Thursday, December 29, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
with the letter below in the 1 December 2011 edition.
I understood that Gaddafi was guilty of any number of crimes but I had little idea of the charges that Matar makes against him.
I gather the alleged crimes of Gaddafi are still a controversial issue on the left.
Who said Gaddafi had to go?
Letter by Hisham Matar
For 42 years Libyans endured the contempt and violence of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. It subjugated the press, closed down unions and weakened the independence of the courts. It dismantled civic institutions and hanged students by the neck from the gates of the university. Executions of critics in public squares and sports stadiums were broadcast on national television. In a country with a population smaller than that of the City of London, tens of thousands disappeared or were imprisoned. Journalists who dared break the silence were found dead.
It is extraordinary how in his very long essay Hugh Roberts excludes any mention of this history (LRB, 17 November). It makes one wonder whether he knows the country at all. His objection to Nato’s support of the Libyan revolution causes him to lament the end of the dictatorship. With an air of ethnocentric contempt he disregards the will of the Libyan people. Indeed, he even disapproves of calling the deposed leader a dictator, and offers Gaddafi’s comical Green Book the respectability of a serious political theory that, according to Roberts, ‘drew many ordinary Libyans into a sort of participation in public affairs’. Really? What ‘sort of participation’ was possible when every independent agency and organisation was subdued? Although Roberts prefers to judge Gaddafi by his words and not by his actions, he mysteriously excludes any mention of the speeches Gaddafi delivered after 17 February promising to ‘exterminate’ the demonstrators. Just as baffling is the derogatory tone in which he refers to those ‘young men … careering up and down’. He means the men who led the battles that ousted the dictator. In more than 12,000 words Roberts succeeds in expressing no sympathy for, let alone solidarity with, a people’s legitimate aspiration for justice and freedom. Shame.
Monday, October 17, 2011
The New York Review of Books
October 14, 2011
Thanks for John Terborgh’s valuable review and not least for his welcome reference to Malthus in his last paragraph. I offer a quibble only because Terborgh suggests a popular misconception about Malthus’s views, a misreading that has worked to obscure the author’s important message regarding the restraints that nature imposes on life on earth.
[Here is Terborgh’s final paragraph.
Malthus foresaw more than two hundred years ago that exponential growth could not be sustained in a world of finite resources. Malthus’s thesis is not a conjecture: it is a truism. Dismissing Malthus has become a popular talking point because global society has not collapsed-yet-but must remember that Malthus put no time limit on his prediction.]
Malthus never predicted that population growth would one day lead to the collapse of civilization. Rather in An Essay on Population (1798), he did hazard a more fundamental and useful prediction. Writing to counter some of the optimism inspired by the French Revolution, Malthus postulated that humans would always be “condemned to “a perpetual oscillation between happiness and misery” due to the “principle of population,” the tendency of population to increase faster than food supplies. Malthus emphasized that this oscillation was a “constantly operating process,” not an event that would take place at some distant point.
Arguably not a day has since passed that humans have not experienced a measure of the misery that Malthus predicted. Malthus believed that his major theoretical contribution was his discovery that misery was the mechanism by which population is kept level with resources.
Malthus ends his first chapter with an eloquent and pertinent description of nature’s “imperious” demand for limits. Incidentally, Darwin famously acknowledged that it was an adumbration of this insight that helped underpin his theory of evolution.
The germs of existence contained in this spot of earth, with ample food, and ample room to expand in, would fill millions of worlds, in the course of a few thousand years. Necessity, that imperious all pervading law of nature, restrains them within the prescribed bounds. The race of plants and the race of animals shrink under this great restrictive law. And the race of man cannot, by any efforts of reason, escape from it.
The author is the editor of The International Society of Malthus, a website.
Friday, July 15, 2011
I agree: Obama has been maneuvering much more openly, quite blatantly in fact, since at least December 2010, driving not merely a rightwing agenda, but an extremist right wing agenda, a Tea Party agenda.
Taibbi quotes from a recent Paul Krugman op-ed where Krugman couldn’t be clearer. It’s hard, Krugman begins, to trust Mr. Obama to uphold Democratic principles and a liberal, progressive view of the needs of the country. Krugman noticed that Obama’s economic rhetoric has parroted the know-nothings and the cynics.
It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that’s not a false impression; maybe it’s the simple truth.
One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.” --NYT, July 8, 2011, “What Obama Wants”
The difficulty with Taibbi’s blog is that he muddles the issue by suggesting that Obama’s purpose is to gain political advantage ahead of the 2012 elections.
But what is becoming equally obvious, to both sides, is that the Obama White House is using this same artificial calamity to pitch its own increasingly rightward tilt to voters in advance of the 2012 elections.
If Taibbi had stopped before his last phrase, he would have been spot on.
But what is becoming equally obvious, to both sides, is that the Obama White House is using this same artificial calamity to pitch its own increasingly rightward tilt…
In his last paragraph Taibbi comes so close to nailing it.
I simply don't believe the Democrats would really be worse off with voters if they committed themselves to putting people back to work, policing Wall Street, throwing their weight behind a real public option in health care, making hedge fund managers pay the same tax rates as ordinary people, ending the pointless wars abroad, etc. That they won't do these things because they're afraid of public criticism, and "responding to pressure," is an increasingly transparent lie.
Yes, it’s a transparent lie to think that the Democrats and/or Obama believe that by endorsing GOP anti-government, anti-civil society policies, they are gaining popular support.
Matt Taibbi is one of our clearest and most focused writers and has made important contributions, especially by documenting and elucidating many of the shenanigans that led to the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. If this particular blog is somewhat muddled, we can wonder if it is so because he’s writing for a national publication and it may not be so easy for him as it might be for others to call out Obama for who he is.
How much more clear do we need the signs to be? Obama appears to be a traitor to his party. In the last few days Obama repeated: 'I'm prepared to take significant heat from my own party.' President Obama has turned out to be a traitor to the hopes of the millions of his supporters. Obama appears to be a fraud, an imposter, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, devouring what little remains of the New Deal. Obama seems intent on keeping us on the unsustainable road of the post 9/11 world of permanent war and totalitarian government.
It’s time to seek an answer to the question: Who is Obama? And while we do so, let’s recognize that the Republicans are right. We can’t afford another Obama term.
Friday, May 27, 2011
The article presents evidence suggesting that Palestinians were not responsible for the brutal stabbing in March 2011 of five members of a Jewish settler family in their home at the Itamar, West Bank settlement.
The quote below is from a paragraph describing some of the security obstacles that Palestinians would have had to overcome in order to gain entry to the settlement.
A Palestinian blog, KABOBfest…explained that Itamar is a heavily fortified settlement, whose security included an electrified wire fence topped with two feet of razor wire, with sensors that could signal intrusion by means of cutting shears, and cameras that covered the entire perimeter. 24-hour security guards in addition to Israeli military forces also protected the settlement. Itamar…is surrounded by hundreds of meters of empty buffer land to isolate and identify intruders.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
How can we explain the current heartbreaking state of the U.S./NATO campaign against Libya, which seems mired in stalemate? The evidence seems to indicate that the stalemate is a result of a decision by the Obama administration not to topple Ghaddafi’s regime despite the negative effect the inconclusive war is having on Obama’s domestic poll numbers. An American stalemate strategy would explain why the U.S. immediately handed over direction of the war to NATO and ended its briefly effective air support.
Perhaps the White House has either not found a reliable ally among rebel leaders or is not really looking. It seems as if the U.S. is prepared to allow Ghaddafi to defeat the rebellion and/or to remain in power indefinitely.
If Obama, despite his rhetoric, prefers not to remove Ghaddafi, it’s not unlikely that it is because putative Libyan rebel leaders would reflect their country’s public opinion in support of Palestinian national and human rights, including an end to the occupation. Obama’s reluctance to remove Ghaddafi may be due to his disinclination to challenge Israeli interests. The New York Times front-page headline for April 29, 2011 highlighting Egyptian moves to normalize ties with the Iranians and Hamas is an example of the sort of thing the Israelis and undoubtedly the Obama administration do not want to see repeated in Libya.
The current turmoil in the Middle East sheds light on the Israeli boast that it is the only democracy in the Middle East as it reveals its wish to maintain that position. It’s also a reminder that Israeli pressure on the Arab world has helped to sustain dictatorships in many ways, not least by persuading millions of Arabs for decades that national unity trumped democratic rights in the face of the security threat from the lone democracy.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I couldn't help noticing on facebook and elsewhere that many if not all of my friends on the Left (including I just noticed, one of my heroes, Glenn Greenwald) are on the other side of the question of U.S. intervention against Ghaddafi.
Here we have a case where, largely because of the example of Tunisia and Egypt, etc., much of the Libyan population have understandably been emboldened to demonstrate and demand regime change. And I gather that to some extent, their boldness comes from the circumstance that Obama occupies the White House and not Bush-Cheney.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Obama is as great a threat (or even greater) to democracy in the Middle East, in the U.S. and everywhere else as was Bush and Cheney. However, Ghaddafi's naked brutality and the ruthless extent of his brutal viciousness has placed Obama in a difficult position. On the one hand, I gather that he’d prefer to maintain support for Ghaddafi perhaps because the Libyan dictator represents stability and the status quo; and also because Israel would be more comfortable with Ghaddafi than they would be with a successor government which might better represent the Libyan public when it comes to Israeli repression of the Palestinians and the political and military carte blanche the Israelis enjoy in the area. Obama’s real sentiments in support of these dictators—and his fealty to Israeli desires could explain his wavering and indecision in all these cases.
At the same time it should be clear that there’s no argument here that the U.S. is the great imperial monster, resorting to unprovoked aggression time and again—and virtually always against its own best interests--for more than a century, but especially since WWII. Nevertheless, as adults, we’re responsible for making case-by- case distinctions. Libya is a case where the U.S., with its military and political power, is in a position to do some good, as it could have done and should have done in Rwanda.
When you have a situation where Ghaddafi has already demonstrated that he’s prepared to wipe out thousands of people, perhaps many thousands of people—intellectuals, professionals, students, shopkeepers—all its perceived opponents--it behooves a great power to take action when it can do so with relative ease –even if we don’t have much of a clue about the nature of the government that might follow. We can just hope that it would not be as murderous nor as illegitimate as Ghaddafi's.
I took a similar position years ago with Clinton’s intervention in Kosovo only to find out later the extent to which it was the Clinton administration’s support of the most criminal Kosovar elements that incited the bloodshed. I don’t expect to find that Libya and Tunisia and Egypt are parallel cases.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Some years ago I read a book called The Chamberlain-Hitler Deal ** (1993) by one Clement Leibovitz (1923-2009), a Canadian computer engineer, born in Egypt, with a PhD in physics from the Technion, in Israel.
Leibovitz’s extraordinary and remarkably readable book presents the hidden history of the origins of WWII by means of contextualizing and annotating document after document to make his point that Chamberlain was bent on reaching a “general settlement” with Hitler’s Germany, in effect, a deal. Leibovitz’s theory is that Chamberlain hoped that Hitler would repay the British offer of “a free hand in the East” with peace in the West.
Perhaps Leibovitz’s most important contribution is to overturn the notion of Chamberlain as a timid and weak-minded leader, slow to understand the threat from Hitler.
Chamberlain is revealed to have been as tough, savvy, ruthless and as forceful as any of his contemporaries, arguably the equal as far as achieving his agenda, as any of the century’s dictators. Leibovitz’s portrait is consistent with the findings of other historians who have portrayed Chamberlain as essentially autocratic in nature, arrogant, stubborn and increasingly intolerant of criticism.
In addition, as former British Labor Parliamentarian Tony Benn writes in his “Introduction,” Leibovitz’s book (which he calls “by far the best book yet published about the causes and origins of the second world war”) exposes the sympathy many in the British establishment shared for Hitler and Mussolini. As ill luck would have it, the most dedicated and ideologically determined member of that group, Neville Chamberlain, rose to the position of prime minister of Britain.
But if Chamberlain was as shrewd, clever and forceful as the evidence suggests, how could it be that he gave up so much to Hitler at Munich in September 1938, removing the last obstacle to Nazi aggression?
In due course, I found that Chamberlain’s offer to Hitler of a “free hand in the East” was only part of the story. By throwing Czechoslovakia and Poland (not to mention Austria) to the Nazi wolf, Chamberlain was also endangering the West. In the end, I concluded that Chamberlain intentionally, treacherously, labored to undermine the security and independence of the West as well as the East.
“Churchill’s Chamberlain: The Unnecessary War,” (6 pp., 2550 words) is projected as the first in a series attempting to shed light on the hidden history of the origins of WWII, as well as prompting a re-evaluation of conventional notions of Hitler and Chamberlain and other key players.
The first two paragraphs of “ Churchill’s Chamberlain” follows. The entire article is posted on the DESIP website:
(Also try http://desip.igc.org)
**Clement Leibovitz’s The Chamberlain-Hitler Deal is now available as a free download from the Desip website:
A later version of Leibovitz’s book, co-written with Alvin Finkel, entitled: In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion (1997), is available at Amazon and other booksellers.
Personal Note: Since I have shifted many or most of my postings to Facebook, those interested are encouraged to view my profile there and/or friend me. --RB
Churchill’s Chamberlain: The Unnecessary War
By Ronald Bleier
In the “Preface” to The Gathering Storm, volume I of his World War II memoirs, Winston Churchill writes that when President Roosevelt asked for suggestions about what the war should be called, he replied that it should be called “the Unnecessary War. There never was a war more easy to stop.”
Churchill doesn’t explain in his brief “Preface” how war could have been prevented, but two thirds of his memoir is taken up with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s conduct in office in the crucial years 1937-1940. During that time Churchill was the most high profile critic of the prime minister’s appeasement policies, marked by Britain’s extraordinary and devastating security concessions to Hitler. Churchill was particularly outraged by what he saw as the prime minister’s purposeful obstruction of British rearmament in the face of the manifest threat from Germany. Churchill’s book may be read as a record of his frustration and its sum and substance amounts to an indictment of Chamberlain.