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Really wicked solutions needed to beat Bush

Far from being the most positive US president towards Africa in 40 years, as Bob Geldof maintains, the incumbent of the White House is the biggest impediment to a fair deal for the world’s most impoverished nations 

By Muriel Gray

06/08/05 "SH" - - Reading the variety of people and organisations already signed up to the campaigning group Make Poverty History is like taking a warm bath. The moving revelation that almost everyone is there – from Jesuits to Marxists, from Muslim groups to special needs charities, from humanists, Baptists, Sikhs to school students and anti-nuclear campaigners – imbues one with an overwhelming sense of wellbeing that this at last is one issue on which absolutely everyone can agree. Down with poverty! Yeah! 

If this is the case, and we assume that it applies to world leaders as well as the sea of humanity willing to stand up and be counted, then the problems ahead are simply ones of persuasion, to change methods and apply sensible strategies to clear up the complex political mess still killing African children on a biblical scale. Not a simple or easy task admittedly, but hey, we’re all in this together, remember, in the sure and certain knowledge that everyone wants poverty to end. Who on Earth wouldn’t? The fact that it is still with us is just because we haven’t quite worked out exactly how to eradicate it yet.

But what if that isn’t true? What if poverty in some of the worst affected areas of the globe is not simply the result of mismanagement, incompetence, corruption, and indifference? What if it’s the result of deliberate economic engineering? 

A terrible thing to contemplate indeed, since no amount of public protest, like the impending Live 8 rally in Edinburgh, could possibly have an effect if the people responsible were not only devoid of shame for the plight of the poor, but were actually rather pleased with themselves at how effectively they block wealth creation in the countries of interest to their financial plans. But who would be so evil, particularly in the white-hot light of public protest about poverty?

Bob Geldof was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “ You’ll think I’m off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical – in a positive sense – in its approach to Africa since Kennedy.” So not the US then. Phew, that’s a relief, since they’re pretty much in charge of the world. But perhaps Bob meant some other Bush administration that we’re unaware of, maybe one in another space-time dimension. 

That must be it, since the current one, funded by multinational drugs companies, has forged a hard-line policy on drug patenting in Africa that not only keeps those companies rich while the African states have to buy their expensive drugs instead of manufacturing their own, but also relies on their poverty to keep up the levels of disease and ill health and epidemics that require the purchase of their products. It must also have been someone else other than Bush who two years ago consulted with those drugs companies about what level of aid to Africa would tip the balance away from drug requirement and damage their profits.

Nor can it have been Bush, whose campaign both times has benefited from huge donations from American agricultural lobbies, who made sure that subsidies allow US corn to be sold on the international market for 80% of the cost of production and wheat for a staggering 54%, thereby ensuring that African farmers can never fairly trade abroad under any circumstances. 

We won’t even go into the US involvement in the oil-rich countries like Nigeria, since the horrendous and duplicitous manipulation of government officials and international companies there clearly isn’t being carried out by that nice Mr Bush’s people with their “positive” approach to Africa. Nor will we mention the US influence over the IMF in countries where it has direct financial interests. Gosh no.

Geldof’s politicisation of our youth through international music-based events is a piece of modern cultural genius, but his belief in change through protest makes no allowance for the fact that instead of an incompetent well-meaning world of bumbling politicians, there are people in direct opposition to his ideology, and they are not only rich and powerful, but they are ruthless, amoral, inventive and dangerous. How Bush has managed to trick Geldof into believing that he is not one of them is baffling beyond comprehension.

There is no question whatsoever that G8 leaders, including our own, have already worked out their response to the coming rallies, and forged a few PR-friendly token concessions that will make the protesters feel as if they have “made a difference”. But even if 20 million people crowded round the 10ft-high fence of Gleneagles itself, it would change little. 

Bush is not remotely scared of our righteous ire. Bush’s remit to those who put him in power – that’s the multinationals and not the American people – is to keep the third world poor and his paymasters rich. Indeed, the reality is that all the G8 leaders’ jobs are to keep their own people wealthy and make sure those big-eyed, fly-blown starving children don’t grow up to compete with them on a level playingfield and damage their economies. 

It’s true that evil flourishes when the good do nothing, and for that reason alone Live 8 is an important event. But it’s only the moral, the responsible and the altruistic that respond to civilised peaceful persuasion. Bush, contrary to Geldof’s enthusiasm for him, not only falls very far outside those qualifications but is demonstrably one of the most thoroughly corrupt, greedy, dishonest, murderous, wicked and disgusting individuals ever to hang his hat in the White House.

How pop stars singing and fresh- faced youngsters waving placards at such a creature can hope to affect his slimy, coal-black soul is anybody’s guess. We need to forge new strategies, and perhaps instead of thinking like moral people, like all the decent, kindhearted souls who’ve signed up to Make Poverty History, perhaps we need to think more like the wicked do.

But short of asking Geldof to batter Bush in the face with a frying pan next time they meet for tea and biscuits, who knows where to begin? 

©2005 newsquest (Sunday Herald) 

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