November 2004

British politics&Strangeness30 Nov 2004 06:44 pm

I know I was asked to find pictures of angry Brits. But I can’t resist giving this picture another outing first.

First person to name this fine specimen of manhood wins an imaginary prize.

American politics&British politics&Middle East&News media30 Nov 2004 01:53 pm

The US army has again been accused of using napalm in Iraq.

America is the only country which still uses the weapon. Last August, they admitted having used it in Iraq already.

As Blair stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Bush on Iraq, the British government must necessarily be considered complicit with any such use. Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, was yesterday asked a question in Parliament about the recent Ukraine election. This question incorporated a query about the use of napalm in Iraq. Like the true politician he is, Straw answered the part about Ukraine and neither acknowledged nor responded to the other question. More on all this here.

If that’s too ‘unofficial’ a source for you, try this. The Marines’ military report on Fallujah is now online. It has a lot to say about the 60 mosques it claims were “used for military purposes”, meaning they forfeited their protection under international law. But it also admits that the number of non-Iraqi fighters in Fallujah is very low, contradicting earlier statements suggesting the city had been besieged by substantial numbers of foreign “terrorists”.

Meanwhile, some Arab news sources claim 70% of Fallujah is now controlled by the Mujahideen. In addition to 1,200 Iraqi “insurgent” deaths during this latest Fallujah campaign (the official US figure), we learn that 129 US soldiers were killed in the month of November alone. And it’s not just American soldiers who are losing their lives over this fiasco.

And the Bush PR offensive has been going just as badly as his Iraq military offensive. The International Red Cross has accused the American government of using methods “tantamount to torture” in its Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The continued detention and mistreatment of these prisoners without trial, charge or evidence has been angering Muslims (and non-Muslims) worldwide ever since the camp was created. Needless to say, this latest confirmation of the world’s fears further exacerbates an already delicate international situation.

The British Ministry of Defence has become so rattled by the number of soldiers’ families who are speaking out publicly against the war, it has issued a D-notice prohibiting the press from reporting on such protests.

Yesterday, the British Embassy in Iraq warned that security in Baghdad is now so bad that even trying to leave the country by plane is out of the question.

And now the British charity Medact have called for an inquiry into the shattered Iraqi healthcare system. Their official statement says “”The war is a continuing public health disaster that was predictable – and should have been preventable… Excess deaths and injuries and high levels of illness are the direct and indirect results of ongoing conflict.”

What else needs to happen before our government stops lapdancing for the American dollar and realises its mistake?

British politics&Europe&Human rights28 Nov 2004 02:54 pm

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that European troops who control a foreign country can be prosecuted under human rights law for breaching the civil rights of local people.

This means British troops may face legal action over the deaths of civilians in Basra.

As well as this, the United Nations Committee against Torture has accused Britain of breaching the UN Convention Against Torture in Iraq.

Full story here.

American politics&Human rights&Middle East&News media27 Nov 2004 03:07 pm

Oxford English Dictionary definition:


noun a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

— DERIVATIVES terrorism noun

I was reading an American blog the other day and was surprised to note that the writer had called all Iraqi people fighting back against US soldiers “terrorists”.

Poised to leave a comment highlighting this inadvertent error, a worrying thought suddenly occurred to me. Perhaps there was more to this writer’s use of language than a shaky grasp on his mother tongue. Perhaps he genuinely thought Iraq was a country comprised of terrorists, not ordinary people.

Does any 21st century westerner really hold such a shallow concept of ‘foreign’ countries, I wondered? Quotation from blogs like this sounds like satire, a classic pastiche of the “them and us” mindset of previous generations. Surely such xenophobic misconceptions about other members of the human race have been consigned to history, along with the burning of heretics?

So I decided to look around for proof, to see how widespread this blanket “terrorism” misconception was.

Blogs are a great place to start research of this kind, because that’s where ordinary people feel free to express their ideas without censorship, commercial incentives or political expediency. Blogs had to be my first stop.

Reading… and more reading

And it didn’t take long before I found more evidence of confusion. This writer is convinced that “The Marines are steadily and successfully killing terrorists and breaking things in Fallujah.” This one announces proudly “Operation Hurricane Blows Away 60 Terrorists”. I don’t doubt that both bloggers are certain of the accuracy of their descriptions.

On the other hand, one blog entry dated June 2004 (i.e. before the latest Fallujah offensive) discusses the contradictory use of language. The writer is posting from Iraq. “The subject of terrorism was breached, and Amin grew quickly frustrated. He felt the US was being hypocritical in calling Arabs who fight against them terrorists. ‘They are fighting to protect their city… why don’t the Americans call soldiers from Honduras here terrorists?’ He continued, ‘They are fighting Iraqis…but they are not called terrorists? What is the difference?'”

Back to the other view. This blogger says the massacre of Fallujah’s remaining citizens is justifiable because they are “vermin”. Those who haven’t succumbed to foreign threats or been hounded out of their homes have only themselves to blame. “At this point, it appears that the only people left in Fallujah are those who support the terrorists. Those who fled earlier are willing for the Marines and Iraqi forces to reduce the city to rubble, if necessary, to get rid of the vermin that infests it.”

In the 1930s, Third Reich propaganda and ‘news’ described the Jews in similar terms of sub-humanity and infestation, softening up the German public for genocide. Such use of language is chillingly familiar to those conversant with Holocaust history. As this messageboard poster notes, “The propaganda of Dr. Goebbels and Vichy France kept calling the French Resistance ‘terrorists.'” Presumably that comparison didn’t occur to everyone.

One blogger goes a step further and derides the entire Muslim religion in a single stroke. Despite US and UK governments stating openly that there is absolutely no link between the World Trade Center attacks and Iraq, and the fact that there have been no Iraqi nationals involved in any terrorism in America, this blogger has picked up an illogical idea and run with it. “It is evident that ‘liberals’ in the media have ‘forgotten’ that the US was attacked and that thousands of American civilians were killed by ruthless, immoral, moon-god worshiping swine.” Oh yes, moon-god worshippers. Damn those pesky amnesiac liberals.

See, it’s OK to slaughter Iraqi civilians. They’re ‘them’, the dangerous, unknown other. They’re not human, they’re “terrorists”, “swine”, “vermin”. Pass the salt.

Where does such breathtakingly arrogant ignorance come from? How does any educated adult labour under the misapprehension that all Arabs are terrorists, all resistance is terrorism and all those who do not acquiesce to foreign occupation are “vermin”? How does any semi-educated person conclude that reactively fighting against a foreign army invading your city is the same thing as proactively creating violent disturbance in an attempt to achieve political aims by intimidation?

Actually, forget education. How could anybody of sound mind possibly blur these concepts?

News available in every colour! As long as it’s red, white and blue

One look at the mainstream American media answers that. This conceptual confusion is everywhere because it’s the official American truth.

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Post column:

“Since the political decision to stop short in Fallujah last April, the terrorists had bragged to the world that the city would never fall to the infidel. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his thugs turned Fallujah into a vast dungeon, complete with torture chambers and execution halls. The terrorists stockpiled weapons and ammunition, welcoming thousands of international “Jihadis” and using the city as a base to spread terror across central Iraq…

Fallujah became the new world capital of terror. And Allah’s butchers proclaimed that they’d slaughter U.S. troops in the streets, if they tried to enter the city.

Guess who’s dying now?”

The writer stops short of yelling “Three cheers for mass bloodshed!”, but only just.

Everywhere you look is the fresh footprint of new bogeyman Al-Zarqawi and his mythical “thousands of international Jihadis”. He’s been wheeled onto the media stage in the absence of Osama bin Laden. The “torture chambers” and armies of foreign “thugs” mentioned above are a propaganda fantasy denied even by soldiers currently posted in Iraq. Nobody’s seen any evidence of his presence in Fallujah and nobody really believes he’s in control of the city. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

This journalist perpetuates the myth that al-Zarqawi is running a “network” operating from Fallujah. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian whom Iraqi citizens maintain is nothing to do with their resistance against US occupation. Many believe even his presence in Iraq is a US fiction designed to justify the destruction of civilian towns. It’s impossible for us to know which version of events is true, if either, but it is indubitably not the cut-and-dried issue these media reports claim. As this blogger points out, truth is a scarce commodity in war, particularly where it concerns the infamous al-Zarqawi.

This report also frames the Fallujah conflict in terms of good and evil. It states “In Fallujah, valiant American heroes search for ammunition and find much in the terrorist-infested city… Valiant US Marines move toward the center bringing justice to terrorists. Only the MSM would try to bring portray this crushing of terrorism as a defeat.” John Wayne’s heroic silhouette is almost discernible behind the text, like a watermark.

The Washington Times overlooks the thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, but shrieks “Terrorists kill dozens in Iraq attacks”. Another writer quotes US puppet “minister of provincial affairs” Wael Abdel-Latif in calling the Iraqi resistance “terrorists”. At no point does the article admit that the interim Iraqi government has been put in place by the invading country and thus hardly speaks for the ordinary citizens of Iraq.

You’re either with us or against us

Heard that the International Red Cross and Amnesty International have condemned the US/UK attacks for destroying medical supplies and killing medical personnel? Thank goodness the NY Post is here to put us straight. “U.S. and Iraqi forces are attacking on multiple axes, keeping the terrorists off balance. Key sites within the city already have been seized — including a hospital that cared more about propaganda than its patients.”

Heard the one about Al Qaeda having links with Iraq? Well yes, we know it’s a fabrication put around in rumour form because it is perceived as helpful to the US government, and the media knows this too. But it doesn’t stop some journalists from dropping the name of Al Qaeda into their Iraq news stories as though it is fact.

They may as well just call all opposition “Satan” – like Lt. Col. Brandl did in his pre-attack army peptalk – and be done with it.

Somewhere along the line, “Al Qaeda” has become shorthand for “terrorist”, and “terrorist” has become shorthand for “anyone who tries to stop us”. Distinct, unrelated concepts have been whizzed up into a single meaningless froth. News is now served as a low carb smoothie and there’s only one flavour on the menu.

OK, there are exceptions. Pockets of critical thinking do remain. Some mainstream journalists are not afraid to question the US-led war effort. Open-source news agencies such as Indymedia do report on controversial issues such as US use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. And these sources are vital, because they show us an angle we wouldn’t otherwise see. In Europe, dissent is slowly becoming more widespread even in mainstream publications. But in America, it seems those whispering misgivings about the war are frequently drowned out by those banging drums in favour of it.

It’s hardly surprising. Try to see all sides of the crisis in America and you’re immediately labelled as unpatriotic. Every day we’re reminded by American media: The USA is eternally on the side of justice, truth, compassion, selfless sacrifice for duty. We’re always fighting for oppressed people’s benefit, not our own. We’re the world’s policeman, always ready with a friendly smile and a stack of lovely, liberating bombs.

As Lynne Cheney said in a recent interview, “Well, but Matt, you’re being awfully relativistic here. I mean, the insurgents are killing Iraqis by the hundreds, Iraqis by the thousands. It’s not as though this is a matter between just ‘on the one hand on the other hand.’ We are on the side of freedom.”

So… now what?

This manipulation of words and the consequent reduction of complexities to Manichean polar opposites amounts to a war on language. How can we reinstate joined-up thinking to a defiantly simplistic debate?

Our mainstream media won’t point out their own mistakes. Our governments aren’t going to jump in to correct misconceptions which help with their propaganda efforts. Those who benefit from the butchered language of 21st century war reporting aren’t going to volunteer to defend accuracy. Hell, they’re propagating this nonsense.

Bloggers, armchair pundits and outraged citizens: I think the reality check may be down to us. Because if not us… then who?

American politics24 Nov 2004 05:00 pm

Every week, the TBR News site carries a secret statement given by a White House source. The source is anonymous but it does seem that, by and large, his or her early descriptions of White House decisions tend to prove correct over time. This lends an air of reliability to the information.

I make no judgment on authenticity either way, but I found this excerpt from the latest update worthy of attention. Decide for yourself and let me know your thoughts on it:

“I have said it before and I will say it now:

There will be a universal draft.

There will be another major war in Iran with serious military threats directed towards both Russia and North Korea.

Bush and his people will clamp down completely on any form of dissent inside the United States to include shutting off any American access to the Internet that they all view with loathing and fear.

Bush has closed off any escape, either by potential draftees, deserters (whose numbers are now growing out of all proportions, or potential anti-Bush people whom they feel might set up resistance movements elsewhere) to Canada and will make it impossible for anyone of draft age (18-35), or dissenters, to even leave the country in the future. Very soon now, anyone subject to the draft may not leave the country on the grounds that they might not come back. I am telling you, my friends, there is very stormy weather ahead for all of us.”

Full text here.

Anti-consumerism23 Nov 2004 03:55 pm

This Saturday 27 November (or Friday 26 November if you’re in the USA) is Buy Nothing Day.

The official website says:

“For 24 hours, millions of people around the world do not participate — in the doomsday economy, the marketing mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that’s become our culture. We pause. We make a small choice not to shop. We shrink our footprint and gain some calm. Together we say to Exxon, Nike, Coke and the rest: enough is enough. And we help build this movement to rethink our unsustainable course.”

It’s a simple but effective way to take back a moment of power. This weekend, let’s not waste our precious time shopping. Links have been in the sidebar for a while, but here they are again. Click and join in!

British politics&Global politics23 Nov 2004 02:01 pm

British civil liberties took another blow today, with Labour’s draconian new ‘security’ measures making up the bulk of the official Queen’s Speech. One positive note was sounded with the announcement of the long-awaited corporate manslaughter bill. But there was not much else to celebrate.

Blunkett’s proposed measures have already been announced, to a cross-party outcry. The crime of “acts preparatory to terrorism” will be invented, which could even include acts as innocuous as internet use. As this article in The Register surmises, “So they won’t need to prove that you’re doing something illegal, they only need to suspect that you might be for them to bar you from using the mechanism you might be using to do it. Tough luck on you if you weren’t doing it, but using that mechanism for something else entirely. If you don’t stop anyway, you’re going to jail.”

The crime of drugs possession will now extend to presence in the bloodstream.

Blunkett believes there is a “strong case” to remove the right to trial by jury for some “terror” suspects. Remember, the definition of “terrorist” can include those under pre-emptive arrests made with no evidence.

A Big Brother-style population database will be compiled, requiring all UK nationals to carry ID cards at all times, despite widespread protest that this will attack the liberty of innocent people but have no effect on criminal activity, least of all terrorism. It has been described as “the moral equivalent of bar-coding the population”.

But even if you’re not British, this still affects you. An increase in worldwide population surveillance has occurred since the 2001 American terrorist atrocity. This article (scroll halfway down to ‘Categories of Surveillance’ heading) points out that most citizens have no idea to what extent they are being watched. Most think they are freer than they are. “Countries such as the USA, Britain, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, Croatia, and Greenland, were all expected to fit the mass surveillance category. That (Y) level involves comprehensive surveillance of all transactions, communications and movements, with some balance of human rights maintained by the existence of legal or constitutional protections. Mass surveillance means that everything is actually watched or is likely to be watched at the whim of one or more of the covert agencies of government.”

John Prescott’s response to concerned Britons was typically circular and pointless, ignoring the argument that his government are playing on the idea of fear both to win votes and to clamp down on civil liberties. “If we went to the public and said ‘This is modern terrorism, these are the global problems we have got, but we are not going to do anything – but don’t worry, you will feel free’, would they feel free if they are facing these threats?” Incredibly, he then descended to these patronising depths: “Robin Hood may have threatened the Sheriff of Nottingham, but he didn’t actually pose the global threat we face today with suicide bombers and massive weapons of destruction.” Yes, he really did say that.

One Liberal Democrats MP made the following remarks about the Queen’s Speech in the Guardian today: “The election campaign has started, so the government has put the frighteners on to make sure we feel too anxious about the state of the world to vote for anyone else. The politics of fear, not the politics of hope. I suspect that the British public will see through it. … Take ID cards. Is David Blunkett mad when he claims ID cards will stop terrorism? Will having ID cards really deter a suicide bomber? Surely it would be better to spend £3bn on more police than on bits of plastic.”

Even the Daily Mail, probably the most reactionary, conservative, pro-interventionist popular newspaper in the country, reached a broad consensus on this. In today’s poll of its website users, it asks “Do you think Labour’s pledge on far-reaching security measures will win votes?” At the time of writing, 20% have chosen the option “Yes, people want to feel more secure from terror attacks”. 80% have voted “No, it’s scare-mongering and exploiting the threat”.

As ever, the Queen’s delivery of the speech written for her by “her” Government betrayed no personal feelings either way.

“My Government recognises that we live in a time of global uncertainty with an increased threat from international terrorism and organised crime,” she said. “My Government will legislate to introduce an identity cards scheme, and will publish proposals to support the continuing fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

The phrase “and elsewhere” was noted.

More suggestions that Blair wishes to rewrite the entire British legal framework to suit his own ends followed: “My Government will continue to modernise the constitution and institutions of our country to ensure they are equipped to meet the challenges of the future.”

“My Government will continue to work with partners around the world to prevent terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons…”

There has, as yet, been no offer by the British government to decommission its own stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

“My Government will work to strengthen commitment on both sides of the Atlantic to the transatlantic relationship and to the continued effectiveness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and will work with the international community to strengthen the United Nations.”

Oh dear. Looks like Blair’s going to join in Bush’s Iran adventure. Unless we remove him first.

Full text of Queen’s Speech: BBC website.

UPDATE: And here’s what a cross-section of BBC website readers thought of it…

American politics&British politics22 Nov 2004 09:51 pm

No one is surprised to hear the Iraq invasion is great for American business. As Julian Borger succinctly put it in an excellent Guardian piece back in April 2001, “In the Bush administration, business is the only voice. … This is as close as it is possible to get in a democracy to a government of business, by business and for business.”

Behind the flimsy smokescreen of moral outrage and ‘family values’, Bush’s administration’s priorities have always been obvious to onlookers.

But it’s not just infamous Halliburton, and other private companies blessed with reconstruction contracts, who stand to gain. The profit motive is much more comprehensive than that.

New Iraqi legislation has been discreetly implemented to force US-patented genetically modified farming techniques to capture the food market. This technology, long resisted in Europe for health reasons, is being forced on those nations with the least ability to refuse. Under these imposed rules, it will be illegal for Iraqi farmers to sow crops from their own saved seed.

Meanwhile, our corporate-backed media is awash with talk of “liberation” and “freedom”. Our governments ignore the will of large swathes of their population, in a breathtakingly cynical display of elitist arrogance. Iraqi corpses number in the hundreds of thousands. Billions of dollars flow one way into US bank accounts.

And Britain’s leader backs all this 100%.

If we close our eyes to this, we are condoning our governments’ behaviour. We must not take our gaze off them for a moment.

The art of blog18 Nov 2004 08:59 pm

Posts about comments in posts about comments in posts… this blog is in danger of imploding.

Coming up next: the obligatory navel-gazing post about blogging itself, followed by a word for word transcript of a heated conversation with a loved one.


American politics&British politics&Europe&Global politics18 Nov 2004 08:59 pm

In this comment to the post below, Major Dad comments on my “faulty thinking” in suggesting that rich countries must be taking a poor country’s share when they grow richer. Major Dad, here’s my reply to you.

The mythical pie
OK, I’m going to drop my British diplomacy and be blunt about this for once: if you honestly believe that the world can cope with endlessly increasing consumerism and economic growth, you’re living in a dream world. It’s not possible.

Your remark about making a “bigger, better pie” for all reminded me of GW Bush’s famous “Make the pie higher!” quote. The reason why this very idea is nonsensical is a matter of basic mathematics and physical science, as well as economics.

(1) You cannot eternally increase wealth in real terms without taking from one area to give to another, thus leaving a deficit in one and a surplus in another.

(2) This is because the earth has a finite level of resources. For example, we cannot manufacture new oil. We can try to find alternatives, but we can’t just keep on truckin’ and expect nature to take care of our selfish overuse, because a refill is not going to appear within the next few thousand years. We can’t create new mature forests to replace the ones lost to logging, with serious consequences for our air quality over the next few centuries. We can’t conjure up new land to build giant shopping malls for everyone. We can’t ship in new ice from Neptune to replace our defrosting polar caps. And so on.

Technology is often cited as the answer to all our problems, by people who have no understanding of what technology actually is. When relied on as emergency measures, technological innovations usually result in an increased strain on the earth, not reduced. They keep the economic cogs turning – and our leaders love that – but don’t alleviate the problem they were designed to fix. This is true of supposed solutions like hydrogen-fueled cars, which still require fossil fuels to burn the hydrogen. It’s true of GM food production, which is designed to enrich large corporations like Monsanto, at the expense of small farmers and poor countries. Incredibly, Basmati rice was recently patented by a corporation, forcing Indian farmers to pay intellectual property fees to farm the very indigenous crops they have lived on for generations. The corporations claim they are solving world starvation problems, but this is deliberately disingenuous. The profit motive has no conscience. Encouraging companies like Monsanto to privatise plants only exacerbates the problems and ignores the true causes of poverty.

I’m sure nobody wants to read a lengthy analysis of neoclassical vs ‘true cost’ economics here, but a very accessible introduction to the unsustainable contradictions of traditional economics thinking can be found here. There are some videos discussing the impact of the global economy on other countries here. A simply-written guide to the problem of consumerism can be found here.

These sources are just a drop in the ocean (if you’ll excuse the eco-pun). There’s a virtually inexhaustible quantity of scientific and economics information out there if this piques anyone’s interest.

One major problem with the eternal economic growth paradigm is that our unit of measuring ‘progress’, the GDP, is highly inaccurate. Effectively, every time a transaction is made, the GDP increases. But it takes no account of the social, environmental or human costs of such transactions, only the fact that money is changing hands. This means that every time we declare war on another country, the GDP goes up. Every time we cut down a forest to make way for redevelopment, the GDP goes up. As one Adbusters ad memorably noted: every time someone is diagnosed with cancer, the GDP goes up.

Americans already overconsume to an unsustainable level which threatens planetary survival. As widely reported last year by environmental groups all over the world, if every person consumed the way Americans do, we’d need three more planets. Individual Americans can calculate what impact their own lifestyle has on the planet here. Japan is similarly over-consumptive and the member countries of the EU aren’t far behind.

The Kyoto protocol, which comes into law in February next year, sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions to attempt to reverse or halt the impact developed countries are having on the earth. Unfortunately, President Bush removed the US from the signatory list shortly after taking power. Bush says he won’t accept any possible impact on the US economy and is prepared to stoke the fires of international anger over the richest society on earth still brazenly taking a disproportionate share of the world’s resources. Even though the other major CO2-emitting countries, including Russia, have signed the Kyoto agreement, and even though the heavily compromised agreement still allows rich countries to exploit poor ones by buying parts of their quotas (effectively preventing them from ever achieving increased industrial development), Bush says he’ll never sign the treaty. The US sets itself apart once again on this and, in doing so, its government has even stopped pretending their much-vaunted moral values include a belief in universal human equality.

I’m afraid your comment about corporations is meaningless. If we lived under a system other than capitalism – and to imagine one is not necessarily to advocate one, it just means an intellectual acceptance that other possibilities exist – then the “little people”, as you call them, would not be living in a system where daily work in corporations was required to maintain a position in society. One perpetuates the other. Step outside the realm of direct experience and notice what the constituent parts of capitalist democracy actually are. You don’t need to oppose the system, but at least acknowledge what it signifies and what aspects of our lives are driven by it. Paid work exists because we live the way we do. It is illogical to talk about aspects of the capitalist consumer economy as invariable human experiences, given that they exist only in this form of society. Remember also that, under capitalism, employers must necessarily pay the worker less than their contribution is worth, because of the profit motive. Who stands to benefit most from this arrangement must be obvious.

As for your claim “Just because the American farmer can produce more food than we could possibly consume ourselves…doesn’t mean that people in Africa can grow less”: this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I must respectfully request that you look into the workings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, and in particular the AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act), signed into law by George W Bush in October 2001. Rather than quote chunks of legislation, I’ll leave any who are interested to make their own enquiries. It professes to be a law encouraging African trade but is in fact an arm-twisting law designed to protect and privilege US trade to the detriment of the poor African countries who can least afford the unfair treatment. It ensures that, by using its preferential economic position and exercising unfair practices like dumping surplus goods at less than they cost to produce, the US will always be able to undercut African producers and thus leave African trade, and African economies, at an unfair disadvantage. Please do research the full implications of this Act independently.

And this is only one such one-sided trade arrangement. And you’d be hard pressed to find one which is any fairer. It is the imposition of bullying, coercive rules like this, by our governments, which has increased the level of poverty in Africa over the last twenty years. It is the existence of subsidised US/EU surpluses, discount-selling and punitive trade rules which stops developing countries even from maintaining self-sufficiency, let alone building their economies to our model.

When rich countries get more, it means by necessity that they’re taking from the weakest. Which is like the proverbial candy from a baby, because we’re already robbing those weak countries through punitive loan terms (hello again IMF) and holding them to ransom with ‘free trade’ agreements – which are effectively one-way freedoms designed to benefit the US and EU at poor countries’ disadvantage. The word ‘free’ used in this context is as much Orwellian doublespeak as it is when used in official discussions of US/UK motives in the invasion of Iraq.

Who’s the daddy?
Then you say: “We in the West have taken the steps we needed to take to build our “lavish” standard of living…but not at the expense of any other nations. This isn’t the colonial era anymore…”

Now this is either naive or a deliberate avoidance of the truth. Let’s be under no illusions: the old colonial era allowed the rich countries to barge their way ahead using violent force. Now we’re comfortably placed at the top of the heap, we need only use blackmail and coercion to stay in charge. Although we’ll gladly use violence if we meet too much resistance, or when a particular country’s resources or strategic position proves too tempting (e.g. Iraq). And that’s not much of a deviation from the old colonial ways, is it? Having pillaged their assets and plundered their wealth for several centuries, we now keep the poor multitudes down with mob tactics. It’s as simple and brutal as that.

The American Dream of perpetual over-consumption and endless increase in wealth is a nightmare for a large proportion of the world’s people.

And unless you’re Native American or the descendant of African American slaves, chances are your ancestors were probably colonial settlers on stolen land too, and your comfortable lifestyle comes from that historic theft of resources. This is the way the world works.

You’re at liberty to express approval of the present system if self-interest is your priority. But please understand the real implications of our world order. There’d be enough pie for everyone if we didn’t take extra helpings.

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