Object: ON LESSONS OF HISTORY AND HISTORIES OF LESSONS, FROM GUERNICA TO GAZA.
27 December 2009
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
This year I spent part of Christmas day at home re-reading Alice in Wonderland to my children.
My younger daughter, who just entered Junior High School this year, found particularly funny the response of the Gryphon when Alice asked the Mock Turtle : "How many hours a day do you do lessons?" --"Ten the first day ... nine the next, and so on," answered the Mock Turtle. --"That's the reason they are called lessons," the Gryphon remarked, "because they lessen from day to day."
When we finished the book, I went to my computer to look at the Internet news sites: The Real News, Democracy Now! and GRITtv have all presented reports almost daily on Jerusalem, on Gaza, and on U.S.-Israeli relations. When will Israeli Jews stop stealing the homes of Palestinian families? I asked out loud, with my earphones on. My daughter looked at me. Will they steal our home, too? I shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know. . . maybe," I replied.
My older daughter laughed. "He's only kidding. That's not possible," she said.
The lesson of Guernica came to mind: the authors of the new German order watched and waited to see the response of the so-called Democratic nations in 1937, and when there was no response to the massacre of the Basque village which took place on 26 April 1937, at 5:00 p. m., when German planes began dropping incendiary bombs on the defensless civilian population, it was understood as a green light for future German expansions into Austria, into Czechoslovakia, into Poland, etc. .... The politics of appeasement was made respectable by the capitalist world leaders, and German industrialists and their imperialists politicians were prepared to benefit from the opportunity this indifference presented.
I looked at my daughter and asked: "Do you think that George Bush would have sent U.S. troops to invade Iraq, and NATO troops would have invaded Afghanistan if ordinary Europeans and Americans had massively protested the Israeli-American massacres in Lebanon and Gaza?
"I don't think so," she answered.
"Well, I don't think so either," I replied.
Then, my children, temporarily overdosed on reality, asked me to tell them an imaginary story, and my thoughts went to an episode from Buratino, written by the Russian author Alexis Tolstoy. He described Buratino arriving in the Land of Fools, led by Basilio the cat and Alissa the fox. They were out to rob him, but the cunning creatures pretended to be his friends. The painfully naif wooden puppet --who was just born the day before-- followed them to this ridiculous place where they had advised him to burry his five gold coins in the ground so that the gold would grow into a money tree. On their way to the most desolate part of the village Buratino observed many strange things: donkeys ran backwards, pushing carts instead of pulling them; bridges passed through rivers, instead of over them; street lamps were turned off at sunset; the police were fat bulldogs, always ready to accept a bribe; jail guards were weasels, with a passionate joy to kill unarmed people; house cats led people with leashes around their necks for walks at night. . . . This was a scene from everyday life in the Land of Fools, where public opinion, we might expect, was entirely predictable because it was custom made to fit all circumstances in the interests of the rulers.
"Who are the rulers?'my older daughter asked pugnaciously.
The owners of the means of production, I replied.
And what do they want produced? she insisted.
Profits, I answered.
What are profits? she demanded to know.
That part of the total value which is taken away from people after they have produce it, I explained patiently.
But did Buratino's gold coins grow into a money tree? my younger daughter interrupted hopefully.
What do you think? is asked, turning to her.
Oh, Papa, it's just an imaginary story, she complained.
What did you learn from this story, I insisted.
That people are bad, said my oldest daughter sardonically.
Was Buratino bad? I asked.
No, the younger one replied. He was just dumb.
Why do you think he was so dumb?" I asked.
Well, he had no experiences; he was just born yesterday, they both replied, and they left the room in search of more Christmas cookies.
The 8 items below offer CEIMSA readers an opportunity for more oxygen: experience the information below; it may have the effect of helping you bring into better focus the patterns of life around us today, and might suggest the direction toward which we all are now moving, together. History, of course, does not repeat itself, but on the other hand there are certain constants in human behavior, especially when the context has not change much. The era of imperialism has been with us for a while; it offers such a context, and, as we have seen already, nationalism remains a convenient alibi, useful to justify profiteering from the spoils of imperialist wars.
Item A. is a commentary on the state of ethics in U.S. political culture: "They know no shame," by Ralph Nader.
Item B. is an article sent to us by The University of Massachusetts Professor Emeritus, Richard Wolff, who describes capitalist vultures circling public education in the USA.
Item C., sent to us by UCLA Professor Rhonda Hammer, is an article by clinical psychologist, Bruce E. Levine, who questions: " Are Americans a Broken People ? "
Item D., sent to us by Michael Parenti, is an article by Prof. David Michael Green, Hofstra U. on the Obama "health scam."
Item E., from Edward Herman, is an exercise in imagining "if the Palestinian resistance movement were happening in Iran !"
Item F., are links to recent articles of interest, sent to us by Historians Against the War representative, Jim O'Brien.
Item G., from Truth Out, is an article by Dick Meister on the need for a renewal of an American labor movement.
Item H., is a report sent to us by Nanterre graduate student, Ahmed El Aidi, on Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs: "How Hollywood Vilifies a People," by Omar Attum.
And finally, we conclude this CEIMSA bulletin with a season's greeting from CODE PINK :
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Ralph Nader
Date 23 December 2009
Subject: They Know No Shame
In Japan, they know the meaning of shame.
Citigroup does wrong in Japan, and the CEO is forced to make a public bow of apology.
In the United States, when Citigroup does wrong, there's no apology - just subsidies, bailouts and bonuses.
Indeed, one year after it crashed the global economy, drained people's pensions and retirement savings, and threw millions out of work, Wall Street is back to business as usual - in Washington and Manhattan both, as I predicted at Wall Street and other rallies.
But one group is leading the charge against Wall Street, issuing a clarion call to rein in the banksters.
That group is Public Citizen, an organization I founded nearly 40 years ago to be a permanent representative of the people in Washington, D.C.
I am writing today to urge you to make a contribution before the end of the year to support Public Citizen's Campaign to Rein in Wall Street.
Please make your contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 - or whatever you can afford.
Contribute before midnight, December 31, and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a small group of committed Public Citizen donors - up to $100,000! Please help Public Citizen reach this target.
Earlier this year, your support spawned Single Payer Action - a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners operation dedicated to winning a Medicare-for-All system. Now I'm asking you - our strongest supporters - to catapult another citizen drive to confront corporate power.
That's how long it took after the collapse of Lehman Brothers before the House of Representatives passed some financial reform legislation.
It's still pending in the Senate.
The long delay between the onset of the financial crisis and Congressional movement toward passage of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 did not well serve the cause of reform.
First, the good news.
Thanks in no small part to the work of Public Citizen, the bill would set up a consumer financial watchdog agency.
Wall Street said it wanted to "kill" - their words - the agency.
Public Citizen was here to say, "no way."
Public Citizen experts made the case for the agency.
And they went after Wall Street lackeys, like Representative Melissa Bean (D-Illinois), who tried, unsuccessfully, to defeat or weaken the agency beyond recognition.
If passed by the Senate, the agency will prevent predatory mortgages, rip-off overdraft fees, fine-print bank billing tricks and complicated loan terms designed to deceive.
But besides the consumer watchdog, which we hope will be headed by the magnificent Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, the bill will be little more than an annoyance to Wall Street.
That's because the bill fails utterly to address the structural problems that led to the financial crisis.
As the financial regulation debate moves to the Senate, no one is better positioned to fix these problems than Public Citizen.
But Public Citizen needs your help. Please donate now.
Here's Public Citizen's program.
Step one: Break up the banks.
It's that simple. The banks are too big to fail. So make them smaller.
And make sure that the commercial banks where you maintain your checking accounts are separated from the investment banks that gamble on Wall Street.
Step two: Crack down on derivatives, which Warren Buffett called "financial weapons of mass destruction."
Ban exotic financial instruments that are too dangerous. Make purveyors of new derivatives prove they are safe. And subject whatever is permitted to stringent controls.
Step three: Rein in executive pay, and end Wall Street's ruinous bonus culture.
Wall Street aims to pay tens of billions of dollars in bonuses - in the same year it has received trillions of dollars in public support?
Then slap a windfall tax on the bonuses. Public Citizen called for it, and the United Kingdom is now doing it. Washington can follow.
And the bonuses that are paid should only be a reward for long-term success by companies or divisions in companies.
When I set up Public Citizen, the idea was to create a base of talented advocates who could read convoluted legislation and regulations, translate technical language into everyday English and highlight corporate abuses; use the media to get the word out; petition, lobby, litigate and agitate; and mobilize the public around proposals to advance health, safety, justice and democracy.
All to go toe-to-toe with corporate power.
For almost four decades, that's what Public Citizen has done.
Like no one else in Washington.
Now they are ready to take on Wall Street.
But they need your engagement with other like-minded Americans. Please donate today.
You can count on Public Citizen to name names.
They will connect Wall Street campaign contributions to their Congressional allies' fake solutions.
They will lay out a hard-hitting agenda to reduce Wall Street's power.
And they will organize the populist rage needed to impose new rules on Wall Street.
But only with the help of people like you, who are Public Citizen's energy source.
Can you contribute $25, $50, $100, $500 - or whatever you can afford - right now, so Public Citizen can expand its work?
With the House of Representatives finally passing its financial reform bill earlier this month, the whole legislative package moves to the Senate.
Where it will very quickly move to the front burner in early 2010.
So, there's no time to delay.
Together, we do have the power to defeat Wall Street.
Onward to economic justice.
from Rick Wolff :
Date: 19 December 2009
Subject: Capitalists target "Public Education in a State of Shock."
Thought you might be interested in my latest for the MR webzine (attached hereto) on how the economic crisis is affecting public education across the US.
Best regards and joyeux noel
Rick Wolff is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. He is the author of New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006) among many other publications. Check out Rick Wolff’s documentary film on the current economic crisis, Capitalism Hits the Fan, at www.capitalismhitsthefan.com. Visit Wolff's Web site at www.rdwolff.com, and order a copy of his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.
from Rhonda Hammer :
Date: 19 December 2009
Subject: Are the American People Broken
A great article.
Are Americans a Broken People? Why We've Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression
by Bruce E. Levin
“The Democrats and their hapless president are probably in worse shape if they actually pass this [health] legislation. Especially now that it's been stripped of nearly every real progressive reform imaginable, it has become an incredibly stupid bill, from the political perspective. It will force people who can't afford it to spend a giant amount of money on lousy insurance, without any real choice to hold down costs, and it will fund this by hacking away at the Medicare budget. No wonder an insurance industry lobbyist broadcast an email last week declaring: ‘We WIN.’ Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor. . . .
“What could be stupider than saddling thirty-five million Americans with a new monthly bill that will probably represent the second or third biggest item in their budget, in exchange for crappy private sector health insurance that is unlikely to pay out when needed, and wastes a third of the dollars paid in premiums on bureaucracy and profits anyhow? Slapping big fines on them if they don't pony up for the insurance, perhaps? Yep, that's in there too. . . .
“This will be a total train wreck for the Democratic Party. Already, the public opposes the plan by a ratio of 47 to 32 percent. And they haven't even been handed the bill for it yet. And they haven't even had their premiums skyrocket yet. And they haven't even seen insurance corporation executives buy small countries for use as second homes with the increased compensation they will be floating in. And they haven't even found out what this does to their Medicare yet. And they haven't even seen the impact on the national debt yet. And they haven't even realized that the 'good' parts of the bill don't go into effect until FOUR YEARS from now. . .”
from Edward Herman :
Date: 23 December 2009
Subject: Just imagine if the Palestinian resistance movement were happening in Iran!
Here is a pretty damned good point on behalf of Sid Shniad [email@example.com].
Oh just imagine if the Palestinian resistance movement were happening in Iran! <http://feedproxy.google.com/%7Er/feedburner/WDBc/%7E3/KinSwsIHyd8/oh-just-imagine-if-the-palestinian-resistance-movement-were-happening-in-iran.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email>
Imagine if the Palestinian resistance movement were taking place in Iran!
Dashing Mohammad Othman now rotting in detention would be a global cause. The middle-of-the-night arrest of Abdallah Abu Rahmah would be on the Nightly News. The New York Times would tell the stories of international freedom riders, the Gaza Freedom March, and the role of Twitter in the resistance.
The video of Abu Rahme’s murder<http://www.bilin-village.org/english/articles/testimonies/Basem-Abu-Rahme-killed-in-Bilin-weekly-protest> during a peaceful protest of the unending landgrab would be viral. The all-night protests of the East Jerusalem evictions<http://josephdana.com/2009/12/david-shulman-reports-from-yesterdays-sheikh-jarrah-protest-march-in-jerusalem/> that are being carried out a racial basis ethnic cleansing! would fire the conscience of kings and counselors. Columnists would go on TV and decry the crushing of a popular resistance movement. College students would sing out the words, Sheikh Jarrah! and talk about 8000 political prisoners and a Foreign Minister whose foreign policy is directed at the Arabs inside his own country…
The Council on Foreign Relations would talk about the regime’s possession of nukes, and how that affects the outcome of the popular movement.
Politico would righteously expose the tax-deductible U.S. sponsors of the landgrab and ask, Where is the Israeli FW de Klerk???
Wake up now: it’s not happening in Iran. It’s happening in Israel and Palestine, the sovereign territory of the Israel lobby. So our politicians are silent, our media are ball-gagged and duct-taped, Jewish leadership talks about the Holocaust and the existential threat to the Jewish people, the most important political website is a bed of Israel supporters (from Josh Gerstein<http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30888.html> to Josh Kraushaar<http://allaboutjoshk.blogspot.com/>), and the left has its tail coiled tightly between its legs.
Here is brave Israeli Neve Gordon, who has called for BDS against Israel, telling the same story in<http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/23/israel-palestinian-peace-movement> the Guardian that Amira Hass told in Haaretz<http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1137056.html>: Israel is terrified of nonviolent resistance. So it needs to break it by military means.
It is often forgotten that even the second intifada, which turned out to be extremely violent, began as a popular nonviolent uprising. Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar revealed several years later that the top Israeli security echelons had decided to "fan the flames<http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=437895>" during the uprising’s first weeks. He cites Amos Malka, the military general in charge of intelligence at the time, saying that during the second intifada’s first month, when it was still mostly characterised by nonviolent popular protests, the military fired 1.3m bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. The idea was to intensify the levels of violence, thinking that this would lead to a swift and decisive military victory and the successful suppression of the rebellion. And indeed the uprising and its suppression turned out to be extremely violent.
But over the past five years, Palestinians from scores of villages and towns such as Bil’in<http://www.bilin-village.org/english/> and Jayyous<http://www.jayyousonline.org/englishweb/englishindex.htm> have developed new forms of pro-peace resistance that have attracted the attention of the international community. Even Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently called on his constituents to adopt similar strategies. Israel, in turn, decided to find a way to end the protests once and for all and has begun a well-orchestrated campaign that targets the local leaders of such resistance.
One such leader is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and the co-ordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, is one of many Palestinians who was on the military’s wanted list. At 2am on 10 December (international Human Rights Day<http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/2009/>), nine military vehicles surrounded his home. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, and after allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and three young children, blindfolded him and took him into custody<http://www.bilin-village.org/english/articles/testimonies/Bilin-leader-Abdallah-Abu-Rahmah-arrested-during-military-night-raid>. He is being charged with throwing stones, the possession of arms (namely gas canisters in the Bil’in museum) and inciting fellow Palestinians, which, translated, means organising demonstrations against the occupation.
from Jim O'Brien :
Date: 21 December 2009
Subject: [haw-info] links to recent articles of interest.
This is the eighth in our biweekly series of links to articles of interest on HAW-related topics. Suggestions for inclusion in these lists are welcome: they can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the working group for this project are Matt Bokovoy, Carolyn (Rusti) Eisenberg, Jim O'Brien, Maia Ramnath, and Sarah Shields
New War Order: How Panama Set the Course for Post-Cold War Foreign Policy
By Ted Galen Carpenter, American Conservative, February 1, 2010 issue
In War, Winners Can Be Losers
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted December 21
Grinding Down the U.S. Army
By William Astore, TomDispatch.com, posted December 15
The author is a retired Air Force colonel who now teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology
With Obama's Strategy, Afghanistan Looks Like Another Vietnam
By George McGovern, Washington Post, posted December 13
Beware Presidents Use of History
By John Prados, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, posted December 8
Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War
By Tariq Ali, New Left Review, March-April 2008
This breaks our rules of only recent articles, but one of us ran across this article recently and found that it provides valuable background to today s events.
To members and friends of Historians Against the War :
The HAW Steering Committee has voted to adopt the following two statements related to the war in Afghanistan.
Statement on military resistance:
This statement was submitted by Staughton Lynd and approved by the HAW Steering Committee. Correspondence on it should be sent to another member of the Steering Committee, Carl Mirra, a former military resister and author of Soldiers and Citizens: An Oral History of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the Battlefield to the Pentagon. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Historians Against the War supports soldiers in the United States military who refuse to fight in Afghanistan, either as conscientious objectors or on the grounds that the United States is committing war crimes forbidden by Nuremburg and the Army Field Manual, such as the use of drone aircraft in Pakistan.
Statement on Escalation in Afghanistan
This statement originated in a draft suggested by Herbert Shapiro, emeritus history professor at the University of Cincinnati. It was amended somewhat in discussions within the Steering Committee and adopted.
Historians Against War (HAW) expresses its opposition to the escalation of the Afghanistan War announced by President Obama in his December 1 speech at West Point. One again we are told the United States must increase its commitment of human and material resources in support of a government, steeped in corruption, that fails to demonstrate support of a majority of its country s population.
In his speech, President Obama took issue with any claim that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. The two conflicts are not carbon copies of each other but there are distinct similarities. And if we go on with the Afghan War it may be that we have not fully learned the lessons of Vietnam.
The Vietnamese would not yield to a counter-insurgency that believed sending increasing numbers of troops, dropping more and more napalm upon them, and flying more bombing runs was a formula for victory. They would not yield to a strategy that could not distinguish between soldiers and civilians and pretended that a discredited Saigon regime had the support of the people over whom it ruled.
In Afghanistan we once more follow the path of escalation, inflicting collateral damage on a civilian population and propping up a corrupt government. In the present war we once more adopt a guns not butter policy, making war while undermining our ability to devote the resources needed to make the economic reforms so urgently needed at home.
Afghanistan s own recent history provides further reason for opposing the Obama administration s current course of action. The Soviet experience of the late 1970s and early 1980s dramatically reinforced Afghanistan s role as the graveyard of empires. At the same time, U.S. intervention in the form of aid to the most reactionary anti-Soviet forces helped lay the groundwork for the emergence of al-Qaeda.
HAW urges a change in direction. We need an Afghanistan policy that includes a full, early, and orderly withdrawal of U.S. military forces, economic assistance to Afghani civil society, and a relinquishment of any project for permanent U.S. bases.
from Truth Out :
Date: 27 December 2009
Subject: The fruits of the U.S. labor movement and the long dry season.
Despite the importance of unions in our lives, our schools pay only slight attention to that importance - or even to their existence. Little is done in the classroom to overcome the negative view of organized labor held by many Americans; little is done to explain the true nature of organized labor.