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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Firoz_Kamal
Full Name: Firoz Kamal
User since: 26/Aug/2008
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NOT AGAIN

Arundhati Roy

 

In India, those of us who have expressed views on nuclear bombs, big
dams, corporate globalization and the rising threat of communal Hindu
fascism -- views that are at variance with the Indian government's --
are branded 'anti-national'.  While this accusation does not fill me
with indignation, it's not an accurate description of what I do or how
I think.  An 'anti-national' is a person is who is against his/her own
nation and, by inference, is pro some other one.  But it isn't
necessary to be 'anti-national' to be deeply suspicious of all
nationalism, to be anti-nationalism.  Nationalism of one kind or
another was the cause of most of the genocide of the 20th century.
Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to
shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the
dead.  When independent, thinking people (and here I do not include
the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers,
painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly
yoke their art to the service of the 'nation', it's time for all of us
to sit up and worry.  In India we saw it happen soon after the nuclear
tests in 1998 and during the Kargil war against Pakistan in 1999.  In
the US we saw it during the Gulf war and we see it now, during the
'War against Terror'.  That blizzard of made-in-China American flags.

Recently, those who have criticized the actions of the US government
(myself included) have been called 'anti-American'.  Anti-Americanism
is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology.

The term 'anti-American' is usually used by the American establishment
to discredit and, not falsely -- but shall we say inaccurately --
define its critics.  Once someone is branded anti-American, the
chances are that he or she will be judged before they're heard and the
argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.

What does the term 'anti-American' mean?  Does it mean you're
anti-jazz?  Or that you're opposed to free speech?  That you don't
delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike?  That you have a quarrel with
giant sequoias?  Does it mean you don't admire the hundreds of
thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or
the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw
from Vietnam?  Does it mean that you hate all Americans?

This sly conflation of America's culture, music, literature, the
breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of
ordinary people with criticism of the US government's foreign policy
(about which, thanks to America's 'free press', sadly most Americans
know very little) is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy.
It's like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city,
hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy
fire.

There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with
their government's policies.  The most scholarly, scathing, incisive,
hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in US
government policy come from American citizens.  When the rest of the
world wants to know what the US government is up to, we turn to Noam
Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael
Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum and Anthony Arnove to tell us
what's really going on.

Similarly, in India, not hundreds, but millions of us would be ashamed
and offended if we were in any way implicated with the present Indian
government's fascist policies which, apart from the perpetration of
state terrorism in the valley of Kashmir (in the name of fighting
terrorism), have also turned a blind eye to the recent
state-supervised pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat.  It would be
absurd to think that those who criticise the Indian government are
'anti-Indian' -- although the government itself never hesitates to
take that line.  It is dangerous to cede to the Indian government or
the American government or anyone for that matter, the right to define
what 'India' or 'America' are, or ought to be.

To call someone 'anti-American', indeed, to be anti-American, (or for
that matter anti-Indian, or anti- Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it's
a failure of the imagination.  An inability to see the world in terms
other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you're
not a Bushie you're a Taliban.  If you don't love us, you hate us.  If
you're not good you're evil.  If you're not with us, you're with the
terrorists.

Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at
this post- September 11 rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and
arrogant.  I've realized that it's not foolish at all.  It's actually
a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived, dangerous war.  Every
day I'm taken aback at how many people believe that opposing the war
in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism, or voting for the
Taliban.  Now that the initial aim of the war -- capturing Osama bin
Laden (dead or alive) -- seems to have run into bad weather, the
goalposts have been moved.  It's being made out that the whole point
of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women
from their burqas.  We're being asked to believe that the US marines
are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be
America's military ally Saudi Arabia?)  Think of it this way: In India
there are some pretty reprehensible social practices, against
'untouchables', against Christians and Muslims, against women.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority
communities and women.  Should they be bombed?  Should Delhi,
Islamabad, and Dhaka be destroyed?  Is it possible to bomb bigotry out
of India?  Can we bomb our way to a feminist paradise?  Is that how
women won the vote in the US?  Or how slavery was abolished?  Can we
win redress for the genocide of the millions of native Americans upon
whose corpses the US was founded by bombing Santa Fe?

None of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget.
So it is no more than coincidence that I happen to be here, on
American soil, in September -- this month of dreadful anniversaries.
Uppermost on everybody's mind of course, particularly here in America,
is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11.  Nearly three
thousand civilians lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike.
The grief is still deep.  The rage still sharp.  The tears have not
dried.  And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world.  Yet,
each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply,
that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone
else's loved ones or someone else's children will blunt the edges of
their pain or bring their own loved ones back.  War cannot avenge
those who have died.  War is only a brutal desecration of their
memory.

To fuel yet another war -- this time against Iraq -- by cynically
manipulating people's grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored
by corporations selling detergent or running shoes, is to cheapen and
devalue grief, to drain it of meaning.  What we are seeing now is a
vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the
pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political
purpose.  It is a terrible, violent thing for a state to do to its
people.

It's not a clever-enough subject to speak of from a public platform,
but what I would really love to talk to you about is loss.  Loss and
losing.  Grief, failure, brokenness, numbness, uncertainty, fear, the
death of feeling, the death of dreaming.  The absolute, relentless,
endless, habitual unfairness of the world.  What does loss means to
individuals?  What does it means to whole cultures, whole peoples who
have learned to live with it as a constant companion?

Since it is September 11 that we're talking about, perhaps it's in the
fitness of things that we remember what that date means, not only to
those who lost their loved ones in America last year, but to those in
other parts of the world to whom that date has long held significance.
 This historical dredging is not offered as an accusation or a
provocation.  But just to share the grief of history.  To thin the
mist a little.  To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest,
most human way: welcome to the world.

Twenty-nine years ago, in Chile, on the September 11, 1973, General
Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador
Allende in a CIA-backed coup.  'Chile shouldn't be allowed to go
Marxist just because its people are irresponsible', said Henry
Kissinger, then President Nixon's national security adviser.

After the coup President Allende was found dead inside the
presidential palace.  Whether he was killed or whether he killed
himself, we'll never know.  In the regime of terror that ensued,
thousands of people were killed.  Many more simply 'disappeared'.
Firing squads conducted public executions.  Concentration camps and
torture chambers were opened across the country.  The dead were buried
in mine shafts and unmarked graves.  For 17 years the people of Chile
lived in dread of the midnight knock, of routine 'disappearances', of
sudden arrest and torture.  Chileans tell the story of how the
musician Victor Jara had his hands cut off in front of a crowd in the
Santiago stadium.  Before they shot him, Pinochet's soldiers threw his
guitar at him and mockingly ordered him to play.

In 1999, following the arrest of General Pinochet in Britain,
thousands of secret documents were declassified by the US government.
They contain unequivocal evidence of the CIA's involvement in the coup
as well as the fact that the US government had detailed information
about the situation in Chile during General Pinochet's reign.  Yet
Kissinger assured the general of his support: 'In the United States as
you know, we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do', he said,
'We wish your government well'.

Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however
flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship
and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means.  It isn't just
those who Pinochet murdered, but the lives he stole from the living
that must be accounted for, too.

Sadly, Chile was not the only country in South America to be singled
out for the US government's attentions.  Guatemala, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Nicaragua,
Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico and Colombia; they've all
been the playground for covert -- and overt -- operations by the CIA.
Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been killed, tortured or
have simply disappeared under the despotic regimes and tin-pot
dictators, drug runners and arms dealers that were propped up in their
countries.  (Many of them learned their craft in the infamous US
government-funded School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, which
has produced 60,000 graduates.)  If this were not humiliation enough,
the people of South America have had to bear the cross of being
branded as a people who are incapable of democracy -- as if coups and
massacres are somehow encrypted in their genes.

This list does not of course include countries in Africa or Asia that
suffered US military interventions -- Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos,
and Cambodia.  For how many Septembers for decades together have
millions of Asian people been bombed, burned, and slaughtered?  How
many Septembers have gone by since August 1945, when hundreds of
thousands of ordinary Japanese people were obliterated by the nuclear
strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  For how many Septembers have the
thousands who had the misfortune of surviving those strikes endured
the living hell that was visited on them, their unborn children, their
children's children, on the earth, the sky, the wind, the water, and
all the creatures that swim and walk and crawl and fly?

September 11 has a tragic resonance in the Middle East, too.  On
September 11, 1922, ignoring Arab outrage, the British government
proclaimed a mandate in Palestine, a follow-up to the 1917 Balfour
declaration, which imperial Britain issued, with its army massed
outside the gates of the city of Gaza.  The Balfour declaration
promised European zionists a national home for Jewish people.  Two
years after the declaration, Lord Balfour, the British foreign
secretary said: 'In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form
of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.
Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old
traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import
than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit
this ancient land'.

How carelessly imperial power decreed whose needs were profound and
whose were not.  How carelessly it vivisected ancient civilizations.
Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain's festering, blood-drenched
gifts to the modern world.  Both are fault-lines in the raging
international conflicts of today.

In 1937 Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians: 'I do not agree
that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though
he may have lain there for a very long time.  I do not admit that
right.  I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done
to the red Indians of America or the black people of Australia.  I do
not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that
a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly wise race to put
it that way, has come in and taken their place'.  That set the trend
for the Israeli state's attitude towards Palestinians.  In 1969,
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said: 'Palestinians do not exist'.
Her successor, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, said: 'What are
Palestinians?  When I came here [to Palestine] there were 250,000
non-Jews, mainly Arabs and Bedouins.  It was desert, more than
underdeveloped.  Nothing'.  Prime Minister Menachem Begin called
Palestinians 'two-legged beasts'.  Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
called them 'grasshoppers' who could be crushed.  This is the language
of heads of state, not the words of ordinary people.

In 1947 the UN formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55% of
Palestine's land to the zionists.  Within a year they had captured
78%.  On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was declared.  Minutes
after the declaration, the US recognized Israel.  The West Bank was
annexed by Jordan.  The Gaza strip came under Egyptian military
control.  Formally, Palestine ceased to exist except in the minds and
hearts of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became
refugees.

In the summer of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip.  Settlers were offered state subsidies and development aid to
move into the occupied territories.  Almost every day more Palestinian
families are forced off their lands and driven into refugee camps.
Palestinians who continue to live in Israel do not have the same
rights as Israelis and live as second-class citizens in their former
homeland.

Over the decades there have been uprisings, wars, intifadas.  Tens of
thousands have lost their lives.  Accords and treaties have been
signed, ceasefires declared and violated.  But the bloodshed doesn't
end.  Palestine still remains illegally occupied.  Its people live in
inhuman conditions, in virtual Bantustans, where they are subjected to
collective punishments, 24-hour curfews, where they are humiliated and
brutalised on a daily basis.  They never know when their homes will be
demolished, when their children will be shot, when their precious
trees will be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be
allowed to walk down to the market to buy food and medicine.  And when
they will not.  They live with no semblance of dignity.  With not much
hope in sight.  They have no control over their lands, their security,
their movement, their communication, their water supply.  So when
accords are signed and words like 'autonomy' and even 'statehood' are
bandied about, it's always worth asking: What sort of autonomy?  What
sort of state?  What sort of rights will its citizens have?  Young
Palestinians who cannot contain their anger turn themselves into human
bombs and haunt Israel's streets and public places, blowing themselves
up, killing ordinary people, injecting terror into daily life, and
eventually hardening both societies' suspicion and mutual hatred of
each other.  Each bombing invites merciless reprisals and even more
hardship on Palestinian people.  But then suicide bombing is an act of
individual despair, not a revolutionary tactic.  Although Palestinian
attacks strike terror into Israeli civilians, they provide the perfect
cover for the Israeli government's daily incursions into Palestinian
territory, the perfect excuse for old-fashioned, 19th century
colonialism, dressed up as a new-fashioned, 21st century 'war'.

Israel's staunchest political and military ally is and always has been
the US government.  The US government has blocked, along with Israel,
almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution
to the conflict.  It has supported almost every war that Israel has
fought.  When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that
smash through Palestinian homes.  And every year Israel receives
several billion dollars from the US.

What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict?  Is it really
impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves --
more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history -- to understand
the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced?
Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty?  What hope does this
leave the human race with?  What will happen to the Palestinian people
in the event of a victory?  When a nation without a state eventually
proclaims a state, what kind of state will it be?  What horrors will
be perpetrated under its flag?  Is it a separate state that we should
be fighting for, or the rights to a life of liberty and dignity for
everyone regardless of their ethnicity or religion?

Palestine was once a secular bulwark in the Middle East.  But now the
weak, undemocratic, by all accounts corrupt but avowedly non-sectarian
PLO, is losing ground to Hamas, which espouses an overtly sectarian
ideology and fights in the name of Islam.  To quote from their
manifesto: 'We will be its soldiers, and the firewood of its fire,
which will burn the enemies'.

The world is called upon to condemn suicide bombers.  But can we
ignore the long road they have journeyed on before they arrived at
this destination?  September 11, 1922 to September 11, 2002 -- 80
years is a long long time to have been waging war.  Is there some
advice the world can give the people of Palestine?  Some scrap of hope
we can hold out?  Should they just settle for the crumbs that are
thrown their way and behave like the grasshoppers or two-legged beasts
they've been described as?  Should they just take Golda Meir's
suggestion and make a real effort to not exist?

In another part of the Middle East, September 11 strikes a more recent
chord.  It was on September 11, 1990 that George W Bush Sr, then
president of the US, made a speech to a joint session of Congress
announcing his government's decision to go to war against Iraq.

The US government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel
military despot who has committed genocide against his own people.
That's a fairly accurate description of the man.  In 1988 he razed
hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and used chemical weapons and
machine-guns to kill thousands of Kurdish people.  Today we know that
that same year the US government provided him with $500m in subsidies
to buy American farm products.  The next year, after he had
successfully completed his genocidal campaign, the US government
doubled its subsidy to $1bn.  It also provided him with high quality
germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and dual-use material
that could be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

So it turns out that while Saddam Hussein was carrying out his worst
atrocities, the US and the UK governments were his close allies.  Even
today, the government of Turkey which has one of the most appalling
human rights records in the world is one of the US government's
closest allies.  The fact that the Turkish government has oppressed
and murdered Kurdish people for years has not prevented the US
government from plying Turkey with weapons and development aid.
Clearly it was not concern for the Kurdish people that provoked
President Bush's speech to Congress.

What changed?  In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  His sin
was not so much that he had committed an act of war, but that he acted
independently, without orders from his masters.  This display of
independence was enough to upset the power equation in the Gulf.  So
it was decided that Saddam Hussein be exterminated, like a pet that
has outlived its owner's affection.

The first Allied attack on Iraq took place in January 1991.  The world
watched the prime-time war as it was played out on TV. (In India those
days, you had to go to a five- star hotel lobby to watch CNN.)  Tens
of thousands of people were killed in a month of devastating bombing.
What many do not know is that the war did not end then.  The initial
fury simmered down into the longest sustained air attack on a country
since the Vietnam war.  Over the last decade American and British
forces have fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq.  Iraq's
fields and farmlands have been shelled with 300 tons of depleted
uranium.  In countries like Britain and America depleted uranium
shells are test-fired into specially constructed concrete tunnels.
The radioactive residue is washed off, sealed in cement and disposed
off in the ocean (which is bad enough).  In Iraq it's aimed --
deliberately, with malicious intent -- at people's food and water
supply.  In their bombing sorties, the Allies specifically targeted
and destroyed water treatment plants, fully aware of the fact that
they could not be repaired without foreign assistance.  In southern
Iraq there has been a four-fold increase in cancer among children.  In
the decade of economic sanctions that followed the war, Iraqi
civilians have been denied food, medicine, hospital equipment,
ambulances, clean water -- the basic essentials.

About half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of the
sanctions.  Of them, Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the
United Nations, famously said: 'It's a very hard choice, but we think
the price is worth it.' 'Moral equivalence' was the term that was used
to denounce those who criticised the war on Afghanistan.  Madeleine
Albright cannot be accused of moral equivalence.  What she said was
just straightforward algebra.

A decade of bombing has not managed to dislodge Saddam Hussein, the
'Beast of Baghdad'.  Now, almost 12 years on, President George Bush Jr
has ratcheted up the rhetoric once again.  He's proposing an all-out
war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change.  The New York
Times says that the Bush administration is 'following a meticulously
planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies
of the need to confront the threat of Saddam Hussein'.

Weapons inspectors have conflicting reports about the status of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction, and many have said clearly that its
arsenal has been dismantled and that it does not have the capacity to
build one.  However, there is no confusion over the extent and range
of America's arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons.  Would the US
government welcome weapons inspectors?  Would the UK?  Or Israel?

What if Iraq does have a nuclear weapon, does that justify a
pre-emptive US strike?  The US has the largest arsenal of nuclear
weapons in the world.  It's the only country in the world to have
actually used them on civilian populations.  If the US is justified in
launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, why, then any nuclear power is
justified in carrying out a pre-emptive attack on any other.  India
could attack Pakistan, or the other way around.  If the US government
develops a distaste for the Indian Prime Minister, can it just 'take
him out' with a pre-emptive strike?

Recently the US played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan
back from the brink of war.  Is it so hard for it to take its own
advice?  Who is guilty of feckless moralizing?  Of preaching peace
while it wages war?  The US, which George Bush has called 'the most
peaceful nation on earth', has been at war with one country or another
every year for the last 50 years.

Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons.  They're usually fought
for hegemony, for business.  And then of course there's the business
of war.  Protecting its control of the world's oil is fundamental to
US foreign policy.  The US government's recent military interventions
in the Balkans and Central Asia have to do with oil.  Hamid Karzai,
the puppet president of Afghanistan installed by the US, is said to be
a former employee of Unocal, the American-based oil company.  The US
government's paranoid patrolling of the Middle East is because it has
two-thirds of the world's oil reserves.  Oil keeps America's engines
purring sweetly.  Oil keeps the free market rolling.  Whoever controls
the world's oil controls the world's market.  And how do you control
the oil?

Nobody puts it more elegantly than the New York Times columnist Thomas
Friedman.  In an article called 'Craziness Pays' he says 'the US has
to make it clear to Iraq and US allies that...America will use force
without negotiation, hesitation or UN approval'.  His advice was well
taken.  In the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the
almost daily humiliation the US government heaps on the UN.  In his
book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman says:
'The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist.
McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas....  And the
hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's
technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and
Marine Corps'.  Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability,
but it's certainly the most succinct, accurate description of the
project of corporate globalisation that I have read.

After September 11, 2001 and the War Against Terror, the hidden hand
and fist have had their cover blown, and we have a clear view now of
America's other weapon -- the free market -- bearing down on the
developing world, with a clenched unsmiling smile.  The task that
never ends is America's perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the
endless expansion of American imperialism.  In Urdu, the word for
profit is fayda.  Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law.
So, in India some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs
Al-fayda -- the word vs the profit (no pun intended).

For the moment it looks as though Al-fayda will carry the day.  But
then you never know...

In the last 10 years of unbridled corporate globalisation, the world's
total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year.  And yet the
numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million.  Of the
top hundred biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries.
The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57%
and the disparity is growing.  Now, under the spreading canopy of the
War Against Terror, this process is being hustled along.  The men in
suits are in an unseemly hurry.  While bombs rain down on us, and
cruise missiles skid across the skies, while nuclear weapons are
stockpiled to make the world a safer place, contracts are being
signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid,
natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatised and
democracies are being undermined.

In a country like India, the 'structural adjustment' end of the
corporate globalisation project is ripping through people's lives.
'Development' projects, massive privatisation, and labour 'reforms'
are pushing people off their lands and out of their jobs, resulting in
a kind of barbaric dispossession that has few parallels in history.
Across the world as the 'free market' brazenly protects Western
markets and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers,
the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer.  Civil unrest has
begun to erupt in the global village.  In countries like Argentina,
Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, India the resistance movements against
corporate globalisation are growing.

To contain them, governments are tightening their control.  Protestors
are being labelled 'terrorists' and then dealt with as such.  But
civil unrest does not only mean marches and demonstrations and
protests against globalisation.  Unfortunately, it also means a
desperate downward spiral into crime and chaos and all kinds of
despair and disillusionment which, as we know from history (and from
what we see unspooling before our eyes), gradually becomes a fertile
breeding ground for terrible things -- cultural nationalism, religious
bigotry, fascism and of course, terrorism.

All these march arm-in-arm with corporate globalisation.

There is a notion gaining credence that the free market breaks down
national barriers, and that corporate globalisation's ultimate
destination is a hippie paradise where the heart is the only passport
and we all live together happily inside a John Lennon song (Imagine
there's no country...)  This is a canard.

What the free market undermines is not national sovereignty, but
democracy.  As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the
hidden fist has its work cut out for it.  Multinational corporations
on the prowl for 'sweetheart deals' that yield enormous profits cannot
push through those deals and administer those projects in developing
countries without the active connivance of state machinery -- the
police, the courts, sometimes even the army.  Today corporate
globalisation needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt,
preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries, to push
through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies.  It needs a press
that pretends to be free.  It needs courts that pretend to dispense
justice.  It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration
laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it's only money,
goods, patents and services that are globalised -- not the free
movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international
treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or
greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or God forbid, justice.
It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability
would wreck the whole enterprise.

Close to one year after the War Against Terror was officially flagged
off in the ruins of Afghanistan, in country after country freedoms are
being curtailed in the name of protecting freedom, civil liberties are
being suspended in the name of protecting democracy.  All kinds of
dissent is being defined as 'terrorism'.  All kinds of laws are being
passed to deal with it.  Osama Bin Laden seems to have vanished into
thin air.  Mullah Omar is said to have made his escape on a
motor-bike.  The Taliban may have disappeared but their spirit, and
their system of summary justice is surfacing in the unlikeliest of
places.  In India, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in America, in all the
Central Asian republics run by all manner of despots, and of course in
Afghanistan under the US-backed Northern Alliance.

Meanwhile, down at the mall there's a mid-season sale.  Everything's
discounted -- oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers,
childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness,
civil rights, ecosystems, air -- all 4,600 million years of evolution.
 It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack.  (No
returns).  As for justice -- I'm told it's on offer too.  You can get
the best that money can buy.

Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War against Terror was to
persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their
way of life.  When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble
in their quarters.  So, standing here today, it's hard for me to say
this, but the American way of life is simply not sustainable.  Because
it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.

Fortunately power has a shelf life.  When the time comes, maybe this
mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and
implode from within.  It looks as though structural cracks have
already appeared.  As the War Against Terror casts its net wider and
wider, America's corporate heart is hemorrhaging.  For all the endless
empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the
most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary
Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation, all three of
which, in turn, are dominated by the US.  Their decisions are made in
secret.  The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors.
Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their
beliefs, their intentions.  Nobody elected them.  Nobody said they
could make decisions on our behalf.  A world run by a handful of
greedy bankers and CEOs who nobody elected can't possibly last.

Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil
but because it was flawed.  It allowed too few people to usurp too
much power.  Twenty-first century market-capitalism, American-style,
will fail for the same reasons.  Both are edifices constructed by
human intelligence, undone by human nature.


 

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