Old adversaries make a new bid for power.
The war that bin Laden wants.
Behind the Burka
Afghan women who fight the Taliban.
Humanitarian aid has become a weapon of war.
The terrorist money trail leads back to Midland, Texas.
Congress is making the economy worse.
Why the Democrats will get trounced in 2002.
A New Peace Movement?
Should the government be allowed to hold immigrants on "classified" charges?
Citibank attacks money-laundering regulations.
Immigration reform is derailed by attacks.
Coal Miners' Slaughter
Could an Alabama disaster have been prevented?
Time Is Tight
The cutoff is starting for welfare recipients.
FILM: Take a left turn at Mulholland Drive.
Shakespeare at the Barricades
BOOKS: Insurrections in the mind.
Trading on Terrorism.
Give War A Chance
TRADING ON TERRORISM
are many contenders for Biggest Political Opportunist since the September 11
atrocities. Politicians ramming through life-changing laws while voters are
still mourning; corporations diving for public cash; pundits accusing their
opponents of treason.
Yet amid the chorus of Draconian proposals and McCarthyite threats, one voice
of opportunism still stands out. That voice belongs to Robyn A. Mazer. Mazer
is using September 11 to call for an international crackdown on counterfeit
Not surprisingly, Mazer is a trade lawyer in Washington. Even less surprising,
she specializes in trade laws that protect the single largest U.S. export: copyright.
Thats music, movies, logos, seed patents, software and much more. Trade
Related Intellectual Property rights (TRIPs) is one of the most controversial
side-agreements in the runup to Novembers World Trade Organization meeting
in Qatar. It is the battleground for disputes ranging from Chinas thriving
market in knockoff Britney Spears CDs to Brazils right to disseminate
free generic AIDS drugs.
American multinationals are desperate to gain access to these large markets
for their productsbut they want protection. Many poor countries, meanwhile,
say TRIPs cost millions to police, while strangleholds on intellectual property
drive up costs for local industries and consumers.
What does any of this trade wrangling have to do with terrorism? Nothing, absolutely
nothing. Unless, of course, you ask Mazer, who published an article September
30 in the Washington Post headlined, From T-Shirts to Terrorism:
That Fake Nike Swoosh May Be Helping Fund bin Ladens Network.
She writes: Recent developments suggest that many of the governments
suspected of supporting al-Qaeda are also promoting, being corrupted by, or
at the very least ignoring highly lucrative trafficking in counterfeit and pirated
products capable of generating huge money flows to terrorists.
Suggest, suspected of, at the very least,
capable ofthats a lot of hedging for one sentence, especially
from someone who used to work in the Justice Department. But the conclusion
is unambiguous: You either enforce TRIPs, or you are with the terrorists. Welcome
to the brave new world of trade negotiations, where every arcane clause is infused
with the self-righteousness of a holy war.
Mazers political opportunism raises some interesting contradictions.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has been using September 11 for another
opportunistic goal: to secure fast track trade negotiating power
for President Bush. According to Zoellick, trade promotes the values at
the heart of this protracted struggle.
What do new trade deals have to do with fighting terrorism? Well, the terrorists,
we are told again and again, hate America precisely because they hate consumerism:
McDonalds and Nike and capitalismyou know, freedom. To trade is
therefore to defy their ascetic crusade, to spread the very products they loathe.
But wait a minute: What about all those fakes Mazer says are bankrolling terror?
In Afghanistan, she claims, you can buy T-shirts bearing counterfeit Nike
logos and glorifying bin Laden as The great mujahid of Islam.
It seems we are facing a much more complicated scenario than the facile
dichotomy of a consumerist McWorld versus an anti-consumer jihad. In
fact, if Mazer is correct, not only are the two worlds thoroughly enmeshed,
the imagery of McWorld is being used to finance jihad.
Maybe a little complexity isnt so bad. Part of the disorientation many
Americans now face has to do with the inflated and oversimplified role consumerism
plays in the American narrative. To buy is to be. To buy is to love. To buy
is to vote. People outside the United States who want Nikeseven counterfeit
Nikesmust want to be American, must love America, must in some way be
voting for everything America stands for.
This has been the fairy tale since 1989, when the same media companies now
bringing us Americas War on Terrorism proclaimed that their television
satellites would topple dictatorships the world over. Consumers would lead,
inevitably, to freedom. But all these easy narratives are breaking down: Authoritarianism
co-exists with consumerism, desire for American products is mixed with rage
Nothing exposes these contradictions more clearly than the trade wars raging
over fake goods. Pirating thrives in the deep craters of global
inequality, when demand for consumer goods is decades ahead of purchasing power.
It thrives in China, where goods made in export-only sweatshops are sold for
more than factory workers make in a month. It thrives in Africa, where the price
of AIDS drugs is a cruel joke. It thrives in Brazil, where CD pirates are feted
as musical Robin Hoods.
Complexity is lousy for opportunism. But it does help us get closer to the truth, even if it means sorting through a lot of fakes.