The Profit Motive of American Imperialism
The United States seems to be more warlike than any other nation in modern history. Obama is presiding over two official wars, another three conflicts that look a lot like war, over 662 foreign military sites, 2,200 nuclear warheads, and the willingness to use these resources to wage wars on a regular basis. Why has the US engaged in so many wars? War seems expensive and results in many many deaths, so there must be some compelling reasons, and there are. There are consequences for aggressive actions, and sometimes the victims have the audacity to ask for reparations, as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is trying to do.
Daniel Ortega is proposing a national referendum on whether to demand the United States pay up the $17 billion owed under a 1986 World Court judgment that found the former Ronald Reagan administration had committed unlawful aggression. The ruling centered around the U.S. support for Contra militants who killed thousands of people in trying to topple the Sandinista government. Nicaragua dropped its demand for the United States to respect the judgment after a U.S.-backed government [in 1990] came [stole] into office following a decade of economic and armed warfare.”
Translated into plainer English, Ortega is demanding that the US pays for the cost of it’s past policy of attacking the Sandinista government, and Nicaraguan citizens, who took the country out of poverty, and increased the literacy rate from 50% to 92%. Then, after the world court decided the financial compensation owed to Nicaragua, the US tripled support for the Contras just as Regan-Bush promised the Sandinistas to stop the violence. This led to the Sandinista loss in the 1990 election. The winner, Violeta Chamorro, who was elected because the US promised to continue the violence if she lost. Obviously, she was very pro United States. Coincidently, she decided to cancel the payment of the $17 billion in reparations.
For a full account of the semi-secret US war against Nicaragua, see: http://libcom.org/history/articles/nicaragua-contras
US media, even the New York Times reported: “Democracy was the winner Sunday, and that cries out for celebration.” The New York Times, 2/27/90. That is as fair and balanced as Fox news.
In April 2009, at the Summit of the Americas, Daniel Ortega gave a speech aimed at Obama and Hillary Clinton, where he recounted the past century of violence and political subversion that the US has inflicted on Nicaragua and the rest of Central America. Obama’s thoughts on the speech “It was 50 minutes long. That’s what I thought.”
Really, that’s the extent of your thoughts? You do not have the courage to address the legitimate claims made by Ortega. That’s not a question. Obama’s attitude is a prefect perpetuation of the colonialist policy of the United States. Noam Chomsky writes extensively on this topic.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored two questions about Ortega’s speech, instead offering lengthy praise of a cultural performance of dance and song opening the summit:
“I thought the cultural performance was fascinating,” Clinton said. Asked again about the Ortega speech, Clinton said: “To have those first class Caribbean entertainers on all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space, I was overwhelmed.” – Fox News 04/18/09
It is insulting that America’s leaders are allowed to forget such a violent past. This is especially troubling as we continue to be the most violent nation on the planet. We are engaged in two official wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, and three more mini-wars: Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan. To ignore a violent past is the best way to ensure a violent future.
Bravo on ignoring the gaping wound that Ortega was describing. Clinton and Obama are experts on ignoring reality, and instead focusing our attention on a sideshow, while the elephant chills in the corner. The US is hoping that it’s policy of ignoring the violence and suffering it has caused, will lead the elephant to question his own existence.
If violence alone is not enough to convince the reader that US intervention can be a bad thing, a closer look should suffice. An very telling message:
In 1981, a State Department insider boasted that we would “turn Nicaragua into the Albania of Central America” – that is, poor, isolated and politically radical – so that the Sandinista dream of creating a new, more exemplary political model for Latin America would be in ruins. – Noam Chomsky
There is a big question the concerned reader should be asking: Why does the US want to destroy the Nicaraguan government, or other left-wing anti-business governments?
The US install governments all across the world that further US interests. Now, when you read US, you have to understand that really means US corporate interests, not your interests. Corporations want one thing: cheap resources that they can use to make a more expensive product. It is this simple. Really. Corporations have consistently lobbied for, and straight up purchased legislation that keeps foreign resources cheap. There are two main types of resources: human resources, and natural resources.
Before discussing these, Noam Chomsky (1994 p. 21-22) in The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, explains how US foreign policy, and specifically NAFTA keeps foreign wages down, and the population poor:
the repression [of US-installed governments, often dictatorships] there prevents organizing for higher wages. Another reason is that NAFTA will flood Mexico with industrial agricultural products from the United States.
These products are all produced with big public (government) subsidies, and they’ll undercut Mexican agriculture. Mexico will be flooded with American crops, which will contribute to driving an estimated 13 million people off the land to urban areas or into maquiladora areas (massive polluted labor/manufacturing camps)- which will again drive down wages.
Looking more specifically into human labor. The goal of businesses is to keep humans cheap. To achieve this, the workers must not be able to form a community. This means outlawing organizing into a union. Moreover, they must be kept separate so comradely is minimized. This works off the idea of the prisoner dilemma. If a worker doesn’t know her coworkers, she will be less concerned for and aware of their needs. To prevent communities from forming, companies bring in different ethnic or regional groups, offer only seasonal employment, or malnourished the employees so much that they have no extra energy for socializing. When this is not enough to prevent the workers from organizing, the next level of union resistance is legal. The US has consistently installed governments all across South America that are pro-business. Thus, forming a union is illegal, and now the workers are labeled as criminals. This can be seen across the US, as anti-union legislation is being passed in many states. The assault on US workers is sponsored by ALEC, read more about the abominable acronym.
When legality does not work, the final step is violence. This is where installing repressive pro-business foreign governments really shines. In the span of two months: January and February 2010, six union leaders were assassinated in Latin America, but those are only the most recent events.
“Since the 2006 implementation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S., there has been a sharp upsurge of assassinations and violence against trade unionists in Central America. While CAFTA supporters touted that it would uphold core labor rights standards, it has so far proven to be ineffective at impeding the new wave of violence that is affecting the freedom of trade unionism in the region, let alone protecting core worker rights.”
Yes, murder in the name of profit. This murder was pushed by the US crafted Central America Free Trade Agreement. That is US foreign policy at work.
Reinforcing the legitimacy of this claim, Bill Clinton apologized for destroying Haiti’s rice farming by forcing them to buy American rice, and not Haitian rice. He did exactly what Chomsky described, and it resulted in driving small farmers off their land, and into the manufacturing sector. This is great for American textile manufacturing. There is a surplus of unemployed ex-farmers who are desperate for work. They will work for extremely low wages, in horrible conditions.
The second resource to keep cheap are the natural resources. The most famous of these resources is oil, but it also includes metals, lumber and precious stones. The biggest threat to the cost of extraction is the natural resource policy of the government in the respective country. Iraq nationalized it’s oil reserves in 1972, creating vast wealth for the nation, specifically Saddam. The major oil companies were left out of this massive oil reserve. ExxonMobil (there was a space between Exxon and Mobil before 1999) and BP could not make money from one of the biggest and easiest to drill oil reserves on the planet. This is unacceptable to the big oil companies. What happens next? The US invades Iraq by lying about weapons of mass destruction, and the final result is that the big oil companies can finally make billions of dollars of profit by extracting Iraqi oil. Sure, many other corporations made loads of money off the war also, such as defense contractors. But these war profiteers are happy to fight a war anywhere. Big Oil wanted to to go specifically to Iraq. The US gave Saddam chemical weapons, despite Donald Rumsfeld knowing that Saddam was using chemical weapons. One could make the case that Rumsfeld did all this just so that we could have a reason to go to war with him in the future.
To recap: The US gives an evil dictator chemical weapons, already knowing that he was using them, then use this to justify a war that captured the vast oil reserves of the country. Bravo. Once again, we see that governments and their citizens are an expendable resource in the fight to maximize profits.
Refusal to discuss past transgressions doesn’t not mean they didn’t happen, it just means we will be sure to do them again. What we need is a real conversation on workers as humans, and not allowing profit to be the only thing that matters in business. This can be achieved through legislation that is pro-worker, pro-environment, and anti-war. The US is the most hated country across the globe because of our colonial behavior. It is high time to put an end to American Imperialism.