Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

the bastards are in town...

From the Stop The War Coalition (Sydney) website:
US neo-con spruikers to descend on Sydney

James Goodman

The neo-conservative lobby machine - Forbes Global - is in town. We will be treated to the edifying spectacle of an iconic public building given over to corporate conferencing. Steve Forbes, the quintessential boy-born-with-a-silver-spoon, signatory of the infamous 'Project for a New American Century', will regale us with his far-right Republican neo-conservativism.

A great opportunity, our industry minister says, 'to tell the world about Australia's business advantage'. And for those can afford the small fee of US$5000, what an opportunity to press the flesh with 'an exclusive group of senior executives'. The NSW development department has come to the party as a 'host sponsor', no doubt assisting with venue access. Bob Carr was an honoured guest at last year's Forbes Global conference in Hong Kong, which also hosted the likes of David Davies from Philip Morris International, speaking on the 'responsible corporation', and Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute, Assistant Secretary of Defence under Reagan and Chair of the US Defence Policy Board until he had to resign in 2003 due to links with a US military contractor.

Last year's Forbes CEO conference, held in New York, also broke new ground. In the midst of the US presidential campaign it focused on the 'politics of business'. Forbes publisher and chair, Caspar Weinberger, led discussions on how to deal with 'harsh awareness from the media, NGOs, "stakeholders" and nasty web-loggers'. Delegates wrestled with urgent dilemmas, such as 'how can CEO's justify outsourcing?', and 'what is the best way to deal with activist shareholder organisations?' Weinberger, of course, as former Secretary of Defence (and Perle's boss) under Reagan, would have some knowledge of how to address such challenges. Weinberger joined Forbes in 1987 when his political career came to an end after being directly linked to providing covert assistance for right-wing guerrillas in Nicaragua, funded from arms sales to Iran.

Ironically enough, Forbes now leads the charge in the US business world against the 'Axis of Evil' (which of course includes Iran). Backing the US 'War on Terror' to the hilt, Forbes is one of Bush's key business sponsors. In January 2004 it proudly announced 'Bush is Best'. Since Steve Forbes took over in 1990 the company has grown into a neo-con propaganda house, claiming a five million-strong readership for its international edition Forbes Global, and close to a million for its US-based Forbes Magazine. It is very much a family affair, with Steve, Robert, Christopher and Timothy all in executive roles. In all its permutations - from its listings of 'top' companies, 'richest people' and 'celebrities', to its thirty-five monthly 'investment newsletters', its several magazines and conferences, its online video and weekly slot on Fox News, the Forbes machine preaches the neo-con script.

A glance at the Forbes archive reveals the business of neo-conservatism, warts and all. In October 2002 Forbes rattled the sabres for business, claiming that 'Hitting OPEC By Way of Baghdad' would cut oil prices and offer 'juicy deals' in a postwar Iraq. In March 2003, immediately before invasion, the magazine was charting the 'War Dividend', an oil 'gush' that would 'recoup the cost of an Iraqi war'. The 'cost' of invasion and reconstruction was estimated at '$50 billion or so', rather less than the $182 billion and rising as of 20 July 2005 (see As if Iraq was not enough, in early 2003 the magazine mapped its own 'atlas of evil and discord', throwing Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela into the ring, as well as the familiar candidates.

For Forbes, war spells profit: its Security Industry Analyst, a newsletter for 'stocks in homeland and security industries', picks booming defence contractors.

In March 2003, on the eve of the war on Iraq dollar-signs were flashing at the Analyst - 'over the last month', it gloated, 'we have seen a handsome war premium'. Today the newsletter compares the current security stocks boom with the 'early days' of the era. A report from 2003 on missile manufacturer Raytheon is typical: 'U.S. military might in Afghanistan and Iraq has heightened interest worldwide in our weaponry... good news for defense contractor Raytheon'. With the sale of each missile system 'worth another 35 cents a share', the Analyst states 'higher Pentagon spending has returned the company to profitability', suggesting 'this stock likely won't be shot down again soon'.

The Security Industry Analyst position is simple: 'we like to invest in security companies that have dual streams of revenue' - that is, companies with government contracts. It actively lobbies for increased government expenditure on security services, and greater support for the 'security industry'. In 2002 for instance it argued the government should protect the entire industry from exposure to 'uncontrolled liability', extending coverage already provided for the defence giants such as Lockheed Martin. Elsewhere it calls for increased use of biometric testing and racial profiling by government authorities, while recommending companies which would benefit from greater take-up of the required technologies.

Forbes Magazine, meanwhile, reassures investors they should never feel guilty about profiting from war. In early July this year, under the headline 'Screw Osama I'm buying Stocks', readers were offered valuable advice: 'The war on Terror is far from over and security stocks should have a place on your portfolio'. The day after the London bombings the headline story spoke loud and proud: 'Markets move higher as the world mourns'. Analysts picked-out the latest defence stocks for their readers, albeit with the caveat 'it would be irresponsible for us or anyone to encourage profiting from another's misfortune... '.

Forbes - this quintessential front organization for neo-cons - has gained a foothold in the Australian political establishment. The Opera House conference clearly signals their confidence that now is the time to bring their message to Australia.

They may have miscalculated. Controversy about the conference is mounting, and in the most surprising of fields. Reports that Nicole Kidman would be speaking at the conference, for $1000 a minute, have appeared on celebrity pages, from the Sun to the Kerala Times, to the Sydney Morning Herald.

She may now be reconsidering her involvement - not least as the Forbes top-100 'celebrity list' places her at number 74 (two slots behind the Eagles!).

The Opera House conference itself runs over three days, 30 August - 1 September, and is preceded by the Sydney Social Forum, 27-29 August, with a major public meeting planned at Circular Quay for the 29th. A number of campaign groups are organising to protest against the conference itself, with a demonstration on 30 August at 5 pm at the Opera House. The Forbes-Australia push will not go unquestioned.

James Goodman co-convenes the Research Initiative in International Activism, and teaches at UTS.



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