Web | Feb 24, 2006
Bowing Before Emperor Bush
Now that the plenipotentiary Caesar of the world, leading the most viciously amoral administration in living memory, has deigned to honour us with a personal visit, instead of these panting paroxysms of excitement, isn't it time to let him be known what we really think of him?
The Foreign Service bureaucracy is buzzing with excitement these days with the prospect of a US Presidential visit. The almighty George Bush himself, plenipotentiary Caesar of the world has deigned to honour us with a personal visit. The US has been wooing us by inviting us (along with Brazil) to sit at the high table at the G-8 summit. We are being lauded as an "emerging superpower" and being tantalized with a seat at the Security Council. The US government is prepared to concede to us the status of an overt nuclear power and is willing to lift sanctions against supply of nuclear material. Of course, in return for our agreeing to put our nuclear facilities under International AERB supervision. We are at the threshold of a new era of a close relationship with the US, some of our foreign policy analysts think. Who knows, they say, we might even be admitted to NATO. Such is the enthusiasm for entering the US fold that we are willing to give up our prospective partnership with Iran and China for forming an Asian energy grid. The replacement of Mani Shankar Aiyar by Murli Deora in the Ministry of Petroleum is also a pointer in the same direction. Much of the English language media too is clearly enthused by this prospect of India becoming at least the Asian right hand of the US.
All this is happening at a time when the US is led by the most viciously amoral administration in living memory. The Bush Administration controlled by a neo-conservative cabal of Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and the current World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, has not only attacked and destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan, on false pretexts and in gross violation of International law, it has violated or withdrawn from a large number of International treaties including the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty, the treaty to prevent the militarisation of space, the UN Convention against torture, among others. These have seriously compromised international law and order, and have undermined the security of the entire world including the US. As Chomsky succinctly puts it, the US policies in this regard have promoted US hegemony in the world at the expense of Global security and indeed the US’s own security
Preparations are currently under way in the US and Israel to attack Iran, this time with tactical nuclear weapons as well. Even the profuse use of depleted Uranium shells in Iraq has released the radioactive yield of hundreds of nuclear weapons, which will result in the slow genocide of millions of people over the years. Michael Chossodovsky, a highly respected Canadian International policy analyst says that he has seen US administration documents which point to this nuclear attack on Iran being launched as early as March this year. Though Iran is in full compliance with the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty and is only asserting its right to develop nuclear power, the pretext for the attack is that Iran "harbours intentions of developing nuclear weapons". And it is surely a coincidence that Iran has announced its intensions to stop trading its oil in US dollars and shift to the Euro from March this year. This is exactly what Saddam was about to do when the US attacked and took over Iraq.
Few people know that the US economy today survives precariously on the twin steroids of an oil trade in US dollars and the deposit of the Saudi money from oil sales to the US in US banks and bonds, as well as the Chinese trade surplus in US Bonds.
From the manner in which the Iraqi economy has been privatized after US occupation, the manner in which their oil production has been taken over, and the manner in which Cheney’s company, Halliburton, has been allowed to make tens of billions from no bid contracts on Iraq’s "reconstruction", it is clear that no amount of destruction or human misery will stop Bush, Cheney and Co. from lining their pockets (or those of their friends) and increasing US hegemony in the world.
Apart from this, the Bush Administration has also vigorously worked to undermine the international as well as the domestic environment protection regime. To this end, it has refused to sign the Kyoto protocol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are necessary for slowing down climate change. It has packed domestic environmental regulatory authorities with lobbyists of oil and other industries which need to be environmentally regulated. They have thus dismantled many of the environmental rules and regulations and have now opened up hitherto protected forest and wilderness areas for exploitation by the oil and timber industries. With the dire forecasts that are now being made by various climatologists around the world regarding the rate at which global warming is proceeding and its devastating projected impacts, just these acts of the Bush administration should be adequate for treating them as a rogue regime. James Lovelock, a celebrated British scientist who had developed the idea of Gaia (the earth as a living being) has recently reviewed the scientific evidence on this in a recent book, "The revenge of Gaia", which projects that the average rise of global temperatures by the turn of the century will be 5-8 degrees Centigrade, which means that most of the earth will become uninhabitable. The resulting upheavals will not only kill most living species including most humans, it will spell the end of Civilisation. Yet the Oilmen who run the Bush administration are not only not willing to do anything to control oil consumption, and hence greenhouse gas emissions, they are prepared to kill millions and destroy whole countries to get control of the major oilfields around the world.
Apart from this, the Bush Adminstration has committed every imaginable kind of crime against humanity, from systematic and brutal torture of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan and Arab prisoners, to detaining thousands of Arabs and Muslims for years without trial in the US, to undermining the carefully built up framework of Civil liberties in the US. It has systematically eroded the social security and public health system in the US in the drive towards their privatization. All this has caused enormous destitution and misery among millions of poor Americans as well. Thus, even the domestic economic policies of the Bush Administration have been designed to increase the economic hegemony of the super rich, whom Bush and Cheney represent, at the expense of the poor. As the Venezuelan president Chavez put it, in the World Social Forum meeting at Caracas recently, there has never in human history been a more brutal and rapacious regime than the present regime in the US.
And yet our External affairs Ministry headed by the Prime Minister is panting with excitement at the prospect of bringing us within the embrace of the US. All this, despite the fact that all opinion polls show the US as about the most despised nation in this country (in spite of what most of the English press would like to have us believe). And despite the fact that the Left Front on whose critical support this government is surviving, has unequivocally declared its hostility to this alliance with the US.
Even if we neglect the immorality of it all, the fact is that our government is willing to sell out the non aligned movement which Nehru had so carefully crafted; it is willing to jeopardize our relationship with China, Pakistan, Iran and indeed the entire Muslim world; indeed it is willing to risk the survival of the government itself, in order to grasp the embrace of the US.
What are the real reasons for this remarkable behaviour? We are told by the mandarins of the external affairs ministry that morality is a concept that is alien to realpolitik and hard nosed foreign policy; that foreign policy is and must be governed by cold blooded National Interest. They say that our national interest would be better served that by aligning ourselves with the only superpower in the world, particularly when that superpower is willing recognise us as an overt nuclear power and willing to allow us to sit on their high table. After all, they tell us, the US can give us a lot more than all our neighbours, the Muslim world and China put together. As an ally of the US, we buy our security as well as our economic well being, goes the spin.
But is the US a reliable ally? What is its track record in this regard? Will it really help us if at any time it finds that its interests are better served by aligning itself with China or again with Pakistan? After all, it was aligned with Pakistan till yesterday, and even with Saddam during its war with Iran. How many murderous dictators has it supported while it sheds crocodile tears for democracy? In fact, India will be the first to be jettisoned the moment it ceases to be useful to the US. It is already becoming evident that even the nuclear deal with the US is only serving to sacrifice our nuclear autonomy and make us dependant on the US for nuclear supplies.
And how long will the US survive as an economic superpower? It has been living on borrowed money for quite some time. It’s external debt is already more than 50% of its GDP as Saudi oil money and China’s trade surplus piles up in the US banks. The US dollar is kept afloat today mainly by the oil trade in US dollars. The US economy will tank if either China withdraws its money from the US Banks, or Saudi Arabia stops depositing its oil money in US bonds, or even if the oil trade goes off the dollar. Thus, even if even we assume that we get something in the short run from the US, how long will it last? And we are willing to do it at the expense of so many neighbors, long term friends and principles. A Canadian scholar, James Eayrs, in his 1969 lectures "Right and wrong in foreign policy" had very perceptively commented on the "slick professional diplomat who prefers cleverness to good sense, and intellectuals of the strategic community who speak glibly of realpolitik. It is as though foreign offices have built into their basements some sort of low temperature chamber, where fledging foreign service officers deposit their consciences on recruitment, for redemption only on retirement."
But it is not only or mainly a question of forsaking their moral conscience. It is more importantly a matter of sacrificing long term interests for short term gains, of confusing hegemony with self interest and thinking that international politics is a zero sum game. For it is this kind of stupidly facile thinking which believes that your adversary’s loss must be your gain, which allows such slick professional diplomats to strut around dreaming of clever tactics of harming your adversary. That then passes for "professional diplomacy", which pushes us to this kind of absurd posture, where we are elated to cosy up with the most murderous and dangerous regime in living memory.
A regime, which as Chomsky says, has, while causing enormous loss of life and suffering, undermined global security and its own security, while seeking to increase its hegemony in the world.
I however believe that in our country, even baser reasons underlie this tilt towards the US. Put quite crudely and simply, those people who control foreign policy in this country have been unable to get over their colonial hangover and the awe of their erstwhile white masters. That is why, and not just out of politeness, Manmohan Singh in his Oxford speech praised the British Empire for having given us a great Civil Service, Police and Judiciary - the very institutions which were created to serve the Empire and keep the natives in submission. During Manmohan Singh’s formative years, it was a matter of great pride to be called to the Indian Civil Service for serving the Empire. Today, it is the US Empire which has replaced the British Empire as the overlords of the planet. It is the same kind of pride that we see in the minds of the Foreign Service bureaucracy today when they find themselves called to the high table by the current sole superpower. There is yet another significant factor in this dynamics now. There are a large number of International agencies controlled by the US, like the World Bank, IMF, ADB etc. and also a large number of US trusts and foundations which are giving out a large number of jobs, consultancies and assignments on enormous salaries and fees, to a large number of our sitting and retired bureaucrats. Unfortunately these are permitted by our government, but they have had an enormously corrupting influence on the entire ruling establishment in this and in many other third world countries. The lure of such jobs has created a huge vested interest among the establishment for closer ties with the US. This tilt towards the US is also prodded along by our English language media and even our academia, who also receive liberal doses of advertisements, assignments, travel grants and sometimes jobs from US corporations, trusts, foundations and Universities. All this together has created an environment where our government can dare to get in bed with the US and glibly tell us that it is all realpolitik and National Interest.
Those in charge of this government think that they can easily get away with this. They have come to believe that the left front can only bark and will not bite; that there is no political force that has the capacity to translate the popular feelings against the US into something that can actually damage the Congress Party politically. But the long term consequences of this decision to enter the US orbit will be enormous. There cannot be a bigger political or moral issue for this country. Perhaps the time has come for the Left Front to call the government’s bluff. Bush’s visit will be an occasion for the people of this country to express what they really think of him. He must be made to feel the heat of the reception accorded to him by the people of this country.
Prashant Bhushan is a public interest lawyer in the Supreme Court.