For us with the World Peace Council Â WPC, an organization that is near completing 60 years of existence with branches in 109 countries, it is a great joy to be in the homeland of San Martin, of Ernesto Che Guevara, fighters who, like us, defend peace, sovereignty and the integration of Latin America.
I would like to thank the organizations responsible for this conference, comrades of Mopassol, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (PAHR) and Serpaj-Latin America.
This International Conference will address issues of great importance for the struggle for peace. We are sure that this initiative will contribute to update our analyses on the recent events in the international state of affairs and will also serve as the Latin American contribution to the international campaign against NATO throughout the world.
Complex and deep changes are taking place in the international scenery
Lately the world has been going through significant transformations that seem to signal a transition to another era. We have witnessed the policies of imperialism being questioned all over the world during the last years. There is a body of factors ranging from the emergence of new poles of economic and political power in the international scene, especially among countries of the so-called "developing south", to the increasing impasses in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Given those facts, the economic crisis of capitalism erupts and aggravates, having the USA as its epicenter. Those factors, among others, call into question the hegemony of US imperialism.
Comrades, there is no doubt that the current crisis will bring consequences to the struggle for peace, for it has an impact on the political outlook. As usually, the governments of imperialist countries try to place its effects on the shoulders of the workers from poor and dependent countries. The crisis will inevitably lead to the eruption of social struggles and political conflicts.
The international order found itself threatened by the grave crimes against humankind committed by Israel against the martyred Palestinian people. The events that took place in the beginning of the year were approved by the great powers, especially US imperialism, which sees Israel as its ally in its aim of reorganizing Middle East. We take advantage of this opportunity to affirm that Israel must be judged for the war crimes it has committed. Humankind longs for justice.
The new president of the United States has announced a withdrawal plan for the troops in Iraq, but also affirmed that the Arab country will remain occupied by 50 thousand soldiers and that its presence in Afghanistan will be intensified. Within a few days, when the Euro-Atlantic imperialist powers celebrate the sixtieth NATO anniversary, they will announce a new strategic concept that consists in widening that aggressive alliance, maintaining its expansion towards East and intensifying the cooperation among the military initiatives of the European Union and NATO as well.
Analysts of the US foreign policy are beginning to say that the new democrat administration will put in practice a Smart Power policy, a combination of the use of diplomacy with the use of force. That policy was previously called Soft Power.
Comrades, it is clear for us that the nature of imperialism will not be altered by a simple change in the presidential staff. The imperialist character of the United States’ policy is still the same. Militarization and war will always be present. Peace is not a vocation of imperialism.
Generally speaking, the measures announced by the Obama administration so far placed the USA once again in the position of a hegemonic power. We must not fall for the idea that the US imperialism will give up being the center of the definitions regarding the international system. It is an outlook of great uncertainties.
According to sociologist AtÃlio BorÃ³n, the USA is an irreplaceable and undisputable actor within the international imperialist system. Its military power cannot be compared to that of any other country. Only US imperialism is present in 120 countries, having more than 700 missions and bases abroad. The military power is the final reserve of the system and war is an essential part of imperialism.
It is based on that complex international outlook that we must understand the role of those powerful war machines such as NATO and the Fourth Fleet and the meaning of the struggle for peace within that context.
Imperialism is not generous
The US establishment’s ideas on Latin America are based on its interest in expanding its power over the region. Since when the United States became an imperialist power in the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and since when it became a hegemonic power, its foreign and military policy has always been focused on having this region under its direct influence. The agreements and treaties were always used to grant exclusively the interests of the USA. A classical example of that is the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance Â ITRA, from 1947, part of the reorganization of the international system where the United States struggled in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. It is necessary to stress that during the whole of the 20th century the policy of force Â the so-called Big Stick policy Â prevailed.
Given the different proportions, ITRA can be considered the equivalent to NATO in the Southern Atlantic. Since it was the first collective security pact involving several countries, its grounds served two years later for the United States to constitute NATO. The United States’ discourse in ITRA was aimed at maintaining the USA as the center of the inter-American system in order to, according to them, "ensure peace by all possible means," "promote reciprocal and effective aid" and "resist to all armed attacks" and any threats to the United Sates.
ITRA and OAS were the main tools to impose the hegemony of the United States in the region. Moreover, it was the main means in its campaign to isolate politically and economically the Cuban Revolution. But when ITRA was called to defend Argentina from the aggression committed by the English colonial forces in the Malvinas War, imperialism took the side of Britain. The USA not only denied the support that was "stated" in ITRA, but also offered logistic and intelligence support to the English. There should be no illusions regarding imperialism and its tools of domination Â imperialism is not generous.
We take advantage of this opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity with the Argentinean people for recovering the Malvinas Islands, which are part of their territory. It is not possible to have territories occupied by colonialist forces in the 21st century.
Comrades, imperialism will not allow its influence in the region to be diluted without taking steps to avoid it. The reactivation of the Fourth Fleet is a clear demonstration of that.
The reactivation of the Fourth Fleet
Comrades and Argentinean friends, the US Navy Fourth Fleet is about to complete one year of operation, in July, in the waters of our continent. When we received that news, we were in Brazil with comrades Rina Bertacini, of Mopassol, and Ana Juanche, of Serpaj, participating in the Mercosur Social Forum, in the state of ParanÃ¡. Our analyses in the heat of the moment had much in common. It was the matter of another artifice of the United States with the objective of intimidating the political process of changes that was under development in the region, as well as taking a strategic position regarding our resources.
The importance given by the United States to its sea power, especially in the region, is nothing new. The first ideas according to which the United States needed a great sea power derived from the elaborations of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, who in the turn of the 19th to the 20th century influenced the American elite in their expansionist policy. According to Mahan, the United States had to maintain full control of the seas, oceans and commercial routes based on the formation of a broad set of naval fleets of the merchant and warfare navies, therefore guaranteeing its continental power. Such ideas influenced the action to annex Hawaii in 1897, the Spanish-American war, in 1898, the seizure of the Philippines in Asia, and also Cuba and a few other Caribbean islands.
Inheriting Mahan’s formulations, the US Navy Fleets were created in the middle of World War II in the struggle of the allies against the axis. The Fourth Fleet was created in 1943 with the objective of protecting the region from possible attacks from Nazi-Fascist forces. After the end of the war, it was dismantled in 1950.
Today the "Fleets" are distributed in six regions of the world. The Second Fleet is in the North Atlantic, the Third sails in the Pacific Ocean, the Sixth operates in the Mediterranean, the Firth sails in the Persian Gulf region and Southeastern Asia and the Seventh is found in the Indian Ocean and Southern Asia. With them the USA maintain strategic areas all over the world under military control.
By divulging the news of its reestablishment in Latin American waters, one immediately asks the question Â why now? With which arguments and justifications?
Among the little information made public since the announcement of the reactivation of such powerful weapon of war, the only justifications made known are but euphemisms pronounced by the USA.
According to James Stravidis, chief of the US Southern Command, a structure to which the Fourth Fleet is subordinated, his missions have a humanitarian character, supporting peace operations and assisting in disasters and anti-drug operations, as well as helping the USA to fight terrorism. However, James W. Stevenson, chief of the Naval Forces Southern Command, clearly states that the reactivation "sends a clear sign to some people who we know are not necessarily our supporters." It is a clear demonstration of intimidation to the countries that dare to defy openly the USA.
Moreover, the Rear Admiral affirms that the ships in the Fourth Fleet are prepared to sail "even the magnificent river systems existing in South America, sailing brown waters more than blue waters."
During one of the activities taking place in the World Social Forum we asked Â what a nuclear-powered ship docked in the middle of the Amazonas River would represent? What "humanitarian" missions would be assigned to such war machine? It the objective was good, why the countries in the region were not consulted?
A word to the wise is enough. Affirming that the Fourth Fleet is a signal to some governments with which Washington is not sympathetic is an open provocation to the political process in the region.
Since its reactivation the Fourth Fleet is subordinated to the US Southern Command, having the naval base of Mayport in North Florida as the port for its powerful ships. It has not an assigned fleet, but was made available an arsenal of war, including nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Among those we list the following:
Â 1 Nimitz (nuclear) aircraft carrier able to transport up to 85 F-18 aircrafts Â USS Boxer and USS Kearsage assault ships: each one carry up to 45,500 tons and is able to transport up to 1,800 men Â Sea Knight helicopters (42 units) Â AV-8 Harrier II fighter jets Â LCAC landing crafts
It is clear that a force with such power of destruction is not merely bound to offer solidarity and support to the countries in the region. The Fourth Fleet is imperialism’s reaction to the political changes taking place in Latin America. The Fourth Fleet is not a defensive force. It is an offensive and intimidating force.
The Fourth Fleet and the dispute for controlling the maritime routes and energy sources
There is no doubt that the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet involves imperialism’s intention to deploy potent weapons and advanced structures that would allow, if necessary, its use for controlling routes and sources of energy.
In the USA National Defense Strategy the "Right to Oil" is preceded only by the defense of territorial integrity and the political independence of the USA. "Right to Oil" means, in other words, that the United States’ imperialism, eager to guarantee its predatory consumption, can resort to force in order to ensure access to energy sources, wherever they are.
Another factor that we must be aware of is that the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet coincides with the recent discoveries of oil in waters of the Brazilian continental platform. The so-called pre-salt would place Brazil in the fourth or third position in the list of the world’s greatest oil producers.
It is very likely that the Fourth Fleet will not be object to the news in the next months or even years. Its initial objective is not to call attention, but to pass some strategic messages of positioning and power, as well as to provide the monitoring of the region and terrorize the governments of Latin America that search for independence from United States’ imperialism.
The Fourth Fleet Admiral’s skills illustrate quite well that his priority mission will not involve humanitarian actions. Rear Admiral Joseph D. Kerman is a veteran military with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in charge of intelligence missions and counter-terrorism. Joseph Kerman was for many years an instructor for the SEAL (Sea, Air, Land). He is part of the USA war elite. The SEAL offered "valuable services" in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars with their divers and also in other missions mostly covered by the CIA.
The peoples of the world cannot stand still before such grave events. The Fourth Fleet is not only against Brazil or the countries in the region Â it is connected to a strategy of international character.
One question remains unanswered. Is it possible that organizations such as the Fourth Fleet contribute to missions of alliances such as NATO? The US Naval Warfare fleets are spread all over the world in strategic points to control the flow of commercial routes and energy sources. The Naval Fleets participate in many war campaigns developed by imperialism and support military alliances of which the USA is part, such as NATO.
NATO Â imperialism’s mechanism against the peoples of the world
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Â NATO is a military organization that has been at the service of United States’ imperialism since its onset. It played an important role in the Cold War and later had an important function as a military force in the reorganization of the political blueprint of a unipolar world. In the year of the 60th anniversary of that war machine the world is going through significant transformations and NATO is increasingly fit to support the intentions of great powers with the use of force.
Appearing in the heat of the Cold War, NATO was imperialism’s tool to threaten and, if necessary, attack socialist countries. In the 1990s, when the so-called "socialist threat" disappeared, NATO’s new role is materialized with a new strategic concept.
Since the end of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the heralds of imperialism even affirmed that we would live a period of eternal peace Â the end of history. Those affirmations were proved wrong shortly after, for, as we have said, war is an essential part of socialism.
The great powers, headed by United States’ imperialism, soon tried to open routes to the East taking advantage of the political void left by the dismemberment of the Soviet Union with a view to control immense sources of energy Â gas and oil Â along with flow routes existing in the Balkans and Central Asia.
In that period NATO organized its conferences in London (1990) and Rome (1991), when it tried to seal its reconfiguration by assuming openly an offensive character in order to play the role of a strategic force with operational capacity and pro-active action outside the territorial area of its country members, acting as a war machine at the service of great imperialist powers, especially American imperialism.
That period is characterized by NATO’s widening, involving some countries that were once part of the Warsaw Pact, making alliances with countries outside the geographical sphere of the alliance, such as in the case of the "Gulf Cooperation Council" and the "Mediterranean Dialogue." The first experience of that transformation had the Balkans as its backdrop. Especially after the bombings and invasion of Yugoslavia, NATO begins to widen militarily its area of influence, reaching the borders of Russia.
NATO in Latin America
It was under that context of new alliances and widening that the government of former Argentinean president Carlos Menem developed a strategy to approach the military alliance. According to that conception, Argentina would only reach a greater importance in the international scene if it maintained a policy of automatic alignment with the United States or, as said in the occasion, if it maintained a "carnal relation" with the super power either in the economic field or in its foreign policy and military cooperation.
Seminars and important conferences were held in the country to address the relation with NATO and several Argentinean authorities participated in NATO’s deliberative instances with the objective of demonstrating commitment with the organization.
It was under those circumstances that Argentina became the only Latin American country to send troops to the first Gulf War in 1991. Later it sent troops to the so-called Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR), which was NATO’s occupation force in the Balkans during the conflict in 1996. It was also in that occasion that former USA president Clinton proclaimed Argentina as a "non-NATO ally."
What is the meaning of being a non-NATO ally?
The title "non-NATO ally", coined in 1989, is a designation made by the Congress of the USA to a group of countries that obtain advantages in the acquisition of weapons that would be sold only to NATO countries. The first countries to receive that title were Australia, Egypt, Israel Japan and South Korea. In the Bush administration, that token was granted to his allies in the "war against terror" Â New Zealand, Jordan, Bahrain, Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait Morocco and Pakistan.
Latin America is a strategic area to NATO
In the last years NATO has made efforts to approach the region once more. After being reconfigured as a military alliance with global challenges, some sort of world’s sheriff, it considered to be important to maintain its presence in our area.
In 2008, as the campaign against Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC-EP) peaked, Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos declared to newspapers that his country intended to send troops to Afghanistan and start collaborating with NATO. In the weeks preceding our conference, it became public that Colombia will send 150 soldiers as a first step in cooperating with the occupation in Afghanistan.
It could mean that Colombia will establish a new kind of cooperation with NATO in the medium term.
Another route being explored with less success is the attempt at involving the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), based in Portugal, in NATO exercises. That, according to the Alliance’s command, would project its actions to both margins of the Atlantic Ocean.
Widening the awareness of the anti-imperialist struggle and the defense of peace
Today, under international circumstances of uncertainties and deep contradictions, the peoples of the world must try to strengthen their anti-imperialist awareness, showing that the use of war to impose its plans and maintain its centrality in the international system is the very nature of imperialism.
NATO is completing 60 years of existence. We must take into account that the transformations taking place at the heart of that military alliance aim at strengthening its role as a privileged tool in incursions that imperialism carries out against the peoples of the world.
Military structures at the service of the empire complement each other in the logic of controlling the main routes of commercial flow and plundering energy sources. The Naval Warfare Fourth Fleet may be put at the service of NATO if necessary with the lame excuse that some country in the region may be "violating human rights" or "sheltering terrorists", among other fallacies that could be devised.
Our region is historically characterized by the efforts in defense of peace, what makes it a "Peace Zone." The general feeling of the peoples living in our region is one of sympathy for peace, of solidarity with struggling peoples. Comrades and friends, imperialism is going through a severe crisis, the hegemony of the United States is threatened. We are sure that, with the union of democratic, progressist and anti-imperialist forces, we may create a broad international front against imperialism and its war machines and a broad mobilization of the peoples to defeat imperialism. We are sure that it is not invincible and it will be defeated!
Socorro Gomes President of the World Peace CouncilÂCMP and Cebrapaz-Brazilian Center for Solidarity to Peoples and Struggle for Peace