SARS, Bolton and Globalization
We can once again point to Bush's incompetent leadership in his appointment of Bolton to the UN, where he will undoubtedly alienate the diplomatic community. I find it makes more sense to see the Bush administration's leadership as largely successful, given its long-term intentions. Bush can list Bolton as one of his accomplishments along with the passing of CAFTA and the new supreme court judge and even, dare I say it, the war in Iraq where the US can now stay as long as it wants.
With the appointment of Bolton we can look forward to the dismantling of the U.N." An article I read in the Chron convinced me that Bush appointed him for precisely that reason. The headline read "Bush's nominee for U.N. envoy has already irritated the world."
Who would bother to read that? Irritate is a word used for violating a dress code as when Cheney wore a parka instead of a suit to an event in Europe. Bolton had done more than "irritate the world" he had frightened it to death by weakening the biological weapons treaty, killing it basically. After describing how Bolton had basically opened the way for an arms race in bio weapons, probably with China, the article casually reveals that the World Health Organization had analyzed the SARS virus and determined that it was "an artificial creation designed to kill fast and furiously" and it had probably escaped from a military lab.
I couldn't believe what I was reading right there in the paper. Surely such news about SARS should be on the front page in large type. Very large type.
SARS DISCOVERED TO BE SYNTHETIC VIRUS ESCAPED FROM CHINESE MILITARY LAB.
The article went on to explain that the information was suppressed by a certain superpower. You know who. We Who Will Not Be Named. (Only it is not "we". The American people had nothing to do with this). Suppressed because the U.S. wanted to avoid having a worldwide debate on the need for a bioweapons treaty, which could be enforced internationally.
And why, one might well ask, would the U.S. consider endangering the world in this way? Well, to have a bio weapons arms race with China, I was thinking. After all, the nuclear arms race worked terrifically to bring down the U.S.S.R. We made them go all out to fund their arsenal of weapons until they went bankrupt. Why not do the same to China? Ah the games superpowers play.
Apparently the SARS analysis and Bolton's track record was too much for the Chronicle to pursue. They put this article, which was written by a Geneva based reporter, in the Sunday Insight section usually reserved for opinions. Soon it will be relegated to conspiracy theory territory. We are not to think that the government is up to no good. We are to believe nothing more than that Bush makes stupid choices.
"It's crazy making," said my Buddha buddy, ex-hippie friend Rainbow at the monthly potluck. "It's like having your lover cheating on you."
"That's just what I was thinking," I sympathized, having had a lover cheat on me in the most convoluted, multilayered way. (My ex). The lies and deceptions had fractured my mind. I had to rebuild it from scratch, going over every nuance of the past, replacing each deception with the truth until I could trust my mind again.
Like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, we are systematically told that something we perceive isn't happening, while the diabolical husband works in secret to rob her. Bolton wouldn't merely alienate the delegates at the UN; he had an agenda to weaken the UN governing powers in favor of the US.
Not everyone was fooled. People were pursuing these stories and posting their findings on the Internet (which the press tells us is the source of all nonsense, until bloggers find something juicy then they turn around and commend us). One of these truth seekers was posting election fraud information and 9/11 "inside job" evidence to our Buddhist yahoo discussion group. I asked Rainbow if she knew who he was.
"Yes, in fact he just sat down at the end of the table, there." Well how serendipitous is that?
When I introduced myself he said, "You're Amanda Kovattana?" as if I was making it up. And he said it again.
"Yes that's me," I told him, flattered to have my name spoken like a household word and by a good-looking man too.
"I've seen your blog; I've seen you quoted on other people's blogs," he said. Wow. Maybe I had developed a following. Meanwhile here was my chance to fathom what it was that drew people to conspiracy theories. Were they tuna fish hoarding, basement bunker survivalists?
No, he was just a man struggling to reconcile evidence that the government was engaging in criminal activity with his spiritual quest to find peace of mind. If there was anything that distinguished this intelligent and educated man as a disgruntled crackpot, it was that he hadn't been able to find a job in his chosen field for four years. He was an IT specialist. "Ah", I thought, "all we need is a few more pissed-off, out-of-work computer people with time on their hands."
My experiences in Thailand were enough to convince me that the U.S. was not what was being represented as a fair, well intentioned promoter of free trade, bringing democracy, wealth and the good life to all. In embracing the free market, Thailand had been one of the much applauded, newly industrialized successes known as the Asian Tigers.
With each visit I was able to participate in the global trading issues of the day. In the Reagan years an embargo had been placed on all manufactured goods made in Thailand. Why? Because U.S. tobacco companies wanted to penetrate the Thai market. (Penetrate is the preferred word of free market advocates as if nations must lie before the U.S. with legs open wide.) Thailand had its own tobacco industry and did not allow foreign companies to enter it, plus the government had strict regulations on smoking in public places.
Rather than negotiate an equitable deal with Thailand, Reagan simply put the economy in a vice grip intending to force the country to drop the protectionist law. All those parkas for Mervyns were suddenly without a buyer. What were the Thais going to do with them? This was the tropics.
"So this was how America treated its friends" I thought and after Thailand had been such a loyal ally in the Vietnam war, allowing military bases, ships in the Gulf, the use of resources and labor, the expansion of the sex trade for GIs (the sex trade having originally been set up by the Japanese during their occupation in WW II), My engineer father gave his genius to the American war machine, first through the Thai air force with his work in surveillance, then as a defense contractor in the American work force once we moved to the States.
My aunt thought the embargo was a great bargain sale for me to pick up some cheap goods normally sold in America. Meanwhile the Thai government was promoting a Buy Thailand campaign to encourage citizens to boycott foreign goods, but the rich were not about to give up their devotion to BMWs, Gucci bags and Rolexes. Still the tobacco monopoly prevailed setting high tariffs on foreign imports.
In 1989, my aunt was explaining the newspaper headlines to me regarding the potential loss of foreign investment because $3.50 a day for labor was too high and they could find cheaper in China. The government was considering dropping the minimum wage.
Meanwhile traffic jams in the city were horrendous and the air quality was worsening all the time. Catherine wears a mask when she visits and I can rarely get through a week in Bangkok without contracting a soar throat followed by a cold. On my bare feet in my father's teak floored house, I can see the black dust of diesel fumes. The maids swept the house daily. The poor were not so lucky. The lifespan of tollbooth takers was about thirty years. Meanwhile the rich simply ducked into the air conditioned, air filtered, department store palaces.
Now there will be no money left in the already lean government coffers to improve conditions or fight crime, as the bulk of it must go to pay the interest on the loan. Police are already paid so little that only bribe money will transport them from their rented room in a wooden boarding house to any where near the lifestyles of the wealthy city dwellers they protect.
The IMF now has control of the policies of the Thai government as a condition of the loan. This means allowing national industries like utilities to be privatized, lowering trade tariffs and scrapping public education, health clinics, pollution regulations. Yes, they do this. They insist for the sake of the free market economy. So don't even talk to me about the corrupt Thai government and its support of child prostitution, opium growing, copyright law infringement, the (CIA sponsored) drug trade, the sex trade and all the other complaints that well meaning liberals and feminists think up to tell me is wrong with my country. It's too busy trying to keep up with the manufacturing needs of the American consumer. "Made In Thailand" used to make me proud, but now it just makes me think of speed addicted, stressed out workers, cancer clusters and a crowded, environmentally toxic city.
Bolton would make sure the UN had no teeth, no bargaining power to stand in the way of US control of world trade.
The more I learned how our government distracts us with fear to make sure the war against terrorism is a high priority, even possibly to the point of manufacturing false terrorists attacks, the more I realized how little we mattered; how little our leaders had our best interests in mind.
Suddenly it didn't matter that people were not willing to believe what I was suggesting, that our government was devious in the extreme, because in the back of their minds would be this inkling that things were going from bad to worse for whatever reason and life was somehow not quite right and nothing made sense. How could the leaders of the free world be this incompetent?
I did not have to convince them things had gone seriously awry whether by staggering, multiple, coincedental, incompetence or by design. In the end we would only have each other and it would be up to us to better things. Against monstrous adversaries. This revelation filled me with a compelling urge to just be kind. Yes kindness was an empowering act of resistance.