Volume 17, Number 2
Mary Robinson: Grass Roots Democracy Can Work
Family Values, Florida Style
Keeping Haiti Poor: Dictators not Democracy
Attack of the Wildmon
Bad Conscience and Worse Prospects
The Tools of Extermination
Letter to the Editor
Tony Mazzocchi, ïLabor GuyÍ
The United States and Iraq: The Lessons of History
Tomorrow All the Speeches Will Fade
The Push for War
What the US Administration Hopes to Gain
EditorÍs Note: Anatol LievenÍs article breaks the record„ it is Common SenseÍs longest article in 16 years. We believe it is definitive in exposing the range of interests behind President BushÍs ñPush for War.î
The most surprising thing about the Bush AdministrationÍs plan to invade Iraq is not that it is destructive of international order; or wicked, when we consider the role the US (and Britain) have played, and continue to play, in the Middle East; or opposed by the great majority of the international community; or seemingly contrary to some of the basic needs of the war against terrorism. It is all of these things, but they are of no great concern to the hardline nationalists in the Administration. This group has suffered at least a temporary check as a result of the British insistence on UN involvement, and Saddam HusseinÍs agreement to weapons inspections. They are, however, still determined on war „ and their power within the Administration and in the US security policy world means that they are very likely to get their way. Even the Washington Post has joined the radical rightist media in supporting war.
The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless. If I had to put money on it, IÍd say that the odds on quick success in destroying the Iraqi regime may be as high as 5/1 or more, given US military superiority, the vile nature of Saddam HusseinÍs rule, the unreliability of BaghdadÍs missiles, and the deep divisions in the Arab world. But at first sight, the longer-term gains for the US look pretty limited, whereas the consequences of failure would be catastrophic. A general Middle Eastern conflagration and the collapse of more pro-Western Arab states would lose us the war against terrorism, doom untold thousands of Western civilians to death in coming decades, and plunge the world economy into depression. These risks are not only to American (and British) lives and interests, but to the political future of the Administration. If the war goes badly wrong, it will be more generally excoriated than any within living memory, and its members will be finished politically „ finished for good. If no other fear moved these people, youÍd have thought this one would.
This war plan is not like the intervention in Vietnam, which at the start was supported by a consensus of both political parties, the Pentagon, the security establishment and the media. It is true that today „ for reasons to which I shall return „ the Democrats are mostly sitting on the fence; but a large part of the old Republican security establishment has denounced the idea and the Pentagon has made its deep unhappiness very clear.
The Administration has therefore been warned of the dangers. And while a new attack by al-Qaida during the war would help consolidate anti-Muslim American nationalism, the Administration would also be widely accused of having neglected the hunt for the perpetrators of 11 September in order to pursue an irrelevant vendetta. As far as the Israeli lobby is concerned, a disaster in the Middle East might be the one thing that would at last bring a discussion of its calamitous role into the open in the US.
With the exception of Donald Rumsfeld, who conveniently did his military service in the gap between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, neither Bush nor any of the other prime movers of this war served in the military. Of course, General Colin Powell served in Vietnam, but he is well known to be extremely dubious about attacking Iraq. All the others did everything possible to avoid service. If the war goes wrong, the chicken hawk charge will be used against them with devastating political effect.
Vietnam veterans, both Democrat and Republican, have already started to raise this issue, stirred up in part by the insulting language used by Richard Perle and his school about the caution of the professional military. As a recent letter to the Washington Post put it, ïthe men described as chicken hawks avoided military service during the Vietnam War while supporting that war politically. They are not accused of lacking experience and judgment compared to military men. They are accused of hypocrisy and cowardice.Í Given the political risks of failure „ to themselves, above all „ why are they doing this? And, more broadly, what has bred this reckless spirit?
To understand the AdministrationÍs motivation, it is necessary to appreciate the breathtaking scope of the domestic and global ambitions which the dominant neo-conservative nationalists hope to further by means of war, and which go way beyond their publicly stated goals. There are of course different groups within this camp: some are more favourable to Israel, others less hostile to China; not all would support the most radical aspects of the programme. However, the basic and generally agreed plan is unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority, and this has been consistently advocated and worked on by the group of intellectuals close to Dick Cheney and Richard Perle since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
This basic goal is shared by Colin Powell and the rest of the security establishment. It was, after all, Powell who, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared in 1992 that the US requires sufficient power ïto deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stageÍ. However, the idea of pre-emptive defence, now official doctrine, takes this a leap further, much further than Powell would wish to go. In principle, it can be used to justify the destruction of any other state if it even seems that that state might in future be able to challenge the US. When these ideas were first aired by Paul Wolfowitz and others after the end of the Cold War, they met with general criticism, even from conservatives. Today, thanks to the ascendancy of the radical nationalists in the Administration and the effect of the 11 September attacks on the American psyche, they have a major influence on US policy.
To understand the genesis of this extraordinary ambition, it is also necessary to grasp the moral, cultural and intellectual world of American nationalism in which it has taken shape. This nationalism existed long before last September, but it has been inflamed by those attacks and, equally dangerously, it has become even more entwined with the nationalism of the Israeli Right.
To take the geopolitical goals first. As with National Missile Defense, the publicly expressed motive for war with Iraq functions mainly as a tool to gain the necessary public support for an operation the real goals of which are far wider. The indifference of the US public to serious discussion of foreign or security affairs, and the negligence and ideological rigidity of the US media and policy community make searching debate on such issues extremely difficult, and allow such manipulation to succeed.
The immediate goal is indeed to eliminate IraqÍs weapons of mass destruction. There is little real fear, however, that Saddam Hussein will give those weapons to terrorists to use against the United States „ though a more genuine fear that he might conceivably do so in the case of Israel. Nor is there any serious prospect that he would use them himself in an unprovoked attack on the US or Israel, because immediate annihilation would follow. The banal propaganda portrayal of Saddam as a crazed and suicidal dictator plays well on the American street, but I donÍt believe that it is a view shared by the Administration. Rather, their intention is partly to retain an absolute certainty of being able to defend the Gulf against an Iraqi attack, but, more important, to retain for the US and Israel a free hand for intervention in the Middle East as a whole.
From the point of view of Israel, the Israeli lobby and their representatives in the Administration, the apparent benefits of such a free hand are clear enough. For the group around Cheney, the single most important consideration is guaranteed and unrestricted access to cheap oil, controlled as far as possible at its source. To destroy and occupy the existing Iraqi state and dominate the region militarily would remove even the present limited threat from OPEC, greatly reduce the chance of a new oil shock, and eliminate the need to woo and invest in Russia as an alternative source of energy.
It would also critically undermine the steps already taken towards the development of alternative sources of energy. So far, these have been pitifully few. All the same, 11 September brought new strength to the security arguments for reducing dependence on imported oil, and as alternative technologies develop, they could become a real threat to the oil lobby „ which, like the Israeli lobby, is deeply intertwined with the Bush Administration. War with Iraq can therefore be seen as a satisfactory outcome for both lobbies. Much more important for the future of mankind, it is also part of what is in essence a strategy to use American military force to permit the continued offloading onto the rest of the world of the ecological costs of the existing US economy „ without the need for any short-term sacrifices on the part of US capitalism, the US political elite or US voters.
The same goes for the war against al-Qaida and its allies: the plan for the destruction of the existing Iraqi regime is related to this struggle, but not as it has been presented publicly. Links between Baghdad and al-Qaida are unproven and inherently improbable: what the Administration hopes is that by crushing another middle-sized state at minimal military cost, all the other states in the Muslim world will be terrified into full co-operation in tracking down and handing over suspected terrorists, and into forsaking the Palestinian cause. Iran for its part can either be frightened into abandoning both its nuclear programme and its support for the Palestinians, or see its nuclear facilities destroyed by bombardment.
The idea, in other words, is to scare these states not only into helping with the hunt for al-Qaida, but into capitulating to the US and, more important, Israeli agendas in the Middle East. This was brought out in the notorious paper on Saudi Arabia presented by Laurent Murawiec of the Rand Corporation to Richard PerleÍs Defense Policy Board. Murawiec advocated sending the Saudis an ultimatum demanding not only that their police force co-operate fully with US authorities, but also the suppression of public criticism of the US and Israel within Saudi Arabia „ something that would be impossible for any Arab state. Despite this, the demand for the suppression of anti-Israeli publications, broadcasts and activities has been widely echoed in the US media.
ïThe road to Middle East peace lies through BaghdadÍ is a line thatÍs peddled by the Bush Administration and the Israeli lobby. It is just possible that some members of the Administration really believe that by destroying IsraelÍs most powerful remaining enemy they will gain such credit with Israelis and the Israeli lobby that they will be able to press compromises on Israel.
But this is certainly not what public statements by members of the Administration „ let alone those of its Likud allies in Israel „ suggest. Rumsfeld recently described the Jewish settlements as legitimate products of Israeli military victory; the Republican Majority Leader in the House, Dick Armey (a sceptic as regards war with Iraq), has advocated the ethnic cleansing (ïtransferÍ) of the Palestinians across the Jordan; and in 1996 Richard Perle and Douglas Feith (now a senior official at the Pentagon) advised Binyamin Netanyahu to abandon the Oslo Peace Process and return to military repression of the Palestinians.
ItÍs far more probable, therefore, that most members of the Bush and Sharon Administrations hope that the crushing of Iraq will so demoralise the Palestinians, and so reduce wider Arab support for them, that it will be possible to force them to accept a Bantustan settlement bearing no resemblance to independent statehood and bringing with it no possibility of economic growth and prosperity.
How intelligent men can believe that this will work, given the history of the past fifty years, is astonishing. After all, the Israelis have defeated Arab states five times with no diminution of Palestinian nationalism or Arab sympathy for it. But the dominant groups in the present Administrations in both Washington and Jerusalem are ïrealistsÍ to the core, which, as so often, means that they take an extremely unreal view of the rest of the world, and are insensitive to the point of autism when it comes to the character and motivations of others. They are obsessed by power, by the division of the world into friends and enemies (and often, into their own country and the rest of the world) and by the belief that any demonstration of ïweaknessÍ immediately leads to more radical approaches by the ïenemyÍ.
Sharon and his supporters donÍt doubt that it was the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon „ rather than the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories „ which led to the latest Intifada. The ïoffensive realistsÍ in Washington are convinced that it was ReaganÍs harsh stance and acceleration of the arms race against the Soviet Union which brought about that stateÍs collapse. And both are convinced that the continued existence of Saddam HusseinÍs regime of itself suggests dangerous US weakness and cowardice, thus emboldening enemies of the US and Israel across the Middle East and beyond.
From the point of view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, war with Iraq also has some of the character of a Flucht nach vorn „ an ïescape forwardsÍ „ on the part of the US Administration. On the one hand, it has become clear that the conflict is integrally linked to everything else that happens in the Middle East, and therefore cannot simply be ignored, as the Bush Administration tried to do during its first year in office. On the other hand, even those members of the American political elite who have some understanding of the situation and a concern for justice are terrified of confronting Israel and the Israeli lobby in the ways which would be necessary to bring any chance of peace.
When the US demands ïdemocracyÍ in the Palestinian territories before it will re-engage in the peace process it is in part, and fairly cynically, trying to get out of this trap. However, when it comes to the new rhetoric of ïdemocratisingÍ the Arab world as a whole, the agenda is much broader and more worrying; and because the rhetoric is attractive to many liberals we must examine this agenda very carefully.
Belief in the spread of democracy through American power isnÍt usually consciously insincere. On the contrary, it is inseparable from American national messianism and the wider ïAmerican creedÍ. However, this same messianism has also proved immensely useful in destroying or crippling rivals of the United States, the Soviet Union being the outstanding example.
The planned war against Iraq is not after all intended only to remove Saddam Hussein, but to destroy the structure of the Sunni-dominated Arab nationalist Iraqi state as it has existed since that countryÍs inception. The ïdemocracyÍ which replaces it will presumably resemble that of Afghanistan „ a ramshackle coalition of ethnic groups and warlords, utterly dependent on US military power and utterly subservient to US (and Israeli) wishes.
Similarly, if after SaddamÍs regime is destroyed, Saudi Arabia fails to bow to US wishes and is attacked in its turn, then „ to judge by the thoughts circulating in Washington think-tanks „ the goal would be not just to remove the Saudi regime and eliminate Wahabism as a state ideology: it would be to destroy and partition the Saudi state. The Gulf oilfields would be put under US military occupation, and the region run by some client emir; Mecca and the Hejaz might well be returned to the Hashemite dynasty of Jordan, its rulers before the conquest by Ibn Saud in 1924; or, to put it differently, the British imperial programme of 1919 would be resurrected (though, if the Hashemites have any sense, they would reject what would without question be a long-term death sentence).
Beyond lies China. When the Bush Administration came to power, its major security focus was not the Middle East. There, its initial policy was benign neglect (ïbenignÍ at any rate in the case of Israel). The greatest fears of right-wing nationalist gurus such as Robert Kagan concerned the future emergence of China as a superpower rival „ fears lent a certain credibility by ChinaÍs sheer size and the growth of its economy. As declared in the famous strategy document drawn up by Paul Wolfowitz in the last year of the first Bush Administration „ and effectively proclaimed official policy by Bush Jr in his West Point speech in June „ the guiding purpose of US strategy after the end of the Cold War should be to prevent the emergence of any ïpeer competitorÍ anywhere in the world.
What radical US nationalists have in mind is either to ïcontainÍ China by overwhelming military force and the creation of a ring of American allies; or, in the case of the real radicals, to destroy the Chinese Communist state as the Soviet Union was destroyed. As with the Soviet Union, this would presumably involve breaking up China by ïliberatingÍ Tibet and other areas, and under the guise of ïdemocracyÍ, crippling the central Chinese Administration and its capacity to develop either its economy or its Army.
To judge by the right-wing nationalist media in the US, this hostility to China has survived 11 September, although in a mitigated form. If the US can demonstrate overwhelming military superiority in the Middle East, there will certainly be groups in the Republican Party who will be emboldened to push for a much tougher line on China. Above all, of course, they support formal independence for Taiwan.
Another US military victory will certainly help to persuade these groups that for the moment the US has nothing to fear from the Chinese Navy or Air Force, and that in the event of a Taiwanese declaration of independence, the island can be defended with relative impunity. Meanwhile, a drastic humiliation of China over Taiwan might well be seen as a key stepping-stone to the overthrow of Communism and the crippling of the Chinese state system.
At present these are only long-term ambitions „ or dreams. They are certainly not shared even by a majority of the Administration, and are unlikely to be implemented in any systematic way. On the other hand, itÍs worth bearing in mind that the dominant groups in this Administration have now openly abandoned the underlying strategy and philosophy of the Clinton Administration, which was to integrate the other major states of the world in a rule-based liberal capitalist order, thereby reducing the threat of rivalry between them.
This tendency is not dead. In fact, it is strongly represented by Colin Powell, and by lesser figures such as Richard Haass. But their more powerful nationalist rivals are in the meantime publicly committed to preventing by every possible means the emergence of any serious rival or combination of rivals to the US, anywhere in the world, and to opposing not just any rival would-be world hegemon, but even the ability of other states to play the role of great power within their own regions.
Under the guise of National Missile Defense, the Administration „ or elements within it „ even dreams of extending US military hegemony beyond the bounds of the Earth itself (an ambition clearly indicated in the official paper on Defense Planning Guidance for the 2004-09 Fiscal Years, issued this year by RumsfeldÍs office). And while this web of ambition is megalomaniac, it is not simply fantasy. Given AmericaÍs overwhelming superiority, it might well work for decades until a mixture of terrorism and the unbearable social, political and environmental costs of US economic domination put paid to the present order of the world.
As things stand, the American people would never knowingly support such a programme „ nor for that matter would the US military. Even after 11 September, this is not by historical standards a militarist country; and whatever the increasingly open imperialism of the nationalist think-tank class, neither the military nor the mass of the population wishes to see itself as imperialist. The fear of casualties and of long-term overseas military entanglements remains intense. And all opinion polls suggest that the majority of the American public, insofar as it considers these issues at all, is far more interested than this Administration in co-operation with allies.
Besides, if the US economy continues to stagnate or falls sharply, the Republicans will most probably not even be in power after 2004. As more companies collapse, the AdministrationÍs links to corrupt business oligarchies will become more and more controversial. Further economic decline combined with bloated military spending would sooner or later bring on the full consequences of the stripping of the public finances caused by this AdministrationÍs military spending and its tax cuts for the rich. At that point, the financial basis of Social Security would come into question, and the Republican vote among the ïmiddle classesÍ could shatter.
It is only to a minimal degree within the power of any US administration to stimulate economic growth. And even if growth resumes, the transformation of the economy is almost certain to continue. This will mean the incomes of the ïmiddle classesÍ (which in American terminology includes the working proletariat) will continue to decline and the gap between them and the plutocracy will continue to increase. High military spending can correct this trend to some extent, but because of the changed nature of weaponry, to a much lesser extent than was the case in the 19th and most of the 20th centuries. All other things being equal, this should result in a considerable shift of the electorate to the left.
But all other things are not equal. Two strategies in particular would give the Republicans the chance not only of winning in 2004, but of repeating RooseveltÍs success for the Democrats in the 1930s and becoming the natural party of government for the foreseeable future. The first is the classic modern strategy of an endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into nationalism. The second, which is specifically American, is to take the Jewish vote away from its traditional home in the Democratic Party, by demonstrating categorical Republican commitment not just to IsraelÍs defence but to its regional ambitions.
This is connected both to the rightward shift in Israel, and to the increasingly close links between the Republicans and Likud, through figures like Perle and Feith. It marks a radical change from the old Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Bush p²re, which was far more independent of Israel than the Democrats. Of key importance here has been the growing alliance between the Christian Right „ closely linked to the old White South „ and the Israeli lobby, or at least its hardline Likud elements.
When this alliance began to take shape some years back, it seemed a most improbable combination. After all, the Christian Right and the White South were once havens of anti-semitic conspiracy theories. On the other hand, the Old Testament aspects of fundamentalist Christianity had created certain sympathies for Judaism and Israel from as far back as the USÍs 17th-century origins.
For Christian fundamentalists today the influence of millenarian thought is equally important in shaping support for Israel: the existence of the Israeli state is seen as a necessary prelude to the arrival of the Antichrist, the Apocalypse and the rule of Christ and His Saints. But above all, perhaps, this coming together of the fundamentalist Right and hardline Zionism is natural, because they share many hatreds. The Christian Right has always hated the United Nations, partly on straight nationalist grounds, but also because of bizarre fears of world government by the Antichrist. They have hated Europeans on religious grounds as decadent atheists, on class grounds as associates of the hated ïEast Coast elitesÍ, and on nationalist grounds as critics of unconstrained American power. Both sides share an instinctive love of military force. Both see themselves as historical victims. This may seem strange in the case of the American Rightists, but it isnÍt if one considers both the White SouthÍs history of defeat, and the Christian RightÍs sense since the 1960s of defeat and embattlement by the forces of irreligion and cultural change.
Finally, and most dangerously, both are conditioned to see themselves as defenders of ïcivilisationÍ against ïsavagesÍ „ a distinction always perceived on the Christian Right as in the main racially defined. It is no longer possible in America to speak openly in these terms of American blacks, Asians and Latinos „ but since 11 September at least, it has been entirely possible to do so about Arabs and Muslims.
Even in the 2000 elections, the Republicans were able to take a large part of the white working-class vote away from Gore by appealing to cultural populism „ and especially to those opposed to gun control and environmental protection. Despite the real class identity and cultural interests of the Republican elite, they seem able to convince many workers that they are natural allies against the culturally alien and supercilious ïEast Coast elitesÍ represented as supporting Gore.
These populist values are closely linked to the traditional values of hardline nationalism. They are what the historian Walter Russell Mead and others have called ïJacksonianÍ values, after President Andrew JacksonÍs populist nationalism of the 1830s. As Mead has indicated, 11 September has immensely increased the value of this line to Republicans.
If on top of this the Republicans can permanently woo the Jewish vote away from the Democrats „ a process which purely class interests would suggest and which has been progressing slowly but steadily since ReaganÍs day „ there is a good chance of their crippling the Democrats for a generation or more. Deprived of much of their financial support and their intellectual backbone, the Democrats could be reduced to a coalition of the declining unionised white working class, blacks and Latinos. And not only do these groups on the whole dislike and distrust each other, but the more the Democrats are seen as minority dominated, the more whites will tend to flee to the Republicans.
Already, the anti-semitism of some black leaders in the Democratic Party has contributed to driving many Jews towards the Republicans; and thanks to their allegiance to Israel, the liberal Jewish intelligentsia has moved a long way from their previous internationalism. This shift is highly visible in previously liberal and relatively internationalist journals such as the New Republic and Atlantic Monthly, and maybe even in the New Yorker. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that as a result the internationalist position in the Democratic Party and the US as a whole has been eviscerated.
The Democrats are well aware of this threat to their electorate. The Party as a whole has always been strongly committed to Israel. On Iraq and the war against terrorism, its approach seems to be to avoid at all costs seeming ïunpatrioticÍ. If they can avoid being hammered by the Republicans on the charge of ïweaknessÍ and lack of patriotism, then they can still hope to win the 2004 elections on the basis of economic discontent. The consequence, however, is that the Party has become largely invisible in the debate about Iraq; the Democrats are merely increasing their reputation for passionless feebleness; whereas the Republican nationalists are full of passionate intensity „ the passion which in November 2000 helped them pressure the courts over the Florida vote and in effect steal the election.
It is this passion which gives the nationalist Right so much of its strength; and in setting out the hopes and plans of the groupings which dominate the Bush Administration, I donÍt want to give the impression that everything is simply a matter of conscious and cynical manipulation in their own narrow interests. Schematic approaches of this kind have bedevilled all too much of the reporting of nationalism and national conflict. This is odd and depressing, because in recent decades the historiography of pre-1914 German nationalism „ to take only one example „ has seen an approach based on ideas of class manipulation give way to an infinitely more subtle analysis which emphasises the role of socio-economic and cultural change, unconscious identifications, and interpenetrating political influences from above and below.
To understand the radical nationalist Right in the US, and the dominant forces in the Bush Administration, it is necessary first of all to understand their absolute and absolutely sincere identification of themselves with the United States, to the point where the presence of any other group in government is seen as a usurpation, as profoundly and inherently illegitimate and ïun-AmericanÍ. As far as the hardline elements of the US security establishment and military industrial complex are concerned, they are the product of the Cold War, and were shaped by that struggle and the paranoia and fanaticism it bred. In typical fashion for security elites, they also became conditioned over the decades to see themselves not just as tougher, braver, wiser and more knowledgeable than their ignorant, innocent compatriots, but as the only force standing between their country and destruction.
The Cold War led to the creation of governmental, economic and intellectual structures in the US which require for their survival a belief in the existence of powerful national enemies „ not just terrorists, but enemy states. As a result, in their analyses and propaganda they instinctively generate the necessary image of an enemy. Once again, however, it would be unwise to see this as a conscious process. For the Cold War also continued, fostered and legitimised a very old discourse of nationalist hatred in the US, ostensibly directed against the Communists and their allies but usually with a very strong colouring of ethnic chauvinism.
On the other hand, the roots of the hysteria of the Right go far beyond nationalism and national security. Their pathological hatred for the Clinton Administration cannot adequately be explained in terms of national security or even in rational political or economic terms, for after a very brief period of semi-radicalism (almost entirely limited to the failed attempt at health reform), Clinton devoted himself in a Blairite way to adopting large parts of the Republican socio-economic agenda. Rather, Clinton, his wife, his personal style, his personal background and some of his closest followers were all seen as culturally and therefore nationally alien, mainly because associated with the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s.
The modern incarnation of this spirit can indeed be seen above all as a reaction to the double defeat of the Right in the Vietnam War „ a defeat which, they may hope, victory in Iraq and a new wave of conservative nationalism at home could cancel out once and for all. In Vietnam, unprecedented military defeat coincided with the appearance of a modern culture which traditionalist Americans found alien, immoral and hateful beyond description. As was widely remarked at the time of Newt GingrichÍs attempted ïRepublican RevolutionÍ of the mid-1990s, one way of looking at the hardline Republicans „ especially from the Religious Right „ is to see them as motivated by a classical nationalist desire for a return to a Golden Age, in their case the pre-Vietnam days of the 1950s.
None of these fantasies is characteristic of the American people as a whole. But the intense solipsism of that people, its general ignorance of the world beyond AmericaÍs shores, coupled with the effects of 11 September, have left tremendous political spaces in which groups possessed by the fantasies and ambitions sketched out here can seek their objectives. Or to put it another way: the great majority of the American people are not nearly as militarist, imperialist or aggressive as their German equivalents in 1914; but most German people in 1914 would at least have been able to find France on a map.
The younger intelligentsia meanwhile has also been stripped of any real knowledge of the outside world by academic neglect of history and regional studies in favour of disciplines which are often no more than a crass projection of American assumptions and prejudices (Rational Choice Theory is the worst example). This has reduced still further their capacity for serious analysis of their own country and its actions. Together with the defection of its strongest internationalist elements, this leaves the intelligentsia vulnerable to the appeal of nationalist messianism dressed up in the supposedly benevolent clothing of ïdemocratisationÍ.
Twice now in the past decade, the overwhelming military and economic dominance of the US has given it the chance to lead the rest of the world by example and consensus. It could have adopted (and to a very limited degree under Clinton did adopt) a strategy in which this dominance would be softened and legitimised by economic and ecological generosity and responsibility, by geopolitical restraint, and by ïa decent respect to the opinion of mankindÍ, as the US Declaration of Independence has it. The first occasion was the collapse of the Soviet superpower enemy and of Communism as an ideology. The second was the threat displayed by al-Qaida. Both chances have been lost „ the first in part, the second it seems conclusively. What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind.
Anatol Lieven, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, is the author of Chechnya and Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry.
Kissing CaesarÍs Hem: Clerical-Corporate Culture at Notre Dame
Recent sexual scandals in the ranks of the clergy have produced not only outrage but foreboding and a sense of entropy within the Roman Catholic Church. As many commentators have observed, the malaise is not confined to matters of personal sin or criminal activity. Widespread paedophilia and the defensive way in which Bishops have responded are symptomatic of cultural and systemic deformities. The Church, it seems, has entered a period of crisis comparable to that faced in the wake of Pope Pius XIIÍs dogmatic and conservative pontificate in the years before, during and after World War II. That challenge was taken up in the early 1960s by the Second Vatican Council. Four decades later, the current turmoil again puts the spotlight on problems addressed in the Council but ignored or repressed in recent years. This time around, however, matters are more fraught „ exacerbated by the leadership of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. The way in which several key issues, particularly that of transparency, are addressed in the aftermath of John PaulÍs reign will have serious consequences for the future of the Church „ not least for Catholic institutions of higher learning like Notre Dame.
Let me set the scene by going back for a moment to the years before the pontificate of John Paul II. By the time he was elected Pope in 1958, Angelo Roncalli „ John XXIII „ realized that the Roman Catholic Church had closed in on itself. This, he believed, was undermining its mission to the world. Reacting defensively to the Protestant Reformation, the EnlightenmentÍs faith in reason, to democracy, ñModernism,î and to the challenge of Soviet Communism, the Papacy and the Vatican had finally retreated into an authoritarian and legalistic fortress. Open discussion, transparency, trust and cooperation with the laity were out of the question. In launching the Second Vatican Council in 1962, John XXIII set out to ñopen a windowî on a Church which experienced itself as a besieged citadel.
As Vatican II ran its course from 1962 to 1965, it heralded a change in direction, raising hopes of a more consultative climate. Roman Catholicism, it appeared, was about to become less clerical, less vertical; the model proposed was that of the People of God. A growing number of Catholics longed for an end to sexism and for more participatory structures. There was also the prospect of reaching out ecumenically to a divided Christianity and beyond „ to Judaism and Islam. This, it was hoped, would lead to increased respect for other traditions and even to cooperation on matters of justice and human rights.
Forty years on and as the long and reactionary pontificate of John Paul II comes to a close, these hopes have been dashed. While several papal encyclicals have addressed issues of global justice and peace, liberation theology with its all important preferential option for the poor has been repressed. Rome was troubled by its democratic proclivities, particularly its way of doing theology from the bottom up instead of top down. In diocese after diocese, the Pope has replaced progressive Bishops and Cardinals upon their retirement with conservative, authoritarian functionaries. The institutional Church is still dominated by a monarchical Papacy, a defensive male hierarchy and the Vatican bureaucracy. Opus Dei „ the secretive and elitist sect within the Church „ has the PopeÍs ear. It is the characteristic absence of transparency within these structures that has become so brazenly apparent in the priestly pedophilia scandals in the USA and elsewhere. However, what is not being addressed is the impact all this is having on Roman Catholic colleges and universities.
What we see at Notre Dame is a convergence between an exclusive, homo-social clerical caste and the secular culture of corporate America. The fit is a snug one. Notre DameÍs executive officers (clerics hold key positions) have come to reflect that adulation of CEOs so characteristic of the Enron decades. The nexus has compromised the UniversityÍs Christian identity and further entrenched its lack of transparency. If the campus is to become a place where the Catholic Church is freed up to do some of its more creative thinking „ to accept the challenge of the Second Vatican Council to engage the world and learn from its anguish and hopes „ this mentality will have to be challenged. Let me offer a few examples.
The way women are treated is an important index of progress at the University, yet Notre Dame has a constitutional barrier to the appointment of a woman as President. In addition, women are still badly under-represented within the higher ranks of the administration and the tenured professoriate. Turning to matters of governance, there is little that is democratic or designed to create the reality of communal accountability. The Faculty Senate, now restructured by fiat, reminds me of those advisory assemblies found in British Colonial territories of the 1930s. Departmental Appointments and Promotions Committees are not infrequently over-ruled by a Dean and/or the Provost. The Board of Trustees „ its members selected by twelve University Fellows charged with maintaining the Catholic character of Notre Dame (six of whom are members of Holy Cross) „ is dominated by CEOs and their support professionals, particularly lawyers. Trade unionists, women religious and innovative leaders of non-governmental organizations such as alumnus Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, are rarely if ever appointed. (Oxfam, it should be noted, is now at the cutting edge of re-thinking international trade and aid policies with a view to alleviating the poverty of populations abandoned by global capitalism.)
Perhaps the Golden DomeÍs lack of openness and subservience to corporate practices is best seen in its allocation of faculty salaries; market forces and haggling dominate the process. (Ironically, many secular universities that do not aspire to Notre DameÍs moral rhetoric have published salary scales.) While high profile recruits are regularly ñbribedî to join the University, they often show little interest in its proclaimed commitment to social justice. Then there is the practice of professors who leverage pay-hikes by playing the market, threatening to move elsewhere if their demands are not met. In some instances, faculty committed to the vision of a Christian university, but who have been under-appreciated and/or under-paid, move reluctantly. Recently we lost a talented associate dean in this way. After a distinguished secular university recruited him, a counter offer was made by Notre Dame which had the effect of making this individual feel he was ñbeing bought.î This intrusion of the capitalist market place into what ought to be a community of scholars, creates a great deal of suspicion as well as resentment on campus. Then there is the question of why an institution which expresses concern for the wellbeing of families would offer such parsimonious contracts to many of its adjunct faculty and staff.
Another ñsign of the timesî at Notre Dame is the way morale has been sapped in the Economics Department as a consequence of gross interference from successive deans and provosts. Over almost two decades, these panjandrums undermined a department that was gaining a reputation beyond the standard meat and potatoes of the discipline by taking egalitarian values seriously as it dealt, inter alia, with global poverty, development economics, distributive justice and labor issues. The Department was instructed to adopt different priorities in the race to build a graduate school in the image of more prestigious universities, institutions where the ideology of ñfree marketî global capitalism is a given and faculty promotions depend on publishing in fashionable journals.
Anyone interested in seeing Notre DameÍs values on display has only to attend Commencement when honorary doctorates are showered on members of the corporate elite. Or take the Business SchoolÍs recent honoring of Jack Welch, General ElectricÍs retired CEO. Welch, a ruthless free-marketeer, not only led his corporation in the race for government contracts but was also adept at inflating his own income. (His serial marriages and squalid divorces might also have given the Dean of the Business School pause.) He appears to have finally overreached himself in arranging so lucrative and unusual a range of benefits upon retirement as to trigger an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In Jack Welch the Business School was paying tribute to a man without an iota of Catholic social teaching in his repertoire „ someone who bears much of the responsibility for raising the top 100 CEOÍs average annual income in the USA ($38 million) to 1,000 times that of the average employeeÍs wage ($35,000).
The corporate-clerical mindset is on display in other ways at graduation exercises where senior officers of the University appear to be in thrall to power and celebrity. This has resulted in many poor choices for Commencement speaker. Recent examples include the hasty invitation to George W. Bush, immediately after his controversial appointment to the Presidency by the Supreme Court. Then came the selection of MexicoÍs President Fox (a retired CEO of Coca Cola, a corporation long influential on Notre DameÍs Board of Trustees). When Fox had to withdraw, Notre DameÍs President turned to Tim Russett, a decent chap no doubt. How could ñMonkî Malloy think this tame host to the countryÍs manipulators of power would have anything of substance to say to the graduating class? In the event, RussettÍs address was an embarrassment.
If we have to go the celebrity route every now and then, my spouse suggests we do it with brio and ask someone like the actor Martin Sheen. SheenÍs social justice activism is very much in step with Catholic social teaching. He has, for example, protested regularly at the School of the Americas which has trained a long list of military thugs and Latin American dictators. A concern not to upset the predominantly conservative values of our students and their parents can also be seen in the tight control now exercised by administrators in the selection of a Valedictorian. A small group of students with the highest grade point averages submit their proposed speeches. A committee then chooses a speech that is suitably anodyne and has no compunction about editing out anything found to be too controversial. As a recent candidate put it: ñat least the University did not censor my use of the Prayer of St. Francis.î
In conclusion it is worth revisiting the vision of George Shuster who, upon his retirement, was invited in the late 1950s to return to Notre Dame as personal advisor to the young President, Fr.Ted Hesburgh. ShusterÍs curriculum vitae was impressive: a graduate of Notre Dame, Editor of Commonweal, Director of Education in the American occupied zone of post-war Germany, first US representative on UNESCO before being appointed President of Hunter College, he epitomized the best of AmericaÍs Catholic intellectual tradition. Having sufficient confidence in that tradition, he was able to envisage a university ready to reach out beyond a parochial Roman Catholic ghetto. Such a university, he hoped, would not look nervously over its shoulder, conforming to Vatican instructions; nor would it opt to follow the Ivy League or ñBig Tenî universities in their fashionable educational ideologies and research priorities. Shuster favored a predominantly lay Board of Trustees. He encouraged discussion about improving the quality of intellectual and community life in student residences; he thought faculty might be associated with particular halls which might then be granted a degree of self-governance. He also wanted Notre Dame to widen its religious dialogue, to welcome as faculty and students Christians from other denominations, Muslims and Jews. Some who participated in these discussions suggested the time might come for Protestant chaplains, a mosque and a synagogue on campus.
While some of ShusterÍs ecumenical expectations have been met at Tantur „ Notre DameÍs center outside Jerusalem (built with funds he helped to raise) „ they have not been realized on our campus. Here they were seen as too risky by an administration not only uncomfortable with other religious traditions, but determined to maintain its corporate model of governance rather than trust its lay faculty and establish more representative institutions. Had ShusterÍs broad vision been implemented over the last three decades, the University would now have a more distinctive character. But, like the institutional church itself, Notre Dame remains unwilling to witness consistently in its own structures, teaching and public actions to a more transparent, diverse and egalitarian world.
Peter Walshe teaches in the Department of Political Science and is a Fellow of the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He is a founding member of Common Sense.
Mary Robinson: Grass Roots Democracy Can Work
ñIf human rights are respected...conflict, terrorism, and war can be prevented,î former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights declared in a January 6 speech at the John F. Kennedy Library. These words rang true then and echoed in Mary RobinsonÍs speech at Saint MaryÍs College in September. Robinson spokeabout a myriad of topics ranging from intercultural leadership to the U.S.Ís violations of human rights and civil liberties in its waging of a war on terror. The recurrent theme of her speech was human rights and the power that people have on the grass roots level to bring about significant positive change. She said that the worst problem of human rights was absolute poverty which is usually associated with conflict. She declared that ñThe world is not balanced, and having traveled the world for the past five years, I can tell you that we all do not have dignity and worth.î
Just a few weeks before her October 3 speech at Saint MaryÍs, Robinson stepped down from her post as High Commissioner. During her tenure, she criticized both powerful and weaker countries for human rights abuses „ even the United States for violating the Geneva Convention and civil rights of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and terror suspects rounded up in the wake of September 11, a move that infuriated the U.S. which, in turn, forced her out of her position. Robinson said that as citizen Mary Robinson, she planned to continue advocating for human rights.
In the course of her speech, Robinson declared that ensuring human rights is not about rhetoric but government commitments and civil society holding them accountable to it. She gave several examples of such efforts by grassroots groups in India and Afghanistan to effect positive change and hold governments accountable. After denouncing the repression and treatment of the women of Afghanistan during the days of the Taliban regime, she went on to describe how these women, despite enduring inhumane treatment and repression by the Taliban, the fighting in their country this past year, and in some cases, displacements from homes and villages, continued to work toward ensuring human rights. She spoke of the women knowing exactly what they wanted to do to bring about the necessary change and only needing resources from human rights groups in order to do so.
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is an example of human rights work at the grassroots level bringing about positive change. RAWA, an organization founded in 1977 by a group of Afghan women intellectuals, fought for social justice and human rights, especially for women. It also advocated the establishment of a secular democratic government. In response to harsh Taliban rule, in which women and girls were prohibited from attending school, working, receiving medical attention from a male doctor, and leaving the home without a close male relative, RAWA ran schools for girls, provided literacy courses for women, and offered health and medical care. Through use of the Internet, RAWA exposed the reality of life under the Taliban to the rest of the world, documenting and publicizing the violations of the rights of the people of Afghanistan at the risk of their own lives.
After the overthrow of the Taliban government by the United States, Samina Kabir, a representative of RAWA spoke out against the Northern Alliance as a second Taliban and detailed the human rights abuses that take place under their rule. She has toured India, parts of Europe, and the United States raising consciousness on this issue and has also addressed sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Convention in Geneva. RAWA has called out for a more democratic, progressive, and secular Afghanistan with women playing a part in the formation of a new government and being represented in it. RAWA also wants the UN to send peacekeeping forces to disarm and restrain the fundamentalist militias and assist the formation of a government based on secular values and comprised of neutral personalities.
In November of 2001, Robinson attended the Inaugural General Congress of South Asians for Human Rights conference, which was held in New Delhi, India, on South AsiaÍs right to development and ensuring equality and stated that ñbarriers to equality must be dismantled with regard to the whole spectrum of human rights.î The SAHRÍs objective is to bring international human rights standards down to the local level and unite South Asians to uphold the dignity of all people and fight exclusion and deprivation. Among the participants of this conference were representatives of the Human Rights Centre who had completed the Post Graduate Diploma Course in Human Rights and were going on to work in the field of human rights.
The Human Rights Center is run by the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, an NGO (Non Governmental Organization) in India. It fights for the underprivileged, highlighting their problems and needs and getting them what they are legally due. RLEK has filed cases in courts from the local to the highest levels and their objective is to force the government to pass new laws that will help the poor and marginalized and demand accountability. RLEK has organized the poor and raised their awareness of their legal rights and entitlement. The work of RLEK has raised consciousness and awareness of these issues and the government has been forced to pass new laws based on the decision of the cases filed in the courts. In the past RLEK has halted destructive mining operations and environmental exploitation, pushed for governmental enforcement of existing anti air pollution laws, addressed policeinvolvement in the trafficking of women and the rescuing and educating of these women, and rehabilitated freed bonded laborers and raising their awareness of their legal rights. RLEK is now working in the areas of child education, adult literacy, legal aid, sanitation and water projects, and gender equity and is continuing to bring about positive change.
The Human Rights Centre is affiliated with RLEK and aims to ñinculcate respect for human rights, especially in people holding positions of power.î This independent agency raises awareness on human rights issues and supplements initiatives of the National Human Rights Commission. RLEK recognized ña need for well informed and committed young men and women to create awareness ... about human rights issues and to collectively work for protecting and upholding the human rights of all.î With this in mind, the Centre developed a Post Graduate Diploma Course in Human Rights in which participants learn about international human rights law, civil liberties, and other human rights related issues and work with an NGO or other human rights related institutions in order to put their knowledge into practice and gain experience in working in the field of human rights.
During her November visit to New Delhi, Robinson visited its largest slum and went to an NGO project. This project had simple objectives: education for orphaned children, health education, and health care for women. They made and sold candles in order to earn money to support this project. At the end of her visit, the children sang ñWe Shall Overcomeî and Robinson wondered how they would. She provided the answer during her talk with her declaration that ensuring human rights must go beyond rhetoric and into the realm of groups at the grassroots level not only working for justice and human rights but also holding the government accountable to their commitments. RLEK and RAWA are evidence that the smallest actions by small groups of people, even the most disempowered and oppressed can help bring about improvement and promote the rights, equality, and dignity of all human beings.
Sarah Edwards is a Saint MaryÍs sophomore and member of Common Sense.
At the end of August, Jonathan Freedland—a senior journalist at the Guardian, a liberal British newspaper—interviewed BritainÍs Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. It caused a furor. Voices that do not echo the party line are not tolerated. The scholarly Sacks belongs to the Orthodox wing of Judaism and was well known in the 1980s for being Margaret ThatcherÍs favorite clergyperson: there was the shared admiration for Victorian family values and free market economics. Rabbi Sacks never embarrassed his Prime Minister with crusades for social justice, and on issues like homosexuality he was impeccably Levitical. Within his own faith community his support for the state of Israel was unwavering. Not a single word of criticism ever passed his lips „ until now. In his conversation with Freedland, Rabbi Sacks was emphatic about how besieged Israelis felt. Sickened by suicide bombing, he expressed frustration with the Palestinians for not seizing the prospects for peace which he felt were offered by the Oslo agreement. But then Sacks did the unthinkable - he volunteered a temperate, cautious even, reading of IsraelÍs 35 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It doesnÍt square, he said, with YahwehÍs admonition, repeated 36 times in the Mosaic books: ñYou were exiled in order to know what it feels like to be exiles.î Sacks sees the current situation as ñnothing less than tragic.î The occupation is forcing Israel ñinto postures that are at odds with its deepest ideals.î To underscore his point he quotes the 12th century Jewish sage Maimonides: ñIsrael did not long for the Messiah so it could lord it over other nations.î
His remarks created a rumpus, both inside Israel and across the diaspora. There were calls from the Jerusalem Post for SacksÍ resignation. He had made himself irrelevant the paper thundered. Other rabbis pronounced his statement ñfar beyond the pale.î (A figure of speech having considerable resonance for Jews.) The attacks were surprisingly hostile. Gerald Kaufmann, a Member of Parliament for more than 30 years, shrewdly observed that Rabbi Sacks had not encountered Jewish abuse before, had never been called a self-hating Jew as Kaufmann often has „ as when he announced that he would not be visiting Israel again until the occupation ended. (In a film he made for the BBC, Kaufmann pays lyrical tribute to his first visit in the 1960s.) But,in a follow-up piece, Jonathan Freedland commended Rabbi Sacks for choosing to come down on the right side of the issue. History, said Freedland, is certain to judge the occupation harshly; he called upon the rest of the Jewish world to decide where it stands on ñthis folly.î
A couple of years ago, just before the second intifada started, I had the opportunity to visit Gaza. The day after our arrival in Israel „ the spouse was there to lecture on post-apartheid South Africa „ we were offered the chance to accompany a small group of progressive Knesset members going to Gaza to gather evidence from Palestinian fishermen being harassed by young conscripts in the Israeli navy. On a very cold March day, we listened as these barefoot men told their harrowing stories. Very early in the morning and again late in the afternoon, we had also observed the rituals of Palestinian humiliation at checkpoints in which the parallels with apartheid South Africa were obvious. The gut-wrenching poverty of the area was thrown into high relief by the settlements we passed: neat villages behind high walls, razor wire and gun emplacements. Settler children were in colorful costumes for the feast of Purim. On our side of the barricades exhausted looking Palestinian children rode or drove scrawny donkeys. A few days later, the University where the spouse had lectured sent a taxi to drive us from the Negev to Jerusalem. Our host, an old friend, was with us. The Israeli taxi driver asked her, in Hebrew, if it would be OK for us to take the route through the Occupied Territories, which we did. At one point a toxic smell wafted through the taxiÍs open windows and I wondered out loud about its source. The driver made a jocular remark, again in Hebrew, which our companion translated: ñHe says itÍs dead Arab—an Arab graveyard.î His racism was reflexive.
The vitriol leveled at Rabbi Sacks nevertheless surprised me. I thought this sort of treatment was reserved for the likes of an Israeli friend who actively opposes the Likud government and writes excoriating pieces on the occupation for the Israeli and American press. (He came to Notre Dame to work for his doctorate after having done military service, in the course of which he sustained a severe combat injury from a grenade.) The abuse this man gets goes way beyond being called a self-hating Jew. I have seen some of the e-mails. They are vile. From the safety of his perch in the natural sciences at Notre Dame, a Jewish professor wrote: ñPlease do us all a favor and visit all the discos, pizza places, dining halls, malls and super markets you can. Perhaps one of these days you will be in the path of those liberators of Palestinian suffering and be blown right out of this world.î And someone who guest lectures at synagogues and to Jewish organizations in South Bend tells me that very senior people often wish my friend dead „ in the most graphic of terms.
Such barbaric attempts to silence the critics of occupation are inexcusable and, moreover, inexplicable given that Israeli colonialism and the settler communities have won the political battle in Israel and, more importantly, in the US. AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee „ otherwise known as the Israeli lobby) has spent vast amounts of money on politicians, Republicans and Democrats, to ensure that IsraelÍs government gets to write its own ticket. The real coup, however, has been in the Pentagon where Jewish-Americans Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle are calling the shots. Not only do these men back the Sharon governmentÍs policies on the Occupied Territories and the settlers, they helped to formulate them. Douglas Feith, in a previous incarnation as policy chairman of the National Unity Coalition for Israel, argued that Israel should re-occupy all land ceded to the Palestinian Authority, even as he acknowledged that ñthe price in blood would be high.î This sentiment is not very different from one expressed by the ultra-right leader of IsraelÍs National Religious Party and quoted in FreedlandÍs Guardian piece: he called IsraelÍs Arab citizens ña cancer to be removed.î (To which Rabbi Sacks responded, to his credit, ñGod forbid.î)
Furthermore, the Pentagon troika has skilled propagandists in the Jewish neo-cons David Brooks and William Kristol at the influential Weekly Standard—which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pentagon. And, as an article in The Nation points out, the editorial page at the Washington Post is also resolutely in the PentagonÍs corner. Now Perle, Woflowitz and Feith are planning the war against Saddam Hussein, at the end of which the issue of the Occupied Territories, they believe, will be settled once and for all in IsraelÍs favor. Anatol Lieven, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing in The London Review of Books, argues that another Gulf war would be ñbreathtakingly reckless.î It is being driven in Washington and Jerusalem by men obsessed with power who ñtake an extremely unreal view of the rest of the world and are insensitive to the point of autism when it comes to the character and motivation of others.î Still, Lieven says, should things go wrong and war ignite a conflagration in the Middle East, it might at least trigger a discussion and bring into the open ñthe calamitous role of the Israeli lobby.î
The lobby has been successful in getting the media and politicians to change the subject whenever debate about weaponsofmassdestruction (as Gore Vidal now calls them) turns to Israel. An unstated assumption is that Israel, as a rational polity, can be trusted never to do anything rash or vengeful. This, I think, badly underestimates the rabid strain of Jewish fundamentalism in Israeli politics. Some years ago, I was part of a Jewish-Christian dialogue in which participants were drawn from the University and the local community. I still recall the chilling response from an Israeli rabbi „ a visiting scholar in the Notre Dame Theology Department „ during an energetic discussion of the Occupied Territories. The rabbi insisted they were necessary for IsraelÍs security and went on to warn that should Israel ever feel threatened, it would not hesitate ñto bring down the whole Temple.î His threat, not in the least veiled, was made in the context of Israel being a nuclear power.
A last word on the dangers posed to world peace by the settlers should go to a Californian rabbi, Haim Dov Beliak , who studied at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Israel when it was the ideological center for the settler movement. He is quoted in a sober analysis (recently published in the National Catholic Reporter) of the apocalyptic, Christian Zionist movement which supports occupation. The rabbi is troubled that ñthe American public knows little about the settlersƒthere is a profound lack of curiosity about them.î
They are, he believes, ñdeeply problematic because they are going to cause World War III. They are not dealing with normal political reality. There is a complete denial of any rights Arabs might have.î
Ann Pettifer is an alumna of Notre Dame.
Family Values, Florida Style
You might recall that Florida sent George W. Bush to the White House two years ago. But soon after, you probably stopped paying attention to the so-called Sunshine State. If so, you have been missing quite a circus. In the past two years, Florida has become a virtual Los Alamos for BushÍs conservative (medieval?) social agenda, with DubyaÍs brother Jeb more than willing to carry on the family tradition. Vouchers? FloridaÍs got ïem. Faith-based initiatives? Plenty of those, too. Eerie, right-wing fanatics who advocate biblical beatings, denounce the separation of church and state, and want women to stay in the kitchen? Yes, Florida now has one of those, too, and he has just been selected to oversee the most embattled social agency in this strange land I call home.
Our story begins with the Florida Department of Children and Families, an institution under fire. The trouble began last April when it was discovered that a young Miami girl, Rilya Wilson, had been missing for upwards of fifteen months before anyone from DCF even realized she was gone. Her DCF caseworker had failed to make monthly visits for each of these fifteen months, and it soon became apparent that this was more of a trend than an anomaly. Too many children were neglected, unattended to, and unaccounted for. Under intense scrutiny, former DCF head Kathleen Kearney resigned in early August. It took Jeb Bush all of two days to find a new ringleader.
JebÍs choice? Jerry Regier, a self-described pro-family conservative and a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations. RegierÍs career highlights include founding the Family Research Council, an organization perhaps best known for likening abortion to terrorism and that has frequently described marriage and family as the ñfoundation of civilization.î
In fact, RegierÍs biggest (okay, only) theoretical contribution to child welfare seems to be his penchant for blaming all social ills on divorce. Before a congressional subcommittee last year, Regier insisted that his home state of Oklahoma spends millions on foster care, child abuse investigations, juvenile delinquency, and similar problems that are largely ñthe result of either families not forming through marriage in the first place or because of absent parents due to divorce.î Regier has succeeded in squeezing complex and confounding social problems into DubyaÍs simplistic formula of good versus evil, and for this he has been rewarded with the opportunity to put his doctrine into action.
Of course, it gets worse. And it gets weird. Regier is a former member of the Coalition for Revival, a right-wing religious organization that occasionally churns out strange social dogma. In 1986, Regier was one of a number of religious leaders who signed the CoalitionÍs ñManifesto for the Christian Church,î a document that condemns ñthe godless influence of secular education and the mediaî and identifies the teaching of evolution and the ñstate usurpation of parental rights and God-given libertiesî as ñsocial evils to oppose.î The CoalitionÍs proposed solution? ñIt is, therefore, to the great benefit of all mankind, Christian and non-Christian alike, to bring every societyÍs judicial and legal systems into as close an approximation of the laws and commandments of the Bible as its citizens will allow.î
In 1989, the Coalition struck again, this time with the ñThe Christian World View of the Family,î which chides married women who dare to work outside the home and insists „ please brace yourself „ that desertion or infidelity, and not abuse, are the only justifications for divorce.
The document also declared that ñbiblical spankingî is acceptable as well, as long as it causes only ñtemporary and superficial bruises or welts.î Sounds a lot to me like this new interpretation of the Christian world view revolves around the manÍs right to physically intimidate and dominate his wife and children. Regier, of course, denies having anything to do with this publication, despite the fact that his name appears prominently on it. He was co-chair of the Coalition at the time, and the groupÍs website has listed Regier as a member of the national steering committee as recently as April of 2001.
Republican reaction to public criticism of RegierÍs credentials has been equally offensive. Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan blasted critics by questioning their own religious faith (apparently a prerequisite for participating in any sort of political debate these days). ñSeveral of these people probably couldnÍt find their own Bible,î Brogan quipped. Governor Jeb also focused exclusively on the issue of the religion. ñThe implication is that people of faith...somehow theyÍre a little strange and I just reject that. It really doesnÍt matter if Jerry has a deep and abiding faith, and it certainly doesnÍt disqualify him for public service. I think thereÍs bigotry here, and it troubles me.î
WHAT? No, there is no implication that all people of faith are a little strange. There is, however, a whole heap of evidence that Regier has espoused some very wacky and highly offensive beliefs, regardless of how he came to them. No, Mr. RegierÍs faith should not disqualify him from public service, but a campaign to keep women in the house and corporal punishment on the cutting edge of child welfare ought to preclude him from running a Department of Children and Families. If Regier had sat on the board of a terrorist organization, he wouldnÍt have been selected to run a Department of Homeland Security, but after quietly participating in a campaign against womenÍs and childrenÍs rights, he is chosen to lead FloridaÍs troubled children.
DoesnÍt make a whole lot of sense, unless you consider the possibility that Florida is attempting to abandon democracy in favor of a good, old-fashioned theocracy. And that is the most important thing to take away from this mess „ Jerry Regier is not an isolated incident. He is merely a cog in the Bush family machine, appointed by Jeb because he fits in DubyaÍs master plan to dismantle the separation of church and state and put religion back in the driverÍs seat.
Regier once told a Senate subcommittee on children and families that ñthe government must overcome its baseless fear of the mythical ïwall of separationÍ and allow, even encourage, churches to partner with schools and service agencies to provide much needed time and assistance.î This sounds strikingly similar to BushÍs faith-based initiatives, and thatÍs the bottom line. Florida has become the testing ground for DubyaÍs social agenda „ from vouchers and high-stakes testing to faith-based and privatized social services. Jeb is more than willing to enact any policy that Dubya sends his way, and he has found his very own Ashcroft in theperson of Jerry Regier.
Regier has already insisted that faith-based organizations will play a larger role in his administration and has considered implementing some sort of evangelical character education course for DCF clients and employees. ñSometimes,î according to Regier, ñagencies immediately dismiss the involvement of faith-based organizations because of the separation of church and state, whatever that means.î Again, Regier displays a flagrant disregard for that ïmythicalÍ and mysterious principle upon which the United States was founded. Apparently, Regier doesnÍt know what separation of church and state means. Unfortunately, this appears to be the precise reason for his appointment. Plead the Fifth on the First and youÍre likely to get the job.
Sadly, little Rilya Wilson had become obscured by he uproar. But no more „ Jeb has struck again. RilyaÍs former caretakers, Geralyn and Pamela Graham, were recently arrested and accused of stealing more than $14,000 in public funds before and after RilyaÍs disappearance. The women initially claimed that they were sisters. But Jeb gushed to a group of friendly legislators recently that he had some ñjuicy detailsî for them. It seems, you see, that the Grahams are actually lesbians, and that, of course, makes for funny jokes. ñAs (Pamela) was being arrested, she told her co-workers, ïTell my wife IÍve been arrested.Í The wife is the ïgrandmother,Í and the aunt is the ïhusband,Íî Bush quipped. ñBet you donÍt get that in Pensacola,î Bush added, displaying not only an immense amount of immaturity and insensitivity but also an apparent ignorance that homosexuality is not a phenomenon confined to Miami and other dens of sin.
Jeb defended his comments by insisting that he had no idea that there was a reporter in his midst, which really doesnÍt sound like much of a defense at all. ñThat was a private meeting that became public because the reporter was in it without my knowledge,î Bush pleaded. Once again, Jeb has tipped us off to a national trend. Our leaders increasingly do things behind closed doors, and what you see isnÍt always what you get. Not in Florida, and not in the White House.
Keep your eye on Florida, but donÍt get too close. The political fallout could be hazardous to your health.
Our Florida correspondent, Joe Napolitano, observes the foibles of the Sunshine State from his home in Port Richey. He is a former Common Sense editor.
Keeping Haiti Poor: Dictators not Democracy
Haitians are a very politically aware people. While in Haiti this summer, I saw evidence of that awareness. In the remote mountain community of Les Palmes, a group of teenagers put on a skit in a local church. Three boys, dressed up hilariously as soldiers, proceeded in slapstick fashion to round up women ñfighting for democracy.î They tied the womenÍs hands behind their backs, knelt them in front of the stage, and gave them a spanking (a pervasive image in Haiti for keeping the people in line). Ordered to arrest the men as well as the women, the soldiers confessed their fear of injury in a struggle. Suddenly, bright music began to play over the churchÍs single speaker. A man in overalls with dozens of brightly colored rags hanging down from his shoulders, chest, and waist danced his way onto the altar—the spirit of democracy. The soldiers were powerless against his nonviolent presence. As he gently touched each of the women, their bonds disappeared, and they stood to dance with him. It was a beautiful expression of the fight for democracy in which Haitians are engaged.
However, most Americans, if they know anything about the recent history of Haiti, know only that the U.S. Marines occupied the island country in 1994 to restore to power democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been in exile since a military coup in 1991. High school history books do not remind us of the imperialistic (and often quite racist) U.S. occupation of Haiti that lasted 19 years from 1915 to 1934, during which a ñprofessionalizedî army was trained to terrorize the people in order to silence demands for democracy and economic justice.
We are not reminded that the U.S. supported a murderous dictator, Franois ñPapa Docî Duvalier, and then his son, ñBaby Doc,î during a business-friendly reign of 28 years enforced by a mercenary army of thugs known as the Tontons Macoutes (after a bogeyman in Haitian story tales). The Macoutes continued the tradition, inaugurated during the first U.S. occupation, of warfare against the poor masses. ñBaby-Docî DuvalierÍs reign ended only when the people themselves took to the streets of Port-au-Prince in 1986 and demanded the departure of the autocrat, who benefited from an early retirement in France.
PeopleÍs victories in Haiti, however, quickly fall victim to the tactics of a tiny, outrageously wealthy elite and their foreign partners in crime. Duvalier was allowed to handpick his successors. Those successors were then charged with organizing democratic elections—something like giving Charlton Heston the task of disarming the Afghani population. Predictably, terrible massacres sponsored by the elite stopped the voting process in November, 1987. In The Rainy Season, Amy Wilentz describes a massacre at a polling station in Port-au-Prince that left at least 17 dead: ñThe men went chopping and shooting through the panicked crowd, showing no emotion other than enthusiasm. ƒ Of course neither the police nor the Army attempted to stop the killing.î
The internationally-sponsored elections of 1991 finally brought a real democratic victory to the people. Marc Bazin had been the favored candidate of foreign business interests and the U.S. Embassy. He promised to adhere to an IMF-sponsored austerity program and demonstrated his willingness to keep Haiti a source of powerless, underpaid labor for the offshore light assembly sector (USAIDÍs favorite avenue for ñeconomic developmentî that has the remarkable twin effects of allowing U.S. businesses to make enormous profits while minimizing investment in Haiti itself). In the absence of real, popular candidates—their organizations and courage broken by violent scare tactics—Bazin seemed sure to win. Thus, the powers that be saw no danger in planning free elections. Fortunately for democracy, the surprise late entry of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide destroyed BazinÍs odds and made the election an instrument of the peopleÍs will.
Aristide was a Catholic priest in association with the Ti Leglize (ñthe Little Churchî), an organization inspired by the tenets of liberation theology. His fiery sermons attacked the gwo manjer yo (literally, ñbig eaters,î or more closely, ñfat catsî) of the Haitian elite. Numerous attempts on his life, along with his forceful advocacy work in the heat of Port-au-PrinceÍs slums, made Aristide seem like a messiah figure to the poor and oppressed masses. AristideÍs candidacy sparked a lavalas, or ñflood,î that washed through the capital and across the country. Aristide won 67% of the vote.
Those who follow the rhetoric of U.S. foreign policy in Haiti, as reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, might be surprised to learn that the George H. Bush administrationÍs response to this victory of democracy was less than euphoric. In fact, the U.S. has proven itself much more eager to undermine and discredit President Aristide than any Haitian dictator, no matter how bloody.
Aristide sat in the presidency just over 6 months. During that time, he did not embark on a radical social or economic program; such a course would have been impossible given the continued existence of a Duvalierist military and institutional bias. In fact, he implemented much of the IMFÍs austerity program in an attempt at compromise with his political enemies.
Still, as Notre Dame professor Karen Richman has forcefully argued, Aristide represented and empowered the Haitian masses. He was the first leader to speak Creole, the national language, publicly; previous elitists had spoken French, incomprehensible to almost 80% of the population. Aristide thus posed a threat to entrenched interests. The coup came in Sept. 1991, led by General Raoul C³dras. Only the intervention of the French ambassador saved Aristide from death.
Quickly, the coup leaders moved to break popular organizations. Catholic priests were taken into police stations and tortured. Over the next three years, Port-au-Prince slum-dwellers would awaken each morning to the sight of new corpses in the street. Youth movements were especially targeted.
Foreign governments reacted with rhetorical alarm (with the notable exception of the Vatican, who immediately recognized the coup government to settle a score with their wayward president-priest). However, in the U.S., that alarm did not translate into sympathy for refugees fleeing soldiers armed with machetes and Uzis. An inconsequential number of those leaving Haiti during the violent coup government were granted asylum in the U.S. Most were either imprisoned at the military base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—in violation of international law—or dumped back on ports where murderous soldiers were waiting.
Neither did U.S. alarm translate into an end of support for coup-leader General C³dras, who continued to get a paycheck from the CIA (as reported by the New York Times) or for Emmanuel ñTotoî Constant, the leader of the vicious paramilitary group, FRAPH, who admitted to Human Rights Watch that he received regular payments from the CIA. Their ñalarmî notwithstanding, the first Bush administration found they could work with the coup leaders to bring Aristide and his feared brand of popular democracy (standing up for the rights of a horribly oppressed and poor people) under control.
While exiled in Washington, Aristide lost his direct contact with the people and was under intense pressure from members of the small Haitian bourgeoisie and the U.S. government to ñmoderateî his platform. The U.S., through the Organization of American States (OAS), legitimized the coup government by forcing Aristide to negotiate on equal terms with General C³dras. Then, although Aristide proved ready to make concession after concession to free his country and his movement from C³drasÍs campaign of murder, torture and rape, he was labeled ñstubbornî and ñuncooperativeî in the U.S. press. On the other hand, C³drasÍs consistent failure to fulfill his end of many deals went strangely unreported.
This smear campaign against the Aristide reached new heights in 1993 when an infamous CIA profile of Aristide described him as dangerously manic-depressive, based on a diagnosis by his personal psychologist in Canada. Even after Canada denied the existence of this psychologist and an embarrassed CIA was forced to publicly recognize the document as a forgery, AristideÍs opponents in the U.S. Congress and the media continued to refer to it in public statements intended to undermine his legitimacy.
Eventually, however, the Clinton administration had to reinstate Aristide. It was simply becoming too evident that the coup leaders had no intention of negotiating in good faith, and the myth that everything was AristideÍs fault could no longer be maintained. Besides, most of the work decimating Haitian popular organizations had already been done during three years of murder, torture, and rape, and crucial concessions had already been wrenched from Aristide.
In addition, as the number of vacancies in the cells of Guantanamo shrank, a new threat from Haiti was materializing off the Florida shores. Professor Brian Freeman writes in a recent column in Haiti en Marche, ñThe boat people are HaitiÍs atomic bomb. They are the only menace by which Haiti can pressure the United States.î Clinton acted in his political best interest to keep FloridaÍs shores safe from an invasion of poor blacks. (By the way, virulent discrimination against Haitians in the U.S. has infiltrated even supposedly scientific and ñhumanitarianî organizations like the Center for Disease Control, who in the mid-1980s preposterously and without evidence listed Haitians along with intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and gays as a high-risk group for AIDS. Under pressure, that classification was dropped several years later, but the damage had been done.)
So Aristide returned, dependent on U.S. military force, estranged from the popular movement—largely broken—that had swept him into power, and obligated by contract to comply with the demands of ClintonÍs globalization and provide international capital with the cheap, powerless labor it demands. Furthermore, the Clinton administration insisted that the three years spent in exile count as part of AristideÍs five-year term. Since the Haitian constitution does not allow two consecutive terms, Aristide, a man who had won a clear mandate with over two-thirds of all votes cast, served less than two years of a five-year term.
Still, the vicious campaign against Aristide did not end there. Ren³ Pr³val, a politician closely allied with Aristide, had served from 1995 to 2000 and resisted the imposition of another IMF structural adjustment program. In 2000, Aristide ran for president again. The prospect of another overwhelming electoral victory for Aristide led opposition parties (often called ñparticlesî due to their almost total lack of popular support) to boycott and later contest the elections. While it is clear that there were irregularities in the voting, it is also clear that Aristide would have won regardless. As it stands, Aristide officially won 92% of the vote, against virtually unknown opponents.
The smaller political ñparticlesî banded together some months later with the help of the U.S. governmentÍs International Republican Institute to create the Convergence D³mocratique (CD). Despite almost no popular support, CD took the audacious step of forming an alternative government, naming G³rard Gourgue as ñpresident,î and calling for another coup against Aristide. Rather than condemn this action, the U.S. once again legitimized an illegal challenge to a democratically elected president by blocking $500 million dollars in aid to Haiti, using the CDÍs complaints as justification. With this weapon in hand, U.S. negotiators once again set out to force an austerity program on Aristide, further denying the desperately poor Haitians any hope of relief.
The denial of aid amounted to an effective embargo against Aristide, especially if one considers the recent inability of Texaco, Mobil, and Chevron to supply HaitiÍs meager oil demands (although they had kept Duvalier and C³dras adequately stocked). Harvard professor Paul Farmer has observed that only Haitian democrats are subject to effective embargoes from the U.S., never Haitian dictators.
George W. Bush recently announced the unblocking of aid, partly in response to pressure from the OAS and the Black Caucus, but mainly because he finally recognized that this effective embargo might actually be contributing to the misery of Haitians. That spells political disaster for Bush, whose brother, Governor Jeb, is facing a reelection campaign in Florida. More boat people have been spotted on the high seas (and promptly returned, of course), and the influx of those Black pariahs could hurt Jeb BushÍs electoral base in South Florida.
Contrary to popular American belief, Haiti does not seek charity from the United States. It seeks an end to U.S. oppression, both direct and indirect. USAID needs to stop sabotaging AristideÍs plans to raise the minimum wage (to just above $2 a day). The CIA needs to stop funding opposition groups that engage in the most horrific human rights abuses upon HaitiÍs poor. We need to stop underming the Haitian peopleÍs fight for democracy.
Haitian poverty is not an anomaly of the world capitalist system; it is the result of policies that benefit allied international and domestic elites. This alliance allows Haitian elites to maintain their position of dominance and their extravagant lifestyles, and it allows international elites to exploit cheap labor close to AmericaÍs shores aided by state violence and mass disenfranchisement. AristideÍs challenge to these tactics has not gone unanswered. As Americans, we must make a stand for Aristide and the majority of Haitians. We must say that Haiti does not seek charity. Haiti seeks only justice.
Patrick McElwee is a Notre Dame senior history and philosophy major and an Editor of Common Sense.
For about two years, music was free. For one brief time, music fans from around the United States were united in sharing their songs with people of every background, allowing everyone with a computer the opportunity to listen to rarities and live tracks unavailable in chain stores and normal music retailers. This community was called Napster, a file sharing music service located only in the data on the Internet and hard drives. There was no massive Napster database that held all the songs, as the court system would later find out. The songs were swapped directly from other user hard drives; Napster was simply the means for people to obtain the songs they desired.
The Internet opened up exciting and uncharted territory for listening to and sharing music. Napster and related sites such as Audiogalaxy joined Internet radio stations in championing a community for popular music, opening up huge libraries of songs at no cost, and enabling unprecedented dissemination of artistsÍ work. I clearly remember using Napster myself to download the rare and unreleased songs of my favorite artists. I had the exhilarating feeling that this was technology that offered limitless possibilities for the everyday music fan who does not have the connections or employment necessary to receive free music. The potential was incredible; college parties rarely used CDs, and sometimes not a single song played at a social gathering was paid for in a traditional sense. It was like being present at one of the folk revival gatherings in the Boston coffeehouses, except more widespread and holistic; instead of paying for coffee to hear unlimited excellent music, all someone had to do was pay for Internet service. Ultimately, Napster was responsible for turning people on to new sounds and artists they would not have experienced through traditional radio, television, and record stores.
All that began to change, however, once the record industry and the artists themselves became aware of how popular Napster had become. The operations of Napster were eventually ended in July of 2001 in litigation accusing the service of copyright infringement. The most vocal opponents of Napster and other online music services have not been the record labels, however; the artists themselves have been the most adamant opponents. Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Dr. Dre, and the Goo Goo Dolls are just three of many bands and artists who spoke out against file sharing, typically calling it stealing and encroachment on their artistic rights. A powder-keg moment of the situation was when an unfinished demo of a Metallica song for the ñMission: Impossible 2î soundtrack was released on Napster. MetallicaÍs drummer Lars Ulrich was and is a vehement opponent of Internet music sharing because of this experience, and he successfully lobbied to have Napster lockout any of its users with Metallica songs on their hard drives.
Interestingly enough, however, the opponents of Napster who were most concerned about losing money through file sharing were already millionaires with guaranteed platinum-selling albums and sold out stadiums on tour. The record companies that brought suit against Napster could also hardly be described as financially insecure. The most supportive groups for Napster, other than average music fans, were independent bands and artists who were able to use Napster as a vehicle for getting musical exposure. Those with the most financially insecure future seemed to be happiest with people downloading their songs for free. Perhaps the support of independent acts was based on the hope that early free exposure would turn into later monetary success, but the overall point remains that the people who should have been the most concerned about losing money through file sharing supported it. Greed, then, is the most obvious motivation for the actions of record labels and the bands outspoken against Napster.
The world of music on the Internet has changed dramatically since these lawsuits. Napster has floundered since trying to start some sort of subscription service, and the company has recently begun to negotiate an emergency loan to keep it afloat. A recent sale of Napster to a German media conglomerate for $92 million was overruled when a United States bankruptcy court did not believe the sale was in good faith. Similar programs such as Audiogalaxy have suffered the same fate, and access to any non-subscription music service has been hindered by blocked access on servers. Colleges and universities across the country have been active in blocking such free music sites, Notre Dame included.
Still, the market for an Internet music service remains open and viable, and in good capitalistic tradition, companies such as Universal, Sony, and AOL Time Warner have begun setting up companies to distribute major label songs for a fee. Although there is a growing subculture of people who take advantage of such services, there are still limitations to such services that did not exist with Napster. The musical selection is usually of poor quality and variety due to problems obtaining rights to songs and copyrights in general. The user interfaces of these programs have also been troublesome. Sean Ryan, president and chief executive of the music distributor Rhapsody admitted to the New York Times that ñif Audiogalaxy was in full form like it was six months or a year ago, it could have been hard to beat.î Only when other systems are exhausted does there become a market for pay services.
Despite a generation of Napster users coming into jobs and money, the search remains for a music service that resembles Napster in its prime. Companies like Kazaa are still committed to providing free music, but recently the record companies and artists have begun to sabotage the product. The downloads from free sites are increasingly unreliable and filled with false files that contain viruses or loops, some of which are deliberately posted by businesses hired by the record companies. The company Overpeer makes a profit off of posting bogus music tracks to discourage file sharing. Michael Haile, an online music consultant, stated that ñrecord labels know what consumers want. We all do. They want a Napster you pay for. We all know that. But why would the labels want that at all? Making CDs is like printing money.î Although musicians may have stated that they were concerned over artistic infringement, it is clear that the impetus for record companies to be involved is only money. The recording industry is incredibly lucrative, and the consolidating desires of record companies know no bounds. It is tragic that some artists have been on the side of the record labels, especially considering the current poor relations between these two groups. The millionaire artists too often forget the unfair contracts they had to sign to get airplay, the stringent agreements needed for just a slight hint of exposure. Not so long ago those same millionaire performers could have used access to a system like Napster.
Overall the continuing saga of Internet music and its conflict with record labels is another depressing part of the growing commercialization of art. The idea of creating music for anything besides money is swiftly disappearing behind the dollar signs that fill teenagersÍ eyes when they pick up a guitar. The rewarding benefits of simply being able to create music are often abandoned in favor of MTV videos and headlining tours. What Napster did, especially on a grassroots level, was provide an outlet for creativity, not for the desire to make money. Such a free and uninhibited program of music sharing encouraged people to share their art with people they might never meet. Thoughts of money or success became secondary to simply being heard „ but what could be more dangerous to an economic system reliant on image and marketing? On the Internet it was just the music, pure and simple, coming over the phone lines. There was no commercial, there was no product. Just art for artÍs sake.
Liam Farrell is a junior majoring in American Studies and a member of Common Sense.
Attack of the Wildmon
Tune into the local radio station WVPE-FM in Elkhart tomorrow and you may find that National Public RadioÍs ñMorning Editionî with Bob Edwards has suddenly become American Family RadioÍs ñAnswers in Genesisî with Ken Ham. Your daily dose of Iraq originally heard from political analysts or international reporters has since become a discussion on Darrell ColeÍs book When God Says War is Right. Although the mini-nightmare I have proposed has not come to be in our own South Bend community, the prospect has a precedent in many states already.
And if the titles of the religious programs sound peculiar to you, you may find that it is worse than that „ you may learn that your favorite NPR programs are no longer available to you at all thanks to Christian Radio stations with high-powered attorneys and fat pocket books.
The small window of non-commercial wavelengths on FM radio that are typically available for local and affiliate NPR or Public Radio International (PRI) stations, are being threatened by determined Christian groups such as that of Rev. Don Wildmon and his American Family Radio. How can this be possible? Simply because non-commercial does not mean non-capital or non-profit, and, as usual, the winners in these ñwavelength battlesî are the ones with the most money. Due to a failure of the Federal Communication CommissionÍs responsibility to provide non-commercial and educational programs with FM outlet stations, angry-at-the-liberals Christians such as the Rev. Wildmon have been able to successfully buy out NPR spots. This becomes possible due to the hierarchy of the radio-station allotment system. Smaller and usually lower-budget stations that retransmit NPR from a larger network are losing out to what are called the ñfull-power stationsî such as those the American Family Association (sponsors of American Family Radio) can afford to monopolize.
Blaine Harden of the New York Times recently reported a case showing the Christian radio bully at work (New York Times 9/15/02). Acting fully within their rights and with the FCCÍs approval, American Family Radio was successfully able to outbid two NPR affiliate stations in Lake Charles, Louisiana, thereby ñtransforming this Southwest Louisiana community of 95,000 people into the most populous place in the country where ïAll Things ConsideredÍ cannot be heard,î reports Harden.
And the Reverend has not stopped with the two stations in Lake Charles. Stations all over the country including Oregon, Florida, and here in Indiana have faced similar fates, forced to surrender to Wildmon and the like, despite local protests.
Harden suggests that local radio stations are losing out because they are not equipped with the resources needed to compete with motivated and financially secure religious groups. The non-profit group Public Capital Radio formed last year precisely because they recognized this discrepancy. Public Capital Radio is raising money so that public radio stations, especially the poorly funded local ones, are able to buy the full power stations needed to escape being tossed off the air by various Reverends and religious right-wingers such as Wildmon and his American Family Radio.
The question arises, who is to blame?
Fortunately for local South Bend listeners, and according to station manager Tim Eby, WVPE-FM applied for a full-power station over 30 years ago before ever going on the air. Call it foresight or riches, thanks to its full-power status the station is going to be around for a while. The rest of the nation is not so lucky, and unless groups like Public Capital Radio raise ungodly amounts of money (no pun intended), or the FCC decides to adhere to the principle of separation of church and state in regards to education, NPR will continue to lose thousands of listeners across America each year.
Martha Patzer is an AL sophomore and a member of Common Sense.
Bad Conscience and Worse Prospects
Amid the increasing momentum of an unnecessary war, American Roman Catholics continue to be embroiled in national and local revelations about priests who have molested minors and about the irresponsibility of some of the bishops who dealt with them. The VaticanÍs recent rejection of the policy of the American bishops exacerbates the deep and broad distrust in the church the revelations have inspired „ or perhaps revealed.
I wish to make two long-term proposals for change that might be able to address that distrust. Both are in the realm of theological thinking and church teaching. I begin by begging the readersÍ pardon because I am abandoning my usual metier „ neither proposal will be funny „ and because the first will sound, and also be, rather old-fashioned, perhaps ante-diluvian, in fact, pre-conciliar, and the second will sound, and also be, rather Biblicist.
First then, Cardinal LawÍs statements and depositions (like those of Cardinal Egan) consistently claimed a lack of knowledge even of information that was available in archdiocesan files. If these claims are to be believed (and it is probable that fewer people believed them than believed Oliver North), they at best suggest that there were certain things the cardinal chose not to investigate and perhaps even certain areas in which he wished to maintain ñdeniability.î My Catholic grade school taught me to call this approach to information ñculpable ignorance,î ignorance of those things which one could have known but chose not to pursue. Again in the terms of my Catholic grade school, persistent ignorance in matters of moral import, whether culpable or invincible, produces malformation of conscience, a state in which one can, with perfect conviction of rectitude, do great harm. I do not doubt that many of the bishops who floundered in dealing with abusive priests were sincerely convinced that they were acting for the good of the church.
In the perception of many committed Catholics, that sector of the church that refers to itself as the magisterium has cultivated a kind of culpable ignorance in regard to matters of sex and gender. One of the foundations of this perception for Catholics my age and older was Paul VIÍs rejection of the conclusions of his own hand-picked commission in the decisions of Humanae Vitae. The perception has been enhanced by prohibiting discussion on topics like abortion and the ordination of women. In the last 30 years, sexual practice and gender have become the heliocentrism of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century church. The work of social sciences and philosophical inquiry have taken the place that astronomy and physics occupied in the time of Galileo. Attempts to silence theological thinking, to curtail the development of moral theology and to restrict ministerial practice have been most frequent and most punitive in the area of sexual mores.
Culpable ignorance and the malformation of conscience have played a role in the distortion of the Catholic ethical tradition. This struck me a few weeks ago when the NY Times reported the words of an anonymous curial official calling into question the ñzero-toleranceî policy of the American bishops. He insisted that the policy was ña one size fits allî policy and therefore inappropriate to the Catholic moral tradition, which he characterized as a flexible tradition and one based on the use of proportionate reason.
This is indeed the case „ the long history of natural law ethics has indeed developed in a way that requires the use of proportionate reason to adjudicate the application of basic principles to moral issues. But over the last 20 years, the use of proportionate reason has been excluded from official documents as a means of deciding issues of sexuality. Moral theologians who applied it to issues like contraception, abortion and homoeroticism have been accused of ñthe error of proportionalism.î Consider the case of a woman who is having a child, and has been discovered to have cardiomyopathy so that she cannot hope to survive a second pregnancy. The use of proportionate reason might well suggest that the proportionate harm to her, her child and her partner caused by her death would be greater than the harm done by offering her a tubal ligation or counseling her on the safest means of birth control. But Catholic hospitals in the US may not do either „ the policy is ñone size fits all.î
I am not about to suggest that the rigidity displayed in dealing with sex and gender must also be turned upon priests. The anonymity of the official who spoke to the Times may mean that the Vatican will not explicitly suggest that proportionate reason must be used to temper ñzero tolerance.î But restoring the use of proportionate reason in the application of ethical principles to all areas of Catholic teaching might well be the single most effective long term step toward restoring or perhaps creating, trust in the church and its leadership among Catholics. The teaching authority of the church is brought into disrepute when its leaders refuse the responsibility to convince before they command. More importantly, that refusal is a very serious failure in their responsibility in the formation of conscience. The current sexual dispensation seems to treat all sex outside of procreative sex in marriage as equally wrong. No wonder some bishops seemed unable to distinguish among premarital sex between consenting adults, the practice of birth control between married partners, and a crime by a priest against a child. Most heavily punished of all is daily faithfulness in a second marriage.
On many levels, the most damaging malformation of communal conscience in recent years has been manifested in the churchÍs unwillingness, perhaps inability, to support, indeed to promote the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, especially in the catastrophic situation of Africa. Silence about the causes of AIDS and means of prevention has created a situation in which over 20% of the population of many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa are infected, and in which most transmission is through heterosexual contact. Sexual intercourse involves two people „ chastity will not protect one partner if the other has been unchaste, has been exposed to infected blood or is a drug user. Women who have had intercourse with only their husbands have been infected by the millions, as have village midwives, whose hands are always covered with small cuts from working in the fields. Legends that claim that sex with a virgin will prevent or cure AIDS have contributed to appalling statistics on the rape and infection of children. And as among poor people in the US, few know they are infected.
It is clear that the failure of responsibility is a broad one. But sermons about continence were never likely to persuade infected men to abstain from sex with their wives. Had the Roman Catholic bishops, in Africa and the US, marshaled other religious leaders and the government for a massive campaign of education, distribution and world wide fundraising, a very different situation would now pertain. As things now stand in Africa, unprotected sex, however chaste and procreative, is as likely to bring death as to create life „ or more likely.
Banishing the use of proportionate reason from the consideration of these questions at best communicates moral rigidity and insensitivity. To continue to do so while invoking it in the case of priests who have abused suggests a double standard. Similarly, the Vatican expression of concern for the rights of priests and complaints about the lack of due process in the policy the bishops adopted at Dallas cannot but recall the lack of due process for lay employees of the church.
My second suggestion also bears on interconnections of church, ordained ministry, and sexuality in the construction of church teaching. I suggest that we rethink the use of familial and particularly parental metaphors for relations with the community of the baptized. These metaphors are problematic on many levels. For one thing, the family is the most common locus of sexual abuse and violence against minors. While women also abuse, they are far outnumbered by fathers and father surrogates. The current crisis thus raises serious questions about calling priests father „ and about allowing bishops to insist on their own fatherly authority and concern. Equally problematic is the practice of attributing the exclusion of women from the priesthood and sexual prescriptions that are deeply and disproportionately burdensome for women to the teaching of ñthe holy mother churchî while allowing women no voice in the formulation of that teaching.
While the parental metaphors are old ones, their critique is equally old. I am not merely suggesting a biblically based refusal to call priests ñfather.î Rather, we would do well to think through MatthewÍs counsels:
Do not be called rabbi, for one is your teacher, and you are all brothers.
These counsels of course exclude being called not only father or reverend but also professor or doctor, to say nothing of your excellency, your eminence and your holiness. More importantly they invite recognition that the church teaching „ usually seen as the bishops „ must also be the church learning and that those who are officially identified as the church learning have a great deal to teach. It is time to stop conceding that the church is not a democracy. In so far as it is true, that statement should be seen a problem, not an axiom.
Most worrisome of all is the VaticanÍs objection that the American bishops yielded too much authority by creating a lay board to oversee the process, by requiring similar boards in each diocese and by agreeing to turn accusations over to the civil authorities for investigation. Addressing the combination of rage over maltreatment of victims and rage over the settlements that devastate church finances will be dissipated only by both long term and difficult measures, most importantly by extensive learning and listening to the victims and their supporters, by instituting transparency in diocesan finances and by creating forms of due process for all employees, including priests. Bishops can no longer turn aside questions by implying that they are the father who knows best, or by referring to themselves as the CEOÍs of their dioceses, presumably responsible only to a single divine but conveniently silent stockholder. Similarly, seminaries, especially diocesan seminaries, must require students to meet the same academic and ethical standards as are required of other men and women graduate students, and to live in ways that demand of them the same adult responsibility.
If some of the bishops have not acted like shepherds, perhaps that is a salutary reminder to lay Roman Catholic adults that they are neither sheep nor children. The emergence of Voice of the Faithful and the resurgence of Call to Action do not manifest the disobedient spirit of American Catholicism but its extraordinary vitality. It is worth noting that national scandals have occurred in those churches in which the percentage of Catholics who attend church is high and where there is no tradition of entrenched anti-clericalism „ Ireland, England, anglophone Canada, Australia, Poland, and most notably the US, which probably has the highest percentage of church attendance of any Catholic community. It may be that there have been no national scandals in say, France, Italy or even francophone Canada because the public expectations of Catholic clergy are too low for malfeasance to create a sensation.
This brings me to a closing caveat and admission. I would like to believe that this crisis will eventually have a beneficial effect on the US church. But at present, that is at best a hope. It could easily instead produce an alienation as deep as that of Italy or Quebec. An Irish colleague of mine said of the increasing alienation of the Irish from Catholicism, ñWhat the English could not do in nine hundred years, the Irish bishops will have done in a generation.î Ireland has just established a special police unit to investigate sexual abuse by priests because of public distrust of the ecclesiastical process. It is probable that American Roman Catholics will also continue to view the church hierarchy with a hermeneutic of suspicion for a considerable time to come.
Finally, I admit that I am deeply unhappy and indeed resentful of the timing of this crisis. This fall the American bishops were desperately needed as a public voice against war on Iraq and for substantial change in the terms of the welfare bill. Perhaps they could never have been heard above the drums of war „ but they have been distracted and disgraced, and that is a loss to all.
Mary Rose DÍAngelo teaches in the Theology Department and is a member of Common Sense. An earlier version of this article was presented at the ñRestoring Trust: Perspectives After Dallasî Conference, October 14, 2002.
Helen Caldicott, The New Nuclear Danger: George W. BushÍs Military-Industrial Complex
Dr. Helen Caldicott is not a person to take lightly. Besides initiating the movement in Australia to force France to halt nuclear testing in the South Pacific, she founded Physicians for Social Responsibility and has been a powerful peace advocate for over thirty years. Perhaps her most important contribution to peace and global safety has been the professional knowledge and the humanity she brings as a physician to the medical consequences of nuclear warfare. Having already written two invaluable books dealing with the global peril of nuclear war „ Nuclear Madness and Missile Envy „ she now adds a third, The New Nuclear Danger: George W. BushÍs Military-Industrial Complex. With passion and with persuasive evidence, Caldicott contends that the world is in a nuclear crisis mostly generated by American political, military, and war-industry leaders.
The title of the book states what Caldicott believes is the source of the present nuclear crisis.
In the Bush presidency one beholds the consolidation of a right-wing, corporation-controlled, hyper-militaristic, unilateralist foreign-policy perspective that renders its plans of military preparedness potentially lethal for the entire world. According to Caldicott, the government is erecting and developing a structure of nuclear-weaponry power which, combined with the very costly Bush National Missile Defense (NMD) program, imperils an already highly unstable world. Thus it is extremely ironic that Bush accuses Saddam Hussein of being a global destabilizer, for, judging by the cogent, well-documented case Caldicott makes, the United States, with its massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), is today the most subversive threat to world amity.
Although every chapter of her book is arresting, the most engrossing dealt with subjects which the public should be informed about: the privileged secrecy in which American nuclear scientists have worked for decades and the extraordinary amount of nuclear weaponry they have created (sixty-five types of nuclear weapons and over 70,000 bombs); the huge role of weapons industries like Lockheed-Martin in both shaping American foreign policy and in extracting billions from the public coffers for war-research contracts; the grave environmental hazards; the cost and perniciousness of current research and development in nuclear facilities and weaponry; and the current Pentagon plans to militarize and monopolize space. Caldicott also discusses at considerable length the history of American research on uranium weaponry and the use of depleted uranium weaponry by America in the Gulf and Kosovo wars in which she makes the essential point that such weaponry constitutes a WMD when evaluated by four crucial criteria: the effects of the weaponry over a period of time, environmental safety, humaneness (a crucially ignored standard in modern-weapon design) and geographical dispersal limits.
After a terrifying description of the consequences of nuclear war, Caldicott discusses our present nuclear danger. In a long chapter called ñManhattan II,î she describes the Stockpile Stewardship and Management (SS&M) Program, an enterprise that involves ongoing nuclear-weaponry research by Los Alamos and Sandia labs. The supposed purpose of this new project is to guarantee the adequate functioning of the United States stockpile of nuclear weapons, but Caldicott asserts that ñNuclear scientists are actually designing, developing, testing and constructing new nuclear weapons at an annual cost of five billion dollars over the next ten to fifteen years.î
One of the serious problems with SS&M research, she observes, is that it violates international arms-control treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Start II by concealing nuclear research that constitutes nuclear-weapons testing. Such arms-control treaties are also violated by establishing a national defensive system„NMD„that other nations regard as enabling a war offensive by the United States that would render it invulnerable to foreign missiles. Aside from the authoritative evidence that the NMD wouldnÍt work, such a defense destroys the mutually-assured-destruction agreement which prevented the two superpowers from destroying the world during the Cold-War era. Another instance of AmericaÍs violating international standards of limits to nuclear-weapons research involves the National Ignition Facility. Located at the California Lawrence-Livermore laboratory, this stadium-size facility, costing billions, is designed to ñstimulate the development of a pure fusion bomb.î The lack of a fission product in nuclear weapons, however, renders their construction undetectable, thus preventing arms-control verification by other nations, the very crime for which the Bush administration now threatens to punish Iraq.
Two important chapters deal with the NMD and WashingtonÍs plans to militarize space. According to one American military official, ñWith regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and weÍre going to keep it.î Caldicott presents the historical background of NMD, then elaborates on the medical consequences, problematic rocketry aspects and critical environmental hazards of the anti-missile concept, including plutonium from exploded enemy missiles and NASA rockets falling through space to earth. Caldicott views AmericaÍs attempt to dominate space as part of a larger strategy to sustain the global disparity between rich and poor, a major thesis she unfortunately doesnÍt elaborate.
BushÍs NMD can thus be regarded as integral to this space-control scheme. It also allows an American pre-emptive first strike capacity. CaldicottÍs ideas about this capacity, which she relates to NMD and the PentagonÍs space-imperialism designs, deserves very serious attention. She thinks the real war target of America is not ñrogueî nations like North Korea but Russia and especially China, considering that the location and upgrading of American early-warning radar facilities are in places like Thule, Greenland and Clear, Alaska which strongly suggest Russia and China as targets, and that a sophisticated imaging intelligence-gathering radar is situated in northern Norway only forty miles from the Russian border. Moreover, Pentagon strategists repeatedly mention China as the main future foe. The recent deterioration of relations between Washington and Beijing, intensified by the BushÍs administrationÍs increasing arms sales to and stated defense support of Taiwan, further underscores China as a looming central enemy of Washington.
The final chapter the book focuses on Lockheed-MartinÍs deep involvement in the star-wars industry. CaldicottÍs assertion that this corporation ñliterally controls the fate of the earthî might at first seem extreme, but when one considers the levels of funding Lockheed-Martin receives from Washington ($15.1 billion in 2000 alone), the enormous influence of its lobbyists, the entrenchment of Lockheed-Martin personnel on influential conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and, most insidiously, the number of Bush-staff personnel with direct ties to Lockheed-Martin, it becomes clear why this chapter is titled ñThe Lockheed-Martin Presidency and the Star-Wars Administrationî. Not only do Lockheed-Martin, TRW, Boeing and many other weapons-manufacturing corporations have enormous clout in Washington and sell far more weapons abroad than do many countries combined; they also sell to both sides of a conflict „Turkey and Greece, India and Pakistan, Taiwan and China, Iran and Iraq. Most disturbing are the deep involvement of the military and the big arms corporations in the formulation of American foreign policy, the intense bellicosity and unilateralism of that policy under Bush II, the administrationÍs continual warnings to the public of perpetual war, and the close relations of these three factors to AmericaÍs current decision not only to maintain but develop its nuclear-weapons arsenal along with a missile-defense plan that would likely incite a nuclear-arms race by other nations.
AmericaÍs current defense and nuclear-arms plans represent a crisis for the world and the earth, and evoke the words of another woman, who like Helen Caldicott, also embodied a dire warning to America and the world: ñ No civilization,î urged Rachel Carson, ñcan wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without losing the right to be called civilized.î
Donald Gutierrez is Professor Emeritus at Western New Mexico University. He taught at Notre Dame in the 1970s and has for a long time been an active member of Amnesty International. He is a frequest contributor to Common Sense.
The Tools of Extermination
Olivier Razac, Barbed Wire, A Political History, translated by Jonathan Kneight, New York: The New Press, 2002, pp. 132.
Have you ever thought about the baby-bottle nipple and the extensive impact this small object has had on social practices? Michel Foucault mentions this ñsimpleî innovation in an interview, suggesting that it not only did away with the age-old profession of wet nurses, but also changed the lives of millions of mothers. In many ways, the nipple helped free women from their imprisonment in the private realm, while facilitating the possibility of egalitarian parenthood.
In his Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci briefly discusses the tin can, asserting that among other things it helped shape modern warfare. The novel capacity to stock up canned food in the trench storerooms „ months in advance „ prolonged the First World War and intensified its horrific effects.
While materialist histories of objects like the tin can and the nipple have yet to be written, Olivier Razac recently took it upon himself to chronicle the invention and usage of barbed wire. The book is written in a lucid fashion and is illustrated with arresting American and European archival photographs. The first half provides a descriptive overview of three historical landmarks: the fencing of the prairie in the American West, the fortification of WWI trenches, and the architecture of the Nazi concentration camps.
It was J. F. Glidden, an Illinois farmer, who in 1874 took out a patent for the barbed iron wire he had invented and for a machine that would mass-produce it. He wanted to provide a way of realizing the new American farmerÍs desire to declare property ownership over his land as well as a device to exclude intruders. As white newcomers moved west, rapidly fencing off the prairie, the production of barbed wire shot up from 270 tons in 1875 to 135,000 tons in 1901.
The 1887 Dawes Act authorized the President to parcel out Indian land to white farmers. Simply by fencing in their newly acquired plots, white farmers managed to enclose the Indians in the reservations, cutting them off from hunting grounds. Barbed wire, as Razac puts it, ñchopped space into little bits and broke up the communal structure of Indian society...[making] the IndianÍs geographical and social environment hostile to them, so that it became a foreign territory where the tribal way of life was unimaginable and where nomadic wandering and hunting were impossible. In short, it created the conditions for the physical and cultural disappearance of the Indian.î
During the same period, the wire was employed by farmers to defeat the cattle barons, in what has been aptly labeled the ñbarbed wire wars.î In the Hollywood film Man Without a Star the very sight of barbed wire infuriates Kirk Douglas, who plays the archetypical cowboy hero. ñWhatÍs the matter?î asks the farmer; ñI donÍt like it,î Douglas answers, ñor what itÍs used for.î By fencing in the prairie, the cattle empire, founded on free grazing, ultimately collapsed and the lone cowboy riding over the plains disappeared.
The lightness of the barbed wire as well as the difficulty in spotting it, converted the bramble, as it was frequently called, into a tactical apparatus employed in the defensive structure of WWI trenches. Easily repaired or replaced, the barbed wire did away with soaring thick walls, creating a network of entanglements that was a highly efficient obstacle against the attack of enemy infantry. Combatants who were caught in the wire were killed by rival fire, and it is not coincidental that one of the most vivid WWI images is the corpse of a soldier entangled in wire in the middle of no-manÍs-land.
Barbed wire was also a central element in the architectural design of the Nazi concentration camp. A double fence of electrified barbed wire usually encircled the camp from the outside, while a whole set of fences divided the inside, helping to produce the totalitarian organization of space. ñEverywhere,î Primo Levi wrote, ñwas the sinister tight iron grip. We never saw where the barbed-wire fences ended, but we felt their malign presence which separated us from the world.î
The wire also assisted in shrouding the extermination project in a veil of secrecy. At the Sobibor and Treblinka camps, the path leading to the gas chambers was camouflaged with barbed-wire braided with branches. The use of barbed wire not only facilitated the organization of space, but also this spaceÍs swift erasure. None of the concentration camps were built to last; most were constructed in such a way that they could easily be dismantled and thus disappear from sight and, as some hoped, from memory. ñIt was there,î as Razac points out, ñbut it was not there. It was transient.î
Despite the Nazi attempt to expunge their existence, the concentration camps helped turn the image of barbed wire into a graphic symbol of captivity, political violence, and death. Primo Levi put it this way: ñLiberty. The breach in the barbed wire gave us a concrete image of it.î
The bookÍs second part provides a theoretical analysis of how barbed wire was employed in order to manage space. Razac cogently argues that its use should be understood as both a sign and an action. As a sign, barbed wire ñproduces a kind of shock when it is used to enclose people, shaking their certitude that they are human. It confirms their fate: like beasts, they are to be worked or slaughtered.î As an action, barbed wire excludes and includes. ñIts function is always to magnify differences between the inside and the outside.î
Razac employs FoucaultÍs notion of biopolitics, the idea that in the eighteenth century governing began to concern itself with life „ rather than death „ by using a variety of techniques to manage the lives of its subjects. The author maintains that barbed wire was successful in the U.S. because it coincided with the biopolitical needs of the whites, while helping to destroy Indian society. Wittingly or unwittingly, Barbed Wire offers a corrective to Foucault, for it shows that modern biopolitics is often intricately tied to a thanatopolitics, the politics of extermination and death.
But RazacÍs theoretical discussion is, in many ways, also disappointing. My major reservation has to do with his attempt to conflate, rather than to distinguish, the different ways in which barbed wire was employed to manage space. He argues that in the three historical cases barbed wire was used to separate ñthose who will live from those who will die,î while producing a ñdistinction between those who are allowed to retain their humanity and those reduced to mere bodies.î While this analysis appears accurate when thinking of the Nazi concentration camps, it does not ring true in relation to WWI. It is precisely the diverse historical roles barbed wire has played „ both as sign and as action „ in the modern process of separating and homogenizing society that needs to be exposed, analyzed, and explained.
The bookÍs final chapter, ñBarbed Wire Today,î is also problematic, if only because it is spread too thin. Instead of concentrating on exposing how barbed wire is used nowadays in different parts of the world, whether in Kosovo, Chechnya or the U.S.-Mexican border, Razac moves on to discuss „ in a superficial way „ some of the modern devices that have replaced barbed wire like electronic gates, surveillance cameras, and X rays. Explicating and trying to understand the continued widespread use of barbed wire could have added an additional dimension to this fascinating book. For example, examining the architectural similarity and differences „ vis-ö-vis barbed wire „ between the camps Israel has constructed in order to hold Palestinian administrative detainees and the concentration camps Jews were held in during the Holocaust, urges one to ponder how it is that the reappearance of barbed wire in the Israeli landscape does not engender an outcry among survivors. Does this silence put into question the symbolic power of barbed wire or does it underscore that this power is always limited by its own contextuality? Questions like these could have problematized RazacÍs analysis, suggesting that the issues at hand are often more complex than the book implies.
Despite these qualifications, RazacÍs book is an extremely important contribution for it is one of those all too rare attempts to examine history from a new and interesting perspective. It is an exciting read, and one worth our attention.
Neve Gordon, a Notre Dame graduate, teaches in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter to the Editor
I read with great interest Ann PettiferÍs piece in the last issue of Common Sense relating to the state of the U.S. mass media. The fact that NPR, which has been mercilessly attacked for its alleged left-leaning bias, is not what right wingers advertise it to be, is hardly surprising to any of us who have been paying attention. The bias in the hard right of the national media is also well known to reasonable observers, despite the plethora of books and columns churned out by right-wing flaks to the contrary. Unfortunately, the state of affairs described by Pettifer plays out even more grimly in the provinces.
Early in October, my hometown newspaper, the Evansville Courier, published no fewer than three opinion pieces excoriating congressmen Bonior and McDermott who had the gall to go to Iraq in a last-ditch effort to stave off the impending U.S. invasion. Their ñFailure to Close Ranks,î (a headline trumpeted in the same week), earned the peaceniks enormous vilification. First came the opening salvo by the CourierÍs editor; next the ultra right-wing black columnist, Joseph Perkins, and finally the coup de grace by Cal Thomas. By the time any credulous reader was done with this swill, you can be sure his/her opinion would have been that hanging was too good for these congressmen „ whose efforts, in any case, were doomed to failure
What does this impending war really have to do with the ñsecurityî of the American people? Nothing. What it is really about is anybodyÍs guess „ ensuring an uninterrupted and cheap supply of oil, discouraging terrorism, and enhancing the security of the State of Israel are three good guesses. If these are the real reasons, it will fail horribly on all counts. The next time you read an editorial about those few brave souls in public life who are bucking war fever, please consider these words of Herman Goering, the infamous Nazi war criminal, at the Nuremberg trials:
ñThe people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders....All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for...exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.î
All available evidence supports his conclusion; but we have to hope against hope that he was wrong.
Andrew D. Thomas (ND ï73)
Tony Mazzocchi, ïLabor GuyÍ
Out in the countryside is where youÍll find AmericaÍs true leaders „ the gutsy, scrappy, sometimes scruffy and always ingenious grassroots agitators and organizers who go right into the face of the powerful elite, not merely speaking truth to power but kicking Old Mr. Power right in the butt. ItÍs from such people that the progressive movement gets the innovative strategies that allow We the People to advance our democratic ideals of fairness, justice and equal opportunity for all.
Tony Mazzocchi was one of these leaders. He never sought the spotlight, always deferring to someone else to get credit and media attention „ ñIÍm just a labor guy,î heÍd tell you in his blunt Brooklyn accent. But what a labor guy! TonyÍs the epitome of what labor can be, the kind of labor guy you wish was in charge of every labor union, from the locals to the internationals. Now Tony is gone „ On October 5 he died of cancer at 76. This column, however, is no obituary; itÍs a rallying cry. To paraphrase the last words supposedly uttered by Joe Hill: DonÍt Mourn, Emulate! And, yes, organize.
Organize is what Tony did. Wiry and fiery, he was of, by and for the working class „ a lifelong dedication that came to him not through intellectual study but experience. Son of immigrants from Naples, he grew up poor. ñI didnÍt discover until after I went to the Army that people donÍt normally sleep three to a bed,î he said. He learned the union gospel from his father, a garment worker who became shop steward and was in several tumultuous strikes.
At 16 Tony dropped out of school and lied about his age to enlist in World War II, fighting three combat campaigns and ending up at Buchenwald just as it was getting liberated, giving his young mind a horrifying lesson in the human capacity for inhumanity.
Back home Mazzocchi went to technical school on the GI Bill, after which he worked several jobs before landing at a Helena Rubenstein plant on Long Island, making cosmetics. Most of the workers there were women, who got less pay than the men and were the first to go in layoffs, regardless of seniority. So in 1953 he ran for president of the local union on a pledge of equal pay and equal treatment. Elected at 26, he not only delivered on that pledge but he built union loyalty by negotiating a health plan, including the first-ever dental insurance coverage in private industry.
While unions at the time focused almost strictly on wages, hours and job security, Tony began to talk about the workersÍ health and safety. He realized shortly after coming to Helena Rubenstein that it wasnÍt a cosmetics plant, it was a toxic chemical factory. Day in and day out, workers were handling lead to put in lipstick, breathing asbestos that went into talc and so forth „ all without any protections or monitoring of their health. By the mid-1950s, this still-young agitator had helped amalgamate the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, and he led the first-ever strike in the United States over issues of health and safety.
In the late 1950s he learned that some OCAW members and their families were being exposed to strontium 90 from nuclear tests. The industry claimed that no one was getting enough exposure to be hurt, but Tony met with scientists who said the deadly isotope accumulates in bone tissue. So he asked members in various plants to collect the baby teeth of their kids and grandkids. ñMy union, 85 percent of which was women, really got into it,î he said. ñEvery day they would bring into the shop steward baby teeth. The study became the definitive proof that strontium 90 was being taken up by humans.î
MazzocchiÍs greatest contribution to the movement was his understanding that none of our groups can win alone „ we have to forge coalitions. In the mid-1960s, then serving as OCAWÍs legislative director in Washington, he reached out to environmentalists and public interest groups, which labor mostly had been treating hostilely. He helped pull them together behind a bill that he and Ralph Nader were cobbling together „ the bill that ultimately created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in 1970. As part of that effort, Tony backed Earth Day, serving as chair of the April 1970 rally in New York City. With millions of Americans responding to Earth DayÍs call for action against toxics, the OSHA bill quickly began to move, even getting sudden support from none other than Richard Nixon, who wanted to appeal to blue-collar workers for his re-election bid. ñ[It] shows that when you build a big movement from down below,î Tony said, ñregardless of whoÍs in the White House, you can bring about change.î
ThereÍs so much more: In 1974 he was the one who worked with Karen Silkwood to expose safety violations and a corporate cover-up at Kerr-McGeeÍs nuclear plant; then, after Silkwood was killed (apparently forced off the road to keep her from providing evidence of the cover-up), Tony kept pushing to bring the truth of her story to the general public. In 1991 he established Alice Hamilton College, specifically designed for union members. Last year, he initiated the wildly successful Labor Film Festival at the Kennedy Center. He also created an innovative medical-student internship so budding healthcare professionals could work on job sites and learn up close and personally about workplace health problems. And he devoted his last decade to founding and building an independent political voice for workers, the Labor Party, created to advance a working-class agenda of universal healthcare and higher education for all (www.thelaborparty.org).
In July, at the Labor PartyÍs convention, Tony said in his opening speech, ñI am both afflicted with an incurable disease and blessed with an incurable optimism.î That was him to the core „ a labor guy who could see the rapacious greed of our societyÍs elites so clearly, which causes many to despair, yet what he saw was the uplifting opportunity to reach more people and build a movement to defeat the greed. DonÍt send flowers...become flowers, nourished by Tony MazzocchiÍs example.
© Jim Hightower, first published in The Nation, October 28, 2002.
The United States and Iraq: The Lessons of History
As the Bush Administration moves deliberately and, it seems, inexorably toward war with Iraq, it behooves Western believers, both Christians and Jews, to consider the historical context in which this episode in our countryÍs life is played out. George W. BushÍs spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, recently claimed that the current campaign against Iraq is totally compatible with the history of AmericaÍs past actions on the world stage, always dedicated to the good. And Bush himself has declared that our nation is involved in a global struggle of good versus evil, with the United States always and unambiguously representing good. Anyone with even slight knowledge of U.S. history will recognize that both statements are false. Only in a society where the majority of citizens appear to have been numbed by the unrelenting bombardment of commercial messages and brain-altering television could such obvious propaganda be believed.
In reality, since its inception the United States has been involved in over 100 wars and, since World War II, countless covert CIA operations involving the subversion and overthrow of democratically elected governments and support for some of the worldÍs most bloody and rapacious dictators. (To name a few: Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, and the former Zaire.) The death toll from such actions has been at least six million, according to John Stockwell, a former CIA agent, who provided that estimate more than 10 years ago. How many more have died since that date can only be guessed at.
Hence ñterrorismî is nothing new. It was practiced by the U.S. military in its war against the Philippine people at the beginning of the 20th century, a war initiated by the U.S. government against a nation which had struggled to free itself from the oppression of the Spanish Empire only to find itself, after a bloody conflict in which one million Filipinos died, conquered by another imperial power. Soldiers wrote home about massacres such as the burning of a village and the killing of a thousand civilians in one night and on one island the U.S. commander issued an order for the killing of all males over the age of 10. Many Americans condemned their countryÍs aggression, the distinguished Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton describing it thus: ñThis miserable war in the Philippines, this bastard ïimperialism,Í this childish temper of the people, this turn of affairs toward barbarism....î And William James, another Harvard intellectual, wrote: ñGod damn the United States for its vile conduct in the Philippine Isles.î
It was practiced by the U.S. military in a host of campaigns in Central America and the Caribbean during the first half of the 20th century „ in Haiti, in Santo Domingo, in Nicaragua, in Honduras, in Cuba. One who took part in those campaigns, General Smedley Butler, who retired in the late thirties after serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps, described himself as a ñhigh-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers ... a racketeer for capitalism,î who helped in the ñraping of half a dozen Central American republics....î
It was practiced by the many dictators the U.S. supported „ with money, with weapons, with diplomatic cover, and with warships and the Marines when the people of a country such as El Salvador or Nicaragua indicated a desire to free themselves of a tyrant. The pattern was depressingly regular and widespread, but let the example of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua illustrate the point. Three members of this family ruled the country from 1933 to 1979, accumulating hundreds of millions in property, in business enterprises, in overseas bank accounts. Thousands of opponents of the regime were arrested, tortured, many brutally murdered. Throughout this period the support of the U.S. government was unwavering.
When a guerrilla army led by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation finally drove the last Somoza from power and set up a government dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the desperately poor majority „ through programs in literacy, health care, agrarian reform „ the Reagan Administration began a covert war, using what was little more than a band of mercenaries to terrorize the civilian population. I was twice in Nicaragua during this period (1984 and 1988) and saw the consequences of the contra war and the embargo that together achieved the results desired by Washington „ scarcity of many essentials, hyperinflation, and a population increasingly weary of burying their young people. Thus in 1990, when the Sandinistas organized an election described by observers as ñfree and fairî (of course, most of those observers did not know that the CIA was paying people to vote for the UNO opposition), the Sandinistas lost the election. Some have asked me, How could that be, if the Sandinistas were so popular? A Nicaraguan commentator provided the obvious answer. ñIf you are sitting at a table with an empty plate in front of you and a man with a gun at the back of your head, you donÍt have much choice.î
Terror, in other words, has been a staple instrument of U.S. policy since at least the beginning of the 20th century and has been used by all of our client states in the western hemisphere and beyond, from Indonesia to Zaire, where Mobutu, a dictator and robber of staggering proportions, slaughtered tens of thousands of his citizens. And when the CIA orchestrated the first of its covert actions, the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 and put in power the Shah, who subsequently killed thousands of his opponents and accumulated millions for himself and his family, it set in motion a chain of events still haunting the American people. (One might argue that had this event not taken place, there would have been no revolution in Iran, no ñhostage crisis,î and probably no Reagan victory in 1980. What is certain is that the United States would not have represented ñthe Great Satanî to millions in Iran.)
A book published in the late 90s, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson, provides, in my view, a kind of guidebook to the course of American history in the late 20th century and a frightening preview of the U.S.-dominated world of the 21st. Johnson argues that AmericaÍs aggression against the peoples of the global South will lead inevitably to violent reactions, a prophecy that was proven correct on September 11, 2001. He speaks of the ñprofligate waste of our resources on irrelevant weapons systemsî and of terrorist actions against U.S. installations as ñportents of a twenty-first century crisis in AmericaÍs informal empire, an empire based on the projection of military power to every corner of the world and the use of American capital and markets to force global economic integration on our terms, at whatever costs to others.î
Now to Saddam Hussein and Iraq „ and George W. Bush. There can be no doubt, of course, that Saddam is a man capable of great evil, though hardly any worse than many of the dictators the United States has supported and protected. Moreover, there appears to be solid evidence that the United States sold Iraq ñdisease-producing and poisonous materialsî during the Iran-Iraq war (1985-1988), as reported in a September 26, 2002, column by Robert Novak. Moreover, the argument that the U.S. should initiate a war with Iraq because of that countryÍs defiance of U.N. resolutions is hardly convincing in light of unqualified U.S. support for Israel, which has time and time again defied the repeated U.N. resolutions calling for it to end the occupation of Palestinian lands, the destruction of Palestinian homes and vineyards, and to withdraw to pre-1967 borders.
This American refusal to condemn Israel for behavior parallel to Iraqi actions which led to the Gulf War and its continuing economic support of Israel, to the tune of two billion dollars annually, can hardly endear our country to the Muslim masses in Jordan or Egypt or Pakistan who watch, night after night, as the Israeli army uses weapons provided by the U.S. to kill Palestinian civilians. One need not condone suicide bombings leading to the death of Israeli citizens „ and I surely do not „ in order to understand that the festering sore represented by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes peace in the Middle East impossible, no matter what George W. Bush may say to the contrary.
In addition, we now know that for years Israel had a clandestine nuclear weapons program and is reported to possess today more than 20 such weapons loaded on missiles surely capable of reaching Baghdad and the capitals of other Islamic states in the region. Yet there has been no call from Washington for Israel to give up its weapons of mass destruction. In short, the United States operates with an absolute double standard in its dealings with the nations of the Middle East, as it has elsewhere in the world. And people ask, ñWhy do they hate us?î
Therefore, the Bush AdministrationÍs determination to ñgetî Saddam, with or without U.N. approval, ought to give pause to anyone at all familiar with recent American policies vis-ö-vis the developing nations. What should be clear by now is that the multiple invasions, low intensity warfare, covert actions, etc., have been designed not to foster democracy or improve the lot of the billions who live in abject poverty in Africa or Asia or Latin America, but to protect American ñinterests,î i.e. the raw materials, the ores and timber, the oil „ especially the oil „ which our gargantuan consumer appetite demands and which the multinational corporations control.
In this context, one might ask why was it so difficult to meet some of the apparently reasonable demands of Osama bin Laden, i.e. that the United States withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia, since in his view and that of many other Muslims, their presence pollutes several of the most holy sites of the Islamic faith? Only the most gullible, I think, would believe that the answer is not control of the oil of that country „ and of surrounding countries. One is forced to conclude that a major goal of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and others in their circle of oil barons is to establish absolute American hegemony over the sources of petroleum across the globe. (The current U. S. military presence in Colombia and, as most recently reported, in Peru, ostensibly as part of the ñwar on drugsî but according to many independent observers actually an effort to ensure the availability of major oil deposits in the region for the multi-national corporations, provides yet another instance of this phenomenon.)
The recent enunciation of the so-called ñBush Doctrine,î that the United States reserves the right to launch preemptive strikes against any nation that it believes harbors hostile intentions „ or which endangers ñAmerican interestsî „ is merely the overt expression of a belief that has lain covert in the machinations of American policy makers for decades.
The American Empire now reveals itself and its ruthlessness for the whole world to see, and apparently they donÍt like it, as anti-American sentiment erupts in the most unlikely places, for example, in a formerly secure ally, South Korea. As Chalmers Johnson predicted, the chickens will come home to roost, and those who will suffer are not policy makers nor the generals who carry out the orders to invade „ and surely not the CEOs of the multi-nationals „ but ordinary citizens such as those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. For fifty years, American leaders were busy creating a ñnational security state,î but in the 21st century it has become abundantly clear that the last thing this state offers its citizens is security.
A Yale law professor, Jack Balkin, has written that the doctrine of preemptive strike is dangerous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the possibility that attacks on other countries will lead to our country being attacked. He notes in addition that such a doctrine and its likely consequences could very well result in ñthe perpetual military campaign of future presidents,î used to distract the voting public from domestic or foreign policy failures. Balkin concludes: ñThe president is right about one thing...today the world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude, who may plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth. The problem is that his name is George W. Bush, and he is our president.î
We North Americans, therefore, face a monumental political crisis; in fact, a constitutional crisis. Using tactics of intimidation, bullying and bribery, Bush may get what he wants „ both a Congressional green light and a U.N. resolution so harsh, so preemptory, so humiliating that Saddam Hussein and his government cannot accept it. If this should be the case and if we see a replay of the Gulf War, then the blood of innocent victims (ñcollateral damageî in the vile doublespeak of the Pentagon) will flow like the Nile at flood tide. Already a decade of sanctions has led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children and a million older persons. If, moreover, the doctrine of preemption and global domination is allowed to go unchallenged, then American democracy, already in tatters, will be for our grandchildren only a distant memory.
For North American Christians and Jews, this is an especially poignant moment. For our nation, supposedly founded on principles derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, now threatens to assert its right to rule the earth. Utterly convinced of ñourî righteousness, the nationÍs leaders appear willing to hold billions of other humans hostage to the needs and desires of five percent of the earthÍs population „ and, of course, not all of those, since many of us find such arrogance and belligerence contrary to all we believe.
But we have been passive too long. Now is the time to make our voices heard, to shout, if necessary, to declare: ñNo more blood, not in my name, not with my taxes.î Now is the time to proclaim that it is Yahweh, the God of Israel, and of Jesus, who demands righteousness and who judges. The lesson from the Hebrew scriptures for Sunday, September 30, could not be more relevant: ñYet you say, ïThe way of the Lord is unfair.Í Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die...When the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life,î (Ezekiel, 18).
Unfortunately, I do not expect either George Bush or Ariel Sharon to heed these words. But I do not think it is hyperbole to suggest that this crisis may be one involving life and death, if not immediately for us North Americans, then certainly for many of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in Israel, in Palestine and in other places where the powers that increasingly rule the world give little thought to either righteousness or the lives of the ñleast of these.î
Preston Browning is Associate Professor of English Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Recently, those who have criticised the actions of the US government (myself included) have been called ñanti-American.î Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology. The term is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely „ but shall we say inaccurately „ define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before theyÍre heard and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
What does the term mean? That youÍre anti-jazz? Or that youÍre opposed to free speech? That you donÍt delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you donÍt admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?
This sly conflation of AmericaÍs music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the US governmentÍs foreign policy is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. ItÍs like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire.
There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their governmentÍs policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive and hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in US government policy come from American citizens. (Similarly in India, not hundreds, but millions of us would be ashamed and offended if we were in any way implicated with the present Indian governmentÍs fascist policies.)
To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just racist, itÍs a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has setout for you: If you donÍt love us, you hate us. If youÍre not good, youÍre evil. If youÍre not with us, youÍre with the terrorists.
Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this post-September 11 rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. IÍve realised that itÍs not. ItÍs actually a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived, dangerous war. Every day IÍm taken aback at how many people believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism. Now that the initial aim of the war „ capturing Osama bin Laden „ seems to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. ItÍs being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas. WeÍre being asked to believe that the US marines are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be AmericaÍs military ally, Saudi Arabia?) Think of it this way: in India there are some pretty reprehensible social practices, against ñuntouchables,î against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women. Should they be bombed?
Uppermost on everybodyÍs mind, of course, particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as 9/11. Nearly 3,000 civilians lost their lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows that no war, no act of revenge, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.
To fuel yet another war „ this time against Iraq „ by manipulating peopleÍs grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent or running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. We are seeing a pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a state to do to its people.
The US government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel military despot who has committed genocide against his own people. ThatÍs a fairly accurate description of the man. In 1988, he razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and killed thousands of Kurds. Today, we know that that same year the US government provided him with $500 million in subsidies to buy American farm products. The next year, after he had successfully completed his genocidal campaign, the US government doubled its subsidy to $1 billion. It also provided him with high-quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.
It turns out that while Saddam was carrying out his worst atrocities, the US and UK governments were his close allies. So what changed?
In August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had committed an act of war, but that he acted independently, without orders from his masters. This display of independence was enough to upset the power equation in the Gulf. So it was decided that Saddam be exterminated, like a pet that has outlived its ownerÍs affection.
A decade of bombing has not managed to dislodge him. Now, almost 12 years on, Bush Jr is ratcheting up the rhetoric once again. HeÍs proposing an all-out war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change. Andrew H Card Jr, the White House chief-of-staff, described how the administration was stepping up its war plans for autumn: ñFrom a marketing point of view,î he said, ñyou donÍt introduce new products in August.î This time the catchphrase for WashingtonÍs ñnew productî is not the plight of people in Kuwait but the assertion that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Forget ñthe feckless moralising of the ïpeaceÍ lobbies,î wrote Richard Perle, chairman of the Defence Policy Board. The US will ñ act alone if necessaryî and use a ñpre-emptive strikeî if it determines it is in US interests.
Weapons inspectors have conflicting reports about the status of IraqÍs weapons of mass destruction, and many have said clearly that its arsenal has been dismantled and that it does not have the capacity to build one. What if Iraq does have a nuclear weapon? Does that justify a pre-emptive US strike? The US has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. ItÍs the only country in the world to have actually used them on civilian populations. If the US is justified in launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, why, any nuclear power is justified in carrying out a pre-emptive attack on any other. India could attack Pakistan, or the other way around.
Recently, the US played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan back from the brink of war. Is it so hard for it to take its own advice? Who is guilty of feckless moralising? Of preaching peace while it wages war? The US, which Bush has called ñthe most peaceful nation on earth,î has been at war with one country or another every year for the last 50 years.
Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. TheyÍre usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then, of course, thereÍs the business of war. In his book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Tom Friedman says: ñThe hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonaldÍs cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon ValleyÍs technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.î Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability, but itÍs certainly the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporate globalisation that I have read.
After September 11 and the war against terror, the hidden hand and fist have had their cover blown, and we have a clear view now of AmericaÍs other weapon „ the free market „ bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched, unsmiling smile. The Task That Never Ends is AmericaÍs perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law. So, in India, some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs Al-fayda „ The Word vs The Profit (no pun intended). For the moment it looks as though Al-fayda will carry the day. But then you never know...
In the past 10 years, the worldÍs total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top 100 biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57%, and the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading canopy of the war against terror, this process is being hustled along. The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs rain down, contracts are being signed, patents registered, oil pipelines laid, natural resources plundered, water privatised and democracies undermined.
But as the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist of the free market has its work cut out. Multinational corporations on the prowl for ñsweetheart dealsî that yield enormous profits cannot push them through in developing countries without the active connivance of state machinery „ the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today, corporate globalisation needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries, to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that itÍs only money, goods, patents and services that are globalised „ not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or, God forbid, justice. ItÍs as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.
Close to one year after the war against terror was officially flagged off in the ruins of Afghanistan, in country after country freedoms are being curtailed in the name of protecting freedom, civil liberties are being suspended in the name of protecting democracy. All kinds of dissent are being defined as ñterrorism.î Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the war against terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, itÍs hard for me to say this, but the American way of life is simply not sustainable. Because it doesnÍt acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
Fortunately, power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared. As the war against terror casts its net wider and wider, AmericaÍs corporate heart is hemorrhaging. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs whom nobody elected canÍt possibly last.
Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power: 21st-century market-capitalism, American-style, will fail for the same reason.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian novelist and environmental activist, was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 1999 „ BritainÍs most prestigious literary award „ for her novel, The God of Small Things, a book that has been translated into 40 languages and sold six million copies since its 1997 publication.
The Make-Out Artist
Tonight my cousin Ricky is teaching me
Rule number one: when dealing with
Never underestimate the tongue when kissing:
Then he brings out his motherÍs bra to
Max Westler teaches English at Saint MaryÍs and is a regular contributor to Common Sense.
Tomorrow All the Speeches Will Fade
Last night I stood underneath
Closing stores and empty tables
And I was left just staring,
I watched while the paintings ran together,
All that was left was my covered ears
In the distance there was marching,
And while I left these cemetery gates
Liam Farrell, whose article about Napster also appears in this issue, is an AL junior.