Whatchu think happens to the money from yo’ taxes?
Shit, the government’s a addict
With a billion dollar a week kill brown people habit
– Brother Ali, Uncle Sam Goddamn
As the colonial era came to an end, rich countries didn’t all of a sudden decide to play nice. They’ve just adjusted the ways in which they assert influence over the South for their own benefit. It’s important to keep in mind that this is the context within which development assistance is given.
Noam Chomsky explains that “states are not moral agents; they are vehicles of power, which operate in the interests of the particular internal power structures of their societies.” Nationalist slogans and empty rhetoric about alleviating poverty and delivering democracy seek to distract us from this reality.
Below I summarize a few examples of imperial treachery in recent times. I mainly look at the actions of the US and Canada, but our friends across the Atlantic behave in much the same way. Although I use words like “we” and “our” in reference to imperialist actions and interests, I don’t mean to imply that the we, the people who live in the West, are the ones shaping policy, and whose interests are being forwarded; the empire and the people and not the same. Having said that, the people are incriminated to the extent that we allow our governments to carry out murderous campaigns in our name and by using our tax money.
Our raw materials
In a March 1950 meeting with US ambassadors of South American countries, diplomat George Kennan declared the “protection of our raw materials” to be a major concern of US policy in the region. A believer in dealing “in straight power concepts”, a declassified document from 1948 has him arguing that the US can’t “afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction” and that it should “cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization.”
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you
After Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957, the leftist Kwame Nkrumah came to lead the country. Today he’s considered a controversial figure. He earnestly worked to improve the lot of the Ghanaian and African people, but also remembered is his increasingly authoritarian inclinations as fears of insurrectionist plots began to worry him. The populism he espoused didn’t make him too many friends amongst the wealthy nations. And the Western-manufactured murder of his Congolese comrade Patrice Lumumba in 1961 was one clear hint, of many, that he should watch his back.
After years of enduring efforts to destabilize his government, in 1966 Nkrumah was ousted from power in a CIA-backed coup. Canada also had a role to play. Beginning in 1961 Canada helped to train Ghana’s military, which would eventually overthrow Nkrumah. To be fair, Yves Engler notes that “Direct ties between Canadian military trainers and those responsible for Nkrumah’s ouster have yet to be documented”. What is undeniable, however, is Canada’s enthusiastic support of the new regime:
Just after Nkrumah was overthrown Canada sent $1.82 million worth of flour to Ghana and offered the military regime a hundred CUSO [Canadian University Service Overseas] volunteers. Despite severing financial assistance to Nkrumah’s government, immediately after the coup the IMF restructured Ghana’s debt (Canada’s contribution was an outright gift). From 1966 to 1969 The National Liberation Council, the military regime, received as much aid as during Nkrumah’s entire time in office. Ottawa gave $22 million in grants and loans, the fourth major donor after the U.S., U.K. and U.N.
The good war
These days media coverage of the War in Afghanistan tends to include sombre premonitions of its likely outcome. Apparently NATO is not winning the war. We have to fight it better.
There isn’t any questioning of the legitimacy of the War in Afghanistan, like there is of Iraq. Iraq was a mistake (and even unlawful) to begin with, but we’re made to believe that Afghanistan is a good war. In actual fact, the War in Afghanistan is just as illegitimate as the War in Iraq. The attacks of September 11, 2011 were terrorist acts. Police action is the right course to take in bringing those who perpetrate terrorism to justice, war against a nation is not a legal response.
It goes without saying that the reasons given for starting the war are lies. We’re not there to stop terrorism, spread democracy, free women, and all the rest. It’s all just about empire.
Afghanistan is the largest recipient of Canadian development assistance. One of the things that our aid money has gone to is the electoral process; the very same electoral process that has been widely reported to be a complete sham, a mockery, a farce. Our tax money helped the current government be “elected”; the very same government who’s closely associated with the biggest drug-barons in the country. Our tax money is helping to spread heroin all over the world.
Afghanistan is by far the largest producer of opium in the world. It’s been this way for a while except, as the following graph from Wikipedia shows, there was a break in 2001:
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan (hectares)
The drastic fall in opium production in 2001 occurred because the Taliban teamed up with the UN to try to eradicate cultivation of the drug. Since the invasion of the country by NATO production is now higher than it ever was. Obviously the Taliban aren’t anyone’s dream come true, but it looks like there drug-fighting record is leaps and bounds ahead of NATO’s.
Setting a bad example
Haiti is the second largest recipient of Canadian aid. Interestingly enough, while we were out spreading democracy in Afghanistan, for some reason we were doing the opposite in Haiti. Word has gotten out about a conference that the Canadian government hosted in early 2003 called the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti. Canadian, US, French, and Latin American officials met to discuss Haiti’s future; no Haitian officials were present. A year later the democratically elected populist President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown and forced into exile with the support of the US, Canada and France.
Since his ouster, Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been outlawed from taking part in Haitian elections. Fanmi Lavalas is easily the most popular political party in the country, so having elections without it is not really having elections.
Apparently building schools and raising the minimum wage are not good things to be doing. Aristide and his party are obviously a danger to the Haitian people. Not to mention the fact that they were setting a bad example for neighbouring countries to follow.
It seems that Haiti has been a bad example all throughout its independent history. The Haitian Revolution — the only successful slave revolt in modern history — kicked the French out of Haiti in 1804. Since then imperial powers have intervened in the country’s affairs on a regular basis.
Racism has added to Haiti’s suffering. The island of Hispaniola is host to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both countries were invaded by the US during Woodrow Wilson’s time in office. Both suffered greatly as a result, but Haiti’s experience was quite a bit worse. Chomsky grimly explains that the difference in treatment was due to the attitude that “the Dominicans have some European blood so they’re not quite so bad. But the Haitians are pure nigger.”
Racism, at least in the structural sense, continues with regards to Haiti even to this day. Much of Canada’s aid to the country has been earmarked to train the police force and build prisons. Such “aid” is resulting in further marginalization of the poor black majority to the benefit of the mulatto elite.
Now let’s rescue democracy from the Egyptians
On Wednesday the CBC reported that “Canada is giving almost $11 million to Egypt to help foster democracy in the North African country.” Given our record, it should be clear exactly what kind of democracy Canada seeks to foster in Egypt.
US policy towards Egypt at present, Chomsky writes, is concerned mainly with “reasserting control.” We support the dictators and “The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.” Canada is positioning itself in its traditional role as junior partner in crime.
This post’s title is from a song called Afrikan Stop Africom by Kan Kick.
1. Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power (The New York Press, 2002), p. 163
2. Walter LaFeber, Inevitable revolutions: the United States in Central America (W. W. Norton & Company, 1993), p. 109
3. Catch-22 (film)
4. Yves Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Fernwood Publishing, 2009), p. 192