30 September 2007
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Most of you perhaps know the famous "Cannibal Paradox," which depicts the relationship between the conservative instrumentalist, wishing to get away with murder, and the progressive humanist who is paradoxed into silence. From time immemorial mankind has been plagued by this paradox, which here is represented by an imaginary dialogue between a young idealist named Bongo and an old conservative, named Wowsy :
Bongo: Human beings should not eat each other.
Wowsy: Good Gooey Gow! You can't dictate to people
what they're going to eat and what they're not
going to eat. Men have always eaten each other
and always will. It's natural. You can't change human
Bongo: I love my fellow men.
Wowsy: So do I --with gravy on them.*
(*Mike Quinn, a radical satirist at the Daily Peoples World, 1936. Cited by E.K. Hunt & Howard Sherman, in Economics: an introduction to traditional and radical views (fifth edition), New York, 1986, p.xxiii.)
Today's political "leaders" can best be described as actors performiong in a deadly play. They certainly are not stewards of the public interest, as they mostly claim to be; but a good character actor, we are told, must demonstrate a human nature in full pursuit of an objective while on stage, representing someone beset by obstacles, affected by past circumstances, and driven by passions. In short, he is judged by the tactics he adopts and not necessarily his aims.
In his recent best selling paperback, I am Charlotte Simmson, American novelist (and ethnologist of the rich and powerful), Tom Wolfe, discussed differences between the nature of history's "actors" and that of her "slaves," out of the mouth of Charlotte speaking ("in a teacherly fashion") to "Jojo", the ignorant and frustrated college basketball Superstar :
You know what "liberal arts" means? [she told Jojo].... It's from Latin? [she continued] .... In Latin, liber means free? .... [T]he Romans had slaves from all over the world, and some of the slaves were very bright, like the Greeks. The Romans would let the slaves get educated in all sorts of practical subjects, like math, like engineering so they could build things, like music so they could be entertainers? But only Roman citizens, the free people? --liber?-- could take things like rhetoric and literature and history and theology and philosophy? Because they were the arts of persuasion --and they didn't want the slaves to learn how to present arguments that might inspire them to unite and rise up or something? So the "liberal" arts are the arts of persuasion, and they didn't want anybody but free citizens knowing how to persuade people.(p.207)
The real context of our lives (off stage) determines who we are, of course, and how we more or less consciously behave. Many artists and writers of every imaginable ideological bent seem to take into account the fact that we are ephemeral beings, acting out a role presented to us by historical circumstances, a role that usually offers a very limited series of choices, but which sometimes catapults us into unexpected activities; and then we must die --not a cherished thought for most of us, but nevertheless true for all . . . .
The 6 items below speak to some of the limitations in the lives of contemporary man and womankind, which it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore, and to humanists who can no longer be paradoxed into silence by instrumentalist thinkers.
Item A. is an article from CEIMSA associate Elisabeth Chamorand on the terrible choices being made by Third World peasants after being faced with U.S. corporate giant Monsanto's decision to monopolize the sale of genetically modified seed grains.
Item B. is an article by Daniel Ellsberg in which he describes "the coup d'état" in the United States.
Item C., sent to us by Professor Herman, is an article by Pepe Escobar on the continuation of Israel's historic crimes against humanity in Gaza.
Item D., is a brief interview with French demographer Emmanuel Todd on "Dr. Kouchner's 'Military-Without-Borders'."
Item E. is a short pod cast from Truthout on the critical increase of war resistance within the U.S. military.
And item F. is an article by Jim Kirwan responding to Daniel Ellsberg's article (please see item B. below): "More on the coup d'état in the United States and the democratic mobilization to resist.
Finally, we would like to draw the attention of CEIMSA's readers to the September 24th Democracy Now ! pod cast featuring a discussion between Naomi Klein, author of "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," and Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Universit Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Elisabeth Chamorand :
Date: 20 September 2007
Subject: Farmer Suicides.
Anyone hearing about central India's ongoing epidemic of farmer suicides, where growers are killing themselves at a terrifying clip, has to be horrified. But among the more disturbed must be the once-grand poobah of post-invasion Iraq, U.S. diplomat L. Paul Bremer.
Why Bremer? Because Indian farmers are choosing death after finding themselves caught in a loop of crop failure and debt rooted in genetically modified and patented agriculture - the same farming model that Bremer introduced to Iraq during his tenure as administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American body that ruled the "new Iraq" in its chaotic early days.
In his 400 days of service as CPA administrator, Bremer issued a series of directives known collectively as the "100 Orders." Bremer's orders set up the building blocks of the new Iraq, and among them is Order 81 [PDF], officially titled Amendments to Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law, enacted by Bremer on April 26, 2004.
Order 81 generated very little press attention when it was issued. And what coverage it did spark tended to get the details wrong. Reports claimed that what the United States' man in Iraq had done was no less than tell each and every Iraqi farmer - growers who had been tilling the soil of Mesopotamia for thousands of years - that from here on out they could not reuse seeds from their fields or trade seeds with their neighbors, but instead they would be required to purchase all of their seeds from the likes of U.S. agriculture conglomerates like Monsanto.
That's not quite right. Order 81 wasn't that draconian, and it was not so clearly a colonial mandate. In fact, the edict was more or less a legal tweak.
What Order 81 did was to establish the strong intellectual property protections on seed and plant products that a company like the St. Louis-based Monsanto - purveyors of genetically modified (GM) seeds and other patented agricultural goods - requires before they'll set up shop in a new market like the new Iraq. With these new protections, Iraq was open for business. In short, Order 81 was Bremer's way of telling Monsanto that the same conditions had been created in Iraq that had led to the company's stunning successes in India.
In issuing Order 81, Bremer didn't order Iraqi farmers to march over to the closest Monsanto-supplied shop and stock up. But if Monsanto's experience in India is any guide, he didn't need to.
Here's the way it works in India. In the central region of Vidarbha, for example, Monsanto salesmen travel from village to village touting the tremendous, game-changing benefits of Bt cotton, Monsanto's genetically modified seed sold in India under the Bollgard label. The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing "True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton." Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto's patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow.
Part of the trick to Bt cotton's remarkable promise, say the salesmen, is that Bollgard was genetically engineered in the lab to contain bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that the company claims drastically reduces the need for pesticides. When pesticides are needed, Bt cotton plants are Roundup Ready - a Monsanto designation meaning that the plants can be drowned in the company's signature herbicide, none the worse for wear. (Roundup mercilessly kills nonengineered plants.)
Sounds great, right? The catch is that Bollgard and Roundup cost real money. And so Vidarbha's farmers, somewhat desperate to grow the anemic profit margin that comes with raising cotton in that dry and dusty region, have rushed to both banks and local moneylenders to secure the cash needed to get on board with Monsanto. Of a $3,000 bank loan a Vidarbha farmer might take out, as much as half might go to purchasing a growing season's worth of Bt seeds.
And the same goes the next season, and the next season after that. In traditional agricultural, farmers can recycle seeds from one harvest to plant the next, or swap seeds with their neighbors at little or no cost. But when it comes to engineered seeds like Bt cotton, Monsanto owns the tiny speck of intellectual property inside each hull, and thus controls the patent. And a farmer wishing to reuse seeds from a Monsanto plant must pay to relicense them from the company each and every growing season.
But farmers who chose to bet the farm, literally, on Bt cotton or other GM seeds aren't necessarily crazy or deluded. Genetically modified agricultural does hold the tremendous promise of leading to increased yields - incredibly important for farmers feeding their families and communities from limited land and labor.
But when it comes to GM seeds, all's well when all is well. Farming is a gamble, and the flip side of the great potential reward that genetically modified seeds offer is, of course, great risk. When all goes badly, farmers who have sunk money into Monsanto-driven farming find themselves at the bottom of a far deeper hole than farmers who stuck with traditional growing. Farmers who suffer a failed harvest may find it nearly impossible to secure a new loan from either a bank or local moneylender. With no money to dig him or herself out, that hole only gets deeper.
And that hole is exactly where farmers have found themselves in India's Vidarbha region, where crop failure - especially the failure of Bt cotton crops - has reached the level of pandemic.
In may be that Bt cotton isn't well-suited to central India's rain-driven farming methods; Bollgard and parched Vidarbha may be as ill-suited as Bremer's combat boots and Brooks Brothers suits. It may be the unpredictable and unusually dry monsoon seasons that have plagued India of late. But in any case, the result is that more and more of India's farmers are finding themselves in debt, and with little hope for finding their way out.
And the final way out that so many of them - thousands upon thousands - have chosen is death, and by their own hands. Firm statistics are difficult to come by, but even numbers on the low end of the scale are downright horrifying. The Indian government and NGOs have estimated that, so far this year, at last count more than a thousand farmers have killed themselves in the state of Maharashtra alone. The New York Times pinned it as 17,000 Indian farmers in 2003 alone. A PBS special that aired last month, called "The Dying Fields," claimed that one farmer commits suicide in Vidarbha every eight hours.
But let's not be so pessimistic for a moment, and say that Iraqi farmers see the risks of investing in unproven GM seeds. Let's say they reject the idea that the intellectual property buried inside the seeds they plant is "owned" not by nature, but by Monsanto. Let's say they decide to keep on keeping on with nonengineered, nonpatented agriculture.
The fact is, they may not have a choice.
Here is where Order 81 starts to look a lot like the forced and mandatory GM-driven agricultural system that cynics tagged it as when it was first announced. Read the letter of the law, and the impact of Order 81 seems limited to using public policy to construct an architecture that's simply favorable to a company like Monsanto. The directive promotes a corporate agribusiness model a lot like the one we have in the United States today, but it doesn't really and truly put Monsanto in the driver's seat of that system.
Actually handing the keys to Monsanto is instead biology's job.
Biology - how so? That's a good question for Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer featured in the film The Future of Food, who found himself tangled with Monsanto in a heated lawsuit over the presence of Roundup Ready canola plants on the margins of his fields.
The Canadian farmer argued that he had purchased no Monsanto canola seeds, had never planted Monsanto seeds, and was frankly horrified to find that the genetically modified crops had taken hold in his acreage. Perhaps, suggested Schmeiser, the plants in question were the product of a few rogue GM seeds blown from a truck passing by his land?
Monsanto was uninterested in Schmeiser's theory on how the Roundup Ready plants got there. As far as the company was concerned, Schmeiser was in possession of an agricultural product whose intellectual property belonged to Monsanto. And it didn't matter much how that came to pass.
Monsanto's interpretation of the impact of seed contamination is, of course, a good one if its goal is to eventually own the rights to the world's seed supply. And that goal may well be in sight. In fact, a 2004 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that much of the U.S. seed pool is already contaminated by GM seeds. If that contamination continues unabated, eventually much of the world's seeds could labor under patents controlled by one agribusiness or another.
In one agricultural realm like Iraq's, GM contamination could in short order give a company like Monsanto a stranglehold over the market. Post-Order 81 Iraqi farmers who want to resist genetically modified seeds and stick to traditional farming methods may not have that choice. Future generations of Iraqi growers may find that one seed shop in Karbala is selling the same patented seeds as every other shop in town.
And when that happens, what had been a traditional farming community - where financial risk is divided and genetic diversity multiplied through the simple interactions between neighboring farmers - finds itself nothing more than the home to lone farmers caught up in the high-stakes world of international agribusiness.
It's a world not unfamiliar to former CPA honcho Bremer, if the company he keeps is any indication. Robert Cohen, author of the book Milk A-Z, talks about the Bush administration as the "Monsanto Cabinet."
Among the many connections between that company and the current White House: Former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman served on the board of directors of Calgene, a Monsanto subsidiary; one-time Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld had an eight-year stint as president of Searle, another Monsanto subsidiary; Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney in Monsanto's pesticide and agriculture division before coming to the Supreme Court as a George H.W. Bush appointee.
Those connections, as much as anything else, might help to explain the impetus behind and timing of Order 81. Let's suppose for a minute that GM-driven globalized agriculture is, indeed, in the long-term best interests of the new Iraq. Even in the best of circumstances, such a significant policy shift in so core an economic sector can be expected to cause short-term pain. When Bremer issued the directive, Iraq was hardly in a good place: It had recently been invaded, its government dismantled. Considering the desperate need for immediate stability in Iraq in April 2004, Order 81 begins to look like the triumph of connections and ideology over clear-headed policymaking.
In India, seed activists like Vandana Shiva are working to weaken the connection between that world of U.S. agribusiness and the farmers in villages and towns across India. Shiva, featured in the PBS special The Dying Fields, implores local farmers to stop forking over their money to commercial seed producers and return to the days of homegrown seeds. While Monsanto sells seeds that become India's corn, rice, potatoes, and tomatoes, it's cotton where Monsanto is king, as Shiva well knows. "You have become addicted to Bt cotton," she chides farmers. Though if the perpetuation of the GMO-seed/crop-failure cycle is any indication, few Indian farmers are listening.
Will Iraqi farmers making their way in the new post-Order 81 agricultural world fare any better? Maybe. Can they manage to reap the benefits of genetically modified farming, trading their newfound dependence on Monsanto and other corporate behemoths for the increased yield their patented and IP-protected seeds promise? Hopefully.
But it's possible that Iraq's farmers will indeed find themselves in the same predicament that India's farmers have ended up in - a world where growers no longer rely upon their fields and their communities to meet their needs but in a world in which, when hard times strike, the only way out seems like the final exit. A world in which, in a twist perhaps worthy of Shakespeare, the farmer borrows one last time from whatever bank or moneylender will hand over a few last rupees, buys one last bottle of Roundup, and - as has happened so many times in India - ends it all by drinking it down.
Monsanto to the end.
Nancy Scola is a Brooklyn-based writer and chief blogger for Air America. Before focusing fully on writing, Nancy served on Capitol Hill under Rep. Henry Waxman of California and was an aide to former Governor Mark Warner as he explored a run for the presidency.
from Edward Herman:
Date: 26 September 2007
Subject: 'A Coup Has Occurred'
I think nothing has higher priority than averting an attack on Iran, which I think will be accompanied by a further change in our way of governing here that in effect will convert us into what I would call a police state.
If theres another 9/11 under this regime it means that they switch on full extent all the apparatus of a police state that has been patiently constructed, largely secretly at first but eventually leaked out and known and accepted by the Democratic people in Congress, by the Republicans and so forth.
Will there be anything left for NSA to increase its surveillance of us? They may be to the limit of their technical capability now, or they may not. But if theyre not now they will be after another 9/11.
And I would say after the Iranian retaliation to an American attack on Iran, you will then see an increased attack on Iran an escalation which will be also accompanied by a total suppression of dissent in this country, including detention camps.
Its a little hard for me to distinguish the two contingencies; they could come together. Another 9/11 or an Iranian attack in which Irans reaction against Israel, against our shipping, against our troops in Iraq above all, possibly in this country, will justify the full panoply of measures that have been prepared now, legitimized, and to some extent written into law.
This is an unusual gang, even for Republicans. [But] I think that the successors to this regime are not likely to roll back the assault on the Constitution. They will take advantage of it, they will exploit it.
Will Hillary Clinton as president decide to turn off NSA after the last five years of illegal surveillance? Will she deprive her administration her ability to protect United States citizens from possible terrorism by blinding herself and deafening herself to all that NSA can provide? I dont think so.
Unless this somehow, by a change in our political climate, of a radical change, unless this gets rolled back in the next year or two before a new administration comes in and theres no move to do this at this point unless that happens I dont see it happening under the next administration, whether Republican or Democratic.
The Next Coup
Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred. Its not just a question that a coup lies ahead with the next 9/11. Thats the next coup, that completes the first.
The last five years have seen a steady assault on every fundamental of our Constitution, what the rest of the world looked at for the last 200 years as a model and experiment to the rest of the world in checks and balances, limited government, Bill of Rights, individual rights protected from majority infringement by the Congress, an independent judiciary, the possibility of impeachment.
There have been violations of these principles by many presidents before. Most of the specific things that Bush has done in the way of illegal surveillance and other matters were done under my boss Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War: the use of CIA, FBI, NSA against Americans.
I could go through a list going back before this century to Lincolns suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War, and before that the Alien and Sedition Acts in the 18th century. I think that none of those presidents were in fact what I would call quite precisely the current administration: domestic enemies of the Constitution.
I think that none of these presidents with all their violations, which were impeachable had they been found out at the time and in nearly every case their violations were not found out until they were out of office so we didnt have the exact challenge that we have today.
That was true with the first term of Nixon and certainly of Johnson, Kennedy and others. They were impeachable, they werent found out in time, but I think it was not their intention to in the crisis situations that they felt justified their actions, to change our form of government.
It is increasingly clear with each new book and each new leak that comes out, that Richard Cheney and his now chief of staff David Addington have had precisely that in mind since at least the early 70s. Not just since 1992, not since 2001, but have believed in Executive government, single-branch government under an Executive president elected or not with unrestrained powers. They did not believe in restraint.
When I say this Im not saying they are traitors. I dont think they have in mind allegiance to some foreign power or have a desire to help a foreign power. I believe they have in their own minds a love of this country and what they think is best for this country but what they think is best is directly and consciously at odds with what the Founders of this country and Constitution thought.
They believe we need a different kind of government now, an Executive government essentially, rule by decree, which is what were getting with signing statements. Signing statements are talked about as line-item vetoes which is one [way] of describing them which are unconstitutional in themselves, but in other ways are just saying the president says I decide what I enforce. I decide what the law is. I legislate.
Its [the same] with the military commissions, courts that are under the entire control of the Executive Branch, essentially of the president. A concentration of legislative, judicial, and executive powers in one branch, which is precisely what the Founders meant to avert, and tried to avert and did avert to the best of their ability in the Constitution.
Founders Had It Right
Now Im appealing to that as a crisis right now not just because it is a break in tradition but because I believe in my heart and from my experience that on this point the Founders had it right.
Its not just our way of doing things it was a crucial perception on the corruption of power to anybody including Americans. On procedures and institutions that might possibly keep that power under control because the alternative was what we have just seen, wars like Vietnam, wars like Iraq, wars like the one coming.
That brings me to the second point. This Executive Branch, under specifically Bush and Cheney, despite opposition from most of the rest of the branch, even of the cabinet, clearly intends a war against Iran which even by imperialist standards, standards in other words which were accepted not only by nearly everyone in the Executive Branch but most of the leaders in Congress. The interests of the empire, the need for hegemony, our right to control and our need to control the oil of the Middle East and many other places. That is consensual in our establishment.
But even by those standards, an attack on Iran is insane. And I say that quietly, I dont mean it to be heard as rhetoric. Of course its not only aggression and a violation of international law, a supreme international crime, but it is by imperial standards, insane in terms of the consequences.
Does that make it impossible? No, it obviously doesnt, it doesnt even make it unlikely.
That is because two things come together that with the acceptance for various reasons of the Congress Democrats and Republicans and the public and the media, we have freed the White House the president and the vice president from virtually any restraint by Congress, courts, media, public, whatever.
And on the other hand, the people who have this unrestrained power are crazy. Not entirely, but they have crazy beliefs.
And the question is what then, what can we do about this? We are heading towards an insane operation. It is not certain. It is likely. I want to try to be realistic myself here, to encourage us to do what we must do, what is needed to be done with the full recognition of the reality. Nothing is impossible.
What Im talking about in the way of a police state, in the way of an attack on Iran is not certain. Nothing is certain, actually. However, I think it is probable, more likely than not, that in the next 15, 16 months of this administration we will see an attack on Iran. Probably. Whatever we do.
And we will not succeed in moving Congress probably, and Congress probably will not stop the president from doing this. And thats where were heading. Thats a very ugly, ugly prospect.
However, I think its up to us to work to increase that small perhaps anyway not large possibility and probability to avert this within the next 15 months, aside from the effort that we have to make for the rest of our lives.
Restoring the Republic
Getting back the constitutional government and improving it will take a long time. And I think if we dont get started now, it wont be started under the next administration.
Getting out of Iraq will take a long time. Averting Iran and averting a further coup in the face of a 9/11, another attack, is for right now, it cant be put off. It will take a kind of political and moral courage of which we have seen very little
We have a really unusual concentration here and in this audience, of people who have in fact changed their lives, changed their position, lost their friends to a large extent, risked and experienced being called terrible names, traitor, weak on terrorism names that politicians will do anything to avoid being called.
How do we get more people in the government and in the public at large to change their lives now in a crisis in a critical way? How do we get Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for example? What kinds of pressures, what kinds of influences can be brought to bear to get Congress to do their jobs? It isnt just doing their jobs. Getting them to obey their oaths of office.
I took an oath many times, an oath of office as a Marine lieutenant, as an official in the Defense Department, as an official in the State Department as a Foreign Service officer. A number of times I took an oath of office which is the same oath office taken by every member of Congress and every official in the United States and every officer in the United States armed services.
And that oath is not to a Commander in Chief, which is not mentioned. It is not to a fuehrer. It is not even to superior officers. The oath is precisely to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Now that is an oath I violated every day for years in the Defense Department without realizing it when I kept my mouth shut when I knew the public was being lied into a war as they were lied into Iraq, as they are being lied into war in Iran.
I knew that I had the documents that proved it, and I did not put it out then. I was not obeying my oath which I eventually came to do.
Ive often said that Lt. Ehren Watada who still faces trial for refusing to obey orders to deploy to Iraq which he correctly perceives to be an unconstitutional and aggressive war is the single officer in the United States armed services who is taking seriously in upholding his oath.
The president is clearly violating that oath, of course. Everybody under him who understands what is going on and there are myriad, are violating their oaths. And thats the standard that I think we should be asking of people.
On the Democratic side, on the political side, I think we should be demanding of our Democratic leaders in the House and Senate and frankly of the Republicans that it is not their highest single absolute priority to be reelected or to maintain a Democratic majority so that Pelosi can still be Speaker of the House and Reid can be in the Senate, or to increase that majority.
Im not going to say that for politicians they should ignore that, or that they should do something else entirely, or that they should not worry about that.
Of course that will be and should be a major concern of theirs, but theyre acting like its their sole concern. Which is business as usual. We have a majority, lets not lose it, lets keep it. Lets keep those chairmanships. Exactly what have those chairmanships done for us to save the Constitution in the last couple of years?
I am shocked by the Republicans today that I read in the Washington Post who yesterday threatened a filibuster if we get back habeas corpus. The ruling out of habeas corpus with the help of the Democrats did not get us back to George the First it got us back to before King John 700 years ago in terms of counter-revolution.
We need some way, and Ann Wright has one way, of sitting in, in Conyers office and getting arrested. Ray McGovern has been getting arrested, pushed out the other day for saying the simple words swear him in when it came to testimony.
I think weve got to somehow get home to them [in Congress] that this is the time for them to uphold the oath, to preserve the Constitution, which is worth struggling for in part because its only with the power that the Constitution gives Congress responding to the public, only with that can we protect the world from mad men in power in the White House who intend an attack on Iran.
And the current generation of American generals and others who realize that this will be a catastrophe have not shown themselves they might be people who in their past lives risked their bodies and their lives in Vietnam or elsewhere, like [Colin] Powell, and would not risk their career or their relation with the president to the slightest degree.
That has to change. And its the example of people like those up here who somehow brought home to our representatives that they as humans and as citizens have the power to do likewise and find in themselves the courage to protect this country and protect the world. Thank you.
Daniel Ellsberg is author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
from Edward Herman :
Date: 21 September 2007
Subject: Welcome to Planet Gaza
It is one of the most scandalous instances of collective punishment anywhere in the world in recent times. And what is the response of the high-minded "international community"? It's the standard "three monkeys" - willfully deaf, dumb and blind.
This Thursday, the Israeli cabinet's decision to declare the 8-kilometer-wide, 23km-long, arid Gaza Strip a "hostile territory" has started to be translated by facts on the ground. The Israel
Defense Forces have begun "gradually" to cut the supply of fuel and electricity to the 1.5 million population, one of the highest densities on Earth, 50% of them already living under the poverty line, 50% of them under-15s, 33% of them refugees.
Gaza uses about 200 megawatts of electricity; 120 come from Israel; 65 are produced in Gaza; and only 17 come from Egypt. Israel says supply to generators at Gaza's hospitals will not be affected.
There's more to come: a trade ban, no freedom of movement, no visits to prisoners in Israeli jails, an overall hardcore financial squeeze, and sooner rather than later, another military onslaught. As the Israeli daily Ha'aretz so nicely put it, this is just a "plan to limit services to civilians".
Nobody will get in. Few, if any, will get out. If someone wants to go to Gaza, the only way will be via Egypt.
This comes on top of other "restrictions" already in place. No fewer than 200,000 kids went back to school in occupied Palestine this September - just like millions of other kids around the world. But they had nothing apart from their textbooks because the State of Israel deems paper, ink, ballpoint pens and binding materials not to be "fundamental humanitarian needs".
It was up to AMIN (Arabic Media Internet Network), Ramallah's information site, to put things in perspective. Ramallah is in the West Bank. The West Bank is "friendly". Gaza is "hostile". So West Bank residents can now "thank God for having escaped this collective punishment" - even though they still have to contend with walls, curfews, military incursions, arbitrary arrests and a thousand checkpoints.
Residents of the "hostile entity", according to AMIN, will closely follow the example of the "friendly entity", where walls and blast walls still bloom. The (good) point is to have been classified as "friendly"; "It's better being half 'enemy' than being it full-time, it's more comfortable being half deprived of electricity and fuel, it's better being half exposed to air raids, it's more benign to be half destructed than totally."
AMIN also points out that Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah government in the West Bank can always blame Hamas' government in Gaza for this sorry outcome. Then the "secular" will win over the "Islamists". But there's still a choice to be made. Gaza, full of shame for being branded an "enemy", may succumb to Israel's dictates. Or the West Bank, full of shame for being branded "friendly", may fight Israel's dictates. Conclusion: "What's worse under occupation, to be an 'enemy' or to be a 'friend'?"
And now for the monkeys
While this was being announced, US President George W Bush's Sunni Arab allies in the "axis of fear" - from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Jordan, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf petromonarchies - had better fish to fry, from taking over almost half of the London Stock Exchange (Dubai, Qatar) to turning the screws on internal repression and fanning the specter of "the Persians". "Classic" al-Qaeda (not the diet Iraqi brand), through resident oracle Ayman al-Zawahiri in person and Osama bin Laden's voice, was more interested on its new video-op calling for a jihad against "infidel" Bush ally President General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.
It was up to a lone, meek United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to urge Israel to "reconsider" its decision - which once more is "contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law" (as if that other occupying power, the US in Iraq, was giving a damn to the suffering of the Iraqi civilian population). Ban should have also explained what "hostile entity" means in international law: nothing.
Israeli strategy is to bring down the "quality" - non-quality, rather - of life in Gaza to unbearable levels, thus sabotaging any attempt by Hamas to govern the Strip properly. The crude Qassam rockets fired over Israel - the apparent reason for the blockade - are not even fired by Hamas, but by al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, for instance, connected to Islamic Jihad. The actual blockade anyway comes on top of any further military incursions, soon to be decided by Israel, according to the Israeli press.
The US subscribes to everything. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - who is right in the middle of intense lobbying for a US-sponsored, and already discredited, November peace conference - incredibly said that Hamas "is indeed a hostile entity. It is a hostile entity to the US as well." Nobody asked Rice what kind of "peace" she is exactly lobbying for.
Rice added that the US "will make every effort to deal with their [Palestinian] humanitarian needs". How? By bombing Gaza with cornflakes? "Hostile" Hamas called the plan "a declaration of war". "Friendly" Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas - who
meets his friend Bush next week in New York - only called it "oppressive". It was up to one of his ministers, Ashraf Ajami, to dare to use the crystal-clear words "collective punishment".
Voices of reason in Israel, such as Meretz (leftist political party) chairman Yossi Beilin, at least had the courage to denounce the plan as "foolish as well as dangerous".
University of Michigan professor and Informed Comment blogger Juan Cole has defined Gaza as "the worst outcome of Western colonialism anywhere in the world outside the Belgian Congo". And just like contemporary Belgium in relation to the Congo, Israel will never admit to what it has inflicted on Palestine.
No wonder Likud superstar Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu loves these Likudnik-style methods. It proves how the majority of Israel's political elite is still wallowing in the mire of Zeev Jabotinsky, a Zionist in love with fascism in 1930s Europe. This treatment of Palestinians bears all the elements of fascism: radical (Israeli) nationalism; racism (the demonization of Palestinians as a sub-race); colonialism; expansionism (the goal of Israel); a penchant for a military dictatorship (the preferred method for ruling Palestinians); and absolute indifference to the point of despising the (Arab) poor.
As much as peace and security for Israel are more than a just cause, the colonization and hardcore repression of the "friendly" West Bank and "hostile" Gaza are nothing but fascism. Professor Toni Negri, author of Empire and Multitudes, is one among throngs of top public intellectuals appalled that among so much cosmopolitanism at a global level, many Jews are simply not part of it, and are still attracted by "archaic and barbarian" ideologies such as Zionism.
Get me to my gulag on time
Planet Gaza may be our contemporary Congo - the heart of darkness, especially when taken in conjunction with that other heart of darkness, Iraq. There's nothing about a "Korea model" in Iraq - as much as Washington will try to keep an array of permanent military bases in Mesopotamia.
The logic of the US in Iraq is pure Planet Gaza. French geopolitical master Alain Joxe, in his book L'Empire du chaos, has been one of the few who have identified Palestine as the ultimate live textbook on urban repression - a "technical experiment" in the ultimate red zone carefully studied by the Pentagon, with all its known attributes (blast walls, checkpoints, pinpoint military incursions and "acquisition of targets", collective punishment, etc).
The Israeli wall penetrating the "friendly" West Bank like a dagger has been replicated by mini-walls in Baghdad. As much as Israeli armed settler/missionaries do their ethnic cleansing in slow motion in Palestine, mercenary Blackwater and their ilk do the dirty work in Iraq. "Friendly" West Bank Fatah and "hostile" Gaza Hamas are mirrored in Iraq by the "good" (Sunni tribes, collaborator Shi'ite parties Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Da'wa, the Kurds) and the "bad" (Sunni guerrillas, al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, the Shi'ite Mahdi Army).
Iraq is actually Planet Gaza redux. According to British polling organization ORB, no fewer than 1.2 million Iraqis may have died violent deaths, most of them caused directly or indirectly by the occupation, since 2003. That's close to the entire population of Gaza.
Invisibility is also part of the logic of Planet Gaza. Invisibility at least for US and Israeli exceptionalism - as both could not possibly assimilate the hard truth pointing to US and Israeli administrations killing loads of innocent Arab civilians. The "international community" - an antiseptic construct that basically means the US and western Europe - may not see it; autocratic, incompetent, corrupt Arab leaders may not see it; but the real world - public opinion in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Russia - sees Planet Gaza for what it is. It's not about "al-Qaeda". It's not about "Islamo-fascist terrorists". It's about fighting neocolonialism. It's about national liberation. And - barring any possibility of dialogue - it's about perennial blowback.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at email@example.com.
from Edward Herman:
Date: 22 September 2007
Subject: EmmanuelTodd: from "Aprs l'empire" to "Le rendez-vous des civilisations".
version franaise: http://www.marianne2.fr/Emmanuel-Todd-Kouchner-est-passe-de-Medecins-du-monde-a-Militaires-sans-frontieres-_a78787.html
English version: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/092107G.shtml
A breath of fresh air from France. French demographer Emmanuel Todd has just completed a new book debunking the so-called "clash of civilizations." In an interview with Marianne2, he deconstructs the French and American hard line against Iran, while a review of his new book in "Rue89" suggests various readings of this new work.
Emmanuel Todd, along with Youssef Courbage, has just published a book, "Le rendez-vous des civilisations"(1), which debunks the thesis of the clash of civilizations. For these two demographers, the rise in radical Islam is only one among many signs of the modernization of the Muslim world, the demographic aspect of which, moreover, is the most striking. The societies of the Muslim world have entered a demographic transition that sees men's literacy progress, then women's, before the number of children per woman approaches the level in the West. According to the authors, all that evokes a rise in individualism in societies. Demographic analysis consequently leads them to reject the idea of a difference in nature between formerly Christian and Muslim societies.
Marianne2: What is one to think of Bernard Kouchner's jackbooted statement about Iran?
Emmanuel Todd: His intervention reanimates a personal question that dates back to the war in Iraq when he already pronounced himself in favor of the American intervention: What can the psychology of a doctor who demonstrates a stable preference for war be? We go too quickly from Doctors-of-the-World to "Military-Without-Borders."
More seriously, Bernard Kouchner has only rather clumsily expressed the Sarkozy position, which, in fact, is the Washington position. Before the presidential election, I had suggested that the Americans would wait for Nicolas Sarkozy's election to attack Iran.
The Quai d'Orsay proposes another reading of that statement: It's not, in fact, about threatening Iran, but about showing its present leaders the economic cost of their refusal to obey the international community's recommendations.
They can say what they want, but the word war has been pronounced and the Quai d'Orsay will teach other news through the press.
Iran worries some observers more than Iraq did before the American intervention.
The question of Iran presents itself in the form of a stream of images and facts difficult to interpret as seen from France. There are the absurd statements of President Ahmadinejad, images of women covered in black and the ambient Islamophobia. All that masks the deep reality of Iran: a society in the midst of rapid cultural development, in which there are more women than men enrolled in university, a country in which the demographic revolution has reduced the number of children per woman to two, as in France or the United States. Iran is in the process of giving birth to a pluralistic democracy. It's a country where, certainly, not everyone can stand for election, but where people vote regularly and where swings in opinion and majority are frequent. Like France, England and the United States, Iran has lived through a revolution that is stabilizing itself and where a democratic temperament is blossoming.
All that must be related to a religious matrix in which the Shiite variation of Islam values interpretation, debate and, ultimately, revolt.
For a simple Western observer, the similarity between Shiism and Protestantism is not particularly obvious.
It would be ridiculous to push this comparison to the extreme. But it is clear that - just as Protestantism was an accelerator of progress in European history and Catholicism was a break - Shiism today brings a positive contribution to development, notably in the domain of birth control: Azerbaijan, certainly post-Communist, but also Shiite, has a 1.7 fertility rate, while the Shiite Alawite regions of Syria have completed their demographic transition, unlike the majority-Sunni regions. In Lebanon, the Shiite community, Hezbollah's social base, was behind on the educational and social levels, but is in the process of catching up with the other communities, as one sees in the development of fertility rates.
Iran is also a very big nation that demonstrates a realistic awareness of its strategic interest in a region where most of its neighbors possess the nuclear weapon: Pakistan, (and, via the presence of the American Army) Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel. In that context, the reasonable European attitude would be to accompany Iran in its liberal and democratic transition and to understand its security preoccupations.
In your book, you make the altogether surprising hypothesis of a possible secularization of Muslim societies.
To the extent that within the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Buddhist worlds, the drop in fertility has always been preceded by a weakening of religious practice, one must wonder whether the Muslim countries in which the number of children per woman is equal to or less than two are not also in the process of experiencing, unknown to us - and perhaps also unknown to their leaders - a process of secularization. That's the case of Iran.
Why have the Americans and Sarkozy adopted this strategy of confrontation with Iran?
The American diplomatic services are perfectly up-to-date with respect to the Iranian reality, the rise in democracy and the country's modernization. But they want to destroy a regional power that threatens their control of the oil region. It's pure cynicism exploiting the present lack of understanding of the Muslim world. In the case of Sarkozy, I would lean more towards the idea of incompetence or sincere ignorance that nonetheless leads him to initiate a foreign policy contrary to France's moral values and interests. Possible French economic sanctions against Iran will make the Americans - who no longer have interests in that country - laugh and make the Germans - who, like us, have many interests, but seem more realistic for the moment - smile.
(1) "Le rendez-vous des civilisations," Emmanuel Todd and Youssef Courbage, Le Seuil, 2007.
from TruthOut :
Date: 29 September 2007
Subject: Tide of Resistance Could Sweep Military.
A major factor in the end of the Vietnam war was the resistance within the armed forces that all but halted the ground war. While at the Veterans For Peace conference this year I spoke with the next generation of GI resisters, who are being compared with the soldiers successful at shutting down the military in Vietnam.
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 29 September 2007
Subject: More on the Coup d'Etat in the United States and Democratic Mobilization to Resist.