Disturbing 2008 Global Peace Index
by Stephen Lendman
The Global Peace Index (GPI) was launched
in May 2007 and claims to be the first study of its kind ranking
nations according to their peacefulness. Last year's report covered
121 countries. The latest increased it to 140. Australian entrepreneur
Steve Killelea conceived the idea and won some dubious endorsements.
Among them, the Dalai Lama.
He served as a CIA asset from the late
1950s until 1974 and may again be in tow if the Bush administration's
awarding him a Congressional Gold Medal last year and closeness
to him now is an indication. Other endorsers include Jordan's
Queen Noor; another member of her royal family; four members of
the British House of Lords; Ted Turner; Virgin Group's Richard
Branson; other business and community leaders; Australia's former
Prime Minister JM Fraser; other former high-ranking government
officials; academics; a former BBC war correspondent and MP; plus
six Nobel Laureates, including Jimmy Carter. In fairness, a few
distinguished names join them, including Helen Caldicott and economics
professor James Galbraith.
These organizations prepare GPI's report
- The Economist Intelligence Unit, an international panel of peace
experts from peace institutes and think tanks, and the University
of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Their stated
purpose is to "highlight the relationship between Global
Peace and Sustainability (stressing that) unless we can achieve"
a peaceful world, humanity's major challenges won't be solved.
No argument there, but does GPI's statement belie its real interest?
GPI uses 24 indicators to rank nations
according to their relative internal and external peacefulness.
They include their:
-- military expenditures as a percent
of GDP and number of armed service personnel per 100,000 population;
-- relations with other countries;
-- respect for human rights;
-- potential for terrorist acts;
-- number of homicides per 100,000 population,
-- level of violent crime;
-- aggregate number of heavy weapons per
100,000 population and ease of access to small arms and light
-- number of jailed population per 100,000
-- number of internal security officers
and police per 100,000 population.
Conspicuously absent is a measure of outside
influence causing internal violence, instability and/or disruption.
Venezuela ranked an implausible 123rd behind America at 97th.
Something is amiss, and the above rating raises suspicions that
angered Venezuelan National Assemblyman Jose Albornos. He stated:
"Sometimes things tip over into irrationality
just like they're doing just now....(it's) part of a plan....there
are sectors who decide that they want to get rid of Chavez, who
have seen that they cannot (do it by) coup d'etat and are trying
to penalize the whole country in a campaign of attrition."
He then added that the 2008 GPI "doesn't
correspond with the truth," and plenty of evidence backs
him. It's examined below.
By GPI's criteria, scoring Venezuela high
and America lowest should be no-brainers. The US hands down is
the world's most violent nation and primary reason for Iraq, Afghanistan
and Israel's bottom rankings. The same holds for Lebanon, Somalia,
Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the Philippines
and a host of other nations.
By comparison, Venezuela is placid and
tranquil but GPI's criteria don't show it. It certainly ranks
above Rwanda, Albania, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Bangladesh,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan,
Uzbekistan, Egypt, China, Jordan, and other countries outscoring
it. Why not is the question? Think politics for an answer in spite
of America's low ranking and Israel near the bottom. It's not
low enough. It should be last hands down.
The US alone endangers global stability,
world peace and the planet's survival. It alone wages permanent
war, targets peaceful nations, and claims a unilateral right to
use first strike nuclear weapons preemptively. It also has over
800 military bases (perhaps 1000 or more with secret ones) in
130 or more countries, hundreds more at home, and still more troops
deployed in other countries throughout the world. It further spends
more on its military than all other nations combined. It uses
it aggressively, supports Israeli repression against Palestinians,
assassinates foreign leaders, installs more "friendly"
ones, and backs despots like Colombia's Uribe, Egypt's Mubarak,
the Saudi royal family, Mexico's Calderon, and various installed
stooges like Afghanistan's Karzai and Iraq's al-Maliki.
America ranks lowest on peace. It keeps
sinking lower. It alone threatens planetary survival. Failure
to register that in a "peace index" is unimaginable.
It makes the entire project suspect.
Under Chavez in contrast, Venezuela's
record is envious. It embraces its neighbors, offers no-strings
aid, and engages in mutually beneficial trade, political relations,
and other alliances; it also:
-- assassinates no other leaders;
-- doesn't seek regime changes abroad;
-- has no nuclear weapons and seeks none;
-- spends less than one-half of one percent
of the Pentagon's (grossly understated) military budget (around
$1 to $2 billion) and less half of that, in fact, of America's
total defense spending - in FY 2008: a conservatively estimated
$1.1 trillion with all military, homeland security, veterans,
NASA, debt service and miscellaneous related allocations included;
according to Chalmers Johnson, it's not only "morally obscene,"
it's "fiscally unsustainable" and is heading the nation
for probable "insolvency and (the world for) a long depression,"
or potentially worse.
-- In addition, Venezuela doesn't export
weapons to neighbors or incite conflict; in contrast, America
is the world's leading arms and munitions supplier by far - and
to many belligerent states with disturbing records of using them
internally and/or against neighbors; Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan,
Ethiopia and Israel to cite five;
-- Chavez is socially responsible at home;
-- doesn't practice torture;
-- has no secret prisons;
-- threatens no other nation;
-- wages no wars;
-- is a model democracy;
-- governs peacefully;
-- supports human rights and social justice;
-- affirms free speech;
-- bans discrimination; and
-- uses his resources responsibly - for
his people, yet is friendly to business as well. He's earned world
class stature and immense popularity at home as a result. Under
George Bush in contrast, America is feared and hated worldwide.
Growing numbers don't trust him at home either, and it shows in
his poll ratings - some of the lowest ever for a US president
with vice-president Cheney and Congress scraping rock bottom.
A stunning (but long known) fact came
out as well. It's in a US Justice Department Inspector General's
370 page report. It revealed that the FBI opened a "War Crimes"
file documenting witnessed systemic Guantanamo Bay torture. It's
so inflammatory that the administration suppressed it. It asserts
that orders came from the top, including the White House, Pentagon,
DOJ and NSC. It implies but doesn't state that this practice goes
on in all US military prisons plus ones outsourced to in rogue
states for some of the most barbaric treatment anywhere - and
mostly to innocent victims.
Some GPI-Reported Comparisons - America
Prisons everywhere are harsh, and Venezuela's
are no exception. But consider America. It has the largest prison
population in the world by far at 2.3 million, greater than in
China with four times the population. It also adds over a 1000
new prisoners a week. It's justifiably called a gulag, so imagine
what goes on offshore. No remediating efforts are planned. Reforms
are off the table. America's prison-industrial complex is burgeoning.
Prisons are being privatized. Profiting on human beings is big
business, and consider who they are. Most are black, hispanic,
poor, unempowered, nonviolent, and imprisoned for offenses like
In contrast, Venezuela is humanizing its
prisons. It's no simple task, and no miracle cures are expected.
Nonetheless, positive steps are being taken for a prison population
numbering 20,000 that's down from its 1992 31,400 high. The National
Assembly is "committed to giv(ing) priority to (revising)
the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code." It's to
make it more just and improve prison conditions in health care,
food, access to education and more. Reducing incarceration lengths
is also planned as well as tackling root causes of crime such
as poverty and lack of opportunity. Doing this in America is impossible.
Things keep worsening. The nation is uncaring. It shows across
the board. That highlights the problem, but GPI didn't notice.
Number of homicides per 100,000 population
is another category. GPI ranks America low (in number) and Venezuela
high. It's unjustified. From it's beginning, America has been
violent at home and abroad. It's been at war with one or more
adversaries every year in its history without exception. It's
called a "gun" and "rape culture" and has
the highest homicide rate among all western nations. Violence
is endemic, pacifism sinful, legal and illegal drug use out of
control, young children introduced to violence through films,
television and video games that should be outlawed. They're exported
everywhere to make all societies like America. Venezuela is no
exception but nowhere near to matching the US.
Implausibly, America also scores well
on the following:
-- its number of internal security officers
and police; it refers to "civil police" only; omitted
are National Guard forces, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, FBI,
CIA,16 spy agencies, drug enforcement, and since October 2002
the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) that preempts Posse Comitatus
limitations that no longer apply; no nation on earth has more
internal (or external) security, spends more for it, and no country
uses it more aggressively;
-- ease of access to "weapons of
minor destruction;" Venezuela ranks below America; impossible
as guns in the US are as accessible as chewing gum even in cities
where they're banned; the Second Amendment (on right to bear arms)
practically equates it with religion even though the law's original
intent bears no relation to its current interpretation that's
promoted by the gun lobby;
-- "likelihood of violent demonstrations;"
Venezuela scores high; unconsidered is why any take place and
who's behind them - America, not Venezuelans except for those
recruited and well-paid to cause trouble to destabilize an otherwise
-- violent crime; Venezuela scores high
again and America low; wrong as violence in the US is endemic;
GPI understates it;
-- political instability; Venezuela scores
moderately high; again no mention why there's any or who instigates
-- human rights; America and Venezuela
get equal scores; preposterous again and insulting to Venezuelans;
America's disdain for human rights is unmatched; Venezuela's is
excellent by comparison; the Constitution mandates it; GPI ignores
-- political democracy; America outranking
Venezuela is impossible; the US's democracy is illusory; in Venezuela
it's real and should be highest rated relative to other countries;
-- the electoral process; America besting
Venezuela is false and insulting; Venezuela has a model participatory
democracy; all Venezuelans are enfranchised; the Constitution's
Article 56 mandates it; it affirms that "All persons have
the right to be registered free of charge....after birth, and
to obtain public documents" so stating;
-- US elections, in contrast, are deeply
corrupted; big money runs them; candidates are pre-selected; machines
do our voting; no recounts are possible; losers are declared winners;
independent candidates are shut out; the media ignore them; they
keep people uninformed; issues aren't addressed; just "horserace"
theater ad nauseam; voter disenfranchisement is rife; election
theft common; mountains of evidence document it; none reported
in the mainstream; it's why half or more of the electorate opts
out; it mocks democracy in a nation having little; it's exemplary
in Venezuela; not according to GPI;
-- "functioning of government"
defined to mean freely electing representatives and effective
checks and balances; the US wins again completely belying the
facts; America's democratic governance is a sham; Venezuela's
is real; GPI has things backwards;
-- civil liberties; America on top here,
too; it's outrageous in a growing police state climate; post-9/11
repressive laws, executive and military orders, directives and
other measures are in force that would make any despot proud;
presidential authority is unchallenged; Congress is mere rubber-stamp;
Homeland Security is a national Gestapo; FBI and CIA also; internal
spying is pervasive; dissent stifled; human rights disdained;
and the rule of law is now consigned to the dustbin of history;
Venezuelan society is mirror opposite; GPI failed to notice;
-- "corruption perceptions;"
America scores high and Venezuela low, and indeed there is a problem;
yet it's minor compared to the US's all-pervasive kind - in government,
business and throughout high levels in society; it involves trillions
of dollars; again it didn't register;
-- Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is
the source for GPI's comparative "freedom of the press"
assessment; RWB no longer publishes an index with assigned country
rankings; instead it rates them: No. 1 good, No. 2 satisfactory,
No. 3 noticeable problems, No. 4 difficult situation, and No.
5 very noticeable problems;
-- RSW's reputation is tainted; it lacks
credibility; it disgraced itself last year by baselessly criticizing
Chavez's justifiable decision not to renew RCTV's VHF license
and accusing him of violating free speech and press standards;
not surprisingly, it showed in its 2007 survey with rankings still
used; it rated America somewhat low at 48th but Venezuela far
lower at 114th - below Chad, Morocco, Uganda, Indonesia, Albania,
Congo, Liberia, Kuwait, the Central African Republic and numerous
other questionable higher-ranked choices; in 2008, Venezuela jumped
considerably; GPI scored it 36.9 (an apparent 37th in the world);
the US fared much better at 14.5; tops were Iceland and Norway
-- GPI and RSW should be embarrassed;
consider the facts; no country outranks Venezuela in press freedom;
outlandish dissent is tolerated; censorship banned, and the law
affirms it; RCTV lost its VHF license for backing insurrection
against the government; its officials avoided prison for their
lawlessness; they were merely slapped on the wrist instead;
-- America is mirror opposite; RCTV type
broadcasting would be illegal, an act of sedition or treason;
those responsible would be prosecuted; but it's not how major
media operate in the US; they "filter" news; one-sidedly
support a state and corporate agenda; shut out opposition to it;
keep the electorate uninformed by operating no differently than
a state-controlled ministry of information and propaganda; RSW
approves; so does GPI;
Its data is suspect throughout. Adult
literacy (unrelated to violence) is another example. It scores
America at 99%. It's laughable. Even the US Department of Education
estimates it at 80% tops, and their number way overstates it.
It's far lower based on inner-city math and English test scores
plus painfully low computer literacy levels.
Other Questionable Rankings
GPI isn't alone in targeting Venezuela.
Transparency International (TI) does as well. It calls itself
"politically non-partisan" and a "global civil
society organisation leading the fight against corruption (with
a) mission....to create change toward a world free of corruption."
Consider its 2007 "Corruption Perceptions Index." To
achieve its aim, it better tighten its standards that fall far
short of "transparency."
America easily outscores other nations
in corruption. It's broad, deep and extends throughout government,
business, and high levels of society in the trillions of dollars.
But it's not how TI sees it. It ranks the US No. 20, just behind
France and ahead of Chile. In contrast, Venezuela scrapes bottom
at 162nd - behind Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia,
Kazakhstan, Congo, Pakistan and dozens of other dubious choices.
Venezuela (like all countries) has corruption problems. But nowhere
to the degree TI suggests. Its April 2008 report is rife with
errors and why not. According to Calvin Tucker in a May 22 article,
it was prepared by "an anti-Chavez activist who backed the
2002 military coup against democracy." His full account can
be accessed by the following link: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/calvin_tucker/2008/05/seeing_through_transparency_in.html
The Fraser Institute is a right wing,
business-backed, Canadian-based think tank. It prepares an annual
Economic Freedom of the World Index that has nothing to do with
freedom. It's not kind to Venezuela and sidesteps facts in its
assessment. Following the country's 2002-03 oil management lockout,
growth has been impressive and remains so. Business has profited
hugely. All economic measures are strong and improving except
for inflation. It remains stubbornly high, but efforts are being
made to curb it.
Nonetheless, Fraser reports with blinders.
It ranked Venezuela practically at the bottom - 126th out of 130
nations, only besting Congo, Zimbabwe and two other countries.
It's the sixth consecutive bottom-scraping rating and mirror opposite
those for pre-Chavez years. Since then, Venezuela prospered. Chavez
is friendly to business. Fraser turns a blind eye. It's part of
a corporate-led conspiracy to crush democracy and reempower capital.
It raises questions on whether GPI, RWB, TI, Fraser and others
are part of a larger scheme.
Iran is America's top target. Venezuela
is next. Both countries are nominated for regime change. Continued
efforts work toward it. It's no secret why. Each is oil rich,
their leaders independent, and they refuse to be US clients. For
Washington, that's sinful and unforgivable. The media are on board.
They relentlessly bash both countries and report fiction as fact.
Destabilization efforts continue. Anything may erupt anytime.
GPI and the others may be helping.
Their low Venezuelan rankings are suspect.
Washington may be behind them. Corporate backers as well. They
get what they pay for. In this case, vilifying Chavez. GPI's facts
are bogus. So are RWB's, TI's and Fraser's. It discredits their
Venezuela v. America's rankings. Their entire reports as well.
View them with caution. Understand what's likely going on. Part
of a greater scheme to destabilize Venezuela and end its model
democracy. Exposing them is the best way to prevent it.
Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman
lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on Republic
Broadcasting.org from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived
for easy listening.