Empire against Democracy


After the Second World War, from which the Allied forces emerged victorious, the government of the United States sought to make the most of its military victory.  It structured the Assembly of the United Nations to be led by a Security Council composed of the seven most powerful countries, with veto power over decisions of the rest.  It imposed the dollar as international currency, subjecting Europe to the Marshall Plan of economic subordination, and installed 300 military bases in Europe and Asia, whose governments and media never raise their voice against this low-intensity intervention.

The entire world didn’t bow to the White House only because there was the Soviet Union to balance the relation of forces.  Against it, the United States waged an unlimited war, till its defeat, politically, militarily, and ideologically.

Beginning in the 1990s, the world fell under the total hegemony of the US government and capital, which went on to impose their decisions on all the nations and governments, treating them as colonial vassals.

When all seemed quiet in the global empire, dominated by Uncle Sam, there arose resistances.  In Latin America, joining Cuba, other nations elected anti-imperialist governments.  In the Middle East, the United States had to resort to military invasions in order to maintain its control over oil, sacrificing the lives of thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, and Pakistanis.

It is in this context that there emerged in Iran a government that refuses to submit itself to the interests of the United States.  It has built nuclear plants within the framework of its policy of national development, and that is what the empire finds intolerable.

The White House does not accept democracy among nations.  What matters that all countries have equal rights?  It doesn’t accept national sovereignty of other nations.  It doesn’t allow each nation and its government to control their respective natural resources.

The United States transferred nuclear technology to Pakistan and Israel, which today have nuclear bombs.  But it doesn’t tolerate Iran’s access to nuclear technology, even for peaceful purposes.  Why?  What justifies such imperial exercises of power?  Some international convention?  No, just its military supremacy.

In Israel, more than twenty years ago, Mordechai Vanunu, who worked at a nuclear plant, concerned about the insecurity for the whole Middle East that it represents, made it public that the Israeli government already had nuclear bombs.  Result: he was kidnapped and condemned to a life sentence, though commuted to 20 years after major international pressures.  To this day, he lives under house arrest, prohibited from contacting any foreigner.*

All of us are against arms buildup and foreign military bases in our countries.  We are all opposed to the use of nuclear energy, due to its high risks, and the waste of so much economic resources on military expenditures.

The government of Iran dares to defend its sovereignty.  The US government hasn’t militarily invaded Iran only because the country has a population of 60 million, it is a major oil power, and it has a nationalist government.  Its conditions are very much different from the quagmire called Iraq.

Fortunately, Brazil and other governments have diplomatically engaged themselves in this conflict.  We hope that the rights of Iran will be respected, like those of any other country, without military threats.

We can only keep our fingers crossed that campaigns for military and nuclear disarmament will grow all over the world.  May the resources formerly destined to military expenditures be used to solve problems such as hunger, which afflicts more than a billion people.

Social movements, environmentalists, churches, and various international institutions recently met in Cochabamba, at the world ecological conference convened by President Evo Morales.  There it was decided to prepare to hold a world referendum in April 2011.  People will be called upon to reflect and vote on whether they agree to the existence of foreign military bases in their countries; whether they approve of excessive military spending; and whether the countries of the South should continue to pay the costs of damages to the environment caused by the polluting industries of the North.

This struggle will be a long one, but this week we can celebrate a little anti-imperialist victory.

*  Translator’s Note: Since the publication of the original article in Brazil, Mordechai Vanunu has been sent back to prison, for unauthorized meetings with foreigners.  He is now serving a three-month sentence.

Frei Betto is a writer and João Pedro Stedile is a leading member of Via Campesina.  The original essay “O império manda, as colônias obedecem” was published by Jornal do Brasil on 18 May 2010.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).

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