John Pilger: The Issue Is Not Donald Trump. It Is Us.


January 18, 2017

John Pilger: The Issue Is Not Donald Trump. It Is Us.

US president elect, Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore, Flickr).

Donald Trump. for all his flaws, is not Barack Obama, an American President who has set new lows in foreign slaughter and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the mega-rich, writes John Pilger.

On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation. “In order for us to heal and move forward…,” say Writers Resist, “we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favour of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy.”

And: “We urge local organizers and speakers to avoid using the names of politicians or adopting ‘anti’ language as the focus for their Writers Resist event. It’s important to ensure that nonprofit organizations, which are prohibited from political campaigning, will feel confident participating in and sponsoring these events.”

Thus, real protest is to be avoided, for it is not tax exempt.

Compare such drivel with the declarations of the Congress of American Writers, held at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1935, and again two years later. They were electric events, with writers discussing how they could confront ominous events in Abyssinia, China and Spain. Telegrams from Thomas Mann, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out, reflecting the fear that great power was now rampant and that it had become impossible to discuss art and literature without politics or, indeed, direct political action.

“A writer,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, “must be a man of action now… A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last.”

Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.

That the menace of rapacious power – rampant long before the rise of Trump – has been accepted by writers, many of them privileged and celebrated, and by those who guard the gates of literary criticism, and culture, including popular culture, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out, regardless of who occupies the White House.

US Democrat presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: Pan Photo, Flickr)

The Defeated Democratic Party Candidate Hillary Clinton who ran a Obama Copycat Policy Campaign–Americans want Change in Washington DC.

Today, false symbolism is all. “Identity” is all. In 2016, Hillary Clinton stigmatised millions of voters as “a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it”. Her abuse was handed out at an LGBT rally as part of her cynical campaign to win over minorities by abusing a white mostly working-class majority. Divide and rule, this is called; or identity politics in which race and gender conceal class, and allow the waging of class war. Trump understood this.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident poet Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

This is not an American phenomenon. A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then Professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”.

No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among today’s insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people… of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.

There is something both venal and profoundly stupid about famous writers as they venture outside their cosseted world and embrace an “issue”. Across the Review section of the Guardian on 10 December was a dreamy picture of Barack Obama looking up to the heavens and the words, “Amazing Grace” and “Farewell the Chief”.

The sycophancy ran like a polluted babbling brook through page after page. “He was a vulnerable figure in many ways…. But the grace. The all-encompassing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool …. [He] is a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again… He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side… … The grace … the almost surreal levels of grace….”

44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (IMAGE: Marc Nozell, Flickr)

I have conflated these quotes. There are others even more hagiographic and bereft of mitigation. The Guardian’s chief apologist for Obama, Gary Younge, has always been careful to mitigate, to say that his hero “could have done more”: oh, but there were the “calm, measured and consensual solutions….”

None of them, however, could surpass the American writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the recipient of a “genius” grant worth $625,000 from a liberal foundation. In an interminable essay for The Atlantic entitled, “My President Was Black”, Coates brought new meaning to prostration. The final “chapter”, entitled “When You Left, You Took All of Me With You”, a line from a Marvin Gaye song, describes seeing the Obamas “rising out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity”. The Ascension, no less.

One of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, who expanded America’s favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads (“special operations”) as no other president has done since the Cold War.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day. He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday – reported the New York Times – he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the “terrorist target”. A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama’s drones killed 4,700 people. “Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that,” he said, but we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda.”

Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor. “Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically…. In the propaganda system… it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

Take the catastrophe in Libya. In 2011, Obama said Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew… that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

This was the known lie of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. It became the media story; and Nato – led by Obama and Hillary Clinton – launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed]were under the age of 10”.

Under Obama, the US has extended secret “special forces” operations to 138 countries, or 70 per cent of the world’s population. The first African-American president launched what amounted to a full-scale invasion of Africa. Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

It was Obama who, in 2011, announced what became known as the “pivot to Asia”, in which almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to the Asia-Pacific to “confront China”, in the words of his Defence Secretary. There was no threat from China; the entire enterprise was unnecessary. It was an extreme provocation to keep the Pentagon and its demented brass happy.

In 2014, Obama’s administration oversaw and paid for a fascist-led coup in Ukraine against the democratically elected government, threatening Russia in the western borderland through which Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, with a loss of 27 million lives. It was Obama who placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia, and it was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a level higher than that of any administration since the cold war – having promised, in an emotional speech in Prague, to “help rid the world of nuclear weapons”.

Obama, the constitutional lawyer, prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in history, even though the US constitution protects them. He declared Chelsea Manning guilty before the end of a trial that was a travesty. He has refused to pardon Manning who has suffered years of inhumane treatment which the UN says amounts to torture. He has pursued an entirely bogus case against Julian Assange. He promised to close the Guantanamo concentration camp and didn’t.

Following the public relations disaster of George W. Bush, Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision was part of this: the kind of cloying reverse racism that beatified the man for no reason other than he was attractive to liberal sensibilities and, of course, American power, if not to the children he kills in impoverished, mostly Muslim countries.

US president Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama has pardoned Chelsea Manning

This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded, especially “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne put it. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.”

William I. Robinson, Professor at the University of California, and one of an uncontaminated group of American strategic thinkers who have retained their independence during the years of intellectual dog-whistling since 9/11, wrote this last week:

“President Barack Obama… may have done more than anyone to assure [Donald] Trump’s victory. While Trump’s election has triggered a rapid expansion of fascist currents in US civil society, a fascist outcome for the political system is far from inevitable…. But that fight back requires clarity as to how we got to such a dangerous precipice. The seeds of 21st century fascism were planted, fertilized and watered by the Obama administration and the politically bankrupt liberal elite.”

Robinson points out that “whether in its 20th or its emerging 21st century variants, fascism is, above all, a response to deep structural crises of capitalism, such as that of the 1930s and the one that began with the financial meltdown in 2008…. There is a near-straight line here from Obama to Trump…. The liberal elite’s refusal to challenge the rapaciousness of transnational capital and its brand of identity politics served to eclipse the language of the working and popular classes… pushing white workers into an ‘identity’ of white nationalism and helping the neo-fascists to organise them”.

The seedbed is Obama’s Weimar Republic, a landscape of endemic poverty, militarised police and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under his presidency, prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street.

Perhaps his greatest “legacy” is the co-option and disorientation of any real opposition. Bernie Sanders’ specious “revolution” does not apply. Propaganda is his triumph.

The lies about Russia – in whose elections the US has openly intervened – have made the world’s most self-important journalists laughing stocks. In the country with constitutionally the freest press in the world, free journalism now exists only in its honourable exceptions.

The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves “left/liberal”, as if to claim political decency. They are not “left”, neither are they especially “liberal”. Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations – such as Obama’s.

US president elect, Donald Trump.

45th US President (wef January 20, 2017) Donald Trump.

America’s political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right. The “left” are homeless renegades Martha Gellhorn described as “a rare and wholly admirable fraternity”. She excluded those who confuse politics with a fixation on their navels.

While they “heal” and “move forward”, will the Writers Resist campaigners and other anti-Trumpists reflect upon this? More to the point: when will a genuine movement of opposition arise? Angry, eloquent, all-for-one-and-one-for all. Until real politics return to people’s lives, the enemy is not Trump, it is ourselves.

Chomsky: Trump’s National Security Adviser Wants the U.S. to ‘Go to War with the Whole Islamic World’


December 22, 2016

Chomsky: Trump’s National Security Adviser Wants the U.S. to ‘Go to War with the Whole Islamic World’

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/chomsky-trumps-national-security-advisor-wants-us-go-war-whole-islamic-world

“Trump’s position is “vulgar imperialism masked by a fraudulent concern for the working people and the middle class.”

Image result for Noam Chomsky

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror of Sri Lanka, Prof. Noam Chomsky spoke on many issues that have pervaded the current political scenario. In the interview, he details the reasons behind the election victory of Donald Trump, his views on the rise of the right wing, and the causes that resulted in the people losing confidence in mainstream political establishments.

Q: It is both a pleasure and a privilege to have you speak for the first time to a Sri Lankan entity, the Daily Mirror. To start off with, during the recent election of Donald Trump, we saw a kind of rise of racism and xenophobia, a phenomenon of right-wing populism that we are seeing across the world, including in Sri Lanka. What are your views on this?

A: There are many factors, but there are some that are pretty common, certainly for the United States and Europe from which I have just returned, incidentally. One factor that is common and which is very significant is the neoiberal program that was instituted globally, roughly around 35 years ago, around 1980 or a little before and picking up afterward. These are programs that were designed in such a way that they marginalize and cast aside a considerable majority of the population.

So in the United States, if you take a look at say the Trump voters, they are not the poorest people. They have homes, they have jobs, and they have small businesses. They may not have the jobs they like, but they are not starving and are not living on $2 a day. These are people who have been stuck for 30 years. Their history and their own image of life and history and the country is, that they have worked hard all their lives, they have done all the right things. They have families, they go to church and they have done everything right just as their parents did. They’ve been moving forward, which they expected to continue: that their children would be better off than they are, but it hasn’t happened. It stopped. As if they are in a line, in which they were moving forward and it stopped.

Ahead of them in the line are people who have just shot up into the stratosphere: that is neoliberalism. It concentrates wealth in tiny sectors. They don’t mind that, because part of the American mythology is that you work hard and you get rewards. It is not what happens but that fits the picture, the mythology. The people behind them are the ones they resent. This is not untypical; scapegoating. Blame your problems on those who are even worse off than you. And their conception is that the federal government is their enemy, which works for the people behind them. That the federal government gives food stamps to people who don’t want to work, that it gives welfare payments to women who drive in rich cars to welfare offices.

(These are) images that Ronald Reagan concocted. Their thinking is that, the federal government is helping to put them in line ahead of me, but nobody is working for me. That picture is all over the West. A large part of it was behind the Brexit vote, in the United States they would blame Mexican immigrants, or Afro Americans, in the U.K. they would blame the Polish immigrants, in France the North Africans and in Austria the Syrian immigrants. The choice of target depends on the society, but the phenomenon is pretty similar. The general nature is pretty similar. There are streaks of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and opposition to gay rights and all sorts of things. And they coalesce when economic and social policies have been designed in such a way which essentially ignores these people and their concerns and doesn’t work for them — and seems to them to work against them.

Q: But don’t you think, Professor, the notion of an isolationist imperial power, a non-intervening imperial interest that Donald Trump has promised, is something positive for countries like Sri Lanka and the third world at large?

A: Isolationist is a very funny word. Take Donald Trump’s recent appointments — the important appointments. The most important appointment is his National Strategy Adviser who is Michael Flynn. He is a radical Islamophobe. He thinks we should go to war with the whole Islamic world. And his view of Islam is not that of a religion, but that it’s a political ideology like fascism, and it is at war with us and that we should destroy it.

Is that isolationism? Donald Trump’s position and that of Paul Ryan and other right-wingers is that we should sharply build up the Pentagon. They talk about our depleted military forces. I mean you don’t know whether to laugh or not. The U.S. spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. It is technologically far more advanced. No other country has hundreds of military bases all over the world, actually forces fighting all over the world. But ‘we are a depleted military force and everybody is about to attack us and we have to build the military more’—is that isolationist? We have to carry out economic war against other countries, is that isolationist? No, of course not.

This is vulgar imperialism masked by a fraudulent concern for the working people and the middle class. Is there any such concern apparent from his cabinet appointments? (They are) straight out of Wall Street and Goldman Sachs. Take a look at the stock market, that tells you how people with power are evaluating his presidency. (It) shot up as soon as he was elected. The financial institutions zoomed.

The world’s biggest coal company, Peabody, which was in bankruptcy had its stock go up by about 50% within days of his election. The military industry, energy industries, pharmaceuticals…they are all going to the sky. Is that an illusion? No, it’s not. That’s the policy, the appeal is not so much the poor, but working people who have suffered, not suffered in the sense of real deep poverty, but suffered in the sense of a loss of status, a loss of dignity, and a loss of hope for the future. In the United States this is combined with an objective fact. That this country is built on extremist white supremacy, comparative measures of white supremacy across the world has put the United States way in the lead, even ahead of white South Africa, and now the white population is becoming a minority.

Q: You bring in two interesting points; one on white supremacy and the other on Islam and Islamophobia. Firstly, this idea of supremacy, we have seen this even in parts of South Asia. If you see the rise of Narendra Modi, it was along the same populist lines and even in post-war Sri Lanka we are seeing these same attitudes swelling up. So it is not something confined to the U.S. What do you think the real reason is for this?

A: Different reasons for different places. In India it’s the rise of Hindu nationalism, which is extremely dangerous. It looks like there is an alliance building up with these xenophobic right-wing forces around the world. If you noticed, the reactions to Trumps election across the world, was great enthusiasm from the ultra-right all over. In fact, his first contact was with Nigel Farage, the leader of the UKIP in England and it went on like that. There are common features, but different factors in different countries. In India, it is the Muslims, in the United States it’s Muslims too. But there were also Mexicans and so on. But I think throughout the world you see a similar failure of mainstream establishment institutions to deal with the people’s real problems.

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Q: Even in Sri Lanka, there is this fear about the Muslims, along the lines of the fear prevailing in the West. Aren’t these fears about the Muslims real?

A: They are not unreal. Hitler’s fears about the Jews under the Nazis were not totally unreal. There were rich Jewish bankers, there were Jewish Bolsheviks. Any propaganda system, no matter how vulgar or disgraceful, can only succeed if there are at least small elements of truth. They may be small. While you are in Boston if you listen to talk radio, the main radio, all very right wing, you will hear people speaking about Syrian refugees and how they are being treated like princes. That they have been given all kinds of money, that they have been given health services, and education—‘all kinds of things that we don’t have the Syrian refugees get.’

How many Syrian refugees are there? A couple of thousand! They probably do get health services, so it is not totally false. But the typical history of scapegoating is to pick vulnerable people and find something that is not totally false about them—because you have to have some element of truth—and then build it up into a colossus which is about to overcome you. I mean there are states in the United States in the Midwest, where the legislature has passed laws banning Shari’a. How likely is Shari’a going to be imposed in Oklahoma? I mean you know it is not zero. You can find a woman somewhere who is wearing a veil, so there is something. But that’s the way it works.

I think in Sri Lanka there is a pretty ugly history after all; I don’t have to recount it. You can find plenty of cases of massive atrocities and crimes and so on. A demagogic leader and the administration which is not working in the interest of the population but in the interest of wealth and power, almost reflexively is going to turn to attacks on the vulnerable with the support of the media and often the intellectual classes, and blow up small elements of truth into a massive attack. The United States is extremely interesting in this respect. It is the most safe and secure country in the world, but it is probably the most frightened country in the world. Do you know any other country where people feel that unless they take a gun to church or a restaurant they might be attacked? I mean, does it happen in Sri Lanka? No! Does it happen anywhere else? But it happens in the United States of America. All over the United States people feel terrified — ‘they are coming after us’, and that goes way back in American history, and it has roots. There are historical roots.

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Q: Going by what you just said Professor, Edward Said, one of your contemporaries, pointed out in the ’80s that Islam has been portrayed by the West as a monolithic entity. That the West ignored the different histories and different cultures and so on. Have the Muslims of today, 30 years on, bought into this propaganda and believe that they are in fact a monolithic entity?

A: Take the U.S. or the British policy toward Islam. It has been highly supportive of the most radical elements of Islam. That is true of the British and it’s true of the Americans after they took over from the British. So who is the leading U.S. ally in the Islamic world? Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most extreme, radical, fundamentalist State in the world. But certainly in the Islamic world. And a missionary state, which uses its huge resources to sponsor its Wahabist extremism through Madrasas and so on. It is the main source of Jihadism. The main ally is that — monolithic. I mean what state power does, and propaganda usually follows, is (to) find what will support a power interest.

In these cases imperial policy. If it happens to be radical Islam that’s fine. At the same time we might be fighting radical Islam somewhere else. The propaganda system would create images of Islamic terror seeking to destroy us when that turns out to be the plausible kind of scapegoating. So 9/11 happened and the Tamil Tigers atrocities happened. You can use those as ways of building up fear, anger, and anxiety to support the tendency to hide under the umbrella of power from these forces about to destroy us. Like Shari’a law in Oklahoma, got to protect ourselves!

Q: You spoke of a new shifting of the world order when you spoke of Nigel Farage and other right-wing elements shifting toward Donald Trump. Is there a shift in the international sphere, like we saw during the Cold War, where the world went into two different sides including the non-aligned? A kind of shift today that is happening, between the right-wing nativists on the one hand and the left-wing internationalist on the other?

A: First of all, I don’t really agree with the conventional version of the Cold War. You take a look at the events of the Cold War. Not what intellectuals talk about, not the ideology. Take a look at the events. The events of the Cold War consisted of violent attacks by the U.S. within its domains — which is most of the world. And Russian, violent attacks its much smaller domain, which was Eastern Europe. That was the Cold War. Each side used the alleged threat of the other as justification for its own internal repression. So the U.S. had to support a terrorist war against Nicaragua because of the Russians, who were not anywhere nearby. The Russians had to invade Hungary because of the Americans. That was the Cold War.

There was, in a way, you could describe it as a kind of tacit compact between the two imperial powers: The huge imperial power of the United States, the smaller imperial power of Russia. Kind of a tacit compact in which each side was authorized to carry out violence and repression in its own domains, for the U.S. this means most of the world, without an actual conflict. Now there was a danger, always, a serious danger that an actual conflict might blow up in which case we’re finished. As soon as there is a major nuclear war, humans are done with. So there was always a fear, if there is a confrontation; but if you look at the events of the Cold War you get a very different picture. And it’s the events that matter, not the words.

Q: But is there a realignment across the world, Professor, between this right-wing populist xenophobic elements and…

A: No, there is left liberal populism too, take the United States.

Q: You gave me a good precursor to the next question. Isn’t the left liberal dead? I know you’ve had your differences with Slavoj Zizek, but as he points out what Clinton personified and is a symbol of is that left liberal position—a coalition which had you and also Alan Dershowitz, which had Occupy Wall Street and Wall Street together. 

A: There is lack of comparison there. Alan Dershowitz speaks for the, it’s kind of a mixture, but the xenophobic extremist right—he is all over the place. The left liberal media, say NPR, he’s on it all the time; right-wing media he is on it all the time.

Then there’s me. Am I on (them)? In fact, when you leave, take a photograph of one of my favourite front pages of a journal. I liked it so much I framed it. It’s the main left liberal journal, American Prospect, and it has a picture of two evil creatures who are threatening American liberalism: one is Dick Cheney and the other is me. That’s the parallel. And it indicates what’s in the mind of American liberals: “We’re being attacked by these monsters on both sides”—one of them who sits in an office and has no access to anything, the other, the guy who controls the biggest military machine in the world and is invading Iraq, those are the two forces.

Same with the rest, Occupy vs. Wall Street, what’s the comparison? Actually, there is a comparison, but not what’s being described. Occupy is very small, it doesn’t begin to compare with Wall Street. But the population does. And a lot of the population supports them (Occupy). In fact, take the U.S. election, in terms of numbers, Clinton won pretty easily. But more interestingly, if you look at younger voters, first of all Clinton won overwhelmingly, but Sanders won even more overwhelmingly. Here is somebody who came out of nowhere, no economic support, no rich supporters, no corporate support, 100% media opposition, basically unknown, talking about socialism, which is a bad word, and overwhelmingly won the youth support. Well, the constituency that supported him does not have money, power, corporate backing, and so on. So they are not considered popular, they are just kind of off the spectrum of discussion, but they are there. And they can change policies.

Q: Professor, since you spoke of the youth, we have watched you speaking about how universities dumb down thinking or intellect. You are a person who, since your early teens, you have questioned the status quo. Do you see that among the youth today? Are the youth questioning the status quo as much as they should?

A: Well, why did an overwhelming majority of young people support Bernie Sanders? That is the answer to your question. Yes, of course they are challenging the status quo. They don’t have wealth, military power, corporate backing, media backing, nor support from intellectuals, but sure, they are challenging the status quo. All the time.

Q: But across the globe, aren’t you also seeing them move toward the nativist nation state concept?

A: You are seeing that, but you are also seeing something like the Sanders phenomenon, Soy Podemos in Spain. I just happened to be in Barcelona, Barcelona is a major city, and the mayor who was just elected is a left-wing activist. These things exist all over Europe. The Corbyn phenomenon in England, the Labour Party elite is bitterly opposed to it, of course the Tories kind of like it, because they want to see the Labour Party collapsing. But, it’s substantial. As soon as Corbyn opened a possibility for people, ordinary people, to participate, the Labour Party shot up. These are real opportunities. Take the Trump voters in the United States, many of them voted for Obama in 2008. Why? If you remember the campaign slogan, it was hope and change and they were voting for hope and change. They didn’t get any hope and they didn’t get any change, so they are disillusioned and now they are voting for someone else who is calling for hope and change.

Q: But don’t you see that happening even in South Asia? That it’s either Trump vs. Corbyn? That the liberal middle ground, for which I use Hillary Clinton as a symbol is losing ground. That you need to pick a side, instead of staying in the center?

A: Everywhere. Everywhere, the mainstream political organizations which are kind of centrist — center left or center right — are diminishing and collapsing. That is true of institutions too. There’s anger at institutions, contempt for them, hatred of them. Not just the political institutions, but the banks, the corporations, just about everything except the military. This, to go back to our original discussion, is a reflection, substantially, of the neoliberal policies of the past generation. It has harmed much of the population, offered nothing to them, given power and prestige to extreme wealth and professional elites who are protected. So, it leads to anger and resentment against the established institutions.

Q: Moving on, has the media changed landscape since you wrote ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1989? Is the media manufacturing consent now?

A: Well, we didn’t actually say that media is manufacturing consent; we said that that is what they are trying to do. We discussed the nature of the media. There’s a separate question; to what extent is it effective? And that’s an interesting question, but we didn’t discuss it. They’re still doing it in the same way. In fact, dramatically.

Take November 8, two things of critical significance happened on November 8. One of them was massively reported, the other, which was much more important, received no report – that was the Marrakesh Conference of 200 countries that tried to implement the Paris programs to try to save the human species from destruction. That’s a lot more important than what happened in the U.S. election. And, in fact, it was undermined by the U.S. election. What happened in Morocco is astounding if you look at it; one country was leading the way to try to save civilization from self-destruction. One country was way behind, trying to lead the way toward self-destruction, the first was China, the second was the United States. That is a remarkable spectacle. Did you see a comment on it?

Q: Nothing.

A: That is manufacturing consent.

Q: Finally, you have come to the evening of your life after over half a century of being the epitome of pioneering thought and intellectual discourse. What are your views on religion? And what is your personal belief of life after death?

A: Personally, it means nothing to me, but if it means something to other people, that is fine. As long as they don’t bother others. I don’t ridicule it, I don’t have contempt for it, I have respect for their views, but they are not mine.

Q: And your views on religion, you were born into a Jewish family and raised…

A: Well, remember that Judaism is fundamentally a religion of practice, more than belief. So, say my grandfather, who was basically still living in the 17th century Eastern Europe was ultra religious. But if I had asked him, did you believe in God? He probably wouldn’t have known what I was talking about. Judaism means carrying out the practices. My father was basically secular, but deeply involved in Jewish life. If you go to a New England church on Sunday morning, you would find people who are deeply religious, but not believers. Religion to them means community, associations, helping each other, having some common values and so on. Religion could be all sorts of things. But to me, it doesn’t happen to be a value; if other people do, that is their business.

 

 

Bilateral and Regional Implications of the U.S.-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement


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Number 365 | December 21, 2016

ANALYSIS

Bilateral and Regional Implications of the U.S.-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

By Renato De Castro

On April 28, 2014, then Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) a few hours before President Barack Obama’s arrival in the Philippines. The signing of the EDCA sent a strong diplomatic signal to Beijing that it would have to take account of an American military presence in the Philippines if it chose to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea. More significantly, a rotational U.S. military presence was expected to strengthen the Philippines’ determination to uphold its territorial claims vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea dispute backed by American resolve and credibility to honor its defense commitment to the Philippines.

 The 21st Century Philippine-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

This is not a new security treaty; it is merely an updated version of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This executive agreement serves as a framework by which the Philippines and the U.S. can develop their individual and collective defense capabilities. This goal is accomplished through the rotational deployment of American forces in Philippine bases. Although the EDCA allows American forces to utilize facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine base commander has unrestricted access to these locations. Likewise, American-built or American-improved infrastructure inside these installations can be used by the AFP. Furthermore, any construction and other activities within the Philippine bases require the consent of the host country through the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB). More importantly, the EDCA is designed to minimize domestic opposition to U.S. military presence in the country by explicitly affirming Philippine sovereignty and providing a legal framework for increased American rotational presence rather than the re-establishment of permanent bases, which remains a sensitive issue among Filipinos.

The EDCA also proved advantageous to the AFP. With its small and obsolete naval force and an almost non-existent air force, the Philippine military benefits from the regular and short-term visits of U.S. forces that conduct military training as well as humanitarian and disaster response operations. Logistically, the U.S. construction of vital military facilities, infrastructure upgrades (such as hangers, air defense surveillance radar systems, ground based air defense systems, and naval operating bases), and the storage and prepositioning of defense equipment in agreed locations can lower the cost of the force and training modernization programs since the buildings and equipment can be shared and utilized jointly by American and Philippine Armed Forces.

The implementation of EDCA augurs well for the Philippine military. Philippines Air Force (PAF) fighter pilots can train with their American counter-parts at the five airbases that are part of the agreement. The PAF can also use facilities that American forces will improve or build inside its facilities. In addition, the Obama Administration has requested US$50 million from the U.S. Congress to fund the Maritime Security Initiative in Southeast Asia. The lion’s share of the funds in the first year will go to the AFP’s capability building program. It is expected that there will be allocations for the purchase of equipment to monitor activities and movements in the South China Sea.

Regional Security Implications

During the Sixth Annual Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD) between the U.S. and the Philippines in Washington D.C. on March 18, 2016, it was announced that American forces will be allowed access to the following AFP bases: Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan; Basa Air Base and Fort Magsaysay in Luzon; Lumbia Air Base in northern Mindanao; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

With EDCA’s implementation, the United States enhances the rotational presence of its forward-deployed forces, improves existing facilities, and pre-positions supplies and equipment in five agreed-upon locations. In the long-term, the effects of EDCA will go beyond the modernization of the Philippines’ military and increased inter-operability between the armed forces of the two allies. The EDCA will have two far-reaching strategic/diplomatic implications. First, a rotational U.S. military presence will strengthen the Philippines’ resolve to uphold its territorial claims in the South China Sea and test American credibility in honoring its defense commitment to the country. Second, the use of air and naval infrastructure in the Philippines will facilitate a rapid and massive deployment of American forces in case armed clashes erupt in potential flash points such as the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and in the Taiwan Strait.

Since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, the USAF has sought arrangements for the rotational deployments of its aircraft and personnel in the Philippines. This arrangement entails infrastructural improvements to keep facilities “warm,” enabling the rapid start of operations in the event of a crisis. American access to the aforementioned five operationally flexible Philippine bases addresses this need. It also thwarts China’s plan of preventing U.S. forces from operating in the disputed South China Sea.

Conclusion

Currently, there is small unit of USAF aircraft and personnel deployed in the Philippines.  Only time will tell whether this small USAF formation will become an effective forward-deployed force that can deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea. This will depend largely on how President Rodrigo Duterte would tolerate China’s expansion into the Philippines’ maritime domain, and the importance of his country’s long-standing alliance with the U.S. Recently, however, President Duterte has expressed critical comments toward the alliance. He announced that he wants the withdrawal of 107 American troops from Mindanao, saying that he was only maintaining them against possible attacks by Muslim militants. He declared that the Philippines would stop patrolling the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea with the U.S. Navy to avoid provoking China. In early October, he also announced that the U.S.-Philippine Philbex joint amphibious exercise would be the last during his four-year term.

On November 7, 2016, despite his earlier rhetoric against the U.S. and the alliance, President Duterte suddenly gave his consent for the conduct of a joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise and for the implementation of the EDCA. His decision to continue joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises and to implement the EDCA will be conveyed to the MDB later this month. However, it is still too early to guess President Duterte’s future executive decisions toward the implementation of the EDCA in particular, and the alliance in general. The AFP’s recommendations to conduct joint exercises between U.S. and Philippine forces and the implementation of EDCA will not only affect Philippine national security interests but also the regional balance of power.

About the Author

Dr. Renato Cruz De Castro is a professor (on sabbatical leave) in the International Studies Department, De La Salle University, Manila, and holds the Charles Lui Chi Keung Professorial Chair in China Studies.  He is currently the U.S.-ASEAN Fulbright Initiative Researcher from the Philippines based in the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at renato.dccastro@dlsu.edu.p

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

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The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

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Talk No More, Mr. Trump–Get Down to Serious Business


November 12, 2016

Talk No More, Mr. Trump–Get Down to Serious Business

As hugely as I’ve always admired (the United States of) America’s avowed ideal of achieving greatness by grating against every ideology devoted to denying its own and other people equal rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, I’ve simultaneously regretted its many failures to keep this noble goal in sight.

Even from the very first, for example, the ringing core statement in the Declaration of the American states’ Independence from the intolerably grating Great Britain that ‘all men are created equal’ and are endowed with ‘unalienable Rights’ including ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,’ was given the lie by the continued acceptance of slavery.

And it took almost a century of berating and grating, not to mention a catastrophic civil war, to unite the previously disunited States in the abolition of this evil obstacle to the nation’s ethical if not economic greatness.

Meanwhile, native Americans or so-called Indians continued to be disgracefully denied not only their allegedly ‘unalienable rights’ to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the freedom to inhabit the lands of their ancestors and ‘Great Spirits’.

Perhaps America’s nearest apparent approaches to ethical and moral and thus not merely territorial or economic greatness came when it belatedly helped save Europe from German militarism in World War I, and again intervened in the nick of time to rescue the entire planet from domination by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II.

Though in both cases economics arguably took precedence over ethics, as the US profited mightily through what President Eisenhower later identified as the ‘military-industrial complex’ in his famous warning of the American people against permitting this monster to retain too much power.

But the Cold War and the disastrous expedition into Vietnam that cost the populace so dearly in deaths and dollars so mightily enriched and empowered the military-industrial complex that it morphed into the unholy alliance of the Pentagon, Wall Street and Washington establishments that is so grating on today’s American workers and their families that they have elected Donald Trump to the presidency.

Appearing somewhat hypocritical?

Of course Trump was all too aware that resentment at the political establishment’s apparent dedication to the further enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor might appear somewhat hypocritical on the part of a candidate who has so flagrantly used and abused the same system he claims to so greatly abhor to make himself a billionaire.

So he also ranted as gratingly as possible against everything else that his potential voters could possibly be revolting against, including female and marriage equality, equal rights for non-white citizens and minorities like people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTIs), universal, affordable health care, Mexican and Muslim immigration and free trade with China or indeed any other nation.

In other words, far from intending to genuinely ‘make America great,’ be it ‘again’ or as I and I’m sure a good many others would argue, for the first time ever, he’s on a mission to ensure that America becomes more grating than ever.

But I’m not against grating as such. As I mentioned much earlier in this column, the US founded the United States of America by grating against the government of people by autocratic, repressive, self-serving and otherwise unjust regimes.

So, when Trump assumes office, the task for the US Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, the media, presidential advisers, not to mention the American people and the heads of other nations, is not to render him any less grating, abusive, abrasive or even aggressive, but to redirect his angst against the right targets.

Against the Chinese Communist Party, for example, for their repressive one-party misrule of their people; not against the people of China for taking Americans’ jobs, as many of Trump’s supporters simplistically and indeed falsely believe.

Against rogue governments like Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic Kremlin clique and Bashar al Assad’s murderous Syrian regime; not against the majority of Russian and Syrian people who are fighting to the death to rid themselves of such anti-democratic rulers in their struggle for the principles of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ so allegedly sacred to Americans.

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Trump will have to deal with this guy in Malaysia who outwitted Barack Obama with sweet nothings

Against Islamic State and all the Islamic and Muslim-majority governments around the world – like, for example, Malaysia’s allegedly criminal UMNO-BN – that make their citizens’ lives a misery under the false pretence of representing or supporting Allah; not against the good Muslims so impoverished and suppressed by such regimes as to seek refuge in the US and elsewhere in the so-called ‘free’ world.

And finally, as my word-count is running out, against sexists, racists, religionists and other species of bully in America and everywhere else around the world; not against those innocent and defenceless people such bigots like to feel free to vilify and victimise.

In summary, far from the catastrophe that so many of his opponents fear he will be as commander-in-chief of the US, if only president-elect Donald Trump can be persuaded to be as grating as possible against the mad and bad of his nation and the world and not the harmless and blameless, maybe, just maybe, he can make America great after all, if not necessarily again.

Malaysia: Learn from history instead of denying it


October 11, 2016

Malaysia: Learn from history instead of denying it

by T K Chua

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com.my

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World renown Penang will become UMNO’s Tanjong and my 200 year old alma mater Penang Free School will be renamed Tanjong Free School–Din Merican

Typical of many Third World nations after they achieve independence, Malaysia made  the deliberate move to get rid of the English language, gradually dismantled the colonial (British) system of government and renamed all places associated with their colonial past.

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UMNO has done that, too. Hence, Jalan Birch is now Jalan Maharajalela and Jalan Mountbatten is now Jalan Tun Perak as if we did it out of spite or to get even. This morning, I read there are now proposals to change George Town to Tanjong, Butterworth to Bagan and also some of the streets within George Town to names associated with the country’s pre-colonial era.

After more than half a century of independence, I think many are still not free mentally. They are still suffering from either an inferiority complex, defiance, racism, insecurity or parochialism.

From my observation, usually countries that are most vehement in getting rid of any remnants of colonialism are the very ones that have suffered the most in terms of poor governance, bad economic management and lack of sustained and meaningful development.

 When they fail to deliver meaningful progress to the people, all they need is to shout for another round of jingoism.

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The UMNO Melayus with oversized hangups

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Colonialism took hold because we were weak. If we are not careful, a new form of colonialism will take hold again if we remain weak. What weakened us before is not “George Town” or “Butterworth” but our ill-conceived policies and poor governance.

What is the point of going back to our glorious past when that era was defeated by colonialism? The Chinese are the most “middle-kingdom centric” people of the world and yet today, I do not think they would ever want to go back to an Opium War or their hapless imperial past.

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UMNO is Anti-Pendatang

Colonialism, too, is part of Malaysia’s history. There would be no Malaya or Malaysia if the British had not come and colonised this region to begin with. If ever there is anything to learn from colonialism, it would be its positive inputs in education, the administrative system and development. If there are names of places associated with our past, it is because this IS our past. Learn from history, instead of denying its very existence or eliminating it completely. Worse, do not resort to parochialism.

TK Chua is a FMT reader.

 

 

The Erudite and Prolific Noam Chomsky: A Man of Conviction


September 29, 2016

The Erudite and Prolific Noam Chomsky: A Man of Conviction

Knowledge and Power–A Documentary

Manufacturing Consent is my favorite Noam Chomsky book. It reminds me of the awesome power of government in shaping public perception and influencing the way we think about public and foreign policy.

The media dominates our lives for as long as I can remember. When I was very much younger in 1950s I relied on the media and the radio for news and views and never realised that I was being manipulated by Big Brother to support causes which I would not  have agreed to if I had access to sources of information other than what the government was sending out through the airwaves for public consumption.

Fortunately, to day I can no longer be led to accept “official truths”from my government and its controlled media. I have always maintained a posture of doubt and will not accept anything I read without subjecting them to careful scrutiny. Naom Chomsky’s books have influenced the way I think.–Din Merican