Subject: ON 'WAR is PEACE', 'IGNORANCE is KNOWLEDGE', and 'MIGHT makes RIGHT'.
17 February 2007
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
By all accounts we are entering into a new stage of deceit, as war preparations are completed and America (now led by a bipartisan legislature) is posed to attack the Iranians, in a desperate bid to establish long-term U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. In Washington, D.C. neither the Democratic Party nor the Republicans are opposed to this goal, and for these alienated political elite of the United States the ends justify the means. Only the American people (at last count, a majority of over 70%) are opposed to this bid for U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. This represents of course a crisis for democracy, when the political leadership of a nation is no longer accountable to the people whom they claim to represent, but it is also a threat, according to environmental scientists, to the very survival of our species as we know it.
We are all part of one interconnected reality, and what the Israelis do to Palestinians, what western corporations do to gain control over the oil fields of Iraq and Iran, what the arms industries and the community of international defense contractors with the U.S. government do to the Third World have far-reaching consequences, which are often entirely unpredictable.
Using military hegemony to attempt to create economic and political hegemony is a failed strategy from the perspective of long-term interests. The immediate benefits are limited to a relatively small group of people, and at a very high cost for the rest of us. To protect their privilege and power against the common-sense interests of most people, the reproduction of illusions is an essential part of mass communication.
Roland Barthes, at a time when structuralism was à la mode, wrote Système de la mode (1957) in which he illustrated what he believed to be the structural relationship between being and appearance. His was an attempt to understand the role played by the opposition of meanings in the politics of representation. Acknowledgement of the necessary other and a functional representation of this other are determined by rules which are themselves generated by social context. The possibility to protect ourselves from a homicidal (and possibly suicidal) international corporate elite is a structural need in the present context of environmental catastrophes and imperialist wars.
We must go beyond the notion of linear oppositions and identify real power hierarchies which dominate us with the constant threat of violence or some other form of invalidation. In order to achieve this possibility of identifying contradictions and disarming the powers which would dominate us, we must find an epistemology, a way of knowing, which is at once strategic and tactical. Such intellectual activity must of necessity be inclusive, so that the practice of rejecting bad information and seeking better information is not excluded. Thus, epistemology is essentially political --i.e. radical and revolutionary. Without this dimension, scientific inquiry simply ceases to be scientific; it quickly morphs into ideology, a different activity with different objectives which are distinctly different from scientific thought. (The difference is analogous to knowing how to refine fossil fuel, on the one hand; and knowing how to sell it, on the other.)
It seems to be a well-guarded secret that corporations from virtually every industrial nation in the world have won U.S. defense contracts. Just as most American enterprises (and their employees in the United States) are "beneficiaries" of defense contracting, so foreign corporations are awarded profitable U.S. defense contracts, the predictable result of which is total political collaboration (albeit usually low-profile collaboration) with U.S. government policies. For example, the French company that provides meals at my children's school here in Grenoble (and at public schools across France) also caters food to US troops stationed in Iraq. This transnational company, Sodexho, advertises itself as "a U.S. affiliate," and waving the stars and stripes it stresses its "commitment against terrorism" :
Another transnational corporation with a plant close to home is Caterpillar, Corps. Networks of corporate interests such as these invite, in fact demand, that local residents thinking globally and acting locally. Defense contractors, large and small, are ubiquitous today, and where there are defense contractors today there are war criminals. We invite readers to look in their own backyards to recognize the patterns that unite us against these forces so destructive of peace and prosperity in our communities.
Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1
Washington, District of Columbia 20024
from Z Magazine :
7 February 2007
by Jon Elmer
and Nora Barrows-Friedman
[GAZA CITY, Feb 2 (IPS) - Explosions, fierce gunfights and ambulance sirens ripped through the Gaza strip again Thursday, only two days after a ceasefire ended a bloody week of factional fighting that left more than 30 Palestinians dead. ]
As night fell on Gaza, the death toll was at six, with more than 60 wounded. Fighters loyal to the elected Hamas government -- the Interior Ministry's Executive Force and the Islamist Movement's militia, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades -- battled the Fatah security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The fighting began in the afternoon when four truckloads of supplies entering from Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing were intercepted by Hamas fighters, who claimed that they had commandeered an arms shipment to the Presidential Guard, a U.S.-backed security force loyal to Abbas.
Fatah officially denied it was an arms shipment. Spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said the convoy contained only tents, generators and medical supplies.
In late December, an Israeli-approved arms shipment of 2,000 rifles, 20,000 magazines and two million rounds of ammunition from Egypt passed through the same Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza strip.
The resumption of violence comes as Washington announced plans to deliver a further 86.4 million dollars to back President Abbas.
Hamas officials have denounced Washington's involvement in training and financing Fatah security forces. Spokesman Ismayil Radwan said in a public speech that it was Washington's intention to "fuel a civil war in the Palestinian arena."
Mouin Rabbani, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that the United States is seeking to build Abbas's Presidential Guard into the leading Palestinian security force.
"It was developed to take on the Executive Force of Hamas," he told IPS. Rabbani said that the United States is preparing for the long haul, rather than trying to spark the clashes that Gaza is immediately experiencing.
"This is not a direct instigation by the Americans, because they are not yet convinced that Fatah are ready to take on Hamas," Rabbani said. "But they are beginning to pump significant amounts of weapons, training and funds in the hope that Fatah will prevail in the eventual conflict."
For its part, Washington has acknowledged that it is training Abbas's Presidential Guard in urban warfare tactics in the West Bank city Jericho under the guidance of Lt. General Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In an interview in December, Dayton told the Israeli daily Yehidot Ahronot, "We are involved in building up the Presidential Guard, instructing it, assisting it to build itself up, and giving them ideas." Dayton denied the Force was being groomed to confront Hamas.
In December 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which explicitly denounced the elected Hamas leadership. The Act seeks to bolster the Palestinian National Authority under Fatah's partnership.
Under the law, Hamas is sanctioned by the United States until "the Hamas-controlled PA (Palestinian Authority) has made demonstrable progress toward purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism, dismantling all terrorist infrastructure, and cooperating with Israel's security services, halting anti-American and anti-Israel incitement, and ensuring democracy and financial transparency."
The Islamist movement Hamas ended Fatah's 40-year rule of the Palestinian political scene when it won parliamentary elections in January 2006. A strict U.S.-led sanctions regime was imposed when Hamas formed a government in March.
This is, according to the United Nations, the first sanctions regime of its kind imposed on an occupied population. The sanctions regime has worsened the situation in Gaza that was already being described as a humanitarian crisis by UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP).
At least three-quarters of Gaza's 1.5 million people live in poverty, and are threatened with food insecurity. Additionally, more than 220,000 people are absolutely dependent on WFP food assistance.
Yet, according to polls, one thing that the sanctions have apparently failed to do is noticeably erode Hamas's popularity.
For Palestinians, the internal struggle is a crisis added to that already imposed by Israel's 40 year-long occupation. "I took my daughter to kindergarten this morning and couldn't pass because of the roadblocks. All the shops are closed and the streets are empty. Every house in Gaza is listening only to the news reports and the gunfire," Nabil Diab, a public relations official at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told IPS in Gaza City.
"The kids used to play 'Palestinians versus Israelis'; now they play 'Fatah versus Hamas'," said the father of two young children.
The Al-Mezen Centre for Human Rights in Gaza documented the killing of 63 Palestinians and the wounding of more than 300 in internal fighting that erupted between Hamas and Fatah in December.
The fighting, which takes place on the streets of one of the most densely-populated areas in the world, has claimed scores of civilian casualties as well, including eight children killed and more than 30 wounded last month alone.
The people of Gaza have experienced seven years of grinding war with the Israelis and 60 years of displacement. But one Palestinian mother was unequivocal about what this internal violence means to the Palestinian struggle. As she rushed home with her groceries, Um Mustafa breathlessly told IPS, "If this fighting continues, we will destroy ourselves."
from Chalmers Johnson :
31 January 2007
[Chalmers Johnson is joining the Coffee House for the next few days to discuss his new book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.]
History tells us that one of the most unstable political combinations is a country -- like the United States today -- that tries to be a domestic democracy and a foreign imperialist. Why this is so can be a very abstract subject. Perhaps the best way to offer my thoughts on this is to say a few words about my new book, Nemesis, and explain why I gave it the subtitle, "The Last Days of the American Republic." Nemesis is the third book to have grown out of my research over the past eight years. I never set out to write a trilogy on our increasingly endangered democracy, but as I kept stumbling on ever more evidence of the legacy of the imperialist pressures we put on many other countries as well as the nature and size of our military empire, one book led to another.
Professionally, I am a specialist in the history and politics of East Asia. In 2000, I published Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, because my research on China, Japan, and the two Koreas persuaded me that our policies there would have serious future consequences. The book was noticed at the time, but only after 9/11 did the CIA term I adapted for the title -- "blowback" -- become a household word.
I had set out to explain how exactly our government came to be so hated around the world.
As a CIA term of tradecraft, "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to, and in, foreign countries. It refers specifically to retaliation for illegal operations carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. These operations have included the clandestine overthrow of governments various administrations did not like, the training of foreign militaries in the techniques of state terrorism, the rigging of elections in foreign countries, interference with the economic viability of countries that seemed to threaten the interests of influential American corporations, as well as the torture or assassination of selected foreigners. The fact that these actions were, at least originally, secret meant that when retaliation does come -- as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 -- the American public is incapable of putting the events in context. Not surprisingly, then, Americans tend to support speedy acts of revenge intended to punish the actual, or alleged, perpetrators. These moments of lashing out, of course, only prepare the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.
A World of Bases
As a continuation of my own analytical odyssey, I then began doing research on the network of 737 American military bases we maintained around the world (according to the Pentagon's own 2005 official inventory). Not including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, we now station over half a million U.S. troops, spies, contractors, dependents, and others on military bases located in more than 130 countries, many of them presided over by dictatorial regimes that have given their citizens no say in the decision to let us in.
As but one striking example of imperial basing policy: For the past sixty-one years, the U.S. military has garrisoned the small Japanese island of Okinawa with 37 bases. Smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, Okinawa is home to 1.3 million people who live cheek-by-jowl with 17,000 Marines of the 3rd Marine Division and the largest U.S. installation in East Asia -- Kadena Air Force Base. There have been many Okinawan protests against the rapes, crimes, accidents, and pollution caused by this sort of concentration of American troops and weaponry, but so far the U. S. military -- in collusion with the Japanese government -- has ignored them. My research into our base world resulted in The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, written during the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
As our occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq turned into major fiascoes, discrediting our military leadership, ruining our public finances, and bringing death and destruction to hundreds of thousands of civilians in those countries, I continued to ponder the issue of empire. In these years, it became ever clearer that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their supporters were claiming, and actively assuming, powers specifically denied to a president by our Constitution. It became no less clear that Congress had almost completely abdicated its responsibilities to balance the power of the executive branch. Despite the Democratic sweep in the 2006 election, it remains to be seen whether these tendencies can, in the long run, be controlled, let alone reversed.
Until the 2004 presidential election, ordinary citizens of the United States could at least claim that our foreign policy, including our illegal invasion of Iraq, was the work of George Bush's administration and that we had not put him in office. After all, in 2000, Bush lost the popular vote and was appointed president thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. But in November 2004, regardless of claims about voter fraud, Bush actually won the popular vote by over 3.5 million ballots, making his regime and his wars ours.
Whether Americans intended it or not, we are now seen around the world as approving the torture of captives at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at a global network of secret CIA prisons, as well as having endorsed Bush's claim that, as commander-in-chief in "wartime," he is beyond all constraints of the Constitution or international law. We are now saddled with a rigged economy based on record-setting trade and fiscal deficits, the most secretive and intrusive government in our country's memory, and the pursuit of "preventive" war as a basis for foreign policy. Don't forget as well the potential epidemic of nuclear proliferation as other nations attempt to adjust to and defend themselves against Bush's preventive wars, while our own already staggering nuclear arsenal expands toward first-strike primacy and we expend unimaginable billions on futuristic ideas for warfare in outer space.
The Choice Ahead
By the time I came to write Nemesis, I no longer doubted that maintaining our empire abroad required resources and commitments that would inevitably undercut, or simply skirt, what was left of our domestic democracy and that might, in the end, produce a military dictatorship or -- far more likely -- its civilian equivalent. The combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, an ever growing economic dependence on the military-industrial complex and the making of weaponry, and ruinous military expenses as well as a vast, bloated "defense" budget, not to speak of the creation of a whole second Defense Department (known as the Department of Homeland Security) has been destroying our republican structure of governing in favor of an imperial presidency. By republican structure, of course, I mean the separation of powers and the elaborate checks and balances that the founders of our country wrote into the Constitution as the main bulwarks against dictatorship and tyranny, which they greatly feared.
We are on the brink of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation starts down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play -- isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy.
History is instructive on this dilemma. If we choose to keep our empire, as the Roman republic did, we will certainly lose our democracy and grimly await the eventual blowback that imperialism generates. There is an alternative, however. We could, like the British Empire after World War II, keep our democracy by giving up our empire. The British did not do a particularly brilliant job of liquidating their empire and there were several clear cases where British imperialists defied their nation's commitment to democracy in order to hang on to foreign privileges. The war against the Kikuyu in Kenya in the 1950s and the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 are particularly savage examples of that. But the overall thrust of postwar British history is clear: the people of the British Isles chose democracy over imperialism.
In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt offered the following summary of British imperialism and its fate:
"On the whole it was a failure because of the dichotomy between the nation-state's legal principles and the methods needed to oppress other people permanently. This failure was neither necessary nor due to ignorance or incompetence. British imperialists knew very well that 'administrative massacres' could keep India in bondage, but they also knew that public opinion at home would not stand for such measures. Imperialism could have been a success if the nation-state had been willing to pay the price, to commit suicide and transform itself into a tyranny. It is one of the glories of Europe, and especially of Great Britain, that she preferred to liquidate the empire."
I agree with this judgment. When one looks at Prime Minister Tony Blair's unnecessary and futile support of Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, one can only conclude that it was an atavistic response, that it represented a British longing to relive the glories -- and cruelties -- of a past that should have been ancient history.
As a form of government, imperialism does not seek or require the consent of the governed. It is a pure form of tyranny. The American attempt to combine domestic democracy with such tyrannical control over foreigners is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. A country can be democratic or it can be imperialistic, but it cannot be both.
The Road to Imperial Bankruptcy
The American political system failed to prevent this combination from developing -- and may now be incapable of correcting it. The evidence strongly suggests that the legislative and judicial branches of our government have become so servile in the presence of the imperial Presidency that they have largely lost the ability to respond in a principled and independent manner. Even in the present moment of congressional stirring, there seems to be a deep sense of helplessness. Various members of Congress have already attempted to explain how the one clear power they retain -- to cut off funds for a disastrous program -- is not one they are currently prepared to use.
So the question becomes, if not Congress, could the people themselves restore Constitutional government? A grass-roots movement to abolish secret government, to bring the CIA and other illegal spying operations and private armies out of the closet of imperial power and into the light, to break the hold of the military-industrial complex, and to establish genuine public financing of elections may be at least theoretically conceivable. But given the conglomerate control of our mass media and the difficulties of mobilizing our large and diverse population, such an opting for popular democracy, as we remember it from our past, seems unlikely.
It is possible that, at some future moment, the U.S. military could actually take over the government and declare a dictatorship (though its commanders would undoubtedly find a gentler, more user-friendly name for it). That is, after all, how the Roman republic ended -- by being turned over to a populist general, Julius Caesar, who had just been declared dictator for life. After his assassination and a short interregnum, it was his grandnephew Octavian who succeeded him and became the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. The American military is unlikely to go that route. But one cannot ignore the fact that professional military officers seem to have played a considerable role in getting rid of their civilian overlord, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The new directors of the CIA, its main internal branches, the National Security Agency, and many other key organs of the "defense establishment" are now military (or ex-military) officers, strongly suggesting that the military does not need to take over the government in order to control it. Meanwhile, the all-volunteer army has emerged as an ever more separate institution in our society, its profile less and less like that of the general populace.
Nonetheless, military coups, however decorous, are not part of the American tradition, nor that of the officer corps, which might well worry about how the citizenry would react to a move toward open military dictatorship. Moreover, prosecutions of low-level military torturers from Abu Ghraib prison and killers of civilians in Iraq have demonstrated to enlisted troops that obedience to illegal orders can result in dire punishment in a situation where those of higher rank go free. No one knows whether ordinary soldiers, even from what is no longer in any normal sense a citizen army, would obey clearly illegal orders to oust an elected government or whether the officer corps would ever have sufficient confidence to issue such orders. In addition, the present system already offers the military high command so much -- in funds, prestige, and future employment via the famed "revolving door" of the military-industrial complex -- that a perilous transition to anything like direct military rule would make little sense under reasonably normal conditions.
Whatever future developments may prove to be, my best guess is that the U.S. will continue to maintain a façade of Constitutional government and drift along until financial bankruptcy overtakes it. Of course, bankruptcy will not mean the literal end of the U.S. any more than it did for Germany in 1923, China in 1948, or Argentina in 2001-2002. It might, in fact, open the way for an unexpected restoration of the American system -- or for military rule, revolution, or simply some new development we cannot yet imagine.
Certainly, such a bankruptcy would mean a drastic lowering of our standard of living, a further loss of control over international affairs, a sudden need to adjust to the rise of other powers, including China and India, and a further discrediting of the notion that the United States is somehow exceptional compared to other nations. We will have to learn what it means to be a far poorer country -- and the attitudes and manners that go with it. As Anatol Lieven, author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, observes:
"U.S. global power, as presently conceived by the overwhelming majority of the U.S. establishment, is unsustainable. . . The empire can no longer raise enough taxes or soldiers, it is increasingly indebted, and key vassal states are no longer reliable. . . The result is that the empire can no longer pay for enough of the professional troops it needs to fulfill its self-assumed imperial tasks."
In February 2006, the Bush administration submitted to Congress a $439 billion defense appropriation budget for fiscal year 2007. As the country enters 2007, the administration is about to present a nearly $100 billion supplementary request to Congress just for the Iraq and Afghan wars. At the same time, the deficit in the country's current account -- the imbalance in the trading of goods and services as well as the shortfall in all other cross-border payments from interest income and rents to dividends and profits on direct investments -- underwent its fastest ever quarterly deterioration. For 2005, the current account deficit was $805 billion, 6.4% of national income. In 2005, the U.S. trade deficit, the largest component of the current account deficit, soared to an all-time high of $725.8 billion, the fourth consecutive year that America's trade debts set records. The trade deficit with China alone rose to $201.6 billion, the highest imbalance ever recorded with any country. Meanwhile, since mid-2000, the country has lost nearly three million manufacturing jobs.
To try to cope with these imbalances, on March 16, 2006, Congress raised the national debt limit from $8.2 trillion to $8.96 trillion. This was the fourth time since George W. Bush took office that it had to be raised. The national debt is the total amount owed by the government and should not be confused with the federal budget deficit, the annual amount by which federal spending exceeds revenue. Had Congress not raised the debt limit, the U.S. government would not have been able to borrow more money and would have had to default on its massive debts.
Among the creditors that finance these unprecedented sums, the two largest are the central banks of China (with $853.7 billion in reserves) and Japan (with $831.58 billion in reserves), both of which are the managers of the huge trade surpluses these countries enjoy with the United States. This helps explain why our debt burden has not yet triggered what standard economic theory would dictate: a steep decline in the value of the U.S. dollar followed by a severe contraction of the American economy when we found we could no longer afford the foreign goods we like so much. So far, both the Chinese and Japanese governments continue to be willing to be paid in dollars in order to sustain American purchases of their exports.
For the sake of their own domestic employment, both countries lend huge amounts to the American treasury, but there is no guarantee of how long they will want to, or be able to do so. Marshall Auerback, an international financial strategist, says we have become a "Blanche Dubois economy" (so named after the leading character in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire) heavily dependent on "the kindness of strangers." Unfortunately, in our case, as in Blanche's, there are ever fewer strangers willing to support our illusions.
So my own hope is that -- if the American people do not find a way to choose democracy over empire -- at least our imperial venture will end not with a nuclear bang but a financial whimper. From the present vantage point, it certainly seems a daunting challenge for any President (or Congress) from either party even to begin the task of dismantling the military-industrial complex, ending the pall of "national security" secrecy and the "black budgets" that make public oversight of what our government does impossible, and bringing the president's secret army, the CIA, under democratic control. It's evident that Nemesis -- in Greek mythology the goddess of vengeance, the punisher of hubris and arrogance -- is already a visitor in our country, simply biding her time before she makes her presence known.
from Jean Bricmont :
Subject: What is the Decisive "Clash" of Our Time?
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2007
Resistance to Imperialism
What is the Decisive "Clash" of Our Time?
By JEAN BRICMONT
July 1, 1916, was the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. On that single day, the British suffered more than 50,000 casualties, of which 20,000 died. The battle went on for four months, leading to about a million casualties on all sides, and the war itself continued for another two years.
In the summer of 2006, the Israeli army stopped its attacks on Lebanon after losing about a hundred soldiers. The majority of the U.S. population has turned against the Iraq war after less than 3,000 dead. That indicates a major change in the mentality of the West, and this reluctance to die in large numbers for "God and Country" is a major advance in the history of mankind. From the neoconservative point of view, however, this phenomenon is a sign of decadence; in fact, one of the positive aspects of the present conflict, from their perspective, is that it ought to strengthen the moral fiber of the American people, by making them ready to "die for a cause."
But, so far, it is not working. More realistic people, the planners at the Pentagon for example, have tried to replace waves of human cannon fodder by massive "strategic" bombing. This works only rarely -- in Kosovo and Serbia it did succeed, at least in bringing pro-Western clients to power in both places. But it clearly is not working satisfactorily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine or Lebanon. The only thing that might succeed, in a very special sense of course, would be nuclear weapons, and the fact that those weapons are the West's last military hope is truly frightening.
To put this observation in a more global context, Westerners do not always appreciate the fact that the major event of the 20th century was neither the rise and fall of fascism, nor the history of communism, but decolonization. One should remember that, about a century ago, the British could forbid access to a park in Shanghai to "dogs and Chinese." To put it mildly, such provocations are no longer possible. And, of course, most of Asia and Africa were under European control. Latin America was formally independent, but under American and British tutelage and military interventions were routine.
All of this collapsed during the 20th century, through wars and revolutions; in fact, the main lasting effect of the Russian revolution is probably the Soviet Union's significant support to the decolonization process. This process freed hundreds of millions of people from one of the most brutal forms of oppression. It is a major progress in the history of mankind, similar to the abolition of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Still, it is true that the colonial system gave way to the neocolonial one and that most decolonized countries have adopted, at least for the time being, a capitalist form of development. That provides some consolation to the ex-colonialists (and disappointment to the Western left that opposed colonialism). But such sentiments may reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of "socialism" in the 20th century and of the historical significance of the present period.
Before 1914, all socialist movements, whether libertarian or statist , reformist or revolutionary, envisioned socialism, i.e., the socialization of the means of production, as an historic stage that was supposed to succeed capitalism in relatively developed Western societies possessing a democratic state, a functioning education system, and a basically liberal and secular culture. All this disappeared with World War I and the Russian Revolution. After that, the libertarian aspects of socialism withered away, the majority of the European socialist movement became increasingly incorporated into the capitalist system and its main radical sector; the Communists identified socialism with whatever policies were adopted by the Soviet model.
But that model had almost nothing to do with socialism as it was generally understood before the First World War. It should rather be considered as a (rather successful) attempt at rapid economic development of an underdeveloped country, an attempt to catch up, culturally, economically, and militarily, by whatever means necessary , with the West. The same is true of post-Soviet revolutions and national liberation movements. As a first approximation, one can say that all over the Third World, people, or rather governments, have tried to "catch up" either by "socialist" or by "capitalist" means.
But, if one recognizes that aspect, the whole history of the 20th century can be interpreted very differently from the dominant theme about the "socialism that was tried and failed everywhere." What was tried and actually succeeded (almost) everywhere was emancipation from Western domination. This has inverted a centuries-old process of European expansion and hegemony over the rest of the world. The 20th century has not been the one of socialism, but it has been the one of anti-imperialism. And this inversion is likely to continue during the 21st century. Most of the time, the "South" is strengthening itself, with some setbacks (the period surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union being a time of regression, from that point of view).
This has important consequences for both the Western peace movement and the old issue of socialism. There is some truth to the Leninist idea that the benefits of imperialism corrupt the Western working class not only in purely economic terms (through the exploitation of the colonies), but also through the feeling of superiority that imperialism has implanted in the Western mind. However, this is changing for two reasons. On the one hand, "globalization" means that the West has become more dependent on the Third World: we do not simply import raw materials or export capital, but we also depend on cheap labor, working either here or in export-oriented factories abroad; we "transfer" capital from the South to the North through "debt payments" and capital flight, and we import an increasing number of engineers and scientists. Moreover, "globalization" means that there is a decrease in linkage between the population of the U.S.A. and their elites or their capitalists, whose interests are less and less tied to those of "their" country. Whether the population will react by adopting some pro-imperialist fantasies such as Christian Zionism or "the war against terrorism" or whether it will rather increase its solidarity with the emerging countries of the South, is a major challenge for the future.
On the other hand, the rise of the South means that there is no longer a relationship of military force that allows the West to impose its will, the U.S. defeat in Iraq being the most extraordinary illustration of that fact. Of course, there are other means of pressure economic blackmail, boycotts, buying elections, etc. But countermeasures are increasingly being taken also against those methods, and one should never forget that a relationship of force is always ultimately military without it, how does one get people to pay their debts, for example?
The main error of the Communists is to have conflated two notions of "socialism": the one that existed before World War I and the rapid development model of the Soviet Union. But the current situation raises two different questions to which two different forms of "socialism" might be the answer. One is to find paths of development in the Third World, or even a redefinition of what "development" means, that do not coincide with either the capitalist or the Soviet model. But that is a problem to be solved in Latin America, Asia or Africa. In the West, the problem is different: we do not suffer from the lack of satisfaction of basic needs that exist elsewhere (of course, many basic needs are not satisfied, but that is a problem of distribution and of political will). The problem here is to define a post-imperialist future for the Western societies, meaning a form of life that would not depend on an unsustainable relation of domination over the rest of the world. Whether one wants to call that "socialism" is a matter of definition, but it would have to include reliance on renewable energy resources, a form of consumption that does not depend on huge imports and an education system that produces the number of qualified people that the nation needs. Whether all this is compatible with the system of private property of the means of production, and a political system largely controlled by those who own those means, remains to be seen.
This establishes a link between the struggle for peace and the struggle for social transformation, because the more we live in peace with the rest of the world, the more we give up our largely illusory military power and stop our constant "threats", the more we will be forced to think about and elaborate an alternative economic order. For the left, the defeat of the U.S.A. in Iraq, tragic as the war is, should be understood as good news; not only is the U.S. cause unjust, but the defeat will, or at least should, bring us to ask some fundamental questions about the structure of our societies and their addiction to an increasingly unsustainable imperialism.
It is a great tragedy that among Greens, at least among the European ones, this link has been totally lost during the Kosovo and the Afghanistan wars, which most of them supported on humanitarian grounds. It is equally tragic that the opposition to the Iraq war in the United States has been virtually non-existent and that the population has turned against the war almost entirely as a result of the effectiveness of the Iraqi resistance. This is partly due to the ideological misrepresentations that have spread widely throughout the left during the period of imperial ideological reconstruction that followed the end of the Vietnam war, specially concerning the "right" to "humanitarian intervention." The left must clarify its own ideas first and then try to explain to the rest of our societies that we must adapt to an inevitable loss of hegemony. Indeed, there is no real alternative for the West, except to go back to the spirit of Battle of the Somme, but this time armed with nuclear weapons.
Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium. He is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His new book, Humanitarian Imperialism, will be published by Monthly Review Press in February 2007. He can be reached at email@example.com .
from Gene Zbikowski :
February 6, 2007
The Revolutionary Communist Labor Party
Here is a book review that is interesting.
The ruling classes in Israel and across Arab lands are constantly trying to separate Jewish and Arab workers, spreading the lie that they have nothing in common and "hate each other" are mortal enemies. For this reason for 60 years these rulers have kept the fact well hidden that at the time in history when millions of Jews faced fascist extermination, Arab workers came to their aid in the middle of the Holocaust.
From the fall of 1940, when Hitler conquered France, to 1943 when North Africa was liberated by Allied forces, the Nazis, Mussolini and the fascist collaborators of Vichy France erected 104 concentration and labor camps in North Africa to which they shipped Jews from Europe as well as the persecuted half million Jewish citizens from the former French and Italian colonies of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. (Aside from an off-hand remark about a concentration camp near Casablanca in the famous film of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman there’s been virtually no mention of their existence in North Africa, much less about Arab-Jewish unity.)
The Nazis had seized these colonies and put the French fascists in charge, under Marshal Petain. He had made anti-Semitism state policy. The Jews became slave laborers, building weapons, roads and airports, working in broiling heat until they dropped. The fascists then employed Arabs as guards at these camps, with French commanders in charge who tried to get the Arabs to torment the prisoners.
According to a well-researched book, "Among the Righteous Lost stories from the Holocaust’s long reach into Arab lands," by Robert Satloff, in a chapter entitled. "The Arabs Watched Over the Jews,":
"At every stage of the Nazi, Vichy and Fascist persecution of Jews in Arab lands, and in every place that it occurred, Arabs helped Jews. Some Arabs spoke out against the persecution of Jews and took public stands of unity with them…. Some Arabs shared the fate of Jews and, through that experience, forged a unique bond of comradeship…. They bravely saved Jewish lives, at times risking their own in the process. These Arabs were true heroes." And further:
"…Unusual expressions of comradeship between Jewish and Arab internees at Vichy labor camps buoyed the spirits of imprisoned Jews. At Cheregas-Meridja, in the Algerian desert, Vichy banished thousands of Jews who had enlisted in the French army to fight Germans…. The camp also housed Arab prisoners, interned for their opposition to French colonial rule. There, a Captain Suchet, the commandant,…tried to incite tensions between Jews and Arabs. He failed, however, when the bond of their common Fascist enemy proved stronger…."
When the fascists tried to incite Arab pogroms against the Jews, Muslim religious leaders like Shaykh el-Okbi issued "a formal prohibition on Muslims from attacking Jews." When Vichy officials tried to enlist Arabs to become conservators to seize Jewish property, and reap windfall profits, "Despite the economic difficulties faced by Arabs during the war, they refused to take advantage of Jewish suffering for personal gain…. not a single Arab in Algiers…accepted Vichy’s offer."
The author points out that, "These Arabs never received public recognition for opening their hearts to Jews facing persecution…." His painstaking research into archives and memoirs found the names of "Arabs who helped save Jews from pain, injury and…death." One farm owner, Si Ali Sakkit, took in 60 Jews who had escaped from a nearby concentration camp during the battle for Tunis and sheltered them until Allied troops captured the area.
There is much more to this story, but it certainly challenges the tales spread in the bosses’ media about the inability for Arabs and Jews to work together. This is the product of the nationalist and religious divisions fostered by the rulers to prevent the working-class unity that ultimately will overthrow capitalism/imperialism.
The fact that this book, and one by Jimmy Carter attacking Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, are being publicized in the media may very well represent an effort by a section of the U.S. ruling class to push Israeli bosses to reach a compromise with some Palestinian bosses especially since the Iraq quagmire has weakened the U.S. position in the region.
Even "two states" one ruled by Israeli bosses and one ruled by Palestinian bosses will not free Jewish and Arab workers from capitalist exploitation. Only communist revolution can do that.
One of the achievements of the old international communist movement was to unite Jewish, Sunni, Christian, Shiite and other Middle East-North African workers. Today, a new communist leadership must be forged, learning from that unity and overcoming that movement’s errors. That’s the only road to liberate workers from Baghdad to Tel Aviv to Morocco.
from Robert Fisk :
Date : 03 February 2007
By Robert Fisk
Lebanon is a good place to find out what tosh the 'terror' merchants talk
From Larry McGuire :
17 February 2007
Subject: While the US Congress votes on a NON binding resolution about Iraq, the plans are ready for an attack on Iran.
The Democratic Party leadership, especially the presidential candidates, have encouraged this by bowing to the pressure of the Zionist Lobby and demonizing Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, has not invaded anyone in a couple of hundred years, has signed the nuclear non proliforation treaty, which gives them the right to enrich uranium and develop nuclear energy under International Law. meanwhile Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, has NOT signed the nuclear non proliferation treaty, occupies Palestinian land in opposition to International Law. And of course the US occupies Iraq....
It seems to me that the fuss over the non binding resolution is just a smoke screen to allow bush the time to instigate a war against Iran, that, if successful, the democrats can jump behind, and if not, (and it will be a disaster for everyone except oil markets and weapons manufacturers) can criticize it after the fact.
British military sources told the New Statesman, on condition of anonymity, that "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.
The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for "Operation Iranian Freedom". Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerised plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).
The Bush administration has made much of sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf. But it is a tiny part of the preparations. Post 9/11, the US navy can put six carriers into battle at a month's notice. Two carriers in the region, the USS John C Stennis and the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, could quickly be joined by three more now at sea: USS Ronald Reagan, USS Harry S Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as by USS Nimitz. Each carrier force includes hundreds of cruise missiles.
Then there are the marines, who are not tied down fighting in Iraq. Several marine forces are assembling, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and, yes, hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Today, marines have the USS Boxer and USS Bataan carrier forces in the Gulf and probably also the USS Kearsarge and USS Bonhomme Richard. Three others, the USS Peleliu, USS Wasp and USS Iwo Jima, are ready to join them. Earlier this year, HQ staff to manage these forces were moved from Virginia to Bahrain.
Vice-President Dick Cheney has had something of a love affair with the US marines, and this may reach its culmination in the fishing villages along Iran's Gulf coast. Marine generals hold the top jobs at Nato, in the Pentagon and are in charge of all nuclear weapons. No marine has held any of these posts before.
Traditionally, the top nuclear job went either to a commander of the navy's Trident submarines or of the air force's bombers and missiles. Today, all these forces follow the orders of a marine, General James Cartwright, and are integrated into a "Global Strike" plan which places strategic forces on permanent 12-hour readiness.
The only public discussion of this plan has been by the American analysts Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen, who have focused on the possible use of atomic weapons. These concerns are justified, but ignore how forces can be used in conventional war.
Any US general planning to attack Iran can now assume that at least 10,000 targets can be hit in a single raid, with warplanes flying from the US or Diego Garcia. In the past year, unlimited funding for military technology has taken "smart bombs" to a new level.
New "bunker-busting" conventional bombs weigh only 250lb. According to Boeing, the GBU-39 small-diameter bomb "quadruples" the firepower of US warplanes, compared to those in use even as recently as 2003. A single stealth or B-52 bomber can now attack between 150 and 300 individual points to within a metre of accuracy using the global positioning system.
With little military effort, the US air force can hit the last-known position of Iranian military units, political leaders and supposed sites of weapons of mass destruction. One can be sure that, if war comes, George Bush will not want to stand accused of using too little force and allowing Iran to fight back.
"Global Strike" means that, without any obvious signal, what was done to Serbia and Lebanon can be done overnight to the whole of Iran. We, and probably the Iranians, would not know about it until after the bombs fell. Forces that hide will suffer the fate of Saddam's armies, once their positions are known.
The whole of Iran is now less than an hour's flying time from some American base or carrier. Sources in the region as well as trade journals confirm that the US has built three bases in Azerbaijan that could be transit points for troops and with facilities equal to its best in Europe.
Most of the Iranian army is positioned along the border with Iraq, facing US army missiles that can reach 150km over the border. But it is in the flat, sandy oilfields east and south of Basra where the temptation will be to launch a tank attack and hope that a disaffected population will be grateful.
The regime in Tehran has already complained of US- and UK-inspired terror attacks in several Iranian regions where the population opposes the ayatollahs' fanatical policies. Such reports corroborate the American journalist Seymour Hersh's claim that the US military is already engaged in a low-level war with Iran. The fighting is most intense in the Kurdish north where Iran has been firing artillery into Iraq. The US and Iran are already engaged in a low-level proxy war across the Iran-Iraq border.
And, once again, the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute have a plan for a peaceful settlement: this time it is for a federal Iran. Officially, Michael Ledeen, the AEI plan's sponsor, has been ostracised by the White House. However, two years ago, the Congress of Iranian Nationalities for a Federal Iran had its inaugural meeting in London.
We should not underestimate the Bush administration's ability to convince itself that an "Iran of the regions" will emerge from a post-rubble Iran.
Dan Plesch is a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies.