By Lionel Bopage –
It is 75 years since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and then on Nagasaki three days later. The Americans created the very first Ground Zero, a result of a calculated and intentional mass murder. The political intent being to caution the Soviet Union. The imperial propaganda depicted it as a necessity to end the Second World War and thus save lives in the Pacific. Initially, Americans denied any lingering effects of radiation due to the explosions, but an Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett, the first Allied Reporter to enter the atom-bomb city, countered the American misinformation by reporting about the hospital wards full of dying people due to an atomic plague. First, Americans denied access to Hiroshima to allied journalists; then banned public discussion of the topic in Japan; finally, censored information to minimize the understanding of the human costs involved. Burchett’s experience has contemporary echoes with Julian Assange incarcerated by the American-British-Australian co-conspirators, jailed and demonised for telling truth about the imperial overlords.
There have been five nuclear Ground Zeros: Japan, the Marshall Islands, Nevada, Polynesia and Maralinga in Australia. Until the mid-fifties, Americans detonated many nuclear bombs and in 1954, the first hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands, followed by the British carrying out several nuclear tests on the land of the First Peoples’ of Australia, in Maralinga. The Americans, the British and the complying Australian colonial regimes carried out their experimental nuclear orgies to determine the effects of radiation. They used mainly the native people in the Pacific region and also many research scientists and health care staff as guinea pigs.
Fast forward, according to reports, the total global inventory of nuclear weapons as of 2019 was around 13,865 and more than 90 percent of those nuclear weapons were Russian and American owned. In 2020, seven nations possess thermonuclear capabilities – US, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Despite Israel’s non-acknowledgment, they are believed to possess nuclear warheads. There are others who strive to acquire the thermonuclear technology.
Pondering over the perilous situation we are in today, the threat of thermonuclear explosions exists not only on land and sea, but also in space. We live in a world, where another world war can be triggered not only due to misinformation and miscalculation, but also by someone deranged holding power. The American imperial regime and their blind followers in their quest for global superiority have found a new enemy in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Despite recognising the fact that China’s is a powerful authoritarian regime, we cannot be blind to the incessant propaganda campaigns launched against China by the western economic and military establishment.
The levels of brutality and the decadence the world powers could resort to in their attempts at chauvinistically subjugating people and misappropriating their resources are seen in their invasions of many countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to Syria. America has remained a bully against any nation trying to escape from the sphere of its economic influence. More than 30 members of the United Nations who do not wish to comply with the US dictates continue to suffer from the sanctions imposed upon them. Elsewhere, many countries have been bombed, their governments overthrown, elections manipulated, and their resources looted. Examples are many and include Iraq, Libya, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Iran.
The American empire has been collapsing under its own social and economic weight. Post-World War II, the USA accounted for half of the world GDP, but in 2017 it was only 16.3 per percent while China’s was 16.4 percent. The Global Financial Crisis was not caused by the Chinese, but by the US and other transnationals. The Black Lives Matter opposition was not created by the Chinese, but by the racist derogatory actions of the US regimes. Though coronavirus origin is attributed to China, the prevailing corona health crisis in the US is a reflection of the systemic deficiencies in the economic and health sectors and the lack of leadership in the country.
In a reality check, one could find that since the 1970s China has not declared war against any country. Yet, China is associated with their regional skirmishes in Tibet and Xinjiang and border skirmishes with its neighbours, such as India and Vietnam. One cannot forget the ruthless treatment of the Uighurs; being kept under constant surveillance. However, US has stationed their troops and armaments including thermo nuclear weapons in many countries the world over. Former US President Jimmy Carter had noted that in its close to two and a half century history, America has enjoyed only 16 years of peace. From October 2020 to September 2021 alone, U.S. military spending is estimated to be $934 billion. From 2001 to 2019, the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost $6.4 trillion, brought death to more than 801,000 people that included more than 335,000 civilians and displaced another 21 million due to violence.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has exerted a major historic shock on the lives of people world-wide. Even before the pandemic hit the global scene, many neo-liberal regimes have been unravelling, as evident from the appearance of powerful and aggressive populist, nationalist and fundamentalist currents all over the world. COVID-19 has heightened the fissures in the socio-economic and political systems that prevail in many countries. The pandemic brought down the illusion of American exceptionalism making an absolutely devastating impact on its reputation and international standing. With more than 2,000 people dying every day due to the pandemic, most found it difficult to come to terms with the claim of the US for world supremacy. The escalating tensions between China and the West needs to be understood in this context.
Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs with several million of businesses shut down. Black Americans significantly outnumber whites in federal prisons and are suffering disturbingly high rates of morbidity and mortality. While a number of countries moved expeditiously to contain the virus, the U S stumbled along in denial. With less than four percent of the global population, the U.S. soon accounted for more than a fifth of pandemic deaths. Yet such a situation did not provoke shame, but further lies, scapegoating, and boasts of miracle cures by their leaders.
The US led campaign has been instrumental in bringing together several countries including Australia into an unholy alliance against China. Though racial riots in the US has blunted this mobilisation the campaign has continued in South Asia with the neo-liberal, religious fundamentalist regime of India being wooed to join. A tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops along their contested border continues. The US push to harness India to its strategic agenda of transforming South Asia and the Indian Ocean to thwart China’s ‘belt and road’ initiative has been a major factor driving the heightened tensions between India and China.
As such, there is a new cold war situation where the west is increasingly intensifying the intimidation of China. The intent of destroying China for safeguarding the US economic and military might and the game plan of the Trump regime for this, are never discussed in the western mass media. However, they are full of negative reports about China, evoking infectious racist propaganda characterising the Chinese as diseased, deceitful and immoral. During the last several months there have been several hundreds of alleged racist attacks on Australians of Asian background. Even those who defend China against vilification and denigration by the west are also attacked.
Despite China’s repressive authoritarian characteristic, it has defeated mass poverty by lifting about 600 million people out of poverty, which is an achievement of epic proportions. The pride and contentment of the people in China are evident. Nevertheless, China asserts its hegemony utilising its military might for creating fear among the workers and peasantry and using extreme repressive measures against ethnic and religious minorities. Concurrently, China is entangled with many problems in Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Japan and Vietnam.
The Australian government has committed to acquire billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles with the intent of targeting China. This despite China being the major trading partner of Australia. In return, China is growing its arsenal of maritime missiles meant to destroy any adversarial fleets of ships. According to specialist international affairs commentators, Americans are planning to launch a ‘blinding attack’ on China. The purpose of such a war would be to capture markets and expand spheres of influence, but a nuclear war would only wipe out entire countries from the world map converting them into radioactive wastelands. Such a measure would compel China to launch a nuclear war. Hence, such a war would make warring parties merely destroy each other.
The rivalry that could be used, would be that with China, Russia or an indirect candidate such as Iran or North Korea. Whether such a situation would deteriorate into a World War III situation depends on the balance of power between rival powers at the time. However, it is not too early to instigate activities for preventing such a war from being initiated. Russia and China appear to be seizing the opportunities exploiting the relative decline in the US influence. Thus, Russia was able to stop the two decades of NATO expansion eastwards. Russia also appears to have outmanoeuvred the US in the Syrian civil war. Turkey appears to be developed closer ties with Russia.
Unlike the Cold War, proxy wars in future will not be fought out just by two opposing sides, but many competing ruling elites with regional and global superiority ambitions. This attributes future conflicts a degree of unpredictability that we have not seen before. Proxy wars in Ukraine and Syria in recent years are exemplars of this new and deadly trend. US influence in South East Asia appears to have eroded with China winning over many regional powers away from the sphere of US influence. The countries in South East Asia, except India appear to question whether the US would be able to assist them, when they cannot support their allies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The barbarism into which the ruling elites would be willing to drag the world in its competition for acquiring markets and maximising profits will be exposed by the developing conflicts. It will push people to draw their own radical conclusions that war, death and misery are the products of those vying for power, influence and ultimately profit. The independent intervention of the masses in conflicts between rival ruling powers, in defence of people’s interests can be decisive. The outcome of these struggles will determine the long-term prospects for the occurrence or non-occurrence of war.
The tensions between the west and its rivals continue to escalate amid the coronavirus pandemic. And with a character like Trump as the leader of the US the situation could turn vicious. Domestically, he is facing problems under pressure from many sides and appears to be becoming increasingly unpopular in the US electorate. Combatting an external enemy and creating scapegoats are always good diversions away from domestic issues and for creating an environment to retain power by developing a militarily tense situation.
Sri Lanka with its new government is yet to outline its foreign policy. Since independence, its foreign policy has shifted from a position of pro-west to non-alignment, and then from pro-west to pro-China. Many leaders were able to manipulate the west, the former soviet bloc, China and India according to the international balance of forces that prevailed, particularly in the Indian Ocean. In the seventies, Sri Lanka had a non-aligned foreign policy, but the ruling elite was able to manipulate the regional and global powers to garner economic and military support. Afterwards, when India towed a pro-Soviet line, Sri Lanka towed a pro-US line. The governments in power in Sri Lanka did not show a keen interest in addressing the country’s national question, and the subsequent situation created an environment for India to intervene.
Since the change of leadership from the Gandhi dynasty, India has been towing a pro-US line while Sri Lanka has adopted a position of bargaining between China, India and the US. In case the relationships between these powers break down further leading to military escalation in the South Asian region, the opportunities available for bargaining between those rival camps may become an uphill task. As nuclear powers, if India and Pakistan and their supporters take sides, Sri Lanka could be in a difficult and dangerous situation.
Therefore, the short-term necessity at this time is to work as much as possible for de-escalating tensions in the region, thus preventing the probability of the occurrence of a thermo-nuclear war with the involvement of regional nuclear powers. Wars are continuation of politics by other means. They are not caused by accidents or by the impulses of individuals. World War I was caused as the major capitalist powers were competing with each other to find new markets to sell their commodities. Naturally, they entered into a conflict that ultimately could be settled only by war. Thus, the real determinants of a war situation, are the relations between various capitalist powers and the balance of class forces in each country and internationally.
The End of World War II brought a period of relative stability due to the unparalleled economic growth the West underwent. The Soviet Union was also in a relatively stable position. Though these two major powers were in conflict in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Syria, there was no economic necessity for them to engage themselves in direct conflict. The post-war period put class struggle again on the agenda but both camps being aware that a war situation will engender social revolutions, ensured that the situation was constrained. The colossus investment made henceforth, in military research and development, particularly for the development of thermonuclear weaponry and artificial intelligence have driven both superpowers to stay away from a third world war.
However, given the military might and the thermonuclear and other technological capabilities achieved by the players involved, and the existing economic and political fissures brought up by the pandemic weakening the socio-economic and political fabric of many a society, a nuclear war is probable and could cause millions and millions of casualties in human life and a major part of the planet inhabitable.
That is why we need to make a break in this cycle of conflict, uninhibited competition, multiple proxy wars so as to prevent another holocaust from taking place. That has to be done before it is too late.