The devastating wars raging across the Middle East can be explained in large part by America’s commitment to a doctrine of global militarism called “full spectrum dominance.” Announced by the Space Command under Bill Clinton’s administration, “full spectrum dominance” involves the orbiting of space weapons (like the X-37B), covering the skies of the world with drones (Predators and others), maintaining and constructing hundreds of large and small military bases (like Camp Anaconda in Iraq), expanding a global surveillance dragnet (Total Information Awareness, as it was once called), and, perhaps most dangerously, threatening nuclear-armed Russia with a missile system based in Europe.
Globalization: “Independence” Does “Immense Damage”
The objective is to enforce a worldwide system of economic (so-called) neoliberalism, “to protect U.S. interests and investment.” The Space Command’s Vision for 2020 document announcing the plan goes on to say that “the globalization of the world economy” will create a two-tiered class structure of “haves” and “have-nots.” “Full spectrum dominance” aims to ensure Russia and China’s compliance to “free market” principles, hence Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” a strategy designed to encircle China, and its construction of the Russia-aimed missile system in Eastern Europe.
Current international financial arrangements include the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). These and other deals, drafted and legislated free from public interference, are designed to lock global investments into a structure that will remain unaffected by domestic policies. So, if populist governments come to power, e.g., Podemos in Spain, they will be crippled by supranational treaties like those above, compelled, for instance, to let U.S. banks buy up their state-owned enterprises and keep low tariffs on foreign goods. There is one problem, however: sovereignty. Britain’s future Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said that after World War I “the intellectual respectability of state control” over economies and “economic autarky” (i.e., independence) “did immense damage to the nineteenth-century liberal economic order.” Cable gave no thought to asking what effect the 19th century model had on the populations onto which it was forced. In Britain’s colonial possession, India, the effects were appalling. Generally, Britain forced inferior domestic products on India, periodically blocking Indian exports. During the worst famines (which were mostly unknown prior to the colonial period), grain was purposefully withheld from the population in order to keep prices high (and profitable) for London speculators. (Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts is an especially shocking account.)
In “The real hunger games,” Britain’s Independent newspaper reports that today “[h]edge funds, pension funds and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital…dominate the food commodities [market],” often driving global food prices beyond the affordability of consumers, thereby increasing starvation, in order to make speculative profits.
Returning to Cable’s observations: trade and investment in Europe followed World War II, after much of Europe was wrecked; rather like the Middle East and parts of North Africa are being wrecked today. With European governments desperate to reconstruct their societies and financial/monetary systems after WWII, “economic autarky” was not a problem for the U.S., especially after the Marshall Plan. The covert Operation Gladio was enacted to make sure that networks of CIA and MI6-trained terrorists kept countries like Greece and Italy far to the right (see Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies). Today, networks of British- and American-trained death-squads and armies are actively keeping the poor in their place. As former Center Naval Warfare Studies professor Thomas P.M. Barnett puts it: “Any time American troops” or their proxies “show up…it tends to be in a place that is relatively disconnected from the world, where globalization hasn’t taken root” (Esquire, January 2007). Let’s consider some examples.
Bangladesh: “A Vast Supply Of Very Cheap Labor”
Bangladesh was India’s Bengal region, until Pakistan declared independence from India and British colonial domination in 1947. Pakistan consisted of East and West. In 1971, Bangladesh declared independence from East Pakistan. The Bangladesh High Commission in London explains that Bangladesh’s “biggest [economic] asset is its plentiful supply of very cheap labour, a major attraction for foreign investors…. The country’s other endowments include its vast skilled and semi-skilled human resource base.”
The “resource base” must be kept poor for reasons explained by policy designers at the UK’s Royal Institute for International Affairs: “Exploitation may be a necessary stage in the evolution of capitalism.” The remarks (from 1997) echo more recent statements from the UK Ministry of Defence: “The spread of capital, trade, intellectual property, economic activity, wealth and resources” defines the version of globalization favored by Euro- American policymakers. “It also encompasses the guaranteed access to and exploitation of these resources in developing states.” Resources are more difficult to “exploit” in developed, informed, highly organized societies with a mass base of unions and activists struggling for their rights.
In 2002, as leader of the Bangladeshi National Party, Prime Minister Khaledi Zia initiated Operation Clean Heart under the pretext of reducing crime. Clean Heart was a military operation—armed to large extent by Britain—aimed at attacking the poor. For instance, Clean Heart coincided with the nationwide Demonstration for Fair Wage and Fair Trade, as well as several protests by the National Garment Workers’ Federation, whose workers are exploited horribly. According to Human Rights Watch, 40,000 military personnel were employed, arresting 10,000 civilians, killing at least 50 in custody.
After much bad press internationally, it appears that a decision was made to organize a death-squad which could prevent mass demonstrations (and thus mass arrests) from boiling over. That squad became the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). RAB’s website boasted of being trained by British and American intelligence services. One of Britain’s annual human rights reports not only acknowledges RAB’s UK training, but also points to the fact that the more brutal the organization, the further to the right Bangladeshi Muslims are pushed. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the 12 RAB battalions consist of 8,500 militia, wear black shirts and sunglasses, and leave their victims out in the street for the public and media to see, sometimes tying them to carts in rows and leaving them outside police stations to rot in the heat. “RAB members tortured to death a witness to the murder of a prominent opposition member of parliament,” says HRW. In another case, RAB murdered “a political activist for the Awami League who had been working on behalf of poor villagers engaged in a land dispute with a cousin of the state minister for home affairs.” Other victims include union organizers, students, and journalists.
The murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris (January 2015) is a tragedy and rightly reported as such. It is, however, no more of a tragedy than the journalists around the world murdered each year by gangs and proxies trained, armed, and protected by the British, U.S., and French special forces. With the National Gallery emblazoned with the French flag, thousands of Londoners paid tribute to those who died in the attacks. None paid tribute to the Bangladeshi journalists murdered by RAB, with Anglo-American training and arms. In 2012, the Oslo Times reported that in May of that year, Bangladesh’s bdnews24.com outlet had been shot up by RAB for criticizing the organization’s brutality, and that the organization employs “criminals rather than attacking the journalist[s] directly.”
Colombia: “The Best Business Environment”
As in Bangladesh, Colombian gangs have replaced paramilitary groups after demobilization, yet the same networks of thugs and terrorists run much of the country. While the media attempt to brainwash the American and European public into dropping more bombs on the Middle East to stop the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) and its atrocities, HRW and others report that Colombian gangs are using machetes to murder people in “chop up houses.”
British businesses operating in Colombia include oil giant BP, brewery SAB Miller, and mining company, AngloGold Ashanti. The Special Air Service (SAS) has operated in Colombia since the 1980s, supposedly on counternarcotics operations, which in reality amount to anti-FARC operations. FARC is the Marxist-turned-terrorist resistance group which in 2012 agreed to a shaky truce in 2012 with the Colombian government.
In the decades that followed America’s militarization of Colombia, tens of thousands of journalists, students, union leaders, and politicians were murdered. By 2000, 0.4 percent of landowners (10,000 people) owned 61.2 percent of the land. Amnesty International says that 4 to 6 million hectares of land owned by campesinos, indigenous people, and Afro-descendant communities, “have been stolen” by government-backed paramilitaries. Amnesty notes that “[a]t particular risk of displacement [are those groups] in areas which have been earmarked for large economic projects, such as mineral and oil exploration, agro-industrial developments or hydro-electric installations,” many of which are linked to Britain.
In the 1990s, President Samper “appeared increasingly hostile to human rights and measures that would end the military-paramilitary partnership,” says HRW. Auto- defensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá (ACCU) was an umbrella of paramilitaries formed in 1980s. A few years later, under President César Gaviria (1990-1994), the Colombian military—and, by definition, the ACCU —sought advice on intelligence gathering from MI6, further blurring the distinctions between oil, cocaine dealing, and counter-FARC activities. HRW adds that the Army delegated to the ACCU lists of union leaders and human rights workers to be murdered.
In 2010, members of the British Parliament, notably the current anti-war Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, “expresse[d]…concern about the devastating environmental impacts that the proposed La Colosa opencast goldmine in Colombia”—owned by a British company—“will have on a region of considerable biodiversity and importance for food production.” In 2011, Parliament noted that the deviation of the River Rancheria “will threaten water security for the region” and mentioned the “evicted community of Tabaco.” In November, Parliament confirmed that the communities displaced by the Cerrejon Coal mines had not been compensated, and expressed “concern about the devastating social and environmental impacts of the…company’s huge opencast coal mine in Colombia,” again owned by British firms.
Noting the daily killing of students, unionists, activists, “subversives,” and other impediments to centralization of power, ABColombia stated that, “this repression sends a clear message to ordinary people not to organize themselves in defence of their rights.” In 2010, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office reported that as “Colombia is becoming more and more important for UK exporters…we do remain open for business…. According to the World Bank Group’s “Doing Business Report” Colombia has the best business environment among the main economies of Latin America.” A year later, the Foreign Office enthused that “Colombia has a sustained record of sound economic policies, and has strong economic fundamentals.” These strong economic fundamentals are founded on child labour, chemical warfare, death-squads, paramilitaries, and, according to Amnesty International, the near “extinction” of indigenous communities. As America’s favored form of democracy was being upheld in Colombia, the U.S. led an invasion of Haiti in 1994 (Operation Uphold Democracy) to lay the groundwork for closer collaboration with the brutal Haitian police and army. A couple of years before, the U.S. launched Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, which ended in 10,000 Somali civilians being killed. After 9/11 and years of devastating civil war, British and American banks and financial institutions closed their branches in Somalia under the pretext that they were being used by terrorists, despite confirmation in the 9/11 Commission Report that this was not the case. The bank closures left thousands of Somalis unable to afford food.
Somalia: Restoring Hope(Lessness)
Amnesty International reports that by 2006, “there were some functioning schools in cities, supported by civil society, diaspora groups and business actors and there was some scope to negotiate one’s way through the dangers posed by warlords and clan militias.” So, what happened to wreck this fragile peace? It turns out that a non-extremist socialist government, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), came to power in Somalia and restored law, order, education, and finance through the Islamic monetary system of non-usury and charity.
Despite propaganda coming from Washington and Whitehall that the group were terrorists and human rights abusers, a U.S. Congressional report says that Somalia’s capital Mogadishu “became relatively peaceful,” with the ICU getting “support from the population in areas it controlled.” The report also says that “the group had constituencies from multiple sub-clans and had broad support among Somali women,” contradicting media allegations of misogyny.
The report concluded that “the assessment of the Islamic Courts by U.S. officials was that less than 5 percent of the…leadership can be considered extremist, according to a senior State Department official.” Aside from its general opposition to socialism, there was a serious problem for the U.S.: namely, the ICU was honoring oil contracts made with China and Russia, not with BP, Chevron, Shell, and other Western companies, which had or wanted contracts; some of which dated back to the 1980s. In order to punish Somalia for exercising sovereignty, the U.S. and Britain trained and armed Somali and Ethiopian terrorists, later known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), to invade Somalia from neighbouring Ethiopia and overthrow the pesky ICU. The TFG was so brutal that the invasion sparked a refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of Somalis fleeing across the Gulf of Aden to another former British colony, Yemen. Thousands died at sea. Other refugees ended up raped and imprisoned in another British colony, Kenya. Between 2010 and 2012, 260,000 Somalis died in the famine, the roots of which were referred to by Kenyan-born journalist Aidan Hartley as being “caused by man, not by global warming.” Hartley is the sole journalist in the UK to bring these facts to light (writing, ironically, for the racist, right-wing Daily Mail newspaper, which presumably let him report it in order to criticize Tony Blair’s Labour Party).
It was only after pirates started menacing European boats and only after the ICU’s military wing, Al-Sha- baab, supposedly declared its allegiance to “al-Qaeda” that Western media paid any attention to Somalia.
Referring to the European fishing vessels that are depleting the Indian Ocean and the coasts of the Horn of Africa, Britain’s warmongering then-Defence Minister, Bob Ainsworth, acknowledged on behalf of Somalis during a Committee hearing “a moral argument that ‘You took our fish and therefore this is what we are doing’,” referring to piracy.
Likewise, Chatham House specialist, Sally Healy, said that “the kind of issues that matter [to Somalis] would include some sort of recognition that there has been a plunder of Somali resources” by the EU. Since pirate activities began, Healy added, “there is a visible difference to the amount of fish that have recovered in the ocean,” which is crucial for a country starving to death, giving Somalis “fish to eat.”
Dr. Lee Willett, a specialist of maritime studies at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, was asked during a House of Lords hearing in 2010 whether the over-fishing of Somali waters by the European Union—which is heading the anti-piracy Operation Atalanta from UK bases in Northwood—was a serious issue for Somalis. “Very much so,” he replied, adding that many said, “because Western ships were coming illegally into their waters and taking their fish, they had no other choice.”
Activists are building on platforms opposed to this kind of globalization. Already mentioned are the unions of Bangladesh and Colombia, Podemos in Spain, and the socialist Labour Party leader, Corbyn, in Britain and the ICU in Somalia. Building on the success of Occupy, U.S. activists have given a huge amount of support to Sanders. Whether or not these movements succeed in getting into power is not the point: they are symbolic expressions of active discontent with a system that consciously seeks to divide the world into “haves” and “have-nots,” with many Americans and Europeans—though not sinking into third world levels of poverty—increasingly experiencing the life of have-nots. This kind of sustained activism can at least put hitherto invisible issues on the political agenda.
In the West, the so-called neoliberal economic system is maintained through law (often supranational) and propaganda (keep working hard, blame immigrants, left-wingers are taking our rights away, etc.). Police violence exists primarily where the poor exist. The Black Lives Matter movement has helped bring this reality to national attention. In poorer countries, social activists are tortured and murdered on a larger scale than in the West: and with even greater impunity.
The examples above demonstrate the bitter colonel legacies of Britain (Spain, in the case of Colombia), and demonstrate the U.S.-British commitment to upholding imperial values, one of which is maintaining a large, impoverished workforce rich enough to buy useless material things, but poor enough to work for slave-wages. This small sample generalizes across countries with high numbers of poor, be it Central and South America’s unfortunate recent shift to the right (which is primarily a responsibility of the U.S.) or the dozens of devastated African countries, such as Mali, bombed by France (with help from Britain) in 2012.
A U.S. National Intelligence Council projection, co-sponsored by Shell, PFC Energy, the Evian Group, and the Global Business Network, states: “A flagrant characteristic of this world is that while there is economic growth, it is non-inclusive.” It goes on to say that “[w]orld leaders (political as well as business) are effectively writing off the “human cost” of growth.” Growth means profit. “Concerns for the suffering of the bottom 4 billion people on the planet are not addressed in a serious and sustained way, that is simply not one of the top priorities of most government and corporate leaders.” The report concludes that “[c]orporate profits and a short-term focus (e.g., quarterly shareholder reports) fuel a climate in which the companies are the winners in this world.” This is not a world in which most of us want to live; especially under the military threat of “full spectrum dominance”: we must continue opposing it.
T.J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and author of Britain’s Secret Wars and Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, and others, www.pipr. co.uk/ebooks).