The Real Story Behind America’s War

By spreading “fear and respect”, as a Washington Post reporter put it, America intends to see off challenges to its uncertain ability to control and manage the “global economy”, the euphemism for the progressive seizure of markets and resources by the G8 rich nations.


Today international trade is worth more than £11.5bn a day. A tiny fraction if this, 0.4 per cent, is shared with the poorest countries. American and G8 capital controls 70 per cent of world markets, and because of the rules demanding the end of tariff barriers and subsidies in poor countries while ignoring protectionism in the west, the poor countries lose £1.3bn a day in trade.


“If 100 million have been killed in the formal wars of the 20th century”, wrote Michael McKinley, “why are they to be privileged in comprehension over the annual [death] toll of children from structured adjustment programmes since 1982?”


Last month’s World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha in the Gulf state of Quatar, was disastrous for the majority of humanity. The rich nations demanded and got a new “round” of “trade liberalisation”, which is the power to intervene in the economies of poor countries, to demand privatisation and the destruction of public services.


In India, says the environmentalist Vandana Shiva, suicides among poor farmers are “an epidemic”.


He said: “The United States is committed to global leadership of openness and understands that the staying power of our new coalition…[against terrorism]…depends on economic growth…” The code is that “economic growth” (rich elite, poor majority) equals anti-terrorism.


He said: “It was utterly outrageous. Wealthy countries exploited their power to spin the agenda of big business. The issue of multinational corporations as a cause of poverty was not even on the agenda; it was like a conference on malaria that does not discuss the mosquito.”


“If I speak out too strongly for the rights of my people,” says an African delegate, “the US will phone my minister. They will say that I am embarrassing the United States. My government will not even ask, ‘What did he say?’ They will just send me a ticket tomorrow…so I don’t speak for fear of upsetting the master.”


Dr Richard Bernal, a Jamaican delegate at Doha, said his government had come under similar pressure. “We feel that this [WTO] meeting has no connection with the war on terrorism,” he said, “[yet] we are made to feel that we are holding up the rescue of the global economy if we don’t agree to a new round [of liberalisation measures].”


India’s minister for commerce and industry, Murasoli Maran, said angrily, “The whole process is a mere formality and we are being coerced against our will…the WTO is not a world government and should not attempt to appropriate to itself what legitimately falls in the domain of national governments and parliaments.”


At Doha, the British played a part similar to Tony Blair’s promotion of the “war on terrorism”. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, has already said that “since 11 September, the case is very overwhelming for more trade liberalisation”. In Doha, the British delegation demonstrated, according to Christian Aid, “the gulf between its rhetoric about making trade work for the poor” and its real intentions.


In fact, this was the third time the same money had been announced within a year. In December 2000, Short said the government “will double its support for trade-strengthening initiatives in developing countries from £15m over the past three years to £30m over the next three years”.


On 7 November, the £20m package was announced all over again. Moreover, a third of it in effect is tied to the launch of a new WTO “round”.


To the naïve, she is still the rough diamond who speaks her mind in the headlines: and this is true in one sense. In trying to justify her support for the lawless bombing of civilians in Yugoslavia, she likened its opponents to Nazi appeasers.


Around 700 tonnes are being trucked into Afghanistan every day, less than half that which the UN says is needed. Six million people remain at risk. Nothing is reaching those areas near Jalalabad, where Americans are bombing villages, killing hundreds of civilians, between 60 and 300 in one night, according to anti-Taliban commanders who are beginning to plead with Washington to stop. On these killings, as on the killing of civilians in Yugoslavia, the outspoken Short is silent.


The militarism that is there for all but the intellectually and morally impaired to see is the natural extension of the rapacious economic policies that have divided humanity as never before. As Thomas Friedman wrote famously in the New York Times, “the hidden hand” of the market is US military force.


And these are countries with “structural adjustment programmes” that are meant to “create wealth” for the majority. It was all a lie.


It is time we recognised that the real terrorism is poverty, which kills thousands of people every day, and the source of their suffering, and that of innocent people in dusty villages, is directly related.


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