Noam Chomsky's interview with Salon has hit the Chomsky archive. A must-read.
QUESTION: You endorse a criminal pursuit of bin Laden and his cohorts -- but why don't you don't believe that the war in Afghanistan is justified in the wake of Sept. 11?
CHOMSKY: The war in Afghanistan targets Afghan civilians, and openly. The British defense minister put it very clearly in a front-page article in the New York Times. He said we are going to attack the Afghans until they finally realize that they better overthrow their government. That's a virtual definition of international terrorism.
QUESTION: What should we say?
CHOMSKY: We should say, "Yeah, we supported [Hussein] in his worst atrocities; now we don't like him anymore and what should we do about him?" And, yeah, that's a problem.
My own feeling, to tell you the truth, is that there was a great opportunity to get rid of Saddam Hussein in March 1991. There was a massive Shiite uprising in the south led by rebelling Iraqi generals. The U.S. had total command of the region at the time. [The Iraqi generals] didn't ask for U.S. support but they asked for access to captured Iraqi equipment and they asked the United States to prevent Saddam from using his air force to attack the rebels. The U.S. refused. It allowed Saddam Hussein to use military helicopters and other forces to crush the rebellion.
You can read it in the New York Times. It was more important to maintain stability -- that was the word that was used -- or as the diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times put it, the best of all worlds for the United States would have been for an iron-fisted military junta to seize power and rule in Iraq the way Saddam Hussein did. But since we couldn't get that, we'd have to accept him. That was the main opportunity of getting rid of him. Since then it hasn't been so simple. The forces of resistance were crushed with our help, after the war.
Since then, there's a question of whether the Iraqi Democratic opposition forces could mount some means of overthrowing this monster. That's a tricky business. The worst way of doing it is to undermine opposition to him. That's exactly what the sanctions do. Everyone who observed the sanctions has concluded -- including the humanitarian administrators, Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who know more about it than anyone else -- that the sanctions have severely harmed the civilian population and strengthened Saddam Hussein. People under severe sanctions and trying to survive are not going to carry out any action against an armed military force.
Here's another, more fast-paced interview with a British talk show host of some kind with a lot of questions. It's kind of fun.
QUESTION: So [the situation?] isn't as bleak as you thought it was?
CHOMSKY: It's not as bleak as I thought it was forty years ago. In fact, what I've insisted over and over again, and I think is true, is that the effect of the popular activism of the last forty years has been to make the country a much more civilized place.
I found Marcus Gee's "End the Occupation? Not so easy" (Globe and Mail, March 23) to be variously incoherent and inaccurate. I challenge anyone who pays for this kind of opinion to be published in a national newspaper to explain how Gee's claims make sense within even the most generous standards of interpretation.
To cite one glaring example, Gee says that "the intifada has caused more than 1,500 needless deaths (three fourths of them Palestinian) and crushed any hope of a negotiated end to the occupation." The undeniable implication is that Palestinians caused the death of Palestinians, i.e. they effectively killed each other. Even a cursory examination of the facts reveals this to be not only false, but exactly wrong.
Indeed, most, if not all of the Palestinians Gee cites were killed by Israeli guns, rockets, or bayonets. Many more have been tortured by Israeli forces, under the sanction of the Israeli government. I haven't noted anything that is not well documented and undisputed by those with even the most tenuous grasp of the situation.
This week's Argosy.
Editorial: Four Little Editorials
Rheostatics: Four Little Songs
Feature: Governing Justice
Editorial: Understanding Protest
Feature: Direct Action, Direct Democracy: Popular social movements respond to economic and political crisis in Argentina.
The latter is one of the better stories I've written this year.
Guardian: US sends suspects to face torture
The US has been secretly sending prisoners suspected of al-Qaida connections to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic and intelligence sources. Prisoners moved to such countries as Egypt and Jordan can be subjected to torture and threats to their families to extract information sought by the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks.It's getting harder and harder to laugh at how fucked things are.
The normal extradition procedures have been bypassed in the transportation of dozens of prisoners suspected of terrorist connections, according to a report in the Washington Post. The suspects have been taken to countries where the CIA has close ties with the local intelligence services and where torture is permitted.
Counterpunch: Argentina: Confusing Tales From Progressive Economists
Zip zip zip! I've missed something again. First Weisbrot says the IMF made an 'error', then he says that this 'error' was made for the sake of 'imperial interests'. So what is the error? Isn't it the precise job of the IMF to implement 'Washington's imperial interests'? Again, who appoints them and pays their salary? The $40 billion apparently went to pay foreign bondholders, right? And the $40 billion came originally from US taxpayers, right? (Isn't that where IMF money comes from?) So apparently, last year the IMF transferred $40 billion from US taxpayers to private US investors, via Argentina....it seems that IMF is doing exactly what they are paid to do. Why does Weisbrot call this an error? Has he not read what he has just written?
Ftrain: The Sight of Your Voice, wherein Scott and Paul discuss the orange squiggles.
This morning, I made crepes again for the first time in a while. I used soy milk instead of buttermilk, and was surprised that the crepes turned out just as good, if not better.
Evan is an activist working with Mobile ((i)). He has spent several months in Argentina and Bolivia, helping local indymedia activists set up computers, web sites, and get things started.
I asked him about the democratic activity that is emerging in Argentina--its origins, short term goals, and long term viability.
If those 80% approval ratings were starting to get to you, too, Michael Moore has some encouraging words:
I want all of you to share this success with me and feel heartened and reassured by the response to this book. It is an overwhelming rebuke, first to those who sought to censor or ban it, and now to the oft-repeated conventional wisdom that the whole country is whistling the same tune and marching in lockstep to the vision of Cheney/Ashcroft/Bush. It's a bunch of hooey, folks, and I have seen it first hand -- and not in the usual centers of leftist discontent.
This tour has taken me to Ridgewood, New Jersey (area that always returns its Republican congressman), Arlington, Virginia (a town filled with military people), Grass Valley, California (in the middle of nowhere in a congressional district represented by a right-wing Republican). In each of these towns it's been a literal mob scene.
The Athlon processor is so hot... you can fry an egg on it.
My bike, an old red utterly no-frills raleigh one-speed, has been stolen before. It was gone for about a year, but then one of my roommates recognized the bike parked in front of a bar (thanks to the monkeyfist.com stickers I had put on it) and called me, so I ran down and stole it back. As it turned out, some drunk people had taken it for a joyride one night when I left it in front of the student building (no bike thief with a brain would want this bike, so I didn't usually lock it up at the time) and left it on someone's yard. So the person who I stole it back from was actually the friend of a friend of a friend who had found it on their yard.
Anyway, I went into The Pub last night for maybe two minutes to use the restroom, and left my bike outside. I left the building just in time to see a group of drunk morons sauntering down the road, one of whom was riding my bike. I got that feeling that I get when I should be really pissed off, but don't quite feel it, and yelled something uninspired like "Hey! Don't steal my f*#@%ing bike!" They all laughed, a bit nervously, and one of them said that they were just taking it for a test ride. I must have sounded a little scary, because the guy riding it handed it over right away, and mumbled that he was sorry for stealing my bike. Like an (rather enraged) idiot, I didn't get a good look at his face or ask him his name, though I'm sure he would have said "Joe" or something.
As soon as I was far enough that I wasn't going to turn around, the drunk morons decided it would be a good idea to yell various incoherent things at me, like "Yeaaaaahhh buddy", and I think I heard "nice bike" in there somewhere. Cowards.
Obviously some part of this bugged me, though I'm not sure what yet. There really isn't any reason for me to tell the above story, other than my infrequent use of misnomer as a cathartic outlet. Everyone already knows that drunk morons exist. Maybe it serves to illustrate that drunk upper-class college kids are every bit if not more stupid than any other drunk people. Maybe it shows, albeit indirectly, that being drunk is just a really lame excuse for doing stupid things. What's more likely, though, is that I'm just annoyed that I didn't turn around and ask them exactly why not wanting my bike stolen was something to be rididuled, or just report them.
It's one of those all around unsatisfying situations, though. Even if I had turned around, the resulting confrontation would surely have been a waste of time. I guess I should be glad that I still have my bike, but that's perverse in its own way. Oh well.
Meatball Wiki is a wiki (a collaboratively created and edited series of interlinked pages) about issues of technology and democracy around online community sites. Some interesting stuff.
Edward Said: Thoughts about America, wherein the noted intellectual lays it all down.
Thomas Friedman tiresomely sermonises to Arabs that they have to be more self-critical, missing in anything he says is the slightest tone of self- criticism. Somehow, he thinks, the atrocities of 11 September entitle him to preach at others, as if only the US had suffered such terrible losses, and as if lives lost elsewhere in the world were not worth lamenting quite as much or drawing as large moral conclusions from.Plenty of other good stuff in that article, but I have to say that the "Arabs need to be more self-critical" line was tired and hypocritical when it (predictably) first started being spewed, but now it's just one endless drone in the thundering din of pundit noise. Silence is a good thing when all the experts are hawking up the same old loogies of wisdom and wasting millions of pages of print with it. To wit:
Yet in a long footnote, Walzer and his colleagues set forth a list of how many American "murders" have occurred at Muslim and Arab hands, including those of the Marines in Beirut in 1983, as well as other military combatants. Somehow making a list of that kind is worth making for these militant defenders of America, whereas the murder of Arabs and Muslims -- including the hundreds of thousands killed with American weapons by Israel with US support, or the hundreds of thousands killed by US- maintained sanctions against the innocent civilian population of Iraq -- need be neither mentioned nor tabulated. What sort of dignity is there in humiliating Palestinians by Israel, with American complicity and even cooperation, and where is the nobility and moral conscience of saying nothing as Palestinian children are killed, millions besieged, and millions more kept as stateless refugees? Or for that matter, the millions killed in Vietnam, Columbia, Turkey, and Indonesia with American support and acquiescence?More on why bootlicking intellectuals make me sick:
All in all, this declaration of principles and complaint addressed by American intellectuals to their Muslim brethren seems like neither a statement of real conscience nor of true intellectual criticism against the arrogant use of power, but rather is the opening salvo in a new cold war declared by the US in full ironic cooperation, it would seem, with those Islamists who have argued that "our" war is with the West and with America. Speaking as someone with a claim on America and the Arabs, I find this sort of hijacking rhetoric profoundly objectionable. While it pretends to the elucidation of principles and the declaration of values, it is in fact exactly the opposite, an exercise in not knowing, in blinding readers with a patriotic rhetoric that encourages ignorance as it overrides real politics, real history, and real moral issues. Despite its vulgar trafficking in great "principles and values," it does none of that, except to wave them around in a bullying way designed to cow foreign readers into submission. I have a feeling that this document wasn't published here for two reasons: one is that it would be so severely criticised by American readers that it would be laughed out of court and two, that it was designed as part of a recently announced, extremely well-funded Pentagon scheme to put out propaganda as part of the war effort, and therefore intended for foreign consumption.
Bitch Magazine: O is for the Other Things She Gave Me: Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and Contemporary Women’s Fiction.
Female novelists dominated the development of the novel in the U.S. through the 19th century, and when male authors wanted to distance themselves from what Nathaniel Hawthorne called the “horde of scribbling women,” they often did it by attacking the types of novels associated with women writers (mostly the sentimental novel, roughly the 19th-century equivalent of the chick flick). Regionalist fiction, a form popularized mainly by women at the turn of the century, was dismissed by later literary critics on grounds similar to the Oprah “socio-fiction”—namely, the joint charges of autobiographical self-indulgence and raw nonfictional description. Because regionalist fiction usually relied on the writer’s first-hand knowledge of a picturesque locale, it got written off as a kind of artless transcription of personal history—as if all a person needed to write a good story was a quaint birthplace and a quill pen. Like women themselves, women’s fictional forms were considered sentimental, unskilled, and self-obsessed.
I started out writing a response to this thread on weblogging as journalism at kottke.org, but I ended up with yet another articulation of my thoughts on technology and the possibility of positive social change. So here it is for posterity... and your reading pleasure, I guess.
A statement by Asaf Oron, one of the 251 Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.
You get used to it in a hurry, and many even learn to like it. Where else can you go out on patrol - that is, walk the streets like a king, harass and humiliate pedestrians to your heart's content, and get into mischief with your buddies - and at the same time feel like a big hero defending your country? The Gaza Exploits became heroic tales, a source of pride for Giv'ati, then a relatively new brigade suffering from low self esteem.
For a long time, I could not relate to the whole "heroism" thing. But when, as a sergeant, I found myself in charge, something cracked inside me. Without thinking, I turned into the perfect occupation enforcer. I settled accounts with "upstarts" who didn't show enough respect. I tore up the personal documents of men my father's age. I hit, harassed, served as a bad example - all in the city of Kalkilia, barely three miles from grandma and grandpa's home-sweet-home. No. I was no "aberration." I was exactly the norm.
Already on the bus ride to the Gaza strip, the soldiers were competing with each other: whose "heroic" tales of murderous beatings during the Intifada were better (in case you missed this point: the beatings were literally murderous: beating to death). Going on patrol duty with these guys once was all that I could take. I went up to the placement officer and requested to be given guard duty only. Placement officers like people like me: most soldiers can't tolerate staying inside the base longer than a couple of hours.
And just to keep things positive, here's Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (the "Oasis of Peace"), a bilingual community where Palestinians and Israelis live, work, and go to school together.
My perennial obsession with origami seems to have resurfaced.
Our president speaks to the Diet (Japanese Parliament):
My trip to Asia begins here in Japan for an important reason. (Applause.) It begins here because for a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times. From that alliance has come an era of peace in the Pacific. And in that peace, the world has witnessed the broad advance of prosperity and democracy throughout East Asia.Emphasis mine. [link and quote from killyourtv.com]
The century and a half bit could have been a slip, but the rest is unforgiveable.
Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia, China, and Myanmar were never there. Creepy.
But the speech just gets better after that. It's this whole other reality. It's almost too much to handle. It must be some new strategy for pre-empting criticism: mystify everyone until they float around in the same haze that Bush's speechwriters do.
Bizarre. Surreal. Depressing. Extremely dangerous.