Friday December 19th, 2014, 10:48 am (EST)

The powerless powers

This is a serious subject.

The summit meeting of leaders of the eight most highly industrialized powers on the planet took place July 7-9 at a mountain retreat on the banks of the Toyako, a lake formed inside a volcanic crater located in the north of the island of Hokkaido, in the northern reaches of the Japanese archipelago. It would be hard to choose a site more removed and distant from the madding crowd than this.

At approximately 98 miles from there, 21,000 Japanese police agents, equipped with impressive shields and helmets, were guarding the urban center of Sapporo, ready to neutralize any protests. Yet, another 20,000 were patrolling the streets of Tokyo itself, the capital of Japan.

In alphabetical order, the G-8 members are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The leaders of these nations live beset by problems which include those inherited from the past and the growing tendency of the United States towards political, economic, technological and military hegemony. All of them are becoming weighed down by a bevy of pressing national and international problems, all requiring urgent solutions.

They invited the so-called G-5 to their meeting in Toyako: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, to listen to them over breakfast.

Also invited to exchange ideas for an hour were another three countries with emerging economies: Australia, South Korea and Indonesia.

The world’s population, according to estimates, reached 6,709 million inhabitants on July 11, 2008 and over 65% of this number lives in the above-mentioned developing nations.

During the three days, there were all kinds of multilateral and bilateral meetings. The developing countries who had been invited to the meeting held parallel meetings in Hokkaido where they spoke frankly and with no reservations.

In the Summit’s final declaration, the industrialized powers of the G-8 proclaimed that a great concession had been obtained: the United States, and with it all the rest of the group’s powers, had pledged to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions being called for by the year 2050; in 42 years! In other words: when hell freezes over. None of the other critical problems that had given rise to such an odd summit had been resolved.

“…they failed to reach an agreement with emerging countries about how to respond to climate change.”

“The 16 largest economies pledged to carry out massive cut-backs in greenhouse-gas emissions even though emerging countries reiterated their demands for funds and technology from the most powerful countries.”

“President Hu Jintao denied accusations that the food crisis was due to the economic growth of some of the developing countries.”

“Lula suggested that FAO attributed the global rise in food prices to speculative maneuvers with raw materials.”

“The World Fund for Nature described the behavior of the wealthy G-8 nations as pathetic; it accused them of dodging their responsibilities in the fight on climate change.”

“Agricultural subsidies were today the main point of friction during the G-8 and G-5 meeting.”

“European Central Bank officials stated that they continued to be concerned about inflation in spite of the rise in interest rates.”

“‘It is a complete failure, they have not advanced and they have avoided adopting clear objectives for reductions of medium-range greenhouse-gas emissions,’ indicated Greenpeace, an important international organization committed to the defense of the environment.“

“‘Russia is extremely annoyed over Washington and Prague signing an agreement on Tuesday for a space shield,’ said President Medvedev in Japan.”

“Russian military experts reacted with indignation to the signing of an agreement between the United States and Prague for the installation of an anti-missile shield and they demanded tough reprisal measures.”

On July 10, complaints about the consequences of the current chaos continued to reach Cuba, whether directly or indirectly tied in with the Summit in Japan.

“Coral is also suffering stress due to factors such as climate change and pollution; these have resulted in one-third of these reef constructors to be in danger of extinction. Coral reefs, whose construction requires millions of years, are the habitat for more than 25% of all marine species.”

That same day, unrelated to the other news, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released the following news item: “Temperature variations due to climate change will have a strong impact on fishing and aquaculture, with important consequences for the food security of some populations. It was explained that aquatic foods have a higher nutritional value and contribute to 20 percent or more of the average per capita consumption of animal protein for 2,800 million people, fundamentally in developing countries.”

On that day, severe criticisms also emanated from the African continent:

“The European immigration pact is beginning to arouse indignation in Africa; Senegal asserted that a response is due, in the face of what some describe as a ‘wall’ being built by Europe to keep off the desperate peoples of the South”, declared the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that nation at the close of a reunion of experts in Dakar.

And Le Pays newspaper from Burkina Fasso, published:

“In order to hold back the horde of desperate people who generally arrive from the South to besiege its borders, Europe has found nothing better than to raise a wall.”

“The building of new walls is an anachronism in this era of globalization…”

The rush of complaints goes on. While Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain was still in Japan, a study made by the BBC network informed of low morale in the British Armed Forces.

“According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom, almost one-half of this country’s military personnel are ready to leave the Armed Forces.”

“Forty seven percent of those surveyed in the Royal Army and Royal Navy and 44% of those in the Royal Air Force said that they felt like retiring from the Armed Forces.”

“Among some of the concerns expressed…are the frequent deployments abroad, the pay and the living conditions.”

“The regular army already suffers from a deficit of some five thousand soldiers while there is the concern that experienced young officers and non-commissioned officers are deserting in unprecedented numbers.”

“As for the morale in the different branches, 59 percent of those interviewed in the Army said that the level was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’: 64 percent of the Royal Navy, 38 percent of the Royal Marines and 72 percent of the Royal Air Force.”

Something which offends personal sensitivity, in any social system, is the lack of respect for privacy. In the past, for example, there were laws protecting correspondence. Later this protection was extended to telephone communications, a more rapid and instantaneous form of communication. The United States law banned telephone surveillance without legal warrants. Violation of this would result in lawsuits which, in that country, totaled substantial amounts of money.

Last July 9, while Bush was meeting with his G-8 colleagues and the United States government –despite its genocides– wanted to be considered a champion of human rights, the United States Senate passed, 68 in favor to 28 against, “a law that modernizes the U.S. Spy Bill and grants immunity to tele-communications companies collaborating with the government…”

The fight against terror is the ubiquitous excuse, and phone surveillance had been going on for years without any sort of permission.

“Now it is easier to protect U.S. citizens”, declared Bush, speaking from the White House Rose Garden.

“The initiative authorizes eavesdropping without a warrant within United States telephone networks, whether of U.S. citizens or foreigners.”

The previous 1978 law “did not include new communications technology such as cell phones, the Internet and e-mail.”

Since the vast majority of communications are picked up by the U.S., “the measure approved protects communications companies from multi-million-dollar lawsuits by persons alleging violation of the right to privacy.”

The law is being applied retroactively. “The American Civil Liberties Union described the law as ‘unconstitutional’ and as ‘an attack on civil liberties and the right to privacy’.”

News coming from Sweden reported:

“The center-right alliance of Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt has rejected the proposal by the Social Democratic Party to review the law allowing the Defense Radio Department (FRA) to access all telephone conversations and the flow of information by cable both from and to the country.”

“What is being called the FRA Law, also baptized the Orwell Law after the novel 1984 by that British author, has been strongly criticized by big business in an open letter published in the Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s main newspaper.”

“The government justified passage of the law, approved last June 19, to improve the fight on terrorist threats.”

Another Swedish paper, the Svenska Dagbladet, yesterday reported that

“one of the main reasons for the law is, of course, the control of information coming from Russia and to use it in the negotiations of exchanges with other countries, since already about 80 percent of Russian foreign communication flow by cable goes through Sweden.”

“The regulation will enter into effect on January 1, 2009. Thousands of people demonstrated a few days ago in Stockholm and Malmö against the FRA Law and there are already plans for similar mobilizations throughout the country in the next few weeks, according to several ‘blogs’ and Facebook social network groups.”

Complaints are pouring in everywhere. For example, a cable states:

“The Germans are more pessimistic about their economic outlook than at any other time since reunification in 1990, due to the rise in prices, according to a poll.”

Others report:

  • “Unemployment rate in Canada rose 6.2 percent in June.”
  • “Russian government rejects the proposal presented by Condoleezza Rice for international mediation to resolve the conflicts in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, resulting in growing tension between Moscow and Georgia.”
  • “Two NATO soldiers died and another was wounded on Thursday in a bombing attack in eastern Afghanistan, announced the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).”
  • “Russia states that Iranian testing of a new long-range missile confirms that Moscow is right to describe the emplacement of the U.S. anti-missile shield in Europe as unnecessary.”
  • “The Israeli Army offers assurances that accusations of alleged Israeli fighter jets training in Iraq for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities are unsubstantiated.”
  • “Britain expressed disappointment in the veto imposed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council to the Draft Resolution intended to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.”
  • “Sudan today summoned the ambassadors of the five Permanent Member countries of the UN Security Council to demand an explanation about a possible warrant for the arrest of President Al Bachir.”
  • “A new ‘special bomb’ is the main threat for American soldiers in Iraq, according to U.S. General Jeffery Hammons.”
  • “The bodies of two American soldiers who disappeared in Iraq more than a year ago have been found.”

These are all dated July 11. In these lines one could add dozens of similar news items printed on the same day. On Saturdays, reports decline; Sundays, there is hardly any news, journalists are resting. Today is Monday.

In our world of today, every day there are new and ever-more thorny problems arising which exhaust the abilities of heads of state and governments who are called upon to deal with them.

This is not a criticism: it is an observation. It cannot be expected of human beings to have supernatural abilities.

Optimism will always be the best option. There is no other alternative. That’s the reason why I once spoke about a species in danger of becoming extinct.

Fidel Castro Ruz

July 14, 2008

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