Another version of this; refer there for full labels:
17 May 2008
16 May 2008
Click the title to sign the petition....
Tell Congress: Arrest Karl Rove
More than seven years too late, it appears as if a growing number of congresspersons are realizing that they are part of a co-equal branch of government. After allowing their institution to be disrespected and at times ignored by the executive branch, top officials in Congress are finally expressing a willingness to use their full power under the Constitution to rein in an out-of-control administration.
The current target: Karl Rove.
Rove has been asked by the House Judiciary Committee to testify about his involvement in the Justice Department’s prosecution and imprisonment of former Alabama Governor Don Siegleman. As Rove has so far refused to testify voluntarily, members of Congress have started sending signals that they are prepared to go to the mattresses over this.
Two prominent members of the House Judiciary Committee have advocated the use of “inherent contempt” against Rove, which would allow the House Sergeant-of-Arms to forcibly bring Rove to the House to testify.We need you to let your representative know that you support this forceful action. If you agree that Congress should arrest Karl Rove and force him to testify before the House, please fill in the information below and click on "Send my message.”
Enough is enough.
You have allowed the Bush administration to treat members of Congress like powerless observers of their lawless and unconstitutional behavior for most of the past seven years. You have accepted widespread use of signing statements, deceptive use of intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and even a refusal of current and former administration officials to testify before your committees.
The Bush administration has basically been held accountable for nothing. And if you don’t take some kind of significant action now, you may find that you have set a precedent for the future in which Congress will essentially be subservient to the executive branch. This is exactly the opposite of what the framers of our Constitution intended.
It is alleged that Karl Rove encouraged – and perhaps even directed – the Department of Justice to prosecute former Alabama Governor Don Siegleman. This is an extremely serious allegation and Karl Rove must respond to congressional requests for him to testify about his involvement.
If Karl Rove does not agree to testify voluntarily, then he should be issued a subpoena. If he refuses to comply with the subpoena, he should be held in contempt. If the Justice Department does not bring the contempt charges to a grand jury (as it has refused to do with the contempt citations against Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers), then the House should immediately use its constitutional inherent contempt power to arrest Rove and force him to testify.
Members of the executive branch cannot be above the law. If the administration does not police itself and also refuses to bring any charges to the courts, there is only one branch of government left: Congress. You are all that stands between our constitutional form of government and tyranny.
One may say that Congress is making an example of Karl Rove. That statement would be correct. He will serve as an example of what can happen when an executive branch official believes that he (or she) is above the law.
Do not let Karl Rove destroy our Constitution. If he refuses to testify before Congress, please use your inherent contempt power to arrest him and hold him in the House until he complies.
Concluding his week of films about life in Gaza, multimedia reporter Clancy Chassay meets those counselling the area's traumatised children.
As Israelis Celebrate Independence and Palestinians Mark the “Nakba”, a Debate With Benny Morris, Saree Makdisi and Norman Finkelstein
Benny Morris' infamous interview in Haaretz: "Survival of the fittest." For some reason, I can't read the whole thing on Haaretz: click the "more" link and you get a 404 error. Can't imagine why.
Here's the full interview reprinted in Counterpunch. You make the call: I call it "fascism."
15 May 2008
Posted by Doug at 10:04 PM
Labels: Bush, China, Christian Right, Civil Liberties, Class Warfare, Democracy, East Asia, Empire, Europe, Film, Free Video, Globalization, Guantanamo Bay, History, Immigration, Impeachment, Iraq, Journalism, Just Plain Goddamn Funny, Kucinich, Language, Memoir, Military-Industrial Complex, New York Times, Philosophy, Poetry, Privatization, Propaganda, Psychology, Southeast Asia, Spineless Democrats, Vidal
About five-ish years ago. Windows Media Player (.asx).
Posted by Doug at 9:59 PM
Labels: Bush, Christian Right, Civil Liberties, Class Warfare, Democracy, Education, Empire, Fascism, Fiction, Free Video, History, Iraq, Journalism, Just Plain Goddamn Funny, Memoir, Military-Industrial Complex, Nuclear Weapons, Propaganda, Psychology, Russia, Southeast Asia, Spineless Democrats, Vidal
Let this load, and then slide it over to 25:40. Tip: grab the toggle switch and pull it right as far as you can in that field; it's the equivalent of fast-forwarding -- if your connection is fast enough....
Under a new plan, the government could take your DNA and keep it on file permanently if you are arrested at a demonstration on federal property. Take action today to stop the government from giving itself sweeping new powers to create DNA databases.
Please read this alert for background on the plan and immediately go here and click on the yellow "Add Comments" balloon to file public comments with the government to oppose the plan. The government is only accepting comments until this Monday, May 19, so take action today!
At the end of 2005, a little-noticed provision was slipped into the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill that provided the federal government with the power to collect and permanently keep DNA samples from anyone arrested for any crime whether or not they are convicted, any non-U.S. citizen merely detained by federal authorities for any reason, and everyone in federal prison. Now the government is trying to put the DNA Fingerprint Act into practice.
Federal agencies would be required to take DNA samples from:
- Individuals arrested for the most minor of crimes, such as peaceful protestors who are demonstrating on federal property.
- Countless numbers of visitors from other countries who are pulled aside in airports by the Transportation Security Administration.
- Lawful immigrants seeking admission to this country, whether at the land border or in passport control at the airport.
Go here for more information on the law.
This is a dangerous invasion of privacy. Our DNA is not a fingerprint - it contains vast amounts of sensitive medical information about us. And Congress held no hearings on this dangerous legislation, even though it:
- threatens the privacy of millions of Americans;
- would disproportionately affect people of color;
- and turns the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" on its head.
The Justice Department recently issued proposed regulations on the implementation of the law and is seeking public comments. Go here and voice your opposition to the federal government collecting and permanently storing our DNA. (See the end of this email for suggested talking points.) CCR will also be submitting extensive comments and notifying the press of this important story so the government can't slip their plan by without the public knowing.
Congress failed to oppose this dangerous new law - it's up to us to let them know that the we oppose the government collecting people's DNA, and that we care about our privacy. Please take action today.
CCR Executive Director
Here are some reasons to oppose this plan, which you can use in your comments:
- Innocent people do not belong in a criminal DNA database. The underlying statute that permits this is wrong and goes against basic principles of our justice system.
- The regulations interpret the statute as broadly as possible, giving the FBI and other federal agencies the authority to take DNA in far too wide a range of cases.
- DNA is not a fingerprint - it contains vast amounts of sensitive medical information about us. The Justice Department's decision not to require destruction of the biological samples once the DNA profile is uploaded to its database exacerbates the potential for our genetic privacy to be violated and opens the door to the potential of familial searching.
- The regulations will add a disproportionate number of people of color to the database, potentially making those communities an increased target for law enforcement and further aggravating the already existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
- The regulations estimate that potentially more than one million new samples will be added to the database a year, yet the FBI's laboratory is currently receiving for processing only 75,000 offender samples each year. The requirement to collect, profile and upload such a massive number of DNA samples will flood the system and create huge backlogs, which may ultimately hinder criminal investigations, rather than help them.
- The regulations contemplate federal agencies contracting with third parties to collect and store DNA samples. Outsourcing the handling of this most sensitive information to multiple collection and storage sites will almost certainly lead to abuse, the creation of "shadow databases," and error, potentially undermining public trust in DNA as an effective investigational tool.
Blurb below; click title to view; the ever-growing "Week in Gaza" page at the Guardian -- articles, photo essays, all the videos, etc. By the way, the kid in this video uses the word I'll transliterate as "yih-hude" -- which I think means "Jews," not "Israelis," as the translation claims. Doesn't make any difference to me what the kid said; does make a difference if the Guardian mistranslated out of fear of "antisemitism":
In the fourth of five films from Gaza, multimedia reporter Clancy Chassay meets Samir who lost his brother and two footballing friends during Israeli rocket and shell attacks on their playing fields
As Palestinians Mark 60th Anniversary of Their Dispossession, a Conversation With Palestinian Writer and Doctor Ghada Karmi
Very interesting interview.
14 May 2008
Ralph Nader visits Google's Mountain View, CA, headquarters as part of the Policy Talks@Google series. This event took place on May 12, 2008.
Posted by Doug at 11:33 AM
Labels: 2008 Presidential Election, Biotechnology, Bush, Civil Liberties, Class Warfare, Democracy, Fascism, Gandhi, Globalization, Going Green, Guantanamo Bay, Healthcare, Hillary, History, History of Technology, Housing, Immigration, Impeachment, Infrastructure, Iraq, Memoir, Military-Industrial Complex, Nader, Neoliberalism, Nuclear Weapons, Obama, Oil, Propaganda, Psychology, Race, Social Movements, Southeast Asia, Spineless Democrats, Torture
Shown today on Democracy Now! Clicking the title of this post launches RealPlayer; other options here.
Posted by Doug at 11:00 AM
Labels: 2008 Presidential Election, Amy Goodman, Anti-semitism, Bush, Civil Liberties, Class Warfare, Democracy, Drama, Education, Empire, Europe, Fascism, Fiction, Food, Free Video, Guantanamo Bay, History, Iran, Iraq, Journalism, Just Plain Goddamn Funny, Latin America, Memoir, Military-Industrial Complex, New York Times, Oil, Propaganda, Psychology, Spineless Democrats, Torture, Vidal
Blurb below; video? -- click the title of this post:
In the third of five films from Gaza, multimedia reporter Clancy Chassay talks to the Bakrs about life under the Israeli blockade, juggling jobs, school runs and clinical depression
13 May 2008
An abridgement of the letter from Albert Einstein to Eric Gutkind from Princeton in January 1954, translated from German by Joan Stambaugh. It will be sold at Bloomsbury auctions on Thursday
... I read a great deal in the last days of your book, and thank you very much for sending it to me. What especially struck me about it was this. With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common.
... The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.
In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolisation. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.
Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, ie in our evaluations of human behaviour. What separates us are only intellectual 'props' and 'rationalisation' in Freud's language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things. With friendly thanks and best wishes
Yours, A. Einstein
Chapter 1: MUTUAL AID AMONG ANIMALS
Chapter 2: MUTUAL AID AMONG ANIMALS (con't)
Chapter 3: MUTUAL AID AMONG SAVAGES
Chapter 4: MUTUAL AID AMONG THE BARBARIANS
Chapter 5: MUTUAL AID IN THE MEDIAEVAL CITY
Chapter 6: MUTUAL AID IN THE MEDIAEVAL CITY (continued)
Chapter 7: MUTUAL AID AMONGST OURSELVES
Chapter 8: MUTUAL AID AMONGST OURSELVES (Con't)
Posted by Doug at 3:00 PM
Labels: 2008 Presidential Election, Al Qaeda, Anarchism, Biology, Chomsky, Christian Right, Education, Evolution/Genetics, Free Audio, Healthcare, History, History of Science, Islam, Islamic Right, Israel, Latin America, Palestine, Participatory Economics, Philosophy, Physics, Propaganda, Psychology, Realism, Social Movements
Posted by Doug at 2:58 PM
Labels: 2008 Presidential Election, Africa, Apartheid, Bush, Chomsky, Civil Liberties, Democracy, Empire, Free Audio, Gravel, Guantanamo Bay, History, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Iraq, Islamic Right, Israel, Kucinich, Latin America, Nuclear Weapons, Obama, Palestine, Propaganda, Race, Russia, Social Movements, South Asia, Spineless Democrats, Torture
Editor’s note: In this Truthdig exclusive excerpt from his just-released book, Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, National Book Award-winning author Gore Vidal recounts Depression-era episodes of his life involving his grandfather T.P. Gore, the blind senator from Oklahoma, along with a political awakening that followed young Vidal’s viewing of “The Prince and the Pauper.”
He's been making the rounds in Italy...this is in English (Windows Media Player); click the title.
More here, from Turin:
And from yesterday (in Italian, but you can kinda figure it out):
And here's an oldie but a goodie from March, 2003 on CNN, of all places:
And, what the hell: recent long interviews on The Real News...
Democracy Now! (2004; audio-only; toggle across to a bit less than halfway for the Vidal segment).
Posted by Doug at 10:53 AM
Labels: 2008 Presidential Election, Bush, Civil Liberties, Democracy, East Asia, Education, Empire, Europe, Fascism, Free Video, Hillary, History, Hussein, India, Iran, Iraq, Just Plain Goddamn Funny, Kucinich, Middle East, Obama, Oil, Propaganda, Race, Russia, Southeast Asia, Vidal
Fmr. Military Intelligence Officer Reveals U.S. Listed Palestine Hotel in Baghdad As Target Prior to Killing of Two Journalists in 2003
As good as it gets: evidence for deliberate targeting of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (full of reporters) as well as for warrantless tapping of American citizens' domestic phone calls.
"Israel's fuel blockade has ground Gaza's infrastructure to a halt. In response, smuggling gangs bring fuel in from Egypt through underground tunnels."
Click this post's title to see the video; unembeddable.
More videos here: A week in Gaza.
On May 1, the BBC website reported an attack on Somalia with the words:
“Air raid kills Somali militants.”
One might think the BBC’s headline would identify the agency responsible for the bombing, but the first few sentences also shed no light:
“The leader of the military wing of an Islamist insurgent organisation in Somalia has been killed in an overnight air strike.
“Aden Hashi Ayro, al-Shabab's military commander, died when his home in the central town of Dusamareb was bombed.
“Ten other people, including a senior militant, are also reported dead.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7376760.stm)
Only in the fourth sentence, was responsibility ascribed:
“A US military spokesman told the BBC that it had attacked what he called a known al-Qaeda target in Somalia.”
English teachers often illustrate use of the passive form with the sentence: ‘A man has been arrested.’ The passive is preferable, students are told, because the active form, ‘The police have arrested a man,’ contains a redundancy -- the agent is already indicated by the action. There’s no need to actually mention ‘the police’.
Likewise, the BBC takes for granted that the US is the world’s policeman; no need to mention it by name. The action of bombing an impoverished Third World country already indicates the agent. This also helps explain why no mention was made of the illegality of this act of aggression.
On the rare occasions when the media mention the conflict in Somalia at all, the focus tends to fall on US attempts to hunt down al Qaeda, or on the West’s alleged humanitarian motives. Other priorities were indicated in 1992 when the US political weekly The Nation referred to Somalia as “one of the most strategically sensitive spots in the world today: astride the Horn of Africa, where oil, Islamic fundamentalism and Israeli, Iranian and Arab ambitions and arms are apt to crash and collide.” (December 21, 1992)
In December 2006, the US backed the invasion of Somalia by its close Ethiopian ally to overthrow the Islamist government, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Christian Ethiopia is a historic enemy of Somalia, which is made up entirely of Sunni Muslims.
On December 4 of that year, General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces from the Middle East through Afghanistan, travelled to Addis Ababa to meet the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. Three weeks later, Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia and Washington launched a series of supportive air strikes. The Guardian quoted a former intelligence officer familiar with the region:
“The meeting was just the final handshake.” (Xan Rice and Suzanne Goldenberg, “The American connection: How US forged an alliance with Ethiopia over invasion,” The Guardian, January 13, 2007)
Political analyst James Petras commented:
“Somalia... was invaded by mercenaries by Ethiopia, trained, financed, armed and directed by US military advisers.” (Petras, “The Imperial System: Hierarchy, Networks and Clients --The Case of Somalia,” Dissident Voice, February 18, 2007; http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Feb07/Petras18.htm)
USA Today reported in January 2007 that the US had “quietly poured weapons and military advisers into Ethiopia,” which had received nearly $20 million in US military aid since late 2002. The report added:
“The [Somalia] intervention is controversial in Ethiopia, where the Meles government has become increasingly repressive, said Chris Albin-Lackey, an African researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The Meles government has limited the power of the opposition in parliament and arrested thousands. A government inquiry concluded that security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people who protested election fraud in 2005.” (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-01-07-ethiopia_x.htm)
Petras noted that, having driven the last of the warlords from Mogadishu and most of the countryside, the ICU had established a government which was welcomed by the great majority of Somalis and covered over 90% of the population:
“The ICU was a relatively honest administration, which ended warlord corruption and extortion. Personal safety and property were protected, ending arbitrary seizures and kidnappings by warlords and their armed thugs. The ICU is a broad multi-tendency movement that includes moderates and radical Islamists, civilian politicians and armed fighters, liberals and populists, electoralists and authoritarians. Most important, the Courts succeeded in unifying the country and creating some semblance of nationhood, overcoming clan fragmentation.” (Petras, op. cit)
Martin Fletcher wrote in the Times of the ICU:
“I am no apologist for the courts. Their leadership included extremists with dangerous intentions and connections. But for six months they achieved the near-impossible feat of restoring order to a country that appeared ungovernable...
“The courts were less repressive than our Saudi Arabian friends. They publicly executed two murderers (a fraction of the 24 executions in Texas last year), and discouraged Western dancing, music and films, but at least people could walk the streets without being robbed or killed. That trumps most other considerations. Ask any Iraqi.
“The Islamists have now been replaced -- with Washington's connivance -- by a weak, fragile Government that was created long before the courts won power, that includes the very warlords they defeated and relies for survival on Somalia's worst enemy.” (Fletcher, “The Islamists were the one hope for Somalia,” The Times, January 8, 2007)
It was clear to many commentators that the Ethiopian invasion would prove disastrous. Three months later, the Daily Telegraph reported:
“A new humanitarian crisis is rapidly taking shape in the Horn of Africa where eight days of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, has forced about 350,000 people to flee.
“Artillery fire has devastated large areas of the city, forcing about one third of its population to leave. Yesterday Mogadishu's main hospital was shelled.
“The plains around Mogadishu are filled with refugees enduring desperate conditions with little food or shelter. The fighting began when Somalia's internationally recognised government, supported by Ethiopian troops, launched an offensive against insurgents.” (Mike Pflanz, “Fighting brings fresh misery to Somalia,” Telegraph, April 26, 2007)
The Telegraph cited a British aid worker: “They are bombing anything that moves.”
Catherine Weibel, from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was also quoted:
“Everyone we are talking to says this is the worst situation they have seen in 16 years since the last government fell.”
The War On Terror... And The Real Concern
The preferred media framework for making sense of US actions closely parallels cold war mythology. We are to believe the US is passionately, even blindly, battling ideological enemies in an effort to protect itself and the West. Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland could be relied upon to paint this picture of events:
“A fortnight ago the Ethiopians entered Somalia to topple the Islamist forces who had just taken Mogadishu. Americans dislike that Islamist movement, fearing it has the makings of an African Taliban, so they backed the Ethiopians to take it out. According to Patrick Smith, the editor of Africa Confidential, the war on terror is fast becoming a cold war for the 21st century, with the US finding proxy allies to fight proxy enemies in faraway places.” (Freedland, “Like a deluded compulsive gambler, Bush is fuelling a new cold war,” The Guardian, January 10, 2007)
If this sounds curiously simplistic, even childish, it is. In fact, the cold war, like the “war on terror”, was far less ideological, far more prosaic, than journalists like Freedland claim. Historian Howard Zinn has, for example, commented on the Vietnam war, which the BBC would have us believe “was America's attempt to stop Communists from toppling one country after another in South East Asia” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2008/04/080327_mylai_partone.shtml):
“When I read the hundreds of pages of the Pentagon Papers entrusted to me by [military analyst] Daniel Ellsberg, what jumped out at me were the secret memos from the National Security Council. Explaining the U.S. interest in Southeast Asia, they spoke bluntly of the country's motives as a quest for ‘tin, rubber, oil.’” (http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/17049)
Ethiopia’s invasion coincided with the Pentagon's goal of creating a new “Africa Command” to deal with what the Christian Science Monitor described as: “Strife, oil, and Al Qaeda.” Richard Whittle wrote:
“The creation of the new command will be more than an exercise in shuffling bureaucratic boxes, experts say. The US government's motives include countering Al Qaeda's known presence in Africa, safeguarding future oil supplies, and competing with China, which has been courting African governments in its own quest for petroleum, they suggest.” (Richard Whittle, “Pentagon to train a sharper eye on Africa,” January 5, 2007; http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0105/p02s01-usmi.html)
As Andy Rowell and James Marriott have noted, the key fact is that “some 30 per cent of America's oil will come from Africa in the next ten years”. (Rowell and Marriott, A Game as Old as Empire -- The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption, edited by Steven Hiatt, Berrett-Koehler, 2007, p.118)
The US has plans for nearly two-thirds of Somalia's oil fields to be allocated to the US oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips. The US hopes Somalia will line up as an ally alongside Ethiopia and Djibouti, where the US has a military base. This alliance would give America powerful leverage close to the major energy-producing regions.
Chatham House, a British think tank of the independent Royal Institute of International Affairs, commented on US and Ethiopian intervention last year:
“In an uncomfortably familiar pattern, genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actions of other international actors -- especially Ethiopia and the United States -- following their own foreign policy agendas.” (http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15545)
This ‘hijacking’ has had truly appalling consequences. More than one million people have been made internal refugees, and the UN food security unit warned last week that 3.5 million people, half of Somalia's population, are facing famine. Fighting has turned Mogadishu into a ghost town. About 700,000 people have fled –- out of a population of up to 1.5 million. The International Committee of the Red Cross describes Somalia’s crisis as “catastrophic.” (http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/5/thousands_of_somalis_protest_deadly_us)
Soaring food prices have driven thousands of protesters onto the streets of the capital, Mogadishu. On May 5, Professor Abdi Samatar, a professor of geography and global studies at the University of Minnesota, told the US website Democracy Now:
“Well, what you see in Mogadishu over the last year and a half or so, since the Ethiopian invasion, which was sanctioned by the US government, has destroyed virtually all the life-sustaining economic systems which the population have built without the government for the last fifteen, sixteen years.” (http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/5/thousands_of_somalis_protest_deadly_us)
A kilo of rice, which previously sold at around seventy US cents, now costs as much as $2.50. The average day’s income for anyone fortunate enough to have a job is less than a dollar a day. The gap between incomes and the cost of food primarily imported from overseas means that millions of people cannot afford to eat.
Last week, Amnesty International reported that it had obtained scores of accounts of killings by Ethiopian troops that Somalis have described as “slaughtering [Somalis] like goats.” In one case, “a young child's throat was slit by Ethiopian soldiers in front of the child's mother.” (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR52/006/2008/en/1162a792-186e-11dd-92b4-6b0c2ef9d02f/afr520062008eng.pdf)
Amnesty reported that during sweeps through neighbourhoods, Ethiopian forces placed snipers on roofs, and civilians were unable to move about for fear of being shot:
“While some sniper fire appeared to be directed at suspected members of anti-TFG [Transitional Federal Government] armed groups, reports indicate that civilians were also frequently caught in indiscriminate fire. In many cases families were forced to carry their wounded to medical care in wheelbarrows and on donkeys because ambulance drivers would not operate their vehicles due to general insecurity, including sniper fire. As a result, it has become very difficult for civilians to access medical care.”
The British government has consistently downplayed both the gravity of the crisis and the murderous behaviour of Ethiopian forces. In the Foreign Office's latest annual human rights assessment of Somalia there was no mention of Ethiopia, let alone the conduct of its troops. No surprise -- Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of UK aid in Africa and, as discussed, is an important regional ally.
The Media Follow The Government Lead
Predictably, the government’s strategic silence is reflected in press reporting. In the last year, the words ‘Somalia’ and ‘famine’ have appeared in a grand total of seven British broadsheet newspaper articles discussing the topic. Of the few references to the latest US attack in the British press over the last week, only the Independent and the Sunday Times made briefs references to Somalia’s humanitarian crisis. The Independent noted that life for Somalia's nine million residents has become “unbearable”. The Guardian merely quoted Reuters:
“Western security services have long seen Somalia as a haven for militants. Warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre in 1991, casting the country into chaos.” (Reuters, ‘US airstrike kills head of al-Qaida in Somalia,’ Guardian International, May 2, 2008)
The Amnesty report was mentioned in three broadsheet newspapers. Of these, the Guardian failed to mention the US role at all. Ian Black commented:
“Ethiopia sent in troops in December 2006 and ejected them. Since then, Mogadishu has been caught up in a guerrilla war between the government and its Ethiopian allies and the Islamist insurgents. Up to 1 million Somalians are internally displaced.” (Ian Black, ‘Somali refugees speak of horrific war crimes,’ The Guardian, May 7, 2008)
By contrast, a short Independent piece led with the US role:
“Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/call-for-inquiry-into-us-role-in-somalia-822166.html)
Amnesty's Dave Copeman was cited:
“There are major countries that have significant influence. The US, EU and European countries need to exert that influence to stop these attacks.”
This is the sole reference to Copeman’s comments in the entire national UK press.
Professor Samatar commented on the latest US attack:
“[I]t’s quite befuddling to Somalis and many other peace-loving people around the world as to why the United States has chosen to bomb people who are desperate for assistance and food, and who have been dislocated and traumatised by an Ethiopian invasion, a country that has its own people under tyranny in itself.”
The Truth Of ‘Our Leaders’
With our shared responsibility for the catastrophe in Somalia buried out of sight, the Telegraph reported this week:
“Gordon Brown urged the Burmese authorities to give ‘unfettered access’ to humanitarian agencies. ‘We now estimate that two million people face famine or disease as a result of the lack of co-operation of the Burmese authorities. This is completely unacceptable,’ he said.” (Alan Brown, ‘Burmese officials “are seizing emergency aid and selling it for profit”,’ Daily Telegraph, May 13, 2008)
The great lie is that we are represented by people like Gordon Brown, described as ‘our leaders’. Because they represent us and we are not monsters, we are to believe that ‘our leaders’ are seeking to resolve problems afflicting humanity in general, while working more specifically to protect us from terrorism and other threats. In other words, we are to believe that ‘our leaders’, like us, are rational, compassionate and well-intentioned.
The truth is very different. In fact we are free to chose from parties and leaders who all represent the same interests of concentrated state-corporate power - the tiny fraction of the population that owns much of the country and runs its business.
Crucially, ‘our leaders’ front a political system that has an overwhelming advantage in high-tech military power. They are all too willing to use this power to convulse countries with bloodshed when doing so supports their lucrative version of economic ‘order’. Iraq is the obvious example -- Somalia is another.
‘Our leaders’ rule in the name of democracy, but they act in the interests of a narrow, extremely violent kleptocracy.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Ask the following journalists why they are not doing more to expose Western responsibility for the catastrophe in Somalia.
- Write to Ian Black -- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write to Simon Kelner, editor of the Independent -- Email: email@example.com
- Write to Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian -- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send a copy of your emails to us at email@example.com
- This media alert will shortly be archived here: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/080513_somalia_hidden_catastrophe.php
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We are not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews; this is a political struggle to free ourselves from occupation and oppression
As the Palestinian people prepare to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba ("catastrophe") -- the dispossession and expulsion of most of our people from our land -- those remaining in Palestine face escalating aggression, killings, imprisonment, ethnic cleansing and siege. But instead of support and solidarity from the western media, we face frequent attempts to defend the indefensible or turn fire on the Palestinians themselves.
One recent approach, which seems to be part of the wider attempt to isolate the elected Palestinian leadership, is to portray Hamas and the population of the Gaza strip as motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment, rather than a hostility to Zionist occupation and domination of our land. A recent front page article in the International Herald Tribune followed this line, as did an article for Cif about an item broadcast on the al-Aqsa satellite TV channnel about the Nazi Holocaust.
In fact, the al-Aqsa Channel is an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement. The channel regularly gives Palestinians of different convictions the chance to express views that are not shared by the Palestinian government or the Hamas movement. In the case of the opinion expressed on al-Aqsa TV by Amin Dabbur, it is his alone and he is solely responsible for it.
It is rather surprising to us that so little attention, if any, is given by the western media to what is regularly broadcast or written in the Israeli media by politicians and writers demanding the total uprooting or "transfer" of the Palestinian people from their land.
The Israeli media and pro-Israel western press are full of views that deny or seek to excuse well-established facts of history including the Nakba of 1948 and the massacres perpetrated then by the Haganah, the Irgun and LEHI with the objective of forcing a mass dispossession of the Palestinians.
But it should be made clear that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was not only a crime against humanity but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality.
And at the same time as we unreservedly condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, we categorically reject the exploitation of the Holocaust by the Zionists to justify their crimes and harness international acceptance of the campaign of ethnic cleansing and subjection they have been waging against us -- to the point where in February the Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened the people of Gaza with a "holocaust".
Within 24 hours, 61 Palestinians -- more than half of them civilians and a quarter children -- were killed in a series of air raids. Meanwhile, a horrible crime against humanity continues to be perpetrated against the people of Gaza: the two-year-old siege imposed after Hamas won the legislative elections in January 2006, which is causing great suffering. Due to severe shortages of medicines and food, scores of Palestinians have lost their lives.
It cannot be right that Europeans in general and the British in particular maintain a virtual silence toward what the Zionists are doing to the Palestinians, let alone supporting or justifying their oppressive policies, under the pretext of showing sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust.
The Palestinian people aspire to freedom, independence and peaceful coexistence with all their neighbours. There are, today, more than six million Palestinian refugees. No less than 700,000 Palestinians have been detained at least once by the Israeli occupation authorities since 1967. Hundreds of thousands have so far been killed or wounded. Little concern seems to be caused by all of this or by the erection of an apartheid wall that swallows more than 20% of the West Bank land or the heavily armed colonies that devour Palestinian land in a blatant violation of international law.
The plight of our people is not the product of a religious conflict between us and the Jews in Palestine or anywhere else: the aims and positions of today's Hamas have been repeatedly spelled out by its leadership, for example in Hamas's 2006 programme for government. The conflict is of a purely political nature: it is between a people who have come under occupation and an oppressive occupying power.
Our right to resistance against occupation is recognised by all conventions and religious traditions. The Jews are for us the people of a sacred book who suffered persecution in European lands. Whenever they sought refuge, Muslim and Arab lands provided them with safe havens. It was in our midst that they enjoyed peace and prosperity; many of them held leading positions in Muslim countries.
After almost a century of Zionist colonial and racist oppression, some Palestinians find it hard to imagine that some of their oppressors are the sons and daughters of those who were themselves oppressed and massacred.
Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust but find themselves punished for someone else's crime. But we are well aware and warmly welcome the outspoken support for Palestinian rights by Israeli and Jewish human rights activists in Palestine and around the world.
We hope that journalists in the west will begin to adopt a more objective approach when covering events in Palestine. The Palestinian people are being killed by Israel's machine of destruction on a daily basis. Nevertheless, we still see a clear bias in favour of Israel in the western media.The Europeans bear a direct responsibility for what is befalling the Palestinians today. Britain was the mandate authority that handed over Palestine to Israeli occupation. Nazi Germany perpetrated the most heinous crimes against Jews, forcing the survivors to migrate to Palestine in pursuit of safety. We, therefore, expect the Europeans to atone for their historic crimes by restoring some balance to the inhuman and one-sided international response to the tragedy of our people.
Bassem Naeem is the minister of health and information in the Hamas-led Palestinian administration in Gaza.
CASMII Press Release
10 May 2008
"US confession: Weapons were not made in Iran after all"
In a sharp reversal of its longstanding accusations against Iran arming militants in Iraq , the US military has made an unprecedented albeit quiet confession: the weapons they had recently found in Iraq were not made in Iran at all.
According to a report by the LA Times correspondent Tina Susman in Baghdad: “A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin. When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.”
The US, which until two weeks ago had never provided any proof for its allegations, finally handed over its “evidence” of the Iranian origin of these weapons to the Iraqi government. Last week, an Iraqi delegation to Iran presented the US “evidence” to Iranian officials. According to Al-Abadi, a parliament member from the ruling United Iraqi Alliance who was on the delegation, the Iranian officials totally refuted “training, financing and arming” militant groups in Iraq . Consequently the Iraqi government announced that there is no hard evidence against Iran.
In another extraordinary event this week, the US spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, for the first time did not blame Iran for the violence in Iraq and in fact did not make any reference to Iran at all in his introductory remarks to the world media on Wednesday when he described the large arsenal of weapons found by Iraqi forces in Karbala.
In contrast, the Pentagon in August 2007 admitted that it had lost track of a third of the weapons distributed to the Iraqi security forces in 2004/2005. The 190,000 assault rifles and pistols roam free in Iraqi streets today.
In the past year, the US leaders have been relentless in propagating their charges of Iranian meddling and fomenting violence in Iraq and since the release of the key judgments of the US National Intelligence Estimate in December that Iran does not have a nuclear weaponisation programme, these accusations have sharply intensified.
The US charges of Iranian interference in Iraq too have now collapsed. Any threat of military strike against Iran is in violation of the UN charter and the IAEA's continued supervision on Iran's uranium enrichment facilities means there is no justification for sanctions.
CASMII calls on the US to change course and enter into comprehensive and unconditional negotiations with Iran.
For more information or to contact CASMII please visit http://www.campaigniran.org
12 May 2008
By ZIGA VODOVNIK
Howard Zinn, 85, is a Professor Emeritus of political science at Boston University. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1922 to a poor immigrant family. He realized early in his youth that the promise of the “American Dream,” that will come true to all hard-working and diligent people, is just that -- a promise and a dream. During World War II he joined US Air Force and served as a bombardier in the "European Theatre.” This proved to be a formative experience that only strengthened his convictions that there is no such thing as a just war. It also revealed, once again, the real face of the socio-economic order, where the suffering and sacrifice of the ordinary people is always used only to higher the profits of the privileged few.
Although Zinn spent his youthful years helping his parents support the family by working in the shipyards, he started with studies at Columbia University after WWII, where he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in 1958. Later he was appointed as a chairman of the department of history and social sciences at Spelman College, an all-black women’s college in Atlanta, GA, where he actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement.
From the onset of the Vietnam War he was active within the emerging anti-war movement, and in the following years only stepped up his involvement in movements aspiring towards another, better world. Zinn is the author of more than 20 books, including A People’s History of the United States that is “a brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those who have been exploited politically and economically and whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories...” (Library Journal)
Zinn's most recent book is entitled A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, and is a fascinating collection of essays that Zinn wrote in the last couple of years. Beloved radical historian is still lecturing across the US and around the world, and is, with active participation and support of various progressive social movements continuing his struggle for free and just society.
Ziga Vodovnik: From the 1980s onwards we are witnessing the process of economic globalization getting stronger day after day. Many on the Left are now caught between a “dilemma” -- either to work to reinforce the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against the control of foreign and global capital; or to strive towards a non-national alternative to the present form of globalization and that is equally global. What's your opinion about this?
Howard Zinn: I am an anarchist, and according to anarchist principles nation states become obstacles to a true humanistic globalization. In a certain sense the movement towards globalization where capitalists are trying to leap over nation state barriers, creates a kind of opportunity for movement to ignore national barriers, and to bring people together globally, across national lines in opposition to globalization of capital, to create globalization of people, opposed to traditional notion of globalization. In other words to use globalization -- it is nothing wrong with idea of globalization -- in a way that bypasses national boundaries and of course that there is not involved corporate control of the economic decisions that are made about people all over the world.
ZV: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once wrote that: “Freedom is the mother, not the daughter of order.” Where do you see life after or beyond (nation) states?
HZ: Beyond the nation states? (laughter) I think what lies beyond the nation states is a world without national boundaries, but also with people organized. But not organized as nations, but people organized as groups, as collectives, without national and any kind of boundaries. Without any kind of borders, passports, visas. None of that! Of collectives of different sizes, depending on the function of the collective, having contacts with one another. You cannot have self-sufficient little collectives, because these collectives have different resources available to them. This is something anarchist theory has not worked out and maybe cannot possibly work out in advance, because it would have to work itself out in practice.
ZV: Do you think that a change can be achieved through institutionalized party politics, or only through alternative means -- with disobedience, building parallel frameworks, establishing alternative media, etc.
HZ: If you work through the existing structures you are going to be corrupted. By working through political system that poisons the atmosphere, even the progressive organizations, you can see it even now in the US, where people on the “Left” are all caught in the electoral campaign and get into fierce arguments about should we support this third party candidate or that third party candidate. This is a sort of little piece of evidence that suggests that when you get into working through electoral politics you begin to corrupt your ideals. So I think a way to behave is to think not in terms of representative government, not in terms of voting, not in terms of electoral politics, but thinking in terms of organizing social movements, organizing in the work place, organizing in the neighborhood, organizing collectives that can become strong enough to eventually take over -- first to become strong enough to resist what has been done to them by authority, and second, later, to become strong enough to actually take over the institutions.
ZV: One personal question. Do you go to the polls? Do you vote?
HZ: I do. Sometimes, not always. It depends. But I believe that it is preferable sometimes to have one candidate rather another candidate, while you understand that that is not the solution. Sometimes the lesser evil is not so lesser, so you want to ignore that, and you either do not vote or vote for third party as a protest against the party system. Sometimes the difference between two candidates is an important one in the immediate sense, and then I believe trying to get somebody into office, who is a little better, who is less dangerous, is understandable. But never forgetting that no matter who gets into office, the crucial question is not who is in office, but what kind of social movement do you have. Because we have seen historically that if you have a powerful social movement, it doesn’t matter who is in office. Whoever is in office, they could be Republican or Democrat, if you have a powerful social movement, the person in office will have to yield, will have to in some ways respect the power of social movements.
We saw this in the 1960s. Richard Nixon was not the lesser evil, he was the greater evil, but in his administration the war was finally brought to an end, because he had to deal with the power of the anti-war movement as well as the power of the Vietnamese movement. I will vote, but always with a caution that voting is not crucial, and organizing is the important thing.
When some people ask me about voting, they would say will you support this candidate or that candidate? I say: “I will support this candidate for one minute that I am in the voting booth. At that moment I will support A versus B, but before I am going to the voting booth, and after I leave the voting booth, I am going to concentrate on organizing people and not organizing electoral campaign.”
ZV: Anarchism is in this respect rightly opposing representative democracy since it is still form of tyranny -- tyranny of majority. They object to the notion of majority vote, noting that the views of the majority do not always coincide with the morally right one. Thoreau once wrote that we have an obligation to act according to the dictates of our conscience, even if the latter goes against the majority opinion or the laws of the society. Do you agree with this?
HZ: Absolutely. Rousseau once said, if I am part of a group of 100 people, do 99 people have the right to sentence me to death, just because they are majority? No, majorities can be wrong, majorities can overrule rights of minorities. If majorities ruled, we could still have slavery. 80% of the population once enslaved 20% of the population. While run by majority rule that is ok. That is very flawed notion of what democracy is. Democracy has to take into account several things -- proportionate requirements of people, not just needs of the majority, but also needs of the minority. And also has to take into account that majority, especially in societies where the media manipulates public opinion, can be totally wrong and evil. So yes, people have to act according to conscience and not by majority vote.
ZV: Where do you see the historical origins of anarchism in the United States?
HZ: One of the problems with dealing with anarchism is that there are many people whose ideas are anarchist, but who do not necessarily call themselves anarchists. The word was first used by Proudhon in the middle of the 19th century, but actually there were anarchist ideas that proceeded Proudhon, those in Europe and also in the United States. For instance, there are some ideas of Thomas Paine, who was not an anarchist, who would not call himself an anarchist, but he was suspicious of government. Also Henry David Thoreau. He does not know the word anarchism, and does not use the word anarchism, but Thoreau’s ideas are very close to anarchism. He is very hostile to all forms of government. If we trace origins of anarchism in the United States, then probably Thoreau is the closest you can come to an early American anarchist. You do not really encounter anarchism until after the Civil War, when you have European anarchists, especially German anarchists, coming to the United States. They actually begin to organize. The first time that anarchism has an organized force and becomes publicly known in the United States is in Chicago at the time of Haymarket Affair.
ZV: Where do you see the main inspiration of contemporary anarchism in the United States? What is your opinion about the Transcendentalism -- i.e., Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph W. Emerson, Walt Whitman, Margaret Fuller, et al. -- as an inspiration in this perspective?
HZ: Well, the Transcendentalism is, we might say, an early form of anarchism. The Transcendentalists also did not call themselves anarchists, but there are anarchist ideas in their thinking and in their literature. In many ways Herman Melville shows some of those anarchist ideas. They were all suspicious of authority. We might say that the Transcendentalism played a role in creating an atmosphere of skepticism towards authority, towards government.
Unfortunately, today there is no real organized anarchist movement in the United States. There are many important groups or collectives that call themselves anarchist, but they are small. I remember that in 1960s there was an anarchist collective here in Boston that consisted of fifteen (sic!) people, but then they split. But in 1960s the idea of anarchism became more important in connection with the movements of 1960s.
ZV: Most of the creative energy for radical politics is nowadays coming from anarchism, but only few of the people involved in the movement actually call themselves “anarchists”. Where do you see the main reason for this? Are activists ashamed to identify themselves with this intellectual tradition, or rather they are true to the commitment that real emancipation needs emancipation from any label?
HZ: The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchist don’t want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism. But actually the ideas of anarchism are incorporated in the way the movements of the 1960s began to think.
I think that probably the best manifestation of that was in the civil rights movement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC. SNCC without knowing about anarchism as philosophy embodied the characteristics of anarchism. They were decentralized. Other civil rights organizations, for example Seven Christian Leadership Conference, were centralized organizations with a leader -- Martin Luther King. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were based in New York, and also had some kind of centralized organization. SNCC, on the other hand, was totally decentralized. It had what they called field secretaries, who worked in little towns all over the South, with great deal of autonomy. They had an office in Atlanta, Georgia, but the office was not a strong centralized authority. The people who were working out in the field -- in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- they were very much on their own. They were working together with local people, with grassroots people. And so there is no one leader for SNCC, and also great suspicion of government.
They could not depend on government to help them, to support them, even though the government of the time, in the early 1960s, was considered to be progressive, liberal. John F. Kennedy especially. But they looked at John F. Kennedy, they saw how he behaved. John F. Kennedy was not supporting the Southern movement for equal rights for Black people. He was appointing the segregationists judges in the South, he was allowing southern segregationists to do whatever they wanted to do. So SNCC was decentralized, anti-government, without leadership, but they did not have a vision of a future society like the anarchists. They were not thinking long term, they were not asking what kind of society shall we have in the future. They were really concentrated on immediate problem of racial segregation. But their attitude, the way they worked, the way they were organized, was along, you might say, anarchist lines.
ZV: Do you thing that pejorative (mis)usage of the word anarchism is direct consequence of the fact that the ideas that people can be free, was and is very frightening to those in power?
HZ: No doubt! No doubt that anarchist ideas are frightening to those in power. People in power can tolerate liberal ideas. They can tolerate ideas that call for reforms, but they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority. So it is very important for them to ridicule the idea of anarchism to create this impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic. It is useful for them, yes.
ZV: In theoretical political science we can analytically identify two main conceptions of anarchism -- a so-called collectivist anarchism limited to Europe, and on another hand individualist anarchism limited to US. Do you agree with this analytical separation?
HZ: To me this is an artificial separation. As so often happens analysts can make things easier for themselves, like to create categories and fit movements into categories, but I don’t think you can do that. Here in the United States, sure there have been people who believed in individualist anarchism, but in the United States have also been organized anarchists of Chicago in 1880s or SNCC. I guess in both instances, in Europe and in the United States, you find both manifestations, except that maybe in Europe the idea of anarcho-syndicalism become stronger in Europe than in the US. While in the US you have the IWW, which is an anarcho-syndicalist organization and certainly not in keeping with individualist anarchism.
ZV: What is your opinion about the “dilemma” of means -- revolution versus social and cultural evolution?
HZ: I think here are several different questions. One of them is the issue of violence, and I think here anarchists have disagreed. Here in the US you find a disagreement, and you can find this disagreement within one person. Emma Goldman, you might say she brought anarchism, after she was dead, to the forefront in the US in the 1960s, when she suddenly became an important figure. But Emma Goldman was in favor of the assassination of Henry Clay Frick, but then she decided that this is not the way. Her friend and comrade, Alexander Berkman, he did not give up totally the idea of violence. On the other hand, you have people who were anarchistic in way like Tolstoy and also Gandhi, who believed in nonviolence.
There is one central characteristic of anarchism on the matter of means, and that central principle is a principle of direct action -- of not going through the forms that the society offers you, of representative government, of voting, of legislation, but directly taking power. In case of trade unions, in case of anarcho-syndicalism, it means workers going on strike, and not just that, but actually also taking hold of industries in which they work and managing them. What is direct action? In the South when black people were organizing against racial segregation, they did not wait for the government to give them a signal, or to go through the courts, to file lawsuits, wait for Congress to pass the legislation. They took direct action; they went into restaurants, were sitting down there and wouldn’t move. They got on those buses and acted out the situation that they wanted to exist.
Of course, strike is always a form of direct action. With the strike, too, you are not asking government to make things easier for you by passing legislation, you are taking a direct action against the employer. I would say, as far as means go, the idea of direct action against the evil that you want to overcome is a kind of common denominator for anarchist ideas, anarchist movements. I still think one of the most important principles of anarchism is that you cannot separate means and ends. And that is, if your end is egalitarian society you have to use egalitarian means, if your end is non-violent society without war, you cannot use war to achieve your end. I think anarchism requires means and ends to be in line with one another. I think this is in fact one of the distinguishing characteristics of anarchism.
ZV: On one occasion Noam Chomsky has been asked about his specific vision of anarchist society and about his very detailed plan to get there. He answered that “we can not figure out what problems are going to arise unless you experiment with them.” Do you also have a feeling that many left intellectuals are loosing too much energy with their theoretical disputes about the proper means and ends, to even start “experimenting” in practice?
HZ: I think it is worth presenting ideas, like Michael Albert did with Parecon for instance, even though if you maintain flexibility. We cannot create blueprint for future society now, but I think it is good to think about that. I think it is good to have in mind a goal. It is constructive, it is helpful, it is healthy, to think about what future society might be like, because then it guides you somewhat what you are doing today, but only so long as this discussions about future society don’t become obstacles to working towards this future society. Otherwise you can spend discussing this utopian possibility versus that utopian possibility, and in the mean time you are not acting in a way that would bring you closer to that.
ZV: In your A People’s History of the United States you show us that our freedom, rights, environmental standards, etc., have never been given to us from the wealthy and influential few, but have always been fought out by ordinary people -- with civil disobedience. What should be in this respect our first steps toward another, better world?
HZ: I think our first step is to organize ourselves and protest against existing order -- against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralize authority, without charismatic leaders, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society. So that even if you don’t win some victory tomorrow or next year in the meantime you have created a model. You have acted out how future society should be and you created immediate satisfaction, even if you have not achieved your ultimate goal.
ZV: What is your opinion about different attempts to scientifically prove Bakunin’s ontological assumption that human beings have “instinct for freedom”, not just will but also biological need?
HZ: Actually I believe in this idea, but I think that you cannot have biological evidence for this. You would have to find a gene for freedom? No. I think the other possible way is to go by history of human behavior. History of human behavior shows this desire for freedom, shows that whenever people have been living under tyranny, people would rebel against that.
Ziga Vodovnik is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, where his teaching and research is focused on anarchist theory/praxis and social movements in the Americas. His new book Anarchy of Everyday Life –- Notes on anarchism and its Forgotten Confluences will be released in late 2008.