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Issue #1662      October 29, 2014

Culture & Life

Lies and conspiracies

The second-most pathetic sight of recent times has to have been Tony Abbott telling everyone how he would “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Brisbane. The most pathetic sight was Labor leader Bill Shorten trying to outdo Abbott by being even more fiercely anti-Russian. These two strutting game-cocks posturing for the Australian media as though they were the leaders of a Great Power while they spouted anti-Russian rhetoric of a type not seen since the 1950s and the height of the Cold War was downright embarrassing.

President Obama meeting with Ron Klain (US “Ebola Czar”), then chief of staff to the vice president, at the White House.

Everyone knows that Australia’s foreign policy is conducted to a score written in Washington, so the sight of these two Lilliputians being outrageously rude and offensive towards the President of an actual Great Power merely confirmed our status as a loyal US lapdog. The transparently obvious nature of their posturing was enhanced by the fact that the topic on which they chose to pontificate (the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine) had already been convincingly shown to be a US/EU beat-up, the physical evidence indicating that the plane was shot down by an air-to-air missile which could only be from a Ukrainian fighter plane.

Nevertheless, the name of the game at the moment is to promote the new Cold War while conducting numerous hot wars for control of the world’s resources. Propaganda, beat-ups, lies and conspiracies are all part of the paraphernalia of this endeavour. Of course, imperialism is an old hand at using lies and hatching conspiracies, so much so that many thinking people no longer trust anything imperialist governments say, especially the US government.

A case in point is the Ebola crisis. President Obama has appointed what the US media is calling an “Ebola Czar”, a single official to oversee the USA’s defence against and response to this deadly infection. But, as Paul Craig Roberts points out, “America’s new Ebola Czar is not a medical person but an insider lawyer who served as chief of staff to Vice President Biden.” Not exactly impressive credentials for waging a meaningful fight against a disease.

Roberts himself was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. So he’s no Lefty. Nevertheless, Roberts makes the pertinent comment: “Little wonder Ebola conspiracy theories are spreading faster than Ebola. And as far as any of us know, the conspiracies could be true.”

He then adds a much more worrying comment: “University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, an expert of the perfidies of the US government, reminds us that Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, are two West African countries that host US biological warfare laboratories.” How’s that again? Biological warfare labs? Why are they in Africa and not the USA?

The US has not only spent more (much more) on researching biological or “germ” warfare than any other country, it is the only country to have actually used biological weapons (in Korea). There may be people who think that sort of research is purely for defensive purposes, but based on past and present US practice, I certainly don’t believe it. Do you?

Roberts also notes that “Washington’s response is itself peculiar. The Obama regime sent 4,000 US soldiers to West Africa to fight Ebola. Soldiers don’t have training or equipment with which to combat Ebola. Why expose 4,000 Americans to an epidemic? This seemingly pointless decision has raised suspicions that Washington is exposing troops to Ebola so that vaccines or treatments can be tested on the troops.”

He then brings up a much more sinister suggestion: “Other commentators have noticed that West Africa is an area of Chinese investments. They wonder if Washington is using the cover of Ebola to occupy the countries or even set the disease loose in order to drive out the Chinese. The new US Africa Command was formed to counteract Chinese economic penetration in Africa.”

The bourgeois media make great efforts to consistently belittle and dismiss “conspiracy theories” as so much nonsense. But the sad truth is that capitalism indulges in and foments conspiracies all the time. Some are small, others are profound and complex. All are aimed at the working people. So don’t move to dismiss Roberts’ suggestions too quickly.

However, Canadian science writer Leigh Phillips has a less controversial take on why Ebola has erupted in West Africa. In an interview for Democracy Now, he noted that the Ebola outbreak is affecting some of the poorest countries in the world and that it “really demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of capitalism, not just on the one hand in terms of research, but [in Liberia and Sierra Leone] in West Africa as well, and in Spain.

“We see that the same processes, the same free-market-driven ideology that has reduced these countries to real dire poverty. These three countries that are some of the poorest countries in the world. … I mean really right at the bottom of the global league tables. And their public healthcare infrastructure has been utterly decimated, not merely by civil war but by a series of processes that are imposed by Western countries, [by] international financial organisations like the International Monetary Fund.

“The sort of structural adjustment that has been imposed in these countries, and many other countries, as well, is what is responsible for the decimation of the healthcare infrastructure in these countries.

“And we’re seeing this exact same process in Spain. The European Union has imposed, you know, since the economic crisis, since the eurozone crisis, a series of absolutely brutal austerity programs in the southern flank – in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal – and in Ireland, as well.

“The result of this has been, again, a real deterioration of public health infrastructure. Spain has seen basically a quarter of its spending on healthcare cut for the last few years annually. The hospital where we’ve seen the cases [of Ebola] in Spain, their isolation ward was shut down directly as a result of the imposition of austerity by Brussels.

“I think we need to begin to ask whether capitalism itself is not pathogenic, whether neo-liberalism is not pathogenic.”

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