NEW-AGE IMPERIALISM

Hello There 🙂

Apologies for the infrequency of my posts. I use the term infrequency rather loosely considering I have made only one post. But fret not, that all changes today.

Today’s topic of interest, John Perkins book “The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” written 12 years ago in 2004. (Take a second to process that 2004 is actually over a decade ago). I cannot believe I stumbled upon this book that has been lying dormant in one of numerous academic folders labelled ‘Read This’. I cannot believe that I am only reading this now (Actually read it in 10 hours). More than anything I cannot believe that the world and civilization as we know it has not come to a grinding halt, as a result of the revelations of this book. To give you an idea of its contents, allow me to quote from the preface:

“Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign ‘aid’ organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.”

Perkins provides a useful account of how he engaged in a world shrouded in secrecy and misinformation, which existed solely to advance the imperialistic agenda of the American state. In so doing he consciously aided and in the rape and pillaging of numerous Latin American states, indebting them to the infamous money lenders of the era, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He most certainly has a gift when it comes to writing, because he has successfully managed to weave a tragic tale of deception, greed and absolute power run amok in such a human and altruistic way that one cannot read the pages without ‘feeling’. And to feel is an important thing. Feeling inspires one to action. It is my hope that you will give the book a read and let me know if it struck a chord with you. Forward it to friends and family and get their opinions. In this post I will do my best to summarize the key takeaways that I hope you will reflect and comment on.

The ‘corporatocracy’ referred to is the interconnected web of banks, international, local, non-governmental and state institutions that work together to accomplish the end goal of a global empire; whose epicenter resides in the territory of the United States. Simply put, you and I may very well be contributors to this subtle form of imperialism by unknowingly lending our services to these well-established conglomerates of law firms, oil companies and think tanks who exist for the sole purpose of extricating the highest possible profits for a select cadre of stakeholders. This is done with no consideration of the human faces behind some of the decisions that are arrived at. This point is reiterated by Perkins:

Executives at our most respected companies hire people at near-slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions in Asian sweatshops. Oil companies wantonly pump toxins into rain forest rivers, consciously killing people, animals, and plants, and committing genocide among ancient cultures. The pharmaceutical industry denies lifesaving medicines to millions of HIV-infected Africans. Twelve million families in our own United States worry about their next meal.

The power of this book, even in 2016, is the fact that it is thought provoking. Whether you believe whole-heartedly in the incendiary remarks Perkins makes, or decide to chalk it up to mere conjecture; here are some of the more ominous correlations that I would hope you would contemplate upon:

  • ‘FREE MEDIA’? How much of the information we receive is actually unbiased and factual? We live in a time and age where CNN and NBC are headed by private firms. Implication: information can be massaged to fit a particular narrative. Solution: read widely in order to get a holistic picture, don’t rely strictly on ‘popular’/ ‘credible’ media houses.

Isn’t it interesting that in order to get information on the war in South Sudan we immediately defer to Al Jazeera and the BBC. Why can’t the African Union come up with a media platform that highlights stories of concern about the Continent?

  • FOREIGN ‘AID’? Perkins elucidates the false premise that aid is good because it leads to development and economic growth. Economic growth should not be synonymous with the growth of the purchasing power of political elites. If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, the system is in need of revision.

Take a look at Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid and/or this article on the false image of economic growth as depicted by Kenya in this analysis.

  • POWER? Is there no hope for developing nations that have found themselves ensnared in the loan repayment cycle? If it isn’t foreign powers exploiting state resources in the name of debt compensation it is inept political leaders squandering aid proceeds and leaving later generations with the debt burden.

Will challengers of the status quo (Patrice Lumumba/Robert Ouko/Omar Torrijos/Mohammed Mossadegh) always face the same fate? Is there a way that support can be rallied for the cause of justice and equality?

  • ELITES? The wealth and resource accumulation among a handful of families is as evident now as it was when Perkins penned down his thoughts. This has been reinforced more recently by the Panama Papers leak. Billions of dollars that could single-handedly contribute to alleviating poverty, hunger and illness remain stashed away in overseas banks. Beyond the money itself, the echelons of power continue to not only be male dominated but also dominated by the same males. One man ostensibly moves from being a Multinational Company Director, to Defense Minister, to Head of State on a planet with human resource numbers in the billions.

Why are theories such as the Dependency theory and the age old Marxism and Communism consistently undermined despite highly relatable precepts? How do Latin American/African scholastic views on the above differ from eurocentric ones?

  • DRUG TRADE AND TERRORISM. Perkins brings to the fore point rarely focused upon in academic and policy circles. Rebels in countries like Colombia and Afghanistan have been driven to growing coca and poppies because there is no other sustainable source of income. Rebels in countries like Ecuador are rebelling against the destruction of their cultures and indigenous lands and selling drugs to buy Kalashnikovs and American-manufactured guns to win the war. Terrorists are tired of putting up with years of blatant US intervention in the Middle East which has most often been characterized by unendorsed invasions (Iraq and Kuwait), support to despots (Saddam Hussein and the Saudi Kingdom) and outright assassinations of revolutionaries like Mohammad Mossadegh.

There are root causes (political, social and economic in nature) that drive normal hardworking citizens to engage in uncharacteristic behavior in order to survive.

  • THE 51ST STATE. Perkins makes a compelling case for the uncharacteristic support Saudi Arabia has enjoyed from the US. His basic premise is that a mutual pact was entered into whereby American firms would transport Saudi Arabia into the future by modernizing every aspect of the country. Saudi Arabia would only need to ensure that American firms retained these lucrative billion dollar deals and assuredly have a powerful ally whenever they advanced any foreign policy agendas.
  • WAR FOR RESOURCE DOMINATION. Perhaps the most sinister observations made were those relating to key states and their contribution to American aggrandizement. Take for instance Panama, leaders died and dictators were supported all because the US could not lose the Canal Zone. “Whoever controls Iraq controls the Middle East”. Not only does it have oil but it contains the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, critical water sources in a by and large desert region. Colombia is also a crucial state as it caters to a number of American needs in terms or imports and is also a market for burgeoning services from the US such as construction and the drug trade.

What has been the historical nature of the governments in these countries? Why are they seemingly inextricably mired in war and violence? 

These are just some of the issues that stood out for me. What are your views on this? Let’s not forget our own collusion in sustaining a system that continues to disenfranchise the weak.

“It’s no measure of health to be well- adjusted to a profoundly sick society “-Jidda Krishnamurti

{SOURCES HAVE BEEN LINKED THROUGHOUT THE DOCUMENT}

Multinationals: Force for good?

Hello There 🙂

First post ever and I am excited! As usual there are a billion and one issues that have captured the attention of the international community and I was at a loss for what to highlight. I settled on the little known battle between multinational tobacco firms and countries that attempt to curtail the negative impacts of their products. While there are merits and demerits to TNC/MNC involvement in human rights issues, it would appear that the African continent receives the short end of the stick in such transactions. It is my hope that this article contributes to creating awareness as well as spurring interesting conversations on the same. (Sources from which this short post is heavily adapted are at the end.)

BAT

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A case study of Kenya reveals an unfortunate pattern of TNC’s using their economic power to steer political decisions in their favor. This, at the expense of the lives of the weaker state’s citizens. It would appear that existing international law should be more meaningfully enforced as opposed to coming up with more regulations to dictate TNC behavior. This would ensure that any action contrary to the norms in place will have disagreeable consequences and thus deter TNC’s from engaging in them.

BACKGROUND:

It is generally accepted that TNC’s remain subservient to the dictates of the state in which they operate. The case study of Kenya reveals that when the country in question is less economically secure than the TNC in operation, then this asymmetry of power tends to negatively impact the weaker state. Here we will see how the multi-million dollar corporation British American Tobacco (BAT) attempted to circumvent the Ministry of Health’s attempts to introduce measures that would reduce the harmful effects of tobacco on the populace. (The small West African country of Togo also exemplifies the same. This can be viewed in John Oliver commentary.)

Tobacco, this is an agricultural crop grown for the purpose of eventually producing cigarettes. According to America’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agency, tobacco is projected to cause 8 million deaths annually by 2030. Increasing legislation, awareness campaigns and media attention on the health risks associated with tobacco use have seen the market shrink. However, the African continent stands out as fast becoming the largest market for tobacco companies.

CASE STUDY:

The Al Jazeera documentary reveals that Kenya makes 100 million USD annually from tobacco sales and provides employment to some 80,000 people, particularly farmers who produce the crop. Furthermore it cites Kenyans as having purchased 8 billion cigarettes in 2014 alone. While this positively means mega profits for the tobacco companies, the health sector is not impressed. Kenya’s Ministry of Health sought to curtail the impact of cigarette sales.

Some of the legislative measures being advocated included graphic images to warn the smokers, a ban on advertising of cigarettes and an additional tax of 2% on every packet. British American Tobacco (BAT) was quick to circumvent any regulations that would negatively impact its bottom line. To this end, the company’s strategy seemed to be negotiating with the health sector officials. Instead of inviting these officials to the local BAT headquarters (a mere twenty minute distance), BAT chose to host these officials ‘free of charge’ at their London based office. Beyond this, a trip to a beautiful seaside resort of was an alternative venue picked to hash out concerns about unfriendly product control regulations.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY:

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control represents evidence based tobacco control measures. Effective implementation of these controls is the legal obligation of states that have ratified this treaty. Moreover it contributes to goal three of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.’ Kenya it appears was the first African country to ratify it. It is encouraging to note that Kenya has largely adhered to its requirements by protecting its citizens from the “commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry.”

As of March 2015, the African Union (AU) was in its seventh year of celebrating ‘Healthy Lifestyle Day.’ This was a crucial opportunity to address not only the effects of smoking but specifically its prevalence among the youth. Africa by and large has a young population and they significantly contribute to the growth and development agenda. Aside from this, the AU Commission’s chairlady, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini made a keynote address a few years earlier at Harvard University in which she tackled the theme of “Governance of Tobacco in the 21st Century.” These illustrations serve to show that the question of tobacco is a focus of not only the Western community but Africans themselves.

VICTORY?

Of note, is the fact that the proposed regulations were as of March this year adopted by Kenya’s High Court. Maureen Murimi points out that, “the new regulations will among other things govern advertising for tobacco products as well as the size of health warnings on cigarette packages.” As we speak, the changes have not yet taken effect but this is because manufacturers have been given a grace period (6 months) before they are enforceable.

Looking forward to different perspectives on this. Thanks for reading!

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