Blair's siren call

Issue 

@box text intr = In a speech to the British Labour Party's annual conference on October 2, billed as the formal announcement of war with Afghanistan, Tony Blair outlined the sort of world the imperialist powers' claim they want to construct out of the ashes of Kabul and Kandahar, in tones and words reminiscent of those which George Bush senior used to announce the arrival of a "New World Order" after the devastation of Iraq in 1991.

Blair's speech, which he apparently wrote himself for once, was an attempt to win public support for the imperialist war against Afghanistan by presenting it as a first step on the road to a prosperous and secure future for all the world's peoples.

At the heart of Blair's "visionary" statement was a fervent defence of global capitalism (though the term is not used, instead it's always "globalisation") and its promise of liberty, equality, fraternity and nifty consumer goods for all.

Blair's civilising mission, his 21st century white man's burden, stretches across continents: "The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of Northern Africa to the slums of Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan: they too are our cause."

"Saving" Africa, "writing off debt", strengthening "community", "defeating climate change", "breathing new life into the Middle East peace process", "developing economically without despoiling the environment", using science and technology to "provide prosperity to all" — all are possible if only we back the "globalisation" and the "war on terrorism".

"This is a moment to seize", Blair declared. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us."

But Tony Blair's promises of a new world for all, just as soon as the British and US war machines have conquered Afghanistan, are unlikely to fool anyone in the Third World.

Bush and Blair's "humanitarianism" toward the people of Afghanistan, for instance, has been constrained to air-dropping food to the hundreds of thousands of Afghans forced to flee their homes by the threat of war: 37,500 ration packs on the first day of bombing. Each pack contains around 2200 calories, enough for one person for one day.

But there are more than seven million hungry people in the Afghanistan; even if every ration pack got to a hungry person (a big if), only 0.5% of the hungry were fed by the packs, and then only for one day.

The Pentagon says it has two million more such packs which it may choose to drop: enough to feed a quarter of those who need food, and again only for a day.

International relief agencies have been highly critical of the gap between the promise of aid and the reality: Medecins sans Frontieres called the US military's food drops "military propaganda" while an agency seeking to dispose of Afghanistan's landmines warned that many drops might have fallen into minefields, further endangering fleeing Afghans.

There is just as much of a gap between Blair's promises on the world-scale issues and the reality of what the imperialist powers are doing.

On September 26, for instance, the chairperson of the World Trade Organisation's general council, Stuart Harbinson, released the draft text of the statement which will go to the WTO's ministerial meeting in Qatar in November.

The text provoked outrage from many Third World countries. After two years of negotiations, it includes no significant concessions to their arguments that the WTO has tipped the playing field against them and many of the exact things (like negotiations on new investment rules) that they are determined to keep out of the talks.

Calls for a redrafting of the agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) to allow countries to declare public health exemptions, a measure which really would allow science and technology to be used to "provide prosperity for all", have been rejected out of hand by the imperialist powers.

Top officials from Europe and the United States are using the terrorist attacks on the US and the war in Afghanistan as a handy pretext to try even harder to push their pro-corporate agendas down the throats of the rest of the world.

The US trade representative Robert Zoellick has even sought to link (so far unsuccessfully) the "war against terrorism" with President Bush's desire for Congress to give him powers to "fast-track" free trade agreements, stating "Congress now needs to send an unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is committed to global leadership of openness and understands that the staying power of our new coalition depends on economic growth and hope... And most important, Congress needs to enact US trade promotion authority so America can negotiate agreements that advance the causes of openness, development and growth".

The imperialist powers showed no interest in "provid[ing] prosperity for all" before September 11, and they're not about to start now.

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