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Journal Archives

Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism

March 18, 2015 7 AM

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Noam Chomsky, a linguist, political philosopher and one of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare,” with Andre Vltchek.

– George Yancy

George Yancy: When I think about the title of your book “On Western Terrorism,” I’m reminded of the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism, from random beatings to the lynching of more than 3,000 black people (including women) between 1882 and 1968. This is why in 2003, when I read about the dehumanizing acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison, I wasn’t surprised. I recall that after the photos appeared President George W. Bush said that “This is not the America I know.” But isn’t this the America black people have always known?

Noam Chomsky: The America that “black people have always known” is not an attractive one. The first black slaves were brought to the colonies 400 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that during this long period there have been only a few decades when African-Americans, apart from a few, had some limited possibilities for entering the mainstream of American society.

We also cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.


When you go to the polls – take Gaza with you

Op-ed by Hagai El-Ad, B'Tselem's executive director:

The Gaza Strip is the most silenced issue in the current election campaign. Silenced? Apart from certain politicians vying for credit for discovering the tunnel threat, Gaza is completely absent from this election – erased, along with this summer’s unpleasant war. Gaza is gone. Its residents do not exist. Our future, our suffering, isn’t interlinked with theirs. The Gazan neighbors of Sderot, Ashkelon, Nahal Oz, and Tel Aviv are invisible.

A-Tuffah neighborhood, Gaza city, 21 Sept. 2014. Photo: Anne Paq, Activestills.org

One might imagine that in an election that takes place so soon, not even six months, after a national trauma like this, there would be at least some politicians who insist on addressing it. You might imagine that even if all politicians tried to distance themselves from it, the public wouldn’t just take it and would insist on getting explanations for what happened and information about what’s to come. Why did we kill more than two thousand people? Why have more than seventy Israelis been killed? What are those who seek our trust planning other than the cruel inevitability of the next war in two years’ time? How many dead are planned for the summer of 2016?

If we’re not going to demand that Gaza be front and center in this election because of the hundreds of children we killed in Gaza this summer, then maybe we should for 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman’s sake. If we’re not going to talk about Gaza because of the tens of thousands still living in tents, schools or on the street, then maybe because of the 51 days of rocket attack alerts? If we don’t demand our politicians address Gaza in this election campaign because of the poverty and anguish, the eternal closure and the despair in the Strip, then at least let’s demand it because of the next round of violence, which is getting closer by the day.

Whether we think about Gaza or not when we go to the polls, Gaza isn’t going anywhere. The Israeli power, of which we are citizens, will continue to neighbor Gaza and the residents of the impoverished piece of land that is internally controlled by Hamas and externally controlled by Israel will continue to be our neighbors. Their future is our future is their future.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20150219_putting_gaza_into_the_elections

Life under Isis: The everyday reality of living in the Islamic 'Caliphate' with its 7th Century laws

Full title::Life under Isis: The everyday reality of living in the Islamic 'Caliphate' with its 7th Century laws, very modern methods and merciless violence

Inside the 'Islamic State' - part one: Patrick Cockburn today begins a groundbreaking week-long series of dispatches which will explore the creation of this so-called Islamic State, what it’s like to live under the jihadis’ rule, and what if anything the West can do about it. Today, he talks to people living in the ‘caliphate’ to find out how they regard Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s merciless but powerful new state and how it treats them

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 15 March 2015

It is one of the strangest states ever created. The Islamic State wants to force all humanity to believe in its vision of a religious and social utopia existing in the first days of Islam. Women are to be treated as chattels, forbidden to leave the house unless they are accompanied by a male relative. People deemed to be pagans, like the Yazidis, can be bought and sold as slaves. Punishments such as beheadings, amputations and flogging become the norm. All those not pledging allegiance to the caliphate declared by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on 29 June last year are considered enemies.

The rest of the world has watched with fascinated horror over the past eight months as Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, imposed its rule over a vast area in northern Iraq and eastern Syria inhabited by six million people. Highly publicised atrocities or acts of destruction, such as burning to death a Jordanian pilot, decapitating prisoners and destroying the remains of ancient cities, are deliberately staged as demonstrations of strength and acts of defiance. For a movement whose tenets are supposedly drawn from the religious norms of the 7th century CE, Isis has a very modern and manipulative approach to dominating the news agenda by means of attention-grabbing PR stunts in which merciless violence plays a central role.

These are not the acts of a weird but beleaguered cult, but of a powerful state and war machine. In swift succession last year, its fighters inflicted defeats on the Iraqi army, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, the Syrian army and Syrian rebels. They staged a 134-day siege of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobani and withstood 700 US air strikes targeting the small urban area where they were concentrated before finally being forced to pull back. The caliphate’s opponents deny it is a real state, but it is surprisingly well organised, capable of raising taxes, imposing conscription and even controlling rents.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/life-under-isis-the-everyday-reality-of-living-in-the-islamic-caliphate-with-its-7th-century-laws-very-modern-methods-and-merciless-violence-10109655.html

Peace or Palestinian surrender? An interview with Norman Finkelstein


Aside from the renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein is perhaps the best known, and most provocative, American Jewish critic of Israel. The son of holocaust survivors, Finkelstein was banned from entering Israel after a visit to Lebanon in which he expressed solidarity with Hezbollah; and frozen out of US universities after a fierce academic conflict with civil liberties lawyer and Israel supporter Alan Dershowitz.

More recently he has angered some “pro-Palestinians” by his adherence to a two-state solution, and criticism of some elements in the Boycott Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for equivocating over the continued existence of Israel.

A political firebrand, Finkelstein has advocated for the Palestinian cause, presenting himself as a beacon of moral truth in the murk of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work, accusing Jewish charities of exploiting the Holocaust for monetary gain and attacking Israel for oppressing the Palestinians, has made him many enemies. Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the New Republic, described Finkelstein as “poison: a disgusting self-hating Jew.”

In a 2009 documentary about his life, Finkelstein said that he inherited from his mother, Maryla, the conviction that Jews have a special obligation to ease the suffering of humanity because of what has been done to them.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/peace-or-palestinian-surrender-interview-norman-finkelstein-1768836682#sthash.we45pX7A.dpuf

The long history of Israel gaming the 'Iranian threat'


Years before his recent grandstanding in Congress, Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders conjured a threat where one previously didn’t exist

Western news media has feasted on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk and the reactions to it as a rare political spectacle rich in personalities in conflict. But the real story of Netanyahu’s speech is that he is continuing a long tradition in Israeli politics of demonising Iran to advance domestic and foreign policy interests.

The history of that practice, in which Netanyahu has played a central role going back nearly two decades, shows that it has been based on a conscious strategy of vastly exaggerating the threat from Iran.

In conjuring the spectre of Iranian genocide against Israelis, Netanyahu was playing two political games simultaneously. He was exploiting the fears of the Israeli population associated with the Holocaust to boost his electoral prospects while at the same time exploiting the readiness of most members of US Congress to support whatever Netanyahu orders on Iran policy.

Netanyahu’s primary audience was the Israeli electorate. He was speaking as a candidate for re-election as prime minister in an election that is just two weeks away. His speech was calculated to play on the deep-rooted anxiety of Israeli voters about the outsiders who may want to destroy the Jewish people.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/long-history-israeli-gaming-iranian-threat-830388190#sthash.VyRY4gLR.dpuf

Noam Chomsky: Opposing Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel’s Goal Isn’t Survival — It’s Regional Dominance


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. "For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran," says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region." Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons."


snip* AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam, let’s start with Netanyahu’s visit. He is set to make this unprecedented joint address to Congress, unprecedented because of the kind of rift it has demonstrated between the Republicans and the Democratic president, President Obama. Can you talk about its significance?

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the entity Christ, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever "them" happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions.

AARON MATÉ: You say that nobody with a grey cell thinks that Iran would launch a strike, were it to have nuclear weapons, but yet Netanyahu repeatedly accuses Iran of planning a new genocide against the Jewish people. He said this most recently on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, saying that the ayatollahs are planning a new holocaust against us. And that’s an argument that’s taken seriously here.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s taken seriously by people who don’t stop to think for a minute. But again, Iran is under extremely close surveillance. U.S. satellite surveillance knows everything that’s going on in Iran. If Iran even began to load a missile—that is, to bring a missile near a weapon—the country would probably be wiped out. And whatever you think about the clerics, the Guardian Council and so on, there’s no indication that they’re suicidal.

in full: http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/2/noam_chomsky_opposing_iran_nuclear_deal

War with Isis: Fears that looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'


Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city

As many as one million people could flee Mosul in northern Iraq if the Iraqi army, backed by US air strikes, seeks to recapture the city later this year, aid agencies have told The Independent on Sunday. And those agencies are preparing by building up stocks of food at sites around Mosul to feed those forced into a mass exodus.

“We would expect hundreds of thousands of people from Mosul to leave, if not more,” says Marwa Awad, speaking on behalf of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Irbil, the Kurdish capital, 50 miles east of Mosul. She added that the numbers fleeing an impending battle for Mosul in the course of the next few months could total a million. The present population of the city, captured by Islamic State (Isis) on 10 June last year, is believed to be about 1.5 million, the great majority of them Sunni Arabs.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also issued a statement warning of a mass flight from Mosul, although without giving an estimate of the number likely to be affected. “The broadening of the conflict to populated areas along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will create more humanitarian needs,” the ICRC warns. “If major cities such as Mosul come under fire again, thousands more people will have to flee.”

Syed Jaffer Hussain, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Iraq, also says that an attempt to recapture Mosul could lead to hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in Kurdistan. The exodus could begin as soon as Isis becomes unable to stop people leaving Mosul, and the US increases the number of its air strikes.


Isis in Syria: Aided by US air strikes, Kurds cut terrorists' supply line linking Syria and Iraq


Syrian Kurdish fighters have cut an important Isis supply line from Syria to Iraq as they expand an offensive launched in north-east Syria at the weekend that is receiving heavy support from American air strikes. The seizure of at least 90 Christian hostages from Assyrian villages by Isis may be its response to the Kurdish attack.

An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG, whom it once viewed as part of a terrorist movement, as a major ally in the war against Islamic State in Syria. The US only started intense bombing in support of the YPG in mid-October when it appeared that the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani was about to fall to an Isis offensive.

Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.

“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD [the political arm of YPG] has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.” Joint action already appears to be showing dividends in fighting around the Islamic State stronghold of Tal Hamis east of Hasaka in which Isis is being driven back and has lost control of the road leading to the village of al-Houl [PC1] and the Iraqi border.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-syria-aided-by-us-air-strikes-kurds-cut-terrorists-supply-line-linking-syria-and-iraq-10070691.html

Isis in Iraq: Assyrian Christian militia keep well-armed militants at bay - but they are running out

*Iraq is becoming a land of exiles.

“We have only 90 rounds for each of our Kalashnikovs and we haven’t the money to buy more ammunition,” says Sergon, commander of a band of two dozen ill-armed Christian militiamen living in the deserted village of Bakufa, close to the Isis frontline. The 1,500 Assyrian Christians who once lived in Bakufa fled when Isis fighters from Mosul 18 miles to the south captured and later lost the village during their offensive last August.

The Isis men are now dug in a mile away from Bakufa. On a field radio we can hear one of the fighters loudly demanding in Arabic that somebody bring him some drinking water. “We also hear them talking in Turkish and English,” says Sergon. “But, going by their accents, we think those speaking English are Chechens and Afghans, who don’t have a common language.

The Christians of Nineveh Plain around Mosul, who lived here for 1,800 years, have become refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan or in Turkey, Lebanon or further afield. “I wish they would come back,” says Peshmerga General Wahid Majid Mohammed, commander of 420 soldiers on this section of the front, somewhat unrealistically. “It is 75 per cent safe here,” he says, which is hardly reassuring, particularly when he adds that there is no electricity or drinking water in Bakufa. As we speak, he twice sends out patrols to assess the damage caused by the latest US air strikes, which take place several times a day.

At one end of the large room where Sergon and his men are sitting with their ageing weaponry, there is a large Assyrian flag. “Once, we Assyrians were a great empire,” says one of the fighters, as if seeking solace in the distant past for present weakness. Aside from their lack of weapons, the militiamen have only one vehicle, no electric generator and depend on the Kurdish Peshmerga for food. Overall, the meagre resources of the so-called Dweekh Newsha militia, 300-strong and founded last August to show that Iraqi Christians can defend themselves, only emphasises their vulnerability in the face of thousands of well-equipped Isis fighters.


The Worst Article Title by an Economist about the Crisis

Posted on February 20, 2015 by William Black

This column discusses the most embarrassing title of an economic study of the U.S. financial crisis. It rivals the most embarrassing title of an economic study of the Icelandic crisis.

“The 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job tells how [Frederic] Mishkin changed the name of the study from ‘Financial Stability in Iceland’ to ‘Financial Instability in Iceland’ on his curriculum vitae.”

Geetesh Bhardwaj of AIG Financial Products and Rajdeep Sengupta, a St. Louis Fed economist, entitled their September/October 2008 article: “Where’s the Smoking Gun? A Study of Underwriting Standards for US Subprime Mortgages.”

Earth to AIG Financial Products: You are the “Smoking Gun”

Indeed, you’re the billowing trench mortar that was about to blow up the global economy by defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) at the time your economist finished the article.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/02/the-worst-article-title-by-an-economist-about-the-crisis.html
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