no pardon for gang leaders

This was, what, in 1988? Around then. I was biking home, home being at that time Newning street in South Austin, and I passed a group of demonstrators around the bank building just before the Congress street bridge. I naturally stopped and joined them, since at this time in my life I was always psyched to protest something. The something I was protesting, I learned from one of the demonstrators, was the destruction of the Barton Creek Watershed that was currently being supported by a consortium of developers under the leadership of Freeport McMoRan.

At that time, Austin knew all about James R. Moffett and the notorious corporate gang that he headed. As is the way with all rich thugs, his name eventually was plastered to a college building – in fact, a building at U.T. I believe his name and an ex wife’s are still chiseled into the side of some building on that campus.

Unlike other gang/corporations, however, Freeport McMoRan is not just a danger to its employees pension fund and its investors. It is a true gang, much more dangerous than, for instance, the Crips. While the founder of that gang recently had the plugged pulled on him by the State, Jim Bob Moffett has enjoyed all the usages and accoutrements that come to those who contribute heavily to political parties. He will not be damned in this life. Meanwhile, his gang has committed perhaps the greatest environmental crime ever committed against the earth by a private entity.

The NYT, who we often knock, did a great job of scratching at the surface of that crime in its article of the other day by Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner. The crime has been carried out since the eighties in Indonesia, on Papua. It is there that the Freeport-McMoRan gang landed, under the regime of the man Wolfowitz praised as a truly great leader, President Suharto, in the sixties. This was just after Suharto was cleaning up the blood of the later half of the 20th century's third largest state sponsored massacre, which killed, according to the CIA, about 500,000 people. The CIA should know – after all, they were sponsoring the guy. Freeport McMoRan adapted its best practices to those promulgated by Wolfowitz’ buddy, so as the years rolled by Suharto’s family showed up on the payroll, another jet set family of kleptocrats. Meanwhile, FM was digging the world’s biggest hole, with no environmental protection in place, in Papua. A paradise was turned into a hell by a bunch of American neandrathals so wired for greed and so lacking in morals that if you cut them, they bled sewage, tailings and hundred dollar bills.

What are they doing there? Mining:

“At one point last year, a ministry scientist wrote that the mine's production was so huge, and regulatory tools so weak, that it was like "painting on clouds" to persuade Freeport to comply with the ministry's requests to reduce environmental damage.
That frustration stems from an operation that, by Freeport's own estimates, will generate an estimated six billion tons of waste before it is through - more than twice as much earth as was excavated for the Panama Canal.
Much of that waste has already been dumped in the mountains surrounding the mine or down a system of rivers that descends steeply onto the island's low-lying wetlands, close to Lorentz National Park, a pristine rain forest that has been granted special status by the United Nations.”

You can’t go to see what they are doing, of course. In the globalized, transparent, free trade and free people world, the restrictions come from the truly sacred sources – the plutocrats and the military – and we must bow down.

“Freeport says it strives to mitigate the environmental effect of its mine, while also maximizing the benefits to its shareholders. The Times made repeated requests to Freeport and to the Indonesian government to visit the mine and its surrounding area, which requires special permission for journalists. All were turned down.”

The article does a little panning for sleeze in the various FM operations – the bribery of the military, the secret surveillance of environmental groups, the ‘administration of its own security force” – Yes, these are the new Lord Jim Bobs. Perhaps, though, the reference should be to that other Conrad novel, Victory, with its three villains, Mr. Jones, Pedro, and Ricardo who come to a remote island in the Indonesian archipelago to rob, steal and kill.

“In the middle, Mr. Jones, a starved spectre turned into a banker, faced Ricardo, a rather nasty, slow-moving cat turned into a croupier. By contrast, the other faces round that table, anything between twenty and thirty, must have looked like collected samples of intensely artless, helpless humanity -- pathetic in their innocent watch for the small turns of luck which indeed might have been serious enough for them. They had no notice to spare for the hairy Pedro, carrying a tray with the clumsiness of a creature caught in the woods and taught to walk on its hind legs.”

The analogy doesn’t work completely, however. Jim Bob seems more like Pedro than a starved spectre. Literature has its limits.

“An Australian anthropologist, Chris Ballard, who worked for Freeport, and Abigail Abrash, an American human rights campaigner, estimated that 160 people had been killed by the military between 1975 and 1997 in the mine area and its surroundings.”

LI is not going to summarize the amazing charges in the article, but you should – the evidence of bribing the military should be enough to get dormant American regulators to fine the company, but remember – we live under the Bush Regime, where the crimes of the oligarchs rapidly become state policy…

Eventually, destroying the Papuan cultures and leaving behind a landscape like some Martian disaster, FM will leave. One can only hope that the investors in the company choke to death on their gold.