Powered by Blogger
all © alf

   Thursday, March 27, 2003

What the American Flag Stands For
by Charlotte Aldebron

The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.

School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.

Betsy Ross would be quite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag's real meaning remains.

Charlotte Aldebron, 12, wrote this essay for a competition in her 6th grade English class. She attends Cunningham Middle School in Presque Isle, Maine.

posted by alf at 1:02 PM

China, Letter in the Globalist

[Editor's note: A Chinese government official in Beijing recently wrote to an old family friend in his home village ... an act of courtesy he has observed for many years. Patrick Smith, our Asia Editor, received a copy of his letter ... and was asked that it be published anonymously.]

Americans now hope for a swift and dramatic victory in Iraq. They view the exercise as a great display of power that will be the beginning of a project to remake the Middle East in their own image.

It is breathtaking in its hubris, but it expresses the essence of the unilateral perspective as the Americans entertain it: To triumph over others ... and then refashion them to conform to the American vision.

It is a view predicated on the supremacy of American power as the defining characteristic of our time.

No one here in Beijing questions the supremacy of American might. But we recognize America's status as a sole superpower as an interim.

It will be followed in the not-distant future by a world in which multilateralism is the basis of order ... and where no one can act alone. That is the lesson the Americans have to learn to their great surprise.

China is not as powerful now as it one day will be. But it is making itself strong. America is now powerful, but it is making itself weak.

It is isolating itself internationally at precisely the moment it should be maturing as a world leader.

There are times when one need do little but watch and wait as those whom one opposes on one matter or another make even bigger mistakes. We Chinese have had many more centuries than the Americans to grasp this truth. - extract in SALON


posted by alf at 10:53 AM

   Tuesday, March 25, 2003

From naif's journal

"7:11 am 21 Mar 03 - world poetry day

Last Friday was World Poetry Day. I was informed of this through a Singapore writer's mailing list. It was also very heartening for me that the info was accompanied by an affirmative message by Alvin Pang, a fellow poet, on the redemptive value of poetry in these troubled times."

At least there is some (surprising) value and reach to the all@writer.per.sg mailing list after all. Unlikely that such efforts could stop a war, but at least it is a way of sharing, conserving and letting some people let off collective steam.

posted by alf at 8:56 PM

Male grievance has found a geopolitical target in Saddam. Sexual revenge has been sublimated into military payback. Underlying this process is a sense of the world as a jungle where friendship is transient, danger is everywhere and one can never have enough power. This is the classic rationale for macho. Feminism teaches us that it's a pretext for preserving the order. Liberalism tells us it's paranoid. But what once seemed like paranoia is regarded as reason, and what was piggy now feels natural. - Rise of the Neo-Macho Man By Richard Goldstein, The Nation

posted by alf at 2:54 PM

   Monday, March 24, 2003

I don't want or need to explain in painstaking detail my political position on this whole business (private emails welcome) which really is not as simplistic as 'no war no matter what', but would like to say that my thinking about recent events predates the war by months -- the damn thing having been brewing since August at least -- ever since my stint in the International Writing Program last year.

My time there gave me an inside glimpse of the spectrum of American worldviews as well as the range of opinion of a truly global palette of writers (yes, it's arts-related, kids!) including an Israeli, a Palestinian, Africans (including a former Zimbabwean freedom fighter), Asians, Eastern and Western Europeans, South Americans and a veteran New Zealand journalist.

Believe me, given the life histories of some of these folks, they are pretty darn far from your ivory tower middle-class intellectual stereotypes that tend to be labelled peaceniks. If there's one thing I learnt, it's not to dismiss global opinion, particularly those from people who've seen more shit in their lifetime than we've seen in our collective history. Few are what we'd call "activists". Many of them are sympathetic to the American condition and are frankly quite puzzled at the sudden derailing of rationality in public discourse (or lack of it).

I think it's not unfair to say that serious artists of any stripe believe in the worth of contemplation, communication and conscience, however one chooses to define these nebulous terms. All of these have been lacking when it comes to a recently revived geopolitical thrust (which includes but is not confined to the Iraqi crisis and the general war on terror) that is taking the world away from precisely the painstaking consensus and cooperation needed to deal with its many difficult problems.

This is not a niche issue confined to a marginal flock of interest groups. This issue threatens regimes and governments around the world, and promises to redraw the geopolitical map. Around the world (eg in Britain), scintillating and highly respected careers have been gambled and sacrificed on matters of principle for its sake.

I don't think it's irrelevant or impertinent for artists or those interested in the artistic community (however one draws the line) to further the cause of fair and balanced information, more disciplined analysis, and basic human compassion on one of the defining crises of our generation.

I'm not usually so worked up about traditional "liberal" issues and consider myself a moderate, even, at times, an apathetic lower-middle- class ivory tower starbucks sipping yuppie about many issues. I don't claim nor wish to claim allegiance to any logo, organisation, movement, school of thought or ideology. I had thought to keep my views largely private or within a close circle of friends and let history take its course.

But honestly, when my country comes out in clarion support for the shedding of innocent blood in our name without so much as a squeak of reservation, one has to say, hold it, you're definitely not speaking for me on this one. Some things are too big a scam to let go without a whimper. Some fictions are too fradulent to be passed off as documentary. And really, that's all.

posted by alf at 5:43 PM

US use of napalm?

The destruction of Safwan Hill was a priority for the attacking forces because it had sophisticated surveillance equipment...the marine howitzers, with a range of 30 kilometres, opened a sustained barrage over the next eight hours. They were supported by US Navy aircraft which dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm, a US officer told the Herald. We are attacking a country where we have no proof that they retain chemical weapons, while using napalm and other area weapons denounced as violations of human rights by international bodies.

Here- In 1996, the UN Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities produced a resolution (96/16) urging states to ‘curb the production and the spread of weapons of mass destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing depleted uranium’. The US has blocked formal treaties on banning napalm, an "unreasonable veto" if there ever was one, but for us to fight a war in the name of stopping "bad weapons" with horrific weapons like napalm just adds to our lack of credibility around the world.-- Nathan Newman

posted by alf at 12:08 PM

OCCUPATION: No Model for This One
By Wesley K. Clark
Washington Post, Sunday, March 23, 2003; Page B02

He had been a hero in World War I, and a very young Army chief of staff. As a retired general, he accepted an appointment to the Philippines and was later recalled to active duty. As the commander there, he suffered the humiliation of early defeat and the loss of his force. He fought back, later accepted Japan's surrender, and, as the supreme commander of the occupation forces, set out to remake a nation. And he largely succeeded.

Under Douglas MacArthur's tutelage, Japan emerged from the grip of a belligerent military-industrial complex and became a democracy. From an aggressive imperialist power, it was transformed into a peaceful state, using its vast resources to support international institutions and diplomacy around the world.

No wonder many are searching for the next MacArthur, someone to deal with the problems of postwar Iraq. As a model for regime change, it is neater and nobler than the untidy task of sorting out bickering Iraqi factions or relying on Iraqis with obscure or dubious intentions for themselves and their country. And for an administration run by corporate executives, there must be appeal in seeking a latter-day MacArthur to act as Iraq's chief operating officer. Already last week retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the military's director of postwar planning, arrived at a Kuwaiti beachside resort with a large team from the Pentagon's newly created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

But the circumstances of Japan and its transformation bear so little resemblance to those of present-day Iraq that both the analogy and the pursuit of a new MacArthur are off the mark. Almost nothing from the lessons of postwar Japan can be applied directly to Iraq, and consequently, neither the approach nor the character of a MacArthur are appropriate for the mission in Iraq. Just consider the facts.

By September 1945, Japan was defeated militarily, culturally and economically. No fanatical defense of the home islands could save it from the devastating power America could bring to bear. Its armed forces were whipped, with remnants scattered throughout Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific. Its major cities were flattened, its vaunted pride was broken, and its economy was in shambles. It had suffered millions of casualties.

But Japan was not at odds with itself. It possessed the raw material for postwar reconstruction: an educated, industrious population; some surviving infrastructure; and modern industrial experience. Imperial Japan was also largely free of the problems of large, restive minorities. Twelve years of severe military indoctrination had united the entire population behind the "holy war." Defeat, when it came, was palpable, complete and unquestioned. As a string of islands, Japan had a strategic buffer from its neighbors. Disputes about Okinawa and the Kuriles weren't enough to foment the kind of territorial struggles so common elsewhere. Literacy was high, and the culture valued hard work and discipline.

Enter MacArthur. To appreciate how difficult it would be to duplicate his success, it's worth remembering its many facets. When MacArthur was appointed supreme commander of the allied powers, he assumed immediate control of the old power structures. His priority was the demilitarization and democratization of Japanese society. Using his authority, he destroyed the remains of Japan's war machine by organizing war crimes trials for 39 leaders, most of them members of Gen. Hideki Tojo's war cabinet, all of whom were convicted and sentenced either to prison or death. Hundreds of other officers committed ritual suicide. Then, working with the emperor and a new prime minister, he initiated a long list of reforms: rewriting the constitution, ending industrial monopolies and breaking up the industrial zaibatsu, undertaking land reform, liberalizing schools, allowing the unionization of labor and promoting women's suffrage.

MacArthur accomplished these reforms by capitalizing on the Japanese people's reverence for their emperor and respect for his authority. MacArthur himself became extremely popular with the Japanese, maintaining a regal style and personal isolation which played to their expectations of a supreme commander. He was a dedicated public servant, never taking a vacation and seldom traveling outside Japan. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted, MacArthur "filled the need for faith, for mystique, for a moral revival in the midst of a moral collapse."

When it came time for rebuilding, most of the work, from design through laying the final level of concrete, was done by the Japanese themselves, using Japanese resources mobilized under a new government, a new currency and a new economic structure. Japan eventually formed new armed services specifically equipped for and constitutionally devoted to self-defense only.

Almost none of those conditions will be present in post-Saddam Iraq. The country may have been diminished by years of sanctions and low-level conflict, and will have suffered military defeat, but strong groups appear ready to contest authority with the American force. This country has never had a unified national identity -- even under the Ottomans it was three distinct provinces. Ethnic and religious animosities have been fueled by the mechanics of Saddam Hussein's repression. Important regional cultures, wealth to be divided, and the need to resist or appease meddlesome neighbors threaten to tear Iraq apart.

Iraq's long borders also present challenges. Its Islamic neighbors are anxious to compete for Iraqi loyalties. The Saudis and the Iranians will each be pulling separately, to say nothing of independent charities, some dedicated to fostering the kind of militant fundamentalism that is the source of America's troubles in the region. And while neither Saudi oil money nor Iranian fundamentalism are quite the forces that they were a decade ago, the international network of terror and mobile bands of experienced, hardened fighters are more challenging to the conventional tools of statecraft and peacekeeping than anything MacArthur faced.

Iraq has no emperor to lend authority and cover for an American regent, who could be trapped in contradictions of our own making. Espousing self-determination for the Iraqi people, he will have to make decisions, order actions and implement changes himself. Each step will bring new winners and new losers. By establishing the institutions of democracy, such as a free press, he will be criticized as an infidel outsider. The American commander will preach the virtues of freedom of religion, while making sure that the mosques do not become centers of political resistance.

One danger: The groups that will appear most sympathetic and capable of assistance will likely be the defeated Iraqi armed forces themselves. Though these forces were former agents of repression, the United States might be tempted to call upon them for help -- just as it summoned the armed forces in Haiti and the Serbian military in Bosnia despite their ill repute.

Meanwhile, in the United States, there will always be the impatience of the public, the intensive scrutiny of the international media and the parsimony imposed by competing budget and political requirements. The administration talks of a two-year transition to Iraqi rule. MacArthur spent 51/2 years in Japan.

Finally, there is no five-star MacArthur today -- and maybe that's for the best. We have many highly capable, well-educated generals -- and Jay Garner is one of the best -- but none of them alone can "do a MacArthur" and shouldn't try. The search for such a figure is escapism, a desire to turn over responsibilities to someone, give him a title -- and few resources -- and hope the problems go away. Isn't this the height of wishful thinking?

It would be far better to recognize, as many are belatedly doing, that victory in Iraq will come not from fighting alone but rather from what happens afterward. And for this we must gather legitimacy from institutions such as the United Nations and NATO. We will need a substantial international military presence there for years. We need resources to rebuild the state structures of Iraq with new faces and skills. And we must exercise the patience to allow democracy to emerge slowly. Above all, we must not use our presence in Iraq as a launching pad for self-glorification, imperial pretenses or further expeditions but as an opportunity to strengthen the international institutions that we have spent more than 50 years developing and nourishing.

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark served as commander in chief, U.S. Southern Command and later as supreme allied commander in Europe during the war in Kosovo.


posted by alf at 12:18 AM

DEMOCRACY: Be Careful What You Wish For
By Youssef M. Ibrahim
Washington Post, Sunday, March 23, 2003; Page B03

There were two striking results in an opinion survey conducted earlier this month by Zogby International in six Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

One was that a huge majority of people in those countries said that, if given the choice, they would like their Islamic clergy to play roles bigger than the subservient ones currently prescribed by most Arab governments.

Equally impressive, less than 6 percent of those polled believed that the United States was waging its campaign in Iraq to create a more democratic Arab or Muslim world. Close to 95 percent were convinced that the United States was after control of Arab oil and the subjugation of the Palestinians to Israel's will. The survey, commissioned by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, also showed that overwhelming margins said that terrorism was going to increase, rather than decrease, as a result of the U.S.-led invasion.

President Bush has said that the invasion of Iraq, and the establishment of a new government there, would be a "catalyst" for change in the region. But what kind of change? Rather than leading to liberal, pro-Western democracy, as Bush suggests, the war in Iraq is likely to bring only more radical Islamic fundamentalism. After all, the Islamic fundamentalist parties, grouped under the big tent of the Muslim Brotherhood, are the only forces with the organization, capability and ambition to take power if democracy were to become an option in the Arab world.

Arab leaders are plainly worried by this prospect. A few weeks ago in Cairo, during a fact-finding trip for the Council on Foreign Relations, I had a three-hour private conversation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about the politics of the region, the coming war in Iraq and U.S. policy. Though closely allied with the United States, Egypt has been pressed by the Bush administration to undertake democratic reforms.

Mubarak recounted an episode to illustrate the degree to which radical Islam has infiltrated Egypt, the most populous Arab country. When Mustafa Mashhour, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, died in the middle of the night last November, Mubarak ordered his domestic intelligence and security services to go on high alert and block tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood followers from flocking to Cairo from all over the country to take part in the funeral. As in Judaism, Islamic burials have to be carried out a day after death. The adherents had no more than a few hours and word of mouth to get word of the funeral out through their vast secret network.

Yet the Muslim Brotherhood is, to use a Saddam Hussein euphemism, the mother of all Islamic militant organizations. Founded in Egypt in the 1930s, it has helped give birth to every Muslim radical movement, from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to Palestinians' Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Lebanon's Hezbollah. Its tight structure helped spread the word of the funeral quickly.

"I had security people block all the entry points and exits of Cairo," Mubarak said, speaking of the Egyptian metropolis of 16 million people. "It was a massive security operation and our services are among the best at it," he said, gesturing to make his point. By all accounts, tens of thousands were turned away. Hundreds of buses were searched. Well-known militants were arrested or sent home.

"Yet, you know what," Mubarak said, raising his eyebrows. "When the funeral took place, there were over 80,000 Muslim Brothers there." The president paused, and jabbing his finger at me, said, "When your Americans talk about democracy in the Middle East, who do they think is going to take over? Democrats?" It will be the Muslim Brotherhood's pawns in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and Palestine, Mubarak asserted.

Mubarak has reason to be concerned. Given sentiments in the Arab world today, democracy could lead to one-time elections and the triumph of radical Islam. It happened in Algeria in 1992, forcing the army there to void the election results and resume its rotten dictatorial rule. Civil war there has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Everywhere you look in the Middle East and the Muslim world, including places such as Pakistan and Indonesia, fundamentalism is rising, thanks to the social services, medical care and religious education that Islamic groups provide as an alternative to the failed services of failed states.

Yet Islamic fundamentalism appeals not only to the poor. Most leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are graduates of engineering and medical schools, people one might consider less inclined to blindly embrace religion. Bin Laden is an engineer. Ayman Zawahiri, his number two, was a successful physician. Mohammad Atta, who led the attack on the World Trade Center, was a multilingual architect.

While the radicals are gaining strength, alienation is spreading among the ruling elites, business class, academic and artistic circles, and moderate religious leaders -- America's natural friends, who could provide liberal alternatives. Take the sheik of Egypt's prominent Al-Azhar University, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, who is renowned as both a scholar and a moderate. Over the past two years, with considerable difficulty, Sheik Tantawi has ousted radical preachers from his university. Yet last week, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he said people should wage jihad against the United States.

Anger emerges in popular culture, too. The most popular singer in Egypt is Shaaban Abdel-Rahim, an illiterate man whose tape "I hate Israel" has sold more than 5 million copies. One of the most successful plays, "Mama America," a virulently anti-American piece by well-known artist Mohammed Sobhi, has been running for months.

Around the region, the story is similar. In Jordan, Muslim Brotherhood leaders have bonded with Palestinian Islamic movements, hoping to arouse the Palestinians, who make up 70 percent of Jordan's population, to rise in support of their brethren in the Israeli-occupied territories next door. In Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabi preachers are thriving still, the bin Laden message continues to resonate. Despite denials from the Saudi royal family, the population knows that U.S. forces are using Saudi bases to operate against Iraq.

Even Syria, despite its fearsome reputation for crushing dissent, is struggling to contain the radical Islamic threat. Alarmed by the spread of Islamic influence in medical school classrooms, Syrian President Bashar Assad has made several speeches recently attempting to disconnect science from Islam. People close to him say that Assad, a physician himself, has argued that science should encourage the questioning of beliefs, not the blind embrace of them.

The rising power of radical Islam is driven by two forces. One is anger that the bankrupt states of the Muslim and Arab world have offered nothing better than the sort of repression Assad's father, Hafez Assad, delivered for years. The other is deep mistrust of U.S. intentions and policies toward Palestinians, Iraqis and Muslims in general -- before and, more so, after Sept. 11. In surveys conducted over the past two years, Arabs and Muslims describe the Palestinian issue as very important, indeed not central to their antagonistic attitude toward the United States.

There is little question Arab and Muslim regimes are contributing to what I believe will be their ultimate demise by running on empty. While Islamic militants have no genuine social program -- except the empty slogan of "Islam is the solution" -- the governments repressing them don't have programs either. Instead the governments have tolerated corruption and grave social neglect. Democracy is the last thing on the minds of either side. Radical fundamentalists believe it is positively anti-Islamic. Present governments are not prepared to depart.

Above all, hardly anyone in the Middle East believes the Bush administration gives a hoot about it either. I recall a dinner last spring given by a senior Saudi prince at the plush Globe restaurant in Riyadh on top of the Faisaliyah towers, just after Bush called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "a man of peace." My host, a graduate of UCLA, looked at me and asked, "Is that how your American pals are planning to make friends in this region?" He was speaking of his American pals, too.

Youssef Ibrahim is a former Middle East and energy correspondent for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

posted by alf at 12:17 AM

   Sunday, March 23, 2003

I continue to be appalled at the grotesque level of misinformation floating around regarding the current aggression in the Middle East. As if it's not enough that there are so many intelligent, informed persons subscribe to the hawkish stance, so many have been suckered and misdirected into clearly false premises (eg Iraq=Sept 11 terrorists / War=Economic recovery etc). War is always a sombre moment for humanity; the least that can be done is to get the facts right, if you're going to support the infliction of its obscenity on other human beings.

Here are some fast facts from the Lysistrata Project webpage.

1. Q: What percentage of the world's population does the U.S. have?
A: Less than 6%

2. Q: What percentage of the world's wealth does the U.S. have?
A: 50%

3. Q: Which country has the largest oil reserves?
A: Saudi Arabia

4. Q: Which country has the second largest oil reserves?
A: Iraq

5. Q: How much is spent on military budgets a year worldwide?
A: $900+ billion

6. Q: How much of this is spent by the U.S.?
A: 50%

7. Q: What percent of US military spending would ensure the
essentials of life to everyone in the world, according the UN?
A: 10% (that's about$40 billion, the amount of funding
initially requested to fund the retaliatory attack on Afghanistan).

8. Q: How many people have died in wars since World War II?
A: 86 million

9. Q: How long has Iraq had chemical and biological weapons?
A: Since the early 1980's.

10. Q: Did Iraq develop these chemical & biological weapons on their
A: No, the materials and technology were supplied by the US
government, along with Britain and private corporations.

11. Q: Did the US government condemn the Iraqi use of gas warfare
against Iran?
A: No

12. Q: How many people did Saddam Hussein kill using gas in the
Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988?
A: 5,000

13. Q: How many western countries condemned this action at the time?
A: 0

14. Q: How many gallons of agent Orange did America use in Vietnam?
A: 17million.

15. Q: Are there any proven links between Iraq and September 11th
terrorist attack?
A: No

16. Q: What is the estimated number of civilian casualties in the
Gulf War?
A: 35,000
17. Q: How many casualties did the Iraqi military inflict on the
western forces during the Gulf War ?
A: 148 combat-related deaths. Many thousands more --untallied--
developed Gulf War syndrome from exposure to the depleted-uranium of
U.S. bombs.

18. Q: How many retreating Iraqi soldiers were buried alive by U.S.
tanks with ploughs mounted on the front?
A: 6,000

19. Q: How many tons of depleted uranium were left in Iraq and Kuwait
after the Gulf War?
A: 40 tons

20. Q: What according to the UN was the increase in cancer rates in
Iraq between 1991 and 1994?
A: 700%

21. Q: How much of Iraq's military capacity did America claim it had
destroyed in 1991?
A: 80%

22. Q: Is there any proof that Iraq plans to use its weapons for
anything other than deterrence and self defense?
A: No

23. Q: Does Iraq present more of a threat to world peace now than 10
years ago?
A: No

24. Q: How many civilian deaths has the Pentagon predicted in the
event of an attack on Iraq in 2002/3?
A: 10,000

25. Q: What percentage of these will be children?
A: Over 50%

26. Q: How many years has the U.S. engaged in air strikes on Iraq?
A: 11 years

27. Q: Was the U.S and the UK at war with Iraq between December 1998
and September 1999?
A: No

28. Q: How many pounds of explosives were dropped on Iraq between
December 1998 and September 1999?
A: 20 million

29. Q: How many years ago was UN Resolution 661 introduced, imposing
strict sanctions on Iraq's imports and exports?
A: 12 years

30. Q: What was the child death rate in Iraq in 1989 (per 1,000
A: 38

31. Q: What was the estimated child death rate in Iraq in 1999 (per
1,000 births)?
A: 131 (that's an increase of 345%)

32. Q: How many Iraqis are estimated to have died by October 1999 as
a result of UN sanctions?
A: 1.5 million

33. Q: How many Iraqi children are estimated to have died due to
sanctions since 1997?
A: 750,000

34. Q: Did Saddam order the inspectors out of Iraq?
A: No

35. Q: How many inspections were there in November and December 1998?

36. Q: How many of these inspections had problems?
A: 5

37. Q: Were the weapons inspectors allowed entry to the Ba'ath Party
A: Yes

38. Q: Who said that by December 1998, "Iraq had in fact, been
disarmed to a level unprecedented in modern history."
A: Scott Ritter, UNSCOM chief.

39. Q: In 1998 how much of Iraq's post 1991 capacity to develop
weapons of mass destruction did the UN weapons inspectors claim to
have discovered and dismantled?
A: 90%

40. Q: Is Iraq willing to allow the weapons inspectors back in ?

41. Q: How many UN resolutions did Israel violate by 1992?
A: Over 65

42. Q: How many UN resolutions on Israel did America veto between
1972 and 1990?
A: 30+

44. Q: How many countries are known to have nuclear weapons?
A: 8

45. Q: How many nuclear warheads has Iraq got?
A: 0

46. Q: How many nuclear warheads has US got?
A: over 10,000

47. Q: Which is the only country to use nuclear weapons?
A: the US

48. Q: How many nuclear warheads does Israel have?
A: Over 400

posted by alf at 11:36 PM

   Saturday, March 22, 2003

BLACK DAY : 20032003

Is it just me or is there a contradiction here ... that war can't both simultaneously decrease AND increase the threat of terrorism at the same time?

Al-Qaeda threat has grown, warns DPM Tan

SINGAPORE yesterday identified the risk of Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist attacks here as the reason for stepping up security, following the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tony Tan said that the Al-Qaeda was capitalising on the Iraq issue to urge Muslims to attack the United States and those associated with it.

And with Singapore declaring its support for the US-led action, the Republic could be in the cross hairs of Al-Qaeda sympathisers and affiliates, such as the Jemaah Islamiah.


War? We can bet on it

SINGAPORE punters were quick to place 4D bets on 2003, the day war broke out in Iraq.

By Thursday evening, the number was sold out for both the Saturday and Sunday draws. -- ST


posted by alf at 11:20 AM

   Friday, March 21, 2003


Prize-winning investigative journalist Eric Laurent looks at the dealings of the Bush family since the 1930s in La Guerre de Bush (Bush's War). Laurent digs up dealings with Nazi industries in Germany, and with Saudi Arabian business houses accused of financing Islamic terrorist groups. Bush "dined with the devil", Laurent says.

Based on his own investigations and on material published in the US, Laurent says that President George W Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a banker who invested in industries rearming Nazi Germany. Laurent says that in 1942 the US government placed sanctions on four companies of the Bush family - the Union Banking Corporation, the Holland-American Trading Corporation, the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation and the Silesian-American Corporation.

Former president George Bush senior, he says, did business with the family of Osama bin Laden for 20 years, much of it through the Carlyle Group, an investment company. And the Halliburton enterprise in Texas, a leading provider of engineering services, has been a partner of the bin Laden group since 1994, Laurent says. Halliburton's CEO until the end of 2000 was Dick Cheney, now vice president.

In the late 1980s, Saudi Arabian banker Khalid bin Mafouz, Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law and main shareowner of the now closed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, saved one of President George Bush's several unsuccessful oil enterprises from insolvency, Laurent says.

Emmanuel Todd's Apres l'empire (After the empire) looks at what the author calls the "decomposition of American hegemony".

Todd, a renowned social scientist who predicted the end of the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, bases his conclusions on the US dependency on foreign capital. Todd says that the US commercial deficit more than quadrupled during the 1990s. "In the period from 1973 to 2000, during which the US enjoyed its longest economic expansion, the commercial deficit went up from $100 billion to $450 billion," Todd says.

"To pay for this deficit, the US needs to keep importing foreign capital," he says. "If this capital flow were to stop, the US economy would collapse. Despite the repeated claims about US power, the truth is that this country is both a beggar and predator. This cannot last very long."

Todd says that US militarism is nothing more than "fuss" aimed to impress the world. "When you think that the US government only dares to wage war against military gnomes such as Iraq, you have to realize that the whole thing is only to pretend that they are mighty." -- The Asia Times

posted by alf at 5:49 PM

Robin Cook's brilliant anti-war resignation speech

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.


I welcome the strong personal commitment that the prime minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.

Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.

That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.


What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops. -- BBC


posted by alf at 3:12 PM

Our general apathy is really rather disturbing, given this is something that has even passerbys and taxi drivers in Shanghai (a rather well informed lot I found, and not without firm, principled opinions) glued to radios and TV sets. Folks here really do seem to want the war to begin and be over and done with, so that the economy can recover, or so say at least 3 taxi drivers I try to shut up with abject silence after explanations fail.

As if indifference can breed anything better than mediocrity. As if opposition to a war -- any war -- can only come about in terms of ethnicity and religious affinities. As if being decent human beings for a change is being somehow, unpragmatically sentimental and radically dissident.

Somewhere along the way the idea has been put across and swallowed that the war will finally mean an end to the economic downturn (rather than the beginning of what could be a prolonged depression). So I'm not surprised at the reaction ... something to watch on the news, explosions, video-game effects. We withdraw into our comfortable little cubicles; we cancel flights to troubled and diseased regions of the world; we watch TV and fret about share prices. Even some of our most intelligent and informed have subscribed to the rhetoric of power projection. It is of course in our national interest to enforce this national blinkeredness, keeping heads down rather than looking forward, waiting for storms to blow over and trusting our helmsmen to watch for icebergs while we party to Top 40 trash and drink lattes and rejoice in cheap car prices and read the Straits Times. War sells newspapers like nothing else. But then, tragedy always does.

So much for our advocacy for the ultimate unassailability of the UN; the self-same body that represents the international legality we turn to every time we come into conflict with our neighbours over borders and sovereignty and ownership.

I am personally deeply disappointed and saddened (if not completely surprised) that Singapore's official position has moved beyond a perhaps prudent abstinence of opinion into declaring outright support for the invasion of Iraq. And invasion this is, whatever the motivations and outcome: an unsanctioned pre-emptive strike, led by a dominant power against a soverign foreign state without clear and present threat, for the espoused purpose of toppling and replacing its government. Wasn't it this class of action by Iraq against Kuwait that resulted in Gulf War I? Only the naked abuse of geopolitical power can make two such wrongs seem a right.

Pray then that we aren't a small nation surrounded and targeted by resentful and potentially hostile entities. Pray then that we are never big enough to attract the attentions of the powerful, or the desperation of the powerless.

Because who will we point the finger at if bombs start going off on Orchard road because of our support for this invasion? For how long will our countrymen be stopped at airports and strip-searched because they wear a turban or a beard? Who will we cry to for help if one day a pre-emptive strike is launched at us or our neighbours for being a harbour and port-of-call for potential terrorists? Who will be blamed if the global economy spirals into depression as a result of a messy war or its outcome?

We may not have a choice now but do we want to be in a position where our national interest depends on bending over backwards to unpalatable hegemonic regimes and indefensible geopolitical recklessness, to the point where we might as well be a vassal state?

Just remember this day as a solid piece of proof that the real and immediate deaths of innocents in Iraq matter less than the imagined and remote deaths of civilians in America. We can expect our own lives to be valued no higher when it comes down to the crunch.

posted by alf at 1:55 PM

   Tuesday, March 11, 2003

In early 1976, acting on a recommendation by President Ford's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board -- which was worried that U.S. intelligence was too soft on the Soviet threat -- Bush set up a group of 10 experts, called "Team B," to be granted access to classified documents in order to offer a fresh view. The Team B doctrine was crafted in more careful detail in 1992 in a controversial draft of the Defense Department's "Defense Planning Guidance," by Wolfowitz and his deputy, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, currently the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was then Wolfowitz and Libby's boss as defense secretary. The draft, leaked to the media, noted "the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the U.S." and stated, "The United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated." It can be fairly argued that Team B is now running the show. -- Salon
posted by alf at 1:12 PM

At Tufts, the elder Bush also passed up the opportunity to take the politically easy way out and say that with hindsight, he wishes he'd taken Saddam out when he had the chance. Even his former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger has said, post-9/11, that "while I thoroughly understand and totally supported President Bush's decision not to pursue Saddam personally, I am now prepared to admit that it was probably a mistake." But the former president is not prepared to make any such admission. "The mission was not to invade Iraq," he said at Tufts. "It wasn't to kill Saddam Hussein. It wasn't to free the Kurds in the north, or the Shiites in the south. The mission was to end the aggression." Once it was over, the U.S. withdrew from Kuwait, and thus "we kept our word to the United Nations, and to our coalition partners."

And finally, the elder Bush continued to emphasize the way he valued the coalition he had assembled to confront Iraq. If he'd told Norman Schwarzkopf to bring him Saddam's head, "the coalition would have instantly shattered," the former president recalled. "And the political capital that we had gained as a result of our principled restraint to jumpstart the peace process would have been lost." Coalition support for further international maneuvers would have been lost, he said, and "we would have lost all support from our coalition, with the possible exception of England." No one in the audience was rude enough to mention that his son has appeared to choose exactly that path, essentially standing alone with the U.K. - Salon


posted by alf at 1:03 PM

   Monday, March 10, 2003

Said Said

The planners of this war, as Ralph Nader has forcefully said, are chicken hawks, that is, hawks who are too cowardly to do any fighting themselves. Wolfowitz, Perle, Bush, Cheney and others of that entirely civilian group were to a man in strong favor of the Vietnam war, yet each of them got a deferment based on privilege, and therefore never fought or so much as even served in the armed forces. Their belligerence is therefore morally repugnant and, in the literal sense, anti-democratic in the extreme. What this unrepresentative cabal seeks in a war with Iraq has nothing to do with actual military considerations. Iraq, whatever the disgusting qualities of its deplorable regime, is simply not an imminent and credible threat to its neighbors like Turkey, or Israel, or even Jordan (each of which could easily handle it militarily) or certainly to the United States. Any argument to the contrary is simply a preposterous, entirely frivolous proposition. With a few outdated Scuds, and a small amount of chemical and biological material, most of it supplied by the US in earlier days (as Nader has said, we know that because we have the receipts for what was sold to Iraq by US companies), Iraq is, and has easily been, containable, though at unconscionable immoral cost to the long-suffering civilian population. For this terrible state of affairs I think it is absolutely true to say that there has been collusion between the Iraqi regime and the Western enforcers of the sanctions. - Edward W. Said, Al-Hayat (24 February 2003)

posted by alf at 4:22 PM

With other major European allies in open opposition to war, the Bush administration has for several weeks pursued a strategy of trying to get nine Security Council votes committed in support of a resolution, and then hope that France and Russia would at least abstain and not wield a veto in the face of a majority.

Both France and Russia, along with China, the United States and Britain, have the power to kill a measure on the Security Council if they vote no. France has said it would not "allow" a war measure to pass, which has been interpreted to mean that it will indeed use its veto.

But some American officials say they believe that the French may be bluffing and would not want to be seen as blocking a measure with broad backing. Administration officials also hope that Russia might abstain rather than veto, isolating France as the only negative among the five veto-bearing members.

Administration officials say that even with a veto, a measure that has received nine votes might command moral legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. - NYT

Errr, isn't this a bit precious coming from an administration that stole the White House from the candidate with an absolute majority of votes, on a technicality?

posted by alf at 1:13 PM

That the overwhelming majority of people on earth -- regardless of their paid-off or strategically-aligned governments' official positions -- believe that America is going down a terribly wrong path is something that should inspire far deeper reflection, and doubt, among American policymakers, and the general public, than it has. When millions of people -- many of whom had wept and marched in solidarity with the great city of New York, capital of the modern world, just a year and a half earlier -- took to the streets in dozens of cities around the globe, Bush dismissed them as a "focus group." So much for the largest worldwide demonstrations in human history, a first stunning street plebiscite in a nascent global democracy.


The only logical explanation for their change of heart is that only after Sept. 11 did they realize the gravity of Saddam's threat. Sept. 11, by this line of reasoning, was just a catalyst: somehow the arsonist who tossed a firebomb through the front window made them remember that they had left a convicted murderer in the unlocked basement.

If this is actually what happened to the reborn hawks, it's at least a defensible position. And perhaps it is -- although none of them, as far as I know, have issued any mea culpas for ignoring, for 10 years, a threat to America's security so great that only launching an incredibly risky war right now, without any delay, can remove it.


No critic of the war who reflexively denies that [positive] outcomes are possible, on the grounds that America has ugly aims (or has an ugly history), can be taken seriously. Good results can follow from bad intentions -- and in this case America's intentions are not even uniformly bad.

But the war could also go completely wrong, in ways more horrifying to contemplate than it is satisfying to imagine the ways it could go right.


The impending war against Iraq, on the other hand, is a historical event. It cannot be explained or defined. When it comes, it will simply exist, with the opacity of history. Its outcome is not foreseeable.

I use the words somewhat eccentrically, to distinguish between events that are simple enough to be fully explicable ("political") and those that are too complex to be defined ("historical"). The war against Afghanistan took place in what I am calling the political realm: It had a clear, limited and achievable goal, one understood by all -- and widely supported around the world.

The distinction also has a moral dimension. To exist in history is to have passed beyond the pieties and slogans of the political. History is tragic: politics is not. History is glorious. It is also fatal.


The two great competing ideologies of the 20th century, fascism and communism, were both self-consciously historical movements. As Czeslaw Milosz brilliantly noted in his classic study "The Captive Mind," it was precisely the abstraction of communism, its claim to have attained the summit of morality and to have incorporated into itself all possible contradictions, that made it so meticulously horrifying. In similar fashion, fascism contained a kind of blankness at its core: the self-glorifying violence of the state simultaneously concealed and revealed the emptiness of its founding concept, the national tribe.

The lesson every government should have learned from the bloody 20th century, one written in blood across the tortured soil of old, very old Europe, is very simple: Avoid history at all costs. History is too big, too abstract, too dangerous. Avoid men with Big Ideas -- especially stupid men with Big Ideas. Take care of politics: let history take care of itself.
- Salon


posted by alf at 12:18 PM

   Friday, March 07, 2003

There have been countless theories as to what Stonehenge, the almost 5,000-year-old rock monument in southwestern England, actually is. Some suggest it's a celestial map, a sacrificial altar or a gateway to other dimensions. Others insist it's the work of aliens. Now retired gynecologist Anthony Perks has come up with the definitive answer: Stonehenge is a vagina. Perks, co-author of a paper on the topic in the current issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, first made the connection after noticing that some of the monument's stones were much smoother than others. Recalling that estrogen causes a woman's skin to be smoother than a man's, Perks began to analyze Stonehenge in anatomical terms. The labia majora could be represented by the outer stone circle, with the inner circle serving as the labia minora. The altar stone could, in turn, be the clitoris and the empty geometric center outlined by bluestones, the birth canal. In the next issue of the Journal, Perks intends to lay out his theory that the Washington Monument is actually a giant penis. Oh, wait... -- Nerve
posted by alf at 1:36 PM

Yikes! :::



Established in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American Century is a non-profit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership. The Project is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project (501c3); the New Citizenship Project's chairman is William Kristol and its president is Gary Schmitt.

Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?

Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

• we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;

• we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;

• we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;

• we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.

Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel , Paul Wolfowitz

posted by alf at 1:11 PM

The Pentagon has asked the US Congress to lift a 10-year ban on the development of small nuclear warheads, or "mini-nukes", in one of the most overt steps President George Bush's administration has taken towards building a new atomic arsenal.

Buried in the defence department's 2004 budget proposals, sent to congressional committees this week, was a single-line statement that marks a sharp change in US nuclear policy.

It calls on the legislature to "rescind the prohibition on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons".

"My greatest concern is that some in the administration and in Congress seem to think that the United States can move the world in one direction while Washington moves in another - that we can continue to prevail on other countries not to develop nuclear weapons while we develop new tactical applications for such weapons, and possibly resume nuclear testing," said Mr John Spratt, a Democratic congressman and one of the authors of the ban on "mini-nukes".

posted by alf at 1:09 PM

   Wednesday, March 05, 2003

July 1946

The United States tests an atomic weapon on Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific. Four days after the test, the first Bikini swimsuits appear at a Paris fashion show.

posted by alf at 10:55 AM

   Tuesday, March 04, 2003

When the somnambulistic figure of Kim Jong II subsequently threw down his nuclear gauntlet, the "axis of evil" catchphrase or notion or policy seemed in ruins, because North Korea turned out to be much nearer to acquiring the defining WMDs, deliverable, nuclear devices, than Iraq (and the same is true of Iran). But it was explained that the North Korean matter was a diplomatic inconvenience, while Iraq's non-disarmament remained a "crisis". The reason was strategic: even without WMDs, North Korea could inflict a million casualties on its southern neighbour and raze Seoul. Iraq couldn't manage anything on this scale, so you could attack it. North Korea could, so you couldn't. The imponderables of the proliferation age were becoming ponderable. Once a nation has done the risky and nauseous work of acquisition, it becomes unattackable. A single untested nuclear weapon may be a liability. But five or six constitute a deterrent.

From this it crucially follows that we are going to war with Iraq because it doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. Or not many. The surest way by far of finding out what Iraq has is to attack it. Then at last we will have Saddam's full cooperation in our weapons inspection, because everything we know about him suggests that he will use them all. The Pentagon must be more or less convinced that Saddam's WMDs are under a certain critical number. Otherwise it couldn't attack him.


One of the exhibits at the Umm Al-Maarik Mosque in central Baghdad is a copy of the Koran written in Saddam Hussein's own blood (he donated 24 litres over three years). Yet this is merely the most spectacular of Saddam's periodic sops to the mullahs. He is, in reality, a career-long secularist - indeed an "infidel", according to Bin Laden. Although there is no Bible on Capitol Hill written in the blood of George Bush, we are obliged to accept the fact that Bush is more religious than Saddam: of the two presidents, he is, in this respect, the more psychologically primitive. VS Naipaul has described the religious impulse as the inability "to contemplate man as man", responsible to himself and uncosseted by a higher power. We may consider this a weakness; Bush, dangerously, considers it a strength. ... And doesn't Texas sometimes seem to resemble a country like Saudi Arabia, with its great heat, its oil wealth, its brimming houses of worship, and its weekly executions?

- Martin Amis, The Guardian

posted by alf at 5:29 PM

The Voila Moment

The most ambitious plan has come from San Francisco, where a coalition of anti-war groups is calling for an emergency non-violent counter-strike the day after the war starts: "Don't go to work or school. Call in sick, walk out. We will impose real economic, social and political costs and stop business as usual until the war stops."

It's a powerful idea: peace bombs exploding wherever profits are being made from the war - gas stations, arms manufacturers, missile-happy TV stations. It might not stop the war, but it would show that there is a principled position between hawk and hippy: a militant resistance for the protection of life.

For some, this escalation of the war against war seems extreme: there should simply be more weekend marches, bigger next time, so big they are impossible to ignore. Of course there should be more marches, but it should also be clear by now that there is no protest too big for politicians to ignore. They know that public opinion in most of the world is against the war.

What they are carefully assessing, before the bombs start falling, is whether the anti-war sentiment is "hard" or "soft". The question is not "do people care about war?" but "how much do they care?" Is it a mild consumer preference against war, one that will evaporate by the next election?

Or is it something deeper and more lasting - a, shall we say, Voila kind of care? - The Observer

posted by alf at 12:07 PM

   Monday, March 03, 2003

So much for the Powell Doctrine

Nothing in Powell's history suggested that he was likely to advocate a preemptive strike against Iraq. After all, it was Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the first Gulf War who famously stopped the fighting after just 100 hours, saying he feared among other things that the nation would split into three parts. A self-styled "reluctant warrior," he described the Gulf War as "a limited-objective war," adding, "If it had not been, we would be ruling Baghdad today -- at unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships."

Most famously, Powell is the author of the so-called Powell Doctrine, which states that American troops should never be sent into battle unless there's a clear strategy, including an exit strategy; that the American public must have a clear understanding of a war's goals; and that wars should only be fought in the national interest, not for humanitarian goals or "nation building." Today, of course, critics charge that U.S. troops are now being deployed in the Gulf without an exit strategy, and Bush has explicitly cited humanitarian goals as part of the rationale for invading. - Salon

posted by alf at 12:20 PM

   Saturday, March 01, 2003

During the late 1990s a PNAC (Project for a New American Century) book, Present Dangers, called for the U.S. to "shape the international environment to its own advantage" by being "at once a European power, an Asian power, a Middle Eastern power, and of course a Western Hemisphere power" and to "act as if instability in important regions of the world ? affect[s] us with almost the same immediacy as if [it] was occurring on our own doorstep." In practice this meant assertive risk-taking virtually everywhere. Jonathan Clarke, reviewing the volume in the National Interest, wrote, "If the book's recommendations were implemented all at once, the U.S. would risk unilaterally fighting a five-front war, while simultaneously urging Israel to abandon the peace process in favor of a new no-holds-barred confrontation with the Palestinians." This book has become the blueprint for the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

Only recently has it become commonplace (outside of the Marxist Left) to call this new policy imperialist. President Bush himself still shuns the word, telling a Veterans Day audience, "We have no territorial ambitions. We don't seek an empire." But a surprising number of foreign policy analysts, in the neocon orbit and beyond, have picked up the "I" word and run with it. Max Boot, a former Wall Street Journal editor who wrote a book about America's splendid little wars writes in the Weekly Standard about "troubled lands [that] cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets." Kristol co-author Robert Kagan prefers the term "hegenomy" to empire, and many neoconservatives stress that the new American imperialism will differ from the bad old European sort because it will be welcomed by its subjects. The American Enterprise Institute's Joshua Muravchik has written a primer on "exporting democracy" whose phrases now pop up regularly in Bushite rhetoric.

The war for democracy is meant to bring about eternal peace. A television sound-bite of the neo-imperialists is "democracies don't fight one another," though the generalization seems to ignore the bloodiest war in the 19th century (America's Civil War) and arguably the one that brought about the end of Europe's global pre-eminence (World War I). Never mind. The coda is always Wilsonian, a claim that pre-emptive war will bring forth a springtime of power to the people of the politically stagnant region.

None of this is entirely new of course: America's previous burst of imperial expansion at the turn of the 20th century was accompanied by plenty of talk about liberating our "brown brothers" from Spain's evil dominion and, later, teaching Latin Americans to hold clean elections and "elect good men." The phrases have come down to us through history class, but we do not remember the elections because, by and large, they never took place. (Cynics might note that there has been little prior interest in bringing the benefits of democracy to the three million Palestinians under Israeli occupation, where American influence could have been brought to bear readily at almost any point in the past thirty-five years.)

Nor, it should be remembered, did the older European imperialists consider themselves exploiters. The rulers and rhetoricians of France's and Britain's empires were quite confident that they were bringing the benefits of science, law, and rationality to poorer and backward peoples. Such claims were self-serving but not entirely fanciful. Contrary to the standard Leninist critique, imperialism was not a one-way transfer of wealth from colony to metropole: Britain and France made large investments in capital and education in their empires, in part producing the educated modernizing nationalist class that eventually threw them out.
- The American Conservative


posted by alf at 3:22 PM