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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Meaningless Concept of Ethical War

The Case Against Intervention

The Meaningless Concept of Ethical War

By JOHN CHUCKMAN
GFrench air force planes struck the first blows: using "intelligent" munitions, the planes struck tanks and artillery which threatened the people of Benghazi.

Now, who wouldn't be heartened to learn that mechanized forces being used against civilians, civilians whose only demand was freedom from tyranny, were destroyed?

One might easily regard intervention, limited strictly to such targets, as both ethical and desirable, but the truth is that intervention is never limited to such targets, and the realities motivating it are loaded with error and, most importantly, with intentions at odds with high-sounding public statements.

The record for intervention is one of greater death and destruction than the threats it is supposed to stop where it is used and of allowing monstrous crimes to go unchallenged where it is avoided. Indeed, it has been avoided always where monstrous crimes are involved, the very situations in which its human costs might be more than offset by what it prevents. Nowhere in the record is there any consistency with regard to principle despite the press releases accompanying every new bombardment.

The glimmer of moral satisfaction we feel at the first instance of an event such as the French jets destroying some of Gaddafi's armor about to attack a city is badly misplaced, for if ethics or morality is to mean anything, it must absolutely be consistent in application. You cannot meaningfully speak of selective ethics.

At the very time of the events in Libya, we have the same civil unrest and demands for an end to absolute and unaccountable government in Yemen and Bahrain, and they have been met with fairly large-scale abuse and killings by police. Literally scores have been shot dead in the streets. In the case of Bahrain, we have troops from Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy much resembling something from the 14th century – entering the country to assist Bahrain's government in stopping its people seeking freedom.

Now, anyone who knows anything about the Mideast knows that Saudi Arabia would not march a single platoon of soldiers across its border without explicit approval from Washington. It just cannot be otherwise because America keeps an intensely close watch on matters affecting its client-state, Israel, and because Saudi Arabia's advanced weapons come from America, and also because, following 9/11, most of the perpetrators having been Saudi nationals, Saudi Arabia has had to work long and hard to gain some trust back from Washington.

So where is the moral or ethical balance? Help the tyrant in Bahrain and attack the one in Libya? Why is only Libya a target?

There are many reports, not carried in the mainline press, about Israel supplying the African mercenaries who have been doing most of the bloody work in Libya. They are said to have been supplied by an Israeli military contracting firm connected to Mossad at the kind of high per diem rates which Gaddafi's oil wealth allows. One of Gaddafi's sons also made a visit for private talks in Israel in the early days of the rebellion's repression. Such events, we can be absolutely sure, also do not happen without approval from Washington.

It appears America has both indirectly helped the tyrant while directly, albeit belatedly, fighting him. I don't see any evidence of ethics in that situation.

Gaddafi certainly has grown into an unpleasant figure, displaying signs of deteriorating mental health while commanding the powers of a fairly rich small state. His early days as a rather dashing and intelligent revolutionary figure – few people recall he was featured in a cover story of the New York Times Magazine decades ago portraying him in rather flattering son-of-the-desert terms, the kind of article about a foreign leader which always has the imprimatur of the CIA – are lost in the reality of a mumbling old tyrant who has proved ready to strike down civilians to maintain his position. Naturally, people feel exhilarated to see him lose some military advantage.

Most humans do appear to be programmed by nature to cheer in situations where there is a clear bad guy and a good guy going after him. That is why blockbuster Hollywood movies and professional wrestling generate billions of dollars in revenue by repeating endlessly the same simple plot with only changes of costume. But world affairs are never so simple.

Just consider Israel's assault on Gaza a few years ago, a place which is essentially a large, fenced-in refugee camp possessing no serious weapons. Israel killed something like 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, estimated at 400 young souls, and its soldiers committed such barbarities as using children as human shields. One saw pictures on the Internet of blood running like sewer overflow in the streets of Gaza. Yes, hundreds of children killed and with no rebuke from Washington or Paris or London and certainly no threat of having a no-fly zone or other violent measures imposed.

Up to the point of intervention, information from Libya suggests nothing on quite that scale of barbarism had occurred, rather there was the beginning of a conventional civil war with one side having better resources. So why the immense difference in response between the two situations? Why did we see Libyan victims on television, but the worst of what Israel committed could only be found on the Internet? Selectivity is at work always in these matters from the very start.

Not long before the Gaza atrocity, we had yet another invasion of Southern Lebanon by Israel. More than a thousand people were killed in their own land, and here we had the added horror of hundreds of thousands of bomblets from that cruellest of weapons, American cluster bombs, being showered over civilian areas, destined to kill and cripple for years to come. Along the way, Israel showed its contempt for international law by deliberately targeting a group of United Nations' observers who died bravely doing their duty.

Yet there was no effort to punish or even restrict Israel as we see today imposed on Gaddafi. How can anyone claim that the response in Libya is ethical?

Libya is now being so heavily bombed that some Muslim states which joined the "coalition" are making loud noises about the United Nation's mandate being exceeded. If you read newspapers from Britain as well as North America, you will know that there is disagreement between the public statements of the British and American governments as to what constitutes legitimate targets.

But when it comes to bombing, America never does anything by halves.

Shortly after the French attack at Benghazi, 124 cruise missiles, mostly American, began destroying targets in Libya. Reports say four B-52s flew from Europe, each with 30 tons of bombs, and three B-2 stealth bombers, carrying a total of 45 two thousand-pound, "bunker-buster" bombs, flew from the United States. And that was just the start.

Despite protestations, American targets certainly included sites associated with Gaddafi himself, his own compound having been destroyed.

And there you have another of many problems with intervention, or, as some like to call it, ethical war: it depends upon the Frankenstein military of the United States because no one else has its destructive capacities, forces which we have seen, again and again, not only kill in great excess but which typically are directed to dark tasks not featured in the propaganda leading up to the effort.

Recall the American "humanitarian" mission in Somalia in the early 1990s, the one that ended with "Blackhawk down." We were all conditioned by endless pictures of starving Somalis to welcome efforts at their relief, but the American military, instead of serving the roles of distributing relief supplies and guarding those distributing relief supplies – the ostensible purposes of the mission - almost immediately went after what they regarded as "the bad guys."

They attempted to kill one of the major local warlords with special planes equipped with modern Gatling guns, circling the sky and spraying large-calibre shells in built-up areas, at the rate of thousands per minute, much of that indiscriminate firepower killing innocent people and destroying property in a poor region. Hundreds of Somalis were killed by the American efforts, and some reports put the number at 10,000.

But we will never learn the truth from the American government, which, since its debacle in Vietnam, always suppresses the numbers it kills. It did so in the first Gulf War where tens of thousands of poor Iraqi recruits sitting behind sand walls in the desert were carpet-bombed by B-52s, their bodies later bulldozed into the ground. It did so in Afghanistan, where it regularly has killed civilians for ten years. And it did so in that pure war crime, the invasion of Iraq.

America's effort to get the "bad guy" in Somalia was an act of complete arrogance and sheer stupidity, clearly reflecting America's ingrained streak of hell-and-damnation Puritanism and its Captain Ahab obsession with chasing the white whale over whole oceans. All Americans achieved was to make a deadly enemy, as they shortly learned. They ended up, pretty much leaving the country shamefully and forgetting their first purpose in going there, distributing relief to the starving, something Canada's soldiers and others routinely do without creating such aggression and such violent results.

Recall again President Clinton's launching a large salvo of missiles in 1998 towards targets in the Afghan mountains and at a Sudanese plant in Khartoum. They were said to be aimed at terrorist targets, but the public was given no detailed information. We do know the plant in Sudan proved to be just what it was claimed by locals, a pharmaceutical plant, Dozens of innocent people were killed and property worth many millions of dollars was destroyed to no purpose, based entirely on incorrect information.

Clinton also launched 23 cruise missiles towards targets in Baghdad in 1993, supposedly in retaliation for an Iraqi-sponsored attempt on former-President George Bush when he visited Kuwait, although the public was given no details of the supposed plot. Even granting there was a plot, if you are entitled to hurl thousands of pounds of high explosives at a distant city owing to a faulty dark operation, what are we to say of the many countries and millions of people who have been victims of America's many dark operations? What principle is at work here other than might makes right?

Ethical war is an absurd term, just as is the idea of bombing for democracy is. Always and anywhere, as soon as the military engines are started, just as is said for truth, ethics are left behind. War is a playground for adventurers and psychopaths. Just recall those American pilots during the first Gulf War whose cockpit transmissions were broadcast on television while they strafed Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait City: their chilling words included, "Hey, this's like shootin' fish in a barrel!" And readers should remember that that first Gulf War was itself little more than an American dark operation intended to put Hussein into a compromising position and topple him.

Deeply discrediting the whole confused concept of ethical war are not just the many crimes committed in its name but the many greater omissions. Genocide has become one of the most abused and misused terms of our time, someone ignorantly using it every time a group of people is killed anywhere, but we have had several authentic genocides since World War II, and I think we can all agree if ever there could be a case for ethical war, it would be the case of genocide. But it is precisely in the case of genocide that all the powers simply hide, the United States having a completely shameful record.

In the case of Indonesia, following the downfall of President Sukarno in 1967, about half a million people had their throats slashed and their bodies dumped into rivers because they were, or were suspected of being, communists. The entire nation was turned temporarily into an abattoir for humans, and where was the United States, defender of freedom, during the horror? Rather than any effort to stop the terror, it had employees of the State Department on phones around the clock feeding the names of people they'd like to see included in the extermination.

In the case of Cambodia during the late 1970s, the "killing fields" saw about a million people murdered by the mad ideologues of the Khmer Rouge. Where was the United States? Nowhere to be seen or heard, off licking its wounds from its long, pointless war in Vietnam, except when Vietnamese forces finally crossed the border to stop the bloodshed, the United States yelped, "See, we told you so, the 'domino effect' is now at work!" And to this day, few Americans take any responsibility for their county's role in creating the "killing fields." In its desperate efforts to win in Vietnam, President Nixon's government launched huge aerial bombardments and incursions by troops into a neutral country, finally so destabilizing it that the Khmer Rouge took power.

In the case of Rwanda in 1994, the world watched something on the order of 800,000 people hacked to pieces, the victims selected merely for their ethnic identity. President Clinton knew every detail from the beginning but made every effort to avert his eyes and prevent the United States from being involved.

So much for the notion of ethical war in the very cases where it could conceivably have made a difference.

The United States' motives for intervening in Libya are complex and anything but ethical. It was reluctant even to speak out at first. The truth is that stability in the Middle East – stability as defined by the bloody likes of Henry Kissinger – at the complete expense of democratic values or human rights has been bedrock American policy for decades. This policy had the duel objectives of securing the production of oil and making a comfortable climate for Israel.

The United States dithered during recent momentous events in Egypt precisely because Israel benefited from that country's dictator and was not interested in seeing anything resembling democracy emerge in large Arab states, despite its hypocritical and much-repeated refrain about being the only democracy in the region. Numerous Israeli leaders made the most embarrassingly revealing and shameful statements while the scales were tipping against President Mubarak. But the events proved so unprecedented and so overwhelming and pretty much unstoppable without immense bloodshed that the United States finally came down on the right side, working to restrain Mubarak and to ease the transition in power.

The North African version of Europe in 1848 is very much viewed as a threat by Israel. Imagine all the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, some four million people, plus the non-Jewish people of Israel proper, about a million, stirred by events in North Africa, rising up to demand their rights? Stopping the series of rebellions against unrepresentative governments along the Mediterranean shores must be high on Israel's list of current foreign policy objectives because it is clear that continued successes encourage new attempts.

Even further, as we have seen, Chancellor Merkel of Germany has rebuked Prime Minister Netanyahu in public for doing nothing for peace, asserting rightly that the changing conditions of the Arab world make it incumbent upon Israel to pursue genuine peace.

There is some hard truth assiduously avoided in Western mainstream press and by Western governments in their public communications: that what anyone outside of Israel would call peace has simply never been an objective of Israel's government. There is no other way of understanding Israel's actions over decades than its aiming to acquire virtually all the Palestinian lands without the Palestinians, or, at least, with a reduced number of Palestinians put into utterly subservient arrangements with no political integrity and very limited rights.

But again in Libya, events soon outdistanced United States' policy. Images of freedom-fighters there being attacked by bloody mercenaries and mechanized forces affected public opinion and allowed of no further dithering, as did the initiatives taken by Britain's Prime Minister Cameron and France's President Sarkozy, each for their own political and economic reasons. The truth is that most people are decent, and the general public is always sympathetic with the victims seen in such images, which is precisely why American networks never show images of American troops brutalizing Iraqis or Israelis brutalizing Palestinians.

Gaddafi has long been a disliked third-world leader in the West - independent-minded leaders never are liked by the American government and there is a long list of them who have been overthrown or assassinated regardless of their democratic bona fides - and in a sense the West's own past extravagant claims about his being a grand sponsor of terror has blown back on it. Added to the fact that he now appears rather mad and to the image of heroic Libyans winning and then losing in their fight for freedom, public opinion has made the course the United States intended difficult if not impossible.

But that does not mean public opinion is right about intervention, a subject not well understood by the average citizen. Even the case of a no-fly zone, something judging from the glib words seems to be considered by many a not very aggressive form of help, is not well understood. A no-fly zone is a complex and highly destructive operation, pushing the operator into something approaching a state of war, and yet having little likelihood of success in turning events on the ground.

Planes first had to fly all over Libya to get the radars turned on. Then attack planes and missiles quickly had to follow-up to destroy the located radars. Airfields and parked planes are also targets. Many people on the ground get killed in the effort, but that's only the beginning. Twenty-four hour-a-day flyovers must be maintained afterwards to assure radars are not replaced and to attack planes which break the ban, all of which involves more civilian deaths. And from the first day in Libya, the air attacks have gone beyond imposing a no-fly zone, as we saw in the French attack at Benghazi and, at this writing, British attacks on Libyan armor at Ajdabiya.

Anyone who has kept track of American pilots' efforts in Afghanistan and in Iraq knows that they have killed very large numbers of innocent people, and that even in situations where they have complete air superiority. They still kill innocent Afghans regularly, scores at a time, thousands in total.

The record of no-fly zones is not a happy one. The United States maintained one against Saddam Hussein's Iraq for a decade after the first Gulf War, a decade of flying over the country and shooting up anything suspicious. There were countless incidents of American planes shooting and bombing people, but the no-fly zone did not prevent Saddam Hussein from achieving his objectives. Unless you are prepared to do to a country what the United States did to Japan during World War II – incinerate whole cities both with conventional or atomic weapons – air power cannot determine the direction of events on the ground with a determined opponent.

Reports at this writing from Libya suggest exactly the same result.

Once the no-fly zone is established, frustration over the opponent's success on the ground creates a constant temptation to say, "In for a penny, in for a pound," and to commit more force. You may easily find yourself engaged in yet another war. And everywhere and always in the modern era, the victims of war are mainly not the enemy soldiers or their "bad guy" leaders but the people just trying to live their lives. Just think about the roughly one million people who have perished in Iraq plus the more than two million refugees who fled their country, and consider the fact that one of the Arab world's most advanced countries is now reduced to a generation without jobs, without dependable electric power and clean water. Saddam Hussein never dreamed of doing that much damage to his people despite his atrocities.

When your objectives going in are confused and uncertain, as are those of the United States, what is the hope for a good outcome? Not great I think. It's a little like pouring concrete without having constructed a mold. And that is another reason why war for ethical of humanitarian motives has such a poor record: huge investments in death and destruction are made suddenly, upon the occurrence of unanticipated events, and often involving quick turns-around against long-established policy.

Perhaps the worst charge against intervention is that each instance only makes it easier and more acceptable in the future. The long list of minor to major interventions by the United States in the postwar era – most of them with no pretence of international legality or an ethical nature - should serve as a severe warning against going in this direction. From toppling democratic governments in Iran, Guatemala, or Chile to the holocaust in Vietnam with its estimated three million victims and a land left saturated with poisons and landmines, there is virtually no case for intervention that does not make future abuse and horror more likely by those with great power.

It is also well to remember that we have a greatly changed world political environment since the events of 9/11. Today the United States, without hesitation, sends drones into a country with which it is not even at war, Pakistan, and kills hundreds of innocent people. Its so-called "kill-teams" perpetrate horrors in Afghanistan, and recent events suggest they have been at work in Pakistan. It still holds people prisoner with no proper law in the secret locations of its CIA international gulag. The abomination of Guantanamo remains. The honouring of international law and agreements has suffered greatly in favour of doing as you please so long as you have the might.

Even the accepted institution for warranting ethical war, the United Nations, as it exists is a highly inadequate institution to exercise such authority. The United States frequently stands against pretty much the entire world there in opposing perfectly appropriate resolutions and gets its way. And when it wants a resolution approved, member states are subject to behind-the-scenes bribes, cajoling, and threats to produce the votes America wants. No one else has such vast economic, financial, and diplomatic leverage to get what they want there. America has exercised its unique power over the organization many times, from the Korean War to the invasion of Afghanistan. Sometimes, rarely, its demands are so unreasonable that enough of the world's countries find themselves in a position to resist, as was the case for invading Iraq.

There's No "Safe" Dose of Radiation

Another Lethal Lie From the Nuclear Industry


There's No "Safe" Dose of Radiation

By HARVEY WASSERMAN

There is no safe dose of radiation. We do not x-ray pregnant women. Any detectable fallout can kill.
With erratic radiation spikes, major air and water emissions and at least three reactors and waste pools in serious danger at Fukushima, we must prepare for the worst.
When you hear the terms "safe" and "insignificant" in reference to radioactive fallout, ask yourself: "Safe for whom?" "Insignificant to which of us?"
Despite the corporate media, what has and will continue to come here from Fukushima is deadly to Americans. At very least it threatens countless embryos and fetuses in utero, the infants, the elderly, the unborn who will come to future mothers now being exposed. (http://nukefree.org/arnie-gundersen-radiation-dangers )
No matter how small the dose, the human egg in waiting, or embryo or fetus in utero, or newborn infant, or weakened elder, has no defense against even the tiniest radioactive assault.
Science has never found such a "safe" threshold, and never will.
In the 1950s Dr. Alice Stewart showed a definitive link between medical x-rays administered to pregnant women and the curse of childhood leukemia among their offspring.
After a fierce 30-year debate, the medical profession agreed. Today, administering an x-ray to a pregnant woman is universally understood to be a serious health hazard.
Those who pioneered the health physics profession---towering greats like Dr. Karl Z. Morgan and Dr. John Gofman---set a definitive, impenetrable standard. A safe dose of radiation does not exist. All doses, "insignificant" or otherwise, can harm the human organism.
That has been repeatedly shown in major studies---done most notably by Dr. ErnestSternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano, Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Steven Wing (http://nukefree.org/tmia-bloomberg-dr-ed-lyman-developments-fukushima )and others---showing that among human populations near commercial reactors, infant death rates plummet once the reactors shut down.
In 1979, 32 years ago this March 28, the owners of Three Mile Island said therewas no meltdown, no serious radiation release and no need for evacuation.
All were lies.
To this day no one knows how much radiation was released or where it went or who it killed.
TMI's owners ran ads dismissing the emissions as the equivalent of a single chest x-ray given to everyone within a ten mile radius.
But that included all the pregnant women.
Soon infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families sued based on the health impacts.
In 1980 I interviewed dozens of these people. Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, sterility, malformations, open lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more were among the symptoms. (http://www.loran-history.info/health/Killing_Our_Own.pdf )
The death and mutation rate among farm and wild animals was also thoroughly documented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a team of investigators from the Baltimore News-American.
We were again told there were "no health dangers" from radiation that hit California from Chernobyl ten days after that 1986 explosion. But bird births at the Point Reyes National Seashore quickly dropped 60% from the levels that had been carefully monitored and recorded through the previous decade.
The cloud then crossed the northern tier of the United States. Heightened radiation levels were found in milk in New England---as they were throughout Europe from clouds that had blown from Chernobyl in the other direction.
The doses were neither "insignificant" nor "safe" to those far or near.
In Russia ten years later, I interviewed dozens of downwind victims, and many of the 800,000 "liquidators" who ran into Chernobyl's seething corpse to helpclean it up. After TMI, it was déjà vu all over again.
The most recently published findings, from a compendium of more than 5,000 studies,indicate a global Chernobyl death toll in excess of 985,000, and still counting. ( http://www.nukefree.org/node/1828 ).
Today we are assaulted by yet another radioactive death cloud from yet another"perfectly safe" nuclear plant.
Fukushima's radiation is pouring into the air and water. The operators have reported radiation levels a million times normal, then retracted the estimate to a "mere" 100,000. Workers are being exposed to doses that are certain to be lethal. At least three of the reactors, and one or more of the spent fuel pools, hover at the brink of catastrophe.
Fukushima's radiation has now been detected in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and has blown east across North America. It has also been detected in Sweden, which means it's blowing across Europe as well.
Radiationis not being released as a single puff. Rather it's a steady stream thatcould yet turn into a tsunami.
Fukushima's worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl's.
And yet we continue to hear smug, misinformed "experts," TV meteorologists and industry talking heads saying these are "safe" doses.
The response of the Obama Administration has been beyond derelict. As the accident began, the President went on national television to assure us there was nothing to worry about, and that he would continue to demand $36 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.
Since then, even as the Fukushima crisis mounts, President Obama has remained silent.
Millions of Americans have heard about potassium iodide (KI), which can be used block the uptake of radioactive iodine and perhaps protect the thyroid.
But KI can have potential medical side-effects for some individuals. And timing can be critical. To say the least, we need to know when the radioactive fallout is present.
Yet the administration has not provided us with a national supply of KI, or guidance for using it.
At very least we need reliable real-time mapping of the radioactive clouds as they cross the nation. Every American should be issued a mask, and sufficient KI pills with directions on how to use them, if necessary.
Above all, we need national leadership that puts the health of our people first and foremost.
Americans who are of reproductive age---and their unborn, our babies, the elderly, those of us who may be specially sensitive---we all deserve better.
As we have learned so tragically from Drs. Stewart, Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass, from Gundersen and Mangano and so many other researchers, from TMI and Chernobyl, and from the on-going operation of nuclear plants where infant death rates continue to be affected---a "perfectly safe" dose of radiation does not exist.
No truly informed or responsible scientist, medical doctor, health researcher, TV weatherman, bloviating "expert" or on-the scene reporter would ever tell you otherwise.
Whenever you hear the term "insignificant" fallout, ask yourself: "insignificant to whom?" "Acceptable" to which expectant mother? To whose child? To how many mourning parents? For which dying elder?
Nuclear reactors make global warming worse and prolong our addiction to fossil fuels. They stand in the way of our transition to a totally green-powered Earth.
As we continue to learn at such a huge cost, there can never be a "perfectly safe" nuclear reactor, any more than there can be a "perfectly harmless" dose of radiation.
"Impossible" accidents continue to happen, one after the other, each of them successively worse.
What we fear most about TMI, then Chernobyl and now Fukushima, is not what has happened---but what is yet to come, there, and at the next inevitable reactor disaster.
We are a pro-life movement.
Please call the White House, the Congress and your state and local governments and DEMAND they protect the health and safety of our people in the face of this on-going disaster.

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

West Makes Ivory Coast Safe for Cocoa

April 12, 2011

West Makes Ivory Coast Safe for Cocoa

Chocolate Soldiers

By KALUNDI SERUMAGA

The best indication of the depth of the crisis in the Ivory Coast lies in its very name.
Much as it is now known as perhaps the primary global supplier to the cocoa industry, it started life as a place where ivory was found.
This was of course right next to a coast where gold was found and in the general coastal area where slaves could also be obtained. Only commodities. Never people.
Today there is optimism that the county will go back to being the region’s economic powerhouse.
However, the realities of the country’s history indicate that Allassane Ouattara’s entry into State House there will no more prove a cure than Laurent Gbagbo’s presidency ever was.
If it is indeed true that some 54 per cent of the electorate voted for Ouattara, then it means that nearly half the electorate — the 46 per cent who voted for Gbagbo — voted against.
Talking glibly to impoverished citizens about winners and losers in these circumstances can therefore actually become counterproductive, especially when they feel that the outcome puts their livelihoods at stake.
The current crisis seems to carry the old historical resonance: That the economic goods of the region have always held more importance to the world than the people actually living there.
This could help explain why, despite the fact that the people are politically split nearly fifty-fifty, the Western powers are for once determined to see an African election result, however marginal, implemented to the fullest extent of whatever military might can be mustered.
All this in defence of not even an economy, but of a commodity to which some wretched African voters find themselves harnessed.
This outcome however masks a much deeper malaise that could see the country headed towards decades of instability if the more fundamental questions about its origins are not honestly addressed.
The Ivorian cocoa economy became much bigger than the capacity of the original population to work it, and so there began decades of an increasing reliance on labour from informal migrants from the neighbouring countries. This is where the real story of the crisis begins.
The northern support base for the man declared winner of the ill-fated November elections comprises descendants of generations of migrants who came to the country to feed the cocoa industry’s labour needs.
Now totalling nearly half the population, their status in the country has been subject to legal scrutiny and policy U-turns anywhere between being deemed illegal immigrants to being declared new naturalised citizens.
This vacillation revealed a deeper problem of “status anxiety” among the original peoples who first found themselves Ivorians at the start of the colonial project, and now nearly outnumbered by gastarbeiten, and whom Gbagbo, in his desperation, increasingly claimed to represent.
The two armies that faced each other in the land of elephant tusks were conducting a twin march towards the death of those two contradictory and ultimately sterile narratives of contemporary African citizenship.
The autocratic culture created by the French need for the post-colonial strongman Houphouet Boigny meant that there would be few mechanisms to politically moderate and defuse this problem.
The African Union for their part remained true to their goal of keeping all the former European plantation-states as they were when the Europeans left, and so their stance here is a familiar one.
It helped them to appear to be standing on the respectable side of history, and insisting that the beleaguered Gbagbo accept the voice of the voters, and step aside.
Certainly Gbagbo had no business insisting that he is the president over people who — by his own admission — even he does not know for whom they voted, be it him or his opponent.
Furthermore, if at all he is the champion of the indigenes of southern Ivory Coast — as he now claims be — then he probably also had no business aspiring to be president of the colonial machine that sought to progressively erode any such pre-colonial identities so as so make colonial and post-colonial plunder much easier.
African presidential offices offer all the wrong tools with which to try to comprehend — let alone solve — the huge historical complications brought about by the Arab and European imperial adventure in Africa.
Presidential contestants therefore increasingly fit the description of “two bald men fighting over a comb.”
In demonstrating a lack of strategic foresight through failing to reorient his politics to something that did not derive its whole legitimacy from the very state that swallowed up the natives he claims to represent, Gbagbo found himself comprehensively outmanoeuvred.
He was left with no standing among the important centres of international political, diplomatic, and financial decision-making.
The real political challenge is not so much to work out who won the conflict as it is to work out what will become of the losers.
Ouattara’s war was itself born of the northerners losing out in the earlier contestations.
At the heart of this lies that great unmentionable of African politics: Should Africans embrace the artificialities in which they live for the sake of preserving the foreign-owned economies that underpin them, or should they find a way of reasserting their actual identities?
If the latter, what happens to the modern African migrant? And will it deliver a better standard of living for all?
So Africans are first denied any right to belong, and then offered one only at the expense of disenfranchising others.
Regular elections were supposed to solve this dilemma. But Ivory Coast is not the only African country where unsolved questions of citizenship, identity and therefore the right to civic participation neuter that aspiration.
In Uganda, President Museveni was forced to officially concede this very point due to popular pressure when the indigenes of oil-rich Bunyoro demanded that migrant labourers from other parts of the same country be barred from elective posts in the region.
The ultimate tragedy for Cote d’Ivoire is not that Gbagbo had to be driven out by force of arms, but that someone else has replaced him by the same means.
And we still do not know the real electoral register.

Kalundi Serumaga is a political and cultural activist based in Kampala.

IMPORTANT-ERIC TOUSSAINT-Eight Key Proposals toward Another Europe

Eight Key Proposals

Toward Another Europe

By ERIC TOUSSAINT

The crisis has shaken the European Union to its very foundations. Public debt is suffocating several countries that have been badly hit by the financial markets. With the governments currently in office, and the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and IMF all aiding and abetting, the financial institutions responsible for the crisis are making lots of money while speculating on government debt. Meanwhile, business owners are taking advantage of the situation to launch an offensive against the social and economic rights of the majority.
The reduction of public deficits must be brought about not through cuts in spending for social programs, but through an increase in tax revenue as a result of efficient measures against tax evasion, more taxation on capital, financial transactions, personal wealth, and higher incomes. To reduce public deficits, cuts should be made in arms spending, as well as other expenditures that are socially obnoxious and detrimental to the environment. It is by contrast essential to increase spending on social programs, if only to compensate for the consequences of the economic depression. Beyond this protective position, the current crisis should be seen as an opportunity to break away from the capitalist mindset and achieve a radical change in society. The new logic to be developed must turn away from productivism, take the environment into account, remove all forms of oppression (based on race, gender or other arbitrary criteria), and support universal access to common goods.
To achieve this goal we must build an anti-crisis front both locally and at the European level so as to bring together enough energy to create a balance of power that is favorable to the implementation of radical solutions focusing on social justice and concern for the environment. As early as August 2010, the CADTM drafted eight alternative proposals to the crisis in Europe.[2] The main point is the need to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt. To this end, the CADTM recommends setting up an audit under citizen control, which should be combined, in some cases, with a unilateral and sovereign suspension of repayment. The aim of the audit is to cancel the illegitimate part of the public debt and to strongly reduce the remainder.
A radical reduction of public debt is necessary but not sufficient in order to get EU countries out of the crisis. It has to be complemented with significant measures in various areas.

1. Auditing public debt to cancel the illegitimate part

A significant part of the public debt in EU countries is illegitimate since it results from a deliberate policy by governments that have decided to systematically favor the moneyed classes to the detriment of other members of society. Tax reductions on higher incomes, personal wealth, and the profits of private corporations have led public authorities to increase the public debt so as to compensate for the drop in government revenues. They have also raised the tax burden on low income households, that is, on the majority of the population. Moreover, the 2007-2008 bail out of the private the financial institutions responsible for the crisis has meant huge spending of public money and a rapid rise of public debt. The decrease in revenues because of the crisis triggered by private financial institutions had to be financed once again by massive borrowing. Such a context clearly shows the illegitimacy of a significant part of the public debt. In a number of countries blackmailed by the financial markets we must add other obvious sources of illegitimacy. From 2008 onward, public money has been borrowed from private banks (and other private financial institutions), which have used the money they get at very low rates from central banks to speculate and compel governments to raise the amounts they pay them. In countries such as Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, and Ireland, IMF loans were granted on conditions that run against the population's economic and social interests. Worse yet, these conditions again favor banks and other financial institutions. They must therefore be regarded as illegitimate. Finally, in some cases governments have gone against the will of the people: for instance, while in February 2011 a large majority of the Irish voted against parties that had granted gifts to bankers and accepted the conditions imposed by the European Commission and the IMF, the new government coalition has led the same policies as the previous ones. More generally, in many countries the legislative branch of government has gotten marginalized by policies enforced by the executive branch after agreements with the European Commission and the IMF. The executive submits the agreement to Parliament who then has to take it or leave it. In some cases, debates without votes are organized on major issues. The tendency of the executive branch to turn parliament into a rubberstamping assembly is getting stronger.

In such a troublesome situation, knowing as we do that several countries will soon have to face a defaulting scenario for want of cash, and that repaying illegitimate debt is by definition inacceptable, we have to speak out loud and clear in favor of the cancellation of illegitimate debt. The cost of the cancellation must be borne by private financial institutions, i.e. those that are responsible for the crisis.
Countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and ones in Eastern Europe (or outside the EU, such as Iceland), i.e. countries that are being blackmailed by speculators, the IMF and other bodies such as the European Commission, ought to call for a unilateral moratorium on repayment of the public debt. The proposal is gaining popular support in countries that are most badly hit by the crisis. In Dublin at the end of November 2010, in a telephone survey of some 500 people, 57% of the Irish in the poll favored defaulting rather than receiving emergency aid from the IMF and the EU. Default! say the people, was the headline of the Sunday Independent, the island's main weekly. The CADTM argues that such a unilateral moratorium must be combined with the auditing of public loans (with citizen participation). 

The auditing should give the government and public opinion the necessary evidence and arguments to cancel/repudiate the part of the debt that has been found to be illegitimate. International law and the various national laws offer a legal basis for such a unilateral sovereign act of cancellation/repudiation.
Its experience working on the debt question in the South incites the CADTM to warn defaulting countries against insufficient measures such as merely suspending repayment, which can prove counterproductive. What is required is a moratorium without accrual of interest on over-due loans.
In other countries such as France, the UK or Germany, it may not be imperative to call for a unilateral moratorium during the auditing period. Yet an audit has to be carried out in order to determine the scope of the cancellation/repudiation called for. Should the international economic environment deteriorate further, a suspension of payment may be on the agenda even for countries that thought they could not be blackmailed by private creditors.

Citizen participation is an imperative condition to guarantee that an audit is objective and transparent. The auditing committee must include the various public bodies concerned, experts in auditing public finances, economists, jurists, constitutionalists, and representatives of social movements. This will make it possible to decide on the various responsibilities involved in the indebtedness process and to demand accountability of those responsible, whether at a national or international level. Should the current government not agree to debt auditing, a citizens auditing committee must be set up, without the government's participation.

In all cases, it is legitimate for private institutions and high-income individuals, who hold debt securities, to bear the burden of the cancellation of illegitimate sovereign debt, since they are largely responsible for the crisis, and have also profited from it. This is merely a fair return to more social justice. It is important to create a register of security holders in order to compensate those who have low or middle-range incomes.
If the audit brings up evidence of crimes related to illegitimate debt, their perpetrators must be heavily sentenced to pay compensation and serve prison terms as befits the severity of their transgressions. Public bodies that have contracted illegitimate loans must be held accountable.

As for legitimate debt, creditors should be forced to try and reduce the principal and the interest rates, and to postpone maturity. Here again, positive discrimination in favor of small holders of public debt securities should insure that they get paid. Moreover, the amount in the state budget set aside for refunding the debt must be capped depending on the economic conditions, public bodies' ability to repay, and the irreducible nature of spending on social programs. We must take inspiration from what was done for Germany after WWII. The 1953 London agreement on German external debt (which among other measures reduced the principal of the debt by 62%) stipulated that the debt service / annual export income ratio could not exceed 5%.[3] We could define a similar ratio: the amount dedicated to repaying the debt cannot exceed 5% of the State's revenues. We must also define a legal framework so as to avoid a repetition of the crisis that started in 2007-2008, including the prohibition of socializing private debts, an obligation to organize a permanent audit of public debt policies, with citizen participation, the non applicability of statutory limitations to crimes related to illegitimate debt, invalidity of illegitimate debt, and so on.

2. Stop austerity plans, they are unfair- making the crisis worse

Governments of European countries have chosen to comply with IMF demands and impose strict austerity policies on their populations, with slashed public spending, including massive layoffs of civil servants and frozen or even reduced salaries for them, reduced access to some vital public services and to social protection, later retirement age. Conversely public corporations have demanded – and received – an increase in their prices, while the cost for getting access to health care and education has risen. Using particularly unfair higher indirect taxes such as sales tax (VAT) is more and more frequent. Public corporations in the sectors open to competition have been massively privatized. The austerity policies implemented have been pushed to levels not seen since World War II. The consequences of the crisis have thus been made much worse by the alleged remedies, the main aim of which is to protect the interests of capital holders. In a nutshell, champagne for the bankers, and peanuts for the workers, pensioners, and unemployed!

But the people are less and less ready to bear the injustice of such reforms, which signify large scale social regression. Those who are being forced to contribute the most to enable governments to pay back creditors are wage earners, the unemployed and low-income households. Meanwhile, women are the most severely affected, since the current organization of patriarchal society and the economy is such that they bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of make-shift, part-time, and under-paid jobs. They are also directly affected by the deterioration of public social services. Our struggle to impose another mindset must go hand in hand with a struggle for the total respect of women's rights.

3. Establish real European fiscal justice and a fair redistribution of wealth. Ban transactions with legal and tax havens. Fight against the massive fiscal fraud being committed by the largest and most prosperous corporations.

Since 1980, the rates of direct taxation on the highest incomes and largest corporations have continuously fallen in the European Union. Between 2000 and 2008, the highest personal income tax rate fell by 7 percent, while the highest corporate tax rate dropped by 8.5 percent. These hundreds of billions of euros in tax breaks have been largely dished out to speculators and the richest members of society, who have seen their wealth continue to accumulate.
Major fiscal reform aiming for social justice must be implemented (decreasing the revenues and personal wealth of the richest so that the rest of the planet can have more), and adopted throughout Europe in order to prevent fiscal dumping.[4] The goal is to increase public revenues, in particular via a progressive tax on the revenues of the wealthiest individuals (the marginal rate for those in the highest tax bracket must be raised to 90% [5]), a tax on personal wealth above a certain amount, and a corporate tax. This increase in revenues must be accompanied by a rapid decrease in the price of every day goods and services, such as basic food items, water, electricity, heating, public transport, and school supplies, which can be accomplished via a substantial and targeted decrease in the sales tax (VAT) applied to these vital goods and services. The fiscal policy adopted should also encourage the protection of the environment by applying a dissuasive tax penalizing companies that pollute.
The EU must adopt a tax on financial transactions, particularly on foreign exchange markets, so as to increase government revenues.
Despite their lofty intentions, the G20 countries have repeatedly refused to deal with legal and tax havens. A simple measure to fight against these tax havens (which drain vital resources needed for the development of people in Northern as well as Southern countries) would consist in adopting a law officially banning all individuals and companies located in a country from making any kind of transaction transiting through a tax haven, with a fine that would be equivalent to the amount of the forbidden transaction. Ultimately, these financial cesspools must be eliminated, along with the criminal activities, corruption, and white-collar suit and tie delinquency occurring there.
Fiscal fraud drains a considerable amount of resources from the local community and adversely affects employment. Substantial public resources must be allocated to government finance services so they can combat this kind of fraud effectively. The results of their activities must be made public, and the guilty parties must be severely punished.

4. Rein in the financial markets by creating a register of securities holders, and forbidding short sales and speculation in various domains. Create a public European rating agency.

Worldwide speculation represents several times the amount of wealth produced on the planet. The highly complex nature of this financial engineering makes it totally uncontrollable. The mechanisms it puts into play undermine the real economy. Opaque financial transactions are the rule. To be taxed at the source, the creditors must be first identified. Financial market dictatorships must come to an end! Speculation must also be forbidden in many arenas. Speculation on government bonds, currencies, and food should also be forbidden.[6] Short sales must also be banned [7] and Credit Default Swaps strictly regulated. Over-the-counter derivatives markets must be closed, because they are veritable black holes, not subject to any regulation or surveillance.

Rating agencies must also be seriously reformed and strictly regulated. Far from being instruments for making objective scientific estimations, they have become basic devices structuring neoliberal globalization and have already triggered social catastrophes several times. When a country's rating is lowered, the interest rates on the loans made to it are increased, which explains why the economic situation in the country concerned further deteriorates. The complacent behavior of speculators greatly exacerbates the difficulties encountered, which will adversely affect common citizens. The submissive attitudes of these rating agencies in their dealings with the North American financial sector, has turned them into a major actor on the international scene, and their responsibility in triggering and worsening crises has not been highlighted enough by the media. The economic stability of European countries has been placed in the hands of these rating agencies with no safeguards, no serious means of controlling them provided by governmental authorities. The only way to get out of this impasse is by creating a public rating agency.

5. Transfer the banks to the public sector with citizen control.

After decades of financial excesses and privatizations, it is high time to transfer the banking sector to the public domain. Governments must recover their capacity to control and frame economic and financial activity. They must also have the instruments needed to make investments and finance public spending by minimizing the need to borrow from private and/or foreign institutions. Banks must be expropriated with no compensation for their owners, and transferred to the public sector where they would be placed under citizen control.
In some cases, the expropriation of private banks would represent a cost for the State because of the debts they have accumulated. This cost would have to be paid for by the banks' major shareholders. The private corporations, which are shareholders of the banks and often led them to the financial abyss in the first place, while making juicy profits, hold part of their wealth in other sectors of the economy. A levy must be placed on the wealth of these shareholders, so as to avoid making the general public pay for the bank losses. The Irish example is emblematic: the way in which the Irish Allied Bank was nationalized is totally unacceptable, and we must draw appropriate lessons from this very bad example.

6. Re-nationalize the companies and services privatized since 1980.

During past thirty years many public corporations and public services have been privatized. From banks to the heavy industry sector as well as the postal service and telecommunications, energy, and transport, governments worldwide have handed over entire blocks of the economy to the private sector, losing in the bargain any capacity to regulate the economy. These public goods, which are the fruit of collective work, must be returned to the public domain. The idea would be to create new public corporations and to adapt public services to the needs of the people, in particular to respond to climate change issues, with for example the creation of a public service for insulating buildings.

7. Drastically reduce the amount of time people work to create jobs and increase wages and pensions

Redistributing wealth in a different way is the best response to the crisis. The share of the wealth produced going to employees has significantly decreased for decades, while the creditors and businesses have increased their profits and as a consequence engaged in more financial speculation. Increasing wages, not only increases people's well-being, it also makes more means available for social protection and pensions.
By decreasing the amount of time people work without decreasing wages, and by creating new jobs, workers will see an improvement in their quality of life and jobs will be given to those who are looking for one. Drastically decreasing the amount of time people work also offers the possibility of putting into place another pace of life, a different way of living in society that turns its back on the excesses of consumer society. The time saved for leisure activities could be translated into an increased participation of people in their community's political life, more inter-personal solidarity, and also used for volunteer and artistic activities.

8. For a new, democratic European Union based on solidarity.

Several provisions in the treaties of the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the ECB must be abrogated, such as articles 63 and 125 of the Treaty of Lisbon prohibiting all control of movements of capital and all aid to a State in difficulty. The Stability and Growth Pact must also be abandoned. Furthermore, the present treaties must be replaced by new ones in the framework of a real democratic constitutive process to come up with a people's solidarity pact for jobs and the environment.
Monetary policy must be completely revised as must the status and practices of the Central European Bank. The inability of the political authorities to oblige the ECB to mint money is a severe handicap. By placing the ECB above the governments and thus the people, the European Union made the disastrous choice of placing human interests below financial interests instead of the contrary.
With many social movements denouncing its statutes as being too rigid and utterly inappropriate, the ECB was forced to change its policy in the midst of the crisis and to modify the role that it had been given. Unfortunately, it agreed to do so for the wrong reasons. It did not mean to take the interests of the people into account, but to preserve those of the creditors. This attitude clearly illustrates that the cards need to be reshuffled and another hand dealt. The ECB must be able to finance States directly when their concern is to reach social and environmental targets that fully meet the fundamental needs of their populations.
Today, extremely diverse economic activities, from investing in the construction of a hospital to a project of pure speculation, are financed in a similar way. The political authorities must at least consider imposing very different costs for each kind of borrowing: low rates should be reserved for investments that are socially just and economically sustainable, while applying very high rates, even prohibitive when the situation demands, for speculative operations which could also be purely and simply prohibited in certain domains (see above).

With a Europe based on solidarity and cooperation it should be possible to get away from the competitive ethos which tends to cause a lowering of standards. The neo-liberal mindset has led to a crisis and has proven to be a failure. It has dragged down social indicators resulting in less social protection, fewer jobs, and fewer public services. The few who have profited from the crisis have done so by trampling on the rights of the others, the majority. The culprits have won; the victims are forced to pay! This logic, which underlies all the founding texts of the European Union, with the Stability and Growth Pact leading the field, has to be demolished. It has lost all credibility. Another Europe, based on cooperation between States and solidarity between peoples, must become the primary objective. To this end, budgetary and fiscal policies must be coordinated, but not standardized, for there are huge disparities between the European economies. Only coordinating them can bring about a solution which will enable everyone to go forward. Far-reaching policies on the European scale, including massive public investment for job creation in essential public services, from local services to sustainable energy, from the battle against climate change to basic social sectors, must be enforced.
The CADTM maintains that this new democratized Europe must strive to establish non negotiable principles. It must uphold and improve social and fiscal justice, make choices that will raise the standard of living of its inhabitants, engage in arms reduction and a radical decrease in military spending (including withdrawing European troops from Afghanistan and leaving NATO), choose sustainable energies so as to avoid nuclear power, and refuse genetically modified organisms (GMO). Furthermore, Europe must resolutely put an end to its "besieged fortress" policy regarding candidates for immigration, so that it can become a partner trusted for its fairness and true solidarity towards the peoples of the South.

NOAM CHOMSKY-Is the World Too Big to Fail?

Privatizing the Planet

Is the World Too Big to Fail?

By NOAM CHOMSKY  April 24, 2011

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces -- coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attac
Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called "the most strategically important area in the world" -- "a stupendous source of strategic power" and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment," in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today's policy-makers basically adhere to the judgment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's influential advisor A.A. Berle that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield "substantial control of the world." And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day.
From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the U.S. in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a "Grand Area" that the U.S. was to dominate, including the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain "unquestioned power," with "military and economic supremacy," while ensuring the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.

It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since become a U. S. -run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system.

Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Clinton administration, which declared that the U.S. has the right to use military force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources," and must maintain huge military forces "forward deployed" in Europe and Asia "in order to shape people's opinions about us" and "to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security."

The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the U.S. failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, President Bush informed Congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" -- demands that the U.S. had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.
In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: "A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal." The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.

The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons -- in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.

The Invisible Hand of Power

Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.
Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the U.S. stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: "There is nothing wrong, everything is under control." In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?
The Muasher doctrine is rational and venerable. To mention just one case that is highly relevant today, in internal discussion in 1958, president Eisenhower expressed concern about "the campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world, not by governments, but by the people. The National Security Council (NSC) explained that there is a perception in the Arab world that the U.S. supports dictatorships and blocks democracy and development so as to ensure control over the resources of the region. Furthermore, the perception is basically accurate, the NSC concluded, and that is what we should be doing, relying on the Muasher doctrine. Pentagon studies conducted after 9/11 confirmed that the same holds today.

It is normal for the victors to consign history to the trash can, and for victims to take it seriously. Perhaps a few brief observations on this important matter may be useful. Today is not the first occasion when Egypt and the U.S. are facing similar problems, and moving in opposite directions. That was also true in the early nineteenth century.
Economic historians have argued that Egypt was well-placed to undertake rapid economic development at the same time that the U.S. was. Both had rich agriculture, including cotton, the fuel of the early industrial revolution -- though unlike Egypt, the U.S. had to develop cotton production and a work force by conquest, extermination, and slavery, with consequences that are evident right now in the reservations for the survivors and the prisons that have rapidly expanded since the Reagan years to house the superfluous population left by deindustrialization.
One fundamental difference was that the U.S. had gained independence and was therefore free to ignore the prescriptions of economic theory, delivered at the time by Adam Smith in terms rather like those preached to developing societies today. Smith urged the liberated colonies to produce primary products for export and to import superior British manufactures, and certainly not to attempt to monopolize crucial goods, particularly cotton. Any other path, Smith warned, "would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce, and would obstruct instead of promoting the progress of their country towards real wealth and greatness."
Having gained their independence, the colonies were free to ignore his advice and to follow England's course of independent state-guided development, with high tariffs to protect industry from British exports, first textiles, later steel and others, and to adopt numerous other devices to accelerate industrial development. The independent Republic also sought to gain a monopoly of cotton so as to "place all other nations at our feet," particularly the British enemy, as the Jacksonian presidents announced when conquering Texas and half of Mexico.
For Egypt, a comparable course was barred by British power. Lord Palmerston declared that "no ideas of fairness [toward Egypt] ought to stand in the way of such great and paramount interests" of Britain as preserving its economic and political hegemony, expressing his "hate" for the "ignorant barbarian" Muhammed Ali who dared to seek an independent course, and deploying Britain's fleet and financial power to terminate Egypt's quest for independence and economic development.
After World War II, when the U.S. displaced Britain as global hegemon, Washington adopted the same stand, making it clear that the U.S. would provide no aid to Egypt unless it adhered to the standard rules for the weak -- which the U.S. continued to violate, imposing high tariffs to bar Egyptian cotton and causing a debilitating dollar shortage. The usual interpretation of market principles.
It is small wonder that the "campaign of hatred" against the U.S. that concerned Eisenhower was based on the recognition that the U.S. supports dictators and blocks democracy and development, as do its allies.

In Adam Smith's defense, it should be added that he recognized what would happen if Britain followed the rules of sound economics, now called "neoliberalism." He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. But he felt that they would be guided by a home bias, so as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.
The passage is hard to miss. It is the one occurrence of the famous phrase "invisible hand" in The Wealth of Nations. The other leading founder of classical economics, David Ricardo, drew similar conclusions, hoping that home bias would lead men of property to "be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations," feelings that, he added, "I should be sorry to see weakened." Their predictions aside, the instincts of the classical economists were sound.

The Iranian and Chinese "Threats"

The democracy uprising in the Arab world is sometimes compared to Eastern Europe in 1989, but on dubious grounds. In 1989, the democracy uprising was tolerated by the Russians, and supported by western power in accord with standard doctrine: it plainly conformed to economic and strategic objectives, and was therefore a noble achievement, greatly honored, unlike the struggles at the same time "to defend the people's fundamental human rights" in Central America, in the words of the assassinated Archbishop of El Salvador, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the military forces armed and trained by Washington. There was no Gorbachev in the West throughout these horrendous years, and there is none today. And Western power remains hostile to democracy in the Arab world for good reasons.
Grand Area doctrines continue to apply to contemporary crises and confrontations. In Western policy-making circles and political commentary the Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and hence must be the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely.
What exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence. Reporting on global security last year, they make it clear that the threat is not military. Iran's military spending is "relatively low compared to the rest of the region," they conclude. Its military doctrine is strictly "defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities." Iran has only "a limited capability to project force beyond its borders." With regard to the nuclear option, "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy." All quotes.
The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it hardly outranks U.S. allies in that regard. But the threat lies elsewhere, and is ominous indeed. One element is Iran's potential deterrent capacity, an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that might interfere with U.S. freedom of action in the region. It is glaringly obvious why Iran would seek a deterrent capacity; a look at the military bases and nuclear forces in the region suffices to explain.
Seven years ago, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that "The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy," particularly when they are under constant threat of attack in violation of the UN Charter. Whether they are doing so remains an open question, but perhaps so.
But Iran's threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence emphasize, and in this way to "destabilize" the region (in the technical terms of foreign policy discourse). The U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iran's neighbors is "stabilization." Iran's efforts to extend its influence to them are "destabilization," hence plainly illegitimate.
Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term "stability" in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve "stability" in Chile it was necessary to "destabilize" the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt's planners emphasized at the dawn of the contemporary world system, the U.S. cannot tolerate "any exercise of sovereignty" that interferes with its global designs.
The U.S. and Europe are united in punishing Iran for its threat to stability, but it is useful to recall how isolated they are. The nonaligned countries have vigorously supported Iran's right to enrich uranium. In the region, Arab public opinion even strongly favors Iranian nuclear weapons. The major regional power, Turkey, voted against the latest U.S.-initiated sanctions motion in the Security Council, along with Brazil, the most admired country of the South. Their disobedience led to sharp censure, not for the first time: Turkey had been bitterly condemned in 2003 when the government followed the will of 95% of the population and refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq, thus demonstrating its weak grasp of democracy, western-style.

After its Security Council misdeed last year, Turkey was warned by Obama's top diplomat on European affairs, Philip Gordon, that it must "demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West." A scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations asked, "How do we keep the Turks in their lane?" -- following orders like good democrats. Brazil's Lula was admonished in a New York Times headline that his effort with Turkey to provide a solution to the uranium enrichment issue outside of the framework of U.S. power was a "Spot on Brazilian Leader's Legacy." In brief, do what we say, or else.
An interesting sidelight, effectively suppressed, is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal was approved in advance by Obama, presumably on the assumption that it would fail, providing an ideological weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the approval turned to censure, and Washington rammed through a Security Council resolution so weak that China readily signed -- and is now chastised for living up to the letter of the resolution but not Washington's unilateral directives -- in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, for example.

While the U.S. can tolerate Turkish disobedience, though with dismay, China is harder to ignore. The press warns that "China's investors and traders are now filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out," and in particular, is expanding its dominant role in Iran's energy industries. Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. The State Department warned China that if it wants to be accepted in the international community -- a technical term referring to the U.S. and whoever happens to agree with it -- then it must not "skirt and evade international responsibilities, [which] are clear": namely, follow U.S. orders. China is unlikely to be impressed.
There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China's military budget is approaching "one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," a fraction of the U.S. military budget, of course. China's expansion of military forces might "deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast," the New York Times added.
Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the U.S. should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China's lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China's coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.
In contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that "China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa." That is indeed a provocation -- unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Deep-seated imperial doctrine aside, there is good reason for China's neighbors to be concerned about its growing military and commercial power. And though Arab opinion supports an Iranian nuclear weapons program, we certainly should not do so. The foreign policy literature is full of proposals as to how to counter the threat. One obvious way is rarely discussed: work to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region. The issue arose (again) at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters last May. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for negotiations on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the U.S., at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.
International support is so overwhelming that Obama formally agreed. It is a fine idea, Washington informed the conference, but not now. Furthermore, the U.S. made clear that Israel must be exempted: no proposal can call for Israel's nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency or for the release of information about "Israeli nuclear facilities and activities." So much for this method of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.

Privatizing the Planet

While Grand Area doctrine still prevails, the capacity to implement it has declined. The peak of U.S. power was after World War II, when it had literally half the world's wealth. But that naturally declined, as other industrial economies recovered from the devastation of the war and decolonization took its agonizing course. By the early 1970s, the U.S. share of global wealth had declined to about 25%, and the industrial world had become tripolar: North America, Europe, and East Asia (then Japan-based).
There was also a sharp change in the U.S. economy in the 1970s, towards financialization and export of production. A variety of factors converged to create a vicious cycle of radical concentration of wealth, primarily in the top fraction of 1% of the population -- mostly CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and the like. That leads to the concentration of political power, hence state policies to increase economic concentration: fiscal policies, rules of corporate governance, deregulation, and much more. Meanwhile the costs of electoral campaigns skyrocketed, driving the parties into the pockets of concentrated capital, increasingly financial: the Republicans reflexively, the Democrats -- by now what used to be moderate Republicans -- not far behind.
Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year. Executives were euphoric. In the business press they explained that they had been marketing candidates like other commodities since Ronald Reagan, but 2008 was their greatest achievement and would change the style in corporate boardrooms. The 2012 election is expected to cost $2 billion, mostly in corporate funding. Small wonder that Obama is selecting business leaders for top positions. The public is angry and frustrated, but as long as the Muasher principle prevails, that doesn't matter.
While wealth and power have narrowly concentrated, for most of the population real incomes have stagnated and people have been getting by with increased work hours, debt, and asset inflation, regularly destroyed by the financial crises that began as the regulatory apparatus was dismantled starting in the 1980s.
None of this is problematic for the very wealthy, who benefit from a government insurance policy called "too big to fail." The banks and investment firms can make risky transactions, with rich rewards, and when the system inevitably crashes, they can run to the nanny state for a taxpayer bailout, clutching their copies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
That has been the regular process since the Reagan years, each crisis more extreme than the last -- for the public population, that is. Right now, real unemployment is at Depression levels for much of the population, while Goldman Sachs, one of the main architects of the current crisis, is richer than ever. It has just quietly announced $17.5 billion in compensation for last year, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples.
It wouldn't do to focus attention on such facts as these. Accordingly, propaganda must seek to blame others, in the past few months, public sector workers, their fat salaries, exorbitant pensions, and so on: all fantasy, on the model of Reaganite imagery of black mothers being driven in their limousines to pick up welfare checks -- and other models that need not be mentioned. We all must tighten our belts; almost all, that is.

Teachers are a particularly good target, as part of the deliberate effort to destroy the public education system from kindergarten through the universities by privatization -- again, good for the wealthy, but a disaster for the population, as well as the long-term health of the economy, but that is one of the externalities that is put to the side insofar as market principles prevail.

Another fine target, always, is immigrants. That has been true throughout U.S. history, even more so at times of economic crisis, exacerbated now by a sense that our country is being taken away from us: the white population will soon become a minority. One can understand the anger of aggrieved individuals, but the cruelty of the policy is shocking.
Who are the immigrants targeted? In Eastern Massachusetts, where I live, many are Mayans fleeing genocide in the Guatemalan highlands carried out by Reagan's favorite killers. Others are Mexican victims of Clinton's NAFTA, one of those rare government agreements that managed to harm working people in all three of the participating countries. As NAFTA was rammed through Congress over popular objection in 1994, Clinton also initiated the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border, previously fairly open. It was understood that Mexican campesinos cannot compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses would not survive competition with U.S. multinationals, which must be granted "national treatment" under the mislabeled free trade agreements, a privilege granted only to corporate persons, not those of flesh and blood. Not surprisingly, these measures led to a flood of desperate refugees, and to rising anti-immigrant hysteria by the victims of state-corporate policies at home.
Much the same appears to be happening in Europe, where racism is probably more rampant than in the U.S. One can only watch with wonder as Italy complains about the flow of refugees from Libya, the scene of the first post-World War I genocide, in the now-liberated East, at the hands of Italy's Fascist government. Or when France, still today the main protector of the brutal dictatorships in its former colonies, manages to overlook its hideous atrocities in Africa, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy warns grimly of the "flood of immigrants" and Marine Le Pen objects that he is doing nothing to prevent it. I need not mention Belgium, which may win the prize for what Adam Smith called "the savage injustice of the Europeans."
The rise of neo-fascist parties in much of Europe would be a frightening phenomenon even if we were not to recall what happened on the continent in the recent past. Just imagine the reaction if Jews were being expelled from France to misery and oppression, and then witness the non-reaction when that is happening to Roma, also victims of the Holocaust and Europe's most brutalized population.
In Hungary, the neo-fascist party Jobbik gained 17% of the vote in national elections, perhaps unsurprising when three-quarters of the population feels that they are worse off than under Communist rule. We might be relieved that in Austria the ultra-right Jörg Haider won only 10% of the vote in 2008 -- were it not for the fact that the new Freedom Party, outflanking him from the far right, won more than 17%. It is chilling to recall that, in 1928, the Nazis won less than 3% of the vote in Germany.
In England the British National Party and the English Defence League, on the ultra-racist right, are major forces. (What is happening in Holland you know all too well.) In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin's lament that immigrants are destroying the country was a runaway best-seller, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, though condemning the book, declared that multiculturalism had "utterly failed": the Turks imported to do the dirty work in Germany are failing to become blond and blue-eyed, true Aryans.

Those with a sense of irony may recall that Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment, warned that the newly liberated colonies should be wary of allowing Germans to immigrate, because they were too swarthy; Swedes as well. Into the twentieth century, ludicrous myths of Anglo-Saxon purity were common in the U.S., including among presidents and other leading figures. Racism in the literary culture has been a rank obscenity; far worse in practice, needless to say. It is much easier to eradicate polio than this horrifying plague, which regularly becomes more virulent in times of economic distress.
I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: the fate of the species. Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don't, someone else will.
This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the U.S., propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.
If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the "religion" that markets know best -- which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8 trillion housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.
All of this, and much more, can proceed as long as the Muashar doctrine prevails. As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and Terror, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present and Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé. This piece is adapted from a talk given in Amsterdam in March.