The Real Story Behind AmericaÕs War
Since 11 September, the â€œwar on terrorismâ€ has provided a pretext for the rich countries, led by the United States, to further their dominance over world affairs.
By spreading â€œfear and respectâ€, as a Washington Post reporter put it, America intends to see off challenges to its uncertain ability to control and manage the â€œglobal economyâ€, the euphemism for the progressive seizure of markets and resources by the G8 rich nations.
This, not the hunt for a man in a cave in Afghanistan, is the aim behind US Vice-President Dick Cheneyâ€™s threats to â€œ40 to 50 countriesâ€. It has little to do with terrorism and much to do with maintaining the divisions that underpin â€œglobalisationâ€.
Today international trade is worth more than £11.5bn a day. A tiny fraction if this, 0.4 per cent, is shared with the poorest countries. American and G8 capital controls 70 per cent of world markets, and because of the rules demanding the end of tariff barriers and subsidies in poor countries while ignoring protectionism in the west, the poor countries lose £1.3bn a day in trade.
By any measure, this is a war of the rich against the poor. Look at the casualty figures. The toll, says the World Resources Institute, is more than 13 million children every year, or 12 million under the age of five, according to United Nations estimates.
â€œIf 100 million have been killed in the formal wars of the 20th centuryâ€, wrote Michael McKinley, â€œwhy are they to be privileged in comprehension over the annual [death] toll of children from structured adjustment programmes since 1982?â€
McKinleyâ€™s paper, â€œTriage: a survey of the new inequality as combat zoneâ€ was presented to a conference in Chicago this year and deserves wider reading (he teaches at the Australian National University. It vividly describes the acceleration of western economic power in the Clinton years, which, since 11 September, has passed a threshold of danger for millions of people.
Last monthâ€™s World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha in the Gulf state of Quatar, was disastrous for the majority of humanity. The rich nations demanded and got a new â€œroundâ€ of â€œtrade liberalisationâ€, which is the power to intervene in the economies of poor countries, to demand privatisation and the destruction of public services.
Only they are permitted to protect their home industries and agriculture; only they have the right to subsidise exports of meat, grain and sugar, then to dump them in poor countries at artificially low prices, thereby destroying the livelihoods of millions.
In India, says the environmentalist Vandana Shiva, suicides among poor farmers are â€œan epidemicâ€.
Even before the WTO met, the American trade representative Robert Zoelliek invoked the â€œwar on terrorismâ€ to warn the developing world that no serious opposition to the American trade agenda would be tolerated.
He said: â€œThe United States is committed to global leadership of openness and understands that the staying power of our new coalitionâ€¦[against terrorism]â€¦depends on economic growthâ€¦â€ The code is that â€œeconomic growthâ€ (rich elite, poor majority) equals anti-terrorism.
Mark Curtis, a historian and Christian Aidâ€™s head of policy, who attended Doha, has described â€œan emerging pattern of threats and intimidation of poor countriesâ€ that amounted to â€œeconomic gunboat diplomacyâ€.
He said: â€œIt was utterly outrageous. Wealthy countries exploited their power to spin the agenda of big business. The issue of multinational corporations as a cause of poverty was not even on the agenda; it was like a conference on malaria that does not discuss the mosquito.â€
Delegates from poor countries complained of being threatened with the removal of their few precious trade preferences.
â€œIf I speak out too strongly for the rights of my people,â€ says an African delegate, â€œthe US will phone my minister. They will say that I am embarrassing the United States. My government will not even ask, â€˜What did he say?â€™ They will just send me a ticket tomorrowâ€¦so I donâ€™t speak for fear of upsetting the master.â€
A senior US official telephoned the Ugandan government to ask that its ambassador to the WTO, Nathan Irumba, be withdrawn. Irumba chairs the WTOâ€™s committee on trade and development and has been critical of the â€œliberalisationâ€ agenda.
Dr Richard Bernal, a Jamaican delegate at Doha, said his government had come under similar pressure. â€œWe feel that this [WTO] meeting has no connection with the war on terrorism,â€ he said, â€œ[yet] we are made to feel that we are holding up the rescue of the global economy if we donâ€™t agree to a new round [of liberalisation measures].â€
Haiti and the Dominican Republic were threatened that their special trade preferences with the United States would be revoked if they continued to object to â€œprocurementâ€, the jargon for the effective takeover of a governmentâ€™s public spending priorities.
Indiaâ€™s minister for commerce and industry, Murasoli Maran, said angrily, â€œThe whole process is a mere formality and we are being coerced against our willâ€¦the WTO is not a world government and should not attempt to appropriate to itself what legitimately falls in the domain of national governments and parliaments.â€
What the conference showed was that the WTO has become a world government, run by the rich (principally Washington). Although it has 142 members, only 21 governments in reality draft policy, most of which is written by the â€œquadâ€: the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan.
At Doha, the British played a part similar to Tony Blairâ€™s promotion of the â€œwar on terrorismâ€. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, has already said that â€œsince 11 September, the case is very overwhelming for more trade liberalisationâ€. In Doha, the British delegation demonstrated, according to Christian Aid, â€œthe gulf between its rhetoric about making trade work for the poorâ€ and its real intentions.
This â€œrhetoricâ€ is the speciality of Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, who surpassed herself by announcing £20m as â€œa package of new measuresâ€ to help poor countries.
In fact, this was the third time the same money had been announced within a year. In December 2000, Short said the government â€œwill double its support for trade-strengthening initiatives in developing countries from £15m over the past three years to £30m over the next three yearsâ€.
Last March, the same money was announced again. Short, said her press department, â€œwill announce that the UK will double its support forâ€¦developing countriesâ€™ trade performanceâ€¦â€
On 7 November, the £20m package was announced all over again. Moreover, a third of it in effect is tied to the launch of a new WTO â€œroundâ€.
This is typical of the globalisation of poverty, the true name for â€œliberalisationâ€. Indeed, Shortâ€™s title of International Development Secretary is as much an Orwellian mockery as Blairâ€™s moralising about the bombing. Short is worthy of special mention for the important supporting role she has played in the fraudulent war on terrorism.
To the naÃ¯ve, she is still the rough diamond who speaks her mind in the headlines: and this is true in one sense. In trying to justify her support for the lawless bombing of civilians in Yugoslavia, she likened its opponents to Nazi appeasers.
She has since abused relief agency workers in Pakistan, who called for a pause in the current bombing as â€œemotionalâ€ and has questioned their integrity. She has maintained that relief is â€œgetting throughâ€ when, in fact, little of it is being distributed to where it is most needed.
Around 700 tonnes are being trucked into Afghanistan every day, less than half that which the UN says is needed. Six million people remain at risk. Nothing is reaching those areas near Jalalabad, where Americans are bombing villages, killing hundreds of civilians, between 60 and 300 in one night, according to anti-Taliban commanders who are beginning to plead with Washington to stop. On these killings, as on the killing of civilians in Yugoslavia, the outspoken Short is silent.
Her silence, and her support for Americaâ€™s $21bn homicidal campaign to subjugate and bribe poor countries into submission, exposes the sham of â€œthe global economy as the only way to help the poorâ€, as she has said repeatedly.
The militarism that is there for all but the intellectually and morally impaired to see is the natural extension of the rapacious economic policies that have divided humanity as never before. As Thomas Friedman wrote famously in the New York Times, â€œthe hidden handâ€ of the market is US military force.
Little is said these days about the â€œtrickle downâ€ that â€œcreates wealthâ€ for the poor, because it is transparently false. Even the World Bank, of which Short is a governor, has admitted that the poorest countries are worse off, under its tutelage, than ten years ago: that the number of poor had increased, that people are dying younger.
And these are countries with â€œstructural adjustment programmesâ€ that are meant to â€œcreate wealthâ€ for the majority. It was all a lie.
Giving evidence before a House of Commons select committee, Clare Short described the US as â€œthe only great power [that] almost turns its back on the worldâ€. Her gall deserves a prize. Britain gives just 0.34 per cent of GNP in aid, less than half the minimum laid down by the United Nations.
It is time we recognised that the real terrorism is poverty, which kills thousands of people every day, and the source of their suffering, and that of innocent people in dusty villages, is directly related.