(eng) Murder Incorporated

D Shniad (shniad@sfu.ca)
Tue, 12 Nov 1996 22:55:20 -0500

Z Magazine


Edward S. Herman

Identifying any kind of war criminal is tricky. It is
common to latch on to the hit men, or the ones issuing
the immediate orders, while ignoring the planners and
decision-makers, the funders, and those providing
intellectual and moral support. And of course war
criminals (military division [MD]) are always found
only on the losing side, when frequently there are
outstanding candidates among the winners. Identifying
war criminals is hard to do without an arbitrariness
that renders the whole effort dubious.

As for economics-based criminality, the very idea is
anathema to the westernestablishment, because it points
up an area in which its principals are vulnerable. Just
as the West (and especially the United States) fought
against incorporatingeconomic (and social) rights as
fundamental rights in post World War II formulations of
the International Declaration of Human Rights, so today
it avoids the phrase "class war" as well as the
possibility of criminality associated with economic
policy and private economic actions. The western
establishment devotedly supports capitalism, which
means "economic freedom," which means the freedom to
starve as well as accumulate wealth.

It also means the right of establishment politicians to
carry out economic policies that immiserate and kill
large numbers of people, and the right of the corporate
elite to fire, exploit, and otherwise mistreat
employees within the (flexible) limits of the law.These
rights are fundamental to the system, and spokespersons
for contemporary capitalism view any immiseration
produced by its normal operations as inescapable facts
of nature, like cosmic rays. As we are in a New World
Order of resurgent corporate power, more aggressive
class warfare, an ongoing global redistribution of
income upward, return to "Dickensian" work conditions,
and environmental devastation, the notion of economic
criminality is especially dangerous. Immiseration must
be normalized, and it is the function of the
intellectuals at the Cato, American Enterprise,
Manhattan and other institutes, and economists at the
University of Chicago and elsewhere, to extend the
intellectual and moral boundaries of potential

The press has the responsibility of keeping such
uncomfortable notions as economics-based criminality
out of sight. Each year Oxfam puts out powerful
documents on global poverty and the devastating effects
of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)
policies on the world's non-elite billions (a superb
illustration is its 1995 The Oxfam Poverty Report), but
these are never reviewed or even reported in the New
York Times. Similar suppression or marginalization is
applied to the publications and conferences of Food
First, the Development Group for Alternative Policies,
the Global Exchange, PROBE International, and other
dissident groups, and to campaigns like last year's
"Fifty Years Are Enough" (celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the World Bank).

The media also treat in a very low key the massive
looting by western clients like Mobutu, Suharto and the
Salinas boys and their allies, the union busting
operations of Caterpillar, and the damage inflicted on
the underlying populations by neoliberalization in
countries like Mexico and Chile. I have always thought
it enlightening that the great thief, Philippines
dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was treated very gently by
the U.S. media until 1986, when he became so weak
internally that he could no longer serve U.S. interests
and was written off by U.S. policy-makers, at which
point his looting suddenly became newsworthy!

In addressing economic criminality we run into some of
the same kinds of problems that establishment analysts
encounter in identifying military war crimes. Who is
"responsible" in a complex system of division of labor?
Do we look behind the middle and top managers to the
large shareholders and bankers who may call the shots?
Do we stop with the political leaders who make and
execute laws or do we reach back to the election
funders, advisers, planners and intellectuals urging on
the criminal projects? Pinning the label of criminality
on individuals ignores the systemic element in such
crimes--the fact that they are not only the result of
how the system works, but that large numbers share
responsibility. It is true that some can be identified
with special discretionary powers and exceptional
involvement in war and economic war crimes, but we
still face difficult problems. Information on criminal
economic behavior, which extends over the entire globe,
is limited and the actual locus of economic and
political decisions if often difficult to establish. In
short, our selection is going to have a strong element
of arbitrariness.

Why bother then? As noted earlier, one reason is to
highlight the arbitrariness of the establishment's
confinement of war crimes to those that fit its biases
and to focus on the immorality and viciousness of
important forms of criminal economic activity. A second
is to name names, and to call the scoundrels in
question by their deserved name of war criminal--
economics division. They are all quite respectable
folk, much honored. A man like Michel Camdessus, a
prime war criminal-ED who heads the International
Monetary Fund, considers himself a "socialist" and do-

Economic crimes deserving attention fall into two
categories: first, are those that harm large numbers by
enforcing an economic policy that serves the global
elite, as with Camdessus' "structural adjustment"
programs for poor countries. A second form of crime is
large scale theft, as in the case of Mobutu, the
Western imposed looter in Zaire, and Suharto in
Indonesia. The robbers also help immiserate, but they
do it not so much through policy actions as by directly
reducing the GDP available to the populace by their own
robbery and that carried out by foreign businesses who
have made entry payoffs. A number of war criminals-ED
are also war criminals- MD. Mobutu and Suharto, in
addition to looting, have also participated in large
scale repression and murder.

The Dirty Twenty

I am going to break my list of war criminals-ED into
four categories: Government Leaders, Middle Managers,
Businessmen, and Economists-Intellectuals-Advisers. I
will include only criminals currently active, so that
Margaret Thatcher, Carlos Salinas, Ronald Reaganand
George Bush are excluded, although they would show up
in a historical accounting. I am also going to list
only twenty in total, with a very brief explanatory
comment, although the potential list would be of large
size. I invite readers to send in their own additions
or emendations to my list. Perhaps Z Magazine should
have an annual listing of war criminals-ED, given the
unwarranted neglect of this subject by the mainstream

Government leaders:

1. Bill Clinton: for his contribution to welfare
"reform," for his economic policy of slow growth, tight
monetary and fiscal policy, and trickle-down economics,
which has caused insecurity to rise and the income
distribution to become more unequal in his tenure. Also
for his support of Yeltsin and Russian "reform," his
Iraq policy of holding 18 million people hostage and
subject to an economic boycott, and his general
fronting for global neoliberalism and the corporate

2. Boris Yeltsin: for his key role in beggaring
millions of Russians, in service to a looting economic
mafia and the West.

3. General Suharto: one of the great thieves (and mass
murderers) of the twentieth century, who created a
"favorable climate of investment" in Indonesia, and is
consequently treated in the West as a "moderate" and

4. Mike Harris: the current Progressive [sic]
Conservative Premier of Ontario, who relishes putting
workers out of work and poor people out on the streets;
a caricature of a rightwing ideologue, with executive

5. Sese Seko Mobutu: possibly the greatest thief of the
twentieth century in ratio of loot to GDP, with
estimated wealth in excess of $5 billion; put in place
by U.S. intervention, supported by the IMF and World
Bank, and very solicitous of creditor claims, if not
the basic needs of his people.

6. Ernesto Zedillo: successor to Salinas as head of the
PRI, in charge of managing the huge contraction of the
Mexican economy at the expense of the underlying
population, to keep payments flowing to Mexico's
creditors. Also responsible for the ongoing repression
of peasant and indigenous uprisings.

Middle Managers:

7. Michel Camdessus: long time head of the IMF, whose
structural adjustment programs have imposed enormous
burdens on the world's poor, while servicing the
demands of the global transnational corporations and
banks. Camdessus is very possibly directly responsible
for more human deaths than any person since World War
II--the neoliberal equivalent of Adolph Eichmann.

8. Allan Greenspan: Reaganite head of the Fed has not
only managed a monetary policy focusing on inflation
control, slow growth and a sizable reserve army of
unemployed, he contributed to the S & L debacle with an
adulatory letter of recommendation for S & L crook
Charles Keating, now in jail for fraud.

9. James Wolfensohn: a recently appointed head of the
World Bank, who continues to carry out its policies of
environmentally destructive loans for dams, support for
leaders like Zedillo, Suharto and Yeltsin, and
structural adjustment programs for countries like Haiti-
-his job is criminal by structural necessity.

Business leaders:

10. Jim Bob Moffett: chairman of Freeport-McMoRan, a
transnational mining company, now famous for its
environmental destruction and criminal abuses of the
native population in West Papua, New Guinea (under the
rule of Indonesia, the company assisted by the
Indonesian army); also one of the leading polluters in
North America.

11. M. A. Van den Bergh, Managing Director of Royal-
Dutch-Shell: for his and Shell's role as long-time
collaborator with the Nigerian dictatorship; has abused
the Ogoni people's lands for decades, keeping them
under control with the help of the Nigerian military.

12. Donald Fites: the CEO of Caterpillar has set a
standard in union busting, with his triumph over the
UAW in a four year strike.

13. Al Dunlap: champion of down-sizing, Dunlap did a
major job on Scott Paper employees, and has now been
brought in to kill jobs on behalf of the stockholders
at Sunbeam Corporation.

14. Charles Hurwitz: corporate raider, who cost the
taxpayer $1.6 billion in S & L losses, is most famous
as boss of Pacific Lumber, owner of the Headwaters
Grove, the last major private ancient redwood forest in
California. Pacific Lumber has been notable for
ruthless clear cutting of the California redwoods.

15. William Simon: pioneer in the leveraged buyout
method of ripoff, which led the way to the Reagan era
buyout-merger frenzy; also a top organizer and
subsidizer of neoliberal and rightwing propaganda as
head of the Olin Foundation.

Economists and intellectuals:

16. Jeffrey Sachs: Harvard's and the neoliberal world's
leading shock therapist, responsible for human
devastation in Bolivia, Poland and Russia. Any failings
in these shock treatments were a result of inadequate
speed and comprehensiveness, not Sachs'
misunderstanding of institutions, cultures, and
economics itself.

17. Arnold Harberger: Chicago School guru who was the
leader of the Chicago boys in Chile, and is proud to
have brought free markets to that country (over many
thousands of murdered bodies).

18. Robert Bartley: editor of the Wall Street Journal,
passionate supporter of supply side economics and all
the death squads necessary to bring it to fruition here
and abroad.

19. Charles Murray: author of the antiwelfare classic
Losing Ground and the racist classic The Bell Curve,
Murray has been in the intellectual forefront of the
attack on the poor, weak and black.

20. Thomas Sowell: Hoover Institution economist, one of
three black social scientists (the others: Walter
Williams and Shelby Steele) who have given the Charles
Murray slant to affirmative action and welfare state
policies in general. Sowell won a close competition
among the three.

This selection can be contested; the potential
candidates run into the thousands. The Dirty Twenty are
all "good" (i.e., despicable) candidates, but in a
sense they are symbolic representatives of a large
criminal class.