International Endowment for Democracy or

Does America deserve to be in the G8?

By Eric Kraus
January 31, 2006

Much ink has been spilled over the issue of whether Russia "deserves" to be in the G8. I think that, actually, the question might be best considered from the comparative, rather than the absolute in, who else does not belong! My somewhat tongue-in-cheek contribution...

The Press has recently been replete with indignant braying as regards who does and does not "deserve" to be in the G8—as if it were some sort of exclusive West-End gentleman's club. To hear the Bush administration lecturing others on democracy seems slightly surreal.

The following is our contribution to this profoundly irrelevant debate!

Does America deserve to be in the G8?

In the run-up to the first of the 2006 G8 meetings to be chaired by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, inevitably, the question is being asked whether the United States still deserves to be a member of the G8. There can be little doubt that, over the past six years, the United States has seen a substantial erosion of her old but still-fragile democracy, along with an increasingly aggressive foreign policy and growing tendency to ignore the will of the international community—indeed, any international law whatsoever. This clearly poses a growing threat to regional security and to world peace.

Although the outward trappings of democracy have been retained (for how long?)—in fact—the two political parties have become virtually indistinguishable; both are entirely beholden to their corporate paymasters. Only a precious few truly independent representatives remain. Although pseudo-democratic alternation of power is still allowed, in fact no real choice is provided by these "elections" which simply pit two candidates representing little beyond competing economic clans.

Those who imagine this to be merely an internal affaire are deluding themselves—democracy and the rule of law is a vital safeguard for peace, and the United States is in breach of international law and standards of conduct in numerous areas:

  • While her extremely aggressive policies in her "near-abroad"—Latin America—are less openly militaristic than in the recent past, America continues to employ economic blackmail and political subversion to retain influence over countries such as Venezuela, which are now seeking to break free of the US sphere of influence and to find an alternative to an economic system which resulted in the desperate poverty of the mass of their populations.

  • The widespread use of kidnapping, torture, and secret prison systems, and in general, the creation of offshore areas of "non-law" where all due process is denied, is simply not acceptable in the 21st Century. Criminals and terrorists can and should be punished in compliance with international law. Especially in a time of war, the applicable laws must be applied.

  • Although many countries still employ torture, it is generally held to be a shameful secret—only the Bush administration openly demands the right to employ such abhorrent and barbarous practices subject only to its own interpretation of the common good.

  • While every other G8 country has eliminated the death penalty, the United States has steadily increased the number of judicial executions—which fall overwhelmingly on the poor and racial minorities.

  • The US system of justice has doled out cruel and inhuman prison sentences—sentences frequently exceeding any natural lifespan, to major business figures involved in practices which, while they were perhaps dubious, were very widespread at the time. Prosecution was thus very certainly selective.

  • Every G8 country has endorsed the Kyoto Protocol in an attempt to at least slow the inexorable warming of the planet. Despite this consensus, the US has steadfastly refused to sign this vital document. Since the US produces the world's highest per-capita share of global emissions, it is essential that they join the international community in addressing this threat.

  • Although the United States' economy remains very large, given their totally irresponsible macroeconomic policies—including huge current account and budget deficits, as well as zero savings—it can be argued that they no longer qualify as a serious and respectable economic partner.

  • Forms of extreme religious fundamentalism—widespread in the developing world but which have been marginalized in the advanced democracies—are an increasing threat, with the constitutional separation of church and state being seriously eroded.

  • Although the US still has a diverse and turbulent written press and Internet, the means by which the overwhelming majority of the population forms its opinions—television—is totally controlled by corporate interests; alternatives to the current model are simply not discussed. Government-sponsored media such as the Fox network constitute the crudest form of propaganda.

Yes, the situation seems grim, but it is not without hope—and to isolate America now would simply encourage the worst sort of behaviour. Fortunately, after a series of major policy failures, and having rendered itself increasingly unpopular both at home and abroad, the current US administration is now tempering its native arrogance with a new-found need for allies. Do not forget that America remains important in the global fight against terror, disease and pollution—and is one of the five voting members on the UN Security Council.

No one country, not even Russia, can unilaterally exclude a member country from the G8—which requires a unanimous vote. But more importantly, G8 membership is not some sort of a blue-ribbon awarded to the best democrats—if it were, then the Scandinavian countries would be first in line. No, the G8 is a forum for countries which consider each other to be the most important to sit down to talk about what's on their minds—and this year, they are thinking energy, Iran, and terror.

It is thus vital that the other G8 nations remain firm, offering a helping hand and standing ready to welcome America back into the community of law-abiding nations, while remaining absolutely firm in their condemnation of any further backsliding.

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