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Open letter to Muslims and Scholars::مسلم وعلماء کے نام کھلا خط :

Presently the society is in a state of ideological confusion and degradation. Materialism, terrorism, ignorance a...

26 June 2016

The crisis of Muslim nationalisms

Nationalism was a Western construct mainly designed and driven by the rise of the mercantile/trader classes. As an idea, it was a revolt against the feudal mindset and the traditional influence of the aristocratic sections who dominated Europe in alliance with the church.

The American and French revolutions in the 18th century were both prompted by the growing number of men and women sandwiched between powerful aristocrats and the downtrodden. This section would eventually rise as a separate and distinct class, described by Karl Marx as the bourgeoise and/or the middle-class.

The architects of both revolutions rejected colonialism, monarchism and political aspects of religion as central signifiers of a people’s identity. Instead, to express their growing political ambitions triggered by their economic successes, the architects of nationalism began to construct notions of identity based on shared political and economic interests, languages and cultural memories.

To American and French nationalists, this meant devising a system which would make the people direct participants in the state-building process; a people united by certain common political, economic and social interests derived through a consensus, which defined them as a single nationalistic entity.

In the Muslim regions, when Muslim imperial powers began to erode from the 19th century onwards, various concerned Muslim thinkers and activists responded by rejecting the decaying memories of a glorious imperial past.

They adopted notions of nationalism to find their peoples’ place in the rapidly changing paradigms of international order. For example, from within the decaying Ottoman Empire emerged the ‘Young Turks’ movement, which searched for a squarely Turkish identity based on a common language and cultural memories. Turkish nationhood was the result, which eschewed the imperial pretensions of the eroding Empire and defined Turkish nationalism as a modern, progressive component of Europe.

In the Arab world emerged a nationalism that was anti-colonial and revolutionary, but one that rejected old Muslim imperialism and notions of so-called ‘Pan-Islamism’ — a 19th century concept which attempted to stem the collapse of Muslim empires by advocating the modernisation of the concept of Muslim universalism and the caliphate.

Arab nationalism was strongest in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Iraq. It painted its people and borders with exclusively nationalistic strokes but, at the same time, also adopted an Arab universalism based on the history and memory of a once powerful, enlightened and progressive nature of the Arab peoples.

In India, a region with a Hindu majority but with a 500-year history of Muslim rule, certain Muslim thinkers also adopted nationalistic notions after the demise of Muslim rule. Rejecting the decaying past, Muslim nationalism in India advocated the adoption of modern political thought and sciences so that an ‘enlightened’ Muslim nation could emerge in India to face the challenge of British colonialism, and, later, ‘Hindu majoritarianism’.

This nationalism was intellectually driven by the modern Muslim bourgeoise and bankrolled by the Muslim landed elite. It saw the Muslims of India as a separate nationalistic entity, united by memories of a once glorious past and an urge to revitalise its shared faith through a more rational, modern, and flexible reading and implementation.

Indian Muslim nationalism also largely bypassed Pan-Islamism because it believed that Muslim culture in the region had bearings which were separate from how Islam had evolved elsewhere.

Nationalism was the main engine behind the creation and liberation of various Muslim regions in the 20th century. But its influence and impact began to lose hold from the early 1970s onwards. Failed economies, and some disastrous wars, polarised the Muslim societies created on the basis of nationalism. And with the absence of democracy this polarisation began to be expressed by radical alternatives such as neo-Pan-Islamism, offered by a new generation of bourgeoise and petty-bourgeoise Muslims, and bankrolled by oil-rich Arab monarchies that had always seen Muslim nationalism as a threat.

The state in various Muslim countries tried to retain the status quo by rapidly adopting various aspects of Pan-Islamism, even to the extent of sacrificing many nationalist notions with which most Muslim liberation movements had originally been constructed.

The erosion of the nationalist narratives created wide open spaces. These spaces were rapidly occupied and then dominated by ideas initially rejected by the nationalists. These ideas were opposed to the nationalist narrative, criticising it for going against the grain of Islamic universalism and creating separatism based on indigenous cultures and languages in Muslim regions.

Ideas which offered alternative political and social models (as opposed to the ones based on nationalism) were largely based on a contemporary understanding of pan-Islamism. But some three decades after these ideas had managed to engrain themselves in the polity, state and psyche of various Muslim countries, from the 1970s onwards, these countries were left grappling with a new crisis.

For example, the new generation of Turks, Egyptians, Iraqis, Syrians, Pakistanis, etc, are now completely disconnected with the original notions of their countries’ nationhood and nationalist identities. In the past few decades they were more exposed to ideas of Islamic universalism, pushed aggressively by oil-rich Arab monarchies and their political allies.

In Pakistan, a young millennial is not quite sure what being a Pakistani now constitutes. Does it mean being a citizen of a Muslim-majority nation in South Asia, which evolved on the banks of River Indus and is part of the region’s 5,000-year-old history; or is he or she a member of some approaching universal Islamic set-up who should just see Pakistan as a temporary abode to mark time in, till that universal empire emerges? Is he or she first a Pakistani and then a Muslim, or vice versa? What about a non-Muslim citizen of Pakistan? Who or what is he?

Such confusion was triggered by the gradual erosion of the initial nationalist ideas in Muslim countries and the rise of a rather ill-defined and overtly ambitious notion of universalism in a world still defined by nationalistic boundaries. It made a whole generation vulnerable to the ways of those who promise the same universal utopia — but through unprecedented violence against the state and a number of imagined ‘enemies’.

Maybe the solution now lies in reinvigorating and updating the original notions of nationalism in Muslim countries so that future generations would feel more comfortable, sure and confident of being entities defined by their shared cultural heritage of a region that was carved, encapsulated and bordered by nationalist notions of state, society and nation — and not as some epic launching pad to jump-start a utopia from.
By Nadeem F Paracha

25 June 2016

Blowback Just in Time to Shape US Imperialism's Presidential Elections

The carnage in Orlando is blowback from U.S.-backed jihadist wars, yet Hillary Clinton, a key player in U.S. sponsorship of jihadists, seeks to profit politically from the horror. So does Donald Trump. “The fear that blowback unleashes has historically given the ruling class breathing room to further its anti-worker, pro-capital agenda.” Blowback is a right-wing wind, and “always ‘trumps’ the material interests of poor and working people in the US.”
“The Democratic Party has continued its desperate attempt to push those afraid of Trump toward the Clinton agenda of endless warfare and domestic surveillance.”
Fifty were shot dead and fifty plus more wounded at a night club in Orlando on June 11th. The nightclub, known to the community as an LGBTQ space, became the most gruesome example of US imperialist blowback to date. ISIS dubiously took credit for the shooting after word spread about the attacker's religious and national roots. Of course, blowback has never opened the eyes of Americans in a progressive direction. The majority of Americans were not informed that US intelligence has been linked to both the perpetrator and his father. What the incident will provide is a political climate of fear perfect for a tumultuous Presidential election season.
First on the order of the day for the ruling class is the elimination of Bernie Sanders from Democratic Party candidacy. With the Democratic National Convention approaching in July and Trump already having sealed the Republican Party nomination, the Orlando tragedy will be exploited endlessly for the political ends of the electoral machine.
The Clinton camp has already begun to use this moment of mass vulnerability to point the finger at Donald Trump. His overt racism, homophobia, and misogyny have been blamed for the murders. Clinton has, predictably, failed to offer real solutions to mass shootings other than appeals to gun control. The Democratic Party has continued its desperate attempt to push those afraid of Trump toward the Clinton agenda of endless warfare and domestic surveillance. Clinton’s handlers have framed her as the only force in the universe that can keep the American people safe from terrorism and bigotry.
“Trump's brand has made him wildly popular with disaffected, white Americans who have lost the industrial jobs and government supports that provided the material basis of its hatred toward oppressed races of people.”
Presidential elections are about brand, not truth. Voters are persuaded to identity with one of two corporate parties and look away as the candidates do their best to court real power players in Wall Street and the military state. Trump's brand has made him wildly popular with disaffected, white Americans who have lost the industrial jobs and government supports that provided the material basis of its hatred toward oppressed races of people. Trump has given this section of White America new life, stroking its diseased racist mind while appealing to real economic grievances.
Trump has commented on the shooting in Orlando as an "I told you so moment,” blaming "radical Islamic terrorism" for the attack. While such a position will make supporters happy, his message will have to change if he is serious about being the next Commander-in-Chief. Muslims and Latinos make up a significant portion of the electorate. Alienating them ensures a Clinton victory. Trump will have to rely on low voter turnout to win the Presidency unless his brand regarding the shooting can attract a wider base.
The shooting hurts Sanders the most, as it leaves zero room for him to strengthen his brand. His policy proposals will be temporarily suspended as a matter of national security. National security always "trumps" the material interests of poor and working people in the US. Healthcare, education, and job concerns are what propelled Trump and Sanders into the national spotlight. However, the fear that blowback unleashes has historically given the ruling class breathing room to further its anti-worker, pro-capital agenda. This includes the suppression of leftist politics, whether they emanate from the domestic agenda of Bernie Sanders or the foreign policy remarks of Donald Trump.
“Terrorism is a creation of US imperialism and it continues to come home in the form of blowback.”
A cornerstone of leftist thought and action is critical inquiry into the forces that shape material reality. When a mass shooting or so-called terrorist attack occurs, its causes should be fully investigated by the grassroots. The US government is adamantly opposed to such genuine inquiry. It has suppressed twenty right pages of the federal investigation into 9/11 and placed the so-called "Boston Bomber" in the hands of a Kangaroo court to be silenced and removed from public eye. Osama Bin-Laden was assassinated before given the opportunity to testify before international law. The US imperial state suppresses genuine inquiry into blowback incidents because they reveal the immense sickness that is US imperialism.
This case is no different. Not only was the shooter a mercenary for the corporately contracted security G4S, but he was also raised by a Taliban-aligned father who hosts a major Afghan television show. His father, Siddique Mateen, emigrated from Afghanistan in the 1980s at the same time that the CIA was training jihadist foot soldiers in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. These foot soldiers, called the Mujahadeen, went on to form the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Terrorism is a creation of US imperialism and it continues to come home in the form of blowback.
“The Middle East and North Africa have become havens for terrorism precisely because of US foreign policy.”
Given US imperialism's endless drone strikes and campaigns of destabilization, blowback should come as no surprise. The US has destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya in a little over a decade. Syria has been decimated from five years of US-sponsored jihadist proxy war. The Middle East and North Africa have become havens for terrorism precisely because of US foreign policy. This is the root cause of terrorism that will surely be buried under the weight of imperial lies for the duration of the election cycle.
In Huey Newton's letter to gay liberation movement, he calls on the Black Panther Party to unite against sexual oppression. Sexual oppression acted then as a barrier to building a strong and united movement against the American empire. It still does. However, the fight against sexual oppression must also be a fight against empire, white supremacy, and the rule of capital. These interlocked forces set the stage for sexual oppression and terrorism to thrive. The consequence is blowback, and it has come just in time for the ruling class to consolidate the rule of Empire in this election cycle.

20 June 2016

Constructing Visions of "Perpetual Peace": An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Through its commitment to militarism and global imperialism, the elite class that controls the United States is risking global catastrophe. In his new book Who Rules the World?, Noam Chomsky examines US policies from the drone assassination program to nuclear weapons, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Israel and Palestine, to show the workings and consequences of undemocratic imperial power. Order the book today by making a donation to support Truthout!

"Who rules the world?" This is one of those perennial questions. In the past, it has been empires or dominant states that dictated the course of history. The United States was able singlehandedly to influence developments and outcomes economically, politically and ideologically in much of the world throughout the post-war era. Although we are now witnessing the end of "Pax Americana," the US remains the most powerful and destructive imperial state in the history of the world.

However, states are not abstract entities or neutral institutions of human creation. On the contrary, while they may have a logic of their own due to their huge built-in bureaucracies, the policies they pursue reflect above all the interests of the dominant social classes and seek to reproduce the existing social and economic relations. In other words, states work on behalf of what Adam Smith called "the masters of mankind" whose "vile maxim" is "all for ourselves, and nothing for the other People."

Indeed, in the case of the United States, one of the most disturbing and dangerous developments is the growing insulation of the elite from any system of democratic accountability, and the implementation of policies with total disregard for the needs of the people. This is a development observed today in most of the western, capitalist societies around the world, proving that financial elites are in control of so-called "democratic" regimes.

Noam Chomsky, a professor emeritus at MIT, has written extensively about "the masters of mankind" and on the role of the US in world affairs. His latest book, titled Who Rules the World? which was released last month by Metropolitan Press, has already received rave reviews. In it, he examines the pursuit and exercise of power by the United States and provides a scathing critique of mass media -- particularly the way the New York Times reports on national and international news -- while laying out in both moral and political terms the responsibility of intellectuals.

On the occasion of the publication of Who Rules the World?, Noam Chomsky granted Truthout this exclusive interview, in which he expounds on the crisis in today's democracies, the apparent end of Pax Americana, the historical significance of Castro's Cuba, the deadly threat of nuclear weapons, the means of exploitation under today's capitalism, and the shape and form of a society free of oppression and exploitation.

CJ Polychroniou: Noam, the decline of democracy as a reflection of political apathy is evident in both the United States and in Europe, and the explanation provided in Who Rules the World? is that this phenomenon is linked to the fact that most people throughout Western societies are "convinced that a few big interests control policy." This is obviously true, but wasn't this always the case? I mean, people always knew that policymaking was in the hands of the elite, but this did not stop them in the past from seeking to influence political outcomes through the ballot box and other means. So, what specific factors might explain political apathy in our own age?

Noam Chomsky: "Resignation" may be a better term than "apathy," and even that goes too far, I think.

Since the early 1980s, polls in the US have shown that most people believe that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves... I do not know of earlier polls, or polls in other countries, but it would not be surprising if the results are similar. The important question is: are people motivated to do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially including the means that they perceive to be available. It's the task of serious activists to help develop those means and encourage people to understand that they are available. Two hundred and fifty years ago, in one of the first modern works of political theory, David Hume observed that "power is in the hands of the governed," if they only choose to exercise it, and ultimately, it is "by opinion only" -- that is, by doctrine and propaganda -- that they are prevented from exercising power. That can be overcome, and often has been.

Thirty-five years ago, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham identified "the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market" as a primary cause of the high rate of abstention in US elections. Traditionally, the labor movement and labor-based parties have played a leading role in offering ways to "influence political outcomes" within the electoral system and on the streets and shop floor. That capacity has declined significantly under neoliberal assault, which enhanced the bitter war waged against unions by the business classes throughout the postwar period.

In 1978, before Reagan's escalation of the attack against labor, United Auto Workers President Doug Fraser recognized what was happening -- far too late -- and criticized the "leaders of the business community" for having "chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country -- a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society," and for having "broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a period of growth and progress." The union leadership had placed their faith -- partly for their own benefit as a labor bureaucracy -- in a compact with owners and managers during the postwar growth and high profits period that had come to an end by the 1970s. By then, the powerful attack on labor had already taken a severe toll and it has gotten much more extreme since, particularly since the radically anti-labor Reagan administration.

The Democrats, meanwhile, pretty much abandoned the working class. Independent political parties have been very marginal, and political activism, while widespread, has [often] … sidelined class issues and offered little to the white working class, which is now drifting into the hands of their class enemy. In Europe, functioning democracy has steadily declined as major policy decisions are transferred to the Brussels bureaucracy of the EU, operating under the shadow of northern banks. But there are many popular reactions, some self-destructive (racing into the hands of the class enemy) and others quite promising and productive, as we see in current political campaigns in the US and Europe.

In your book, you refer to the "invisible hands of power." What is the exact meaning of this, and to what situations and circumstances can it be applied in order to understand domestic and global political developments?

I was using the phrase to refer to the guiding doctrines of policy formation, sometimes spelled out in the documentary record, sometimes easily detectable in ongoing events. There are many examples in international and domestic affairs. Sometimes the clouds are lifted by high-level disclosures or by significant historical events. The real nature of the Cold War, for example, was considerably illuminated when the Soviet Union collapsed and it was no longer possible to proclaim simply that the Russians are coming. That provided an interesting test of the real motives of policy formation, hidden by Cold War pretexts [that were suddenly] gone.

We learn from Bush I administration documents, for example, that we must keep intervention forces aimed at the Middle East, where the serious threats to our interests "could not be laid at the Kremlin's door," contrary to long deceit. Rather, the serious problems trace to "radical nationalism," the term regularly used for independent nationalism that is under control. That is actual a major theme of the Cold War, masked by posturing about the Great Enemy.

The fate of NATO is also revealing. It was constructed and maintained in alleged defense against the Russian hordes. By 1991, [there were] no more Russian hordes, no Warsaw Pact, and Mikhail Gorbachev was proposing a broad security system with no military pacts. What happened to NATO? It expanded to the East in violation of commitments to Gorbachev by President Bush I and Secretary of State James Baker that appear to have been consciously intended to deceive him and to gain his acquiescence to a unified Germany within NATO, so recent archival work persuasively indicates.

To move to another domain, the free-market capitalism extolled in doctrine was illustrated by an IMF study of major banks, which showed that their profits derived mostly from an implicit taxpayer insurance policy.

Examples abound, and are highly instructive.

Since the end of the Second World War, capitalism throughout the West -- and in fact throughout the globe -- has managed to maintain and expand its domination not merely through political and psychological means but also through the use of the repressive apparatus of the state, including the military. Can you talk a little bit about this in connection with the theme of "who rules the world"?

The "mailed fist" [the threat of armed or overbearing force] is not lacking even within the most free societies. In the postwar US, the most striking example is COINTELPRO, a program run by the national political police (FBI) to stamp out dissidence and activism over a broad range, reaching as far as political assassination (Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton). Massive incarceration of populations [deemed] superfluous for profit-making (largely African-American, for obvious historical reasons) is yet another means.

Abroad, the fist is constantly wielded, directly or through clients. The Indochina wars are the most extreme case, the worst postwar 20th-century crime, criticized in the mainstream as a "blunder," like the invasion of Iraq, the worst crime of the new century. One highly significant postwar example is the plague of violent repression that spread through Latin America after JFK effectively shifted the mission of the Latin America military from "hemispheric defense" to "internal security," a euphemism for war against the population. There were horrendous effects throughout the hemisphere, reaching Central America with Reagan's murderous wars, mostly relying on the terrorist forces of client states.

While still the world's predominant power, there is no doubt that the US is in decline. What are the causes and consequences of American decline?

US power peaked, at a historically unprecedented level, at the end of World War II. That couldn't possibly be sustained. It began to erode very soon with what is called, interestingly, "the loss of China" [the transformation of China into a communist nation in 1949]. And the process continued with the reconstruction of industrial societies from wartime devastation and decolonization. One reflection of the decline is the shift of attitudes toward the UN. It was greatly admired when it was hardly more than an instrument of US power in the early postwar years, but increasingly came under attack as "anti-American" as it fell out of control -- so far out of control that the US has held the record in vetoes after 1970, when it joined Britain in support of the racist regime of Southern Rhodesia. By then, the global economy was tripartite: German-based Europe, Japan-based East Asia, and US-based North America.

In the military dimension, the US has remained supreme. There are many consequences. One is resort to "coalitions of the willing" when international opinion overwhelmingly opposes US resort to violence, even among allies, as in the case of the invasion of Iraq. Another is "soft coups," as right now in Brazil, rather than support for neo-Nazi National Security States as was true in the not-distant past.

If the US is still the world's first superpower, what country or entity do you consider to be the second superpower?

There is much talk of China as the emerging superpower. According to many analysts, it is poised to overtake the US. There is no doubt of China's emerging significance in the world scene, already surpassing the US economically by some measures (though far below per capita). Military, China is far weaker; confrontations are taking place in coastal waters near China, not in the Caribbean or off the coast of California. But China faces very serious internal problems -- labor repression and protest, severe ecological threats, demographic decline in work force, and others. And the economy, while booming, is still highly dependent on the more advanced industrial economies at its periphery and the West, though that is changing, and in some high-tech domains, such as design and development of solar panels, China seems to have the world lead. As China is hemmed in from the sea, it is compensating by extending westward, reconstructing something like the old silk roads in a Eurasian system largely under Chinese influence and soon to reach Europe.

You have been arguing for a long time now that nuclear weapons pose one of the two greatest threats to humankind. Why are the major powers so reluctant to abolish nuclear weapons? Doesn't the very existence of these weapons pose a threat to the existence of the "'masters of the universe" themselves?

It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction -- not a novelty in world affairs (those who initiated wars often ended up devastated) but now on a hugely different scale. We see that from the earliest days of the atomic age. The US at first was virtually invulnerable, though there was one serious threat on the horizon: ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] with hydrogen bomb warheads. Archival research has now confirmed what was surmised earlier: there was no plan, not even a thought, of reaching a treaty agreement that would have banned these weapons, though there is good reason to believe that it might have been feasible. The same attitudes prevail right to the present, where the vast buildup of forces right at the traditional invasion route into Russia is posing a serious threat of nuclear war.

Planners explain quite lucidly why it is so important to keep these weapons. One of the clearest explanations is in a partially declassified Clinton-era document issued by the Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which is in charge of nuclear weapons policy and use. The document is called Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence; the term "deterrence," like "defense," is a familiar Orwellism referring to coercion and attack. The document explains that "nuclear weapons always cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict," and must therefore be available, at the ready. If the adversary knows we have them, and might use them, they may back down -- a regular feature of Kissingerian diplomacy. In that sense, nuclear weapons are constantly being used, a point that Dan Ellsberg has insistently made, just as we are using a gun when we rob a store but don't actually shoot. One section of the report is headed: "Maintaining Ambiguity." It advises that "planners should not be too rational about determining...what the opponent values the most," which must be targeted.

"One of the most disturbing and dangerous developments is the growing insulation of the elite from any system of democratic accountability," says Noam Chomsky.
Photo by: Photo: Don J. Usner
"That the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project," [the report says, adding that] it is "beneficial" for our strategic posture if "some elements may appear to be potentially `out of control'." Nixon's madman theory, except this time clearly articulated in an internal planning document, not merely a recollection by an adviser (Haldeman, in the Nixon case).
Like other early post-Cold War documents, this one has been virtually ignored. (I've referred to it a number of times, eliciting no notice that I'm aware of.) The neglect is quite interesting. Simple logic suffices to show that the documentary record after the alleged Russian threat disappeared would be highly illuminating as to what was actually going on before.

The Obama administration has made some openings towards Cuba. Do you anticipate an end to the embargo any time soon?

The embargo has long been opposed by the entire world, as the annual votes on the embargo at the UN General Assembly reveal. By now the US is supported only by Israel. Before it could sometimes count on a Pacific island or some other dependency. Of course Latin America is completely opposed. More interestingly, major sectors of US capital have long been in favor of normalization of relations, as public opinion has been: agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, energy, tourism and others. It is normal for public opinion to be ignored, but dismissing powerful concentrations of the business world tells us that really significant "reasons of state" are involved. We have a good sense from the internal record about what these interests are.

From the Kennedy years until today there has been outrage over Cuba's "successful defiance" of US policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which signaled the intention to control the hemisphere. The goal was not realizable because of relative weakness, just as the British deterrent prevented the US from attaining its first "foreign policy" objective, the conquest of Cuba, in the 1820s (here the term "foreign policy" is used in the conventional sense, which adheres to what historian of imperialism Bernard Porter calls "the salt water fallacy": conquest only becomes imperial only when it crosses salt water, so the destruction of the Indian nations and the conquest of half of Mexico were not "imperialism"). The US did achieve its objective in 1898, intervening to prevent Cuba's liberation from Spain and converting it into a virtual colony.

Washington has never reconciled itself to Cuba's intolerable arrogance of achieving independence in 1959 -- partial, since the US refused to return the valuable Guantanamo Bay region, taken by "Treaty" at gunpoint in 1903 and not returned despite the requests of the government of Cuba. In passing, it might be recalled that by far the worst human rights violations in Cuba take place in this stolen territory, to which the US has a much weaker claim than Russia does to Crimea, also taken by force.

But to return to the question, it is hard to predict whether the US will agree to end the embargo short of some kind of Cuban capitulation to US demands going back almost 200 years.

How do you assess and evaluate the historical significance and impact of the Cuban revolution in world affairs and toward the realization of socialism?

The impact on world affairs was extraordinary. For one thing, Cuba played a very significant role in [the] liberation of West and South Africa. Its troops beat back a US-supported South African invasion of Angola and compelled South Africa to abandon its attempt to establish a regional support system and to give up its illegal hold on Namibia. The fact that Black Cuban troops defeated the South Africans had an enormous psychological impact both in white and Black Africa. A remarkable exercise of dedicated internationalism, undertaken at great risk from the reigning superpower, which was the last supporter of apartheid South Africa, and entirely selfless. Small wonder that when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, one of his first acts was to declare:

During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength… [Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa … a turning point for the liberation of our continent -- and of my people -- from the scourge of apartheid … What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?

Cuban medical assistance in poor and suffering areas is also quite unique.

Domestically, there were very significant achievements, among them simply survival in the face of US efforts to bring "the terrors of the earth" to Cuba (historian Arthur Schlesinger's phrase, in his biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned this task as his highest priority) and the fierce embargo. Literacy campaigns were highly successful, and the health system is justly renowned. There are serious human rights violations, and restrictions of political and personal freedoms. How much is attributable to the external attack and how much to independent policy choices, one can debate -- but for Americans to condemn violations without full recognition of their own massive responsibility gives hypocrisy a new meaning.

Does the US remain the world's leading supporter of terrorism?

A review of several recent books on Obama's global assassination (drone) campaign in the American Journal of International Law concludes that there is a "persuasive case" that the campaign is "unlawful": "U.S. drone attacks generally violate international law, worsen the problem of terrorism, and transgress fundamental moral principles" -- a judicious assessment, I believe. The details of the cold and calculated presidential killing machine are harrowing, as is the attempt at legal justification, such as the stand of Obama's Justice Department on "presumption of innocence," a foundation stone of modern law tracing back to the Magna Carta 800 years ago. As the stand was explained in the New York Times, "Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It, in effect, counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent" -- post-assassination. In large areas of tribal Pakistan and Yemen, and elsewhere, populations are traumatized by the fear of sudden murder from the skies at any moment. The distinguished anthropologist Akbar Ahmed, with long professional and personal experience with the tribal societies that are under attack all over the world, forcefully recounts how these murderous assaults elicit dedication to revenge -- not very surprisingly. How would we react?

These campaigns alone, I think, secure the trophy for the US.

Historically, under capitalism, plundering the poor and the natural resources of weak nations has been the favorite hobby of both the rich and of imperial states. In the past, the plundering was done mostly through outright physical exploitation means and military conquest. How have the means of exploitation changed under financial capitalism?

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles once complained to President Eisenhower that the Communists have an unfair advantage. They can "appeal directly to the masses" and "get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate. The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich." It's not easy to sell the principle that the rich have a right to plunder the poor.

It's true that the means have changed. The international "free trade agreements" (FTAs) are a good example, including those now being negotiated -- mostly in secret from populations, but not from the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the details. The FTAs reject "free trade": they are highly protectionist, with onerous patent regulations to guarantee exorbitant profits for the pharmaceutical industry, media conglomerates, and others, as well as protection for affluent professionals, unlike working people, who are placed in competition all of the world, with obvious consequences. The FTAs are to a large extent not even about trade; rather, about investor rights, such as the rights of corporations (not of course mere people of flesh and blood) to sue governments for actions that might reduce potential profits of foreign investors, like environmental or healthy and safety regulations. Much of what is called "trade" doesn't merit that term, for example, production of parts in Indiana, assembly in Mexico, sale in California, all basically within a command economy, a megacorporation. Flow of capital is free. Flow of labor is anything but, violating what Adam Smith recognized to be a basic principle of free trade: free circulation of labor. And to top it off, the FTAs are not even agreements, at least if people are considered to be members of democratic societies.

Is this to say that we now live in a post-imperialist age?

Seems to me just a question of terminology. Domination and coercion take many and varied forms, as the world changes.

We have seen in recent years several so-called progressive leaders march to power through the ballot box only to betray their vows to the people the moment they took office. What means or mechanisms should be introduced in truly democratic systems to ensure that elected officials do not betray the trust of the voters? For example, the ancient Athenians had conceived of something called "the right to recall," which in the 19th century became a critical although little known element in the political project for future social and political order of certain socialist movements. Are you in favor of reviving this mechanism as a critical component of real, sustainable democracy?

I think a strong case can be made for right of recall in some form, buttressed by capacities for free and independent inquiry to monitor what elected representatives are doing. The great achievement of Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and other contemporary "whistleblowers" is to serve and advance these fundamental rights of citizens. The reaction by state authorities is instructive. As well-known, the Obama administration has broken all records in punishment of whistleblowers. It is also remarkable to see how intimidated Europe is. We saw that dramatically when Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane flew home from a visit to Moscow, and European countries were in such terror of Washington that they would not let the plane cross their airspace, in case it might be carrying Edward Snowden, and when the plane landed in Austria it was searched by police in violation of diplomatic protocol.

Could an act of terrorism against leaders who blatantly betrayed the trust of voters ever be justified?

"Ever" is a strong word. It is hard to conjure up realistic circumstances. The burden of proof for any resort to violence should be very heavy, and this case would seem extremely hard to justify.

With human nature being what it is, and individuals clearly having different skills, abilities, drives and aspirations, is a truly egalitarian society feasible and/or desirable?

Human nature encompasses saints and sinners, and each of us has all of these capacities. I see no conflict at all between an egalitarian vision and human variety. One could, perhaps, argue that those with greater skills and talents are already rewarded by the ability to exercise them, so they merit less external reward -- though I don't argue this. As for the feasibility of more just and free social institutions and practices, we can never be certain in advance, and can only keep trying to press the limits as much as possible, with no clear reason that I can see to anticipate failure.

In your view, what would constitute a decent society and what form of a world order would be needed to eliminate completely questions about who rules the world?

We can construct visions of "perpetual peace," carrying forward the Kantian project, and of a society of free and creative individuals not subjected to hierarchy, domination, arbitrary rule and decision. In my own view -- respected friends and comrades in struggle disagree -- we do not know enough to spell out details with much confidence, and can anticipate that considerable experimentation will be necessary along the way. There are very urgent immediate tasks, not least dealing with literal questions of survival of organized human societies, questions that have never risen before in human history but are inescapable right now. And there are many other tasks that demand immediate and dedicated work. It makes good sense to keep in mind longer-term aspirations as guidelines for immediate choices, recognizing as well that the guidelines are not immutable. That leaves us plenty to do.
Constructing Visions of "Perpetual Peace": An Interview With Noam Chomsky by C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout. Org

15 June 2016

What we really need to reject is Islamophobia-phobia

In a large and growing segment of American society, fear of being tagged “racist” about Muslims (though Islam is not a race) provides a much more direct threat to your livelihood than radical Islam.

Former police officer Daniel Gilroy told Florida Today that he repeatedly raised red flags about Omar Mateen when both men worked at the same security firm, but his employer did nothing because Mateen was a Muslim.

The pattern is familiar. Before the Islamist attack that left 14 dead in San Bernardino last December, neighbor Aaron Elswick told ABC 7 News in Los Angeles that shooter Syed Farook was “kind of suspicious” and “wanted to report it” but “didn’t want to profile” him.

Before Army Maj. Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people at Ft. Hood in 2009, “He made his views known, and he was very vocal, he had extremely radical jihadist views,” Lt. Col. Val Finnell told

Finnell took health-services classes with Hasan, who said, “I’m a Muslim first, and I hold the Shariah, the Islamic Law, before the United States Constitution,” according to Finnell.

That statement alone disqualified Hasan from military service. No one did anything, Finnell added, because “they were too concerned about being politically correct.”

Perhaps nothing could have been done to stop Mateen’s rampage, but I have a sickening suspicion that we’re going to learn that many more warnings went unseen by those who blindfolded themselves with political correctness.

No one wants Muslims to feel harassed as a class but it’s silly to pretend that being a Muslim makes you just another patch in the glorious American quilt, like being black or Jewish or gay.

In a poll of British Muslims, a majority said homosexuality should be illegal. Nearly a quarter said Shariah law should be imposed in Britain. Four percent — that’s tens of thousands of people — admitted they sympathized with suicide bombers.

The Islamophobic-phobic-in-Chief poo-poohs both the terrorist threat and its ideological root. President Obama likes to say that bathtubs kill more Americans than terrorists. I’d like to see him try that argument with the families of the victims of the Orlando massacre.

Last year Obama actually chided us that we shouldn’t look askance on Islam because Christians committed violent acts, too, during the Crusades, 600 or so years ago. I’d like to see him tell the Orlando families that, too.

Obama is the avatar of the false moral equivalence that, having infected elite universities in the 1960s, has gradually metastasized to infect virtually the entire elite class of American society, along with a large chunk of the cringing, guilt-ridden bourgeoisie.

The supreme rule is the severely undergraduate notion that everyone and everything is roughly equal. We like our ideas, but, hey, if you have a different point of view, that’s groovy, too.

Taking it to its most absurd conclusion, as Obama does, the ideal holds that Western liberal democracy and murderous medieval fanaticism each should be given a fair hearing.

At his National Prayer Breakfast speech last year, Obama euphemistically referred to global jihad as “this”: “This is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith … We should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right.”

They believe this, we believe that. Who’s to say who’s wrong? Obama’s response to the global culture clash is a shrug. When it comes to an ideology opposed to everything the US stands for — tolerance for gays being one of the top items on the list — Obama must be the first president in history to see himself as a trans-national figure who has to be scrupulously neutral about America’s role.

Hillary Clinton might be the second. In an unusually candid moment at Georgetown in 2014, she let slip that she saw Islamist fanatics as a sort of loyal opposition with reasonable requests: “Smart power,” she said then, means “showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand, in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions.”

How would that work? “Omar, you want to massacre dozens of gays. Would you be willing to compromise on that?”

What we really need to reject is Islamophobia-phobia
by Kyle Smith, June 13