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When ‘world peace’ serves not everyone

War! What is it good for? Absolutely everything!

Barbados’ foreign policy has historically been linked to the dictates of the United States in particular, and Britain. The absence of natural resources, our dependence on fossil-fuel-generated energy, tourism and other economic linkages, our geographical location, among other related reasons, have tended to leave the island’s foreign policy shapers few options other than to follow the lead of our giant North American and European allies.

Succeeding administrations –– Barbados Labour Party and Democratic Labour Party –– have been less than honest with themselves and the Barbadian populace on a number of issues as it relates to war, oil and our relationships with these international powers. One brave spokesperson has facetiously suggested that as a cost-cutting measure and ease to taxpayers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be significantly reduced and be made operational from a small back office in Washington, DC. Of course, we do not hold that view.

But what has been worrying is that where prevarications have been proven to come from our super allies, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has remained aggressively silent. When wars fought ostensibly for the cause of freedom, but shown mainly to have facilitated business and the safeguard of strategic oil reserves, our political leaders become mute. Tragically, as though led by the Pied Pipers of Parliament, hardly a squeak is ever heard from Barbados’ media.

In 2005 declassified National Security Agency documents showed that United States’ President Lyndon B. Johnson lied to the world about the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident where a US Navy vessel was the aggressor in a confrontation with a North Vietnam torpedo boat. That incident, and the passage of the self-serving Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution helped to precipitate the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward to the decade of the 1990s, the early 2000s, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the world’s fifth largest producer of oil. The late “tyrant” received arms and military logistics from ally the United States, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuel, in the bloody war against Iran. But subsequent attacks on Kuwait, owner of ten per cent of the world’s oil reserves, and threats against Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer of oil, meant Hussein became yesterday’s friend and today’s enemy.

The 9/11 attack on the United States, though tragic, was opportune. No evidence has ever been produced to show any connection between the hanged Iraqi leader and the events of that September morning, but the incident galvanised the American people and a concerned Western world. Like President Johnson before him, President George W. Bush abandoned truth and his concoctions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were an easy sale. The rest is history.

The manufacture of weapons in the United States is a mind-boggling business. The more the wars, the more the business. According to the Congressional Research Service’s Conventional Arms Transfers To Developing Nations, 2004-2011 Report, the United States made US$71.5 billion in arms transfers to developing countries in 2011 alone. Between 2008 and 2011 America earned US$113 billion in arms agreements. Unsurprisingly, Saudia Arabia has been America’s biggest customer, having a $33.4 billion arms agreement in 2011 alone.

Between 2004 and 2011 United States arms deals resulted in an intake of $344.7 billion with the Saudis alone accounting for 22 per cent of that spending. The total market share of American arms transfer agreements to developing countries was put at an incredible 78 per cent in 2011. Apart from the weapons sales, the United States also provided paid-for logistical weapons training.

It gets spicier in Iraq. The Iraq economy grew by 12 per cent in 2012 and did marginally better in 2013, driven mostly by greater oil production and increased oil prices. The US Department of Commerce 2013 report showed that Iraq had about US$200 billion of infrastructure work to be contracted out in the areas of energy, health care, education and agribusiness. It doesn’t take a solitary CXC to come up with an answer on the origin of the companies that stand to benefit most from these opportunities. Lil Rick unwittingly put it succinctly when he sang Mash Up And Buy Back.

Those charged with shaping Barbados’ foreign policy must always be mindful of their silence as much as what they voice. In the midst of the global hurly-burly, and machinations behind closed doors over oil and business opportunities, our silence can often be interpreted as acceptance.

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