| So who’s in charge: Israel or the USA?

Who’s in charge: Israel or the USA? ~ Uri AvneryRedress Information & Analysis.

This is not merely a fight between Israel and the US. Nor is it only a fight between the White House and Congress. It is also a battle between intellectual titans.

On the one side there are the two renowned professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. On the other, the towering international intellectual Noam Chomsky.

It’s all about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.

Six years ago the two professors shocked the US (and Israel) when they published a book, The Israel lobby and US Foreign Policy, in which they asserted that the foreign policy of the United States of America, at least in the Middle East, is practically controlled by the state of Israel.

To paraphrase their analysis, Washington DC is in effect an Israeli colony. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Israeli-occupied territories, much like Ramallah and Nablus.

This is diametrically opposed to the assertion of Noam Chomsky that Israel is a US pawn, used by American imperialism as an instrument to promote its interests…

Intellectual theories can seldom be put to a laboratory test. But this one can.

The Israeli-American crisis

It is happening now. Between Israel and the US a crisis has developed, and it has come into the open.

It’s about the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama is determined to avert a military showdown. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to prevent a compromise.

For Netanyahu, the Iranian nuclear effort has become a defining issue, even an obsession. He talks about it incessantly. He has declared that it is an “existential” threat to Israel, that it poses the possibility of a second holocaust. Last year he made an exhibition of himself at the UN General Assembly meeting with his childish drawing of the bomb.

Cynics say that this is only a trick, a successful gimmick to divert the world’s attention away from the Palestinian issue. And indeed, for years now the Israeli policy of occupation and settlements has has been advancing quietly, away from the limelight.

But in politics, one gimmick can serve several purposes at once. Netanyahu is serious about the Iranian bomb. The proof: on this issue he is ready to do something that no Israeli prime minister has ever dared to do before: endanger Israeli-American relations.

This is a momentous decision. Israel is dependent on the US in almost every respect. The US pays Israel a yearly tribute of at least three billion dollars, and in fact much more. It gives us state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects us from UN Security Council censure, whatever we do.

We have no other unconditional friend in the world, except, perhaps, the Fiji Islands.

If there is one thing on which practically all Israelis agree, it is this subject. A break with the US is unthinkable. The US-Israeli relationship is, to use a Hebrew expression much loved by Netanyahu , “the rock of our existence”.

So what does he think he is doing?

Netanyahu’s game

Netanyahu was brought up in the US. There he attended high school and university. There he started his career.

He does not need advisors on US affairs. He considers himself the smartest expert of all.

He is no fool. Neither is he an adventurer. He bases himself on solid assessments. He believes that he is able to win this fight.

You could say that he is an adherent of the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine.

His present moves are based on the assessment that in a straight confrontation between Congress and the White House, Congress will win. Obama, already blooded by other issues, will be beaten, even destroyed.

True, Netanyahu was proved wrong the last time he tried something like this. During the last presidential elections, he openly supported Mitt Romney. The idea was that the Republicans were bound to win. The Jewish casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, poured money into their campaign, while at the same time maintaining an Israeli mass-circulation daily for the sole purpose of supporting Netanyahu.

Romney “couldn’t lose” – but he did. This should have been a lesson for Netanyahu, but he didn’t absorb it. He is now playing the same game, but for vastly higher stakes.

We are now in the middle of the fight, and it is still too early to predict the outcome.

The Zionist lobby

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), supported by other Jewish and Evangelical organizations, is marshalling its forces on Capitol Hill. It’s an impressive show.

Senator after senator, congressman after congressman comes forward to support the Israeli government against their own president. The same people who jumped up and down like string puppets when Netanyahu made his last speech before both houses of Congress, try to outdo each other in assertions of their undying loyalty to Israel.

 

Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA.

 

This is now done in the open, in an exhibition of shamelessness. Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA. Not one of them said the opposite.

This would have been unthinkable if any other country was involved, say Ireland or Italy, from which many Americans are descended. The “Jewish state” stands unique, a kind of inverse anti-Semitism.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have joked that Netanyahu believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famous – and infamous – tract fabricated by the secret police of the Czar. It purported to expose a sinister conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world. A hundred years later, controlling the US comes near to that.

The senators and representatives are no fools (not all of them, in any case). They have a clear purpose: to be re-elected. They know on which side their bread is buttered. AIPAC has demonstrated, in several test cases, that it can unseat any senator or congressman who does not toe the straight Israeli line. One sentence of implied criticism of Israeli policies suffices to doom a candidate.

Politicians prefer open shame and ridicule to political suicide. No kamikaze pilots in Congress.

The White House vs Israel’s congressional stooges

This is not a new situation. It is at least several decades old. What is new is that it is now out in the open, without embellishment.

It is difficult to know, as of now, how much the White House is cowed by this development.

Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, know that American public opinion is dead set against any new war in the Middle East. Compromise with Iran is in the air. This is supported by almost all the world’s powers. Even the French tantrums, which have no clear purpose but to throw their supposed weight around, are not serious.

President Francois Hollande was received in Israel this week like the harbinger of the Messiah. If one closed one’s eyes, one could imagine that the happy old pre-de Gaulle days were back again, when France armed Israel, supplied it with its military atomic reactor and the two countries went on escapades together (the ill-fated 1956 Suez adventure).

But if Obama and Kerry hold fast and stay their course on Iran, can Congress impose the opposite course? Could this turn into the most serious constitutional crisis in US history?

As a sideshow, Kerry is going on with his effort to impose on Netanyahu a peace he does not want. The secretary of state did succeed in pushing Netanyahu into “final status negotiations” (nobody dared to utter the word peace, God forbid), but nobody in Israel or Palestine believes that anything will come out of this. Unless, of course, the White House puts the whole might of the US behind the effort – and that seems more than unlikely.

Kerry has allotted nine months to the endeavour, as if it were a normal pregnancy. But the chances of a baby emerging at the end of it are practically nil. During the first three months, the sides have not progressed a single step.

So who will win? Obama or Netanyahu? Chomsky or Walt/Mearsheimer?

As commentators love to say: time will tell.

In the meantime, place your bets.

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| Media Censorship That Dare Not Speak Its Name: What is Radical Intellectual Activity?

Media Censorship That Dare Not Speak Its Name: What is Radical Intellectual Activity? ~ James F. Tracy, Global Research.

This is a revised set of remarks given at “The Point is to Change It” conference on November 1, 2013 at the University of San Francisco. The event was co-sponsored by Project Censored.

The panel on which I participated was organized by Project Censored Director Mickey Huff to address the contrast between the radical journalistic activity practiced by Project Censored and the decade-old US media reform movement that has sought to initiate broader policy changes at the federal level. In previous years PC has been excluded from media reform events, likely because of its research and criticism of foundation-funded progressive-left media and the censorial practices they impose on themselves and their peers.

The feedback from conference-goers to the panel’s observations was predictable. For example, “9/11 Truth has no facts. Look at how it relies on Alex Jones and Loose Change. Let’s move on.” [Read: I shall not be identified with amateurs and fanatics. Or, Why risk being perceived as politically incorrect.] And, “It is impossible to be radical without a vigorous critique of capitalism.” [Read: Extreme historical myopia is sometimes practical and necessary. Or, 9/11 is a career-ender.]

I appreciate Project Censored’s invitation to participate in the event and its continued endeavors to spread the word on the fundamental relationship between mass media and the broader political economy.

What does it mean to be radical? What is radical intellectual activity? It involves identifying, examining, and publicizing the root causes of major problems in the body politic that hinder the full realization of each individual’s human capacities.

What are the possible areas where such inquiry may take shape? The “News Clusters” that Project Censored has been using in its recent yearbooks provide a rough outline: the economy, war, health and the environment, the viability of the commons (as evidenced by Iceland), and civil liberties and freedom of expression, because without the ability to be able to express ourselves we cannot demonstrate our freedom and contest wrongdoing.

Around the time I was born Noam Chomsky wrote “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” suggesting that radical intellectual activity along these lines is necessary if we are to survive as a species. “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak truth and expose lies,” Chomsky asserted.[1]

Aside from Chomsky’s abandonment of this principal in terms of questioning deep events, the mid-to-late 1960s was a far different world from the one we inhabit today. In contrast to the 1960s, there is now a fast-emerging police state, the loss of Constitutional protections, a “war on terror” we are told will be without end, and huge economic disparities. And so any such responsibility is much greater than it was then because the stakes are much higher.

Scholars with institutional backing have some security from which to operate along these lines. Apart from the support afforded through an academic position, the greatest hindrance to carrying out radical intellectual activity involves the question of money and resources.

With this in mind there is a tendency for progressive-left media to inordinately rely on funding from tax-free foundations, with attendant consequences for their output. This is no better illustrated than in John Pilger’s first-hand account in Project Censored’s most recent volume.

In 2011 Pilger’s The War You Don’t See became “the film you don’t see” courtesy of the Lannan Foundation pulling the rug out from underneath Pilger as he was about to embark on a US tour promoting the work.

What is at least as disheartening here is how many figures that once stood by Pilger and his work, such as Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges, turned their backs on him as he sought to better understand Lannan’s abrupt and inexplicable change of heart.[2]

Indeed, this instance illustrates the problems central to media that claim to be “radical” today: the immense power of such foundations is more than capable of exerting a stealth form of censorship and conformity that is close to impossible to accurately detect and gauge.

Further, the financial wherewithal of liberal foundations–Ford, Carnegie, Gates, OSI –far exceeds that of their conservative counterparts–Bradley, Olin, Scaife, Koch. What does that mean for the integrity of our information and opinion environments?

With these things in mind I waned to read a few observations made by Global Research editor and University of Ottawa Professor of Economics Michel Chossudovsky, who was unable to be on the panel this morning. His remarks are significant particularly in terms of charting the independent nature and trajectory of radical media today. Once you start receiving money from tax-free foundations,” Chossudovsky notes in a GRTV interview,

you lose your independence.  We see it on the internet now. There are a number of internet [news] sites which look a little bit like the New York Times—the online version. They’re still doing good work but they’re becoming a little bit more politically correct.

So there’s a mainstream alternative media and then there’s an alternative media which I think is independent. There are not many, and that is the disturbing feature; many of the alternative media sites now are becoming corporatized. We want to avoid that. That’s they’re decision, but we have taken the decision that we do not seek any foundation funding which limits us from a budget point of view. It means that we [function] on a much more modest scale but we manage to be just as effective by doing that and we have the advantage of not being constrained to a particular perspective.[3]

How exactly does this dynamic play out in practical terms? Again, it is difficult to measure. Yet the FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds provides a clue. Edmonds notes how she received special guidance from foundation gatekeepers after she accepted money from a mainstream foundation as she was assembling a body of like-minded government insiders and whistleblowers.

Very quickly I realized that this money—these carrots they were dangling before our nose[s]—came with a bunch of string attachments. Because as I was talking with these people from these foundations I was adding more whistleblowers.

And in one case one [individual] from Clinton’s previous administration joined the coalition who had blown the whistle on Al Gore and some narcotics-related case with the Drug Enforcement Agency. When I added this particular whistleblower—and he’s still there on our list—these foundation people came and they said, “Why are you adding the Clinton administration whistleblower? Right now we are focused on [the] Bush administration. This is [a] distraction. And you should just limit [things] all this current wrongdoing and don’t get in to all the Clinton stuff. Basically this is just one example of many examples.[4]

How perhaps does this dynamic play out at a more macro level? Two areas where there has not been enough serious intellectual activity and rigor of late is climate change and the crimes of 9/11, and it is truly amazing how so frequently the former is embraced by the left while the latter is dismissed–equally out of hand.

Think about it. The annual amount of foundation funding going toward publicizing forms of environmentalism is gargantuan.[5] There is, after all, a lot at stake: A new derivatives market, and setting up the “smart grid,” both of which lay the groundwork for heightened government surveillance and eventually enforced austerity.

Is there any money devoted to a 9/11 truth commission or the equivalent? None. Is it discussed? Nope. How’d it happen? Blowback. Why is there a “war on terror” at home and abroad? They’re protecting us from Al Qaeda.

9/11 is a root cause of a vast number of major problems in the body politic–war, the police state, the illicit drug trade, and on and on. At present, almost all roads lead back to it. What progressive outlets are discussing it? Global Research and Project Censored. How much foundation funding do they get? Practically none. Coincidence?

More than ever, the responsibility of intellectuals remains “speaking truth and exposing lies.” Yet as the foregoing suggests, in the post-9/11 era particularly, the radical intellectual quest for “truth” itself has now become a commodity capable of being bought, sold and thus censored by some of the most wealthy entities on the planet. These murky forces do not just find the examination of topics like 9/11 unseemly; they also share an active interest in keeping them perpetually unexamined and suppressed.

Notes

[1] Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” New York Review of Books, February 23, 1967.

[2] John Pilger, “Censorship That Dares Not Speak Its Name: The Strange Silencing of Liberal America,” in Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth with Project Censored (editors), Censored 2014: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2012-2013, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2013, 287-296. See also “The War You Don’t See Pilger Film Banned By Lannan Foundation,” Information Clearing House, June 10, 2011.

[3] Devon DB, “Michel Chossudovsky on the Creation of Global Research,” GRTV, June 19, 2012.

[4] James Corbett, “The War on Whistleblowers: Sibol Edmonds on GRTV,” GRTV, October 11, 2011.

[5] James F. Tracy, “The Forces Behind Carbon-Centric Environmentalism,” MemoryHoleBlog, July 12, 20

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| I’m Mad as Hell + I’m not gonna take this any more!

| I’m Mad as Hell + I’m not gonna take this any more! ~ YouTube.

Peter Finch‘s award winning performance in ‘Network‘ [1976] parodies sensationalism and propaganda whilst lamenting the lack of objectivity and independence by both the media and political establishment.

As relevant today as when first aired, so why are we not learning?
Beware consumerism, for in the end, it consumes YOU!

YouTube: http://youtu.be/LesvvuXGkaM

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” ~ Noam Chomsky

“The greatest threat to peace is the barrage of rightist propaganda portraying war as decent, honorable, and patriotic.” ~ Jeannette Rankin

“We become slaves the moment we hand the keys to the definition of reality entirely over to someone else, whether it is a business, an economic theory, a political party, the White House, Newsworld or CNN.” ~ B.W. Powe

“The American people are free to do exactly what they are told.” ~ Ward Churchill

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| Chomsky: Obama ‘running biggest Terrorist Operation that Exists!’

Noam Chomsky: Obama Is ‘Running Biggest Terrorist Operation That Exists’Andrew Kirell,


Continuing his streak of fiercely criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties record, pre-eminent left-wing scholarNoam Chomsky told GRITtv that this administration is “dedicated to increasing terrorism” throughout the world via its own “terrorist” drone strikes in foreign lands.

Speaking with GRITtv host Laura Flanders about the National Security Agency snooping scandal, Chomsky remarked that “the Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism; it’s doing it all over the world.”

He continued: “Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history: the drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it […] All of these operations, they are terror operations.” Drone strikes are “terror” because, Chomsky said, the attacks have the effect of “terrorizing” locals.”

“You are generating more terrorist operations,” Chomsky pointedly said. “People have a reaction” when they lose a loved one to an American drone strike, he added. “They don’t say, ‘Fine, I don’t care if my cousin was murdered.’ They become what we call terrorists. This is completely understood from the highest level.”

He recalled the recent congressional testimony of a Yemeni man named Farea al-Muslimi, who described how a single drone strike managed to “radicalize” his entire village against the United States.

“People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them,” Chomsky concluded. That’s not a surprise. Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to acts of terror.”

Watch below, via GRITtv:

[h/t Raw Story]

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| Hegemony + neo-colonialism: Noam Chomsky Interview: Sykes-Picot is Failing!

Noam Chomsky Interview: Sykes-Picot Is Failing ~ Maha Zaraket, Al Akhbar.

American author and professor Noam Chomsky was in Beirut to give a commencement speech and accept an honorary degree at the American University of Beirut. Al-Akhbar interviewed this critic of American imperialism about the ongoing conflict in Syria, Edward Snowden, and what is left of the “Arab Spring.”

Maha Zaraket: What is the title of your [commencement] speech?

Noam Chomsky: I do not remember if it has a title, but it is going to be some comments on legitimacy of borders and states and possibilities of eroding them.

MZ: Do you think the Middle East is going through a rewrite of Sykes-Picot agreement?

 

NC: I think the Sykes-Picot agreement is falling apart, which is an interesting phenomenon. That is a century. But, the Sykes-Picot agreement was just an imperial imposition that has no legitimacy; there is no reason for any of these borders – except the interests of the imperial powers.

 

It is the same all over the world. it is hard to find a single border that has any justification, including the US-Mexico border and the US-Canada border. You look around the world, just about every conflict that is going on results from the imposition of imperial borders that have nothing to do with the population.

I think as far as Sykes-Picot is concerned, it is beginning to erode. Whatever happens in Syria – it’s hard to imagine – but if anything survives, parts of Syria will be separated. The Kurdish areas are almost autonomous now and they are beginning to link up with the almost-autonomous parts of Northern Iraq Kurdish areas, and may spill over to some extent to southeastern Turkey. What will happen in the rest of the country is hard to say.

MZ: Do you think the new borders will be made by the local population? Or new imperialisms?

NC: I wish that were true, but that is not how the world works. Maybe someday, but not yet, not today.

MZ: What do you think of the Hezbollah intervention in Syria?

NC: They are in a very difficult position. If the rebels win in Syria, they become very exposed. That may mean their demise. There is reason behind it, I am not sure this is the right one, you could argue about it, but it is understandable.

MZ: Are you going to meet Nasrallah this time?

NC: No, I do not know if it is possible. But it is deeply in mind. It is difficult.

MZ: If you meet him again, what would you tell him?

NC: I would like to meet him, but just to find out more about their thinking and their plans. They are not coming to me for advice. You know.

MZ: You called for support of the Turkish protesters. How do you see the uprising in Turkey?

NC: I think the [Taksim demonstrators] are doing a great thing. I think it is extremely important. Of global importance. The initial reaction of the Erdogan regime was pretty similar to Mubarak and Assad: harsh brutal response to a legitimate set of demands.

As of this morning, the latest news, which may or may not turn out to be correct, there does seem to be some prospect of a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The news that was leaked by the representatives of the demonstrators, the Taksim negotiators, was that Erdogan has agreed to wait for a court decision on the Gezi park construction, and if the court authorized it, to have a referendum in Istanbul, which is quite different from a national referendum. I think these are good steps forward if they can be implemented.

MZ: Is it possible to link what is going on in Turkey to what been going on in Syria for the last two years?

NC: I think what is going on in Turkey is part of a general uprising throughout the world to harsh and autocratic economic and social policies that have been imposed everywhere for the past generation. And there have been reactions all over. Some of the reactions have been quite successful.

The most successful was Latin America. Latin America, for the first time in 500 years – it is not small, it has freed itself pretty much from Western domination, mostly US domination in the last century. That is a star development.

I think the Arab Spring was part of the same uprising. It is taking place in Europe, within Europe, in the peripheral countries, in Greece, Spain, and France, to an extent. Significant popular movements rising against the really brutal austerity policies, which are driving Europe not to suicide, but to disaster.

Europe is rich. It is not Syria, so it is not going to be suicide. But, essentially the policies are aimed in the direction of…dismantl[ing] the welfare state, which is one of Europe’s contribution to modern civilization.

MZ: Do you have any comments on the Edward Snowden Case?

NC: First of all, I think he has carried out a heroic act. That is the proper act of a citizen to let people know what their government is doing. For the most part, the public should know what their representatives are doing. Of course, governments never want that. They want to operate in secret.

I have spent a lot of time looking through the classified documents in the US, which is maybe the freest society, most of the documents are classified to protect the government against its own population and not for security reasons. I think anyone who tries to lift the veil on this is doing the right thing. In fact, the programs that the government was carrying out are really illegitimate and it was correct to expose them. I think he is going to suffer for it. You know. But it was the right thing to do.

MZ: After 9/11, the Americans asked, “Why does the rest of the world hate us?” Is it possible for us to ask, why do the Americans hate us?

NC: I think it is kind of interesting…because the question was asked a long time ago in 1958 when then-President Eisenhower asked his staff why is there a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world, and not from the governments which are supportive, but from the population.

That same year, 1958, the National Security Council, the main planning body, came out with a document – it has been in the public domain for four years – in which they explained, they said that there is a perception in the Arab world that the US supports dictatorships and blocks democracy, and that we do it because we want to maintain control of their resources, their energy supplies. [The document said] this is what we ought to be doing, even though there will be a campaign of hatred against us.

That was 1958, and if you think of that year, that was right after Eisenhower had forced Britain, France, and Israel out of Egypt, so you might expect that there would not be a campaign of hatred, but there was. And those were the perceived reasons and pretty much the right ones.

After 9/11 George W. Bush, raised the question, why do they hate us? They hate our freedom and so on. The Pentagon Research Bureau did come out with a study, and their conclusions were the same as the National Security Council in 1958.

MZ: The second question: Why do they hate us? Why do the Americans hate us?

NC: Why the Americans …? They don’t. Why the American population? The American population does not have any idea about them.

MZ: American policymakers?

 

NC: For the reasons that the National Security Council discussed. You have to block democracy and support dictatorships in order to control their resources. And the Middle East is not different from anywhere else. Why did they support Suharto in Indonesia? Same reasons.

 

MZ: What do you think of Israel?

NC: Israel made a really faithful decision in 1971. In 1971, Israel was offered a full peace treaty by Egypt, nothing for the Palestinians, just full peace, full security, for the withdrawal from the Egyptian Sinai. Since then, it has been the same policy [of] expansion over security, but it is not unusual to do that. That is what states usually do, they are not concerned pretty much with security, but rather power. And that’s Israel’s choice. It can continue because the US supports it. If the US stops supporting it, it could not continue.

Israel is making extremely threatening remarks right now about Lebanon. I am not sure if you have been following it. But it is kind of in the background. They are not coming out with big public statements, but if you read the statements from people in intelligence, the military, and government, what they are saying publicly is that they are not going to allow weapons to go to Hezbollah, but what they say furthermore, is that they’ve learned the lessons of the last war, and they are not going to make those mistakes again. The next time, the war will be over in days, which means that they are going to wipe Lebanon out.

MZ: You don’t think the US will do anything to stop it at a certain level?

NC: Not under Obama. He’s the first US president who has imposed no restrictions on Israel. Every other president, at various times, imposed limits that Israel could not go beyond, like Reagan for example. Reagan supported the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, but in mid-August he ordered Israel to stop it because it was becoming harmful to US interests.

MZ: Would you link Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian revolution with Israel?

NC: These are separate. First of all, Israel was not opposed to Assad. He has been more or less the kind of dictator they wanted. He has done the kind of things they wanted. The US has no opposition to Assad. He was cooperating on intelligence and they did not like everything, but he was pretty satisfactory.

In fact, if Israel and the US really did want to undermine the Assad regime and to support the rebels, they have very straightforward ways to do it without arms. Israel could considerably mobilize forces in the Golan Heights. If they mobilize forces in the north, the Syrians are compelled to respond by mobilizing forces. But they do not do it, which can only mean they do not want the regime to fall.

MZ: Would you call the Arab Spring, the “Arab Spring,” or would you give it another name?

NC: I think it was a good name. But now it is – I do not know if it is an Arab Winter, but at least an Arab Autumn. I suspect there will another spring…I do not think that is a stable situation, probably more of the same. It seems to me a continuing process, and as I said, it is going on all over the world in different forms.

MZ: Are you still optimistic?

NC: You do not really have a choice. Objectively, we will probably all be under water in another generation or two, so not that it all matters, but there are certain possibilities for hope and progress.

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| Noam Chomsky: The Eve of Destruction!

Noam Chomsky, The Eve of Destruction ~ Posted by Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch.com.

It didn’t take long.  In the immediate aftermath of the dropping of the “victory weapon,” the atomic bomb, on two Japanese cities in August 1945, American fears and fantasies ran wild.  Almost immediately, Americans began to reconceive themselves as potential victims of the bomb.  In the scenarios of destruction that would populate newspapers, magazines, radio shows, and private imaginations, our cities were ringed with concentric circles of destruction and up to 10 million people in the U.S. and tens of millions elsewhere died horribly in a few days of imagined battle.  Even victory, when it came in those first post-war years of futuristic dreams of destruction, had the look of defeat.  And the two wartime American stories — of triumphalism beyond imagining and ashes — turned out to be incapable of cohabiting in the same forms.  So the bomb fled the war movie (where it essentially never made an appearance) for the sci-fi flick in which stand-ins of every sort — alien superweapons and radioactive reptilian and other mutant monsters — destroyed the planet, endangered humanity, and pursued the young into every drive-in movie theater in the country.

As late as 1995, those two stories, the triumphalist end of “the Good War” and the disastrous beginning of the atomic age, still couldn’t inhabit the same space.  In that 50th anniversary year, a planned exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum that was supposed to pair the gleaming fuselage of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that carried the first atomic bomb to Hiroshima, with the caramelized remains of a schoolchild’s lunchbox (“No trace of Reiko Watanabe was ever found”) would be cancelled.  The outrage from veterans’ groups and the Republican right was just too much, the discomfort still too strong.

Until 1945, of course, the apocalypse had been the property of the Bible, and “end times” the province of God (and perhaps a budding branch of pulp lit called science fiction), but not of humanity.  Since then, it’s been ours, and as it turned out, we were acting apocalyptically in ways that weren’t apparent in 1945, that weren’t attached to a single wonder weapon, and that remain difficult to grasp and even deal with now.  With that in mind, and with thanks to Javier Navarro, we have adapted a video interview done with TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky by What, the association Navarro helped to found.  Reworked by Chomsky himself, it offers his thoughts on a perilous future that is distinctly in our hands. Tom

Humanity Imperiled The Path to Disaster 

By Noam Chomsky

 

What is the future likely to bring?  A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside.  So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now — assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious — and you’re looking back at what’s happening today.  You’d see something quite remarkable.

 

For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves.  That’s been true since 1945.  It’s now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.

 

And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction.  So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.

How to Destroy a Planet Without Really Trying

 

The question is: What are people doing about it?  None of this is a secret.  It’s all perfectly open.  In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.

 

There have been a range of reactions.  There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them.  If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed.  Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada.  They’re not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they’re really trying to do something about it.

 

In fact, all over the world — Australia, India, South America — there are battles going on, sometimes wars.  In India, it’s a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences.  In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand.  The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the “rights of nature.”

 

Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it — and the ground is where it ought to be.

 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil.  He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting.  Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer.  Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product.  In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use.  That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer.  You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background.  Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.

 

So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster.  At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.  Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed.

 

Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call “a century of energy independence” for the United States.  Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside.  What they mean is: we’ll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world.

And that’s pretty much the case everywhere.  Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something.  Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn’t have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn’t even have renewable energy targets.  It’s not because the population doesn’t want it.  Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming.  It’s institutional structures that block change.  Business interests don’t want it and they’re overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.

 

So that’s what the future historian — if there is one — would see.  He might also read today’s scientific journals.  Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last.

 

“The Most Dangerous Moment in History”

 

The other issue is nuclear war.  It’s been known for a long time that if there were to be a first strike by a major power, even with no retaliation, it would probably destroy civilization just because of the nuclear-winter consequences that would follow.  You can read about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  It’s well understood.  So the danger has always been a lot worse than we thought it was.

We’ve just passed the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was called “the most dangerous moment in history” by historian Arthur Schlesinger, President John F. Kennedy’s advisor.  Which it was.  It was a very close call, and not the only time either.  In some ways, however, the worst aspect of these grim events is that the lessons haven’t been learned.

What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded.  The truth is that the whole episode was almost insane.  There was a point, as the missile crisis was reaching its peak, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy offering to settle it by a public announcement of a withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey.  Actually, Kennedy hadn’t even known that the U.S. had missiles in Turkey at the time.  They were being withdrawn anyway, because they were being replaced by more lethal Polaris nuclear submarines, which were invulnerable.

So that was the offer.  Kennedy and his advisors considered it — and rejected it.  At the time, Kennedy himself was estimating the likelihood of nuclear war at a third to a half.  So Kennedy was willing to accept a very high risk of massive destruction in order to establish the principle that we — and only we — have the right to offensive missiles beyond our borders, in fact anywhere we like, no matter what the risk to others — and to ourselves, if matters fall out of control. We have that right, but no one else does.

Kennedy did, however, accept a secret agreement to withdraw the missiles the U.S. was already withdrawing, as long as it was never made public.  Khrushchev, in other words, had to openly withdraw the Russian missiles while the U.S. secretly withdrew its obsolete ones; that is, Khrushchev had to be humiliated and Kennedy had to maintain his macho image.  He’s greatly praised for this: courage and coolness under threat, and so on.  The horror of his decisions is not even mentioned — try to find it on the record.

And to add a little more, a couple of months before the crisis blew up the United States had sent missiles with nuclear warheads to Okinawa.  These were aimed at China during a period of great regional tension.

Well, who cares?  We have the right to do anything we want anywhere in the world.  That was one grim lesson from that era, but there were others to come.

Ten years after that, in 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert.  It was his way of warning the Russians not to interfere in the ongoing Israel-Arab war and, in particular, not to interfere after he had informed the Israelis that they could violate a ceasefire the U.S. and Russia had just agreed upon.  Fortunately, nothing happened.

Ten years later, President Ronald Reagan was in office.  Soon after he entered the White House, he and his advisors had the Air Force start penetrating Russian air space to try to elicit information about Russian warning systems, Operation Able Archer.  Essentially, these were mock attacks.  The Russians were uncertain, some high-level officials fearing that this was a step towards a real first strike.  Fortunately, they didn’t react, though it was a close call.  And it goes on like that.

 

What to Make of the Iranian and North Korean Nuclear Crises

 

At the moment, the nuclear issue is regularly on front pages in the cases of North Korea and Iran.  There are ways to deal with these ongoing crises.  Maybe they wouldn’t work, but at least you could try.  They are, however, not even being considered, not even reported.

Take the case of Iran, which is considered in the West — not in the Arab world, not in Asia — the gravest threat to world peace.  It’s a Western obsession, and it’s interesting to look into the reasons for it, but I’ll put that aside here.  Is there a way to deal with the supposed gravest threat to world peace?  Actually there are quite a few.  One way, a pretty sensible one, was proposed a couple of months ago at a meeting of the non-aligned countries in Tehran.  In fact, they were just reiterating a proposal that’s been around for decades, pressed particularly by Egypt, and has been approved by the U.N. General Assembly.

The proposal is to move toward establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region.  That wouldn’t be the answer to everything, but it would be a pretty significant step forward.  And there were ways to proceed.  Under U.N. auspices, there was to be an international conference in Finland last December to try to implement plans to move toward this.  What happened?

You won’t read about it in the newspapers because it wasn’t reported — only in specialist journals.  In early November, Iran agreed to attend the meeting.  A couple of days later Obama cancelled the meeting, saying the time wasn’t right.  The European Parliament issued a statement calling for it to continue, as did the Arab states.  Nothing resulted.  So we’ll move toward ever-harsher sanctions against the Iranian population — it doesn’t hurt the regime — and maybe war. Who knows what will happen?

In Northeast Asia, it’s the same sort of thing.  North Korea may be the craziest country in the world.  It’s certainly a good competitor for that title.  But it does make sense to try to figure out what’s in the minds of people when they’re acting in crazy ways.  Why would they behave the way they do?  Just imagine ourselves in their situation.  Imagine what it meant in the Korean War years of the early 1950s for your country to be totally leveled, everything destroyed by a huge superpower, which furthermore was gloating about what it was doing.  Imagine the imprint that would leave behind.

Bear in mind that the North Korean leadership is likely to have read the public military journals of this superpower at that time explaining that, since everything else in North Korea had been destroyed, the air force was sent to destroy North Korea’s dams, huge dams that controlled the water supply — a war crime, by the way, for which people were hanged in Nuremberg.   And these official journals were talking excitedly about how wonderful it was to see the water pouring down, digging out the valleys, and the Asians scurrying around trying to survive.  The journals were exulting in what this meant to those “Asians,” horrors beyond our imagination.  It meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation and death.  How magnificent!  It’s not in our memory, but it’s in their memory.

Let’s turn to the present.  There’s an interesting recent history.  In 1993, Israel and North Korea were moving towards an agreement in which North Korea would stop sending any missiles or military technology to the Middle East and Israel would recognize that country.  President Clinton intervened and blocked it.  Shortly after that, in retaliation, North Korea carried out a minor missile test.  The U.S. and North Korea did then reach a framework agreement in 1994 that halted its nuclear work and was more or less honored by both sides.  When George W. Bush came into office, North Korea had maybe one nuclear weapon and verifiably wasn’t producing any more.

Bush immediately launched his aggressive militarism, threatening North Korea — “axis of evil” and all that — so North Korea got back to work on its nuclear program.  By the time Bush left office, they had eight to 10 nuclear weapons and a missile system, another great neocon achievement.  In between, other things happened.  In 2005, the U.S. and North Korea actually reached an agreement in which North Korea was to end all nuclear weapons and missile development.  In return, the West, but mainly the United States, was to provide a light-water reactor for its medical needs and end aggressive statements.  They would then form a nonaggression pact and move toward accommodation.

It was pretty promising, but almost immediately Bush undermined it.  He withdrew the offer of the light-water reactor and initiated programs to compel banks to stop handling any North Korean transactions, even perfectly legal ones.  The North Koreans reacted by reviving their nuclear weapons program.  And that’s the way it’s been going.

It’s well known.  You can read it in straight, mainstream American scholarship.  What they say is: it’s a pretty crazy regime, but it’s also following a kind of tit-for-tat policy.  You make a hostile gesture and we’ll respond with some crazy gesture of our own.  You make an accommodating gesture and we’ll reciprocate in some way.

Lately, for instance, there have been South Korean-U.S. military exercises on the Korean peninsula which, from the North’s point of view, have got to look threatening.  We’d think they were threatening if they were going on in Canada and aimed at us.  In the course of these, the most advanced bombers in history, Stealth B-2s and B-52s, are carrying out simulated nuclear bombing attacks right on North Korea’s borders.

This surely sets off alarm bells from the past.  They remember that past, so they’re reacting in a very aggressive, extreme way.  Well, what comes to the West from all this is how crazy and how awful the North Korean leaders are.  Yes, they are.  But that’s hardly the whole story, and this is the way the world is going.

It’s not that there are no alternatives.  The alternatives just aren’t being taken. That’s dangerous.  So if you ask what the world is going to look like, it’s not a pretty picture.  Unless people do something about it.  We always can.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, including Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and most recently (with interviewer David Barsamian), Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

[Note: This piece was adapted (with the help of Noam Chomsky) from an online video interview done by the website What, which is dedicated to integrating knowledge from different fields with the aim of encouraging the balance between the individual, society, and the environment.]

 

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chomsky Freedom

| ‘Obama must be taken before ICC for the war on terror’ – Chomsky to RT!

‘Obama must be taken before ICC for the war on terror’ – Chomsky to RT

The US war on terror is in fact the most massive terror campaign ever, and the invasion of Iraq was the worst crime in recent history, prominent liberal thinker Noam Chomsky told RT, adding that he wants to see Bush, Blair and Obama tried at the ICC.

The ‘father of modern linguistics,’ Chomsky reflects on the language of the war on terror, coming to the conclusion that the freer the society, the more sophisticated its propaganda.

RT: As someone who was living in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, the chaos, what did you think of the police and media response to them?

Noam Chomsky: I hate to second guess police tactics, but my impression was that it was kind of overdone. There didn’t have to be that degree of militarization of the area. Maybe there did, maybe not. It is kind of striking that the suspect they were looking for was found by a civilian after they lifted the curfew. They just noticed some blood on the street. But I have nothing to say about police tactics. As far as media was concerned, there was 24 hour coverage on television on all the channels.

RT: Also zeroing in on one tragedy while ignoring others, across the Muslim world, for example…

NC: Two days after the Boston bombing there was a drone strike in Yemen, one of many, but this one we happen to know about because the young man from the village that was hit testified before the Senate a couple of days later and described it. It was right at the same time. And what he said is interesting and relevant. He said that they were trying to kill someone in his village, he said that the man was perfectly well known and they could have apprehended him if they wanted.

A tribesman walks near a building damaged last year by a U.S. drone air strike targeting suspected al Qaeda militants in Azan of the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa (Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

A tribesman walks near a building damaged last year by a U.S. drone air strike targeting suspected al Qaeda militants in Azan of the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa (Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

A drone strike was a terror weapon, we don’t talk about it that way. It is, just imagine you are walking down the street and you don’t know whether in 5 minutes there is going to be an explosion across the street from some place up in the sky that you can’t see. Somebody will be killed, and whoever is around will be killed, maybe you’ll be injured if you’re there. That is a terror weapon. It terrorizes villages, regions, huge areas. In fact it’s the most massive terror campaign going on by a longshot.

What happened in the village according to the Senate testimony, he said that the jihadists had been trying to turn over the villagers against the Americans and had not succeeded. He said in one drone strike they’ve turned the entire village against the Americans. That is a couple of hundred new people who will be called terrorists if they take revenge. It’s a terrorist operation and a terrorist generating machine. It goes on and on, it’s not just the drone strikes, also the Special Forces and so on. It was right at the time of the Boston marathon and it was one of innumerable cases.

It is more than that. The man who was targeted, for whatever reason they had to target him, that’s just murder. There are principles going back 800 years to Magna Carta holding that people cannot be punished by the state without being sentenced by a trial of peers. That’s only 800 years old. There are various excuses, but I don’t think they apply.

But beyond that there are other cases which come to mind right away, where a person is murdered, who could easily be apprehended, with severe consequences. And the most famous one is Bin Laden. There were eight years of special forces highly trained, navy seals, they invaded Pakistan , broke into his compound, killed a couple people. When they captured him he was defenseless, I think his wife was with him. Under instructions they murdered him and threw his body into the ocean without autopsy. That’s only the beginning.

RT: The apprehension of bin Laden and the assassination and dumping his body into the ocean, of course the narrative completely fell apart. You’ve said that in the aftermath of 9-11 the Taliban said that we will give you Bin Laden if you present us with evidence, which we didn’t do…

NC: Their proposal was a little vague.

RT: But why are people so easy to accept conventional wisdom of government narratives, there is virtually no questioning…

NC: That’s all they hear. They hear a drumbeat of conventional propaganda, in my view. And it takes a research project to find other things.

‘Invasion of Iraq was textbook example of aggression’

RT: And of course at the same time of the Boston bombings, Iraq saw almost the deadliest week in 5 years, it was the deadliest month in a long time. Atrocities going on every day, suicide bombings. At the same time our foreign policy is causing these effects in Iraq…

NC: I did mention the Magna Carta, which is 800 years old, but there is also something else which is about 70 years. It’s called the Nurnberg tribunal, which is part of foundation of modern international law. It defines aggression as the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes, and it encompasses all of the evil it follows. The US and British invasion of Iraq was a textbook example of aggression, no questions about it. Which means that we were responsible for all the evil that follows like the bombings. Serious conflict arose, it spread all over the region. In fact the region is being torn to shreds by this conflict. That’s part of the evil that follows.

Iraqi security personnel are seen at the site of a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, April 15, 2013 (Reuters / Ako Rasheed)

Iraqi security personnel are seen at the site of a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, April 15, 2013 (Reuters / Ako Rasheed)

RT: The media’s lack of coverage of everything that you are speaking about, I know that America runs on nationalism, but is America’s lack of empathy unique? Or do we see that in every country? Or as we grew up in America we are isolated with this viewpoint? NC:

Every great power that I can think of… Britain was the same, France was the same, unless the country is defeated. Like when Germany was defeated after the WWII, it was compelled to pay attention to the atrocities that it carried out. But others don’t. In fact there was an interesting case this morning, which I was glad to see. There are trials going on in Guatemala for Efrain Rios Montt who is basically responsible for the virtual genocide of the Mayans. The US was involved in it every step of the way. Finally this morning there was an article about it saying that there was something missing from the trials, the US’s role. I was glad to see the article.

‘Bush, Blair and Obama got to be tried by ICC but that’s inconceivable’

RT: Do you think that we will ever see white war criminals from imperial nations stand trial the way that  Rios Montt did?

NC: It’s almost impossible. Take a look at the International criminal court (ICC) – black Africans or other people the West doesn’t like. Bush and Blair ought to be up there. There is no recent crime worse than the invasion of Iraq. Obama’s got to be there for the terror war. But that is just inconceivable. In fact there is a legislation in the US which in Europe is called the ‘Netherlands invasion act’, Congressional legislation signed by the president, which authorizes the president to use force to rescue an American brought to the Hague for trial.

RT: Speaking of the drone wars I can’t help but think of John Bellinger, the chief architect of the drone policy, speaking to a think-tank recently saying that Obama has ramped up the drone killings as something to avoid bad press of Gitmo, capturing the suspects alive and trying them at Gitmo. When you hear things like this what is your response to people saying that ‘his hands are tied, he wants to do well’?

NC: That was pointed out some time ago by a Wall Street journal military correspondent. What he pointed out is that Bush’s technique was to capture people and torture them, Obama has improved – you just kill them and anybody else who is around. It’s not that his hands are tied. It’s bad enough to capture them and torture them. But it’s just murder on executive whim, and as I say it’s not just murdering the suspects, it’s a terror weapon, it terrorizes everyone else. It’s not that his hands are tied, it’s what he wants to do.

Members of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands (AFP Photo / HO)

Members of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands (AFP Photo / HO)

RT: I would rather be detained then blown up and my family with me… NC: And that terrorizes everyone else. There are recent polls which show the Arab public opinion. The results are kind of interesting. Arabs don’t particularly like Iran, but they don’t regard it as a threat. Its rank is rather low. They do see threats in Egypt and Iraq and Yemen, the US is a major threat, Yemen is slightly above the US, but basically they regard the US as a major threat. Why is that? Why would Egyptians, Iraqi and Yemeni regard the US as the greatest threat they face? It’s worth knowing.

RT: The controversial Obama policy, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which you are plaintiff on the case, you’ve also said that the humanitarian laws are actually worse, providing material support for terrorism. Do you think that all these policies are quantifying what has been in place for decades?

US executive whim: Nelson Mandela put on terrorist list, Saddam Hussein taken off

NC: The NDAA is pretty much quantifying practices that have been employed, it went a little bit beyond , and the court case is narrow, it’s about the part that went beyond –  authorization to imprison American citizens indefinitely without trial. That is a radical violation of principles that go back as I said 800 years ago. I don’t frankly see much difference between imprisoning American citizens and imprisoning anyone else. They are all persons.

But we make a distinction. And that distinction was extended by the NDAA. The humanitarian law project broke no ground. There was a concept of material support for terrorism, already sort of a dubious concept, because of how to decide what is terrorism?

Well that’s an executive whim again. There is a terrorist list created by the executive branch without review, without having any right to test it. And if you look at that terrorist list it really tells you something.

So for example Nelson Mandela was on the terrorist list until three or four years ago. The reason was that in 1988 when the Regan administration was strongly supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa, in fact ruling congressional legislation in order to aid it, they declared that the African national Congress was one the most notorious terrorist groups of the world – that’s Mandela, that’s 1988, barely before apartheid collapsed. He was on the terrorist list.

We can take another case: 1982 when Iraq invaded Iran, the US was supporting Iraq and wanted to aid the Iraqi invasion, so Saddam Hussein was taken off the terrorist list…Its executive whim to begin with, we shouldn’t take it seriously. Putting that aside, material assistance meant you give him a gun or something like that. Under the Obama administration it’s you give them advice.

Saddam Hussein (Reuters)

Saddam Hussein (Reuters)

RT: Let’s talk about the linguistics and language of the war on terror. What did Obama’s rebranding of Bush’s policies to do consciousness?

NC: The policy of murdering people instead of capturing them and torturing them can be presented to the public in a way that makes it look clean. It is presented and I think many people see it like that as a kind of surgical strike which goes after the people who are planning to do us harm. And this is a very frightened country, terrified country, has been for a long time. So if anybody is going to do us harm it is fine for us to kill them.

How this is interpreted is quite interesting.

For example there was a case a year or two ago, when a drone attack in Yemen killed a couple little girls. There was a discussion with a well-known liberal columnist Joe Klein, he writes for the Time, he was asked what he thought about this and he said something like – it’s better that four of them are killed than four little girls here.

The logic is mind-boggling. But if we have to kill people elsewhere who might conceivably have aimed to harm us and it happens that a couple little girls get killed too, that’s fine. We are entitled to do that. Well, suppose that any country was doing it to us or to anyone we regard as human. It’s incredible! This is very common.

I remember once right after the invasion of Iraq, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times, Middle East specialist, columnist, was interviewed on the Charlie Rose show, a sort of intellectuals show. Rose asked him ‘what we ought to be doing in Iraq?’ You have to hear the actual words to grasp it, but basically what he said is something like this: ‘American troops have to smash into houses in Iraq and make those people understand that we are not going to allow terrorism. Suck on this, we are not going to allow terrorism in our society! You’d better understand that.

So those terrorized women and children in Baghdad have to be humiliated, degraded and frightened so that Osama Bin Laden won’t attack us.’  It’s mind-boggling. That is the peak of liberal intellectual culture supposedly.

RT: Famous atheists like Richard Dawkins saying that Islam is one of the greatest threats facing humanity, that is a whole another form of propaganda…

NC: Christianity right now is in much greater threat.

‘Propaganda most developed and sophisticated in the more free societies’

RT: The media is obviously instrumental in manufacturing consent for these policies. Your book ‘Media control’ was written a decade before 9-11 and it outlines exactly how sophisticated the media propaganda model is. When you wrote that book did you see how far it would come and where do you see it in 10 years?

NC: I’m afraid that it didn’t take any foresight because it has been going along a long time. Take the US invasion of South Vietnam. Did you ever see that phrase in the media? We invaded South Vietnam, when John F. Kennedy in 1962 authorized bombing of South Vietnam by the US air force, authorized napalm, authorized chemical warfare to destroy crops, started driving peasants into what we called strategic hamlets – it’s basically concentration camps where they were surrounded by barbwire to protect them from the guerrillas who the government knew very well they were supporting. What we would have called that if someone else did it.

But it’s now over 50 years. I doubt that the phrase ‘invasion of South Vietnam’ has ever appeared in the press.  I think that a totalitarian state would barely be able or in fact wouldn’t be able to achieve such conformity. And this is at the critical end. I’m not talking about the ones who said there was a noble cause and we were stabbed in the back. Which generally Obama now says.

Hanoi's Lenin Park, Vietnamm (Reuters)

Hanoi’s Lenin Park, Vietnamm (Reuters)

RT: It’s become so sophisticated, but I don’t know maybe beсause I am younger and I’ve seen it only in the last 10 years in the post 9-11 world. With the internet do you see the reversal of this trend when people are going to be making this form of media propaganda irrelevant? Or do you see a worsening?

NC: The internet gives options, which is good, but the print media gave plenty of options, you could read illicit journals if you wanted to. The internet gives you the opportunity to read them faster, that’s good. But if you think back over the shift from say of the invention of the printing press there was a much greater step then the invention of the internet.

That was a huge change, the internet is another change, a smaller one. It has multiple characteristics. So on the one hand it does give access to a broader range of commentary, information if you know what to look for. You have to know what to look for, however. On the other hand it provides a lot of material, well let’s put it politely, off the wall. And how a person without background, framework, understanding, isolated, alone supposed to decide?

RT: Another form of propaganda is education. You’ve said that the more educated you are the more indoctrinated you are and that propaganda is largely directed towards the educated. How dangerous is it to have an elite ruling class with the illusion of knowledge advancing their own world view on humanity?

NC: It’s old as the hills. Every form of society had some kind of privileged elite, who claimed to be the repositories of the understanding and knowledge and wanted control of what they called the rebel. To make sure that the people don’t have thoughts like ‘we want to be ruled by countrymen like ourselves, not by knights and gentlemen’.

So therefore there are major propaganda systems. It is quite striking that propaganda is most developed and sophisticated in the more free societies. The public relations industry, which is the advertising industry is mostly propaganda, a lot of it is commercial propaganda but also thought control.

That developed in Britain and the US – two of the freest societies. And for a good reason. It was understood roughly a century ago that people have won enough freedom so you just can’t control them by force.

Therefore you have to control beliefs and attitudes, it’s the next best thing. It has always been done, but it took a leap forward about a century ago with the development of these huge industries devoted to, as their leaders put it, to the engineering of content. If you read the founding documents of the PR industry, they say: ‘We have to make sure that the general public are incompetent, they are like children, if you let them run their own affairs they will get into all kind of trouble.

The world has to be run by the intelligent minority, and that’s us, therefore we have to regiment their minds, the way the army regiments its soldiers, for their own good. Because you don’t let a three-year-old run into the street, you can’t let people run their own affairs.’ And that’s a standard idea, it has taken one or another form over the centuries. And in the US it has institutionalized into major industries.

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George Carlin Rules 1

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| Shooting the Messenger: How Noam Chomsky is discussed!

How Noam Chomsky is discussed ~

    • ____________________________________________________________
    • The more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more the attacks focus on personality, style and character.
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    • Chomsky
      Noam Chomsky, delivering the Edward W. Said lecture in London on 18 March 2013 Photograph: guardian.co.uk

      (updated below – Update II [Sun.])

      One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge).

      This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions. Nixon White House officials sought to steal the files from Daniel Ellsberg‘s psychoanalyst’s office precisely because they knew they could best discredit his disclosures with irrelevant attacks on his psyche. Identically, the New York Times and partisan Obama supporters have led the way in depicting both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as mentally unstable outcasts with serious personality deficiencies. The lesson is clear: only someone plagued by mental afflictions would take such extreme steps to subvert the power of the US government.

      A subtler version of this technique is to attack the so-called “style” of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique. Although Paul Krugman is comfortably within mainstream political thought as a loyal Democrat and a New York Times columnist, his relentless attack against the austerity mindset is threatening to many. As a result, he is barraged with endless, substance-free complaints about his “tone”: he is too abrasive, he does not treat opponents with respect, he demonizes those who disagree with him, etc. The complaints are usually devoid of specifics to prevent meaningful refutation; one typical example: “[Krugman] often cloakshis claims in professional authority, overstates them, omits arguments that undermine his case, and is a bit of a bully.” All of that enables the substance of the critique to be avoided in lieu of alleged personality flaws.

      Nobody has been subjected to these vapid discrediting techniques more than Noam Chomsky. The book on which I’m currently working explores how establishment media systems restrict the range of acceptable debate in US political discourse, and I’m using Chomsky’s treatment by (and ultimate exclusion from) establishment US media outlets as a window for understanding how that works. As a result, I’ve read a huge quantity of media discussions about Chomsky over the past year. And what is so striking is that virtually every mainstream discussion of him at some point inevitably recites the same set of personality and stylistic attacks designed to malign his advocacy without having to do the work of engaging the substance of his claims. Notably, these attacks come most frequently and viciously from establishment liberal venues, such as when the American Prospect’s 2005 foreign policy issue compared him to Dick Cheney on its cover (a cover he had framed and now proudly hangs on his office wall).

      Last week, Chomsky was in London to give the annual Edward W. Said lecture, and as always happens when he speaks, the large auditorium was filled to the brim, having sold out shortly after it was announced. The Guardian’s Aida Edemariam interviewed him in London and produced an article, published Saturday morning, that features virtually all of those standard stylistic and personality critiques:

      “When he starts speaking, it is in a monotone that makes no particular rhetorical claim on the audience’s attention; in fact, it’s almost soporific . . . . Within five minutes many of the hallmarks of Chomsky’s political writing, and speaking, are displayed: his anger, his extraordinary range of reference and experience . . . . . Fact upon fact upon fact, but also a withering, sweeping sarcasm – the atrocities are ‘tolerated politely by Europe as usual’. Harsh, vivid phrases – the ‘hideously charred corpses of murdered infants’; bodies ‘writhing in agony’ – unspool until they become almost a form of punctuation.

       

      “You could argue that the latter is necessary, simply a description of atrocities that must be reported, but it is also a method that has diminishing returns. The facts speak for themselves; the adjectives and the sarcasm have the counterintuitive effect of cheapening them, of imposing on the world a disappointingly crude and simplistic argument. ‘The sentences,’ wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in a brilliant New Yorker profile of Chomsky 10 years ago, ‘are accusations of guilt, but not from a position of innocence or hope for something better: Chomsky’s sarcasm is the scowl of a fallen world, the sneer of hell’s veteran to its appalled naifs’ – and thus, in an odd way, static and ungenerative. . . .

       

      “But he answers questions warmly, and seriously, if not always directly – a surprise, in a way, from someone who has earned a reputation for brutality of argument, and a need to win at all costs. ‘There really is an alpha-male dominance psychology at work there,’ a colleague once said of him. ‘He has some of the primate dominance moves. The staring down. The withering tone of voice.” Students have been known to visit him in pairs, so that one can defend the other. . . .

      “Chomsky, the son of Hebrew teachers who emigrated from Ukraine and Russia at the turn of the last century, began as a Zionist – but the sort of Zionist who wanted a socialist state in which Jews and Arabs worked together as equals. Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending the right to free speech of a French professor who espoused such views, some 35 years ago), and been called, by the Nation, ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew’. These days he argues tirelessly for the rights of Palestinians. . . . . Does he think that in all these years of talking and arguing and writing, he has ever changed one specific thing?”

      So to recap: Chomsky is a sarcastic, angry, soporific, scowling, sneering self-hating Jew, devoid of hope and speaking from hell, whose alpha-male brutality drives him to win at all costs, and who imposes on the world disappointingly crude and simplistic arguments to the point where he is so inconsequential that one wonders whether he has ever changed even a single thing in his 60 years of political work.

      Edemariam includes several other passages more balanced and even complimentary. She notes his academic accolades (“One study of the most frequently cited academic sources of all time found that he ranked eighth, just below Plato and Freud”), his mastery of facts, his willingness to speak to hostile audiences, his touching life-long relationship with his now-deceased wife, and his remarkable commitment, even at the age of 84, to personally answering emails from people around the world whom he does not know (when I spoke at a college near Rochester two weeks ago, one of the students, a college senior studying to be a high school social studies teacher, gushed as he told me that he had emailed Chomsky and quickly received a very generous personal reply). She also includes Chomsky’s answer to her question about whether he has ever changed anything: a characteristically humble explanation that no one person – not even Martin Luther King – can or ever has by themselves changed anything.

      But the entire piece is infused with these standard personality caricatures that offer the reader an easy means of mocking, deriding and scorning Chomsky without having to confront a single fact he presents. And that’s the point: as this 9-minute Guardian video excerpt about Iran and the Middle East from Chomsky’s London speech demonstrates, he rationally but aggressively debunks destructive mainstream falsehoods that huge numbers of people are taught to tacitly embrace. But all of that can be, and is, ignored in favor of hating his “style”, ridiculing his personality, and smearing him with horrible slurs (“self-hating Jew”).

      What’s particularly strange about this set of personality and style attacks is what little relationship they bear to reality. Far from being some sort of brutal, domineering, and angry “alpha-male” savage, Chomsky – no matter your views of him – is one of the most soft-spoken and unfailingly civil and polite political advocates on the planet. It’s true that his critiques of those who wield power and influence can be withering – that’s the central function of an effective critic or just a human being with a conscience – but one would be hard-pressed to find someone as prominent as he who is as steadfastly polite and considerate and eager to listen when it comes to interacting with those who are powerless and voiceless. His humanism is legion. And far from being devoid of hope, it’s almost impossible to find an establishment critic more passionate and animated when talking about the ability of people to join together to create real social and political change.

      Then there’s Edemariam’s statement, offered with no citation, that Chomsky has been called “America’s most prominent self-hating Jew” by the left-wing Nation magazine. This claim, though often repeated and obviously very serious, is inaccurate.

      The Nation article which she seems to be referencing is not available online except by subscription. But what is freely available online is a 1993 article on Chomsky from the Chicago Tribune that makes clear that this did not come from the Nation itself, but from a single writer who, more importantly, was not himself calling Chomsky a “self-hating Jew” but was simply noting that this ishow he is often attacked (“one critic observed that Chomsky has ‘acquired the reputation as America’s most prominent self-hating Jew.'”). In 2010, the scholarly website 3 Quarks Daily noted an article on Chomsky from The Telegraph that also claimed without citation that “the Left-wing Nation magazine [] called him ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew'”. Inquiries in the comment section for the source citation for this quote prompted this reply:

      “I know this is a few years old, but the citation for the ‘most prominent self-hating Jew’ quote is: Morton, Brian. ‘Chomsky Then and Now.’ Nation 246, no. 18 (May 7, 1988): 646-652.

       

      “With access to a full-text archive of The Nation, it took me only a few minutes to locate this. The full quote in context is ‘If Chomsky has acquired the reputation of being America’s most prominent self-hating Jew, this is because, in the United States, discussion about the Middle East has until recently taken place within very narrow bounds.’

       

      “As you can see the point was quite the opposite of how it was presented. The Nation often includes different perspectives so attributing one reviewer’s comment to ‘The Nation’ as a whole would be dishonest anyway.

       

      “Regardless of that however, the reviewer was actually making the point that Chomsky’s views only seem far out because the spectrum is so limited. . . . .This is just another example of the kind of lazy, dishonest way in which Chomsky’s views are generally reported.”

      Having myself retrieved a full copy of Morton’s 1988 article, I can say with certainty that this comment is indeed 100% accurate. Even leaving aside the sloppiness of attributing one article by a freelance writer to “the Nation” itself, it is wildly inaccurate – on the substance – to claim that the Nation labelled Chomsky a “self-hating Jew”:

      morton chomsky

      The oft-repeated claim that Chomsky has “been called, by the Nation,
      ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew'” is simply false. If anything, that Nation article debunked that accusation, and certainly did not embrace it.

      But the strangest attack on Chomsky is the insinuation that he has changed nothing. Aside from the metrics demonstrating that he has more reach and influence than virtually any public intellectual in the world, some of which Edemariam cites, I’d say that there is no living political writer who has more radically changed how more people think in more parts of the world about political issues than he. If you accept the premise (as I do) that the key to political change is to convince people of pervasive injustice and the need to act, then it’s virtually laughable to depict him as inconsequential. Washington power-brokers and their media courtiers do not discuss him, and he does not make frequent (or any) appearances on US cable news outlets, but outside of those narrow and insular corridors – meaning around the world – few if any political thinkers are as well-known, influential or admired (to its credit, the Guardian, like some US liberal outlets, does periodically publish Chomsky’s essays).

      Like any person with a significant political platform, Chomsky is fair game for all sorts of criticisms. Like anyone else, he should be subjected to intense critical and adversarial scrutiny. Even admirers should listen to his (and everyone else’s) pronouncements with a critical ear. Like anyone who makes prolific political arguments over the course of many years, he’s made mistakes.

      But what is at play here is this destructive dynamic that the more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more personalized, style-focused and substance-free the attacks become. That’s because once someone becomes sufficiently critical of establishment pieties, the goal is not merely to dispute their claims but to silence them. That’s accomplished by demonizing the person on personality and style grounds to the point where huge numbers of people decide that nothing they say should even be considered, let alone accepted. It’s a sorry and anti-intellectual tactic, to be sure, but a brutally effective one.

      UPDATE

      One of the passages from Edemariam’s Guardian article that I quoted above has now been edited. The article originally stated: “Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending the right to free speech of a French professor who espoused such views, some 35 years ago). . . “, but has now been changed (with an editor’s note appended to the bottom) as follows: “Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending some 35 years ago the right to free speech of a French professor who was later convicted of Holocaust denial). . . ” I note this to avoid any confusion, not because it affects any of the points I have raised here, especially the inaccurate attribution to the Nation as having called Chomsky a “self-hating Jew”.

      UPDATE II [Sun.]

      The following editor’s note has now been appended to Edemariam’s Guardian article:

      “This article was further amended on 24 March 2013. An incorrect reference to Chomsky having been called ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew’ has been deleted. The error was the result of a quote being misconstrued.”

      That correction will hopefully put an end to this oft-repeated myth.

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    • illusion-choice-american-media 1

chomskyA

| Noam Chomsky: ‘No individual changes anything alone!’

Noam Chomsky: ‘No individual changes anything alone’ ~

Noam Chomsky

‘I grew up during the Depression. People would come to the door trying to sell rags – that was when I was four’ … Noam Chomsky. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

It may have been pouring with rain, water overrunning the gutters and spreading fast and deep across London’s Euston Road, but this did not stop a queue forming, and growing until it snaked almost all the way back to Euston station. Inside Friends House, a Quaker-run meeting hall, the excitement was palpable. People searched for friends and seats with thinly disguised anxiety; all watched the stage until, about 15 minutes late, a short, slightly top-heavy old man climbed carefully on to the stage and sat down. The hall filled with cheers and clapping, with whoops and with whistles.

Noam Chomsky, said two speakers (one of them Mariam Said, whose late husband, Edward, this lecture honours) “needs no introduction”. A tired turn of phrase, but they had a point: in a bookshop down the road the politics section is divided into biography, reference, the Clintons, Obama, Thatcher, Marx, and Noam Chomsky. He topped the first Foreign Policy/Prospect Magazine list of global thinkers in 2005 (the most recent, however, perhaps reflecting a new editorship and a new rubric, lists him not at all). One study of the most frequently cited academic sources of all time found that he ranked eighth, just below Plato and Freud. The list included the Bible.

When he starts speaking, it is in a monotone that makes no particular rhetorical claim on the audience’s attention; in fact, it’s almost soporific. Last October, he tells his audience, he visited Gaza for the first time. Within five minutes many of the hallmarks of Chomsky’s political writing, and speaking, are displayed: his anger, his extraordinary range of reference and experience – journalism from inside Gaza, personal testimony, detailed knowledge of the old Egyptian government, its secret service, the new Egyptian government, the historical context of the Israeli occupation, recent news reports (of sewage used by the Egyptians to flood tunnels out of Gaza, and by Israelis to spray non-violent protesters). Fact upon fact upon fact, but also a withering, sweeping sarcasm – the atrocities are “tolerated politely by Europe as usual”. Harsh, vivid phrases – the “hideously charred corpses of murdered infants”; bodies “writhing in agony” – unspool until they become almost a form of punctuation.

You could argue that the latter is necessary, simply a description of atrocities that must be reported, but it is also a method that has diminishing returns. The facts speak for themselves; the adjectives and the sarcasm have the counterintuitive effect of cheapening them, of imposing on the world a disappointingly crude and simplistic argument. “The sentences,” wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in a brilliant New Yorker profile of Chomsky 10 years ago, “are accusations of guilt, but not from a position of innocence or hope for something better: Chomsky’s sarcasm is the scowl of a fallen world, the sneer of hell’s veteran to its appalled naifs” – and thus, in an odd way, static and ungenerative.

Link to video: Noam Chomsky: violence and dignity – reflections on the Middle EastTo be fair, he has – as he points out the next day, sitting under the gorgeous, vaulting ceilings of the VIP section of the St Pancras Renaissance hotel – not always been preaching to the converted, or even to the sceptically open-minded. “This [rapturous reception] is radically different from what it was like even five years ago, when in fact [at talks about Israel-Palestine] I had to have police protection because the audience was so hostile.” His voice is vanishingly quiet as well as monotonal, and he is slightly deaf, which makes conversation something of a challenge. But he answers questions warmly, and seriously, if not always directly – a surprise, in a way, from someone who has earned a reputation for brutality of argument, and a need to win at all costs. “There really is an alpha-male dominance psychology at work there,” a colleague once said of him. “He has some of the primate dominance moves. The staring down. The withering tone of voice.” Students have been known to visit him in pairs, so that one can defend the other. But it is perhaps less surprising when you discover that he can spend up to seven hours a day answering emails from fans and the questing public. And in the vast hotel lobby he cuts a slightly fragile figure.

Chomsky, the son of Hebrew teachers who emigrated from Ukraine and Russia at the turn of the last century, began as a Zionist – but the sort of Zionist who wanted a socialist state in which Jews and Arabs worked together as equals. Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending some 35 years ago the right to free speech of a French professor who was later convicted of Holocaust denial), and been called, by the Nation, “America’s most prominent self-hating Jew”. These days he argues tirelessly for the rights of Palestinians. In this week’s lecture he quoted various reactions to the Oslo accords, which turn 20 in September, including a description of them as “an infernal trap”. He replied to a question about whether Israel would still exist in 50 years’ time by saying, among other things, that “Israel is following policies which maximise its security threats … policies which choose expansion over security … policies which lead to their moral degradation, their isolation, their deligitimation, as they call it now, and very likely ultimate destruction. That’s not impossible.” Obama arrived in Israel this week accompanied by some of the lowest expectations ever ascribed to a US president visiting the country. There was so much more hope, I suggest to Chomsky, when Obama was first elected, and he spoke about the Middle East. “There were illusions. He came into office with dramatic rhetoric about hope and change, but there was never any substance behind them,” he responds.

He seems cautiously optimistic about the Arab spring, which he sees as a “classic example … [of] powerful grassroots movements, primarily in Tunisia and Egypt” – but is dryly ironic about the west’s relationship with what is happening on the ground. “In Egypt, on the eve of Tahrir Square, there was a major poll which found that overwhelmingly – 80-90%, numbers like that – Egyptians regarded the main threats they face as the US and Israel. They don’t like Iran – Arabs generally don’t like Iran – but they didn’t consider it a threat. In fact, back then a considerable number of Egyptians thought the region might be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. Not because they wanted Iran to have nuclear weapons, but to offset the real threats they faced. So that’s obviously not the kind of policy that the west wants to listen to. Other polls are somewhat different, but the basic story is about the same – what Egyptians want is not what the west would like to see. So therefore they are opposed to democracy.”

What does Chomsky, who has infuriated some with his dismissal of the “new military humanism“, think should be done in Syria, if anything? Should the west arm the opposition? Should it intervene? “I tend to think that providing arms is going to escalate the conflict. I think there has to be some kind of negotiated settlement. The question is which kind. But it’s going to have to be primarily among Syrians. Outsiders can try to help set up the conditions, and there’s no doubt that the government is carrying out plenty of atrocities, and the opposition some, but not as many. There’s a threat that the country is on a suicidal course. Nobody wants that.”

Chomsky first came to prominence in 1959, with the argument, detailed in a book review (but already present in his first book, published two years earlier), that contrary to the prevailing idea that children learned language by copying and by reinforcement (ie behaviourism), basic grammatical arrangements were already present at birth. The argument revolutionised the study of linguistics; it had fundamental ramifications for anyone studying the mind. It also has interesting, even troubling ramifications for his politics. If we are born with innate structures of linguistic and by extension moral thought, isn’t this a kind of determinism that denies political agency? What is the point of arguing for any change at all?

“The most libertarian positions accept the same view,” he answers. “That there are instincts, basic conditions of human nature that lead to a preferred social order. In fact, if you’re in favour of any policy – reform, revolution, stability, regression, whatever – if you’re at least minimally moral, it’s because you think it’s somehow good for people. And good for people means conforming to their fundamental nature. So whoever you are, whatever your position is, you’re making some tacit assumptions about fundamental human nature … The question is: what do we strive for in developing a social order that is conducive to fundamental human needs? Are human beings born to be servants to masters, or are they born to be free, creative individuals who work with others to inquire, create, develop their own lives? I mean, if humans were totally unstructured creatures, they would be … a tool which can properly be shaped by outside forces. That’s why if you look at the history of what’s called radical behaviourism, [where] you can be completely shaped by outside forces – when [the advocates of this] spell out what they think society ought to be, it’s totalitarian.”

Chomsky, now 84, has been politically engaged all his life; his first published article, in fact, was against fascism, and written when he was 10. Where does the anger come from? “I grew up in the Depression. My parents had jobs, but a lot of the family were unemployed working class, so they had no jobs at all. So I saw poverty and repression right away. People would come to the door trying to sell rags – that was when I was four years old. I remember riding with my mother in a trolley car and passing a textile worker’s strike where the women were striking outside and the police were beating them bloody.”

He met Carol, who would become his wife, at about the same time, when he was five years old. They married when she was 19 and he 21, and were together until she died nearly 60 years later, in 2008. He talks about her constantly, given the chance: how she was so strict about his schedule when they travelled (she often accompanied him on lecture tours) that in Latin America they called her El Comandante; the various bureaucratic scrapes they got into, all over the world. By all accounts, she also enforced balance in his life: made sure he watched an hour of TV a night, went to movies and concerts, encouraged his love of sailing (at one point, he owned a small fleet of sailboats, plus a motorboat); she water-skied until she was 75.

But she was also politically involved: she took her daughters (they had three children: two girls and a boy) to demonstrations; he tells me a story about how, when they were protesting against the Vietnam war, they were once both arrested on the same day. “And you get one phone call. So my wife called our older daughter, who was at that time 12, I guess, and told her, ‘We’re not going to come home tonight, can you take care of the two kids?’ That’s life.” At another point, when it looked like he would be jailed for a long time, she went back to school to study for a PhD, so that she could support the children alone. It makes no sense, he told an interviewer a couple of years ago, for a woman to die before her husband, “because women manage so much better, they talk and support each other. My oldest and closest friend is in the office next door to me; we haven’t once talked about Carol.” His eldest daughter often helps him now. “There’s a transition point, in some way.”

Does he think that in all these years of talking and arguing and writing, he has ever changed one specific thing? “I don’t think any individual changes anything alone. Martin Luther King was an important figure but he couldn’t have said: ‘This is what I changed.’ He came to prominence on a groundswell that was created by mostly young people acting on the ground. In the early years of the antiwar movement we were all doing organising and writing and speaking and gradually certain people could do certain things more easily and effectively, so I pretty much dropped out of organising – I thought the teaching and writing was more effective. Others, friends of mine, did the opposite. But they’re not less influential. Just not known.”

In the cavernous Friends’ House, the last words of his speech are: “Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims … impassable barriers will remain, and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering.” It’s a gloomy coda, but he leaves to a standing ovation.

• This article was amended on 23 March 2013 to clarify the sentence which refers to Chomsky being accused of antisemitism.

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Pollard Hang zio slave

| Islamophobia: The FBI’s anticipatory prosecution of Muslims to criminalize speech!

The FBI’s anticipatory prosecution of Muslims to criminalize speech ~

    • guardian.co.uk.

      _____________________________________________________________

      A court ruling in one of the most abusive prosecutions yet highlights the dangers posed by this familiar tactic.
      _____________________________________________________________

 

 

Hayat

US-born Hamid Hayat was sentenced to 24 years in prison for allegedly attending a terrorist training camp when he was 19 Photograph: AP

One of the major governmental abuses denounced by the 1976 final report of the Church Committee was the FBI’s domestic counter intelligence programs (COINTELPRO). Under that program, the FBI targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous – including civil rights activists (such as the NAACP and Martin Luther King), black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters, and various right-wing groups – and infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. This program was exposed only because a left-wing group, the so-called “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI“, broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, stole the files relating to the program, and sent them to various newspapers.

What made the program so controversial was that the FBI was attempting to create and encourage crimes rather than find actual criminals – all in order to punish those whose constitutionally protected political activism the US government found threatening. As Noam Chomsky wrote in a comprehensive 1999 article on the program: “During these years, FBI provocateurs repeatedly urged and initiated violent acts, including forceful disruption of meetings and demonstrations on and off university campuses, attacks on police, bombings, and so on.” Once the program was exposed, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover insisted that there was no centralized authority for it and that it had ended, while the Church Committee’s final report made clear just how illegal and threatening it was:

church committee. . .

church committee. . . .

church committee. . . .

church committee.

Please re-read those last two highlighted sentences, as this is exactly what is happening again now: systematically and without much notice. Over the past decade, US Muslims have been routinely targeted with precisely this same tactic of preemptive or anticipatory prosecution. It’s all designed to take people engaged in political and religious advocacy which the US government dislikes – usually very young and impressionable Muslims with zero criminal history, though increasingly non-Muslims engaged in other forms of dissent – and use paid informants to trick them into saying just enough to turn them into criminals who are then prosecuted and imprisoned for decades.

The same pattern repeats itself over and over. The FBI ensnares some random Muslim in a garden-variety criminal investigation involving financial fraud or drugs. Rather than prosecute him, the FBI puts the Muslim criminal suspect on its payroll, sending him into Muslim communities and mosques in order not only to spy on American Muslims, but to befriend them and then actively manipulate them into saying just enough to make their prosecution possible. At times, the FBI’s informants have been so unstable and aggressive in trying to recruit members to join Terrorist plots that the targeted mosque members themselves have reported the informant to the FBI. Time and again, at the direction of these paid provocateurs who know that their ongoing payments depend upon enabling prosecutions, young Muslims in their late teens or early twenties end up saying something hostile about the US and/or statements that are otherwise politically offensive.

The DOJ takes those inflammatory political statements and combines them with evidence of commitment to Islam to depict the target as a dangerous jihadist. They use the same small set of government-loyal “terrorism experts”who earn an ample living testifying for the government and telling juries that unremarkable indicia of Islam are “typical” of Terrorists. Federal judges, notorious for subservience to the government in cases involving Muslims and Terrorism, go out of their way to allow even the most dubious government evidence while excluding the huge bulk of the defendant’s.

Federal prosecutors use this combination to convince a jury of Americans – inculcated with more than a decade of intense Islamophobic propaganda – to convict the defendants under “material support for terrorism” statutes even though they have harmed nobody and have taken no real steps toward doing so. The case is based overwhelmingly on the political and religious beliefs of the defendants, which are enough to convince Americans jurors that they are Bad People. These convictions not only result in decades of prison, but incarceration in special facilities reserved mostly for Muslims that, in most respects, are as restrictive and oppressive as those found at Guantanamo.

There have been several excellent articles reporting on how pervasive this FBI tactic has become, including this Mother Jones article by Trevor Aaronson andthis Nation story by Petra Bartosiewicz. Both the Guardian and the Washington Post have reported on some of the worst abuses. I’ve written about various cases on several occasions. And one truly great organization, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, has devoted itself to chronicling and battling against this assault. As Bartosiewicz reported:

“Nearly every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved a sting operation, at the center of which is a government informant. In these cases, the informants — who work for money or are seeking leniency on criminal charges of their own — have crossed the line from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted by the FBI itself. Under the FBI’s guiding hand, the informants provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level of terrorism.”

Like most abusive post-9/11 trends, this tactic is now stronger than ever: “there have been 138 terrorism or national security prosecutions involving informants since 2001, and more than a third of those have occurred in the past three years.”

As common as this tactic has become, it’s vital to look at particularly egregious cases to see what is really at play. This week, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 decision, affirmed the 2005 “material support” conviction of US-born Hamid Hayat, and it’s one of the worst yet most illustrative cases yet (that’s US justice: he was convicted 8 years ago, and his appeal is only now decided). Hayat was convicted for allegedly having attended “a terrorist training camp” when he was 19 years old. In the Sacramento Bee this week, Stanford Law Professor Shirin Sinnar wrote: “Even among anticipatory prosecutions, this case stands out for the fragility of the government’s case and the rank taint of prejudice, raising the haunting prospect that a man who had done nothing was convicted for a violent state of mind.”

Notably, the dissenting judge was A. Wallace Tashima, the first Japanese-American appointed to the federal bench; he was imprisoned during World War II in an internment camp in Arizona. As Professor Sinnar observed: “Perhaps as a Japanese American who was interned as a child, he remembered well the danger of preventative security measures founded on group-based judgments.” In dissent, Judge Tashima wrote: “This case is a stark demonstration of the unsettling and untoward consequences of the government’s use of anticipatory prosecution as a weapon in the ‘war on terrorism.'” He then described anticipatory prosecutions and explained why they are so dangerous:

hayat case. . .

hayat ruling.

hayat rulingThe evidence that Hayat attended a “terrorist training camp” came from a government informant, Nassem Kahn, who was originally arrested by the FBI as part of money laundering scheme. But rather then prosecute Kahn, he was paid between $3,000 and $4,000 per month – as the dissent said, “more than $200,000 by the FBI” total – to infiltrate a local mosque in Lodi, California. That is how he befriended the then-19-year-old Hayat and began trying to induce him into criminal conduct. Desperate to maintain his payments, Kahn outright fabricated stories in order to show his value, including claims – which even the FBI acknowledged were false – that he had on several occasions seen al-Qaida’s then-second-highest official, Ayman al Zawahiri, at the Lodi mosque.

Over the course of hundreds of hours of recorded conversations, Kahn actively encouraged Hayat to attend a terrorist camp in Pakistan. At one point, he even mocked the youth for failing to do so, and on another, told Hayat that he had spoken to Hayat’s father who wanted him to go to the camp:

“Hayat traveled with his family to Pakistan in April 2003. Two of the recorded conversations took place when he was there. Like the earlier conversations, they covered a wide range of topics. On one occasion, Khan scolded Hayat for being lazy and not going to a training camp. In response, Hayat protested that the camp was closed during hot weather and that had the camp been open, he ‘would have been there.’ On another occasion,Khan relayed to Hayat a conversation in which Hayat’s father explained that ‘[Hayat wi]ll enter the Madrassah, and, God Willing, he [will] go for training!’ Hayat responded to Khan: ‘Um-hmm. . . . No problem, absolutely.’ (Underlined portion spoken in English).”

Remarkably, the judge allowed Kahn to testify that Hayat told him that he attended a camp, but then refused to allow Hayat’s lawyers to ask Kahn about the fact that Hayat eventually told him that he never intended to go to a camp and was simply lying out of bravado. That is one major factor that caused Judge Tashima to insist that the conviction must be reversed:

“The prosecution was allowed to introduce inculpatory out-of-court statements Hayat made to Khan, but the defense was prevented from eliciting testimony regarding Hayat’s exculpatory out-of-court statements made in the same conversation. . . . . The district court’s exclusion of a crucial exculpatory statement made under identical conditions and contemporaneously with the inculpatory statement was grossly unfair. . . . This seriously calls into question the fairness and integrity of the proceedings.”

Worse, the prosecution was allowed to introduce “expert testimony” telling the jury that “a particular kind of person would carry” a “supplication” prayer written in Arabic that was found in Hayat’s wallet: namely, “a person who perceives him or herself as being engaged in war for God against an enemy”. As bad as it was to allow such blanket “expert testimony” about his likely state of mind based on a prayer in his wallet, the judge then excluded Hayat’s own expert witness who would have testified that such a prayer is common among perfectly peaceful Muslims and has all sorts of possible meanings. As Judge Tashima pointed out, Hayat was merely carrying “a written prayer, whose meaning to any particular faithful likely is obscure. This is particularly so in this case because Hayat did not speak or read Arabic, the language in which the prayer was written.” To decide that someone is a Terrorist deserving of decades in prison because of that is a travesty beyond belief.

The only other evidence presented was a videotape in which Hayat, after many hours of being badgered in FBI custody, finally said that he had been present a camp at which terrorists were “possibly” or “probably” present. But even an FBI agent, citing how vague and coerced the statement was, himself deemed it the “sorriest confession [he had] ever seen.” Judge Tashima derided it as “a meandering and almost nonsensical confession to the FBI”. He added that the “confession” was extracted only “after hours of questioning, beginning around 11:00 a.m., and lasting into the early morning hours of the following day, [when] he finally agreed with FBI interrogators, who repeatedly insisted, despite his continuing denials, that Hayat had in fact attended such a
training camp.” The trial judge refused to allow expert testimony about how and why it was clear that this statement had been coerced.

But worst of all – and most revealing – the jury foreperson, Joseph Cote, made all sorts of post-trial statements demonstrating clear Islamophobic bias. Cote excused the FBI informant’s fabrications that he had seen al-Zawhiri at the Lodi moseque by saying: “they all look the same when wearing a costume”. Other jurors swore in affidavits that “[t]hroughout the deliberation process, Mr. Cote made other inappropriate racial comments.” In an interview with the Atlantic, Cote, noting the 2005 London subway bombings, said that he could not let Hayat go free “on the basis of what we know of how people of his background have acted in the past.”

That is as bigoted a statement as it gets: that Hayat should be subjected to heightened suspicion because he is Muslim. That’s exactly the mindset that has led the US to create what New York Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal has called “essentially a separate justice system for Muslims.” Indeed, Cote specifically endorsed the government’s post-9/11 tactic of preemptively prosecuting Muslims. As the Atlantic article by Amy Waldman explained, the US government’s treatment of Muslims is a direct repudiation of what had long been the core precept of US justice:

“Testifying before Congress in 2004, Paul Rosenzweig of the Heritage Foundation paraphrased a well-known maxim, saying, ‘It is better that ten guilty go free than that one innocent be mistakenly punished.’ September 11 changed the paradigm, he argued, and now, ‘we simply cannot afford a rule that ‘Better ten terrorists go undetected than that the conduct of one innocent be mistakenly examined.'”

The Atlantic article then quoted Cote, again citing the danger from Muslims, as wholeheartedly concurring with this mindset:

“This preventive approach, Cote said, means that ‘just as there are people in prison who never committed the crime, this may also happen . . . .He argued that it was ‘absolutely’ better to run the risk of convicting an innocent man than to let a guilty one go. ‘Too many lives are changed’ by terrorism, he said. ‘So shall one man pay to save fifty? It’s not a debatable question.”

Despite all these comments, the two judges voting to affirm Hayat’s conviction contorted themselves into pretzels to find non-bigoted interpretations of these comments and to conclude, ultimately, that even if ugly, these sentiments are not enough to compel a new trial.

After the jury found him guilty, Hayat was sentenced to 288 months – 24 years – in federal prison. That included the maximum 15-year sentence for “materially supporting” terrorism. Convicted at the age of 23 and now 30 years old, Hayat will not be free until he’s 47 years old – even though there was zero evidence that he had taken any steps to harm anyone.

That’s why I say that this case, though extreme, is incredibly illustrative. It’s how these cases against young Muslims – and, increasingly, non-Muslim activists in the US – typically function. The FBI, using a paid informant, spent years trying to turn him into a criminal. Even with all those efforts, they obtained virtually nothing, but were able to play on the anti-Muslim prejudices of American jurors who equate Muslim religiosity with evidence of Terrorism.

But what makes the case so pernicious, what makes the tactic so dangerous, is exactly what the Church Committee cited when denouncing COINTELPRO: namely, it is the US government targeting citizens for their political beliefs, and then turning them into criminals by exploiting their unpopular political views. Here is the summary of the “evidence” against Hayat from the Atlantic’s Waldman:

“To prove intent, then, the government had to turn to the rubble of Hayat’s life—an accretion of circumstantial but ugly evidence that prosecutors said proved ‘a jihadi heart and a jihadi mind.’ There were Hayat’s words, taped by an informant, in which he praised the murder and mutilation of the journalist Daniel Pearl: ‘They killed him—I’m so pleased about that. They cut him into pieces and sent him back … That was a good job they did—now they can’t send one Jewish person to Pakistan.’ There was what the prosecution called Hayat’s ‘frequently expressed hatred toward the United States’; his comment that his heart ‘belongs to Pakistan’; his description of President Bush as ‘the worm.’ There was, at his house, literature by a virulent Pakistani militant and a scrapbook of clippings celebrating both the Taliban and sectarian violence.”

It’s incredibly common for young people of that age to dabble in extremist thought. But whatever one thinks of those opinions, they are clearly constitutionally protected as free speech. Yet throwing these opinions in the face of the jury, combined with evidence of one’s belief in Islam, is more than enough to persuade all too many Americans that the person is guilty of Terrorism, that he has “a jihadi heart and a jihadi mind”. And that’s what makes these “preemptive” and “anticipatory” prosecutions so menacing: by criminalizing free speech and turning dissidents into felons, they achieve exactly that which the First Amendment, above all else, was designed to prohibit. That these practices created such an intense backlash when exposed 40 years ago by the Church Committee, yet are accepted with such indifference now, speaks volumes about the state of US political culture.

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