Tuesday, September 30, 2003
posted by Richard SeymourSomeone told me that Christopher Hitchens had finally published a rather "sorry" riposte to Norman Finkelstein's blazing critique. I'll say it's sorry - it's almost apologetic.
Hitchens begins with a defense of his book "The Long Short War" (or "Regime Change" in Britain). The first dubious note is sounded with the following: "It’s not a work in which one can easily get bogged down. But Finkelstein manages to get himself entangled in the text to a wince-making degree. Thus he says that I describe the followers of the anti-war demonstrations as 'ex-flower children' or 'neo Stalinists', while that was my description only of the organisers."
If he is referring to the organisers, then clearly that must be okay. Ad hominem slanders are fine when directed at former comrades. But he is not always so clear about leaving the marchers out of things: Recall that after February 15th, he wanted it to rain and "hail on the silly who are being led by the sinister."
Hitchens previously insisted as bombs were falling on Afghanistan that "there is no intelligent way to oppose this war". It is not surprising, therefore, that he is unable to conceive of opposition to war as anything but "sinister" or "silly".
In a another article, following that bombing, he added:
" I can remember a time when the peace movement was not an auxiliary to dictators and aggressors in trouble . Looking at some of the mind-rotting tripe that comes my way from much of today's left, I get the impression that they go to bed saying: what have I done for Saddam Hussein or good old Slobodan or the Taliban today?"
Presumably this was the same "peace movement" which opposed the US bombardment of Cambodia, even though a horrendous dictator ruled the country? The same "peace movement" that opposed the intervention in Grenada, even though the regime had just ousted a popular leader and installed a leftist junta? The same one that opposed the bombing and invasion of Iraq in 1991? I'm just curious, if any Hitchens fans are reading, when does it become okay to entrust the US government with dispensation of ridding the world of tyrants? Sometime after the end of the Cold War seems to be the answer.
Hitchens cannot escape the charge that he levels ad hominem insults at both the "organisers" and the "movement", and his attempt to do so reveals just how defensive he is. If the "peace movement" is an "auxiliary to dictators", then Hitchens himself bears much of the blame. He wrote scathingly during Gulf War I of those who stupidly proclaimed that they preferred "imperialism to fascism". Well, he snorted, you no longer have to choose because we've had imperialism and now fascism rules.
The only difference today is that Hitchens has persuaded himself that the United States intends to democratise the Middle East.
Next on Hitchens' carefully parsed list of criticisms is Finkelstein's rebuke over the claim that terrorism is "the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint." Finkelstein wonders if the Nazis could no longer be described as 'terrorists' since they demanded the possible. Hitchens points out that the term "terrorist" seems inadequate to describe such a regime. Well, maybe, but that doesn't negate the force of the criticism. Bin Laden and his associates are presumably terrorists according to Christopher Hitchens, yet their demands are far from impossible. The GIA may have an unpleasant vision for the future of Algeria, but it could hardly be said to be "impossible" in light of the history of that country. Hitchens' definition, of course, is carefully selected so that he can exclude the PLO and other organisations whom he still supports and of whom he still says that use of the word terrorism is an abuse of the English language. The definition has no other value or purpose.
Hitchens avers that "I think that any fair-minded reader, who had my little book to hand while reading Finkelstein’s screed, would agree that he fails to bring off any of the rhetorical or logical coups on which he rushes to congratulate himself."
Aside from the hammering irony of Hitchens accusing anyone else of self-congratulation, the only reason he can offer this conclusion is because he has omitted any of the really stinging blows. Take these, for example:
"To prove that, after supporting dictatorial regimes in the Middle East for 70 years, the U.S. has abruptly reversed itself and now wants to bring democracy there, he cites 'conversations I have had on this subject in Washington.' To demonstrate the 'glaringly apparent' fact that Saddam 'infiltrated, or suborned, or both' the U.N. inspection teams in Iraq, he adduces the 'incontrovertible case' of an inspector offered a bribe by an Iraqi official: 'he man in question refused the money, but perhaps not everybody did.'"
And again: "Hitchens maintains that that 'there is a close…fit between the democratically minded and the pro-American' in the Middle East - like 'President for Life' Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan...; that Washington finally grasped that 'there were `root causes' behind the murder-attacks' (emphasis in original) - but didn't Hitchens ridicule any allusion to 'root causes' as totalitarian apologetics?; that 'racism' is 'anti-American as nearly as possible by definition'; that 'evil' can be defined as 'the surplus value of the psychopath' - is there a Bartlett's for worst quotations?; that the U.S.'s rejoining of U.N.E.S.C.O. during the Iraq debate proved its commitment to the U.N.; that 'empirical proofs have been unearthed' showing that Iraq didn't comply with U.N. resolutions to disarm; that since the U.N. solicits U.S. support for multilateral missions, it's 'idle chatter' to accuse the U.S. of acting unilaterally in Iraq; that the likely killing of innocent civilians in 'hospitals, schools, mosques and private homes' shouldn't deter the U.S. from attacking Iraq because it is proof of Saddam's iniquity that he put civilians in harm's way; that those questioning billions of dollars in postwar contracts going to Bush administration cronies must prefer them going to 'some windmill-power concern run by Naomi Klein' - is this dry or desiccated wit?"
"On one page he states that 'Of course it's about oil, stupid' (emphasis in original), but on another page he states that 'it was not for the sake of oil' that the U.S. went to war. In one paragraph he states that the U.S. must attack Iraq even if it swells the ranks of al-Qaida, but in the next paragraph he states that 'the task of statecraft' is not to swell its ranks. In one sentence he claims to be persuaded by the 'materialist conception of history,' but in the next sentence he states that 'a theory that seems to explain everything is just as good at explaining nothing.' In the first half of one sentence he argues that, since "one cannot know the future," policy can't be based on likely consequences, but in the second half he concludes that policy should be based on 'a reasoned judgment about the evident danger.'"
( Finkelstein, "On Chrisopher Hitchens" ).
Hitchens doesn't bother to mention any of these, since it is "glaringly apparent" that his own case is utterly without merit.
He boasts that "It’s true that I am sometimes rude - always on purpose, I trust...". This is what is left of Hitchens' wit - schoolboy pride in one's own crapulence and bullying demeanour. He adds that he is "not as crude as Finkelstein’s own use of references to flatulence, psychopathy or the 'bursting windbag' Vaclav Havel."
Let's recall the reference to flatulence: "For many years Hitchens awed readers with his formidable control over the English language. Now his ego delights in testing whether, through sheer manipulation of words, he can pass off flatulent emissions as bouquets."
I've linked two or three Hitchens essays in this post, so you can test for yourself whether his articles smell of such emissions, and whether Hitchens is entitled to be offended at the "crudity" of such references.
Hitchens abounds with hypocritical "admonitions" of this kind: "Throughout his essay, he seems to argue that nobody could criticise the Left except for the most mercenary and opportunist reason."
In everything Christopher Hitchens has written on the Left opposition to the war, he has always made it plain that "nobody could criticise the War except for the most mercenary and opportunist reason". Finkelstein is obviously arguing that Hitchens is engaged in "mercenary" opportunism, and he has made such a good case of it that Hitchens' only response is to point out that he had previously criticised Noam Chomsky for his "opposition to the military rescue of Bosnia and Kosovo from attempted ethnocide, and if Finkelstein thinks that this position of mine was inspired by the lust for gold from major magazines he is welcome to the thought."
Finkelstein, of course, doesn't quite argue this. He does suggest that "Hitchens can't believe a word he's saying," and "It's not exactly a martyr's fate defecting from The Nation, a frills-free liberal magazine, to Atlantic Monthly, the well-heeled house organ of Zionist crazies."
This isn't because Hitchens is critical of the Left, but because the content of his criticism is venomous bullshit. Petulantly scribbled diatribes always attract attention and money, but Finkelstein is clear that Hitchens is animated by publicity rather than "lust for gold": "when he avows, 'I attempt to write as if I did not care what reviewers said, what peers thought, or what prevailing opinion might be,' one should read, 'My every word is calculated for its public effect.'"
Hitchens complains: "I don’t know by what grandly-assumed right Finkelstein refers to the Iraqi and Kurdish dedicatees of my book as my "newly acquired friends". I have known them all for quite some time, and my solidarity with them is indeed in part a solidarity with people who have taken more risks than I have."
I suppose by the same "grandly-assumed right" that Hitchens allows himself to slander his former comrades as "ranting neo-Stalinists" etc, and the Muslim Association of Britain as "fundamentalist Muslims, who mouth the gibberish slogans of holy war but who don't give a damn for the suffering inflicted by Saddam on their co-religionists." (See Mirror column above). But Finkelstein doesn't mention "the Iraqi and Kurdish dedicatees" of Hitchens' book.
Here is Finkelstein: "Yet, he is at pains to inform readers that all his newly acquired friends are 'friends for life.'" One might assume that he is talking about Paul Wolfowitz and the neoconservative coterie that Hitchens has been coat-tailing.
Hitchens thinks he's onto something at one point: "Finkelstein’s essay begins with a lugubrious self-interrogation about his own 'Marxism', and his staunch unwillingness to repudiate it lest he be suspected, even by himself, of 'selling out'." His staunch unwillingness to "advertise the fact" that he has abandoned Marxism is what Hitchens means. He continues: "But mark the sequel. In another attempted 'gotcha' he trips over the rug by writing: 'In one sentence [Hitchens] claims to be persuaded by the ‘materialist conception of history,’ but in the next sentence he states that ‘a theory that seems to explain everything is just as good at explaining nothing.’' Now, anyone who knows anything at all about the materialist conception of history knows that it is not a theory that seems, or even claims, to explain everything."
Oh, I don't know. It is, after all, a totalising view of history, one that seeks to explain society and change from the bottom to the top, and one whose heuristic has the capacity to attach itself to any sphere of intellectual endeavour. Still, a more pertinent observation might be that Hitchens has also declared himself "a recovering Marxist" who believes "the game of socialism is over". His dedication to the "materialist conception of history" may be said to be in some doubt, since he has abandoned most of its necessary corrollaries.
Not to avoid "Finkelstein's unbelievably facile challenge about moral equivalence", Hitchens says: "In the case of the rocket attack on Sudan in August 1998, conducted by Clinton without any demand for inspection, any recourse to the United Nations, any discussion with allies or any consultation with Congress, I can’t see any reason in law or morality why the Sudanese government, repellent though it is, wouldn’t have been entitled to conduct a retaliatory strike, provided that it was against a military target."
Thus proving that he is not a hypocrite, and is willing to allow the same standards be applied to the US as everyone else. ONE LOUSE RETALIATORY STRIKE? THAT'S ALL THEY'RE ALLOWED? How about Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia? Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, the long list of America's victims? How many strikes are they allowed? Are they allowed to hit market places? Are they allowed to occupy and topple the regime? Obviously not. Hitchens gives the game away by asserting that such a question is "facile" - obviously, we don't allow THEM to do the same things to US. Even hypothetically, even when there is no chance of such action occurring, Hitchens can only think of one example where the US might be the legitemate target of attack. Iraq, which has never attacked America, is the legitemate target of weeks of bombing. Not just one "retaliatory strike", but a rolling campaign of bombings day and night. Followed by an occupation which is claiming as many as 1,000 bodies a week.
Try as he might, Comrade Chris cannot escape the charge of hypocrisy. Nor can he escape the fact that his argument changes every few weeks (It is about oil, now it isn't; Saddam definitely has weapons, well maybe he doesn't and that's really not what the war is about; evidence will definitely accrue about Saddam's possession of weapons, no it suddenly looks "iffy"...). Nor can he escape the charge that he engages in ad hominem slurs, and he certainly cannot complain of "ineptitude and malice" on Finkelstein's part when he displays the same himself.
Hitchens response, if you read it right down to the last PPS, pulls in various directions. At one point, he is amused by Finkelstein's attentions, at another sanctimoniously enraged. Here, he is respectful, there he is contemptuous. The confusion of emotions and clumsily lobbed blows results is a sure sign that Hitchens is punch-drunk.
Monday, September 29, 2003
posted by Richard SeymourFew sights have been less edifying since the occupation of Iraq than the red-faced demands of warniks: Do you think the Iraqis appreciate your very very principled anti-imperialism? Would you rather Saddam had stayed in power? Shouldn't you be ashamed of opposing something the Iraqis manifestly wanted?
Etc etc ad nauseum.
A few points. If the Iraqi opinion polls showed that a majority currently detested the occupation and wanted it to end immediately, would the warniks surrender their case? If a majority of Iraqis told opinion pollsters that they wanted an Islamist government, would the occupiers be willing to accede to this? When Iraqis told opinion pollsters for the Spectator and Channel Four in their overwhelming numbers that they thought the US had invaded Iraq to help itself to oil supplies and help Israel, did the warniks assent to that proposition?
What I'm driving at is, what is the value of these opinion polls in terms of deciding what we think about the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Let's remember that approximately half of Iraqis asked said they retroactively supported the invasion - the other half was divided between those who actively opposed it and those who were uncertain. Now, that plurality (not a majority) exists because the war went relatively well for the coalition. Had it taken longer, had it claimed even more victims than it already has, had the Americans suffered serious losses and in desperation targetted more of the civilian infrastructure as they did in Serbia when they didn't think they were going to win - then the opinion polls would certainly be skewed in the opposite direction.
If Iraqi wants and needs are paramount in Washington and were at the fore of considerations as to whether war should be waged on Iraq, then what opinion polls did they consult to validate their occupation? It was impossible to know what Iraqis were thinking, although I think it's fair to say they were at the very least trepidatious about yet another foreign intervention into their country. They could have asked the ex-pats, but it seems that the only ones who were prepared to support the war were those already in the employ of the CIA (Chalabi and his bande a parte). They certainly didn't consult Arab opinion.
In addition, those who adduce these polls as evidence for their claim that Iraqis were crying out for occupation all too easily dismiss the other half of the population. We knew before the war, and we now have empirical proof provided by the pollsters, that the Iraqi public is significantly divided over the invasion and occupation of their country. That it is so divided is perhaps remarkable. But since we know that both the antiwar coalition and the warniks can cite a group of Iraqis who validate their arguments, isn't it a piece of intellectual subterfuge to duck behind the nearest Iraqi who supports you?
I could direct you to the website for Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation . I'm not sure that this in itself would be sufficient to prove the the occupation was unjust.
Richard Perle, replying to Daniel Cohn-Bendit in a television debate, insisted that the main issue that America was concerned with was weapons of mass destruction - democracy, he assured the audience, was an "added extra". Doubtless it would be if it were attainable on terms favourable to US designs for the country. But the point is, if those responsible for the war, either directly or indirectly, insist that liberating Iraqis is an "added extra", then this merely obviates the ideological reasons for shifting the argument for war from the primary to the secondary justification. "Weapons of mass destruction" are proving elusive enough for Christopher Hitchens to start pretending he never insisted that Iraq DID have weapons of mass destruction ("Just you wait"), so what remains is Tony Blair's insistence that "we're getting rid of one of the most brutal, repressive, murderous regimes in this world's history" . Notice that Blair has also reversed the order of importance for the two justifications for war:
"It's regime change for a purpose and the purpose is not merely to stop the Iraqi people being killed literally in their thousands but also to make sure that he cannot continue developing the weapons programmes."
Blair must be aware that the case about WMDs is in absolute shreds. If the shrinks, quacks and hacks on "Inside the Mind of Tony Blair" on Channel Four last night are right, then TB selects and orders the facts to fit his case as any lawyer would. Most lawyers, of course, don't internalise their sophistries.
A final note on opinion polls - this is for my comrades. We know that our opponents use them disingenuously, and selectively. They ask the questions they want answered, and they ignore those which are uncomfortable for them (80% opposition to Blair's PFI schemes, for example). Additionally, they treat such information as a snapshot of material to be worked on, not as decisive. Public opinion is not sovereign in the UK any more than it is in Iraq, it is one of many factors in our rulers' calculations, something they will try to manipulate and adjust and then, perhaps, use to buttress the case for something they wanted to do anyway.
But we ought also to be beyond the stage of being unwilling to commit ourselves to a genuine Act, something which might alter the coordinates of the situation which produces a certain poll result or popular will, something which will retroactively justify itself. When France was occupied by the Nazis at an incomparably graver time, it is almost certain that most of the French would have voted for Marshall Petain given the chance to vote in a free election - this did not prevent the Resistance. Additionally, we know how cynically the Americans justified their invasion of Grenada, virtually defenseless island with a revolutionary regime in power. It was, they claimed, a projection of Russian power into the region. And at any rate, the Grenadans would be glad to be "liberated". Polls taken after the invasion showed that most Grenadans were glad that America had intervened and expelled the regime which had deposed their own chosen socialist leader. The US-backed forces won the elections. Do we therefore say that America was right to do it, regardless of their motive, and the cost in human life?
No, it is ridiculous to throw one's support behind an imperial power in the hope that its interests and intentions may just coincide with those of the people whom they are invading. Such coincidences are extremely rare, and also short-lived, Lebanon being an eloquent example. The only correct stance is to oppose the exercise of imperial power and fully accept the consequences of that. These interventions do not occur alone and cannot be judged alone. The invasion of Iraq is part of a so-called "War on Terror" and to judge it outside of the context of this project is to do a serious discourtesy to the facts.
The War on Terror, in both its proximate effects and theoretical explication, is a war for global domination - not by a benign hegemon (a "behemoth with a conscience" as Kagan calls it), but by a self-interested, hypocritical and violent state with a history of support for Third World Fascism. It must be opposed for what it is, not for what opinion polls say about it.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Blog Wars: Lies and Cambodia posted by Richard SeymourBlogger Beezlebozo's strained apologetics characteristically misrepresent what is common knowledge, as well as what is acknowledged by governments and agencies working in Cambodia.
Let's take a few of the more straightforward misrepresentations to begin with:
1) Bozo asserts that food aid extracted from the World Food Programme was given to "over 300,000 refugees on the Thai-Cambodian border".
According to Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, "20,000 to 40,000 Pol Pot guerillas benefitted" from this aid. (William Shawcross, "The Quality of Mercy...", 1984)
Bozo would argue that this was because "the Khmer Rouge effectively controlled some of the camps".
According to two US relief workers, Linda Mason and Roger Brown, "[t]he United States government insisted the Khmer Rouge be fed ... the US preferred that the Khmer Rouge operation benefit from the credibility of an internationally known relief organisation". (Linda Mason and Roger Brown, "Rice, Rivalry and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief", 1983).
In 1980, Dr Ray Cline, a former deputy director of the CIA and then foreign-policy adviser to president-elect Ronald Reagan, secretly visited Khmer Rouge bases in Thailand. Within a year, 50 CIA agents were in Thailand running the Cambodian operation. The connection between "relief efforts" and support for the Khmer Rouge was "made plain" at a meeting with staff members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee on February 10th, 1990, according to a former British Foreign Office official who had been there. Specifically, it was revealed that a Defense Intelligence Agency colonel, who functioned as a "security liaison officer" between the UN Border Relief Operation and the Displaced Persons Protection Unit, was a key link between the US government and the Khmer Rouge.
2) While acknowledging US support for the Khmer Rouge, Beezlebozo tries to attenuate the force of this appalling crime by suggesting that the support was really aimed at "non-communist" forces. The US was merely observing "the principle of non-intervention". Additionally, noone wanted to see Vietnam "swallow" Cambodia.
I won't elaborate on the transparent absurdity of claiming that the US has ever observed "the principle of non-intervention" in Indochina, but if anyone takes this business about Vietnam "swallowing" Cambodia seriously, they need only look at the diplomatic record. Vietnam was perfectly prepared to accept the return of the former regime, sans Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, and they said so openly on two consecutive years. (Nayan Chanda, Far Eastern Economic Review, 1st November, 1984; 7th November, 1985). Vietnam had been under attack from the Khmer Rouge regime, yet were willing to admit its return so long as two individual mass murderers were not included. This, of course, was unacceptable to the US and the "international community" who supported them, specifically to Deng Xiaoping of China who wanted to "bleed" Vietnam by forcing them into a long war.
But let's ponder over the pretense that US and UK support was directed toward "non-communist" forces (presumably meaning democratic forces or ones not as inclined to mass murder).
In fact, when the US and China, backed by Singapore, invented the Coalition of the Democratic Government of Kampuchea, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was placed in charge of a Khmer Rouge dominated movement. Thaoum Prasith, a personal friend of Pol Pot, continued to speak for Cambodia.
Bozo would doubtless assert that the report of the US Congress in 1991 "proves" that US support did not extend to the Khmer Rouge because there is no evidence that "the NCR (Non-Communist Resistance) and the Khmer Rouge have been fighting as an integrated force. Nor is there evidence that the NCR has been fighting under Khmer Rouge command. Nor is there evidence that the senior leaderships of the NCR and the Khmer Rouge are cooperating in strategic planning."
It is, however, impossible to take this seriously. According to James Pringle of the Far Eastern Economic Review, "[b]oth Sihanouk's armyand Son Sann's KPNLF are completely discounted in Phnom Penh... 'All they do is sit drinking coca-cola on the border' said one well-informed Soviet-bloc dissident."
Meanwhile, "[t]rucks loaded with men and boys, 150 or 200 at a time, pull away from settlements controlled by the Khmer Rouge and rumble into Cambodia". Supplies were "brought into the Cambodian interior to stockpile supplies for the Khmer Rouge".
Holbrooke was certain that US aid would "end up going to Pol Pot and his people".
Dith Pran, upon whom "The Killing Fields" was based, protested that US policy was "like putting gasoline on a fire", while the State Department insisted that the Khmer Rouge coalition had to be supported because of its "continuity" with the Pol Pot regime. (Pringle, FEER, 25th February, 1988; Barbara Crossette, New York Times, 2nd April 1988; Elizabeth Becker, Washington Post, 22nd May 1983; see also David Hawk's letter to the FEER, 2nd August 1984, which is accompanied by a picture of Alexander Haig "meeting, drink in hand, a smiling Ieng Sang" in New York; John Holdridge, State Department, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 97th Congress, 2nd session, 14th September 1982).
Apart from the above, we have film evidence showing Sihanoukists and Khmer Rouge troops attacking a village, looting it, and even filming themselves doing it. ("Cambodia, Year Ten", Central Television, 1989).
John Pedler, the afore-mentioned Foreign Office official, swore an affidavit in Rome, 14th June 1991, which told anyone interested that "Sihanouk's forces carry out joint operations with the Khmer Rouge, as I was personally able to confirm when I visited Kompong Thom in central Cambodia. I was in that province when the last remnant of the Sihanoukist forces involved in a joint operation with the Khmer Rouge..."
On 28th February, 1991, the Whitehouse dropped the egg. Bush admitted to Congress that theree had been "tactical military cooperation" between "non-communist" Cambodian forces and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. (Washington Post, 28th February, 1991).
US and UK support for the Khmer Rouge did not end with guns, training, money, good, diplomatic and political favour or intelligence. No, it also included a hefty disinformation campaign on its behalf.
This began when the CIA released its infamous "demographic report" on Cambodia suggesting that Pol Pot hadn't anyone during the final two years of his regime. In fact, between 1977-8, more than half a million people were executed. (The Guardian, 6-7th October, 1989).
Meanwhile, during Congressional hearings in November 1989, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Solomon repeatedly refused to describe Pol Pot's crimes as genocidal. (Referenced at Hearings on Cambodia, the Asian and Pacific Subcommittee of the Houe Foreign Affairs Committee, Washington DC, 10th April 1991).
Congressman Stephen Solarz, one of the chief architects of US support for the Khmer Rouge, commended the "journalism" of one Nate Thayer as "brilliant", "sobre-minded", "well-informed". (Ibid) Thayer propagandised tirelessly for the Khmer Rouge. Refusing to submit to political correctness, he happily described the million or so people who died as a result of the Pol Pot regime as "displaced". Thayer assured audiences that although Pol Pot was responsible for some "objectionable" policies, it was directed only against a "section" of the population. He also told readers that the Khmer Rouge had the support of 20% of Cambodians, a claim he relayed directly from Pol Pot. (Nate Thayer, Washington Quarterly, Spring 1991).
In the UK, the Charity Commission, which is appointed by HM Government, was lobbied by the International Freedom Foundation, a far right lobby group, to censure Oxfam for its bias against the Khmer Rouge. Duly informed, the Commission accused Oxfam of having "prosecuted with too much vigour" its public education campaign against Pol Pot, and threatened them with the loss of their charity status. This achieved the desired result - silence, at a time when negotiations looked set to allow the Khmer Rouge back into Cambodia and everyone in the human rights community as well as in Cambodia, was terrified of what Pol Pot's men might do. (Ben Kiernan, "The Cambodian Genocide; issues and responses", 1990).
Even if it were true that US-UK support was directed at the "non-communist resistance" forces, this would hardly cover them in glory.
Prince Sihanouk, who as noted earlier was made head of the outfit, was in his time a brutal autocrat whose vicious policies contributed to the growth of the Khmer Rouge. The Washington Post described him as "the best hope for a decent and democratic Cambodia", (29th April, 1989), yet his past reflects an authoritarian self-regard mired in corruption and secret police brutality.
When Sihanouk was overthrown by the CIA and replaced with the even more brutal General Lon Nol, he called on his "children" to join Pol Pot's maquis. While he was alleged to be the "prisoner" of the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh when they took power, he was able as prisoner to catch a plane t New York and address himself t the UN General Assembly as Pol Pot's head of state. He told the UN that "a genuinely popular democracy" had been born in Cambodia, "a society without exploitation of man by man". (Official Records, UN General Assembly, 13th Session, 6th October 1975).
As an extra favour to the world's most loved mass murderers, he knocked out a few precious encomiasms in press conferences:
"The whole country is well fed... And they are very gay... I confess that the people seem to be quite happy with Pol Pot." (Press Conference, 7th January, 1979, cited in Ben Kiernan, "The Cambodian Genocide..." op cit.)
In 1990, Sihanouk assured US viewers that "[t]he Khmer Rouge are not criminals. They are patriots." (Peter Jennings Reporting, ABC News, 26th April, 1990). He was also kind enough to inform his journalist friend TD Smallman that he personally was not opposed to genocide. (Vanity Fair, April 1990).
And indeed, the Khmer Rouge were very grateful for this support for "the non-communist resistance". Flushed, Khien Samphan wrote two letters to Douglas Hurd congratulating him on his government's policy toward Cambodia. (Letter from J. Wilkins, South East Asia Department, Foreign Office, to C. Preece, 9th July 1991).
Prince Sihanouk, similarly overjoyed, told the press that "Cambodians were forced by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council ... to accept the return of the Khmer Rouge" who "in their hearts ... remain very cruel ... " (Reuter, 16th November, 1991; The Guardian, 20th November, 1991).
The reaction of the Cambodians to the "accords" which allowed for the return of Prince Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge is exemplified in the fate of Khiem Samphan. Samphan, returning to Cambodia, was beseiged at the top floor of his villa by a mob of angry Cambodians, some of whom had lost relatives to his regime's genocidal policies. They inflicted a head wound upon him, which sent him scampering to the bottom of a cupboard where he crouched, pouring blood on the floor, as they tore up his house chanting "Kill him! Kill him!".
Think about that, and also the gusto and vigour with which the US, UK, China and others worked to ensure that the Khmer Rouge and their allies could return to Cambodia. It is one of the most sickening episodes in the West's whole dealing with Cambodia. Absolutely sickening...
The worst atrocity to the truth inflicted by Beezlebozo is his lies about US bombing of Cambodia. After all, US support for the re-entry of the Khmer Rouge did not manage to claim hundreds of thousands of lives. The dropping of over a hundred thousand tonnes of bombs on Cambodia from 1969 to 1973 did.
Bozo claims that "[t]he commonly quoted 500,000+ figures for the war had actually been released by Pol Pot himself, and are without any validity."
In fact, the Finnish Inquiry Commission estimated that 600,000 people had died as a result of the bombing. Father Ponchaud put the figure at 800,000, although Chomsky and Herman pointed out that there was reason to believe Ponchaud may have exaggerated that toll, while the CIA's demographic study (cited above)tells us that "US government sources put the figure unofficially at 600,000 to 700,000".
Michael Vickery, using CIA estimates to arrive at a lower figure, suggests it might be closer to 500,000. (Michael Vickery, "Cambodia 1975-1982", 1984).
In addition to this, 2 million refugees were created (according to the Finnish Inquiry Commission) while deaths from starvation in Phnom Penh alone were running at 100,000 a year. (George Hildebrand and Gareth Porter, "Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution", 1976). Parenthetically, I would add that I am aware of these authors' Stalinist sympathies, but would hope that even authors with whom one disagrees are able to provide well-sourced, well-documented arguments as these two authors apparently do. An argument that dismisses them for being communists is not an argument at all.
Now, I'm only too happy to accept that all of the figures above could be wrong - but they are not figures "released by Pol Pot himself". That is a flagrant lie. There is a scholarly dispute over these numbers, as there is over the numbers killed by the Khmer Rouge. Vickery thinks Kiernan has placed the number too high, while Kiernan thinks Vickery has placed it too low. This is all within the scope of honest debate.
Why does Beezlebozo consistenly attempt to minimise the crimes of the US (and the UK and their allies)? He would not afford such treatment to any other power (except possibly for Israel).
Take, in closing, a few transparent lies of his on the reasons for US involvement: "the facts are that US was specifically fighting to prevent the communist victory in Indochina that Pilger and friends were cheering for".
I don't know why he supposes "Pilger and his friends" wanted the Khmer Rouge to win, but the greater wonder is that he describes enormous US bombing of Cambodia and South Vietnam as "support". What an Orwellian imagination! The dialectical twists and turns to which Bozo will resort in order to sanctify US crimes is truly mind-boggling, and reminiscent of the apologists for Stalinism, (I have met a few of these fuckers, so I know of which I speak). When Vietnam defends itself from Cambodian aggression, it is "aggression"; when the US bombs Indochina with extreme brutality for well over a decade, while sponsoring horrendous dictatorships, and killing a total of 3 million, it is called "support".
The lack of any sense of irony in these matters calls into question Beezlebozo's seriousness, if it were not already obvious that he is not arguing in good faith. As such, I have had enough of his feckless engineering of the truth to suit the ends of power. His ceaseless slander, distortion, evasion is commingled with ridiculous sanctimony, not hallmarks of an honest debater. I am therefore signing out of conversation with him for now.
Should anyone be fooled by Bozo's sleights of hand, I will naturally be only be too willing to set them straight.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Crucially, Kagan argues that Europe and America don't really agree on what the state of the world is or should be. The pretense that they do, a hangover from the Cold War, needs to be dropped if we are to understand present divergences of strategy. Europe's approach fundamentally derives from its weakness. Just as America was once "enamoured of this constraining egalitarian quality of international law" on account of its weakness and its liability to be kicked around by European powers, so Europe now wants to constrain other nations by rendering military power relatively unimportant compared to "soft" economic and political power. The changing opinions is a result, primarily, of two World Wars and one Cold War. The two world wars virtually destroyed the old European empires, three of them disintegrating in the first war, the rest collapsing not long after the second. The French and British were slowly forced to abandon old colonial property to the protective custody of the United States of America which had plucked "the torch of world leadership" from the "chilling hands" of the British. Europe, considerably weakened, feeling threatened by an emergent Russian empire on its Eastern borders and unable to project real power over any lengthy distance, relied upon America to underwrite the peace.
While the American government was eager for European countries to raise the military expenditure and share the burden of imperial power more equally, the European electorate would not sacrafice the social programmes or pay the additional taxes necessary to sustain this kind of investment. And while America was content to accept responsibility for the security and prosperity of the free world, Europe was content to abide its terms. Ostpolitik and gaullism were manifestations of the drive both toward independence and away from reliance on American protection which was seen as too confrontational, too willing to have a fight. Here, Kagan offers the first of his down-home analogies. Quoting a European official who says "[w]hen you have a hammer, all problems start to look like nails", retorts that "[t]his is true. But... [w]hen you don't have a hammer, you don't want anything to look like a nail."
American power renders one too punchy, European weakness renders the other too chickenshit. The analogy fails for two reasons. First, because hitting a nail with a hammer usually doesn't incur death or destruction of property. Second, because if Europe was so willing to entrust the security of the world to America, there is no need for them to be either in denial or weak-kneed. They've got the hardest man on their side, so they can do what the fuck they want. And the passages relating to US "willingness to assume responsibility for protecting other nations" referring to the Cold War and after, remind one of the vulgar refrains that "if it weren't for us, you'd all be speaking German". The reality is, quite naturally, the converse of what Robert Kagan implies. Europe, to be sure, was terrified of communist insurgency. In several European nations, quite sizeable majorities wanted to align with the Soviet Union rather than America, be it by joining the USSR (Greece) or simply forming strategic alliances with it (Italy). It was partially the actions of British and American interventions in subverting elections and killing partisan resistance (in Greece) that prevented this from happening. However, both the United States and Europe were perfectly well aware of the limited nature of Stalin's imperial ambitions (see John Lewis Gaddis, "The Origins of the Cold War", 1977) while it has latterly emerged that the partition of Germany resulted from American disregard for agreements as much as Russian perfidy (see a concise review in Gore Vidal, "Three Lies to Rule By", "Dreaming War", New York, 2003).
Since the end of the Cold War, European and American perspectives on the world have grown increasingly apart. Europe, it seems, has greater tolerance for "threats" posed by "rogue states". Europeans argue that this is because America has long been isolated from military incursions and genuine threats and therefore has an unreasonable aspiration toward "perfect security", whereas Europe has been through centuries of colonial war and has lived with evils right on its doorstep. They are therefore more relaxed about such threats. Kagan refutes this by pointing out that America has not been as immune to attack as some think. Not far back in their history, Americans were subject to being bullied around by Britain and France. On the other hand, Europe's colonial past suggests it has not always been as relaxed about "threats" or perceived "threats". The real difficulty for Europe is its own weakness, and its own inclination to seek "multilateral" agreement, not some cultural aversion to excessive militarism enjoined by bloody experience.
The trouble with Kagan's reasoning is, again, bifurcate. America may have once been subject to imperial aggression, but for a century it has lived without any serious threat of invasion from anyone. No nation has been as insulated from the consequences of great power politics than America. At the same time, we might again mention that if Europe is truly frightened to confront threats because of its own military weakness, then why not simply allow America to get on with it? Why confront America at all, be it in the UN Security Council or elsewhere? And Kagan writes for all the world as if many of the "threats" he alludes to are not the direct or indirect consequences of US geopolitical strategy since 1945. Need we recite the roll call? Need we demonstrate again how General Suharto was a "nail" not qualitatively different from Saddam Hussein? Are the differences anything other than circumstantial?
The reality of American power and European weakness is, according to Kagan, obscured by such "facile" assertions as that common refrain that "America can't go it alone". On the contrary, he argues, America can and does go it alone. If it weren't for this fact, there would be no endless discussions on the problem of "US unilateralism". America has objectively more interest in using its power, even though it would prefer to work with allies, while Europe has more interest in the straitjacket of international law. Again, however, his analogy fails him.
Think of a bear in the woods. Now, the guy with the knife is less likely to want to tackle this threat than the guy with the gun. The former sees more risk in tackling the bear, while the latter sees more risk in letting the bear stroll around. Now, that analogy would work if only he stipulated that the guy with the gun and the guy with the knife live in well-built, fenced, alarmed and secured mansions hundreds of miles away from the forest, while the bear has his own fish to fry.
Kagan's vulgar apologetics don't stop with his feeble analogies. Here he is on Kosovo:
"Americans had a compelling moral interest in stopping genocide and ethnic cleansing". (Page 50)
On US power:
"The United States is a behemoth with a conscience... Americans do not argue, even to themselves, that their actions may be justified by raison d'etat... [T]o the extent that Americans believe in power, they believe it must be a means of advancing the principles of a liberal civilisation and a liberal world order." (Page 41)
On the EU vs the US:
"Europeans hope to contain American power... by appealing to its conscience." (Page 41).
Without rehearsing what is a simple matter of record, let's take the last quote first. It is a consistent theme of Kagan's that a) Europeans have shown little to no interest in taking steps to form a military counter-power to the US and b) this is because they know America is a benevolent power rather than an imperial aggressor, who will defend them and to whose conscience they can always appeal. The compounding theme is that America's matchless capacity to project force over long distances renders it totally unnecessary for it to take any heed of the Europeans or anyone else. America can go it alone and does go it alone.
Yet, on page 52, Kagan acknowledges that Europeans have attempted to counter US power with military power of their own via the 60,000 strong European Defense Force. He acknowledges too that the reason this hasn't reached any fruition is not solely Europe's belief in America's benevolence; it is also about the nature of the nation-states involved, their different experiences and tendencies. However, his crucial argument is that Europe does not really feel threatened in the world, because whatever global threats exist are more than taken care of by America. If they really felt threatened, they would overcome EU regulations and national differences.
Perhaps. But perhaps the Europeans are accurate in their surmisal that no genuine threats presently exist. America, while it does destabilise the world through its relentless imperial campaigns, is unlikely to bomb such a valued trading partner as Europe. So, it isn't necessary to believe in America's munificence for European governments to conclude that high defense spending is unnecessary and more of a risk internally than a safeguard externally.
Nevertheless, this is the formula to which Kagan repeatedly returns. The Europeans can only enjoy their "postmodern Paradise", their Kantian world of perpetual peace, because the United States continues to live in the Hobbesian world in which force is the only way to deter brutal enemies. It is necessary for a double standard to operate. The US is the protecter of "the West" and cannot be constrained as it stands at the gates. The Europeans live behind the walls, stable and secure and all the US asks in return is that they do not attempt to restrain the US through legal or other means in their operations... This is all rather fanciful. Kagan is perfectly well aware that there has rarely been a murderous dictator that the US has not backed, or an invasion in which the US has not had a hand, or a coup that was not sponsored by them. He worked for the State Department from 1984 to 1996, and was involved in policy toward Nicaragua upon which he has written a deeply dishonest book. In that sense, Kagan fits perfectly into the mould that Chomsky described in "The Backroom Boys", the urbane, authoritative intellectual who poses as a "problem-solver" and a fixer. Divorced from the reality of what their actions entail, it is easy enough for them to sound like hard-headed realists when they talk about the need to overcome moral squeamishness about this or that murderous policy.
This book has two agendas, which it is quite open about. One is that the EU should drastically increase its share of defense spending and sacrafice crippling "social programmes" to do so. The other is that the EU would then be less likely to complain about US policy if it had a similar "strategic purview" provided by increased military strength, and that they should therefore shut their yaps until they're ready to be drawn back out into the "Hobbesian world". He doesn't say that the US will go broke if it tries to sustain the Empire on its own, and therefore they need the European Union - the only likely strategic ally - to help out with the rent.
This is where his triumphalism fails. He believes the EU cannot constrain America - noone can. Yet, here we are, and America is begging for international assistance in Iraq. It is begging for European help, and all it gets is France saying Iraq must be given to the Iraqis. Shee-ut! Don't they know it's a Hobbesian world out there? If you give people their country back, you don't know WHAT they might do!
Kagan lives in a moral universe light years from the rest of humanity. Indeed, one often wonders if he even inhabits the same physical universe. But I can heartily recommend this book as a useful insight into prevalent neoconservative thought in America, provided it is supplemented with a barrel or two of salt. It is at least honest about what the US intends, and if we extricate his arguments from the useless self-exculpating pap with which he pads out his polemic, we can clearly perceive a few deadly trends in policy, as well as a few of the optical illusions which will be used to justify them.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Each human life, of course, is not precious. Under capitalism, a human life is worth only what it costs to buy the bullet. It goes without saying that a society which makes it easy and cheap for people to kill values human life less than those which do not. American society does not value human lives, even if Americans do. Two years after the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and the accomplished facts of Bush Jnr's warmongering make it impossible to believe that this is an administration that values human lives very much, if at all.
Those Americans who have shown demonstrable regard for life by protesting death-dealing policies have been vilified up and down the press, tarred with every brush, associated with every guilt and every crime, slandered in the most perniciously creative ways. This is normal practise. Millions of Americans tune in to watch Bill O'Reilly hypocritically and quite obscenely abusing the son of a 9/11 victim; well-heeled readers of the Atlantic Monthly and the Observer get to read Christopher Hitchens lavishing scorn on his former comrades, implying that they are either Stalinist apparatchiks, bin Laden sympathisers, or childlike simpletons; pasty white cops with Balloo-the-Bear physiques lay into protesters in New York.
Most sickeningly of all, the Bush administration is all silken smirks as it exploits the dead to wage war. They indulge Russia using 9/11 as an excuse for their oppression of the Chechens and it isn't even a question whether Israel is going to find a way to pin this on the Palestinians. It is now known that Rumsfeld's first reaction to this event was to demand intelligence information to link the attacks to Iraq. Even as the bodies were being torn from the rubble, and heroic New Yorkers were ferrying millions across the river, away from danger, in a quite spontaneous moment of mass rationality, the Bush administration was looking for ways to exploit their political capital.
It is usually the case that when terrorist attacks occur, political capital accrues to the right. The instinct is to preserve the status quo against this irruption, not to see the irruption as constitutive of the status quo. The only situations where terrorist attacks impart moderation are those where the terrorist attackers are stronger than the nation attacked - for example, Libya has been subject to a long and relentless campaign of terrorist attacks coordinated by the American secret services, and yet today it is so desperate for an end to economic blockade and diplomatic solitude that it is handing out compensation money to victims of a crime for which it does not even take responsibility. Cuba cannot be far behind.
In this sense, the only authentic act of memory that took place in New York on September 11th 2003 was when hundreds of those attending raised their hands into the air and made the "peace" sign. Their action, while perfectly visible in the news video reel, was never referred to or explained. But it needs no explanation. Their moral integrity is untouchable even by disgusting mediocre hacks like Bill O'Reilly. Christopher Hitchens would shudder and down a malt whisky or two before dispensing some of his elevating invective on the relatives of the dead on whose behalf he claims to be battling. Dignity demands that we put a stop to idiots exploiting the dead for their own tacky merchandise - be that little glass jars with steel twin towers in them, Mount Rushmore-style carved heads on a couple of pewter twin towers, polemical works of near-fiction by fat ex-lefties or dreary wall-to-wall bullshit from the televisual wing of Murdoch International.
There is a time and a place for sanctimony, and this is it. The record of the political right since New York's tragedy has been disgusting, hypocritical and, worst of all, unbearably smug. For these and other reasons, what was initially a political triumph for neoconservatives deserves to become their political ground zero.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
The Stars Fell to Earth... posted by Richard SeymourWell, I checked the astrological columns for September 11th 2001, and not one of them said "stay away from aircraft and large buildings". I think that's a pretty big omission. Theodor Adorno, in "The Stars Down to Earth", was the first to systematically analyse the "horoscope columns". He argued that while the columns were carefully calibrated to suit a particular audience (for instance, the Metro's Metroscope by David Wells often refers to problems "at the workplace" or "with colleagues", the convenient assumption being that if there are unemployed Libras out there, they don't hang around train stations at the early hours of morning to pick up their copy of the Metro), the columns nevertheless constructed an ideal addressee. The addressee was "a superior person", involved in important decisions. While educational qualifications were rarely invoked, the addressee's "unique gifts", "personal charm" and "magnetism" were usually referred to.
The individual reader was instructed to resolve problems by delving into her own resources. At the same time, she was powerless because her fate was determined by the stars. In fact, the astrological columns confer "metaphysical dignity" on the impersonal social forces which negatively impact lives by attributing them to movements in the cosmos. The individual will be just fine, it is implied, provided she is aware of the inevitability of events and moves to adjust herself to reality accordingly. In this way, social conformity is encouraged.
Osama bin Laden's doe-eyed deadliness, just as much as George Bush's feckless aggression, is written in the stars. I thought it would be instructive to see what the stars were telling us today on the second anniversary of the attacks on America. It seems that there is a general recognition that these are worrying times.
"The past few days have been tense enough..." Shelly von Strunckel tells Librans in the Evening Standard. Metro's David Wells tells the same group "It's time for a little subterfuge". It would seem, in fact, that readers are likely to be nervouce wrecks, who need assurance and calming down. Von Strunckel assures Capricorn that although "nothing exasperates you more than being faced with somebody who refuses to discuss matters rationally", the "current mood will increase your compassion."
David Wells tells his Leo readers: "Be ready to give someone a concise and well reasoned answer when they ask you how things are going. Drama is not required here."
If necessary, seek solace: "Trust your gut reaction in... buying a new pair of shoes just because someone upsets you!" (Wells).
The tone of most horoscopes today is soothing, calming.
"Complete conviction is dangerous... so relax, the rest will come..." Jonathan Cainer tells Cancerians. Virgo is similarly instructed: "You need to be optimistic..." Scorpio needs to relax and "Let a gentler voice be heard today..." Capricorn "ought to be planning optimistically". Aquarius is lauded for "being very brave", and is now preparing herself "for a moment of triumph".
Others are offered little personal tips to resolve any stress they're having. Wells tells Gemini to "polish up a people problem".
Astrology.com starts the Bush Presidential campaign, telling Scorpios, "Benevolent despots show why they deserve to be in power". Scorpio shouldn't worry because "The pleasure principle is tilting the day in your favor."
Sally Brompton in the New York Post tells her fellow city-dwellers to "throw yourself into your work and your social life", but "don't push yourself too hard" because "Health is more important now than ambition." To Scorpios inclined to argumentative behaviour, she urges: "You don't have to believe what your friends believe, but you do have to listen politely when they try to explain their point of view. Good manners cost nothing. " Capricorn is being watched by her superiors, so she'd better "smarten up and really make a good impression."
And finally, people are urged to adopt stoical faith and a wariness of others in the face of troubles:
Von Strunckel tells Aquarius: "If you think others are wrong, stick to your guns", while Sally Brompton tells Post reading Aquarians that "Happiness and security can never be found through other people". She tells Pisces that "Today's Mercury-Pluto aspect will give you just the right amount of ruthlessness to cut the ties that bind and free yourself from those who do not share your aims and ideals. "
Leo is told: "No matter how much you may trust the people you deal with, don't agree to anything unless you have solid guarantees. Better still, don't agree to anything at all."
The addressee is encouraged to be assertive but not argumentative; friendly but not trusting; vigorous and impressive but not overstretching it. In the face of stresses imposed by the external world, refuge and subterfuge is encouraged. Seek solace, take it easy, the people at the top know what they're doing and you'd better impress them, people around you are untrustworthy and unreliable, the world is a hostile frightening place in which the only way to survive is to conform absolutely and completely to the etiquette and requirements of the workplace.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
If anyone is having any doubt remembering the duplicity of the arguments that were supposed to carry us all to the brink of war with a heroically stiffened spine and a stout heart, let me bring you back to one of the seminal publications on the matter of Iraq. It's author, John Chipman, has been and will continue to be seen in news studios across the land.
From October 2002:
For once, a government spokesperson was both completely honest and right on the money. This is an occassion meriting pause for contemplation, not only because of the rarity of such incidences, but also because of the subject matter. For it referred to the defining axis of contemporary events. The evil one.
To elaborate, (only briefly, mind), on Monday the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released a report which bravely informed the world that Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Not only is he a bad man, but he apparently has the tools with which to be bad - *very* bad!
It is said in the report, (which could hardly be impugned for headline grabbing), that Saddam Hussein could build a nuclear bomb within months. The one important clause being that some foreign power with access to weapons-grade uranium would have to be kind enough to supply him with some. Hussein's evil intent can hardly be questioned, and certainly not when confronted with the serene, learned face of John Chipman, head of the IISS.
Chipman, for those who haven't been introduced to him, is a Dr. He is also a CMG, an honour bestowed by Her Majesty to the best and brightest, (and which, lowly civil servants joke, stands for "Call Me God"). He studied (and fenced) at Harvard and Oxford, emerging with several MAs with distinctions, one M.Phil and one D.Phil. One year more and he could have had a Re.Phil. His star has soared in the establishment firmament. Apart from being married to the lovely daughter of the 10th Duke of Rutland, Lady Theresa (nee Manners), he was also a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation. He has been a NATO Fellow of the IISS before climbing the ladder of licked arseholes and becoming Director. The man is a legend, and you've never even heard of him.
Actually, the IISS (remember, an *independent* think-tank) is packed to the rafters with these ruling class types. The Assistant Director, for example, is Steven Simon, a former member of the US National Security Council, where he was Senior Director for Transnational Threats, (receiving them, one assumes, rather than delivering them). He also worked for the State Department. Senior Fellow for International Affairs, Nicholas Maclean is a consummate elitist, a man who graduated from Oxford with a rather meagre Honours Degree in Philosophy and Economics before going out into the real world and taking directorships in such companies as Prudential Asia Ltd. He has also worked for Midland Bank Group and has been a Chatham House Council Member... etc. etc. etc.
In other words, in the IISS, we have as clear a cross-section as one could get of the emerging global ruling class. And not a CNDer in sight.
Well, you've met the gang, now let's get back to what they have to say! According to today's report, Saddam *could* build a nuclear weapon, supposing another country with said material was charitable enough to sell it to him. In fact, according to the IISS, Saddam has sacraficed every other policy objective at the altar of acquiring a big, rather useless, nuclear weapon. If this is so, (and who are we to doubt their word), he must intend his own obliteration. As suicides go, it's one of the greats. They also point out that he has chemical agents such as VX gas and biological weapons like anthrax, (which must explain why the UN sanctions prevent the import of even such apparently harmless objects as pens and envelopes into Iraq).
It would be foolish to tire you with my own thoughts on the importance of this information. Therefore, let me tire you with someone else's thoughts on this information, as described by the BBC:
Paul Beaver, of Jane's Defence Weekly, said the report was the best compilation of the facts he had seen.
"But there's nothing new here, no killer fact that makes me believe that we should go to war tomorrow," added Mr Beaver.
And lenin loves Beaver.
So, if there's nothing new in this report, why is it that the government is crowing so? According to the Beeb, "Downing Street has described as 'highly significant' a report from an independent think tank saying Iraq could produce a nuclear bomb within months." Not as "highly significant", we would hope, as the 'dossier' of evidence against Saddam Hussein that our PM claims to have in his back pocket. (I don't know about you, but I think I've just figured out what happened to the manuscript of Jeffrey Archer's latest novel).
Regarding said dossier, I should add that Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said debate continued about how much could be put into the dossier without jeopardising intelligence sources. Or, to put it another way, they're trying to decide how much falsity and half-truth they can slip in there without being caught.
The spokesman then proceeds, and I want you to pay very close attention to the literal meaning of these words:
"This is clearly a very serious piece of work. It has been produced without any access to intelligence materials."
Perhaps the best criticism I can render at this point is to offer it up to the reader's judgment.
We are then warned against "language fatigue" when it comes to talk of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction owned by a rabid dictator who hates Western values and has used weapons against his *own* people, yes, his *own* people, and who has been building up nuclear weapons, or trying to, or might have been, and who, let's not forget, has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Well, that could be code for saying "just remember how shit-scared you all were when we first brought this stuff up twelve years ago before all the Arms to Iraq scandals", but to say so would be utterly cynical. "We're obviously not talking about washing powder here," the spokesman added, just to clarify his point.
In case anyone is unaware of just how much of a threat Saddam Hussein poses, let us recall the words of Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM weapons inspector:
Ritter wrote in Arms Control Today (June 2000 – hereafter ACT) that by 1998, Iraq ‘no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring’. Ditto Iraq’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. (ACT)
‘By the end of 1998, Iraq had, in fact, been disarmed to a level unprecedented in modern history’ and ‘as long as monitoring inspections remained in place, Iraq presented a WMD-based threat to no-one’ (ACT).
Now there are plenty of reasons to distrust someone like Scott Ritter. For one thing, he's American, and you can't trust those people. For another, he's American. More importantly, he voted for George W. Bush as President and consequently belongs to a small minority of antidemocratic extremists. However, others are also sceptical about just how big and scary Hussein's weapon is.
Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the new UN weapons inspection agency which has replaced UNSCOM, has said he ‘does not accept as fact the US and UK’s repeated assertions that Baghdad has used the time to rebuild its weapons of mass destruction’: ‘"It would be inappropriate for me to accept and adopt this position, but it would also be naïve of me to conclude that there may be no veracity – of course it is possible, I won’t go as far as saying probable," Mr Blix said.’ (Financial Times, 7 Mar. 2002, p. 20)
As far as nuclear weaponry goes, Ritter points out that the ‘massive infrastructure’ Iraq had built up in its nuclear weapons programme ‘had been eliminated by 1995’ by the IAEA. Even if some components have been retained, ‘it would be of no use to Iraq given the extent to which Iraq’s nuclear program was dismantled by the IAEA’. (ACT)
Entirely irresponsible claims to be making at this time, I am sure, but they nonetheless make me wonder if Hussein really is "the new Adolf Hitler" as any member of the "Enemy of the Month Club" must be before gaining admittance.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
ZIONISM: The Wonder Years. posted by Richard SeymourRoll film.
Int: Day. The office of Zadoc Khan, Chief Rabbi of France. Zadoc sits at his desk, tears open a letter decorated with supremely eloquent handwriting, and begins to read. His muttering to himself is slowly accompanied by a voice-over, to be recognised as the voice of Yusuf Zia al-Khalidi, the author of the letter. A narrator explains the context.
al-Khalidi: (v.o.) In the name of God, leave Palestine in peace!
Narrator: Zadoc Khan, the Chief Rabbi of France and good friend of Theodor Herzl, received a letter from the Mayor of Jerusalem, Yusuf Zia al-Khalidi in 1889. al-Khalidi, a former deputy in the Ottoman parliament, begged the Zionists to reconsider their apparent designs on Palestine. Granting the integrity of the Zionist ideal -
al-Khalidi: God knows, historically it is indeed your own country!
Narrator: - he nevertheless suggested tha it might be problematic because Palestine was already inhabited. The Zionists would encounter an epic uprising if they tried to make their state in Palestine.
Zadoc stands at his desk, takes the letter and places it inside another envelope. Hastily scribbling an explanatory note, he pops it into the envelope and prints in large lettering on the outer "FAO: Theodor Herzl"...
When Theodor Herzl, the grandpappy of political Zionism replied to al-Khalidi, it was with reassurances and soothing unction. The Arabs had "nothing to fear" from Jewish immigration. The Jews would bring their civilisation and raise the quality of life for their Arab brothers. They were not backed by some "belligerent Power", and were not of a "warlike nature". (Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, H111 d 14, 1st March, 1889)
Herzl, however, was aware that an influx of interlopers into Palestine would "end badly...unless based on assured supremacy", which could only come through statehood. (Theodor Herzl, "The Jewish State", page 29). Herzl told his diaries that to this end, the Zionists would have to acquire the land of their choice by force. He himself was indifferent to where that land should be, but the prevalent opinion among Zionists was that Palestine was the homeland to which centripetal forces would drive the Jewish people. (Herzl, "Besammelte, Zionistiche Schriften", Volume I, page 114). To expedite this process, he sought the assistance of the imperial powers of the age. For instance, in 1901 he travelled to Constantinople seeking the establishment of a Jewish-Ottoman Colonisation Association in Palestine. He sought to agree the rudiments of a draft charter, Article Three of which would have granted the Jews the right to deport the native population. Many of the continuing themes of Zionism are evident here, the latter of which is rendered starkly eloquent by the Sharonist plans to "transfer" Palestinians across the Jordanian and Syrian borders under the cover of war on Iraq, while securing as much of the Occupied Territories for Greater Israel as possible. (Adolf Bohm, "Die Zionistiche Bewegung", 1935, page 706).
Dissimulation was a crucial part of this project, as it often is when political projects involve the acquiescence or active involvement of people who are sure to lose out from the fulfillment of the ideal. Maz Nordau, a close associate of Herzl, wrote that it was he who had coined the term "Heimstatte" (Homeland):
"I did my best to persuade the advocates of the Jewish state in Palestine that we might find a circumlocution... I suggested "Heimstatte" as a synonym for 'state'... to us it signified "Judenstaat" (Jewish state) and it signifies the same now..." (Christopher Sykes, "Two Studies in Virtue", 1953).
The Zionist project began in earnest in 1882, with the first 'Aliyah' or wave of immigration. At this time there were already 24,000 Jews in Palestine, mainly elderly indigents seeking expiry in the holy land. The new generation of migrants, while not devotees of the Herzlian grand narrative, were nevertheless "Lovers of Zion", intent on founding agricultural settlements as a refuge from East European and Russian anti-semitism. From 1882 to 1914, the Jewish population in Palestine rose to 85,000 - dropping again to 56,000 as a result of the Great War. The reaction of Palestinians, of whom 75% were land-bound peasants, was one of apprehension: "Is it true that the Jews want to retake this country?" villagers were said to have asked Albert Antebi, an official of the Jewish Colonial Association. (Sami Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest", 1967; L. Oliphant, "Haifa, or Life in Modern Palestine", 1887; Neville Mandel, "Turks, Arabs and Jewish immigration into Palestine, 1882-1914", St Antony's Papers, "Middle Eastern Affairs", 1965).
Peasants were usually not present when their land was being sold off to the settlers, and often their first inkling of a sale was when the estate agents turned up to have a butchers and stake out the land. Consequently, one of the first examples of Palestinian resistance as when some estate agents observing the land recently purchased from the Sursock family of Beirut suddenly had the shit kicked out of them by angry villagers. Settlements and colonies were frequently attacked, harrassed, robbed and viciously made fun of. One notorious example of Zionist arrogance and Palestinian hostility was the Hadera settlement. Moshe Smilansky, a writer from the time, describes the enthusiasm of newly arrived immigrants for this land upon hearing that it had been secured. Why, they wondered, was the land called "Hadera"? One experienced settler suggested it may be related to "the blackwater fever which the Arabs claim prevails in that district". The others were not frightened by "Arab tales". They were not Arabs, and they would "find some way of putting an ened to the Malaria".
The land, when the settlers arrived, was awash with swamps, from whence the Malaria originated. The settlers, unperturbed, insisted that they need not take their "cue from barbarians!" They planted a vineyard, sowed wheat, worked the land and proceeded to kick the bucket in droves. Just as the survivors were about to chuck in the towel, however, Baron de Rothschild - the millionaire philanthropist - threw a few wads of cash their way. They hired "hundreds of black labourers from Egypt" to dig ditches for drainage, scores of whom also bit the cracker. As the settlement got on its feet, locals developed a colossal hump. Where the bloody hell were they going to pasture their sheep and graze their cows now that the land was taken? Fortunately for the settlers, the Turkish rulers sent some coppers over to knock the locals about and prevent any further disturbance. ("Hadera", Jewish National Fund Library No 2, Tel Aviv, 1935).
Colonialism, exploitation, brute violence, racism and the buttress of imperial power. Everything Herzl had promised would not be proved the most constant and enduring features of Zionism, crystalised in Hadera, the swampland.
Nevertheless, these early settlers were casual rather than doctrinaire in their racism. They did establish profitable, and sometimes convivial, relations with the Arabs. As each settlement overcame resistance and established itself as a "fact on the ground", Arabs were willing to reconcile themselves to its presence. (Mandel, op cit.) However, the next wave of immigrants were more ideological, armed with Herzl and Hebrew, spurred by antisemitism. The Jewish National Fund, established in 1901, stipulated that all lands bought with its cash were to remain the inalienable property of the Jewish state. According to the migrants, only Jews should own the land and only Jews should work the land. The drive to establish Hebrew-only labour was not always successful. Dr Ruppin, the first head of the Zionist bureau in Palestine, records in his memoirs that he should have liked to build Tel Aviv without Arab involvement, but he soon found their low wages - ahem! - experience invaluable.
The second generation of settlers were also socialists, or at least blended nationalism and socialism at a time when it did not seem such a lethal brew. Agricultural communities were erected in which only Jews were entitled to participate. Histradut, the Hebrew trade union, did not allow non-Jewish members. Indeed, two of their key aims were to protect Jewish labour on the one hand, and Jewish commerce on the other. Arabs were not to be allowed to sell in Jewish areas, or work on Jewish land if avoidable. The reasoning was that Arabs were peasants, only a "potential proletariat" to whom "the international brotherhood of the workers" did not apply. These enlightening sobriquets, combining mutilated Marxism and condescending colonial attitudes, expressed both the noble aspirations and the base goals of the Zionist conquerors. (Ro'i Yaacov, "The Zionist Attitude to the Arabs, 1908-14", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol IV, April 1968). The Arabs, at any rate , would benefit from their presence. So argued these migrants, Herzl before them, and Ben Gurion after.
The genesis of what Uri Avneri calls "gun Zionism" may be the founding of a group called "Hashomer" (The Guardian - a felicitous appellation as it turns out). The aim of this outfit was initially to replace Arab guards with Jewish guards, because after all it was Jewish property, and... In 1909, a secret organisation was founded, among whose luminaries was future President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben Zvi. Ben Gurion was among the first to acknowledge the inevitability of the militarisation of the Zionist presence in Palestine. In this world, he said, only force could win the argument. No argument has determinacy which is between friends. Armed foes settle much more quickly, with the vanquishment or death of one, and victory of the other.
The response of the Palestinians, aside from sporadic attacks on settlements, had been to seek the succour of the imperial master in Turkey, the Sublime Porte in Constantinople. They submitted petitions demanding the end of the Jewish influx and acquisition of their land. However, one thing that made Zionist militarisation inevitable was the growth and increasing success of the Palestinian resistance. The area of land relinquished by small farmers from 1891 to 1900 had represented 42.7% of the total. But that figure fell to a mere 4.3% from 1900 to 1914. The bulk of the land that the Zionists were able to acquire had to come from absentee landlords. The Sursock family, for instance, had purchased huge tracts of land from the Ottomans at knock-down prices, and then sold it to the Jewish settlers at ten times the original cost. Suddenly, the London housing market seems quite rational.
Another way in which Palestinian resistance developed was in the organisation of a Palestinian opposition,. Najib Nassar, a Christian from Haifa, said that the best response to Zionism was to mirror its purpose, skill and organisational zeal. Herzl, he said, had united a scattered people in just fifteen years, with a purpose, a doctrine and some apparently attainable goals. They had bought the best land in Palestine, and opened banks to finance the farmers on it. The Arabs, he said, could only win if they did likewise. From essentially apolitical eruptions of violence, the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist colonisers grew to become the core political issue in the country by 1914. Not just peasants, but small traders and professionals began to organise against the Zionists. The small traders in particular saw the incoming Zionists as potentially devastating commercial competitors.
Najib Nassar published a paper called Carmel, in which he began to document the genesis and goals of the Zionist movement. He was also instrumental in building a vigilante organisation which would attend ports and harbours, ensuring strict enforcement of immigration restrictions. And while some smaller Arab nationalist parties, such as the Decentralisation Party, sought compromise with the Zionists, the prevalent response was that the settlers should be fought with every energy and vigour available. Even if the moderates had represented the majority, the Zionists wanted no part of it. An agreement with the moderates would have involved the Zionists explaining "as far as possible by producing documentary evidence, the aims and methods of Zionism..." The Zionists were not up for that, since they saw little to negotiate over and were unwilling to lay bare the extent of their aims. They procrastinated and in the end were saved by the First World War.
The war proved a massive opportunity for the Zionists. The Ottoman empire was collapsing, and lands taken from them would be divided up among the victorious powers. Joseph Trumpeldor and Vladimir Jabotinsky created the Zion Mule Corps, a Jewish fighting unit which served with the British at Galipoli. Toward the end of the war, Jabotinsky also formed "The Jewish Legion", four battalions of Royal Fuseliers, 5,000-strong, fighting under the Union Jack. In developing the military strength and dexterity of the Zionist footsoldiers, both Jabotinsky and Aaron Aaronsohn hoped to created a military force capable of crushing the Palestinians, while at the same time breaking the sterile Gentile myth about the passive Jew. Jews, they wanted to prove, could be strongmen too. Jabotinsky, one of the most famous 'revisionist' Zionists of the time, was an unabashed reactionary, admirer of Mussolini and anti-Arab racist. He formulated the "Iron Wall" doctrine, in which he recognised that the Palestinians would never accede to the Jewish state unless they were FORCED to. Therefore, the Jews should build a vast, military 'iron wall' that would crush the Palestinian resistance until they HAD to negotiate. (Avi Shlaim, "The Iron Wall", 2001). Alexander Aaronsohn remarked that "[t]he Arab is a cunning fellow whose only respect is for brute force. He exercises it himself for every possible victim and expects the same treatment from his superiors." (Alex Aaronsohn, "With the Turks in Palestine", 1917). These 'revisionist' Zionists were more doctrinaire in their contempt for the Arab population, and also more willing to accept the human cost that would come with their project to sieze Palestine.
Official Zionism, exemplified by the skilled diplomat Chaim Weizmann, was contemptuous of the revisionists. For, while Jabotinsky et al prepared for conflict, Weizmann negotiated painstakingly with the imperial powers to achieve what Herzl had been unable to: an international power agreeing the framework for a Jewish state in Palestine.
Two documents emerged in the war years, one in 1916 the other in 1917. The first was the Sykes-Picot agreement, in which Russia, Britain and France agreed to divvy up the Middle East between them. This document was made public by the Bolshevik hell-raisers, causing enormous embarrassment for the British who had made promises to "recognise and support" the independence of the Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq. The second document, somewhat of an extension of the first but much more significant, was the Balfour Declaration. 117 words long, the letter composed by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild stands as the most significant piece of literature written on the subject of Palestine before the inception of Israel. It expresses the British government's sympathy with the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish homeland, provided "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the extisting non-Jewish communities in Palestine".
Balfour had been Prime Minister at a time when Jewish immigraton was restricted by the Aliens Act (not a theatrical production). Jewish refugees had been the apparent target of riots and protest in London. The Declaration was therefore a fruit of both the meticulous diplomacy of the Zionists, who deserve credit for the framing and wording of the document, and also the British desire to get Jews to migrate to Jaffa rather than London. Weizmann was careful to avoid letting this document be interpreted in public as the basis of a Jewish state. Homeland, certainly, but not statehood. And he warned the revisionists that they should not violate "the legitemate rights of Arabs" while assuring the Palestinians that the Zionists had no intention of attempting to wrest control of "the higher policy of the province of Palestine". Nor was it their objective to "turn anyone out of his property". (Speech to 14th Zionist Congress, 1925; Khalidi, op cit).
At the same time, Weizmann told Balfour that "[t]he Arabs... worship one thing, and only thing only - power and success... He screams as often as he can and blackmails as much as he can...". (Does anyone else think its at this point that the Zionists started to sound like Bond villains?) The British authorities knew "the treacherous nature of the Arab" and would understand it if they tried to place "misinterpretations and misconceptions" on Balfour's Declaration. In public, Weizmann occasionally let the staat out of the bag. At one speech, he trusted to God that a Jewish state would emerge, and insisted that the Balfour Declaration was "the golden key which unlocks the doors of Palestine" so that such conditions "politicial, economic and administrative" may be created to enable the influx of "a considerable number of immigrants, and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English and America is American..." (Doreen Ingrams, "Palestine Papers 1917-1922", 1972; "Chaim Weizmann; excerpts from his Historic Statements, Writings and Addresses", The Jewish Agency for Palestine, 1952).
Balfour was sympathetic:
"[I]n Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder importance than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land..." (Ingrams, op cit).
On May 1st, 1921, mass riots and violence erupted across Palestine. Concentrated especially in areas where Jewish immigration was greatest, the trouble appeared initially to emerge from an inter-Jewish clash. The Socialist Revolutionary Party (known as the Mopsi) was a tiny tributary of the Second International, and it had taken to the streets to celebrate May Day in defiance of an official ban. They urged Jews and Arabs to unite and bring down the oppressors from England. As they proceeded, they encountered an officially sanctioned demonstration by Ahdot ha Avodah, a social democratic party, and a fight broke out. Punches were thrown, kicks were lobbed, names were called.
Arabs, normally bemused and put off by shows of Jewish labour disturbance, and certainly too respectful of authority to join in, this time went on a rampage. It seems that a crowd of them had gathered around the quarreling demonstrators, while the British cops attempted to keep the two sides apart. Sadly, the British police officer had not at that time any lengthy experience dealing with the British football hooligan, so their performance was tragically exiguous. Someone in a neighbouring district began to smash up Jewish shop windows. Apparently stirred to unspeakable rage, the Arabs deserted the street, took up sticks, knives and weapons and began a general hunt against the Jews. Jewish markets were looted, Jews attacked and killed. The civil police were able only to quell the uproar in their immediate proximity, which only reared up again when they departed. Jews, naturally, fought back with equal savagery, and the net result was 200 Jewish casualties and 120 Arab casualties (here meaning deaths and injuries). Arabs had mobbed the Zionist immigration hostel, led in fact by Arab constables, and attacked newly arrived refugees. The following day, armed gangs of Jews sought vengeance. One man was shot dead in his house, while his daughter copped an axe in her head for her troubles. Most of the worst atrocities on both sides were premeditated.
Jews were apparently shocked that a pogrom, so common in East Europe and Russia, could happen in Palestine. The feasibility of the Zionist state was rendered problematic. The poetry of the future was starkly contrasted with what Merleau-Ponty called the "prose of the world". Utopia was beginning to resemble the European dystopia. Other observers had no difficulty in locating both the proximal cause and the general contextual reasons for the riots. In the first place, the Mopsi demonstration; in the second, fear of Jewish immigration and what it represented.
The Mopsi were feared and loathed by conservative Arabs because they imported a European doctrine of revolution and workers power, heralding a future of heretofore unknown industrial strife. Another thing that could be imported from Europe, of course, was antisemitism. For many Arabs, insurrection and anarchy were genetically inscribed into the Jew. These "vagabonds and outcasts" came with an alien culture and a tendency to upheaval. Their presence on the streets aggravated the sensibilities of many Arabs, not just those of a conservative disposition.
However, this fact alone was insufficient to explain the riots. The Arabs, it seemed, would have absorbed this 'alien culture' had it not been the aim of the Zionists to make it the only culture. Thomas Haycraft's Commission, set up to investigate the 1921 violence, recognised this fear:
"It is important that it should be realised that what is written on the subject of Zionism by Zionists and their sympathisers is read and discussed by Palestinian Arabs..." The Commission cited many Zionist works and newspapers calling for Palestine to be made "'as Jewish as England is English, or as Canada is Canadian'", the only "feasible meaning of a Jewish National Home". Haycraft et al also cited "Palestine", the official organ of the British Palestine Committee which described "Palestine as a 'deserted, derelict land'. This description hardly tallies with the fact that the density of the present population of Palestine, according to Zionist figures, is something like 75 to the square mile".
Respectable Zionists such as Dr Eder, the Chairman of the Zionist Commission, openly and unapologetically expressed the view that there could "only be one National Home in Palestine, and that a Jewish one, and no equality in the partnership between Jews and Arabs, but a Jewish predominance as soon as the numbers of that race are sufficiently increased ... Jews should, and the Arabs should not, have the right to bear arms."
Arabs were further persuaded that the Palestine government was under Zionist influence, that the majority was discriminated against, and that they were therefore under considerable national threat. Immigration was "the tangible, visible evidence of Zionism. It is a measure which they can judge by", according to the Chief Secretary of Palestine. (Ingrams, op cit; Sir Thomas Haycraft, "Commission of Inquiry into the Palestine Disturbances of May 1921", Cmd 1540).
Zionist writers had blamed the Arab politicians for stirring up discontent, while Winston Churchill was sure the Arabs benefitted from the Jewish presence - peace, they all said, could only come when there was Jewish majority rule, so that the Arabs could enjoy the fruits and higher wages of Westernised civilisation and the pesky Arab politicians could be dispatched to the dustbin of history. But if anything it was the Arab politicians who were most inclined toward peace. Musa Kazim al-Husseini, President of the Arab Executive which represented the Palestine community in their dealings with the British, appealed to his compatriots to place their faith "in the government of Great Britain, which is famous for its justice, its concern for the well-being of the inhabitants, its safeguarding of their rights, and consent to their lawful demands". He really laid the shit on like peanut butter, this guy.
Outlining two broad approaches, al-Husseini indicated that the Palestinians could either take their case directly to the British authorities and work diplomatically for a formal renunciation of Balfour. Failing that, they could work for a representative government in Palestine so that the majority could put a stop to the plans of the Zionist majority. They would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those meddling Brits. Their logic was that Britain had committed itself under the terms of the Mandate to developing self-governing institutions in the areas where it ruled. The more backward areas like Saudi Arabia had already been granted independence - why not Palestine? Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, stubbed both options out with his fat cigar when he paid a visit to the Middle East in 1921 and foreclosed on any notion either of representative of government or revoking the British government's support for Zionism. It was neither in his power nor his wish, he told them, to rescind Balfour and cease Jewish immigration. Although there was to emerge, by degree, a Palestinian parliament, it would come ever so slowly so that "our children's children will have passed away before that is accomplished". (JMN Jeffreys, "Palestine: The Reality", 1939).
Churchill's arrogant and strident refusal to consider the Arab view did give way to a few nugatory concessions. In 1922, he proposed a "legislative council" for Palestine. In a White Paper, whose contents he placed before the consideration of both Arab and Zionist representatives, his government affirmed Balfour, dismissed Arab doubts as based on "exaggerated interpretations" of the Declaration, but insisted that there would be no Jewish State. Chaim Weizmann told Churchill, and was backed by Lloyd George and Lord Balfour, that if these proposals intended equal representation for Arabs and Jews, they would spell an end ot any Jewish Homeland in Palestine. So, the proposals intimated that alongside twelve elected members (8 Muslims, 2 Christians and 2 Jews), the council would include eleven appointees.
The Palestinians, sniffing a rather poorly concealed rat, rejected the proposals. Since Zionist policy was presently carried out illegally and against the manifest wishes of the people of Palestine, why should they assent to a consitutional form which would allow the Zionist programme to continue under the guise of legality and consent? (Neville Barbour, "Nisi Dominus", 1946). This is often taken to be a classic example of "Arab rejectionism", which cost more than it was worth. However, when the British government did propose limited self-government in 1935, which was still weighted toward the Zionists, though not quite so much, it was the Zionists and not the Arabs who pushed the 'Reject' button. ("Report on the Conditions in Palestine, 1935", HMSO, 1935).
Although the 1922 White Paper proposals were rejected by the Arab representatives, they did not see resistance as a serious option. And while the people of Palestine continued to erupt in regular violent protests, the Fourth Arab Congress insisted that the Palestine question be settled through exclusively peaceful means. Their conservative disposition to law and order inclined them to rebuke the militant youths who wanted to resist with street violence and civil disobedience. They intervened to restrain violence where it occurred, and even such passive resistance as strikes, the boycott of Jewish goods, non-payment of taxes and so on, were frowned upon by the Arab politicians while the majority of the population continued to favour these measures. (Naji Allush, "Arab Resistance in Palestine", 1969).
At the same time as the Zionists had the ear of the British, newly formed Zionist militias were flourishing. One was the Haganah, Jabotinsky's monster, which was later to form the basis of the Israeli Defense Force. The Zionists were militarising and diplomatising with exceptional skill, while the tension on the streets continued to rise and Arabs continued to resist the colonial project. By 1929, the tension between Arabs and Zionists was reaching boiling point. There were regular attacks and counter-attacks. (Vincent Sheehan, a journalist of the time, records his impressions of this bloody period in "Personal History", 1935). The violence crescendoed in several spectacular massacres taking many Jewish and Arab victims.
Two distinguished British emissaries were sent to investigate the growing tide of violence and concluded, in seperate reports, that a) "The Jewish demonstration on the Wailing Wall [which aside from its relation to Judaism, is also a site of immense religious significance for Muslims] was the principal cause of the violence and b) the violence which did result from it would never have occurred if not for the economic and political grievances suffered by the Arabs. Further, immigration and land settlement should be drastically curtailed in recognition of these two salient facts, and a legislative council be set ip to represent all the people of Palestine. However, with the Zionists in uproar, the British government acceded to pressure and rejected utterly the conclusions and findings of their two emissaries. (Sir Walter Shaw, "Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929", Cmd 3530; Sir John Hope-Simpson, "Report to the British Government", 20th October, 1930, Cmd 3686).
Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald wrote a letter to Chaim Weizmann assuring him that Jewish immigration and settlements would continue unabated. Arab violence had been unable to match the diplomatic efficacy of the Zionists. Yehoshua Porath, the Israeli historian, maintains that Arab violence would certainly have yielded more and swifter concessions had they applied violence more systematically and over more prolonged periods. (Yehoshua Porath, "The Emergence of the Palestine-Arab National Movement, 1918-1929", 1974). He might have had in mind, when writing this, the Arab revolt of 1935-1939.
Everything was deteriorating as far as the conspirators were concerned. Jewish immigration was reaching record levels, land sales were increasing, more and more peasants were being turfed off their land. The British had been in Palestine for eighteen years and their rule was becoming intolerable. No further delay was possible. It was time to get medieval on the interlopers.
November 12th, 1935, a group of followers of the Muslim cleric Shaikh Izzedin Qassam gathered secretly in Haifa to plan operations. Within a week, they would be dead or captured, and yet their rebellion proved far more significant than some might have thought it had any right to be. Qassam preached nothing less than dedicated self-sacrafice in the service of ridding one's country of foreign occupiers. His followers, at their peak, must have totalled around 800, with 200 of those trained for military service. At night they trained in stealth, using guns and other weaponry bought by selling prized personal possessions. The plan was to spend the daytime living in caves up on the hills, praying and reading from the Koran. At night, they would mount attacks on the Jews and the British. The Mandate authorities, however, had been informed and swooped in with a force of British and Arab soldiers backed by reconnaissance planes. Qassam urged his followers to "die as martyrs", never to surrender for this was "a jihad for God and country". A few of his companions did knock off early, while the rest were catpured. This was the M.O. of the fedayi, "one who sacrafices himself". While the authorities were bemused by this apparently insensible revolt, the Palestinian Arabs lost no time in recognising the significance of the uprising. Huge crowds gathered at Qassam's funeral to mourn and protest against British rule and the Jewish National Homeland. The police were stoned in a brutally hilarious manner. The Cairo-based newspaper al-Ahram said: "Dear friend and martyr, I heard you preaching from pulpits, calling us to arms, but today, preaching from the Bosom of God, you were more eloquent in death than in life." Which is pretty rotten luck. Eloquence does you no good when you're dead.
The Arab leaders, that bloc of vacillating chair-moisteners, raised barely a whisper. They, after all, were often the most criminally complicit with the Zionist takeover. In public, they denounced sales of land to the settlers. Yet, in private, they were the absentee and resident landlords who sold off their dunums for juicy profits. Whereas a dunum of land might previously have yielded little more than eight shillings, by the mid-1930s they were raking in anything between ten and twenty-five quid. Sterling. (Nathan Weinstock, "Le Zionisme contre Israel", 1969). When the British attempted a fact-finding mission into these transactions, they met resistance from Arab leaders as well as Jewish leaders. There was another reason why the Arab leaders were less than moved by Qassam's death. They saw in his uncompromising stance, his call to collective violence and his purist faith a rebuke to them. They were conservative, wary of allowing the huddled masses to get too wound up lest the giant boot aimed at stamping out the Zionist dream might thereafter be planted in their own corpulent backsides.
The rebellion, when it began, was regarded with some contempt and bemusement by the Zionists. Weizmann saw in it the "barbarism of the desert", nothing more than a fusion of primitive stupidity, clerical fanatcism, and international Fascism. They assumed that the Arab leaders, some of whom praised Hitler's rise in Germany, were leading the masses awry. But, as the British historian John Marlowe points out, "the Arab rebellion was in fact a peasant revolt". He quotes GM Trevelyan: "'[T]he readiness of the rural population to turn out and die for their faith was a new thing... The record of this brief campaign is as the lifting of the curtain; behind it we can see for a moment into the peasant life. In that one glance, we see not rustic torpor, but faith, idealism, vigour, love of liberty, and scorn of death." As Orwell almost said, it would almost be worth being wiped out to have something like that written about you.
The Arab revolt can be broadly seperated into two phases. The first was kicked off with a series of accidents spiralling into incidents, as is often the case. Montesquieu points out that if an Empire falls because of an accident, we should not focus on the accident itself but ask why it only required an accident for the Empire to fall. We should employ a similar logic here. On April 15th, 1936, Arabs were holding up and robbing cars on the Tulkaram-Nablus road. In the course of these robbings, two Jewish travellers were shot. The following night, two Arabs living in a hut near a Jewish settlement copped a couple of bullets. One of the dying men identified the attackers as Jewish, and it was assumed that it was a revenge attack for the previous day's killings. The funeral for the Jewish dead, held the next day, attracted a large crowd of mourners who stoned the police, and demanded "a Jewish army". Arabs were also stoned and beaten. On April 19th, rumours were heard in Jaffa that a couple of Arabs had been murdered in Tel Aviv. Arab mobs formed, toured the local neighbourhoods and killed several Jews. There followed three days of rioting which claimed the lives of sixteen Jews and five Arabs, the latter of whom were all done in by the old bill.
On April 20th, a National Committee was formed in Nablus, and similar bodies spread across Palestine by the end of the month. They demanded militant action, including a general strike. This time, the Arab leadership joined in the calls for national strike activity. In a hammering irony, the people who had feared the importing of industrial unrest from Europe now had need of that tool in fighting the interlopers. As my Dad used to say about the Romans being kicked out of Britain: "We learned all their little tricks, then knocked their fucking pans in." An Arab Higher Committee was formed under the Mufti, whose purpose was to unite the entire non-Jewish population with a singular political purpose and will. They demanded that the British end Jewish immigration. Shortly after, the committees decreed a nation-wide non-payment of taxes campaign; bus, lorry and taxi drivers took their caper off the road; import and export routes, as well as national arteries, were blocked. Senior civil servants and members of the judiciary submitted a memo to the British High Commissioner which insisted that the problems would never go away until their causes were addressed. Countless inquiries had been held into Arab grievances and no change had resulted. "The Arabs have been driven into a state verging on despair; and the present unrest is no more than an expression of that despair".
Far from stopping, or at least curtailing immigration, the British government increased by ten per cent the allowed "economic absorptive capacity" for Jewish immigration. They did, however, promise another inquiry which failed to impress the natives. Arabs, presumably feeling that another investigation into the patently obvious was a perfect way of doing absolutely nothing about it, repeated that their strike would go on until Jewish immigration had been suspended. The British announced the construction of an all-Jewish port at Tel Aviv, which had little economic justification in light of the port which was perfectly functional just two miles down the road in Jaffa. They also blew up about 237 houses in down-town Jaffa, ostensibly aimed at "beautification" (now you know what Prince Charles would do with your council flat if given the chance) but in reality it was an extremely harsh security measure. 6,000 ex-residents rolled out into the shanty towns with their possessions and developed an almight chip on their shoulders.
Although the National Committees were dedicated to passive and peaceful resistance on the Ghandi model, violence did occur. The High Commissioner had been able to report to the Colonial secretary the "remarkable fact" that no cry for Jihad had been "raised during the last six weeks", something for which "the Mufti is mainly responsible". But grassroots peasant activists burned crops, mined and barricaded roads, derailed trains, set fire to buildings, beat up strikebreakers and punctured the tyres of blackleg drivers. Armed bands roamed the hilly regions of the country, and were joined by volunteers from across the Arab world. One suck volunteer was Fawzi Kawekji, who perceived the rise of Hitler as a positive development in the Arab struggle against the Zionists and the British government. If he had heard Adolf Hitler's admiring statements about the British empire, or read the simpering letter sent by the Zionist Federation of Germany to Hitler in which they assured him that they shared his aims of national and racial purity, had no desire to hang around when they weren't wanted and urged him to assist in the erection of a Jewish state, Kawekji might then have realised how impossibly wrong he was.
Nevertheless, the Arab revolt was centred on the Arab peasantry - neither in its dynamics nor its aims was it an arm of international Fascism as Zionist writers from the time insisted. It was the Arab peasants to whom the British addressed leaflets begging them to give up violence and trust the Royal Commission. These peasant organisations numbered about 5,000 initially, and were often inspired by the example of Shaikh Qassam. They used primitive weaponry, were poorly trained and organised - yet, their commitment was astounding. One British observer describes how soldiers would witness their comrades chopped to the ground in their droves by British gun fire, and yet would return within two days to fight again. (Neville Barbour, op cit).
Finally, come September, the British were sick and tired of having their asses kicked, and announced that they were sending in a division of new troops to quell the mutiny. The citrus season was coming. A continued strike, already showing signs of strain, would deprive Palestine of an enormous source of export profit. The Arab states sent three Magi to tell the Palestinians to cut it out, and finally the Arab Higher Committee asked the people to "put an end to the strike and disorders". This they duly did, and the tally stood at 37 British dead, 69 Jews dead and anything up to a 1000 Arabs in "the Bosom of God". As the promised Royal Commission left for Palestine, the British government decided to announce an unusually generous work schedule for immigrant Jews. The Arabs, in turn, boycotted the commission until its final week in the country. (Hirst, op cit).
The Commission's findings were a negation of everything that had been promised to the Arabs from Balfour onwards. The 'safeguards' which had been highlighted in the Balfour Declaration were valueless, because it was now decided that the best thing for Palestine would be partition, the effective road to a Jewish State. (The Peel Commission, 1936). It did, however, concede much of the arguments that Arabs had been making - namely that the attainment of Zionist ambitions was inherently prejudicial to the rights of Arabs, that the existing order was untenable and only capable of preservation through "the dark path of repression". The partition was not implemented, but all the factors which had caused the initial uprising continued unabated. Jewish immigration, land sales and favouritism toward settlers. In addition, the staunchly pro-Arab residents of Galilee were astounded to learn that if such a partition were to be implemented, they would be in the zone of the Jewish State.
A Mr L.Y. Andrews was made the District Commissoner for Galilee and, by the end of September, 1937, had been shot dead.
The second phase of the rebellion, having thus began, impelled Arab leaders to abandon whatever vestiges of moderation they had maintained. If moderate politics were impossible before, they were now comical. Those who did espouse moderation and pacifism were likely to find themselves on the wrong end of some extremist's gun. The British aggravated the uprising with some outrageous provocation, including the dissolution of the Arab Higher Committee, and the deportation of its members to the Seychelles (the British are forever sending their most hated enemies to lagoons of paradise, like Australia or some Pacific Island).
On October 14th, 1937, disorder erupted across Palestine. The rebellion had acquired greater coordination. Lessons had been learned from the previous uprising, among which was the idea that its best if more people die on the other side. The rebels, at their height numbering 15,000 men, were able to take most of the central mountain area, from Galilee to Hebron, Beersheba to Gaza. They set up their own courts and collected their own taxes. They were able to destroy a thousand acres of orange trees belonging to a settlement in a single night. By controlling the countryside, they conquered the towns. They created a hegemony that encircled several major cities. Hundreds of troops descended on Bethlehem, disarmed the local cops and then swanned off singing patriotic songs. In Nablus, they emptied out the contents of Barclays Bank twice, right under the noses of the British. In Beersheba, they knocked off seventy-five rifles and ten thousand rounds of ammo. Even as far as the coastal town of Jaffa, the Mandate Authority was mainly fictitious. Its 3,000 Jewish citizens were forced to evacuate, as well as Arabs who did not cooperate with the mutiny. Police stations were raided, stores were looted, many hilarious photographs were taken.
Bombs planted in various public places slaughtered many Arabs. Since it was presumed the culprits were Jewish, the rebels descended from Tiberias to kill as many Jews as possible. One October evening, a crowd of rebels attacked the Arab and British police barracks, while others set fire to Jewish houses and synagogues in a quite deliberate massacre which took the lives of nineteen Jews, some of whom were babies. (The Times, October 4th, 1938).
Had the British extricated themselves at this point, it is fairly safe to say that Israel would not exist today. The main guarantor and facilitator of the Zionist project was British rule. But the British were in no mood to take any shit from the backward residents of a "derlict, deserted land". By the autumn of 1938, they had over 20,000 troops in Palestine. They banned the use or public possession of firearms. Military commanders were placed in charge of several districts, while civil authorities acted as advisers. With modern technology including armoured cars and airplanes pitted against muskets, the British began to score hit after palpable hit. One Times article reported that two British soldiers had been killed and, by the way, between 40 and 60 Arabs also died. (The Times, 3rd October, 1938). Military courts enforced emergency regulations. The death penalty was meted out to 112 Arabs and one Jew. Sir Alec Kirkbride, who witnessed the hangings, felt "guilty and mean". (Sir Alec Kirkbride, "A Crackle of Thorns", 1956). Collective fines and demolitions were imposed.
In March 1939, the British murdered the rebellion's commander, Abdul Rahim al-Haj Muhammed. Other commanders began to flee the country. The uprising was effectively over, the Palestinians crushed. The score this time was approximately 5,000 Arabs, 101 British, and 463 Jews dead.
All, however, was not in vain. The British were put off their lunches by having had to pursue a policy that was so harsh and costly. Malcolm McDonald, then Colonial Secretary in the coalition government, reported to the Commons that the Arab resistance was actuated by a militant patriotism, adding that if he were an Arab he would feel the same. And while the Peel Commission had recommended partition, another inquiry headed by Sir John Woodward concluded that partition was as unworkable as the Mandate. After deadlocked meetings involving Zionist leaders and Arab leaders, the British produced their new policy. The McDonald White Paper of 1939 announced that it was no longer government policy that "Palestine should become a Jewish state". 75,000 Jews would be admitted over the next five years, but no more without the approval of Arabs. Land sales would be regulated, and self-governing institutions formed. Palestinians, although put off by some of the provisions, were impressed by the British recognition of their concerns.
The response of the Zionists was to go absolutely bonkers. The broadcasting station from which the new policy was to be announced was bombed, the transmission lines cut. The headquarters of the Department of Migration were set on fire. Government offices in Haifa and Tel Aviv were ransacked by crowd intent on destroying all files relating to immigration. Arab shops were looted. One British constable was shot dead. A general Jewish strike was declared, and meetings across Palestine promised that this "new and treacherous" policy would be defeated. A campaign of terror and sabotage was initiated. The Rex Cinema in Jerusalem was blown up, killing five Arabs. Five more were murdered in an attack on Adas. David Ben Gurion, the leader of Yishuv, described the violence as "the beginning of Jewish resistance" to the British betrayal. Gun Zionism had come into its own.
The influence of Jabotinsky had been growing in the armed wing of Zionism for some years. Even as mainstream Zionists pretended that Jabotinsky and the revisionists were "the lunatic fringe", their methods were the ones which eventually prevailed. One example of this tendency was the position of Chaim Arlosoroff, the Director of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency who, as early as 1932, had written to Weizmann suggesting that the evolutionary path to a Jewish state was no longer possible. "Under present circumstance Zionism cannot be realised without a transition period during which the Jewish minority would exercise organised revolutionary rule," he wrote. ("Jewish Frontier", October 1948).
Gun Zionism was the tendency and direction of Zionist policy for some time. Even during the Arab uprising, when Yishuv was officially committed to Havlaga, meaning "self restraint, the tendency was for Zionists to react against this. Havlaga was a Jewish tradition based on Jewish ethics. In many ways, Zionism was a reaction against the Jewish tradition. In the Spring of 1938, three young Revisionists fired at an Arab bus on the Acre-Safad highway. The men were caught, and the ringleader, a young Polish Jew named Shlomo ben Yussif, was the first and only Jew to be hung by the British. Jabotinsky ranked Yussif among "the heroes of Israel" and abandoned Havlaga. (Joseph Shechtman, "Fighter and Prophet, the Jabotinsky Story", 1961). In July, 1938, six seperate incidents resulted in the deaths of 100 Arabs. The last of this series of atrocities was a bomb planted in the Arab Melon Market in Haifa at 7am on July 26th, no more than three weeks after a similar bomb had gone off not far away. Fifty three Arabs were killed and one Jew.
Jewish newspapers, such as Davar and Ha'aretz, condemned these actions without equivocation. On the other hand, the condemnation was general, and if a finger of blame was pointed it was liable to be pointed at the Arabs. The Palestine Post could not believe that there would be "a Jew so insane" as to throw a bomb outside a Mosque in a crowded place, thus "spreading the seed of inter-racial war". (Palestine Post, 17th July, 1938) The author of this article rather seems to have missed the point about Zionism. Jabotinsky's biographer points out the "inestimable political and educational value" of these acts. They "taught the Arab terrorist bands a healthy lesson" while generating "a new spirit of militancy and self-sacrafice in the Jewish youth". (Schechtman, op cit).
For some, Haglava had been a means of winning the support of the British for a Jewish militia, and in 1936 it succeeded. The British authorised the formation of a Jewish supernumerary police, 1,240-strong. The British informed the Zionist leadership later that year that an armed special force of Jewish constables could continue to exist provided Haganah disarm. But, as Arab violence raged on, they tacitly dropped this condition. The force was expanded over the next two years so that by 1939, it numbered 14,500 men. The training, increasingly sophisticated, was passed on to thousands of others who were not included in the force. In the Special Night Squads, the Zionists benefitted enormously from collaboration with the British. In particular one British captain named Orde Wingate, who had become a dedicated Zionist, taught them the principles of surprise, offensive daring, deep penetration and high mobility which are the hallmarks of the present Israeli army. Moshe Dayan was among the many talented Israeli officers who had first done battle with the Arabs under Wingate. A British journalist named Leonard Mosley described the brutal methods of Wingate and his men:
"He went up to the four Arabic prisoners. He said in Arabic: 'You have arms in this village. Where have you hidden them?' The Arabs shook their heads and protested innocence. Wingate reached down and took sand and grit from the ground; he thrust it into the mouth of the first Arab and pushed it down his throat until he choked and puked.
"'Now,' he said 'where have you hidden the arms?'
"Still they shook their heads.
"Wingate turned ro one of the Jews and, pointing to the coughing and spluttering Arab, said 'Shoot this man'.
"The Jew lookes at him questioningly and hesitated.
"Wingate said, in a tense voice, 'Did you hear? Shoot him.'
"The Jew shot the Arab. The others stared for a moment, in stupefaction, at the dead body at their feet. The boys from Hanita were watching in silence.
"'Now speak', said Wingate. They spoke." (Leonard Mosley, "Gideon Goes to War", 1951).
Well, the Zionists grew up. They learned to attempt deals with Hitler, shoot the Arabs and make a religious state on someone else's turf. But that's how painful it is growing up. And, y'know? Wendy never went near me again.
Titles, soundtrack of bleary old man singing about singing out of tune.