Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ghosts of Rwanda - The international abandonment of Darfur (Eric Reeves)

From Eric Reeves, a "two-part analytic review of recent reports on the shortcomings of the African Union Mission in Sudan." This soberly titled analysis powerfully brings out the accelerating tempo of the catastrophe, the moral squalor of the world's response, the urgent need for serious action ... and the accumulating evidence that the so-called "international community" has decided to wash its hands of Darfur and let the remaining survivors from the black African population, who have almost all been turned into refugees, get exterminated at leisure.

--Jeff Weintraub

Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the African Union in Darfur, November 13, 2005

Posted by: ereeves on Nov 13, 2005 - 11:16 PM
News An international abandonment of the “Responsibility to Protect” (Part 1 of 2)

Eric Reeves
November 13, 2005

The ghosts of Rwanda are stirring ever more ominously in Darfur. Differences in geography, history, and genocidal means do less and less to obscure the ghastly similarities between international failure in 1994 and the world’s current willingness to allow ethnically-targeted human destruction to proceed essentially unchecked. To be sure, the Hutu genocidaires in Rwanda accomplished their frenzied destruction of perhaps 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in approximately 100 days; the genocidaires in Khartoum’s National Islamic Front have been more patient, more calculating, more willing to accomplish their goals through “genocide by attrition.” But their savage equivalent to the Hutu Interahamwe---the Arab tribal militias that have come to be called the Janjaweed---are no less efficient or relentless in their human destruction. And as the death toll in Darfur now likely exceeds 400,000, with human mortality poised to increase significantly in coming weeks and months, there is no clear evidence that Rwanda’s unspeakable slaughter will not eventually be numerically surpassed.

In 1994 the international community knowingly abandoned the clear targets of genocidal destruction, leaving in place only a hopelessly inadequate remnant of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), led heroically in failure by Lt. General Romeo Dallaire. Dallaire’s unsparing account of this international failure (“Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda”) gives us what is in many ways the most relentlessly insightful chronicle of the decisions, equivocations, mendacity, and cowardice that left hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to die by machetes, small arms, and innumerable other acts of individual and collective savagery.

In Darfur, we are witnessing an equivalently dishonest and cowardly failure. [....] We have learned nothing.

[Read the rest HERE]

Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the African Union in Darfur, November 20, 2005

Posted by: ereeves on Nov 20, 2005 - 06:15 PM
News An international abandonment of the “Responsibility to Protect” (Part 2 of 2)

Eric Reeves
November 20, 2005

Darfur is slipping yet deeper into catastrophe before the very eyes of an unmoved international community. The radical inadequacy of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) daily becomes more grimly apparent. The increasingly desperate security tasks in Darfur---protecting both acutely vulnerable civilian populations and equally vulnerable humanitarian operations---are clearly far beyond the capability of AMIS, now or in the foreseeable future. International willingness to accept these terrible threats to human security in Darfur, as well as the accompanying disingenuous characterization of AMIS abilities, ensures that no adequate or timely protection resources will be provided in Darfur.

We will see, as a consequence, the continuing attenuation of relief efforts, including evacuations, severe travel restrictions in moving humanitarian supplies and personnel, and even the withdrawal of international workers from Darfur. Because insecurity makes it impossible to see an end to the crisis, funding for humanitarian operations is now beginning to wither, with some aid organizations “starting to reduce aid” and “already phasing out their activities”---at the very moment civilians are most vulnerable. An ominous Reuters dispatch (“Donor fatigue threatens aid to Darfur refugees”) was recently filed by Opheera McDoom from South Darfur; McDoom is currently unrivaled as a journalist, and witness, in reporting on the crisis in Darfur (see Reuters, November 16, 2005,

In such a context it is the height of mendacity for US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to declare: “The African Union effort in Darfur has demonstrated why deployment of African troops is a viable option” (Statement before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Africa Subcommittee, November 17, 2005). This is not simply transparently dishonest: it is dishonesty in expedient service of a desire to forestall meaningful discussion of what is truly required for human security in Darfur. [....]


To be sure, the AU for its part itself makes such mendacity and disingenuousness all too easy. AU Special Representative to Darfur, Baba Gana Kingibe, recently (August 2005) declared: “We stand or fall in Darfur. If we fail here, nobody is going to look to the AU for a solution to other conflicts on the continent” (BR page 25). It is an irony beyond tragedy that Kingibe speaks more truly than he knows; for one of the greatest costs of AU failure in Darfur will indeed be a terrible loss in credibility for an organization that deserves the strongest possible international support. That the still fledgling AU cannot presently undertake the enormous challenges of human security in Darfur says nothing about its future critical importance as a source of peacekeeping and human protection in Africa.

Still, we must accept that the AU is not ready for the challenges of Darfur, militarily or politically. Indeed, the ominous prospect of an AU summit hosted by Khartoum’s genocidaires calls into question whether the African Union has fully surmounted the political challenges of replacing the corrupt and self-serving Organization of African Unity (OAU).

For its part, the international community may choose to accept honest, well-researched assessments of AU limitations, political and military---or it may accept with Jendayi Frazer the shameful pretense that the AU can somehow avert ongoing genocidal destruction in Darfur.

The choice gives all evidence of having been made; the ghosts of Rwanda continue to stir.

[Read the rest HERE]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Osama bin Laden's deal-breaker (Tim Blair)

Via Normblog, Tim Blair's definitive comment on Osama bin Laden's terms for US surrender:

Thursday, November 17, 2005


That last one is a total deal-breaker:

Osama bin Laden wants the United States to convert to Islam, ditch its constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals, bar women from appearing in the press and sign the Kyoto climate change treaty.
Posted by Tim B. on 11/17/2005 at 01:28 PM
(51) CommentsPermalink

For the complete version of bin Laden's position, see here.

Jeff Weintraub

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

John Powers - "A Vision of Our Own" (LA Weekly - January 2005)

This piece by John Powers was written in January 2005, but the issues it raises are more timely than ever. There are signs lately that the Bush administration may be starting to implode—in part because its fundamental incompetence, dishonesty, and irresponsibility are finally beginning to dawn on much of the electorate—and there is increasing public disillusionment with the coalition of big business and the Republican hard right who have been shamelessly and disastrously misgoverning the country. But by itself, that's not enough to dislodge them from power, let alone to save the republic and bring about real improvements. It's also necessary to be able to offer a workable, genuinely better alternative. Any assumption that the Democrats, "progressives," the "left," or some combination of these categories have such an alternative vision worked out, ready to offer and put into practice, would be a dangerous illusion. In that respect, we really need to get back to basics—and confronting the issues raised here is a necessary part of that effort.

—Jeff Weintraub


Monday, January 24, 2005

John Powers - "A Vision of Our Own" (LA Weekly)

I would quibble with some aspects of the argument in this piece. But overall I think the advice that John Powers offers here to American democrats and progressives, including what now passes for an American "left," is largely correct and important. Especially the following (and especially points #1 and #2):

1. It must reclaim virtue. After the election, you heard endless talk about how Bush won on "values." This wasn’t true — the so-called values vote was no more powerful in 2004 than in earlier years. But what is true is that conservatives are scarily comfortable talking about morality, while the left (still influenced by "scientific" socialism) is made nervous by moral language. Because of this, our political culture’s idea of virtue has been whittled into a sad, mingy thing, a question of private behavior. Yet one historic strength of the left was its belief that morality is also a matter of public virtue — justice, equality, generosity, tolerance. The loss of this idea has been catastrophic. While Republicans rouse their troops by attacking Clinton’s immorality or gay marriage, Democrats couldn’t make hay from the moral outrage of corporate executives (who make 1,000 times their employees’ wages) selling off stock options for top dollar while letting pension funds collapse. Morality should be our issue, not theirs. Where’s The Book of Liberal Virtues?

2. It must reclaim freedom. One of the left’s glories has been its tradition of heroic internationalism, still alive in the anti-globalization movement’s insistence on workers’ rights around the world. (Typically, though, "anti-globalization" sounds negative rather than positive.) But when it comes to foreign policy these days, the left appears lost. I get depressed hearing friends sound like paleocon isolationists or watching them reflexively assume that there’s something inherently tyrannical about the use of American power. It’s not enough to mock Norman Podhoretz’s insistence that the battle with Islamic terrorism is World War IV. Just as the left lacked a coherent position on what to do with murderous despots such as Milosevic and Saddam — it won’t do to say, "They’re bad, but . . ." The left now needs a position on how best to battle a Muslim ideology that, at bottom, despises all the freedoms we should be defending. America should be actively promoting the freedom of everyone on the planet, and the key question is, how would the left do it differently from the Bush administration?

3. It must reclaim pleasure. For the last 30 years, the right’s been having fun — Lee Atwater playing the blues, Rush Limbaugh giving that strangulated laugh, The Weekly Standard running those mocking covers — while the left has been good for you, like eating a big, dry bowl of muesli. This isn’t simply because leftists can be humorless (a quality shared with righteous evangelicals), but because, over the years, they’ve gone from being associated with free love and rock & roll to seeming like yuppified puritans; hence the Gore-Lieberman ticket talked about censoring video games and brainy leftist Thomas Frank tirelessly debunks the pleasure of those who buy anything Cool or find Madonna meaningful. (Clinton was an exception — he enjoyed a Big Mac and an intern as much as the hero of a beer commercial — and he was the one Democrat in recent years that most average Americans really liked.) While the left is correct in talking about the gas-guzzling horror of SUVs, it’s a losing cause to tell a nation full of proud drivers that they should feel guilty about the car they love. Rather than coming off as anti-consumerist puritans in a consumerist culture, the left should be fighting on the side of freedom and pleasure — for instance, arguing that ordinary people should have more time off from the endless hours of work that increasingly devour our souls. This is the kind of idea we should own — and force the right to argue against.

4. Finally, and above all, it must try to reclaim utopia. Back during the horrors of mid-20th-century Germany, the great Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote, "This is not a time to be without wishes." He knew that any successful political action had to begin in hope and dreams. The same is true as we enter the second Bush administration. The right controls the machinery of government and isn’t shy about using it to change the world to make it fit the twin religions that drive it — Christianity and untrammeled free-market economics. To fight such a radical, all-encompassing vision, we need an equally big countervision of our own. I’m not talking about some mad fantasy of heaven on earth (those usually lead to death camps), but a dream bigger than hopes that the Democratic Party will come back into power four years from now. To create the world we want, we have to regain the hopeful belief that we are trying to create a world thrillingly better than the one we now live in. Promising more prescription drugs for seniors just won’t cut it.

Yours in struggle,
Jeff Weintraub

LA Weekly
January 21-27, 2005

A Vision of Our Own
Four ideas for the left to redefine itself
by John Powers

[Read the article HERE]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"Massacre in Amman" - Chickens coming home to roost (Khalaf)

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on a wedding party in Amman, Jordan, Norman Geras alerts us (on Normblog) to some disparate items that share an important theme--the connection between this atrocity and the widespread, long-standing tendencies in contemporary Arab political culture to glorify, or at least excuse, the terrorist murder of civilians (as long as they are Jews or Americans--or even Iraqi Shiites--and not Jordanians). Although many people in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East expressed revulsion against this particular attack, it still seems difficult for many of them to grasp or acknowledge this connection.

(The same is also true for people elsewhere--London, for example--who see no problem with supposedly unequivocal condemnations of all terrorist attacks against "innocent civilians" which make an exception for murdering Jewish or Israeli civilians.) (For some further details, see Condemnations of terrorism -- real and bogus ... and also this.)

=> A Jordanian blogger who calls himself Khalaf suggests that many Arabs and Muslims who feel horrified by this massacre need to take a harder look at themselves in the mirror ("Massacre in Amman"):
Last night, triple terror attacks on hotels in Amman left 57 dead and 115 wounded. Apparently, many of the casualties were Jordanians, attending a wedding reception in the Radisson SAS hotel. The fathers of both the bride and the groom were among the dead.

While everybody is condemning the atrocity in the strongest possible terms, I believe that we should look at ourselves with more scrutiny than we are comfortable with. The truth is that while who the actual perpetrators are is not yet known, what has happened follows a pattern that continues from New York, Madrid, London, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Baghdad, to name a few. The extremist ideology driving the terrorists is well known, if not totally comprehensible.

The uncomfortable fact is that while we nurse our historical grievances, we have allowed ourselves to lose ourselves in a culture of victimization and self pity. Thus, Arab and Moslem discourse typically finds room for justification for such horrors, especially if it happens somewhere else. In some cases, people who do such things are considered to be heroes. Heroes, indeed. [....] People dance and give sweets when this happens in Israel, and if it happens in Iraq, well, they deserve it because they are Shiites and Shiites are not fighting the occupation as we think they should. Of course, we felt that 9/11 was a big victory. Now we have one of our own. Let us think about this.

Religious extremism is a major driving force for the young cannon fodder who are still too young to know any better. This is a fact. Our governments tolerate and enable all sorts of forms of religious intimidation and indoctrination. We pretend it is all benign. Well, it is not all benign. When you walk the path of extremism, some people are going to take it its logical conclusion. Talk all you want about tolerance in Islam, but the fact that we must face is that religious discourse is what is driving these young men to blow themselves up in crowds of innocent victims.

We owe it to the victims, their families who grieve and ourselves to learn the lessons of this, and to take stock in them. This is not a trivial matter.

May God rest the souls of the victims, alleviate the suffering of the families and shield humanity from future outrages such as this. [....]
=> That's one reaction. Unfortunately, it appears to express a minority perspective. As Geras points out, some of the other responses to this atrocity in Jordan and the rest of the Middle East are less reassuring ... not least because they are so unsurprising.

Regional reassurance (November 13, 2005)

There has been much reporting of reaction in the Arab world against the terrorist bombings in Amman. While that reaction is welcome, some of it is mixed with more repugnant elements. See this report:
"I am not ashamed of what his [Zarqawi's] group is doing fighting the US occupation of Iraq, but killing civilians, killing Muslims here in Jordan is shaming." [JW: It is worth emphasizing that Zarqawi's contribution to "fighting the US occupation of Iraq" consists overwhelmingly of the indiscriminate and unapologetic mass murder of Iraqi civilians.]
In Zarqa, Munder Moomeni, a 38-year-old former soldier who lives next to Zarqawi's house, 13 Ramzi Street, described his former neighbour as "a bastard".

"By killing Jordanians here in Jordan, civilian Jordanians going to a wedding, they did something that not even a Jew would do," he said. [JW: As a Jew, I will take that as a compliment.]

And see this one:
The Maktoum Mosque was crowded with worshipers for Friday Prayer as the imam sharply criticized the suicide attacks on three hotels in Amman, saying those who committed the crimes were not Muslims, no matter what they called themselves.

Afterward, on the street, people agreed that whoever committed such an act could not be a Muslim. But many meant this literally, that the attack must have been carried out by outsiders, namely Israeli agents.
The suspicion of some here over the hotel killings mirrors the unfounded rumor that thousands of Jews did not show up for work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, because Israel was behind those attacks.

In Egypt, Israel was also widely blamed for the bombing attacks in Taba and Sharm el Sheik over the last year, and for the recent sectarian violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Alexandria. In Syria, officials at the highest levels of the government have blamed Israel for killing Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.


As Geras says, read the rest.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Realism" triumphs in Darfur (Christopher Hitchens)

It looks increasingly likely that after a year and a half of empty words, diplomatic charades, and ostentatious inaction, the so-called "international community" will do nothing serious to prevent the Darfur atrocity from being carried through to the end. What Hitchens says in this powerful piece is true, important, and appalling. Read the whole thing HERE. Some highlights are below.

--Jeff Weintraub


Posted Monday, Nov. 7, 2005, at 6:05 PM ET

Realism in Darfur

Consider the horrors of peace.
By Christopher Hitchens

It looks as if the realists have won the day in the matter of Darfur. Or, to phrase it in another way, it looks as if the ethnic cleansers of that province have made good use of the "negotiation" and "mediation" period to complete their self-appointed task. As my friend Johann Hari put it recently in the London Independent: "At last, some good news from Darfur: the genocide in western Sudan is nearly over. There's only one problem—it's drawing to an end only because there are no black people left to cleanse or kill."

By some reliable estimates, the Sudanese government or "National Islamic Front" has slain as many as 400,000 of its black co-religionists—known contemptuously as zurga ("niggers")—and expelled perhaps 2 million more. This appalling achievement has been made possible by a very simple tactic: The actual killers and cleansers, the Arab janjaweed militias, are a "deniable" arm of the Sudanese authorities. Those authorities pretend to negotiate with the United Nations, the United States, and the African Union, and their negotiating "card" is the control that they can or might exercise over said militias. While this tap is turned on and off, according to different applications of carrot and stick, the militias pretend to go out of control and carry on with their slaughter and deportation. By the time the clock has been run out, the job is done.

[....] In other words, a Rwanda in slow motion, and in front of the cameras and the diplomats. What was all that garbage about "never again"? What was the meaning of Clinton's apology to the Rwandans? What did Colin Powell mean when he finally used the word "genocide" to describe the events in Darfur, just before resigning as secretary of state and becoming an advocate for more realism all round? [....] Meanwhile, the State Department has upgraded Sudan's status on the chart that shows "cooperation" in the matter of slave-trafficking. Apparently, you can be on this list and still be awarded points for good behavior. A hundred-plus congressmen recently signed a statement accusing the administration of "appeasement," which seems the only appropriate word for it.

[....] Any critique of realism has to begin with a sober assessment of the horrors of peace.
Nonintervention does not mean that nothing happens. It means that something else happens. Our policy in Darfur has not just failed to rescue a stricken black African population: It has actually assisted the Sudanese Islamists in completing their policy of racist murder. Thank heaven that we are tough enough to bear the shame of this, and strong enough to forgive ourselves. [....]

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sharon Dismantles Zionist Entity - World's Problems End

From the satirical website People's Cube, picked up by David Hirsh at Engage. Some selections are below ... but read the whole thing.
--Jeff Weintraub

Israel Dismantles; World's Problems End
By Propaganda Department
10/8/2005, 11:21 pm

"It's not every day when the French, the Germans, Muslims, Communists, Nazis, Arabs, Socialists, and the United Nations agree on things, so when they do, it's obvious that they must be correct."

Persistent rhetoric coming from concerned progressive critics worldwide has finally convinced Israeli officials that the state of Israel has no moral right to exist. "That's it," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained at a press conference. "We are dismantling the Nation of Israel. I'm leaving for Poland next week."

"My cabinet and I had long discussions about world troubles, and we concluded that our critics are right - all the troubles can be traced back to us. So, in order to resolve these issues, we felt it would be best to extend our withdrawal beyond Gaza to include the West Bank and Israel proper," Sharon said. "The Gaza pullout was only a test, and the ensuing waves of peace and brotherhood it had triggered in Palestine and beyond, encouraged us to disband altogether. Without us here, people of the world will finally be able, once again, to live in permanent harmony and understanding - just like they all did before Israel's founding nearly sixty years ago."

Persistent rhetoric coming from progressive critics has convinced Israeli officials that the state of Israel has no moral right to exist.

Israel: Illegal settlers receive instructions to pack their bags and move to the countries of their parents and grandparents.

Iran: With the Zionist entity out of the way, Iranian mullahs tone down their violent rhetoric, dismantle their nuclear program, and stop funding Hezbollah and other terrorist groups."

Bin Laden: "Israel was the only reason why we bombed New York, Paris, London, Bali, Riyadh, Thailand, Kashmir, Russia, Morocco, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines. But now all our operations will cease."

Palestinian President Abu Mazen: "We believe that our future is in limited government. We will bring to fruition all the programs started in refugee camps, such as our breakthroughs in medicine, education, applied and theoretical sciences, nanotechnology, and space exploration."

Bush no longer has to obey the Zionist lobby: "We will immediately withdraw all American troops from Iraq, suspend their new constitution, and halt all construction of schools and hospitals."

Kofi Annan: "Without Israel to condemn, what resolutions could we possibly pass? We're finished!"

Cindy Sheehan: "Thank goodness this is over and I can now disappear into obscurity."

Kim Jung-il: "Now that I no longer have to waste my days worrying about Israel, I had time to read Atlas Shrugged and suddenly realized what an idiot I've been all these years."
From Russia to Morocco to Yemen to France, countries are anticipating the arrival of Israelis. In Moscow, an enormous banner was erected that read "Welcome Home, Jews." [....] And in cities throughout Germany, joyous "Judenfests" were ubiquitous, as local citizens were arranging festivals to celebrate the Jewish arrival. [....] Similarly, the new Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has kicked off a popular "Iran-loves-Jews" campaign that will include a sensitive re-writing of the laws to accommodate religions other than Islam. He explained, "With the Zionist entity out of the way, the Iranian government will tone down its violent and threatening rhetoric, dismantle its nuclear program, and stop funding Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. As a matter of fact, I might even resign my position and award the presidency to someone else. Do you think Schwarzenegger is available?" [....]
Al Qaeda has also released a statement that read: "As the entire world knows, the Zionist presence in our Holy Palestine has been the only reason for our existence. This is why we attacked the World Trade Center and why we murdered Americans in Iraq. It's why we bombed Paris, London, and Bali, why we exploded buildings in Saudi Arabia, and why we enabled murders and terrorist activities in Thailand, Kashmir, Russia, Morocco, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines. But now, with Palestine returned to our brothers, all operations will cease. This is effective immediately and is irrevocable. We will now form The International Peace Corps and of course pay reparations to the non-Israelis who we murdered."In the new country of Palestine, there are already signs of promise. President Abu Mazen elaborated, "We're adopting the American Constitution as our legal model. [....]

One particular family of nations is very concerned, "With Israel gone, there's nothing left for us to do," says a United Nations staffer. "Since the world's conflicts will be over, we're worried that they won't need us any more." [....]

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Iran's Final Solution Plan (Daniel Pipes)

I don't always find myself in sympathy with Daniel Pipes. But this piece is completely on target. --Jeff Weintraub

New York Sun
November 1, 2005

Iran's Final Solution Plan
by Daniel Pipes

"Iran's stance has always been clear on this ugly phenomenon [i.e., Israel]. We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region."

No, those are not the words of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking last week. Rather, that was Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic of Iran's supreme leader, in December 2000.

In other words, Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel was nothing new but conforms to a well-established pattern of regime rhetoric and ambition. "Death to Israel!" has been a rallying cry for the past quarter-century. Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, its founder, in his call on October 26 for genocidal war against Jews: "The regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history," Khomeini said decades ago. Mr. Ahmadinejad lauded this hideous goal as "very wise."

In December 2001, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president and still powerful political figure, laid the groundwork for an exchange of nuclear weapons with Israel: "If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce minor damages in the Muslim world."

In like spirit, a Shahab-3 ballistic missile (capable of reaching Israel) paraded in Tehran last month bore the slogan "Israel Should Be Wiped Off the Map."

The threats by Messrs. Khamenei and Rafsanjani prompted yawns but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement roused an uproar.

[....] Iranians were surprised and suspicious. Why, some asked, did the mere reiteration of long-standing policy prompt an avalanche of outraged foreign reactions?

In a constructive spirit, I offer them four reasons. First, Mr. Ahmadinejad's virulent character gives the threats against Israel added credibility. [And as I noted recently, his 'election' as President was part of a comprehensive seizure of power by the most hard-line radical elements in the Iranian regime. --JW] Second, he in subsequent days defiantly repeated and elaborated on his threats. Third, he added an aggressive coda to the usual formulation, warning Muslims who recognize Israel that they "will burn in the fire of the Islamic umma [nation]."

This directly targets the Palestinians and several Arab states, but especially neighboring Pakistan. [....] Finally, Israelis estimate that the Iranians could, within six months, have the means to build an atomic bomb. [....] We are on notice. Will we act in time?


Read the rest. It's time to stop yawning.

Class antagonism & ethnic hatred in immigrant Britain (Nick Cohen)

The British left-wing journalist Nick Cohen has written this intelligent, worried, and provocative analysis of the recent outburst of Black vs. Asian rioting in Handsworth, "Politics of the Ghetto" (The Observer, Sunday 10/30/2005). In 1985 Cohen witnessed an earlier outbreak of mostly-Black rioting that hit Handsworth and other British cities. But this time, he reports, both the dynamics and social significance of the rioting were different--with some implications that he finds alarming.
In Brixton, Tottenham and Handsworth, the classic riot of the period began after a real or rumoured assault on a black woman by the police. The rioters were poor young men without a future. To say the violence had nothing to do with racism and the mass destruction of manufacturing jobs in Margaret Thatcher’s first recession was wishful thinking or Tory propaganda.

Twenty years on, I am back on the Lozells Road after another riot. Nothing has changed, but everything is different. The red-brick terrace houses are as pokey and dilapidated as ever. It remains a place where you can catch the smell of disappointment; a place where people stay because they’ve nowhere else to go.

Yet little else was familiar. The arguments of the Eighties about why young men took to the streets felt antique and irrelevant. Beyond repeating the platitude that workers with good jobs tend to be law-abiding, you couldn’t pretend the 2005 riot was a protest against unemployment. The economic and law enforcement policies of official society - ‘white society’, to stretch a point - had nothing to do with the violence. Racism was on display, but not between blacks and whites. So were religious tensions, which I’d never given a second’s thought in 1985.

What started the riot was not a bungled police round-up of drug dealers, but a racist rumour which swept black Birmingham. Everyone knew someone who could swear that an Asian shopkeeper had locked up a 14-year-old black girl he had caught shoplifting and then raped her with the help of his friends. The police have been investigating for a week. They haven’t found the girl or the crime scene or the rapists. Unless that changes, and my guess is it won’t, the rumour will be a grotesque libel that painted Asian shopkeepers as the bestial abusers of feminine innocence.

[....] Gangs hit each other and passers-by with petrol bombs and guns. One police officer and 35 civilians were injured. An Asian gang murdered Isiah Young-Sam, a 23-year-old black man [....]
As Cohen points out, all this fits into a larger, familiar pattern.
As striking as the violence were the wild statements on the radio and in internet chatrooms. There was plenty of talk of Asian racism, and all sides accepted that there are racist Asians as there are racist blacks, whites and whatever. Ligali, a black African pressure group, went further and damned everyone. It called for a boycott of Asian shops. Not of the shop where the crime took place - no one knew where it was or if it existed - but of all Asian shops. Pickled Politics, a website run by a sharp team of Asian writers, picked up an email which was doing the rounds.

Tellingly, it, too, was about Asian shopkeepers. When I knew Handsworth, there were black traders. But while many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim families have followed the classic immigrant path of sticking together and building a business, many blacks have fallen behind. The emailer blamed a conspiracy. Asians succeeded in taking over hairdressers for black women by forcing them ‘to buckle under unreasonable’ competition. ‘Black people need to realise that they are been shitted on by Indians who now supply them with the very food they eat, their cosmetics and health care.’

Theodore Dalrymple, the pseudonym of a Birmingham doctor and writer, noted recently in the Telegraph that the shopkeepers were facing a modern variant of European (and now Middle Eastern) anti-semitism. Once, white Christians accused Jewish traders of kidnapping their children and draining their blood; now, black Christians accuse Asian traders of kidnapping their girls and raping them.

These prejudices are incredibly powerful because they combine race hatred of the alien, class hatred of the prosperous and religious hatred of the infidel.

In World on Fire, published two years ago and which deserved far more attention than it received, Amy Chua showed how globalisation had created an explosion of racism in the anti-semitic tradition. The new wave of capitalism had raised the living standards of ordinary people by a little and the rich by a lot, her argument ran. The supporters of free markets and democracy thought everyone was benefiting and hadn’t noticed that their ideas helped fuel resentments in those countries where ethnic minorities dominated business.

Sectarian leaders from the Slobodan Milosevic mould were exploiting the double antipathy of race and class. Across the planet, you heard the same demonic accusations of blood-sucking, corruption and secret influence about the Chinese business class in south east Asia, the white farmers in Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Spanish ‘whites’ in Latin America, the Jews in Russia, the Ibo in Nigeria, the Croats in Milosevic’s Yugoslavia and the Americans everywhere.

I said earlier that the 1985 [he means 2005] Handsworth riots had nothing to do with government. That was true in all respects but one. With unforgivable recklessness, our leaders aren’t diminishing the importance of race, but fuelling sectarianism. [....]

The rest is here.


Cohen mentions a valuable book by Amy Chua, World on Fire (he doesn't add the long subtitle, How Exporting Free-Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability). Chua (a Chinese-American law professor who writes here as a historical-comparative political economist & cultural sociologist) analyzes the explosive interplay between the capitalist market economy and mass-mobilizing politics in the context of ethnic differences and inequalities. I agree that this is a significant, thought-provoking, and illuminating book that is very much worth reading.

(Of course, many of the phenomena that Chua is describing will sound quite familiar to people who know something about the history of central and eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries--but most of the academics, journalists and others who write and talk about the contemporary "developing" world don't seem to fall into that category.)

I do have reservations about some elements of Chua's analysis, which I think is uneven. In particular, it's a pity that she weakens and dilutes her argument by trying to apply her core model to situations where it doesn't really apply (including Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia), or where its applicability is a bit strained. But no one is perfect. Chua's core argument highlights a range of genuinely important socio-economic and political phenomena that are pervasive in the current era--and not only in non-western societies, as Cohen brings out--but that tend to receive a surprisingly small amount of informed attention. And even in cases where Chua loses control of her argument somewhat, her accounts usefully bring out the significance of humiliation, contempt, resentment, and rage for understanding ethnic conflicts (and inter-group relations more generally).

(There is a good review of the book in Salon. It captures only part of Chua's analysis, but some of the rest comes out between the lines.)

--Jeff Weintraub

Noam Chomsky - A skeptical interview [with an update]

The greatest intellectual?

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?
A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough

Emma Brockes
Monday October 31, 2005
The Guardian


Ostensibly I am here because Chomsky, 76, has been voted the world's top public intellectual by Prospect magazine, but he has no interest in that. He believes that there is a misconception about what it means to be smart. It is not a question of wit, as with no 5 on the list (Christopher Hitchens) or poetic dash like no 4 (Vaclav Havel), or the sort of articulacy that lends itself to television appearances, like no 37, the thinking girl's pin-up Michael Ignatieff, whom Chomsky calls an apologist for the establishment and dispenser of "garbage". Chomsky, by contrast, speaks in a barely audible croak and of his own, largely unsuccessful, television appearances has written dismissively: "The beauty of concision is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts." Being smart, he believes, is a function of a plodding, unsexy, application to the facts and "using your intelligence to decide what's right".

This is, of course, what Chomsky has been doing for the last 35 years, and his conclusions remain controversial: that practically every US president since the second world war has been guilty of war crimes; that in the overall context of Cambodian history, the Khmer Rouge weren't as bad as everyone makes out; that during the Bosnian war the "massacre" at Srebrenica was probably overstated. [....]

The rest is here. --Jeff Weintraub

[Update, March 2006: The rest was accessible through that link, but no longer. Chomsky complained to the Guardian that this interview misrepresented his views and those of another apologist for the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities in Bosnia whose work he had praised, Diana Johnstone. British libel laws are notoriously punitive and weighted in favor of complainants, a fact that may help explain what happened next. The Guardian, acting either from cowardice or from stupidity, accepted Chomsky's claims, deleted the article from its website, and printed a "correction" and apology.
In fact, the article did not misrepresent Chomsky's position these issues, and his claim that it did so was simply dishonest. The facts of the matter were carefully and exhaustively set out in this open letter on "Chomsky, the Guardian, and Bosnia" signed by David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm, and Francis Wheen.
Stephen Glover, media columnist for the other main center-left British newspaper, The Independent, concluded that the Guardian's actions in this matter were craven and reprehensible. And although the Guardian made a show of responding to this open letter by bringing in an external ombudsman, John Willis, neither the editors nor Willis actually bothered "to reconsider Professor Chomsky's original complaint in the light of the evidence adduced by Messrs Aaronovitch, Kamm and Wheen in their letter," as they would have done if they "really had been interested in establishing the truth." --JW]