End the external debt crisis

No matter how one looks at them, the numbers are staggering: More than a billion people in the world living on less than a dollar-a-day. There are 6.5 million AIDS orphans in Africa, with the number expected to double by 2010. Foreign debt of the world’s poorest countries now stands at more than $215 billion, up from $55 billion in 1980. In 1993 commercial banks, governments and international lending agencies took back three times as much money in debt repayment as they gave in aid to poor countries.

These numbers all have a common denominator – they are the product of the external debt crisis facing the 41 countries the United Nations calls Highly Indebted Poor Countries. They pay more in debt service than they spend on education, health or social programs.

Between 1982 and 1990, debtor countries paid more than $12 billion per month to their creditors – as much as the entire third world spends each month on health and education. This is money that flows from the world’s poorest people into the coffers of wealthy banks in the capitalist world.

As Cuban President Fidel Castro recently stated at the U.N.’s summit on poverty and development in Monterrey, Mexico, third world debt is a form of “plunder like no other in history.”

Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, once asked if African countries should let their people starve so they could pay their foreign debt.

We need a movement strong enough to rewrite the rules, cancelling the unpayable debt and setting up a U.N. Development Fund as suggested by Castro, that provides the capital needed for sustainable growth and national independence.

Where would the money come from? Cut Bush’s $397 billion Pentagon budget by half. Divide that $193 billion peace dividend between our unmet human needs here at home and the U.N. Development Fund.


U.S. out of Afghanistan

U.S.-British combat operations in eastern Afghanistan announced this week remind us that there has been no letup in the Bush administration’s “war without end.” Although there is the pretense of a coalition effort, make no mistake: this is a U.S.-run operation in the interest of the most reactionary sections of the U.S. ruling class.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with democracy or human rights, despite all the lipservice. In fact, the Bush administration has given skimpy support to humanitarian aid or implementation of women’s rights there.

What it’s about is installing a stable, compliant regime with some democratic trappings that will fully cooperate with the requirements of U.S. transnational corporations and their organizations, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The ongoing U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is a beachhead for a permanent U.S. presence in Central Asia, part of the Bush administration’s effort to construct an arc of unchallenged political, military and economic dominance from Africa, across the Middle East and the southern regions of the former Soviet Union, and east to Indonesia. The overriding aim of the Bush administration is to utilize the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond to solidify its single superpower status. Let’s call it by its name: Imperialism.

The U.S. military occupation in Afghanistan is not bringing peace or security either to Afghanistan or to our own country. Rather, like the current atrocities against the Palestinian people, it increases the risk of further violence and terrorist attacks, and heightens the danger of wider wars and use of nuclear weapons.

To achieve real peace and security, our government should immediately pull its troops and “advisors” out of Afghanistan and instead fully support international peacekeeping and humanitarian aid under the auspices of the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies.

Further, the U.S. should promptly ratify the International Criminal Court and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

But this won’t happen unless we, the American people, raise our united voices to demand it.