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May 2, 2013
Collapsed Factories, Hundreds of Deaths: Who’s to Blame?
By John Perkins
I recently returned from Vietnam, a country riddled with land mines and Agent Orange. I was disheartened by the damage done there, and I am saddened to know that parts of the world still face avoidable tragedies, such as the one where more than 360 people were killed when a factory collapsed at Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh last week. This catastrophe follows the Ali Enterprises Factory fire in Karachi that killed more than 260 people in September. These factories make products for big-brand U.S. companies, products that you and I buy.
Just as the minefields and Agent Orange-drenched lands of Vietnam were the result of U.S. government policies, the collapses of these buildings are also our responsibility. There is no excuse for the Pentagon’s use of chemical weapons and other ordinance that destroys land and water for centuries and kills and maims hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, but at least the U.S, government is accepting some accountability. On that recent trip, I represented Clear Path International, an NGO that receives much of its funding from the U.S. State Department and is dedicated to helping land mine, Agent Orange and other war-related victims.
There is absolutely no justification for Western corporations to outsource production to factories with unsafe working environments. Today, the evidence is overwhelming. The products you and I buy from companies such as Wal-Mart, JC Penny and Primark are killing innocent people. Those companies need to change their policies. You and I must insist that they do so!
We know that U.S. corporations outsource production overseas where the labor is cheap, regulations nonexistent or not enforced, and profit margins are high. They have moved millions of jobs offshore during the last 30 years; with this trend has come a blatant disregard for workers’ rights and labor standards. The insistence by these companies that they have no responsibility for conditions at these factories is patently absurd; the factories are totally dependent on the U.S companies for their very existence.
In Bangladesh, the building’s owner, Sohel Rana, was arrested this weekend as he attempted to flee the country. There is no limit to explanations for the collapse considering building codes are rarely enforced in Bangladesh, where corruption and pay-offs are prevalent. American corporations have persuaded many of their nonprofit critics to turn a blind eye to these social injustices through partnerships and donations that amount to financial bribes. Corruption at different levels is rampant in the U.S., as well as overseas.
But you and I can change this. The ultimate responsibility is ours.
While globalized production has the potential to provide jobs and a decent standard of living to everyone on the planet, it has been dominated by the mutant form of capitalism that is driven solely by profit with no regard for the social or environmental costs.
We, as consumers, have the power to stand up to these businesses. Every time you go to the store, your purchasing leverage can either fuel bad practices or encourage good stewardship. The responsibility lies in all our hands – to educate ourselves and to spread the word that we will only patronize those companies that are dedicated to making the world a better place for all of us.
April 4, 2013
The Arms Treaty – Thank you President Obama!
By John Perkins
I just flew from SE Asia to the Middle East, two regions that have been the scenes of violence – much of it involving my country, the US – for most of my lifetime. Sitting in my Istanbul hotel, looking out on this historic city, I am relieved to read that the global arms trade treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly on April 2, 2013. The first treaty of its type, it seeks to regulate the $70 billion international business in conventional arms, ranging from light weapons to battle tanks and warships.
The voting results highlight two interesting facts: The 155 votes in favor prove that the vast majority of countries are striving for a peaceful world and an end to the conflicts here in the Middle East and elsewhere. The 3 votes against, from Syria, Iran, and North Korea, tell us that we must come up with creative approaches to deal with the few nations that seem determined to undermine the peace process.
The US has a long history of blocking efforts at regulating weapons – including the strong opposition within our own boarders to gun control. My recent travels to Vietnam and Myanmar and now in the Middle East have once again been strong reminders of the role the US has played in fomenting wars in so many parts of the world and in using weapons like land mines and agent orange in ways that to me are totally unconscionable. By signing and promoting this arms treaty, the Obama Administration has taken a bold and laudable step in a new direction; he has positioned the US as a leader along a path to world peace.
If this treaty is implemented effectively, it will make a real difference for people everywhere. It will reduce the flow of arms and ammunition that fuels wars. Binding requirements for cross-border arms contracts are a major move toward ensuring that arms will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism or violations of humanitarian law. In addition to its legal implications, this treaty is also a clear message that the majority of UN countries are committed to trying to find the path to peace.
I signed a letter to President Obama thanking him for his part in making this treaty a reality. And I added a note that I hope his administration will do everything in its power to reduce – rather than inflame – tensions in Korea, Iran, and Syria. During my travels, I constantly hear from the citizens of other countries that the world looks to the US for leadership. In this time of nuclear and chemical weapons that threaten to destroy our very existence on this planet, there is nothing more important than leading a global movement to peace. Let us praise President Obama and encourage him to keep doing more.
May 5, 2013:
BABEL FESTIVAL, Aosta Valley
11:00 am CEST – SPEECH
May 18-19, 2013:
GREEN FESTIVAL, Chicago
Navy Pier, Chicago
Sunday 3:00 pm CT – SPEECH “Global Collapse, Prophecies, the Future & You”
May 22, 2013:
PACHAMAMA ALLIANCE FUNDRAISER, Boulder
HUB Boulder in Boulder, Colorado
7:00-9:00 pm MT – SPEECH on Ecuadorian Government’s latest oil development plans
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