(A translation of an article by Bruno Odent from l’Humanité)
The G8 Summit began yesterday evening amidst a flurry of security precautions in the south of the United States. The heads of the most powerful countries in the world (U.S., Canada, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Japan and Russia) have barricaded themselves on Sea Island—a private island reserved for billionaires off of the Georgia coast. There should be a certain rapprochement between the larger Western states. It is as if, concerned about the preservation of a seemingly fragile economic growth and therefore worried about finding a way to resolve the numerous areas of instability (war, social tensions, and ethnic and religious conflicts) that threaten the globe, the Eight believe themselves to be damned to an alliance of “reason.”
After the widely publicized celebration or the transatlantic reunion during the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing, the G8 Summit will be marked by the finalization of a resolution on Iraq in the Security Council, which symbolizes this new desire for unity. It is paradoxical that this resolution was based on the proposals of George W. Bush, the principal troublemaker of the past few years.
In fact, we are witnessing two movements. On one hand, quickly losing popularity in the United States because of the government’s lies and the war crimes committed on Iraqi soil, Bush absolutely needs to launch a counter-offensive in order to polish his foreign policy, only four months from the presidential election. Hence the push to present a time table for exiting the crisis, while giving an international legitimacy to the transition in Iraq and to the role that the American and Coalition troops will continue to play. On the other hand, European countries, such as France and Germany, which were among the most hostile to the war, claim to have obtained enough concessions—notably on the length of the American military presence, which should not extend beyond 2005, according to the text of the resolution—to grant some of Washington’s wishes. In fact, there is a fear that the persistent chaos in Iraq will continue to feed an unbridled speculation on oil prices. And there is concern everywhere, but especially in Paris and in Berlin, that this situation will threaten the short-winded economy recovery taking place in Western Europe.
Faced with his troubles, George W. Bush should not find it too difficult to adapt the whims of the Franco-German critics of Washington’s unilateralism to the more classical position of American imperialism by using the type of multilateralism symbolized by the Iraqi resolution compromise.
This peculiar reconciliation may leave its mark on all aspects of the G8 Summit. This is particularly true of the Greater Middle East, one of the Bush Administration’s favorite themes. This project is designed to pacify and subjugate a strategic region, running from Mauritania to Afghanistan. It rightfully raises suspicions of Washington which, under the pretext of spreading democracy, is trying to impose “an American model and system of control” on the countries in the region. Nonetheless, a consensus is forming around the adoption of certain proposals which should fully satisfy the Bush team, obsessed with the restoration of the president’s image.
The bogusly solid transatlantic alliance is also evident with respect to the policies on the world’s poor, even though it is also true that the contradictions, differences of opinion—even conflicts of interest—between the US and France and Europe are significant. The White House has proposed reducing taxes and other fees collected by banks on money sent by immigrants to their family members in the immigrants’ homelands. According to American experts, this would free up $100 billion that could be used to finance “micro-projects” in developing nations. If the sheer evil of a system that forces immigrants to shoulder the development of their countries of origin is barely mentioned by Europeans, the French delegation has nonetheless described this proposal as “too liberal.” And Jacques Chirac, determined as usual to appear to be the third-world champion, has emphasized public funds for development. The problem is that Europe has not increased its contributions and remains far from the United Nations’ objective for wealthy countries: contributions of 0.7% of GNP to financial aid for developing countries (Europe has not even obtained half of this yet).
As in previous summits, a meeting has been arranged for tomorrow between certain African heads of state, such as the Senegalese Abdoulaye Wade, the South African Tabo Mbeki, and the Nigerian Olesegun Obasanjo. The United States, proud of its doctrine of “trade for aid,” plans to advance its project entitled “millennium challenge account.” This consists of encouraging developing countries to observe certain liberal economic norms, the best practitioners of which will win significant aid. The Americans’ strategy has been soundly criticized by international authorities. A recent United Nations report devoted to the least developed countries demonstrates how economic liberalization destroys the poorest. Paris has criticized Washington; but once again the proposal that France supports, together with Europe—the New Partnership for Africa’s Development—is not much better. An emphasis is placed on liberal, “good governance,” which would no longer be imposed by outsiders but—a supreme refinement—would be thoughtfully imposed by Africans, themselves, before their peers. In the end, this is not very different from the American plan. It is a far cry from the ever-increasing need to co-develop with Southern countries.
As for the struggle against terrorism—that is to say, the security measures that should be implemented to the capitalist globe in crisis—it will be front and center during the G8 Summit, without ever challenging the peculiar, transatlantic reconciliation.
Nonetheless George W. Bush intends to put pressure on his partners to obtain the records of passengers—in particular, those who are traveling to the United States. The leaders seem willing to give in to the desiderata of the White House. The French argue that the most confidential information will remain protected, as required by the Commission informatique et liberté. However the European Counsil has just agreed to ask airline companies to hand over to US authorities the personal data of passengers on flights to the United States.