Only in America, a nation still regarded by most of its citizens as a democracy, could a criminal like Inhofe sit in Congress unmolested by the public and the media…Thank you, Oklahoma.
By Steven Best [print_link] [NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2003 Reposted due to lasting relevancy.]
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS as Tulsa mayor and a small businessman, Senator James Inhofe has morphed into one of the most dangerous neocons and right-wing extremists of our time. On the front lines of Bush’s war against civil liberties, peace, and the environment, Inhofe is leading the drive to plunge the planet into chaos and destruction for the glory and profits of the military megamachines and transnational corporations. Behind the flattering self-portrait Inhofe paints in his autobiography lies a profoundly ignorant, corrupt demagogue and power-mongering shill for Bush, the war against Iraq, and global corporate plunder. Online news magazine, Slate, wrote that Inhofe is “widely considered one of the dumbest members of Congress,” but should have added that he is also one of the most dangerous.
Inhofe was elected to the Senate in 1994, and re-elected in 1996 and again in 2002. A champion of Israel, corporate power, and the war on Iraq, Inhofe is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. A militant anti-environmentalist, he has also presided as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since January 2003.
Thus, Inhofe is a key player in the crucial matters of national security and environmental policies. In 2005, these two roles came together symbiotically in his assault on the animal rights and environmental movements as criminal, extremist and terrorist forces who must be stopped in their tracks. In June, Inhofe held a special hearing on the theme that aboveground animal advocacy groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are “front groups” for the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an underground organization devoted to illegal raids to free captive animals and property destruction against animal exploiters (see my essay, “Showtrials and Scarecrows,” IMPACT press Issue #57, Summer 2005).
In October, Inhofe called another session to hear more of the same FBI and industry testimony against the direct action group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). His goal was to whip up support for his effort to criminalize legal tactics that have proven effective against the vile chemical testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences.
With gavel grasped in his greedy clutches, Inhofe is the Senator Joseph McCarthy of the day. Whereas McCarthy presided over the Red Scare of the 1950s that attacked “communists” as threats to national security, Inhofe spearheads the Green Scare of our day that vilifies “ecoterrorists” as a menace to the American Way. As McCarthy chaired the powerful Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations, Inhofe lords over the influential Environment and Public Works Committee. What McCarthy did to civil liberties, Inhofe seeks to revive, as he updates McCarthy’s persecutorial policies for the current era locked in struggle over the rights of nature. Ultimately, however, Inhofe is far more menacing than his fascist predecessor Joseph McCarthy, as Inhofe’s offenses against democracy and the constitution extend to crimes against nature and all future species who require a viable planet to live.
5-Star General in the Army of God
Personifying hypocrisy, Inhofe smears liberals and animal rights and environmental activists as extremists, but he himself is an extremist of the highest magnitude and a cancerous tumor in the body of democracy. In 1972, as an Oklahoma state senator, Inhofe recommended that Jane Fonda and George McGovern be hanged for treason. He has denounced the Red Cross as a “bleeding heart” organization and assailed the Environmental Protection Agency as a “Gestapo bureaucracy.” Infamous for his strident denial of human-induced global warming as nothing but a “hoax,” Inhofe is one of the most aggressive advocates of the “Earth Last!” philosophy advanced by the Bush administration and the far, far Right.
Brandishing the Bible and morality as weapons, Inhofe is an evangelical, Christian fundamentalist who wants to implode the boundary between religion and the state, a foundation of American “democracy.” In a time when the rise of the New Right awakens fears of a New Reich, Inhofe dismisses concerns about the separation between church and state as “the phoniest argument there is.” Like Bush and other Christian fundamentalists who believe they are soldiers in God’s war against liberals, activists, and infidels, Inhofe is but the flip side of Muslim fanatics he denounces. Bush, Inhofe, and the religious right demonstrate that the alleged “clash of civilizations” is nothing but a “clash of fundamentalisms.” Both Christian crusaders and Muslim jihadists claim to speak on behalf of the one God/Allah and proclaim the One and Only Truth; both curse all who dare to disagree and uphold their sacred texts to justify their violence and terrorism.
Inhofe sponsored the Religious Freedom Amendment that would allow government to promote religious beliefs and permit prayer in schools and other institutions, while adding that he considered Christianity alone to be a “real religion.” Shortly after 9/11, Inhofe strode into the Senate chamber to proclaim that God allowed the terrorists to attack the U.S. on 9/11 because the U.S. was not lending sufficient support to Israel. Leaning on a literal reading of the Bible, Inhofe decreed that any accommodation to Palestinians in the West Bank violates God’s will that only his chosen people inhabit the land.
Inhofe received a zero rating from the National Organization of Women, Population Connection (formerly the organization Zero Population Growth), and the League of Conservation Voters for his regressive views and voting record on their respective causes. Not surprisingly, however, he earned a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition. Logically enough, this evangelical holy man and keeper of family values is homophobic to the core. In 1994, Inhofe ran for the Senate on the platform of “God, Guns, and Gays.” This message allowed him to champion Christianity, promote the NRA, and demonize gays and lesbians, while suggesting that the deadly violence against homosexuals often unleashed in the U.S. is justified by God’s will. In 1999, Inhofe put his prejudices into action by blocking Clinton’s nomination of James Hormel for ambassador to Luxembourg, merely to smite Hormel for being openly gay.
Torture First, Ask Questions Later
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe has urged increases in the military budget, lobbied for a national missile “defense system,” and advocated a far more extensive role of the U.S. military in world affairs in order to “serve vital national interests.” Inhofe revealed his dogmatic and repugnant character in a May 11, 2005 hearing on American atrocities at Abu Ghraib and other prisons. Rather than assisting others investigating the serious charges that U.S. forces tortured prisoners in Iraq, thereby violating international law and making a mockery of the claim to moral superiority over the Saddam Hussein regime, Inhofe attacked the messengers. For Inhofe, the only outrage was that politicians and the media were questioning U.S. policies at all, rather than deploring the atrocities committed by Hussein and championing the “liberation” of the Iraqi people. Propagating the “guilty until proven innocent” logic of McCarthyism, Inhofe sneered that those in jail were “murderers,” “terrorists,” and “insurgents” put in their rightful place. He intoned that whatever punishment the captives received, which included humiliation, sexual assault, psychological torment, mocking religious beliefs, threats of attack with vicious dogs, and outright murder, it paled in comparison to the crimes of Hussein and the manner in which foreign barbarians would treat U.S. prisoners.
Inhofe excoriated the “many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisoners looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying.” Drawing on the “few bad apples” theory espoused by apologists for U.S. war crimes, Inhofe whined about the attention paid to a handful of soldiers who did some “alleged” bad things. If remotely plausible then, Inhofe’s argument certainly has been thoroughly refuted since, as further U.S. abuses and war crimes have come to light. The revelations that shame the U.S. before the world include the secret CIA torture jails in numerous countries and the use of napalm, white phosphorous, and other chemical weapons against Iraqi resistance fighters and citizens.
Hardly an anomaly resulting from a few sadistic soldiers, torture is an officially sanctioned policy, one written and endorsed by Alberto Gonzalez shortly before he took over the highest legal office of the land as U.S. Attorney General. Looking at the record of US “liberators” who have killed up to 100,000 Iraqi citizens, stirred the hornet’s nest of Islamic terrorism, and created absolute chaos in the country, Saddam Hussein now appears to have been a benevolent dictator.
Inhofe’s “guilty before proven innocent” mindset is worth emphasizing as it belongs to a shining knight in the corporate-state witch hunt against the animal and environmental advocacy movements, to a person who occupies a powerful office whereby in the stench of ignorance and corruption, he sits in judgment over others and influences the policies of law.
Inhofe the Eco-Barbarian
Inhofe is the most aggressive opponent of the environment in Congress today, and has led the Neocon war against crucial forms of environmental protection such as the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Superfund legislation. Inhofe is a strong proponent of oil and gas drilling in areas currently off-limits, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Alaskan Artic National Wildlife Refuge, said to be America’s last great wilderness area. Inhofe seeks to revise air pollution laws to favor big energy companies and rejects any legislating aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds that there is “no convincing scientific evidence” for global warming. Inhofe’s role as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is a classic case of the fox watching the henhouse, as he is backed by the large energy corporations that he in turn supports.
Inhofe fulminates against “environmental fear mongers” and warns the nation of the “growing threat of far left environmentalism.” Amidst mounting worldwide concern from scientists, governments, and citizens, Inhofe glibly dismisses global warming as propaganda, as “the poster child of the Left,” and, incredibly, as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”
Having read though numerous reports funded by the energy industry, Inhofe poses on the world stage as an expert on global warming. Donning his secular mask and simulating the voice of reason and moderation, Inhofe scoffs at the growing scientific consensus that fossil fuel emissions are heating up the planet as a tyranny of a misinformed majority, while insisting that that his own conclusions are correct and supported by the “painstaking work of the nation’s top climate scientists.” Yet, just as Inhofe invokes the rhetoric of “less government” to mask his support of corporate domination, so he appeals to the norms of “sound science” to obscure his use of junk science funded by corporations such as ExxonMobil.
Inhofe’s first intervention in the global warming debate occurred on July 28, 2003, when he delivered a 12,000-word speech on the Senate floor, entitled “The Science of Climate Change.” Inhofe outlined conclusions he claimed he reached after several years of study, and argued that his conclusion is supported by empirical evidence such as satellite data and the “painstaking work of the nation’s top climate scientists.” Inhofe denies there is any global warming or other climate changes that are “anthropogenic” (human-caused) rather than naturally occurring.
Consequently, he rejects the Kyoto Treaty and supported the U.S. policy not to participate with nations throughout the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was an historic agreement among world states to recognize the grave problem of global warming and respond with a collective will. To date, the treaty has been ratified by 156 countries (who collectively are responsible for 61 percent of global emissions)–with the U.S. (responsible for 25% of global emissions) being the most notable exception. Giving voice to corporate complaints and U.S. policy, Inhofe argues that the treaty places an unfair burden on the U.S. by requiring more from it than China, India, and other developing nations, despite the fact that the U.S. is the leading producer of greenhouse gases. Inhofe dismisses the Kyoto treaty as nothing but a tool used by European countries to undermine U.S. competitiveness on the global market. He objects that it would harm the American economy and cause the loss of millions of jobs, all for a policy he views as politicized science devoid of factual support and replete with uncertainties.
Lysenkoism and Junk Science
From 1927 to 1964, Trofim Lysenko controlled Soviet biological and agricultural research. He repressed all research in genetic science in the belief that it contradicted socialist doctrine rooted in the goal of improving human beings through social engineering. “Lysenkoism” is the mentality that denies scientific facts and hinders scientific investigation to promote a political ideology and interest position. One finds it alive and well in the U.S. today, not only in fundamentalist attacks on evolution and stem-cell research, but also in assault on the science supporting global warming. Inhofe is our very own Trofim Lysenko. But whereas Lysenko merely crippled Soviet scientific progress for decades as it flourished elsewhere, Inhofe’s dogma is contributing to the destabilization of the planetary ecosystem and thereby to unimaginable levels of suffering, death, chaos, and species extinction.
In Orwellian fashion, Inhofe couches his anti-science outlook with pro-science rhetoric. This “scientific” approach, however, ignores or attacks the best available science, which overwhelmingly verifies the anthropogenic hypothesis, as it relies on work funded by ExxonMobil and conservative organizations.
As cogently laid out in Chris Mooney’s April 2004 article in The American Prospect, “Earth Last,” Inhofe’s argument against global warming is fatally flawed on numerous grounds. First, Inhofe relies on authors whose objectivity is highly suspect. One author cited by Inhofe, Harvard astrophysicist Willie Soon, failed to disclose that his research was partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute. With co-author, David Legates of the University of Delaware, Soon was involved with the George C. Marshall Institute, a contrarian organization that rejects the androgenic hypothesis. The institute’s president, William O’Keefe, previously chaired the Global Climate Coalition, an anti-Kyoto body, and was CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. In 2002, Soon and Legates received $90,000 from ExxonMobil, an organization for whom Soon is a registered lobbyist. His objectivity in question, Soon replied, “I keep my Exxon work and my Marshall work separate.”
The corruption of “science” and opinion for hire is widespread, as ExxonMobil funds hosts of intellectual mercenaries, including journalists, scientists, and conservative “think tank” researchers. In 2003, for example, it gave over $8 million to individuals who promote its viewpoint. In the past six years, it has spent over $55 million in lobbying efforts, finding friendly reception with politicians such as Inhofe.
A second reason why Inhofe’s arguments fail is that he has misrepresented scientists to suit his purposes. Appropriating the work of meteorologist Tom Wigley, for example, Inhofe attributed to him his own belief that the Kyoto Protocol merited no U.S. support because it would have a miniscule long-term impact on climate change. Outraged by this misrepresentation, Wigley complained in a letter to senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist that his real position was not that the Kyoto Protocol is futile and unworthy of support, but that it is only the first of many vital steps that the U.S. and world nations must take collectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
Third, Inhofe ignores mountains of solid research by credible organizations and research teams of hundreds of scientists that support the anthropogenic theory, and he has even attempted to suppress reports that contradict his claims. As a member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization funded by ExxonMobil, Inhofe sued the government in order to suppress an important report commissioned by the Clinton administration (the “National Assessment” report) that presented a detailed synopsis of the impact climate change could have on different U.S. regions. The clear purpose of the lawsuit was to prevent the public from learning about its alarming findings in case they learn to reject greenwashing campaigns and awaken from their complacency to the nightmare unfolding on planet earth.
Earth to Inhofe: The Evidence Is In
Inhofe’s politically driven, anti-scientific agenda mirrors the actions of the Bush administration, which critics claim has the worst ever environmental protection record. As Robert F. Kennedy spells out in his expose, “Crimes Against Nature,” the Bush’s administration installs corporate pirates in cabinet positions relevant to their industry interests; solicits junk science to quiet public fears over issues such as global warming; cherry-picks and rewrites scientific data until it suits its anti-environmental, pro-corporate policies; suppresses reports warning of environmental hazards and problems; and even disbands scientific advisory committees when necessary to advance corporate interests.
Inhofe is correct that consensus is not evidence of truth (a scientific majority once ridiculed continental drift and Einstein’s theory of relativity, for example), but he is dead wrong to claim that the weight of evidence does not overwhelmingly support the conclusion that the planet is heating up due to human–not natural–causes. Inhofe rightly observes that the science of climate change contains uncertainties, but he mistakenly holds that key conclusions are not well-established facts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Scientists know for certain that human activities are changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2), in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times have been well documented. There is no doubt this atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is largely the result of human activities.”
Even once-hardened skeptics have changed their positions about global warming; in fact, precious few, if any, skeptics exist among climate scientists not on the payroll of ExxonMobil. Increasingly, the world community is lining up against Bush. Staunch ally Tony Blair rejects Bush’s position, the U.K. head of Shell oil has warned about dire consequences of global warming, and Blair’s top scientific advisor called Bush’s position “indefensible.” Dr. Rajendra Pachaur, Bush’s own appointed chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Challenge (IPCC), argues that we have already reached a critical point of no return that threatens the future survival of the human species if major changes are not made immediately. Even the Pentagon–certainly no left-wing, alarmist, wacko organization that Inhofe can mockingly dismiss–is trying to get the message across to Bush that environmental disasters will bring about social chaos and possibly global warfare (including nuclear weapons), as nations take desperate measures to acquire and protect scare resources. Clearly, Bush’s supreme goal of “national security” is impossible without environmental security.
Since the late 19th century, there has been an increase in the global average surface temperature of the planet of about 1°F, affecting northern and southern hemispheres and the oceans as well. Snow cover is receding, Arctic ice caps are melting and mountain glaciers are crashing thunderously into the sea, raising water levels globally. Since scientists first began to keep temperature records in the 1860s, the last ten years have been the warmest on record. One quarter of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed by rising water temperatures. In 2005, there were more named hurricanes than any previous year, and killers like Katrina and Rita drew their crushing power from the warming waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientific evidence continues to mount. At least three major reports were released in 2005. A multi-year study undertaken by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, and that the ice cap is now 40 percent thinner than in the 1970s. Another study using data obtained from drilling to the bottom of Arctic ice showed that current carbon dioxide levels are the highest in the last 650,000 years. Also, findings from the National Oceanography Centre in Southhampton, England, show that the Gulf Stream currents that carry warm water from the tropics northward toward Britain have weakened by 30 percent in the last 12 years as a result of global warming disruption, threatening to transform its relatively mild climate into one as cold as Canada’s. Greenhouse gases, in other words, have already changed the circulation of the oceans.
The chaos and destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 will barely register on the scale of disasters likely to come. As projected in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, scientists predict a continued global warming of 2.5°-10.4°F over the next century. As sea levels continue to rise, low lying islands will vanish, and major cities like New Orleans and Bangladesh may also be submerged under water. Millions of desperate environmental refugees will overwhelm the ability of societies to respond. As floods overtake some areas, droughts will overwhelm other areas; some parts of the world will experience dramatic heating, while others will undergo significant cooling. Deaths from skin cancer, malaria, and other diseases will skyrocket. Already, the icy habitats of polar bears, seals, and penguins are threatened; global warming will continue to be a key factor in species extinction overall.
The Greatest Threat of All
As evident from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, dangerous climate change and social chaos is happening right now, and the specter of global warming is not merely an imaginary sci-fi dystopia or a hypothetical concern for future generations. What scientists once dismissed as improbable–the ability of human beings to alter the entire planetary ecosystem–is now a fact, and the history of human existence has irrevocably changed as we enter the new era of global warming. Even if world governments stopped all greenhouse gas emissions immediately, significant disruptions are inevitable, as seas and temperatures will continue to rise for decades or centuries to come.
So, it’s no longer a question of avoiding the effects of global warming, but of minimizing and managing it, of saving as much biodiversity as possible, and of trying to salvage a viable future for the human species. The challenge is daunting. While an important first step toward global regulation, the Kyoto Protocol aims only to reduce emissions from industrial nations by 5 percent, whereas the consensus among climate scientists is that emission cuts as great as 60 percent are needed immediately to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
From every imaginable perspective, the earth is in grave decline. Our era is one of species extinction, overpopulation, rainforest destruction, desertification, pollution, and global warming. Recently, 1,360 researchers and 600 peer-reviewers from 95 nations, collaborating for a four-year period, released the fourth Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report. Considered by many to be the most authoritative study to date on the state of the planet, the report specifically addressed the business and industry community to warn that human beings have inalterably changed the planet to the point that the survival of future generations is threatened and far-reaching solutions are urgently required to address an emergency situation.
Climate change, not international terrorism, is the most dangerous threat facing humanity today. Future generations struggling to cope with the consequences of centuries of industrialism, fossil fuel addiction, corporate greed, and political corruption will brand James Inhofe as a key individual responsible for climate change and the subsequent social and ecological havoc it will unleash on a global and long-term scale. Already, climate change has had a drastic impact on animals and is a key contributing factor to the death of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in poor countries.
Hypocrisy embodied, Inhofe hurls thunderbolts at “eco-terrorists” and has waged war against the forces of resistance that alone can save this planet, while himself being one of the greatest terrorists on the planet today. Inhofe blasts environmentalists following sound science as fear-mongers, while in reality he himself peddles fear about the threat of “eco-terrorism,” trying to make the public think the problem is with animal and environmental activists rather than corporations and corrupt politicians.
To appease a handful of large energy and oil companies, Bush, Inhofe, and others in government have mortgaged the future of life on this planet. The sooner the world’s peoples recognize the true threats and formulate proper political strategies, the better able our species will be to effectively address the crisis that will unfold with increasing intensity and destructive power. Never before has humanity faced such a crisis. Never before have we needed to form a collective will. Never before has radical, revolutionary, militant, and totally immoderate forms of political struggle been more necessary than now. •
Dr. Steven Best’s book, co-edited with Anthony J. Nocella Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals is available from Lantern Books. It features leading activists and writers like Paul Watson, Rod Coronado, Kevin Jones, and Ingrid Newkirk.