FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
by Jeremy Lee
President Bush's reluctant promise to commit a few of his legions to Liberia
means that US troops are now stationed in over 150 countries. Under urging
from Prime Minister Sharon in Israel, Iran is touted as the next target
following Iraq. The only thing that will make the "road map"
for peace between Israel and the Palestinians work is a genuine threat
by the US to halt finance and arms for Israel - and that is hardly likely.
But the fierce determination of the Zio-cons in Washington to bind Bush
to the Israeli-oriented Middle East policy is finally penetrating the
American consciousness, and any set-backs to the programme will fan the
Iraq has already become a quagmire which will require a US presence for
years to come. Afghanistan is reverting to Taliban rule. In both Iraq
and Afghanistan a steady stream of attacks on 'security forces' will turn
the original euphoria in America for war into hostility as a steady trickle
of body-bags come home.
The Iraq war cost the US some $80 billion, with another $150 billion earmarked
for re-building - if a stable enough situation can be created for reconstruction
to take place. Muslim clerics are, meanwhile, gathering power in Iraq,
and may yet be able to build the command structure which Secretary of
Defence Rumsfeld insists won't be allowed to happen.
And administrations in the US, Britain and America are coming under increasing
pressure to explain why they deceived their electorates in arguing the
case for war.
PAYING THE COSTS
The debts incurred in maintaining this insane finance/military imperialism
are beginning to haunt the White House. This year the Federal Government
will run a trade deficit of $400 billion - enough for five Iraqi wars.
The national debt is currently $6.4 trillion, and the debt 'ceiling'
is being raised by Congress by another $900 billion.
As far back as 1998 the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated
there was an infrastructure maintenance lag on roads, bridges, water
systems, school buildings, hazardous waste removal, sewerage etc. of
$1.8 trillion. The States in the US, which should be dealing with this
are so deeply in debt that several are faced with bankruptcy. The combined
deficit of State and Local Authorities in the US amounted to $127 billion
in 2001-02, up from $38 billion in 1993.
In 2001 - before S-11, Afghanistan and Iraq - the combination of all
debts in America reached $29.5 trillion, the equivalent of $5,000 for
each living person on earth. It has grown steadily since then. Total
unfounded liabilities have reached an incredible $44 trillion.
Much of America's manufacturing has shifted out of the country, first
to Mexico after the NAFTA agreement, and now to China. Trying to revive
the economy, President Bush's recent $350 billion income tax cut was
financed by increased borrowing.
THE STATES OF AMERICA
Recently an elected official in Cleveland (tongue-in-cheek?) made a
plea at a public event for President Bush to launch an invasion of East
Clevelend, as in Iraq, so that the process of re-building could pay
for the maintenance of the crumbling infrastructure of roads, water-works,
State Governors in America have warned that their deficits are the highest
in half a century. Up to 18 per cent of State expenditure is directed
towards debt service. The New York Times has reported that some
States are taking drastic cost-saving measures, extending to unscrewing
every third light bulb in government buildings, making teachers double
as janitors and releasing criminals before their time has been served.
Some teachers are laid off, students fees raised and financial welfare
cut - sometimes all three. Not reported in Australia, in the months
leading up to the Iraqi war, more than 160 local authorities passed
anti-war resolutions, deploring war expenditure at the expense of essential
CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME
The Los Angeles resolution stated that the "cost [of the war] would
be borne by the people of the City of Los Angeles, who rely on federal
funds for anti-poverty programs, for workforce assistance, for housing,
for education programs, for infrastructure and for the increased demands
of homeland security."
Tough luck, Los Angeles, homeland security round Baghdad comes first!
The picture in California is frightening. With an estimated deficit
of $26 billion, Governor Gray Davis, only re-elected eight months ago,
is facing a state-wide revolt. Even the 'macho' Arnold Schwarznegger
of 'Terminator' fame, has thrown his hat into the ring to replace him.
Governor Davis's salary, other politicians and about 1,000 non-civil
service employees will stop. Contractors to the state will go unpaid
and various government initiatives, including mental health programmes,
will not receive funding. If the debt-quagmire continues next month
the pay of two out of every three state workers will be reduced to the
state minimum of $4 an hour.
The president of the state employees' union, Perry Kenny, has stated:
"This is the biggest hole we have ever been in and no one seems
to be able to find a way out. We are sweating bullets."
Only three years ago the famously-wealthy California had a $5.5 billion
surplus. Politicians spent prodigiously, even when it became apparent
that the boom, including the tech boom in Silicon Valley, had burst.
Moody's Investor Services has now downgraded California's credit rating
from positive to negative.
What happens when an economy like California's goes belly-up? The crisis
is quickly followed by a break-down in law and order. We can see the
symptoms in fragmented economies such as Argentina and Zimbabwe. Poverty
suddenly hits all those who have comforted themselves with the hope
that "It can't happen here". In some cases the resources to
meet human needs exist in abundance. Argentina is such a case. Food
exports are booming, while 50 per cent of the population is going hungry.
The money-lenders insist on their cut before children eat. In other
cases, such as Zimbabwe, the resources are wantonly destroyed over a
period of years until the nation is queuing for the remaining crumbs.
Gangs flourish and the black market burgeons.
Regeneration at such a time takes on a strong spiritual aspect. People
either help each other or fight each other. The small, self-supporting
community becomes stronger, and finally indomitable.
Could such a situation occur in Australia? You'd hardly think so. Resource-wise,
according to the World Bank, we're the richest per capita nation in
the world. But the signs are not good. We have dislocated a once-vibrant
rural sector over the years. We have a massive service sector which,
in many cases is a regulation-run substitute for unemployment. We pretend
that the huge number struggling to survive on part-time work, plus those
on work-for-the-dole, can seriously be called "fully-employed".
We live month-by-month and year-by-year on an excess of imports over
exports. Our industrial base is increasingly foreign-owned. Our taxes
are at the highest level in history, but are increasingly unable to
fund the escalating number of urgent requirements. Household debt is
the highest in Australian history. All social service handouts are "means-tested"
by criteria which cannot apply impartial justice and a realistic hope
of judging reality. The number of licences and requirements confronting
enterprising would-be producers is like a gauntlet that forces many
to give up.
IN THE SAME BOAT
Most economies are now in the same boat, at various points on the slippery
slide towards chaos. And we keep trying to fund a turnaround by more
borrowing. Events will finally force us to face a few truths. The existing
debt-based money system is the starting point for our economic woes.
Those who control it also control our decision-making process. It is
committed to world power and globalism. It doesn't care how many are
hurt in the process. But the sheer scope of national and international
events is loosening its own hold over the programme it has devised.
Too many people are awake. Too many lies have been told. Too many claims
can be seen as threadbare.
And too many people are looking for alternatives to allow for a permanent
"brave new world" in the hands of those who believe they are