Tuesday, June 05, 2007

That friend/enemy distinction again.

Friends and enemies, my spotted arse. If your name is Nick Cohen, or Christopher Hitchens, and you wish to preserve the delicate ecology of your delusions about Islamofascism being the one true and original cause of all Bush's various distributions of belligerence and affection, kindly look away now. You want to know what matters in Sudan, apart from the oil in the south of the country? This stuff:



Who would want that? Coca-Cola. Oh, of course, the article claims (on the basis of nothing more solid than company denials) that Coca-Cola does not trade in gum arabic with Sudan. In other words, Coca-Cola has unilaterally, without any legal pressure to do so, and in considerable secrecy, disinvested from its main supplier of a staple ingredient of its product. What are the odds? Well, what the article doesn't mention is that when sanctions were first applied to Sudan ten years ago, after bin Laden had fled the country, Coca-Cola was among those who pressed for and won an exemption for gum arabic. Sudan produces most of the world's gum arabic, about 80%. It is used by the producers of drinks, inks, chewing gum, gummed sweets and so on to maintain consistency in the product at various temperatures or to stop it from getting too sticky. Since it is actually the main import from Sudan to the US, exempting gum arabic was pretty much abandoning the sanctions policy. This is probably why Khartoum felt confident in replying to Bush's threat of sanctions that it would take away the nation's number one counter-dental weapon. At any rate, Coca-Cola would not have purchased the substance directly from the Gum Arabic Co Ltd based in Sudan: it would have use of US-based import services like Import Services Co Ltd. If it matters, Coca-Cola does have several plants in the country, exploiting legal loopholes that it probably lobbied for in the first place. There is nothing, I protest, unique at all about this, or about Coca-Cola. Pfizer also have an interest in the matter, as do newspaper producers and various others. These chaps are used to making their highly profitable commodities with vital inputs from places where the struggle over control of a substance intersects with class struggle and forms of harsh oppression. What the hell would compel them to behave otherwise? Oh, sure, Bashir is an enemy today. Yeah yeah yeah.

And interesting side-note of this is that one of the great humanitarian US capitalists, the cuddly sweetheart Warren Buffet, is the largest single shareholder in Coca-Cola (and until recently was on its board), and has many shares in the PetroChina Oil Company which is of course one of the main investors in the Sudanese oil industry. His main profit-making enterprise, the Berkshire Hathaway company, which made almost $100bn revenues last year, is a co-owner of the Washington Post. The Washington Post, is of course, one of the main vectors for articles alerting readers to 'genocide' in Darfur and clamouring for an American war. But since the Washington Post is printed with ink, it is highly likely that it makes use of one of the many suppliers of gum arabic that trade with the Gum Arabic Company. Anyway, while Buffet has been funding the Sudanese government's war on rebels in various ways, he has also devoted a huge amount of the fortune he has amassed to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation To Civilise The Non-Adult Races. They are currently sponsoring an immunisation project in Darfur, god love them. So, yes, let's recap: the 'West' fights wars for 'values', in an existential struggle with 'the enemy', and the Washington Post articulates those 'values' while Coca-Cola symbolises them. Warren Buffet is the single largest beneficiary of them, and thus defends liberal institutions and free markets at all costs. The 'enemy' fights wars for 'values' also, although pre-modern barbarian ones. Mired in its lousy particularism, its bureacracy, its Oriental Despotism, it cannot be reconciled at any length with American Values™. Hence, the existential struggle.