“War and imperialism are Siamese twins joined at the hip. Each thrives off the other. They cannot be separated. Imperialism is the single-greatest cause of war, and war is the midwife of new imperialist acquisitions.” Chalmers Johnson
While other nations realize it full well, Americans do not want to accept that the United States dominates the world through military power. Due to the extreme secrecy of the present administration, the American people are completely ignorant of the fact that the United States “garrisons the globe.” There is a huge network of military bases in more than 150 countries. It is called the new empire. It is the American Empire. Our government employs more than half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents and civilians as well as civilian contractors all over the world. In addition to officially listed bases, the US has numerous secret bases not to be found on any government listing. Some of these bases are engaged in listening to people all over the world, including American citizens – keeping track of what they are saying, faxing and emailing.
This Empire began back in the 19th century, when the US declared Latin America as being under its “sphere of influence,” and proceeded to enlarge its territory while ignoring or slaughtering those who stood in the way; i.e., the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America. Today we have a similar group of imperialists in power who, under the guise of the “war on terrorism” are expanding American bases all over the world, particularly in Middle Eastern countries.
It was after World War II that America emerged as the richest nation and became a natural successor of the British Empire, which floundered economically due to the heavy costs of the war. The Cold War of the 1970s justified the US government creating scores more bases, all to fight the communist threat. Government officials of course denied that the bases indicated global imperialism.
In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and there was no need for the US to continue maintaining bases in numerous countries. But, the US was too accustomed to controlling other countries and had no intention of giving up their authority. Thus we saw the continuation of various wars and so-called “humanitarian interventions” in the Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Colombia and Serbia. It was an informal empire but quickly becoming formalized.(1) The attack on 9/11 caused dangerous changes in the mindset of our political leaders, who decided that the US is now equivalent to the Roman Empire, that it is no longer bound by international law or the opinions of allied and other non-allied countries. While during the Clinton years the nation had at least a semblance of multilateralism, now its actions became completely unilateral, and completely arrogant. Thanks to the American mainstream media, the common people knew nothing of its government and what it was doing in foreign countries. The Patriot Act came and only a handful of politically conscious people protested and continue to protest. The Patriot Act stripped Americans almost entirely of the political liberties granted to them in the U.S. Constitution two centuries ago. Earlier we were referred to as the lone superpower. But today, we are called the American Empire. To question this, to voice dissent, is to question Bush’s war on terrorism, which remains akin to treason. The media is completely complicit in the building and maintaining of American Empire, using politically appropriate vocabulary such as “collateral damage” (instead of “slaughtered innocent human beings”), regime change (instead of “imperialist invasion and occupation”), “illegal combatants” (meaning any civilian who does not tow the line of US occupation of Iraq and any other country it chooses to attack) and “preventive war” (There is no such thing as preventive war. Wars involve aggressive invasion by one country of another country.) With these cosmeticized terms in hand, the American public remains clueless about the crimes of our present government both outside and inside its borders.
There are presently more than 725 American military bases located all over the world. Generally these bases are established near oil pipelines, and its inhabitants are there to protect those pipelines above all else. While the US has had bases in places like Saudi Arabia, United Emirates and Qatar for several years, new ones have been built in Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. As Chalmers Johnson writes:
“Our militarized empire is a physical reality with a distinct way of life but it is also a network of economic and political interests tied in a thousand different ways to American corporations, universities, and communities but kept separate from what passes for everyday life back in what has only recently come to be known as “the homeland.” (2)
Our present administration has let it be known to other countries that it prefers to deal with them through the use of threats, bullying or force instead of negotiations, commerce or cultural interactions. Now the US deals with countries through military-to-military confrontations instead of civilian relations. As Bush has mentioned in several speeches, we need to be ready for preemptive action whenever necessary to defend our liberty and defend our lives. Historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote after 9/11:
“One of the astonishing events of recent months is the presentation of preventive war as a legitimate and moral instrument of U.S. foreign policy … During the Cold War, advocates of preventive war were dismissed as a crowd of loonies .. The policy of containment plus deterrence won the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country. Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States.”
As Johnson writes, there is bound to be payback for the misdeeds of Empire. A nation reaps what it sows. He says that it would take nothing less than a revolution to bring the Pentagon back under democratic control, or to abolish the CIA. But today, in the Congress and the Senate, the motto is: “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” He further says,
“As militarism, the arrogance of power, and the euphemisms required to justify imperialism inevitably conflict with America’s democratic structure of government and distort its culture and basic values, I fear that we will lose our country… The danger I foresee is that the United States is embarked on a path not unlike that of the former Soviet Union during the 1980s. The USSR collapsed for three basic reasons – internal economic contradictions driven by ideological rigidity, imperial overstretch, and an inability to reform…. The similarities are obvious and it is nowhere written that the United States, in its guise as an empire dominating the world, must go on forever.”
Roman democracy was also replaced by a dictatorship. The Romans eventually were overwhelmed by the number of enemies they had created. Until the end, they continued to claim that they represent the people of Rome. Yet then, as now, empires do not give up their empires voluntarily. The US government justifies its Empire in many ways: by claiming to spread American ‘market democracy’ via globalization; by open warfare against Latin American drug cartels and indigenous political reform movements; by isolation of ‘rogue states;’ and most of all today by an endless ‘war on terrorism’ which gives it the ‘freedom’ to do anything, including ‘preventive intervention’ against anyone.
Hitherto there had always been some constitutional restraints on the US armed forces. However, by 2002 these restraints vanished. The US no longer had a foreign policy; it had a military empire. This empire comprises the vast number of permanent naval bases, military airfields, army garrisons, espionage listening posts, and strategic enclaves on every continent of the earth. (3) So America has, not an empire of colonies (as in the British Empire) but an empire of military bases closely interwoven with and supervised by the US military-industrial complex. The bases are not there to fight wars. They are there as ‘pure manifestations of militarism and imperialism.” (4)
The US military enters countries on the pretext of liberating Afghan women from Islamic fundamentalists, or a natural disaster in the Philippines, or more recently Aceh, Indonesia, or claiming to protect Bosnians, Kosavars or Iraqi Kurds from campaigns of “ethnic cleansing.” But invariably what happens is that after the crisis is over, the Americans do not leave. They remain in their new bases to strut around in arrogance in their newly acquired territory. It is a short mental hop from imperialism to racism as a way of life. As David Abernathy writes, people who have superior power will quickly decide that their superiority extends also to intellect, morality and civilization.
From war come armies. From armies come debts and taxes. Armies, debts and taxes are the instruments for keeping many under the domination of a few. It was Woodrow Wilson who developed the rhetoric of ‘exporting democracy’ to the rest of the world, which is now used by today’s imperialists to justify their colonialist, capitalist invasions.
There is no longer any accountability of the Defense Department budgets. As Insight magazine reported, in May 2001 the deputy inspector general at the Pentagon admitted that $1.1 trillion was “simply gone and no one can be sure of when, where or to whom the money went.” (5) The amount is larger than the annual amount of $855 billion that Americans pay in income taxes. Yet, nobody minds or protests regarding this missing money.
The onset of militarism can be identified by three prominent characteristics: (1) the emergence of a professional military class and the glorification of its ideals; i.e., producing soldiers who will fight simply because they have been ordered to fight and not because they believe in what they are doing. It also includes civilian militarism. Reagan and Bush I learned that foreign policy should be more in the hands of so-called national security managers “who operated without the close scrutiny of the media, the oversight of Congress, or accountability to the involved public.” (6) These new civilian militarists, who themselves never served in war, take more and more power over the actual military/Pentagon. Hence we have people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who themselves never served a day in the military, running American military operations around the world. The older military generals who dedicated a lifetime to serving in the US armed forces call these civilians “chicken hawks.” Tragically, it is noted that civilian militarism leads to an intensification of the horrors of warfare. Civilian militarists anticipate war more eagerly than the actual soldiers who know what war is. They also play a major role in making the actual combat more absolute, more terrible than ever before. Iraq is an example. People today involved in determining strategy over relations with China are militarists, not discriminating foreign policy thinkers and academics.
(2) The second characteristic of militarism is the preponderance of military officers and people from the arms and munitions corporations in high government positions. Colin Powell and Richard Armitage are examples. Peter Teets, former CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation was made undersecretary of the air force. Former brigadier general and Enron Corporation executive Thomas White was made secretary of the army. James Roche, former executive with Northrop Grumman and former brigadier general was made secretary of the air force. The list continues. Former ambassador Richard Gardner figures that the present US administration spends sixteen times more money on preparing for war than on trying to stop war.
(3) The third characteristic of militarism is devotion to policies in which military readiness is the highest priority of the country. The US spends more than any other country on its military. It also spends more than any other country on global arms sales. The American nuclear arsenal, with its ability to destroy the entire earth many times over, is staggering. It comprises of 5,400 multiple-megaton warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles on land and at sea; 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready for launching by B-2 and B-52 bombers; another 1,670 nuclear weapons classified as ‘tactical.’ Ten thousand more nuclear warheads are stored in bunkers all over the US. What is the new American dream? It is to dominate the world militarily until the end of time. Is it realistic? No, because all empires one day fall. The US never hesitated to invade countries like Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo in the name of humanitarian intervention. Yet where were their responsibilities to the Rwandans, Chiapans, Chechens, Tibetans, Kashmiris, East Timorese and Palestinians? Chalmers Johnson writes as follows about the new American Empire:
“From the time of the Romans and the Han dynasty Chinese to the present, all empires have had permanent military encampments, forts, or bases of some sort. These were meant to garrison conquered territory, keeping restless populations under control, and to serve as launching points for further imperial conquests. What is most fascinating and curious about the developing American form of empire, however, is that, in its modern phase, it is solely an empire of bases, not of territories, and these bases now encircle the earth in a way that, despite centuries-old dreams of global domination, would previously have been inconceivable.
“Yet, although our own nation is filled with military installations – there are 969 separate bases in the fifty states – ours has, oddly enough, never been a warrior culture. Our people are largely not in uniform, nor (until the recent “war on terrorism”) were military uniforms common in our cities and airports; our streets seldom see a military parade; our concerts are rarely filled with martial music; and yet ours is also a thoroughly militarized empire – though our model of a warrior seems most likely to be a military bureaucrat. The modern American empire can only be perceived, and understood, by a close look at our basing policies, the specific way we garrison the earth. To trace the historical patterns of base acquisition and to explore our basing systems worldwide is to reveal the sinews of what has until very recently, for most Americans, been a largely hidden empire.”
Since 2000, the US government functions completely unilaterally in decision-making and in actions. A report put out by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy analyzed US response to eight major international agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and concluded that the US has violated, compromised and acted to undermine every treaty mentioned. They further do not honor treaties that were ratified in previous administrations. They walked away from the Kyoto Protocol. They also walked away from the UN conference on racism in 2001. Today the US administration abides by international treaties only if it is personally convenient and not otherwise. Most stunning is its complete disdain and disregard for the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal. It says to the world that the US is not accountable to anyone for its actions – or its crimes against humanity! As journalist David Moberg wrote: “… Bush wants the United States to serve as the world’s investigator, policeman, prosecutor, judge, and executioner. This is an imperial ideal, not an assertion of sovereignty.” (7) So is there some fear on the part of Bush and his colleagues that one day the ICC may start proceedings to prosecute them for their war crimes?
“Two and a half years into the Bush administration, most of our allies had left us, our military was overstretched, and no nation on earth doubted our willingness to employ military power to solve any and all problems.” Chalmers Johnson
Today the federal government can tap into our phone calls, faxes and email transmissions if it wants. The federal government has also begun arresting and imprisoning not only naturalized but also native-born citizens along with immigrants without bringing charges against them. Essentially the government does what it likes, and the president alone decides who is an “illegal belligerent” – another new term of this administration which can mean anything Bush wants it to mean. All of these actions are signs of a national security state – militarism.
Included in this global militarism is US domination of space. The Space Command’s policy statement says that “the globalization of the world economy will continue, with a widening gulf between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ and … the Pentagon’s mission is therefore to ‘dominate the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investments..’ A crucial goal of the US government is therefore “denying other countries access to space.” (8)
Today the Department of Defense has given a new interpretation to federal law and says that if any part of a university denies access to military recruiters, the entire university will lose all federal funds forthwith.
In 1878 the Posse Comitatus Act was passed, in order to prevent the military from ever again engaging in police activities without the consent of Congress or the president. It means the standing army will not have any role in policing American citizens in their own country. This distinction is nowhere today. Today the Pentagon is in the domestic policy business. Thanks to the very nebulous, flexible term of “terrorism,” the Pentagon today can do whatever it wants to American citizens. In the summer of 2002, the Bush administration directed its lawyers to review the Posse Comitatus Act and any other laws that could potentially restrict the Pentagon’s ability to engage in domestic law enforcement. In 2003 the Bush administration proceeded to tuck in an interesting proposal (within a broader intelligence authorization bill) which gives the military as well as the CIA authority to require Internet providers, credit card companies, libraries and many other organizations to hand over all kinds of records on US citizens – including phone records, bank transactions and email logs. Hitherto only the FBI could seek this information and that too only with a judicial warrant. Hence in just four years we have witnessed the transformation of the United States government from one following some semblance of democracy to one in which the executive branch in collusion with the Pentagon are operating more and more as a totalitarian democracy, including over its own citizens. Enemies are portrayed as “both white and black-skinned but have one trait in common – nearly all of them are unshaven.”
Another habit traditional for empires is to recruit foreigners to do the dirty work. Replacing homeland soldiers with local cannon fodder is at the top of the list for imperialist rulers. Setting one indigenous group against another indigenous group is also traditional for maintaining empire, as if the two groups are fighting (witness Sunnis and Shiites) it makes it easier for Empire to control them all and keep them down where they belong. It is not American soldiers who guard military checkpoints in Baghdad, but Nepalese gurkhas. Furthermore we have in Iraq today not necessarily the US military in charge but rather numerous private military companies who work hand in hand with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. It is the privatization of the US armed forces. It is these private military companies that have become indispensable to the military and who in fact keep the Empire running.
The total value of 725 recognized American military bases around the world is $118 billion. Of these, $38 billion are in Germany (with more than 47 bases) and $40 billion are in Japan – remnants from World War II, in the form of a secret enclave of military airfields, submarine pens, intelligence facilities and CIA safe houses in Okinawa). (9) Bases in South Korea account for $11.5 billion. The Pentagon did not yet include in its financial calculations the new military bases springing up like mushrooms all over the Middle East!
The high tech war and the fanatic attention to controlling mainstream media coverage of the war are the latest signs of American-style militarism and imperialism – or can we say, totalitarianism?
“At the August 2002 world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, the delegates wore badges asking, “What do we do about the United States?” Chalmers Johnson
The new American Empire of bases is militarized and unilateral. Since the last three-four years it has subverted commerce and globalization because militarism weakens international law and reciprocal norms on which trade is based. In the age of American militarism, globalization takes on a simple new definition, which is to force (if necessary) all countries to open themselves up to American exploitation and American-style capitalism. Libyan leader Muammad al Qaddhafi’s recent capitulation right after the capture of Saddam Hussein is a stunning example.
According to Johnson, the aftermath of September 11 has spelled the end of globalization. While Clinton propagated economic imperialism, Bush propagates military imperialism. Bush espouses unilateral preemptive military action, thereby flouting international rules and norms of globalization. Today in America, militarism has displaced and discredited US economic leadership.
WTO was created in 1995 and thereafter world trade expanded from $124 billion to $10,772 billion. It worked well, so long as the trade balance favored the US, and so long as the US could dictate the terms for trade so as to derive maximum benefit for US corporations.
In the mid-1980s Japan had replaced the US as the world’s leading creditor nation while America’s fiscal deficits and inability to cover the costs of imported goods quickly turned it into the world’s largest debtor nation. For this reason, the conservatives took action by reviving 19th-century capitalist fundamentalist theory, which they dubbed ‘neoliberalism.’ It meant, withdrawing the state as far as possible from economic participation; opening domestic markets to international trade and foreign investment; privatizing investment in public utilities and natural resources; ending protective labor laws; creating powerful domestic and international safeguards for private property rights, including the famous “intellectual property rights;” and carrying out conservative fiscal policies regardless of the impact on the welfare of the common people. In academic circles the term ‘neoliberalism’ became known as ‘neoclassical economics.’ In the public domain it was referred to as ‘globalization.’ It was a ‘gigantic repackaging’ of classical liberalism. Clinton actively propagated globalization. George Bush promoted ‘Free Trade Area of the Americas” – FTAA. The effect of these policies and regulations on third world countries was devastating. As Peruvian ambassador to the WTO, Oswaldo de Rivero, said, “the cost of the Soviet version of development was shortages and lack of freedom; today, that of the neoliberal, capitalist variant is unemployment and social exclusion.” (10)
In fact, globalization promotes both racism, genocide and ruthless, ravaging exploitation of third world, non-white-skinned people to the extreme. Hence the instruments of globalization, be it the World Trade Organization, World Bank, Free Trade Area of the Americas, or International Monetary Fund, must be charged with crimes against humanity! The damage they have wrought to third world countries is immeasurable. Joseph Stiglitz, former director of research at the World Bank and Nobel Prize winner gradually concluded that the international trade agreements are grossly unfair to countries in the Third World. There is not a single Third World country that has benefited in any way, shape or form from globalization. Rather, the per capita GDP, the plight of the common people in every country has been made far worse by this neoliberalism. De Rivero wrote that what globalization produced was not NICs (newly industrializesd countries) but about 130 NNEs (nonviable national economics) and sometimes UCEs (ungovernable chaotic entities)!! (11) Chalmers points out the following:
“In 1841 the prominent German political economist Friedrich List (who had immigrated to America) wrote in his masterpiece, The National System of Political Economy, ‘It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him.’ Much of modern Anglo-American economics and all of the theory of globalization are attempts to disguise this kicking away of the ladder.” (12)
In countries where the leaders had no option but to obey the US and its imperialist affiliates- the WTO, WB and IMF, where they began allowing ‘free’ trade, sell-offs of public utilities, no controls over capital movements – the results in those countries were a catastrophe.
The American people need to know that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are simply surrogates for the US Treasury. Both organizations are located at 19th and H Streets, Northwest, in Washington, D.C. The voting rules of both organizations guarantee that they can do nothing without the approval of the secretary of the US Treasury.
The other cunning capitalist innovation carried out by the US was the system of fixed exchange rates among the currencies of all capitalist nations. Every other financial system was tied to the US dollar with an American guarantee that the dollars would be exchanged for gold if requested. Of course, the gold has long since gone out the window. Both Britain and the US were dedicated to the idea of a world economic order maintained by “enlightened governments” – aka the US and Britain, of course. It was Nixon who ended the gold standard and also the system of fixed exchange rates. From then on, currencies of different countries could float their currencies, whose values were set by demand in the international markets.
Since profits were huge and costs were low, American banks like Citicorp and Banker Trust began to make huge, risky loans to Third World countries. In economics this is called “moral hazard” – where bankers make outrageously irresponsible loans without any risk of having to absorb the loss or make good the money they might lose in the transaction. This was in the 1970s. By the end of the 1970s every country in Africa was in debt up to its eyeballs. In 1982 the US government put the IMF and the World Bank in charge of making loans to Third World countries, with the following instructions: (1) Keep those poor debtor countries paying something so as to avoid official defaults, and (2) squeeze as much money out of them as possible. (Sort of like our credit card companies do to the ordinary citizens here in America!)
So what exactly does the World Bank do to Third World countries? It gives loans. But there are conditions on the loans. To get the loan, the poor country must agree to the imposition of drastic socioeconomic conditions which feed the neoliberal agenda of transnational corporations. If the poor country does not agree to the terms of the World Bank, the Bank refuses all loans, thus helping to destabilize its economy. If the country still does not agree, then the World Bank will aid in setting up the country for a coup d’etat, organized by the CIA. The case of Chile comes to mind, along with the CIA-sponsored overthrow of democratically elected Salvador Allende and the CIA-installation of Augusto Pinochet who proceeded to torture, ‘disappear’ and slaughter thousands of his own citizens. In this manner, and under these threats by the World Bank and IMF, impoverished Third World countries quickly came into line and thus, by the late 1990s about 90 third world countries were getting “structurally adjusted” by the World Bank and IMF.
What are these “structural adjustment” programs of the so-called benevolent World Bank and IMF? In such a program, the IMF and WB require that the poor country in question give foreigners (which translates to American multinational corporations) free access to its economy. Further, the country is forced to reduce spending on social programs such as health care and education, in order to divert that money to repay their debt to the IMF/WB as well as foreign corporations. All subsidies to local agriculture must be eliminated – making local agriculture economically nonviable. Instead subsidies to agro-businesses growing crops for export are increased. The IMF further demands that countries allow foreign investors to buy up any state-owned enterprises they please – such as electric companies, power companies, telephone and transportation companies, natural resources and energy companies – yes, that would be the local oil companies.
And last but not least, the country must agree to maintain the convertibility of its currency. In other words, it must not prohibit the exchange of its own money for the money of another country. Maintaining free convertibility, regardless of the exchange rate, makes speculation about the currency’s future value possible. So how does any country benefit from such loans, with such draconian strings attached? It benefits in no way at all. It never achieves any kind of economic recovery from the loans. Instead it moves towards total economic collapse. It leaves governments of those countries so weakened that they often decline into kleptocracies – governments characterized by rampant greed and corruption! Cases in point would be the bankruptcy of Mexico in 1995, followed by Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia in 1997; Brazil and Russia in 1998; the horrendous collapse of the Argentinian economy in 2000, and Venezuela in 2002. These countries, in a state of near anarchy, continue to be compelled to depend on blood-sucking American corporations for virtually all their consumer needs. In the words of the great Filipino activist Walden Bello, IMF and WB loans result in nothing but “failure, spectacular failure.” (13) In signing papers with these two institutions, Bello said, they “signed away their right to development.” (Again, it reminds one of the credit card companies in the US – sucking the life force out of debtors with their 29 percent interest rates, and driving millions of simple citizens, unable to calculate the extreme capitalist exploitation of these banks, into bankruptcy!)
With clear proof of the unbounded destruction of the IMF and World Bank, the catastrophic consequences on the little people struggling to climb out of abject poverty, the question arises: Why do we need the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), or the IMF? The WTO was created because the US found it could be created, to use as a tool to make more money. The WTO’s two objectives (on behalf of US corporations) was (1) to manage the growing trade rivalry between western industrialized countries like the US, the EU and Japan; and (2) to make sure that Third World countries could not use trade as a means to their own industrialization – which would negatively affect the neoliberal global economic structure, i.e., the cessation of incoming profits to US. Before the creation of the WTO, agriculture was an independent entity in Third World countries. But with the advent of WTO, both the EU and the US could force the Third World to open up new markets (cash crops) for export. To succeed in this endeavor, the WTO had to first put local farmers out of business – drive them into bankruptcy. Second, those local farmers were to be replaced by giant agro-businesses.
At the “Uruguay Round” of agricultural negotiations which took place in Uruguay in 1995, the European Union (EU) and the US excluded all representatives from Third World countries and decided amongst themselves what would be the global rules concerning agriculture. They further prohibited Third World countries from protecting their own agriculture but exempted their own subsidies. Consequently, a huge mass of agricultural products began to inundate third world countries, driving local farmers bankrupt and forcing them to migrate to cities in search of survival. It means that the European Union also is an exploitative tool of capitalism. Really speaking, it means that Third World countries should not do any kind of business with First World, western, industrialized countries, because invariably western countries will exploit them. Western countries are not looking to help impoverished countries. Rather, by entering into any kind of business negotiations with wealthy countries, the Third World countries begin to experience unbounded economic hardship. Not the political leaders, but the masses – the common people!
As if this were not enough, the WTO introduced Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights – also known as TRIPS, which allowed American and other transnational corporations to claim patents on indigenous products already used in Third World countries for centuries. The neem tree in India is an example. The common people have utilized the healing properties of its leaves and bark through the ages. Suddenly, Indians were faced with demands that it could no longer be used locally, as an American corporation now held the patent on this indigenous plant. Another example is the case of RiceTec, Inc. of Alvin, Texas, who in 1997 patented a hybrid of Indian basmati rice, which in fact has been grown in India for more than two centuries. These are just two examples of medical and agricultural exploitation of Third World countries by American corporations on the basis of laws incorporated into the WTO – an entity serving capitalism and capitalists alone! The WTO is nothing but a tool of American economic imperialism, controlled by rich nations who exploit and oppress poor nations.
Globalization and the WTO started sinking into trouble with the Asian Tiger collapse of 1997. This collapse, a direct result of neoliberalist policies of the US, caused the overthrow of the Indonesian government when the IMF tried to impose draconian reforms as a precondition for desperately needed loans. IMF policies began to generate a deep-seated hatred of US, which spread across the East Asian continent. Western powers tried to deflect this hatred, falsely claiming that the Asian countries collapsed due to internal corruption. According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, globalization is the inescapable reality – and globalization has no name.
But in Seattle, Washington in 1999, outraged NGOs fighting for justice found some names to match the crimes – the names of IMF and World Bank officials responsible for creating the policies that wreaked economic havoc on Third World countries! These good people unmasked the imperialist, expansionist motives of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. They exposed how IMF voting rules are rigged to favor the rich countries. Only the US has the power to elect the president of the World Bank. By 2002 anti-globalization movements had spread around the world, doing their utmost to expose the exploitation of these capitalist institutions. As a result of the protests, the IMF changed the name of its program from “structural adjustment policies” to the new name of “poverty reduction and growth facility.” They are meaningless, hypocritical words invented to hoodwink the simple masses who have unbounded suffering and who do not understand the cause of their suffering or who creates all their torture.
When Argentina went belly under in 2000, the IMF agreed to help it with the same draconian stipulations: fire large numbers of government workers, cut pensions, reduce wages, and eliminate fringe benefits. The IMF gave loans telling the government to keep squeezing the poorest sections of the society so as to be able to repay the loans. No government could realistically meet the demands of the IMF. Those demands were the embodiment of cruelty, of torture, to the little people in the country. Finally the IMF refused to give more loans and Argentina collapsed through the floor – all thanks to neoliberalism, globalization and the IMF.
How has globalization changed since the year 2000? After 9/11, globalization was gradually replaced by munitions and war profiteering. There is no way for capitalists to make more money than to take a country to war and to get into the munitions business. The military-industrial complex and the Pentagon play a huge role in this kind of economy. However, arms manufacturing does not follow the rules of globalization. Normally there is one customer (the government) and it is not subject to market discipline. Risks of profit and loss are not taken into consideration. Hence, making and selling munitions is not an example of “free enterprise.” Rather it is state socialism. (14) While “industrial policy” is outlawed by the WTO, there is one glaring exception – that is the production and sale of weapons. So even while IMF imposes severe restrictions on a country in spending on health care or pensions for its common citizens, it will allow the same country to purchase unlimited number of weapons from – you guessed it – American munitions corporations. An example is when in October 2002 Columbia was about to purchase 40 Super Tucano light attack aircraft from Embraer of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest exporter, for $234 million. Instead, General James T. Hill, head of the US Southern Command, wrote to Bogota saying that purchasing from Brazil would have a negative effect on support for future military aid to Columbia. General Hill instead suggested that Columbia buy C-130 airplanes from Lockheed Martin in Georgia. (15) Columbia dropped the deal with Brazil and coalesced with the US. Did it have any choice? However, with the election of Luis Lula da Silva, also in October 2002, the days of bending to US exploitation and arm-twisting may be over.
As Andre Gunder Frank says, the Pentagon is the world’s largest planned economy, with their goal being to redistribute income from poor to rich at home and abroad to blackmail friend and foe to do the same. Rumsfeld has completely privatized the war in Iraq. Hence the military-industrial complex is alive and kicking under the joint stewardship of Rumsfeld and Cheney. Between 1994 and mid-2003 the Pentagon made over 3,000 contracts valued at more than $300 billion. More than 2,700 of those contracts were given to just two companies: Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), subsidiary of Cheney’s Halliburton, and to Booz Allen Hamilton. The result is called private military companies – PMCs. The number of mercenaries employed by PMCs is greater than that employed by the US and British military combined. (16)
Copyright The author 2011