Subject : ON THE REPRODUCTIONS OF CRUEL AND USUAL
RELATIONSHIPS ("THE BANALITY OF EVIL" CONTINUED).
28 November 2006
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
And as I was looking for some background knowledge about
neoconservatism for my mÃ©moire, 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
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.
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.
from Alexander Cockburn :
24 November 2006
The Democrats and the
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.
Head for the Exits, Now!
by ALEXANDER COCKBURN
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
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
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
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's new
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.”
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