Economic Genocide

by J.M. Pasquini Duran

Pagina 12, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 29, 2001

(World Press Review, December 2001)


In a frightening and dramatic fashion, the period of the pax Americana is coming to an end. This period began in the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union. Many share the foreboding that the world will be different, but no one dares predict in what way. The established international order was challenged in the worst possible way, by suicidal terrorism, and the possible responses form an intricate maze, where the future is counted in hours.

As the calendar moves further and further away from the ill-fated date of Tuesday, Sept. 11, the initial reflexes of revenge and extermination roused by all the implications of those cruel attacks, including the wounded pride of the greatest empire of our time, are confronting simple truth: A military response will not guarantee final victory over the new barbarians without causing unforeseeable counterattacks. Such a spiral of violence promises massacres unlike any seen before, all the more since the objectives of any reprisals are as diffuse as the fanatic organizations of death themselves, grouped in tiny cells without a single homeland.

Aside from what President George W. Bush may affirm or deny, the propaganda in the West has insisted on presenting the attackers as a demented deviation that is religious in origin, which implies that Islam is the only credo capable of generating such monsters. This simplifies recruitment efforts for the West's enemies.

The acts of vigilante violence in the United States during the past two weeks have already included 250 direct attacks against members of the Arab community. "This first war of the 21st century" has just begun to open the gates of hell. The majority of the American people are asking themselves why there are so many people in the world who harbor resentment and even hatred against them. Many Americans do not know, or if they do know, they do not want to believe that an economic genocide is claiming a huge number of victims.

In the past decade in Latin America, the number of poor people has increased by 11 million, reaching 211 million, according to statistics compiled by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Added to the 89 million indigents, the total number of poor is estimated at 300 million. In the Arab nations there are even more poor people, and the worldwide total of poor is in the billions. The scale of involvement by the United States in the life of the planet has made it, whether by deed or omission, the main agent responsible for all this incalculable want. This does not justify the massacre of Sept. 11, but it ought to cause us to consider how to create a better world.

Might this be an opportunity to rekindle the expectations at the end of World War II, when the world was still capable of enthusiastic optimism about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Or is the only response collective immolation? This topic is much too big to entrust to a single government or a single nation. Not even Argentina, weighed down as it is with 40 consecutive months of recession, can exempt itself from responsibility for the future.

Those who would exercise leadership in this country must at least make the effort to consider some facts that are plainly visible. For example, what would have happened to Americans if they had dismantled their own state at the advice of the International Monetary Fund, which Argentina followed to the letter? Along with the world trade towers, the market itself came crashing down; suddenly full employment was replaced by massive layoffs. Without a vigorous state to assume control, the ensuing economic and social chaos would have unhinged the empire, with all the consequences this might entail.

Luckily for the Americans, the zero deficit is not an absolute value in the United States, as it is for dogmatists here at the far southern end of the continent who are deaf and blind to any other consideration. How much greater would the desperation have been for those directly affected by the attacks if the best response the White House could offer had been that "justice is already running its course," instead of pouring all its resources into sharing in their affliction and into punishing the attackers? This week, after seven years and two months of waiting, the oral arguments in the trial of those responsible for the destruction of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Aid Association Community Center that claimed 85 lives have finally begun. A simple review shows the carelessness and even the irresponsibility with which Argentine state authorities have handled this case.

The inability to appraise history critically renders the authorities powerless to take charge of any similar situation. President Fernando de la Rua has assured us that the state is not taking any risks, a bold assertion in a world where not even the most powerful are safe. The security measures that are being implemented are pathetic imitations of the intricacies of police control in the United States, without America's multiple resources. Moreover, the state of Argentina is not good at copying: The current concept of security depends on the ability to mobilize all of civil society, from entertainers to firefighters, behind a common cause. Instead, security is reduced to discussions about the budget and additional power for the Armed Forces. One thing is clear: How would they be able mobilize society if they previously defrauded and humiliated it? In the past five years, 85 percent of the population saw its income drop by 20-40 percent.

It suffices, therefore, to issue a certificate of dysfunction to the single economic program that has been tormenting so many Argentines for so many years, a program that makes every administration the same as the previous one, as they parade past one after another, mocking the principle of democratic alternation. The citizenry has rightfully remained indifferent to the election campaign. How many will be willing to die for the "financial fatherland"? It is time to admit that the nation's real problem, just as in the rest of Latin America, is not the poor but the rich, because poverty is not a natural phenomenon. Rather, poverty is something that is manufactured by a minority, just as wars are. From injustice and ignorance emerge insecurity and disdain for life, both among individuals and among nations. Those who are excluded in our country now number about 40 percent of the population, while worldwide more than half are excluded, for a total of 3.5 billion people, 70 times the number who died in World War II. How many will have to die to preserve the old order?

Globalization watch

Economics watch

Index of Website

Home Page