Friday, December 24, 2010

U.S. Corporate interests trump national interests?

By Jo Becker, New York Times, December 24, 2010
As the administration tries to press Iran even harder to abandon its nuclear program — officials this week announced several new sanctions measures — some diplomats and foreign affairs experts worry that by allowing the sale of even small-ticket items with no military application, the United States muddies its moral and diplomatic authority. ...

Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by The New York Times has found.

At the behest of a host of companies — from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks — a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.
Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.
Hundreds of other licenses were approved because they passed a litmus test: They were deemed to serve American foreign policy goals. And many clearly do, among them deals to provide famine relief in North Korea or to improve Internet connections — and nurture democracy — in Iran. But the examination also found cases in which the foreign-policy benefits were considerably less clear.
In one instance, an American company was permitted to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe, even though the United States opposes such projects. Several other American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation. In one such case, involving equipment bought by a medical waste disposal plant in Hawaii, the government was preparing to deny the license until an influential politician intervened.
With the U.S. initiative to privatize its war-making activities, to companies like Blackwater, thereby compromising its military policy to the private sector, and to compromise its health care to the profit-motive of the insurance companies, and now its foreign policy sanctions on countries like Iran to the commercial interests of various is prompted to ask, out loud, "Is the government in charge of the U.S. domestic and foreign policy, or are the various commercial, for-profit, corporations running the country, through their inordinate influence on the politicians?"
It seems to an outsider, that the U.S. political class genuflects whenever a corporation makes a request for a license to sell, to manufacture, to experiment with a new drug, or to develop foreign markets....whatever the corporate "master" wants, the corporate master gets...rendering the U.S. as a country, as slave to the interests of the corporations.
Is that the kind of country the voters and the citizens who pay the taxes want? Somehow, we doubt it.
So, perhaps, the protest against the war will be followed by some equally valid protests against the corporations...long overdue!


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