Subject: ON DOGMA AND COW DUNG.
22 July 2008
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The late French Gaullist law maker, David Rousset
, lost 80 pounds in a Nazi concentration camp. He had been captured by a French collaborator and two members of the Gestapo while working in the French underground trying to organize German troops against the war. After his release from Buchenwald, Rousset wrote a classic study of the concentration camps system, The Concentrationary Universe,
in which he concluded that "the concentration camp, far from being a monstrous denial of civilization, was a possible model for a future civilization. The camps were such models of efficient bureaucracy that they formed a workable kind of society. They were not primitive but overrefined. Men did not die there as men but as part of an administrative system, according to a strictly defined bureaucratic mechanism. The concentration camps were the supreme example of planification. It was what David Rousset called "the advent of a new barbarism" and "the most profound kind of exploitation of man . . . [far worse that the labor exploitation described by Marx]." (cited by Sanche de Gramont, in France Since 1930
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer
of the Schutzstaffel
(SS) and CEO of the Nazi concentration camp system, was a genius and a perfectionist. Like Dick Cheney, he was a hands-on kind of guy. He liked to be close to reality. William Shirer describes how, on August 31, 1941, Himmler ordered the Einsatz
to demonstrate for him their method of executions at a prison in Minsk. He wished to see for himself how it could be improved. One hundred men, women and children were brought to an enclosed area, where they were all shot to death as Himmler watched. It was reported that at one point he nearly fainted during the exercise. Then he became very agitated when he saw that bullets had not killed two Jewish women immediately. He order that henceforth women and children would no longer be shot, but instead asphyxiated in "gas vans." Later he made improvements on the technology for administering toxic gas in the camps. (p.1254)
There is no reason to think that Himmler hated Jews, anymore than there is to believe that Cheney hates Muslims. These are political men, with an appetite for power. They did what they had to do to gain more control over people. The politics of fear and paranoid collusion was not a bad method, both men calculated, to achieve their objectives. Ultimately, the chickens came home to roost, but at the time it seemed to be an acceptable burden to bare.
Witness Himmler addressing his S.S. generals in Posen, Germany on October 4, 1943:
. . . I also want to talk to you quite frankly on a very grave matter. Among
ourselves it should be mentioned quite frankly, and yet we will never speak
of it publicly. . . .
I mean . . . the extermination of the Jewish race. . . . Most of you know what
it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have
stuck it out and at the same time --apart from exceptions caused by human
weakness-- to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard.
This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is
never to be written. . . .(p.1259)
Following the Second World War, C.P. Snow expressed his concern about the "culture wars" that were occurring in western democracies. In his famous monograph, The Two Cultures (1959), he described the conflict between the elitist, traditional literary intelligentsia (who had captured for themselves the title of "Intellectuals") and the more democratic scientific community.
Snow described the endemic conflicts occurring in British universities in these terms:
The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly
optimistic, unaware of man's condition. On the other hand, the scientists
believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in foresight, peculiarly
unconcerned with their brother men, in a deep sense anti-intellectual, anxious
to restrict both art and thought to the existential moment.(p.5)
The "worst-spirited of modernist literature," he concluded,
[turn] the original dichotomy on its head . . . taking an optimistic view of
one's individual condition and a pessimistic view of the social one. I find
myself asking a question. It is not a rhetorical question, and I don't know
the answer. It would be a satisfaction to know it. The question is this: how
far is it possible to share the hopes of the scientific revolution, the modest
difficult hopes for other human lives, and at the same time participate
without qualification in the kind of literature which has just been defined?(p.96)
"Nous sommes dans la merde!" exclaimed one of my undergraduate students at Grenoble University
last winter, in response to the police riots, when large numbers of the Grenoble constabulary descended on our campus at two different intervals (the evening of November 29 and again on December 20, 2007), after being summoned by the university president, Patrick Chezaud
. They brought with them trained attack dogs and loaded guns in order to evict striking students from buildings they were occupying, throwing them bodily down the steps and arresting those who seemed to question the legitimacy of their authority. In this same period, the Director of the prestigious Grenoble Institute Political Studies
, Olivier Ihl, was filmed by a Channel 3 national television crew in the act of beating students with an iron rod which he had grabbed from a nearby trash can at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday November 29, in front of the political science building where they had staged an all-night picket in front of the blocked doors.
For future tourists planning a visit to Grenoble, I can imagine the publication of a New Guide Book which might provide a new list of useful expressions in French and English: at the top of this new list, the first expression might read: "Please, don't shoot!" / "S'il vous plaît, ne tirez pas!" Knowing this expression could allow one to get into the shopping lane at Carrefour, or in line for the téléphérique up to the Bastille without being hurt. Speaking good French could help save your life, as well. Definitely, the less you speak with an accent, the safer you will be. (*Note: There are private companies that can help you acquire a French accent for a reasonable fee.)
But it is unfair to single out one location for this cultural malaise which now plagues western man and womankind.
The 20th-century concentration camp system, some have argued, can be seen as an administrative model of 19th-century mechanical science, with its "either/or" pathologies, and its "cause-and-effect" myopia. It is a case of "context-free" thinking, which totally ignores the interrelatedness of the observer and the systemic elements under observation. It thereby justifies authoritarian applications of technologies which are designed for interventions and domination in both nature and society by employing the "ends-and-means" rationalization for increasing "our body of scientific knowledge," as well as to achieve "social order." This quest for "order" was, in fact, the embodiment of an epistemological error: for in fact an observer can only exist as part of a dynamic web of interrelated events and cannot be effectively isolated from what she/he is observing. There necessarily exists, according to new scientific theory, interrelationships connecting all parts of the system and none of the properties of any part is fundamental. (For a discussion of the sociological implications of Werner Heisenberg's
"indeterminacy principle," see Stanley Aronowitz, Science as Power, Discourse and Ideology in Modern Society
, 1988, p.317-352.)
In non-Euclidean geometry an axiom has to be demonstrated, like any other proposition. In the "new science" of metamathematics created by David Hilber
, around 1917, the proof of the noncontradictoriness of an axiomatized mathematical system occupies an important place, but in final analysis the difficulty has only been postponed, for it is impossible to guarantee the validity of the mathematical procedures themselves, proving the noncontradicoriness of the system, by means of the very axioms and rules of inference within the system itself. Hence, the theory about a calculus cannot be constructed by means of the resources alone of this calculus, nor can one speak about language without employing a metalanguage, which would yield the same uncomfortable situation. In short, formalism is not self-sufficient; its closure on itself is impossible.
The ideas of calculus ratiocinator
(in analytical philosophy) and of caracteristica universalis
(in synthetic philosophy) are in the end incompatible, according to Professor Stanley Aronowitz, a sociologist of science and society at New York City College. One can postpone indefinitely but cannot eliminate altogether the appeal to logical intuition
. Because of the close relationship between logic and mathematics, which can be seen in the formalizing of their axiomatic systems, logic has undergone analogous developments. By analogy with 'metamathematics," "metalogic" has developed into a distinct discipline focusing on both syntax and semantics.
According to L. D. Gasman, a disciple of the influential British positivist philosopher of science, Karl Popper, there is another danger lurking in the corridors of power, besides the belief in "self-evident truths". Scientism, or the religious belief in the infallibility of science, is an equally nefarious influence on society.
Le scientisme lui-même ne peut être considéré comme une doctrine rationnelle. En
- effet il obscurcit la différence entre la science et la technologie . . . . La science (c'est
- à dire la meilleure science) est un corps public de connaissances critiquables sur le
- monde --ces aspects-là de la science sont ceux qui la rendent objective et rationnelle.
- La technologie est un ensemble de techniques de manipulation pour transformer le
- monde. Étant donné que la science nous dit que le monde est premier, son dévelop-
- pement ultérieur est évidemment une condition nécessaire au progrès de la technologie
- qui, privée des injections régulières de la science, doit mourir. Les tentatives de contrôle
- sur la science sont malheureuses : c'est seulement en sachant comment est le monde
- que nous pouvons le transformer --pour le mal ou pour le bien. La science peut; et elle
- l'a fait, jeter à la face du monde des faits déplaisants . . . , mais ce n'est la faute de personne,
- elle peut aussi inspirer des innovations technologiques indésirables . . . , mais ces projets
- devraient être contrôlés, non les théories qui les ont produits. Dans certains cas la recherche
- scientifique pure doit être interrompue par manque de fonds et cela se justifie pleinement;
- mais n'importe quel plan qui prévoirait de tronquer les tentatives de compréhension du
- monde, à cause du pouvoir nouveau que cette compréhension donnerait à l'homme, devrait
- au moins être reconnu pur ce qu'il est, à savoir une suppression de la connaissance dans
- les pires traditions de l'Église, Hitler, Staline, les anti-évolutionnistes et toute leur clique.
- Une foi qu'on a saisi cette distinction entre science et technologie, il devient important de
- ne pas surestimer la science. Le scientisme veut que les savants se trompent rarement sinon
- jamais, mais bien entendu c'est le contraire même qui est vrai! Si on considère l'histoire de
- la science, on voit aisément que les savants très souvent posent des résultats faux, ou même
- toujours, et la théorie la plus admise et la plus spectaculaire de tous les temps, la mécanique
- de Newton, s'est révélée inexacte. C'est peut-être dommage, mais la science telle qu'elle est
- pratiquée par les savants ne confirme pas de tout le patron cumulatif inductif qu'on présente
- dans les livres scolaires. Cependant, il est raisonnable de supposer que les conjectures des
- savants sur le monde se rapprochent toujours plus de la vérité.
- Malheureusement le scientisme a eu pour effet de donner au public une foi injustifiée à
- l'égard des savants (et des technologistes), foi qui s'apparente à celle des tribus primitives
- en leurs sorciers. Lorsque des individus qu'on a élevés dans cette idéologie se rendent compte
- de la faillibilité des savants, en désespoir de cause, ils adoptent une attitude complètement anti-
- scientifique. Aux États-Unis, où la doctrine du scientisme a été le plus fortement établie, il y
- a un retour à des radotages intellectuels. A mon sens, les hippies, qu'on a mis quelque peu
- en valeur dans la "New Universal Church", ont succombé à cette sorte d'irrationalisme.
- (Pourqui la mathématique ?, 1974, p.32-34.)
This positivist critique of science imported from Great Britain expresses Karl Popper's views which are significantly different from the critical school of natural philosophy, represented by radical American scholars such as Stanley Aronowitz and Paul Feyerabend, for whom science and technology share many essential features in class-divided societies, where the primary goal of the authorities is the maintenance of social order.
Below, are presented visual illustrations of three Laws of Science :
The universal Law of Increasing Entropy, The Law of Relativity The Uncertainty Principle,
from the Second Law of Thermodynamics from Quantum Physics
"Dogma," quipped Mao Tse-Tung, an activist on the world stage who was certainly qualified as an expert on this subject, "is less useful than cow dung, which at least permits a diversity of plants to grow."
Ultimately, "truth," in the words of the American philosopher of science Charles Sanders Peirce, is defined at follows:
The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who
investigate is what we mean by truth, and the object represented
in this opinion is the real.(cited by Aronowitz, p.177)
Unlike magic and religion, science "knows" no absolute truths. In last analysis, contemporary woman and man have become participants/observers with vested social interests. Call it democracy, if you want, but it is not really a form of government; it is rather a universal ontological condition --the Kapos knew how to profit from the concentration camp system, but they also lived captives of this same system that was governed by Euclidean geometry, saturated with axioms. Their victims understood how this system worked, but no historical agency emerged from this refined atmosphere of exploitation that could effectively challenge its existence.
Serge Moscovici, in his radical essay, « Le jour de fête du cordollier » ( first published in Pourqui la mathématique ?, 1974), discusses the nature of scientific « proof and discovery » :
Adoptée par une décision unanime, aussi étonnante dans sa légèreté que grave dans sa portée, la séparation des deux contextes mérite d’être envisagée sous plusieurs éclairages, sans précipitations. Et pour commencer je vais décrire de façon concrète les termes en présence.
Le contexte de preuve –de justification, comme disent les Anglo-Saxonsdésigne à la fois le filtre qui retient ou laisse passer théories et expériences à l’intérieur de la science, et l’espace où ces théories ou expériences sont intégrées au corps des connaissances scientifiques existantes. Les méthodes utilisées pour assurer filtrage et intégration sont censées être rigoureuses. Les chaînes de raisonnements s’articulant clairement, chaque résultat est obtenu avec certitude, et l’on se dirige vers lui avec la certitude de l’obtenir. Tout tâtonnement, tout élément fortuit est soigneusement éliminé : la science est intolérant au hasard. Elle rassure justement et se trouve rassurée puisqu’elle a banni l’aléatoire. A partir de fait ou d’idées connus, ses procédés engendrent des systèmes entièrement rationnels ; ayant la perfection d’une fugue ou d’un jardin à la française. Dans les mathématiques, ceci signifie que chaque théorème est entièrement déduit des axiomes. Dans les autres sciences, que l’on sélectionne des principes robustes et peu nombreux permettant d’assimiler tous les faits qui surviennent, en les taillant sur le patron commun ; pour qu’ils s’insèrent dans le cadre intelligible du processus déductif ou inductif en cours. Les démonstrations éliminent à la lettre l’idéal de rationalité. Souvent même cet idéal prend un aspect un peu cérémonieux et factice, le savant entassant les équations, les syllogismes et les faits comme le poète aligne consciencieusement les rimes. La pensée mise en ouvre est une pensée diurne, froide dans sa démarche, neutre dans son expression, austère dans ses élans. Pour atteindre le réel, elle répudie le vécu ; elle se dégage des intérêts obscurs, des émotions tumultueuses, rien ne saurait la troubler dans sa confrontation singulière avec les énigmes de l’univers.
Redoutant les désordres, elle évite, grâce à cette sévérité, les controverses, les disputes d’école. Le calcul et l’expérience, dans chaque cas, emportent l’assentiment, décident de ce qu’on peut accepter ou refuser comme étant vérité démontrée ou non. L’univers de la preuve, c’est la réalisation de la science sous forme judiciaire : d’une part le tribunal de la raison, d’autre part le verdict, mathématique ou logique, du jury des savants. Vue sous cette forme, la science se montre consciente de sa démarche, sûre de son objet, entièrement réflexive en somme.
A côté, sinon à l’opposé du contexte de preuve, le contexte de découverte représente l’atelier où sont préparées et inventoriées les matières premières de la science. Les théories y sont encore à l’état d’hypothèses, les expériences, comme des possibilités imaginées, les phénomènes, des événements non concrétisés. Le hasard intervient pour stimuler une recherche, susciter une rencontre entre des connaissances ou des pratiques à première vue fort éloignées. Les méthodes réussissent tout au plus à atténuer la part d’aléatoire. Le cheminement demeure sinueux, incertain. L’atmosphère qui entoure le travail de découverture est chaude, marquée, intense. Aux aguets d’un événement, d’un signe qui va se produire, il en a la certitude, tout chercheur passe par une alternance d’exaltation et de dépression, d »espoir et de déception. Sa vie durant, il gardera le souvenir des quelques semaines ou des quelques mois –c’est peu dans une existenced’excitation soutenue de d’illumination progressive ; il se rappellera le jour où, enfin, l’événement s’est déclaré, où le signe a accusé son relief et a été pleinement reconnu. Le chercheur en est transfiguré. Il cesse d’être pour ses familier, ses collègues, ses élèves, le professeur qui expose, récite, démontre les idées, les choses : maintenant il vous inspire les unes, vous montre les autres et vous les fait toucher du doigt ; avec lui vous devenez découvreur, poète, visionnaire.
Cette irruption du vécu, qui entoure et détache le temps de la découverte, ne s’observe pas seulement chez les individus ; des groupes et des époques en témongnent, notement auqnd les fondements d’une science particulière sont renouvelés. Comme tous les groupes et toutes les époques entraînés dans un mouvement de créations et de révolution, ils sont agités de passions extrême qui marquent chaque acte et chaque rencontre et font que la vie vaut la peine d’être vécue. (pp. 283-285) …
Bref, dans l’activité de découverte, la pensée obéit à des mécanismes inconscients. « Pour moi, confiat Einstein, il ne fait aucun doute que notre pensée se déroule pour la plus grande part sans faire usage de signes (mots), et au-delà qu’elle échappe, dans une mesure considérable, à la conscience. Car, sinon, comment arrive-t-il que nous éprouvions un « émerveillement » spontané devant queque expérience ? Cet émerveillement semble se produire lorsqu’une expérience entre en conflit avec un monde de concepts qui est déjà suffisament fixé en nous. Chaque fois que nous vivons un trel conflit, durement, intensément, il agit en retour sur notre monde de pensée d’une façon décisive. Le développement de ce monde est, en un sens, une fuite continuelle devant l’émerveillement. »(pp.287-288)
On the scientific function of « pensée réelle et la pensée légale », he wrote :
Une structure es dégage. Sous le triple aspect de la légitimité, de la hiérarchie, et la démarcation, la preuve en occupe le centre, le cercle intérieur ; la découverte se retrouve à la périphérie, à l’extérieur. Dans quelle intention ? Il y en essentiellement deux.
La première, manifeste, est d’assurer le caractère universel, donc impersonnel, de la science. Elle a pur condition que l’on efface le sujet du processus scientifique. Purger la science du scientifique, voilà le sens de la règle et de la séparation auxquelles je me suis référé.
Au cours d’un Congés international, Suzanne Bachelard soutenait que l’objet principal de l’histoire des sciences n’est pas l’activité des savants mais le résultat de cette activité, ce qu’elle nommait « le discours ».
L’autre intention, plus secrète, mais non moins constante, est de fonder le caractère autonome, donc normalisé de la science. Il n’y a qu’une façon d’y parvenir : c’est de substituer à la pensée réelle une pensée légale. Projet facile à exécuter, une fois le principe admis. . . . La procédure est connue. Une fois réunis les hypothèses, les instruments et les résultats de la recherche, le savant est invité à les décolorer, les refroidir, les dénaturer, autrement dit, à les épurer pour leur faire franchir le seuil logique. Ce seuil franchi, il réordonne et par là même travestit à tel point ce qu’il a fait en réalité qu’on en vient à dire que, pour comprendre la nature du travail scientifique, « cela ne sert à rien d’examiner les articles scientifiques ; non seulement ils dissimulent mais ils travestissent effectivement le raisonnement qui entre dans le travail qu’ils décrivent ».(p.297-298)
Professor Aronowitz adds to Moscovici's observations, writing that influential social scientists such as Thomas Kuhn ( Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) and Louis Althusser ( Lenin and Philosophy, 1971) have assumed that the relative autonomy of the scientific community from the "laity and everyday life is the foundation of the insularity of science from ideology."(p.176) Going one step further, Paul Feyerabend ( Against Method, 1975) has argued against this notion of science as an activity "hermetically sealed" against social, ideological, and historical relations that determine its content. He sees science as a language of power, and those who control its process and results are a distinctive social category of people equipped with a distinctive ideology and purpose. "And yet science has no greater authority than any other form of life. Its aims are certainly not more important than the aims that guide the lives in a religious community or in a tribe that is united by a myth. . . . The separation between state and church must therefore be complemented by the separation between state and science."(Feyerabend, 1975, p.299)
The 7 items below present a diversity of opinions and analyses that are possible only because of their matrix of radical dialogues. And only the High Priests of Dogma could oppose exchanges such as these, which carry information that many of us use to promote the development of critical thinking and cooperation --two human capacities so essential for a productive life.
Item A. is an exchange between me and Gordon Pool, Assistant Professor (Ricercatore) of English Language and Translation at University of Cassino in Italy, who responded to our recent CEIMSA Bulletin in which we discussed the alienation in high tech societies of people living under the stress of severe crises. (Both Gordon and I invite readers to comment on our heuristic dialogue dealing with the experience of alienation in this period of world crisis.)
Item B. is an article from University of Massachusetts economics Professor Richard Wolff on the deepening crisis in the U.S. economy.
Item C. is the call for a petition by the Council for the National Interest Foundation in defense of the human rights of award-winning journalist Mohammed Omer, who was attacked by Israeli border guards as he tried to return home from his trip to London with the award he had received.
Item D. is an Al Jazeera report on a 2-minute video showing Israeli soldiers shooting a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner who was captured by Israeli Defense Forces during a demonstration.
Item E. is an article from Diana Johnstone on criminal prosecution as an obstacle to peace, and the need for a "Truth Commission" possibly to replace courts.
Item F. is a George Kenney audio interview with Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of California's EPA and a top adviser to Governor Schwarzenegger on the environmental and energy crises of today.
Item G. is a video interview by the Senior Editor of Real News Network, John Jay, talking to Aijaz Ahmad, political science analyst for Frontline newsmagazine in New Delhi, India, who is discussing the question of "a rational American foreign policy."
And finally, for a breath of radical humor, we offer you a whiff from The Onion News.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Gordon Pool :
Date:16 July 2008
Subject: "Real Human Contact."
Dear Francis Feeley:
Although I quite agree with your Bastille Day 2008 remarks, there is one passage, not essential to your overall argument, that I do not agree with. It is where you write: "A short walk around the neighborhood and through community parks will inform most people that television entertainment and video games are the paramount experiences serving almost exclusively as sources of information replacing real human contact. Virtual reality has displaced material relationships as a source of information, and imaginary understandings, rather than real and sentient relationships, serve as the principle cause of social behavior."
TV entertainment and video games are like playing solitaire; they are not what replaces "real human contact." It is email, online chats, mailing lists, telephone conferences, etc. that replace "real human contact." But even here, some correction is in order. What does "real human contact" mean? Why feel the need to qualify "human contact" with "real"? Two people talking together in a room like Thoreau with his occasional guests in his cabin is no more real than exchanging letters. In both cases one is humanly using a tool (voice, writing) to express ideas, which are then decodified by one's interlocutor (listener, correspondent). I think it is a theoretical mistake to make any radical distinction between virtual relationships and material relationships, likewise between ephemeral products or goods and material products or goods. In so doing, one radicalizes a mind-body dichotomy that Marx had convincingly framed as materialistic. Hegel would be back in the saddle again. And St, John as well: "In principio erat Verbum...", with all the boundary problems (between spirit and flesh) besetting the theologians with their incarnation doctrine.
One could argue that communication today has become more, not less real and sentient with cyber communication, if only because it has become quicker than snail-mail, given that immediacy is a characteristic of sentient communication. The risk in radicalizing the mind-body distinction is that one may be moved to blame the media, not the message, whereas it is the message that must be subjected to critical examination. On this Robert Nideffer has written cogently, particularly in relation to the First Gulf War. At my suggestion, part of his Ph.D. dissertation was published in La censura infinita; Informazione in guerra, guerra all'informazione (Salvo Vaccaro [ed.]. Milan: Eterotopie, 2002).
Thanking you ever for your communications,
Response by Francis Feeley:
Thanks for the careful reading and useful criticisms of the July 14 CEIMSA Bulletin
. My reference to empty parks as an indication that kids are spending more time in a "virtual reality" than playing with each other in the parks was prompted by an observation I made a few years ago in Southern California during a summer visit. At this point, I was raising simply a quantitative question: X number of activities in Y amount of time. Kids, I surmised, spent a lot of time indoors alone instead of outdoors playing with other kids. If playing solitaire for the same amount of time replaced playing in the park with others, by this logic, social behavior would be equally effected. (Electronic games I think, however, are more awesome given the number of hours of a child's life they consume .)
The term "real human contact" was meant as a juxtaposition to "imaginary human contact," as in hours and hours of TV watching or playing Nintendo games in solitude. The latter, in my opinion, constitutes "human contact," but in the form of fantasy, for although these entertainments are human creations, they nevertheless constitute unreal human contact. Frankly, email exchanges, chatroom discussions, telephone calls, and the like were not on my mind when I wrote this passage. I agree with you, such communications would indeed be "real" relationships and they would constitute "real human contact". However --and you will probably agree with this-- such communications would be relatively impoverished, compared to face-to-face communications, which are always much more "information rich" and therefore more demanding of all the skills of "social literacy". What I called "material relationships," as opposed to "virtual relationships," implies the semantic richness of direct human contact with all of its simultaneous, diverse, and sometime contradictory syntax --visual, audio, tactile, and olfactory. . . .
I'm not sure what you mean by differentiating "ephemeral products or goods and material products or goods," unless you mean creating information
instead of transforming matter/energy
into a product. If this is what you mean, then I do disagree because the creation and destruction of information has important theoretical consequences, entirely different from the transformation of matter/energy explained in Newtonian physics, the science under which Marx himself labored, though he retained the intellectual honesty to the end of his life to declare that he was not
a Marxist. (On numerous occasions, I have recommended Professor Anthony Wilden's book, The Rules of the Game
(1987), which contains a very important discussion of this subject from communication theory. It really is an important book and you might find it interesting, if you can find a copy.)
I don't know about you, but I believe that the mind/body dichotomy is a fiction. René Descartes did a great disservice (unintentionally) to the human sciences by inventing this concept, and it seemed to serve the powers that be enough to be maintained as an orthodoxy up until today. There were heretics along the way who insisted that mind did not originate outside the body, but mystical thinking was more convenient to those who ruled the academies. More recently, good arguments have been made that in modern times scientism
has replaced religion, and technicians,
priests. [See Grothendieck, et al.,
eds., Pourquoi la mathématique?
(1974).] For St. John, I have no feelings, except may he (and his ideas) rest in peace! On Hegel, however, I have mixed feelings. I tend to side with Hurbert Marcuse when he writes that the "art of negative thinking," which is so essential for good social theory, has been colonized by positivist thinkers who want to harvest crops without tilling the soil. In my professional life, on the other hand, I have encountered so many Hegelian charlatans, who think they have identified Oppositions
when in reality they are looking only at Differences
, and who have no coherent understanding of the difference between a Contradiction
and an Opposition,
that I can only assume that these people are uneducable and that they constitute a mean-spirited subculture inflicting misery on themselves and on others, generation after generation. George W. Bush, of course, is representative of such a phylum.
Concerning my claim that "imaginary understandings
" have replaced "real and sentient relationships"
as "the principle cause of social behavior," my belief, following Paul Feyerabend (but not St. Paul), is that "Understanding," like dogma, is static and that "relationships" are rational and dynamic; that emotions are impoverished by deprivation (i.e. unreal human relationships replacing real relations). Emotions, of course, can also be impoverished by an overload of information feedback, which simply shuts down the nervous system, so to speak.
Again, on the question of "real relationships" or "real human contact" (I don't think I ever used the expression "real communication" which you attributed to me, but has no meaning for me) the distinction is between the full spectrum of signs and symbols available in a face-to-face exchange, as compared to the relatively impoverished experience of "imaginary relationships."
Finally, I have not read Robert Nideffer's essay, but I must agree with you that speed
has taken on great importance in the digital binary culture
of which are a part and which is part of us. I believe such thinking is in fact one of the main causes of war and human misery. In fact, I would suggest that both
the "message" and
the "media" must be subject to critical examination. Yes, we have reproduced capitalism generation after generation, but capitalism has produced us, as well. This relationship we cannot objectify; we can only begin to understand it as a systemic part of the whole.
Thank you once again, Gordon, for your interesting comments. Replies of this nature are often quite pedantic, and I apologize if this is the case.
from Richard Wolff
Date: 15 July 2008
Subject: The Economic Blues.
ousing and securities prices are going down; food and fuel prices are rising. How will these opposite trends affect our economy looking ahead?
The real estate bubble (US capitalism's latest toxic mix of profit-driven over-investment, over-lending, and financial fraud) is in full "bust" mode. Residential
and now also commercial
real estate prices
are dropping quickly. Millions of families who used their rising home prices over the last decade to borrow money
(the "refinancing" boom) can no longer do so. Their consumption thereupon falls as do the fortunes of all the producers who depend on that consumption. As other home "owners" default by the millions on unsustainable mortgages, foreclosures throw ever more houses onto a market with many fewer buyers. This drives home prices down further and likewise consumption. This process is now leading world capitalism into a "global slowdown in production."
At the same time, the world of financial investing (banks, hedge funds, stock brokers, etc.) is reeling from widening real-estate losses. Investors globally bought billions of US securities based on US mortgages
(and other kinds of loans) whose borrowers can not make the required repayments. First these big investors produced the real estate bubble monster and now they scramble to survive its bursting, to avoid fates like that of Bear Stearns. So they cut back credit to still other borrowers who now struggle to cope with lost borrowing capability. This too contributes to the "global slowdown." Modern capitalism is caught up in yet another Frankenstein story.
Large investors are changing their portfolios. They are not returning massively into stocks, remembering their losses in 2000 when the dot com bubble burst in another Frankenstein horror. The "global slowdown" likewise undercuts stock buying. Nor will they soon return to the downward spiraling real estate market. So they are looking for new places to put their money.
The big investors are also worried about the risks of inflation. They know that the US government pumped historically unprecedented mountains of new money into the world economy in their "policies" to offset and cushion the social effects of first the stock market meltdown of 2000 and then the real estate bubble busting since 2006. They fear that all this extra money in circulation may well be used, sooner or later, to make purchases and thereby bid up prices. Fearing such inflation, they don't hold money as an asset (a form of their wealth) because money's value -- its purchasing power -- drops when commodity prices rise.
Instead, they buy commodities
whose prices they think will rise fastest: not to consume or use them, but rather to hold and resell them later at the higher prices. These days, those commodities include energy
, basic production materials (metals, minerals, etc.), and gold and silver. Many factors (difficulties in finding new sources of these things, climate changes, rising production in newly industrializing countries, etc.) combine to make their prices rise the fastest. So big investors buy them and contribute further to the inflation from which they seek to profit. Media and politicians' eagerness to blame "speculators" -- bad people are the problem -- divert attention from how global capitalism repeatedly provokes investment bubbles and then spreads the damage when they burst, including the damage from inflation.
The system is the problem. US capitalism is dysfunctional on many levels for working people today. It is driving down the value of their most important asset, their homes; it is reducing the credit that their standard of living now depends on; it is slowing production which drives up unemployment; and it is driving up the prices of the food and fuel they cannot do without. This is what capitalism delivers these days.
Because profit-driven agricultural corporations displaced family farming, our food supply became much more energy-dependent (for tractors, fertilizer, insecticides, and for transporting food products). So rising energy prices provoke rising food prices. The drive of US business to profit from suburbanization vastly increased Americans' dependence on energy (for cars, electricity, and heating single-family homes). So rising energy prices raise the cost of living especially in the suburbs where most Americans live.
Of course, a government responsible to its people and aware of US capitalism's history could have anticipated and taken some steps at least to reduce the damage from the latest bouts of booms, busts, speculations, and inflations. However, the last 30 years of Republican and Democratic governments did none of that. They celebrated "private enterprise" and less
government economic intervention. So, for example, local non-energy-guzzling farming was not encouraged, subsidized, studied, or even officially discussed as an agricultural policy. Nor was substituting energy-saving mass transit for the individual automobile, nor cheaper housing options than energy-guzzling single family homes. Instead, corporations profited from making us increasingly dependent on energy -- despite available alternatives -- and threatened by its rising price.
To answer the question we began with: there is no way now to tell how falling real estate and securities markets will interact with rising food and energy and materials prices in terms of their impacts on overall inflation, production, employment, and incomes. No one knows, including those private and government "experts" and "officials" who pretend, like the fortunetellers at the county fair, that they see into the future.
But American working people should face certain facts about the economic system they live with. So long as private corporations wield the power to use the profits they get from selling the products their workers produce, they will continue to do what they have always done. They will deploy those profits to competitively seek higher profits, produce booms and busts, speculations, speculators, and inflations. And they will use those profits to buy the politicians and the media to make sure they and the system that funds them receive no blame for any of it. The system is the problem.
Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1 · Washington, DC 20024
800.296.6958 · 202.863.2951 · Fax: 202.863.2952
n June 26, 2008 Palestinian journalist and Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
correspondent, Mohammed Omer was stopped by Israeli security agents while traveling from London to his home in Gaza. Omer was in London to receive the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism as a result of his courage in reporting the news, his commitment to an oppressed people, and his conviction, against violent retaliation.
Initially, Omer's chances of reaching London to accept the award had been unpromising. Israel refused to grant him an exit permit out of Gaza, and ultimately, diplomatic intervention was necessary to obtain the permit. On his way back home, Omer ran into the same problem. Though given permission to return (again, only through extensive and painstaking diplomatic intervention), Omer was stopped in Amman and refused entry into Rafah.
Finally, on June 26, he was told that arrangements had been made to get him across the border. Dutch diplomats would receive him at the Allenby crossing, and from there would escort him home to the Gaza Strip. Despite his diplomatic escort, Omer was detained by Israeli Shin Bet security agents.
The agents at first asked Omer for the stipend that came with his award. When he told them he did not have it with him, they proceeded to strip him down and beat him unconscious. Later, Omer would recall "one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror." Vomiting and going in and out of consciousness, he was dragged to a Palestinian ambulance, where the GSS agents tried to have him sign a contract indemnifying them from their actions.
The Palestinian medic in the ambulance refused, and, after threatening to contact the Dutch embassy escort waiting for Omer, the Israeli agents finally let them through. Omer woke up in a hospital in Jericho, from which he was released and escorted home to Gaza. The ordeal he had gone through, however, was not so easily dissipated. The next day, suffering from cracked ribs and other injuries, he was admitted to a hospital in Gaza, where he remains as of this writing.
Please join other CNI Foundation members concerned about the fate of Mohammed Omer and other journalists in signing a petition which will be delivered to Secretary of State Rice condemning Israel's attacks on journalists, both Palestinian and international. Add your voice to Mohammed Omer's on behalf of voiceless Gazans and all Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation-an occupation made possible by American tax dollars.
To Sign the Petition and find out more information please CLICK HERE
from Al Jazeera :
Date: 21 July 2008
Subject: Israeli crimes against humanity.
Israeli Soldier Shoots Handcuffed And Blindfolded Palestinian Prisoner
from Diana Johnstone :
Date: 16 July 2008
In light of the ICC indictment against Omar al-Bashir, I am sending this paper of January 2007.
International Symposium on the Permanent International Criminal Court
Ambition, Reality and Future Prospects
Tripoli, January 10-11, 2007
Justice for Peace or Justice for War?
The ICTY as Precedent for the ICC
by Diana Johnstone
dvocates of international criminal courts often argue that “there can be no peace without justice”. This sounds true in a philosophical sense: in a just world, there would be peace. However, in matter of practical fact, referring not to justice in the abstract, but to institutionalized systems of justice (not the same thing), it is a dubious proposition.
In actual fact, the intervention of criminal law, criminal courts and criminal prosecution into complex political conflicts may actually prove to be an obstacle to peace and reconciliation. This consideration was behind the decision made by South Africa to deal with the legacy of apartheid with a Truth Commission rather than tribunals.
In contrast, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has by no means brought about reconciliation among the ethnic groups whose conflicts tore apart the Yugoslav Federation. If anything, the ICTY has aggravated resentment among all parties to the conflicts and brought satisfaction to none. Serbs feel abused by the pro-Muslim bias of the Tribunal. Bosnian Muslims, on the other hand, have been persuaded by that bias that they were the sole victims, not of a civil war, but of “genocide”, and therefore feel that their adversaries have not been sufficiently punished. Croats celebrate their ICTY-indicted officers as national heroes.
Nor has the “example” of bringing a former head of State to trial (the late Slobodan Milosevic, who died after a marathon trial before he could complete his defense) noticeably served to deter other conflicts in the world.
In reality, the main deterrent to conflict is fear of losing. Those who lose are sure to face unpleasant consequences, among which appearing before an international court may not be the worst. In international affairs, justice is bound to be “victor’s justice” one way or another, since only the strong can arrest the weak and put them on trial.
There are two kinds of international criminal courts, one which has always existed, and one which is an ideal. The one which has always existed is the court of the victors who judge the vanquished. After World War II, the victorious powers set up Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Nuremberg, if not Tokyo, was widely accepted as just, since Nazi Germany was clearly guilty of the “crime of aggression”, which the Nuremberg tribunal defined as “ the supreme international crime” that “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Nevertheless, Nuremberg was retroactive justice, contrary to judicial norms, since the crimes were defined as such after the fact. But to support the claim that this was not mere “victors’ justice” but the foundation of a new era of legality outlawing war, chief Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson promised that the United States would not establish rules without being willing to have them applied to itself. But this promise was never kept.
In the early 1950s, the United Nations General Assembly took initial steps toward codification of crimes against peace and establishment of a permanent international penal tribunal. It was always understood that the legal basis for such a tribunal would be an international Treaty. The establishment of such a tribunal was blocked by refusal of the Great Powers to grant such a tribunal jurisdiction over their own citizens.
Then, in the early 1990s, the U.S. government came up with the idea of an ad hoc
international tribunal to try Saddam Hussein. Instead, the idea was applied to the Yugoslav conflict, aimed at Serb leaders.
The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia circumvented the treaty process. It was a top-down institution set up by the Great Powers, using the U.N. Security Council, in order to judge citizens of smaller, weaker countries. The legal basis for such a creation had to be invented. By Resolution 827 of 25 May 1993 establishing the ICTY, the Security Council gave itself the right to set up a judicial body thanks to a broad interpretation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter giving it the right to “take measures” and “set up subsidiary bodies” to maintain or restore international peace and security. As a “subsidiary body”, the Tribunal remained under the influence of the Great Powers.
The official purpose of maintaining “international peace and security” was essentially a verbal trick to enable the Security Council to set up a tribunal and thereby forego proper diplomatic procedure. The “supreme crime against peace” was not included among the crimes to be prosecuted, which were modeled on U.S. procedures against organized crime. In practice, the Tribunal has been used for the political
purpose of reducing adversaries to the status of common criminals. Far from helping to maintain peace, it has been used to justify the NATO war of aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Michael Scharf, an American law professor and U.S. State Department advisor on “war crimes issues”, who played a major role in establishing procedures both for the ICTY and for the subsequent trial of Saddam Hussein, has described U.S. motives as “less than pure”:
America's chief Balkans negotiator at the time, Richard Holbrooke, has acknowledged that the tribunal was widely perceived within the government as little more than a public relations device and as a potentially useful policy tool. [...] Indictments also would serve to isolate offending leaders diplomatically, strengthen the hand of their domestic rivals and fortify the international political will to employ economic sanctions or use force. Indeed, while the United States and Britain initially thought an indictment of Milosevic might interfere with the prospects of peace, it later became a useful tool in their efforts to demonize
the Serbian leader and maintain public support for NATO's bombing campaign against Serbia, which was still underway when the indictment was handed down.
In short, the ICTY was a tool for war, not for peace. In practice, mere indictment for “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”, without need for trial or conviction, can be a major political weapon. In the case of Yugoslavia, it served to demonize
the chosen adversary of the United States and to justify first economic sanctions, then U.S. military aggression and finally “regime change”. An “indicted war criminal” becomes a pariah that can no longer represent his nation in negotiations.
The ICTY’s first chief Prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, was chosen on the basis of his work presiding investigation of police and army abuses for the South African Truth Commission, where the objective was reconciliation. In contrast, for Bosnia, Goldstone explicitly gave priority to the desire for vengeance on the part of the victims. “The victims of the Yugoslav war want legal vengeance,” he declared in mid-1996. “For us the victims are the most important”. The victims “should decide what is appropriate”.
By victims, Goldstone meant one ethnic group, the Bosnian Muslims. While Bosnian victims demanded revenge, Goldstone said, South African blacks were satisfied with a truth commission. He concluded that this was due to a “big difference between apartheid and genocide in the extent of the crime”. Apartheid in South Africa wasn’t
so bad, because “there were never systematic mass rapes, people there were not killed in order to get rid of an entire people, but for political motives.” This astonishing comparison is not only highly questionable in itself (the civil war in Bosnia was basically a conflict over control of territory, with victims on all sides), it implies that an ethnic group considering itself a collective victim has the right to choose between vengeance and reconciliation, regardless of broader social consequences.
Such a “victim-centered” justice is extremely favorable to the prosecution and unfavorable to the defense. In the name of “the victims” the ICTY limited the rights of the defense to a degree that amounts to a dangerous precedent. In reality, a victim-centered justice creates its own victims: those who are unjustly accused and who cannot be properly defended because fair and thorough defense may be rejected as offensive to the presumed victims.
The institution set up on the pretext of promoting “international peace and security” relegated peace to second place after a “justice” it was incapable of providing. Peace may require efforts to understand the reasons of the other side and to work for mutual understanding and compromise. The slogan “no peace without justice” can be the call for an endless cycle of vengeance.
The purpose of judicial process in criminal matters is not solely to avenge victims and punish wrong-doing. It should also be a way to protect defendants from false accusation. This requires basing judgments heavily on material evidence. Any proper criminal court must require the prosecution and enable the defense to gather and present exhaustive material evidence. Particularly in a bitter civil war situation, oral testimony is likely to be biased. Witnesses may be more eager to harm the enemy than to stick to the facts. ICTY proceedings have often rested essentially on oral testimony, sometimes by “protected witnesses” whose identities are kept secret, limiting the ability of the defense to challenge accusations in cross examination.
All along, the ICTY has been heavily dependent on the U.S. government, which sponsored its creation and has provided it with personnel, financial support and other resources. U.S. intelligence sources have provided the information used to formulate indictments, in particular the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic during the NATO bombing. The Tribunal changes procedures as it goes along, often to facilitate the prosecution. Individuals convicted by the Tribunal have no recourse to any other court of appeals but another chamber of the same Tribunal.
Selective justice: NATO and Milosevic
The NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia initiated on March 24, 1999, were in flagrant violation of international law on numerous counts. Yugoslavia was attacked, without any mandate from the U.N. Security Council, although it did not threaten any country, and declared willingness to negotiate extensive autonomy for its Kosovo province. NATO bombers, especially the United States, increasingly struck civilian targets in an open effort to demoralize the population. The NATO action violated virtually every relevant international convention and treaty as well as several national Constitutions.
On May 7, an international team of lawyers headed by Canadian law professor Michael Mandel submitted a brief to the ICTY, accusing U.S. and other NATO officials of war crimes including “wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity, attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings”. The ICTY dismissed the charges without investigation.
Instead, the Tribunal indicted the leaders of the country subjected to aggression. On May 27, the Canadian prosecutor Louise Arbour formally charged President Slobodan Milosevic and other senior officials in the Yugoslav and Serbian governments for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Kosovo. Ms Arbour’s indictment was based on material she had just received the day before from the U.S. government. The charges against the Yugoslav leaders were provided by a special U.S. intelligence unit called the “Interagency Balkan Task Force”, housed at the CIA with input from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the State Department.
The U.S. government was naturally extremely interested in obtaining this indictment as a justification of its own bombing campaign, which at that very moment was causing increased civilian casualties and public misgivings at home. “The indictment confirms that our war is just”, President Clinton declared.
From the ICTY to the ICC
The ICTY presents itself as a pioneer of international penal law and forerunner of the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC). There are, however, basic differences. The ICC was established though accepted legal procedure. Unlike the ad hoc
tribunals, the ICC is intended to be universal. The provisional absence of the United States among the signatories to the Rome Statute precludes U.S. control for the time being, although U.S. influence is evident in the drafting of the Statute and remains a political fact of international life.
The ICC is hailed by many jurists as a qualitative improvement over the ad hoc
This is certainly true, but many basic problems remain unsolved. There is no authentic justice that is not applied equally to all. The ICC is unable to do so. Two aspects of the ICC statutes directly continue the practice of the ICTY. For one, according to Article 16, the UN Security Council has the power to impede or suspend initiatives by the Prosecution. In practice, this is almost certain to ensure the ongoing impunity of the Great Powers, as well as of their most favored clients. Secondly, according to Article 116, the ICC can be financed by voluntary contributions from Governments, international organizations, private individuals, corporations and other entities. Those with the means to pay will tend to determine the choice of cases brought before court.
And as if this were not enough, the United States has not only refused to ratify the ICC but has notoriously pressured over one hundred governments into granting U.S. citizens blanket immunity for any future crimes, in Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs).
Finally, no court can function without a police force. Since it has no independent international police force in its service, the ICC remains dependent on the relationship of forces, which amounts to a sort of “victors’ justice”.
The ICTY was able to use NATO as its police force. On 9 May, 1996, the ICTY prosecution signed a memorandum of understanding with the NATO supreme command in Europe covering practical aspects of NATO assistance and delivery of suspects. Now, if a criminal court requires a police force, to arrest suspects and provide material evidence, a police force requires a criminal court, to legitimatize its repressive activities. Thus, if the Tribunal needed NATO, NATO needed the Tribunal in order to complete its transformation from a traditional military alliance into a “humanitarian” world police. When NATO commits war crimes, who can be sent to arrest NATO? Nobody, obviously.
Moreover, an international tribunal simply lacks the political or financial means to deal with all the various crimes committed in the course of conflicts around the world. Serious detective work at a long distance, sifting truth from lies in distant countries torn by civil conflict is a mammoth, not to say impossible, task. Inevitably, a few spectacular cases will be singled out, probably in accordance with the consent of Great Powers, the public interest created by mass media attention and the sources of financial support. In short, despite the best intentions of its collaborators, an international criminal
tribunal is almost certain to turn into an international political
tribunal that stages show trials of scapegoats.
The basic problem is more subtle than outright interference by outside powers. Although the ICC Statute formally upholds the “presumption of innocence”, all the details point to a Court whose job is not meant to sort out the innocent from the guilty, but to punish the (presumed) guilty. Politically, the creation of the ICC responds to demands of various NGOs, given great resonance by Bosnia and especially Rwanda, to “end impunity” and to comfort victims. The underlying political assumption is that both the criminals and the victims can be easily identified prior to trial -- the trial being more a demonstration of the concern of the international community for justice than the search for a justice, and a truth, that may be elusive or seriously contested.
Like the ad hoc
tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the ICC, despite its title, is not essentially set up to deal with international
conflicts, but rather to administer “international” justice to internal conflicts, in countries too weak to resist its authority.
Thus it is highly significant that the main argument in favor of an international criminal court has been the need to punish famous perpetrators of essentially internal
crimes such as General Pinochet and Pol Pot. Yet either their own countries could punish them (as seemed possible in Chile), or if not, international prosecution is not certain to convince the population most concerned. The focus on “evil dictators”, isolated from the geopolitical context that produced and supported them (the United States backed General Pinochet’s putsch, and continued to support Pol Pot more or less openly after the Vietnamese drove him from power), enforces the dualistic view of an essentially good Western imperial condominium obliged to punish “bad” individuals who trouble the moral order.
The total impotence of the ICC to deal with the most dangerous crimes truly “of concern to the international community as a whole”, those that seriously threaten world peace, is most strikingly due to:
-- the fact that the crime of aggression is not covered;
-- the fact that the United States and its citizens are immune to prosecution, first of all because the United States has not ratified the ICC Statute, and secondly, because the United States has used its unprecedented economic and political clout to pressure countries into signing Bilateral Immunity Agreements that exempt Americans from prosecution.
Article 5 of the Rome Statute limits the jurisdiction of the Court to:
(a) The crime of genocide;
(b) Crimes against humanity;
(c) War crimes;
(d) The crime of aggression.
However, it goes on to specify that the Court “shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted [...] defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.” In short, the crime of aggression is for the time being exempted from the Court’s jurisdiction.
The formal reason is that aggression is “not defined”. This is a specious argument since aggression has been quite clearly defined by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3314 in 1974, which declared that: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State”, and listed seven specific examples including:
-- The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof;
-- Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the :territory of another State;
-- The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State...
The resolution also stated that: “No consideration of whatever nature, whether pollitical, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.” The real reason that aggression remains outside the jurisdiction of the ICC is that the United States, which played a strong role in elaborating the Statute, before refusing to ratify it, was adamantly opposed to its inclusion. It is not hard to see why.
It may be noted that instances of “aggression”, which are clearly factual, are much easier to identify than instances of “genocide”, whose definition relies on assumptions of intention.
Defenders of the ICC stress that “aggression” may be defined, and thus come under the active jurisdiction of the Court, at the Review Conference which should be held in 2009 to consider amendments. Even so, an amendment comes into force only one year after ratification by seven eighths of State Parties to the Statute, and applies only to State Parties (which so far notoriously do not include the United States). And should the United States turn around and choose to ratify the Statute, it may still declare that for a period of seven years it does not accept the jurisdiction of the Court for its nationals (Article 124). All this means that the earliest conceivable (but highly improbable) date when U.S. crimes, including aggression, might be brought under ICC jurisdiction would be 2017. Even then, there is scarcely any possibility that an American citizen, or any person acting on behalf of the United States, would end up in the dock at the ICC.
For one thing, the ICC must turn over jurisdiction to any State which proves “willing and able” to try the case in its own courts. Moreover, Article 16 allows the Security Council to suspend any ICC investigation or prosecution for a period of 12 months. The suspension can be renewed indefinitely. These days, the Security Council is generally viewed throughout the world as an instrument of U.S. policy. The BIAs would still apply. And incidentally, employing poison gases counts as a war crime, but not the use of nuclear weapons. In short, the ICC is established according to double standards to deal with small fry.
A court for “failed states”
Indeed, it is hard to see how the ICC can deal with any but extremely weak or “failed” States. According to Article 17, a case is not admissible unless the State concerned is genuinely “unwilling or unable” to investigate and prosecute it. The Court itself can determine whether the State concerned is “unwilling or unable”.
At this point, the scene grows very murky. The Democratic Republic of Congo cooperated in turning over the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to the ICC because he was a rebel against the State, and that troubled State has reason to want to be in the good graces of the ICC. But what if a State refuses, or shows itself “unwilling or unable” to pursue a case? What then? The ICC has no police force of its own. Will it then call on the Security Council to authorize arrest -- meaning military action on the territory of the “unwilling” State?
The preamble to the Rome Statute emphasizes that “nothing in this Statute shall be taken as authorizing any State Party to intervene in an armed conflict or in the internal affairs of any State”. But this seems to be contradicted by the provisions of the Statute itself in regard to “unwilling” States.
Rather than a Court to keep the peace, the ICC could turn out to be -- contrary to the wishes of its sincere supporters -- an instrument to provide pretexts for war.
 Michael Scharf, “Indicted for War Crimes, Then What?”, The Washington Post
, October 3, 1999.
 In July 1995, after the Tribunal indicted Radovan Karad i , Presiding Judge Antonio Cassese commented: “Let us see who will sit down at the negotiating table now with a man accused of genocide, that gentleman will not be able to take part in peace negotiations.” In March 2000, French magistrate Claude Jorda observed that the indictment of Karadzic
had served to exclude him from the Dayton negotiations and even definitively forced him out of political life.
 Interview in Wochenpost
, 6 June 1996.
 Interview in the Frankfurter Rundschau
, 22 August 1996.
 A demographic study for the ICTY released in September 2004 concluded that a total of 102,622 persons were killed in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina
. Even though a majority of about 68% were Muslim, these figures are more in line with a civil war than with “genocide”.
from George Kenney :
Date: 18 July 2008
Subject: Interview on environmental issues with Terry Tamminen.
This is the second of a two-part podcast series on environmental issues -- last week a conversation with Dr. Dennis Meadows about his systems theory analysis of limits to exponential growth, here a conversation with Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of the California EPA and a former senior advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger.
To be honest, given the choice between a theoretically pessimistic outlook and a pragmatically optimistic one, I'll choose the latter every time. Both, of course, are necessary, and what's especially interesting to me as a former bureaucrat is how different each mindset is from the other.
In carrying the subject over to Terry Tamminen, however, it didn't seem to be either appropriate or necessary to consider larger questions of limits as he is so focused on particular solutions. And, indeed, that's the only way we'll get out of the mess we're in, by taking practical solutions one step at a time.
I hope you enjoy this one. I think it's particularly good and I very much commend it to you.
As always, please pass along the link if you like.
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 18 July 2008
Subject: Who Can And Who Can't Have Nuclear Weapons?
Americans should question the assumption that the US has to be the most powerful nation on earth.
What's a rational American foreign policy?
Who Can And Who Can't Have Nuclear Weapons?
by Real News Video