Toking on Free Trade, Rich Americans Party On
How Israel Uses U.S. Weapons to Threaten Our Troops
Shrub Yanks Student Aid for Drug Offenders
U.S. Screws Try the Rack
The Indian Way

Toking on Free Trade, Rich Americans Party On
Hemisphere A-Go-Go

George Bush's state dinner for Mexican president Vicente Fox this fall promises to be quite the party. They'll be celebrating the new Free Trade Area of the Americas, a super-NAFTA forged last week in Quebec City. The agreement promises to set off the biggest fire sale in the hemisphere's history. We haven't seen a geopolitical shift this great since the Louisiana Purchase.

Under the Quebec agreement, which still must be ratified by the Senate, corporations based in the U.S. will storm south for bargains—phone companies, electric utilities, mining ventures, cattle ranches, assembly production plants. Feeding the frenzy is the prospect of pennies-a-day labor across the border and a chance to leave behind U.S. environmental controls.

This is Bush's answer to our so-called energy crisis, with oil and gas production in Mexico offering a serious alternative to our dependence on Middle East oil. The agreement brings closer the day when Mexico's gas will come north via a pipeline and its electrical production by wire. The pressure to drain these resources will grow because Bush is relaxing automobile emission standards and cutting back on other energy efficiency measures, all of which will increase—not decrease—the demand for energy in the U.S.

Trade policy is also key to our emerging free-market policy on agriculture. Instead of using American farm products for processed foods, agribusiness concerns can just import cheaply grown food from elsewhere in the hemisphere, leaving that symbol of America's past—the family farmer—in Nowheresville.

And what of the hemisphere's poorer states? The theory is that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank can help them hold their own in competition with their first world neighbors. But nobody really believes this, because developing nations are only getting poorer and more dependent on aid from neocolonial masters. Indeed, both liberals and conservatives in Congress deride these development policies as next to useless.

How Israel Uses U.S. Weapons to Threaten Our Troops
Unfriendly Fire

Wherever they go to stamp out trouble, America's fighting men and women are placed in harm's way—not by our myriad enemies, but by our own energetic arms manufacturers and their compatriots in so-called allied nations, who help our foes arm themselves against us.

That lesson was underscored this month in the China spy plane incident. U.S. officials now say Chinese F-8 jets, like the one that collided with our lumbering EP-3E, are armed with an Israeli-made air-to-air missile. The Python-3 missile was produced by the Israeli Armaments Development Authority.

Jane's Defense Review reports that the Python-3 missile traces its origins back through several generations of weapons to the American Sidewinder, an air-to-air missile created in the late 1960s and purchased by Israel. The Israelis souped up the weapon and tested it in the Bekáa Valley of Lebanon during 1982, then sold it to China. There are reports of export orders from Israel to Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Romania, South Africa, and Thailand. Israel is believed to have licensed the new design to China, which now manufactures its own line of air-to-air missiles.

"We don't have any comment on sales from Israel to foreign countries," said Rafael Barak, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington. "We're surrounded by enemies that don't hide the intention that they want to kill us."

As everyone knows, the U.S. leaps at every chance to build up the might of our ally Israel. But this was a bit much, having a virtual surrogate in the Middle East selling missiles to China that might very well be used to kill our own troops. Said one Pentagon official, who spoke to CNN on the condition that he not be named, "Here we are bending over backward to give Israel a qualitative edge, and they are selling hardware to our adversaries."

This is part of the price the U.S. pays for being the world's largest arms dealer. Last year, we sold more than $8 billion in weapons, with licenses for outstanding sales totaling another $26.4 billion. In 1998 the U.S. armed or trained the military of 168 nations.

The overall effects of this business are increasingly dangerous to civilians—as when an American-made plane in Peru downed an aircraft carrying Baptist missionaries last week—and in certain instances pose great risk to American troops as well. The U.S. provided ammo and small arms to Indonesia while that country was putting down the East Timor rebellion. We gave weapons to Colombia that, according human rights groups, were used to kill civilians. The most celebrated case was the refusal of President Bill Clinton to ban outright the manufacture of land mines, which kill civilians around the world at alarming rates. A deal to let the Israelis sell U.S. enhanced-radar technology to China was blocked last year under pressure from the Clinton administration. Yet American arms continue to provide the springboard for modernizing the world's armies. Currently, the United Arab Emirates is purchasing advanced models of U.S. fighters that exceed anything we now have in operation.

Next Page »