Summit: A Fraud and a Circus
- by John
Pilger, June 22, 2005 - (Posted
here by Wes Penre, July 4, 2005)
front page of the London Observer on 12 June announced, "55 billion
dollar Africa debt deal 'a victory for millions'." The "victory for
millions" is a quotation of Bob Geldof, who said, "Tomorrow 280 million
Africans will wake up for the first time in their lives without owing
you or me a penny...". The nonsense of this would be breathtaking if the
reader's breath had not already been extracted by the unrelenting
sophistry of Geldof, Bono, Blair, the Observer et al.
Africa's imperial plunder and tragedy have been turned into a circus for
the benefit of the so-called G8 leaders due in Scotland next month and
those of us willing to be distracted by the barkers of the circus: the
establishment media and its "celebrities". The illusion of an anti
establishment crusade led by pop stars - a cultivated, controlling image
of rebellion - serves to dilute a great political movement of anger. In
summit after summit, not a single significant "promise" of the G8 has
been kept, and the "victory for millions" is no different. It is a fraud
- actually a setback to reducing poverty in Africa. Entirely conditional
on vicious, discredited economic programmes imposed by the World Bank
and the IMF, the "package" will ensure that the "chosen" countries slip
deeper into poverty.
Is it any surprise that this is backed by Blair and his treasurer,
Gordon Brown, and George Bush; even the White
calls it a "milestone"? For them, it is an important facade, held up by
the famous and the naive and the inane. Having effused about Blair,
Geldof describes Bush as "passionate and sincere" about ending poverty.
Bono has called Blair and Brown "the John and Paul of the global
development stage". Behind this front, rapacious power can "re-order"
the lives of millions in favour of totalitarian corporations and their
control of the world's resources.
There is no conspiracy; the goal is no secret. Gordon Brown spells it
out in speech after speech, which liberal journalists choose to ignore,
preferring the Treasury spun version. The G8 communique announcing the
"victory for millions" is unequivocal. Under a section headed "G8
proposals for HIPC debt cancellation", it says that debt relief to poor
countries will be granted only if they are shown "adjusting their gross
assistance flows by the amount given": in other words, their aid will be
reduced by the same amount as the debt relief. So they gain nothing.
Paragraph Two states that "it is essential" that poor countries "boost
private sector development" and ensure "the elimination of impediments
to private investment, both domestic and foreign".
The "55 billion" claimed by the Observer comes down, at most, to 1
billion spread over 18 countries. This will almost certainly be halved -
providing less than six days' worth of debt payments - because Blair and
Brown want the IMF to pay its share of the "relief" by revaluing its
vast stock of gold, and passionate and sincere Bush has said no. The
first unmentionable is that the gold was plundered originally from
Africa. The second unmentionable is that debt payments are due to rise
sharply from next year, more than doubling by 2015. This will mean not
"victory for millions", but death for millions.
At present, for every 1 dollar of "aid" to Africa, 3 dollars are taken
out by western banks, institutions and governments, and that does not
account for the repatriated profit of transnational corporations. Take
the Congo. Thirty-two corporations, all of them based in G8 countries,
dominate the exploitation of this deeply impoverished, minerals-rich
country, where millions have died in the "cause" of 200 years of
imperialism. In the Cote d'Ivoire, three G8 companies control 95 per
cent of the processing and export of cocoa: the main resource. The
profits of Unilever, a British company long in Africa, are a third
larger than Mozambique's GDP. One American company, Monsanto - of
genetic engineering notoriety - controls 52 per cent of the maize seed
in South Africa, that country's staple food.
Blair could not give two flying faeces for the people of Africa. Ian
Taylor at the University of St Andrews used the Freedom of Information
Act to learn that while Blair was declaiming his desire to "make poverty
history", he was secretly cutting the government's Africa desk officers
and staff. At the same time, his "department for international
development" was forcing, by the back door, privatisation of water
supply in Ghana for the benefit of British investors. This ministry
lives by the dictates of its "Business Partnership Unit", which is
devoted to finding "ways in which DfID can improve the enabling
environment for productive investment overseas and... contribute to the
operation of the financial sector".
Poverty reduction? Of course not. A charade promotes the modern imperial
ideology known as neoliberalism,
it is almost never reported that way and the connections are seldom
made. In the issue of the Observer announcing "victory for millions" was
a secondary news item that British arms sales to Africa had passed 1
billion. One British arms client is Malawi, which pays out more on the
interest on its debt than its entire health budget, despite the fact
that 15 per cent of its population has HIV. Gordon Brown likes to use
Malawi as example of why "we should make poverty history", yet Malawi
will not receive a penny of the "victory for millions" relief.
The charade is a gift for Blair, who will try anything to persuade the
public to "move on" from the third unmentionable: his part in the
greatest political scandal of the modern era, his crime in Iraq.
Although essentially an opportunist, as his lying demonstrates, he
presents himself as a Kiplingesque imperialist. His "vision for Africa"
is as patronising and exploitative as a stage full of white pop stars
(with black tokens now added). His messianic references to "shaking the
kaleidoscope" of societies about which he understands little and
"watching the pieces fall" has translated into seven violent
interventions abroad, more than any British prime minister for half a
century. Bob Geldof, an Irishman at his court, duly knighted, says
nothing about this.
The protesters going to the G8 summit at Gleneagles ought not to allow
themselves to be distracted by these games. If inspiration is needed,
along with evidence that direct action can work, they should look to
Latin America's mighty popular movements against total locura
capitalista (total capitalist folly). They should look to Bolivia, the
poorest country in Latin America, where an indigenous movement has
Blair's and Bush's corporate friends on the run, and Venezuela, the only
country in the world where oil revenue has been diverted for the benefit
of the majority, and Uruguay and Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, and
Brazil's great landless people's movement. Across the continent,
ordinary people are standing up to the old Washington-sponsored order. "Que
se vayan todos!" (Out with them all!) say the crowds in the streets.
Much of the propaganda that passes for news in our own society is given
to immobilising and pacifying people and diverting them from the idea
that they can confront power. The current babble about Europe, of which
no reporter makes sense, is part of this; yet the French and Dutch "no"
votes are part of the same movement as in Latin America, returning
democracy to its true home: that of power accountable to the people, not
to the "free market" or the war policies of rampant bullies. And this is
just a beginning.