Capitalism: As Tired as the Environment it Plundered (PART III)

PART III: Militarism as a Tool of Economic Interests

I remember putting up Views from the East while the soon-to-be-called Arab Spring was raging on. Last year, the news was swarm with the headlines “Tunisia”, “Egypt”, ”Libya”, “Yemen”, “Bahrain”, and up to this day, “Syria”. Rewind a decade before that, the news was “Afghanistan” and “Iraq”. Indeed, with the humiliating absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), more people are aware today of the real agenda behind those conflicts (spell blood for oil). The major conflicts of the opening rounds of the 21st century point us to conclude that America’s harsh stance against Syria is a prelude to an imminent conflict with the greater “evil”, Iran. After dropping assertions that Saddam Hussein hid his WMDs in Syria back in 2005, claims that Syria today harbors them inevitably raises yet another round of curiosity regarding America’s WMD accusations. Just think about it – Afghanistan is to Iraq what Syria is to Iran.

Time and again the strategy here is the same system of covert action and propaganda instigated by the ‘sole superpower of the world’: from the South American killing squads of the 1960s to supporting Mujahedin against the Soviets in the 1980s, to the conflicts in Africa, South Asia and the Balkans of the 1990s, and to the arming of rebels in Syria today. How did it came to be that America and its Anglo allies seemed not to respect and actually violate established international laws regarding the support of rebellion, regardless of whether they are for the greater good or otherwise? What then is the real agenda behind all these military adventures?

For much of its history, America has been all about the labels ‘profit’, ‘growth’, ‘competition’, ‘imperialism’, all of which are part of the grander framework of Capitalism. Through this perspective, it is not hard to contemplate that not only are these wars part of an elaborate scheme of plundering the resources of the world for their own benefit, but also making more money out of them (remember Monsanto?). Put more bluntly, Capitalism can grow and sustain itself by grabbing resources while also gaining from the process of grabbing resources. What are the examples of these?

A good case in point is Pakistan. In November 2007, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf cracked down on protests and activists and undermined human rights in the process. As a result of this move, Pakistan lost military aid and deals with the Netherlands and Switzerland. For its part, the United States said it will review its contracts with the country. However, in a 2007 report by Arms Control Today, it was indicated that “Washington…would likely not prevent any weapons transfers, asserting such a decision could undermine counter-terrorism efforts.” As part of the “global war on terror”, US policy toward Pakistan meant not only supporting it against terrorism (which also means effectively dragging Pakistan into its military orbit), but also making sure it patronized American military hardware (which is sound business). In fact, weapons sales went up ever since, even though it meant sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to morally-questionable governments and regimes.

Of course, Pakistan is just one part of America’s military customers. The United States has offered military assistance to some countries that it had not aided previously in this way. For instance, Yemen has received grants to acquire U.S weaponry for the last 11 years, but none in the 11 years prior to 2001. Turkmenistan is now buying U.S. weaponry, and Kyrgyzstan is now permitted to make commercial purchases of U.S. weapons. Even more telling, 18 of the 25 countries in this series received more military assistance and 16 concluded more arms sales with the United States during the five years after the September 11 attacks than they had during the period between 1990 and 2001.

Data from the Arms Control Association also show that in the first five years following September 11, 2001, the United States sold nearly five times more weapons through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) to 25 countries than during the five years prior to that date. From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006, FMS to these countries increased from about $1.7 billion to $5.3 billion. DCS for these 25 countries have also reached new highs, rising from $72 million during fiscal years 1997-2001 to more than $3 billion during fiscal years 2002-2006. Pakistan had the largest increase in military sales (FMS and DCS) in the five-year period, signing agreements for $3.6 billion in U.S. defense articles. Other beneficiaries of the war on terrorism arms sale bonanza were Bahrain, which saw an increase of $1.6 billion, and Algeria, which saw an increase of nearly $600 million. Sounds good business?

It is not just this supply of arms and training that rings the alarm bells, the United States continues to ‘innovate’ its tricks to prevent (or foster?) these self-serving wars. Back in 2009, when talks of withdrawal and ‘Iraq is now safer’ where headlines, a strange, seemingly backward report surfaced: a member of the newly formed Iraqi parliament has accused the US and the British of carrying out untoward civilian bombings. The Sadrist lawmaker, Maha al-Dori linked the escalating violence in the country with the withdrawal of US forces, and that the ‘occupiers” are the ones who are responsible for a new wave of violence and overall insecurity. This betrayal aims to create at its core an illusion of insecurity in the country and merit the prolonged stay of American military ‘advisers’. Who can argue? Those bombings show Iraq cannot yet stand without America. And thus this justifies their continued presence up to this day.

This practice is what we can refer to as a closed-loop cycle: with increased conflicts come increased weapons sales and with it comes an increase in energy (oil) dependence. But why rely on foreign sources of energy when in fact America can and has historically produced its own? The reality today is that America has been running out of access to cheap oil since after the second Industrial Revolution,  proven by the relentless expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, an alternative to this challenging and unnecessarily expensive drilling must be found at all cost. So the bottom line is Yes – corporate America needs these wars. No wonder the US military-industrial complex receives the biggest incentives, budget, and employs more than any other industry in the country. For sure, Dwight D. Eisenhower will be very displeased to see the military to be out of control, who himself warned that the military-industrial complex must never be allowed to “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Instead of relying heavily (or solely) on arms and military training as the primary tools of foreign policy, the United States and its allies should start scaling back on these activities and promote not only true and unstained peace in ‘failed states’, but also promote self-sufficiency among them. It is deeply dismaying that Anglo-America has continued to defy morals; that they continue to abuse humanitarianism to promote ‘peace’ and use them to expand their economic agendas; that it has pursued bullying through sanctions that exacerbate the international situation; and that it has proudly pursued unjustly practices to pursue its cancer of greed in the belief that “there is no alternative”, as Reagan and Thatcher believed to death.

It is about time to stop scolding countries that have become economically competitive if not successful (think Singapore, China, Russia, Brazil, India) by pursuing an alternative sociopolitical system (especially Scandinavian countries) and give in to the reality that Capitalism has disappointed the expectations of many, that it is in a decline and has damaged not just humanity, but also the world. The plague of Capitalism should be incarcerated to the dustbins of history, for it has hatched and grew from the sufferings of humanity and paved the way for the irreversible catastrophe of climate change. If we fail so, future generations will be in a more desperate situation than we are today. We must not allow the future generations to blame all of us; after all, all these scourge was caused by those who belonged to the class called Capitalists. The Bible can’t stress enough how it is against the rich and greedy: that the rich will have a hard time entering heaven, if at all.

Capitalism: Tired as the Environment it Plundered (PART II)

PART II: A Briefer on Poverty and Hunger

One of the World Bank’s objectives include the statement “the encouragement of the development of productive facilities and resources in less developing countries”. One of its focus involve developing countries in the fields such as human development, which include education and health. Quite sardonically, in 2010, it reported that “Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.”

Such figures clearly point to inquiries on the hows and whys these came to be despite the promise of a better life (under Capitalism) and the promises of unprecedented economic integration (under Globalization). Is it really overpopulation that caused hunger or is it poverty to blame? As was learned in Part I of this discussion, since the elite (Capitalists) used education as a tool to undermine the real workings of this world, it is thus hidden from the majority of humanity that the real cause of poverty is overpopulation. This is the accepted reasoning since they controlled what and how we learn. In this way, the rich where always absolved from the responsibility of acting on the issue of poverty, and hence, hunger.

How common lands where distributed among the elite play an undeniable role in discussing the roots of poverty and hunger. In Africa, for instance, it is estimated that 80% of the population depend on arable land. But what if, as a result of privatization, these lands where taken away? Decades of liberalization (patterned after the West but not applicable to the Third World) have greatly decreased self-sufficiency among farmers, while at the same time doing nothing on how food can be economically available for them.

But are these lands acquired to produce more food per unit area and make them cheaper to acquire? History had it that there will always be a shortage of everything to keep costs high and profits going (growth – the universal word of Capitalism). Still, the primary reason for the shortage in arable land is their usage: for industrial production, mega-dam projects, beef production that benefit only the countries of the investors, for appropriation to golf courses, production of tobacco, and even the conversion offood to fuel (corn-to-ethanol and bio-fuel revolution in the early 2000s) as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Just in the case of tobacco production, the situation seems to suggest a discouraging picture. Tobacco production degrades the land while also requiring more wood to cure it. Outside of soil degradation, this industry puts stress on water resources by requiring fast-growing but water-hungry trees, such as eucalyptus. In addition, their production encourages more smoking which degrade people’s health and increase medical expenses.

The same situation applies for coffee production. Although the production of coffee has had economic benefits such as employment, their production increased after the 1960s, but coffee price also fell more than 50% since. As such, its production is not sustaining itself well. Coffee plantation necessitates millions of hectares of land, not to mention pesticides that degrade the soil (which contribute to irreversible erosion), as well as waste pulp which pollute the water ways.

Another major contributor to land misuse is the textile/garments industry. As if the reallocation of arable land is not enough, the textile industry is known to put a real strain on water resources. The production of garments require a very large quantity of water: the textile industry is the third largest consumer in the world after the paper and oil industries. In its production, textiles require more chemicals as well (dyeing process) and also more energy to heat it. Even bigger than consumption, waste water from the process pollute river systems on a grand scale (taking into account their rank in the worst polluting industries).

In the case of bio-fuels, a little bit of political blaming has dominated the discussion, especially on the issue of whether bio-fuels such as ethanol do significantly affect the price of food. Proponents of the fuel, particularly the United States and some Western countries report that their production contribute to less than 3% on the price of food. However, in a leaked World Bank report (The Guardian, July 2008), the World Bank reported that “Bio fuels have forced global food prices up by 75%”. In fact, in official statements, the United States has placed the blame on rising demand from developing countries, particularly India and China.

Decades of liberalization policies (which are export- and self-serving oriented) have also contributed to poverty and hunger. Under the guise of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), for-export crops (mostly to Northern Hemisphere destinations) have replaced staple crops, which in turn hurt local food supplies and where available, make them expensive. Encouraged by free-trade agreements and Globalization, liberalization also contributed to the removal of subsidies allocated for smaller-scale agriculture and farming. The removal of subsidies in turn make local players vulnerable which puts them at a disadvantaged position against gargantuan multinational corporations. In this way, this closed-cycle loop is complete; to quote Richard H. Robbins, “To understand why people go hungry you must stop thinking about food as something farmers grow for others to eat, and begin thinking about it as something companies produce for other people to buy.” And yet, as the West views subsidies as the main barrier against ‘free-trade’ which must be abolished, their agriculture are the most heavily subsidized in the world, especially in Europe. This double-standard does not only contribute to the problem of poverty and hunger, but also to trade practices, otherwise known as protectionist policies.

Capitalism: Tired as the Environment it Plundered (PART I)

PART I: History of Socio-Economic Classes

I’d like to begin a challenging topic by admitting to what most laypeople consider as such: that hearing the apocalypse of capitalism/imperialism has become a tiresome theme. Indeed, it is a change of tone for my own creation Views from the East. But what if we begin by digging how ever did our society end up living to work instead of working to live?

In the past decade, as the developing world became more prominent in the running of the global economy and politics, it is imperative to focus on viewing the world as they see it. And this means focusing on the period before the French Revolution up to the late 19th century.

At about that time, the powers of Europe (most notably the British Empire) have become tired of influencing and colonialising near abroad; indeed, the discovery of the furthest lands (today known as South and Southeast Asia) where driven by the need to compete. At least before the 16th century, countries (or more precisely for that time, native lands) in the region where dominated by primitive hunters and gatherers. The idea of slavery came about when the most powerful men (rulers) realized the native lands can be bordered and be arable, hence the creation of agriculture. Thus, agriculture not only gave rulers their own ancestral land, but also can be used for what soon became known as barter, or trade, which is the foundation of the framework called economy.

So when did Capitalism enter the scene? As stated earlier, the powers of Europe exhausted their resources competing in the near abroad and went on to compete somewhere else. To etch an economic system based on the privatization of the manufacturing of goods for profit (Capitalism for short), a framework of domination has been devised. This clever domination, in the form of Imperialism, is the root of all misery that has plagued mankind ever since.

It is perhaps better to understand Imperialism by asking the question “why do I need work to live?” If you are more a success as defined by Capitalism, then you might ask “if I earn more, can I establish my business? Will I be happier if I had people work for me for my own profit?”

To answer this, we need to backtrack a bit. From being hunter-gatherers to slaves, landlords became merchants when a new system of trade activity was introduced: profit. The concept of the profit became a norm with the full swing of the period known as the Age of Imperialism. From now on, all economic activities will revolve around the concept of profit. This Western ‘gift’ was to be established at all cost, using the guise of economy, politics, and even culture, or collectively known as ideological state apparatus. In simple terms, ISA is the establishment of a system (in the guise of a state) to further the economic interests of capitalists. In defining so, we might start asking who then are the capitalists? Let us allow German philosopher Karl Marx to identify the socioeconomic classes of man: at the bottom are the farmers (who virtually own nothing), followed by the assembly workers (factory workers). Next in the classes of man are petite-bourgeois (middle-class, the educated, and sometimes shop keepers and members of the government).   And at the top of this dangerous hierarchy are the national and international bourgeois, or the owners, who are themselves the capitalists.

Indeed, to exist is to be enslaved by Capitalists; through Imperialism, the delusional framework of political (conflict and judicial), economic (through an imbalance in trade with the aim of creating debt; Colonialism and Fascism disguised as education ), and cultural {religion and family values (through the establishment of norms, discontent can be pacified)}, has thus been created. In so identifying these dangerous illusions, we have also successfully arrived at the root cause of poverty.