“I’m Tired of the US Giving Lessons in Democracy”
Raoul Hedebouw, Member of the Belgian Parliament
BRUSSELS (June 16, 2021) — Raoul Hedebouw, the deputy and spokesperson for the Belgian Workers Party (PTB) commented on the recent statements from US President Joe Biden who has called on NATO to close ranks againsst China and Russia.
For the PTB deputy, this kind of speech “really feeds the danger of cold or hot war. It is very theoretical. American imperialism worries me and I hope that the European Union and Belgium will not follow in this rhetoric because this one will not do good for workers….
“You just have to hear what Joe Biden says, he talks about a systemic rival…. [when] he United States has 800 military bases in the world… Who is a danger for war today? When we see the interventions they made in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria… The American establishment has on its conscience the death of 1.5 million Iraqis and we continue to follow American imperialism …. We must stop believing that only one nation has the right to dictate what should or should not be done in the world.”
Hedebouw, a member of the Workers Party of Belgium, joined the far-left PVDA-PTB and became its spokesperson in 2008. He is currently a member of the Belgian Parlliament where he often addresses the Chamber in both Flemish and French. The online video of Hedeboux’s uncompromising July 8 speech in Parliament was posted as “unlisted” — meaning whoever uploaded it set it up that way so only those who know the link can view it.
Here is the video, followed by an English translation of the speech — transcribed and published for the first time by EAW.
“US Imperialism Is the Greatest Danger to World Peace”
Raoul Hedebouw / Belgian Parliament
BRUSSELS (July 8, 2021) — So what we have before us today, colleagues, is a resolution asking for the reestablishment of trans Atlantic relations after the US elections. The question at hand is therefore: is it in Belgium’s interest to tie up with the United States of America today?
Colleagues, I will try to explain to you today why I think it is a bad idea to conclude this strategic partnership with the political and economic power that during the last century has behaved most aggressively toward the nations of this world.
I think that, for the interests of the working people in Belgium, in Flanders, Brussels, and the Walloons, and of the working people in Europe and in the Global South, this strategic alliance between the US and Europe is a bad thing.
I think that Europe has no interest whatsoever in colluding with the US as one of the most dangerous world powers. And I really want to make this clear to you, because today the economic tensions in the world are at a dangerous level.
Why is that so? Because for the first time since 1945, an ultra-dominant economic power such as the United States is about to be overtaken economically by other powers, notably by China.
How does an imperialist power react when it is overtaken? The experience of the last century tells us. It reacts with war, because the function of its military superiority is to settle economic conflicts with other nations.
The United States of America has a long tradition of intervening militarily in the internal affairs of other countries. I remind you, colleagues, that the Charter of the United Nations is very clear on this subject. After 1945, a pact was made between the nations, who agreed: “We will not interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations.” It was on this basis that the Second World War was ended.
The lesson learnt was that no country, not even the great powers, had the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. This was no longer to be allowed because that is what led to the Second World War. And yet, it is exactly this basic principle that the United States of America has discarded.
Colleagues, allow me to list the direct and indirect military interventions of the United States of America since 1945. The US and US imperialism intervened: in China in 1945-46, in Syria in 1940, in Korea in 1950-53, in China in 1950-53, in Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Tibet between 1955 and 1970, in Indonesia in 1958, in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1959, in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1960 and 1965, in the Dominican Republic in 1961, in Vietnam for more than ten years from 1961 to 1973, in Brazil in 1964, in the Republic of Congo in 1964, again in Guatemala in 1964, in Laos from 1964 to 1973, in the Dominican Republic in 1965-66.
I am not finished yet, dear colleagues. American imperialism also intervened in Peru in 1965, in Greece in 1967, in Guatemala again in 1967, in Cambodia in 1969, in Chile with the resignation [overthrow and death] of comrade [Salvador] Allende forced by the CIA in 1973, in Argentina in 1976. American troops were in Angola from 1976 until 1992.
The US intervened in Turkey in 1980, in Poland in 1980, in El Salvador in 1981, in Nicaragua in 1981, in Cambodia in 1981-95, in Lebanon, Grenada, and Libya in 1986, in Iran in 1987. The United States of America intervened in Libya in 1989, the Philippines in 1989, in Panama in 1990, in Iraq in 1991, in Somalia between 1992 and 1994. The United States of American intervened in Bosnia in 1995, again in Iraq from 1992 to 1996, in Sudan in 1998, in Afghanistan in 1998, in Yugoslavia in 1999, in Afghanistan in 2001.
The United States of America intervened again in Iraq between 2002 and 2003, in Somalia in 2006-2007, in Iran between 2005 and today, in Libya in 2011 and Venezuela in 2019.
Dear colleagues, what is there left to say? What can we say about such a dominant power in the world that has intervened in all these countries? What interest have we, Belgium, have we, the nations of Europe, to link up strategically with such a dominant power?
I am also talking about peace here: peace in the world. I have gone through all the US military interventions. In order to make those interventions, the United States of America has one of the largest military budgets in the world: $732 billion per year in investments in weapons and an army. $732 billion dollars.
The US military budget alone is bigger than that of the next ten countries together. The military budgets of China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Britain, Japan, South Korea and Brazil together represent less military expenditure than that of the United States of America alone. So I ask you: Who is a danger to world peace?
The United States of America: the imperialism of America, that with its gigantic military budget intervenes wherever it wants to. I remind you, dear colleagues, that the intervention of the United States of America in Iraq and the embargo that followed have cost the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis. How can we still have a strategic partnership with a power that is responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqi workers and children? That is the question.
For a fraction of those crimes, we call for sanctions against any other powers in the world. We’d shout: “This is outrageous.” And yet, here we keep quiet, because it’s the United States of America. Because we let it happen.
We are talking about multilateralism here, the need for multilateralism in the world. But where is the multilateralism of the United States of America? Where is the multilateralism?
The United States refuses to sign numerous treaties and conventions:
• The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Not signed.
• The Convention on the Rights of the Child: Not signed by the United States.
• The Convention on the Law of the Sea: Not signed.
• The Convention Against Forced Labor: Not signed by the United States.
• The Convention on Freedom of Association and its protection: Not signed.
• The Kyoto Protocol: Not signed.
• The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Against Nuclear Arms Testing: Not signed.
• The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Not signed.
• The Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and their families: Not signed.
• The Convention against discrimination in education and employment: Not signed.
The United States of America, our great ally, has simply not signed all these multilateral treaties. But they have intervened dozens of times in other countries without any mandate, not even from the United Nations. No problem.
Why then, colleagues, should we hold on to this strategic partnership?
Neither our own people nor the people of the Global South have any interest in this strategic partnership. So people say to me: “Yeah, but the US and Europe share norms and values.”
The present resolution actually starts by mentioning our shared norms and values. What are these norms and values we share with the United States of America? Where are those shared values? In Guantanamo? Torture made official in a detention facility like Guantanamo, is that a value we share? On the island of Cuba, moreover, in defiance of Cuban territorial sovereignty. Can you imagine? This Guantanamo prison is on the island of Cuba while Cuba has no say in it.
[Parliament President]: Mrs. Jadin wishes to speak, Mr. Hedebouw.
[Mr. Hedebouw]: With great pleasure, Madame President.
[Kattrin Jadin, MR]: I sense that my Communist colleague is literally enraging himself. I would have preferred you had participated in the debates in commission and you would have heard — I would also have preferred you listened to my intervention to understand that there is not just one side to the coin, but several. There is not just one side to cooperation. There are several.
Just as we do elsewhere with other countries. When we condemn violence, when we condemn the violation of fundamental rights, we also say so. That is the domain of diplomacy.
[Mr. Hedebouw]: I just wanted to ask, if you have so much criticism to share about the United States, why has this parliament never taken one sanction against the United States?
[Silence. No answer]
[Mr. Hedebouw]: For those watching this video, you could hear a pin drop in this room right now.
[Mr. Hedebouw]: And that is the issue: despite the bombing, despite the 1.5 million Iraqi deaths, despite the non-recognition of everything that’s happened in Palestine and Joe Biden’s abandonment of the Palestinians, Europe will never take half of a quarter of a sanction against the United States of America. However, for all the other nations of the world, that is not a problem: no problem. Boom, boom, boom, we impose sanctions!
That’s the problem: the double standards. And your resolution does talk about strategic partnership. I mentioned the shared values it claims. The United States of America incarcerates 2.2 million Americans in its prisons. 2.2 million Americans are in prison. Is that a shared value? 4.5% of humanity is American, but 22% of the world’s prison population is in the United States of America. Is that the shared norm that we share with the United States of America?
Nuclear power, nuclear weapons: the Biden administration announces the replacement of the entire American nuclear arsenal at a cost of $1.7 billion. Where is the danger for the world?
Inter-state relations. Let me talk about relations between states. Three weeks, no, five or six weeks ago, everyone here was talking about hacking. There was no proof, but they said it was China. The Chinese had hacked the Belgian Parliament. Everyone was talking about it, it was a great scandal!
But what are the United States of America doing? The United States of America, quite simply, they’re officially tapping our prim minister’s phones. Mrs. Merkel, all those conversations via Denmark, the American National Security Agency is eavesdropping on all of our prime ministers. How does Europe react? It doesn’t.
“Sorry, we’ll try not to talk too fast on the phone next time, so you can better understand our conversations.”
Edward Snowden tells us that the United States of America, via the Prism program, is filtering all of our European email communications. All our emails, the ones you here send to each other, they go through the United States, they come back, they’ve been “filtered.” And we don’t say anything. Why don’t we say anything? Because it’s the United States of America!
Why this double standard? Why do we just let these issues pass?
So, dear colleagues, I think — and I will finish with this point — that we are at an important historical junction, that presents a great danger to the world and I am going back to some Marxist thinkers, who are indeed close to my heart. Because I find that the analysis they made at the beginning of the 20th century seems to be relevant. And I find that what a guy like Lenin said about imperialism was interesting. He was talking about the fusion between banking capital and industrial capital and how this finance capital, which had emerged in the 20th century, has a hegemonic power and intent in the world.
I think this is an important element in the evolution of our history. We have never known such a concentration of capitalist and industrial power as we have today in the world. Of the 100 largest companies in the world, 51 are American.
They concentrate millions of workers, millions of dollars, billions of dollars. They are more powerful than states. These companies export their capital. They need an armed force to be able to subjugate markets that refuse to allow them access.
This is what has been happening for the last 50 years. Today, given the global economic crisis, given the tensions between the great powers, I think that the strategic interest of Europe and of Belgium lies in reaching out to all the powers of the world.
The United States of America will lead us into a war — a “cold war” first, and then a “hot war.”
At the last NATO summit — I am talking about facts instead of theory here — Joe Biden asked us, Belgium, to follow him in this Cold War against China by declaring China a systemic rival. Well, I do not agree. I beg to differ. I think it would be in our interest — and I have heard the debates of the major parties, Mrs. Jadin, you are right — we have every interest in reaching out to all the nations of the world.
What does NATO have to do with China? NATO is a North Atlantic alliance. Since when does China border on the Atlantic Ocean? Frankly, I always thought NATO was a transatlantic coalition, that NATO was all about the Atlantic, you know. And now, with Biden in office, I discover that China is on the Atlantic! It’s unbelievable.
And so France — and I hope that Belgium will not follow — is sending French military ships to join an American operation in the China Sea. What the hell is Europe doing in the China Sea? Can you imagine China parading its aircraft carriers off the North Sea Coast? What are we doing there? What is this New World Order they want to create now?
So the danger of war is great. Why is that?
Because there is an economic crisis. A superpower like the United States of America will not willingly give up its world hegemony.
I’m asking Europe today, I’m asking Belgium, not to play the game of the United States of America. In that respect, this strategic partnership, as is being proposed here today, is not a good thing for the peoples of the world. That is also one of the reasons why the peace movement is becoming more active again. It is one of the reasons why in the United States and in Europe a movement against that Cold War is beginning to emerge. When someone like Noam Chomsky states that we would do better to put our own house in order first before pointing to all the other places in the world where we want to go and intervene, I think he’s right.
When they call for a mobilization against the Cold War, they’re right, this American progressive left.
So, dear colleagues, it will not surprise you, to hear that the text submitted to us today does not — to put it mildly — incite our enthusiasm, with the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA). I hope that we can continue the debates in the coming months, because this question is the crucial question for the next five, ten years, whether the economic crisis, like in 1914-18, like in 1940-45, will lead to war — and it’s clear that the United States of America is preparing for that — or have a peaceful outcome.
In this issue, we, as the PTB-PVDA, as an anti-imperialist party, have chosen our side. We choose the side of the peoples of the world who are suffering today under the domination of American and European multinationals. We choose the side of the mobilization of the people of the world for peace. Because, in war, there is only one power that will profit, and that is the power of business, the arms producers and dealers. It’s the Lockheed-Martins, and other well-known arms dealers that will make money by selling ever more weaponry to the American imperialist power today.
So we will vote against this text, dear colleagues. We will vote against any initiatives to join, to completely link Europe to the United States of America and we hope that Europe can play a role of peace and not the role of defending its own geostrategic interests based on economic gain.
We don’t want to ride for the Philips. We don’t want to ride for the American multinationals, for the Volvos, the Renaults and so on. What we want is to ride for the people of the world, for the workers and these imperialist wars are not in the interest of the workers. The interest of the workers is peace and social progress.
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