March 23, 2019 | 30° F

RATERO: Trade policies supported by Sanders promote inhumane worker treatment

Opinions Column: Mangoes and Revolution


In the battlefield that social media has become in the months (even year) preceding the upcoming United States elections, my feed is overdosing on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and how amazing this man is. Needless to say my online network is left-leaning and cares about whether or not an unapologetic fascist is at the head of the leading world empire or not. This time around the enthusiasm seems to go beyond saving ourselves. People seem to genuinely believe that Sanders will somehow turn the course of history — more so than going down in the books as the first Jewish president.

I want to focus on Sanders not because he’s any more criminal than the other primary candidates, but because he’s the only one the people who want actual change in the world seem to care about.

There’re a few points that are worth noting. He can talk about health care, education, Wall Street, jobs and international trade agreements all he wants. The fact remains that his plan is to keep current modes of production, continue the use of drone warfare and maintain the global systems of exploitation that keep most of the world enslaved to “developed” countries like the United States.

The difference in candidates often lays in their domestic policies, since they all seem to agree that upholding the overreaching U.S. Empire is the way to go. Although there has been talk of getting out of "parts" of the Middle East (a Western notion to begin with) and ending "some" forms of warfare, we cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. military continues to have a heavy presence in many parts of the world. Military presence causes fear, mistrust and trauma. It can also cause the complete destruction not only of infrastructure, but also of people’s lives — those who die and those who are displaced, having to deal with dead loved ones — along with the decimation caused by the bombs and drones that the United States seems so fond of. Why is it so surprising when one form of extremism fuels another?

U.S. military tactics increasingly rely on the use of drones to pinpoint and eliminate targets. According to an October 2015 Huffington Post article, at least 90 percent of people killed in recent drone strikes in Afghanistan were not the target. In other countries like Yemen and Somalia, that percentage of “inaccuracy” is undoubtedly higher, as there is less information about the area. This means that more than 90 percent of people killed from drone strikes are innocent civilians, the kind of casualty the euphemism, “collateral damage” refers to. We could make a very strong case against using drones at all, internationally or nationally. There is absolutely no excuse when such an extremely high percentage of the victims are known to be innocent. Yet Sanders agrees with this kind of drone use.

The case against this system and its presidents could be made on drones alone, but there are more points worth raising. Sanders puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on opposing trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and wants to focus on bringing jobs back to the United States. He does not say that the so-called international division of labor creates severe exploitation and slave-like conditions, including for children and millions of people worldwide who can no longer afford to subsist without working in inhumane conditions.

I bring up these issues to raise what the current politics of the United States results in for millions upon millions of people all around the world. Temporary redistribution of wealth will do nothing to fundamentally change the conditions of people in this country, in the short term, but especially in the long term — let alone for people outside this country’s borders. This system is based on the exploitation of human beings and the environment, and on the inherent creation of inequality. No amount of reform will change that.

When it comes to drones and the lives of human beings, Obama is no different from Bush, no different from Sanders and no different from the Republicans. The right to vote is something absolutely worth fighting for, and I by no means intend to underestimate the struggle of communities to obtain that fundamental right. But having the right to do something does not mean that you should do something. We again approach the time when instead of reinstating the lesser of two evils, we should make strides toward good for humanity.

The United States American people's lives people’s lives are not more important than other people’s lives.

Becky Ratero is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women's and gender studies and history. Her column, "Mangoes and Revolution," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Becky Ratero

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