There is more than meets the eye about the world food crisis
By Eric Walberg
Food protests and riots have swept more than 20 countries in the past few months, including Egypt.
On 2 April, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a meeting in Washington that there are 33 countries where price hikes could cause widespread social unrest. The UN World Food Programme called the crisis the silent tsunami, with wheat prices almost doubling in the past year alone, and stocks falling to the lowest level since the perilous post-WWII days. One billion people live on less than $1 a day. Some 850 million are starving. Meanwhile, world food production increased a mere 1 per cent in 2006, and, with increasing amounts of output going to biofuels, per capita consumption is declining.
The most commonly stated reasons include rising fuel costs, global warming, deterioration of soils, and increased demand in China and India. So is it all just a case of hard luck and poor planning?
There is just too much of a pattern, and too many elements all pointing in the same direction. Anyone following the news will have heard of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which first met in 1921, and the group that represents the inner circle within the inner circle, the Bilderberg Group, which first met in 1954. The latter, once a highly secretive organisation bringing together select world political and business leaders, was exposed to the media spotlight in 1990s and since then has had to endure increasing criticism for its, to say the least, undemocratic role in shaping political leaders’ thinking and actions in accordance with the desires of the world business elite.
The US has never been shy about flaunting world opinion. A case in point is its sole “nay” to multiple UN General Assembly and conference resolutions which declare that “health care and proper nourishment are human rights.” The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1 in 1981 under president Ronald Reagan, and at UN-sponsored food summits by similar margins in 1996 under president Bill Clinton and in 2002 under President George W. Bush, dismissing any “right to food.”
Whether Republican or Democrat, Washington instead champions free trade as the key to ending the poverty which it argues is at the root of hunger, and expresses fears that recognition of a right to food could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions. And these are only resolutions by a powerless body which is in any case virtually subservient to the US. We can see at this very moment how this international humanitarian body is not above using starvation of innocent Gazans as a political tool in the interests of the status quo. Despite loud protestations to the contrary, there is little real international will opposing a future where millions die of starvation while a world elite consolidate their power.
Trying to come to grips with the world food crisis, it’s hard not to subscribe to some version of a conspiracy theory -- that somehow, for some reason, this rush towards widespread world famine is actually a plan by a world clique intent on drastically reducing the world population, accelerating the collapse of national governments, allowing gigantic world corporations effectively to take their place, controlling vast areas of land, leading towards a world governed by these corporations. Especially with the US so clear in its assumption that indeed widespread famine is in the cards, for which it does not want to be held responsible. Forget about global warming (which is of course very real and harmful to food production). Here are a few more red flags.
First, the WB and IMF, set up largely by the US following WWII, are notorious for refusing to advance loans to poor countries unless they agree to Structural Adjustment Programmes that require the loan recipients to devalue their currencies, cut taxes, privatise utilities and reduce or eliminate support programmes for farmers. The results are a weakened state, impoverished local farmers and increased economic domination by international corporations. Combined with this is constant pressure on poor countries to lower tariffs, preventing them from building up their industrial potential, often destituting their farmers who cannot compete with heavily subsidised produce from rich nations.
Second, rich country subsidies, in Canada, for example, allow the federal government to pay farmers $225 for each pig killed in an ongoing mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to, say, Haiti.
Third, biofuel programmes are now channelling massive quantities of cereal and other crops to produce fuel for the world’s wealthy to run their second and third family cars while close to a billion starve. Add in GMO products, which are now being forced on poor countries (and not only) by large multinationals, protected by copyright laws, effectively enslaving farmers in perpetuity, not to mention their likely dire effects on loss of crop variety.
Last but not least, the current US-sponsored wars in the Middle East, with the resultant sky-rocketing oil prices, are merely accelerating a descent into the abyss, as it and its conjunct, NATO, continue to expand beyond all responsible limits and venture into Asia, threatening more and more recalcitrant countries with loss of sovereignty, subversion and outright invasion.
But you don’t have to believe in a “Made it Happen On Purpose” (MHOP) conspiracy for either 9/11 or the food crisis. As political analyst William Blum, famously cited by Osama Bin Laden on one of his alleged video missives, said, “We’re speaking of men making decisions, based not on people’s needs but on pseudo-scientific, amoral mechanisms like supply and demand, commodity exchanges, grain futures, selling short, selling long, and other forms of speculation, all fed and multiplied by the proverbial herd mentality -- a system governed by only two things: fear and greed; not a rational way to feed a world of human beings.”
Blum subscribes to a “Let it Happen On Purpose” (LHOP) explanation concerning 9/11, that whatever conspiracy there is is loose and unorganised, that a big dose of incompetence mixed with justified anger by the oppressed is producing an explosive concoction, but that it is still possible that leaders will wake up and address the issues sensibly. This is a much more comforting worldview, but one that looks thinner and thinner as the whirlwind gathers momentum. While Blum dismisses speculation about the food crisis as conspiracy, the links between the current world upheavals starting with 9/11 are there for all to see, and less and less seems to separate MHOP from LHOP as time marches on.
In fact there has been a food crisis ever since imperialism really got underway three centuries ago. Perhaps the most extensive famines in history were presided over by Britain in India in the 18-20th centuries. It has merely metamorphosed over time, just as has the “one world” movement that imperialism itself launched. Back then, it was more obvious: burn, rape, dispossess, enslave, create monopolies for trade and production (plantations), talk about “darkest Africa.” Now it is the WTO, WB, IMF, emergency loans, privatisation, GMO crops, just possibly, the gathering “food crisis.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez perhaps said it best: “It is a massacre of the world’s poor. The problem is not the production of food. It is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis.”
Then what is really going on?
First of all, let’s get rid of the idea that we are seeing “impersonal market forces” at work. Supply and demand is not a law, it’s a policy, one that clearly cannot solve the problem. Second, let’s ask the question which any competent investigator should pose when starting out on the trail of a possible crime: “Who benefits?” Indeed we can even describe the crime as genocide if the events in question are avoidable or planned. Those who benefit are obviously the ones who finance agricultural operations, those who are charging monopoly prices for the commodities in demand, the various middlemen who bring the products to market, and the owners of the land and other assets used in the production/consumption cycle.
In other words, it’s the financial elite of the world who have gained control of the most basic necessity of life, guided by a long-term strategy by international finance to starve much of the world’s population in order to seize their land and control their natural resources.
In Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making (2008), David Rothkopf, currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade under Clinton and managing director of Kissinger and Associates, brazenly outlines the real situation. As a consummate insider, he is clearly someone who should know. He argues that a global elite now run the planet and have usurped the power of national governments while ensuring laws constrained by borders are all but obsolete. “Each one of them is one in a million. They number six thousand on a planet of six billion. They run our governments, our largest corporations, the powerhouses of international finance, the media, world religions, and, from the shadows, the world’s most dangerous criminal and terrorist organisations. They are the global superclass, and they are shaping the history of our time,” states the promo for the book. This elite “see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations. Their connections to each other have become more significant than their ties to their home nations and governments.”
But why would an insider give the plot away to us plebes, you may well ask. For one thing, the exposure of the conspirators in the world media -- yes, the Internet and satellite communications work both ways -- has meant that there is a pressing need for some soothing PR, showing us that whatever conspiracy there is is benign, for our own good, necessary, if you will. That’s the only explanation for such a startlingly frank insider’s account as Superclass provides.
Secondly, it seems the time is ripe to move forward on this plan to drastically reduce world population, and increase control of the Earth’s land and resources for a world elite in perpetuity. One-world government, super imperialism, call it what you will.
The expansion of the US military empire abroad, the Trojan Horse of the conspiracy, comes with the creation of a totalitarian system of surveillance at home and abroad, put into place as part of the “War on Terror.” Human microchip implants for tracking purposes are starting to be used. The military-industrial complex has become the US’s largest and most successful industry, intent on destroying both foreign and domestic “enemies.” The pieces are now in place for world domination.
The 20th century -- any conspiracy really can only be clearly argued starting from the Great War-to-end-all-war -- surely was the US century, meaning it was able to impose its ideology of markets, consumerism and individualism even to the far reaches of Communist Russia and China, and hence ensure that the global elite it set in motion will subscribe in some form to its agenda -- if indeed there is one.
This situation is in fact a perverse form of Kant’s recipe for world peace: countries must be willing to cede sovereignty to prevent war. His idealistic proposal floundered on the unwillingness of countries to cede meaningful autonomy to a world body, as the experience of the League of Nations and the UN have shown in spades. However, once the US succeeded in amassing overwhelming economic might in the world and in splitting up the SU, it proceeded to use NATO as just such a world body, successfully tempting the resultant statelets to join it. The plan was for Russia to be coaxed into the fold as well, though this part of the plan has, as it turns out, hit a snag.
What about foreign aid? Yes, Bush just proposed spending an additional $770 million, bringing next year’s budget of food assistance to $2.6 billion. But since this is tied aid, forcing countries to import subsidised US produce, less than half the amount actually reaches the starving peasants, and combined with WB/IMF structural adjustment policies such aid really does more to compound the problem than provide any real long-term change for the better.
For sceptics about the possibility of some form of LHOP/MHOP, just consider the following: if indeed 6,000 elite business leaders control the world’s fate, surely such an immensely wealthy and powerful coterie could solve the food crisis in a flash. The massive expenditures on arms and the wanton destruction they cause every second, could, if stopped, provide the will and resources to restructure the world to end starvation, let alone poverty, leaving lots left over for the elite to wallow in. There is no organised force of any consequence opposing this world elite. What’s stopping it?Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at www.geocities.com/walberg2002.