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
viewpoint...as 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 G8as if it were some sort of exclusive
West-End gentleman's club. To hear the Bush
administration lecturing others on democracy seems
The following is our contribution to this profoundly
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 communityindeed, 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 factthe 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
Those who imagine this to be merely an internal
affaire are deluding themselvesdemocracy 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 Americaare 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 secretonly 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 executionswhich fall
overwhelmingly on the poor and racial minorities.
- The US system of justice has doled out cruel and
inhuman prison sentencessentences 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
policiesincluding huge current account and budget
deficits, as well as zero savingsit can be argued
that they no longer qualify as a serious and
respectable economic partner.
- Forms of extreme religious fundamentalismwidespread
in the developing world but which have been
marginalized in the advanced democraciesare 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
opinionstelevisionis 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
Yes, the situation seems grim, but it is not without
hopeand 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 pollutionand 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 G8which requires
a unanimous vote. But more importantly, G8 membership
is not some sort of a blue-ribbon awarded to the best
democratsif 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 mindsand 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.