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WTO panel recommends that US break up monopoly on violence

GENEVA, Switzerland - After an eighteen-month deliberation, a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel ruled today that the United States has achieved a position of de-facto monopoly in military force that is "inconsistent with the base provisions of the Marrakech round and a barrier to trade in similar services by other states". In a move widely regarded as placatory, the panel "recommended" (rather than ruling) that the US break up its vast military into several independent entities, and also allow "other states", understood to mean Europeans, to compete for provision of military intimidation in its core markets.

United States president and CEO George W. Bush said in a press conference shortly after the WTO announcement: "We are saddened and surprised at the panel's findings. Our organisation has been a dynamic, growing, successful provider of military intimidation and violent suppression since 1912. We have grown with the market, and the market has grown with us, from a fragmented and often stagnant sector of the regional economy to a vibrant, trillion dollar a year global marketplace. We've done nothing wrong, and we'll work with the WTO to clear the issue."

VP of military affairs Dick Cheney continued: "Our military R&D budget is $64 billion dollars annually, and climbing. We've been an innovator from the word go, driving expectations and unleashing possibilities such as the internet, supersonic flight, nuclear fission and fusion, jet and rocket propulsion, supercomputing, the GPS navigation system, and the microprocessor, as well as scientific advances in quantum physics, game theory, medicine, psychology, and cryptography. To place arbitrary limits of the activities of an organisation such as ours is to limit science, to limit progress".

Sources close to the WTO reveal that, as part of its deposition, the United States has submitted a list of more than a dozen entities which it regards as "substantial competitors" in the war market. The list is understood to include states such as North Korea and Iran, as well as non-profit groups such as Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, amongst others. A European government minister who spoke on condition of anonymity commented that the combined market share of these providers is "marginal". It is widely believed that the investigation was commissioned in response to pressure from EU negotiators.

Overwhelming market share
The chief author of the report, Senior WTO investigator Dominic Bertrand, a French-born Indonesian, was adamant of his group's findings: "Following its acquisition of a controlling interest in the United Kingdom in 1997, and until 2002, [the period covered by the investigation] the combined US/UK military industry has conducted 96% of cross-border military operations by number of transactions, and virtually all by transaction volume. Although, during our investigation, we have encountered a number of players with the technical capacity and willingness to tap that market, the overwhelming market share and aggressive stance of the United States has meant that the only independent military activity of the past five years occurred in niche Third World markets of insignificant value."

Vladimir Putin, president or Russia, formerly the Soviet Union - a multinational group that was for years the United States' main competitor in the global market for military strongmanship before diversifying into a successful illicit services business, expressed guarded approval over the finding. In a short statement issued by Russia's corporate relations office, Putin said: "Russia has warned of the danger of excessive consolidation in this market ever since the withdrawal of our parent company. We see the WTO's involvement as a positive step". Putin declined to comment on any possibility of Russia's re-entry to the global intimidation market. Russia maintains a regional war and intimidation business based in Chechnya.

Smaller states: "It's just not fair"
Representatives of smaller violent states have hailed the finding as a step in the right direction. In the words of Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed M. Kasuri: "The current trading regime is just not fair to the smaller states. Not only do we find our violence exports blocked by the major Western countries, but our secondary business sectors that depend on a strong warfare export market are at a disadvantage compared to similar business sectors in the United States." NGOs active in the violence field, such as Al Qaeda and Colombia-based FARC have also issued statements praising the WTO finding.

In one particularly controversial section of the 117-page report, the group identifies the "War on Terror" brand, launched globally after 11 September 2004, as an instrument to stifle competitive violent activities under the guise of protecting national or cultural sensibilities - a red flag to the WTO's international watchdogs. Analyst Gurnam I. Singh of the Harvard Business School explains: "After 11 September 2001, the US terror industry saw their dominant market position suddenly challenged by low-cost third-world imports. They were furious! So they set up this huge PR campaign and largely convinced their home market that American violence is good and wholesome, while supporting any foreign brand is dangerous and anti-American. Violence imports to the US were effectively blocked. But now the smaller guys are saying, hang on, we can kill people and blow things up too, and we can do it cheaper. We want fair access and an end to this 1960s 'support our troops' nonsense."

What happens next depends on the priority that the Unites States and other negotiating parties give to the issue. In theory, since the finding is a "recommendation", WTO procedure does not specify a deadline for any particular action. However, the United States is likely to file an appeal immediately, rather than risk a motion by another member to convert the recommendation into a ruling. In either case, the matter could be brought into the agenda of the next negotiating round, as early as March of next year. Analysts predict tough negotiations over access to the middle east terror markets.
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