The bomb attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 raised the issue of racism especially starkly for politicians in Europe as well as for their North American and Pacific allies. No matter how they spin it, the fundamental question they face is whether they value people’s lives on racist criteria or not. The record of their responses to terror attacks by the US government and its allies weakens their condemnations of such attacks against civilians in the US and Europe.
Those politicians have never been able to explain away their implementation of life-taking sanctions and bombardment through the 1990s against the civilian population of Iraq. Nor have they explained adequately their failure to act against decades of murderous attacks on civilians by Israel in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon. It is impossible justify their own life-taking sanctions against the Palestinians. Nor can they legitimately excuse murderous attacks on civilians by their own and allied forces in Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique
Official responses to terror attacks and alleged bomb plots as well as the echoes of those responses in the corporate media are as interesting for what they omit as for what they say. Cuba has suffered attacks from US protected terrorists for decades. When the United States government was condemned by the International Court of Justice in 1986 for promoting terror attacks against Nicaragua, the silence on the part of European and other US allied governments was shameful. The clear impression one got at the time was that terror attacks paid for and facilitated by the United States government were acceptable to US allied governments because they happened in a tiny, far away, country unreasonably resisting US power.
A similar attitude characterised responses to the terror wars waged by South Africa’s apartheid regime against Mozambique and Angola. In all these countries attacks on public transport, on clinics, on schools, on farm cooperatives by terrorists supported by the United States and its allies were routine. In Nicaragua, typical incidents included a couple of attacks – among hundreds of others – on buses in the rural areas of San Juan de Limay and San Jose de Bocay, killing over thirty civilians in each case and wounding dozens more. The US government paid for the explosives and trained the perpetrators. Margaret Thatcher and her colleagues cheered them on.
Unequal even in death
Since such attacks have begun to occur recently in Europe the responses of governments have been both repressive and obtuse. In evading the question of racism, recent pronouncements by British government officials actually put it more sharply than ever. Do these officials think the lives of the victims of their government’s policies are worth less than the lives of their own citizens?
Is a Palestinian or Lebanese child murdered by Israeli settlers or troops worth less than a child who dies in London in a bomb attack? Is an Iraqi or Afghan woman murdered by a US bomber worth less than a woman blown up on the London Underground? Perhaps the question appears absurd. In a sane world it would be. But if those lives are of equal worth, why does British government policy – and by extension the policies of all US allied governments – not reflect that?
This very issue prompted a letter by three British Muslim MPs to Tony Blair that has provoked a strong counterattack from the British government. British government ministers and their officials do not, in fact, seem to think those lives are of equal worth. This really is clear from the long-standing and still current policies of the Blair government and those of its allies. Faced with those policies, their opponents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon are entitled to dismiss US-UK axis appeals to long established moral and political norms as hypocritical and worthless.
By their very nature, those norms apply to everyone or, if not, then to no one. Given the general tendency of the Bush and Blair governments to trash fundamental humanitarian and human rights standards, the way Blair’s officials try to spin responses to bomb attacks and alleged bombing plots is instructive. The tangled propaganda web they weave seems more and more to be an integral move in the great corporate globalization scam.
“Billy Liar” – Whitehall set text
Lately, the main front on which Blair government officials have attacked has been against accusations making the self-evident link between government foreign policy and terror bombings. A report in the London Observer of August 13th quoted Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells – “The accusations were ‘facile’ and ‘dangerous’, he said. ‘I have no doubt that there are many issues which incite people to loathe government policies – but not to strap explosives to themselves and go out and murder innocent people.’
But what if those government policies themselves mean training, supplying and paying military personnel to “go out and murder innocent people” in Iraq and Afghanistan or if they give support to governments like that of Israel who “go out and murder innocent people”? It is implausible to think such policies might not invite reprisals of one kind or another, including vicious bomb attacks. Still, Blair’s spokespersons mechanically blurt out the unchanging script. Whether from Howells or from maligant hoods like Home Secretary John Reid or from unconvincing, time-serving consiglieri like Margaret Beckett, the line seldom varies.
Critics of government are “foolish”. To suggest a link between government policies and terrorist reprisals is “dangerous”. A key part of the propaganda offensive is to try and shift the focus back beyond the invasion of Iraq even though no bombings in Europe involving massive loss of life like those in London and Madrid had happened for many years before the watershed event of the second Iraq war. The same Observer report quoted Beckett urging on the BBC, “Let’s put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives.’
Few will disagree with that. Step forward George W. Bush, Tony Blair and the clutch of war criminals in their respective Cabinets responsible for wanton illegal aggression against the people of Iraq. One might leave it there, since things seem bad enough already given the criminal irresponsibility and recklessness towards human life of the governments concerned.
Does globalization require terror?
But things are probably much worse even than they appear at first glance. If one stops to ask why things should be as they are, one has to consider why these leaders and their governments are pursuing policies against the interests of their own peoples. The inherently racist double standard, the determination to instill fear, the refusal to engage criticism rationally, all indicate a deeply entrenched, radically anti-democratic narcissism.
A partial answer to the puzzle may be that the bogus “war on terror” is looking ever more like globalization’s strategic twin. What is billed as the “war on terror”, sired by the “war on drugs” out of “the communist menace”, looks far more plausible when interpreted as a fight to enforce injustice – a “war on the poor” to keep them in their place. Corporate globalization does entail wholesale injustice, as all the auxiliary machinery of bilateral trade and aid trickery, debt extortion and “democratic elections” (optional in many cases) backed up by terrifying military power, makes so very clear.
The empire and its agents get to plunder resource-rich countries through political chicanery and terror, supported by palliative measures to patch up the bewildered victims. Equitable global economic policies would end the current privileged position of North America, Europe and their Pacific allies. If the World Trade Organization is now moribund, it is because those countries refuse to negotiate a fair deal with the rest of the world. But long before the most recent WTO debacle, they had already begun to pick off their victims one by one and so get their way piecemeal instead of at one go.
The Israeli microcosm
In this they are following Israel faithfully. International tolerance of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians seems to be based on both envy and fear. The US government and its allies appear to envy Israel’s colonialist settler State because it embodies what they want to do to the rest of the world. A racist entity grabs resources from a vulnerable population using unrestrained military force and bogus legality. At the same time it projects itself as “the region’s only democracy”, basing its political and economic practice on systematic injustice and discrimination against the people it has dispossessed. All of this is globalization in a nutshell.
But at the same time, the imperialist political networks fear the Israeli example because ultimately, like their own, Israeli power and privilege is based on the threat of nuclear weapons. What is that threat if it is not a terrorist threat – “do what we want – or else”? This is the relationship that subsists between Israel and the imperialist drive towards corporate globalization. Israel’s defeat in Lebanon has brought that relationship into much sharper focus.
The infamous imperialist double standard becomes progressively more glaring as it becomes harder to apply. The equation of a-nod’s-as-good-as-a-wink law for the US and its allies, versus vicious sanctions plus shock-and-awe firestorms and depleted uranium munitions for everyone else, is breaking down. That probably means the agreed international settlement based on the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights is finished, since it can no longer be distorted to serve the purposes of empire. If it is done for, the fundamental reason will have been the refusal of the United States government and its European and Pacific allies to implement it in good faith.
Beyond terror – justice
In any case, time is against those traditional world powers. Latin America provides a good example of wider international trends confounding their imperialist project. For the moment, Latin America’s drive towards integration as a powerful regional bloc has been stalled by Alan Garcia’s dodgy electoral victory in Peru and Alvaro Uribe’s narco-terror enforced electoral win in Colombia. Throughout the region the US government and its allies are fomenting crisis to try and stem their steady loss of influence and power.
The current crisis in Mexico is a clear example of this. Whereas the US and its allies vigorously condemned the rigged election in the Ukraine, in Mexico they are tacitly supporting their Mexican clients’ electoral putsch to deny opposition leader Lopez Obrador his legitimate victory. Why? Because Lopez Obrador rejects the corporate globalizing agenda promoted by the US government and its European and Pacific allies.
But the disenfranchised majority in Mexico are unlikely to accept quietly an illegitimate government imposed by the local imperial clients. The Mexican ruling class may well have to resort to wholesale repression with an uncertain outcome if they want to suppress popular rejection of their coup d’etat. Whatever happens in Mexico, results in upcoming elections in Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela are very likely to deepen the developing crisis of the imperialist corporate globalization project in Latin America.
George W. Bush, Tony Blair and their allies represent an ancien regime desperately trying to preserve its privileges and power. To do so they are ignoring long standing international agreements and norms based on generations of accumulated experience and wisdom. To get what they want, they apply their customary sadism to hurt recalcitrant but vulnerable populations. Confronted with setbacks as in Lebanon, they deploy their usual hypocrisy to explain it all away.
Incapable of acknowledging the possible rightness of another rationality – a rationality based, not like theirs on terror, but on justice – they are determined to drag humanity through one catastrophe after another. So maybe the war on terror is a real one, after all. Its main fronts are resistance to corporate globalization, defence of the legitimate rights of peoples, and re-affirmation of international humanitarian and human rights standards against the renegade war-mongers in Washington and London and their allies.