.
During this age of raw aggression, it is a welcome
example of putting diplomacy first.
6. The Iraqi people have
little to celebrate, but there was one important
victory for the people this year. Remember how the Bush administration
and Congress were insisting that the Iraqi Parliament pass a new oil law?
Touted as a way to "share oil revenue among all Iraqis", the
oil law was really designed to transform the country's currently nationalized
oil system to one open to foreign corporate control. But opposition was
fierce inside Iraq, especially from the nation's oil worker unions. In
a rare sign of independence from Washington and concern for domestic opinion,
the Iraqi Parliament withstood intense U.S. pressure and refused to pass
the oil law.
7. In early 2007, few Americans
had heard of the private security company Blackwater.
By year's end, Blackwater had become infamous for the killing of civilians
in Iraq. The radical privatization of our military to corporations like
Blackwater that are accountable to no one was exposed for all to see.
This frightening process is still well under way, with more private contractors
in Iraq than soldiers, but at least the issue has
now entered the public dialogue. And Blackwater has received such
a black eye that it's unlikely to get a new Iraq contract when the present
one expires in May.
8. One victory on both the
war and environmental fronts came in Australia,
where Labor Party's Kevin Rudd beat conservative John Howard to become
Prime Minister. Howard was an enthusiastic backer of George Bush's disastrous
war on terror, from defending the Guantánamo prison and extraordinary
rendition to sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Howard also joined
Bush in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Agreement, arguing it would cost
Australians jobs. After assuming office on December
3, Kevin Rudd immediately signed the Kyoto agreement and he has promised
to remove Australia's combat troops from Iraq by mid-2008.
9. Sometimes a loss is a
win. Hugo Chavez had initiated a constitutional referendum that would
have, among other changes, scrapped term limits. His
immediate acceptance of a razor-thin margin of defeat before all the votes
were even counted showed his democratic colors and made it a lot harder
for Bush and the corporate media to label him a dictator. Despite
the loss, Chavez remains extremely popular, especially among the poor
and working class in Venezuela. And throughout Latin America, the historic
transformation led by progressive leaders like Chavez continues to blossom.
10. Last but not least,
this year saw the resignation of some of Bush's
closest allies in government-Donald Rumsfeld
resigned as Secretary of Defense, Alberto Gonzalez
as Attorney General, and Karl Rove as Deputy
Chief of Staff. Best of all, we can give thanks that we only have ONE
YEAR left of the criminal, war-mongering, constitution-shredding, rights-violating,
torture-sanctioning Bush Administration! It's just GOT to get better than
So here's a toast to a green future,
diplomacy, and surviving the last throes of the Bush regime. Que viva
Medea Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global