Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
G8 summit: “We eat the world”
June 11, 2007. A World to Win News Service. The U.S. intends to continue reigning supreme--and the other seven leading imperialist powers are trying to maneuver in service of their own anti-people interests within that framework. That was the basic message from this year’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.
The Group of 8 describes itself as an annual get-together where the leaders of “the world’s leading industrial democracies” can talk privately and informally. In reality, it is a conclave of the world’s leading imperialist powers that fatten off the exportation of capital and the division of the world into dominating and dominated countries, as well as the exploitation of people in their homelands. Although it was set up in 1975 to address economic and trade questions, political issues have increasingly figured in its public statements. In recent years, most notably in Genoa, Italy, in 2001, anti-globalization protestors have flocked to these summits because they believe that the G8 as an institution is a main source of much of the world’s suffering and a concentration of what’s wrong with the way the world is organized.
Those who say that the G8 must “Stop talking and start acting” should consider a crucial, if little noticed, step toward action the summit did take: the eight countries agreed to take “further appropriate measures” against Iran if Tehran refuses to stop enriching uranium, giving encouragement to exactly what UN International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed El Baradei warned about on the eve of the G8, the “new crazies” (read: the Bush administration) who want to bomb that country. While what was said about this subject behind closed doors remains secret, not one of the heads of state thought fit to publicly echo El Baradei’s concerns. This alone is a sign that should be taken seriously.
The squabbling between the U.S. and Russia on American plans to install an anti-missile system on Russia’s borders was another sign of tumultuous times ahead. Russia feels it has made many concessions to the U.S., including not standing in the way of new U.S. bases in Central Asia. Instead of compromising in return, the U.S. has expanded NATO right up to the Russian border. The American plan to set up anti-missile missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic is an aggressive act aimed not only at Russia, but also Europe, because it amounts to a declaration that the U.S. intends to take the lead there in military matters. While these two planned bases wouldn’t be much of a threat to Russia by themselves, if they become part of a global anti-missile system over the coming years, as the U.S. hopes, this system could become capable of shooting down the remaining Russian missiles after an American nuclear first strike.
This isn’t the Cold War, when the threat of a nuclear conflict was real and palpable, but anyone who can’t understand why Russia is upset about the U.S. stationing a handful of missiles along its borders should remember how the U.S. reacted when the USSR sent a handful of missiles to Cuba in 1963. This move is meant to make sure Russia doesn’t try to go its own way in a U.S.-dominated world. It is also related to Iran, not in the sense of being aimed at as-yet nonexistent Iranian missiles--the U.S. poured cold water on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s offer of a shared base on the Iranian border--but at Russia, which has been the chief foot-dragger on the U.S.-led war chariot.
Then there was global warming, supposedly the central topic at this meeting. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to get agreement on mandatory targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Bush aids shrieked that she was crossing a “red line”--the U.S. would not stand for any international limits on its economy, any more than it would accept UN interference with its “right” to invade whoever it wants. Although Bush recently dropped the argument that global warming, like evolution in his eyes, is unproven, his government’s continuing war against a scientific approach was indicated by an announcement from Washington during the summit that it wants to end its environmental monitoring satellite programme, blinding vital climate change research. The best Bush would agree to at the G8 was that the U.S. would “seriously consider” Merkel’s proposals. This intransigence left the other leaders off the hook.
Some environmental experts such as Greenpeace environmental climate specialist Joerg Feddern do not believe that the goal Merkel announced--halving greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century--is commensurate with the problem. Even at that, there is good reason to doubt whether the European powers are really trying to achieve that goal. The EU as a whole has not lived up to the even lower benchmarks set by the Kyoto Protocol. Germany has managed to keep the requirements comfortable for itself (for instance, by not counting its use of coal in its pollution figures), while doubts have been raised about whether the figures for UK’s apparently positive performance are real or imaginary. The only concrete measure this G8 accepted was to conduct further negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, later this year, in hopes of a new agreement by 2009--a shameful admission that once again, nothing has been accomplished but blowing smoke.
The G8 consensus on Africa was also an exercise in criminally false advertising. The gathered leaders boasted they would allocate $60 billion for measures against AIDS, malaria and TB in that continent. But $50 billion of that is the same money they promised two years ago at the Gleneagles G8 summit, whose proclaimed focus was on Africa. They failed to come up with two-thirds of that so far, and this time, no country made any specific commitments. A spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights said that there has been little or no progress since then in working towards universal AIDS prevention and treatment programmes in Africa, the goal set for 2010 by the Gleneagles summit. The Heiligendamm summit didn’t even bother to repeat that pledge. Further, the G8 leaders agreed to toughen their intellectual property laws, endangering the cheap generic drugs people in poor countries depend on.
“The G8 communiqué is turning into a wish-list, not a document that is going to save lives,” the physicians’ spokeswoman said. Even Bono, who like fellow rock figure Bob Geldof seems to believe that the G8 is not the problem but the solution, called the Africa communiqué “deliberately misleading.” Geldof said, “This wasn’t serious, this was a total farce.” The Netherlands-based World AIDS Campaign labelled the Heiligendamm summit “a huge step backwards”.
Slogans and banners at Heiligendamm proclaimed the G8 “illegitimate.” This was widely understood to mean that it is totally unjust and immoral for a handful of rich countries and their rulers to decide the fate of the planet and its people. As one sign proclaimed, the gathered heads of state were “wolves in wolves’ clothing” who, another said, “eat the world.” The protestors came to the right place at the right time, and while their ideas about a solution were widely varied, their hatred of what they consider unacceptable was mostly united and right on target.
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