We speak with author and journalist George Monbiot about his latest book, Manifesto For a New World Order in which he describes how a handful of men in the richest nations use the global powers they have assumed to make decisions regarding war, peace, debt, development and the balance of trade to tell the rest of the world how to live. [includes rush transcript]
In his latest book, "Manifesto For a New World Order", author and journalist George Monbiot writes:
“Everything has been globalized except our consent. Democracy alone has been confided to the nation state. It stands at the national border, suitcase in hand, without a passport.
"A handful of men in the richest nations use the global powers they have assumed to tell the rest of the world how to live. This book is an attempt to describe a world run on the principle by which those powerful men claim to govern: the principle of democracy. It is an attempt to replace our Age of Coercion with an Age of Consent."
- * George Monbiot*, author and columnist for the London Guardian. His latest book is "Manifesto for a New World Order."
AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot in our New York studio at Downtown Community Television. It’s great to have you with us.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Thanks, Amy. It’s an honor to be on.
AMY GOODMAN: You have heard the headlines and have heard about the situation right now in Fallujah. In one of your latest pieces, you talk about the situation in the Middle East. You say, "In order to understand it, we have to understand politics in Texas." Why?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, there’s this group of Christian fundamentalists who want to have a new world war, and they want that world war to begin in the Middle East, because they’re their reading of the bible suggests if there’s an all-consuming war between what they consider to be the forces of Christ versus the forces of the anti-Christ, who could be the Muslim world or the United Nations or the European Union or France, depending on your interpretation. That will bring about the second coming of Jesus and all of the true believers, in other words, people who believe what they believe, will be magically wafted out of their clothes and spectacles and dental fills and will fly up to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. In order to bring about this event where the sky becomes filled with floating nudists. They need to create a great conflagration in the Middle East and bizarrely, weirdly, though this sounds completely insane, these people have a great deal of power within the republican party, and in Texas in particular, at the recent conventions, for instance in Houston, again and again they were thumping this Middle East drum and saying, "we basically have to get in there and back Sharon far harder than we have backed him. We have to get the Palestinians out of Palestine, shove them into exile. We have to get a greater Israel that goes from the Nile to the Euphrates and then we can bring about the second coming."
JUAN GONZALEZ: But your book also talks about — quite a bit about — obviously, the new world order first coined by the first President Bush as the future of the United States after the collapse of the socialist camp. Your book also tries to talk about what would be the makings, the principle aspects of what would be a new world order that would be something that the people of the world could live peacefully and sufficiently in.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes. The idea is that if we think that democracy is the best way to run a nation-state, or the least worst way to run a nation-state, why should it not also be the best way to run the world. At the moment, we have about the most undemocratic settlement you can possibly get. There are 191 member states of the United Nations, five of them are permanent members, have veto powers which can stop all of the other states from exercising any democratic voice. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund run on that time on a democratic principle of one dollar, one vote. What that means is that they work almost exclusively in the poor world. They’re controlled exclusively by the rich world. That means that the people of the poor world over whom they exercise enormous power have no say at all in the course of their own lives. World Trade Organization, in theory, every nation has one vote, which is why nothing has ever been put to the vote of the World Trade Organization. If you believe that that is a fair way to run the world, well, that’s up to you. Just don’t call yourself a democrat. Anyone who calls themself a democrat must surely accept the case for a radical transformation of the way the world is run.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean that everyone has one vote at the World Trade Organization, which is why they have never voted?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, in principle, every one of the 184 members can vote and cast an equal vote. In principle, Honduras has the same vote as the United States. In practice, what happens is that the nations called The Quad, the European Union, the United States, Japan and Canada, get together, before all of the general assembly of the World Trade Organization gets together, draw up a draft declaration for a world trade agreement, and then basically present it to the rest of the world on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Either all of you guys accept that this grossly unfair draft agreement, which basically says the rich world gets everything, the poor world get nothing, either you accept this agreement in its entirety or reject it in its entirety. There’s no prospect of saying, "Well, we would rather have a different agreement and we rather that it contained this element and that element," so that the poor world actually had a share of the cake.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But amazingly, the United States in recent — at least the last couple of years has been losing some key decisions at the WTO. How do you explain that if it has so much dominance?
GEORGE MONBIOT: What’s interesting here, and I think this gives us a certain amount of hope, is a sort of power relation developing between the rich and the poor, that every time the forces of economic globalization try to extend their global reach, their global empire, they actually provide opportunities for the other side, for us. What we have seen with the World Trade Organization is the bunch of rich countries getting together to say, we want as many poor countries in this organization as possible so we can open up their markets and exploit their economies, in particular, we want China. We want China in because it has a huge potential consumer market. They bring all of these guys in and suddenly they find they’re outnumbered. They find they’re surrounded. They’ve created the power which can be used to confront their own power. And what we saw in September in Cancun in Mexico was that power being exercised by the poorer nations for the first time. These nations, which outnumber the rich ones, but also have in their midst this great, immovable block called China, which cannot be kicked around like the other nations can. What we are now seeing, we saw with Brazil just a few days ago, taking on the United States saying, "we contest these cotton subsidies, which are ruining the livelihoods hundreds of millions of cotton farmers and their families around the world." They successfully took them on and successfully contested it. I think the worm is beginning to turn. I think what we’re beginning to see now, on the global level, is the forces who stand for justice, the forces who stand for democracy, the forces who stand for the poor rather than the rich are beginning to get their act together and are beginning to fight back and beginning to find a means of delivering the sort of new world order which I’m talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to George Monbiot, his new book is Manifesto for a New World Order. He is a columnist in Britain. He has traveled the world, taking on those in power. We are going to be doing a story later in this program about a large republican campaign contributor, the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, that is going to be — which is forcing ABC affiliates it owns not to run Ted Koppel’s program tonight, where he will be listing the names of soldiers killed in combat in Iraq. I erroneously said in the billboard, "all soldiers killed," but that is not the case. He will be naming the soldiers killed in combat, and that doesn’t actually include soldiers, for example, who have committed suicide. But what with are your thoughts about the issue of casualties, of photos not being shown, the difference between what we’re shown here in the United States in the corporate media and what the rest of the world sees?
GEORGE MONBIOT: I feel that the key component of democracy is a free and fair press. Unless you have a free and fair press, unless people are told what’s really going on in the world, how can they possibly make an informed choice when they go to the ballot box? How can they possibly say, "We prefer this guy to that guy because this guy has better policies than the other guy," if they simply don’t know what’s going on? Without a fair press or a free press, without a press that’s bold and courageous and prepared to tell people what’s really going on, you cannot have anything resembling a genuine democracy. If there’s one thing which destroys democracy in America, destroys democracy in Europe and destroys democracy all over the world, it’s the concentration of ownership. It’s the fact that the media organizations are run by a group of billionaires, and what do billionaires want? They want a better world for billionaires. In order to create a better world for billionaires, they have to convince the people that’s what’s good for them is good for everybody else. Whereas, of course, the opposite is the case — a better world for billionaires means even greater levels of inequality, even greater levels of oppression. What we have to do through the alternative media, the media like this, is to find the alternative voice which says to people, listen, a better world for billionaires is a disaster for everybody else. We need a better world for the poor, a better world for the middle-incomed, and a worse world for billionaires.
AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot, we have to break for stations to identify themselves. We will come back with you and talk about one of the areas that you have been investigating for a long time, and that is extreme global climate change. This is Democracy Now! broadcasting from Boston and New York. George Monbiot is our guest. We will also get a report from the Abu Ghraib prison with Free Speech Radio News’s Aaron Glantz. We’ll be talking with the mother of a slain soldier in Iraq to get her reaction to Sinclair broadcasting’s edict. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Bob Dylan here on Democracy Now! And democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman here with Juan Gonzalez in our New York studio. We’re used to speaking to him on the phone. It’s great to have him in the studio. He traveled across the Atlantic, bringing us this book, Manifesto for a New World Order. Extreme global climate change and how does it fit into the global political picture, George?
GEORGE MONBIOT: This is the big, big problem that we’re up against. Even the Pentagon now is listing it as possibly the foremost threat facing humankind, even the Pentagon. And we’re looking at the possibility of making the living conditions, which permit human life to take place on earth, making those conditions impossible. It’s a very interesting little snapshot of what could potentially happen. 250 million years ago, the Permian Period came to an end in a catastrophic way. About 90, 95% of all life forms were wiped out, including anything bigger than a small pig, i.e., anything bigger than ourselves or indeed, smaller than ourselves. The reason for this, huge emissions of carbon dioxide produced by volcanoes raise the world’s temperature by six degrees. The current projections by the intergovernmental panel on climate change are talking about anything up to six degrees within this century. We could make the conditions which make human life possible — we could destroy those conditions within this century, if we don’t move very, very fast. What we have got to see is part of any just world order, and part of any world order which is actually going to permit people a decent standard of life, any people a decent standard of life, we have got to see a huge cutback in the consumption of fossil fuel.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yet when it comes to change in this area, the Bush administration here in the United States is perhaps doing everything it can to set back all of the environmental efforts and reform that this country has been involved in now for the past 30 years.
GEORGE MONBIOT: That’s right. It’s a measure of effectiveness of the corporate propaganda relayed through the corporate media that people aren’t taking to the streets about this right now. I mean, this guy, George Bush, is endangering the conditions which make human life on earth possible. What could be worse than that? What could be a more appalling disastrous project than the one that he is following? If people are going to rebel about anything, that’s the thing to rebel about.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In terms of some of the ways that he is doing that, I mean, we have had several shows here on Democracy Now! on particular issues that the administration has been involved in. What are the key aspects, in your perspective, that are the most dangerous in terms of the Bush administration’s environmental policies?
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, there’s a whole series of stuff, of course. One of them is reducing the standards on pollution control. Another is extending the logging of old growth forests. The — perhaps the most dangerous of all is this extraordinary thing where he wants to roll back the Montreal Protocol, which is the global agreement protecting the ozone layer. Now, of course, if the ozone layer goes, massive increase in skin cancer and cataracts and a lot of other human health problems. It was signed and sealed and dusted. This Montreal protocol was a secure part of the current world order where you could not produce the chemicals which destroyed the ozone layer. But Bush, in order to help golf course managers and cardboard box manufacturers was trying to unban the mass production of Methyl Bromide, a pesticide which destroys the ozone layer. This is the maddest policy that I have ever come across in 20 years of investigative journalism.
AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot, we want to thank you very much for being with us. His new book is Manifesto for a New World Order.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: As one person said, Tom York of Radiohead, after reading George Monbiot, "I will never be able to take the government seriously again."