Uh-oh

I added a comment to my post below that I decided I should put into a post in chief.  Remarking on the elevation of Argentina’s Cardinal Bergoglio to be Pope Francis, I wrote that I hope he will:

say the phrase “Malvinas/ Falklands” in a high-profile forum very soon. Another war between Britain and Argentina over the islands may not be particularly likely just now, but it is by no means impossible. And that a churchman who has so emphatically identified himself with Argentina’s claim to the islands should have been elevated to the papacy the day after the Falklanders voted almost unanimously to remain a UK territory does threaten to create the impression that the Vatican is something other than neutral regarding the dispute. Such an impression can do no good and could raise the potential for conflict from its current, rather low order of probability to a significant danger.

I made a similar remarks as a comment on Mark Shea’s blog.  I suspect that if Pope Francis waits more than a few hours to make it clear that he will not be bringing his nationalism with him onto the international stage he now occupies, any statement he makes later will inflame Argentine public opinion.

I’ll also link here to Michael Brendan Dougherty’s piece in Slate magazine expressing his reservations about Francis.  I’m not familiar with the issues Mr Dougherty raises, but it shares the crispness and force of all his writing.

Time and cartoons

In the comic books, Superman is quitting his day job as a newspaperman.  The company that publishes the Superman titles, DC Comics, explains that, as part of an effort to make the character more relevant to “the 21st century,” he will become- a blogger!  Evidently the part of the 21st century they want him to be relevant to is the part that ended about 6 years ago.

Nina Paley summarizes the history of the Levant in 3 minutes and 32 seconds of animation.

Despite what you’d expect from a webcomic with its name, Doghouse Diaries rarely deals with dogs.  Yesterday’s strip is therefore in rare company.

Neither Zach Weiner nor Randall Munroe is at all impressed with the level of statistical discourse in mass media.

 

The Nation, 17 September 2012

The current issue of The Nation carries a piece in which JoAnn Wypijewski remarks on the low probability that the rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be investigated in a proper fashion.  Ms Wypijewski points out that Mr Assange’s status as an enemy of the US national security state renders any criminal action taken against him suspect:

This is not about the particulars of oppression; it is about the political context of law, the limits of liberal expectations and the monstrosity of the state.

Liberals have no trouble generally acknowledging that in those [early twentieth century] rape cases against black men, the reasoned application of law was impossible. It was impossible because justice was impossible, foreclosed not by the vagaries of this white jury or that bit of evidence but by the totalizing immorality of white supremacy that placed the Black Man in a separate category of human being, without common rights and expectations. A lawyer might take a case if it hadn’t been settled by the mob, but the warped conscience of white America could do nothing but warp the law and make of its rituals a sham. The Scottsboro Boys might have been innocent or they might have been guilty; it didn’t matter, because either way the result would be the same.

With Assange, the political context is the totalizing immorality of the national security state on a global scale. The sex-crime allegations against Assange emerged in Sweden on August 20, 2010, approximately four and a half months after WikiLeaks blazed into the public sphere by releasing a classified video that showed a US Apache helicopter crew slaughtering more than a dozen civilians, including two journalists, in a Baghdad suburb. By that August, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the reputed source of the video and about 750,000 other leaked government documents, was being held without charge in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, subjected to what his attorney, David Coombs, describes in harrowing detail in a recent motion as “unlawful pretrial punishment.” In plain terms, Manning was tortured. He faces court-martial for aiding the enemy and has been denounced as a traitor by members of Congress.

I am not at all convinced that the charges against Mr Assange cannot be investigated and prosecuted fairly.  Ms Wypijewski acknowledges several times that the comparison with the Scottsboro Boys is inexact; in view of the level of support Mr Assange enjoys and the conditions of the criminal justice system in Sweden, it strikes me as, well, silly.  I do lament the fact that so many people seem to think that we must choose between support for Mr Assange’s anti-imperialist activities and support for the investigation of the charges that have been brought against him.  Not so very long ago, Western publics would have responded to the sequence of events Ms Wypijewski describes above with deep suspicion of the national security state, even as the case worked its way through the courts.  So, when in 2003 it was made public that Major Scott Ritter, then an outspoken critic of the invasion of Iraq, had been arrested on suspicion of soliciting sex from an underaged girl, the news proved more embarrassing to the Bush-Cheney administration than to Major Ritter himself.  Some years later, the major was proven guilty of similar charges, and sent to prison.  In the Ritter case, I see a model for a healthy public reaction to the Assange case.  By all means one should be suspicious; if the American people were still as jealous of their liberties as they were in 2003, the Obama administration would be experiencing a public relations nightmare as long as the case is pending.  But the case should nonetheless be handled in the best manner available to the criminal justice system, and if Mr Assange is guilty of the charges against him, it would be no injustice to punish him as Major Ritter has been punished.

The best manner available to the criminal justice system in this case may be far short of what we would hope, but, as Lissa Harris points out in an unforgettable piece on The Nation‘s website, that is so for virtually every rape case.  At the age of five, Ms Harris was raped on several occasions by a sadistic teenaged boy.  Apparently the facts became known to the authorities, but no charges were ever brought.  Over the years, Ms Harris has been presented with many explanations as to why they did not act.  What she considers most noteworthy is that while she knows many women and girls who have been raped, but cannot think of one whose assailant was sent to prison for the rape.  Not one.  So, while she is horrified by the prospect that the laws against rape will be rewritten by men like Congressman Todd Akin, who recently proclaimed that “legitimate rape” rarely produces pregnancy, Ms Harris admits that she cannot see how much damage men like Mr Akin can do to the criminal justice system when the system simply does not function most of the time.  She argues that ideologies thrive on both left and right that allow us to turn a blind eye to rape, to minimize rape, to accept as normal a status quo in which the rapist faces little risk of punishment and the women and girls he has attacked can expect little support and less  respect.

In the same issue, a cartoon pokes fun at novelist-cum-ideologist Ayn Rand.  Rand did make a couple of contributions that I find valuable; I’m fond of the expression “anti-concept,” a term she introduced and defined as “an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding.”  Mr Akin’s immortal phrase “legitimate rape” comes to mind under this heading; unnecessary and rationally unusable, it may well enable a person indoctrinated in one of the rape-minimizing ideologies Ms Harris calls out to replace and obliterate a realistic understanding of rape with some vague approximation that makes it impossible to imagine useful action against it.

One of the examples Rand gave of an anti-concept was the term “isolationist.”  This term, never a self-description adopted by any political movement, was used in the late 1930s and early 1940s by advocates of US intervention in the Second World War to label their opponents.  Since the interventionists eventually had their way and, by most people’s lights, it is just as well that they did, the term has continued to be useful in the decades since as a means of smearing and belittling all anti-war and anti-imperial voices, especially those that emanate from right of center.  I bring this up because the issue carries Jackson Lears’ review of Christopher McKnight Nichols’ Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age.  On its face, the term “isolationist” is absurd.  Nothing could be more isolating than a habit of bombing, invading, and occupying countries; the neighborhood bully is always the most isolated of figures.  Mr Nichols writes a history of American anti-imperialism starting with those who opposed war with Spain in 1898 and leading to those who tried to prevent the rise of a permanent war economy after the First World War.  Mr Lears focuses on the book’s depictions of William James, Randolph Bourne, and Senator William Borah.

Cap and gown, helmet and uniform

Anthropologist David Price contributes an article (subscriber-only link, sorry) to the latest issue of Counterpunch.  Under the title “Resistance’s Half-Life: Militarization and the Growing Academic Silence,” Professor Price contrasts the widespread refusal of American anthropologists to join military-sponsored research projects during the 1960s with the far more compliant attitude of their counterparts today.  Professor Price’s narrative begins in 1965, when sociologist Johan Galtung, then director of  the Institute of Peace Research in Oslo, publicized Project Camelot, a plan under which social scientists would work under the direction of US military and intelligence officials to produce a study of insurgent movements and counterinsurgent operations in Latin America and elsewhere.  In response to Professor Galtung’s efforts, both Latin American public opinion and US academic associations demanded, and received, official assurances from the Johnson administration that Project Camelot would be canceled and that the warmaking organs of the Washington regime would not use scholarly research as a pretext for activities “which in the judgment of the Secretary of State would adversely affect United States foreign relations.”

Later attempts by the military and intelligence agencies to press social science into the service of covert operations met with equally strong resistance.  Professor Price illustrates the resistance defense contractors were likely to encounter from social scientists with a series of highly amusing quotations from an exchange between sociologist Pierre van den Berghe and the late Hans Weigert, in which Professor van den Berghe patiently explains why he would regard it as unethical for a scholar to conduct intelligence work for the United States in the Congolese Republic, while Weigert responds with name-calling.

Professor Price reports:

Because I have written about the militarization of anthropology since the mid-1990s, after the post-9/11 recruitment renaissance began, I often received copies of recruitment emails forwarded to me along with the angry replies that scholars had sent to the unwanted solicitors. I have a file of these forwarded angry replies from 2004-2008, when these feelers from the military and contractors were seen by many as shocking. Sometimes a single recruitment emailing would be forwarded to me by a dozen concerned scholars. These were then new, previously unthinkable proposals, shocking that they were made so openly and broadly circulated. In many cases, the approached anthropologists vented spleen in ways reminiscent to Van den Berghe’s above response, giving history and ethics lessons to would-be recruiters – who I’m sure generally did not read past the first few lines of anger and deleted the replies, or perhaps deleted the sender from an e-list. Certainly no minds were changed from these responses, but the reaction measured the outrage many anthropologists felt over these disciplinary border intrusions. In some instances it is possible to deduce having obviously taken the contract.

In the last four years, these messages have ceased to come Professor Price’s way.  He draws an ominous conclusion from this silence.  US society has become thoroughly militarized; “there has been a shift in the acceptance that these military and intelligence intrusions into our daily lives are now a normal feature of our world. These military advances into academia have become regular features of our social fabric. These are the social facts of a militarized society.”  Perhaps it no longer occurs to scholars that they have an obligation to something other than the dictates of the national security apparatus.

Professor Price quotes a phrase coined by anthropologist Catherine Lutz: “the military normal.”  Professor Price describes the military normal as “the ubiquitous spread of the military into all aspects of American daily life and consciousness, advancing at such a rate that we internalize the militarization of everything from police departments, hiring practices, educational processes, discussions of healthcare, workplace regimentations, to an extent where the militarization of everything becomes a normal part of our cultural fabric in ways we hardly notice anymore.”  Professor Lutz herself described it in these terms in the abstract of the paper where she introduced the phrase:

Prevailing mainstream media discussions of the counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a deeply restricted kind of range, focusing on how the wars are being .fought, or should be fought – with what tactics, for how long, and with what level of “success.” The pundits, with the populace in tow, debate whether the military is stretched too thin, well-enough resourced or not, or in need of tens of thousands more troops to do the job. They do not ask more fundamental questions about the US military, history’s most powerful and most globally expansive in its positioning. This talk considers the emergence of what can be called the military normal in World War II and its wake, the contemporary political economy of the military, as well as the cultural understandings that currently legitimate it.

Professor Price complains of a growing silence that has resulted from the rise of “the military normal.”  Both of these descriptions make it clear that the silence is a natural consequence of this process.  The heart of the process itself is the reverse of silence.  The military and the intelligence agencies can carry on their operations and the moneyed elite that controls the US political system can reap profits from those operations untroubled by public opposition even if scholars speak out against them, if the public is not in the habit of listening to critical voices.  Silence is what we experience when we listen in quietness; what our warlords wish on us is not quietness, but noise, constant, deafening noise, noise sufficient to knock all impertinent questions and inconvenient qualms out of our heads.  Cable television, talk radio, the internet, and other outlets of prefabricated opinion produce a great deal of noise, and often suffice to drown out the unfamiliar voices that present us with complex, closely reasoned, ethically challenging arguments.

Surely, however, that sort of noise is not adequate by itself to drive scholars to abandon ethical standards based on ideals of disinterested inquiry and service to a truth that exists independently of national allegiance or corporate profit  and take up positions as functionaries of a warmaking regime.  A different kind of noise is necessary to bury those ideals so deeply that they no longer trouble the mind of the potential recruit.  Professor Price touches on this kind of noise at the end of his article.  Listing the developments that have discouraged scholars from holding to principles that would lead them to refuse war contacts and speak out against them, he includes “three decades of neoliberal programs’ impacts on student loan debt, campus austerity programs, and new promises of military funding.”  Scholars working in American universities from the 1960s through the 1990s may have had many realistic possibilities of making a living.  A scholar who would not subject his or her research project to the warmaking ambitions of the power elite might in those days have been confident that other, more peaceful opportunities would present themselves.

Today, the noise that rings through the halls of the American academy is the noise of desperation.  Every year, graduate schools produce more Ph. D.s; virtually every year, universities hire fewer faculty members.  The newly minted doctors of philosophy generally enter the glutted labor market saddled with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.  Therefore, the alternative facing an academic today is rarely between ethically acceptable and ethically unacceptable work.  Rather, the academic must choose, on the one hand, to making himself or herself agreeable to whoever might be in a position to grant the favor of a career, or, on the the other hand, to vanish from the academic world and sink into a life of poverty.   When noise like that is battering away at one’s mind, it can be difficult indeed to hear the voice of conscience.

Mr O’s “anti-nuclear imperialism”

Let me tell you about a better way, a way that protects the purity of our precious bodily fluids.

The late September issue of Counterpunch (available to subscribers here; the newsletter’s website is here) includes a fine article by Darwin Bond-Graham titled “The Obama Administration’s Nuclear Weapons Surge.”  While Mr O has made many remarks declaring that nuclear weapons are bad and the world would be better off without them, he has in fact “worked vigorously to commit the nation to a multi-hundred-billion-dollar reinvestment in nuclear weapons, mapped out over the next three decades.”  Bond-Graham analyzes the New START agreement between the USA and Russia.  Though the publicity surrounding New START presented it as an arms-reduction treaty, Bond-Graham contends that it is nothing of the kind.  “On balance, the nominal reductions in nuclear weapons required by New START are insignificant when compared to the multibillion-dollar nuclear (and strategic non-nuclear) weapons programs committed to in the treaty’s text.”  Indeed, Bond-Graham classifies New START as an “arms-affirmation treaty.”  Mr O and his allies in the upper echelons of the congressional Democratic leadership were able to market New START as a disarmament agreement and to enlist the support of Americans who usually oppose nuclear weapons, even though “the treaty does not actually require the destruction of a single nuclear warhead.”  Bond-Graham also goes into depth on various other programs through which Mr O has managed to increase spending on nuclear weapons, to reorient the USA’s nuclear weapons programs towards potential use in conflict, and to strip away inhibitions against nuclear first strikes by the USA.

For Bond-Graham, Mr O’s anti-nuclear public statements not only represent a rhetorical device to “neutralize”  the “anti-nuclear and antiwar groups that so effectively exposed [George W.] Bush’s plans” to pursue policies similar to those of the current administration, but also constitute the foundation of a strategic orientation that Bond-Graham dubs “anti-nuclear imperialism.”  This orientation, ostensibly based on abhorrence of nuclear weapons, in fact promotes the development, maintenance, and deployment of such weapons.  Remember the claims that the Bush-Cheney administration made about Saddam Hussein’s alleged “Weapons of Mass Destruction” programs in 2002-2003, and the meaning of the phrase “anti-nuclear imperialism” becomes all too clear.

Of what narrative is the US Civil War a chapter?

A couple of days ago, I found a mass mailing from the libertarian Independent Institute in my inbox.  It included these paragraphs:

The 150th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the U.S. Civil War

April 12 marked the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War, when Confederates fired on U.S. troops holding Fort Sumter, in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. Although people routinely succumb to the temptation to reduce the cause of the war to a single factor (e.g., to the slavery issue or to “states’ rights”), the cause was more complex. Independent Institute Research Fellow Joseph R. Stromberg discusses one causal factor that often gets short shrift in public discourse (although he cites many historians who support his analysis): interest groups with material, rather than ideological, stakes in promoting the war.

Antislavery, Stromberg writes, “was one of many themes generally serving as the stalking horse for more practical causes.” The Republican Party Platform of 1860, for example, focused less on antislavery grievances than on proposals designed to benefit northeastern financial and manufacturing interests and Midwestern and western farmers–policies that would have become harder to implement if southern states were allowed to secede. Lest he overgeneralize, Stromberg hastens to add that northern trading and manufacturing interests that bought from the suppliers of southern cotton–”the petroleum of the mid-nineteenth century,” as he puts it–were aware that they would face severe disruptions if war broke out.

In a post on The Beacon, Independent Institute Research Editor Anthony Gregory argues that April 12, 1861, also marks the date of the federal government’s repudiation of the Founders’ vision of the American republic and the birth of Big Government. “The war ushered in federal conscription, income taxes, new departments and agencies, and the final victory of the Hamiltonians over the Jeffersonians…. Slavery could have been ended peacefully, to be sure, but ending slavery was not Lincoln’s motivation in waging the war–throughout which this purely evil institution was protected by the federal government in the Union states that practiced it, and during which slaves liberated from captivity by U.S. generals were sent back to their Southern ‘masters.’”

“Civil War and the American Political Economy,” by Joseph R. Stromberg (The Freeman, April 2011)

“The Regime’s 150th Birthday,” by Anthony Gregory (The Beacon, 4/12/11)

“The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate,” an Independent Policy Forum featuring Harry V. Jaffa and Thomas J. DiLorenzo (5/7/02)

“The Civil War: Liberty and American Leviathan,” an Independent Policy Forum featuring Henry E. Mayer and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (11/14/99)

“The Bloody Hinge of American History,” by Robert Higgs (Liberty, May 1997)

It’s true enough that “people routinely succumb to the temptation to reduce the cause of the war to a single factor… the cause was more complex.”  Though I would not disagree with this statement, I would go on to say something subtly different as well.  Much public discussion of the US Civil War turns on a rather odd question.  This question is, “Of what narrative is the US Civil War a chapter?”

As the press release above suggests, libertarians tend to say that the war was a chapter in a narrative titled “The Growing Power of the Nation-State in the Mid-Nineteenth Century.”  Anthony Gregory’s description of the powers which the federal government first exercised during the war, and never renounced, gives an idea of the structure of this narrative.  Right-wing libertarians like Gregory focus on the conflict between the growing power of the nation-state and the unregulated operations of the free market, while left-wing libertarians like Joseph Stromberg point out that no unregulated free market has ever existed and focus instead on the role of the nation-state in forming the economic elites that actually have wielded power throughout history.

Most other Americans tend to say that the US Civil War was a chapter in a narrative titled “The Rise and Fall of Human Slavery.”  In this narrative, the United States figures as the champion of Emancipation and the Confederate States figure as the champions of Enslavement.  This story elides the facts that Gregory and others point out, that six slave states remained in the Union, that federal forces enforced slavery in the South throughout 1862, and that President Lincoln took office vowing to leave slavery alone.  However, it is undoubtedly true that all the Confederate states were slave states and that its leaders bound themselves time and again to defend and promote slavery, while the United States did eventually move to abolish the institution.

It should be obvious that the question, “Of what narrative is the US Civil War a chapter?,” is a meaningless one.  Of course the Civil War is a chapter of “The Growing Power of the Nation-State in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” of course it is a chapter of “The Rise and Fall of Human Slavery,” of course it is a chapter of any number of other narratives.  Why, then, is this nonsensical question agitated so intensely?

I blame the schools.  More precisely, I blame the tradition of presenting history to students as a grand narrative.  It’s natural for people who have spent a decade or so of their early life hearing history presented as a single grand narrative to go on assuming that every story is part of one, and only one, larger story.  Perhaps schools must present history this way; if so, I would say that it is a point in favor of a proposal left-libertarian thinker Albert Jay Nock made early in the last century.  Nock recommended that schools should teach mathematics “up to the quadratic equation,” Greek and Latin, and a course in formal logic.  Equipped with this training, students would be able to educate themselves in everything else, with some here and there finding it possible to benefit from association with some advanced scholar.

Be that as it may, in US schools, the grand narrative of history is usually packaged under some label like “The Story of Freedom.”  The word “freedom” in these labels raises the question “freedom from what”?  For libertarians, the freedom most urgently needed today is freedom from state bureaucracy.  In the story of that freedom, the US Civil War cannot but figure as a vast reverse.  For others, the freedom most urgently needed today is freedom from white supremacy.  In the story of that freedom, the war may appear as an advance, albeit a rather problematic one.  For still others, the freedom most urgently needed today is the individual’s freedom from domination by irresponsible private interests, whether employers, families, or other groups in civil society.  In the story of that freedom, the war stands as a moment of triumph, perhaps the supreme moment in American history.

Few would say that the freedom most urgently needed by the United States today is freedom from foreign domination, but I would point out that if the war had ended differently this need might very well be felt very keenly indeed.  When the war broke out, Southern leaders claimed that their cause was the defense of slavery, while Lincoln disavowed any plan to interfere with slavery.  By the end of the war, Southern leaders were discoursing earnestly about the theory of state sovereignty, while Lincoln declared that “if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another, drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”  What remained constant through all this flip-flopping was the Northern intention to protect the domestic US market with a high tariff, while the South wanted to trade on equal terms with the industrial centers of the North and those of Britain.  The world economy being what it was in the mid-nineteenth century, a nominally independent Confederate States of America would likely have been drawn into Britain’s economic sphere, and thus into the orbit of the British Empire.  We should therefore add “US Resistance to the British Empire” to the list of narratives in which the US Civil War figures as a chapter.

The inheritors

In the 1980s, I was a teenager living down the street from a used bookstore.   My view of the world was shaped by the paperbacks available there for 85¢ and less.  Many of those were political books from 15 or 20 years before. Among them was Peter Mansfield‘s book Nasser’s Egypt, a general survey of Egypt as Mansfield saw it the late 1960s that depicted President Nasser, his pan-Arabist ideology, and the centralized economic planning of his government with the utmost sympathy.  Other political books I found at the same store depicted Nasser less favorably, but even those that presented him very negatively could not suppress all romanticism in describing the ambitions of his program and the dashing quality of his personality.

In the days when I was reading these books, the American mass media were lionizing Anwar Sadat.  From the moment President Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel, he was presented to the American public as an apostle of humanity who embodied hope for peace in the Middle East.  When the movie Gandhi was a hit, Hollywood followed up with a series of other biographical epics about history’s great peacemakers; Sadat, starring Lou Gossett, Junior, was the first.  Indeed, Sadat and Mahatma Gandhi figured in the US media as exact equivalents in those days.

Considering that he came to office in the shadow of two men who inspired so much legend, it is hardly surprising that Hosni Mubarak has been seen in America as a bland placeholder.  Indeed, the most flattering thing I’ve ever read about President Mubarak in a major US publication called him “Egypt’s Gerald Ford,” a man who was his country’s leader today for the sole reason that he happened to have been kicked upstairs to the vice presidency when President Sadat wanted to get him out of the way and appoint a new defense minister.

Therefore, Egypt’s three modern presidents figure in my imagination as dramatically different figures: Nasser the tragic hero, Sadat the secular saint, Mubarak the afterthought.  It always jolts me when I see people bracketing the three together.  I know that from the perspective of many Egyptians the current regime seems like a rancid thing that’s been stinking up their country since 1952, but when I read phrases like “Nasir-Sadat-Mubarak continuum” I always scratch my head.

Another book I found at the same store was Eric L. McKitrick‘s Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South.  A line of McKitrick’s reproduced on the back cover convinced me to buy it:  “Nothing is more susceptible to oblivion than an argument, however ingenious, that has been discredited by events.”  None of the pro-slavery documents McKitrick found put forth an argument that I would call especially ingenious, though several of them did manage to raise awkward questions about the economic system of the states in which laborers were nominally free.  Still, I think McKitrick makes a vital point.  If some Southern apologist had constructed a truly brilliant argument in defense of slavery, the fact that no serious person is today looking for any such argument would likely mean that the apologist’s work would be forgotten.

The same applies to other arguments.  Whatever its drawbacks, Nasser’s pan-Arabism had  far more to recommend it than did the practice of slavery in the United States.  Yet it too is a spent force, one which has left many monuments but which no longer attracts followers.  President Mubarak’s career is one of those monuments; his administration’s evident lack of public support shows that he has long since exhausted whatever political inheritance may have been left from Nasser when he took office decades ago. Of course, the events that discredited pan-Arabism took place long before Mubarak came to power.  By 1981, Syria had been out of the United Arab Republic for twenty years, and North Yemen had been out of the United Arab States for as long.  The June 1967 war with Israel would bury pan-Arabism, but the collapse of these federations may have marked its real death.  The case for pan-Arabism, no matter its abstract appeal, could not survive these events.

If nothing is more susceptible to oblivion than an argument discredited by events, surely the converse is true as well.  Nothing is less susceptible to oblivion than an ideology, however asinine, that has inspired a winning cause and given many people opportunities to become rich.  I suspect that many of the ideas which still have currency and power in world affairs are at least as weak as pan-Arabism.  Indeed, if we were to examine them in the abstract we would find that many forms of nationalism and internationalism have the same logical structure as pan-Arabism.

(more…)

The Higher Cannibalism

On 16 December 2010, Swiss Senator Dick Marty presented to the Council of Europe a report that he had been commissioned to make.  Senator Marty demonstrated that the government of Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, operates a network of “clinics” in which ethnic Serbs and other political prisoners are routinely killed.  Their organs are removed and sold on an international black market.

The Marty Report has barely been noticed in US media.  News outlets that in 1999 were flooded with tales of atrocities that Serbs were supposed to be committing against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have been entirely silent.  If it weren’t for notices of the Marty Report in Alexander Cockburn’s column in The Nation, in Cockburn’s newsletter Counterpunch, and on Antiwar.com, even so devoted a reader of news as your humble correspondent would have missed the story completely.

Remembering Tuli Kupferberg

This reference by Tsaurah Litzky prompted me to look up Tuli Kupferberg‘s song “Go Fuck Yourself With Your Atom Bomb.”  There was something startling about all the popup windows inviting me to download “Go Fuck Yourself With Your Atom Bomb” as a ringtone.  The youtube post below is a radio conversation with still photos.  I found a transcript of the conversation here.

It’s interesting to me that the caller tries to use the same psychologizing explanations to dismiss Tuli’s anti-militarism that Tuli uses to jeer at militarism.

A peace movement begins in Afghanistan

Truthout has a report about a movement that started among peace-minded young people in central Afghanistan and that is beginning to attract followers elsewhere.  Here’s a quote:

In the United States, we may find it hard to believe that anything good can actually come out of Afghanistan, or we may have fallen into a trap of thinking that Afghans cannot accomplish anything useful without foreign aid and assistance. I confess that I struggle to live outside the shadow of this narrow-mindedness and ethno-centrism. Certainly, if the scope of our imaginations is limited by CNN and Fox News, we would not be likely to imagine an indigenous peace group forming in Bamiyan Province. But this is exactly what has happened.

More information is available here and here and here.

 

 

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