Category Archives: International Politics

Things I’ve Been Reading and Thinking About

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I realize things have been slow here for the past month or more. Family life is keeping me busy, which is a blessedly good thing. No complaints here. I have been getting a lot of work done on my dissertation. Another very good thing. And, at the same time, I am trying to get my foot in the door at a few publications that will remain nameless.

While traveling overseas I read the March edition of Commentary. If you are at all concerned (or interested) about the increasing tendency of Jews to forgo affiliation with Jewish organizations, in particular synagogues and day schools, I highly recommend reading Jack Wertheimer’s “The High Cost of Jewish Living“. As is evident by the title, Wertheimer contends a major element of this is prohibitive cost. Here are a few (well, more than a few) tidbits:

Adding things up, an actively engaged Jewish family that keeps kosher and sends its three school-age children to the most intensive Jewish educational institutions can expect to spend somewhere between $50,000 and $110,000 a year at minimum just to live a Jewish life.

As the various cost lines have risen, in some cases doubling over the past 10 years, the response has been predictable. Many regard day-school education as out of the question, the cost utterly prohibitive. Even within Orthodox communities, some parents feel compelled to pull their children out of day schools. Anecdotal reports suggest that some families interested in placing their children in Jewish educational settings decide not to proceed for fear of embarrassing encounters with scholarship committees. In a reversal of earlier patterns, when Jewish religious involvement was weighted toward the poor, increasingly in our own time only the well-to-do can afford to live fully as Jews, while many in the middle class are in danger of getting priced out.

If there was cause for concern a decade ago about how, as Gerald Bubis put it, Jewish families would respond when “cost becomes a barrier,” the affordability of Jewish living should be a central issue on the Jewish communal agenda today, given the staggering surge in costs coupled with the current economic climate. With some noteworthy exceptions, it is not.

Most federations of Jewish philanthropy have neither the resources nor the will to make affordability a priority, and other types of organizations don’t even pretend to pay attention.

As if skyrocketing costs were not enough, there is also the tendency of mainstream Jewish organizations to prefer universalist and nonsectarian charitable endeavors than helping our own. The article continues:

And just at a time when Jewish communal institutions are failing to attend to the needs of Jews at home and abroad, the hot trend in Jewish philanthropic and organizational circles, incredibly, is to channel ever more of their resources to nonsectarian causes. Preachers in every corner of the Jewish community are intent on urging the faithful to drop their parochial concerns for the welfare of fellow Jews and instead think globally. How can Jews worry about their own, they ask, when so many unfortunates in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia are suffering even worse afflictions? Last May, at my own institution, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the commencement speaker exhorted newly ordained rabbis and cantors, along with graduating educators and communal workers, to do nothing less than focus their energies on eliminating poverty and injustice from the world, even as she gave short-shrift to the impact of the economic downturn on Jewish needs.

“What is required, first,” declared Ruth Messinger of American Jewish World Services, “is that we embrace those with whom we do not share a faith or a neighborhood, a country, a language, or a political structure. We must bend our minds and our voices, our energies and our material resources, to help those most in need, both at home and abroad.” In today’s American Jewish community, this kind of talk is hardly an exception: representatives of every denomination have discovered a Jewish imperative to “repair the world” (Tikkun Olam), a commandment unknown to Jews for most of their history but that now, in the view of its most outspoken advocates, is preeminent…

One could ask, of course, why this effort to repair the world cannot also extend to aiding fellow Jews? Proponents of Jewish service learning express great confidence in the sufficiency of resources in the Jewish community to address all needs—a demonstrably incorrect assessment, as we have seen. Alternatively, they will say that young Jews do not want to be bothered with their fellow Jews. If we are to attract anyone outside the committed core, they argue, programs must direct young Jews to nonsectarian causes, bearing out the truth of Cynthia Ozick’s dead-on observation that “universalism is the parochialism of the Jews.” And so, based on these rationalizations, an entire set of organizations under Jewish auspices now seeks to rally Jews to help everyone except their own co-religionists.

I also read a fairly recent copy (Winter 2010) of Dissent. I especially enjoyed Michael Walzer’s short introductory comment on internationalism:

I consider myself a left internationalist, but definitely not a world citizen. The difference is important. Internationalism connects me to leftists in other countries, who are or should be working for the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable of their fellow citizens. I am engaged with them in what I think of as a characteristically leftist way: I support their politics, but I also criticize some (and sometimes many) of the things they do. What they do matters to me; I want them to get things right.

But I am not a world citizen because there is no organized “world,” no global state, in which citizenship is possible—certainly not democratic citizenship. The people who run the world, insofar as it is run, don’t regard me as one of their fellows, and, in turn, I don’t regard them that way either. The UN sometimes pretends to be a kind of world government, but it isn’t that, and the pretense is dangerous because it suggests that things are being taken care of when we all know that they are not.

The only political agency that can “take care of things,” that can provide security, welfare, and education, is the state. The least well-off people in the world today, the most desperately needy people, are those who live in failed or failing states, who are the prey of warlords, predatory gangs, ruthless entrepreneurs and speculators—all of them uncontrolled by any political authority. So those of us who have effective and decent states ought to be patriots, at least in this sense: that we should be committed to the common political work of sustaining and improving the states that we live in.

As a Jewish American, I have an additional reason for patriotism—for the United States is surely the best diaspora home that the Jews have ever found. That fact makes me a strong defender of American pluralism. I want this country to be as open and welcoming to other immigrant groups as it has been to the Jews (that is indeed a condition of its continuing to be a good place for the Jews).

Norm disagrees.

But I was surprised by the inclusion of James B. Rule’s “The Military State and the Democratic Left“. I realize Rule hits all the right notes for Dissent’s social democratic readership (or at least much of it) but much of the article rests on a common assertion made by liberals and progressives with little understanding of the way the world works. I know that sounds rude, but it is true. The basic argument is if the United States would dramatically reduce the cost and size of the military, we could spend the money on [insert favorite liberal program here].

One question I have for Professor Rule is, given his perspective that the United States is run by a powerful elite, why is he convinced that if the defense budget was cut to the degree he desires, the resources freed up would be allocated towards his liberal wish-list of schools, health care, etc.?

No evidence is offered to support this claim. It is simply an assertion of the author. Again, I suspect his perpective is shared by many Dissent readers, but it simply doesn’t stand up to any sort of critical scutiny. After all, if the U.S. (and other capitalist countries) are ruled by a self-interested elite, why wouldn’t those funds go towards some other presumably nefarious endeavor that benefits them at the expense of us?

To other topics:

Have you seen the video at Wikileaks that has the innacurrate title “Collateral Murder“? It is chilling to watch. But to my eye, the attack–while both tragic and sad–appears to be justified. At the start of the video (I don’t know how much has been edited) a man is identified as carrying an rocket-propelled grendade launcher (RPG). Apache helicopter pilots are given authorization by commanding officers to shoot, which they do. They also attack a van which arrives to pick up survivors. It turns out the “RPG” was actually a camera. However, military officials say and RPG and AK-47s were recovered from the scene.

Websites coming from a radical-left or progressive perspective have condemned this as an intentional targeting of civilians. I disagree. It does appear that the man with the camera was holding some sort of weapon. The Apaches were providing air support for ground forces on patrol that had been involved in recent skirmishes. The job of these Apache pilots was keeping American personnel on the ground out of harms way. When commanded by their superior officers to engage, they needed to obey. This is not due to their being cold, killing machines, as is sometimes claimed. They were trying to protect their fellow soldiers.

Pray for the twenty-nine West Virginia miners who lost their lives and their families. Then get active. Amending Joe Hill’s famous phrase, don’t only mourn, organize.

In the nuts and crackpots department, I recently heard an interview with Dr. John Hall on progressive radio station WBAI. The doctor was discussing his recent book, A New Breed: Satellite Terrorism in America.  What is satellite terrorism? According to the author, a continuation of the CIA’s mind-control experiments that started with MK-Ultra. The specifics include the utilization of satellite or ground based microwaves and “particle beams” to harass hapless victims in their homes.

Moving from the kooks, here are some more substantial finds from across the Net:

I debate Shalom Libertad on the utility of the term “social filth” over at Bob’s place.

Ray Cook (you really should be checking out his blog, great stuff!) on Israel and International Humanitarian Law.

Elder of Ziyon on the Syrian scuds for Hezbollah.

Roland (But, I am a Liberal!) Dodds demands Justice for Du’a Khalil.

Adam Holland is shocked by the far-left/far-right connections with Cynthia McKinney and surprised by these same connections with journalist blowhard Chris Hedges. Not sure why any of this is news to him.

Martin in the Margins caught the first episode of David Simon’s new program, Treme. Read his assessment here.

Mod writes Of Plots and Monsignors.

Noga (Contentious Centrist) discusses “Those Far Right But Very Wealthy American Jewish Organizations“. You know the ones…

Kelli Strom (Airforce Amazons): Liberte ou la Mort.

Snoopy (Simply Jews) discusses Judith Butler and the hazards of higher learning.

Sultan Knish on Karzai’s Gambit and Obama’s Betrayal.

Michael Totten also has a piece on Syrian scuds and Hezbollah.

***Blogs no more***

I noticed some dead links (or people who have not posted for 6+ months) in my blogroll: Beer N’ Sandwiches, Encounters, LeftHawk, Iranian Freedom*, and New Zionist. All have been removed. If you are the author of any of these blogs and end up posting some new material, please let me know and I will be glad to add you to my blogroll again. If anyone happens to know if Ganselmi, the blogger behind Iranian Freedom, is OK please inform me. I hope all is well….

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

U.S. events here.

March is Women’s History Month but you do not need a special month to find the sort of commentary below disturbing. I do not care whether you consider yourself conservative, liberal, centrist, or independent. This is just plain wrong. Who raised these people, pigs? I know, pigs are better than they.

The Culture & Media Insitute looked back at what the media had to say over the past year about some of today’s most prominent conservative women, including Michelle Malkin, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney, and compiled a list of the 10 worst attacks on these women who dare to speak out in favor of conservative values.

The worst venom was reserved for Michelle Malkin. Here are a few examples:

1. Playboy’s Hate List

Playboy magazine writer Guy Cimbalo released his list of top ten conservative women against whom he’d like to commit violent sexual acts last June. Calling these acts a “hate f—” in his “So Right It’s Wrong” article, Cimbalo explained that he “might despise everything” about women like Michelle Malkin, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, “The View’s” Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Mary Katherine Ham  and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, “but g–dammit, they’re hot!”…

2. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi Uses Graphic Sexual Language to Discredit Michelle Malkin and the Tea Party Movement

In a Tax Day 2009 blog post, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi claimed “he really enjoying this whole teabag thing” and that “it’s really inspiring some excellent daydreaming.”

Taibbi let his readers in on the nature of his daydreams that involve conservative pundit Michelle Malkin in incredibly vulgar ways…

4. Keith Olbermann Compares Michelle Malkin to a ‘Mashed-Up Bag of Meat With Lipstick on it”

MSNBC personalities reserve a special level of vitriol for conservative woman, and none more so than Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann compared Michelle Malkin to a “big, mashed up bag of meat with lipstick on it” during his Oct. 13 “Countdown” show because he believed she encouraged death threats made to a woman who posted a video of singing their praises to President Barack Obama…

6. Toronto Star Columnist Tweets a Death Wish for Michelle Malkin

Unfortunately, as Erbe proved, it’s not only liberal men who have it out for conservative women. Antonia Zerbisias is another one.

The Toronto Star columnist expressed deep hatred for Michelle Malkin in an April 2009 Twitter message that read, “Forget the Marxists, I wish the marksmen would take @MichelleMalkin. I’m thinking Dick Cheney. He’s such a good shot.”

Ernest Sternberg: “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For”

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[Teach your children well...]

Ernest Sternberg was kind to send me a PDF of his article, “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For,” which is in the current Orbis (Winter 2010). I think many readers will enjoy it. Here is a long excerpt:

The hope with which we entered the twenty-first century was that, whatever new specters we would have to confront, totalitarian ideologies would not be among them. Fascism, communism, and their variants would moulder in their political graveyards. Could it be that we hoped in vain? Could it be that that, from their putrefied bodies, another world transforming ideology has emerged?

There is plenty of reason to think so. We are in the midst of the worldwide rise of a non-religious chiliastic movement, which preaches global human renewal and predicts apocalypse as its alternative. Like its twentieth century predecessors, the new ideology provides an intellectual formula through which to identify the present world’s depredations, imagines a pure new world that eliminates them, and mobilizes the disaffected and alienated for the sake of radical change. Like the followers of totalitarianisms past, the new ideologues also see themselves as the vanguard for the highest humanitarian ideals. If many of us have failed to recognize the rise of this new movement, the reason may be that we are still trapped in defunct ideological categories.

The new ideology is most clearly identified by what it opposes. Its enemy is the global monolith called Empire, which exerts systemic domination over human lives, mainly from the United States. Empire does so by means of economic liberalism, militarism, multinational corporations, corporate media, and technologies of surveillance, in cahoots with, or under the thrall of, Empire’s most sinister manifestation, namely Zionism. So far there is no controversy—these points will be readily admitted by advocates as well as critics.

There is much less clarity about what the new movement is for. My task here is to describe what it is for: to make the case that the new radicalism does have a coherent vision and, in postulating both an evil past and an ideal future, does qualify as a full-fledged ideology. Put starkly, the world it envisions is pure. The earth will be protected, justice will reign, economies will be sustainable, and energy will be renewable. Diverse communities will celebrate other communities, with the only proviso that they accede to doctrine. Far purer than democracies of the past, this future regime will operate through grassroots participatory meetings in which all communities are empowered.

As old nation-state boundaries fade away, communities will coordinate with each other globally by means of rectification cadres called non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Hard as it may be to believe, these ideas are not sentimental mishmash but rather the tenets of a more or less well-ordered dogma. This outlook even contains a concept of historical change: the agents of change will be networked bunds called ‘‘social movements.’’ Millions around the world already find this dogma so persuasive that it shapes their politics. For some, this dogma functions as did the fanatical ideologies of the past, as a guide to life’s meaning and an inspiration for fanatical commitment and self-sacrifice.

A new ideology it may be, but a totalitarian one? The adherents think of themselves as exemplars of purity, as progenitors of the utmost in democracy and inter-cultural appreciation. Could it be possible that, despite their sincerest beliefs, they are the vanguard of new totalitarian regime? The movement has yet to establish a regime, so we cannot say for certain. After analyzing this ideology, the essay concludes with some of the warning signs and with the prospect of participatory absolutism.

Read it all here.

Grading Obama’s Afghanistan Speech: Surge or Exit Strategy?

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[Backup is on the way...]

I listened to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan at West Point and it was not entirely encouraging. His reluctant admission that more troops are needed was welcome but I am concerned he is not supportive of an effective counterinsurgency program as was approved by President George W. Bush during the “surge” in Iraq.

Perhaps a better way of putting it is I am puzzled whether his speech argued in favor of letting facts on the ground determine the length of American involvement or whether he is committed to removing American troops in eighteen months. I was left thinking he was trying to say too many different things to too many different audiences at the same time.

As I tell my students before they give their oral presentations, “always be aware of your audience.” In their case determining the audience is easy. They are doing the presentation for me, in order to receive a grade, as well as their colleagues, in order to edify–but not confuse–them.

President Obama finds himself in a far more difficult situation. He has multiple audiences he needs to appeal to. Making matters worse, what one group wants to hear is often in opposition to another group.

The most obvious audience is that of the West Point cadets and experienced officer corps. If I were grading Obama regarding his appeal to this audience it would be a D. The primary reason is he never once mentioned victory as an outcome of his strategy. Why does this matter? Put yourself in the mindset of an officer who has (or will soon have) enlisted soldiers under his command. One question that would likely spring to mind is, “if my commander in chief is not convinced victory is possible, what do I tell my troops?” That is not a situation an officer wants to find himself in, to say the least.

Another audience are the legislators, activists and partisans of the president’s political party. As the health care debate has shown, Democrats are not united on much of anything. Regarding military action, one the one hand, most Blue Dog Democrats support a strong military and the use of force. But the wing of the Democratic Party that was largely responsible for the president’s victory are the progressives. Most of them want the troops home yesterday. The president’s speech contained some tough talk regarding Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the Blue Dogs and a clear timetable for the progressives. Or, was that a clear timetable? What was that mention of “facts on the ground” all about? Isn’t that what President Bush said time and time again when asked when we would withdrawal from Iraq? Obama did better with Democrats but not great, C-range territory.

The final audience to consider are Republicans, the political opposition. They do not seem very pleased with the president’s speech either. Some dismissed his strategy out of hand before he even gave his speech while others have been railing against him for taking so long to get his act together. Many wanted–but did not expect–Obama to commit to the 60,000 troops that General McChrystal asked for. They were also perturbed by his references to torture and shutting down Gitmo. So he gets another D.

Final Grade: D+

Setting aside how he did with these audiences, just a few words about my own perspective. First, I am not as critical as some that Obama took a while to put his Afghanistan plan together. Yet I agree that it is was too long, especially for someone who made a more effective Afghanistan strategy a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Progressives seem to have forgotten about that. Second, I concur it is important to let President Karzai know we are not going to be there forever. But did President Obama have to announce the timetable to the entire world? Couldn’t he have done this more diplomatically? Third, the political cheap shots were a disappointment. So how did he do for this audience of one? I give him a C-.

Read More:

Full transcript of the president’s speech here.

Clive Crook at the Atlantic found the speech contradictory:

Obama tried to have it both ways: he gave the generals another 30,000 soldiers, almost as many as they had asked for, but told the country (and anybody else who might have been listening) that disengagement would begin in just 18 months.

At its center, in other words, the speech contradicted itself. You cannot argue, as he tried to, that (a) this is a war America must win to safeguard its own security, and (b) whether the US is winning or not, the troops will start to come home in 2011. If they can start to come home in 18 months regardless, why not start to bring them home now?

That was not the only contradiction. We are against “nation building” (again). But as well as creating the country’s own security forces out of next to nothing, we want a civilian surge to build capacity and foster development. Run that by me once more.

Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard found it disapopinting:

I had hoped Obama would declare that nothing will deter him, as commander-in-chief, from prevailing in Afghanistan. But it turns out a lot of things might deter him. He listed a few of them: the cost of the war, its length (if more than 18 months from January 2010), the failure of Afghans to step up to the task sufficiently. He hedged.

Americans and our allies were looking for more, I believe. To have rallied the country and the world, Obama needed to indicate he would lead a fight to win in Afghanistan, with the help of allies if possible, but with the armed forces of the U.S. alone if necessary. He didn’t say anything like that. He didn’t come close.

While Joan Walsh over at Slate has this to say:

At the moment he needed all of his persuasive powers, Obama gave the worst major speech of his presidency. I admit: I expected to be, even wanted to be, carried away a bit by Obama’s trademark rhetorical magic. But I wasn’t, not even a little. I found the speech rushed, sing-songy and perfunctory, delivered by rote. I despise the right-wing Obama-Teleprompter taunts, but even I wanted to say, Look at your audience, not the damn Teleprompter, Mr. President. Obama looked haggard, his eyes deeper set, and I believe this decision pained him. But I’m not sure even he believes it’s the right decision.

Thoughts on the Election in Honduras

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[Image via National Democratic Institute]

Despite the attempts by Zelaya’s supporters to derail the election–including calling for a boycott and setting explosive devices–the conservative National party candidate Porfirio Lobo has defeated his rivals by receiving close to 56 percent of the vote. Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos received 30 percent. Zelaya’s attempt to reduce voter turnout appears to have failed.

Turnout was higher than expected but there is some discrepancy in the number of voters who participated. As reported by Americas Quarterly, “[t]he electoral tribunal reported a 61.3 percent voter turnout rate while Hagamos Democracia, which conducted the electoral tribunal’s quick count, noted that 47.6 percent of Hondurans voted.”

While a Heritage Foundation report notes, “the widespread resistance threatened by Zelaya’s supporters was mainly a campaign of disinformation” and includes the following statement:

Voting stations were accessible to all, adequately supplied with carefully controlled voting materials and fully staffed and supported by national observers from participating political parties. International observers witnessed no voter intimidation by any group, individual, or party. Other incidents reported to observers, such as late openings and locked voting stations, were quickly resolved and did not significantly disrupt the voting process.

The Frente Nacional de la Resistencia disputes these accounts:

With complete satisfaction we announce to the Honduran People and the international community that the electoral farce set up by the dictatorship regime has been absolutely defeated due to the low turn-out of voters at the poll sites, to the extent that the Supreme Electoral Tribune had to prolong the poll another hour until 5 p.m.

You don’t need glasses to see what is in front of your eyes. Nation-wide monitoring by our organization proved that the level of abstention during the process is at least of 60-75% percent, which is the highest in our national history, and implies that only a maximum of 30 – 35% of registered voters voted.

The United States, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Israel, Japan and Germany say they would recognize the results. I expect more countries will soon follow suit. While Zelaya’s foreign supporters–Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela–claim they will not. The Spanish government, will “neither recognize nor ignore” the results of the election. The Miami Herald notes:

The deposed leader finds himself in a precarious position. Just five months ago, world leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stood behind Zelaya, condemning Honduras for his ouster and calling for his return.

Now, regional leaders who once cut off talks with Honduras’s defacto government, offered support for the newly elected government. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said he would talk to other Ibero-American countries to recognize the future Honduran government, according to the Associated Press.

Mary O’Grady (WSJ), who has provided some of the best coverage of developments in Honduras opines:

The losers in this drama also include Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Spain, which all did their level best to block the election. Egged on by their zeal, militants inside Honduras took to exploding small bombs around the country in the weeks leading to the vote. They hoped that terror might damp turnout and delegitimize the process. They failed. Sunday’s civic participation appeared to be at least as good as it was in the last presidential election. Some polling stations reportedly even ran short, for a time, of the indelible ink used to mark voter pinkies…

[T]he leftist claims that Honduras could not hold fair elections flew in the face of the facts. First, the candidates were chosen in November 2008 primaries with observers from the OAS, which judged the process to be “transparent and participative.” Second, all the presidential candidates—save one from a small party on the extreme left—wanted the elections to go forward. Third, though Mr. Insulza insisted on calling the removal of Mr. Zelaya a “military coup,” the military had never taken charge of the government. And finally, the independent electoral tribunal, chosen by congress before Mr. Zelaya was removed, was continuing with the steps required to fulfill its constitutional mandate to conduct the vote. In the aftermath of the elections Mr. Insulza, who insisted that the group would not recognize the results, presides over a discredited OAS…

In my Sunday roundup, Bob mentioned a few things that he has found troubling. In particular, what he identified as the “pretty heavy repression by the coup government” which included the “blocking of Canal 36, the violent attack on peaceful protestors in San Pedro de Sula, the raids on and military cordons around leftist, indigenous and campesino organisations, the blanket militarisation of the country on polling day, and so on.”

I agree that police and military crackdowns on genuinely peaceful demonstrations conducted by any political group or element of civil society should be condemned. However, when activists start breaking windows,  setting fires and constructing barricades preventing free movement–let alone when they start hurling rocks, petrol bombs, or displaying clubs, machetes or other weapons–the security forces have an obligation to maintain law and order.

Regarding the shutdown of Canal 36, the emergency decree that shut down the station was lifted by interim president Micheletti on Oct. 6. A week and a half after being implemented (Sep. 26). So this was hardly anything long-term or even medium-term. It was a short-term measure that the interim government thought was necessary given the chaotic political climate in the country after Zelaya was removed from office.

Bob also noted that the Frente Nacional de la Resistencia has claimed the explosive devices were set by provocateurs. He finds this “plausible…as there is no motive for Zelaya’s supporters to do it.” Yet, as I pointed out in my comment, there is at least one major motive for Zelaya’s supporters to engage in this sort of political violence. They were the ones calling for a boycott of the election. If these attacks had lead to low voter turnout, Zelaya’s supporters would have used this as evidence that the elections were illegitimate, that the new government has no mandate, etc. etc. etc.

The possibility of right-wing provocateurs crossed my mind as well. But I think in this case, the political forces that wanted to repress voter turnout were those who are afraid of losing, i.e. the forces loyal to Zelaya. All polls showed the conservative candidate ahead by double-digits. So I don’t think they are behind this.

I would be remiss if I did not include what leftist periodicals are squawking about in response to the election results. In this case, a link to the Guardian will suffice (h/t to Flesh is Grass for pointing me to this). The author, Rory Carroll, states “foreign governments lined up to condemn the vote as a whitewash” and that “many Hondurans boycotted it.”

However, many governments–including Latin American governments that opposed the ouster of Zelaya–have recognized the election results. And as mentioned above, it appears the number of Hondurans who participated was between fifty and sixty percent. That is a higher percentage of participation than most presidential elections in the United States and many other democracies.

As to why the conservative candidate won, Carroll is convinced the election was rigged by conniving economic elites. In particular the descendants of Jewish and Palestinian immigrants who “dominate banking, insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications and media, including TV and newspapers.”  I think the correspondent has been spending too much time listening to his ideological comrades at Radio Globo.

I hope the elections pave the way for an easing of tensions between Honduras and the United States and an end to calls for sanctions and political isolation. Perhaps most importantly, the courage of Honduran democrats and the strength of Honduran democratic institutions provides an example to Central and South Americans that the form of jingoistic populism supported by Hugo Chavez and his allies can and will be challenged.

ADDED (Thursday December 3):

The Honduran Congress voted against allowing Zelaya to serve the final two months of his term. The vote was close to unanimous with 111 legislators against Zelaya and 14 supporting him. In case readers are unaware, the congress is dominated by Zelaya’s own Liberal Party. The AP reports:

Lawmaker after lawmaker insisted Wednesday that they were right the first time when they voted to oust Zelaya for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on changing the constitution. That vote happened hours after soldiers stormed into Zelaya’s residence and flew him into exile in his pajamas.

Zelaya opponents accuse him of trying to hang on to power by lifting a ban on presidential re-election, as his leftist ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya denies such intentions.

“My vote is (a lesson) for anyone who pretends to perpetuate himself in power. My vote is so that my son can look at me and say ‘Dad you defended democracy,”‘ said Antonio Rivera of Lobo’s conservative National Party.

ADDED (Saturday December 5):

Here are some comments from Bob that are important to address:

[T]here has been some violence from anti-coup protestors. I am not saying that this is a black and white issue and the coup regime were purely baddies and the pro-Zelaya forces purely goodies. The anti-coup movement has taken a variety of forms, and some of them are unsavoury. But the acts of violence have been fairly marginal – the disturbios youTubes show small numbers of masked up young people and could be countered to any number of youTubes showing purely non-violent protests involving large numbers of people of all sorts. I also think that the illegitimacy of the coup regime changes the terms, and a blanket condemnation of all kinds of violence against it is therefore not necessarily right.

Protests and protesters are a mixed bag. Some, if not most, people behave nonviolently and some people behave violently. However, when protesters get out of hand–even when they are a small minority–and start breaking windows, throwing rocks and petrol bombs, etc, the police respond in a general fashion by shutting the protests down. I think this is the way police respond in many, if not most, democracies. I know it is how the police respond in the U.S. Here is a post from Nov. 25 by an organization that supports Zelaya claiming, “the dictatorship arms itself with weapons and munitions of death.” The weapons in question? An armored truck with a watercannon and teargas.

The use (I would say misuse) of the term “coup” is the key to the large difference in our perspectives. As I have stated elsewhere, there was no coup in Honduras. I realize this is not a popular position to take with most of my friends and associates, the U.S. State Department, or the Organization of American States (OAS) but a classic coup d’etat is where the military seizes power and abolishes democratic institutions. This never happened in Honduras. Instead, the military acted according the demands of the legislative and judicial branches. It was a constitutional use of the military and not a coup.

I know I am in the minority taking this position but I think it is the correct position to take in this case. I think most of the Honduran people–with the exception of Zelaya’s supporters–agree. When they told people outside of their country, “look, this is not a coup, everything was done according to our constitution and the rule of law,” I listened to them, not the State Department or the OAS.

I also think that the repression should not be whitewashed as a temporary measure to restore order. The closure of media outlets, temporary or not, and the miltiarisation of public space are NOT conducive to democracy. We condemn these things when Chavez does them. (The media outlets Chavez closed were involved in the coup there; his justification exactly mirrors that used by the coup regime.) For these reasons, the election’s validity was completely undermined.

There is a huge difference between short-term measures that are done during times of political instability and long-term measures that become hallmarks of a particular regime. If Chavez had shut down these outlets for a few weeks or even a month I would agree with you. But Chavez shuts down media and other interests that are critical of him and then has his government take them over. Here were are, almost eight years after the attempted coup and “Chavez’s government is moving forcefully to silence critics by introducing a Media Crimes bill that would give it sweeping authority to jail journalists, media executives, and bloggers who report on anything that the government considers to be harmful to state interests.” He has also taken over banks the iron and steel industries and other sectors of the economy.

Can’t you see a difference here? Nothing like this has occurred in Honduras. The two stations were shut down for a few weeks. That is it. Once the situation stabilized they were allowed to broadcast again.

It seems to be hard to find reliable figures about turnout, with some news sources giving figures like 66% (typical in Honduran elections) but others more like 35%. As far as I can tell, less than 2 million people voted in an electorate of over 4 million.

What legitimate sources claim the turnout was 35%? All that I have read mentions the percentage varies between a low of about 48% and a high somewhere in the 60s. The election that placed Zelaya in power had a participation rate of 46% and nobody on the left was up in arms about those results.

The elections were characterised by assassinations, dissappearances, detentions, politically motivated arrests, blockades of opposition buildings.

There were international observers present for the election and none of them support this perspective. I realize VenezuelaAnalysis.com, NarcoNews, Cuban media and some far-left sites claim this is the case, but most reports I have read claim the election was largely peaceful. Bloomberg statesHonduras voted amid relative calm”. Even the NYT, no fans of the interim government, describe  “a police and military presence in the capital” with no reports of violence.

The police presence is understandable  given the fact that Zelaya’s supporters stated they planned on disrupting the election. If the police were intimidating people and preventing them from voting, this needs to be condemned. But if they were preventing belligerents from intimidating people who wanted to vote, this ought to be supported.

OK, am convinced there have been some explosive devices. Some of the reportage seems a little dodgy though, with these shadowy Nicaraguans, the Russian and Chinese weapons, and the Guatemalan passenger plane… It seems wrong to me to attribute them to the “resistance movement”; there seems little or no evidence for that.

Zelaya’s supporters (including “the resistance movement”) are the ones who wanted to disrupt the elections. I don’t see it as much of stretch to acknowledge their biggest supporters outside the country are found in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, places where Russian and Chinese weapons are rather common.

Approximately a week before the election, the AP reported (Nov 25) “on Nov. 12, assailants fired an anti-tank grenade toward a building where ballots for the presidential election were stored.” And in the same article, “Honduran police detained two Nicaraguans and two Hondurans along with several rifles, and interim President Roberto Micheletti claimed the weapons were part of a plot to attack him during Sunday’s presidential election.” If I were a betting man (which I am not) I would wager those rifles were made in China or Russia.

[National Party candidate and victor Porfirio Lobo (r) shakes the hand of Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos (l)]

Remembering the Mumbai Attacks: The Lessons Learned One Year Later

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One year ago today (November 26) Mumbai, India experienced its worst terrorist attack. Ten jihadists with small arms and grenades killed over 173 people and wounded over 308. They managed to hold the police and armed forces at bay until November 29.

While there have been some changes made in the hopes of preventing another attack, Karan Singh Tyagi laments:

Sadly, not much has changed. A year down the line no individual has been held accountable or punished for such a heinous act. It was only yesterday that the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Court formally charged seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, with planning and helping execute the Mumbai attacks. It is better late than never, but one only hopes that this indictment will be taken to its logical conclusion without any further delay.

In India itself, the trial of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone jihadi captured alive, has been turned into a prolonged circus that is serving no one. Kasab initially pleaded not guilty, but later, on July 20th, admitted his guilt. The court accepted his plea and placed the confessional statement on record, but dubbed the admission of guilt as a partial admission and let the trial proceed.

By all reckoning, Kasab’s is an open and shut case. So why not get on with it and reach the inevitable end? I am not suggesting kangaroo courts and summary trials, but delays like this don’t translate into justice. It is especially distressing to see such problems continue to emerge after the discomforting maze of the Indian judicial system was so badly exposed to the whole world when the Trial Court took thirteen years to bring down curtains to the 1993 Bombay Bomb Blast case.

Kasab claims he was recruited for the attacks by an Islamist faction in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan initially denied he was Pakistani but they were forced to admit his citizenship as more and more evidence emerged about how and where the plot was hatched. Rhys Blakely reports (July 21, 2009):

Kasab said he had decided to confess and face a possible death sentence in India after learning that Pakistan intended to prosecute five men accused of being linked to the attacks. “I have heard that Pakistan has now admitted I am Pakistani. My wish is to end the trial and for you to punish me,” he told the judge. He had previously pleaded not guilty to 86 offences, including murder and waging war against India, claiming that a confession had been beaten out of him.

Yesterday, however, he detailed how the Mumbai strike had been masterminded by Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist faction.

A recent AP story disclosed Italian police arrested two Pakistani men involved in financing aspects of the operation:

The day before the attacks began on Nov. 26 they allegedly sent money using a stolen identity to a U.S. company to activate Internet phone accounts used by the attackers and their handlers, said Stefano Fonsi, the head of anti-terror police in Brescia.

The transfer was just $229 but gave the attackers five lines over the Internet, which are difficult to trace and allowed militants to keep in touch even during the rampage, Mr. Fonsi said.

Italian police began the probe in December after being alerted by the FBI and Indian police about the transfer, Mr. Fonsi said…

The two suspects in Brescia, identified in a police statement as 60-year-old Mohammad Yaqub Janjua and 31-year-old Aamer Yaqub Janjua, are accused of aiding and abetting international terrorism as well as illegal financial activity. Their agency, which operated on the Western Union money transfer network, was seized by police.

Transferring funds using the identity of other people was a common practice at the Madina Trading agency in Brescia, and the Italian probe broke up a ring of people who used the system, Mr. Fonsi said.

Two more Pakistanis were arrested in Saturday’s raids for allegedly committing fraud, money laundering and other crimes through the masked transfers, but they were not linked to the Mumbai attacks. A fifth Pakistani man escaped arrest and was still being sought.

An additional 12 people were flagged to prosecutors for possible investigation but were not arrested, Mr. Fonsi said.

Just by using the stolen identity, the suspects had transferred some €400,000 ($590,000) between 2006 and 2008 to various countries. The network also used its contacts in Pakistan to help illegal immigrants enter Italy, Mr. Fonsi said.

What are the lessons we can learn from the Mumbai terrorist attacks? The first is recognizing the mayhem and destruction that can be accomplished with hand-held weapons. Bombs or other high explosives are not necessary. This was sadly made apparent by Major Malik Hasan’s recent rampage at Fort Hood. The second is realizing the extent of the global connections and networks established by these jihdists rather than narrowly focusing on South Asia. The third lesson regards the wisdom of trying people responsible for warlike acts in civilian courtrooms. While our system of jurisprudence is not as labyrinthine as the Indian courts, the delays in Kasab’s case are what we can likely expect in the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Gitmo detainees.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those killed and wounded in the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Remember what happened on this day one year ago.

Back Again: Updates, Rants and Invitations

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Updates:

I tried to stay away yet I felt a need to keep posting. Not sure why exactly beyond a desire to keep in touch with some of you who I have grown to get attached to. I don’t know about you but there are not of people in my life who I can bounce my ideas off of. Or, to put it another way, not a lot of people who respond in the prompt, critical, and constructive manner you do.

This post is a grab-bag of various emotions, material, information I have read and/or been exposed to since my last post. Yes, there has been lots of great things to check out at my regular reads, but I want to do things a bit differently this time around.

My brother would have been 43 on October 31. Many of you know he passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2006. This time of year is especially difficult for my mom. I wish I was in town for her.

I recently discovered an old post I wrote was cited in a report published by NGO Monitor, “Experts or Ideologues? A Systematic Analysis of Human Rights Watch’s Focus on Israel.” They also have a blog which I added to my blogroll.

I am somewhat familiar with the journal Telos (a quarterly of Politics, Philosophy, Critical Theory, and the Arts) but I was not aware they had a blog, TELOScope which has been added to my blogroll. Here is an article by Fred Siegel that is well worth reading, “Taking Communism from the Communists: The Origins of Modern American Liberalism.”

Alan Johnson of Democratiya has moved on to be an editor of the journal Dissent. Congratulations to Alan. Democratiya book reviews and other material are now archived at the Dissent website.

My homeboy Antonio started a blog. Looks like mostly creative writing at this point. Keep it up, Tony.

And check out this interview with Saad Eskander, director-general of the Iraq National Library and Archives.

Rants:

oreo pitbull

[Oreo: Image by Hiroko Masuike for NYT]

I appreciate the work done by the ASPCA, I really do. But I got sick to my stomach when I heard they killed Oreo the pitbull. In case you haven’t been following the story as close as I have:

Oreo, a dog that was nursed back to health after surviving being thrown off the roof of a six-story building, was killed Friday by lethal injection.

A 2-year-old pit bull, Oreo was euthanized in the New York City headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after the organization rebuffed last-minute pleas to spare her life. The organization called the dog a danger to the public.

On Friday morning, Oreo received a last meal of “premium quality” kibble and canned dog food. She was then given a sedative, though she appeared “content, alert and panting,” according to an organization spokesman. Oreo was injected in the leg with an overdose of sodium pentobarbital and was pronounced dead shortly after 3 p.m.

The organization has euthanized 107 dogs this year, through October.

Oreo’s case came to public attention in June, when her owner, Fabian Henderson, threw her off the roof of his apartment building at the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn. Mr. Henderson was convicted of animal cruelty and was scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Oreo broke two legs in the fall. News reports of the incident, accompanied by photos of the brown and white dog with her front legs in casts, triggered a flood of adoption offers and financial donations to help pay for the medical care.

It makes my blood boil reading about people who abuse pitbulls. Any dog really, but pits in particular since I lost mine to old age recently and he was my first dog. People ask me, “when are you going to get another dog?” And honestly, I don’t know. Maybe when my son grows a bit older.

President Obama held a “town hall style” meeting for Chinese students where he discussed U.S. policy and relations between the two countries. The audience was hand-picked by the Chinese communist party. No dissent allowed.

After that experience he probably wishes the audiences for the town hall meetings here at home were organized in the same manner. But in all fairness, at least he called on the Chinese government to accept “universal rights.” Now if he would only make the same demands of the Iranian government.

On the subject of Iran, the Israeli navy intercepted an Iranian boat loaded with arms for Hezbollah. A blatant violation of international agreements, international law, the UN, etc. etc. etc. but nobody in the “international community” cares because the target is Israel.

And on the subject of Israel, the U.S. Congress passed a measure condemning the Goldstone Report. 344 members voted for the resolution, 36 against and 22 voted “present”. Here are the last names of those in the latter two groups:

Nays: Baird • Baldwin • Blumenauer • Boustany • Capps • Carson (IN) • Clarke • Clay • Davis (KY) • Dingell • Doggett • Edwards (MD) • Ellison • Filner • Grijalva • Hinchey • Johnson, E. B. • Kilpatrick • Kucinich • Lee (CA) • Lynch • McCollum • McDermott • McGovern • Miller • George • Moran (VA) • Olver • Pastor (AZ) • Paul • Price (NC) • Rahall • Snyder • Stark • Waters • Watt • Woolsey

Present: Becerra • Cooper • Dahlkemper • DeFazio • Delahunt • Duncan • Eshoo • Farr • Heinrich • Hirono • Honda • Johnson (GA) • Jones • Kaptur • Loebsack • Lofgren, Zoe • Lujàn • Obey • Speier • Tierney • Welch •Wu

Like clockwork, the left-wing lunosphere has gone nuts. For them, yet more evidence that Jews “Zionists” control the government.

Invitations:

The good folks at Center Movement.org have invited me to join their team or at least write a guest post. They describe themselves as an Internet journal and are in process of organizing a grassroots centrist lobby. A bit on the journalistic aspect which aims to:

  • Become the voice of Centrism in the United States
  • Put bold, new, non-ideological public policy ideas before the American people
  • Articulate citizens’ reformist agenda
  • Umpire the debate between left and right and discuss various Centrist alternatives
  • Establish an information hub linking visitors to other Centrist sites and reformist organizations

Roland has a new music blog, Some Lost, Some Found. He asked me to post some tunes and I gladly obliged. While my tastes are certainly not as unique as his, I listen to an eclectic mix of music and hope to add something to the mix. [ADDED: My first post on Stäläg 13's "In Control"  E.P. is up here]

On the topic of music: Bob, I know you remember these Metalheadz tracks:

Far Away (Doc Scott)

Unofficial Ghost (Doc Scott)

Made up Sound (Source Direct)

The Nocturnal (Peshay)

Library of Congress Report Finds No Coup in Honduras, Zelaya Returns

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honduras_zelaya_candela_no

[H/t Neo-Republica for this image and image below]

Mary Anastasia O’Grady (WSJ) has uncovered some very important information on the so-called coup in Honduras.  She notes, “a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts”. The report, written by CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez claims:

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

I have been trying to find a copy of the report online this morning but am unable to locate it. As soon as I find it I will post a link.

Meanwhile, Zelaya has returned to Honduras with the assistance of Brazilian president Lula de Silva. This is via Voice of America:

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to his country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy to avoid arrest.

In a television interview Monday, Mr. Zelaya said he had returned to Honduras to reclaim his presidency in accordance with the will of the people. He called for for a national dialogue.

Initial reports that Mr. Zelaya had returned were unclear about his exact location. Crowds of supporters rallied outside the United Nations building in Tegucigalpa amid reports that he was inside.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Ian Kelly, said the U.S. reiterates its “almost daily” call for supporters of both Mr. Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could provoke violence.

Kelly added the U.S. still considers Mr. Zeyala Honduras’s democratically elected and constitutional leader.

Jose De Cordoba (WSJ) reports:

A few thousand Zelaya supporters surrounded the embassy in Tegucigalpa, raising fears of violence between his backers and the interim government of President Roberto Micheletti. Mr. Micheletti’s government had vowed to arrest Mr. Zelaya if he returned.

Some of the demonstrators said they would march to the presidential palace on Tuesday to throw out Mr. Micheletti’s government and install Mr. Zelaya. Mr. Micheletti’s government had set a Monday curfew from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., and later extended the curfew through Tuesday evening.

In a television address, Mr. Micheletti, flanked by his cabinet and Gen. Romeo Vasquez, the Honduran army’s chief of staff, said the Brazilian government should turn over Mr. Zelaya to Honduran authorities so he can face legal charges. Mr. Micheletti said Mr. Zelaya’s “irregular” return didn’t change anything, as Mr. Zelaya had been removed from power following a Supreme Court order.

In New York, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin told reporters he hoped that Mr. Zelaya’s return to Honduras would open a new stage in the so-far failed negotiations…

Close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said Mr. Zelaya told him he traveled with four companions. Mr. Chávez hailed Mr. Zelaya’s return and said his country stood ready to help him return to power.

honduras_zelaya_suppoters_palos

Also in WSJ:

Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest.

Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

On Monday Mr. Zelaya said he owed his return and political survival to “the support of the international community.” He’s getting support from Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla group FMLN in El Salvador, and especially from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But let’s face it: None of that support would mean very much without the diplomatic and sanctions muscle of the U.S.

This is from J.E. Dyer at Contentions:

Brazil’s support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is the latest event in a worrying trend. Zelaya has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since his secretive return to Honduras on Monday. Brazil is not taking a neutral stance by harboring him. Brazil is among the majority of Latin American nations that have insisted on Zelaya’s reinstatement, but it is significant that Brasilia’s embassy is hosting the ousted president, rather than, say, the embassy of Costa Rica, whose President Arias acted as mediator in talks this summer…

It should not surprise us to learn that Lula da Silva is facing the same decision that confronts all modern Latin American presidents: the end of his constitutionally permitted tenure in office. He has steadfastly refused to consider amending Brazil’s constitution so he can seek another term. But he is a popular president, his handpicked successor has been battling cancer, and Brazilian sentiment is 50-50 on whether he should be allowed another term. Like Uribe of Colombia, Lula da Silva is popular enough to obtain the approval of the people for this course—making them both unlike Zelaya.

Lastly, here is former Honduran Foreign Minister and Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Perez-Cadalso on the situation (via C-SPAN2):

Answering Martin’s Questions Regarding Anarchism

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CNT-Poster

H/t to Martin for tagging me on this. I added a question (A), How were you introduced to anarchism?

(A) How were you introduced to anarchism?

I was introduced to anarchism in my teens through the punk-rock and hardcore punk music scene. While my understanding of anarchism was neither deep nor broad, the anti-authoritarian and DIY elements really appealed to me. Here is a little classic anarcho-punk:

When I got a bit older (20s) I started reading some of the classical anarchist authors and texts after volunteering at an anarchist press that will remain nameless; “Bakunin on Anarchism” (translated by Sam Dolgoff), Kropotkin’s “The Conquest of Bread,” Rudolf Rocker’s “Anarcho-Syndicalism,” Abel Paz’s “Durruti: The People Armed,” Murray Bookchin’s “The Spanish Anarchists” and loads of stuff by Paul Avrich including “Anarchist Portraits,” “Anarchist Voices,” “Sacco and Vanzetti,” and “The Haymarket Tragedy.”

1. What exactly do you mean by anarchism (which key ideas and thinkers are important to you)?

In its most simple formulation, libertarian socialism i.e. socialism that allows for a maximum of individual liberty. As Bakunin wrote, “Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice and Socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.”

Back in my anarchist days I moved from an anarcho-syndicalist or anarcho-communist perspective to a much more individualist or mutualist position. It’s strange that my personal progression was the inverse of the historical development of anarchism as an ideology i.e from a form of mutualism influenced by Proudhon to Bakunin’s anarcho-collectivism to Kropotkin’s anarcho-communism.

As to which key ideas and thinkers are important to me, today I have moved rather far from my anarcho-roots. But back in the day I liked Benjamin Tucker and the American individualists, Errico Malatesta (anarcho-communist), Rudolf Rocker (anarcho-syndicalist), and especially Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella who advocated what they termed anarchismo sin adjetivos (anarchism without adjectives). These two authors found that anarchists shared more in common then all their hyphenated forms seemed to indicate.

I still have a lot of affinity for Carlo Tresca, who was able to work with anarchists, the syndicalists in the IWW and more mainstream trade-unionists. Like Mella, he was a bridge-builder between a variety of different leftwing movements and political perspectives. He was also a fierce opponent of Stalinists, fascists and the mob.

But the anarchists I felt I had the most in common with were people like Dolgoff or the working-class anarchist immigrants Avrich interviewed in “Anarchist Voices”. These people were activists and not traditional intellectuals. Their stories, their families, their struggles, their language, spoke to me and I found a lot of inspiration reading about their lives.

Sadly, I have found that anarchists in the U.S. have lost much of their willingness to actively fight against totalitarian socialism. Sure, they’ll diss the commies in their newspapers and journals. But when it comes to rallies and demonstrations, the anarchists and Stalinists, Maoists and other totalitarian socialists march side-by-side. In Tresca’s day, the anarchists would be fighting these scum in the streets, factories and neighborhoods. I have written a little about this here and here.

CNT-tram

2. Does the anarchist experiment in the Spanish Republic have any relevance today (and if so what), or is the continuing fascination with it simply rose-tinted leftist nostalgia?

Allowing my remnant of anarchist influence to show through, I prefer to refer to the Spanish Revolution. The main relevance of that event is anarchists and other liberty-minded individuals should never, ever, trust the communists. Even if that means working with liberals, non-radicals and—dare I say it—other advocates of capitalism.

As to the rose-tinted nostalgia, it is incredibly strong among anarchists. As I have mentioned elsewhere, CNT militants certainly resisted Communist attempts at destroying the anarchist collectives. But, at the same time, the anarchists also implemented pro-capitalist methods themselves.

These methods including tying wages to productivity, the implementation of the piece-rate system, harsh punitive measures for slackers, even forced collectivization which most anarchists fail to admit.

As Seidman writes, “A dispassionate examination of the charges and countercharges leads to the conclusion that both anarchist and Communists were correct. The former used illegal coercion to initiate collectives, and the latter used it to destroy them.” (126) (Michael Seidman “Republic of Egos: A Social History of the Spanish Civil War“. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).

I highly recommend Seidman’s book as he does not have an ideological axe to grind and is trying to humanize our understanding of the conflict. Seidman argues for most Spaniards, the ideological struggles mattered less than day-to-day survival. What did they do? How did they survive? These are the questions Seidman seeks to answer, not which side had the proper ideological line. For most Spaniards, consumption was the primary consideration, not class-struggle.

Where we are today, I think the example of the Mondragon Cooperatives is more relevant than the Spanish anarchist collectives.

primitivists

3. What exactly would it mean to implement anarchist ideas in a twenty-first century, globalised economy and polity – and would it even be possible or practicable?

That depends on what sort of anarchist you ask. The anarcho-primitivists have different ideas than the anarcho-insurrectionists who have different ideas than the anarcho-syndicalists who have different ideas than the anarcho-communists.

Possible, no.

Practicable, no.

In the end, anarchism is a utopian ideology. In my teens and twenties, utopianism had a lot of appeal for me. Today, I find that when utopian ideals are implemented they lead to dystopian realities. In other words, Hobbes was right. Human beings need the State in order to have what we know as civilization. That does not mean we should refrain from being vigilant against the encroachment of the State in our personal lives but we should recognize the benefits the State provides to us as individuals, families, etc.

I also think it is important to point out that some of the most important anarchist thinkers were intensely anti-Semitic. I am thinking specifically of Bakunin and Proudhon. This usually is swept under the rug by anarchists, including Jewish anarchists. Jewish Marxists do the same thing with Marx.

Ahmadinejad Picks Terrorist for Defense Minister of Iran

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Interpol revealed that Ahmad Vahidi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s pick for Defense Minister, is wanted by the agency for his role in the bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. The terrorist attack left 85 people dead and wounded more than 300.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly expressed his concern over the impending appointment but he avoided “a question as to whether the U.S. authorities might arrest Vahidi, if he was approved as defense minister and he tried to come to the United States on U.N. business” (VOA).

Roni Sofer (Ynet) writes:

[T]he Argentinean Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the appointment, calling it an affront to Argentine justice and the victims of the terrorist attack on the Jewish community center.

The statement further read that news of the nomination was received with grave concern in Argentina.

Tehran brushed aside the criticism as part of a “Zionist plot”, as Ahmadinejad press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr wondered why the Argentineans didn’t bring up the matter in the past.

Momento 24 (Argentina) notes:

“It is not surprising, if  the information is confirmed, this appointment, since this is a regime that does not surrender for trial the suspects of the terrorist attack,” said the head of the AMIA, Guillermo Borger.

He also warned that the Iranian regime protects the suspects and appointed them as public officiasls, but never before in a very important role with minister rank.