The FTAA, School of Americas, and Militarism

November 24th, 2003 - by admin

by Steven Staples Director, Project on the Corporate-Security State –

MIAMI (November 18, 2003) — One of the most important lessons we’ll learn here from this week together in Miami is this: Globalization — and trade agreements like the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) — have very little to do with making rules for trade. In fact, trade agreements are not about trade at all. Trade agreements are about making rules for governments — preventing governments from enacting policies and programs that are in the greater public interest.

In the workshops and meetings you’ll be attending in the coming days, you’ll hear how corporations have used trade agreements to attack important laws and programs that protect the environment, provide social programs, and develop the economy. And how trade agreements build fences around governments limiting what they can do, and further transfer power from governments to corporations. Sadly, the role of the state is being reduced to taxing citizens to pay for the police, courts, prisons, and the military.

We need only look at Miami today to see what is becoming too commonplace — governments colluding with corporations to write the rules of the new economy, protected by a fortress of thousands of police at tremendous expense. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent to defend the FTAA — money that should be used to build schools and staff hospitals.

America Becoming an ‘Armed Camp’
My hotel is inside the security perimeter, and this morning I awoke to find myself in an armed camp. It took me an hour to cross the street because I did not have the proper accreditation and was stopped by one checkpoint after another. In an alley, I saw an armored personnel carrier ready to be sent in the streets against demonstrators.

Police have new rifles that fire “pepper balls” filled with pepper spray. As one of the officers described them to me, they explode on impact covering you in peppers pray. The painful, stinging powder sticks to your skin and clothes, and if you try to wipe it off it only spreads it and makes it worse. Only water will wash it off.

At the registration table for the Americas’ Business Forum where the companies are gathering to develop an agenda to hand to US negotiators, staff are handing out a map of the Berlin Wall that is the security perimeter of fences and roadblocks. Without any sense of irony the police have called one of the gates “Checkpoint Charlie,” the same name as the notorious gateway between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Globalization Redefines Role of Governments
Free trade rules say governments are not allowed to act in the interest of citizens; redistribute wealth, protect the environment, provide social services. But powerful clauses called security exceptions permit governments to build militaries, support arms industries, and wage wars. The result is that globalization denies food to the hungry, and hands them guns instead.

In the South, development is being militarized because security exceptions in trade agreements allow governments to build-up local economies only through military contracts, often with foreign weapons corporations. Nations are going further into debt to support growing defense budgets as governments try to squeeze social benefits from military spending, a practice that is allowed for military deals but is open to WTO challenges in the commercial sphere. But the benefits are few and short lived, and arms industries are growing where people still wait for electricity and clean water.

In South Africa, the government squandered billions of dollars on European warships, helicopters, and submarines in order to promote investment and jobs. But the arms industry is one of the most corrupt in the world, and one high-level ANC government official has already been found guilty of fraud. Now, the new South African defense industries want to become a major arms provider for the poor African countries in the region.

Chile too has fallen into this trap. The government has bought 10 fighter jets from the US for more than a half billion dollars — promising foreign investment. But the weapons deal is threatening to start an arms race in the region.

Militarism: the $1-trillion Global Business
For the advanced economies of the North, security exceptions in free trade deals have allowed governments to pump billions of dollars into high-tech corporations to build arms and fuel technological advancement. Global military spending is approaching a trillion dollars a year, and the United States spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined. The top 100 weapons corporations in the world had combined defense revenues of nearly $200 billion in 2002.

The top 10 corporations alone account for 60 percent of revenues. Most of those corporations are American, including the top three: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. Boeing is the largest maker of both commercial and military airplanes in the world. Half of its revenue comes from non-competitive military contracts for warplanes, missiles, and space systems. But Boeing is also the United States ‘ single largest exporter, and it demands the government ensure that Boeing enjoys open competition and free markets through the WTO for its commercial aircraft.

High-tech corporations that build weapons are vital to the United States’ continued dominance of the global economy — both in terms of maintaining an information economy at home, but also to protect corporate interest abroad through military power. In September 2002, the Bush administration revealed that the nation will derive national security through its unmatched military and economic power. The Bush Doctrine fused the pre-emptive use of military power with the expansion of the free markets through globalization.

Meet Admiral Cebrowski
Now let me introduce you to Admiral Arthur Cebrowski. Arthur Cebrowski is the Director of the Office of Force Transformation. He is a military planner working deep inside the Pentagon. He answers directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. Arthur Cebrowski sees the world as entering a new phase of globalization. The global economy is a vast network — like a computer network — and the United States is the System Administrator. It his job to keep the network running, and ensure that the US maintains its advantage.

Cebrowski’s world is divided between those who are connected to globalization’s network of free markets, and those who are not. There is a functioning core of globalization that accepts the market’s rules: North America, Europe, parts of Southern Africa, Putin’s Russia, and parts of the Far East. But within the functioning core, lies a Globalization Gap — countries that are not connected. It’s here that Arthur Cebrowski is planning for the Pentagon to be very active in the future.

He said this in a speech in May:
“If you are fighting globalization, if you reject the rules, if you reject connectivity, you are probably going to be of interest to the United States Department of Defense.”

These are scary words from the Pentagon. They want to frighten us — make us give up our hopes and dreams for a better world. But we are a powerful movement, and we are winning. When we filled the streets with people in February against this stupid war, we showed that power can come from peace. The New York Times had to admit that the US was not the only superpower left in the world; there is another, and its global public opinion. We are closer to winning now that we have been in a decade.

Globalization In Crisis
The pendulum is swinging back. Walden Bello said that globalization is over-extended. The whole system is in crisis. Weeks after Walden’s prediction we brought down the WTO talks in Cancun, Mexico in September. George Bush’s popularity is about to slip under 50 percent. And there are massive protests in London today as Bush meets with Tony Blair. And England is an ally!

New alliances are emerging between smaller southern countries that are resisting the world’s rich and powerful countries. There are splits emerging between the global corporate elites. Bush’s unilateralism is undermining the WTO, the International Monetary Fund, the World bank, and even the FTAA.

And new social movements are emerging that link the anti-globalization movement and the anti-war movement. For example, groups like United for Peace and Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, and Global Exchange oppose both the occupation of Iraq and the FTAA as part of the same agenda.

Putting Forth Alternatives
Because of these developments, new political space is opening up. This will be our opportunity to fill the vacuum left by the old system to put forward our plans — our alternatives.

We can build a new economy that is based on sharing – not theft.

We can build a new economy that understands we must live within our ecological limits – and instead of always searching to have more, we should do more with what we have.

We can build a new economy that knows that our security is tied to everyone else’s security – that we share a common security. Security comes from healthy food, clean water, and hope for our children. Security never comes from the barrel of a gun.

Miami is the end of the road for the FTAA. And it’s the beginning of a new road – a road that is based on peace and justice for everyone. Thank you.

Steven Staples is the director of Project on the Corporate-Security State, a project of the Polaris Institute, 312 Cooper Street, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0G7 CANADA ,. (613) 237-1717 x107, fax (613) 237-3359.