Transcript #153

 Global Overview: As The Third World Continues To Fight Against Western Economic Exploitation, Obama's A Mixed Bag, The Right Still 100% Wrong


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Your sources today include: the New York Times, the British newspapers The Guardian, The Telegraph and he Financial Times,,, McClatchy Newspapers, the Miami Herald, Time Magazine and CNN.


In recent podcasts you've heard about the hottest issues du jour, such as health care reform and the Sotomayor Supreme Court appointment.   This show will address issues not, for the most part, as immediately applicable to the water cooler wars.


There's a whole world of strife, struggle, bloodshed and sometimes progressive victory out there.  It's all about the Third World's centuries-long attempt to throw off Western economic exploitation.  That struggle is my real passion.  Here you'll get a whirlwind review -- things that caught my eye, and that I think you might want to be aware of, pay attention to over the coming months.


The linchpin to understanding all this is my Four Pillars concept, my

analysis of the ways the First World economically exploits the Third World. The Four Pillars are how the right effectuates the supreme right-wing directive: transfer wealth from everyone else to the already rich.


I go over these Four Pillars in detail in podcast 137.  That's a seminal podcast that I urge you to listen to if you haven't.


In short, the Four Pillars are:


1 - sweetheart contracts for natural resources


2 - unfair conditions of international trade


3 - dubious loans that ensnare Third World countries on a debt treadmill, and


4 - imposition of so-called "structural adjustment programs"


Woe to any nation that challenges any of the Four Pillars.  The Four Pillars will pop up again and again as we go through the day.


Let's start by going over some overall stats.


Globally by one measure things have gotten better.  Since 1960, the number of children dying before the age of 5 has been cut in half.  But it's still about 10,000,000 per year.  Still a moral outrage.


Right now more than a billion people around the world are urgently hungry.  Four million more are added per week.  The global financial crisis is making things much worse.  Foreign aid may drop, remittances home are already down.  There could be an additional 200,00-400,000 child deaths per year.  If you'll recall, there have already been food riots in over 30 countries.  See podcast 121.  


Talk about a life and death issue!


Behind these numbers is an intense struggle, often off the corporate media radar:


Barely reported in the international press, there have been major protests around mines, oil, logging and mineral exploitation in Africa, Latin America, Asia and North America. Hydro electric dams, biofuel plantations as well as coal, copper, gold and bauxite mines are all at the centre of major land rights disputes.

This often involves indigenous communities.  Here's Victoria Tauli-Corpus, chair of the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues:


An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories. There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses. 

This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global.

You may have read recently about violence in Peru over oil and timber riches in the Amazon.


Were you taught as I was in high school, that the purpose of colonialism was to transfer wealth from the colony to the mother country?


Such a transfer of wealth is still the goal of Western foreign policy, the Four Pillars are the method of implementation.


Now a particularly bad recent development is that the global resources grab has extended to farmland to grow food.  Africa, Asia, Latin America, it's everywhere.


During the colonial era, of course, plantation economies were established in Africa, Asia and Latin America to export food to the mother countries.


The present-day scale is massive:


The acquisition of farmland from the world's poor by rich countries and international corporations is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe's farmland targeted in the last six months.

The conservative Financial Times editorialized "If food was ever a soft policy issue before, it now rivals oil as a basis of power and economic security."


You can live without oil.  Not without food.


Yet in most of the nations which are the subject of land grabs for food, large portions of their citizenry don't have enough to eat.


Even the recent G8 meeting had this land grabbing on the agenda.


Progressive activists warn that


Outsourcing food production will ensure food security for investing countries but would leave behind a trail of hunger, starvation and food scarcities for local populations

The result will be civil unrest.   This may well have been a factor in the overthrow of the government of Madagascar.


President Obama may have taken a positive step -- at least in the realm of international charity -- towards enabling the Third World poor to be able to feed themselves.


At that recent G8 meeting, Obama got the other leaders to pledge $20 billion for direct aid to Third World farmers, to enable them to grow more.  This is a big change in policy, since most prior U.S. efforts were shipping emergency U.S.-grown food aid.


It remains to be seen whether this $20 billion is new funds, or just shifting from other programs. 


And of course, if the land grab I spoke about just before continues, many of these farmers won't have land to grow food on anyways.


It always comes down to economic and social justice.


Finally on this initial global overview, if there's one thing you can't do without even more urgently than food, it's water.


So, it should come as no surprise to you, that the multinationals are seeking to privatize, commercialize, and make a huge profit from, water all over the globe.


A while back, a Bolivian city kicked out multinational Bechtel which had been running the privatized water system in that city, and such unrest was a factor in the election of Bolivia's first indigenous president, progressive Evo Morales.


Venezuela under Hugo Chavez has forbid multinational control of that nation's water supplies.


This past spring delegates from 182 countries met to address the problem.


There's a movement to put the right to clean water in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  See podcast 145 about that Declaration, and its link to our own FDR. 


As with food, there is the charity route to providing clean water to those without in the Third World.


But also as with food, social and economic justice and the ending of multinational corporate looting, is what is ultimately required.


Speaking of economic justice and control of multinationals, we'll next start looking at individual countries around the world.  Stay tuned.





What's going on in Iraq?


One interesting development relates to oil, one of the major reasons, many believe, we went to war.  Check out podcast 86 for evidence of that.  Also podcasts 126 and 128 about U.S. attempts to control Iraq's oil.


The Iraqi government has recently been making a lot of noise about how they're not going to be exploited by the multinational oil companies.


The multinational energy companies strongly prefer oil contracts called production sharing agreements, or PSA's.   PSA's give the multinationals higher profits and more control.


But the Iraqi government said no PSA's, and then asked for bids on some oil fields.  Only one company bid high enough to be accepted.


The country's oil minister bragged that "I sent them a message that there are people in Iraq who are protecting Iraq’s wealth.”


Is this for real, or a dog-and-pony show on the Iraqi government and the multinational's part for domestic Iraqi consumption?  Only time will tell.


What seems clear now about Iraq, is that Obama's plans for Iraq don't fulfill any of the conditions for a true U.S. withdrawal.  They would be:


--withdrawal of all troops

--withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries and contractors

--closing of all military bases and turning them over to the Iraqis

--abandoning efforts to control Iraq's oil


It's no coincidence that we've recently built by far the largest U.S. embassy in the world in Baghdad.  The largest CIA station in the world is in Baghdad as well.


We're not going any where.


One progressive analyst argues that the U.S. posture in Iraq fulfills the three classic elements of colonialism:


--the U.S., not the indigenous government, is the ultimate decision maker

--U.S. citizens in Iraq are subject to different laws and institutions than the Iraqi population, and

--the Iraqi economy is shaped to serve U.S. interests, not that of the local population


The analyst's conclusion:


All the features of classic colonialism took shape in the Bush years in Iraq and are now, as far as we can tell, being continued, in some cases even strengthened, in the early months of the Obama era.  

I don't disagree.


For example, getting back to oil, Iraqi oil revenues don't even flow directly to Iraq.  95% of them go to a UN fund and are then disbursed to Iraq by a U.S.-appointed panel of experts.


And the U.S. has been pressuring behind the scenes for Iraq to sign the unfavorable PSA-type oil agreements.


An anonymous senior State Department official described what has been called the Obama Doctrine for Iraq:


One of the challenges…is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so.

Not good.


Let's move over to Afghanistan.  You undoubtedly know that Obama has sent thousands of additional troops there.


Also not good.


Many progressives worry, Afghanistan will become Obama's Vietnam.


One intelligent and lifesaving measure the Obama administration has taken, is a change in bombing strategy. 


The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, admitted that civilian deaths from U.S. bombing were turning the Afghan population against us. 


Of course, we progressives have been yelling and screaming about this since the first days of the Afghan war.


From now on, air strikes during firefights will for the most part only be allowed if American or other allied troops are at risk of being overrun.


McChrystal apparently plans to go even further, ordering that, as Time Magazine put it, "soldiers should hold their fire if there is even the slightest risk of a civilian presence in the target zone."


Are these plans for real?  Will they work?


On the latter, not yet, at least.  Just last week Afghans said 5 civilians were killed and 13 wounded from a U.S. air strike called in by an American patrol that was attacked.



Continuing right along to Pakistan, you'll see a similar pattern.


Obama has expanded drone missile strikes inside Pakistan.  Beyond Bush.


The same thinking as in Afghanistan should apply: civilian casualties from these strikes are going to turn the population against us.


In fact, a top advisor to the U.S. army in Afghanistan recently argued that the drone strikes in Pakistan were creating more enemies than they were killing, and should be called off.


And -- shades of Bill Maher -- this advisor also opined that "using robots from the air looks both cowardly and weak."


The ultimate problem in Pakistan is -- like around the world -- that we're on the wrong side in the class struggle in that country.  There's massive wealth inequality because Pakistan has


maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient…Successive Pakistani governments have…failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

The Taliban have used this fact to make vast inroads among the rural Pakistani poor, taking their side against exploitative landlords.


An unfortunate classic feature of U.S. foreign policy is siding with small wealthy elites against the poor majority.


That never augurs well.


Along these lines, in a deja view all over again scenario, the U.S. has announced plans to build a Baghdad-sized super-embassy in Islamabad.


A member of a Pakistani religious party didn't miss the connection:


This is a replay of Baghdad. This…is more…than they should need. It's for the micro and macro management of Pakistan, and using Pakistan for pushing the American agenda in Central Asia.

Now just like Iraq has been making a big show of not giving in to multinational demands on Iraqi oil, the Pakistani government has been publicly complaining about the U.S. drone air strikes.


The U.S. claims, however, that in private, the Pakistani government welcomes these attacks.


I wouldn't be surprised.


Ok, in a minute,  I'll spin the globe around for you and let you know what's happening in our own hemisphere.  Stick around.






Focusing now on the Western Hemisphere,  the Obama administration did something pretty good in El Salvador.  The leftist party, the FMLN, was poised to win the presidential elections.   Right-wingers in the U.S. started making threats that if the FMLN won, the U.S. would retaliate by changes in immigration and cash remittance policies.  Salvadorans in the U.S. currently send back $4 billion a year to their impoverished country. 


The Obama State Department issued clear declarations that neither those nor any other retaliatory actions would be taken if the FMLN won.   And the FMLN did win.  A great progressive victory.


In bad news from El Salvador, a multinational mining company is trying to use a free trade agreement to force that country to allow it to mine gold there.  One of the Four Pillars at work.


Obama's good policy in El Salvador is not the pattern, unfortunately.


Despite a forceful progressive campaign not to, Obama cancelled a multi-million dollar aid package to Nicaragua, supposedly because of election irregularities there.


President Daniel Ortega said of Obama that "He expresses good will, but in practice, he has the same policies as President Reagan."


Not that bad, at least not yet.


In Bolivia, progressive President Evo Morales' constitutional reform easily passed early this year, giving more political power to the indigenous community there.  You can listen to podcasts 22, 42, 68, 82 and 88 about the amazing situation in Bolivia.


But even though Morales has majority support in his country, he doesn't enjoy Obama's good will.  Obama just cut off trade benefits for Bolivia, ostensibly because of a lack of effort to stop coca growing.  Morales, like Chavez and others, has successfully fought back against multinational exploitation of his country's natural resources.


Better not fight against the Four Pillars, Evo.


And that coca growing excuse?  Colombia's the biggest cocaine exporter of all, but a huge recipient of U.S. aid.


And in more bad news, Obama has decided to station several hundred American troops there.


The empire does need to be continuously expanding its overseas bases.


Speaking of projecting military power, George W. Bush, before he left office, re-activated the Fourth Fleet after 50 years to patrol Latin American waters.  In retaliation, Hugo Chavez conducted joint naval exercises with the Russian Navy in those seas. 


Chavez also easily won a referendum ending presidential term limits.


The right is apoplectic, because it knows Chavez may well be elected over and over again, given all the good he's done by redirecting Venezuela's oil wealth from the multinationals and the Venezuelan elite, to the Venezuelan people.


That, of course, is a cardinal sin to the right, and a prime violation of the Four Pillars.


You can hear a lot more about Chavez and Venezuela in podcasts 18, 28, 49, 95 and 101.


Obama has blown hot and cold with Chavez, engaging in a war of words with him early  in his presidency, and recently being much more buddy buddy with him at the Summit of the Americas.  Their handshake, and Obama's accepting a book as a gift from Chavez, really sent the right into a tizzy.


Finally in Latin America, what's most in the news now, Honduras.


Over half of Hondurans live in poverty, the children-die-from-lack-of-food-and-medicine kind of poverty.


Wealthy rancher Manuel Zelaya was elected president and swung way left, doing great stuff like raising the minimum wage, and spending far more on health care, education, elderly assistance and the like. 


Uh-oh, you know what's coming from the right.  And they got their opportunity.


Zelaya wanted to conduct a non-binding, merely advisory referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted a measure on the ballot okaying a constitutional assembly to study amending the constitution.  The Honduran Congress and Supreme Court said it was illegal to hold such a referendum, he couldn't.  Zelaya pressed ahead anyway.


I'm no expert in Honduran law, so I don't know who's correct about the legality.


What I do know, is that when that country's Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant and the Honduran military raided Zelaya's house in the middle of the night, kidnapped him at gunpoint, shoved him onto an airplane, and dumped him still in his pajamas at a Costa Rican airport, well, that wasn't legal.


The coup-installed government claims constitutional procedures were followed.  There's a "kidnap in pajamas and exile" clause in their Constitution?


The coup-installed government purported to accept a phony letter of resignation from Zelaya.  Need more be said?


Condemnation of the coup has been near-unanimous worldwide.


Contrary to right-wing claims, and certain media misreporting the results of a poll, the Honduran public is more against than for what happened.


The right claims Zelaya was trying to extend his term.  He denies it, and given the timing of the referendum, at most he could have run for a non-consecutive second term after the next presidential election.


The right claims Zelaya was too friendly with Hugo Chavez, that his goal was a Venezuelan-style socialist system.  Tough.  Kidnap Zelaya in his pajamas at gunpoint as a solution.


How has Obama done here?


The U.S. -- surprise, surprise -- has a history of supporting brutal military dictatorships in Honduras.


The New York Times reported American officials were working for days to head off the Honduran coup.  Huh?  And they didn't warn Zelaya about it?


The U.S. military and Honduran military are very close.  Honduran officers trained in the U.S. were coup leaders.  They wouldn't have moved without a U.S. ok.


The current U.S. ambassador to Honduras was a top advisor to George W. Bush on Venezuela at the time of the 2002 coup against Chavez there.   Another kidnapping coup.


If Obama had really wanted to end the Honduran coup, he could have immediately cut off all aid to Honduras, like he's supposed to do under the law, instead of just threatening to do so.  He could freeze bank accounts of coup leaders.


And why hasn't Obama forcefully condemned the coup-installed government's violence against those protesting their power grab?


I'm not all that happy with Obama on this.  Are you?


Mediation efforts seem to have failed.  Zelaya has called for an insurrection.  Watch this one closely.  Bolivia or even Venezuela may well be next in the empire's crosshairs.



Let's wrap this all up.


Obama has some foreign policy positives, as you've heard.  He's also moved the U.S. closer to banning cluster bombs, and by restoring funding for the UN Population Fund, will save the lives of many Third World women.


But as you've also heard, on issues of empire, Obama is playing his assigned role of Emperor.  Not as fully as Bush did, or McCain would have, but still nowhere near where he needs to be.


As something immediate, you can call and ask your representative to co-sponsor the Delahunt-McGovern House Resolution on Honduras which demands the immediate reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as President of Honduras.  The Capitol Hill switchboard is 202-224-3121.


Beyond that, be aware and pay attention.


Remember the words of Adela, the Base Christian Community organizer my travel study group met with in Mexico over two decades ago.  Her words grow ever more powerful to me as the years pass by.  Listen.  She said:


God gave the earth to everyone equally, and if some have too much and some too little, the ones with too much must have stolen it some way. 

Remember you have justice on your side when you take the correct side in the world revolution, as one of the greatest Americans exhorted us to do:


audio: Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution…

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments…

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.





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