Food riots, in dozens of countries, in the 21st century. Is this what we envisioned during the post-World War Two, moon-landing 20th century as humankind's glorious future? It's not the end of the world, but you can almost see it from here.
American writer Henry Miller (1891-1980) once asserted that the role of the artist was to "inoculate the world with disillusionment".
So just in case you -- for whatever weird reason -- cling to the belief/hope that the United States can be a positive force in ending or slowing down the new jump in world hunger, here are some disillusioning facts of life.
The Anti-Empire Report
Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life
May 1, 2008
by William Blum
"More than any time in history, mankind now faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
- Woody Allen
On December 14, 1981 a resolution was proposed in the United Nations General Assembly which declared that "education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights". Notice the "proper nourishment". The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1. The United States cast the only "No" vote.
A year later, December 18, 1982, an identical resolution was proposed in the General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 131-1. The United States cast the only "No" vote.
The following year, December 16, 1983, the resolution was again put forth, a common practice at the United Nations. This time it was approved by a vote of 132-1. There's no need to tell you who cast the sole "No" vote.
These votes took place under the Reagan administration.
Under the Clinton administration, in 1996, a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit affirmed the "right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food". The United States took issue with this, insisting that it does not recognize a "right to food". Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a "right to food" could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.
The situation of course did not improve under the administration of George W. Bush. In 2002, in Rome, world leaders at another U.N.-sponsored World Food Summit again approved a declaration that everyone had the right to "safe and nutritious food". The United States continued to oppose the clause, again fearing it would leave them open to future legal claims by famine-stricken countries.
Along with petitioning American leaders to become decent human beings we should be trying to revive the population control movement. Birth rates must be radically curbed. All else being equal, a markedly reduced population count would have a markedly beneficial effect upon global warming and food and water availability (not to mention finding a parking spot and lots of other advantages). People, after all, are not eating more. There are simply more/too many people. Some favor limiting families to two children. Others argue in favor of one child per family. Still others, who spend a major part of each day digesting the awful news of the world, are calling for a limit of zero. (The Chinese government recently announced that the country would have about 400 million more people if it wasn't for its limit of one or two children per couple.)
And as long as we're fighting for hopeless causes, let's throw in the demand that corporations involved in driving the cost of oil through the roof -- and dragging food costs with it -- must either immediately exhibit a conspicuous social conscience or risk being nationalized, their executives taken away in orange jumpsuits, handcuffs, and leg shackles. The same for other corporations and politicians involved in championing the replacement of food crops with biofuel crops or exploiting any of the other steps along the food-chain system which puts bloated income ahead of putting food in people's mouths. We're not speaking here of weather phenomena beyond the control of man, we're speaking of men making decisions, based not on people's needs but on pseudo-scientific, amoral mechanisms like supply and demand, commodity exchanges, grain futures, selling short, selling long, and other forms of speculation, all fed and multiplied by the proverbial herd mentality -- a system governed by only two things: fear and greed; not a rational way to feed a world of human beings.
The Wall Street Journal reports that grain-processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said its quarterly profits "jumped 42%, including a sevenfold increase in net income in its unit that stores, transports and trades grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans. ... Some observers think financial speculation has helped push up prices as wealthy investors in the past year have flooded the agriculture commodity markets in search of better returns." At the same time, the French Agriculture Minister warned European Union officials against "too much trust in the free market. We must not leave the vital issue of feeding people to the mercy of market laws and international speculation."
It should be noted that the price of gasoline in the United States increases on a regular basis, but there's no shortage of supply. There are no lines of cars waiting at gas stations. And demand has been falling as financially-strapped drivers cut back on car use.
Intelligence agents without borders
When Andreas Papandreou assumed his ministerial duties in 1964 in the Greek government led by his father George Papandreou, he was shocked to discover an intelligence service out of control, a shadow government with powers beyond the authority of the nation's nominal leaders, a service more loyal to the CIA than to the Papandreou government. This was a fact of life for many countries in the world during the Cold War, when the CIA could dazzle a foreign secret service with devices of technical wizardry, classes in spycraft, vital intelligence, unlimited money, and American mystique and propaganda. Many of the world's intelligence agencies have long provided the CIA with information about their own government and citizens. The nature of much of this information has been such that if a private citizen were to pass it to a foreign power he could be charged with treason.
Leftist Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa declared in April that Ecuador's intelligence systems were "totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA," and accused senior Ecuadoran military officials of sharing intelligence with Colombia, the Bush administration's top (if not only) ally in Latin America. The previous month missiles had been fired into a camp of the Colombian FARC rebels situated in Ecuador near the Colombian border, killing about 25. One of those killed was Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorean operative for the group. It turned out that Ecuadorean intelligence officials had been tracking Aisalla, a fact that was not shared with the president, but apparently with Colombian forces and their American military advisers. "I, the president of the republic, found out about these operations by reading the newspaper," a visibly indignant Correa said. "This is not something we can tolerate." He added that he planned to restructure the intelligence agencies so he would have greater direct control over them.
The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is routinely referred to in the world media as "Marxist.Washington, proceeding from its declared ideology of "If you ain't with us, you're against us; in fact, if you ain't with us you're a terrorist", has designated FARC as a terrorist group. Every stated definition of "terrorist", from the FBI to the United Nations to the US criminal code makes it plain that terrorism is essentially a political act. This should, logically, exclude FARC from that category but, in actuality, has no effect on Washington's thinking. And now the Bush administration is threatening to add Venezuela to its list of "nations that support terrorism", following a claim by Colombia that it had captured a computer belonging to FARC after the attack on the group's campsite in Ecuador. A file allegedly found on the alleged computer, we are told, suggests that the Venezuelan government had channeled $300 million to FARC, and that FARC had appeared interested in acquiring 110 pounds of uranium. What next? Chavez had met with Osama bin Laden at the campsite?
Amongst the FARC members killed in the Colombian attack on Ecuador were several involved in negotiations to free Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who also holds French citizenship and is gravely ill. The French government and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez have been very active in trying to win Betancourt's freedom. Individuals collaborating with Chavez have twice this year escorted a total of six hostages freed by the FARC into freedom, including four former Colombian legislators. The prestige thus acquired by Chavez has of course not made Washington ideologues happy. If Chavez should have a role in the freeing of Betancourt -- the FARC's most prominent prisoner -- his prestige would jump yet higher. The raid on the FARC camp has put an end to the Betancourt negotiations, at least for the near future.
The raid bore the fingerprints of the US military/CIA -- a Predator drone aircraft dropped "smart bombs" after pinpointing the spot by monitoring a satellite phone call between a FARC leader and Chavez. A Colombian Defense Ministry official admitted that the United States had provided his government with intelligence used in the attack, but denied that Washington had provided the weapons. The New York Times observed that "The predawn operation bears remarkable similarities to one carried out in late January by the United States in Pakistan."
So what do we have here? Washington has removed a couple of dozen terrorists (or "terrorists") from the ranks of the living without any kind of judicial process. Ingrid Betancourt continues her imprisonment, now in its sixth year, but another of Hugo Chavez's evil-commie plans has been thwarted. And the CIA -- as with its torture renditions -- has once again demonstrated its awesome power: anyone, anywhere, anytime, anything, all laws domestic and international be damned, no lie too big.
"After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" T.S. Eliot
Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on April 28, during which he was asked about his earlier statement that the US government had invented the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, "as a means of genocide against people of color".
Wright did not offer any kind of evidence to support his claim. Even more important, the claim makes little sense. Why would the US government want to wipe out people of color? Undoubtedly, many government officials, past and present, have been racists, but the capitalist system at home and its imperialist brother abroad have no overarching ideological or realpolitik need for such a genocide. During the seven decades of the Cold War, the American power elite was much more interested in a genocide of "communists", of whatever color, wherever they might be found. Many weapons which might further this purpose were researched, including, apparently, an HIV-like virus. Consider this: On June 9, 1969, Dr. Donald M. MacArthur, Deputy Director, Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, testified before Congress:
Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease.
Whether the United States actually developed such a microorganism and what it did with it has not been reported. AIDS was first identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981. It's certainly possible that the disease arose as a result of Defense Department experiments, and then spread as an unintended consequence.
If you think that our leaders, as wicked as they are, would not stoop to any kind of biological or chemical warfare against people, consider that in 1984 an anti-Castro Cuban exile, on trial in a New York court, testified that in the latter part of 1980 a ship traveled from Florida to Cuba with "a mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the Soviets and against the Cuban economy, to begin what was called chemical war, which later on produced results that were not what we had expected, because we thought that it was going to be used against the Soviet forces, and it was used against our own people, and with that we did not agree."
It's not clear from the testimony whether the Cuban man thought that the germs would somehow be able to confine their actions to only Russians. This was but one of many instances where the CIA or Defense Department used biological or chemical weapons against Cuba and other countries, including in the United States against Americans, at times with fatal consequences.
Breaking the media barrier
"You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected, and you go from Iraq to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts ... If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form. You think the American people are going to vote for a pro-war John McCain who almost gives an indication he's the candidate of perpetual war, perpetual intervention overseas?"
Thus spaketh Ralph Nader as he announced his presidential candidacy to a national audience on NBC's Meet the Press in February. The next day his words appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Associated Press, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, International Herald Tribune, and numerous other publications, news agencies, and websites around the world.
And other parts of his interview were also repeated, like this in the Washington Post:
* "Let's get over it and try to have a diverse, multiple-choice, multiple-party democracy, the way they have in Western Europe and Canada."
This is why Ralph Nader runs for office. To get our views a hearing in the mainstream media (which we often, justifiably, look down upon but are forced to make use of), and offer Americans an alternative to the tweedledumb and tweedledumber political parties and their cookie-cutter candidates with their status-quo-long-live-the-empire souls. Is Nader's campaign not eminently worthwhile? But as always, he faces formidable obstacles, amongst which is what H. L. Mencken once observed:
* "The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth."
Here are a couple of campaigns to contribute time and money to:
Ralph Nader -- http://www.votenader.org/
Cindy Sheehan, running for Congress in San Francisco against Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi -- http://www.cindyforcongress.org/
"Building a new world" conference May 22-25, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, 5-hour drive from Washington, DC. Cindy Sheehan, Kathy Kelly, Michael Parenti, David Swanson, Gareth Porter, William Blum, Medea Benjamin, Gary Corseri, Mike Whitney, Kevin Zeese, Robert Jensen, and others. Room and board available at reasonable rates. Full details at: http://www.wpaconference.org/
 Washington Post, November 18, 1996
 Reuters news agency, June 10, 2002
 Washington Post, March 3, 2008
 "Grain Companies' Profits Soar As Global Food Crisis Mounts", Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2008, p.1
 Washington Post, April 27, 2008, p.13
 William Blum, Killing Hope, pages 217-8
 New York Times, April 21, 2008
 New York Times, March 4, 2008
 Agence France Presse, March 24, 2008
 New York Times, April 21, 2008
 Hearings before the House Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, "Department of Defense Appropriations for 1970"
 Testimony of Eduardo Victor Arocena Perez, on trial in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, transcript of September 10, 1984, pp. 2187-89.
 William Blum, Rogue State, chapters 14 and 15