Sunday, September 08, 2013

WMDs: sinful in Syria, but forgettable in the Pacific?

The central event of last week’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Marshall Islands was a speech by America’s Secretary of State. But John Kerry didn’t deign to visit Majuro, the Marshall Islands’ little capital city, in person. Instead the leaders of almost a score of island nations gathered before a screen in a darkened room in Majuro’s conference centre, like the adepts of some mystical religion waiting for their elusive God to manifest himself. Eventually Kerry flickered onto the screen, and offered up a series of patronising clichés about Pacific brotherhood and global warming.
Kerry was far too busy organising a military attack on Syria to visit the Pacific. For Kerry and his boss Barack Obama, Syrian dictator Bashir Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons against the residents of a rebellious suburb of Damascus demands a military response. Wherever ‘weapons of mass destruction’ like Assad’s chemical weapons are used, Kerry and Obama insist, the world must ‘intervene’ quickly and decisively.
Shortly after John Kerry’s virtual appearance at Majuro, the Pacific Islands Forum produced a statement condemning Assad’s apparent use of weapons of mass destruction, and calling for urgent action. The statement would have pleased New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was, in the absence of the doomed Aussie leader Kevin Rudd, the chief agent of American interests at the Forum. Key had lobbied Pacific leaders to support America’s line on Syria.
But the people of the Marshall Islands do not need John Kerry and John Key to teach them about weapons of mass destruction. Between 1946 and and 1958 the United States, which had been gifted the Marshalls by the United Nations after World War Two, dropped sixty-seven nuclear bombs on the islands of Bikini and Enewetak.  
Cameras encased in concrete and mounted on nearby islands watched the blast waves from these bombs bend and break thousands of coconut trees, suck the water off reefs, and turn the sky the colour of blood.  
Soon fascinated American scientists were doing field work amongst the residents of atolls situated close to the nuclear test sites. As babies were born with missing limbs and healthy young men and women developed exotic cancers, confidential reports on the effects of radiation on human physiology wound their way back to the Pentagon.
Today the Marshall Islands still struggles with the medical and environmental consequences of America’s nuclear campaign. The Marshalls won partial independence in 1986, and its current government has been demanding American cash to help deal with the legacy of the nuclear era. The Marshallese were able to convince leaders at last year's Pacific Islands Forum to support their campaign for compensation. Despite aggressive long-distance lobbying by political and military heavyweights in Washington, this year's summit reaffirmed that support.
Barack Obama and John Kerry are uninterested in acknowledging, let alone ameliorating, America’s nuclear history in the Pacific because their concern about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ is selective. Like George W Bush before him, Obama likes to appeal to ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to justify diplomatic and military action designed to reinforce and extend America’s imperial power. In 2003 Bush justified the invasion of Iraq by claiming that Saddam Hussein had a vast arsenal of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that needed to be captured and destroyed. No such weapons existed, but the real aim of Bush’s war was the construction of a new, pro-American state in the heart of the oil-rich Middle East.
Obama’s coming war on Syria has as little to do with concern about weapons of mass destruction as Bush’s assault on Iraq. The failure of Bush’s attempt to control Iraq and the toppling of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak by the protesters of the ‘Arab Spring’ have been huge blows to American power and prestige in the Middle East. As it fights against a brave but disorganised army of rebels, the Assad regime is being supplied with weapons and money by Russia and China, America’s superpower rivals, and is getting troops from Iran, the country which has taken effective control of large parts of Iraq in recent years.
A number of senior American politicians have in recent weeks decried their country’s lack of influence over events in Syria, demanding that Obama and Kerry ‘do something’ to restore America’s ‘standing’ in the Middle East. The coming attack on Syria is intended to restore America’s reputation as a powerbroker and an enforcer in a region that seems increasingly out of control. Rhetoric about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ is meant to help Obama and Kerry, like Bush before them, sell war to the American public.
In the Pacific, as well as the Middle East, America is struggling to hold onto its old influence. Long accustomed to dominating the small island states of the Pacific in concert with its allies Australia and New Zealand, Washington has been challenged in recent years by a resurgent China, which has offered loans, aid, and advice to countries like Fiji, Kiribati, and Tonga. Chinese naval vessels and fishing fleets have become familiar sights in the Pacific. Island leaders who have fallen out with America and Australasia, like Fiji’s Commodore Bainimarama, have turned gratefully to China. In the Pacific as well as the Middle East, a new Cold War is beginning, as China takes over the Soviet Union’s old role as America’s superpower rival.
China’s new interest in the Pacific has prompted the Obama administration to announce a major shift in its military strategy, which will see the gradual deployment of troops, planes, and vessels from Europe to East Asia and the Pacific, where they can confront China. As part of this new strategy, Obama and Kerry are seeking to reopen many military bases and air bases that have been closed since the days of the old struggle with the Soviet Union. As they try to sell their new Pacific deployment to the world, Obama and Kerry have no interest in acknowledging the weapons of mass destruction their country brought to the Pacific in the decades after World War Two.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]



Blogger Richard said...

I've also commented a lot on the terrible effect of the tests in the Marshalls. In addition the US use the place for live missile tests without nuclear weapons. They virtually forced many Islanders off their Islands and other were part of their experiment. Like something by J G Ballard.

The French and British have also had a negative impact in this and other ways.

It seems that Obama is getting a lot of resistance to his simplistic plans.

China is a kind of balancing force.
US power is at an end.

Mao's "paper tiger(s)" applies here.

10:51 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks Richard. I think you mentioned Oliver Sacks' The Island of the Colourblind once, because of its references to the depredations of the US in the Marshalls: I liked that book, once I was able to track it down.

12:25 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

He's more interested in his own psychodramas than in discussing the situation of Pacific Islanders, but I like JG Ballard's writing about the Pacific, and I think his 'My Dream of Flying to Wake Island' is a masterpiece. I notice that the Guardian hosts a reading of the story by William Boyd:

12:28 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That story is one I read I think - I wasn't even sure where it was - Ballard is an amazing writer but he has no message of "hope" or anything. Sacks is always fascinating. I also have some booklets about The Marshall Islands. The situation is of course generic and typical: and shows the hysteria and hypocrisy of the US and others re WOMD which the US have and probably sell all round the world including gas or whatever to Syria. They should attack themselves with those sexy "tomahawk" missiles they are itching to shoot onto whatever it suits them.

I think it is a sexual force. It is the Machismo of the US, the machismo of Power: the drive (sex-power drive) to shaft of fuck the others (doesn't matter what the reason is).

Behind it is vote catching. The Yanks love a Gunslinger. The love guns. To get votes you have to be "a good old boy" and be ready to "nuke the wogs" ...the US public aren't interested in who exactly the missile pictures are so lovely to see...nothing like being the big sexy money-power driven country...Nothing like being the Rambo or the Great Gunslinger of the World.

7:33 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The missiles are the fiery and forceful sperm of the vigorous US MAN shooting onto the dying body of the raped enemies wherever the "Goddam Motherfuckers are".

Human beings are probably prewired in this way. We are not "special" either in any evolutionary or religious sense. We are an unfortunately egregious example of the huge "success" of our too intelligent brains, driven by the Selfish Gene in what seems to be a godless world.

7:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And our poor 'Atenisi boys are caught in the middle of it! In the belly of the beast, so to speak:

11:06 pm  
Anonymous Vaughan Rapatahana said...

Los Americanos have a shitload of responsibility for the way the so-called modern world teeters continuously on the knife edge of ballistic death.

I went to Majuro more than once well over 30 years ago when living in Nauru - it was a shithole as it was overcrowded because there was nowhere else to run to for the many nuked landless refugees and the myriad of dogs. To think that Marshall Islanders are still clamouring for compensation even now, makes me puke further.

Have just spent the last two weeks in Okinawa. The Okinawans hate/detest Los Americanos as the latter's sprawling bases have seized approximately 50% of the landmass of the island of Okinawa itself, capital Naha. Huge troops of armoured trucks and airplanes continously lifting off greeted our worn tourist eyes. Their bases are like huge cancerous sores.

Los Americanos are also just about to leap back into Subic and Clark Bases in Pampanga, Philippines where I have a house in Santo Tomas and balik (return) very often. Our home is less than an hour away from Clark. Ostensibly they are there to support the corrupted Philippine military 'machine; but quintessentially they are there to hold forth their prattle about human dignity and freedom blah blah blah as they set about re-imperialising the Pacific further/again.

Mind you Philippines desires their immediate presence as PR China IS looming large and dangerous in the Philippine Sea and have already taken over Scarborough Shoal and booted out the Filipino fishermens' access there. PR China ain't no saint either. Remember that please. They are just as jingoistic as Los Americanos and equally bellicose. And their aeroplanes as sold to Tonga recently are crap. Superglued hand me downs of flotsam and jetsam smuggled probably from Togo along with all the dead elephants' tusks.

As for Aotearoa-New Zealand's limp dickylicking role in all this the less said the better. Nothing has changed since I was called up for military service in 1974 during the Vietnam War, under the supposedly sage mandate of Compulsory Military Training in that hellhole dubbed Waiouru.

I puke some more as I recall this. Yes, I have been in Vietnam
and Cambodia and Laos. Unexploded ordnace - koha from Los Americanos - is still killing and maiming indigenous populations by the truckloads.

Don't get me stated now on Diego Garcia. I'm back to the beginning of this rant.

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