Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Moral monstrosity: America’s for-profit Gulag system

The private prison population in the US has rocketed 17-fold over the last two decades mostly on the shoulders of the deep-pocketed prison lobby, and the business continues to thrive. Try confining yourself to a small room in your home, like a bathroom or a closet, and spend a few hours there. One only cringes to imagine the detrimental psychological effects that kind of solitude creates for individuals who are subjected to solitary confinement for years at a time, knowing only the walls of their cell and the shades of light that creep across them. The abhorrent state of affairs at the Guantanamo facility often makes international headlines and arguably overshadows the calamity that is the US domestic prison system – where over six million people are subject to some form of correctional supervision, an amount exceeding those who toiled in the Soviet gulags during Stalin’s reign. In the United States, some fifty thousand inmates pass their days in solitary confinement. While there is undoubtedly no shortage of violent criminals in America’s jails, millions are dolled out annually by privately owned prison lobbies directly to politicians in an effort to influence harsher ‘zero tolerance’ legislation and mandatory sentencing for many non-violent offenses.

While the US faces economic stagnation and unprecedented spending cuts to programs of social uplift, business is booming for the private prison industry. Like any other business, these institutions are run for the purpose of turning a profit. State and federal prisons are contracted out to private companies who are paid a fixed amount to house each inmate per day. Their profit depends on spending the minimum amount necessary on each inmate day-to-day, allowing private-hands to pocket the remaining money. For the corrections conglomerates of America, success depends on housing the maximum numbers of inmates for the longest potential time as inexpensively as possible. Consider that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, far surpassing any other nation – for every 100,000 Americans, 743 citizens sit behind bars. The harsher sentences meted out to non-violent offenders in contrast to other industrialized nations speaks volumes of America’s enthusiastic embrace of a prison industrial complex.

Read the full story at RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Friday, 19 April 2013

US seeks allied regime in Malaysia as millions funnelled to opposition

As Malaysia gears up for its most critical general election ever, a prominent opposition figure has come forward with allegations American foundations organized protest rallies and channelled funds to opposition political parties. In early May 2013, Malaysia will face its most competitive political battle since its independence in the form of an election that pits Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has governed the country since 1957, against the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition that has received extensive training and backing from US government-funded foundations. Washington has often seen Malaysia’s leaders as stubborn, and as the unpopularity of the ruling coalition increases, organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have significantly greased the wheels to improve the US-friendly opposition’s chances of coming to power through multi-faceted media campaigns and support for anti-government street demonstrations. On one side, Malaysia’s former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad often caught the ire of Washington for his unceasing criticism of Israel and US foreign policy, while the incumbent PM Najib Razak has toned down the rhetoric and has pursued a business friendly approach with the West, while deepening economic ties with China.

On the other side, de-facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who formerly served as Deputy PM under Mahathir’s government, leans closely to the United States. During his political tenure, Anwar was sacked for implementing IMF austerity measures while Mahathir spearheaded Malaysia’s recovery from the 1997 Asian financial crisis through currency controls and protectionist measures. After his political fall, he served as Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and IMF in 1998, and later chaired the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, a US-funded think-tank established by Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the former US Vice President. Anwar enraged many in Muslim-majority Malaysia when he stated that he would support a policy to protect the security of Israel in an interview with the Wall Street Journal – a stark contrast to the ruling coalitions’ firm stance in support of Palestine. Anwar’s unique credentials and close ties to the US political and financial establishment make him undeniably preferred in Washington.

Read the full story at RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

UN Arms Trade Treaty’s Deadly Loophole

Foundation fellows and diplomats have lauded the overwhelming approval of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by the General Assembly of the United Nations, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing it as a means to obstruct the illicit arms flow to warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and the like. Many who have critically monitored the situation in Syria and the ramifications of foreign intervention in Libya may have difficulty swallowing Ban’s words, as some would argue that the UN has itself been complicit in these crises for turning a blind eye to arms and funding going to al-Qaeda-linked rebels in various countries. Twenty-three countries abstained from the vote (representing half the world’s population), including Russia, China, India, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Egypt, while three – Syria, Iran, and North Korea – voted no. Iran’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Gholam-Hossein Dehqani called the treaty a political document disguised as an Arms Trade Treaty, and with highly legitimate reasons for doing so.

The right to acquire and import arms for their (importer states’) security needs is subject to the discretionary judgment and extremely subjective assessment of the exporting states. That is why this text is highly abusable and susceptible to politicization, manipulation and discrimination,” said Dehghani, referring to conditions that arms exporting states would be able to impose on importing states. The pact prohibits the export of conventional arms to countries deemed guilty of violating international human rights laws and committing crimes against humanity – sure, this appears to be ethical and just at first glance, but more careful reflection is required. If we assume that the United Nations makes the call on which states qualify as human rights abusers and which states do not, then Israel would not be hindered from purchasing conventional weapons, but a country like Syria would be barred from purchasing arms to defend itself and its territorial sovereignty.


What makes the treaty not only toothless, but also particularly dangerous, is the fact that it lacks any explicit prohibitions regarding arms proliferation to terrorists and unlawful non-state actors. "Without such provisions, the ATT would in fact lower the bar on obligations of all states not to support terrorists and/or terrorists acts. We cannot allow such a loophole in the ATT," said Sujata Mehta, India's lead negotiator for the ATT in a statement. What this means is that NATO and Gulf states that supply arms to opposition groups in Syria will retain the flexibility to continue to do so, while at the same time having a greater say over whether individual importing states can arm themselves in accordance with their legitimate defense and national security interests. There is no doubt that certain states would take advantage of this loophole’s vast potential for misuse.

The treaty does not recognize the rights of all states to acquire, produce, export, import and possess conventional weapons for their own legitimate security purposes. In theory, this treaty gives the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter with heavy sway over the UN, much greater ability to influence whether or not an individual country is allowed to obtain weapons for its own defense. The treaty, in its glaring bias and predictability, completely fails to prohibit the transfer of arms to countries engaged in military aggression against other nations, such as Israel. “Somebody probably wants to have free rein to send arms to anti-government groups in countries ruled by regimes they consider inconvenient... When we started work on the document, the General Assembly set the task of establishing the highest possible international standards in the area of arms transfers. In reality though, the treaty has established minimally acceptable standards,” said Russian treaty negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov in a recent interview.

The treaty applies to the transfer of conventional weapons such as battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, small and light weapons, while the proliferation of UAV drones and other modern military technology is not addressed or scrutinized. While feel-good rhetoric prevails and politicians pat themselves on the back, the United Nations by its own admission concedes that the treaty does not ban or prohibit the export of any type of weapon. It is clear that the countries that rely most on the illicit trafficking of arms to execute their foreign policy objectives have had noticeable influence over the contents of this treaty. The treaty depends on how stringently individual countries implement it, and international arms transfers that involve barter deals or leases are also not scrutinized.


While many call it a welcomed development and the first step in regulating the $70 billion global conventional arms trade, there is little evidence that it will accomplish anything more than increase the frequency of illicit transfers under different guises and further legitimize the ‘Good Terrorist-Bad Terrorist’ dichotomy – it also contains no language concerning the right to self-determination by people who are under occupation, as is the case in Palestine. The treaty contains some reasonable common-sense measures, such as introducing national systems that monitor arms circulation in countries that lack such systems, but the absence of progressive processes lends credence to accusations that the text is highly industry-friendly and serves to reinforce the status quo.

Most importantly, the treaty pays no focus to actually reducing the sale of arms by limiting global production, which should rightfully be the objective of a treaty that uses global mass causality figures to legitimize itself. According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, armed violence kills more than half a million people each year, a figure that should rightfully strengthen calls to regulate and decrease global production rather than solely focusing simply on trade. Rather, the treaty institutionalizes and legalizes the arming of good terrorists while denying arms to unfriendly governments. Until the UN can cease being an appendage of a handful of the most powerful arms exporting states, there is little hope that any international arms trade treaty can reduce human suffering and have a meaningful impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in conflict zones around the world and elsewhere.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Understanding US Funding to Malaysian Civil Society

In 2012, the New Straits Times came under fire for accusing NGOs and actors within Malaysia’s civil society of scheming anti-government activities in an article titled “Plot to destabilise govt,” by journalist Farrah Naz Karim. The NST piece claimed that because various NGOs received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a non-profit foundation financed by the United States government, this was proof of a foreign destabilization agenda. Online news portal Free Malaysia Today published a counter argument written by Anisah Shukry, “NST report: ‘Ridiculous and rubbish’,” which contained valid refutations by accused figures in civil society who called on the NST to practice greater journalism ethics. Karim’s NST piece failed to substantiate these accusations with analysis and it was no doubt flawed, it is also clear that the author did not personally have a great deal of knowledge about the parties and institutions involved, evident in her erroneously referring to the Israeli government as the “Jewish government”.

Although this article raised contentious sentiments and leveled serious accusations without a clear explanation, the issue itself should be critically examined. Its no secret that the National Endowment for Democracy has a presence in Malaysia, and according to its official website, it provides over $1 million USD to various projects in Malaysia each year. This funding has been perceived suspiciously because of the overtly political nature of the NED’s programs and the fact that senior US political figures have leading roles in the organizations active in Malaysia. According to the NED’s history statement on its official website, the CIA was responsible for distributing covert funding overseas throughout the 1960s, prompting the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to call for the establishment of “a public-private mechanism” to fund overseas activities openly. Alan Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy, was famously quoted in a 1991 interview with the Washington Post reaffirming, “A lot of what we [NED] do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.”

The National Endowment for Democracy is funded primarily through the US Congress, within the budget of USAID, the US agency for development assistance, which is part of the US State Department – this means that the money the NED gives to foreign countries comes from public funds paid by citizen taxpayers. Funding mostly flows to its two main component parties, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), both affiliated with the Republican and Democratic political parties in the United States. While the NED remains accountable to the US Congress and is required to publish its disbursements, this doesn't apply to the organizations that it in turn finances, such as the IRI and NDI, both the main recipients of funding in Malaysia. According to historian William Robinson, "NED employs a complex system of intermediaries in which operative aspects, control relationships, and funding trails are nearly impossible to follow and final recipients are difficult to identify."

Former CIA agent Philip Agee stated in an interview in 2005 that “when they [NED] say the promotion of democracy, or civic education, or fortifying civil society, what they really mean is using those euphemisms to cover funding to certain political forces and not to others. In other words, to fortify the opposition of undesirable foreign governments as in the case of Venezuela, or to support a government that is favorable to US interests and avoid of coming to power of forces that are not seen as favorable to US interests.” Critics of the NED claim that the institution has been used for decades to shape popular discourse abroad in favor of political candidates that are friendly to US policies by funding media outlets that highlight human rights abuses and unpopular government policies, and by supporting popular movements that seek to discredit the ruling government or electoral system of a country.

What can be deducted from the NED’s operations in Malaysia? The organization provides grants to a wide array of institutions, among them are some fairly benign groups. The Merdeka Center for Opinion Research receives $60,000 annually to conduct public opinion research; it is one of three organizations that have been accredited by the Election Commission to be observers for the 13th general election and its findings on various issues appear to be fairly accurate. Other such recipients are Lawyers for Liberty, Malaysiakini, and Suaram, who accumulatively receive nearly $200,000 annually. “We make it clear in our annual human rights report that NED provides us with funds so that we are able to monitor the violation of civil and political rights in Malaysia. It’s not some top-secret thing, but NED doesn’t decide what we do in Malaysia. We decide what we plan to do, then we apply for funding for those projects. They don’t dictate nor direct anything,” said Suaram chairperson K Arumugam in an FMT article.

There are clear reasons why Suaram receives funding; it publishes books and political articles written by its founder, Kua Kia Soong, that are highly critical of the Malaysian government and are capable of arousing passions in ethnic minorities who feel marginalized through arguing in favor of regime change. Other US government funded studies on Malaysia highlight where Washington stands on sensitive issues in the country. The US Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission published a scathing report titled “Institutional Racism in Malaysia,” which calls Malaysia “a racist and religious extreme state” and uses extremely provocative language to liken Barisan Nasional to an apartheid regime. The cultural and political autonomy, and the economic status that minority groups enjoy in Malaysia lend credence to the fact that these allegations rely on half-truths and are significantly exaggerated and distorted. It should be seen as significant that funding from the US government is channeled to political or politically affiliated actors that are not neutral, but open in their anti-government sentiments.

What is more significant is the funding that goes into the Malaysian projects of the IRI & NDI, which operate under a significant lack of transparency are not required to publish detailed financial disbursements. According to the NED, the International Republican Institute receives an annual $450,000 for its Malaysian programs, which assist “political parties and their associated think tanks in being effective representatives of their constituencies”. Contrary to what one would expect from a civil society group, the IRI is led not by peace activists and community leaders, but high-level US politicians. IRI is chaired by conservative Senator John McCain, who has taken extremely aggressive positions in favor of US conflicts overseas and has staunchly supported Israel; vice chairman Richard S. Williamson served in senior foreign policy positions under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; treasurer J. William Middendorf II served as Secretary of the US Navy and was one of the architects of the deeply unpopular North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

IRI’s president, Lorne Craner served as Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the US State Department. “IRI works in countries important to U.S. interests, where we can make a difference… IRI focuses on three tasks: helping political parties broaden their appeal, ensuring that they rule justly once elected and aiding civil society in guaranteeing good governance… IRI can help catalyze the efforts of democratic activists in a country -- so long as they want change more than we want it for them,” writes Craner in a statement on IRI’s official website. According to the NED’s website, IRI received $802,122 in 2010 to work with “state leaders in Penang and Selangor to provide them with public opinion research, training and other resources to enable them to be more effective representatives of their constituents”. IRI claims that it “does not provide direct funding to political parties” in Malaysia, but their lack of transparency, significant budget and emphasis on helping broaden the appeal of political parties in opposition-held states suggests at the very minimum that funding is taking place indirectly.


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim photographed at the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award ceremony in 2007 alongside IRI President Lorne Craner, NED President Carl Gershman, NDI Board Member Tom Daschle, NDI President Ken Wollack, and others.  
NED's Statement of Principles and Objectives, adopted in 1984, asserts that ‘No Endowment funds may be used to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.’ But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American elections, there's ‘hard money’ and there's ‘soft money’,” writes William Blum, historian and former US State Department employee. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs receives $285,000 for their Malaysian projects, which include promoting “openness and accountability in government by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation.” Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, who has been a cheerleader for American exceptionalism and NATO militarism, chairs NDI. In addition, former US Senator Thomas Daschle and Kenneth Wollack, former legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), both have high positions in the NDI. According to the NDI’s official website, it conducts “state-level parliamentary workshops in Selangor and Penang” because “opposition parties have had limited experience in government, many of the parliamentarians elected in 2008 lacked a fundamental understanding of parliamentary processes and of representing constituent concerns.” 

The following text was amended and removed from NDI’s description of its programs, and no longer appears as of 2013: “In 2006, NDI conducted a workshop for BERSIH that focused on improving the action plans of each participating organization or political party. In 2007, NDI and BERSIH conducted a series of workshops in the politically neglected provinces of Sabah and Sarawak to educate previously disenfranchised political aspirants.” The New York Times in its 2011 article, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” reported that “a small core of American government-financed organizations were promoting democracy in authoritarian Arab states” and that “the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known,” specifically mentioning the training efforts provided by the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

Both active and former US politicians who represent the foreign policy of the United States government control these institutions – they award generous grants on behalf of the US taxpayer to organizations that are consistent with their objectives. Malaysia’s opposition parties have received training from US-government linked foundations such as the IRI and NDI. Anwar Ibrahim has participated in NED programs and maintains cordial relations with its president, Carl Gershman. As the United States shifts its economic and military focus to the Asia Pacific region, it has channeled millions into “democracy promotion” to nurture the emergence of friendly regimes in the region to serve its own strategic interests. Interestingly enough, the NED does not conduct operations in countries that have close relations with the United States, despite having less democratic environments than that of Malaysia, like in Qatar or Singapore. Civilian movements that promote democratic participation and media transparency in countries like South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Japan are also completely ignored by the NED and the US political establishment. 

Revelations that the Malaysian government paid American columnists to smear the image of Anwar Ibrahim in the US media have enraged Malaysians far and wide. These realities are regrettable, but why are many unwilling to scrutinize the flipside – recipients of US funds who smear the BN in their writings? Why are Malaysian dissident opinions perceived to be valid when the US funds these figures, while anti-Anwar positions are illegitimate when Malaysia funds writers who hold those views? Moreover, why is there a lack of interest in the most militaristic nation on earth spending millions to “bring liberty to the land,” as touted by the International Republican Institute? While it may be journalistically irresponsible to make accusations of plots and destabilization, the millions spent training and cultivating opposition parties is proof that the United States has a post-Najib agenda of its own.

This article appeared on Free Malaysia Today.

Nile Bowie is an independent political commentator and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He covers a wide range of international issues and is not affiliated with any political party. He can be reached atnilebowie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Corporate Power-Tool Of The 1%

One of the least discussed and least reported issues is the Obama administration’s effort to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to the forefront, an oppressive plurilateral US-led free trade agreement currently being negotiated with several Pacific Rim countries. Six hundred US corporate advisors have negotiated and had input into the TPP, and the proposed draft text has not been made available to the public, the press or policymakers. The level of secrecy surrounding the agreements is unparalleled – paramilitary teams scatter outside the premise of each round of discussions while helicopters loom overhead – media outlets impose a near-total blackout of reportage on the subject and US Senator Ron Wyden, the Chair of the Congressional Committee with jurisdiction over TPP, was denied access to the negotiation texts. “The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations — like Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America — are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement,” said Wyden, in a floor statement to Congress.

In addition to the United States, the countries participating in the negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Japan has expressed its desire to become a negotiating partner, but not yet joined negotiation, partly due to public pressure to steer-clear. The TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented rights to demand taxpayer compensation for policies they think will undermine their expected future profits straight from the treasuries of participating nations – it would push the agenda of Big PhaRMA in the developing world to impose longer monopoly controls on drugs, drastically limiting access to affordable generic medications that people depend on. The TPP would undermine food safety by limiting labeling and forcing countries like the United States to import food that fails to meet its national safety standards, in addition to banning Buy America or Buy Local preferences.


According to leaked draft texts, the TPP would also impose investor protections that incentivize offshoring jobs through special benefits for companies – the TPP stifles innovation by requiring internet service providers to police user-activity and treat small-scale individual downloads as large-scale for-profit violators. Most predictably, it would rollback regulation of finance capital predators on Wall Street by prohibiting bans on risky financial services and preventing signatory nations from exercising the ability to independently pursue monetary policy and issue capital controls – signatories must permit the free flow of derivatives, currency speculation and other manipulative financial instruments. The US-led partnership – which seeks to impose ‘Shock and Awe’ Globalization – aims to abolish the accountability of multinational corporations to the governments of countries with which they trade by making signatory governments accountable to corporations for costs imposed by national laws and regulations, including health, safety and environmental regulations.

The proposed legislation on Intellectual Property will have enormous ramifications for TPP signatories, including Internet termination for households, businesses, and organizations as an accepted penalty for copyright infringement. Signatory nations would essentially submit themselves to oppressive IP restrictions designed by Hollywood’s copyright cartels, severely limiting their ability to digitally exchange information on sites like YouTube, where streaming videos are considered copyrightable. “Broader copyright and intellectual property rights demands by the US would lock up the Internet, stifle research and increase education costs, by extending existing generous copyright from 70 years to 120 years, and even making it a criminal offense to temporarily store files on a computer without authorization. The US, as a net exporter of digital information, would be the only party to benefit from this,” said Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

In the private investor-state that the TPP is attempting to establish, foreign corporations can sue national governments, submitting signatory countries to the jurisdiction of investor arbitral tribunals, staffed by private sector attorneys. International tribunals could have authority to order governments to pay unlimited cash compensation out of national treasuries to foreign corporations and investors if new or existing government policy hinders investors’ expected future profits. The domestic taxpayer in each signatory country must shoulder any compensation paid to private investors and foreign corporations, in addition to large hourly fees for tribunals and legal costs. A good example of how this agreement neuters national sovereignty comes from Malaysia, which was able to recover from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis more quickly than its neighbors by introducing a series of capital control measures on the Malaysian ringgit to prevent external speculation – the TPP’s proposed measures would restrict signatory nations from exercising capital controls to prevent and mitigate financial crises and promote financial stability. 


The TPP regime ensures that foreign investors and multinational corporations retain full rights to undermine the sovereignty of participatory nations by skirting domestic regulations and limiting the abilities of national governments to issue independent economic policy. There has never been such a sweeping corporate assault on sovereignty, and that includes US sovereignty. Leaked TPP documents detail how the Obama administration intends to surrender US sovereignty to international tribunals that operate under World Bank and UN rules to settle disputes arising under the TPP, specifically designed to leave Congress out in the cold while creating a judicial authority higher than the US Supreme Court. In theory, the TPP would give international judicial entities the authority to override US laws, allowing foreign companies doing business in the United States the privilege of operating in a legal environment that would give them significant economic advantages over American companies that remain tied to US laws, placing domestic companies who do not move offshore at a competitive disadvantage.

Facing the emergence of strong developing economies like the BRICS group and other nations that seek greater access to industrial growth and development, the Obama administration realizes that it must offer Pacific nations – who would otherwise have greater incentives in deepening economic ties with China – an attractive stake in the US economy. As the Pentagon repositions its military muscle to the Asia-Pacific region, the TPP is clearly the economic arm of the ‘Asia Pivot’ policy, roping strategic economies into a legally binding corporate-governance regime, lured in by the promise of unfettered access to US markets. The Obama administration is essentially prostituting the American consumer to foreign corporations to usher in a deal that would impose one-size-fits all international rules that even limit the US government's right to regulate foreign investment and the appropriation of natural resources, solidifying a long-discussed model of finance capital-backed global governance.

Of the 26 chapters of the proposed TPP draft text, it is reported that only two chapters cover trade issues, related to slashing tariffs and lifting quotas. The TPP would obligate the federal government to force US states to conform state laws to over a thousand pages of detailed stipulations and constraints unrelated to trade – from land use to intellectual property rights – authorizing the federal authorities to use all possible means to coax states to comply with TPP rules, even by imposing sanctions if they fail to do so. According to leaked documents, US standards for property rights protection would be swept away in favor of international property rights standards, as interpreted by TPP’s unelected international tribunals, giving investors principal control over public land and resources “that are not for the exclusive or predominant use and benefit of the government."


Due to the unconstitutional nature of the TPP, members of Congress would likely object to many of its stipulations – naturally, the Obama administration is employing its executive muscle to restrict congressional authority by operating under “fast-track authority,” a trade provision that requires Congress to review an FTA under limited debate in an accelerated time frame subject to a yes-or-no vote so as to assure foreign partners that the FTA, once signed, will not be changed during the legislative process. No formal steps have been taken to consult Congress as the agreement continues to be negotiated, and Obama looks set to subtly ram the treaty into law. Such is the toxic nature of US policies that seek to bring in disaster-capitalism on a global scale, while keeping those whose lives will be most affected by deal completely in the dark. The message behind this unfettered corporate smash and grab is simple – bend over!

Recent statistics claim that the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India will surpass that of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States by 2020. More than 80% of the world's middle class will live in the South by 2030, and what a different world that would be. The United States is economically ailing, and the TPP – Wall Street’s wet dream and Washington’s answer to its own dwindling economic performance – is designed to allow US big business a greater stake in the emerging Pacific region by imposing an exploitative economic model on signatory nations that exempt multinationals and private investors from any form of public accountability. The TPP’s origins go back to the second Bush administration, and it still remains in the negotiating phases under Obama’s second administration. The overwhelming lack of transparency surrounding the talks lends credence to what is known already – that the contents of this trade agreement serve the interests of those on the top of the economic food chain while the rest of us stagnate on the menu.

This article appeared on Counterpunch.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com