December 31, 2003
The year 2003 was a tumultuous one. This is a partial look at 10 trends or events each for the good and the bad of the year. There is no particular reason for deciding upon ten events as opposed to 12 events other than it is conventional and suits the human metric.
10. Africa remains the forgotten continent as it continues to bleed. It is still wracked by myriad wars and insurgencies, famine, an HIV-AIDS pandemic, dictatorship, and domestic and foreign plunder of her resources. G8 summits talk about helping but that is all it is — talk. Canada is hypocritically the biggest talker while abets Canadian companies in their economic plunder of Africa. The website MiningWatch Canada is replete with instances of corporate rape.
9. Africa is just one instance of the ever-widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots on the planet. The developing world is saddled with odious debt and IMF and WB policies use this as a lever to pry open the developing economies further to capitalism. As the North-South divide is widening, the disparity in the distribution of wealth within the developed world is likewise growing. Tax cutting in Canada, the US, and other western countries only compounds the alarming disparity.
8. The Earth is cooking and President Bush has pulled the US out of the Kyoto Accord although the US is the biggest energy consumer on the planet (Canada, however, is the biggest culprit per capita). Environmental degradation is turning the world into one massively violated victim of corporate cupidity. Bush’s Christmas present to corporate America was to open up logging and mining on 9 million acres in the largest intact temperate rainforest in America, the Tongass national forest in southwestern Alaska. Jeffrey St. Clair has documented the corporate and political malfeasance leading up to the recent Tongass decision in his very readable book Been Brown So Long It Looked Green to Me: The Politics of Nature.
7. Corporate globalism’s discarding of environmental safeguards is concomitant with the erosion of labor protections. Led by China the world has seen wages spiral downward in a race to the labor bottom. Jobs have fled those economies where environmental restrictions are strict for the laxer regulations and lower wages in the developing world. The enormous profits of the plutocrats were made on the backs of the working class. President Bush even declared war on overtime earned by workers.
6. The great evil that goes unrecognized by so many is symbolized by the obscenity of the Apartheid Wall inside Palestine. It is a heinous attempt to further humiliate Palestinians by penning them in small Bantustans while Zionists annex the rest of the land for themselves — paid for by American taxpayers.
5. Fear. The Bush administration whipped up hysteria to new heights of absurdity. According to polling results, Americans considered the moribund Iraqi regime as a threat to the US. American gullibility continues to manifest itself in polls that reveal that most Americans have swallowed the Bush administration lie that Iraq was being 9-11 and that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in cahoots. This is a major propaganda coop for the chickenhawks in Washington.
The Bush administration is so hooked on the power of fear that it is wielding it as a way to win the hearts of Iraqis. Authentic journalist Robert Fisk found the words of an American battalion commander as an offense to “the very basic humanity of the people whom the Americans claimed they came to ‘liberate.’” Said the commander, “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.”
Meanwhile, it seems that the War on Terrorism has only heightened the fears of Americans. The Christmas orange alert status signifies the age ushered in by Bush and his fellow chickenhawks. Americans live in less security now.
The New Year looks set for more of the same as, a threat, purportedly from al Qaeda, warns of a “back-breaking attack” on the United States by February.
4. The Patriot Act and its draconian ilk spawned worldwide post-9-11 have engendered myriad attacks on the very freedoms these enactments claim to protect. A New McCarthyism is cloaked once again under the guise of oft-abused patriotism. Citizens in various countries have seen constitutionally guaranteed rights rolled back and identifiable minorities rounded up. Habeas corpus for non-citizens is suspended. Dissent is crushed with brutal force; in the US this was most reprehensibly demonstrated at the FTAA meeting in Florida.
In Canada Bill C-36 has seen an upsurge in Canadian McCarthyism. Also don’t be fooled that Canada is any bastion for the freedom of speech. One particular 64-year-old pacifist Canadian citizen sits in solidarity confinement, accused of being a national security risk by Canadian intelligence, for having the audacity to question certain events of World War II. As much as I disagree with the views of Ernst Zündel, I maintain that he has a right to speak these thoughts. It is arguably, after all, better to let thoughts, no matter how vile, be threshed out in the light of open debate where they can be exposed for the false claims they are, than to let them fester in the dark.
In Britain the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 has seen some men locked up indefinitely since 9-11 without trial. In the aftermath of 9-11 the World Socialist Web Site reported that the state of emergency announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett was “ostensibly in order to allow Britain to opt out of Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights and bring in the internment without trial of suspected terrorists.”
3. The US attack on multilateralism led to a shameless capitulation of the UN to the aggression and occupation of Iraq. It was as if the UN were bending to Bush’s prophecy of irrelevance as a global actor; now it dissembles US actions in a veil of legitimacy.
Vice-President Dick. Cheney said it was dangerous to be too reliant on multilateralism seeing it as too coddling toward terrorists. He said that approach “amounts to a policy of doing exactly nothing.”
2. The illegal invasion of Iraq sent international law reeling. Washington insider Richard Pearle was in agreement with Cheney. He justified the admittedly illegal violence on the grounds that “international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.”
The “right thing” was the obliteration of at least ten thousand Iraqis lives, occupation, the theft of Iraq’s natural resources, and the utter humiliation of the surviving Iraqis. The parallels with the other wretched abomination in Occupied Palestine, fully supported by the US taxpayer, are stark.
1. Do Americans really believe that the Middle East is populated with fanatical Muslim extremists? Do they really believe that Muslims are a threat to them? They reportedly believed that Iraq was behind 9-11 and that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were in close collaboration.
How could the public be so duped?
Back in 1999 US correspondent John David Powell wrote:
Our country is like a big kid who commands respect because of his size, but who lacks the maturity that comes with age and experience. As a terrible consequence, our people put our trust in a government that uses deceit as its policy of choice, and in media who have become smug and lazy and who have forgotten their role as watchdogs that question and probe.
Powell realized four-and-a-half years ago that “the stench of truth became too great for the American media to ignore and still maintain credibility.” Well, virtually all corporate media credibility has long since vanished now. It is exceedingly obvious that the corporate media isn’t pandering to government but they are a part of the whole elite agenda.
Powell, however, placed much of the blame on the gullible public. Wrote he, “You can lead the American public to information, but you can’t make it think.”
Well, the public wasn’t led to any information but rather was misled or misinformed.
That’s easy enough to do, according to Adolf Hitler’s fellow henchman, Herman Göring. Just whip up some fear of attack and crack down on dissidents for lack of patriotism. Yeh, that sounds familiar. Bush has followed Göring’s dictate to the letter.
The corporate media has functioned as Bush’s very own Ministry for People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda.
And if the current situation wasn’t enough, another Powell, Michael, headed the Federal Communications Commission, which recommended permission for a further consolidation the media. This twisted fantasyland scenario would only exacerbate the forces that are wreaking havoc in the world today. It is the transparent agenda of a corporate media and vested business interests in support of hyper-empire.
The spillover is everywhere. In Britain, journalism is often manipulated by the government’s intelligence services. The year 2003 saw the media complicit in the bloody mauling by the military-industrial superpower of two risible threats to the US despite the US government still not having come clean on the events surrounding 9-11. It is a national and international disgrace that will blight this epoch in history.
It is always preferable to end the year on a sanguine note.
10. The removal of a brutal tyrant who wreaks havoc upon people is always a welcome event for all but the tyrant’s sponsors. Although the invasion of Iraq was not trumpeted within the UN as being about ousting the dictator in Baghdad, its occurrence was a good pulled out of the evil invasion.
9. The UN Security Council deserves some kudos for having withstood bribes, vicious threats, and a US-UK “dirty tricks” campaign to withhold initial UN approval for a massacre of Iraqis. The UN had stiffened its vertebra, albeit briefly.
8. There is a progressive media out there and it is growing. People with access to a computer just have to search a little and they can get another media view uncorrupted by corporations.
7. The Bush administration’s attempt to skewer the Clean Air Act was at least temporarily halted by judicial action.
6. When news of the contents of Patriot Act II was leaked, the opposition hastened Justice Minister John Ashcroft into strategic retreat.
5. Noam Bahat, Hagay Mattar, Adam Mouar, Shimi Tzamrit, and Mittan Kminar are five Israeli soldiers who refused military service in Occupied Palestine. Consequently the Israeli Jaffa military court indicted them. Noteworthy is a moral tide of young Israelis who would rather sit in prison than go against their conscience and serve in the dehumanizing occupation.
4. The neoliberal agenda suffered a defeat at the WTO Ministerial in Cancun. The developing countries were able to unify as a bloc and push their requirements toward a fairer trading regime. The Cancun WTO failure presaged the Washington retreat on the FTAA in Miami this November.
3. Latin Americans revolted against regimes that sought to impose neoliberalism against the popular will. Despite US-backing for a coup, people power restored Hugo Chávez to his democratically won presidency. In Bolivia people power sent a Washington front man packing back to the US. Again the US was implicated in advising the Bolivian military that killed many protestors.
US Ambassador to Bolivia David Greenlee excused the blood on Washington’s hands: “The government had the right to defend itself.”
Victories against neoliberalism occurred in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. The extent to which the regimes elected carry out the popular agenda remains to be demonstrated.
2. In a staggering blow to the Bush administration and its media mogul backers the FCC recommendation to allow further cross- media consolidation was slapped down by the US Congress in an indisputable manner.
In Canada the Commons heritage committee also opposed a further concentration of the media. Further foreign ownership was nixed, as was media convergence. The state-owned CBC is also to see its funding and accountability to Parliament increased
As reported in The Dominion, Kim Kierans, who heads King’s College school of journalism in Halifax, Canada, warned that government was not to be relied upon in protecting the public interest regarding the media. Kierans envisions the way to an open and unbeholden media as coming through grassroots efforts and independent journalists.
1. People Power. There were a number of rallies in Hong Kong that peaked at half-a-million and saw the retreat of the offending anti-sedition legislation. It was a people’s victory. But the people movement began earlier in the year.
Millions took to the streets in mid-February around the world in opposition to imperialism. It was a manifestation of ant-war sentiment never before expressed prior to war. Ultimately it failed to halt the warmongers and the bigger defeat was the anti-war movements hibernation after the onslaught began against Iraq. There were some brief flurries of activity — especially notable was the raucous denunciation Bush was greeted with in Britain.
To be a credible deterrent to war the peace movement cannot fade out graciously after the violence begins but must solidarize across sectors of society and societies and step up the protests. The anti-war movement must not be co-opted by agenda-wielding groups. Joanne Landry of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy notes that major rally coordinators like the International Action Committee and ANSWER refused any criticism of Saddam Hussein. The quiet of the peace movement was to the detriment of the Iraqis who need the peace movement more since the initiation of Shock and Awe.
The peace movement encompasses most of the global justice movement and together the possibility to build a peaceful world where all humans have an equal right to a decent life is more possible.