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The Passing of Chalmers Johnson, Critic of U.S. Foreign Policy

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Video Interview: Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony    :      Information Clearing House: ICH.

Goodbye, Chalmers Johnson. Condolences to his friends and family. He was a clear-sighted intellectual and US foreign policy analyst who revealed the facts predicting the downfall of the US empire and explained their import. He tried to warn those in power. He seemed to be, in this interview, a gentle, patient, reflective person with a strong sense of history.

Goodbye Chalmers.

Interview with Tom Engelhart – Chalmer Johnson’s Editor


A Scholar and A Patriot: the Death of Chalmers Johnson

11.22.10

Image of Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (American Empire Project)Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope (American Empire Project)Chalmers Johnson, the renowned political scientist of Asia, died on Saturday. Steve Clemons, who worked closely with him, has written awarm and generous tribute. It is fully deserved.

Thanks to Steve I first met Chalmers over a decade ago, spending some time with him in Washington and San Francisco and Tokyo. It didn’t take more than a few seconds to realize that Chalmers was an inimitable figure–corruscating, engaging, witty, alert, cantankerous. He had the ability of many great professors to treat anyone’s question or assertion with the greatest seriousness–and then patiently elucidate his response. With the higher-ups, though, he wasn’t always so patient–I remember him referring to one member of the American embassy in Japan as an “intellectual geisha.” Johnson’s attitude, I think, could be summed up in the 1960s phrase “question authority.” Chalmers did a lot of questioning.

For much of his career, Johnson was a scholar. His doctoral dissertation called Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power compared the mobilization of the pesantry in communist China and Yugoslavia. It’s a deeply researched book. In focusing on the power of nationalism in both countries, Johnson was ahead of the curve, to use the kind of cliche that he would have shunned. He probably would have used a word like “percipient.” He went on to cause a stir in the 1980s and 1990s with his analyses of Japan, which he saw as controlled by the state bureaucracy–a kind of hybrid capitalism (the forerunner of what would emerge in China). Others, including Steve Clemons, can chronicle the history of these disputes over Japan more ably than I can.

Though I do remember a fascinating conversation between Murray Sayle, the Australian expatriate and crack journalist who lived for years in a small fishing village in Japan, and Chalmers at the Tokyo press club over whether America could survive without an industrial base. Murray, like Chalmers, was a contributor to the National Interest–he, too, had a penchant for upending conventional wisdom, arguing, as I recall, that the number of dead at Tiananmen Square, which he visited, had been greatly exaggerated. Murray died this September.

Steve Clemons explains Johnson’s academic ascension and upheavals better than I can. One thing that bears noting, however, is that Chalmers, I think, was greatly influenced by his service to the CIA as a consultant during the 1960s. He was a champion of the Vietnam War. He lost his faith. As I understand it, Chalmers made the reverse evolution of the neoconservatives, from the right to the left. He became a sharp and trenchant critic of what he dubbed the American empire.

In fact, Chalmers became a fierce foe of America’s presence at Okinawa and, more generally, what he saw as the inevitable “blowback,” to quote the title of one of his books, that accompanied America’s expansion around the globe. Chalmers would have none of it. Not for him the temptations of empire, the swagger, the braggadoccio that took off after the end of the Cold War and culminated in the George W. Bush presidency. I recall introducing him for a talk early on during the Bush presidency at the New America foundation. I think much of the audience thought he had gone off his rocker as he denounced America’s foreign policy. But by the end of the Bush presidency, much of what he espoused had become conventional wisdom. One of his best essays appeared in 2007 in the London Review of Books, where he reviewed a book called Ghost Planes. Chalmers discussed how spotters had traced CIA transports of terrorism suspects to secret prisons around the world–the rendition program, to use the government euphemism. WIth Washington sanctioning torture, Chalmer’s once-radical critique was starting to appear commonplace. He was, you could say, being overtaken by events. Now that America’s economy has been battered, his critique looks even more telling.

In a sense, it may be a mistake to say that Chalmers moved to the “left.” He personified many of the “old right” themes as well. But to try and categorize Chalmers is probably a mistake. Some would classify him as anti-American. To the contrary, he was an American original. His was the pain of a patriot who saw his country debasing and debauching the very ideals it purported to uphold. He thought it could do better.

Whether he will be fully vindicated in his dire view of the fall of the American Republic remains unclear. But this clairvoyant figure made a lasting contribution to the debate about American foreign policy. His command of English and sweeping analyses will not be soon forgotten. His cautions about American foreign policy will be continued by Steve Clemons and other admirers. Chalmers may have passed away, but the questions he raised will not. He didn’t simply leave behind a body of work. He has left a legacy.

The Impact Today and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson

Sunday, Nov 21 2010, 12:30PM

Next week, Foreign Policy magazine and its editor-in-chief Susan Glasser will be releasing its 2nd annual roster of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers in foreign policy. I have seen the list — and it’s impressively creative and eclectic.

There is one name that is not on the FP100who should be — and that is Chalmers Johnson, who from my perspective rivals Henry Kissinger as the most significant intellectual force who has shaped and defined the fundamental boundaries and goal posts of US foreign policy in the modern era. [gimme a break..]

Johnson, who passed away Saturday afternoon at 79 years, invented and was the acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“. For the uninitiated, this means that Chalmers Johnson led the way in understanding the dynamics of how states manipulated their policy conditions and environments to speed up economic growth. In the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago, Chalmers Johnson was an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy. Johnson challenged conventional wisdom with he and his many star students — including E.B. Keehn, David Arase, Marie Anchordoguy, Mark Tilton and others — writing the significant treatises documenting the growing prevalence of state-led industrial and trade and finance policy abroad, particularly in Asia.

Today, the notion of “State Capitalism” has become practically commonplace in discussing the newest and most significant features of the global economy. Chalmers Johnson invented this field and planted the intellectual roots of understanding that other nation states were not trying to converge with and follow the so-called American model.

Johnson for his seminal work on Japanese political economy, MITI and the Japanese Miracle was dubbed by Newsweek‘s Robert Neff as “godfather of the revisionists” on Japan. Neff also tagged Clyde Prestowitz, James Fallows, Karel van Wolferen and others like R. Taggart Murphy and Pat Choate as the leaders of a new movement that argued that Japan was organizing its political economy in different ways than the U.S. This was a huge deal in its day — and these writers and thinkers led by the implacable Johnson were attacked from all corners of American academia and among the crowd of American Japan-hands who wanted to deflect rather than focus a spotlight on the fact that Japan’s economic mandarins were really the national security elite of the Pacific powerhouse nation.

In the 1980s when Johnson was arguing that Japan’s state directed capitalism was succeeding at not only propelling Japan’s wealth upwards but was creating “power” for Japan in the eyes of the rest of the world, Kissinger and the geostrategic crowd could not see beyond the global currency and power realities of nuclear warheads and throw-weight. The revisionists were responsible for injecting the economic dynamics of power and national interest in the equation of a nation’s global status.

To understand China’s rise today, the fact that China has become the Google of nations and America the General Motors of countries — the US being seen by others as a very well branded, large, underperforming country — one must go back to Chalmers Johnson’s work on the developmental state.

Scratch beneath these Johnson breakthroughs though and go back another decade and a half and one finds that Chalmers Johnson, a one time hard-right national security hawk, deconstructed the Chinese Communist revolution and showed that the dynamic that drive the revolutionary furor had less to do with class warfare and the appeal of communism but rather high octane “nationalism.” Johnson saw earlier than most that the same dynamic was true in Vietnam. His work which was published asPeasant Nationalism and Communist Power while a UC Berkeley doctoral student launched him as a formidable force in Asia-focused intellectual circles in the U.S.

Johnson’s ability to launch an instant, debilitating broadside against the intellectual vacuousness of friends or foes made him controversial. He chafed under the UC Berkeley Asia Program leadership of Robert Scalapino whom Johnson viewed as one of the primary dynastic chiefs of what became known as the “Chrysanthemum Club”, those whose Japan-hugging meant overlooking and/or ignoring the characteristics of Japan’s state-led form of capitalism. Johnson was provocatively challenged graduate students in the field to choose sides — to work either on the side where they acquiesced to a corrupt culture of US-Japan apologists who wanted the quaint big brother-little brother frame for the relationship to remain the dominant portal through which Japan was viewed or alternatively on the side of those who saw Japan and America’s forfeiture of its own economic interests as empirical facts.

When Robert Scalapino refused to budge despite Johnson’s agitation, Johnson who then headed UC Berkeley’s important China Studies program abandoned the university and became the star intellectual of UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. There is no doubt that Johnson but UCSD’s IRPS on the map and gave it an instant, global boost.

But as usual, Johnson — incorruptible and passionate about policy, theory, and their practice — eventually went to war with the bureaucrats running that institution. Those who had come in to head it were devotees of “rational choice theory” — which was spreading through the fields of political science and other social sciences as the so-called softer sciences were trying to absorb and apply the harder-edged econometrics-driven models of behavior that the neoliberal trends in economics were using.

Johnson and one of his proteges, E.B. “Barry” Keehn, wrote a powerful indictment of rational choice theory that helped trigger a long-running and still important intellectual divide that showed that rational choice theory was one of the great ideological delusions of the era. I too joined this battle and wrote extensively about the limits of rational choice theory which I myself saw dislodging university language programs, cultural studies, and more importantly — the institutional/structural approaches to understanding other political systems.

Johnson once told me when I was visiting him and his long-term, constant intellectual partner and wife, Sheila Johnson, that the UCSD School of International Relations and Pacific Studies no longer either really taught international relations or pacific studies — and that a student’s entire first year was focused on acultural skill set development in economics and statistics. To Johnson, this tendency to elevate econometric formulas over the actual study of a nation’s language, history, culture and political system was part of America’s growing cultural imperialism. Studying “them” is really about “us” — as “they” will converge to be like “us” or will fall to the way side and be insignificant.

It was that night that Chalmers Johnson, Sheila Johnson and I agreed to form an idea on had been developing called the Japan Policy Research Institute. Chalmers became President and I the Director. We maintained this working relationship at the helm of JPRI together for more than 12 years and spoke nearly every week if not every other day as we tried to acquire and publish the leading thinking on Japan, US-Japan relations and Asia more broadly. We became conveners, published works on Asia that the official journals of record of US-Asia policy viewed as too risky, and emerged as key players in the media on all matters of America’s economic, political, and military engagement in the Pacific. Today, JPRI is headed by Chiho Sawada and is based at the University of San Francisco.

However, this base of JPRI gave Chalmers Johnson the launch pad that led to the largest contribution of his career to America’s national discourse. From his granular understanding of political economy of competing nations, his understanding of the national security infrastructure of both sides of the Cold War, he saw better than most that the US had organized its global assets — particularly its vassals Japan and Germany — in a manner similar to the Soviet Union. Both sides looked like the other. Both were empires. The Soviets collapsed, Chalmers told me and wrote. The U.S. did not — yet.

The rape of a 12 year-old girl by three American servicemen in Okinawa, Japan in September 1995 and the statement by a US military commander that they should have just picked up a prostitute became the pivot moving Johnson who had once been a supporter of the Vietnam War and railed against UC Berkeley’s anti-Vietnam protesters into a powerful critic of US foreign policy and US empire.

Johnson argued that there was no logic that existed any longer for the US to maintain a global network of bases and to continue the occupation of other countries like Japan. Johnson noted that there were over 39 US military installations on Okinawa alone. The military industrial complex that Eisenhower had warned against had become a fixed reality in Johnson’s mind and essays after the Cold War ended.

In four powerful books, all written not in the corridors of power in New York or Washington — but in his small home office at Cardiff-by-the-Sea in California, Johnson became one of the most successful chroniclers and critics of America’s foreign policy designs around the world.

Before 9/11, Johnson wrote the book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. After the terrorist attacks in 2001 in New York and Washington, Blowback became the hottest book in the market. The publishers could not keep up with demand and it became the most difficult to get, most wanted book among those in national security topics.

He then wrote Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the RepublicNemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, and most recently Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope. Johnson, who used to be a net assessments adviser to the CIA’s Allen Dulles, had become such a critic of Washington and the national security establishment that this hard-right conservative had become adopted as one of the political left’s greatest icons.

Johnson measured himself to some degree against the likes of Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal — but in my mind, Johnson was the more serious, the most empirical, the most informed about the nooks and crannies of every political position as he had journeyed the length of the spectrum.

Chalmers Johnson served on my board when I worked at the Japan America Society of Southern California. He and I, along with Sheila Johnson — along with Tom Engelhardt one of the world’s great editors — created the Japan Policy Research Institute. Johnson served on the Advisory Board of the Nixon Center when I served as the Center’s founding executive director. We had a long, constructive, feisty relationship. He helped propel my career and thinking. In recent years, we were more distant — mostly because I was not ready, as he was, to completely disown Washington.

Many of Johnson’s followers and Chal himself think that American democracy is lost, that the republic has been destroyed by an embrace of empire and that the American public is unaware and unconscious of the fix. He may be right — but I took a course trying to use blogs, new media, and a DC based think tank called the New America Foundation to challenge conventional foreign policy trends in other ways. Ultimately, I think Chalmers was content with what I was doing but probably knew that in the end, I’d catch up with him in his profound frustration with what America was doing in the world.

Chalmers and Sheila Johnson saw me lead the battle against John Bolton’s confirmation vote in the Senate as US Ambassador to the United Nations — but given the scale of his ambitions to dislodge America’s embrace of empire, Bolton was too small a target in his eyes. He was probably right.

Saying Chalmers Johnson is dead sounds like a lie. I can’t fathom him being gone — and with all of the amazing times I’ve had with him as well as the bouts of political debate and even yelling as we were pounding out JPRI materials on deadline, I just can’t imagine that this blustery, irreverent, completely brilliant force won’t be there to challenge Washington and academia.

Few intellectuals attain what might have been called many centuries ago the rank of “wizard” — an almost other worldly force who defied society’s and life’s rules and commanded an enormous following of acolytes and enemies.

Wizards don’t die — and I hope that those who read this, who knew him, or go on reading his works in the decades ahead provoke, inspire, jab, rebuke, applaud, and condemn in the way he did.

In one of my fondest memories of Chalmers and Sheila Johnson at their home with their then Russian blue cats, MITI and MOF, named after the two engines of Japan’s political economy — Chal railed against the journal, Foreign Affairs, which he saw as a clap trap of statist conventionalism. He decided he had had enough of the journal and of the organization that published it, the Council on Foreign Relations. So, Chalmers called the CFR and told the young lady on the phone to cancel his membership.

The lady said, “Professor Johnson, I’m sorry sir. No one cancels their membership in the Council in Foreign Relations. Membership is for life. People are canceled when they die.”

Chalmers Johnson, not missing a beat, said “Consider me dead.”

I never will. He is and was the intellectual giant of our times. Chalmers Johnson centuries from now will be seen, I think, as the intellectual titan of this past era, surpassing Kissinger in the breadth of seminal works that define what America was and could have been. [NO COMPARISON. Johnson never overthrew a government nor murdered innocent people]

My sincere condolences to Sheila, to others in his extended family — particularly among all of his students and colleagues who were part of the Johnson dynasty — and to his friends in San Diego who were a vital part of the texture of the Johnson household.

— Steve Clemons

US & Israel Criminality – and Impunity – Threatens the World with Annihilation

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Israel’s massacre at sea

3 June 2010

The Israeli military’s killing of nine civilians and wounding of scores more on a ship carrying humanitarian supplies in international waters was an act of cold-blooded murder and a war crime.

For millions of people around the world, this military assault on an aid convoy carrying wheelchairs, cement, water purification systems, children’s toys and notebook paper to Gaza—all items barred by Israel’s blockade of the occupied territory—epitomizes the role played by Israel, as well as that of its US sponsor, in global affairs.

As always in the aftermath of such atrocities, the Israeli government has blamed its victims. In a televised speech Wednesday, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu described the aid convoy as a “flotilla of terror supporters” and praised the slaughter on the high seas as an act of self-defense by besieged Israeli commandos.

Those who engaged in self-defense were the passengers on the ship, and they had every right to do so. The fact that nine of them were killed, while the Israel Defense Force (IDF) commandos suffered not a single fatality, is evidence as to who was the aggressor.

This is a regular pattern. The massacre in the Mediterranean comes just a year and a half after Operation Cast Lead, the far greater slaughter that the Israeli regime unleashed against the suffering people of Gaza. Claiming then as now to act in “self defense,” in December 2008 and January 2009 Israel rained bombs, missiles and tank and automatic weapons fire upon Gaza, killing over 1,400 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed men, women and children. This one-sided war by one of the world’s most powerful military machines against a relatively defenseless civilian population claimed just 13 Israeli lives, all but three of them soldiers.

The aid convoy was a response to the barbaric blockade that has subjected an entire population of 1.5 million people in Gaza to hunger, disease and misery.

Since the tightening of the blockade in 2007, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the number of Gazan refugees living in abject poverty has tripled.

The UN reported at the end of 2009 that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory.” Among the starkest expressions of Israel’s deliberate starvation of an entire population was a finding by the Food and Agriculture Organization last year that 65 percent of babies between the ages of nine and 12 months suffer from anemia.

Israel is able to carry out this kind of medieval siege as well as piracy and murder not merely because of its own military might, but thanks to the unwavering patronage and funding of Washington. This latest mass killing has only underscored that—as with so much else—the advent of the Obama administration has effected no significant change in US policy.

While issuing a hypocritical expression of “deep regret at the loss of life,” the Obama administration is doing everything it can to assure that Israel bears neither blame nor consequences for these killings. It quashed any criticism of Israel’s action at the UN Security Council and has implicitly adopted the Zionist state’s justification for the massacre.

Israel’s criminality and Washington’s role as its unconditional enabler both have a long history. It is worth recalling another Israeli attack on a vessel in international waters that took place 43 years ago. In that attack, 34 sailors aboard the USS Liberty were killed by Israeli napalm, missiles and machine-gun fire, while another 171 while wounded—the worst casualties suffered by the US Navy in a hostile action since World War II.

An intelligence ship, the Liberty was attacked off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967 in the midst of the Six-Day War. While Israel called it a tragic “mistake,” ample evidence emerged that the Zionist state attacked the ship because it wanted to stop Washington from listening in to its communications. Intercepts flatly contradicted Tel Aviv’s claim that it was acting in self-defense and revealed that Israel wanted to conceal evidence of its aggressive intentions as it moved to seize Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, all of which remain under illegal occupation to this day.

Much of the criticism of this week’s attack on the aid convoy, including within Israel itself, has treated it as a “botched” operation, an excessive use of force and a public relations fiasco. But this is not a matter of a government losing its head. The Netanyahu regime’s policies are directed to a definite socio-political base, composed of religious extremists, right-wing settlers and the most politically reactionary layers within Israeli society. Its orientation is personified by the fascistic background and ideology of its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Deeply reactionary and in deep political crisis, the Israeli government is driven more and more to act as a global pyromaniac, threatening renewed wars against Syria and Lebanon and, according to a report in the London Times this week, sending submarines armed with nuclear missiles to the waters off Iran.

The unconditional support and approximately $3 billion in annual aid to Israel bestowed by Washington—and continued under Obama—pose a mortal danger to people across the globe.

This is not a matter merely of a single outlaw regime, but of a general descent of world affairs into a state of criminality and the disintegration of any semblance of international law, with Israel’s main patron setting the pattern.

The Obama administration continues two wars of aggression initiated under Bush and has maintained intact a police state apparatus of unlawful detentions, rendition and torture. It has now earned the ignominious designation as the number one practitioner of “targeted killings”—assassinations—through CIA drone attacks that have killed “many hundreds of people” in Pakistan, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday. The report condemned Washington for claiming a “license to kill without accountability.”

The behavior of the US and other governments as if they were the state incarnation of Murder Inc., acts of state terrorism and piracy like that committed by Israel this week, and the constant threats of new aggression have created a global climate that bears ever closer resemblance to the conditions that prevailed on the eve the Second World War.

These developments are driven by the mortal crisis of world capitalism and will not be reversed by either protests or pacifism. Only by uniting the working class, including both Jewish and Arab workers in the Middle East, in a common struggle to put an end to the profit system can a new global conflagration be prevented.

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Kaczinski: From Solidarity to Free Market Shock Doctrine or “Don’t confuse… shock… with broad public sympathy”

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Goodbye Kaczinski

Polish president Lech Kaczynski (1949–2010)—from Solidarity advisor to right-wing politician

By Marius Hauser
13 April 2010

The airplane crash near Smolensk in Russia April 10, which resulted in the death of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, has led to widespread consternation inside Poland. Along with Kaczynski, the accident claimed the lives of some 80 leading members of the country’s political and military elite. They were on their way to a memorial ceremony in Katyn, Russia, where 70 years earlier 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were murdered by Stalinist thugs.

It would be mistaken, however, in the manner of much of the Polish and international media, to confuse the widespread shock at the crash with broad public sympathy for the figure and politics of Lech Kaczynski. Kaczynski was one of the most unscrupulous representatives of the Polish ruling elite.

The former child film star and advisor to the Solidarity trade union was a leading architect of the restoration of the capitalist free market and so-called shock therapy that commenced in the early 1990s. As president, Kaczynski conducted a series of virulent attacks on the social and democratic rights of the population relying on the support of extreme right-wing parties. According to opinion polls, he had little chance of re-election in the presidential vote scheduled for this autumn.

Lech Kaczynski was elected president in October 2005 with the smallest number of votes ever recorded by a victorious candidate for the post. One quarter of the electorate voted for the conservative politician in the second ballot. Kaczynski was able to win the post with such a narrow base of support only because his predecessors had been so discredited.

The post-Stalinist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) had undertaken an offensive against the Polish welfare state in its four years in government and was involved in numerous corruption affairs. The only serious rival to Kaczynski was the current Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who had announced his own plans for radical cuts and privatization.

In the September 2005 parliamentary elections, his Law and Justice (PiS) party emerged as the strongest parliamentary group and the following month Kaczynski won the presidential election. During the presidential campaign Kaczynski sought to mobilize the more backward layers of the Polish population with a mix of social demagogy, nationalism and calls for a fight against corruption.

Just nine months later he presided over the nomination of his twin brother Jaroslaw to the post of prime minister. The Kaczynski brothers then formed a coalition with two right-wing, overtly anti-Semitic parties, the League of Polish Families (LPR) and Samoobrona (Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland).

In the guise of a struggle against corruption, the Kaczynskis increased the repressive capabilities of the state. At the same time, they increased their own influence by increasing their personal powers and placing political cronies in key posts. One of the first official acts of the Kaczynski government was a change to the country’s broadcasting law allowing the twins direct access to national television and radio.

A key project of their government was the creation of the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA). The office unites the police, secret police and judicial authorities in an organization that has similar powers to the former Stalinist secret service. Under the direct control of the prime minister, the CBA has been used on a number of occasions by the Kaczynskis to neutralize political adversaries—including members of their own government.

Despite its populist demagogy, the PiS government went on to impose the austerity policies of the preceding government, making merely cosmetic changes. After a brief pause the policy of privatization of state assets was also continued. In the sphere of foreign policy, Lech Kaczynski essentially continued the course of his predecessor Alexander Kwasniewski (SDL), i.e., a strong orientation to American imperialism aimed at expanding the country’s room for maneuver within Europe. Lech Kaczynski’s own bumbling and utterly provincial manner typified the increasing isolation of the country.

In October 2007 the government led by his brother collapsed following fierce internal divisions and Lech began to work closely together with the new Prime Minister Donald Tusk, leader of the rabidly pro-free market Civic Platform (PO).

After nearly five years in office Kaczynski had managed to lose even his narrow base of support. Shortly before his death he was polling around just 20 percent.

In this respect Kaczynski has shared the fate of every Polish head of government and president in the post-Stalinist era, none of whom has ever served more than one term of office—with the exception of Kwasniewski. Since 1990 Polish society has been dominated by politicians who have their roots either in the former Stalinist regime or the opposition Solidarity movement. Both sets of politicians have sought to plunder the country’s resources through a mixture of privatizations and social cuts. When one group in power is sufficiently discredited in the eyes of the population, then the other group takes over. All of this has occurred under the direct jurisdiction of the European Union and its institutions.

Kaczynski played a central role in the restoration of capitalism. After completing his law studies in 1977, he established contact with the “Committee for the Defense of Workers” (KOR). From that time he stood on the right wing of the opposition trade union movement. In 1980 he was one of the advisors to Solidarity and worked closely with its leader Lech Walesa to suppress political demands within the trade union and subordinate the movement to the Catholic Church.

In 1989 Kaczynski was a representative at the so-called “round table,” which organized the restoration of capitalism. The chief task of the round table was to divide power and influence between the new rising layers in Solidarity and the former Stalinist elite, while preparing shock therapy for the population at large. As senator, then member of parliament and eventually co-coordinator for the security and secret services, Kaczynski was directly involved in imposing this “therapy.” The consequences for the population were dramatic and led to a humiliating defeat for the Solidarity-led government in 1993.

At this point Kaczynski withdrew from public politics. It was only after the discrediting of the subsequent post-Stalinist regime after four years in power and the election of a revamped Solidarity (AWS) government in 1997 that Kaczynski returned to the political stage. He took over as Justice Minister from June 2000 until the fall of the government in July 2001. Following a wave of controversial restructuring measures, dismissals and privatizations, the AWS was so unpopular it failed to win enough votes to be represented in the new parliament. At that time Kaczynski’s remodeled PiS also only won 9.6 percent of the vote.

Kaczynski then concentrated on politics in Poland’s capital city and was elected mayor of Warsaw in November 2002. In office he made clear his contempt for democratic rights, in June 2005, for example, banning a gay rights march. At the same time, he allowed neo-Nazis to stage a counter-demonstration. Despite the ban, the gay rights forces assembled and were brutally attacked by the neo-Nazis. Kaczynski later criticized the police because they had protected the assembled gays and their supporters from the attacks launched by the fascists.

Other policy hobby-horses included his demand for the introduction of the death penalty and his proposal that homeless people should be penned in container slums outside of the city limits, so as not to spoil the view for tourists and the city’s well off.

Contrary to statements by leading members of the German Greens, Lech Kaczynski did not “represent the interests of his country,” nor had he “devoted his life to the freedom of Poland and the freedom of Europe” (German chancellor Angela Merkel). He was a representative of the Polish ruling elite and sought to establish authoritarian forms of rule based on reactionary Polish chauvinism.

Chris Hedges on Americans’ Yearning for Fascism

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Hedges: Is America Yearning for Fascism? | News & Politics | AlterNet.

This article first appeared on TruthDig.

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

“It is time for us to stop talking about right and left,” McKinney told me. “The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

© 2010 Truthdig All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/146226/

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Naomi Wolf Corrects a False Assumption

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Read Naomi Wolf’s article. My comments follow the link.

Naomi Wolf Thinks the Tea Parties Help Fight Fascism — Is She Onto Something..? | News & Politics | AlterNet.

NOTES on the Tea Party – by China Rose

1) AlterNet ain’t very alter. Though the article is oozing with mainstream media assumptions, as least they published this. Maybe someone will learn a thing or two….
Viva Naomi W!

Think of the benefits of manipulating fed-up but undereducated citizens. You can…

2)… approriate and pervert the rhetoric of the American revolution (which, BTW, was against an EMPIRE) to serve America’s corporate masters. MAJOR switcheroo.

3)…turn the emphasis off of certain touchy subjects (the bailout, foreclosures, homelessness, offshoring, job loss, infrastructure meltdown, the demise of public education, posse comitatus. Katrina, Detroit, widespread violation of civil liberties, pollution, factory farming, GMOs, 9-11 and the NWO) and onto one SINGLE issue: the health care fiasco (which d could be easily cured by dismantling, or at least stepping on, Big Pharma and the medical establishment).

4) …make Obama the Hun seem like a “leftist” or “socialist” as he pursues the most aggressively right wing militaristic agenda in US history. An absurd notion beyond all imagining.

5) …funnel all the discontent into  Republican party cages.

6)…use racist code words to get the masses riled and rekindle any latent racism. The idea that Obama’s disastrous “leadership” has anything whatsoever to do with race is another corker. Obama’s policies are as white as any other Pres, maybe more so. The original purpose of the race card was to shelter him from any criticism — and it’s working for the Dems and libs. Perhaps the other purpose was to kindle discontent among those who have latent race issues, thus vindicating Obama by default. Provocateurs anyone?

For the record:

1) A goverment run by an elite is an oligarchy

2) A government in which the forces of the military, the government, ‘Big Religion” and corporations are merged to form a new and dangerous creation, and is usually accompanied by  corruption (bribes), tyranny (abuse of power) and dictatorship (an abusive chief exective), is known as fascism.

Don’t even think of getting me started on the inane “coffee parties” counterpoint.

“What a tangled web we weave…” et cetera.

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More on HAARP and Haiti from Jerry Mazza

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HAARP, Haiti, Brzezinski and the NWO

By Jerry Mazza

Online Journal Associate Editor

22nd January 2010

On October 25, 2005, I wrote an article for Online Journal, headlined Is it the weather or government terror, detailing government manipulation of weather, including earthquakes, for terror and destruction, mentioning that “your local weatherman was surely not up to pointing this out,” and adding “let me help with the forecast, past, present and long-range. Well, déjà vu all over again seems to have struck in Haiti on January 12.

When I wrote that article, I was disturbed over the effects of Katrina, on August 25, 2005, not to mention the Indonesian tsunami preceding it on December 26, 2004. It seemed to me it would take a helluva lot more than the weatherman to explain such cosmic events within a year, four months and a day. Today, I ask you to read my first article to familiarize yourself with HAARP, the acronym for the government’s High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which is about more than weather, but rather US Weapons of Meteorological Mass Destruction.

As I write that, I can hear the sirens of “conspiracy theory” going off on the airwaves as if a thief had broken into the dark hole of the Pentagon and was filling his pockets with all the secrets of these darker ops. Well, perhaps.

HAARP, as you will read in more detail, can shock the upper atmosphere with both a focused and navigable electromagnetic bolt. The ionosphere is the electrically charged sphere that surrounds the earth’s upper atmosphere, about 40 to 60 miles above the earth’s surface. Take a look also at the excellent Haiti Earthquake Raises HAARP Controversy at the phoenixaquua.blogspot, so you don’t think it’s just me thinking this. In fact, you can see filmed examples of how HAARP works, and how it has worked on Haiti.

You will particularly enjoy this article’s film clip of Pat Robertson’s analysis of the Haitian earthquake. Pat believes it’s due to the victory of the Haitians in their rebellion over Napoleon and the French in 1801. Their victory, he claims, was due to a pact the Haitians made with the Devil. And this pact, Pat iterates, haunts them to this day. This is a man who ran for president of the US, is the owner of a chain of TV and radio stations, and a leader of the Machiavellian Dominionists sect of Conservative Christianity. But I digress and I’m dizzy from this one.

HAARP has always been referred to by the US government as a tool for researching weather, but in fact has been developed and used by the military for Department of Defense purposes. This dark side of HAARP has been played down for obvious reasons, but Dr. Nick Begich and Jeane Manning have done an excellent expose of this “Military Pandora’s Box” in their book, Angel’s Don’t Play This Harp. There as an excellent summary of the book at this site. It debunks the notion that HAARP is no different than other ionospheric heaters operating safely through the world in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Tromso, Norway, and the former Soviet Union.

Yet a 1990 government document claims that the radio frequency (RF) power bolt can drive the ionosphere to “unnatural” activities. Quoting the authors . . .”at the highest HF powers available in the West, the instabilities commonly studied are approaching their maximum RF energy dissipative capability, beyond which the plasma process will ‘runaway’ until the next limiting factor is reached.” The program operates out the University of Alaska Fairbanks (in Sarah Palin-land), providing a ground-based “Star Wars” technology, offering a relatively inexpensive defense shield.

But the University also boasts about the most mind-boggling geophysical manipulations since nuclear bombs of which HAARP is capable. It’s based on the work of electrical genius Nicholas Tesla and the work and patents of Texas’ physicist Bernard Eastlund. The military has deliberately underestimated the deadly possibilities of this uber technology, most pointedly in this case to create earthquakes with the generation of bolts of electrical power aimed at specific targets.

In fact, HAARP’s potential for havoc drew the attention of none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, former NSA adviser to Jimmy Carter, science advisor to President Johnson, and political advisor to President Obama.

More than 25 years ago, when Brzezinski was a professor at Columbia University, he wrote, “Political strategists are tempted to exploit research on the brain and human behavior [another strange purpose HAARP can be put to]. Geophysicist Gordon J.F. MacDonald, a specialist in problems of warfare, says accurately-timed, artificially-excited electronic strokes could lead to a pattern of oscillations that produce relatively high power levels over certain legions of the earth . . . in this way one could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of very large populations in selected regions over an extended period.”

He capped this statement with “no matter how deeply disturbing the thought of using the environment to manipulate behavior for national advantages, to some, the technology permitting such use will very probably develop within the next few decades.” Let me tell you, dear readers, it’s here.

As of 1970, Brzezinski predicted HAARP could be used for “a more controlled and directed society” linked to technology. This society would be dominated by an elite group which impresses voters by allegedly superior scientific know-how.” Furthermore, Dr. Strangelove states, “Unhindered by the restrains of traditional liberal values, this elite [the New World Order of today] would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control. Technical and scientific momentum would then feed on the situation it exploits.”

And thus spake Brzezinski, who also predicted that it would take an inciting incident like Pearl Harbor (i.e., 9/11) to engage the normally peaceful American population to go to war on a march for world hegemony (i.e., The War on Terror). And he was spot on.

Zbig is not afraid, in fact, is lauded for thinking down avenues that would make most of us shiver with disgust. Regrettably, his forecasts tend to prove accurate, because they inspire the worst people to do the worst things. And so, these “tools for the elite” and their temptation to use them increases incredibly. The policies to use them are in place. As to the “stepping stones” that could be used to reach this highly controlled techno-society, Brezinski expected them to be “persisting social crisis” and the use of mass media to gain the public’s confidence. Again, he’s spot on.

Way back in 1966, Professor Gordon J.F. MacDonald, then associate director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UC, Los Angeles, was a member of President Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee and later a member of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. He actually wrote a chapter called “How to Wreck the Environment” in his book, Unless Peace Comes. Of course, this came at the height of the Vietnam brutality. Given the aura of violence similar to today’s, Gordon described in his chapter, among other things, “polar ice cap melting or destabilization, ozone depletion techniques, earthquake engineering [italics mine], ocean wave control and brain wave manipulation using the planet’s energy fields.”

The outstanding peculiarity of the Haitian earthquake is that it devastated Haiti, which is the western part of the larger island of Hispaniola, while the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, suffered some aftershocks but remained relatively unscathed, hotels operating, business booming, flights coming in and out. If this isn’t pinpoint targeting of an earthquake, it is a very strange, yet to be explained phenomena. [China Rose has wondered why there was complete silence nearly everywhere re the earthquake’s effects or lack of effects on the Dominican Republic [predominantly controlled by corporate interests and a playground for the elites]. In fact, it was immediately labelled the “Haiti earthquake”, as if Haiti itself was an island, and Dominican Republic did not even exist. Perhaps it was a result of the well-documented extreme geographic and cartographic ignorance of most US residents].

For the “official” statistics of the event, see the Tectonics of the Haitian earthquake by Chris Rowan at scienceblogs.com. Despite the fact that Rowan sees this as a “strike-slip in the Caribbean Plate with the crust on each side of the fault moving horizontally relative to the other side,” and so on, I still feel that the pinpointing of Haiti is not just another predictable earthquake. But read Chris’s full explanation. A bolt of HAARP energy could have caused that “strike-slip.”

What is far more interesting to note is an article from nextgov.com (Technology And The Business of Government), Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts , which was published last Friday but refers to a disaster relief drill that took place on Monday, January 11, a day before the earthquake. I quote, “As personnel representing hundreds of government and nongovernment agencies from around the world rush to the aid of earthquake-devastated Haiti, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a Web portal with multiple social networking tools to aid in coordinating their efforts.

“On Monday, [January 11, before the earthquake] Jean Demay, DISA’s technical manager for the agency’s Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane. After the earthquake hit on Tuesday, Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system [itlaics mine]. On Wednesday [the day after the earthquake], DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.

“The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department’s European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies . . .”

You’ll pardon my paranoia, but this is identical to drills being set up the day before 9/11/01 by FEMA in NYC on 9/10/01 and NORAD.

The political truth is that Haiti has historically been a thorn in the side of those from the US and Europe, who would exploit its natural resources and dare to genocide its people. See Wiki’s History of Haiti, which opens by with the tale of Christopher Columbus, colonizer extraordinaire, naming the entire island, Hispaniola.

From the very beginning, Wiki notes, “Following the arrival of Europeans, Haiti’s indigenous population suffered near-extinction, in possibly the worst case of depopulation in the Americas. A commonly accepted hypothesis attributes the high mortality of this colony in part to Old World diseases to which the natives had no immunity. The colonists also killed a considerable number of the natives both directly and indirectly by enslavement and murder.” And so the die was cast.

And, as Wayne Madsen reports, U.S. troops in Haiti to prevent Aristide’s return, “President Obama, in keeping with his CIA lineage, has permitted the Pentagon under Robert Gates to take charge of the humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti.

“As Cuban and Venezuelan field hospitals were already rendering first aid and trauma care to Haitians injured in the mega-quake, Obama was gathered at a White House photo op with Vice President Joe Biden and other Cabinet officers to state that U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft would fly over Haiti to assess the situation from the air. A U.S. P-3 Orion spy plane from Comalapa air base in El Salvador was dispatched to conduct the surveillance operation, an act that was already being accomplished by earth satellites, the images of which were available on Google Maps.

“As Obama was garnering praise from such sycophantic White House outlets as the largely-discredited Washington Post, a 37-person Icelandic search-and-rescue team was pulling trapped earthquake victims from the rubble of collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince. Iceland, a nation bankrupted by Obama’s banker pals on Wall Street and in the City of London, was able to react in a way that the slumbering and oafish dying super-power, the United States, could not — with action aimed at providing immediate assistance to the Haitian people . . .” Read the full article for all the details.

Madsen was not the only one to comment that in the middle of this havoc the US seems more set on occupying Haiti with its Army than delivering relief aid. Press TV reports that Nicaraguan President Ortega warns of US deployment in Haiti. He stated, “What is happening in Haiti seriously concerns me as US troops have already taken control of the airport,” Ortega said on Saturday ”The Pentagon says it has deployed more than 10,000 soldiers in Haiti to help victims of Tuesday’s earthquake.

”This is while US paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division took control of the main airport in the capital Port-au-Prince on Friday three days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake brought death and misery to the impoverished nation.”

Said Press TV, ”The leftist Nicaraguan president denounced Washington’s move in deploying military forces in Haiti, saying ‘It seems that the bases (on Latin America) are not sufficient.’

”’There is no logic that US troops landed in Haiti. Haiti seeks humanitarian aid, not troops. It would be madness if we all began to send troops to Haiti,’ said Ortega.”

Given Nicaragua’s horrific experiences with the US and the Contras, his doubts, as Madsen’s, are to be seriously considered. Back then, we had Reagan and Bush I pulling the strings, which eventually exploded into the Iran-Contra debacle, which attempted to continue New World Order advancement from Central America to the Middle East. So what has changed?

Bottom line, am I asking you to blame anyone slipping on a banana peel to be the result of HAARP’s cataclysmic power? No, I’m not. But I am asking you to pursue the given links and seriously consider the possibility of HAARP’s ability to produce this highly targeted mega-earthquake. It is one more weapon in the US arsenal. And the more you know, the better to discern the big picture. All you have you to lose are your political chains and the specter of Zbigniew Brzezinski and his clones.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. Reach him at gvmaz @ verizon.net. His new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” is available at JerryMazza.com Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal

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Finally! A Bi-Partisan Police State!

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I am so sick and tired of “gridlock” and “squabbling” in Congress. Can’t we all just get along (by going with with the program)?  Finally, we have a government with bi-partisan support. A government that has unlimited power to oppress its citizens, a federal-state coalition of military, police and corporate interests with the ability to arrest, detain, torture and even assassinate its any American, anywhere, at any time… yippee.

I feel so relieved… Hope and change, baby!

WSWS

Democrats vote to renew Patriot Act

By Bill Van Auken
27 February 2010

With almost no debate, the Democratic leadership in Congress pushed through an unamended extension of the USA Patriot Act’s most notorious provisions, granting sweeping powers to eavesdrop and seize library, Internet and other personal records of US citizens.

The provisions were set to expire by Sunday. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation before then, securing his administration the ability to continue and expand the domestic spying and attacks on basic democratic rights that he and other Democrats had pretended to oppose under the Bush administration.

The three extended provisions give US intelligence agencies the power to: 1) conduct “roving” wiretaps without specifying a particular phone number or e-mail account; 2) force institutions to surrender credit, banking, medical, mental health and library records; and 3) spy on so-called lone-wolf foreign nationals, who have no affiliation to either terrorist organizations or foreign governments.

The Senate approved the one-year extension Wednesday by a voice vote and without any debate. The House followed suit on Thursday night, voting 315 to 97 in favor of the legislation.

Originally, the three provisions were to expire at the end of December, but Congress passed a two-month extension late last year, while continuing to discuss proposed amendments that would ostensibly introduce greater protection of privacy and constitutional rights.

Last fall, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Obama’s request to renew the measures after debating various limited proposals to increase judicial oversight and otherwise reform the legislation, while keeping its essential powers intact. The Obama administration offered no support for even the most modest changes, with both the Justice Department and the FBI calling for the provisions to be extended as is.

Among the proposed changes was an amendment that would have barred the government from using National Security Letters (NSLs)—administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI, the CIA and the Pentagon—to obtain confidential records of US citizens who are not suspected of terrorism or espionage. Another would have let the “lone-wolf” provision expire. A third would have required the government to issue written statements setting out the factual basis for obtaining an NSL. There was also a proposal to allow recipients of NSLs limited ability to challenge the so-called gag orders that bar them from informing anyone that they have been targeted for investigation.

A separate proposal called for the repeal of the section of the FISA Amendments Act that granted blanket immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the government in its illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Seeking bipartisan consensus on the legislation, all of these measures were defeated, with the committee ultimately adopting—with eight Democrats voting in favor and only three against—virtually meaningless proposals introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Senate intelligence panel.

Even these toothless amendments were stripped from the final extension resolution. Democratic leaders justified the action on the grounds that it was necessary to secure Republican support.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy justified extending the worst abuses in the Patriot Act without any changes by declaring, “I would have preferred to add oversight and judicial review improvements to any extension of expiring provisions in the USA Patriot Act, but I understand some Republican senators objected.”

The media has largely attributed the Democrats’ support for the renewal of the Patriot Act provisions and the scrapping of any attempt to amend them as an attempt to avoid any debate that would allow the Republican minority to portray them as “soft on terrorism” in the run-up to the midterm election.

While no doubt such cowardice and opportunism govern all of the decisions made by the Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the reality is that support for the police state measures introduced with the Patriot Act has been bipartisan from the outset.

The measure was passed by the Senate in 2001 with just one dissenting vote and under conditions in which members of Congress acknowledged that they had not even read the legislation. The Democrats have provided the necessary votes for approving every attack on democratic rights enacted since, while leading members of the party in Congress have collaborated in covering up illegal surveillance activities.

While the Democratic Party won the 2008 election based on a platform that explicitly promised to overturn unconstitutional provisions in the Patriot Act and halt “the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime,” since coming to office the Obama administration has continued and expanded these practices.

Successive reports have revealed that hundreds of thousands of NSLs have been issued since the Patriot Act was initially enacted, and there have been repeated revelations of illegal spying on American citizens—including reporters writing stories placing intelligence agencies in a bad light. Nonetheless, the Obama administration Justice Department insisted that there was no real abuse of authority under the Bush administration, and that therefore the act should be renewed.

At the same time, the administration has intervened repeatedly in lawsuits challenging illegal wiretapping under the Bush administration, invoking the “state secrets privilege” to have them quashed. Last October, US Attorney General Eric Holder used this method to seek the dismissal of a suit demanding a halt to the National Security Agency’s illegal dragnet surveillance of AT&T Internet communications and to hold Bush administration officials responsible for this unconstitutional program accountable.

The Obama White House opposes such lawsuits because it does not want its own powers curtailed and fears that any prosecution of former officials could set a legal precedent that could be used against it.

Similarly, it has opposed any probe of senior Bush administration and CIA officials responsible for the torture and killing of detainees, under conditions in which the Obama administration has upheld the policies of rendition and administrative detention without charges or trials.

Just as with its foreign policy that continues the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and an economic policy designed to defend Wall Street at the expense of workers’ jobs, wages and benefits, the Obama administration is continuing the wholesale assault on democratic rights initiated by its predecessor.

The staggering repudiation of the promises made by the so-called candidate of “change” is not a matter merely of Obama’s own duplicity. He heads a government that is dedicated to the defense of the essential interests of a financial oligarchy.

Under conditions of deepening economic crisis and in the face of ever-wider social polarization at home, it can defend these interests only by embracing the unconstitutional methods adopted by the Bush administration. The Obama White House is continuing to build up a police state not for use against some ubiquitous terrorist threat, but to counter the inevitable growth of mass struggles by the American working class.

A Brilliant Assessment of “A People’s History” as Zinn’s Flawed Chef D’oeuvre

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Apologies for the formatting problem with the article below. I’m looking into it!

This article helped to verify just what I felt were some of the weaknesses in “A People’s History”: 1) dualism (“us” vs “them”) that supposes that there are only 2 positions in every conflict  in US history, the “Establishment” and the “resistors.” Though the resistors seem to lose repeatedly, we are exhorted to join them! This is overly simplistic, defeatist and sentimental. Ultimately it is the end result of a victim mentality. It is a means of pre-emptive helplessness and surrender that allows fascism to flourish and proceed apace while retaining one’s self-image as a noble, yet resigned crusader. Okay, activists, time to take your Don Quixote pill. The only problem is, Don Quixote, with all his intelligence and noble ideals was delusional. Why? His mind was inundated with fantastic notions of a romantic quest for truth.

2) Eley discusses the 1960’s New Left time machine that trapped Howard Zinn, a machine that was incredibly useful in its time for debunking Victorian morality, American pretensions and social straitjackets, but which become outdated beginning in the 1980’s when the Right coopted its methods of deconstruction and revisionism, and used them to smear everything proactive, progressive, cooperative and constructive in our culture.  Where was Zinn when the think tanks rolled over and flattened the ideals of the New Left? Seeming stuck in the tire tracks: Eley finds that Zinn’s enduringly irrelevant New Left attitudes inform much of the weaker elements in A People’s History.

3) A People’s History’s limited treatment of economic issues. A historian cannot truly dissect or meaningfully oppose fascism without exploring its components: government, military, religious and corporate interests that incestuously feed off of each other. Zinn primarily dwells on the first two with little attention to the institutional religious sanctimony so necessary  to further the cause of empire and, surprisingly, even less to the rise of corporatism and the economic system that underpins all of it. Got capitalism?

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

An assessment of A People’s History of the United States

By Tom Eley

15 February 2010

Howard Zinn, historian, activist, and author of A People’s History of the  United States, died on January 28 at the age of 87. Born in Brooklyn in 1922 to Jewish immigrant factory-worker parents, his father from Austria-Hungary and his mother from Siberia, Zinn came of age during the Great Depression in a sprawling working class neighborhood. The influence of socialism and the presence of the Communist Party were particularly pronounced in this time and place; Zinn recalled attending a CP rally as a youth where he was clubbed by a policeman. Books were few until his father purchased him a Charles Dickens compilation. Zinn served in
WWII as a bomber pilot. He was deeply troubled by his participation in a needless mission at the war’s end during which his plane dumped napalm — in its first-ever military use — on a target in France, killing both German soldiers and perhaps 1,000 French civilians. After the war he went back to the area of France he had bombed and dealt with the experience in his book, The Politics of History. Zinn was, by all accounts, humane.

His outspoken support of student civil rights activists and the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led to Zinn’s dismissal from his first academic job,
at the all-black women’s school, Spelman, in Georgia, in 1963. He then secured a position at Boston University held until his retirement in 1988.  Zinn was also a
notable Vietnam War protester. In 1968 he visited Hanoi with the Reverend Daniel Berrigan and secured the release of three US prisoners of war, and in 1971 Daniel
Ellsberg gave Zinn a copy of what came to be known as “the Pentagon Papers.” Zinn would edit and publish it with his longtime collaborator, Noam Chomsky.

Zinn’s work as an historian spanned five decades and resulted in the publication of numerous books, articles and essays, but it was his People’s History of the United States, published in 1980, that brought him to a place of relative prominence. The book has sold more than 2 million copies in multiple editions. A television documentary based on it, “The People Speak,” was broadcast in 2009, and featured readings and performances by Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Bob Dylan, MarisaTomei, Bruce Springsteen and Danny Glover, among others. Given the book’s influence, any evaluation of Zinn requires serious consideration of his work as an
historian.

A People’s History is a much-loved book for good reason. In accessible, direct language, Zinn introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to aspects of US history written out of what was, in all but name, the official narrative, with its essentially uncritical presentation of the US political and economic elite. Zinn relentlessly
exposed the self-interest and savagery of “the Establishment,” as he called it, while at the same time bringing to life the hidden political and social struggles of
oppressed groups in US history — workers, the poor, Native Americans, African Americans, women and immigrants. Zinn did not hide his sympathies for the
oppressed in history. “[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners,” he wrote, “it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to
be on the side of the executioners.”  A People’s History grew out of, and in turn contributed to, a growing skepticism of the democratic pretensions of the American ruling class — particularly among the youth. These characteristics of Zinn’s work earned him the hatred of those who wish to see college and high school curriculum more tightly controlled; after Zinn’s death, right-wing ex-radicals David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh penned columns attacking him for exposing truths about the US government to a mass audience. Indeed, no one who has read A People’s History could in honesty endorse President Obama’s recent claim that Washington does

“not seek to occupy other nations” and is heir “to a noble struggle for freedom,” or the right wing’s absurd mantra that the US military is “the greatest force for

good in world history.”  The book’s 23 short chapters begin with Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas in 1492 and the brutal slaughter of Native

Americans. What follows is a chronological account of American history, focusing in particular on different social and political struggles, with Zinn providing a

varying degree of historical context depending on the period. This is, in the end, a limited method, a problem that we shall address presently. But the contributions of

Zinn’s essentially empirical approach — the inversion of the official narrative through the presentation of hidden or alternative facts — has much to teach.

This empirical strength runs through most of the book, but there are chapters where it combines with greater attention to context.

His treatment of WWII, “A People’s War,” is one of his better. As a rare honest accounting of what has been uncritically presented by most liberal and radical

historians as a “war against fascism,” it merits attention. The chapter lists Washington’s many imperialist interventions over the preceding decades, and points out its

indifference to fascist Italy’s rape of Ethiopia in 1935 and Germany’s and Italy’s intervention on behalf of the fascist forces of Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil

War. This was “the logical policy of a government whose main interest was not stopping Fascism but advancing” its own imperialist interests. “For those interests,

in the thirties, an anti-Soviet policy seemed best,” Zinn concludes. “Later, when Japan and Germany threatened US world interests, a pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi policy

became preferable.” This policy could be dressed up in anti-fascist guise, but “[b]ehind the headlines in battles and bombings, American diplomats and businessmen

worked hard to make sure that when the war ended, American economic power would be second to none [and] business would penetrate areas that up to this time had

been dominated by England.” At home, the hypocrisy of a “war against fascism” was not lost on African-Americans, who remained subject to job and housing

discrimination in the North and Jim Crow segregation, disenfranchisement and terror in the South, nor on Japanese Americans, 110,000 of whom ere rounded up —

many of these second and third generation citizens — and placed in internment camps on the order of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Still more hidden from popular memory was the immense struggle of the working class during the war. “In spite of no-strike pledges of the AFL and CIO there were

14,000 strikes, involving 6,770,000 workers, more than in any comparable period in American history,” Zinn wrote. “In 1944 alone, a million workers were on strike,

in the mines, in the steel mills, in the auto and transportation equipment industries. When the war ended, the strikes continued in record numbers — 3 million on

strike in the first half of 1946.” In spite of the strike wave, “there was little organized opposition from any source,” he notes. “The Communist Party was

enthusiastically in support… Only one organized socialist group opposed the war unequivocally. This was the Socialist Workers Party. In Minneapolis in 1943,

eighteen members of the party were convicted for violating the Smith Act, which made it a crime to join any group that advocated ‘the overthrow of the government.’“

The Socialist Workers Party was the Trotskyist movement in the US at that time.

Zinn writes movingly in the chapter of the savage bombings by the US and Britain of German and Japanese population centers; doubtless his own experience as a

bomber pilot  in Europe breathed feeling into these pages. Zinn also exposes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which remain enshrined in the official
mythology as necessary military acts. In fact, the decision that incinerated and poisoned hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians was made with an eye cast
toward the postwar order. By forcing a rapid Japanese surrender before the Red Army moved further into the Korean peninsula, the Truman administration hoped to
assert US dominance in East Asia. It is to Zinn’s credit that he concludes the chapter with a discussion of the early Cold War and the Red Scare, which were prepared
by US victory in “the Good War.”  After the war, US liberalism quickly turned on its radical allies grouped around the Communist Party. The Truman administration
“established a climate of fear — a hysteria about Communism — which would steeply escalate the military budget and stimulate the economy with war-related orders.”
What was needed was a consensus that “could best be created by a liberal Democratic president, whose aggressive policy abroad would be supported by conservatives,
and whose welfare programs at home … would be attractive to liberals.”

Zinn’s chapter on Vietnam, “The Impossible Victory,” merits reading. In only 10 pages, he offers a good look at the history of Vietnam’s long struggle for
independence against France, Japan in WWII, then France again, and finally the US. With both statistics and vivid illustrations, he reveals the barbarity of US
imperialism. “By the end of the war, seven million tons of bombs had been dropped” on Southeast Asia, “more than twice the amount” used in both Europe and Asia in
WWII. Zinn’s presentation of the My Lai massacre, napalm, the US assassination program called Operation Phoenix, and other cruelties are damning of
Washington’s claim that the US military was there to defend the Vietnamese people. The second half of the chapter focuses on the growing popular opposition to the
Vietnam War within the US on the campuses, among working people, and in the army itself.

It is not possible here to consider all the book’s chapters, but in general, those that cover the century lasting from the end of Reconstruction in the post-Civil War to the
end of the Vietnam War are strong and empirically rich.  Zinn writes effectively on WWI (“War is the Health of the State”), describing vividly the insanity of trench
warfare, and detailing the mass opposition to US entry and the strenuous efforts to overcome this. His chapter on the US embrace of imperialism in the Spanish-
American War correctly spots the underlying drive as a struggle for markets by US capitalism. Zinn consistently turns up useful quotes to illustrate his points, here
presenting Mark Twain’s comments on the US effort to subjugate the Philippines after Spain’s defeat: “We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried
them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors. And so, by these Providences of God — and the phrase is the
government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.”

Zinn correctly places socialism at the center of the Progressive Era, circa 1900 until 1917, entitling this chapter “The Socialist Challenge.” Progressivism “seemed to
understand it was fending off socialism,” as Zinn puts it. The chapter includes brief accounts of the great garment workers’ strike of New York City in 1909 — and the
Triangle garment factory fire in its aftermath — the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike, and the Ludlow massacre of coal
miners in Colorado in 1914.

Two chapters on workers’ and farmers’ struggles in the 19th century, “Robber Barons and Rebels” and “The Other Civil War,” demonstrate with examples the rich
history of egalitarianism that remains the patrimony of today’s working class. Zinn’s selection of an 1890 quote rom the Kansas populist Mary Ellen Lease seems
timely: “Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and
for Wall Street… The people are at bay, let the bloodhounds of money who have dogged us thus far beware.”

Yet while it is helpful in bringing to light facts written out of standard textbooks, Zinn’s work can only serve as a beginning to understanding US history. There is an
unmistakable anachronistic, even a-historical, thread in A People’s History. If it has a theme, it is an endless duel between “resistance” and “control,” two of Zinn’s preferred words. Populating his historical stage are, on the one side, a virtually unbroken line of “Establishment” villains who exercise this control and, on the
other, benighted groups who often struck out against their plight. The names and dates change; the story does not. Complexity and contradiction does not rest
comfortably in such a schema. The limitations of this approach are most evident in Zinn’s treatment of the American Revolution and the US Civil War, which he
presents as instances of the elite beguiling the population in order to strengthen its control. “Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a
discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years,” Zinn opens the first of his two chapters on the American Revolution. “They found that
by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire… They
created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times.”  Zinn presents the Civil War in similar terms. Only a slave rebellion or a full-scale war
could end slavery, he wrote: “If a rebellion, it might get out of hand, and turn its ferocity beyond slavery to the most successful system of capitalist enrichment in the
world. If a war, those who made the war would organize its consequences.” (In fact, the Civil War became both a full-scale war and a slave rebellion.) “With slavery
abolished by order of government,” Zinn asserted, “its end could be orchestrated so as to set limits to emancipation,” a task that fell to none other than Abraham
Lincoln, who in Zinn’s presentation, was merely a shrewd political operative who “combined perfectly the needs of business, the new Republican party, and the
rhetoric of humanitarianism.” This deeply subjective rendering of the two most progressive events in US history calls to mind Frederick Engels’ comments on “old
materialist” philosophy, an approach that could not answer the question of what historical forces lay behind the motives of individuals and groups in history, the
“historical forces which transform themselves into these motives in the brains of the actors.” “The old materialism never put this question to itself,” Engels responds.
“Its conception of history, in so far as it has one at all, is therefore essentially pragmatic; it divides men who act in history into noble and ignoble and then finds that
as a rule the noble are defrauded and the ignoble are victorious.” Such, in short, was Howard Zinn’s operating thesis.

In his search for the origins of motives in history, Zinn at times lapsed into moralizing. He denied the characterization — writing on the American Revolution, Zinn
said he would not “lay impossible moral burdens on that time.” But this is precisely what he did, even in the case of the more progressive revolutionists. After
discussing the enormous circulation of Tom Paine’s writings in the colonies, Zinn concludes that Paine was too linked to the colonial elite. “[H]e was not for the
crowd action of lower-class people,” Zinn asserts, because Paine had “become an associate of one of the wealthiest men in Pennsylvania, Robert Morris, and a
supporter of Morris’s creation, the Bank of North America.” Paine “lent himself perfectly to the myth of the revolution — that it was on behalf of a united people,” is
Zinn’s verdict on one of the great revolutionists of the epoch. As for Thomas Jefferson, Zinn cited disapprovingly on two occasions that he owned slaves.

Thirty years ago, criticism of the mythology surrounding Lincoln or a Jefferson was perhaps useful. Such lines appear more wearisome today after decades of
moralistic attacks by well-heeled scholars like Lerone Bennett; if an historian does nothing else, he or she should concede that their subjects lived in a different time.
More importantly, in the cases of the Civil War and the American Revolution, Zinn’s anachronism distorted historical reality, minimizing the progressive character of

those struggles. It is worthwhile to note the work of historian Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood. Bailyn, in his Ideological Origins of the American
Revolution, demonstrated, through analysis of scores of commonly read political tracts in the colonies, that the thinking of the revolutionists was radical and
progressive and ultimately rooted in a century of Enlightenment thought. Wood, in The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), seems to address himself to Zinn’s sort of argument that the war for independence was “hardly a revolution at all.”  It was, Wood writes, “one of the greatest revolutions the world has known” and
“the most radical and far-reaching event in American history.” Wood concedes that the Founding Fathers, having recognized the social forces unleashed by the
revolution, sought to contain democracy through the Constitution. But Wood shows that this effort did not undo the radicalism of the revolution, which had been
broadly transfused into social consciousness. The American Revolution, like the French Revolution it helped to inspire, marked a great historical advance. It
proclaimed in stirring language basic democratic rights, and laid these out in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It repudiated the divine right of
kings to rule, and threw off restraints on economic development designed to benefit the crown. That the revolution raised up contradictions that it could not yet resolve
— the most obvious being its declarations of liberty while maintaining slavery — does not erase these achievements. The new ruling class, which Zinn tended to treat
as a monolithic whole, was in fact deeply divided over slavery and economic policy toward Great Britain. The Civil War would resolve these conflicts and put in place
new ones, bringing to the fore the struggle between the working and capitalist classes that has been the axis of US history ever since. Like other great progressive
causes, the American Revolution has in a certain sense transcended the limitations imposed upon it by its time by inspiring and animating the progressive struggles
that followed — including the struggle against slavery. To cite an example, Zinn himself noted that the Vietnamese anti-imperialists modeled their own declaration
of independence on that written by Jefferson.

It must be stated clearly that Zinn’s method had little to do with Marxism, which understands that history advances through the struggle of contending social classes,
a struggle rooted in the social relations of economic production. While this does not by itself negate the value of a scholarly work, Zinn’s limitations as an historian
require some attention be paid to his political views, which grew out of the traditions of American radicalism. The two were, as he himself declared, mutually
constitutive. Zinn drew his material not from his own research, but from a growing body of “revisionist” scholarship during a period when radicals made inroads on
US college campuses. Beginning in the late 1960s, new academic pursuits emerged: critical revisionist studies of political, diplomatic and labor history, and new fields
such as African-American history, women’s history, Native American history, and many more. This approach — the criticism of establishment history and the
presentation of the social history of the oppressed who had left behind little or no written record — was fresh and yielded, at least in its earlier stages, significant
results.

Later, beginning in the 1980s, revisionist history and campus radicalism became increasingly bogged down in the miasma created by identity politics and post-
modernism, with their generally reactionary agendas. At that point, the weaknesses and political confusion of the underlying approach, there from the start, became
much clearer. A People’s History, as a compilation of 1960s and 1970s revisionist scholarship, expressed its contributions as well its limitations. It is not
coincidental that the new studies developed concomitantly to the emergence of identity politics and the promotion of affirmative action on the campuses, as US
liberalism, trade unionism and the Democratic Party sought a new constituency for their policies outside of the working class. The new academic history served this
political development and has, in turn, been richly fed by it. Indeed, in the more facile historical studies, the oppressed groups of the past are presented as mere
transpositions of the various “interest groups” that emerged in the 1970s. It should not be surprising that the new history treated political economy and politics
superficially — or not at all — and tended to present the “agency” of oppressed groups as independent of the historical process, or as introduced to it by human will or
moral choice.

With this in mind, it is perhaps easier to confront the apparent contradiction between Zinn the historian and Zinn the political commentator, who wrote frequently for
the Nation and the Progressive and whose views were much sought-after in radical circles. As an historian, Zinn found nothing progressive in “the system.” Of the

two-party system, Zinn wrote, “to give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a period of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic
one was an ingenious mode of control.” Zinn wrote that elections are times “to consolidate the system after years of protest and rebellion.” And he invariably presented
reforms as means by which the elite bought off the loyalty of the masses. Yet the same Zinn, who (incorrectly) found few differences to parse over between the
Republican Party of Lincoln and the pro-slavery Democratic Party of Jefferson Davis, called for a vote for Barack Obama in 2008, arguing that Obama, while not mgood, was decidedly better than George W. Bush. Zinn qualified his endorsement by arguing that Democrats, once in office, could be pressured to enact reforms, evidently drawing no conclusions from the unrelenting rightward shift of the US political system from the 1970s on.His idolization of “resistance” in the pages of A People’s History masked a pessimistic outlook. In every case, resistance for Zinn was either co-opted or crushed by establishment control. Given this, surely the best that could be hoped for was co-option through reforms. There were no strategic lessons to be drawn; this was all to

repeat itself. Zinn’s general disinterest in A People’s History in politics and thought — the conscious element in history — becomes more pronounced in his last chapters. By the time he arrives in the 1970s, even Zinn’s resisters appear less heroic: angry farmers, trade unionists, Wobblies, and Socialists have given way to proponents of identity politics, environmental reform, and the pro-Democratic Party anti-war movement.
Zinn’s concluding chapter, “The Coming Revolt of the Guards,” in which he ponders how “the system of control” might ultimately be broken, brings into the clear the
link between his politics and his history. “The Guards” referenced in the chapter title, as it turns out, are workers. “[T]he Establishment cannot survive without the
obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and
social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen,”
according to Zinn. “These people — the employed, the somewhat privileged — are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers
between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.”  “The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history,” Zinn
writes. “With a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit
discontent to a troublesome minority.”  These words reflected the demoralized perspective of the “New Left” and the ideological influences of elements such as the
Frankfurt School, Marcuse and others who wrote off the revolutionary role of the working class, viewing it as a reactionary mass that had been bought off by the
capitalist system. Included in an updated version of the book in published in 2003, they now seem quite dated. These considerable theoretical and political limitations notwithstanding, Zinn’s contributions in A People’s History of the United States — its presentation of the crimes of the US ruling class and the resistance of  oppressed groups — are significant. The book deserves its audience.

To contact the WSWS and the

Socialist Equality Party visit:

http://www.wsws.org

© World Socialist Web Site

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NO SHOCK DOCTRINE for HAITI! The US owes Haiti Billions of $$$ in Reparations

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Haiti: A Creditor, Not a Debtor

By Naomi Klein, The Nation, February 11, 2010

If we are to believe the G-7 finance ministers, Haiti is on its way to getting something it has deserved for a very long time: full “forgiveness” of its foreign debt. In Port-au-Prince, Haitian economist Camille Chalmers has been watching these developments with cautious optimism. Debt cancellation is a good start, he told Al Jazeera English, but “It’s time to go much further. We have to talk about reparations and restitution for the devastating consequences of debt.” In this telling, the whole idea that Haiti is a debtor needs to be abandoned. Haiti, he argues, is a creditor—and it is we, in the West, who are deeply in arrears.

Our debt to Haiti stems from four main sources: slavery, the US occupation, dictatorship and climate change. These claims are not fantastical, nor are they merely rhetorical. They rest on multiple violations of legal norms and agreements. Here, far too briefly, are highlights of the Haiti case.

§ The Slavery Debt. When Haitians won their independence from France in 1804, they would have had every right to claim reparations from the powers that had profited from three centuries of stolen labor. France, however, was convinced that it was Haitians who had stolen the property of slave owners by refusing to work for free. So in 1825, with a flotilla of war ships stationed off the Haitian coast threatening to re-enslave the former colony, King Charles X came to collect: 90 million gold francs–ten times Haiti’s annual revenue at the time. With no way to refuse, and no way to pay, the young nation was shackled to a debt that would take 122 years to pay off.

In 2003, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, facing a crippling economic embargo, announced that Haiti would sue the French government over that long-ago heist. “Our argument,” Aristide’s former lawyer Ira Kurzban told me, “was that the contract was an invalid agreement because it was based on the threat of re-enslavement at a time when the international community regarded slavery as an evil.” The French government was sufficiently concerned that it sent a mediator to Port-au-Prince to keep the case out of court. In the end, however, its problem was eliminated: while trial preparations were under way, Aristide was toppled from power. The lawsuit disappeared, but for many Haitians the reparations claim lives on.

§ The Dictatorship Debt. From 1957 to 1986, Haiti was ruled by the defiantly kleptocratic Duvalier regime. Unlike the French debt, the case against the Duvaliers made it into several courts, which traced Haitian funds to an elaborate network of Swiss bank accounts and lavish properties. In 1988 Kurzban won a landmark suit against Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier when a US District Court in Miami found that the deposed ruler had “misappropriated more than $504,000,000 from public monies.”

Haitians, of course, are still waiting for their payback–but that was only the beginning of their losses. For more than two decades, the country’s creditors insisted that Haitians honor the huge debts incurred by the Duvaliers, estimated at $844 million, much of it owed to institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. In debt service alone, Haitians have paid out tens of millions every year.

Was it legal for foreign lenders to collect on the Duvalier debts when so much of it was never spent in Haiti? Very likely not. As Cephas Lumina, the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt, put it to me, “the case of Haiti is one of the best examples of odious debt in the world. On that basis alone the debt should be unconditionally canceled.”

But even if Haiti does see full debt cancellation (a big if), that does not extinguish its right to be compensated for illegal debts already collected.

§ The Climate Debt. Championed by several developing countries at the climate summit in Copenhagen, the case for climate debt is straightforward. Wealthy countries that have so spectacularly failed to address the climate crisis they caused owe a debt to the developing countries that have done little to cause the crisis but are disproportionately facing its effects. In short: the polluter pays. Haiti has a particularly compelling claim. Its contribution to climate change has been negligible; Haiti’s per capita CO2 emissions are just 1 percent of US emissions. Yet Haiti is among the hardest hit countries—according to one index, only Somalia is more vulnerable to climate change.

Haiti’s vulnerability to climate change is not only—or even mostly—because of geography. Yes, it faces increasingly heavy storms. But it is Haiti’s weak infrastructure that turns challenges into disasters and disasters into full-fledged catastrophes. The earthquake, though not linked to climate change, is a prime example. And this is where all those illegal debt payments may yet extract their most devastating cost. Each payment to a foreign creditor was money not spent on a road, a school, an electrical line. And that same illegitimate debt empowered the IMF and World Bank to attach onerous conditions to each new loan, requiring Haiti to deregulate its economy and slash its public sector still further. Failure to comply was met with a punishing aid embargo from 2001 to ’04, the death knell to Haiti’s public sphere.

This history needs to be confronted now, because it threatens to repeat itself. Haiti’s creditors are already using the desperate need for earthquake aid to push for a fivefold increase in garment-sector production, some of the most exploitative jobs in the country. Haitians have no status in these talks, because they are regarded as passive recipients of aid, not full and dignified participants in a process of redress and restitution.

A reckoning with the debts the world owes to Haiti would radically change this poisonous dynamic. This is where the real road to repair begins: by recognizing the right of Haitians to reparations.

[And we’re not even mentioning HAARP here…]

Haiti: The Politics of Rebuilding

See also: “Asking Bush and Clinton to ‘Help Haiti’ is Cruel Mockery”

and

US Toxic Waste Poisons Haiti: Clinton, The Dems & Duvalier Dump on Haiti

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Reasons to Hate the Vancouver Olympics

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