As long as the United States continues putting profits over people, siphoning precious resources and trampling the rights and sovereignty of nations along the way, the world will witness more resentment, rage, violence and paranoia.
The solution is a burgeoning people-to-people movement that will lift nations out of misery and into economic self-reliance, peace, cooperation and regional development, said Abid Hassan Minto, a noted intellectual from Pakistan. According to Minto, 74, who teamed up with former South African President Nelson Mandela when they were elected vice president and president respectively of the International Lawyers’ Association (1990-1995), the world is caught up in a vicious circle: American hegemony is leading to militant resistance and has set the Muslim world on a collision course with the West. Billions spent on military expansion rightfully belong to the people for the development of schools, hospitals, roads and bridges.
In a wide-ranging, exclusive, interview with the Washington Report, Minto pointed out rapidly multiplying dangers and offered an alternative to the current U.S.-provoked worldwide militancy. He urged Americans to question their government’s policies that are leading to a global crisis.
“The United States is advancing its corporate interests all over the world,” he stated. “The grand design is to maintain itself as the sole, unchallenged power in the world. Over the past two decades the U.S. went into Latin America, it went after Venezuela, it toppled governments, installed its own stooges. What did it want? Resources! Now it claims it is going after so-called Muslim fundamentalists. Iraqi President Saddam Hussain was not a fundamentalist. Yet they sent their troops, invaded a sovereign nation, and the whole world knows it is about oil!
“People everywhere must rise up against corporate globalization that allows development to occur in one part of the world using the resources of the rest of the world,” he said during his visit to the San Francisco Bay area. “The West has failed to solve problems on the ground, political ones such as the 50-year old conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir as well as developmental problems such as the lack of technology transfer between the rich and poor nations. The result is disillusionment and anger.
“Why is it a surprise that people are challenging the authority of the U.S. to do what it is doing?” Minto asked. “At the moment fundamentalists all over the world are after the U.S. hegemony. That is their main issue. For sure, one deplores their methods. But they do have a plausible argument: their countries, their nations, their people, are suffering on account of what they see as the U.S. hegemony around the world. The proof is that it is mostly the countries that have sided with the United States — Spain and England — that are the victims of terrorism, not others. The same is true for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. “The continuing military and corporate expansion of the United States invites militancy,” he pointed out. “And it so happens at the moment that the militants are Muslims.”
What is the solution? Minto believes the world community, especially the American people, must strive to uphold international law and sovereign equality among nations, as well as promote regional cooperation for economic development and conflict resolution. He was essentially referring to the growing demand for a set of rules and procedures, commonly labeled as the “Universal Jurisdiction” of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would criminalize military adventurism by any state.
He welcomed the political rapprochement between India and Pakistan as an indication that change is occurring at the grassroots level, and said the recently announced gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India — over the objections of the U.S. — “should be extended to China. “Why not go all the way?” he asked. “We can increase regional development while helping avert a showdown between China and the U.S. over resources. It will lead to peace and stability in the Asian subcontinent.
“There was a time,” he noted, “when the entire Pakistani nation had one single point of view with regard to India: India was the enemy. It is five times larger than Pakistan, it has weapons and we have to defend ourselves. Security was to be built and the only way to build it was to support the armed forces. We were victims of this. The armed forces were built at the cost of democratic institutions…these are our experiences of how a state creates a paranoia mindset for its people. “Fortunately, people in Pakistan have started changing their mindsets, as indicated by their desire to befriend India on all levels. That is a good sign. That is where we pin our hopes for a new movement,” he said. “It is already happening by the force of circumstance. There is political consciousness. Millions around the world took to the streets [in 2003] to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.”
Speaking of the Middle East, Minto argued that “the establishment of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal of 150,000 U.S. troops from Iraq would deflate the raging anger around the Muslim world and allow the people of the Middle East region also to run their own affairs in peace.”
Terrorism will stop, he said, when use of brute force is replaced by rules, procedures, negotiations, mutual-accommodation, and resource sharing.
He foresees a growing movement as part of the World Social Forum, recalling the 1960s, when the non-aligned movement championed by India, Egypt and Indonesia provided an effective bulwark against neocolonial onslaught. “We must find an alternate way,” Minto insisted. “We must fight poverty and hunger…There are immense resources available to the developed countries, technological developments, they have the economies of the world in their hands. Let us now decide how to use these democratically for the benefit of the entire humanity, rather than corporations. Not doing that is neocolonialism.”
Reflecting on his third visit to the United States, Minto, a professor of constitutional law in Pakistan, criticized the U.S. for betraying its ideals of democracy. “How can governments around the world implement democratic reforms,” he asked, “when the very notions of free speech and due process are being denied in America, the role model? “The world is not receptive to the U.S. image of democracy, not at all! There is growing disillusionment with the U.S.,” Minto emphasized. “In Pakistan and other countries of the East and Third World we admire that original civilization that preached democracy, but we are dismayed with the PATRIOT Act, torturing of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu-Ghraib, and profiling of religious and ethnic minorities.
“People have come to realize that the democratic society within the U.S. is also shrinking to suit the interest of those who constitute the establishment, including corporate America,” he said. “Voices are being raised against this,” Minto acknowledged, “but I think that voices have to be raised in a more organized fashion, not only by the immigrants or Muslims alone, but also by the mainstream. “The shrinking civic space in the U.S. is actually demolishing the image of democracy outside and causing disillusionment of its own people,” he said.
Minto offered to defend Lynne F. Stewart, the American civil rights attorney who faces up to 30 years in prison on charges of supporting terrorist activity by smuggling messages from her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, to his followers. She is to be sentenced in September.
Lisette B. Poole, a free-lance writer in the San Francisco Bay area, also lectures at California State University EastBay, Hayward. This article appeared in the September/October 2005 issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.