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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama

A decade after ‘shock and awe’

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iraq_10th_anniv_2

Ten years since the fabrications that led to the invasion of Iraq, burning skies over Baghdad, the murder of Fallujah, the barbarism of Abu Ghraib. The ‘withdrawal’ of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan signal not (as US president Obama has cynically claimed) the “tide of war receding,” but the re-deployment of military and resources for even greater interventions elsewhere. War continues in Afghanistan, is running ruinously in North Africa and in the Sahara, in Syria, and is threatening Iran.

The mad reign of the killer bankers

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Pretty charts by the IMF which make no sense to the newly impoverished in developing countries. After three years of G20 meetings to produce a new 'global harmony', the system is still intact: a mixture of deregulation, princely rewards for the brains behind 'financial innovations' and destruction paid for by state and taxpayer.

In the 2011 May issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, the comment ‘Immune and all-powerful’ by vetern observer of 20th century absurdity, Serge Halimi, is short, blunt and a new indictment of the global financial mafia. This mafia is represented on governments by its criminals-in-chief: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan. There are more such criminals-in-chief of course, and some are regional (in Russia, China, India, Brazil) as they preside over the movements of capital and the passing of legislation to disempower, impoverish and enslave tens of millions around the developing world.

It is in the interests of these folk, the humble wage earners in field and in the slums, that Halimi has written this cameo. He has pointed out that the International Monetary Fund has just admitted that “nearly four years after the start of the global financial crisis, confidence in the stability of the banking system as a whole has yet to be fully restored”. He then quotes US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke who described it as “the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression” but has reminded us that no-one in the US (or in its client and comprador countries for that matter) has been charged with any crime. [Bernanke was quoted by Jeff Madrick in “The Wall Street Leviathan”, The New York Review of Books, New York, 28 April 2011.]

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan all stood to gain by the collapse of the high-risk investments they warmly recommended to their clients. They got off with a fine at worst; more often they got a bonus. In fact Halimi is needlessly polite, for the criminals-in-chief have not only got off with bonuses, they have continued to be permitted to ply their destructive trade in developing countries and in the commodity trading arenas.

Eight hundred bankers were prosecuted and jailed after the fraud-related US Savings and Loans failures in the late 1980s, said Halimi. “Now the power of the banks, increased and concentrated by restructuring, is so great that they seem immune to prosecution in any state impeded by public debt. Future White House candidates, including Barack Obama, are already begging Goldman Sachs to fund their election campaigns; the head of BNP Paribas has threatened European governments with a credit squeeze if they make any serious attempt to regulate the banks; Standard & Poor’s, the agency that awarded its highest rating of AAA to Enron, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and many junk bonds, plans to downgrade the US rating if Washington fails to deliver public spending cuts.”

What the IMF calls the World Economic Outlook, this is the 2011 April issue, as inconsequential as the last.

So, it is not only immunity. The criminals-in-chief are revealed as actually dictating social policy to the countries of the developed world. In France, the Socialists complain that “governments devoted more resources to rescuing the banks and financial institutions in the year after the subprime crisis than the world spent on aid to third world countries over 50 years” [this was in L’hebdo des socialistes, 16 April 2011].

But the remedies they propose are pathetic (a 15% bank surcharge) or pious hopes (abolish tax havens, establish a public rating agency, tax financial transactions), which rely on unlikely “joint action by the member states of the European Union”.

What should have been a crisis too far came to nothing, Halimi has concluded. He has quoted Andrew Cheng, chief adviser to the China Banking Regulatory Commission, as having said that this passive attitude is connected to a “capture problem”, which is states in thrall to their financial system [“Big Winners in Crises: the Banks”, International Herald Tribune, 13 April 2011]. Too often political leaders behave like bankers’ puppets, anxious not to spoil the party. I would have expected Monde Diplo to show some teeth here, for this is in most democracies called treason, and the punishment must match the crime.

Hot potatoes from Farmer Obama

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Pair of bullock carts on the Allahabad-Delhi highway

Pair of bullock carts on the Allahabad-Delhi highway

The government of the USA has planned for India to become an important consumer of US agricultural exports and of US crop science. India is also planned as a host country for an agricultural research agenda directed by American crop-seed-biotech corporations. This is to be achieved through a variety of programmes in India, some of which began their preparation two years ago.

This agenda, labelled US-India cooperation by India’s current UPA-2 government and by the USA’s current Barack Obama administration, has the support of the American farm sector as its aim, not the support of India’s farmers and cultivators. The clear and blunt objective is to increase US agricultural exports and to widen as quickly as possible the trade surplus of the US agricultural sector.

This agenda has become clear following the three business and industry meetings held during the visit of US President Barack Obama — the ‘US-India Business and Entrepreneurship Summit’ in Mumbai on November 6, the ‘India-US: An Agenda for Co-Creation’ with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi on  November 8, and the ‘US-India Conclave: Partnership for Innovation, Imperative for Growth and Employment in both Economies’ with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in New Delhi on November 9.

The US agri-business view has been projected in India by the US-India Business Council, a business advocacy group representing American companies investing in India together with Indian companies, with the shared aim of deepening trade and strengthening commercial ties.

A vendor of sweet lime juice and his cart, Mumbai

A vendor of sweet lime juice and his cart, Mumbai

In a document titled ‘Partners in Prosperity, Business Leading the Way, Advancing the US-India commercial agenda as the foundation for strategic partnership’ (November 2010) the business council stated: “India requires an ‘Ever-Green Revolution’ — a new programme which would engage the country’s rural sector, providing water utilisation and crop management ‘best practices’ to promote greater food security — this time based on technology to increase efficiency and productivity. The effort to vitalise India’s agriculture sector should be driven by business, and the first step is improving India’s farm-to-market global supply chain.”

This business-driven trade in agricultural goods and services was given formal shape two months ago during the inaugural meeting of what is called the India-US Agriculture Dialogue, on September 13-14, 2010 in New Delhi. India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and USA’s Under Secretary (Energy, Economic and Agricultural Affairs) in the US State Department, Robert Hormats, co-chaired the ‘Dialogue’. Under this agreement India and the USA have set up three working groups for: ‘strategic cooperation in agriculture and food security’, ‘food processing, agriculture extension, farm-to-market linkages’, and ‘weather and crop forecasting’.

A hamlet off the Grand Trunk Road, Uttar Pradesh

A hamlet off the Grand Trunk Road, Uttar Pradesh

The ‘Agriculture Dialogue’ is designed to be the implementing process for the India-US Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Agriculture and Food Security, signed almost a year ago by Obama and Singh. On November 24, 2009 they had agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation and Food Security that will, according to the US State department, “set a pathway to robust cooperation between the governments in crop forecasting, management and market information; regional and global food security; science, technology, and education; nutrition; and expanding private sector investment in agriculture”.

‘Agriculture Dialogue’ is the new name given to a US-India plan for trade and investment in agriculture which saw its genesis on July 18, 2005, when Singh and then US President George W Bush announced the ‘US–India Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Education, Teaching, Research, Service, and Commercial Linkages (AKI)’. At the time, apart from officials from government on both sides representing agriculture and crop bureaucracies, Indian and American universities and the private sector were on the AKI board.

The Indian agri universities were the Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (Pantnagar, Uttaranchal), the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu) and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh). India’s private sector was represented by Venkateshwara Hatcheries Ltd, Masani Farms (its owner was a National Horticultural Board director), ITC Ltd’s Agribusiness chief executive and Wal-Mart India. The American private sector was represented by Archer Daniels Midland Company and Monsanto.

Infochange India, which provides news and analysis on development news and social justice in India, has carried the rest of my article on the Obama visit to India here.

Declaration of war in Oslo

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Nobel Peace Prize 2009 scandalThe sorry record of the Nobel Prize committee of the last 20 years became sorrier still when it awarded the current US president the 2009 Peace prize. The speech made by the recipient on 10 December 2009 to claim that award would have been sorrier still, if it was not instead a chilling reminder of the words and methods of George W Bush, the winner’s predecessor.

This year’s Peace prize award has joined together black farce, opera noir and state terror in a menacing new construction. One point in the short citation by the Nobel Committee for the prize awarded to Barack Obama reads: “His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.” An open-ended pledge to wage indefinite and murderous war is a “value and attitude shared by the majority of the world’s population”?!?

Obama acknowledged that he is the “Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars” and presented war as a legitimate means of pursuing national interests. He declared that “the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace”, that “all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace” and that imperialist troops should be honored “not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace”. Since he has now been awarded the Nobel Peace prize, the Nobel Committee must quickly announce a new Nobel, for Inspired Propaganda, and award the first such prize to Obama’s speech-writer.

Nobel Peace Prize 2009 scandalThe more sensible of the world’s press has struck a note of resigned outrage today. Here’s Granma, the excellent Cuban newspaper, on the Nobel scandal:

“Para iniciar las guerras se necesitó un presidente inculto con mensaje directo y lágrimas fáciles —así era George W. Bush. Pero para continuar las guerras que no se podrían ganar, y al mismo tiempo mantener las ganancias suculentas de Wall Street mientras el pueblo se empobrecía más, se requería un presidente intelectual como Barack Obama, con capacidad de crear promesas hipnotizadoras, con sonrisa fácil y amigable, que haría olvidar por un tiempo al pueblo la incertidumbre económica del país. Como dice el refrán: no importa el color del gato, siempre y cuando cace ratones.”

[Translation]: To start the wars it took an uneducated president with direct message and tears it was so easy-George W. Bush. But to continue the wars that could not win, and at the same time maintain succulent gains on Wall Street while impoverishing more people, they needed a president like Barack Obama intellectual, able to create mesmerizing promises, with an easy smile and friendly, that would put the people for a time of economic uncertainty the country. As the saying goes: no matter the color of the cat as long as it catches mice.

And here’s Die Tageszeitung, Berlin’s excellent analytical daily, on the Nobel scandal:

“Das Thema Afghanistan griff Obama auch bei der Preiszeremonie in seiner Dankesrede auf. Die Menschen müssten akzeptieren, dass Staaten manchmal Kriege führen müssten, um ihre Bürger vor Terror oder feindlichen Regimen zu schützen. Kriege seien nie eine “glorreiche Angelegenheit”, sondern eine bedauerliche Notwendigkeit: “Eine gewaltfreie Bewegung hätte Hitlers Armeen nicht stoppen können. Verhandlungen können die Al-Qaida-Führer nicht dazu bringen, ihre Waffen niederzulegen.” In seiner Würdigung des Preisträgers versuchte Thorbjørn Jagland, Vorsitzender des Nobelpreiskomitees, die Entscheidung noch einmal zu begründen. Er griff dazu den Obama-Satz auf, der Preis sei wohl als Appell gemeint: “Präsident Obama hat das Nobelkomitee ganz perfekt verstanden.”

Nobel Peace Prize 2009 scandal[Translation]: The issue of Afghanistan was taken on by Obama even during the awards ceremony in his acceptance speech. The people must accept that states must sometimes fight wars, to protect its citizens from terrorist or hostile regimes, he said. Wars are never a “glorious affair”, but an unfortunate need for “a nonviolent movement would not be able to stop Hitler’s armies. Negotiations can not take the Al-Qaeda leaders to lay down their weapons.” In its assessment of the winner Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, tried to justify the decision again. He reached to the Obama sentence, that the prize was probably meant as an appeal: “President Obama has understood the Nobel Committee perfectly.”

And here’s the thoughtful and reflective Monthly Review, a reputed leftist journal, about the US military economy, in a comment in October 2008:

Nobel Peace Prize 2009 scandal“The United States is unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending, and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post-Second World War world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since the Second World War (though lower than previous decades as a percentage of GDP).”

And here’s the fearless and inspiringly independent-minded Le Monde, the French news daily, on the Nobel scandal:

“Le prix Nobel de la paix ayant été fondé par Alfred Nobel l’inventeur de la dynamite, peut-être n’y a-t-il pas lieu de s’étonner. Tout de même, la coïncidence est immanquable. Dix jours après avoir annoncé l’envoi de renforts en Afghanistan, Barack Obama est arrivé jeudi matin 10 décembre, à Oslo (Norvège). Le “war president” est couronné d’un prix Nobel de la paix. La Maison Blanche ne pouvait pas ignorer l’ironie. Depuis plusieurs jours, elle n’entend que cela. Le porte-parole Robert Gibbs a fini par être agacé. Barack Obama “comprend qu’il n’appartient pas à la même catégorie que Mandela ou Mère Teresa”, a-t-il dit. “Mais il est fier des gestes faits par son gouvernement pour renouer avec le monde”. Dans son discours, le président devait lui-même expliquer, comme Franklin Roosevelt en son temps, qu’il y a parfois des guerres justes et “nécessaires”.”

[Translation]: The Nobel Peace was founded by Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite, maybe is there not surprising. Still, the coincidence is inevitable. Ten days after announcing sending reinforcements to Afghanistan, Barack Obama arrived Thursday morning December 10 in Oslo (Norway). The “war president” is crowned with a Nobel Prize for peace. The White House could not ignore the irony. For several days she heard this. The spokesman Robert Gibbs came to be annoyed. Barack Obama “understands that he does not belong to the same category as Mandela or Mother Teresa,” he said. “But he is proud of gestures made by his government to revive the world”. In his speech, the president must explain himself, as Franklin Roosevelt in his time, sometimes there are just wars and “necessary”.

Written by makanaka

December 11, 2009 at 16:31