Bush’s War on the World’s Poor
Each day, one turns to the latest news from the bowels of the Bush Regime with Dorothy Parker’s immortal words sounding in the mind like a tocsin: “What fresh hell is this?”
Last week, the news was particularly shameful–and the “hell,” though fresh indeed, was in no way metaphorical. For last week saw two new examples of the Regime’s most egregious ongoing crime against humanity–its cold, calculated, covert war against the world’s poor.
Although it’s being waged with words and policies–and not the flesh-devouring hardware now massing on Iraq’s borders–make no mistake: Bush’s war on the poor is a real war, with real casualties, and death tolls in the tens of thousands. It’s war on a global scale, on many fronts, but it’s being fought for two reasons only: personal political ambition and financial profit.
Ever since he seized office, Bush has taken every opportunity to derail or destroy UN efforts to provide reproductive health services to the world’s poorest women. He has filled American delegations to policy-setting conferences on these issues with religious extremists from his devoted “Christian Right” political base. He has arbitrarily cut off funding to the UN’s family planning program for developing nations: money that health experts say could have prevented 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths in the past year alone.
But this Herodian slaughter means nothing to Bush; what’s important is that he secures his “base” for the 2004 election. And so last week he launched a fresh assault on the poor and vulnerable. His fundamentalist minions sought to kneecap a UN conference on family planning in Asia, standing adamant–and alone–against the final resolution of a plan to guide policy and determine funding for a range of international health programs for women,
Not even the mullahs of Iran joined Bush in this fundamentalist diatribe against the document. And what was Bush’s objection? The inclusion of the phrase “reproductive health” in the proposal. This demonic language, saith the Lord’s Anointed, is just a codeword for “abortion.” And although abortion is of course legal in the United States–for example, Bush’s nubile daughters could freely and safely avail themselves of the practice if need arose–it is obviously not to be permitted for the lesser breeds who dwell in darkness.
But the Bush blockade was not just an outburst of religious zealotry; it was something far more cynical, far more wicked than that. For the objection was based on a lie–and the Bush team knew it was a lie. The UN’s 1994 Cairo Agreement on family planning and health rights for women–which was the foundational document of the Asia conference–clearly states: “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.” Therefore, phrases such as “reproductive health” or “reproductive rights” could not possibly refer to the promotion of abortion in UN family planning documents.
Bush knows this. The bogus abortion issue is just a smokescreen; in fact, his funding cuts to UN programs have actually led to far ***more*** abortions (an estimated 800,000, the UN says), as poor women are left without contraception or family planning advice. No, what his hard-right base ***really*** objects to is the overall aim of the UN programs: the emancipation of women from ignorance, repression and poverty. A woman in charge of her own reproductive health, outside the control of others, poses a mortal danger to the fundamentalists’ draconian mythology of “The Family,” where man rules as the vice-regent of God and woman humbly submits.
Whether Bush personally believes this or not is irrelevant. What matters is that he ***plays*** upon this belief, for his own aggrandizement–and that thousands of women and children die for it.
And the war goes on. Just a few days after the Asian assault, Bush’s own vice-regent, Dick Cheney, torpedoed an international agreement that would have allowed the world’s poorest nations to import a wide range of life-saving drugs at low cost. Cheney’s intervention has thus consigned thousands of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to needless agony and early death.
The 140 nations of the World Trade Organization were on the brink of signing a deal that would have relaxed some of the patent laws that protect the gargantuan profits of America’s politically-connected drug corporations, the Guardian reports. Poor nations can’t afford the medicines that the druglords develop for the favored denizens of the West (those with insurance, that is). The new WTO deal–part of a much broader package of development aid agreed upon at last year’s landmark Doha conference–would have given developing countries affordable access to treatments for such ravages as cancer, asthma, pneumonia and many others.
But the druglords called in their campaign chips; they haven’t stuffed Republican coffers for nothing. Cheney got on the horn to American delegates at the Geneva conference and lowered the boom: no deal–despite the fierce opposition of every other country in the WTO. Negotiators say the entire Doha agreement–with AIDs prevention as its centerpiece–may now collapse. If so, the death toll in Africa alone could reach millions.
These are acts of war by the Bush Regime, the acts of despicable moral cretins–slithering, slathering and lusting for power, willing to kill the weakest on earth to maintain themselves and their loathsome kind in comfort, pomp and privilege. With callous deliberation, sugared hypocrisy and criminal indifference, they are creating a hell on earth.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org