Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Epilogue to Identity Politics

Barrack Obama is almost out of the White House, and boy!, did he have some Call-of-Duty-styled fun with the world during his time in power! And the saddest bit is that this hawkish, lying, totalitarian goon will only look saintly in comparison to the utterly bigoted lunatic white supremacist who is to follow him. But let's stay focused on Barry for the moment.

We all remember the moment he was elected, the tears in the eyes of the aging civil rights warriors who had lived through Jim Crow and segregation, the old women of color who were grandmothers before they earned the right to vote, and we understood why it mattered to them. Even as we were scared of the inevitable bane of identity politics, even as we knew deep in our hearts that when you pick from a pack of wolves you can only ever pick another wolf, even so we couldn't help but give in a little to the magnitude of "change" in the fortunes of a people, even if it was purely symbolic. But fast forward eight years, and what do we have? The "change" that we could believe in is nowhere to be seen, either in domestic or in foreign affairs of Barry's regime. But lies, deceits, coups, assassinations and incarceration of dissent as far as the eye can see.

Kafka once wrote, "Suffering must lead to something elementally beautiful", and much in a Kafkaesque fashion we hoped that a man who came from a long suffering people would know not to further suffering of others. What we got, though, was a black elite who carried out the most extensive surveillance campaign at home, persecuted whistle blowers using an Espionage Act drafted in 1917, stayed silent in the face of a white supremacist police state carrying out genocidal violence against his own people, and abroad engaged in the most extensive drone assassination and terror campaign the world has ever known. Here's a chart from the Council on Foreign Relations on exactly how much 'HOPE' and 'CHANGE' Barry brought to the world, disguised as heavy munitions, in 2016 alone!

In fact, looking at the chart above one would wonder, isn't Barry doubly responsible for his crimes against humanity because he used the color of his skin to not only trick a desperate population into believing he was their "hope" for a "change" from his predecessors, but also stole a Nobel Peace prize? For being black! While he silently watched the tacit exploitation and murder of the same black people, on whose shoulders he stood to claim a Nobel prize, by a brutal and biased police force resorting to Jim Crow era tactics! Barry may look black, but he has never lifted a single finger to help the conditions and lives of those whose legacy he has instead exploited to further the imperialist cause. Heck, the man even gave a speech at the Nobel Peace ceremony justifying war! Words befitting a man whose philosophical ruminations involve "moral standards in waging war". How strange it is how strange the world turns out to be, as Jerry Fodor once wrote.

Ask yourself, "How many people did each one of those bombs kill?"  If we assume a medium death toll per bomb of, say, 10 people each, then the United States has killed a quarter of a million people in the last year alone. If the number is very large, then it is an atrocity that rivals the worst ones ever committed in the history of humanity. And yet, Barry wins a Nobel Peace Prize, and Steven Pinker is singing hosannas for the long democratic peace. We are at peace, apparently, yet a single country has probably killed more than a quarter of a million people in just the last one year. In a saner world, the sheer paradox would drive a moral man to insanity. And to the observant ones, this truth is not that hard to comprehend either.


This should hardly be news, if it wasn't for the fact that we live in a media-controlled nation where public intellectuals are replaced with prime-time talk show hosts and unfunny comedians making placid observations about the world that fail to challenge the status quo in any kind of an informative manner. As Noam Chomsky, one of the last remaining iconic intellectuals, once said, "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....”. And Chomsky falls outside that spectrum. In an interview with Washington based history teacher Dan Falcone and New York based English teacher Saul Isaacson, 'the most important intellectual alive' discussed the issues of drone warfare, terrorism, and Washington's long legacy in indulging in genocidal games, group/identity politics and exceptionalism.
"Yeah, Reagan started it. It’s pretty interesting. I mean terror became a big issue when the Reagan Administration came in. They immediately announced [their plans] and kind of disparaged Carter’s alleged human rights programs. The main issue is state-directed international terrorism. Right at that time that big industry developed. That’s when you start getting the academic departments on terrorism. You get UN conferences trying to define terrorism. Journals, you know, big explosion of interest in terrorism. I started writing about it more at that time as did Ed Herman. But we actually had been writing about it before and we picked up after that.

But the stuff that we write can’t enter the canon for a very simple reason. We use the official definitions of terrorism. The definitions in the U.S. code, in British law, in U.S. Army manuals and so on. And if you use those definitions it follows instantly that the United States is the leading terrorist state in the world. So since you can’t have that conclusion you have to do something else. And if you look at all this academic work in the conferences and so on there’s a constant theme that terrorism is extremely hard to define and we therefore have to have a deep thinking about it. And the reason it’s hard to define is quite simple. It’s hard to find a definition that includes what they do to us but excludes what we do to them. That’s quite difficult. So it takes a global war on terrorism.

The worst terrorist crimes going on right now are the drone campaigns. But you can’t include that obviously. So you have to try to define it. I mean if Iran was carrying out an assassination campaign killing anyone around the world who Iran thought might harm them someday we’d go crazy. But that’s the drone campaign.

There’s been a big problem now, for 35 years, in trying to define a way to restrict the concept of terrorism to things that those guys are doing to us. Take a look at the Supreme Court decision that just authorized an effort by U.S. claimants against Iran for terrorist acts. What are the terrorist acts? The terrorist acts are bombings of U.S. military installations in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which Iran is claimed to have something to do with. Well suppose they did. That’s not terrorism. I mean if we have a military base in Lebanon that while we’re shelling Lebanese naval ships, the Navy is shelling Lebanese installations and somebody attacks [that’s not terrorism].

But that’s the way you’ve got to craft the concept and it runs right through the whole ideological system. Kind of interestingly one of the exceptions is the international law community. So there’s an interesting review article in the latest issue of the American Journal of International Law, a very conservative journal, which basically does, or comes pretty close to calling the drone campaign terrorism. But it’s not in the mainstream of course or in the textbooks.

In fact if you look at Reagan’s global war on terrorism it very quickly turned into a massive terrorist war: [by us] Central America, South Africa, the Middle East, all U.S.-backed terrorism. That’s one of the reasons why it disappeared from history and why the standard line is that Bush 43 declared the war on terror. Actually he just repeated what Reagan had said 20 years earlier."

The interview is illuminating and insightful, and serves as a stark reminder of the troubled legacy of identity politics that we cannot afford to forget just because of Trump. There are lessons to be learned here, and especially so when the time comes for us to react to whatever destruction and devastation Trump will leave us with! If we pay attention to history, and listen to public intellectuals like Chomsky, may be we won't make the mistake of indulging in identity politics when reacting to the Trump-era like we made when reacting to 'dubya'.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Cold Turkey

You ever wandered,
inside your own head?
Like a drunk hobo in Kansas?

There's a feeling --
I can't find --
lost in my head. Endlessly
It itches
Where I can't scratch.