President Bush’s effort to win world support for his unilateral, superpower policies ran into resistance in the Group of 8 (G8) meeting and on the streets outside. The G8 represents the heads of the world’s richest capitalist countries.

Prevented from gathering at the heavily-guarded meeting site in Evian, France, near the Swiss border, tens of thousands protested in nearby French and Swiss cities against war, militarism and “neo-liberal” globalization that “destroys the environment and widens the gap between wealthy and poor.” Three days of festival-like protests by participants from throughout Europe and elsewhere included marches, teach-ins, and an alternative “Summit for Another World.”

The mass outpouring showed the growing convergence of the world movements for peace and for social justice, said Stasy McDougall of the 50 Years is Enough Network, a U.S.-based global economic justice coalition (“50 years” refers to the decades of inequitable policies imposed on developing countries by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund).

The June 1-3 G8 meeting reflected divisions among the leaders of the major capitalist countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – over the Bush administration’s unilateral war on Iraq, its projection of global dominance and its rejection of multilateral diplomacy. The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent termed the summit “a damage limitation exercise.” The Reuters news agency noted, “There was no sign of a meeting of minds either on Iraq or on the shape of the postwar world order.”

A new world public opinion poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows the image of the U.S. has plummeted since its Iraq war. The Bush administration, along with Britain’s Tony Blair, is on the defensive over the use of fake evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify attacking Iraq. The U.S. Congress and British lawmakers are launching official inquiries into what the leading French newspaper Le Monde called “the biggest State Lie of recent years.” The U.S. occupation of Iraq is enmeshed in one difficulty after another. American troops are being killed almost daily by hostile fire. Former Iraqi government workers and soldiers are demonstrating for pay and jobs. Cholera has broken out in Basra. And the U.S. refusal to turn over authority to a democratic, representative Iraqi government is generating mounting anger among the Iraqi people. This was an unspoken subtext for the G8 summit.

A vague final declaration called for “a fully sovereign, stable and democratic Iraq,” but avoided any endorsement of the U.S. invasion. Following publication of the statement, French President Jacques Chirac sharply reaffirmed his opposition to the U.S. attack, telling reporters all military action not endorsed by the international community, in particular by the United Nations Security Council, is “illegitimate and illegal.”

Bush put his priority on getting the G8 to endorse his endless war on terrorism. The final declaration called for diplomacy, weapons inspections and “if necessary, other measures” to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But it did not endorse preemptive war and did not mention Bush’s proposal to stop and seize ships or planes “suspected” of carrying parts for such weapons. Chirac and Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rejected U.S. claims that the declaration implicitly authorized use of force. “This interpretation, my dear sir, seems to me to be extremely daring,” Chirac told a reporter. “There was never any question of using force against anybody, in any quarter.” Koizumi said efforts to deal with North Korea’s possible nuclear weapons must be peaceful.

Directly challenging Bush’s go-it-alone sole-superpower doctrine, Chirac told a news conference he had “no doubt whatsoever that the multipolar vision of the world that I’ve discussed many times is supported by a large majority of countries.”

After Bush left the meeting to attend talks on the Israel-Palestine crisis, the G8 leaders added a line in the final declaration expressing determination to implement the Kyoto treaty to reduce global warming. Bush pulled the U.S. out of the treaty, turning his back on the international effort to protect the environment.

Brazil’s President Luis Inacio (Lula) da Silva was among 12 leaders of developing countries invited by Chirac to an opening session on global issues. Lula challenged G8/WTO trade policies that provide “billionaire subsidies” at the expense of the Third World. He called for establishment of a fund to end hunger, financed from developing countries’ debt payments, a tax on the international weapons trade, or a “Tobin tax” on international financial transactions.

Anti-corporate-globalization groups criticized the summit for “watered down rhetoric” that failed to seriously address economic inequality and environmental degradation. Friends of the Earth International called the G8’s proposals “another list of business-friendly initiatives aimed at restoring confidence in financial markets.”

The G8 should comply with promises previously made to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor nations, McDougall, of 50 Years is Enough, told the World. But she pointed out that the G8 members are capitalist countries with corporate interests to protect.

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.