McDonalds, 9-11 and US foreign policy

Statement by Glasgow MWR following a statement issued by the McDonalds corporation following the September 11th attacks covering the attacks, the war, and McDonalds itself.

Submitted by libcom on May 7, 2006

Here is a statement from McDonalds regarding the terrorist attacks in America followed by a response from Glasgow MWR. Maybe we are getting a bit above ourselves commenting on international affairs but McDonalds statement really wound some of us up. And if they're going to espouse their views on a subject then we like to reply...

'McDonalds Responds to America's National Tragedy' 12/09/01
Statement: Jack M. Greenberg, chairman and CEO of McDonalds corporation

"We are all devastated by yesterday's horrific acts of terrorism. I know I speak for everyone at McDonalds when I say our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of all the victims of this national tragedy. A catastrophe of this magnitude is hard to comprehend, but we're all in this together as Americans. That's why McDonalds is doing what we always do... we are helping our neighbours. McDonalds corporation is contributing $1million to the humanitarian and relief effort and Ronald McDonald House Charities is matching it with its own $1million donation. Starting this Friday and continuing for a month all customer donations through our Ronald McDonald House restaurant canister programme in the US will be donated to the American Red Cross to assist in this national emergency. In New York City, from our restaurants near the World Trade Centre sites we are serving food to search and rescue teams, we are also bringing in two mobile McDonalds, along with eight supply trucks to keep restaurant serving the tireless workforce there. McDonalds Restaurants in Baltimore/ Washington D.C. region are providing meals to the teams working at the Pentagon. And in Somerset County, we are also supplying food to the emergency crews there."

The following response was approved at Glasgow MWR's weekly meeting 15/09/01:
"McDonalds are giving some hamburgers away and they want the world to know. As an unprecedented quantity of TV cameras descended upon Manhattan to beam the tragic images around the world, two mobile McDonalds slipped on stage right. They chucked in a million dollars as well, yeah, 15% of the days advertising budget; McDonalds spends a million dollars on advertising every three and a half hours.

Within minutes of the initial crashes, political and corporate leaders were seeking to use the tragic events to further their own agendas. Bush tried to whip up patriotism and justify increased military spending. Blair spoke of the "new evil" facing the world and talked of attacks on freedom and democracy. McDonalds, of course, will use anything to sell burgers- the emotional responses of two year olds to a clown, or the very real shock and sadness the world feels at the devastation in America. And the shock and sadness is very real. On Friday, McDonalds staff and customers, like much of Europe, stood in silent remembrance across a continent. All very respectful, yet even here there is something disquieting. When Mozambique was devastated by floods, where were the corporate donations? Where was the mourning? Was climate change the "new evil" facing the world? The world was silent. Where has the grief been for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims of sanctions and bombardments? The world has been silent. Where have the condemnations been for the US bankrolled Israeli massacre of Palestinian children, in a land where Palestinians earn an average of one twentieth of the average Israeli wage? The US wont even discuss whether that constitutes racism and the rest of the world has been largely silent. How much more directly has Bin Laden sponsored the atrocities in America than the US has sponsored the genocide perpetrated against the East Timorese? And yet Britain has largely been silent, still arming the Indonesian regime. For the victims of the CIA trained Colombian death squads, where is the mourning? Where is the denunciation? What of the 1998 US bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and of the thousands thought to have died as a consequence? No shock, no mourning, not even an investigation. The world was silent. Blair denounced the protesters in Genoa as terrorists, but he was happy to shake hands with Putin. Regarding the people of Chechnya, there was silence. The CIA trained and funded Islamic fundamentalists, including Bin Laden. It is not the case that they gave assistance to Afghani freedom fighters who subsequently 'went bad'; they were funding fundamentalists in Afghanistan from before the Soviet invasion and some of those they armed were at the time already notorious for flinging acid in the face of any woman who refused to wear the veil. But while it suited America, where was the support for the women of Afghanistan? Who has mourned those executed by the Taliban? And if more innocents are killed in US reprisals, will we see corporate donations to the humanitarian relief effort? We can expect the world to be silent. For the countless dead of Sierra Leone, one million Rwandans, many Ugandans, Congolese, Liberians, Somalians, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Angolans, South Americans and Namibians, there is silence. Let's rid the world of "evil doers" but let's never stop selling guns. But when terror strikes at the heart of America, there is a different silence. Not this time the too familiar silence of indifference, but, rightly, a silence of remembrance, of shock and sadness. The message from the west to the rest of the world is abundantly clear- our lives are worth more than yours. In such a world of inequality and racism, there can be no peace.

What has all this got to do with McDonalds? Everything. The attacks in America cannot be understood without reference to decades of US military and political imperialism, which in turn cannot be divorced from the economic imperialism epitomised by McDonalds. McDonalds do not share much with Islamic fundamentalists, but they have one thing in common- both share an intolerance towards other cultures and a disregard for diversity, both seek to impose their version of the world on others. If you look deep enough then it is apparent that the homogenised totality represented by McDonalds is the result of generations of violence and continues to be sustained by force. The capitalist Mcworld is now almost universal with some Islamic countries amongst the rare exceptions. It is this that has brought them, like Cuba, Nicaragua, and so many others, into this long standing conflict with the US, not their catalogue of repressive practices. Russia and China are playing the game now, so about their atrocities, as with turkey, Israel, Colombia, Indonesia etc. there will be silence. This war, like the mass bombing of Iraq, has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with economics, profits and the perpetual demand for economic growth. It was against the background of these thoughts that I read the line: "That's why McDonalds is doing what we always do... we are helping our neighbours", and was provoked to write this response. In a week dominated by tragic images, McDonalds still manage to produce something shockingly distasteful.

We condemn absolutely the horrific and senseless acts perpetrated in America, but also we condemn US military imperialism and capitalist economic imperialism, and we condemn all of them in the same breath, for to speak of one without reference to the others is inadequate. McDonalds is part of the problem, not the solution."