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transcript of POCLAD presentation last night

2nd half of the POCLAD presentation last night at Smith Hall Ballroom April 11th: Speaker is Karen Coultier. I don't have the footnote cites yet, but will post as a comment to this article in a day or two when Karen gets them to me.
I want to start with a basic proposition which seems to be missing in all the flag-waving rhetoric over Bush's "endless war on terrorism:" as with corporate profit-making, war is conducted for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. As Arjun Makhijani puts it, "(t)he military subjugation of the economically deprived by the priviledged, both between countries and within them, is an essential expression of the capitalist war system." 1 This is nothing new but it is crucial to remember past history so as not to be misled by the latest propaganda ploy to convince you to sacrifice your life or turn in your neighbors in order to line a few fat cat's pockets. As Charles Tilly points out in his article, "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," "(b)ehind every successful dynasty stood an array of opulent banking families."2 These are the people who finance colonial conquests or today's new-imperialist wars and economic take-overs of countries. Wars and economic structural adjustment programs ensure the profitability of their investments and the continued opening of new markets and cheap labor pools for their transnational corporations' profit-making. The costs of such pursuit of private gain are morally unacceptable and ecologically unsustainable.

Wars are commonly waged without consent of the governed. Yet the Declaration of Independence promises us that governments derive "their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter of abolish it, and to institute new Government." So with the U.S. waging so many wars for which none of us has been consulted, why haven't we gotten together to alter or abolish such an undemocratic government, as is our right? We haven't taken such action because we are not a self-governing people; we're not fulfilling the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. This needs to change if we are to protect not only our own lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but that of other peoples and species across the world.

Economic historian Frederic Lane said that governments are in the business of selling protection--whether people want it or not. 2 How do governments get away with military protection rackets to protect or create corporate investments for the wealthy minority? Basically they sell the idea to the people of their country. Public relations reasons for going to war are very different from the real reasons behind wars. Michael Parenti details many of the false claims the elder Bush administration made as reasons for fighting the Gulf war in his book Against Empire, including hypocrisy about protecting human rights in Kuwait and the Middle East and defending U.N. member states against aggression when such protection and defense is actually extremely inconsistent on the part of the U.S., Bush Senior's assertion that Saddam Hussein was trying to monopolize "all the world's great oil reserves" 3 (which was impossible), that Iraq posed a nuclear threat-- which was unknown but was claimed immediately after opinion polls showing that U.S. citizens responded apprehensively to the possibility of Iraq developing nuclear capability. Secretary Baker argued that intervention would safeguard jobs at home-- a rare expression of concern for the nation's working people which was unsubstantiated and could have been fulfilled in peaceful ways. 3

False claims by government in times of war re a bi-partisan sport, as shown by Parenti's documentation of Clinton's fictional rationales for the war on Yugoslavia. Among other things, Clinton claimed to be meeting the demands "of an outraged and united international community" 3 when in fact the United Nations was bypassed, the war was waged by U.S. -dominated NATO, and many people across the world were appalled by the NATO bombing. He also claimed the war helped the Kosovar people return home safely when actually the majority of Kosovo Albanians did not leave their homes until the bombing started. Clinton maintained that when U.S. diplomatic efforts "were rebuffed, and the violence mounted, we and our allies chose to act" when actually at the Rambouillet Summit, the U.S. issued an ultimatum that provided a pretext for military attack -- the Servians were told to sign the agreement and accept unrestricted NATO occupation of Serbi -- or be bombed. Contrary to Clinton's boast that nineteen "democracies" had faced "the stiffest military challenge in NATO's fifty year history," was the reality that Yugoslavia was a country of only eleven million people with a small army and a substandard air force facing a one-sided battering by the most powerful military forces in the world. 4

So putting aside self-serving pretexts for war, what are the real reasons for countries' elites to wage war? As George Draffan explains in his book, The Corporate Consensus: "The ethnic and religious elements of war are often the most publicized, but wars are fought to control strategic routes, to open markets, and to gain access to natural resources. Religious and racial animosities were inflamed and promoted by the colonial powers for their own economic purposes, and today's corporations and their governmental allies are doing the same." 5 For instance, he points out that "(r)ecent NATO military action in Yugoslavia is part of a long strategic (economic) battle to control the Balkans and the Central Asian resources that lie beyond. The current focus is to secure oil and gas pipeline routes from the oilfields of the Caspian Sea to the consumers of Europe. Multinational oil corporations are signing multibillion dollar contracts with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, while the U.S., European, and Russian governments are lobbying, bribing, fomenting civil wars, and conducting their own militay operations in order to secure territory." 5 Players include on the U.S. side two former U.S. National Security Advisors-- Brzezinski and Snowcroft, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen, former U.S. Defense Secretary (now Vice-President) Dick Cheney (then CEO for oil services corporation Halliburton...) and former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Iran-Contra figure and former U.S. Air Force major general Richard Secord has been helping to train the Azerbaijani army. 5 This line-up illustrates the revolving door syndrome and joint miltary/economic ventures between large oil corporations and their service industry partners and government officials and armed services officers.

These multibillion dollar contracts to get oil and gas from Caspian Sea oilfields to European markets may be the primary motivation for waging war against Afghanistan, the political factionalism there being a central stumbling block to safe conduit of the oil-- Draffan's research on this situation is based on Assembly of the Western European Union Document 1586 of November 1997 and the journalism of Frank Viviano, in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 11, 1998-- these dates being three and four years before the September 11th terrorist attack created a pretext for bombing Afghanistan and installing a U.S. approved government.

Another common reason for governments to start wars is to distract the public from government injustices and inequities at home (such as a manipulated presidential election.) This motivation dates back at least as far as 1622, when Francis Bacon advised that to remedy a conflict for power between the King and members of Parliament, the only "chance of healing the growing breach was to engage the country in some popular quarrel abroad."6

Yet wars tend to increase domestic inequities and strife as the costs of military engagement siphon off vast quantities of taxpayer money away from social welfare needs and domestic job creation. "In 1995, the U.S. spent $264 billion on the military, representing 40% of the world's total military spending."5 When a quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product is military-related 5, it's obvious that military spending is factored into economic planning, not just purely military objectives. So who benefits? Primarily corporations, a primary tool of the wealthy elite. "The U.S. government subsidizes corporations which sell weapons to foreign governments. Between 1990 and 1996, foreign weapon sales negotiated by U.S. corporations and by the U.S. government itself totaled $98 billion. In 1999, the federal government gave at least $7.6 billion in direct grants, subsidies, and tax breaks to corporations that exported weapons.... Estimates of the eventual costs of NATO expansion to U.S. taxpayers range from $400 million to $250 billion. The U.S. Export-Import Bank also provides (tax-payer derived) subsidies for military sales."5 Wars are big business.

Wars are portrayed as being waged in defense of U.S. interests, but whose interests are actually served? Arjun Makhijani observes that"(t)he mythology of capitalism is that of the 'free market' in which 'government intervention' is regarded as undesirable. In reality, governments of capitalist countries have had a central role in providing the military force which has enabled capitalism to exist at all. More than any 'invisible hand' guiding the functioning of the market place where goods are bought and sold, the military hand of the capitalist state has been central to the economic development of capitalism."1 "As the second World War came to a close, the chairman of General Electric (corporation) suggested the creation of a 'permanent war economy' to maintain purchasing power..."1 The creation of a permanent war economy is exactly the gift Bush Junior is now giving to corporations with his "endless war."

There are plenty of historical precedents which could lead corporate CEOs in the U.S. to expect such military favors. One of the most commonly cited examples is the 1950's C.I.A involvement "in the military overthrow of the elected government of Guatamala on behalf of the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). The C.I.A. supplied helicopters, fighter planes, Soviet-marked guns, and mercenaries, hid its weapons deliveries and spying under cover of front corporations, and fed the 'New York Times' and other news media false information, "5 as George Draffan summarizes the situation. Another of many examples is the U.S. overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, when the elected government "wanted Iran to control its own oil resources. The U.S. and British governments installed the Shah of Iran as the dictatorial head of Iran's government"1 with brutally repressive consequences and subsequent U.S. intervention. Basically, as Makhijani points out: "The exploitation of resources, environmental destruction and impoverishment in the Third World would not be possible without violence and the threat of violence."1

Smedley Butler, Major General of the U.S. Marine Corps characterized his history with the U.S. military not long before his death in 1940 as follows:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico safe and especially Tampico safe for American Oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the national City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Rebublic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested...I had...a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions... I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three cities... The Marines operated on three continents..."7

Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for the " New York Times", updates General Butler's statement by explaining that "(m)arkets function and flourish only when property rights are secure and can be enforced... And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."8

As for the ongoing war against Afghanistan, John Maresca, the Vice President of International Relations of the UNOCAL corporation, demanded that Afghanistan be made safe for U.S. oil interests way back in 1998 to a U.S. House Committee, saying "From the onset, we have made it clear that construction of our proposed ($2.5 billion Afghanistan) pipeline cannot begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lender and our company. UNOCAL envisions the creation of a Central Asian Oil Pipeline Consortium... that will utilize and gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia."9

President Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, made clear in 1997, that U.S. dominance in Central Asia was event then a "U.S. geo-strategic imperative"-- he named Central Asia as the next center of conflict for world domination and called the area around the Caspian Sea "infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: and enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves...dwarf(ing) those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea... in addition to important minerals, including gold." 9 Brzezindki also said: "...To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep (satellites) pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."9

Based on such testimony, there's a strong chance that the Bush administration wasn't concerned about our safety or about ending the threat of terrorist attacks when they started the war to occupy and control Afghanistan. Most of the other countries on their current "war on terrorism" hit list are also considered obstacles to safe expropriation or transport of oil to European or U.S. markets. Bush and Cheney's personal fortune-ties to big oil corporations are by now well documented. In waging war to serve the interests of oil corporations, they are following a U.S. tradition: U.S. wars fought that directly profited oil corporations have included the war in Somalia, which was ostensibly a "famine relief" mission. The "Los Angeles Times" reported that "nearly two thirds of Somalia" was allocated to "the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown."3 The reporter also noted that the corporations were "well-positioned to pursue Somalia's most promising potential oil reserve the moment the nation is pacified."3 President Bush Senior, who was also a former Texas oil profiteer, oversaw the war on Somalia. The "L.A. Times" article notes that "the close relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force has left many Somalis and foreign development experts deeply troubled by the blurry line between the U.S. government and the large oil company...."3

The Gulf War, also under Bush Senior, was aimed at maintaining control of oil reserves -- this time in Iraq-- and was timed so as to distract media and public attention away from the Savings and Loan Scandal and disclosures implicating Bush Senior in the Iran-Contra conspiracy. 3 Another example is the on-going covert war in Columbia. George Draffan explains that "(m)ultinational oil corporations including British Petroleum, Occidental, Shell, Total, and Triton have signed contracts with the Columbian military and national police to fund the protection for their oil pipelines... The oil corporations also provide "in-kind assistance (which) includes vehicles, health services and instruments, installations, troop transport, and helicopter flights. Cash payments are earmarked for security equipment, administration, communication, personal services, welfare upkeep, and a 'network of informants." Occidental and the major U.S. weapons manufacturers lobbied for $1.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer monies which was approved for military aid to Columbia in the summer of 2000."5

The inter-relationship between State-sponsored war and transnational corporations' ever-expanding property rights is hard to ignore. Makhijani identifies the nexus between capitalist country governments and large corporations (including banks) as "perhaps the single most important structural element of the war system because the military, political and financial power of governments is used to protect the property and perogatives of large corporations. "1

These days there are more wars than meet the eye, as under Neocolonialism, nations conquer and colonize other nations through economic warfare, the take-over of the country's social economic infrastructure by trans-national corporations, sparing the conquering government the trouble of administering the new colony while still making off with its wealth in resources, labor and land. The International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment requirements are designed to ensure that Third World debts are paid back--at highly profitable interest rates and at the mandated expense of the country's social welfare system, ensuring that the population will be impoverished and dependent. The IMF also issues mandates to ensure that the country grows export cropps instead of subsistence crops and provides raw materials desired by industrial nations, guaranteeing profitability in the global North and loss of real sovereignty in the global South. The "structurally adjusted" countries become dependent on international trade and thus to the dictates of the World Trade Organization, which are biased against them. In their economic poverty they are also vulnerable to World-Bank-financed mega-development programs designed to benefit transnational corporations.

Now imperialist military conquests are even designed to turn thriving industrialized target countries into dependent colonies by destroying the countries' economic and social infrastructure, as with the NATO war on Yugoslavia. Captain Martin de la Hoy, who flew an F-18 and participated in bombing Yugoslavia under U.S. military command disclosed purposeful targeting of civilians and also concluded: 'They are destroying the country, bombing it with novel weapons, toxic nerve gases, surface mines dropped with parachute, bombs containing uranium, blak napalm, sterilization chemicals, sprayings to poison the crops, and weapons of which even we still do not know anything. The North Americans are committing there one of the biggest barbarities that can be committed against humanity."4 NATO commander General Wesley Clark confirmed this by boasting that the aim of the air war was to "demolish, destroy, devastate, degrade, and ultimately eliminate the essential infrastructure of Yugoslavia."4 George Draffan identifies some of the government and corporate actors involved in such devastation: "The European Union, the U.S. government, and a gang of multi-national corporations (including BP, Amoco, Exxon, Unocal, Caterpillar, Halliburton/Brown & Root, and Mitsubishi) are using all the military, political, and economic tools at their disposal to destroy and recreated the infrastructure and economy of southeastern Europe in their own image."5

The line between corporations, national governments and international governing bodies is further blurred by the U.S. now hiring private corporations to wage it's wars so as to evade the requirement for Congreassional approval. Michael Parenti discusses the use of Military Professional Resources, Incorporated, a private corporation run by retired Pentagon officials, in the war on Yugoslavia. MPRI "received a $400 million U.S. State Department contract to train and equip the Bosnian Croat-Mislim Federation Army. MPRI also helped set up arms factories and military training schools in Bosnia.... By privatizing government and military involvement, these operations are put behond the scope of public scrutiny and democratic accountability."4 Similar privatization and outsourcing has been arranged by the U.S. government for the covert war in Columbia.

"The U.S. weapons industry routinely spends more than $40 million per year on lobbying government officials and contributes more than $10 million to U.S. political cnadidates."5 Corporations should have no place in the political process, as they were originally designed upon the founding of the U.S. to serve the public welfare as servants, not masters to the people. The fundamental problem is that corporations are now governing us; the remedy is to empower ourselves to be self-governing.

The duty of self-governing requires re-assessment of our activist strategies. As Laurence Clarkston wrote in 1947:
"Who are the oppressors but the Nobility and Gentry; and who are the oppressed, if not the Yeman, the farmer, the Tradesman and the Labourer? Then consider, have you not chosen oppressers to redeeme you from oppression?... your slavery is their liberty, your poverty is their prosperity; yea, in brief, your honoring of them, dishonoreth the communality... Unlord those that are lorded by you."6

It's past time to stop asking bought-off politicians for favors, to defer to corporate-controlled regulatory agencies, to lobby CEOs or to consider voting enough to ensure that you are a responsible citizen living in a democracy. It's time, instead, to expose and dismantle the institutions that corporations use to govern us and to wage wars in our names for their profits - institutions like NATO, Cheney's USA Engage, the Council on Foreign Relations and the University of California/Berkeley's nuclear weapons laboratory.

Dr. Johannes Koeppl, a former German defense ministry official and advisor to former NATO Secretary General Manfred Werner, has warned that "(t)he interests behind the Bush Administration, such as the (Council on Foreign Relation), and the Trilateral Commission... and the Bildeberger Group, have prepared for and are now moving to implement open world dictatorship within the next five years. They are not fighting against terrorists. They are fighting against citizens."9

"With NATO's attack on Yugoslavia, we have the first major war declared by a body that has no constituency or geography as would be found in a nation-state," as Michael Parenti observes. So who controls NATO? It is certainly not responsive to public pressure as elected officials could , making it an undemocratic institution.

USA*Engage is a coalition of 674 corporations and industry associations that actively lobby Congress to oppose international trade sanctions based on human rights violations, so as to avoid moral impediments to unrestrained corporate profits. USA*Engage successfully challenged in state and federal courts the Massachusetts state law giving preferential treatment to corporations which do not do business with Burma's military dictatorship.5

It was the Council on Foreign Relations who laid out the plans for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations to finance and safeguard the re-building of European markets for U.S. exports after World War II. In the late 1980's the Council on Foreign Relations, with the support of Harvard University, "sponsored a Study Group on Privatization which explored the politics of and profit in helping countries around the world accelerate 'loosening the ties that bind their enterprises to the apparatus of government.' "5 In other words, the Council on Foreign Relations is aiding the economic conquest of other nations through the diminishment of their governments' social services and regulatory powers and consequent loss of their national sovereignty.

These institutions of corporate governance and others all have definite political agendas backed by the tremendous financial resources of the largest corporations. They have thrived in the absence of public awareness, as activists have been too busy fighting endless brush fires on a corporation-by-corporation, abuse-by-abuse basis. Although individual issues are important, some activists are now starting to adopt broader strategies that exercise our rights as self-governing people, such as the use of ballot initiatives to enact State Constitutional amendments, township ordinances to ban corporate farming and local resolutions to reassert community control over corporate activities. These measures initiate meaningful discussion about building real Democracy rather than focusing on incremental band-aid reforms.

It's important to recognize that it's not what corporations do wrong, it' what they do.10 Most corporate abuses are legal. This means we have to step outside the legal system and change it. Scrapping unjust laws has generally been accomplished in the U.S. by the building of a mass movement to change the political climate and implementing amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Charles Tilly reminds us that "(s)ince governments themselves commonly stimulate... or even fabricate threats of external war and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in the same way as racketeer."2 This implies that we need to start focusing on the role of our government in causing our problems rather than on the suggested outside enemy of the month and withhold our consent from the government that does not ask for our consent.

Alternatives to the prevailing social disorder are far older than our current corporate-imposed fantasy land. Brazilian Workers' Party leader and presidential candidate Luiz Ignacio da Silva said of the alternative World Social Forum in Brazil that countered the corporate-steered World Economic Forum this year: "Our objective is to discuss how humans can live with dignity." Living with dignity, equitably, and in balance with Nature, is what indigenous peoples of the world have been doing for Milennia. We could learn a lot from their examples - including still existing native cultures - if we act now to stop global corporation before it eliminates cultural diversity, biodiversity and our liberty. Thank you.