excerpts from the book

Hidden Agendas

by John Pilger

The New Press, 1998, paper



In the media's 'global village', other nations do not exist unless they are useful to 'US'

Who understands that the sanctions are aimed not at bringing down Saddam Hussein, or deterring him from building some mythical nuclear bomb, but at preventing the 'market' competition of Iraqi oil from forcing down the price of oil produced by Saudi Arabia, the West's most important Middle Eastern proxy, next to Israel, and biggest arms customer?

an Indonesian activist
Truth is always subversive, otherwise why should governments spend so much energy trying to suppress it?

Secretary of State Alexander Haig
You just give me the word and I'll turn that fucking little island [Cuba] into a parking lot.

At times, orthodox opinion finds respectability and violence a difficult union to celebrate. 'We must recognise', wrote Michael Stohl, in Current Perspectives on International Terrorism, 'that by convention- and it must be emphasised only by convention - great power use and the threat of the use of force is normally described as coercive diplomacy and not as a form of terrorism', though it involves 'the threat and often the use of violence for what would be described as terroristic purposes were it not great powers who were pursuing the very same tactic'. (By 'great power', he meant exclusively Western power.) 'From Machiavelli to Niebuhr, Moorgenthau and Kissinger', wrote [Richard] Falk [Professor of International Relations at Princeton], 'there has been inculcated in public consciousness an ethos of violence that is regulated, if at all, only by perceptions of effectiveness.

"A weapon or tactic is acceptable, and generally beyond scrutiny, if it works in the sense of bringing the goals of the state more closely toward realisation . . . Considerations of innocence, of human suffering, of limits on the pursuit of state policy are treated as irrelevant, [and to be] scorned." [Falk]

In other words, the Henry Kissinger rule. The 'statecraft' that Kissinger personified in the 1970s is widely appreciated in circles of 'post-modern' expertise. Presidents and governments consult him. Douglas Hurd, when Foreign Secretary, arranged an honorary knighthood for him. The BBC pays him $3,000 for less than a minute's wisdom. That he secretly and illegally bombed a neutral country, Cambodia, causing tens of thousands of deaths, is immaterial. That he worked to overthrow the elected government in Chile is irrelevant. That he defied Congress and clandestinely supplied the Indonesian dictators with weapons with which they pursued the genocide in East Timor is of no consequence. That he encouraged the Kurds to fight for nationhood, then betrayed them, is by the way.

The West itself is never terrorist.

American representatives on the United Nations Security Council vetoed a resolution calling on all governments to observe international law (1986)

It was in the arena of the Third World that the real Cold War was fought by the Western powers - not against Russians, but against expendable brown- and black-skinned people, often in places of great poverty. It was not so much a war between East and West as between North and South. rich and poor, big and small. Indeed, the smaller the adversary, the greater the threat, because triumph by the weak might produce such a successful example as to be contagious - 'the threat of a good example', Oxfam once called it. Thus, the weak are the true enemy, and they still are.


"Never before in history has one nation had more power over more people in more spheres of life than does the United States,' wrote the Nicaraguan scholar Alejandro Bendana. "For us in Central America, the new looks pretty much like the old, as the United States has been the dominant power in our region for the past century and a half. Maybe we can now speak of the Central Americanisation of the world [for] what we are witnessing today is far more serious as it consists of a fully fledged attempt by the United States to rebuild the international political and economic system . . . to ( ensure an open door for its goods, services and capital."

Drugs, wrote Gabriel Garcia Marquez, were a most convenient Satan for US national security policies', which allowed yet another invasion of Latin America.

... Meanwhile the United States remained the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, with some twenty million addicts ...

After years of reviewing classified files, the chief investigator to the Kerry Committee, Jack Blum, concluded 'If you ask: in the process fighting a war against the Sandinistas, did people connected with the US Government open channels which allowed drug traffickers to move drugs to the United States, did they know the drug traffickers were doing it and did they protect them from law enforcement? The answer to all those questions is yes."

... 'Year Zero' was 1969, when President Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, launched their secret and illegal bombing of neutral Cambodia, with American pilots' logs being falsified to conceal the crime. Between 1969 and 1973, American bombers killed three-quarters of a million Cambodian peasants in an attempt to destroy North Vietnamese supply bases, many of which did not exist. During one six-month period in 1973, B-52 aircraft dropped more bombs on Cambodians, living mostly in straw huts, than were dropped on Japan during all of the Second World War: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas.

Under American pressure, the World Food Programme handed over $12 millions' worth of food to the Thai Army to pass on to the Khmer Rouge. '20,000 to 40,000 Pot guerrillas benefited, according to former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke.

historian Frank Furedi
'Terrorists become any foreign people you don't like. Moreover, terrorism is redefined to serve as an all-purpose metaphor for the Third World, demanding concerted action from the West.'

[Professor Samuel Huntington, Director of Harvard's Institute of Strategic Studies, in the book The Clash of Civilizations] described NATO as 'the security organization of Western civilisation [whose] primary purpose is to defend and preserve that civilization'. NATO membership should be closed to 'countries ,that have historically been primarily Muslim or Orthodox' or in any way non-Western in their religion and culture' .. It is a vision of global apartheid.

'Like its role in the Gulf War' wrote Phyllis Bennis in her 1996 study of the United Nations, 'the UN's function ... has increasingly become one of authorising and facilitating the unilateral interventionist policies of its most powerful member states - especially those of the US.', while its own power remains 'contingent on the scraps and drops of resources bestowed on or denied it by Washington...'.

... Since 1996, 'peace operations' have passed quietly from the United Nations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( (NATO), originally set up in Washington to fight the Russians.


Since the re-invasion of Russia by the forces of globilisation. Russia's economy has halved and its Gross Domestic product has been reduced to that of the Netherlands. The availability of food has again become desperate and unemployment is at its highest for sixty years. With male life expectancy down to fifty-eight, Russia is the first country in history to experience such a sharp fall in life expectancy. (It was sixty-nine in the late 1950s.)

Henry Kissinger
'The objective in Somalia was noble, In fact, moral purpose has motivated every American war this century . . . The new approach [in Somalia] claims an extension in the reach of morality ... "Humanitarian intervention" asserts that moral and humane concerns are so much part of American life that not only treasure but lives must be risked to vindicate them; in their absence, American life would have lost some meaning. No other nation has ever put forward such a set of propositions.'



Independent on Sunday, Feb 10, 1991
'... carpet bombing is undeniably terrible. But that does not make it wrong.'

In a letter to the Security Council, Ramsey Clark, who has carried out investigations in Iraq since 1991, wrote that most of the deaths 'are from the effects of malnutrition including marasmus and kwashiorkor, wasting or emaciation which has reached twelve per cent of all children, stunted growth which affects twenty-eight per cent, diarrhoea, dehydration from bad water or food, which is ordinarily easily controlled and cured, common communicable diseases preventable by vaccinations, and epidemics from deteriorating sanitary conditions. There are no deaths crueler than these. They are suffering slowly, helplessly, without simple remedial medication, without simple sedation to relieve pain, without mercy.'

To report the real reasons why children are dying in Iraq, even to recognise the extent of their suffering, is to bracket Western governments with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. ,Thus the victims become unmentionable. They become, wrote the British historian Mark Curtis, 'unpeople: human beings who impede the pursuit of high policy and whose rights, often lives, therefore become irrelevant'. As Unpeople, they are not news, and their plight, as Kate Adie said of the slaughter on the Basra road, is merely 'evidence of the horrific confusion'.

There was no burning desire to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He had been the West's man, whom Reagan and Thatcher had armed and backed against the mullahs in Iran; and the last thing the West wanted was an Iraq run by socialists and democrats. For this reason, as the 1991 slaughter got under way, the British Government imprisoned as many Iraqi opposition leaders as it could round up. In 1996, the New York Times reported that the administration longed for the good old days when Saddam's 'iron fist held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of the American allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia'...

The Americans also wanted to protect Saudi oil and the faltering Saudi economy from the competition of cheaper Iraqi oil. That remains Washington's real reason for opposing the lifting of sanctions. 'If Iraq were allowed to resume oil exports,' wrote Phyllis Bennis, one of the most astute American commentators, 'analysts expect it would soon be producing three million barrels a day and within a decade, perhaps as many as six million. Oil prices would soon drop . . . And Washington is determined to defend the kingdom's economy, largely to safeguard the West's unfettered access to the Saudis' 25 per cent of known oil reserves.'

An important factor in this is the arms trade. In 1993, almost two-thirds of all American arms export agreements with developing countries were with Saudi Arabia, whose dictatorship is every bit as odious as the one in Baghdad. Since 1990 the Saudis have contracted more than thirty billion dollars' worth of American tanks, missiles and fighter aircraft. According to the authors, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn, 'Every day, the Pentagon . . . disburses an average of 10 million dollars - some days as much as 50 million - to contractors at work on the Saudi shopping list.' As an insight into the US-sponsored 'peace process' in the Middle East, they wrote that a Pentagon officer had told them, 'If the Saudis had cancelled their F-15 [fighter aircraft] program [as a result of the fall in oil prices], Israel probably would not have bought any. Basically, that's the only thing keeping the F-15 line open.'

'Have we grown more wary of instant response to disaster, more indifferent to the stream of seemingly baffling conflicts which flit past on the screen?' asked the BBC's Kate Adie in a reflective article. 'Do the pictures of the displaced, the homeless and injured mean less when they are so regularly available? Have we, in short, begun to care less . . .?'

She did not explain the 'we'. 'What has not changed', she wrote, 'is the need to choose news priorities, to judge the importance and relevance of a story against all else that is happening in the world. And the need endlessly to debate whether some stories should be covered for a moral or humanitarian reason, even though the majority of the audience expresses little desire to view them'.

She offered no evidence to support this last assertion. On the contrary, the generosity of those who can least afford to give is demonstrable, vivid and unending, as I know from personal experience. It is compassion, as well as anger, that _ gives millions of people the energy and tenacity to lobby governments for an end to state crimes committed in their name in East Timor, Burma, Turkey, Tibet, Iraq, to name but a few.

Far from not wanting to know, the 'majority of the audience' consistently make clear, as the relevant surveys show, that they want more current affairs and documentaries which attempt to make sense of the news and which explain the 'why' of human events.


The Crusaders

Everyone has the right to work, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection for himself and his family land] an existence worthy of human dignity everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, ~ including food, clothing, housing and medical care.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

We have 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in / the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality . . . we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation.

George Kennan, US Cold War planner, 1948

Accidents in toy factories are endemic, as production is speeded up to meet an apparently insatiable demand from Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, which import 80 per cent of their toys from Asia. The girls in the Kadar factory in Bangkok were making Bart Simpson and Cabbage Patch dolls. In China, the popular Barbie and Sindy dolls, Power Rangers and Fisher-Price toddlers' toys are made by mostly rural girls working twelve to sixteen hours a day for the legal minimum wage of £27 a month, if they are lucky. Many will suffer from chronic industrial diseases, caused by the effects of plastics, paints and glues used without protection or ventilation.

Structural Adjustment Programmes or SAPs, were dreamt up in the late 1970s when American, European and Japanese banks pressured poor countries to borrow petro-dollars accumulated following the boom in oil prices. There followed a rapid rise in interest rates, which coincided with the fall in the world price of commodities like coffee. As a consequence Third World governments found themselves in grave difficulties.

Under a plan devised by President Reagan's Secretary to the Treasury, James Baker, indebted countries were offered World Bank and IMF 'servicing' loans in return for the 'structural adjustment' of their economies. This meant that the economic direction of each country would be planned, monitored and controlled in Washington. 'Liberal containment' was replaced by laissez-faire capitalism, known as the 'free market'. Industry would be deregulated and sold off; public services, such as health care and education, would be diminished. Subsistence agriculture, which has kept human beings alive for thousands of years, would be converted to the production of foreign exchange-earning cash crops. 'Tax holidays' and other 'incentives', such as sweated labour, I would be offered to foreign 'investors'. It was the surrender _~J soverei nty, and w thout a gunboat n sight.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Settled in the nineteenth century by freed slaves, there has not been a time when Haiti has not been dominated by the United States. Along with the manufacture of baseballs, textiles, toys and cheap electronics, Haiti's sugar, bauxite and sisal are all controlled by American multinational companies. The exception is coffee, which relies upon the American market.

As a direct result of the imposition of this 'free market', half the children die before they reach the age of five. A child of two is called in Creole youn to chape - a little escapee from death. Life expectancy is about fifty-three years. Most American companies pay as little as they can get away with.

More than 20,000 people work on assembly lines, a third of which produce goods for that symbol of all-American wholesomeness, the Walt Disney Company. Contractors making Mickey Mouse and Pocahontas pyjamas for Disney in 1996 paid eight pence an hour. The workers are all in debt knowing that if they lose their jobs they will join those struggling against starvation.

True democracy needs no Jeffersonian imprimatur; Thomas Jefferson's notion of liberty was not extended to his slaves. George Washington, father of the American nation, set the tone for every president save Franklin Roosevelt. 'Indians', he said, 'have nothing human except the shape . . . the gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey though they differ in shape.' James Madison was less crude, though noJ less honest, when, in addressing the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he said the aim of the new republic was 'tot protect the minority of the opulent against the majority'.

True democracy is expressed ... in Articles 23 and 25 of the 1941 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These say that everybody has the right to life and to a decent life: a right not only to employment, but to decent pay, decent working conditions, 'the right to form and join trade unions', the right to a proper home and the right to feel secure, 'in sickness, disability, widowhood, old age': the right to dignity. Nowadays, this is a subversive document, to be perverted and circumvented.

New Democracy is now the way. 'First and foremost,' wrote Peter Gowan, 'a New Democracy is run by strong capitalist proprietors funding the political process and offering electors a choice of leaders who share opinions on most things but have different styles of leadership ... This guarantees that public policy stays politically correct. At the same time New Democracy makes it easier for multinationals to advance their influence and for the "global" [i.e. Western] media to shape public opinion. [In this way] we get leaders in the target country who "want what we want". Hence there is no need to use the big stick ...

Victor Lebow, a leading retailing analyst
Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things, consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate.

At the end of the Reagan years, the top 20 per cent of the population held the largest share of total income, while the bottom 60 per cent had the lowest ever recorded. Wages have fallen below 1973 levels; the majority of workers are no longer in full-time employment. Ordinary Americans have been so thoroughly 'downsized' that up to 50 million live below the poverty line, most of them without health care of any kind, and with more than half of them dependent on charity so that they can eat.

... money laundering, much of it related to the international 'narco-trade', flows unimpeded through the Caribbean tax havens cherished by US multinationals, banks and pension-fund managers.

The MAI 'negotiations' represent the most important imperial advance for half a century, yet they do not qualify as headline news. If formalised, they will remove the last restrictions on the free movement of foreign capital anywhere in the world, while effectively transferring development policy from national governments to multinational corporations. At the same time, multinationals will be freed from the obligation to observe minimum standards in public welfare, the environment and business practices. .

Under the new rules, corporations will be able to challenge local laws before an international tribunal - but governments or their citizens will have no corresponding right to take action against offending corporations.

Singapore's real achievement is social control and its attendant fear, making democratic debate impossible and conversations with educated, intelligent people routinely circumspect. Singaporeans are turning to born-again Christianity for relief from the oppressive uniformity, a trend the regime has responded to with characteristic alacrity. A Racial Harmony Act now prohibits sermons on social and political issues that are deemed 'non-relevant'.

Lady Bracknell
'Really, if the lower orders don't set a good example, what on earth is the use of them?'

Like Los Angeles, parts of London and other British cities now belong to the Third World. The violence and menace are not the same, but the roots of them are. 'Poverty', wrote Peter Townsend, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Bristol University, a man who has devoted most of his life to making people aware of its causes, 'is not something people impose on themselves for want of effort and community organisation. It is constructed by divisive and discriminatory laws, inflexible organisations, acquisitive ideologies of wealth, a deeply-rooted class system and policies which serve privilege in the \` short term and destroy society in the long term.'

... No modern ideological figure created more poor and more rich so rapidly than Margaret Thatcher. The UN Human Development Report for 1997 says that in no other country has poverty 'increased as substantially' since the early 1980s, and that the number of Britons in 'income poverty' leapt by nearly 60 per cent under her Government.

Dr Ian Banks, the British Medical Association spokesman on men and health, that suicide is 'the big new killer of men and is shockingly popular - it has doubled in the last ten years. The one clear cause is uncertainty at work. short-term contracts are a constant strain that makes men

Thatcher and her successors made Britain into a two-thirds society, with the top third privileged, the middle third insecure and the bottom third poor.

Like the United States, Britain has become a single-ideology state with two principal, almost identical factions, so that the result of any election has a minimal effect on the economy and social policy. People have no choice but to vote for political choreographers, not politicians. Gossip about them and their petty intrigues, and an occasional scandal, are regarded as political news.


A Cultural Chernobyl

Napoleon Bonaparte
There is only one thing in this world, and that is to keep acquiring money and more money, power and more power. All the rest is meaningless.

[Rupert] Murdoch lives by different rules. His companies use the services that we provide, they use the roads to carry their newspapers around, they use the health service for their employees to use when they're ill. They benefit from all the things that our society provides, but they feel no sense of obligation to make a contribution to that. On the contrary, they see it as a challenge to avoid paying taxes. They are a different class of people. They are the over-class, the ones who want to rule the world, and they don't want to pay us for the privilege of doing so.' It is the scale of the hypocrisy that is difficult to grasp.

Davis Bowman, a former editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald

'The danger is that the media of the future, the channels of mass communication, will be dominated locally and worldwide by the values - social, cultural and political - of a few individuals and their huge corporations. Democrats ought to fight to the last ditch against what Murdoch and the other media giants represent.'

Reiner Luyken, the Die Zeit journalist who coined the expression 'cultural Chernobyl'.

The laws of supply and demand worked well for Hitler. He no doubt gave many people what they wanted.

Guardians of the Faith

Today, British television enjoys more credibility than television in most countries. This is partly because in other countries institutional bias in broadcasting is understood, if not always acknowledged. In the former Soviet bloc, as m other totalitarian states, many people regarded the bias of the state as implicit in all media and made a conscious or unconscious adjustment.

Since the birth of the BBC, the bias of the British state has operated through a 'consensus' created and fostered by a paternalistic order. The public has been groomed, rather than brainwashed. George Orwell, in his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm, described how censorship in free societies was intimately more sophisticated and thorough than in dictatorships because 'unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban'

In the fifty years since he wrote that, much has changed, but the essential message remains the same. This is not to suggest a conspiracy, which in any case is unnecessary. Journalists and broadcasters are no different from historians and teachers in internalising the priorities and fashions of established power. Like others with important establishment responsibilities, they are trained to set aside serious doubts. If scepticism is encouraged, it is directed not at the system but at the competence of its managers, or at popular attitudes as journalists perceive them.

Ambitious young journalists are often persuaded that a certain cynicism about ordinary people ordains them as journalists, while obedience to higher authority and deference to 'experts' is the correct career path. By this route, the myths and assumptions of power routinely enter the 'mainstream' unnoticed and unchallenged. 'I am still hanging on to my idealism,' a young graduate journalist wrote to me from Wales. 'But people I work with tend to think my belief in real democracy and the media's responsibility to question institutions and events is strange. I am repeatedly told I will grow out of it.'

Those who do question the nature of the system risk being eased out of the 'mainstream'...

Far from the independent 'fourth estate, much of serious journalism in Britain, dominated by television, serves as a parallel arm of government, testing or 'floating' establishment planning, restricting political debate to the 'main centres of power', as outlined in the BBC's commemorative booklet, and, above all, promoting Western power in the wider world.

One of the most effective functions of 'communicators' is to minimise the culpability of this power in war and terrorism, the enforced impoverishment of large numbers of people and the theft of resources and the repression of human rights This is achieved by omission on a grand scale, by the repetition of received truths and the obfuscation of causes.

In the respectable media, especially broadcasting, discussion of widespread voluntary and subliminal censorship is a taboo subject.

Prime Minister Lloyd George confided to C.P. Scott the editor of the Manchester Guardian

"If people really knew [the truth], the war [World War I] would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know and can't know.'

In 1997, the BBC Television showed the last of its acclaimed People's Century series, which expertly marshalled archive film and interviews with witnesses to and participants in the closing century's stirring and apocalyptic events. A recurring technique was the merging of government propaganda film, from Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, with documentary footage, all of it accompanied by a narration. After a while, it became difficult to tell one from the other.

... a Pax Americana under which, as the great American imperial planner George Kennan put it, the United States had 'a moral right to intervene' anywhere in the world - and did so relentlessly, subverting and destroying governments which dared to demonstrate independence, from Italy to Iran, Chile to Indonesia.

In helping to bring the Indonesian tyrant Suharto to power, American imperial power ensured the deaths of more than half a million 'communists'. In Indo-China, the same fundamentalism oversaw at least five million dead and millions more dispossessed, their lands ruined and poisoned. Then known as the 'free world', the American empire rules today with ever-changing euphemisms. Perhaps its most brilliant, if unsung, victory has been in the field of media management, as the omission of its rapacity from People's Century demonstrated.


The Last Voice

Pastor Niemoller

First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

In the Third World, the selling of national public enterprises is 'breaking up monopolies' 'Reconversion' is the euphemism for the reversion to nineteenth-century conditions of labour stripped of all social benefits. 'Restructuring' is the transfer of income from production to speculation. 'Deregulation' is the shift of power from the national welfare to the international banking [and] corporate elite.

The examples ... come from the same lexicon as 'work makes you free' - Arbeit Macht Frei - the words over the gates at Auschwitz.

Alex Carey, Australian social scientist (1978)

The twentieth century has been characterised by three developments of great political importance, the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda against democracy.

The editor of Ozgur Gundem (Free Agenda) [Turkey], Ocak Isik Yurtcu

... it is impossible to have other freedoms in a country where there is no freedom of the press.

[Freedom of the press] is a freedom we are in danger of losing without even knowing it. For when there is no longer anyone speaking out, who will be the last voice?

The Final Battle

In 1979, the new British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, persuaded the European Community to halt its regular shipments of milk to Vietnamese children. As a consequence, (the price of a kilo of milk powder in Vietnam rose to ten times e price of a kilo of meat. During visits in 1975 and 1978, I saw many children with distended bellies and fragile limbs in the towns as well as the countryside. According to World Health Organisation measurements, a third of all infants under five so deteriorated following the milk ban that the majority of them were stunted or likely to be, and a disproportionate number of the very youngest were reportedly going blind due to a lack of Vitamin A.

[Vietnam] Among Washington's demons, not even Cuba was subjected to such a complete embargo. 'We have smashed the country to bits,' wrote Telford Taylor, chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, 'and [we] will not even take the trouble to clean up the blood and rubble. Somehow we have failed to learn the lessons we undertook to teach at Nuremberg.'

Linda Mason and Roger Brown

'The US Government insisted that the Khmer Rouge be fed ... the US preferred that the Khmer Rouge operation benefit from the credibility of an internationally known relief operation.' Under American pressure, the World Food Programme handed over $12 million worth of food to the Thai Army to pass on to the Khmer Rouge. '20,000 to 40,000 Pol Pot guerrillas benefited', according to Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke.

The Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky, a specialist in Third World issues, wrote [about Vietnam] in 1994

The achievements of past struggles and the aspirations of an entire nation are [being] undone and erased ... No Agent Orange or steel pellet bombs, no napalm, no toxic chemicals: a new phase of economic and social (rather than physical) destruction has unfolded. The seemingly neutral and scientific tools of macroeconomic policy constitute a non-violent instrument of recolonisation and impoverishment.'

Michel Chossudovsky

The hidden agenda of the reforms is the destabilisation of Vietnam's industrial base: heavy industry, oil and gas, natural resources and mining, cement and steel production are to be reorganised and taken over by foreign capital with the Japanese conglomerates playing a decisive and dominant role ... the movement is towards the reintegration of Vietnam into the Japanese sphere of influence, a situation reminiscent of World War Two when Vietnam was part of Japan's "Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".

In 1995, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, visited Hanoi with a group of British businessmen, who had been given a briefing document by the Department of Trade and Industry. This was candid, almost ecstatic about the cheapness of people. 'Labour rates', it said, 'are as low as $35 a month.' Moreover, the Vietnamese 'can provide a new industrial home for ailing British products'. 'Take the long view,' advised the British Government, 'use Vietnam's weaknesses selfishly. Vietnam's open door invites you to take advantage of its low standard of living and low wages.'

If we affirm that development can only be achieved by sacrificing these values, which have been long pursued by mankind and give us hope for freedom, democracy and equality, it means that we reject the most basic factors that link people together as a community. It's an insult to our humanity to maintain that people only have economic demands, and therefore economic development must be made at all costs. To live is not enough. People must seek many things to make their lives significant.'

If development was measured not by Gross National product, but a society's success in meeting the basic needs of its people, Vietnam would have been a model. That was its real threat'. From the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu m 1954 to 1972, primary and secondary school enrollment in the North increased sevenfold, from 700,000 to almost five million. In 1980, UNESCO estimated a literacy rate of 90 per cent and school enrollment among the highest in Asia and throughout the Third World.

At a village in the Mekong Delta a woman and her twelve-year-old daughter sit in the shade making straw beach mats for export. A middle-man pays them a total of a dollar a day. They work from five in the morning until five in the evening. Ten years ago, the village had a co-operative that funded a primary school. Now that co-operatives have been abolished, the girl must work such grinding hours to pay for sporadic lessons at a nearby fee-paying school.

The Vietnamese health service was once famous. Primary care where people lived and worked raised life expectancy to among the highest in the developing world. Vaccination programmes reduced the spread of infectious diseases; in contrast to most of the Third World, preventable diseases were prevented. More babies survived birth and their first precarious years than in most countries in south-east Asia. Now, under the tutelage of the foreign 'donor community', the government has abandoned direct support for all health services. Drugs are available only to those who can afford to buy them on the 'free market'. Diseases like malaria, dengue and cholera have returned.

China Beach


Lt. Robert O. Miller, US Marine Corps

You've got to understand that Vietnam was a lie. It was a lie from the J beginning, throughout the war and even today as they are trying to write it into the history books, it's a lie. Three million US servicemen came over here and confronted, in their own way, the lie. That was tragic.'

... the lessons of the Weimar Republic are writ large. Like the upheavals of capitalism in the 1930s and the rise of fascism, the crisis of the 'global economy' is set to become the most important issue of the first half of the twenty-first century.

As labour is cheapened and cast aside; as social legislation is eliminated and whole countries are transformed into one big plantation, one big mining camp, one big 'free trade' zone stripped of rights, sovereignty and wealth; as the rise of technology exacerbates class differences rather than abolishing them, increasing the vulnerability and tempo of work; as the guardians of this faith reduce 'free speech' to esoteric jargon, the warnings now come from within the new orthodoxy itself.

Beware 'the rumbling out there', says the President of the Federal Reserve Bank. 'People are dangerously suffering from globophobia,' says a senior floor trader in New York. 'The magnitude of change in the world economy since the end of the Cold War,' wrote the eminent American economist, David d Hale, 'has been so dramatic it has given rise to a new political phenomenon ... voters now view trade issues in terms of domestic class struggle.'

John Pilger page

Authors and Books

Index of Website

Home Page