The U.S. veto of the UN Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza gives a green light for Israel to continue escalating a murderous military campaign that has reached genocidal proportions in Gaza.

This is wrong and the U.S. now stands visibly isolated on the world stage. And our government’s stubborn refusal to help put the brakes on what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres termed a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza is not just wrong, it is immoral.

It not only makes us complicit with every atrocity committed by the IDF, it unnecessarily puts us on a collision course with history and people around the world who should be our friends and allies.

For decades the U.S. has used its Security Council veto power to protect Israel from the consequences of its own excesses – like the invasion of Lebanon in the 1980’s, the use of prohibited weapons, decades of settlement on illegally occupied lands – the list is long. Israel has become accustomed to virtually unconditional U.S. backing, but this week’s veto is perhaps the most bitter one yet.

Over 17,000 people have been killed in weeks of brutal and indiscriminate strikes on Gaza in what Israel justifies as retaliation for the brutal October 7th attacks by Hamas. All life is sacred, but the world is not buying Israel’s story. Not when nearly half those killed in its military campaign are children, not when most of Gaza’s homes are already destroyed, not when more than a million internally displaced people fleeing the conflict go hungry, thirsty, unsheltered.

And the gruesome October 7th assault did not suddenly make the deeply corrupt, authoritarian ultra-nationalist Benjamin Netanyahu a wise leader who the U.S. should support even as he bombs and brutalizes the people of Gaza whose grandparents first fled there 1948 and who, since 1967, have lived under military occupation and domination by Israel.

The shock of what happened on October 7th is undisputed, the lessons are not. The U.S. is not obliged to follow Benjamin Netanyahu on an impossible campaign to “exterminate” his enemies. Joining the world in calling for a genuine and prolonged ceasefire is in the long-term best interests of the American people and of everyone involved. Violence begets more violence. New leaders who understand that are desperately needed.

In a statement explaining why he invoked the rarely used Article 99 of the UN Charter that empowers the Secretary-General “to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,” Guterres lamented the “appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” He said, “Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds [and that] without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon.”

The temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that was abandoned on December 1st should resume. The exchange of captives should resume. The constant deadly bombardment of Gaza must stop; truce and ceasefire must be revived.

Don’t let up the pressure on our leaders. Please tell the White House: Permanent Ceasefire NOW. Call and express your disappointment on today’s ceasefire VETO. America can do better.

Call the White House Today 202-456-1111

*this blog was written on December 8, 2023

Note: This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Last June, I traveled to Honduras to confer with civil society leaders about organizing a five-nation, “end the drug war” caravan — all the way from Central America to New York City.

The “caravan” aims to stir debate in places profoundly damaged by the drug war and to bring people and their stories from those regions along the route to New York City just prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy (UNGASS) next April.

We knew this trip was guaranteed to be challenging. Honduras has been hit very hard by the drug war. The dramatic profits available to those who traffic in prohibited drugs have fueled the growth of criminal organizations, spurred violence, underwritten pervasive corruption, and bolstered the institutionalized impunity that enables all of it.

But there was a big, hopeful surprise awaiting us in Honduras: the stunning emergence of a powerful civil revolt against government corruption that took to the streets while we were there, and that has been calling for the President’s resignation ever since.

As I was preparing to travel I had read of allegations that funds were pilfered from the country’s social security and health system. This seemed really bad, but I was so focused on travel details and our safety that I failed to understand the depth of discontent that this would unleash.

We were, after all, mapping out an itinerary that included San Pedro Sula — currently one of the world’s most violent cities. From there we’d head to a community meeting with Garifuna leaders, seven hours (and hundreds of kilometers east of my comfort zone) in the sweltering, mafia-dominated lowlands near the Caribbean coast.


On reflection, it’s not really surprising that discontent has boiled over in Honduras. Extreme poverty is widespread and just a few oligarchs control most of the country’s lands and wealth.

Decades of a heavy U.S. military footprint in the country — and more recently, Hillary Clinton’s back-channel support of a 2009 military coup — have encouraged the enemies of democracy in Honduras.

Since the 2009 coup, gang violence has surged — adding to the economic pressures that prompt thousands of desperate families to emigrate, or sometimes even send their kids north alone, despite the terrible risks involved.

But the trigger for this summer’s peaceful uprising was the revelation that hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen from the national health system, much of it channeled directly to ruling party political campaigns. Thousands of Hondurans died needlessly due to shortages of medical personnel and medicines. These are the facts behind the outrage that has propelled multitudes of discontented, torch-carrying citizens into the streets.


As we traveled and spoke with organizations and leaders across Honduras we encountered deep opposition to the militarization and corruption of public life that have accompanied the drug war.

We were especially interested in speaking with Garifuna and other indigenous leaderswho have been among the most outspoken critics of the drug war — even as they have confronted smugglers encroaching on their ancestral lands.

The Garifuna are descendants of escaped African slaves and indigenous peoples who intermarried and settled along Central America’s Atlantic Coast in the 1700’s. They were once isolated, but in recent years have come under intense pressure from unscrupulous tourist development and sprawling African Palm plantations.

Last year, Garifuna in the tiny settlement of Vallecito found a drug-smuggling airstrip built and being operated on their territory.

Miriam Miranda, leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) stepped in to document and protest the intrusion. OFRANEH pressured the government to shut down the airfield. The army eventually complied, dynamiting large holes to disable the dirt runway.

But that was not the end of the story. The smugglers returned and started filling the hole with logs and dirt.

When OFRANEH leaders began to document the refurbishing of the airfield, they were seized at gunpoint by sicarios on motorcycles. They were released long hours later, but only because other members of their party had eluded the gunmen, alerted media, and triggered an international campaign for their freedom.

Now, a year later, OFRANEH boldly maintains a permanent encampment on the site to keep traffickers away.

This year, as protests were mounting across the country, OFRANEH held their national leadership meeting at the remote encampment. They invited us to come there to talk with them about working together to end the drug war.

We agreed about a lot of things: The drug war is a disaster and it is past time to break the taboo on speaking honestly about its impact on people, families, communities, countries, and entire regions.

They explained how parasitic criminal organizations that grew from the hyper-profits of the prohibited drug trade now run other enterprises, like extortion rackets and human trafficking. They launder ill-gotten funds through investments in mining, hotels, agriculture and other superficially legitimate industries.

The OFRANEH leaders are interested in promoting an international discussion of how we could starve the beasts of the drug war through realistic regulation of drugs that aims to dramatically reduce the illegal trade.

We talked about how human rights, public health, and harm reduction practices should be the guideposts of any new, reformed drug policies. But to be clear, no one thought ending the drug war or dismantling the powerful criminal organizations whose money and influence derives from it would be easy. Nor will it be easy for Hondurans to restore democracy and curb the power of the oligarchy.

Open public debate and scrutiny is needed to reveal the truth about the drug war: it is a deadly, decades-long international mistake that cannot be solved by any country on its own. Pragmatic drug policy reforms require concerted international cooperation.

Such reforms will not resolve all the deep tensions roiling Honduras and other countries, but freezing the drug war profit machine via incremental regulation of today’s illicit markets is a critical step toward reducing violence and weakening the networks of corruption and impunity that undermine democracy and deny justice.

The morning I left Honduras I took a taxi from my hotel in San Pedro Sula to the airport. I was in the mood to chat and asked the taxi driver if he ever felt scared doing his job in this most violent of cities. He told me that, “Yes,” he was often afraid and that (pointing to a police car), “the worst part is that you can’t rely on the authorities for help because many of them were working with the criminals. Do you know about the war tax (impuestos de guerra)?” he asked.

“Every business in this city”, he explained, “has to pay a tax to the gangs.”

“Everybody pays”, he emphasized.

“Whether you run a sandwich stand, a dry cleaning shop, a hotel, or a travel agency, you have to pay–or die. In our case, we have about 150 members in our taxi collective and we have to pay 10,000 Lempira [about 500 dollars] a week.”

“What terrifies me,” he continued, “is that the authorities are involved.”

“Let me explain,” he said.

“Every week we take our ‘contribution’ to the local jail. I am not joking,” he insisted.

“But it is even worse than that.” he told me. “One week we had trouble getting our payment together and we arrived late to the jail. The guards told us visiting hours were over and we could not enter. We started freaking out because a missed payment can mean sudden death. So, we called the cell phone of our contact inside the jail. A few minutes later the guards came back out and invited us in to deliver the ‘tax’ payment.”

“So,” he said, “You can see who is really running the show.”

As he dropped me off to catch my flight I was still thinking over the nightmarish implications of what he’d told me. For people trapped in this criminal maelstrom there is really no way out.

The enduring lesson of the 13 years of alcohol prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century is that, whether we approve or not, people will seek out mood-altering substances. We can regulate alcohol, but trying to eliminate it simply incentivized crime and fueled the growth of domestic mafias.

In the early 1930s the U.S. ratified an amendment to the Constitution to rectify the mistake.

Today, there is a growing consensus that the international war on drugs is a similar fool’s errand.

The United Nations Special Session next year is a good forum to push this conversation ahead, but it will take a longer, concerted effort to democratically change minds, hearts, and policies.

That’s why we will travel from Honduras to NYC next year. We invite you to join us, in-person, on-line, and around the world.

For more information: ted(at) or

This December, the 2011 UN Climate Talks will be held in Durban, South Africa. As we approach this year’s conference, environmental and climate justice activists around the world have reason to doubt that our world leaders will come together in Durban and reach a solid agreement on a solution to climate change. Past conferences have demonstrated a predictable failure among international governments to reach an agreement adequate enough to save the planet. Mainly, because the UN Climate Change framework is based not on the root causes of environmental exploitation – but ‘market fixes’ within the corporate-led economic model and a system based on continuous exploitation of the earth’s resources.

This is the way it has been, but this is not the way it has to be.

There’s good news – people across the world are rallying for a new approach to protect our environment and curb the effects of climate change – establish and enforce laws which actually elevate the rights of nature (and communities) above the claimed ‘rights’ of corporations whose sole interests are development for profits.

Global Exchange, Durban community activist Desmond D’Sa, and The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), in collaboration with our international partners and civil society groups gathering in Durban are working to present an alternative paradigm emerging from communities at the grassroots – recognizing the rights of ecosystems and communities. This rights-based approach offers a different way to protect nature, enabling communities (rather than corporations) to act as stewards of local ecosystems and asserting people’s rights over corporations. The Rights of Nature framework comes from a new understanding of our human relationship with nature, from viewing nature solely as property for humans to exploit for profit to the belief that ecosystems possess the right to exist, thrive, and evolve, and that our laws must put our planet before profits.

Community Rights Program Director, Shannon Biggs, will be on the ground in Durban this December both inside and outside the COP17 conference, joining citizens and activists there who are leading the call for nature’s rights.

Why is the location of COP17 in Durban particularly important?

Durban is the dirtiest city in all of South Africa. Some days the air is clouded with enough pollution to block out the sun. In Durban, more than 300 toxic, water-polluting and extraction-based industrial plants (including an oil refinery with frequent explosions) discharge toxic pollutants into the air, water and land, damaging the health of residents, particularly those oppressed by apartheid, as well as uncountable plants and animals; directly contributing to global climate change.

With the world’s attention on Durban thanks to the COP17 climate summit, citizens and environmental activists have a unique opportunity to demand rights both for South Africans and the ecosystems on which their communities depend to thrive.

There are a number of actions and demonstrations already planned to carry the call for community and nature’s rights in Durban for the world to hear. Please stay posted for an upcoming piece on the events surrounding COP17 in Durban, including live updates from Shannon around the organizing on the ground. For info on how to get involved, please contact Shannon Biggs: (

Week of Action in Durban: Rights of Nature events

Dec 1st

– Global Alliance for Rights of Nature strategy session.  Members of the Global Alliance will gather in Durban to set priorities for 2012.

Dec 2nd

– HRA winner and lead UN negotiator for Bolivia Pablo Solon will be presenting to the public at the Wolpe Lecture on ‘The Rights of Nature and Climate Politics’

  • When: 5pm-7pm
  • Where: Shepstone 1, Howard College, UKZN

Dec 3rd

· Global Day of Action: C17 March

  • When: 9am gather – march starts at 10:30am
  • Where: Curries Fountain in the People’s Space

Dec 5th

· Rights of Nature Panel Discussion featuring Pablo Solon, Cormac Cullinan, Natalia Green, Shannon Biggs, and Tom Goldtooth.

  • When: 2:00-3:30pm
  • Where: The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College at the T B DAVIS  BUILDING L4.

· Rights of Nature Teach-In

  • When: 3:30-5:00pm
  • Where: The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College at the T B DAVIS  BUILDING L4.

Dec 6th

· Press Conference. Time & Location TBA.

–      Toxic Tour and Refinery Action and Rights of Nature march and action in South Durban. Speakers include GX’s Shannon Biggs (USA), Randy Hayes (USA), Pablo Solon (Bolivia), Cormac Cullinan (SA) Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous leader, Turtle Island), Natalia Green (Ecuador) Time & Location TBA.

Dec 7th

Rio+20 strategy session with all international allies. Time & Location TBA.

Dec 9th

· Rights of Nature: An Idea Whose Time Has Come – inside the COP17 conference

  • When: noon-1pm
  • Where: Blyde River Room