The Bush administration is trying to quash a human-rights lawsuit filed by villagers in the Indonesian province of Aceh, who charge that US-based ExxonMobil contracted with Indonesian military and militia forces to murder, torture, and rape local residents who interfered with the company's ability to profit there. The US government says the lawsuit poses a serious threat to its ability to fight terrorism abroad. To which I ask: Doesn't raping, torturing, and murdering people for profit count as terrorism?
This is just the latest manifestation of Bush's shamelessly pro-corporate, exploitation-friendly approach to both domestic and foreign affairs.
The lawsuit in question was filed last year by the International Labour Rights Fund. The US State Department's intervention may well kill the suit, sending a signal to all multinational companies that the US will happily put the full weight of the government behind those who would exploit, harrass, and terrorize developing nations in the name of profit. A similar suit against Rio Tinto, the world's largest mining conglomerate, was dismissed on similar grounds this year when the US claimed the suit harmed US interests in Papua New Guinea. In that case, Rio Tinto's insistence on opening a copper mine in a disputed territory led to a civil war that killed 15,000 people. Civil war, apparently, is good for business.
It's worth noting that the province where the Exxon suit was filed is a heavily Muslim island where the indigenous population -- like East Timor in 1999 -- wants to secede from Indonesia's notoriously brutal reign. It's not a leap to infer that it will be in the "best interest" of the United States to strip away human rights protections in the name of "the War on Terror" anywhere fundamentalist Islam is popular.
All of this reminds me of the struggle of the Ogoni people in Nigeria against the environmental terror wrought upon them by Royal Dutch Shell. My friend, the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, was hanged by a corrupt Nigerian military dictatorship for speaking out against Shell's collusion with the military to terrorize and murder opponents of Shell oil fields on indigenous lands. It seems to be a story repeated across continents and around the world. And it seems to be a pattern George W. Bush and company wholly endorse.