The U.S. White House, after intense lobbying by pharmaceutical industries, has sabotaged the talks that would have provided cheap medicines to poor countries. Vice President Dick Cheney seized the reins from America's trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick, at the World Trade Organization, in order to prevent the deal. The World Trade Organization has 141 members; 140 of them were in favor of the deal, and were "furiously opposed" to the U.S. action. (Click here for news story.)
The U.S. frequently goes against the rest of the world, and we usually tell ourselves it's for a good reason. When we backed out of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, we told ourselves that it was unfair, and anyway the scientific evidence didn't prove anything, and besides we had our own laws to deal with the problem.
One hundred twenty nations signed a ban on land mines. We joined Cuba in refusing to sign. I suppose we told ourselves that land mines might be necessary for national security someday.
We are preparing to attack Iraq. Most of the world thinks it's a bad idea, for a wide variety of reasons. But Saddam is dangerous and terroristic and as bad as Hitler, so I guess we have to do it, and anyway we don't know what the government knows about the situation.
But there is no possible justification for a ban on cheap lifesaving medicine. There is no way to pretend that our government did not sell out. We cannot tell ourselves that the White House must have had a good reason for its action. We can't even tell ourselves that there must be reasons we're not aware of.
That's what is so horrifying about this. Everything is out in the open, and easy to understand: U.S. drug companies want the last nickel of profit, so they lobby the government, so the government sabotages the deal. And we, the people, let it happen. We as a country, and we as citizens of that country, must hang our heads in shame. We no longer control our government. Our government no longer controls itself. Special interests are buying whatever laws and actions they want, and the results are rapidly destroying the remaining shreds of our moral superiority.
It's time to take a hard look at ourselves. Are we a democracy? Are we a moral, well-intentioned people? Are we fit to be the world's only superpower? There is no political question here. There is no economic question here, and no religious question. The question is simple and ugly: Are we willing to let a handful of big corporations kill millions of people for a trickle of profit? The answer is yes.
What are you going to do about it? I don't have answers, but I do know a few things. The creators of our Constitution put limits on our government. Separation of church and state is a basic part of our freedom. Separation of power is a basic part of our government's design. Today, we have seen the results of failure to separate government from big business. It's very simple: The government should not be for sale. The purpose of government is to protect people and society. The purpose of business is to make money. Just as we have separation of power, and separation of church and state, we must have separation of purpose. The alternative is special-interest atrocities.
I'm not political, and I'm not even very activist. I don't know what to recommend. Campaign finance reform? More openness in government? Better news reporting? More, or less, participation in international organizations? What I do know is that my government does not represent me any longer. Today I am ashamed to be called American. This is hard to admit, and I'm sure it's hard to read.
What will you do? Will you delete this file and go back to your life? Or will you act on your own conscience and your own political beliefs, and do *something* to regain control of the government? Will you pretend that this atrocity didn't happen, or will you make sure that your friends and your government representatives know how you feel about it?
And what will the people in poor countries do? The ones with AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria, that we are refusing to allow treatment for? Will they burn our flag? Will they blow up our embassies? One thing we can be sure of. Because of our government's actions, bought and paid for by a tiny special interest group, they will die.
Cheap medicine: http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?ao=9546&t=1
Land mines: http://www.banminesusa.org/news/971_mercury.htm
Kyoto protocol: http://ask.yahoo.com/ask/20020906.html
Copyright 2002 Chris Phoenix. The author encourages free copying and publication.