Thursday, December 21, 2006
By Rosa Miriam Elizalde
(From the Mexican daily La Jornada)
HAVANA -- He spent five days in Havana. He followed a dizzying schedule that took him from the University of Computer Sciences to the Latin American School of Medicine, from University Hill to the National Ballet School, from Old Havana to the park that memorializes John Lennon with a lifesize bronze statue of the Beatles' founder, sitting on a bench like a local resident's son.
The most erudite American writer of his generation and the most corrosive critic of the current Republican administration, Gore Vidal does not just talk; he interprets what he says. He changes his voice and you can hear George W. Bush, Eisenhower, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, some obscure Pentagon official and even Vidal himself, mocking them all with an irony expressed by a face that does not reflect his 81 years of age.
He would rather be remembered as a historian than as a writer of fiction. Although his works are easily three times his age -- his bibliography contains novels, tragedies, comedies, memoirs, essays, movie and TV scripts -- his obsession is singleminded: the republic has lost its way.
"The main bit of wisdom that I learned from Thomas Jefferson, and he learned it from Montesquieu, is that you cannot have a republic and an empire at the same time," he says. "Since 1846, when we went to war with Mexico, we have been rapacious imperialists."
• You blame Harry Truman for turning the United States into the totalitarian country it is today, an opinion that many Americans do not seem to share. George W. Bush has just said, for example, that the man who dropped the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a good president.
• "You must remember something: most Americans are not informed about history, geography, religion and whatever happens in the world. Roosevelt made all the arrangements so we could wrest the colonies from France, the Netherlands and Portugal after World War II. The Americans are still not aware of this. What they know about Truman is that he was a kindly little man who played the piano.
"Behind him was another Prince Metternich, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, an international lawyer who knew everything about everything. It was he who designed the militarized state that emerged in 1949, with a built-in CIA. Everything hinged on one document: National Security Council Memorandum No. 68 of 1950, which remained secret until 1975 and resolved that we should forever be at war with someone. We would fight communism, even if communism didn't threaten us. It established a de-facto Holy War, like the one we're waging now against terrorism and Islam, as stupid as it is irrelevant.
"Truman was so bad that they turned him into an idol. All ignoramuses admire Harry Truman but they don't know why. He ended the republic and placed us atop this wave of conquest. Truman shouted to the people that the Soviet Union was advancing, that it was about to seize Greece and immediately thereafter would go into Italy, France and later would cross the Atlantic.
"Today we find echoes of Truman in this little man, Mr. Bush, who says [IMITATING HIM]: 'Well, we can't fight them over there ... we're gonna have to fight 'em over here ... we're gonna have to fight.' [SPEAKS NORMALLY] And those enemies have no way to come to the United States to start a war. But no American can question such delirium without being tagged as antipatriotic or a fool."
'Bush of Baghdad'
• 'The terrorist attack in Oklahoma in 1995 can be explained by the laws of physics: there is no action without reaction.' That's what you said. You alluded to the hatred that the United States has sown in the world and in the country itself. Was it a prophecy?
• "Even a 5-year-old boy could see that the solution to the problem of terrorist attacks is simply a police action, because we're being attacked by a Mafia. You cannot have a war without an opposing country. Try to explain this to Americans; they don't even know what a country is. [The administration] managed that 80 percent of them still don't know that Saddam Hussein was not precisely Osama Bin Laden's best friend.
"They think the two worked like one and that both attacked us on Sept. 11. It's all nonsense. There was no connection whatsoever between Saddam and Bin Laden, but Bush wanted to complete his father's task and show that he was the bolder of the two. He wanted to be remembered as 'Bush of Baghdad,' something like 'Lawrence of Arabia.'
• A CBS survey this week reported that 75 percent of Americans disapprove of the government's actions in Iraq, while the president's approval index dropped to historic levels. Will Bush be the most hated president in the history of the United States?
• "If the American people had had a true free press and an alert communications media, this man would have never been elected. He is an incompetent being. We have had a lot of dumb presidents, but Bush can't even read well. At least in this, he's representative. You listen to him speak of 10 minutes and it becomes clear that he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's desperate, trying to follow the lines on the Teleprompter. Without one of his advisers by his side, he cannot answer questions.
"Ever since Woodrow Wilson left the Oval Office in 1921, no president has written his own speeches. The president reads what others write. Sometimes he's in agreement; others, not. When Eisenhower read his speeches, they were a discovery to him. During his first election campaign, the country was astounded when, halfway through a speech, he said 'And if I'm elected, I shall go to ... Korea?!' He was furious. Nobody had told him in advance about that promise. But he went to Korea, nevertheless.
"If we had had a press that was interested in the republic, not in the profits, history would have been different. There is some hope. After all, Al Gore won the election in 2000 by popular vote, with 600,000 more votes than Bush. The intervention of the Supreme Court and the trickery in the counting of votes falsified the result of the elections. Overnight, we became a banana republic without bananas to sell. That is our greatest problem today."
• Recently, President Fidel Castro stated that the Bush administration has led the country to a disaster of such magnitude that, almost surely, the people of the United States will not allow him to conclude his term of office. Do you believe this?
• "I wouldn't be surprised. The Bush administration is so extremist and has people with such empty minds that it is capable of bombing Russia or Iran [...] simply to distract people's attention from the other war and to keep the administration from crumbling ahead of schedule. We even know what he would shout. [IMITATING BUSH] 'The true patriots help and support the commander in chief in times of war.' [SPEAKS NORMALLY] That's his signature, even though it doesn't make sense and is stupid. They are expert in fabricating pretexts to create panic.
"Two days after Sept. 11, someone in government said: 'The problem is not if they will attack again but when.' That's when all that foolishness began. When we remind them that five years have passed and [the terrorists] haven't attacked us, they answer: 'That's because of the precautions we have taken at airports!'
"And they say [LOOKS AND SPEAKS AS IF TERRIFIED] 'We don't like those precautions either, because we have to take our shoes off at the airport. But it's those measures that have saved us from the attacks!' [SPEAKS NORMALLY] Well, if that's so, prove it. [TERRIFIED] 'But we can't prove it without revealing our secret sources!' they answer. [NORMALLY] It's a vicious circle.
"I hope that the Democrats, who now are taking over the chairmanship of legislative committees, especially the Judiciary Committee, will summon those generals to Congress, put them under oath, and make them answer our questions seriously."
Many people make money generating fear
• What is needed to restore the republic?
• "To heed the great warning by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our best president, during his inaugural speech when the country collapsed, money was scarce and the banks failed. He said [IMITATES ROOSEVELT] 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' [SPEAKS NORMALLY] That's the basis of our republic. I would tell the American people: Don't let yourself be fooled by fear. There are many people in the United States who make money thanks to fear. That's their job: to scare you.
"I am not in favor of a violent revolution now, because revolutions usually bring the opposite of what they sought. The French Revolution gave the world Napoleon Bonaparte, and Louis XVI was not as bad as Napoleon. But I think that in the United States we're going to have a revolution because of the economic collapse. Some days ago, one of the big headlines said the army was pleading with the government for money.
"They don't have enough money to continue to make fools of themselves in Baghdad! They're going to collect the money any way they can, and not at the expense of the rich. The rich don't have an obligation to pay taxes. Nor do the corporations. In the past, 50 percent of the United States' revenues came from taxes on corporate profits. Now, corporations pay less than 8 percent. [The administration] has freed all its rich friends from paying taxes, so they can donate the money to the Republican Party, with the commitment that [the party] will continue to tell lies to the country and certify that the patriots are traitors.
"It's been a great trick for them, from an economic point of view, but an awful plan for us Americans. And we don't like that. We lost the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta, on which all our freedoms were based for more than 700 years. No, it has not been a good time, and won't be."
We delight in jailing people and in imposing the death penalty
• Are you aware of the case of the five Cubans imprisoned in the United States for keeping the island government informed about terrorist plans in South Florida?
• "I know the case through the attorneys but not through the media. It seems to be another of the idiotic things our government is doing. I understand that presidents Clinton and Castro exchanged messages to stop the Miami terrorists, who had placed bombs in hotels and offices that sent tourists to the island. The two presidents agreed that this situation had to be halted. Clinton asked the FBI to come to Cuba and Castro agreed to that. Instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cubans.
"We delight in jailing people, as much as we like the death penalty. It's the brightest star in our diadem. Our country is crazy about torture, murder, executions, life sentences. It's a perverse mentality that comes from a background of Protestant Puritanism. Everybody has to suffer if they have sinned. But if you're rich, God loves you. That's the proof. If you're poor, you don't please God. That's the proof. That kind of thinking is not healthy for anyone and in the state of Florida there are many people who think like that, in addition to those who arrived with Batista.
"The junta that imprisoned and sentenced them did so knowing full well the consequences. The Bush-Cheney, gas-and-oil junta is not as stupid as it seems. It does wicked things because that's how it keeps everything under control. Don't think that they didn't learn from the 20th-Century dictatorships. The case of The Five is one more proof that we have a crisis of law, a political crisis and a constitutional crisis."
• Oliver Stone has been punished by the U.S. Treasury Department for violating the blockade against Cuba. His crime was to have traveled to the island to film his two documentaries about Fidel. Are those measures constitutional?
• "Of course not. It's a violation [of the Constitution]. But on Sept. 11 there was a coup d'état in the United States, the first one in our history. A coup in which a group of dishonest people, an oil junta, usurped the power of the state and overthrew the Congress. It's a unique event and its details will make for a great story someday.
"This is something the people cannot quite understand, because Americans have a very simple mentality. What they don't know or haven't seen previously does not exist. Well, they're living it now, in situ, but they'll find out about it someday, like archeologists, and it won't be pleasant at all. The sanctions against Americans who want a normal relationship with Cuba are born of those circumstances. But Oliver Stone and any other American citizen have every right to many any movie they want under any circumstances, so long as they do not break the law. It's their constitutional right. He has not broken the law. What happens is that the junta doesn't like what he's doing. Oh, my goodness!
• Do you fear any reprisals against you?
• "I am usually prepared for the fact that nothing I do, say or write about this government will please the people in it."
• You have spent several days in Havana. Is Cuba the satanic island the press and the politicians show the Americans?
• "Are you crazy? No! They're always telling us that Cubans hate to be here. That everybody is starving. They come up with those tales that say that hospitals are terrible and that nobody goes to them. That the Cubans who get sick go to the Mayo Clinic in the United States. There isn't a lie that our government hasn't told us, when it comes to Cuba. In the United States, the lie is the lingua franca of the realm.
"Do you know why I go on television? Because I feel that there is someone who will see me and listen to me and to whom I can talk about what I've seen, without tendentious intermediaries. I can talk to them, for example, of the marvelous medical plans in Cuba. I visited a medical school that trains doctors from many countries to give community service to the poor, which is something the American system hates. In the United States, you learn medicine so you can grab all the money you can and flee to Tahiti or some other vacation spot and forget the people who suffer.
"I was talking to eight or nine people from New York and Massachusetts who are studying medicine in Cuba. I asked them if the training the received was as good as I had been told and they answered 'Yes,' that it's better than any training they might get in the United States. Why don't we do the same for our people and for the health of other people?
"Cuban doctors are in the most forgotten places, from Africa to the Amazon jungle. Only if we restore the Constitution could we have a country with aspirations and successes like those of Cuba. Don't think that I, as an American, don't feel envy of what I've seen in Cuba. I am a great patriot, yet I feel envy."
• Will you return?
• "I never make predictions.”
Rosa Miriam Elizalde is an outstanding Cuban journalist who contributes to the national and international media.
The following is a speech given at the Fifth Annual Michael Manley Lecture sponsored by the Michael Manley Foundation, Sagicor Life of Jamaica Auditorium, Kingston, Jamaica, Sunday, 10 December 2006.
I am deeply honored to have been invited to address you this afternoon, on behalf of the Michael Manley Foundation. I personally knew and spent time with former Prime Minister Michael Manley, and I came to understand why he became beloved by so many millions of people throughout the world. As a champion of the poor and dispossessed, as a visionary spokesman for the politics of social justice, Michael Manley continues to inspire all who struggle for a more democratic, egalitarian social order.
Although Michael Manley’s commitment to democratic socialism began in the years after the Second World War, when he studied with Harold Laski at the London School of Economics, his real passion for the disposed and the disadvantaged really took root during the years he spent as a union organizer of Jamaica’s National Workers Union (NWU). During the 1950s and 1960s, Manley learned first-hand the trials and tribulations of ordinary working people, and he deeply identified with their plight. An important turning point in his development occurred in 1964, when Manley led NWU workers in a famous, 97-day strike against the state television company. Through the many marches and public protests Manley personally led, he rallied workers with the cry to “bring down the walls of Jericho,” and workers responded by calling Michael “Joshua.” Less than a decade later, as leader of the People’s National Party, “Joshua” would lead his party to victory.
During the 1970s, few Third World leaders personified the aspirations of nonaligned nations better than Michael Manley. Along with Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Manley preached “self reliance” and “self sufficiency”, themes that resonated favorably with Jamaica’s rural peasantry. Manley called for both a “South-South” dialogue, building practical coalitions between and among Third World nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as a new “North-South” dialogue between Europe and North America with the developing world. Manley identified “democratic socialism” with “love,” and envisioned a Jamaican society where all members could become meaningful participants.
My lecture this afternoon, “Empire, Racism, and Resistance,” broadly examines the impact of globalization, and neoliberal economics, on the evolving politics of race, within the United States as well as transnationally. More specifically, the lecture addresses four interrelated themes, or issues of concern:
(1) an analysis of the emergence of what other scholars and writers have termed “global apartheid,” and what I describe as the “New Racial Domain” of “color-blind racism” inside the United States, which represents a new mode of racial oppression;
(2) the central role of “Neoliberalism,” and the conservative politics of Thatcherism and Reaganism during the 1980s, in the transnational acceleration of racial and class stratification and wealth inequality, within nations and throughout the world;
(3) the impact and consequences of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 within the U.S., in reinforcing the “New Racial Domain,” within the United States, and a “global apartheid” within the Third World;
(4) and an analysis of the prospects for transnational racial and class resistance to both global apartheid and America’s “New Racial Domain.”
In 1900, the great African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, predicted that the “problem of the twentieth century” would be the “problem of the color line,” the unequal relationship between the lighter versus darker races of humankind. Although Du Bois was primarily focused on the racial contradiction of the United States, he was fully aware that the processes of what we call “racialization” today – the construction of racially unequal social hierarchies characterized by dominant and subordinate social relations between groups – was an international and global problem. Du Bois’s color line included not just the racially segregated, Jim Crow South and the racial oppression of South Africa; but also included British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese colonial domination in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean among indigenous populations.
Building on Du Bois’s insights, we can therefore say that the problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of global apartheid: the racialized division and stratification of resources, wealth, and power that separates Europe, North America, and Japan from the billions of mostly black, brown, indigenous, undocumented immigrant and poor people across the planet. The term apartheid, as most of you know, comes from the former white minority regime of South Africa. It is an Afrikaans word meaning “apartness” or “separation.” Apartheid was based on the concept of “herrenvolk,” a “master race,” who was destined to rule non-Europeans. Under global apartheid today, the racist logic of herrenvolk, the master race, still exists, embedded in the patterns of unequal economic exchange that penalizes African, south Asian, Caribbean, and poor nations by predatory policies of structural adjustment and loan payments to multinational banks.
Since 1979-1980, with the elections of Ronald Reagan as U.S. president and Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, America and Britain have embarked on domestic economic development strategies that have come to be known by the term, “neoliberalism.” “Neoliberalism” called for the dismantling of the welfare state; the end of redistributive social programs designed to address the effects of poverty; the elimination of state regulations and regulatory agencies over the market; and “privatization,” policies designed to transfer public institutions and government-sponsored agencies to private enterprise.
In a recent issue of the New York Times (December 5, 2006), Professor Thomas B. Edsall of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism astutely characterized this reactionary process of neoliberal politics within the United States in these terms: “For a quarter-century, the Republican temper – its reckless drive to jettison the social safety net; its support of violence in law enforcement and national defense; its advocacy of regressive taxation, environmental hazard and probusiness deregulation; its ‘remoralizing’ of the pursuit of wealth – has been judged by many voters as essential to America’s position in the world, producing more benefit than cost.”
One of the consequences of this reactionary political and economic agenda, according to Edsall, was “the Reagan administration’s arms race” during the 1980s, which “arguably drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy.” A second consequence, Edsall argues, was America’s disastrous military invasion of Iraq. “While inflicting destruction on the Iraqis,” Edsall observes, “Bush multiplied America’s enemies and endangered this nation’s military, economic health and international stature. Courting risk without managing it, Bush repeatedly and remorselessly failed to accurately evaluate the consequences of his actions.”
What is significant about Edsall’s analysis is that he does not explain away the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and current military occupation as a political “mistake” or an “error of judgment.” Rather, he locates the rationale for the so-called “war on terrorism” within the context of U.S. domestic, neoliberal politics. “The embroilment in Iraq is not an aberration,” Edsall observed. “It stems from core [Republican] party principles, equally evident on the domestic front.”
The larger question of political economy, left unexplored by Edsall and most African analysts, is the connection between American militarism abroad, neoliberalism, and trends in the global economy. As economists Paul Sweezy, Harry Magdoff and others noted decades ago, the general economic tendency of mature capitalism is toward stagnation. For decades in the United States and western Europe, there has been a steady decline in investment in the productive economy, leading to a decline in industrial capacity and lower future growth.
Since capitalist economies are “based on the profit motive and accumulation of capital without end,” in the words of writer Fred Magdoff, “problems arise whenever they do not expand at reasonably high growth rates.” Since the 1970s, U.S. corporations and financial institutions have relied primarily on debt to expand domestic economic growth. By 1985, total U.S. debt – which is comprised of the debt owed by all households, governments (federal, state and local), and all financial and non-financial businesses, reached twice the size of the annual U.S. gross domestic product. By 2005, the total U.S. debt amounted to nearly “three and a half times the nation’s GDP, and not far from the $44 trillion GDP for the entire world,” according to Fred Magdoff.
As a result, mature U.S. corporations have been forced to export products and investment abroad, to take advantage of lower wages, weak or nonexistent environmental and safety standards, and so forth, to obtain higher profit margins. Today about 18 percent of total U.S. corporate profits come from direct overseas investment. Partially to protect these growing investments, the United States has pursued an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy across the globe. As of 2006, the U.S. maintained military bases in fifty-nine nations. The potential for deploying military forces in any part of the world is essential for both political and economic hegemony.
Thus the current Iraq War was not essentially a military blunder caused by a search for “weapons of mass destruction,” but an imperialist effort to secure control of the world’s second largest proven oil reserves; it was also the first military step of the Bush administration’s neoconservatives (such as Paul Wolfewitz, now head of the World Bank) to “remake the Middle East” by destroying the governments of Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Although the majority of nations in the international community either openly oppose, or at least seriously question, the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, the neoliberal economic model of the United States has now widely been adopted by both developed and developing countries. Governments across the ideological spectrum – with the exception of many Latin American countries in recent years – have eliminated social welfare, health and education programs, reduced regulations on business activity, and encouraged the growth of income inequality and entrepreneurship. As a result, economic inequality in wealth has rapidly accelerated.
A 2006 study by the World Institute for Development Economic Research of the United Nations University, establishes that as of 2000, the upper 1 percent of the globe’s adult population, approximately 37 million people, who average about $515,000 in net worth per person, collectively control roughly 40 percent of the world’s entire wealth. By contrast, the bottom one-half of the planet’s adult population, 1.85 billion people, most of whom are black and brown, own only 1.1 percent of the world’s total wealth. There is tremendous inequality of wealth between nations, the U.N. report notes. The United States, for example, comprises only 4.7 percent of the world’s people, but it has nearly one-third, or 32.6 percent, of global wealth. By stark contrast, China, which has one-fifth of the world’s population, owns only 2.6 percent of the globe’s wealth. India, which has 16.8 percent of the global population, controls only 0.9 percent of the world’s total wealth.
Within most of the world’s countries, wealth is disproportionately concentrated in the top ten percent of each nation’s population. It comes as no surprise that in the United States, for example, the upper 10 percent of the adult population owns 69.8 percent of the nation’s total wealth. Canada, a nation with more liberal social welfare traditions than the U.S., nevertheless still exhibits significant inequality. More than one-half of Canadian assets, 53 percent, are owned by only ten percent of the population. European countries such as Norway, at 50.5 percent, and Spain, at 41.9 percent, have similar or slightly lower levels of wealth inequality.
The most revealing finding of the World Institute for Development Economics Research is that similar patterns of wealth inequality now exist throughout the Third World. In Indonesia, for example, 65.4 percent of the nation’s total wealth belongs to the wealthiest 10 percent. In India, the upper ten percent owns 52 percent of all Indian wealth. Even in China, where the ruling Communist Party still maintains vestiges of what might be described as “authoritarian state socialism,” the wealthiest 10 percent own 41.4 percent of the national wealth.
But even these macroeconomic statistics, as useful as they are, obscure a crucial dimension of wealth concentration, under global apartheid’s neoliberal economics. In the past 20 years in the United States, where deregulation and privatization has been carried to extremes, we are witnessing a phenomenon that the media has described as “the very rich” who are leaving “the merely rich behind.” A recent study by New York University economist Edward N. Wolff has found that one out of every 825 households in the U.S. in 2004 earned at least $2 million annually, representing nearly a 100 percent increase in the wealth percentage recorded in 1989, adjusted for inflation. As of 2004, one out of every 325 U.S. households possessed a net wealth of $10 million or more. When adjusted by inflation, this is more than four times as many wealthy households as in 1989. The exponential growth of America’s “super-rich” is a direct product of the near-elimination of capital gains taxes, and the sharp decline in federal government income tax rates.
We still tend to perceive the political world in eighteenth and nineteenth century terms: as competing “nations,” geopolitical units defined by territorial boundaries, which conduct international affairs based on their perceived objective interests. In the twenty-first century, however, we must perceive of our political world entirely differently: as an environment in which multinational corporations exert greater power and influence than many countries; where millions of low-wage, manufacturing jobs each year are being relocated to south Asia, China, and Latin America. Globalization, and the widespread adoption of the neoliberal economic model of development, are constructing an affluent, transnational “ruling class,” a privileged stratum whose class interests largely supercede its national allegiances.
Inside the United States, the processes of global apartheid are best represented by what I call the “New Racial Domain,” or the NRD. This New Racial Domain is different from other earlier forms of racial domination, such as slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and ghettoization, or strict residential segregation, in several critical aspects. These earlier racial formations or domains were grounded or based primarily, if not exclusively, in the political economy of U.S. capitalism. Anti-racist or oppositional movements that blacks, other people of color and white anti-racists built were largely predicated upon the confines or realities of domestic markets and the policies of the U.S. nation-state. Meaningful social reforms such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were debated almost entirely within the context of America’s expanding, domestic economy, and influenced by Keynesian, welfare state public policies.
The political economy of America’s “New Racial Domain,” by contrast, is driven and largely determined by the forces of transnational capitalism, and the public policies of state neoliberalism. From the vantage point of the most oppressed U.S. populations, the New Racial Domain rests on an unholy trinity, or deadly triad, of structural barriers to a decent life. These oppressive structures are mass unemployment, mass incarceration, and mass disfranchisement. Each factor directly feeds and accelerates the others, creating an ever-widening circle of social disadvantage, poverty, and civil death, touching the lives of tens of millions of U.S. people.
The process begins at the point of production. A recent study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies establishes that in 2002, one of every four African-American adult males was unemployed throughout the entire year of 2002. The black male jobless rate was over twice that for white and Latino males. Even these statistics seriously underestimate the real problem, because they don’t factor in the huge number of African-American males in prison or those who are homeless.
For black males without a high school level education, their job prospects are even worse. The Center’s study notes that among black male high school dropouts, 44 percent were unemployed for the entire year of 2002. For black men between the ages of 55 to 64 years, jobless rates for 2002 were almost 42 percent. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has described these dire statistics as evidence of “an emerging catastrophe – levels of male joblessness that mock the very idea of stable, viable communities. This slow death of the hopes, pride, and well-being of huge numbers of African Americans is going unnoticed by most other Americans and by political leaders of both parties.”
So long as African Americans were the chief casualties in the ranks of those who were permanently unemployed, white elected officials could afford to ignore the crisis. But now, increasingly, millions of white workers who have considered themselves “middle class” are being pushed into the ranks of the jobless. In late July 2004, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that between 2001 and 2003, 8.7 percent of all jobholders in the U.S. were permanently dismissed from their jobs. This figure amounts to 11.4 million men and women age 20 or older. This was, according to the Bureau, the “second fastest rate” of layoffs “on record since 1980.” Among laid-off workers who found new jobs, 56.9 percent were earning less money than from their former employment.
Mass unemployment inevitably feeds mass incarceration. About one-third of all prisoners were unemployed at the time of their arrests, and others averaged less than $20,000 annual incomes in the year prior to their incarceration. When the Attica prison insurrection occurred in upstate New York in 1971, there were only 12,500 prisoners in New York State’s correctional facilities, and about 300,000 prisoners nationwide. By 2001, New York State held over 71,0000 women and men in its prisons; nationally, 2.1 million were imprisoned. Today about six million Americans are arrested annually, and roughly one in five Americans possess a criminal record.
Mandatory-minimum sentencing laws adopted in the 1980s and 1990s in many states stripped judges of their discretionary powers in sentencing, imposing Draconian terms on first-time and non-violent offenders. Parole has been made more restrictive as well, and in 1995 Pell grant subsidies supporting educational programs for prisoners were ended. For those fortunate enough to successfully navigate the criminal justice bureaucracy and emerge from incarceration, they discover that both the federal law and state governments explicitly prohibit the employment of convicted ex-felons in hundreds of vocations. The cycle of unemployment frequently starts again.
Mass incarceration, of course, breeds mass political disfranchisement. Nearly six million Americans today cannot vote. In seven states, former prisoners convicted of a felony lose their voting rights for life. In the majority of states, individuals on parole and probation cannot vote. About 15 percent of all African-American males nationally are either permanently or currently disfranchised. In Mississippi, one-third of all black men are unable to vote for the remainder of their lives. In Florida, 818,000 residents cannot vote for life.
Even temporary disfranchisement fosters a disruption of civic engagement and involvement in public affairs. This can lead to “civil death,” the destruction of the capacity for collective agency and resistance. This process of depolitization undermines even grassroots, non-electoral-oriented organizing. The deadly triangle of the New Racial Domain constantly and continuously grows unchecked.
Not too far in the distance lies the social consequence of these policies inside the United States: an unequal, two-tiered, uncivil society, characterized by a governing hierarchy of middle- to upper-class “citizens” who own nearly all private property and financial assets, and a vast subaltern of quasi- or subcitizens encumbered beneath the cruel weight of permanent unemployment, discriminatory courts and sentencing procedures, dehumanized prisons, voting disfranchisement, residential segregation, and the elimination of most public services for the poor. The latter group is virtually excluded from any influence in a national public policy. Institutions that once provided space for upward mobility and resistance for working people such as unions have been largely dismantled. Integral to all of this is racism, sometimes openly vicious and unambiguous, but much more frequently presented in race neutral, color-blind language. This is the NRD of domestic apartheid in America.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and their political aftermath, have also been pivotal factors in reinforcing global apartheid and the “New Racial Domain” inside the United States. As in previous times of war in the U.S., the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party affiliation, immediately rallied behind the president after 9/11, demanding military retribution against the Al Qaeda Islamic terrorists. President Bush characterized the “evil-doers” as both “pathological” and “insane,” and for days following the attacks the administration promised to launch a global “crusade” against Islamic terrorism. To the world’s over one billion Muslims, and to the six million Muslims living within the U.S., the term “crusade” instantly evoked disturbing historical images of the Christian invasions of the Islamic Middle East during the Middle Ages. The Bush administration soon quietly discarded its “crusader” rhetoric, but continued to indirectly promote anti-Islamic and anti-Arab sentiment to mobilize the nation for its “War Against Terrorism.” U.S. military soon invaded and occupied Afghanistan, the nation in which Al Qaeda had established its base of operations under the fundamentalist Taliban regime. Then, in early 2003, U.S. military forces subsequently invaded Iraq, which was accused of harboring Al Qaeda terrorists and possessing “weapons of mass destruction” that represented a threat to U.S. national security.
Like other Americans, African Americans were morally and politically outraged by Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks. Yet they were deeply troubled by the immediate groundswell of ultra-patriotic fervor, national chauvinism and numerous acts of violence and harassment targeting individual Muslims and Arab Americans. They recognized that behind this mass upsurgence of American patriotism was xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance, that could potentially reinforce traditional white racism against all people of color, particularly themselves. They questioned the Bush administration’s “Patriot Act of 2001” and other legal measures that severely restricted Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights. For these reasons, many black leaders sought to uphold civil rights and civic liberties, and challenged the U.S. rationale for its military incursions in both Afghanistan, and later Iraq. The pastor of New York City’s Riverside Church, the Reverend James A. Forbes, Jr., proposed that African Americans embrace a critical, “prophetic patriotism. . . . You will hold America to the values of freedom, justice, compassion, equality, respect for all, patience and care for the needy, a world where everyone counts.” Urban League President Hugh Price argued that black Americans must “vigorously support the federal government’s efforts to root out the terrorists wherever they hide around the globe . . .” However, Price also insisted that “black America’s mission, as it has always been, is to fight against the forces of hatred and injustice, to fight for the right of all human beings to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As the U.S. Justice Department began to arrest and hold without trial hundreds of Muslims and Arab Americans, Islamic groups urgently appealed to the NOI, NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus for assistance. Approximately 40 percent of the U.S.’s Islamic population is African American, and hundreds of native-born blacks, because of their religious affiliations, also found themselves under surveillance or were arrested, despite having no links to terrorist groups. The Reverend Jesse Jackson openly condemned the police practice of ethnic/religious “profiling,” declaring that the U.S. needed to focus its resources toward the “building of understanding and building a just peace,” instead of resorting to warfare to “root out terrorism.” In March, 2003, when the U.S. military invaded Iraq, a Pew Research Center opinion poll found that only 44 percent of African Americans favored the war. By contrast, white Americans endorsed the invasion by 73 percent, with Latinos favoring military conflict by 66 percent. African-American clergy, led by Brooklyn activist, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, organized daily “vigils for peace” near the United Nations. The black ministers created a “Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Now Movement,” which actively participated in the growing anti-war mobilization throughout the U.S.
By early April 2003, the U.S. had successfully toppled the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein, and over one hundred thousand U.S. troops occupied the country. However, the military invasion of an Islamic country strengthened the network of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, by creating a vivid example of imperialist aggression aimed against the entire Islamic world. In an April 4, 2003, Gallup opinion poll, 78 percent of white Americans supported the military invasion; African-American support for the war had plummeted to only 29 percent.
By early 2004, the Bush administration had begun to aggressively pressure universities to suppress dissent, and to curtail traditional, academic freedoms. In early March 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control stopped 70 American scientists and physicians from traveling to Cuba to attend an international symposium on “coma and death.” Some of the scholars received warning letters from the Treasury Department, promising severe criminal or civil penalties if they violated the embargo against Cuba. In late 2003, the Treasury Department issued a warning to U.S. publishers that they would have to obtain “special licenses to edit papers” written by scholars and scientific researchers currently living in Cuba, Libya, Iran, or Sudan. All violators, even including the editors and officers of professional associations sponsoring scholarly journals, potentially may be subjected to fines up to $500,000 and prison sentences up to ten years. After widespread criticism, the Treasury Department was forced to moderate its policy.
The long-term catastrophe of the terrorist attacks of November 11, 2001, from the perspective of the Black Freedom Movement, have been two-fold. The U.S. military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had greatly eroded domestic civil liberties and civil rights, creating a mass environment of ethnic/religious hostility, permitting indiscriminate police surveillance, racial profiling and arrests. Tens of thousands of young African Americans in the armed forces were stationed in war zones, for a conflict that most blacks strongly opposed. Second, in terms of racial policy, the intense national debate over “black reparations” that had dominated headlines throughout 2001 was derailed, perhaps for decades to come, beneath the tidal waves of ultra-patriotism and American xenophobia. The racial reality was that American state power had partially redefined the “racialized Other” as Arab American, Muslim and/or undocumented immigrant. A “New Racial Domain” was being constructed in twenty-first century America, relegating most blacks, many undocumented immigrants, and other racialized groups to an increasingly marginalized status behind a “color-blind,” racially-neutral regime of mass incarceration, mass unemployment, and political disfranchisement. The national “War On Terror” only reinforced the authoritarian dynamics of intolerance and exclusion that preserved white power.
How do we build resistance to the New Racial Domain, in the age of globalized capitalism? It should surprise no one that the resistance is already occurring, on the ground, in thousands of venues across the United States. In local neighborhoods, people fighting against police brutality, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, and for prisoners’ rights; in the fight for a living wage, to expand unionization and workers’ rights; in the struggles of working women for day care for their children, health care, public transportation, and decent housing. These practical struggles of daily life are really the core of what constitutes day-to-day resistance. Building capacities of hope and resistance on the ground develops our ability to challenge the system in more fundamental, direct ways.
The anti-globalization movement must be, first and foremost, a worldwide, pluralistic anti-racist movement, with its absolutely central goal of destroying global apartheid and the reactionary residue of white supremacy and ethnic chauvinism. But to build such a dynamic movement, the social composition of the anti-globalization forces must change, especially here in the United States. The anti-globalization forces in the United States and Europe are still overwhelmingly upper middle-class, college-educated elites, who may politically sympathize with the plight of the poor and oppressed, but who do not share their lives or experiences. In the Third World, the anti-globalization movement has been more successful in achieving a broader, more balanced social class composition, with millions of workers getting actively involved.
There are, however, two broad ideological tendencies within this largely non-European, anti-globalization movement: a liberal, democratic, and populist tendency, and a radical, egalitarian tendency. Both tendencies were present throughout the 2001 Durban Conference Against Racism, Intolerance and Xenophobia, and made their presence felt in the deliberations of the non-governmental organization panels and in the final conference report. They reflect two very different political strategies and tactical approaches in the global struggle against the institutional processes of racialization.
The liberal democratic tendency focuses on a discourse of rights, calling for greater civic participation, political enfranchisement, capacity building of community-based institutions, for the purposes of civic empowerment and multicultural diversity. The liberal democratic impulse seeks the reduction of societal conflict through the sponsoring of public conversations, reconciliation and multicultural civic dialogues. It seeks not a complete rejection of neoliberal economic globalization, but its constructive reform and engagement, with the goal of building democratic political cultures of human rights within market-based societies.
The radical egalitarian tendency of global anti-racists speakers a discourse about inequality and power. It seeks the abolition of poverty, and global apartheid, and the realization of universal housing, health care and educational guarantees across the non-Western world. It is less concerned about abstract legal rights, and more concerned about concrete results. It seeks not political assimilation in an old world order, but the construction of a new world from the bottom up. It has spoken a political language more so in the tradition of national liberation than of a nation-state.
Both of these tendencies exist in the United States, as well as throughout the world, in varying degrees, now defining the ideological spectrum within the global anti-apartheid struggle. Scholars and activists alike must contribute to the construction of a broad front, bringing together both the multicultural liberal democratic and radical egalitarian currents representing globalization from below. New innovations in social protest movements will also require the development of new social theory and new ways of thinking about the relationship between structural racism and state power. Global apartheid is the great political and moral challenge of our time. It can be destroyed, but only through a collective, transnational struggle.
To conclude: in September 1992, in a lengthy interview, I asked Michael Manley if “socialism” had a future. This was his response, and his statement expresses my own political beliefs for the future:
“There has to be a place for human aspiration expressed in terms that incorporate everybody in mankind’s dream. And the concept that there has to be a politics of activism, for the realizing of a dream that includes everybody, rather than a favored few. That [dream] cannot die, will never die, and socialism will be reborn in a new dynamic, which I think is going to be very participatory, very much rooted in its greatest strength, which is democratic.”
BC Editorial Board member Manning Marable, PhD is one of America’s most influential and widely read scholars. Since 1993, Dr. Marable has been Professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York City. For ten years, Dr. Marable was founding director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, from 1993 to 2003. Dr. Marable is an author or editor of over 20 books, including Living Black History (2006); The Autobiography of Medgar Evers (2005); Freedom (2002); Black Leadership (1998); Beyond Black and White (1995); and How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (1983). His current project is a major biography of Malcolm X, entitled Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, to be published by Viking Press in 2009. Click here to contact Dr. Marable.
The global downshift in 2007 should be broad-based. The US and Europe are expected to lead the deceleration in the developed world, and a slowing of Asia ex Japan stands out in the developing world. In the US, we expect a housing-related “growth recession” to persist through 1Q07, with important knock-on effects for export-led economies heavily dependent on US demand — especially China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and other Asian economies tied to China’s supply chain. China’s progress in cooling off an overheated investment sector should provide another impetus to the coming global downshift.
The risks are on the downside of our 2007 global soft-landing scenario. As post-housing-bubble adjustments begin to play out in the US, the risks of spillovers to other sectors — especially personal consumption and business capital spending — are especially worrisome. Lacking in support from private consumption, the rest of an export-dependent world could be surprisingly vulnerable to a US growth shortfall. Pro-labor political shifts in the US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and possibly Australia could shift the pendulum of economic power from capital to labor — raising the risks of trade frictions and earnings pressures that could prove quite problematic for world financial markets.
This is the final issue of the Global Economic Forum for 2006. We will resume regular publication on Tuesday, January 2, 2007. Our very best wishes for the Holiday Season.
Morgan Stanley Global Economics Team
Chavez Landslide Tops All In US History
HOLIDAY ISSUE Dec.20 - Jan. 2
True Solidarity in a Cold World: Hugo Chavez is ‘Black’ Santa Claus for U.S. Poor
by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford
“Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African.” – Hugo Chavez, Democracy Now, September 20, 2005
For tens of thousands of needy Americans this holiday season, “Saint Nick” arrived in the person of a former paratrooper with straight-from-the-barrio Afro-Indian features, commanding fleets of trucks bearing millions of gallons of heating oil heavily discounted for the poor. Through his year-round policy of international solidarity – which is quite different than seasonal generosity – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the most frequently and fairly elected head of state in the history of the Americas, has revealed the identity of the real Global Grinch: George Bush and the multinational oil companies and fat cats he serves.
It’s a lesson even reality-starved North Americans should comprehend, and one that should find particular resonance among African Americans. Had he been born in Georgia, rather than in the backwater interior of a Spanish-speaking country, Hugo Chavez would certainly have been considered a Black man. The white elites of Venezuela seem to feel the same way – Chavez is routinely referred to as a “monkey” in his homeland’s oligarchic media. Indeed, Chavez’s status as the most popular politician in Latin America has resulted in a kind of perverse North-South hemispheric solidarity among white elites, who collectively tremble at every stirring of Black-brown political power.
[from the January 8, 2007 issue]
Ever since Hezbollah and its allies began an open-ended protest against the US-backed government on December 1, Beirut's gilded downtown--built for wealthy Lebanese and foreign tourists--has become more authentically Lebanese. Where Persian Gulf sheiks once ate sushi, families now sit in abandoned parking lots, having impromptu picnics, the smell of kebabs cooked over coals wafting through the air. Young men lounge on plastic chairs, smoking apple-scented water pipes, and occasionally break out into debke, the Lebanese national dance.
Most protesters are too poor to afford $4 caffe lattes, but men hawking shots of strong Arabic coffee for 30 cents apiece are doing a brisk trade. Nearly all businesses are shuttered, but a few enterprising store owners have figured out how to cater to the crowd. One hair salon converted itself into a sandwich shop, selling cheese on bread with a cup of tea for $1. The smiling cashier works behind a counter filled with L'Oréal hair products.
"I never came to downtown before these protests. I can't afford to come here. If I ate a sandwich here, I'd be broke for a week," says Emad Matairek, a 35-year-old carpenter from the dahiyeh, the Shiite-dominated suburbs of Beirut. "It's well-known that this area was not built for us."
The protests are being portrayed in much of the Western media as a sectarian battle, or a coup attempt--engineered by Hezbollah's two main allies, Syria and Iran--against a US-backed Lebanese government. Those are indeed factors underlying the complex and dangerous political dance happening in Beirut. But the biggest motivator driving many of those camped out in downtown isn't Iran or Syria, or Sunni versus Shiite. It's the economic inequality that has haunted Lebanese Shiites for decades. It's a poor and working-class people's revolt.
In Riad Solh Square, amid dozens of white tents erected for Hezbollah supporters to sleep in, there is a stage with a huge TV screen and rows of loudspeakers mostly positioned toward the Grand Serail, the Ottoman-era palace where Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Cabinet are hunkered down. Between the tents and the palace, behind eight-foot-high coils of barbed wire, there are hundreds of Lebanese soldiers toting M-16s and sitting atop armored vehicles. Every night thousands of people gather in front of the stage, within earshot of the Serail, demanding that Siniora either resign or accept a national unity government that gives Hezbollah and its allies greater power.
A major theme highlighted by the protesters is that Siniora is backed by the Bush Administration--and that alliance did little to help Lebanon during last summer's thirty-four-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. A few days into the sit-in, Hezbollah hung a large banner from a building showing Siniora embracing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, over a collage of dead Lebanese children Photoshopped onto his back. It reads, "Condy--Thanks," a reference to Siniora's meeting with Rice during the war, when US officials refused to endorse a quick cease-fire. "Thank you for your patience Condy, for some of our children are still alive," it reads.
But in most conversations with people at the sit-in and protests, economic concerns quickly emerge: Siniora's government is corrupt, has failed to reduce Lebanon's crippling $41 billion public debt and has done little to improve people's lives. Shiites are especially forgotten in the country's economic planning. Many at the sit-in have been out of work for years, or lost their jobs after the recent war.
"Our country is getting poorer, and Siniora's government is not talking about it," says Hadi Mawla, a 22-year-old graphic design student who came from the dahiyeh on the protest's first day, which drew hundreds of thousands to downtown. "Our standard of living is falling, while other Arab countries are improving. We Lebanese used to make fun of other Arab countries. Now they have great big cities like Dubai. And we're going to end up like Egypt--with a very poor class, a very rich class and nothing in between."
The economic dimension to the protest can be seen everywhere. Around the square there are hand-drawn posters of Siniora sitting on a chair made of stacks of dollar bills. From the stage, a projector shines slogans highlighting economic demands onto a building that houses the ultra-chic Buddha Bar, with its two-story Buddha statue inside. The swirling projector makes its point: "No to the government of VAT" and "No to the government of seafront properties."
This class battle transcends sectarian boundaries. Hezbollah has formed an alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Maronite Christian politician and former army commander Michel Aoun. With this coalition Hezbollah is trying to prove that it's not a purely sectarian party, it's not seeking to impose an Islamic government and it's willing to ally not just with nationalist Sunnis but also with Christians. Because Aoun stresses honest government, accountability and economic equality, he and Hezbollah seemed like a natural fit. By playing up its alliance with Aoun--and downplaying its partnership with the notoriously corrupt Shiite Amal party--Hezbollah can reinforce the reputation for honesty shared by many Islamist movements in the Middle East.
Hezbollah's charismatic leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah--ever skillful at tapping into the Shiite tradition of empowering the dispossessed--often highlights the class dimension of his group's campaign. "They will hear us in all the palaces of the ruling coalition," Nasrallah thundered on December 7, in a speech via video-link to the protesters downtown. He was calling for a huge turnout at a rally three days later, where crowd estimates ranged as high as 1 million. "From the homes of the poor, from the shantytowns, from the tents, from the demolished buildings, from the neighborhoods of those displaced by war, we will make sure that they hear our voices."
There's a long tradition of the Lebanese state leaving Shiites to fend for themselves and waiting for religious or charitable groups to fill the vacuum. This happened over decades, long before Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s. Hezbollah's "state within a state" was possible only because successive governments willfully left a void in the Shiite-dominated areas of south Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and the dahiyeh.
"The central government always liked outsourcing the problems of the south. First they gave it to the Palestinians, then they gave it to the Israelis, and they gave it to Hezbollah from 2000 to 2006," says Khalil Gebara, co-director of the Lebanese Transparency Association, an anti-corruption watchdog group. "Hezbollah does what every political party does: They went and created a dependency network."
In the 1960s and '70s, when Shiites were first making the migration from the rural south and Bekaa to Beirut and other cities, the central government left their fate to the clans and feudal landlords who held sway in the agricultural hinterlands. By 1970, when the Palestine Liberation Organization began creating bases in southern Lebanon, the Shiites were on the front line of a conflict between the PLO and Israel. A Shiite cleric named Musa al-Sadr created Amal, the first Shiite political party, which later turned into a militia. To an extent, Amal supplanted the feudal lords as protector of the Shiites.
After the Israeli invasion of 1982, Hezbollah emerged to fight the Israeli occupation. It was more disciplined and less corrupt than Amal, although Hezbollah was always dependent on Iranian funding and support. When Hezbollah's grinding guerrilla war forced Israel to end its occupation in May 2000, the militia was hailed throughout the Muslim world for achieving what no Arab army had done before: force Israel to relinquish land. With the Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah moved into the vacuum in southern Lebanon, opening clinics and schools and providing small-business loans.
To many Shiites, Hezbollah's ascendance put them on the political map. There's a word Lebanese have used to put down a Shiite: mutawali, which roughly translates into "country bumpkin." It's a term freighted with meaning--of dispossession, prejudice, deprivation. But Shiites have appropriated it and now use it with pride. "During the civil war, we mutawalis were insulted and put down. Hezbollah gave us a new sense of dignity, and that's the most important right we can have," says Mawla, the graphic design student. "Hezbollah made it possible for us to stand, without fear, and shout from the rooftops that we are mutawalis."
In 1990, at the end of the fifteen-year civil war, Lebanon's political class chose to continue its sectarian system. The current crisis is rooted in that choice, which began with the 1989 Taif Accord, brokered by Saudi Arabia and Syria. The agreement called for all militias to disarm--with the exception of Hezbollah, whose militia was labeled a "national resistance" against the Israeli occupation. Leaving traditional warlords in place, Taif enshrined the political partition among the country's rival sects: Power must be shared between a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni prime minister and a Shiite speaker of Parliament. Each of the major players in the war seized a piece of the government and extended the sectarian system to the lowest rungs of the civil service. This arrangement was ripe for exploitation by outside powers, especially Syria, which dominated Lebanon from 1990 until last year.
One man had a chance to change the economic underpinnings of this system, and perhaps eventually cast aside its entire sectarian basis. He was Rafik Hariri, a billionaire construction tycoon who served as prime minister for most of the 1990s and until late 2004. But Hariri failed at building a healthy postwar economy. He rebuilt downtown Beirut at the expense of the hinterlands, and he focused on luxury sectors--banking and upscale tourism--instead of Lebanon's productive sectors, agriculture and small industry. Hariri was trying to return to the prewar economy, which was driven by Lebanon's role as a transit center for oil money from the Persian Gulf. But by the 1990s oil producers no longer needed the Lebanese banking system; they had Dubai.
"Everything that the government built around here means nothing to us," says Matairek, the carpenter at the downtown protests. "What they should have done was strengthen the Lebanese army. All the money they spent to fix this downtown--what's the use of it, if the Israeli warplanes were able to bomb us, and the Lebanese army wasn't able to stop it?"
The gleaming downtown became a symbol of Hariri's reign and his failed economic policies. By the time he left office Lebanon had a $36 billion public debt, or 170 percent of GDP--one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (it's now 190 percent). For much of Hariri's term, he relied on Siniora, an old friend, as his finance minister.
Siniora's biggest triumph as finance minister was the 2002 Paris II Donors Conference, which netted Lebanon $4.4 billion in soft loan guarantees. In return Siniora promised a raft of neoliberal economic reforms: He would privatize state assets like cellphone contracts, reform the country's civil service sector and balance the budget by 2006. Nine months before the donors conference, Siniora imposed Lebanon's first value-added tax (VAT): a 10 percent surcharge on most goods except food and medicines. One of his main arguments for staying in office is to shepherd a Paris III conference scheduled for January, in which international donors are expected to contribute toward rebuilding the infrastructure devastated by last summer's Israeli offensive.
"Because of Siniora and his economic programs, we have a very flawed tax system, based on indirect taxes. Statistically, it has been shown that this system recycles money from the poor to the wealthy," says Fawwaz Traboulsi, a political science professor at the Lebanese American University. "We have a 10 percent flat income tax, but most state revenues come from indirect taxation: the VAT, fuel taxes, utility surcharges. Salaried people pay the bulk of these taxes."
Throughout his tenure, Hariri clashed with the Syrian-backed Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud. In February 2005 Hariri was assassinated in a massive bombing as his motorcade drove through Beirut's seaside corniche. Widely assumed to have been carried out by Syria or its agents, the killing shook Lebanon and cast a harsh light on Syrian hegemony over the political system. Under internal pressure and mass demonstrations, the Syrian-backed prime minister resigned and Damascus pulled its 14,000 troops out of Lebanon. After elections in June 2005, the new parliamentary majority--a coalition of Christian, Sunni and Druse parties--appointed Siniora as prime minister. For the first time, Hezbollah joined the Lebanese Cabinet, securing two seats in Siniora's administration.
Until last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war, Siniora continued with the economic policies he had begun under Hariri. Morality aside, there's one major problem with these soak-the-poor economics: They strengthen Hezbollah. In a country divided drastically between haves and have-nots, a large proportion of the have-nots happen to be Shiites, and they rely for social services not on the government but on Hezbollah. In their view, the government takes, while Hezbollah provides.
After the latest war, with Israeli bombs targeting Shiite-owned factories and businesses in the south and in the Beirut suburbs, the Shiite middle class was devastated. This has made Shiites even more dependent on Hezbollah, as evidenced by the group's handing out up to $12,000 in cash payments to everyone whose home was destroyed. The money--most likely provided by Iran--was intended to pay for a year's rent and new furniture while reconstruction begins.
Locked in a state of perpetual conflict, Lebanon today faces the same choice it had in 1990, when the civil war ended. It can replicate the political system that it had before--based on corrupt sectarian warlords dividing up the spoils of the war they perpetuated--or it can try to produce a stronger and more egalitarian system, one that isn't based on religious divisions and that won't consign its largest sect, the Shiites, to the care of an Iranian-funded religious party.
"How can we still accept this government that steals? This government that built this downtown and accumulated this huge debt?" asks Matairek, the Shiite carpenter. "Who's going to pay for it? I have to pay for it, and my son is going to pay for it after me."
The incoming United Nations secretary-general has yet to take office, but a controversy is already engulfing his nascent relationship with the American Jewish community.
South Korea’s Ban-Ki Moon, who will begin his term January 1 with little experience regarding Israel and its supporters, is coming under fire for his team’s relationship with a little-known Orthodox businessman and activist named Michael Landau. The head of a local Orthodox group in Manhattan, Landau has been actively courting the new secretary-general’s entourage and presenting himself as a go-between to help Ban navigate the U.N.’s notoriously fraught relationship with Jewish groups.
But several diplomats and major Jewish organizations are questioning whether Landau’s business activities could influence the advice he would give Ban, pointing to his courtship of African ambassadors at a time when he was involved in mining activities on the continent. Some critics fear that a backlash would be damaging to the Jewish community, Israel and the new secretary-general.
Landau is reportedly backed by Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, though he is not affiliated with the umbrella group, widely viewed as the Jewish community’s leading voice on Middle Eastern affairs. Critics claim Hoenlein is pushing Landau as a go-between in order to become the community’s main interlocutor to Ban.
“It is inappropriate for any of us to promote a specific individual as a liaison without consulting the community leadership,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “The secretary-general should reach out to all of us.”
The ADL, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International have refused to attend meetings with Ban and his close circle proposed by Landau in recent weeks, sources familiar with the situation told the Forward. On the other hand, they added, Landau has garnered some support from the World Jewish Congress. Landau declined several requests for comment. Hoenlein did not return calls.
On the day of his swearing-in, December 14, Ban made an appearance at the annual dinner of the Presidents’ Conference. Even while acknowledging that attending the event was a good way for Ban to show his willingness to engage the Jewish community, some observers fretted that this was in fact a nod to Hoenlein.
In a series of interviews, several Jewish communal leaders, U.N. officials and diplomats expressed deep misgivings about entrusting a little-known entity like Landau with a prominent intermediary role. Although no one produced evidence about the incompatibility of his business activities and his advocacy work, critics stressed that the recent trauma of the Iraq oil-for-food scandal required extra caution to avoid adverse consequences for Ban and the Jewish community.
Landau, who by all accounts is an engaging character, has been active in computer software companies and advised at least one mining company in recent years. His advocacy work is centered on the Coalition of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side, which caters to local community needs. He is the group’s chairman. He was also involved in the Jerusalem Coalition, which brought together Orthodox Jewish Republicans, helping to organize a trip by Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer to Israel in 2003. In recent years, Landau has been involved in U.N. affairs, organizing meetings, trips and receptions for ambassadors — often, communal sources said, working with the President’s Conference. Landau has attended meetings between Jewish groups and visiting foreign dignitaries on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly during which he was presented as representing the Presidents’ Conference, according to participants in the meetings. “I don’t have a problem with one or several go-betweens,” said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations at the World Jewish Congress. “No one should be cut out, there is room for everyone, be it an individual or a group.”
Landau also received strong backing for his advocacy work on behalf of the Orthodox community of the Upper West Side. Rabbi Alan Schwarz, religious leader of a local Orthodox congregation and president of the group chaired by Landau, praised his boundless energy and his ability to solve mundane issues. Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant, described Landau as a tireless advocate for the Orthodox and the larger Jewish community, saying that his cultivating of ties with African ambassadors was smart diplomacy.
One area of concern for some critics is Landau’s close work with several African ambassadors at a time when he was in business with a Canadian company mining gold on the continent back in 2005.
In January 2005, a Landau-run company called Vango Holdings was hired by Searchgold Resources, a Canadian mining firm active in Gabon and Guinea, to become responsible for its investor relations. At the time, Landau was on good terms with Jean Ping, the foreign minister of Gabon, who held the position of president of the General Assembly. Landau organized receptions and meetings for Ping. Searchgold’s activities in Gabon picked up in early 2005, with the company announcing that it had raised more than $1.1 million, resumed drilling at its Bakoudou mine and obtained a new exploration permit. But Searchgold parted ways with Landau four months later. Searchgold director Maurice Giroux told the Forward that Landau was not a good fit and that his contacts in Gabon did not prove useful. He declined to elaborate. Requests for comment to the Gabonese mission to the U.N. were not returned.
Several sources said on condition of anonymity that Landau had openly bragged about his clout with sub-Saharan African ambassadors. “He is a businessman, first and foremost,” said a person familiar with Landau’s interactions with African diplomats.
Sources said that Landau helped set up a trip to Israel in early 2004 for six African diplomats sponsored by the American-Israel Friendship League, a nonprofit chaired by Kenneth Bialkin, a former chairman of the ADL and the Presidents’ Conference.
Several Jewish communal activists speaking on the condition of anonymity said that they have heard directly from Israeli officials about concerns regarding Landau. At least one top Jewish communal leader passed his concerns to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents. Israeli diplomats at the U.N. mission declined to comment.
“Ban should get a sense of the diversity of our community,” said Sybil Kessler, director of U.N. affairs at B’nai B’rith International. “I would like him to appoint a senior official as a focal point.”
This is a reference to the “focal points” created by outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan within his secretariat to facilitate dealings with a variety of groups or interests not formally represented at the U.N. One of Annan ’s lieutenants served as a liaison to the American Jewish community, a position Annan saw as a key to improving the U.N.’s historically strained relationship with Israel and, cynics would add, to currying favor in Washington during hard times.
The current “focal point” is Edward Mortimer, a U.N. official from Britain who will return to Europe when Annan officially finishes his term in the next few weeks. Much speculation has centered on whether Ban will maintain the position. “I briefed the new S.G. and his team and advised them to keep the focal point, which was appreciated by the Jewish community,” Mortimer said.
A senior secretariat official also said Ban was leaning toward appointing a point-person on his staff and steering clear of an outside fixer. Some U.N. officials have quietly discouraged Ban’s team from granting Landau a prominent role. While no personnel announcement has yet been made, the message seems to have been heard.
Yeocheol Yoon, a political counselor at the South Korean mission to the U.N. and an adviser to Ban, told the Forward that the new secretary-general was talking to a variety of Jewish groups and representatives and that Landau was merely one interlocutor. He added that the secretary was likely to appoint a focal point within his office. “We’ll do it our way, but we’ll certainly have someone on the inside and we never had the idea of tapping someone from the outside.”
Fri. Dec 22, 2006
Editor: Erik Leaver, IPS
Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org
It is rare to think about the links between militarism and U.S. “trade” policy. But in recent decades, U.S. global economic policies have increasingly driven U.S. military policy. And under the Presidency of George W. Bush and the “war on terrorism” the trend has rapidly and dangerously accelerated. The results have generated a militarism that is beyond the reach of democratic processes both in the United States and abroad. For this reason, activists who oppose the Iraq War and U.S. militarism generally and those promoting global economic and environmental justice must develop a common agenda.
Though often unseen, U.S. military policy has frequently been influenced by the economic needs of national elites and major corporations. But the role of economic and trade policy on military action and strategy today is occurring in a new context. The large transnational corporations that have successfully pushed the “free trade” regime on much of the world are in need of new forms of military support in order to maintain and enlarge their sphere of influence. As a result, U.S. military strategy has shifted to focus on areas of the world that resist the dominant “free trade” doctrine. U.S. military planners and policymakers are in the process of phasing out the Cold War era strategy that made use of large standing armed forces in strategically located military bases around the world combined with a balance of nuclear terror and the selective clandestine overthrow of “unfriendly” governments.
In place of these Cold War era strategies, U.S. policy makers have defined a new military strategy based upon the notion of regime change through “preventive” warfare. The U.S. military is also moving toward a smaller more mobile strike force in which more and more soldiers are being trained as elite special operations forces (special ops). The United States government is rapidly eliminating traditional civilian control over intelligence (the traditional command of the CIA and FBI) and centralizing all intelligence under the control of the White House and the Pentagon. Under the Bush administration, the military is rapidly developing security alliances with trading partners such as Canada and Mexico that bring their security and military apparatus under the control of the U.S. military, the U.S. National Security Council and the U.S. centralized intelligence apparatus.
These changes are a response to three kinds of problems generated by policies and programs that the Bush administration calls “free trade.” These programs, however, involve much more than trade. The first President Bush more aptly called them a “new world order.” But instead of order, the policies are resulting in chaos. One problem produced by the new world order is that people in many nations resist the programs because of the pain they inflict. Secondly, some nations have the ability to opt out of new world order programs. They then become part of a “globalization gap” that transnational corporations and the governments that serve them wish to eliminate. Finally the new world order has weakened nation states, that has led to a globalization of resistance both in the form of peaceful multi-state civil society alliances as well as stateless terrorist organizations and cells.
“Free Trade’s” Evolution into a New World Order
Free trade as an economic theory and policy means simply eliminating barriers to trade among nations. The policies of the new world order are far more than that. The distinction between free trade and a new world order is critical to understanding of why the onset of this new world order has generated a new set of military priorities. An understanding of the distinction is best derived by looking at their evolution.
The era prior to the new world order began at the end of World War II when the economic and military power of the U.S. was challenged only by the Soviet Union. The U.S. and the Soviet Union found themselves in competition for spheres of economic and political influence in the so-called “Third World” of underdeveloped nations that had been colonies of the European powers. Both the U.S. and the Soviets sought the resources of these nations to pursue the economic development goals of their own elites. This was the basis of the Cold War.
The Cold War finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But the U.S. loss of the Vietnam War in 1975 and economic crises throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s left open questions about the viability of world capitalism and the U.S. model. Initial inquiries included high-level discussions among industrialized nations between 1972 and 1977. Written reports of these discussions by such organizations as the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and the Tri-Lateral Commission called for a reorganization of the existing economic order. The strategy that evolved sought to cheapen the costs of labor, but other kinds of production costs were also targeted. These included the cost of raw materials and other inputs into the production process; the cost of environmental controls and cleanup; and costs associated with the demands for worker and human rights. The second element of the strategy was to increase the mobility of capital, goods, and services. Mobility aimed to produce goods and services in a more flexible way and with greater efficiency (meaning less cost for each item produced). Mobility included both the ability to produce things in different geographical locations and to move from one kind of economic activity into another at low costs.1
A real life test case for the new model was first implemented in Chile in 1973 in the aftermath of a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet and aided by the Nixon administration through the CIA. University of Chicago-trained economists, under the tutelage of Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman, developed Pinochet’s post-coup economic program. It included tight money policies to end inflation, drastic reductions in government spending, currency devaluation, privatization of public enterprise, and the opening of markets for goods and capital to foreign investors. But the Chilean experiment caused tremendous human suffering and was only implemented by a brutal dictator literally at gunpoint. Generalizing the Chilean example on a world scale was not feasible. So the new world order evolved in fits and starts—some deliberate and others more random—from a variety of directions.
Dramatic changes were seen in industrialized nations as transportation, telecommunication, and process technologies were developed making it possible for the production process of a single product to be broken up into smaller pieces in different locations. This marked a distinct shift from mass production on the assembly lines of single factories to more flexible production techniques in which a number of parts of the production of a single product could occur in different locations. This shift included not only technological changes, but also an all-out attack on organized labor and massive deindustrialization in many industrialized nations. The objective of both the attack on labor and deindustrialization was to promote what economists called “flexible labor markets.” The point of flexible labor markets is to gain “efficiency” through cutting labor costs. The combination of the attack on organized labor and deindustrialization enabled industrialized nations as a whole to eliminate many high-wage jobs, reduce costly benefits such as health care and pensions, eliminate many work rules involving safety and health, and remove barriers to the use of part-time and temporary labor.
There was, of course, resistance on the part of organized industrial workers in the industrialized nations. These nations also had in place regulations—won by labor movements in the past—that forced corporations to adhere to basic environmental laws and labor rights. Furthermore, the need for cheap raw materials and expanded markets meant that production costs could not be lowered if production was confined to individual nations. Thus, a globalization of flexible production was needed. This required new mechanisms to open up all nations to meet the needs of global corporations based in the industrialized world.
A key to meeting this need was the global expansion of credit. There was no grand plan as real time events compelled President Richard Nixon to take steps that made the formation of the new world order that we have today possible. The first step came between 1971 and 1973 when Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and instituted flexible exchange rates. With flexible rates, the dollar became a commodity for international commerce, resulting in a world awash with dollars. Using these dollars, international banks went on a lending spree, targeting new loans at the developing world. The U.S. and other industrialized nations accelerated this trend in the private markets as they used government loans to buy political influence in the context of the Cold War. As a result, debt owed by developing nations rose from $100 billion in 1973 to over $900 billion by 1984. Beginning in 1982, developing nations showed signs that many of these debts were not sustainable and global financial collapse loomed.
It was at this point that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—two institutions heavily influenced by the U.S. and set up to aid the European recovery effort and to promote U.S. economic interests after World War II—began to focus increasingly on the developing world. The IMF was key to this shift. It offered “bridge” loans to nations who could not repay their debts. These loans were then used to make payments on the earlier loans. Nations accepting these IMF loans were required to implement economic policies dictated by the IMF. The conditions placed on these loans looked very similar to those in Pinochet’s Chile. Tight money, public spending cuts, and currency devaluation were prescribed to stabilize economies. Once these so-called “shock therapies” were implemented, structural adjustment programs were prescribed. They included a shift from domestic food production to goods that could be exported. In addition economies were opened to unrestricted foreign direct investment that established a manufacturing sector of goods for export. Most structural adjustment programs also opened economies to more speculative financial investment and also included privatization of public services and enterprise. Later the World Bank began to give long-term development loans and began including similar conditions to those of the IMF.
The IMF and World Bank programs were refined, expanded, and institutionalized through a series of bilateral and multilateral “free trade” agreements. Key among these were the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1989, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico in 1994 and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Other efforts at institutionalization through “free trade” agreements (FTAs) continue to this day including the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that includes authority for FTA’s with 35 African nations, bilateral FTAs in the Middle East including Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain and Oman. These FTAs form the base of a proposed NAFTA-like agreement with the entire Middle East region known as the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA).
While often overlooked in today’s politically charged climate, the U.S. generated global economic policies are not solely the work of the present Bush administration. It was the Clinton administration that mustered up the political muscle to push through both NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. And the U.S. heavily influenced the IMF, World Bank, and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to impose structural adjustment programs throughout much of the world. In short, the factors defining today’s new world order and the resulting new militarism were generated by both Republican and Democratic administrations going back to the 1980s.
The New World Order and the New Militarism
There are at least three reasons why the new world order has generated a new kind of militarism. First, the process of stabilizing weak economies and draining the economy for debt service payments is extremely painful to the majority of the population. Thus the IMF “shock therapies” and ongoing subjugation of entire countries to structural adjustment programs and/or “free trade agreements” have generated resistance. In many cases local governments have put down uprisings or political opposition movements with considerable brutality and have needed ongoing military aide to stay in power. U.S. support of dictatorships in Chile, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s and the effort to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua during the same period are early examples. Ongoing joint security agreements with Mexico are more recent and correspond with popular opposition to NAFTA including the armed revolt of the Zapatistas that began in 1994. In Venezuela in 1989 there was a major revolt after IMF imposed measures doubled the price of food and transportation.
A second military implication of new world order policies is that some nations, like Venezuela and most of the nations in the Middle East region can use their oil resources to resist “free trade” policies. This removes oil, a key resource that contributes to the cost of production, from the influence of new world order policies. It also offers oil rich nations a way to stay out of IMF clutches and to resist the relentless effort to force them into trade agreements with the U.S. A recent Pentagon study points out that over the past 12 years nearly all military actions have been in nations that are “fighting against or losing to globalization.” It concludes that nations outside the sphere of influence of the new world order economic policies “are likely a problem for the United States.”2
Finally, the new world order tends to weaken nation-states as economic policies are increasingly determined outside of domestic political processes. This has led to a globalization of resistance to new world order programs and policies because people lack access to the political process that formed and implemented them. Resistance has taken several forms. One is the emergence of an international civil society movement that is capable to mobilizing militant multinational demonstrations all over the world, posing alternatives to the new world order, and coordinating a variety of peaceful actions such as legal challenges to particular rules or efforts to elect candidates in different nations who will oppose new world order initiatives.
Another form of the globalization of resistance includes armed groups such as al-Qaida that have no allegiance to any government. In nations that have embraced new world order programs such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, the U.S. has supported repressive regimes that have helped spawn groups like al-Qaida. Those nations who have resisted such as Iraq and Iran have experienced either overt or covert U.S. efforts to implement regime change. Yet, the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq have failed to stem the violence. Adding to the instability in the region are the additional factors of: oil, the relative independence of oil rich nations from the new global rules, and the relentless effort of U.S. government policy to bring the region under its control.
The globalization of information and arms dealing combined with weak nation-states and sections of the world ravaged by World Bank and IMF sponsored “shock therapies” have proven to be a deadly stew. Altogether the globalization of violent resistance to the new world order and the U.S. political and military response to it, contributed to the conditions that resulted in the attacks of 9-11.
The Face of the New Militarism
The military and intelligence apparatus that evolved in the context of the Cold War cannot meet the new security challenges created by the new world order. In a world of highly mobile economic activity in a global economy with weakened nation states and a globalized opposition, a new militarism is developing.
The massive U.S. military-industrial complex, as President Dwight Eisenhower called it, was built up during the Cold War. It has been slow to change in response to new conditions. The economic policies that generated the violent side of the globalization of resistance were developed over the last 35 years and are the work of both major U.S. political parities. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton all played a role in shaping the policies that constitute a new world order. None of these presidents hesitated to use military force to put down crises that their policies generated. But it was during the Presidency of George W. Bush that the most disastrous blowback from the new world order came on September, 11, 2001. And this enabled the Bush administration to accelerate and expand the military dimensions of the new world order programs. The implication for the future is that changing administrations is not apt to change the directions of the new militarism unless a new administration is also willing to repudiate new world order policies and begin anew.
The 2002 National Security Strategy: The Pentagon Takes on “Trade”
While elements of the new militarism were developed by future Bush administration officials back in 1992, they were publicly presented as a response to the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a decade later. On September 22, 2002 the White House released its National Security Strategy for the United States. In many ways it was an early effort to justify the Iraq War before it began. But it also telegraphed changes going on within the Department of Defense as well as various intelligence agencies. The 2002 National Security Strategy has nine sections that emphasize the following themes:
The need for dramatic changes in military strategy and U.S. security strategy generally;
Replacing the Cold War containment strategy with a doctrine of pre-emptive military action;
The need to form a variety of alliances to better cover the entire world;
“Free markets and free trade” are key priorities in the U.S. notion of national security.
On the need for changes in strategy, the 2002 National Security Strategy notes:
“In a globalized world, events beyond America’s borders have a greater impact inside them…The major institutions of American national security were designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of them must be transformed… Innovation within the armed forces will rest on experimentation with new approaches to warfare, strengthening joint operations, exploiting U.S. intelligence advantages, and taking full advantage of science and technology.”
A central premise of the new strategy involves the use of the pre-emptive strike. This was clearly an early effort to begin the justification for what would be done about five months later with the invasion of Iraq. Here, in part is what the strategy laid out:
“In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis, we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence was an effective defense. But deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people and the wealth of their nations…For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies and air forces preparing to attack...We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries.” (author’s emphasis)
The adaptation of the concept of imminent threat, as the attack on Iraq would show, expanded preemption to military action to prevent possible future wars.
It was also recognized that waging war in both Afghanistan and Iraq while searching the world for terrorist cells and networks such as al-Qaida would stretch military and intelligence resources within the U.S. Thus the 2002 document also articulated a policy to draw other nations into our military strategy:
“In building a balance of power that favors freedom, the United States is guided by the conviction that all nations have important responsibilities. Nations that enjoy freedom must actively fight terror.”
This was most clearly developed for the Western Hemisphere:
“In the Western Hemisphere we have formed flexible coalitions with countries that share our priorities, particularly Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Colombia. Together we will promote a truly democratic hemisphere where our integration advances security, prosperity, opportunity and hope. We will work with regional institutions, such as the Summit of the Americas process, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Defense Ministerial of the Americas for the benefit of the entire hemisphere.”
Here the strategy links the institutions promoting “free trade” (Summit of the Americas and OAS) with the Defense Ministerial—an association of the military and intelligence apparatus for all of the nations in the hemisphere.
Finally, and perhaps most surprising, the 2002 National Security Strategy links the need for changes in national defense strategy, the doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes, and the need to form new military alliances among “free trade” partners to the need to expand free trade rules and institutions throughout the world:
“Free markets and free trade are key priorities of our national security strategy...(We will) ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade. A strong world economy enhances our national security by advancing prosperity and freedom in the rest of the world…Even if government aid increases, most money for development must come from trade, domestic capital and foreign investment. An effective strategy must try to expand these flows....”
Energy is cited as a key priority for trade and investment throughout the National Security Strategy report. Future energy needs of the U.S. are used as a justification for expanding “free markets and free trade.” Other trade priorities included in the U.S. security strategy were pursuing the Doha Round talks on expanding the scope and membership of the World Trade Organization, completing negotiations and implementing the Free Trade Area of the Americas, moving ahead with more bi-lateral trade agreements including the Central American Free Trade Agreement, gaining “fast track” (trade promotion authority) in Congress for new trade initiatives, and implementing the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.
The Pentagon and Free Trade
Linking national defense and intelligence approaches to globalization and “free trade” policies was elaborated in considerable detail in a presentation to a forum of the leaders of a number of the largest transnational corporations sponsored by the conservative Washington-based policy institute, the Heritage Foundation, in June, 2003. Illustrating the close ties between conservatives and the Pentagon, Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, who was then the Director of the Department of Defense’s Office of Defense Transformation, the planning wing of the Pentagon, delivered the remarks.3
Cebrowski argued that the current period of globalization requires military transformation that goes beyond the old concept of “security equals defense” to a concept he terms a “transaction strategy.” A transaction strategy means anticipating security problems and taking actions to prevent these problems from occurring. Prevention, for Cebrowski, includes using all available tools such as foreign policy, economic policy, military strategy and tactics, and weapon sales and military training.
Cebrowski emphasized that “new rules that govern global capitalism” are behind the need for this new military strategy. Quite revealing in this regard is his conception that there has emerged a “functioning core of globalization” in which nations and peoples are connected through a growing and developing set of rules. But there is also what he calls a “non functioning gap of globalization” where certain nations are disconnected from the rest of the world:
“Disconnectedness is now one of the great danger signals around the world. It is an indicator of where the Department of Defense might be spending more and more of its time.”
To illustrate the point, Cebrowski prepared a map on which he plotted all U.S. military interventions between 1990 and 2002. Nearly all U.S. military responses since 1990 have been in those nations that are part of the globalization gap. He concludes:
“If you are fighting against or losing to globalization, you are likely a problem for the U.S.”
Cebrowski’s presentation at the Heritage Foundation was an early and highly detailed outline of the Bush administration’s view of the military implications of the new world order era.
National Security Strategy Redux
More recent documents, the 2006 National Security Strategy, the 2005 National Defense Strategy and the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, reaffirm the direction suggested by Cebrowski and the first National Security Strategy document.
The new documents, however, do offer some reflection on the current state of the Iraq War and offer some slightly different formulations. The highlights include:
The “war against terrorism” will be a long and protracted struggle;
The “war against terrorism” can be won by promoting “democracy” throughout the world;
A central tenet of democracy is free markets and free trade; and,
The military component of the “war against terrorism” must be shared by democratic nations.
Bush’s cover letter for the 2006 National Security Strategy indicates some of the change in rational for fighting a “long war” when he outlines the “two pillars” of his current strategy:
“Our national security strategy is founded upon two pillars: The first pillar is promoting freedom, justice and human dignity—working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies…The second pillar of our strategy is confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies…Many of the problems we face… reach across borders. Effective multinational efforts are essential to solve these problems.”
The document goes on to state that effective democracies have market economies and that even if a government is popularly elected, it is not truly democratic unless it has “economic freedom.” It reaffirms a statement made in the 2002 strategy:
“To expand economic liberty and prosperity, the United States promotes free and fair trade, open markets, a stable financial system (and) the integration of the global economy....”
The link is clearly made between “democracy” and new world order rules. Among accomplishments since 2002, the document points to the initiation of the ultimately failed Doha round of negotiations for the expansion of the World Trade Organization and its leadership in bringing in new members including Saudi Arabia. It points to progress with a variety of Free Trade Agreements including CAFTA and the beginning of MEFTA. Bilateral agreements with Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman are seen as the foundation of expansion of MEFTA. An Asian initiative (ASEAN) is also cited as an accomplishment—one that is grounded in an free trade agreement with Singapore and negotiations with Malaysia. It also cites initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa using the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
The strategy goes on to project a program to bring more nations into the new world order program. These include an effort to:
Gain market reforms in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Vietnam so they can become members of the WTO;
Advance MEFTA by implementing trade accords with Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates;
Pursue trade agreements in Africa focusing on Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland as well as in Asia with Thailand, Republic of Korea and Malaysia and continuing to work closely with China;
Build on NAFTA, CAFTA, and the accord with Chile by concluding agreements with Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama; and,
Further reform the IFI’s that will encourage (or force) other nations to accept the opening of the world to the free flow of capital and free trade.
The “second pillar” of the National Security Strategy, is called “transformational diplomacy.” This notion of diplomacy means more direct involvement in the internal affairs of other nations. It specifically addresses the need to use U.S. resources to build: “the security and law enforcement structures that are often the prerequisite for restoring order and ensuring success.”
Thus, rather than an agenda to fight and win a “war against terrorism,” these two “pillars” of the National Security Strategy outline a program justifying the use of military force to promote and enforce free trade.
Trade and Integration Penetrates the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, a Pentagon planning process that addresses the Pentagon’s strategy for the next 20 years toward force structure, force modernization, infrastructure, and budget based upon the National Defense Strategy (last updated in May 2005). Both documents—the strategy and defense review—state that they see the mission of the Department of Defense as fulfilling the larger National Security Strategy. Hence the activities of the Department of Defense should not be separated from the “two pillars” of the National Security Strategy.
Both the strategy and review repeat the theme that we are in a long protracted struggle that is scattered throughout the world, and that defense strategy must include the objective of spreading “democracy” throughout the world and preventing non democratic nations from gaining weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists. In addition to these points, they emphasize the need to form military alliances to implement the military strategies they embrace. The 2005 Defense Strategy makes this very clear:
“Our strategic objectives are not attainable without the support and assistance of capable partners at home and abroad. Abroad the United States is transforming its security relationships and we are seeking to improve those of our partners…We want to increase our partners’ capabilities and their ability to operate together with U.S. forces.”
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) goes on to develop the theme of joint security with partners in broader terms and calls on Congress to give them greater authority and flexibility to pursue this objective further:
“Future joint forces will increasingly use host-nation facilities with only a modest supporting U.S. presence, decreasing the need for traditional overseas main operating bases with large infrastructures and reducing exposure to asymmetric threats.”
“Unity of effort requires that strategies, plans and operations be closely coordinated with partners. Authorities, procedures and practices must permit the seamless integration of Federal, state and local capabilities at home and among allies, partners and non-governmental organizations abroad... The Department (of Defense) recommends that the United States continue to work with its allies to develop approaches, consistent with their domestic laws and applicable international law to disrupt and defeat transnational threats before they mature.” (author’s emphasis)
Applicable international law could well include trade agreements and conditions on loans made by the International Financial Institutions.
The QDR goes on to recommend to Congress that the Department of Defense be given “considerably greater flexibility” in the U.S. Government’s ability to partner directly with nations fighting terrorists. This includes “training, equipping and advising their security forces to generate stability and security within their own borders.” The document argues that “greater flexibility [to do the above] is urgently needed.” This includes not only working with the armed forces of other nations but with local law enforcement agencies and doing this in coordination with the U.S. State Department. It concludes this recommendation by linking it back to the theme of protracted war and the need to “expand democracy” that was emphasized in the National Security Strategy. It calls for authority to train foreign military and police in the United States apparently without much Congressional oversight.
The QDR also recommends that the military expand its Special Operations Forces (SOF)—making much of the U.S. military “SOF-like” as suggested in the perspective of Admiral Cebrowski. An SOF military with a perspective of pre-emptive strikes and a long “Global War on Terrorism” means that they foresee an ongoing need to move military operations rapidly from one part of the world to another. To meet that need the U.S. military will be highly mobile, using mobile weapons and logistics systems and Special Operations forces to move quickly in and out of targeted areas while relying on an expanded intelligence capability and joint operations with “partners,” nations who are allied with the U.S. economically through international agreements on trade and investment.
Iraq, Militarism and the Corporate “Free Trade” Agenda
As the military and security strategy documents reviewed in this essay confirm, economic policies of the new world order are generating a transformation of the U.S. military to defeat the growing globalization of resistance and impose the new world order programs and policies everywhere. The most critical testing ground for this transformation today and the place where the military implications of the new world order are most evident is Iraq.
Antonia Juhasz’s book, The Bush Agenda, documents how the U.S. military imposed a complete transformation of the Iraqi economy following the U.S. occupation. This transformation included all of the features of new world order programs and policies. Two months prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration received a 107-page contract developed by the successor to the disgraced Arthur Anderson Consultants, Bearing Point Corporation. The $250 million contract, “Stimulating Economic Recovery, Reform, and Sustained Growth in Iraq,” contained a blueprint for the complete reconstruction of the Iraqi economy as well as a program of ongoing technical assistance for its implementation.
Hand in hand with Bearing Point Consultants Paul Bremer who ruled the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for 14 months, dissolved the Iraqi Constitution and virtually all laws that were contrary to the Bearing Point blueprint.
During Bremer’s reign he implemented 100 orders that included:
The privatization of 192 state owned enterprises (Order #1);
Complete liberalization of trade (Order 12);
Changed the progressive tax system to a flat tax (Order #37); and,
Opened the economy to unrestricted foreign investment and foreign ownership of banks (Orders #39 and 40).
The investment order allowed foreign corporations to take over the privatized services and any other enterprise and repatriate the profits without any restriction by a future Iraqi Government. Such laws are the centerpiece for virtually all new world order bilateral and multilateral agreements (Chapter 11 of NAFTA, for example). They offer a legal framework for the complete domination of the economy, including oil, by foreign corporations.
The laws imposed by Bremer and the CPA to implement the 100 orders were written into the new Iraqi constitution and thus make up the framework within which the current “Iraqi Government” must operate today. Essentially “free trade” and “democracy” have come to Iraq through invasion and
Implications and Conclusions
If U.S. militarism and its manifestations in the Iraq War and the “war on terrorism” are being driven by global rules that govern the flow of goods, services and capital around the world, then world peace depends on changing those rules and opposing efforts to expand and extend them. Ending U.S. occupation of Iraq, a key demand of the U.S. peace movement today, is critical to ending the conflict there. But it is not enough if the broader goal is a lasting peace. Here is where the movement opposing new world order programs and policies and promoting a global order that promotes economic and environmental justice comes in. As a start, the more traditional peace movement can join forces with economic and environmental justice forces by demanding that Bremer’s Orders be repealed, extending to the people of Iraq the right to economic self determination. In addition, a broad global peace movement needs to address the programs and polices that are pushing the world into violent conflict and driving the U.S. military.
While some U.S. activists are involved in peace organizing as well as economic and environmental justice work, these activities remain organizationally and strategically separate. What is needed instead is a unified movement that promotes economic and environmental justice while opposing the use of force to impose the economic and political agenda of the new world order. Because both U.S. economic and military strategies are global, it is also critical that we build alliances with progressive forces in those nations who are the object of both new world order programs and their military counterpart.
Directions for such a movement lie in the dualities within the new world order itself. The fact that the “free trade” programs of the new world order have created a “blow-back” that generates a perpetual war of preemptive strikes, an explosion of privacy invasion justified as intelligence gathering, an economy of increasingly shaky debt in which most of its resources go to war and destruction is a place for such a movement to begin. The positive face of the globalization of resistance is a worldwide movement of civil society that has argued for a different type of globalization; one that benefits the majority of citizens rather than a handful of corporate elites.
As more and more nations get drawn into the web of perpetual warfare as a result of the U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, this global movement of civil society is likely to get even larger. And the fact that the new world order itself generates violence and militarism offers an opportunity to unite this global economic/environmental justice movement with a growing global peace movement.
The emerging global civil society movement includes a number of non-governmental entities such as the World Social Forum, The (Western) Hemispheric Social Alliance, the Fifty Years is Enough Campaign, Jubilee South, and a variety of global associations concerned with human rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, and environmental quality. There is considerable recognition internationally within these international formations that the programs of the new world order are imposing security alliances between the U.S. and governments under the new world order regime. In the Western Hemisphere this is known as “NAFTA Plus” and “Deep Integration.” Elsewhere the military implications of economic programs are less developed. But the fact of growing security alliances being linked to economic alliances such as NAFTA and WTO provides a natural point of contact between more traditional peace advocacy and economic justice.
The promotion of economic and environmental justice as part of a global peace initiative thus builds both on contradictions of the new world order initiatives and the ongoing work of organizations focusing on peace and those that prioritize economic and environmental justice. An important contribution of the latter organizations to this effort is the work that has been done on alternatives to the new world order programs and policies. Such alternatives offer a framework for a world free of the economic institutions that promote violence and warfare. A variety of international gatherings since the early 1990’s have produced international civil society protocols on the rights of women, indigenous people, human rights generally, and the environment. And these protocols have been adopted by groups with even broader economic/environmental justice agendas as part of their demands for alternative directions.
An important example in the Western Hemisphere is a program known as “Alternatives for the Americas.”4 This program started with the opposition to NAFTA in 1991 when Canadian, Mexican and U.S. civil society activists held meetings first in Seattle, U.S.A and later in Zacatecas, Mexico to discuss alternatives to the trade accord.
The original grouping that consisted of civil society networks from three nations has now grown to encompass all of the nations in the Western Hemisphere. And the group has developed a 111-page alternative that includes specific programs on human rights, the environment, sustainability, gender, labor, immigration, the role of government, education, communications, investment, finance, intellectual property rights, agriculture, market access, services, enforcement, and dispute resolution. These programs are all based on common principles agreed upon through ongoing discussion within the civil society networks of all nations. A summary of these principles states:
“Trade and investment should not be ends in themselves, but rather instruments for achieving just and sustainable development. Citizens must have the right to participate in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of hemispheric social and economic policies. Central goals of these policies should be to promote economic sovereignty, social welfare and reduced inequality at all levels.”
In February, 2006, at the World Social Forum meeting in Bamako, Mali, a group based in Africa issued what they called “The Bamako Appeal.”5 This marks the beginning of a parallel course of action to that of the Hemispheric Social Alliance that has begun a process to develop a similar program of alternatives on a world scale.
The approach taken by Venezuela to Latin American economic cooperation as seen with the Bolivarian Alternative to Free Trade or ALBA is an example of governments (Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia) attempting to put some of the principles of the Hemisperhic Alliance and Bamako into practice. In addition, alternative programs such as these can be the basis for coordinated action among civil society networks throughout the world that can combine forces with the growing global peace movement. In the U.S., for example, the program of the Hemispheric Social Alliance can be the litmus test (rather than party affiliation) for electoral candidates. Support or opposition to candidates can transcend national borders, as well, if this is based on some universal principles of economic, social, and environmental justice combined with world peace. Such an approach can move beyond the electoral arena to create multi-state alliances in opposition to negative actions of governments or transnational corporations or in support of positive programs that address the needs of ordinary people.
To the extent that such programs make any inroads at all, they can go a long way toward undermining the economic basis of the growing global militarism that new world order programs and policies generate. And they offer a program that can unite movements for peace, economic justice, and environmental quality.
1 The evolution of the new world order is presented in greater detail and with references in David Ranney, Global Decisions, Local Collisions: Urban Life in the New World Order (Temple University Press, 2003).
2 Arthur Cebrowski, “Planning a Revolution: Mapping the Pentagon’s Transformation,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo #292, June 12, 2003. See also, Thomas P.M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map (Putnam, 2004).
3 Cebrowski, op. cit.
4 Available at: http://www.asc-hsa.org/.
5 The Bamako Appeal has been reproduced in a number of places including: http//www.openspaceforum.net.