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WHAT WE THINK
Arrogance of American empire

June 6, 2003 | Page 3

WHEN JULIUS Caesar conquered Gaul, he parlayed his victory over what is now modern-day France into becoming leader of the Roman Empire. Today's would-be emperor, George W. Bush, also plans to succeed at France's expense--not only because France opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but to keep Europe divided and Washington on top of the world. "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia: that was the succinct reaction by Condoleezza Rice, America's National Security Adviser, to those countries' opposition to the second Gulf war," observed London's Daily Telegraph.

In its coverage of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Evian, France, the U.S. media analyzed the warmth of Bush's handshakes with world leaders like society gossip columnists reporting on who's "in" or "out." After meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, Bush snubbed his host by leaving Evian early to attend a Middle East summit in Egypt.

Coming from the same White House image-makers who came up with Bush's prime-time TV landing on an aircraft carrier last month, the message couldn't be clearer: We run the world, and you'd better know your place. As Rice said at a Washington press conference before the Evian trip, "It isn't the power of the United States that needs to 'be checked.' It's the power of the United States that needs to work cooperatively with others who share the same values to achieve common goals."

Or as the Financial Times put it: "U.S. vision requires 'old Europe' to toe the line." By playing up "new Europe" countries like Poland at the expense of old allies Germany and France, Washington wants to ensure that the European Union doesn't coalesce into a political and military rival or an economic competitor.

Meanwhile, the world economy remains mired in stagnation and slump, and the leaders of G8--created in the 1970s to forge common economic policies among the world's most powerful countries--didn't have the least answer to offer. But if the other G8 players rankle at U.S. domination, they share Washington's goal of dominating the world's poor and developing nations.

While Bush made much of the U.S. pledge of $15 billion to fight AIDS at the global level--an amount that France's Chirac promised to match--the real impact remains to be seen. After all, last year's G8 meeting included a promise of $100 billion in debt relief--a number greatly inflated by money that was already committed.

This year, G8 leaders again gave lip service to the problem of Third World debt--but will continue to tighten the screws on poor countries through the International Monetary Fund. The G8 leaders' real views on global justice were reflected in the vicious police crackdown on protesters, who were forced to gather across the border in Switzerland after being banned in France.

The rivalries among G8 leaders are about whether Washington can rule the world alone--not whether the world should be ruled by a handful of the most powerful governments. The real opposition to empire won't be found in presidential palaces or at summit meetings, but in protests and struggle from below.

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