Protesters Heckle Wolfowitz at World Bank Lecture
Protesters Heckle Wolfowitz at World Bank Lecture in Atlanta
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor and National Correspondent
Atlanta Progressive News
December 10, 2006
(APN) ATLANTA – Paul Wolfowitz was interrupted four times by a total of five protesters tonight during his invited Leo and Berry Eizenstat Memorial lecture on the World Bank at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue. The title of his speech was “Why Africa Matters to Americans.”
One protester, Justin Carter, 20, who stood wearing an anti-Wolfowitz t-shirt, was punched in the stomach by an apparent member of the congregation who was dressed in a suit. Atlanta Progressive News witnessed the incident and took photos on a cell phone.
Carter told APN he wasn’t hurt physically too badly and is considering pressing charges. “I think it’s f***ed up. That’s how these people view the world. You can’t talk without them automatically resorting to violence,” Carter said in an “afterparty” interview at Café Intermezzo. Carter said he was a member of World Can’t Wait and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade.
The audience member who assaulted Carter, however, was not asked to leave the synagogue.
Deborah Spector, Spokesperson for the Synagogue, said the incident was “unfortunate,” thought it was “a good question” why the violent, pro-Wolfowitz audience member was allowed to stay, and said she had “no comment.”
Each of the protesters were escorted out by police and were not arrested but were asked not to return to the property. They were told they would be arrested if they came back on the property. The protesters had all entered as members of the public and were dressed in plain clothes.
A second protester, Brent Helm, 34, stood up at the same time as Carter.
Then, a third protester, Maxwell Guberman, 36, managed to put on an orange jumpsuit and stood up.
Fourth, Tracie Stern shouted, “How about Iraq? Wolfowitz is a war criminal!”
Finally, noted activist Gloria Tatum–who was assaulted when she protested Donald Rumsfeld a few months ago–shouted, “You are a liar! You are losing your very soul!”
Protesters were also congregated outside, and some distributed a six point “Criminal Indictment of Paul Dundes Wolfowitz,” obtained by APN. About 20 protesters were outside at about an hour before the protest; 30-40 protesters were said to be there during the speech.
Some persons were also not allowed by security to enter the synagogue, if they had previously stopped to talk with protesters. This was seen as another example of discrimination.
Mr. Wolfowitz was a key architect of President Bush’s neoconservative plan for world domination, preemptive war, and the Invasion of Iraq, in recent years. Most recently he was appointed President of the World Bank.
“What struck me was all these White men sitting up there all pompous as if they’re right about everything, and they’re all wrong!” Gloria Tatum told APN.
“The premise for what the World Bank does is domination over countries,” Tracie Stern said. “They say they’re going to help the people. What they’re really doing is opening up the opportunity for imperialism.”
“And if they can’t control you with money, they’ll control you with bombs,” Tatum said.
What did the protesters hope to accomplish, besides educating the public and undermining the appearance of ideological hegemony?
“What we’re doing is polarizing society as to what side you’re on. Will [Wolfowitz] be honored and respected, or called out? And that’s a moral question. Are we going to allow business as usual?” Stern said.
Paul Wolfowitz and other speakers presented a different view of the World Bank.
The World Bank “seeks to dispel darkness,” in the world, Rabbi Neil Sandler said.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young said he and Wolfowitz have a “common agenda of trying to bring peace.”
“It’s a struggle between order and chaos,” Young, who is also a former US Congressman from the 5th District, said.
Young said the World Bank had similar missions to the Red Cross, CARE, and the Anti-Defamation League.
“The things that unite us have got to become more important than the things that divide us,” Young said. “The key to that is the financial stability of the world.”
The World Bank “is founded on the belief of creating opportunities for the poor,” Wolfowitz said. “And Africa is becoming a continent of hope!”
Wolfowitz presented what he called the four major myths regarding the World Bank and Africa.
“I’m here to tell you none of those things are true.”
The four myths are: (1) Africa is hopeless, (2) aid to Africa is money wasted, (3) aid is not a cure-all for Africa, and (4) Americans overestimate the percentage of federal spending on foreign aid each year.
To show Africa is not hopeless, “In the last ten years, 17 countries... have achieved unusual real growth of 4% or better. Some have averaged as much as 7% or 8%,” Wolfowitz said.
On the second myth, “A new generation of leaders is emerging in Africa who increasingly recognize their responsibility to their people,”Wolfowitz said, adding, “We’re all too familiar with stories of dictators like Mobutu in Zaire who stashed billions in foreign bank accounts, while his country plunged into deep debt.”
On the third, “I’d like to dispel the belief if African governments simply did the right thing, they wouldn’t need our help at all. Across Africa, crumbling infrastructure has held back business expansion and opportunities to complete,” Wolfowitz said.
For example, “Today, an entrepreneur in Africa pays more then three times what his Chinese counterpart pays to transport a container the same distance,” he said.
Finally, “Americans commonly think 24% [of the federal budget] goes to foreign aid. Americans think 14% would be right. Our per capita foreign aid spending is about 1%. We can do better. Some smaller countries like Norway spend closer to 7%,”Wolfowitz said.
Tracie Stern of World Can’t Wait saw irony in Wolfowitz’s speech about myths.
“I couldn’t get over his myths. Let’s dispel myth number one. Wolfowitz is not a humanitarian. Every time he said this myth, that myth, I kept thinking, there’s the myth about WMDs [weapons of mass destruction], the myth that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11,” Stern said.
THE BANK OF THE WORLD!
A section of the draft of Wolfowitz’s speech, obtained by APN, on global inequality, was apparently omitted from his actual remarks. One statement in that section is “The global economy has now produced roughly 700 billionaires, but it’s also left behind more than 1 billion people worldwide trying to survive on $1 a day or less.”
The World Bank has certainly created “order” in the chaos, but this order has resulted in much devastation and suffering.
The World Bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, first of all, is a non-democratic, private, global institution, with powers to make decisions which effect sovereign nations.
“The debt has a lot to do with it. When it can’t be repaid, they put in structural adjustments. The money is devalued. That’s where privatization comes in,” Randy Aronoff said at the after party.
When counties default on debt payments, the leaders of these countries are coerced into making such structural adjustments, in order to either make debt service payments while appeasing the wealthy nations, or to achieve some debt forgiveness in return.
Such structural adjustments include currency devaluation, mandated reduction of spending on social programs, privatization, and reduction of protective tariffs.
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor and National Correspondent for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.