Archive for the ‘IMF’ Category

Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

May 19, 2008

Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

A mere eight months to go until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office — though, given the cast of characters, it could seem like a lifetime. Still, it’s a reasonable moment to begin to look back over the last years — and also toward the post-Bush era. What a crater we’ll have to climb out of by then!

My last post, “Kiss American Security Goodbye,” was meant to mark the beginning of what will, over the coming months, be a number of Bush legacy pieces at Tomdispatch. So consider that series officially inaugurated by Foreign Policy in Focus analyst Mark Engler, who has just authored a new book that couldn’t be more relevant to our looming moment of transition: How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy.

The question Engler is curious to have answered is this: If Bush-style “imperial globalization” is rejected in January, what will American ruling elites try to turn to — Clinton-style economic globalization? Certainly, as Engler points out, many in the business and financial communities are now rallying to the Democrats. After all, while John Edwards received the headlines this week for throwing his support behind Barack Obama, that presidential candidate also got the nod from three former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen — William Donaldson, David Ruder, and Clinton appointee Arthur Levitt Jr. The campaign promptly “released a joint statement by the former SEC chiefs, as well as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, that praised Obama’s ‘positive leadership and judgment’ on economic issues.”

The United States, however, is a very different creature than it was in the confident years when these men rode high. Now, the world is looking at things much differently. Let Engler explain… Tom

Globalizers, Neocons, or…?

The World After Bush
By Mark EnglerPicture January 20, 2009, the day George W. Bush has to vacate the Oval Office.

It’s easy enough to imagine a party marking this fine occasion, with antiwar protestors, civil libertarians, community leaders, environmentalists, health-care advocates, and trade unionists clinking glasses to toast the end of an unfortunate era. Even Americans not normally inclined to political life might be tempted to join the festivities, bringing their own bottles of bubbly to the party. Given that presidential job approval ratings have rarely broken 40% for two years and now remain obdurately around or below 30% — historic lows — it would not be surprising if this were a sizeable celebration.

More surprising, however, might be the number of people in the crowd drinking finer brands of champagne. Amid the populist gala, one might well spot figures of high standing in the corporate world, individuals who once would have looked forward to the reign of an MBA president but now believe that neocon bravado is no way to run an empire.

One of the more curious aspects of the Bush years is that the self-proclaimed “uniter” polarized not only American society, but also its business and political elites. These are the types who gather at the annual, ultra-exclusive World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and have their assistants trade business cards for them. Yet, despite their sometime chumminess, these powerful few are now in disagreement over how American power should be shaped in the post-Bush era and increasing numbers of them are jumping ship when it comes to the course the Republicans have chosen to advance these last years. They are now engaged in a debate about how to rule the world.

Don’t think of this as some conspiratorial plot, but as a perfectly commonsensical debate over what policies are in the best interests of those who hire phalanxes of Washington lobbyists and fill the coffers of presidential and congressional campaigns. Many business leaders have fond memories of the “free trade” years of the Clinton administration, when CEO salaries soared and the global influence of multinational corporations surged. Rejecting neoconservative unilateralism, they want to see a renewed focus on American “soft power” and its instruments of economic control, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) — the multilateral institutions that formed what was known in international policy circles as “the Washington Consensus.” These corporate globalists are making a bid to control the direction of economic policy under a new Democratic administration.

There is little question that the majority of people on the planet — those who suffered under both the corporate globalization of the Clinton years and the imperial globalization of George W. Bush — deserve something better. However, it is far from certain that social justice advocates who want to encourage a more democratic approach to world affairs and global economic well-being will be able to sway a new administration. On the other hand, the damage inflicted by eight years of neocon rule and the challenges of an increasingly daunting geopolitical scene present a conundrum to the corporate globalizers: Is it even possible to go back to the way things were?

The Revolt of the Corporatists

Throughout their time in office, despite fulsome evidence of failure, George Bush and Dick Cheney have maintained a blithe self-confidence about their ability to successfully promote the interests of the United States, or at least those of their high-rolling “Pioneer”-class donors. Every so often, though, the public receives notice that loyalists are indeed scurrying to abandon the administration’s sinking ship of state. In October 2007, for instance, in a front-page story entitled “GOP Is Losing Grip On Core Business Vote,” the Wall Street Journal reported that the party could be facing a brand crisis as “[s]ome business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don’t share.”

When it comes to corporate responses to the President’s Global War on Terror, we mostly hear about the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater — companies directly implicated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and with the mentality of looters. Such firms have done their best to score quick profits from the military machine. However, there was always a faction of realist, business-oriented Republicans who opposed the invasion from the start, in part because they believed it would negatively impact the U.S. economy. As the administration adventure in Iraq has descended into the morass, the ranks of corporate complainers have only grown.

The “free trade” elite have become particularly upset about the administration’s focus on go-it-alone nationalism and its disregard for multilateral means of securing influence. This belligerent approach to foreign affairs, they believe, has thwarted the advance of corporate globalization. In an April 2006 column in the Washington Post, globalist cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby laid blame for “why globalization has stalled” at the feet of the Bush administration. The White House, Mallaby charged, was unwilling to invest any political capital in the IMF, the World Bank, or the WTO. He wrote:

“Fifteen years ago, there were hopes that the end of Cold War splits would allow international institutions to acquire a new cohesion. But the great powers of today are simply not interested in creating a resilient multilateral system…. The United States remains the only plausible quarterback for the multilateral system. But the Bush administration has alienated too many players to lead the team effectively. Its strident foreign policy started out as an understandable response to the fecklessness of other powers. But unilateralism has tragically backfired, destroying whatever slim chance there might have been of a workable multilateral alternative.”

Frustrated by Bush’s failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return. As a measure of this — the capitalist equivalent of voting with their feet — political analyst Kevin Phillips notes in his new book, Bad Money, that, in 2007, “[h]edge fund employees’ contributions to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee outnumbered those to its Republican rival by roughly nine to one.”

This quiet revolt of the corporatists is already causing interesting reverberations on the campaign trail. The base of the Democratic Party has clearly rejected the “free trade” version of trickle-down economics, which has done far more to help those hedge-fund managers and private-jet-hopping executives than anyone further down the economic ladder. As a result, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running as opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and of a newer bilateral trade deal with Colombia, a country in which organizing a union or vocally advocating for human rights can easily cost you your life. The tenor of the current campaign represents a significant shift from the 1990s, when top Democrats were constantly trying to establish their corporate bona fides and “triangulate” their way into conservative economic policy.

Still, both candidates are surrounded by business-friendly advisors whose views fit nicely within an older, pre-Bush administration paradigm of corporate globalization. The tension between the anti-NAFTA activists at the base of the Party and those in the campaign war rooms has resulted in some embarrassing gaffes during the primary contest.

For Hillary Clinton, the most notable involved one of her chief strategists, Mark Penn, a man with a long, nefarious record defending corporate abuses as a Washington lobbyist. As it turned out, Penn’s consulting firm received $300,000 in 2007 to support the “free trade” agreement with Colombia. Even as Clinton was proclaiming her heartfelt opposition to the deal and highlighting the “history of suppression and targeted killings of labor organizers” in that country, a key player in her campaign was charting strategy with Colombian government officials in order to get the pact passed.

The Obama campaign found itself in similar discomfort in February. While the candidate was running in the Ohio primary as an opponent of NAFTA, calling that trade deal a “mistake” that has harmed working people, his senior economic policy adviser, University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee, was meeting with Canadian government officials to explain, as a memo by the Canadians reported, that Obama’s charges were merely “political positioning.” Goolsbee quickly claimed that his position had been mischaracterized, but the incident naturally raised questions. Why, for example, had Goolsbee, senior economist to the Democratic Leadership Council, the leading organization on the corporate-friendly rightwing of the party, and a person praised as “a valuable source of free-trade advice over almost a decade,” been positioned to mold Obama’s economic stances in the first place?

If pressure from the base of the party lets up after the elections, it would hardly be surprising to see a victorious candidate revert to Bill Clinton’s corporate model for how to rule the world. However, a return to a pre-Bush-style of international politics may be easier dreamed than done.

The Neocon Paradox

To the chagrin of the “free trade” elite, the market fundamentalist ideas that have dominated international development thinking for at least the last 25 years are now under attack globally. This is largely because the economic prescriptions of deregulation, privatization, open markets, and cuts to social services so often made (and enforced) by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have proven catastrophic.

In 2003, the United Nations’ Human Development Report (UNHDP) explained that 54 already poor countries had actually grown even poorer during the “free trade” era of the 1990s. The British Guardian summarized well the essence of this report:

“Taking issue with those who have argued that the ‘tough love’ policies of the past two decades have spawned the growth of a new global middle class, the report says the world became ever more divided between the super-rich and the desperately poor. The richest 1% of the world’s population (around 60 million) now receives as much income as the poorest 57%, while the income of the richest 25 million Americans is the equivalent of that of almost 2 billion of the world’s poorest people.”

Such findings led UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown, in a remarkably blunt statement, to call for a “guerilla assault on the Washington Consensus.”

In fact, in 2008, such an assault is already well under way — and Washington is in a far weaker position economically to deal with it. The countries burned by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, for instance, are now building up huge currency reserves so they never again have to come begging to the International Monetary Fund (and so suffer diktats from Washington) in times of crisis. Moreover, virtually the whole of Latin America is in revolt. Over 500 million people reside in that region, and over two-thirds of them now live under governments elected since 2000 on mandates to split with “free trade” economics, declare independence from Washington, and pursue policies that actually benefit the poor.

In late April, economist Mark Weisbrot noted that, with so many countries breaking free of its grasp, the IMF, which once dictated economic policy to strapped governments around the world, is now but a shadow of its former self. In the past four years, its loan portfolio has plummeted from $105 billion to less than $10 billion, the bulk of which now goes to just two countries, Turkey and Pakistan. This leaves the U.S. Treasury, which used the body to control foreign economies, with far less power than in past decades. “The IMF’s loss of influence,” Weisbrot writes, “is probably the most important change in the international financial system in more than half a century.”

It is a historic irony that Bush administration neocons, smitten with U.S. military power, itching to launch their wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, and eschewing multinational institutions, actually helped to foster a global situation in which U.S. influence is waning and countries are increasingly seeking independent paths. Back in 2005, British journalist George Monbiot dubbed this “the unacknowledged paradox in neocon thinking.” He wrote:

“They want to drag down the old, multilateral order and replace it with a new, U.S. one. What they fail to understand is that the ‘multilateral’ system is in fact a projection of U.S. unilateralism, cleverly packaged to grant other nations just enough slack to prevent them from fighting it. Like their opponents, the neocons fail to understand how well [Presidents] Roosevelt and Truman stitched up the international order. They are seeking to replace a hegemonic system that is enduring and effective with one that is untested and (because other nations must fight it) unstable.”

Battered by losing wars and economic crisis, the United States is now a superpower visibly on the skids. And yet, there is no guarantee that the coming era will produce a change for the better. In a world in which the value of the dollar is plummeting, oil is growing ever more scarce relative to demand, and foreign states are rising as rivals to American power, the possibility of either going ahead with the Bush/Cheney style of unilateralism or successfully returning to the “enduring and effective” multilateral corporatism of the 1990s may no longer exist. But the failure of these options will undoubtedly not be for lack of trying. Even with corporate globalization on the decline, multinational businesses will attempt to consolidate or expand their power. And even with the imperial model of globalization discredited, an overextended U.S. military may still try to hold on with violence.

The true Bush administration legacy may be to leave us in a world that is at once far more open to change and also far more dangerous. Such prospects should hardly discourage the long-awaited celebration in January. But they suggest that a new era of globalization battles — struggles to build a world order based neither on corporate influence, nor imperial might — will have only just begun.

Mark Engler, an analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, is the author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (just published by Nation Books). He can be reached via the website Democracy Uprising.

Copyright 2008 Mark Engler

What Comes After The U.S. Empire?

July 21, 2007

What Comes After The U.S. Empire? 

Introductory Speech at the TRANSCEND International Meeting – 6-12 June 2007, Vienna, Austria

By Johan Galtung 

07/20/07 “ICH — – I first want to say a few words about the current G8 meeting, and then talk about major conflicts in the world. This will cover much of the world situation, a reflection on global capitalism, and the US Empire and its imminent demise and what will happen after that. 

            The G8 meeting is actually an act of sabotage, and in my view a deliberate one. It sabotages and undermines the UN. In 1975, the meeting was established as a small forum for intimate meetings between 3 leaders from each participating country. However, from a purely economic agenda it has become much more, incorporating a lot of UN agenda items (security issues and global warming etc.) and thereby actually hijacking the subjects of global importance to about 8 countries only. Russia, which was invited under Yeltsin, is the black sheep in the community. Also, not inviting Chindia is a guarantee for sabotage, as is talking about Africa without having even one African representative present. The good news is that there were 100’000 demonstrators, and the bad news is that there were some violent idiots. 

            If the nonviolent majority could practice the technique of 20 nonviolent encircling every violent one in a nonviolent way, incapacitating their capacity for violence, it would be an enormous feat. There is, however another piece of what I would call bad news; the 100’000 without constructive, positive ideas. I’ve gone through the whole rigmarole of the slogans. Personally, I don’t like the slogans against globalization; there is no way in the world to stop globalization because it is driven by things we all love: communication and transportation. We are not going to turn that backwards. A good slogan would be “another globalization is possible” and spelling out that better globalization as opposed to the economically exploitative process we know. 

            So, having said that, we have dark days in front of us. We have impending climate and economic disaster and on top of that a political military issue, the so-called Shield. There isn’t hardly a person in the world who believes it is against Iran. It is a part of a policy started in 1996, counter-posing against each other, on the one hand NATO and AMPO (the US-JAPAN arrangement), and on the other hand the SCO countries, the biggest alliance in human history: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with 6 full members and 3 observers. The 6 members are China, Russia and four of the former Central Asian republics, excluding Turkmenistan. The three observers are India, Pakistan and Iran. Together, it’s about 50% of humanity, confronting a relatively small country called the United States of America, with only 300’000’000, not a very impressive size these days. 

            I have said this, knowing that of the 10 points of the Project for the New American Century–written by people who are still in power, although there is an erosion among them–point number 7 is to change regime in China. I am of the opinion that whatever be the method, that the Chinese will rather do the change of regime themselves, and are not enthusiastic about being encircled. It is the major conflict confrontation of the world today, between NATO/AMPO and SCO, and since it is the major one, it is also the one least talked about. The Shield has to neutralize missiles from Russia and China. I think Putin understood it correctly in Munich, and sees it in the light of the cancellation of the ABM treaty, which was a cornerstone of the peaceful development during the Cold War. It was canceled unilaterally by the United States, The anti-missile capacities in the Czech Republic and Poland come on top of the US and NATO breaking the promises made to Gorbachev at the end of the Cold War: that the Soviet Union would withdraw from Eastern Europe, including Eastern Germany, and the United States would not follow suit, whereupon the United States had filled almost every base opportunity, and enrolled practically speaking all the countries in NATO. That has heightened the tension immensely. Whether it will dominate the Heiligendamm [G8 meeting] meeting, I don’t know, but I would imagine that it could be quite important. The guess is that the US would do anything they can in order to bribe the citizens of the villages selected in Poland and the Czech Republic with high amounts of money in order not to demonstrate against. So, G8 spells only bad news, as introduction to the six conflicts: 

1.         Economic Contradiction: Global Capitalism 

            Let me just say a word about global capitalism. The two antidotes to the market mechanism that have been effective have been, on the one hand, a welfare state, and on the other hand, protectionism. Microcredit, you can forget about it, these are small drops in the bucket, giving relief to some small groups. The countries that practice it most, Bangladesh and Bolivia, are still at the bottom, economically speaking. The combination of selective protectionism and welfare state, that is the real stuff. The way Japan did it, the way Taiwan did it, the way South Korea did it, the way Hong Kong did it, the way Singapore did it, the way Malaysia did it, with considerable success. You find in the whole of the East Asia/South East Asia conglomerate countries that have been doing exactly this. That is important, and the neo-liberal free market syndrome is of course against that. They are doing everything they can to eliminate the two factors. That means that the global market place becomes a vertical assembly line for the transportation of capital from the bottom to the top. And this works with three mechanisms: monetization, privatization and globalization, border-free market, of which globalization is the least important. The most important is monetization, setting a monetary price on everything. It is the most important because it means that those who have no money have no chance, and they are about 1’000’000’000. Their option, that is very clear, is to join the ranks of the dying; 125’000 dying every day with 25’000 starving and 100’000 dying from preventable and curable diseases,  for which cures exist, but they are monetized. User’s fees in Africa are a disaster. All of this is known today! Adam Smith warned against unmitigated markets; David Ricardo warned against unmitigated labor markets in periods with high labor supply, saying that it would have lasting unemployment as a result, and extreme poverty among the labor. 

            From global capitalism as it is operating today, we can expect no solution to these problems. So let me then add the kind of approach that I, as one person, would advocate; taming capitalism, by introducing at the same time about 14 other types of economies. In other words, it is a little bit like the thinking about energy: we don’t say an unconditional no to hydrocarbons, but we introduce 6, 7, 8 other methods. The energy profile becomes complex. Time does not permit me to get into all 14, I’ll not do it, some of you have the manuscript and the book A Life-Sustaining Economy is close to completion. The point I am arguing is a pluralistic economy. There is no single formula that covers all the alternatives, and the pluralistic profile must be adjusted to the preconditions in space and time. 

2.         Military Contradiction: Terrorism and State Terrorism 

            Number two on this list is the military contradiction between terrorism and state terrorism. The USA state contradiction on terrorism has now entered military intervention number 73 since the Second World War; Number 73 being what they are doing in Lebanon right now: killing Palestinians. There are 470’000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, almost half a million, scattered in camps from the north to the south. We now know the number of the people who were driven out of the territory that became the Jewish state during the Naqba, the Catastrophe: the number of Palestinians driven out was 711’000, very far from ‘a couple of thousand’. It is a very major number for a small nation. Some of them, not necessarily in that period, found their way to Lebanon. This is number 73 and the number of people killed in overt Pentagon-driven military action after the Second World War is now between 13 and 17 million. The number of people killed in covert action is at least 6 million. The number of people killed by structural violence could be 125’000 people per day, but for that the USA is not alone responsible. What the USA is responsible for is giving the military cover for that economic system. You can go through the total amount of interventions, 243, since Thomas Jefferson started, and you will find that almost without exception the interventions are triggered by some political action that sounds like or might lead to redistribution of wealth and power somewhere in the world. So, you get this endless pairing: intervening when the Sandinistas are in power but not when Somoza is in power, intervening when Chavez is in power but not when, for instance, Jimenez is in power. Both of them were darlings of the International Monetary Fund, a solid pillar of exploitation. 

Iraq 

            Right now the major arena is Iraq, the coming arena may be Iran. One particularly gifted journalist, Andreas Zumach, has written an article saying that for the Iran war everything is prepared. It is totally wrong to assume that because the US has problems in Iraq it will not attack Iran. I will also say that it is totally wrong to assume that the US is losing in Iraq. You will only assume that if you assume that the major goal of the United States is a cohesive Iraq entity that has some semblance to parliamentary democracy. If you look at the real goals, oil and military bases, they may ever be winning. There could be an oil law, the chances that it could be passed are not that small. And it is the Paul Bremer concept they are working on that essentially presupposes that the oil resources are put on the global market, bought up by the 5 big companies, with 100% repatriation of profit. 

            It is sometimes pointed out that the US Empire is not colonial. That is correct. They had colonies in the past, after they in 1898 stepped into the Spanish empire and acquired some major indigenous problems. One interesting thing about colonialism, however, is that it gave colonizers some paternalistic sense of responsibility that you can forget about when it comes to what’s going on under imperialism. 

            Let me just add one point to that. I find the idea of pulling out of Iraq one of the most cowardly, dishonorable ideas I can imagine, so let me immediately formulate an alternative. Shed the uniform, and start helping the Iraqi people you have brutalized. Compensate, apologize, you have a lot of infrastructure at your disposal, you US army could still do a decent job. And one of the worst proposals in addition to that is to say “Just go to your bases and stay there”. Those bases are for the coming war with SCO, that’s why they are there. Have a look at the analysis of the length of the runways and you will see the purpose behind them. 

            Let me come back for a second to the idea of pulling out, which in my mind is such a bad idea that we could expect it from the US. What it means is that you pull out so that you don’t suffer any humiliating defeat. You make yourself unavailable for defeat. I can understand the reason, it is not difficult. The 30th April 1975, the humiliating defeat in Vietnam became a major trauma. To avoid that situation is the priority of course, pulling out better than to continue killing, but, I just think one should call a spade a spade, and no way I see cut and run as peaceful action. We shouldn’t, I would say, contaminate the concept of peace with cowardice, trying to “save face” after having killed 750’000 so far. Multiply that by 10 for the bereaved–the persons who feel the loss of a friend, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a child, a parent, a colleague, a neighbor–multiply 750’000 by 10 and you have an estimate of the hatred that has been created. Add to that the 4 million who are displaced, some of them among the 7,5 million I just mentioned; and add to that the psychosis induced in the high number of US military who have been to Iraq; and add to that the about 25’000 wounded who have come back to the US and you may probably add 10% of them dying. The definition of a person of the US army personnel killed in the war is that he dies in Iraq, that means “Put them on the plane get them to Walter Ried as quickly as possible, don’t let them die in Iraq”. I am not saying that to get somewhere closer to realism when discussing this enormity. 

            Why don’t the USA with some allies win? Because they are against an enemy that is unconquerable, and why is that? Because of “asymmetric warfare” is too sterile. Of course they are using “improvised explosive” devices against these sophisticated things that the US army used. But they have two more arms at their disposal: time and space. 

            An unlimited time perspective. There is no point called “capitulation” in their rules, that can just be forgotten, it belonged to the old days. We are dealing with a type of warfare where what used to be called the weaker party has any amount of time at its disposal. These people are trained in fighting a government empire for 400, 500 years, like the Serbs were fighting the Turks for 500 years. The Orthodox, among the three Christianities, have a time perspective very similar to the Islamic one. I don’t think you will find 500 years patience in Washington, maybe not even 5 months for that matter. 

            And, they have space, there are 57 members of the OIC, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. 56 of them are states, number 57 are the 160 million or so Muslims in India. Most of the borders of the 56 countries are drawn by the West; they are borders that make no sense to Islam at all. That doesn’t mean there are no fault lines inside Islam. More important than Shia-Sunni is probably Arab-non-Arab. The non-Arab countries are in the majority, of the 56 only 22 are Arab. Of the 1.350.000.000 Muslims, 300.000.000 are Arab. If the Arabs feel that the religion is essentially theirs, then they are in a minority position. That is becoming something interesting, and of course the US plays on those fault lines. It seemed to work as long as they were dealing with Khomeini, he is a Shia, the “bad” Islam. But, bin Laden, a Wahab, was a Sunni, and didn’t look much more attractive than Khomeini. So something went wrong somehow with that Harvard University distinction. 

            Harvard University, by the way, is the university that by far has contributed most economists to the neo-liberal attack on humanity. Like Jeffrey Sachs, a major person in the destruction of Bolivia and of Russia, and now proceeding to the whole world. He has changed his rhetoric, even humanized the rhetoric. But if we look at the measures, they look very much like what he did to Bolivia and Russia. 

            Having said that, if you have time and space on your side, then you are dealing with enormous resources. In principle, the whole Islamic world is on the other side. This constitutes the “Clash of Civilizations” that Samuel Huntington’s publisher stole from Bernard Lewis, a far more important intellectual, professor at Princeton University, and a major advisor to Cheney. One of those who, more than anybody else, has whispered in Cheney’s ears “Attack Iraq!”. Everybody is blaming Samuel Huntington, best read the book, you’ll find almost nothing about civilization. Read Bernard Lewis, and you will find quite a lot, particularly about Islam. 

            It is a complete mistake to talk about this as a civilizational-religious clash only. It’s economic, military, political, it’s the full house. The more one says the “clash of civilizations”, the more is one inclined to forget the economic, political, military interests hidden underneath. It must be wonderful for Washington to have all this clash-of-civilization-talk and establish 14 military bases, and then try to put your paw on all the oil. “Keep them discussing civilization”. And this of courseis why we need the concept of imperialism, because it is holistic, one reason why the concept does not have a very high standing in the USA. The war of state terrorism against terrorism is an elitist warfare against peoples warfare. The people’s war is close to unbeatable, but it may take time. That holds for Iraq and it holds for Afghanistan. Anybody who knows a little bit of the history of Afghanistan and the British attacks in 1838 and 1878 and the Soviet attack in 1978, also know how it ended; with humiliating defeats. The one in 1878 ended even with the massacre in the British embassy in Kabul in 1883. I think they would have wished for good life insurances for those people. 

            How is it possible to enter a thing when so much knowledge would indicate otherwise, with all these negative indicators? Is it permissible to be that ignorant of history? To deny entirely a whole lot of facts that nevertheless somehow play a role? I myself think we give much too much credit to facts, but some facts are quite useful. It tells a lot to have a President who has both ignorance and denial fitted into his mental framework, but I would warn strongly against associating the calamity with Bush alone. 

            The US empire is resting on a deep structure and a deep culture. Let me take the deep culture first. There is both Chosenness, the vision of past and present glory, and a strong sense of trauma. There is Dualism, Manichaeism, and the sense that Armageddon will solve it. But, this is no Republican monopoly. It is found in both corporate parties, with some fringes that feel some uneasiness. And, of course, of those, the Republicans have suffered the humiliation of losing the elections. But the two parties re-cohered, voted for the “surge”, voted for 100 billion more money, adding some clauses. In other words, we are faced with a Republican Democrat entity, a Repucrat, Repurat, whatever we want to call it; a single-party coalition with two wings. That was the bad news, the good news are the 50% who don’t vote. Somewhere in those 50% there is a solution, not as one person. In other words, there is good news and bad news. 

            How does a person like Andreas Zumach, very well informed, think that the war against Iran will be? It could be based on a provocation, constructed, fake and false. Like Racak in Kosovo. A Finnish forensic specialist has now released her report which was silenced by Joschka Fischer at a critical moment, and the report on Racak is very clear: there was a gun-powder slam, but, the slam was on their hands and not on the neck. In other words, it was on those who had been shooting, not on the executed victims. Killing had been done in an ordinary manner and they then assembled the corpses and lay them out. They need a US ambassador to make that, it bears the stamp of William Walker. The total number of killed in Kosovo was not 150’000, but 8’000 over the years, 5’000 Albanians and 3’000 Serbs. I am just saying that because we have been treated to lies, and if there is the war against Iran it will be initiated by lies. To propagate those lies we have the corporate press, meaning press owned by the corporation. Information is easily arranged. 

            From the plans that have emerged it looks as if the 100’000 targets have been identified in Iran. These targets include not only some nuclear arrangements, but the total military infrastructure of the country, that means any kind of center of command, naval points, air bases, anything that has to do with missiles. But that would only amount to one half of the 100’000 targets, the other targets would be anything that has to do with civilian infrastructure in the sense of railroads, airports, roads of course, sewerage, bridges, canals or watering, electric power plants, anything that keeps the civilian population going. Starting at 5 am some morning, 100’000 targets, in association with Israel. As far as I understand the Iranian counterattack will be considerable. I don’t know, but I could guess there could be dirty bombs inside the US, ignited by remote control. Only an idiot will use missiles. They will of course use totally different methods. So I mention it as an example of what we may be facing. 

Afghanistan 

            In March I was invited to give a talk for three ministries in the UK, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry or Department of Defense, and the Department for International Development (DFID). It was organized by the latter. I was a little surprised when I was asked to give the keynote address, and in the chair was the former Foreign Minister. The keynote was about Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. And since I have just been mentioning Afghanistan, let me say some words about what I saw as possible solutions. The basic point I have just made: you can forget any possibility of winning. You may have a lull, and God bless you when it comes to what happens after the lull: Osama bin Laden. You can also forget calling your enemy Taliban, Talib means “student”, it’s a highly anti-student type of word, you can forget about that too. We are essentially dealing with the Afghan people. I remember a discussion I had myself in that meeting, with an Afghan general. He gave a talk about how many small weapons he had confiscated, 90’000, and how his forces were fighting. And I said to him “General, tell me a little bit more about that fighting”, and he looked at me and said, “Of course it doesn’t work. I cannot ask my Afghan troops to kill Afghans, it makes no sense for them. The Russians, no problem.” He didn’t say, but he was thinking “Americans, no problem”, but that was not politically correct at such a conference in London. I will never forget how the twinkle in his eyes met with the twinkle in mine, twinkle meets twinkle, and we understood each other perfectly. 

            The 5 points that would give a solution to Afghanistan would be the following from the TRANSCEND mediation in Peshawar in February 2001. 

1.         Make a Coalition Government with the Taliban. 100% Taliban is intolerable. But the Taliban has a moral fiber, which most others don’t have. If you eliminate them you will get heroin and corruption and not much more. They are needed. 

2.         Afghanistan is the material from which a Federation is made, not a unitary state, even if the Northern Alliance based on Tadjiks and Pashtuns with Kabul in the middle, count for half. There are at least ten others. To call potential Prime Ministers “warlords” is an insult. You have to be very much removed from reality to believe that by insulting them you can eliminate them or make them your friends. 

3.         A Central Asian Community surrounding Afghanistan with the countries that contribute to the national mosaic that is Afghanistan, the Pashtuns from Pakistan, the Tadjiks from Tadjikistan and the Dari-speaking from Iran, and so on and so forth, would make a lot of sense. That will include Kashmir, and Pakistan, and Iran. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has almost realized it. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization does not publish much, but moves in very, very clever, slow, movements. It moves so slowly that the journalists do not discover it, because it would have to move from day to day in order for a jour-nal to record it. 

4.         Make Basic Needs the leading line of the Government policy. That means food, education, health, clothing, whatever is needed for the somatic human being, shared by all, and available to men and women alike. That last problem can only be solved on a Quranic basis, and is being solved in a number of Islamic countries. One of the most interesting solutions was by Saddam Hussein, number 3 of the 14 good things he did. He told the Iraqi women, “From tomorrow on you decide whether to wear the hijaab or not. Only you. And if anybody tries to change your view come to me.” Now, to come to Saddam Hussein was not a very appetizing invitation, so this was definitely under threat, but it worked. It created a very, very vibrant group of women in Iraqi society. That of courseis now all disappearing. 

5.         Security, provided by cooperation between the UN Security Council and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The UN Security Council has a veto nucleus of 4 Christian powers, and one Confucian. It has no legitimacy whatsoever in the Muslim world, that has to be understood. To believe that one can organize a UNSC-sponsored security operation in a country that hates the UN, not only because of the composition of the Security Council, but for having killed 1 million through the Iraq sanctions, is naive. And they gave a very clear expression for their hatred by killing the Secretary-General’s representative in the Iraq UN building. It doesn’t help much to call the people who did it “extremists”. In the war we had against the German occupation in Norway, the people who did violent acts were extremists, and most people were sitting on the fence, applauding. But, don’t be confused, don’t call the fence-sitters moderates. They were waiting for the wind to blow a little bit more clearly and then jumped down taking a clear stand. 

            With those 5 points, I think one could arrive at something. It is not for us to impose any solution on anybody, and TRANSCEND in this case was essentially the Canadians. I was an adjunct. One of them was an Afghan Canadian, Seddiq Veera, of considerable diplomatic acumen. When that report was read in front of the working groups, a former Cabinet Member said “This is the best I’ve ever seen, the only problem is it has no chance… Why, because,” he added, “the Americans will attack us in October 2001, because they want to control pipelines, and they want bases.” So I asked him, “How do you know that?”. And he said, “Would you mind coming to my room this evening?” The room was very dark, and had a considerable amount of electronics, and quite good assistants who were very discrete, and he presented quite a lot of very interesting pictures. “When the Americans attack in October, they will put their military bases exactly here”, he took a map and put his finger exactly where a major base is today. You will of course remember that this was to be exact seven months before 9/11. 

            But having said that, the question comes up: “How does one move a plan like those 5 points?” Well, the reports from the conference, with the keynote address, is there, circulated to all kinds of governmental circles, not only in England. I don’t know, but we need a better dissemination technique. The corporate press will do their best to deny us that access, because we are uncontrollable, unpredictable. And I think they want it to remain like that, and so do we. 

3.         Nations and States Contradiction: 200 States, 2000 Nations 

            Let me go on to number three, very briefly, 200 states, 2000 nations. In Kosova they are now practicing the principle of self-determination. They are not practicing it in Republica Srpska, they are not practicing it in Transdniestria, they are not practicing it for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. They are practicing it where they want to practice it. What TRANSCEND tries to do is to open the space between independence and unitary states. And we have a lot of research done and a lot of experience when it comes to the range of in between points. And the three best known points are of course federation, confederation and devolution. Those are in-between parts. We did not have any success so far in Sri Lanka. The parties are not convinced that they can win, but they are convinced that they can deprive the other side from winning. Not quite the same, but almost equally good. If both of them want to deprive the other side of winning it can go on for a considerable amount of time, because you won’t even have the mechanism of victory or capitulation which sets some full stop, for some period. They needed of course the cease-fire agreement brokered by the Norwegian government in order to arm and re-deploy, and both parties make use of it. During that period, there was not a single serious effort to solve the conflict; certainly not by the Norwegian government, nor by the others. A very sad picture. And I’m afraid that whatever beautiful peace-building efforts one can make, it has limited impact. There has to be a solution. The good news from my own experience: the moment you do have a solution, it is incredible how much bad sentiment and behavior can evaporate quickly because the solution is there. 

4.         Cultural Contradiction: Islam vs Christianity 

            Number four, the cultural one. Imagine that you take the TRANSCEND 5 point diagram and you simply say Islam hates Christianity, wants to kick it out, and Christianity hates Islam, wants to kick it out. That formula is called intolerance. We are against that. There is the neither/nor possibility they may both conclude that there is something crazy in both religions. Let us turn to Buddhism, or let’s become secular. Secularism, I think, can partly be traced back to the 30 years war in Europe (1618 – 48). I don’t have the historical evidence, but I have at least the hypothesis that a high number of people came to the conclusion that if these are two Christianities that both define themselves as the only correct one, and that’s the way they treat each other, there must be something basically wrong in the whole Christian message. At the time, they did not have alternative religion, so they turned to secularism. 

            Secularism supported itself as science, and they fell into a very deep dark hole. Science, as you know, is based on data as the ultimate arbiter between hypotheses. But, data come from the past. In opting for science you give the past practically speaking 100 percent of the power. I have been struggling almost all my life to develop epistemology that does not take that dramatic position, but maneuvering even-handedly between past and future. It means that you give the potential, the negatively non-existing, as much praise as the positively existing. The moment secularism allies itself with science, it allies itself with the past. It is very easy to understand why they do it: because they are Christians, maybe Jews, maybe Muslims, and God created the world, and if God is perfection then His work must also be perfection. To talk about an alternative future is to challenge the creation. Any alternative future from a science point of view is speculation. From that point of view Darwinism and intelligent design are very very similar. The driving forces are in the past. What could be a true global future of this relation? We should draw on the potential of future wishes, of the dreams and the wishes and the values as an equally important part of the intellectual enterprise, and here I am not with Noam Chomsky. Brilliant, he is a digger for facts, and I dig him too. But he is chemically free from any concrete, constructive and creative future. There isn’t one single idea except “writing a letter to your Congressman”. And he has proven again and again and again how futile that exercise is. He is called the major intellectual in the world. 

            So, having said that, I am very much attracted by a statement by an Iranian, and that statement by an Iranian is as follows. I will read it to you in English. It is the 14th Century Persian Sufi poet Hafiz and his ultimate words about the distinction and struggle between Christianity and Islam: 

            “I have learned so much from God that I can no longer call myself a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew. The truth has shed so much of itself in me that I can no longer call myself a man, a woman…”. 

            The latter is going a little bit too far, I’m not sure I can follow him into that! 

            “…An angel or even a pure soul, love has befriended Hafiz so completely, has turned to passion, freed me of every concept and image my mind has ever loved… man/woman, thing.” 

            And that is what I for reasons of time will say about number 5 on the list: 

5.         Sufism 

            It comes straight out of the Axis of Evil. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter of 18 pages to Bush, a little bit repetitive at times, but a fascinating letter. What an indictment of the Western civilization that they are not even able to answer that letter. Nobody is of course expecting any answer from George Bush, but he has a couple of people: couldn’t Condi try her hand at it for instance? I mean, she is a bright woman. Why not? 

            A quote from Daoism: 

            “Sharing the suffering of others, the life and joy of others. Use the good fortune of others as your own good fortune. View the losses of others as yours.” 

            This is “we-ness”, this is swinging in harmony, two persons, or, humanity swinging in harmony, sensing each other’s delight and suffering. Compare that with the profoundly egoistic lex talionis: “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” Why is it so profoundly egoistic? Because it ends up with my ego, somebody should do something good to me, but I’m so smart that I know that the best way to get that is to be nice to that person, you get much more from him with that method. If you treat him badly you might get nothing or worse. A light-year away from the Daoism of creating we’s. This is the kind of thing that I find fascinating in connection with religion: it is not neither/nor, it is not the compromise, it is not one dominating over the other. Better, try to take the both/and, pick up the gems from all of them, make them coalesce, cohere somehow! A fascinating challenge, a little bit ahead of its time, or then maybe not. Maybe a lot of people think that way, it only has to be released, perhaps, in public space. 

6.         The US Empire 

            Let me introduce number 6, with a quotation from the South African Nobel Prize winner in literature J.M. Coetzee. Absolutely brilliant. The essay he wrote and published in 1974, when he was 34 years old, was about South Africa and the Vietnam War. He wrote a statement about the USA, putting it in the working of a specialist in a U.S. think tank in California, southern part. The project he is working on is how to break the wild of the Vietcong, and substitute for Vietcong goals goals that are compatible with the sincere US love for the Vietnamese people. He writes: 

            “If the Vietnamese had come singing towards us through the hails of bullets, we would have knelt down and embraced them.”

            If they can come singing through the hails of bullets. A good way of putting it. Yes, if only it’s exactly what happens. The idea that we can bomb the people into submission, and make them love us, is insane. When the Germans were “bombed into submission”, it actually strengthened the Nazi party. What then happened to the Germans was something else. At a certain point they realized that their whole project was doomed, the whole Nazi project was wrong wrong wrong. They were not taught a lesson by being bombed. “If only they would come singing through the hail of bullets, we would go down on our knees and embrace them.” The perception of their own project came from the inside. What Coetzee leads up to is psychosis, diagnosis maybe a combination of narcissism, megalomania and paranoia, maybe with elements of a fantastic detachment from reality. But we are not dealing with psychopaths, we are dealing with socio-paths. Maybe lovely individuals, but with an image of the world totally devoid of any humanitarian reality when those attacked refuse to do what Reagan said when he was entering a helicopter, in connection with Nicaragua. “Mr. President, what do you want them to do?” “All I want them to do is to say ‘Uncle’”, meaning “I submit.” 

            It doesn’t work like that with a deep culture and a deep structure at work. US political science and US economics have no concept of history, and, it seems, only two concepts of structure, hierarchy and anarchy. If you come from a Nordic country, or from the European Union, you have no problem what equity is about, even if I had to make up the word “equiarchy”, to add to hierarchy, polyarchy and anarchy. Their only approach to equity was and is the signed agreement, contract, regardless of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th level consequences. Similarly, solution to them means settlement, a signed document, and I would argue it isn’t good enough, solution is deeper. 

            So how is the US Empire performing these days? There are 15 contradictions at the end in the hypothesis made in the year 2000. Let me say what the basic theory is about. An Empire is a transborder arrangement that combines economic, military, political and cultural power. It’s an enormous power display that obviously brings with it contradictions. Contradictions are problems you cannot solve unless you change the system, but you can coexist with a couple of contradictions. When the contradictions start multiplying, synchronizing and synergizing, they become serious. 

            For the Empire people hit by an Empire start understanding that they have a common cause: get rid of the Empire – like colonialism, like slavery. 

            I can now pick up some of them, such as the amount of Euros passing the Dollars in circulation last December, Toyota passing GM in January, and you have the number of patents in the world with the US proportion sinking in comparison with other countries passing the US in one domain after the other. There is all of this happening, and much much more. 

            Let me point to a key factor. It hasn’t happened yet. But, many Europeans have felt bothered, and the moment they meet people in the Iraqi resistance movement and they compare notes, a sense of a common cause may start arising. If I now take all of these 15 points, some of them also inside the US, and Americans also sense that they are better off without the US Empire, the moment that common cause factor comes about, the US Empire is doomed. That is what happened to the Soviet Union. My prediction made in 1980 was that the wall would fall before 1990 and that the Soviet Empire would follow and they performed on time. The prediction of the US Empire is by 24 October 2020, the UN day and also my 90th anniversary, and you are all invited to celebrate. And let us combine it with a TRANSCEND meeting, but we need to make a jump, because they are now in odd years. 

What comes after the U.S. Empire? 

A.        The European Union as Successor 

            And then what? Three possibilities. 1) A Successor Country or Countries, 2) A Regionalizing World, 3) Another Globalization. Let me say a couple of words on all three. And you will take note, of course, that the end of an Empire is the most natural thing in the world. Empires come and go, it’s been like that all the time. No empire lasts forever. However, this one happens to be so brutal, so killing, so intervening, doing so much damage that you would expect it to be more short-lived than many of the others. It didn’t have the decorum and the sense of responsibility sometimes exercised by the English and the French, to a large extent by the Spanish, to a minor extent also by the Dutch, much less by the Portuguese and the Belgians. You will of coursealso remember that the Portuguese in Brazil, with the US, were hanging onto slavery more than any other. So there is a tradition here. 

            But leaving that point aside, I think China is one of the least likely successor candidates. On my list, candidate number one is the European Union. You need a sense of universalism, China has nothing of that. They are still convinced that it is surrounded by barbarians. They are willing to buy quite a lot. The annual global income is 54 trillion dollars, and China’s reserves are more than one trillion. The US currency reserves right now amount to 47 billion, which is nothing. That means when you want 100 billion for more fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to take more loans. That they get those loans is something still a little bit strange, but they do pay something in return, namely access to the US markets. So, having said that, a likely successor is the European Union, very universalist, with the 11 major colonial powers all members, and all concerned about their part of the world. And they are willing to say “I’ll not protest if you do something in your part if you’ll not protest when I do something in my part”. It is European political common market. There is much more to the European Union, but this is one important aspect. 

            We had a conference on peace studies in Hull in England one week ago, about democracy and peace. And I launched the idea of the European Union as a successor, after 19 reasons why the hypothesis of “democratic peace” is false, even a fraud, but I leave out all of that. The point I’m making is simply that the European Union has the deep culture and the deep structure it takes to become an empire. There were protests to the effect that there was no such plan also from Members of the European Parliament. Back then, a German from the European Commission raised his hand and said: “I’ll tell you one thing, I work in the European Commission, but occasionally I go over to the Council of Ministers and whenever I am in the building, so many of the people walking around are in uniform, they suddenly disappear into some room, and it is very clear that the doors are closed.” There is of course also the Tindemans plan, and the Tindemans plan is exactly what they need for that successor purpose. So let me proceed to what I think is most likely, regionalization. 

B.        Regionalization 

            We have 4 regions or maybe 5, EU, AU, SAARC and ASEAN. Number 5 is the G8, it’s not contiguous, but it doesn’t have to be contiguous to be a region. And we have 4 regions that are coming, and they have one thing in common: they are not going to ask Washington for permission. 

            The first one is the Estados Unidos de America Latina y el Caribe, the United States of Latin America and the Caribbean. The common currency will be a Bolivar. Nine of the countries met in La Paz in December and drew up the basic plans for the Charter. A basic pattern of thinking is what they call a “social economy” and about that one I will just say one or two lines. When sanctions came to Cuba in 1960, or 1961 rather, the only trading possibility was with the Soviet Union, meaning sugar in return for shoddily manufactured goods. The Soviet Union collapsed, so did the trade, and Washington was already looking forward to the collapse of Cuba. What did they do then? First of all they switched to organic agriculture to be self-sufficient. In industrial products, they have enormous shortages, but they have some trade possibilities. And then you would immediately say that it was obvious, but not everybody thought about it. “We have human material, let us process that human material to as high a level as possible.” That started university education to an extent unknown in most other countries, with a science and training center outside Havana for the training of doctors, dentists, engineers, social workers, educators, teachers of all trades. Thousands and thousands of them, ready to go to Latin America. But they didn’t have the money till Chavez. He had the money, and a messianic complex. He is the Messiah with a budget. Imagine Jesus Christ with an oil budget? You see the triangular theme? Chavez pays Cuba for providing the manpower for lifting the bottom level of those 9 countries, starting with the slums, and they pay Chavez a certain allegiance to the Estados Unidos, which is evolving everyday today. Venezuela then, a couple of weeks ago left the World Bank and the IMF. You cannot leave it unless you have paid all your debts and Venezuela paid them some time ago. The other countries cannot leave because they haven’t paid their debts, so Venezuela is going to pay their debts for them. The Messiah with a budget. The difficulty of it is, that Messianism might go to his head and make his populist democracy, as opposed to the usual Latin American elitist democracy, similar to people’s democracy in Eastern Europe, as opposed to any democracy. As it is obvious I like his policies, I would hate to see that happen. 

            The second one is an Islamic community from Morocco to Mindanao. 1’300’000’000 Muslims crossing almost 1’300’000’000 Hindus, from Nepal to Sri Lanka, like two highways, but at the same level. A major potential for a major conflict, making small riots in India look microscopic. I use that as an exercise for diplomats and say, “Please come up with 5 solutions for this one”. 

            Third, an East Asia Community, without Japan and with India, possibly combined with SCO. 

            And fourth, possibly, Putin could pull it off, but he may not be the man for it, is a Russian Union with a Chechnya having as much autonomy as the Netherlands in the European Union. Today widely off the mark. Tomorrow? Maybe. It would be widely in Russia’s interest. The problem is that Putin came to power by being anti-Chechen. So, let us see. Maybe somebody can come to power by being pro-Chechen. 

            In a regional world we do not have any guarantee for peace. As a matter of fact, the country that will benefit most from the decline and fall of the US Empire will be the US Republic. They may start sleeping well at night, and they might use their enormous natural and human resources for innovative projects and their capacity for cooperation, all of that, for better purposes, and make a decent country out of the USA. 

C.        Another Globalization 

            That means of course a stronger UN with globalization through the United Nations. I was advisor to the Commission for Global Governance. They had a lot of good ideas whose time had not come, so let me just say the three that for me are most important. 

            Abolish the veto power. They may meet, in the G8, but put their agenda on the UN agenda, and if they don’t like what they come up with, outvote them by expanding the Security Council to 54 members like the Economic and Social Council, and see to it that all parts of the world are there. That’s point one. 

            Point two, democratize the United Nations. They can mobilize an enormous amount of initiatives through a democratic United Nations. Maybe with one representative for each 1 million inhabitants, some say for each 10 million. 

            And, point three, take the United Nations out of the United States and put it somewhere else. Put it in a more friendly environment. This can all be done within a span from 5 to 20 years. If democracy is such a good idea, then why not practice it? 

            My own book on The Decline and Fall of the US Empire–And Then What? is scheduled for next Spring. The book on alternative economics is also for next year, and so is the book on deep culture. Books, books, books, what matters more is peace, peace. 

            So let me end by simply saying that I was asked to say something on the state of the world. I’ve done that. And, if anybody can come up with ideas on how to speed up constructive, creative, concrete development, please don’t hesitate! 

            Thank you.
Johan Galtung, Dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies; Founder, TRANSCEND, a peace and development network ( www.transcend.org )

15 contradictions of the US 

ECONOMIC 

1.         Between growth and distribution: overproduction, 1.4 billion below 1 dollar a day, 100’000 die a day from preventable and curable diseases and 25’000 from hunger; 

2.         Between productive and finance economy: currency, stocks, bonds, overvalued, crashes, unemployment, contract jobs, not positions; 

3.         Between production/distribution/consumption and nature: ecocrisis, depletion/pollution, global warming; 

MILITARY 

4.         Between US state terrorism and terrorism: blowback; 

5.         Between US and allies: except UK-Germany-Japan, allies will say “enough”; 

6.         Between US Eurasia hegemony and Rus-Chindia triangle with 40% of humanity; 

7.         Between US-led NATO and the EU army: a Tindemans follow-up; 

POLITICAL 

8.         Between USA and the UN: the UN ultimately hitting back; 

9.         Between USA and the EU: vying for Orthodox/Muslims support; 

CULTURAL 

10.       Between US Judeo-Christianity and Islam: the UNSC nucleus has four Christian, and none of 56 Muslim countries; 

11.       Between US and the oldest civilizations: Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Aztec, Inca, Maya; 

12.       Between US and EU elite cultures: France, Germany etc. 

SOCIAL 

13.       Between state-corporate elites and working classes of unemployed and contract workers; the middle classes? 

14.       Between older generation and youth: Seattle, Washington, Praha, Genova and ever younger youth. The middle generation? 

15.       Between myth and realities: the US dream and US reality.

In Defense of Chavez in Response to The New Statesman

July 20, 2007

In Defense of Chavez in Response to The New Statesman

Thursday, Jul 19, 2007 Print format
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By: Colin Burgon – New Statesman

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=2101

Last week’s cover story by Alice O’Keeffe [in the New Statesman, the ed.], claiming Hugo Chávez had polarised Venezuela, was a distorted snapshot, devoid of present or historical context. The inference that prior to Chávez, Venezuela was a largely stable generally united society is risible. Venezuela is a nation in flux and one of great importance to the UK. On this premise, O’Keeffe’s imbalance must be challenged.

She presented a country in “cold civil war” mode, one that is led by a “power-crazed” Chávez could easily turn “hot”. Labelling Chávez as such implies a denial of democratic expression by the Venezuelan population.

In fact, Chávez has won three elections – all free, fair and overseen by international observers – doubling his vote between the first election in 1998 and his last one in December 2006. There is a “Chavista” majority in the National Assembly because the opposition boycotted the 2005 congressional elections following strategic advice from Washington; so the result was a foregone conclusion.

The writer then highlighted the increase in the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country for the US and the serious levels of violent crime across Venezuela. On the former point, O’Keeffe makes no reference to the fact that this state of affairs is being encouraged by the US through forthcoming changes to immigration law that will allow Venezuelans privileged entry into the country over people from conflict-prone states such as Haiti, Somalia and Iraq.

On the latter point, Venezuela clearly has a problem with crime, but it is not new. In the past 15 years it has been a serious, structural issue that has escalated and owes much to the illicit flow of weapons and drugs from neighbouring Colombia – a nation that receives US and UK military aid, despite an appalling human rights record.

O’Keeffe depicts Chávez as polarising any on the “third side”. But the Bush administration has been fully complicit in the elimination of any neutral voices, financing the main opposition parties and, via its National Endowment for Democracy, openly and secretly funding civil society, so undermining organisations that should be respected as neutral actors.

When predominantly private university students demonstrate over RCTV, no mention whatsoever is made of pro-government rallies from public-sector students. There are also strong indications that the anti-government student rebellion is being externally orchestrated. When students were offered the opportunity to speak in the National Assembly by the Venezuelan government, an event televised nationally, they left behind their notes; it transpired they had been provided by a well-known PR agency.

It is this Manichean description of a nation polarised and propelled by a demagogue into possible civil war – rather than one finally and democratically challenging social injustice – that underpins O’Keeffe’s assessment. This view becomes transparent if one considers the pre-Chávez social climate, where examples of social turmoil that very nearly did bring civil war are evident.

In 1989, President Andrés Pérez implemented free-market reforms under instruction from the IMF. This included the privatisation of state companies and carte blanche to multinationals to sew up Venezuelan resources. Social inequality soared, fuel prices rose by 100 per cent and public transport costs by 30 per cent.

Ordinary Venezuelans – largely the poor – took to the streets in their thousands. Ensuing riots resulted in the deaths of up to 3,000 civilians, mostly at the hands of the security forces. The government declared a state of emergency and placed Caracas under martial law. The repression in the teeming barrios was so savage the events are referred to as the Caracazo massacres.

Recent demonstrations against Chávez have been policed without repression or brutality. Venezuela is a more stable nation now than probably ever before. Facts and context again diminish news value.

In O’Keeffe’s analysis, the catalyst for unrest remains the revocation of RCTV’s licence by the official regulatory body. The station had repeatedly violated broadcast laws yet now transmits via cable. This was patently not an attack on free speech.

In the days before the 2002 coup, RCTV constantly focused on a general strike aimed at ousting Chávez. Commentators relentlessly attacked him and the government was refused response. Advertising breaks encouraging Venezuelans to attend an anti-Chávez demonstration dominated air time, as did blanket coverage of the actual event. As was recorded and exposed, when the demonstration ended in violence and death, RCTV manipulated video footage to turn the blame on Chávez supporters.

A coup was mounted and Chávez abducted – events covered by O’Keeffe in a perfunctory single sentence. At this point, the station played a crucial role in ensuring an information blackout, preventing Venezuelans from being made aware that Chávez had been kidnapped and had not “resigned” as was claimed.

Even so, hundreds of thousands of Chávez supporters demanded his return in protests that RCTV declined to cover. The then news director, Andrés Izarra, explained to National Assembly hearings that he received an order to broadcast: “Zero pro-Chávez, nothing related to Chávez or his supporters . . . The idea was to create a climate of transition and to start to promote the dawn of a new country.”

RCTV chief Marcel Granier and other media magnates then attended the Miraflores Palace to support the new dictator, Pedro Carmona, who had dissolved the elected Supreme Court, National Assembly and Constitution.

Do O’Keeffe and others seriously suggest that such actions by a broadcaster would be tolerated were a similar military coup launched in London, Madrid or Washington? Of course not, and it is for this reason, above all, that they have no credibility.

Where lobbying, sanctions, direct interference, armed coup attempts and threats have failed, the pro-US, invariably corporate sponsored, anti-Chávez network hopes that international criticism on human rights and freedom may succeed in establishing the climate for civil unrest and the replacement of a democratically elected government. If it does, O’Keeffe et al may well be invited for cocktails in Caracas.

Colin Burgon MP is chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela

Latin America’s answer to the World Bank and IMF

July 17, 2007

Latin America’s answer to the World Bank and IMF

Thursday, Jul 12, 2007 Print format
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By: Sara Miller Llana and Matthew Clark – Christian Science Monitor

Mexico City and Quito, Ecuador–It is one thing when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez dubs the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) “tools of US imperialism” and threatens to sever ties.

But it’s not just Mr. Chavez who is shunning the global lending organizations.

In April Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa declared the World Bank representative in his country “persona non grata.”

Now, a group of Latin American countries is looking to form a regional alternative in the form of Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), a Chavez-conceived development bank that would be run by Latin Americans for Latin America.

The moves against the IMF and World Bank represent a popular rejection of the “Washington consensus” that rich-country aid should be tied to forced privatization programs, which have failed to make much of a dent in poverty rates.

Leftist presidential candidates have tapped into this sentiment to win recent elections and are increasingly looking for ways that Latin America can solve its own problems. And as the region readies itself for further financial and political integration – made possible by a healthy world economy plump on high commodity prices and Chávez’s oil largesse – analysts say the World Bank and IMF are seeing the need to adapt.

“Banco del Sur is the answer to the deterioration of the IMF and World Bank,” says Luis Maldonado Lince, a presidential representative to Ecuador’s junta bancaria, a government body that helps regulate the country’s banking sector. “Latin America has been impoverished and harassed long enough that we have no other choice [but to] start Banco del Sur.”

The bank’s founding members would include Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Uruguay said last month that it would join as well. It’s still unclear exactly how the bank, expected to begin operations in 2008, would function – how economies would be converged, and whether political integration would follow. But whatever the form, left-leaning analysts say Banco del Sur will be a vast improvement to the Western-dominated financial institutions, which they say have lost credibility in the region.

Mark Weisbrot, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, says the move to create Banco del Sur is one of many signs of a new independence from international institutions such as the IMF, whose influence first began to wane a decade ago with the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s when the IMF imposed strict, unwanted austerity measures.

At the beginning of this decade, skepticism in Latin America was sealed when Argentina disregarded IMF advice by defaulting on its debt and then experienced robust economic recovery. “[Latin American countries] don’t have to care anymore what the US thinks, and that is mainly because of the collapse of IMF influence,” Mr. Weisbrot says.

Viable lender or political tool?

Still, many critics doubt Banco del Sur will alone be able to replace the international financial institutions, and see it as a vehicle for Chávez and like-minded leaders to expand their political clout. “[Banco del Sur] is another example of visceral thinking,” says Ecuador-based financial analyst Ramiro Crespo of Analytica Securities. “I doubt it will be more qualified than the World Bank.”

But many Latin American nations are nevertheless turning to private capital or other institutions such as the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) to secure loans for development projects, because the economy is flush with money and the loans are easier to access.

IMF’s commitment in the region, for example, has fallen to less than $3 billion from $50 billion five years ago.

Anoop Singh, Latin America’s top IMF official, says the changing relationship shows that the region has internalized the message of macroeconomic stability. “This period when the Fund is not lending anywhere near what it did five years ago is actually a good development,” he says.

IMF looks to adjust its approach

In fact, say observers, the new competition may help the global institutions sharpen their missions.

“I’m not concerned about countries in Latin America running away from the [IMF],” says Liliana Rojas-Suarez, a former IMF official who is now a senior fellow at Washington’s Center for Global Development. “I’m more concerned about what the IMF exactly should be doing, and where it should be focusing…. It’s only now starting to recognize a number of policies that could be different.”

“There is the perception that the IMF has one recipe for everybody.” she adds. “They are trying to improve that.”

Another example of change, Singh says, could be working with countries to redefine how energy subsidies are distributed, so more money goes to the poor. “We do believe that there is room in the region for macroeconomic policies to be reoriented toward poverty reduction,” he says.

On July 1 the Inter-American Development Bank put into operation a new mandate to help countries gain greater access to alternative sources of financing, to respond to the particular needs of each country, and to reduce the vulnerabilities of the region to sudden changes in the world economy.

It is this type of competition from other development banks that could ultimately serve the entire region, even as it has put the World Bank on edge.

“The World Bank never thought of what would happen if countries didn’t really need the money; they didn’t plan any exit strategy,” says the consultant, who was not authorized by the World Bank to speak on the record. “[They] have to compete right now, because countries don’t need the money.”

“Like Chávez’s other regional initiatives, this one too depends a lot on the extent to which the oil bonanza continues,” says Michael Shifter, vice president of the InterAmerican Dialogue, a Washington think tank. “It is doubtful that Chavez’s grandiose vision on this idea will be fully realized.”

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Christian Science Monitor


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