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Noam Chomsky and the Annapolis Fake Peace Talks

Posted on November 28th, 2007 in Culture,Politics by Robert Miller

Noam Chomsky was invited to comment on the Palestinian/Israeli peace talks that are beginning in Annapolis. He spoke today to a packed audience at Boston’s old South Church, to which he and Desmond Tutu were invited by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was called The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality. I am not certain who in the Bush administration got this ball rolling, but this has to be a fake peace conference. The only way these things ever get close to working is that prior agreements and understandings are arrived at, meaning that the most critical issues are agreed to well before hand and we have heard nothing in the news about that. This has to be the peace conference that has the lowest radar sighting in history. Last time I looked, Bush himself was encouraging the Israelis to duke it out with the Palestinians, to solve the problems on the battlefield, as he likes to do. He strongly encouraged the incursion into Lebanon and so did C. Rice. My own guess is that C. Rice stimulated this meeting, perhaps responding to international pressure, perhaps also because she wants to go back to Stanford where her own actions have aroused significant anger among students and some faculty there about her return. Maybe this will get her a free pass. But I doubt it. I doubt that this is anything but a sham meeting, to give Bush a little lift and maybe do something for C. Rice, but it won’t or can’t produce anything of significance, because we have this terrorist idea about organizations like Hamas and seem to be unable to recognize that if we don’t like these groups, it’s been our policies that make them successful, because they respond to real needs of people and they give the Palestinians an alternative over the U.S.-backed option of complete despair. If you want to listen to Chomsky summarize some of the atrocities we have been complicit in through our attitudes and dealings with the Palestinians, you will appreciate that Chomsky doesn’t hesitate to provide the alternative point of view. Here’s a man that still reads and subscribes to something like 40 journals and keeps abreast of the major wire services. Who else would tell you that just before the Annapolis conference Israel confiscated more Palestinian land. For example, in his first paragraph (from Democracy Now) “Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.” You can listen or watch through Democracy Now.

Chomsky is certainly right about facing reality. While the Annapolis peace conference is hardly going to accomplish peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, one can always hope that something useful can come about, something, however small, that reduces tension in that environment. But who in the Middle East besides the Israelis would trust any move stimulated by George Bush and C. Rice?

Christopher Hitchens and the Intimidating British Accent

Posted on November 26th, 2007 in Books,Culture,Politics by Robert Miller

I came to appreciate writer Christopher Hitchens when he wrote his book on Henry Kissinger,“The Trial of Henry Kissinger” (2002), accusing him of being a war criminal for his actions in the Vietnam war, South America (Chile), East Timor and East Pakistan; it is something with which I am wholeheartedly in agreement and I would like nothing better than to see Kissinger in the dock at the Hague someday. Perhaps then, for the first time, Americans might begin to learn something about their own history (Hitchens’ book on Kissinger was made into an excellent documentary film “The Trials of Henry Kissinger; it is well worth seeing). An Englishman by birth, Hitchens has become a U.S. citizen, stimulated by the events of 9/11. That day also converted him from a progressive liberal to a hawk, at least as far as the war in Iraq is concerned and the war on terrorism. He has subsequently been a shill for Bush’s invasion and seems to have sprung a trap on himself in that he seems more comfortable dodging the issue rather than confronting it. Categorically, he is a liberal hawk. He must be squirming as he wears the unaccustomed shoes of an apologist and embraces the cape of his neocon friends, like Paul Wolfowitz. His rapid conversion from dove to hawk alienated him from people like Chomsky and others at The Nation, with whom he got a divorce, claiming that liberals were cowards (they seemed to be more afraid of John Aschcroft than Osama bin Laden). His conflicts with Chomsky led to several interchanges and Chomsky more or less gave him a scolding and dismissed his complaints. One of the issues that Chomsky addressed related to Hitchens’ complaint that it was silly to describe what we are doing in Iraq and the rest of the world as terrorism. Chomsky specifically remarked at one point how Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan pharmaceutical plant was an act of terrorism. Chomsky also argued that if you were to assess the full impact of that single act of bombing (some say this bombing was designed to deflect our national attention away from Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and his impending impeachment, but Chomsky steadfastly avoids that point), you had to understand that the bombed facility produced much of the pharmaceutical needs for that country and the lack of proper medicine caused many more deaths through untreated malaria and arguably helped to destabilize the entire region. So if you are into death tallying, as Chomsky argues, you need to assess the full impact of your actions, just as we do when we assess the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler and Mao, where we don’t just count those they might have shot in the presidential palace, but we make the broadest possible tally. Chomsky also pointed out that our coup against a democratically elected head of state in Guatemala in 1954, gave rise to 40 years of atrocities in that country. If you want to read an article in which a petulant writer is dismissed like a little boy having a temper tantrum, then read Chomsky’s response to Hitchens’ ravings.

John Howard and The Coallition of the Willing

Posted on November 26th, 2007 in Politics by Robert Miller

Bush’s “coalition” for the invasion of Iraq has produced an historic legacy of political defeats for the leaders of the countries who made troop commitments. Spain, Italy and Poland have elected new leaders and have either withdrawn troops or reduced their numbers. You can also argue that Tony Blair was a victim of Bush’s invasion and now you can add Australia’s John Howard to that list, as he was defeated by Kevin Rudd, who has pledged to bring Australia’s 550 combat troops home. Rudd has promised to sign the Kyoto treaty and has set his sights on a greener philosophy for Australia, hoping to maintain good relations with Washington. The latter we hope will become much easier after the 2008 election. The new Australian government seems to be tipping back towards a more rational state. Let’s hope we can continue to do the same.

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