Miles Report No. 07
February 25, 2012
I find it interesting that with all the talk about democracy in the ‘developed’ world, there seems to be less and less of it going around. This is particularly true as the fear mongering of Islamic terror and Islamicism combines with the fragility of the global economy. That combination, in spite of rhetoric about freedom and democracy has done a great deal towards limiting democracy in all its aspects.
Certainly the ‘developed’ world has elections, but elections of and by themselves do not represent democracy. The U.S. is a prime example, wherein corporations can spend as much money as they wish to support the candidate of their choice, and given there is not much choice with two parties representing simply different sides of the same coin and not different coinage altogether. As the economy develops as it is with ever increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, democracy takes further hits as social structures, not needed by the rich, are gradually removed on the false libertarian excuse of everyman for himself.
More than two parties are allowed in the U.S., but the many strange and arbitrary nomination rules and manner in which names can be put forth on a ballot almost make it impossible for “factions” (as described by James Madison in the Federalist Papers, where he argued against too much democracy) to have their party listed and established. That goes without mentioning how the corporations and media, throughout the Twentieth Century and increasingly so as time goes on, have fought unions (literally at times, with armed guards, military personnel, and goon squads) and labour and any other viable political alternative that might appear.
Today, after ten years of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) the U.S. has passed many laws and continued many practices that deny, destroy, abrogate, or nullify many civilian rights and many international laws that have taken centuries of common law to establish. The same is happening in Canada as the Conservative party seems intent on limiting our democracy through new security laws, internet spy laws, and policy decrees that limit the voice of the people being heard (see scientists, below).
Canada pretends to be a democracy but with our first past the post system, democracy is hardly favoured. The most recent Robo-calls concerns are illustrative of this, where 14 ridings were won by the Conservatives with a total margin of only 6,000+ votes. First steps first: 76.7 per cent of Canada’s population was registered to vote; 61.6 per cent did vote; the Conservatives received just over 39 per cent of the vote; which in total indicates that only 18 per cent of Canadians voted for the Conservatives.
Canadian democracy is again very limited, as those 18 per cent - or at least their representatives - are doing their best to act like a dictatorship. It is well known that for a government that declares openness and transparency - at least for others - they are doing their best to limit that possibility. First off are all the communication officers that the party and its bureaucrats must go through before speaking to anyone. As for communication a recent poll on the Conservative website asked whether the government was doing well with the tar sands - pipeline initiatives. When their own poll showed a 60 per cent rejection after a week or so, and then magically 600 overnight votes made the count equal, the poll disappeared from the website.
Scientists are similarly being muzzled:
But the Harper government’s priority is not the health of Canadians or the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Its single-minded purpose is to promote the oil industry and protect it from any criticism. Demonizing critics of the tar sands as enemies of the country is just one small part of that goal. Eliminating scientific data that could link the oil industry to negative health effects is another. Why else would the government stop monitoring for pollution?
If the message is giving you trouble, shoot the messengers. That’s exactly what Harper has done and will continue to do in his March budget. Last fall Environment Canada announced that some 700 scientists and researchers would be losing their jobs. Sixty were fired in January. (“On the Environment, Canada is a Rogue State” Murray Dobbin, Counterpunch, February 24, 2012).
More on Canadian scientists:
According to this protocol, all interview requests for government scientists must be cleared by government officials first. And those government officials all take their marching orders from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), an all-powerful and all-controlling group that surrounds Harper. Decisions about these requests are often delayed beyond the point where the interview would have any value, or simply refused altogether. Even when interviews are granted, government officials usually demand written questions to be submitted in advance and choose to sit in on the interviews.
The media protocol states:
Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines. [italics added]
Harper’s government gets to control the message and take whatever ideological steps it wants, secure in the knowledge that it has shut down the only viable source of knowledge that could challenge its position.
It’s that control that allows Canada to say that global climate change isn’t a real problem, or that selling Canadian asbestos to Third World countries is perfectly okay even though it’s illegal in Canada, that the Alberta Tar Sands aren’t really as filthy as everyone knows they are, that Pacific salmon aren’t dying from cancer due to industrial effluent, that carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are no big deal, and so on. (“Tightening the Hatches in Canada,” Paul Richard Harris, Axis of Logic, Tuesday February 21, 2012).
Democracy in the Middle East.
The Middle East, as is usual these days, takes up a large part of international affairs news, with - again - a huge amount of rhetoric for democracy and freedom, but very little real action taken to promote it. The invasion of Iraq was completely against international law, created many war crimes, and now the country stands in a state of ruin, with hundreds of thousands killed, and many more either internal or external refugees. Afghanistan is undergoing the same procedure, and while there was a pretence of legality to capture bin Laden, the overall occupation effect is one of destroying thousands of lives, destroying the economy, creating a war torn set of tribal fiefdoms that are only now coming together to try and get rid of the occupation military, with the instigating match due to marines urinating on dead Afghanis, and the burning of the Koran. Canadians are complicit in U.S. war crimes in both areas.
1) Uzi Arad, Israel (cpac, February 23, 2012)
Recently I watched a very short segment on the Conference of Defence Associations, which generally could be described as an alliance of like thinking right wing militarists wishing to control the world.
Uzi Arad, a former Israeli National Security Advisor, provided good food for thought. He mentioned, with respect to Iran, “The nightmare of a nuclear proliferated Middle East….” Of course, he did not mention that Israel has in the range of 300+/- nuclear weapons (estimated from the type of reactor and the time requirements to amass the right amount of plutonium) and operates strictly outside the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), with the complicity of the U.S. Nothing like double standards in the world of international politics.
Some Canadian brass, while asking a question of Arad, mentioned that “you live in a really nasty neighbourhood.” This context, however, was not phrased to include the U.S. and its intentions to control the resources of the region, its willingness to use military force to get it, and its complete lack of concern for real democracy in the region vis a vis Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the other Arab GCC states. Nor did it have in context the nasty neighbourhoods created by Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
Arad’s reply to the question on what the ideal outcome would be again provided significant double standards. He indicated that for the Middle East, the desirable outcome would be that “democracy would take hold,” that there would be “liberties all those people deserve.” In the long term he said his “vision for all decent peoples,” would be to “stabilize the Middle East and democratize it.”
The double standards here are overwhelming if put into context within Israel. There is little democracy in Israel - it has the trappings of democracy - but has passed many non-democratic laws that limit land acquisition, marriage, travel, citizenship, and where someone can live or not live. Israel, as everyone should know, occupies what little was left of Palestine after the 1948 war and the ethnic cleansing instigated then is still continuing in the West Bank and Israel proper in the form of house demolitions, restrictions on travel, and confiscation/annexation of agricultural land.
2) Bashar al Assad, Syria
This guy is truly nasty, but at the same time, the comparisons to Libya and other “Arab spring” revolutions need to be made. Egyptians were able to get rid of Hosni Mubarak, and even though they have had elections (which those despised “Islamiscists” won)
to write a constitution, they are not living in a democracy any more than they were before. The military still rules, and it rules with U.S. funding - a bit of a catch-22, as that funding is requisite for the Egypt-Israeli peace agreement to stand.
Libya rid itself of Moammar Ghadafi, under the pretence of democracy and freedom. Its current state of affairs is that there are many tribal militias fighting each other for their own share of the turf, and democracy is a long way gone. Still, the NATO aggression worked: it eliminated the Chinese from the oil fields, with those same oil fields now available to western consumers; and it prevented Ghadafi’s plan to create a zone in Africa with its own currency controls and bank independent of the Washington consensus (the IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO et al).
Assad will be a bit more difficult to get rid of, although the war mongering talk is gearing up for some kind of intrusive action. The result will not be democracy, but a state divided internally, much like Lebanon, with different groups - Shias, Sunnis, Christians, and others (think Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda) , staking out their own fiefdoms. The result will certainly satisfy the ‘west’ by getting rid of Russia’s base in the Mediterranean, and weakening Syria from being any concern for Israel.
Just don’t expect the ‘democracy’ part to work out.
Iran is the now favourite bogeyman in the region, around which double standards abound. As a member of the NPT Iran has the internationally agreed upon right to enrich uranium.
Iran has always acted as a rational actor on the international stage, except when attacked itself (by Iraq, a war encouraged by all the western democracies in an attempt to destroy both countries viability as independent actors.)
Pakistan and India also have nuclear weapons outside of the NPT, along with N. Korea. Many other countries have nuclear “capability”, including Japan, Brazil, South Africa. For that matter any country with nuclear reactors could be considered to be nuclear capable, as one of the main purposes of that industry is not the power of the electricity so much as the power of the plutonium produced as a by product.
Being rational actors, Iran would not instigate a war with Israel or the U.S. as that would mean its own destruction. However, if the U.S. or Israel attempt a limited encounter with Iran, there will be many unintended consequences, the worst being a nuclear war conflagration. The expected outcomes are obvious - mass casualties in Iran, probably in Israel, large casualties of U.S. military personnel, global economic downturn, huge increases in the price of oil and thus everything else from pharmaceuticals through agricultural products to the everyday consumer items that tend to keep the economy going.
The insanity of even threatening war with Iran serves little purpose but to contain another independent actor with significant oil resources inside the global world view of U.S. hegemony. It has little to do with democracy or freedom, but once again more to do with the overall corporate control of global resources and people.
Iran at one time was a democracy…until the U.K. and the U.S. cooperated in ending it all in 1953, again because of oil.
Which is why we will never have a true democracy - not until corporations are stripped of their rights as “people” and are made to take responsibility towards the environment and the people of the world. Corporations and ‘big’ money are where the true government exists today, within the secret boardrooms of the WTO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, and their many allied and related think tanks and associations.
Greece is the best worst case example of this. Now ruled by technocrats and banksters, they realistically have no sovereignty left. That is where the banksters and corporate bosses would like us all to be, and as “austerity“ rules come into effect, will be where we all end up.