TPP, TTIP, CETA, TISA – acronyms of empire
by Paul Carline
(This is an updated, extended and modified version of my earlier post on TTIP)
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he lightweight, harmless-sounding acronyms roll easily off the tongue. Even their full names – Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Trade in Services Agreement – give no real hint of their sinister intent. ‘Agreements’ and ‘partnerships’ – isn’t that what we all want in this fractured world? But what is the reality?
As Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz noted in a March 2014 New York Times article: “Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention”, and he concludes the article with this warning: “Corporations everywhere may well agree that getting rid of regulations would be good for corporate profits. Trade negotiators might be persuaded that these trade agreements would be good for trade and corporate profits. But there would be some big losers — namely, the rest of us.”
Fellow economist Robert Reich puts it more simply and pointedly. Their aim, he says, is to “boost the top 1% and bust the rest”. An American campaign group has called TPP “the dirtiest trade deal you’ve never heard of”. Fortunately it’s no longer the case that the public doesn’t know about how these various deals are being stitched up behind their backs. They weren’t supposed to find out, of course. The clear intention of those behind the deals was to have them agreed and implemented without public involvement or oversight. The only reason we have some idea of what is involved is because elements of them were leaked by people with a conscience and a commitment to democracy and transparency. Even then, the full extent of what has been discussed behind closed doors remains a secret and the negotiators are rushing to conclude the two main deals – TPP and TTIP – as quickly as possible, probably this year.
Let’s be clear, the way these negotiations have been handled means that they have to be labeled unequivocally as conspiracies – by the representatives of the rich and powerful against the rest of us. Stiglitz again: “.. it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.”
(emphasis added) (“On the wrong side of globalization”, 15 March, 2014; http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/on-the-wrong-side-of-globalization/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 1/7)
And it’s that deep inequality (of power) running through our so-called democracies that means that despite the exposure of these conspiracies we, the supposed owners of the political process (‘democracy’ = “people power”), are virtually powerless to stop them. Many millions around the world oppose them, marching, demonstrating, signing petitions, writing to their representatives – but the talks have not been abandoned. It remains to be seen whether the mounting public pressure can really stifle them – or whether we will have to resort, like Greenpeace and other activists, to spoiler tactics at the local level, as is already happening in various places (e.g. using local laws to declare nuclear- and frack-free zones and block GMO crops and factory farming).
In the case of the US-EU TTIP deal facilitated by the least democratically legitimate body in the EU, the European Commission, and seconded by the European Council (composed of ministers from the governments of the 28 member states), although the final acceptance or rejection of the deal is up to the elected members of the European Parliament (EP), the EP may only be allowed to say “yea” or “nay” to the whole deal. If a trade agreement comes under EU exclusive competence, the Council and the European Parliament can either adopt or reject it: it cannot be amended. Meanwhile it is reported that in the USA the TPP talks are stalling while the White House assures its trading partners that this secret trade agreement won’t be amended when it comes back to Congress for ratification after the President signs the deal. That’s why the Executive is scrambling to get its allies in Congress to pass the “Fast Track” procedure. If they succeed, the U.S. Trade Representative can block remaining opportunities for the examination of the TPP’s provisions by lawmakers.
A tiny handful of negotiators, subject to considerable political and commercial lobbying influence, are deciding deals which will directly impact the roughly 1.3 billion people in the 40 countries covered by TPP and TTIP, and indirectly many more. Those 40 countries account for some 80% of global trade. These are the biggest trade deals in history. Joseph Stiglitz spells out some of what they could mean:
“Agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization. […] Today, the purpose of trade agreements is different [from before]. Tariffs around the world are already low. The focus has shifted to “non-tariff barriers,” and the most important of these — for the corporate interests pushing agreements — are regulations. Huge multinational corporations complain that inconsistent regulations make business costly. But most of the regulations, even if they are imperfect, are there for a reason: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment. What’s more, those regulations were often put in place by governments responding to the democratic demands of their citizens. Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a cleansounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency … But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom.”
One of the most insidious elements of these deals is ISDS – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism, which as Stiglitz explains, “allows corporations to seek restitution in an international tribunal, not only for unjust expropriation, but also for alleged diminution of their potential profits as a result of regulation. This is not a theoretical problem. Philip Morris has already tried this tactic against Uruguay, claiming that its antismoking regulations, which have won accolades from the World Health Organization, unfairly hurt profits, violating a bilateral trade treaty between Switzerland and Uruguay. In this sense, recent trade agreements are reminiscent of the Opium Wars, in which Western powers successfully demanded that China keep itself open to opium because they saw it as vital in correcting what otherwise would be a large trade imbalance”.
The leaked draft negotiating mandate for TTIP stated that negotiations “should aim to include … fair and equitable treatment, including a prohibition of unreasonable, arbitrary or discriminatory measures” and “full protection and security of investors and investments”. This would be ensured by the provision of “an effective and state-of-the-art investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism”. Companies and/or investors who felt that their claimed right to make a handsome profit on their investment or trading deal had been frustrated or denied – for example, by a change in government policy – would be able to sue the government in a special court before a panel of three private lawyers, whose decisions cannot be appealed.
Pared down to its essentials, the rhetoric means that investors must be freed from the fear of losing money on their speculations, and the expected profits of companies entering into contracts anywhere within the countries covered by the deals must be guaranteed. And we thought “free market” capitalism was about taking risks!
ISDS is already a part of some existing trade deals. Examples of how it works are listed in a study by the Seattle to Brussels Network entitled “A Transatlantic Corporate Bill of Rights”, which notes that “US and European companies have driven the investor-state litigation boom of the past two decades. By far the largest number of the 514 known disputes initiated by the end of 2012 were launched by US investors, who filed 24% of all cases. Next in line are investors from the Netherlands (50 cases), the UK (30) and Germany (27). Together, investors from EU member states have filed 40% of all cases. EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to challenge green energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, environmental restrictions on mining, health insurance policies, measures to improve the economic situation of minorities and many more.”
Other specific fears are that American companies, including Monsanto, will use ISDS to force EU governments to accept GM products and agriculture, chlorinated chickens and growth hormone-treated beef. Public procurement is another target: “The Agreement will aim at enhanced mutual access to public procurement markets at all administrative levels (national, regional and local), and in the field of public utilities … ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers”. This would enforce the opening up of many public services to private takeover.
One key public service is the provision of drinking water and sanitation. In Europe, the concerns led to the first ‘successful’ European Citizens’ Initiative i.e. the first to collect the minimum 1 million signatures from at least seven member states (the European Citizens’ Initiative right was included in the “Lisbon Treaty” of the EU. It is the first transnational initiative right in the world, but it is little more than a weak petition, as it does not compel the European Commission to initiate legislation). The “Right2Water” ECI stated: “Water and sanitation are a human right. Water is a public good, not a commodity!” It managed to collect 1,884,790 signatures. To date, only 3 initiatives have broken through the 1 million barrier, including “Right2Water” and a “Stop TTIP” initiative (cf. below).
Backed by more than 240 European organisations, a European Citizens’ Initiative to demand the repeal of the TTIP negotiating mandate was launched in September 2014, but the Commission rejected it out of hand on what appear to be flawed legal grounds. The ECI coordinating committee intends to appeal the decision at the European Court. After the first disappointment of rejection, the organisers decided to launch an unofficial ECI, with the aim of collecting twice as many signatures (2 million) as are required for the official one. As of today (6 March), 1,542,252 signatures have been collected in support of the campaign’s challenge to the EU negotiators: “We call on the institutions of the European Union and its member states to stop the negotiations with the USA on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.” The campaign alliance now includes some 360 civil society organisations. There is also growing opposition in the US, mainly from trade unions, which fear more “offshoring” of jobs to low-wage economies. But collecting signatures is an expensive and time-consuming task. Mass petitions organised by professional organisations (such as Change.org, SumofUs, War on Want and 38 Degrees etc) – which simply require supporters to hit a button on their keyboard or make a mouse click – could have a greater impact on political decision-making.
In the Asia-Pacific region opposition to TPP(A) is also growing. In Australia, there has been dissent since at least the end of 2012, despite the efforts of Trade Minister Andrew Robb to dismiss criticism. Australian Green Party senator Scott Ludlam said: “This is a trade agreement being signed under cover of total darkness … it is not even being negotiated between large corporate entities … this is an agreement being hammered out by global corporations in their benefit. It is an investor’s rights agreement, not a free trade agreement.” In New Zealand there have been protest marches and the website: www.itsourfuture.org.nz reports that “New Zealand First is bringing forward the Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill to ban our government from signing any treaty, which gives foreign corporates the right to seek compensation if they believe our laws affect their business”.
It is now widely recognised that economic dominance (by predominantly American corporations) is one of the main aims of such trade deals as TPP, TTIP, CETA and TISA: i.e. they are about expanding and consolidating what Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner referred to as early as 1917 as the coming “Anglo-American economic imperialism”. The other aim – lucidly spelled out in Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya’s article “Marching Towards Disaster: What’s Really Behind the US Push in the Asia-Pacific?” in the January-February edition of the Australian magazine “New Dawn” – is geostrategic and military consolidation, in particular aimed at increasing the encirclement of the West’s great rivals, China and Russia. Sometime around 2011 there was a significant shift in US foreign policy. At the November 2011 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Honolulu, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the CEO Summit on Women and the Economy, said: “I’m delighted to be with you because I think that we really are making what I call a pivot. As the war in Iraq ends and we transition in Afghanistan, U.S. foreign policy is moving toward the Asia Pacific. We need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy to put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. And one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in the Asia Pacific region”. (No hint of regret or shame here at two illegal wars and millions of dead – just more ‘collateral damage’ and on to the next war).
In another meeting on the same occasion, Clinton referred specifically to TPP, whose purpose, she declared, was to: “strengthen our bilateral alliances in the field of security; strengthening participation in regional multilateral institutions; expansion of trade and investment; strengthening the broad base of military presence; [and last, and least!] the promotion of democracy and human rights”. In the same week, Barack Obama used almost identical words in speaking to the Australian Parliament, referring to “strengthening the US military presence in the region of East Asia”. He also named TPP as “a potential model for the whole region”.
To understand these latest moves on what leading US strategist (and arch Russia-hater) Zbigniew Brzezinski called “The Grand Chessboard” (the title of his 1997 book, subtitled “American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives”), we need to widen the historical perspective. As Steiner noted nearly 100 years ago: “Since the 17th century what has been “the will of the people” in the public life of the Anglo-American peoples …is no more than empty rhetoric. Between what is said and reality there is not even the relation which existed between the symbol and reality. Thus the psychological path is this: from realities to symbols and then to empty rhetoric – to language that is squeezed out, hollow. And the true realities are what goes on behind this”.
The reality behind the empty words was colonialism. Steiner mentioned the “Imperial Federation League”, which, he says, “is the form, the particular way the colonial system, the extension of the British Empire across the colonies, is summed up”. About the League Wikipedia notes:
“Creating an Imperial Federation thus became a popular alternative proposal to colonial imperialism … the general proposal was to create a single federal state among all colonies of the British Empire. The federation would have a common and would be governed as a superstate. Thus, Imperial unity could be maintained while still allowing for democratic government [rather: while still paying lip service to pseudo-democracy]. Supporters of Imperial Federation regarded the United Kingdom as having two possible futures; imperial union and continued long-term importance – or imperial dissolution and the reduction of the status of the UK to a second-class nation”. Is the threat of “imperial dissolution” what is driving these last-gasp efforts at maintaining and increasing control by the new Anglo-American empire?
The idea of the Federation did not survive WWI and by 1937 had been formally dropped by the British political elite. At its height, the British Empire was the largest empire in history, controlling one quarter of the landmass of the planet and around one-fifth of its population. A major factor in its early growth was the global trading empire created by the East India Company (which took over global economic dominance from the earlier Dutch East India Company). And although it took a long time, during which Britain fought to hold onto its empire, (Hong Kong was not returned to the Chinese until 1997), the sun did finally set on this remarkable empire.
By the end of WWII Britain was financially bankrupt, forced to borrow $2 billion from the US and $1.19 billion from Canada (at a 2% annual rate of interest). In terms of world power and influence, the baton had clearly passed to the USA, but although Britain did lose its colonial empire, it never became the ‘second-class nation‘ (at least in economic terms) feared by the supporters of the Imperial Federation. As one of the ‘victors‘ in WWII, it had a seat on the Security Council and after briefly flirting with socialism it quickly re-aligned itself with American foreign policy, a stance it has retained to this day. After losing much of its manufacturing industry, Britain was able to rely on its older banking and finance interests and, as with the US and other countries, its armaments industry (in 2013, Britain moved back into fourth place in the global league table of arms exporters, with £2.3 billion of sales) profited from the Cold War and, more recently, from the rise of a new form of US-led colonialism and imperialism which has used armed intervention, overt and covert subversion, regime change and globalisation to secure the resources this new hidden empire requires (and to which it appears to believe it has a god-given right). Empires and arms industries need enemies, real or invented, so the gap left by the ending of the Cold War had to be rapidly filled by the supposed threat from a resurgent fundamentalist Islam, helped by a string of state-sponsored false flag “terrorist” incidents that were used to justify the ‘never-ending war against terrorism’.
Though the lesson of history is clearly that empires come and go, there are still those who dream of endless empire. As a recent ad for a new Jaguar model states: “Once you have power it’s hard to let go”.
Hitler dreamed of a thousand-year Reich. More modestly, perhaps, but just as insanely, the signatories to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) argued for “full-spectrum dominance” (effective control over land, sea, air and space) for at least the next hundred years. One might imagine that such plans would be kept secret, but it would appear that there is such hubris among the upper echelons of certain Western administrations (and the puppet-masters behind them) that they are quite open about their intentions. In the first of the ‘imperialism’ lectures, Rudolf Steiner had warned that “under the surface, especially in the western countries, the secret societies are most active, trying to insert the second phase of imperialism into the third. For in the Anglo-American people you have two imperialisms pushed together, the economic imperialism of a Chamberlain and the symbolic imperialism of the secret societies, which play a very effective role, but which are kept secret from the people”. So effective have they been, it would seem (in deluding the general population about their aims), that they no longer feel the need for complete secrecy.
In 2002, then President George Bush declared: “America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves – safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for a better life.” British historian Niall Ferguson, however, was in no doubt about the matter: “The United States is an empire in every sense but one – and that one sense is that it doesn’t recognise itself as such. It is an empire in denial”. An American commentator refers to his country as the “DGE” – the “disguised global empire”. In fact, Bush friend and co-conspirator Karl Rove let the cat out of the bag – with no sign of embarrassment – in a conversation with journalist Ron Suskind in 2004. According to Rove, guys like Suskind were “in what we [i.e. the US administration and its agencies] call the reality-based community”, which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
In 1999, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and now President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said something similar: “We decide something, put it out there, and then wait for a while to see what happens. If there’s no uproar about it and no rebellion – because most people don’t understand what was decided – then we continue, step by step, until there’s no way back”. That’s the clear plan of attack of these trade deals – and much else that certain powers have a habit of “putting out there”. (In December 2014, Juncker was accused, during his time as Prime Minister, of making illegal tax deals with many large companies like Amazon which allowed them to avoid paying tax in the countries in which they were operating, instead paying only minimal taxes to Luxembourg).
If we look more closely, we can see precisely why Ukraine has been the focus of so much attention this last year. Cutting through the mainstream political and media lies, the CEO of the American strategic analysis company Stratfor referred to the ouster of the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovich as “the most blatant coup in history” (apart from all the other US-instigated regime changes, of course) which led to internal conflicts that have left an estimated 50-60,000 people dead, parts of eastern Ukraine devastated, and up to 1 million Ukrainians now living as refugees in Russia. There’s an obvious connection of these events with both of the aims of the trade deals – economic and geo-strategic. The ‘Maidan’ demonstrations (funded to the tune of $5 billion by the US), the forced removal of Yanukovich after his volte face on the “Association Agreement” with the EU, his replacement by a US puppet, chocolate and arms oligarch Petro Poroshenko (whom Obama said was “a wise choice”) as President and Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister, together with a government that included blatant neo-Nazis, the imposition of repressive measures on the predominantly Russian-speaking population of East Ukraine and their courageous resistance are intimately connected with the “Grand Chessboard” designs of what it is entirely fair to call “the evil empire”.
Key elements of the terms of the EU-Ukraine “Association Agreement” were to: “Further develop and strengthen political dialogue in all areas of mutual interest between the Parties. This will promote gradual convergence on foreign and security matters with the aim of Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area.” (emphasis added); and “Strengthen cooperation and dialogue between the Parties on international security and crisis management, particularly in order to address global and regional challenges and key threats”.
It’s fairly obvious what was meant by “regional challenges and key threats”! The key strategic and resource role of Ukraine within the Eurasian land mass has been recognised for at least a century. More and more commentators are nowadays referencing the geo-political theory that seems to have provided the script for the actions of the Anglo-American imperialists for the last 110 years. As Guido Preparata explained in his remarkable 2005 book “Conjuring Hitler”: “A revelatory and much influential testimony was drafted during these times of anti-German conspiracies by Sir Halford Mackinder (1861–1947), a professor at the London School of Economics and one of Britain’s founding fathers of geopolitics, in a piece entitled ‘The Geographical Pivot of History,’ which was published in the Geographical Journal of the Royal Society in 1904.”
Mackinder wrote: “…In the world at large [Russia] occupies the central strategical position held by Germany in Europe. …The oversetting of the balance of power in favor of the pivot state [Russia, which in 1904 included Ukraine], resulting in its expansion over the marginal lands of Euro-Asia, would permit of the use of vast continental resources for fleet-building, and the empire of the world would then be in sight. This might happen if Germany were to ally herself with Russia.”
Thus a Russo-German alliance had to be prevented at all costs – possibly the major aim of both world wars. Recently, Stratfor boss George Friedman stated that the main goal of the West for the past 100 years had been to prevent an alliance between Germany and Russia – and that this remained the goal of the US.
“After World War I … Mackinder, in a successive version of the original 1904 article, updated his theory in keeping with British imperial designs by shifting the pivot along a southwestern trajectory, from the steppes of Siberia down to a nondescript midpoint along the great fault line that divides the West from the East, and which later came to coincide with the Churchillian ‘iron curtain’ separating Eastern from Western Europe. […] Conceptually, the ‘fault line’ is the great divide that roughly sets Muslim Arabs in the south and Orthodox Slavs in the North apart from the Modern Europeans in the West. The fault line ideally bisects the heartland, which is located within Eurasia. The heartland is the islands’ island; Mackinder’s motto thus intimated that ‘whoever rules the heart-land, rules the world island; whoever rules the world island, rules the world.’ In the northwest this came to mean that if Germany would find ways of bridging the fault line by cementing the technological strength of the European West with the geographical immensity of the East via Russia, she would become the unconquerable head of the dreaded fortress looking over the Eurasian heartland” […] “…Mackinder suggested…a systematic and unrelenting policy of harassment against Eurasia, which was to be carried out by grafting land bridges onto the vital nodes of the heartland [i.e. Central Asia]….These “platforms” were to be viewed as launching pads – land-bridges, for more or less durable incursions against the natives [of Eurasia] – Such is still the policy of the US, with the full and committed patronage of Britain”.
Zbigniew Brzezinski seems to be echoing Mackinder in his “Grand Chessboard”: “Europe is America’s essential geopolitical bridgehead on the Eurasian continent (p.59)…America’s central geostrategic goal in Europe …is to consolidate through a more genuine transatlantic partnership the US bridgehead on the continent so that an enlarging Europe can become a more viable springboard for projecting into Eurasia the international democratic and cooperative order.” Mackinder’s ‘land bridges’ have become Brzezinski’s ‘bridgeheads’.
Brzezinski writes here of “consolidation”. The book was published in 1997. NATO had already been in existence for almost 50 years. There were US bases in at least 9 European countries. The structure of the EU was firmly established; it had 15 members and 11 were about to adopt the euro as their common currency. EURCOM, in its earlier designation as USEUCOM, had been in existence since 1952. What other form of “consolidation” could Bzrezinski have been thinking of? Tying the whole of the EU into US-led global capitalism? Although the concept of ‘globalized markets’ seems to date from 1983, globalization as we now know it really took off after the collapse of communism opened up vast new markets, especially in Eastern Europe.
The change in the nature of imperialism means that the controlling power no longer needs to be physically present in significant numbers in those external territories out of which this new kind of empire is formed. America “projects force” globally through its more than 1000 military bases around the world. Through its strategic allies – increasingly brought into the ever-widening net of NATO (now changed beyond recognition) – it exercises both military and commercial control of vast areas of the globe. The US Department of Defense lists nine “Combatant Commands”: AFRICOM is responsible for military relations with 54 African countries; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM): responsible for military relations with 20 countries, from Egypt and the Levant to the Arabian Peninsula and Central and South Asia; European Command (EURCOM), responsible for military relations with all 51 European countries, including Russia, Turkey and the Caucasus nations; U.S. Northern Command: provides command and control of homeland defense efforts; U.S. Pacific Command: area of responsibility encompasses about half the earth’s surface, from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India and from Antarctica to the North Pole; U.S. Southern Command: responsible for all military activities in South America and Central America; U.S. Special Operations Command: the unified command for the worldwide use of Special Operations elements of the Army, Navy and Air Force; U.S. Strategic Command: responsible for strategic deterrence and preeminent global warfighters in space and cyberspace; U.S. Transportation Command: provides air, land and sea transportation for DoD.
All this just for the benevolent protection of the liberty and welfare of the rest of the world? America’s track record of aggressive and subversive acts (essentially in defence of capitalism; much of the 20th century was spent in an obsessive attempt to stifle socialism) belies this. In Rogue State, author William Blum profiles US interventions since the end of the Vietnam war. American governments launched military or subversive actions in the Dominican Republic, Zaire, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Grenada, Honduras, Chad, Bolivia, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Liberia, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia, Yugoslavia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, East Timor, Serbia, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Pakistan, South Ossetia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Uruguay, Ghana, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Portugal, Angola, Jamaica, Seychelles, Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, Albania, Costa Rica, Georgia and other countries. In a new book, authors Andre Vltchek and Noam Chomsky estimate the number of victims of these ‘interventions’ since the end of WWII at 55-60 million dead.
Professor Claes Ryn, professor of politics at the Catholic University of America and chair of the National Humanities Institute, wrote in 2004: “Only great conceit could inspire a dream of armed world hegemony. The ideology of benevolent American empire and global democracy dresses up a voracious appetite for power”.
But is ‘conceit’, or ‘hubris’, or ‘a voracious appetite for power’ – power for power’s sake as Orwell suggested – a sufficient explanation? There seems to be something inhuman about the callous disregard, even contempt, for human life and the natural world. What is really driving these people? It’s become common now to look for deeper levels of conspiracy behind events. We speculate on the ‘puppet-masters’ who are pulling the strings attached to those who appear to be wielding the reins of power – the presidents and prime ministers and grossly overpaid CEOs and others. Are there others behind the Bilderbergers and bankers? Steiner spoke often of “secret brotherhoods”. Certainly, people such as the members of the very secretive Milner Group, or the CFR, can be seen as puppet-masters. But aren’t these again just humans serving comprehensible vested interests? Is that a sufficient explanation for the undoubted evil deeds they carry out and inspire others to do?
Orwell’s 1984 is widely seen as being uncannily prophetic of the kind of total surveillance society that continues to be implemented against our wishes. Despite all the Snowden and WikiLeaks revelations, the general public largely continues to allow itself to be hoodwinked into believing in a genuine threat to their security – thanks in large part to the continued cover-up by the mainstream media of the official lies about the alleged Islamic terrorist incidents in New York, London, Bali and most recently Paris and Copenhagen. In 1984, Winston’s ‘awakening’ begins with his girl friend’s suggestion that the bombs falling on London were actually being dropped by their own government i.e. in a classic false flag. His final capitulation to ‘the system’ comes in his enforced acceptance of something completely counterfactual – that 2+2=5 – and in his final confession: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother”. Orwell has BB say: “It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world …”, and “when you finally surrender to us, it must be of your own free will”. Aldous Huxley, author of that other great dystopian novel “Brave New World”, with its vision of a “Matrix”-like world in which the voluntary surrender is to a life of comfort and pleasure, later wrote that people would come to love their servitude.
I’m a big fan of St. Paul. I believe there is good reason to believe that his three days of physical blindness after his “road to Damascus” experience was accompanied by the opening of a spiritual faculty of sight which allowed him to see the world and its forces as they really are. I find his statement that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” utterly convincing – and extraordinarily relevant to our time. My assumption is that St. Paul was given an insight into the workings in the world of “the rulers of the darkness of this world”. There is a strong sense of the demonic about many of those who have wrought death and destruction on a massive scale, frequently under the guise of benevolence. (In the early 1920s, Rudolf Steiner referred to “certain people [who] are over and over again proclaiming to the world that democracy must spread to the whole civilized world. Salvation lies in making the whole of humanity democratic; everything will have to be smashed to pieces so that democracy may spread in the world.”)
One of the most important elements of Rudolf Steiner’s legacy is the understanding of the reality of evil – of an active force of evil in the world. And since, as he stated, “in the final analysis there is nothing in the world except beings in various states of consciousness”, evil is ‘incorporated’ (even if there are normally no visible bodies) in real evil beings, whose purpose is to thwart genuine human evolution i.e. spiritual evolution. Traditional Christianity, and also other religious streams, was familiar with the being named Lucifer – the archetypal “fallen angel”, cast out of heaven with his followers for their rebellion. But Steiner emphasized the importance of the understanding that the attack on the human being comes from two different, but complementary, directions – as it were, from above and from below: one force seeking to draw humans away from the earth into a realm of pure spirit (thus effectively aborting their crucial mission here on earth); the other seeking to bind humans so strongly to the earth and to ‘matter’ that they entirely forget their spiritual destiny. As Big Brother says: “We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves”.
Rudolf Steiner also pointed to another important way in which the work of these two beings affects human consciousness and behaviour – and thus history. Lucifer invites us to forget the present task and lose ourselves in dreams of a perfect future, while Ahriman seeks to bind humans to the past, to prevent them from moving on in consciousness and thus in their social, political and economic forms. Under Lucifer’s influence we dream of the “new Jerusalem”, the city on a hill; we allow ourselves to be fooled by the promises of politicians for more and more prosperous, happier lives (the Obama “hope” campaign, the illusion that all the problems will be solved by a new government etc.). Even more radically, there are those who look forward to “the Rapture”, or to transhumanism’s ‘post-human’ world in which artificial intelligence will have made humans redundant.
Steiner stated that these two manifestations of evil, and their respective hosts of ‘fallen angels’, work hand-in-glove. In our time, the two aspects of materialism – the unscientific view that there is nothing in the universe except matter and energy (or even just energy, understood as something purely ‘physical’) and materialism in the sense of consumerism and the pleasure principle – complement and reinforce each other within an atmosphere of spiritual emptiness. If we believe the tenets of a materialistic science – including ‘Big Bang’, the supposed emergence of life from inorganic matter and a meaningless, directionless and purposeless evolutionary process – we are left in a moral vacuum: there is no solid basis for morality. Anything goes … “might is right”, competition is a natural law, and power is its own justification. If that’s what we believe, perhaps we are simply getting what we deserve.
The question is: do we surrender and accept that War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength? Or do we find the courage to resist and fight back? It might well require some self-imposed austerity. It will certainly require a rediscovery of meaning and a turning away from materialism.