Bulletin N°274


28 November 2006
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
There is no doubt that reductive thinking --such as biological determinism, psychological determinism, economic determinism, et cetera, et cetera ...-- creates unnecessary handicaps for developing strategies and tactics to improve our lives. There is no theory which explains everything, just as there is no map of the planet earth which designates every street and every house address. Still theories can be useful if they reflect real relationships in such a way as to provide some predictive value. The map is useful, for example, if it helps get us to get over the mountain and around the poison ivy patch, without disturbing the bird sanctuary (if those were our intentions in the first place).

We are all goal-seeking systems --individually and collectively-- and the context in which we are living is deeply marked by a division of social class interests. We can understand the meaning of nothing if we ignore the context. Our understanding would be reduced to superficial significance --nothing more than precision without accuracy.

Literal thinking simply makes it impossible to distinguish the map from the mountain : the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real all collapse into one experience with no distinctions. The person becomes confused and is easily manipulated by repetitions from authority figures, "who are supposed to know" or by the superficial rewards offered in exchange for their silence. There is no way to test and to verify what has been said, because nothing is perceived to exist outside the words and the emotional states which they evoke. I was recently reading a collection of letters-home written by French victims of the First World War, who again and again instructed their families not to become hysterical after they were killed, but to remember with dignity that they had dutifully given their lives for their homeland. Protesting the criminal negligence of French military officers and the senseless loss of life would be an embarrassment and a source of shame for the family and the nation. We can see in these letters how the tacticians were deliberately alienated from the strategists, and thus capable of seeing only tactical errors, but never gaining a glimpse of those Grand Strategies which corporations used against them in this era of rapid industrial expansion.

What is the source of literal thinking? How do feelings and the satisfactions of human needs become reified? What is lost when this crystallization occurs, when the idea becomes an object, and institutions begin to govern our needs, rather than the other way around? When the ends are used to justify the means, who is silenced and how, and at what cost to society does this collaboration occur? These are some of the questions that have been raised at recent local conferences organized by our research center, CEIMSA-IN-EXILE, where the production of wars and their by-products have been our center of focus.

At our most recent Local Conference, which was held on Stendhal University campus last Thursday, 23 November, we viewed then discussed the second half of the award-winning film, "The Battle of Algiers". Grenoble University Professors Mohamed Benrabah and Charles Lancha participated in the general discussion after this showing, and we have recorded these talks which continued for almost an hour after the film. We invite our Francophone readers to visit our new Multimedia page at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE and to access this rich and informative discussion of  an advanced, high-tech "torture industry" coming out of the French-Algerian war after 1962 and its employment by U.S. officials in Latin America.


Conférence locale organisée par le CEIMSA, le 23 novembre 2006 à l’Université Stendhal de Grenoble. Retrouvez la séance de questions/réponses suite à la projection de La Bataille d'Alger (réalisé par Gillo Pontecorvo) animée par Francis McCollum Feeley et avec Mohamed Benrabah, professeur de sociolinguistique à l'Université Stendhal, et Charles Lancha, professeur émérite d'espagnol à l'Université Stendhal.

Questions /Reponses : La Bataille d'Alger

"When a cause comes along," wrote Mumia Abu-Jamal recently, "and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice."

Below are 6 items recently received by CEIMSA which speak to the danger of our becoming the "walking dead," completely institutionalized and no longer capable of  recognizing and responding to injustices as they occur around us in our daily lives.

Item A. is a two-minute video on military tactics of domination used to control Iraqi society through the force of humiliation.
Item B. from Stendhal University student Stephane Mohr is an original account, taken from daily life, of the militarization process at work today.
Item C. is an article by Arundhati Roy on the stuff we are made of, and why there is hope for a better world.
Item D., by Alexander Cockburn, is an exposé on the hypocrisy of the U.S. Democratic Party and why it is wearing very thin today.
Item E. contains two video films : 1) delivered by Noam Chomsky to an assembly of people on the MIT campus and analyzing the four crises in the Middle East which have brought us to the brink of self-destruction, and 2) a film on the biases of Western media coverage in the Middle East, "Killing Without Conscience : Iraq -The Hidden War".

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal - Grenoble 3

from Information Clearing House :
25 November 2006

U.S. Occupation Forces Bring Clean Water to The Children Of Iraq.

Humiliation As A Weapon Of War
2 Minute Video

from Stephane Mohr :
25 November 2006

Dear Mr Feeley

I was reading your last email and thinking about how unaware we are about the reality of the conflict in Palestine and unaware about war in general.

And as I was looking for some background knowledge about neoconservatism for my mémoire, I found a very nice paragraphe about Irving Kristol who said how
pleased he was to see that people are still fascinated by war.

It's obvious that when someone watch the news on a common channel, war is not so awful, it is just a bunch of helicopters and tank moving from one place to an
other, sometimes shooting rockets and a building explodes (and when you see nights shots of anti-aircraft shootings, il looks like a concert of Jean-Michel Jarre as
the Guignols de l'info said). And it's the same when young people play video-games. The censorship and the unwill to show the reality of war made us accept it as a
normal headline in the newspapers, and as you said last Thursday, people who make people go to war aren't really killing anybody, they just make some decisions
and then go back home to play with their children. And as most people who advocates war for any so-called important reasons, they never saw what war is like.

Then, I realised that two persons I know had just signed up in the french army a month ago after 3 years of trying to find their way in University. I knew them vey
well when I was in secondary school, but since, I did not see them a lot. I knew perfectly these guys few years ago, they loved to play with toy-guns, passed most of
their time on computer wargames, painting small toy-soldiers and when they were a little older spending all their weekend in the wood playing paintball, wearing
real camouflage clothes etc...

I know these guys very well, and I perfectly know that their only knowledge of real war is documentary on tanks and army's aircraft (and of course, the news of 8
o'clock) they were really fascinated by warcrafts. And I just start thinking how it would be like when they will be on a real battlefield ? They're not bad guys, on the
contrary they have always been kind and helpful, I couldn't even imagine them killing some mices.

They signed up only because they're fascinated by war movies, war games, and war technology.

My mother met the mother of one of these guy in a supermarket a few weeks ago, and she asked her about how she felt about having her son in the army, and the
mother answered: "Ho... It's good for him, he needs to unwind himself". Well I guess he is gonna let a lot of steam off, if one day he is standing in the middle of a
real battlefield (not behind a screen this time).

I feel helpless about grandparents who spend time to tell their children about the atrocity of the war (my grandparents did), and to see that people join the army
just to let off steam.

I think it might be an argument about how unconscious we are about the reality of the war.

Sincerely yours


PS: I discussed it with Professor Lancha at the tramway after Thursday's film, "The Battle of Algers," and it's astonishing about we learn few things in school about the war in Algeria, as I told him there are still many people who believe that when french came into Algeria to colonize the country, "they were wearing flowers in their hairs and were distributing candies to everybody". After that, I'm not surprised to see some policymakers trying to pass a law about the positive side of French colonization if

from Arundhati Roy :
25 November 2006

Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs.

"Tide? Or Ivory Snow? Public Power in the Age of Empire"
by Arundhati Roy

from Alexander Cockburn :
24 November 2006

The Democrats and the Slaughterhouse
Head for the Exits, Now!


Imagine a steer in the stockyards hollering to his fellows, "We need a phased withdrawal from the slaughterhouse, starting in four to six months. The timetable should not be overly rigid. But there should be no more equivocation." Back and forth among the steers the debate meanders on. Some say, "To withdraw now" would be to "display weakness". Others talk about a carrot and stick approach. Then the men come out with electric prods and shock them up the chute.

The way you end a slaughter is by no longer feeding it. Every general, either American or British, with the guts to speak honestly over the past couple of years has said the same thing: the foreign occupation of Iraq by American and British troops is feeding the violence.

Iraq is not on the "edge of civil war". It is in the midst of it. There is no Iraqi government. There are Sunni militias and Shia militias inflicting savagery on each other in the awful spiral of reprisal killings familiar from Northern Ireland and Lebanon in the 1970s. Iraq has become Chechnya, headed into that abyss from the day the US invaded in 2003. It's been a steep price to inflict on the Iraqi people for the pleasure of seeing Saddam Hussein die abruptly at the end of a rope.

If the US is scheduled for any role, beyond swift withdrawal, it certainly won't be as "honest broker", lecturing fractious sectarians on how to behave properly, like Teacher in some schoolhouse on the prairie. It was always been in the US interest to curb the possibility of the Shia controlling much of Iraq, including most of the oil. By one miscalculation after another, precisely that specter is fast becoming a reality. For months outgoing ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad tried to improve the Sunni position, and it is clear enough that in its covert operations the US has been in touch with the Sunni resistance.

If some Sunni substitute for Saddam stepped up to the plate the US would welcome him and propel him into power, but it is too late for such a course. As Henry Kissinger said earlier this week, the war is lost. This is the man who -- if we are to believe Bob Woodward's latest narrative -- has been advising Bush and Cheney that there could be no more Vietnams, that the war in Iraq could not be lost without humiliating consequences for America's status as the number # 1 bully on the block. When Kissinger says a war is lost, you can reckon that it is.

Democrats, put in charge of Congress next January by voters who turned against the war, are now split on what to do. The 80 or so members of the House who favor swift withdrawal got a swift rebuff when Steny Hoyer won the House Majority leader position at a canter from Jack Murtha, humiliating House majority whip Nancy Pelosi in the process. But there are still maneuvers to have Murtha capture a significant role in brokering the rapid exit strategy he stunned Washington by advocating a year ago.

Next came Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who never opens his mouth without testing the wind with a supersensitive finger to test the tolerance levels of respectable opinion. In Chicago on Monday he said there are no good options left in Iraq, but that it "remains possible to salvage an acceptable outcome to this long and misguided war."

This time Obama plumped for the "four to six months" option for "phased redeployment", though the schedule should not be "overly rigid", to give--so the senator said -- commanders on the ground flexibility to protect the troops or adapt to changing political arrangements in the Iraqi government. Then there followed the familiar agenda for America as stern, disinterested broker: "economic pressure" should be applied to makie Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds sit down and forge a lasting peace. "No more coddling, no more equivocation."

It sounds great as a clip on the Evening News, provoking another freshet of talk about Obama as presidential candidate. Substantively it means absolutely nothing. What "economic pressure" is he talking about, what "coddling", in ruined, looted Iraq? It's all the language of fantasy.

The only time reality enters into Obama's and Democrats' foreign policy advisories is when the subject of Israel comes up. Then there's no lofty talk about "No more coddling", but the utterly predictable green light for Israel to do exactly what it wants--which is at present to reduce Gaza to sub-Chechnyian levels and murder families in Beit Hanoun: this is a Darfur America really could stop but instead is sponsoring and cheering on, to its eternal shame.

The Palestinians are effectively defenseless, even as the US Congress cheers Israel on. What political Washington cannot yet quite comprehend is that Iraq is not Palestine; cannot be lectured and given schedules. America is not controlling events in Iraq. If the Shia choose to cut supply lines from Kuwait up to the northern part of the country, the US forces would be in deep, deep trouble. When the Democrats take over Congress in January, they should vote to end funding for anything in Iraq except withdrawing US forces immediately. If they don't, there's nothing but downsides, including without doubt a Third Party peace candidacy that could well cost them the White House in 2008, or--who knows--the return of Al Gore as the peace candidate, now that Russ Feingold has quit the field. Perhaps that's what Obama was trying to head off.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's new book, End Times: the Death of the Fourth Estate, will be published in February by CounterPunch Books / AK Press

from Noam Chomsky :
25 November 2006

A sweeping and copiously detailed indictment of U.S. Middle East policy, brooking no contrary or alternate views. His history-filled lecture (interrupted by occasional applause) focuses on four crises, involving the Palestinians, the Lebanon invasion, the Iraq war and the “impending catastrophe in Iran.”

The Current Crisis in the Middle East
by Noam Chomsky

(Video of MIT meeting on 21 September 2006, Runtime 110 Minutes)


How our news is sanatized to prevent the destruction and suffering created by the U.S. occupation of Iraq from entering our reality. "Iraq: The Hidden Story" shows the footage used by TV news broadcasts, and compares it with the devastatingly powerful uncensored footage of the aftermath of the carnage that is becoming a part of the fabric of life in Iraq. Images of Iraq dominate our TV news bulletins every night but in this film, Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, questions whether these reports are sugar-coating the bloody reality of war under the US-led occupation

(Channel 4 News on 29 May 2006, Runtime 49 Minutes)
Killing Without Conscience : Iraq - The Hidden War
Prod/ Dir: Christian Trumble; Exec Prod: Stephen Phelps; Prod Co: Zenith Entertainment Ltd - 2006