The U.S. House of Representatives barely approved fast track trade authority by a vote of 215 to 214, ending a long battle that pitted the Fortune 500 against a broad alliance of labor, environmental, religious, feminist, human rights, consumer, family farm, and other activists. These diverse forces defeated fast track twice during the Clinton administration and managed to delay a vote numerous times this year because of lack of support. Now that fast track has been approved, pro-free trade analysts would no doubt like to begin ringing the death knell of the opposition forces. To the contrary, there are several reasons why this vote is only a small setback in the fight against corporate globalization.
The U.S government’s announced intention to broaden the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan has triggered growing concern that other important U.S. foreign policy goals and principles will be subordinated in the process.
If Americans needed any reminding how, during the cold war, U.S. policymakers subordinated Wilsonian principles of self-determination to the larger anticommunist struggle, they should read several secret U.S. documents surrounding Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor obtained and released this week by the independent National Security Archive (NSA). The documents confirm that visiting U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave a green light to President Suharto for the invasion.
There has been increasing attention on Yemen as the possible next major focus in the U.S. campaign against terrorism. Yemeni government forces have begun a crackdown against suspected Al-Qaida members and supporters, and a number of armed clashes have ensued. This comes just weeks after the November 26th meeting in Washington between President George W. Bush and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in which the Yemeni leader promised cooperation in the struggle against terrorism and President Bush promised additional security assistance to support that effort.
In a previous article for FPIF, written after COP6bis in Bonn, (see Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer, Bonn and Genoa: A Tale of Two Cities and Two Movements (August 2001) online at http://www.fpif.org/papers/kyoto.html) we argued that despite all the weakening that the Kyoto Protocol had suffered, the Bonn Compromise had made it ratifiable, and had to be counted as a major victory. We argued that with Kyoto’s ratification, carbon would actually be priced, that new principles for the protection of the global commons would be established, and that the structures necessary to eventually strengthen the climate regime would be put into place. And we added a few elements of hope: that as the reality of climate change becomes more sensible and the climate protection coalition stronger, it would become possible to step past Kyoto to the global, equity-based treaty that might actually work.
This past month has been marked by a dramatic change in the U.S. and European attitudes toward the Israeli occupation. The U.S. first, and subsequently the EU, have adopted the Israeli view that the core of the problem is Yasir Arafat. Bombing Arafat’s helicopters, confining him to the besieged city of Ramalla, and the recent occupation of parts of the city, have nothing to do with Israeli security or “the struggle against terror.” The Israeli Government targeted Arafat, and succeeded in convincing first the Israeli public and now the international community that this policy is legitimate.
It may be time–yet, then it may be too late–for Israel to confess to its true intentions in the Palestinian territories. The sustained and myopic focus on the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has little to do with stopping “terrorism.” What removing Arafat will do is induce a Palestinian civil war and, by extension, give Israel a pretext for re-occupying the Palestinian territories. The campaign behind this strategy has been ongoing, but it has rapidly intensified since the U.S. military action in Afghanistan. As the U.S. focuses its efforts on Osama bin Laden, Israel appears to be making parallel moves against Arafat.
The day the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into existence, on January 1, 1995, the Indian Express had carried a pocket cartoon on its front page. It showed two people walking amidst high rise buildings with huge billboards for popular multinational brands like Pepsi Cola, Coke, Philips, and McDonalds. The cartoon depicted one of the people walking down the street asking: “What does WTO stand for?” The other man replied: “We Take Over.”
Only three days have passed since U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Middle East policy remarks at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for Political Leadership in Kentucky. Following Secretary Powell’s tribute to a key member in the audience, Kentucky’s Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the fiercest opponents of the PLO and the Oslo Peace agreements, who together with Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, published AIPAC’s (the Israeli political lobby in the U.S.) most recent initiative against the Palestinian Authority (Ha’aretz 22/11/2001), Secretary Powell boldly declared:
Afghans are accustomed to “hoping for the best and expecting the worst.” The fragility of the current situation begs for great care and concern not to repeat past failures of Western policy. Great care must be taken in any steps in formulating a post-Taliban Afghanistan that includes an acceptable government as well as provisions for development and economic stability. Most importantly, efforts must reflect the wishes of ordinary Afghans inside of Afghanistan in order to gain credibility and long-term stability. Sadly, these sentiments seem to be ignored.