In the first half of the show, journalist Alan MacLeod joins Eleanor Goldfield to discuss his personal battle against censorship as well as the ways in which corporate media work to propagandize the public to support Israel. He also outlines the attempts of a small group of Neocons to connect everything, including October 7th, to Iran so as to push the US ever closer to yet another war in the middle east. Next up, Leona Morgan, Dine anti-nuclear agitator joins the show to outline the current and historic fight of her people against nuclear colonialism. Leona explains the myriad ways in which the US government fails and tricks Indigenous communities and how new mines, including one in the Grand Canyon, could move forward thanks to massive loopholes in legislation supposedly meant to ban new uranium mining in the region.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer at Mint Press News, and a frequent guest on the Project Censored Show. He’s also the author of the 2018 book Bad News From Venezuela. Leona Morgan is a Diné (“Navajo”) anti-nuclear organizer. Haul No! Was co-founded by Sarana Riggs, Leona Morgan, and (our yáázh) the late Klee Benally.
Leona asked to add this note for reference with regards to deep concerns that Pinyon Plain mine could be the beginning of a new uranium boom in the region: “while both the proposed mine and mill are outside of official Navajo reservation land, mining and transporting through Navajo could show every other uranium company how easy it is to skirt our law, that we don’t have jurisdiction or authority to stop it, as long as they’re on the other side of the fence.” And her concerns are well founded. Along with a push for more nuclear power as “green energy,” there has also been a push for updating or even creating new nuclear weapons programs. For instance, Scientific American reported in December of 2023 that weapons contractor Northrup Grumman won a bid for a new program called Sentinel. Quoting from the article, “The $100 billion that will go to Sentinel represents only the first step of what is anticipated to be a $1.5 TRILLION investment in the triad [weapons systems deployable by land, sea and air], all of which is predicated on ramping up production of new plutonium pits, the deadly metallic hearts of nuclear warheads.”
Video of the Interview with Alan MacLeod
Video of Interview with Leona Morgan
Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Alan MacLeod
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Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks everyone for joining us back at the Project Censored radio show. We’re very glad right now to be joined by Alan MacLeod, who’s a senior staff writer for Mint Press News, and after completing his PhD in 2017, he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela, Twenty Years Of Fake News And Misreporting, as well as Propaganda In The Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, a friend of the Project Censored show, The Guardian, Salon, The GrayZone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.
Alan, thank you so much for joining us.
Alan MacLeod: It’s great to be back with you. How are you?
Eleanor Goldfield: I’m hanging in there. And I wanted to start off today, I mean, there’s always so much to talk to you about, but I wanted to start off today with just a straight up case of censorship against you, which seems to be a bit of a new step because in the past you have been on the receiving end of a lot of shadow banning.
So could you just run down what happened on January 9th and how you view this in comparison to the type of censorship that you’ve experienced in the past?
Alan MacLeod: Well, you know, the first I heard about this was messages coming in on my phone through Signal or WhatsApp from people and friends just telling me, hey, what’s going on with your Twitter profile? Or perhaps we should call it X profile. I don’t know.
So it seems as soon as I logged onto the app, it showed me that I couldn’t like any tweets, I couldn’t tweet myself, and in fact, there was just a little message saying that my account had been suspended. No information given. They did say check your email, and there will be an explanation there. But, there were no messages from Twitter or X Support or anything like that. And so I was completely in the dark about what really happened.
However, the fact that this happened to a whole bunch of left leaning or anti imperialist or anti war or critical of the establishment journalists at the same time, people I’m thinking of include Ken Klippenstein, the True Anon podcast, Rob Rousseau, the podcaster, this really suggested that this was some sort of wide sweeping net that happened, that we were all caught up in some sort of dragnet. of Twitter wanting to silence our voices.
Frankly, the only reason that I’m back on Twitter, and that’s the spoiler alert right there that we’re back on, is that enough people kicked up a big enough stink on the platform to actually get Elon Musk himself to personally intervene and take us off the naughty list and put us back on the nice list.
But, you know, honestly, the way we were put back on was pretty much the same as we were taken off. I got one message, one little email from the support team saying, hello, we are writing to you to let you know that we’ve unsuspended your account. We’re sorry for any inconvenience and hope to see you back soon.
And that was it. That was the entire story. But what this really gets to is the fact that so many people who are critical of the establishment in whatever way feel, and frankly know, that their reach is being artificially suspended or crippled in some way to prevent them from reaching a bigger audience.
We all went online back in the days of the 2000s and the 2010s to get away from a sort of corporate dominated mainstream media where it was a stifling atmosphere, where there was no real range of opinions allowed. The internet provided us with this platform, we thought, where anything was possible. We could talk to anybody, we could almost say anything.
And not only that, we could build a following, we could build a career actually saying things that people wanted to hear because, of course, people went to places like Twitter or YouTube or Instagram to get away from what they saw on cable news. However, what we’ve seen in the last four or five years is these big social media companies becoming ever more gigantic and ever more closely intertwined with the US national security state as well, meaning that their decisions on what to allow and what not to allow on their platforms are really increasingly coming to resemble what we have on corporate media.
And that’s a real shame because ultimately we’re getting to the point where it’s very hard to tell the difference between social media and old traditional legacy media, which we all know is failing because people have such a lack of trust in it. And this is one of the things that’s this incident involving me just kind of underlines how social media may well go the same way.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And again, it seems, it seems like an extra step that they have taken and it seems like it’s coming on the heels of the amazing coverage that you’ve done highlighting how corporate media has failed utterly to appropriately cover the genocide in Gaza.
And I wanted to get into a little bit of that, because of course, X is not going to send you an email that says, we banned you because you’re just being a little bit too honest about what’s happening in Gaza, or in Palestine in general.
And I mean, folks should just follow, we’ve mentioned it on the show before, both Mickey and I, how Alan does these amazing, like I fixed the, the headline for you. And I’m just going to take a couple from your Instagram here, which is @alan.r.macleod.
For instance, there’s the “record number of civilians hurt by explosives in 2023,” which you covered basically that translation: “Israel has bombed a record number of human beings in 2023.” And it’s just things like that, like the passive voice, parroting language, like “voluntary migration” plan when talking about the forced removal of the Indigenous people of Palestine.
And so this again highlights something that we talk about on the show very often, which is why critical media literacy is so important.
So I wanted to ask you, could you first of all share some of these tactics that corporate media uses here? And also, I’m curious if you’ve seen any cracks in this since October 7th in terms of how corporate media is desperately trying to continue framing this genocide as a “Hamas war” or things like that?
Alan MacLeod: You know, the English language is truly wonderful. It is so diverse. It’s so multifaceted. You can use it to really get down into extremely detailed critiques and discussions and descriptions of what you want. But there’s also always the way of hiding that as well.
And one way that journalists in particular love to hide responsibility is the use of this passive voice.
And what that means is instead of saying, I killed you, we could say she was killed and what that does is it just throws away any idea of who was actually a perpetrator. And so you can actually talk about violent events without assigning any blame to any particular individual or group. And this is what happens constantly whenever corporate media has to cover violent events but does not want to really emphasize who is actually at fault here.
This happens not only with Israel when we see headlines saying things like four Israelis killed and 17 Palestinians die, or something like, you know, Palestinian worshippers die after rocket hits mosque or something like that, you know. Well, who from? Well, we don’t know because it doesn’t actually say in the headline.
And of course, most people don’t read past the headline. And so the idea that the Israelis are actually carrying out a sustained campaign of assassination, which many have called akin to genocide, is really just completely lacking from corporate media coverage. And then when you actually poll Americans or people in the West on what they think and how they understand this conflict, it actually translates into actual framing of public opinion and changing people’s attitudes on these things.
Another group that always gets this special treatment is the police. Whenever the police kill someone in the U.S., suddenly we’re calling it an “officer involved incident,” which is, of course, a phrase that the police themselves, they created that and started putting it in their press releases and it was picked up by journalists and suddenly that’s how we talk about how the police, you know, capping off some unarmed teenager somewhere in the United States or whatever.
So this is going on for a very long time. Another way media love to kind of shift blame and try and cue the readers to see an issue, let’s say the Israel Palestine issue, in a certain way they frame the events. What they do is they will label facts as accusations, and then use accusations as facts whenever it suits their agenda.
So, I’m thinking of something like record number of Palestinians killed in on a day in a certain time that will be translated into, Hamas run health ministry says x-number of Palestinians killed. So it turns a fact into an accusation and they put it into the mouth of a group that has been demonized for years and years in the press, meaning that that sort of a piece of information suddenly carries far less weight than it could have if they just said record numbers of Palestinians killed by Israel or whatever.
And so that is really another way in which media can talk about violent events without actually having to assign blame and actually very quietly carry water for one team. And let’s make no mistake about it. They absolutely are carrying water for the US backed Israeli onslaught on Gaza here.
There are plenty of people who have been fired over their comments about Israel Palestine. We saw MSNBC suspend three Muslim anchors at the height of the Israeli aggression. Still no word on why that was, although the fact that there’s just a silence about this suggests that the obvious answer probably is the one. We’ve seen the BBC fire a bunch of Arab journalists who have shown support for Palestine.
However, journalists across the board who support Israel are not treated the same way. Axel Springer, one of the biggest media companies in the world, based in Germany, owns, in the United States, it owns Business Insider, for example. Axel Springer makes its European employees sign what is effectively a pledge of allegiance to Israel, meaning that they cannot criticize the apartheid state. And they have to basically be on board with Zionism. They also have to be on board with support for the EU and for neoliberal capitalism.
So there are, there is this very strong and overwhelming influence and force to push journalists into presenting the topic a certain way.
We see journalists who don’t do this, who do sort of step out, there are career consequences for them. Mehdi Hassan, for example, has very publicly left MSNBC. He may have been pushed out, we’re not exactly sure what happened there, but he is gone. He was one of the strongest voices against Israeli aggression on U.S. corporate media.
So we are seeing some cracks in the system, but the system is continuing to hold. Although if we look between the lines, we are seeing a lot of journalists who are very uncomfortable with this. We’ve seen reports that BBC journalists are crying at their cubicles during their lunch break because of the things they’re having to do. We have seen journalists publicly quit, for example, the BBC, over their coverage. Were seeing huge protests all around the world, often directed specifically at corporate media for their bias.
And so ultimately the people really understand what’s going on here. And we’re seeing it in the opinion polls. When we look at people who rely on cable news or the print press for their views on Israel/Palestine, they swing overwhelmingly towards the Israeli side. However, people using social media, where it is at least nominally more free and open than the corporate media, people are far more likely to support the Palestinian side, or at least be highly critical of what Israel is doing, which really should be the bare minimum for anyone who calls himself a human.
I mean, as I said earlier, this is a conflict which is now risen to the level, so many legal scholars are saying, of genocide. And in fact, as we’re speaking now, there is a huge international push to actually hold Israel and its Western backers to account in forums like the United Nations.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And, I’ve covered this on a separate show that the textbook definition of genocide fits so disgustingly perfectly with what’s happening right now in Gaza. So folks who are scared to call it genocide probably have a lot of baggage with Zionism and the support for Israel that has been hammered into us, in particular as a Jewish person, I can say it’s been hammered into me.
Kind of shifting a little bit here, I want to get into a recent article that you wrote for Mint Press News. So there’s a joke going around the internet that everyone I don’t like is Hamas, you know basically lambasting the claims by Israel and right wing fanatics worldwide that Hamas is in the bushes everywhere, Hezbollah’s at the border and stuff like that, and if you speak out against Israel, you’re basically Hamas. But like many jokes, there’s a kernel of truth to this absurdity.
And as you point out in your article in the days after October 7th, several mouthpieces for U.S. imperialist violence basically said that it was Iran’s fault because it was Iran-backed Hamas. And you described this shadow organization United Against Nuclear Iran as “a group led by neoconservative hawks with close ties to US and Israeli intelligence” that are trying to paint a picture where Iran is backing both Hamas and Hezbollah in an effort to basically take over the world, which is hilarious, because that’s what the U.S. is trying to do.
So, Alan, could you walk us through this organization that you dug into a bit and explain, besides being kings of a graveyard, what is their aim here?
Alan MacLeod: Sure. The organization is called United Against Nuclear Iran. And I think the best way to look at them is a kind of modern version of the sort of 90s and 2000s neocon organizations that really ruled Washington DC and pushed the United States into wars with Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the other countries that came after that as well.
Not only that, a lot of the people in United Against Nuclear Iran were very senior figures in those sorts of genocidal campaigns. I’m thinking specifically of people like John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security advisor. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Iraq war.
People like Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, the brother of George W. Bush, the president, of course. TheCEO of United Against Nuclear Iran is Mark Wallace, who was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and the deputy campaign manager for George Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. So we’re really talking about people extremely high up in the U.S. national security state.
There are also people who were former heads of the CIA or very high up in that organization, former directors of the Mossad, the Israeli version of the CIA, and this group is funded by extremely wealthy billionaires like the Israeli American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is also Donald Trump’s biggest financial backer.
And what this group does is basically try to take every issue and push the United States towards more hostilities with Iran. They frame it as just being purely against Iranian development of a nuclear program, specifically a nuclear weapons program. But ultimately, when you actually look at the sort of reports they put out talking about trying to increase sanctions on Iran, trying to push for demonstrations for supposedly for women’s rights in Iran.
I can’t imagine too many of those Bush era neocons who are trying to take away women’s right to choose in the United States are really particularly avowed feminists. But suddenly when it comes to Iran, they are these people constantly putting out reports or articles and major news organizations saying that the United States should move troops to Iran, should give Israel more weaponry, should in fact, in Sheldon Adelson’s case, he said that the United States should drop a preemptive nuclear bomb on Iran to really show the Iranians that they were serious in stopping them.
So these sorts of people are a very powerful faction within the United States, and they represent the most hawkish and extreme element of US foreign policy. And so far, it seems that they’re actually having quite a lot of success trying to push their message into the mainstream.
The idea that this is all happening because this is some sort of big Tehran master plan that’s going on is really quite a stretch. Frankly, this is going on specifically because the Israeli government wanted, and has coveted the Gaza Strip for a very long time. It’s always wanted to push the domestic population of Palestine out with its borders and into the Mediterranean, into the Sinai, into Arabia or deeper into Arabia.
This is pretty much always been a long term dream of them. And of course, there’s a long term dream of so many people like John Bolton, who wakes up every day and thinks about new ways on how the United States can bomb Iran. And then, you know, that’s what he does. That’s you know, that’s that’s his life’s purpose.
And so this group right now is having a lot of effect in the United States. As I said, they’ve got people in many of the most important organizations in Washington, D. C. And it’s very important that the public actually knows what this group is doing specifically so we can organize against it, and we can at least be cognizant of the fact that these people are not neutral actors and they have a real important and very devastating and untrustworthy agenda that we should really all be aware of.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m curious because you also mentioned in the article BRICS, and I’m curious how much of this kind of spastic push against Iran has a lot to do with the U.S. Empire feeling like it’s losing its foothold in the region. And the only way that the U.S. knows how to regain anything is to use violence.
So how much do you think is, is related to that BRICS and the rise of this multipolar world against just the, the U.S. superpower?
Alan MacLeod: Yeah, well, more than a decade ago, the Obama administration now, yeah, it is more than a decade ago, really. Well, they organized, what they called a pivot to Asia, which meant drawing American troops away from the Middle East, and towards East Asia, specifically to try and encircle China.
And really in 2024, we can now start to see that American influence in the Middle East, while still very strong, is certainly on the wane. And there are multiple sides of this. The fact that Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached a detente, which was sponsored by China of all countries. The fact that Saudi Arabia’s onslaught against the so called Houthi movement in Yemen hasn’t worked. The fact that the United States, despite spending billions of dollars on it, has not been able to dislodge the government of Bashar al Assad in Syria. It does seem like the United States is starting to lose its clout in the Middle East.
Obviously, China’s rise economically has caused another set of problems for the United States. And so, yeah, the U.S. has, of course, since 1979 and the Iranian revolution, been trying to overthrow that particular government. They’ve come relatively close on some occasions, but it does seem that Iran might have weathered the storm, so to speak.
They were under intense economic pressure in the 2010s and also during the COVID pandemic. But now with Iran really developing stronger economic ties to its neighbors and particularly to China, it seems that the sort of real acute pain that the United States was able to do by turning those economic screws on Tehran may well not be able to be achieved in the future.
And part of this, as you mentioned before, is Iran’s entry into BRICS, this economic block of global South countries. BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, but is now expanded to more than 10 countries, including some of Iran’s neighbors, like the United Arab Emirates, which is very interesting that Iran is now going to be in an economic union, so to speak, with countries that it was previously really quite hostile with. And so this does bode well for the future of the Middle East.
The United States, of course, is not happy about this. Of course, it assassinated the Iranian general and statesman Qasem Soleimani while he was in Iraq for peace talks with the Saudi government, which have now concluded with detente, as I mentioned before, and so it does seem that peace might slowly, slowly be coming to some parts of Western Asia, despite the fact that the United States does not want that to happen, because it really lacks the economic power now to do too much about that. But what it does still have is the military power.
And that’s what we’re seeing right now being taking place all around the world, but specifically in the Middle East, with the U.S. constantly sending huge shipments of weapons to Israel to prolong its attack on Gaza, and now bombing Yemen once more. The administration of Joe Biden is the fourth administration in a row to bomb that country, and so, you know, the more that changes, the more that stays the same sometimes when we come to the Middle East, I think, ultimately.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And so I’m curious with that, what do you feel are the, I’m remembering here, Rashid Khalidi’s book, The Hundred Years War on Palestine, where he talks about how in the 1900s, even before 1948, Arab states were struggling with their own colonialist, mostly Britain, issues.
And so there wasn’t this solidarity with Palestine or with Palestinians that could have been a barrier to the Zionist movement. But it seems to me that what we’re seeing here, as you said, is that the Arab states seem to be coalescing either economically or even sitting down and having talks, much to the chagrin of the United States.
So what do you think are the chances of either, like, an all out regional war where the U.S. just pushes and pushes and pushes and it ends up being potentially a world war because China is now involved in supporting Iran and things like that? Or on the other side, do you think that there could be this growth of solidarity within the Middle East that could then also spread in terms of showing solidarity with Palestine in a really very real way to then overthrow the Israeli apartheid system?
Alan MacLeod: Well, that’s the 64 billion question you’ve asked me there. Yeah, I guess the most likely scenario for like an all out world war would be triggered by Iran.
But, you know, when you look at the history of the United States, the U.S. tends to only attack completely defenseless countries, and Iran is really not a defenseless country.
It’s a large one, a large state of over 90 million people. It’s got a very well trained army, a disciplined army, a battle hardened army that has fought against ISIS and has many of its troops, you know, overseeing or watching what’s going on in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen, etc. And so that is going to be an extremely hard nut to crack. That will be doubly so if Iran can call on the support of Russia and China. So I think that would be an absolute worst case scenario.
Would the United States really be able to really foster that much support in the Middle East for a war on Iran? I think the Saudis in the last few years have shown that they are actually more than willing to play China and the United States off against each other.
I’m not really sure that the Saudi army would, or the Saudi government would really trust its military in a war against Iran. It really did not fare particularly well in its war on Yemen. And I wonder if that would really go any better against a much larger country, one that would be far more capable of striking back against Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, even as we’ve been seeing these very worrying, concerning developments in the Middle East, we’re also seeing a real show of huge amounts of solidarity for the Palestinian people, less so from the governments of the Middle East who have often played the role of betraying the Palestinian people, but certainly from the actual rank and file of the people of West Asia, of North Africa. We have seen absolutely gigantic demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets of major cities, from anywhere from Pakistan to Morocco. These people are really putting pressure on their governments not to cave into US pressure, to be silent or actually support the Israeli aggression.
Unfortunately, we still do see some governments quietly or tacitly supporting Israel, continue to trade them, continue to supply them with the hydrocarbons that they need to continue this war effort. And in fact, really, one of the only countries that have done something really quite drastic in an attempt to stifle Israel’s attack is Yemen itself, who, of course, blocked the Red Sea for many shipping companies, particularly Western ones and Israeli ones.
And that’s really put a dent in, not only the European economy, but also the Israeli ability to wage war in the long term. So there are these competing strains that are going on right now: one’s towards more war and aggression and one’s towards more solidarity and peace. And I know which one I want to see prevail in the end, but ultimately time will be the best test of that.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely.
So Alan, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and go through all of this.
Where is the best place for folks to keep up to date with you, assuming that you’re not banned?
Alan MacLeod: Well, I publish all my articles or podcasts at mintpressnews.com, so you can go there, check it out, and bookmark that page. Otherwise, if I’m not banned, I’ll still be on Twitter, my handle is at Alan R. MacLeod. That’s A L A N R M A C L E O D.
Or you can catch me on Instagram and Telegram as well, so just search for me there as well.
Eleanor Goldfield: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Alan. Really appreciate you taking the time.
Alan MacLeod: Yeah. It’s been great to talk to you again.
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Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Leona Morgan
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Eleanor Goldfield: Thank you so much for joining us at the Project Censored Radio Show. We’re very glad right now to be joined by Leona Morgan, who’s a Diné antinuclear agitator who’s been fighting nuclear colonialism since 2007.
She is co-founder of Haul No! and a graduate student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Haul No! is a volunteer Indigenous led group collaborating with Indigenous communities and leaders, environmental organizations, and community based advocates working to stop nuclear colonialism in the Southwest.
Leona, thank you so much for sitting down with us.
Leona Morgan: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Eleanor Goldfield: So I want to start off by talking about the Pinyon Plain or, the Canyon Mine. It’s a proposed mine on the edge of the Grand Canyon, where Energy Fuels Incorporated says, according to the website haulno.com, it can start transporting millions of tons of radioactive ore at any moment.
So let’s just start with an obvious question. I feel like it sounds like a joke, but the Grand Canyon should be a protected site, even under the very bad colonialist purview of protection. Could you talk a little bit about the protections that exist or don’t, either through federal law or in Navajo Nation, that butts up against this proposed mine and how, for instance, things that are listed on the website like the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 or the Radioactive Materials Transportation Act of 2012 are full of loopholes regarding this?
Leona Morgan: Yes, thank you for the question. Let me just start by introducing myself. Traditionally we like to share our clans, so I’ll just start there and then answer your questions.
[Introduces herself in Diné Bizaad]
So right now, we’re looking at, I’m just referring to it as a global treasure. I think everyone in the United States, I’m sure knows about the Grand Canyon. And I think globally it is also a place that is very special on Mother Earth.
So, regarding the protections, recently, President Biden signed a national monument, which creates this area that is almost a million acres that will prohibit new uranium mining forever. But the thing about it is this is following an Obama mineral withdrawal that was created in 2012, and so that Obama mineral withdrawal, it protected the area for 20 years. And so this national monument made that permanent.
And so the thing people are not talking about is there are at least 11 mines with valid existing rights that were grandfathered in. And so they can still go forward. Of these 11 about half of them, may be mined out, they’re done. They need to be in decommissioning and cleaning up. The others, probably 3 potential new mines in that area, and the one that we’re watching, Haul No, has been working to stop what was once called Canyon Mine, and so now it’s Pinyon Plain. And this is very common for any industry to rebrand and confuse people.
So, Pinyon Plain Canyon Mine is one of the mines that is grandfathered in and can move forward. And this is a mine that recently started on January 8th. So that’s a whole nother topic to of questions to get into.
But you were asking about the loopholes. So, going back to the Navajo Nation laws. So it’s a funny thing that I, as an indigenous person, I want to say, and I have been saying for years that our sovereignty is the thing that’s going to win, all the time.
I mean, I’m just a single person. We have environmental groups, conservation groups, mostly non-native, grassroots Indigenous groups, but I do think the tribes have a lot of power. And I do think as Indigenous nations, having 575 or however many across the country right now, those federally recognized tribes, right now, this is what I’m learning with my personal tribe. I can’t really speak to all of the federally recognized tribes, but I’m wondering if this affects everybody, because what we’re seeing is how limited our jurisdiction is.
So when the Navajo Nation makes laws, for example, no uranium mining. We’ve been sacrificed. We’ve been used: our language, our minerals, everything, you know, for World War 2 now, our water, a lot of water is going to cities like Phoenix and other places, our coal, you know, so so we consider this creating a resource colony out of the Navajo Nation. There’s so much extraction and commodification of our Mother Earth going to power the outside world and to benefit economically and for quality of life when at home, our people are suffering and dying, breathing in contaminated, radioactive things in the air and who knows what and in the water.
I mean, there’s fracking in eastern Navajo. There was just an oil spill in Shiprock that’s huge. This was just recently and you know, people will talk about the Gold King mine spill that got a lot of attention, but there’s all these things happening all the time, like bad cleanup of uranium mines, new uranium mining, even though we have this law.
So going back to our jurisdiction, we have a lot of limitations when it comes to working within the colonial structure. So it seems that if tribes are going to depend on their, their quasi sovereignty, bestowed on them by the U.S. Federal government, we’re never going to win in that game. And so to really uphold sovereignty means to step outside of that.
It means to, to really honor, you know, what you are as a nation. So as Navajo, I’m going to say Navajo Nation, but, you know, as Diné people, we are often at odds with the Navajo Nation government.
And so right now, we, we have two Navajo Nation laws specifically designed to protect us from uranium, and uranium transport, but we don’t have jurisdiction outside of Navajo Indian country proper and on the eastern side, this gets really complicated with the checkerboard area.
I’m actually from the eastern side of Navajo and all of this is impacting the western side. So I’m a little bit new to the area. I’ve been working with Haul No since 2016. The mine wasn’t completed until recently, in the last couple of years. One of our co founders who has been probably the only person really monitoring the mine over the years, probably the last decade, was alerting us that the construction at the mine was almost complete. And so we have been aware that this was happening and trying to let folks know and reporting it to, let’s say, various Navajo Nation committees or individuals.
I mean, I can say that personally I have told individuals in the Navajo Nation, before the monument was signed, what was happening and and people seem to not have any clue what I was talking about. Maybe they were not educated on it or believed me. I mean, we were being called alarmists.
People were not taking us seriously, even though we did an event for Indigenous Peoples Day, kind of alerting folks to kind of, we need to up the awareness here because things are moving. And then again, on December 13th, we did an event that’s on our website.
So, as activists, we are fully aware of the limitations of the colonial structure, yet I still believe the Navajo Nation has an obligation to use whatever it has to protect us. And so that’s why we’re still pushing on our government, we’re still pushing on the Navajo Nation president, and especially the Navajo Nation chapters. We have 110 in the whole Navajo Nation, and the Western Agency has 18 who will be mostly impacted because the haul route of the uranium would go from the mine, which is south of the Grand Canyon.
And then there’s two routes, and so we don’t know which one for sure they would use and so both of them will be primarily through Navajo nation. So about 300 miles. So it’s a major federal action, you know, to allow radioactive transport over 300 miles in mostly Indigenous communities that has a law against this. So it’s a direct violation of our law that the Arizona government, the company, and of course, the United States government doesn’t respect, you know, the wishes of the Navajo nation when it comes to uranium stuff.
I mean, we can look at prime examples: RECA, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, the United States just dropped it. It was set to be passed with the national defense authorization act in December. And, and yeah, the United States failed us.
They will not compensate workers, downwinders, people from the Trinity test, from their own radioactive experiments, testing, and all of the stuff they did to all United States citizens, not just Indigenous people. You know, radiation doesn’t discriminate. Fallout goes everywhere.
The other thing the U.S. did is to push a lot of really bad cleanup. And so right now, there’s a lot of communities fighting and having internal conflict because the United States wouldn’t listen to the very first requests of community members, which is to take the uranium outside, off of the Navajo Nation. Some of the contamination, most of it just gets buried in place.
So some of the most contaminated stuff, in general folks are saying take it away. We didn’t make this mess. We weren’t educated on the on the total impact by the United States when they started mining uranium. And so now we’re living with the consequences of mining that started in the 40s and 50s.
And so still about estimated 15,000 abandoned uranium mines across the country because uranium was not regulated, there were no laws to clean up, the EPA didn’t exist until the 70s. So the uranium boom was like the 50s to the 70s. So most of the mining that occurred was highly unregulated, and a lot of companies took their profit and ran, and we’re stuck with the mess still today.
And so, just like the Trinity folks living where the first atomic test was done, they’re living with a lot of cancers today, and they were really, really pushing for these RECA amendments to expand, to include them, but also to extend it, because RECA is supposed to sunset. It was supposed to sunset in 2022, but it only got a two year extension, which ends this July. So there’s literally less than a year for folks to try to help to get together something for RECA. That’s a whole other issue and work that I don’t do, but I think it’s imperative that folks understand the United States will put trillions of dollars into its military industrial complex and its nuclear energy and, weapons industries and all of these facilities. I mean, a lot of them are in New Mexico. Yet they don’t put the money out there for cleanup or for healthcare for the long term impacts that our people and people across the country have been suffering. Or let’s say people in other countries like the Marshall Islands. They were severely impacted by the United States nuclear testing, so they should also be included in RECA.
So these are things the United States still need to deal with and address: the abandoned uranium mines, compensation, but I just want to finish up answering your question about these loopholes, because, again, we have No uranium, no new uranium, and then no transport of new uranium. But of course, during cleanup it doesn’t outlaw cleanup transportation.
But so the loopholes, what we’re talking about in Eastern agency, it’s completely split up and fractionalized because of the Dawes Act or the General Allotment Act, and then the railroad coming through. In Arizona, what we’re dealing with is the mine starts, the transport would start at the mine, which is U.S. Forest Service, it’s inside of U.S. Forest Service lands, which brings up again, different protections and trust responsibilities of the federal government that are not being properly carried out. So anyways, the transport will start at the mine, go across private land.
So if it goes, the first route, it would go south to I-40, and then east to Flagstaff, and then start cutting up through Flag, like for a couple miles, it’ll go through the city of Flagstaff. And that’s important because those are city streets under the city of Flagstaff. I think about a mile, but the rest of the route, it’s U.S. highways all the way to the mill, and it goes through Navajo Nation as well as a little bit of Hopi Nation, and then when it gets to the mill, there’s some more Navajo chapters, but then it’s also Ute country, so there’s also Indigenous people over there.
The thing is, we don’t have jurisdiction on the U.S. highways. So even though the Navajo Nation, the most of the route is through Navajo Nation…
I guess, you know, going back to being under these colonial structures, the entire treaty system depending, you know, going from east to west, the colonization settler colonialism that occurred, it just got better, you know, the farther West the United States went. And so I mean, you know, Alaska and Hawaii are really good examples of how different the impacts were from the East Coast to the West.
So this is totally where I disagree with all of the Navajo Nation law and the U.S. law and all of that is because as Indigenous people, Diné people call it fundamental law, and they actually codified it, which is kind of funny or a little bit ironic, but fundamental law is basically our cultural teachings. So our obligations as Diné people. And so we as Diné people, five fingered people, there’s a lot of stuff that is entailed within everything about who we are, living within the four sacred mountains, how we operate here on mother earth and, and just everything that we are, our existence.
And, I’m just speaking for ourselves, but the Havasupai put out a beautiful statement about Pinyon Plain Mine and how this is a threat to their entire existence. So for us as Diné people, you know, we don’t mine uranium. We don’t mine coal. Everybody knows today water is life and how we treat water, and everything about water. What we’re doing to it, we’re doing to ourselves. These are direct violations of fundamental law.
And so, I know, I mean, I’m not running to the east every morning. I’m probably not doing every single teaching, of course. I’m learning. I’m learning my language and I think a lot of our generation, we’re really wanting to come back home and we want to come back home to a place that has, that is still there. We don’t want to be coming back to a bunch of radioactive waste sites and contaminated rivers and things like that.
So, right now, with fundamental law, as Diné people, we have an obligation to protect our Mother Earth. And so, even though we don’t have jurisdiction on the highway, that doesn’t matter. This is our home. We’ve been here for thousands of years. We have our, we, inherent human rights, not because the United Nations or anyone else gave us human rights. We, we exist.
And within that, we have a right to protect ourselves and our future. So, I mean, however, people want to do that. Right now, I am an organizer with Haul No and, we always had a two pronged approach. One is action and one is policy and, we’re kind of struggling a little bit. One of our co founders who was highly focused on the action piece, you know, we, lost Klee Benally recently and it’s, it’s just interesting timing how the mine started 10 days later.
And so I’m trying to wrap my head around how did they, how did this happen this way that it was just, I don’t know, a perfect storm that the price of uranium is over $100 a pound, the National Defense Authorization Act included the nuclear fuel security act, RECA didn’t pass.
So all these things that are happening, Biden getting 21 other countries to triple nuclear energy by 2050 because everyone still thinks it’s clean or somehow going to save us from climate change. And, and just totally ignoring the front end or the back end and only counting the carbon footprint at the nuclear power plant. So all of these things, everything that’s happening today, it’s really interesting the situation because I’m more concerned about if we don’t stop Pinyon Plain, it’s just like a pinprick, like they’re opening up this whole new wave, or like this new uranium boom, that’s what my primary concern is, is how, how is this one mine going to impact everything?
It’s, I don’t think it’s a very strong company at all, but the fact that they started it is showing something. I mean, it took them what, their permit is from 1986, but we have a lot of footage that shows the mine wasn’t even complete until just recently. I mean, we have aerial footage, we have photos. So through Haul No’s monitoring, we are out there literally just watching the mine and telling people, hey, they started.
We informed, I personally informed entities at the Navajo Nation before the federal government sent proper notification to the tribes. The company emailed the U.S. Forest Service on January 8th in the evening, and then on January 9th, about 3:30 in the afternoon, the tribal liaison emailed certain entities at the tribe.
So, there’s a whole hierarchy of how this national monument was created, and I guess this is common for other national monuments. They have like a tribal commission and so there’s certain members, certain people and tribes that are responsible to be in these bodies for the protection of our everything, for our culture, for our physical health and things like that, you know, economy, whatever. But sometimes these people, maybe they don’t check their email, maybe they compromise, maybe they’re not communicating with us, the people about these decisions they’re making on our behalf.
I’m not sure how this National Monument got passed, because I understand several of our officials weren’t aware that there were valid existing rights. They thought the National Monument was going to stop all uranium mining forever. And you can see by the Navajo Nation President’s press release, there’s no mention. It’s the August 8th press release. There’s absolutely no mention of valid existing rights or Pinyon Plain, so I’m not sure how the Navajo Nation signed on to this.
That’s something I’m still trying to get to, but I do know there are some people doing something about it within the tribe, and so it’s, it’s just how bureaucracy works, I guess.
Eleanor Goldfield: I’m basically curious what has the response been since Haul No made it clear that mining has started and also what are chains of, the colonial command in terms of, okay, this is happening now, who’s going to enforce it? Who’s going to shut it down? What does that look like?
Leona Morgan: Those are great questions. I’m not sure personally. There should be some clear organizational chart or some way for anybody to be able to know where to get information about this especially if big trucks with tons of uranium covered only with tarps are driving through their area. I mean, how do people know what’s going on? If there’s no alerts.
I mean, people say there’s radioactive and uranium transports across the country all the time. And people don’t pay attention. You know, they’re on the U.S. highways and the railroads. But we’re talking about a sovereign Indigenous nation that made a law specifically to protect ourselves from exactly this.
And so right now, and to answer your previous question, as far as I’m concerned, we have not received a direct response from the president. We posted it on our social media because that’s his way of communicating with us, and I also emailed it without any response. But one of the entities at Navajo who is working on this is the Navajo EPA, and they’re, I think they’re doing okay. I think they’re doing a pretty good job with what they have, and then Navajo DOJ. So EPA and DOJ, and I’m sure other Council people and others will also pick up the slack because the three people that were listed on that tribal commission for Navajo or the communication for our people, I believe, is the Navajo Nation president, the vice president, and the THPO, which is the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer.
So these are the three individuals who, who should have been alerting their staff and then they could in turn communicate with the various chapters and and local community people maybe put a announcement on KTNN or whatever the tribe needs to do.
So as far as I’m aware, none of these three, I mean, they have not responded to any of my emails. And, the others who could be also involved are the Navajo Nation Washington DC office, who probably made some decisions regarding the National Monument because when I talked to the Navajo vice president before the monument was signed, she said they were not informed about the valid existing rights.
So how could they sign off to something if they weren’t fully informed? I mean, this violates FPIC, the Free Prior Informed Consent under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the OAS DRIP as well, so Organization of American States Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
So, I mean, these are flagrant violations of not just the trust responsibility, but also these are direct violations of let’s say, racial discrimination, that a government entity made these decisions that can, I mean, I’m going to use the word genocide, you know, that can effect genocide. I mean, this is part of what the Havasupai statement was calling out, that this, it threatens their entire existence.
As Diné people, we’re in a different situation. But if you look at all the various tribes along the mine and along the haul route, some of them are really small. They don’t have the clout as Navajo Nation. They don’t have activists like Klee Benally chaining himself to equipment, and things like that.
And so for us as organizers, we have an amazing team. I just, I can’t thank them enough. Our team members are the only people doing monitoring. We are, our website updates are a little bit slow, but we’re trying our best to get out to the chapters. We’re going in person. This is what the federal government has been told time and time again: you have to come to our meetings in person. Don’t send an email to the president. We’re never going to see it. That doesn’t make any sense, but they check their little box. I mean, the whole system is flawed. And so, I can go on about these bad examples, but basically to answer your question, I am trying to understand what is that chain of command when somebody sees the trucks moving at this point, that’s where we’re at.
If they start moving uranium and they didn’t tell anybody or they sent it to somebody who’s not watching their email or the U.S. Forest Service emails us a day late. All of these things have already happened and Haul No has caught them violating their permit, their plan of operations more than once.
And so they’ve never, Energy Fuels has, as far as I know, has never been fined or in any way limited in their operations, despite puncturing an aquifer and, and spraying contaminated uranium water into forest service lands or moving uranium on U.S. highways and trucks marked for something else, you know, so all of these things that have already happened, there should have already been measures in place, either by the governor of Arizona, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, ADOT, Arizona Department of Transportation, maybe the U.S. Forest Service.
I mean, how, why were none of these things considered when they signed the national monument? If they’re going to allow valid existing rights, if they’re going to make this huge compromise, people are patting themselves on the back that, oh, we stopped thousands of uranium mines. It’s great they stopped thousands of uranium mines. But when that happened, this national monument, it made everyone think they stopped everything.
And then it made folks stop fighting. It made people unaware of the urgency and the threat of Pinyon Plain. And on top of that, it, it invisibilized the fight. And so now that the mine started, people are waking up again and they’re like, oh, yeah, I heard about this or, oh, I didn’t know. A lot of people are saying, I didn’t know they can go through, I thought they were stopped. So we’re having to correct the information and then also encourage folks to research for themselves what they can do within their limited jurisdiction and, and, and encourage folks to think outside of that.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, there’s so much that I’d love to talk to you about, but I know that we have to wrap up here.
And I would recommend that folks check out the Haul No website, haulno.com. As well as on Instagram, there’s so much important information, particularly historic information which you touched upon here and there about what happened through the course of the nuclear colonialist history of the United States.
But Leona, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me. And, besides the places that I mentioned, are there other ways that people can keep up to date and plug into what y’all are doing?
Leona Morgan: Yeah, well, going back to the beginning of our call, this is a global place of interest.
I think everyone in the world has an opportunity to help us fight it. Do your own work. Haul No is not responsible for orchestrating everybody. What we’re doing within our capacity and our focus is is to educate our own Indigenous peoples. That’s foremost. That’s the number one thing we’re working on now is protection of not just the people, but all of our relatives in the area.
And so, that work, we could use support if people want to donate. There’s a lot of driving. But I think, internationally or nationally, we will be making calls to action for the future.
You can go to our website haulno.com. But I do think there are key decision makers. I’m going to invite folks to just Google them and write a letter to some of these folks. I mean, there’s the governor of Arizona. We have obviously President Biden, who signed the monument. And there’s others, but I think we have a lot of folks to ask questions to, you know, how did this happen on your watch?
Why did this happen? If the whole idea to protect the Grand Canyon, you know, this monument was to protect the Grand Canyon. So how did this happen? I mean, is it a failure? Is it a federal failure? I think these are good questions to ask our federal elected officials.
Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Leona, thank you again so much for taking the time.
Really appreciate it.
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