A World Full Of Choking Pretzels

by Gilles d'Aymery

January 20, 2003


Presuming that democracy is the ability of order to integrate movement the ever-so-friendly US governing elites (Corpocracy), be they neo-liberals, neo-cons or neo-imperialists, have their work cut out for them as movement seems to get rapidly out of hand, at least from their perspective, even when some is originally triggered by these very elites. Suffice it to look around the 'global village.'

Take a peep at the southern border -- the US border, that is. First you have Mexico that sees its agriculture devastated by NAFTA; its Maquiladoras have become an environmental cesspool and the US-controlled assembly lines are moving in droves to China where labor is even cheaper than the mere $5-11 a day pay to Mexican workers; its economy is faltering rapidly; its president has been out-foxed (pun intended) and practically betrayed by the Bushites. Further south, in Colombia, the right-wing government with full financial, political and military backing from the U.S. is presiding over carnage of epic proportions, its economy utterly shattered. Down west, in Ecuador, the recently elected populist president and admirer of Hugo Chavez, Lucio Gutierrez, in a January 15 address, vowed to fight the country's "corrupt oligarchy that has robbed our money, our dreams and the right of Ecuadorians to have dignified lives," adding, "If sharing and showing solidarity, if fighting corruption, social injustice and impunity, means belonging to the left, then I am a leftist," and "We will change Ecuador or we will die trying" -- statements reminiscent of the fiery rhetoric of a Hugo Chavez or a Fidel Castro (who incidentally attended the inauguration in Quito, as well as Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva). Down east, in Venezuela, last year's US-sponsored coup against Chavez botched, the U.S. has played the Chilean card, attempting to depose the Chavez government through massive strikes organized by the famed middle-class; but 2003 is not 1973 and the army has remained loyal to the Venezuelan president, hence the strikes are dithering, though not without imposing considerable damage on the economy. Further south still, in Brazil, a leftist working class president (can anyone imagine a working class president in the USA?), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been elected against the wishes of the U.S. and the "international financial community" that campaigned for his conservative opponent. One of the first decisions of the new administration was to cancel a nearly $1 billion project to update the country's air force on the basis that the money would be better spent on the poor -- a move that must have puzzled our Washingtonian compassionate conservatives who are doing the exact opposite at home (more money for the military and ferocious slashing of all social programs). One has to wonder whether Lula and Gutierrez will soon receive the Chavez treatment... Argentina is essentially fully bankrupt and in disrepair, its social fabric shattered thanks to having so obediently followed the neo-liberalism model during the '90s. In Chile, while the government announced in January 2002 that it would buy ten F-16 fighter jets and has recently signed a free trade accord with the U.S., it is however slowly and gradually moving toward the center left. The Minister of Defense, Michelle Bachelet, is a member of the Socialist Party whose father, Brig. Gen. Alberto Bachelet, was arrested by the Pinochet dictatorship, imprisoned, tortured and finally died of a heart attack in 1974 (Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, we remember!). President Lagos has pledged to revise a law enacted under the Pinochet infamous years that set aside 10 percent of the nation's revenues from its copper industry to finance the armed forces -- a move that must enthrall Washington. And of course there is good ol' Cuba...44 years and counting...

Sailing away from Latin America to the Pacific through the Philippines and Indonesia, who are economic basket cases on the verge of violent collapse, Japan's deflationary economy shows no sign of recovery and may well be hit by a hard recession if higher oil prices stay unabated. The latest U.S. fomented North Korean "crisis" is another destabilizing factor in Asia and nothing less than a huge US blackmail against the South Koreans who are increasingly turning toward China for trade, investments and their painstaking road toward reunification with their northern siblings -- a reunification thwarted by the U.S. in 1947 when it supported strong man (of course anti-communist) Syngman Rhee and, after the Forgotten War, the cohorts of dictators that followed him. Little noted by the pundits are the real motives behind the latest North Korea "crisis;" that is, the effort by the US Government to derail the Sunshine Policy implemented by President Roh Moo Hyun's predecessor, to throw a wedge between China and South Korea, and to keep in check China's growing influence in the region. This fabricated crisis reflects the rift that has slowly emerged between the U.S. and South Korea in the past decade, but the true "enemy" remains China even though the criticisms and the bellicose verbal attacks of the current US Administration have been muted since 9/11. Moving now eastward, India and Pakistan play Russian Roulette with nukes and the Pakistanis are creating all sorts of trouble for US forces that keep looking for bin Laden and his bad terrorist pals in Northern Pakistan and must more and more watch their backs. Forget about Afghanistan who has reverted to "war-lordism" and has fallen off the radar screen, in total disrepair (if it's not on TV it does not matter). Central Asia, all the way up to Chechnya, is both a boiling cauldron and an environmental nightmare, and, worse yet for the god-blessed US elites, the oil and gas riches are far more modest than expected (but at least it allows for almost full encircling of China). Then Iran and the Middle East are bracing themselves for the probable tsunami that will erupt because of the Iraqi conflagration made-in-the-USA -- to control the entire Gulf and the black golden spigot (particularly Saudi Arabia), and keep China at bay in the future -- and the U.S. backed and tax-payers paid Israeli ongoing violent, soulless and shameful policies against the Palestinians, within territories illegally occupied and settled for over 35 years. Turkey struggles along between East and West with its own Kurdish conundrum and an economy in the ditches...which brings this little tour to Europe.

The Balkans, now forgotten, have seen their economies shrink by over 50 percent, courtesy of US-led NATO intervention, and Serbia has fallen into utter poverty, eliminating socially-owned capital and undertaking the privatization over the next four years of about 7,000 enterprises of which 200 are major companies at fire-sale prices (it looks like the present Serbian neo-liberal order has not learned any lesson from the Russian experiment). And, as the U.S. considers that Fort Bondsteel in the Kosovo protectorate is not sufficient, not big enough for its future military deployments, it has offered Serbia 99-year land leases to build new bases (possibly expecting an eventual departure from Germany). The European Union's economies, straddled by production over-capacity, low consumption and high unemployment, are by all measurements in stagflation and their respective governing elites have to brace themselves with constituents that are ever more turned away by the US imperialistic design and violent military domination. While Russia should not and is not taken for granted, it has yet to recoup from its foray into neo-liberalism -- thank you, Mr. Gorbachev; thank you, Mr. Yeltsin. To further interfere into European politics and destabilize European defense by throwing a curve ball at European arms manufacturers the US Iron Triangle (Congress, the Pentagon and the military contractors) sold 48 Lockheed Martin F-16 jets (Fighting Falcons) for $3.8 billion, fully financed by the US tax payers, to Poland, a country whose economy is in its worst shape since the end of communism in 1989. Last but not least, the Gulf Stream is, for lack of time and space, acting bizarrely, leading scientists to contemplate dire predictions of a potential European ice age in the not-so-distant future.

(Note: for those who do not fully grasp the mood in Europe, an "unscientific" poll conducted by the venerable US magazine, Time (Europe), shows that over 82% of the 235,000 respondents (as of 01/19/03; 7:00 am PST) consider the U.S. the biggest threat to peace in 2003, not North Korea; not Iraq. (See http://www.time.com/time/europe/gdml/peace2003.html)

Let's turn our eyes back south to the African continent where violence, calamitous poverty and disastrous health conditions (AIDS pandemic, hunger, water shortages, etc.), resources pilfering by the rich nations of the northern hemisphere, and near-total abandonment by the world community (the U.S. is the most penny-pinching, stingiest donor nation among all the industrialized countries), are driving the entire continent into an abysmal chaos. No redemption there. No stability either, but the mounting military engagement of you know who.

Cross an ocean again, this time the Atlantic, and dock on the US shores. This is not Africa for sure. S.U.V.'s are roaming the land of milk and honey. Wall Mart, McDonald's and Hollywood, beside the military industrial complex and the increasingly policed state, are lording the land. Everything looks dandy and the Super Bowl is one week away... The US of America is at the top of its game. Yet the country is facing gigantic destabilization, from looming deflationary trends, financial meltdowns, corporate malfeasance, infrastructure decay, healthcare cost implosion (13% in the past year), rising unemployment and poverty, States' budget deficits never seen in history (or at least since the Great Depression) whose actual consequences will play out in the coming years, slashed social spending (including education and Medicare), civil rights abrasive curtailments, rise in religious fundamentalism, assaults on minorities, and, among other predicaments, lamination of the once-famed middle class (on this score the U.S. is following Argentina's steps).

Beyond the various continents, the ice melting in the Antarctica and the breaking glaciers in the Artic, the ozone layer depletion and the earth's warming, and the unrelenting harvesting of natural resources (old growth timber and rain forest come to mind), the whirlwinds of history are speedily gathering dark clouds upon our heads.

Since Bush II seems to have a noteworthy craving for pretzels he should relish the opportunities ahead. Happy choking, Mr. Bush!

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Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.

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Published January 20, 2003
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