By Jonathan Tirone
Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) — The dollar’s role in international trade should be reduced by establishing a new currency to protect emerging markets from the “confidence game” of financial speculation, the United Nations said.
UN countries should agree on the creation of a global reserve bank to issue the currency and to monitor the national exchange rates of its members, the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development said today in a report.
China, India, Brazil and Russia this year called for a replacement to the dollar as the main reserve currency after the financial crisis sparked by the collapse of the U.S. mortgage market led to the worst global recession since World War II. China, the world’s largest holder of dollar reserves, said a supranational currency such as the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights, or SDRs, may add stability.
“There’s a much better chance of achieving a stable pattern of exchange rates in a multilaterally-agreed framework for exchange-rate management,” Heiner Flassbeck, co-author of the report and a UNCTAD director, said in an interview from Geneva. “An initiative equivalent to Bretton Woods or the European Monetary System is needed.”
The 1944 Bretton Woods agreement created the modern global economic system and institutions including the IMF and World Bank.
While it would be desirable to strengthen SDRs, a unit of account based on a basket of currencies, it wouldn’t be enough to aid emerging markets most in need of liquidity, said Flassbeck, a former German deputy finance minister who worked in 1997-1998 with then U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to contain the Asian financial crisis.
Emerging-market countries are underrepresented at the IMF, hindering the effectiveness of enhanced SDR allocations, the UN said. An organization should be created to manage real exchange rates between countries measured by purchasing power and adjusted to inflation differentials and development levels, it said.
“The most important lesson of the global crisis is that financial markets don’t get prices right,” Flassbeck said. “Governments are being tempted by the resulting confidence game catering to financial-market participants who have shown they’re inept at assessing risk.”
The 45-year-old UN group, run by former World Trade Organization chief Supachai Panitchpakdi, “promotes integration of developing countries in the world economy,” according to its Web site. Emerging-market nations should consider restricting capital mobility until a new system is in place, the group said.
The world body began issuing warnings in 2006 about financial imbalances leading to a global recession.
The UN Trade and Development report is being held for release via print media until 6 p.m. London time.
|Fifty-eight years ago, on August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb dropped by the United States utterly destroyed the city of Hiroshima. Hundreds of thousands of residents died. Those who survived endured the overwhelming grief of losing family and friends and braved bewildering post-war confusion to rebuild their city. Even so, the horror and tragedy of the bombing have never faded from their collective memory. This museum, with the help of NHK Hiroshima Broadcasting Station and the Chugoku Shimbun, conducted an A-bomb drawing campaign entitled “To Convey…the Desire for Peace Across the Centuries.” The drawings we received derived from memories that remain vivid even after a half-century. Invested with still-intense grief for many who died in agony, begging for water, they also expressed the desire to somehow convey that horror, to make sure the world knows what happened. They are truly a people’s record of the atomic bombing, invaluable testimony to the fate nuclear weapons hold in store. Here we display selected drawings along with rare photos from that time and A-bomb artifacts from our collection. Together, they convey with great clarity the situation in Hiroshima after the bombing. These artists support our intent to continue using these drawings to convey the A-bomb horror and appeal for genuine and lasting world peace.|
|The Mushroom Cloud
The bomb detonated 600 meters above ground, and the cloud created by the rapidly expanded air blew upward fast and high, eventually reaching the stratosphere. The cap of the mushroom spread over several kilometers and was observed with fear and trepidation from distant locations in Hiroshima and even in other prefectures.
A white cloud rose fast into the sky, eventually turning pitch black.
Drawing / Keigo Tanaka 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945 Approx. 32km from the hypocenter Mibu-cho, Yamagata-gun (now, Chiyoda-cho, Yamagata-gun)
The blast pressure was an extremely high 19 tons per square meter even 500 meters from the hypocenter. Virtually all wooden houses within a radius of 2 kilometers were toppled, their inhabitants instantly crushed or trapped underneath.
I crawled desperately and got out from under my house. Crowds of people were fleeing to the north. Some were staggering along with such terrible injuries that their skin was hanging in shreds. Others sat by the road staring vacantly into space. The sight of human beings in this state is beyond imagination.
Drawing / Mitsuko Matsutomi
August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,200m from the hypocenter
Throughout the city, flames quickly rose from collapsed buildings, becoming a city-wide conflagration that seemed to scorch the heavens all day and into the night. Those who were able fled for their lives through the flames and black smoke. Countless people were trapped under buildings and burned alive.
When I came to, I heard houses burning. Those trapped under them were calling for help.
Drawing / Yae Yamamoto
August 6, 1945
The city was engulfed in a great fire. Powerful fire storms and whirlwinds arose throughout. Beginning 20 to 30 minutes after the bombing, a heavy rain began falling in northwest sections of the city. This rainfall lowered temperatures dramatically. In mid-summer, people shivered from the cold. Furthermore, during the first hour or two, the huge black drops were full of dust, dirt, and soot lifted up by the explosion. The rain was radioactive.
Injured people fled along the river to avoid the flames. Then, the black rain fell.
Drawing / Kichinosuke Tamada
August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,300m from the hypocenter
The horror of the A-bombing was city-wide. Injured victims fled blindly through flame and smoke seeking a safe refuge. Nearly all were naked and in terrible pain, their clothes and skin burned to shreds. Many fell exhausted as they fled, breathing their last on a road or in a river.
A friend carrying his badly injured daughter
Drawing / Yasuko Kajino
Afternoon, August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,100m from the hypocenter
|Hiroshima at Night
The city was destroyed. Transportation and communication were paralyzed. Those who managed to survive received inadequate treatment and little or no food, passing the night in fiery thirst and pain. Many died before morning. The fire continued. From the outskirts of town, people watched in horror as the sky over Hiroshima turned bright red. Full-scale relief activities began the following day.
All night until dawn I spent shivering in a bamboo grove with my mother, brother and sister. I saw bright red flames in the city.
Drawing / Harumi Watanabe
Night, August 6, 1945
Approx. 3,500m from the hypocenter
|Transporting the Injured
The first to begin relief activities were the soldiers of the Army Marine Headquarters (known as the Akatsuki Corps) stationed in Ujina. They carried the injured to relief stations and outlying towns in trucks, trains, and ships. Those who took the victims in were horrified by their gruesome appearance, the terrible burns covering their bodies, but they cared for them in every way they could.
Many injured victims were carried in hospital by trucks.
Drawing / Hatsue Miyoshi
Around 11:50 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 26km from the hypocenter
Saijo-cho, Kamo-gun (now, Higashi Hiroshima City)
|Begging for Water
The powerful heat rays from the atomic bomb caused severe burns. Barely covered by tattered clothing, the victims held their peeling arms forward as they wandered in blind confusion. Their burns, the fire, and the mid-August heat made the victims terribly thirsty. Many died without receiving even a final drink.
People burned begged continually for water.
Drawing / Yoshihisa Harada
Around 4:00 p.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,750m from the hypocenter
|Corpses in Cisterns
Fire cisterns were placed throughout the city to provide water for fighting fires in the event of an air raid. The fire ignited by the A-bomb, however, vastly exceeded Hiroshima’s fire-fighting capacity. The population was helpless in the face of the ferocious conflagration. Surrounded by fire, many sought safety in the fire cisterns, where they died.
People seeking water piled up on each other in the fire cistern.
Drawing / Yozo Tanaka
Around 1:00 p.m., August 7, 1945
Approx. 1,000m from the hypocenter
|Corpses Floating in the River
Hiroshima is built on the Otagawa River delta, and the seven rivers running through it were vital to its growth. They provided a convenient network for the transportation of cargo and served as children’s playgrounds as well. After the bombing, burned victims went to the rivers for water. Some jumped in or swam across to escape the fire, but many died in the water, floating down with the current or hung up on the pilings. The Otagawa River was completely full of corpses.
Its leg caught on a bridge beam, a completely naked corpse was being tossed by the waves.
Drawing / Kiyomi Kono
August 7, 1945
Approx. 2,250m from the hypocenter
|Corpses in the Ruins
When everything combustible had burned, the fire died down. In the burned ruins lay the charred corpses of those who were trapped under buildings and burned alive. Countless people-adults, children, men and women-suffered this terrifying fate.
The blackened corpses of a woman and the child at her feet appeared to have been trying to get off the streetcar.
Drawing / Miyoshi Kokubo
|The Burned Plain
Within two kilometers of the hypocenter, buildings burned to the ground, leaving nothing but scorched earth. With nothing standing but a few ferro-concrete buildings, the view from Hiroshima Station to Ninoshima Island in Hiroshima Bay was unobstructed. Survivors gathered unburned wood and scorched tin roofing to build shacks in the rubble.
I rode my bicycle through the ruined city, my nostrils assaulted by peculiar smells.
Drawing / Yoshio Kawata
Around 9:00 a.m., August 7, 1945
Approx. 2,250m from the hypocenter
Near Miyuki Bridge
In 1945, schools at the junior high level and above had nearly abandoned schooling. Instead, students were mobilized to work in military factories or demolish buildings for fire lanes. Of the approximately 8,400 students mobilized, 6,300 were killed. The first- and second-year junior high students and girls who were out in the open demolishing buildings in the city center were hardest hit.
Mobilized students lying on each other on the riverbank passed away.
Drawing / Misae Kinoshita
Early morning, August 7, 1945
With everything destroyed by fire, bridges were precious landmarks for orientation. Many of the fleeing victims rested on or below bridges, often breathing their last there. Seven bridges collapsed or were burned due to the A-bomb, but another 20 were washed away in the typhoon and flooding that struck the city that September and October. These subsequent losses, too, were largely attributable to A-bomb damage.
Dazed people crouched on the riverbank path at the foot of a bridge.
Drawing / Shizuko Matsunaga
Around 9:00 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,750m from the hypocenter
Near Minami-ohashi Bridge
|Mothers and Children
Most victims were ordinary citizens, and the corpses of women and children were found in the burned ruins. The sight of mothers who obviously died trying to protect their babies provoked great sorrow and rage against war.
A mother with child had collapsed and died but still looked alive.
Drawing / Yuko Narahara
August 9, 1945
Relief stations were hastily established in still-standing schools throughout the city and in outlying communities. However, the enormous number of injured soon exhausted medical supplies. There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses, and the victims in relief stations continued to groan and cry in agony.
The injured lined up at a relief station set up on the riverbed.
Drawing /Shichi Tsukamoto
Around 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., August 6,1945
|Flies and Maggots
Sanitation and hygiene deteriorated rapidly. Hiroshima was soon infested by flies. In the absence of medicine and bandages, flies swarmed open wounds, which were soon crawling with maggots. These emitted a terrible stench and added to the victims・torment.
Injured people with faces so charred and peeling they were unrecognizable. Flies swarmed around them and bred maggots. They died begging for water.
Drawing / Chieno Yamamoto
Within two weeks of August 8, 1945
|Gathering and Cremating Corpses
The vast numbers of corpses filling the burned ruins and the rivers were gathered by military and civil defense teams. In the mid-August heat, corpses immediately began to decompose and smell, so they were cremated one after the next without even confirming their identities. All around the city, smoke rose from cremation fires day and night.
Cremating on the riverbank bodies gathered in trucks
Drawing / Shigeo Fujii
August 17, 1945
Approx. 2,000m from the hypocenter
|Searching for Family
People walked through the burned ruins to relief stations searching for family members who had left home that morning and failed to return. With transportation and communication paralyzed and the city in turmoil, this was no easy task. Eyes, noses and other features in burned, swollen faces were unrecognizable. Those searching had to listen for familiar voices and look carefully at victims’ belongings. Many simply vanished without a trace.
Among victims burned beyond recognition, I found my uncle calling for my aunt in a weak voice. He breathed his last four hours later.
Drawing / Yukiko Migitani
Approx. 1,700m from the hypocenter
|The Deaths of Loved One
The atomic bomb killed indiscriminately. Most survivors lost their family members. Time can never fully heal the grief of suddenly and incomprehensibly losing several loved ones.
My younger sister waiting for our father to return. Every time she saw a man, she would follow him calling, “Daddy’s home!” She waited for him day after day.
Drawing / Hisako Aobara
Approx. 4.4km from the hypocenter
Gion-cho, Asa-gun (now, Gion, Asaminami-ku)
Symptoms appearing within a short time of the bombing were called acute effects. The distinctive characteristic of the A-bomb was its massive emission of radiation. Radiation destroys cells, bone marrow and other blood-forming functions, causing serious damage to human bodies. Many survivors with no external injuries whatsoever suddenly lost their hair, vomited blood, became covered with purple spots and died.
People went completely bald, bled from their skin and gums, and later died.
Drawing / Fumie Munakata
Me holding my hair that had just fallen out. Beginning about September, I developed a fever and lost my hair, even my eyebrows. I was as bald as a monk.
Drawing / Midori Harada
Even under the hellish conditions after the bombing, the people had to find a way to live. They built shacks in the burned ruins, reopened schools, and taught their children in open air classrooms. And new life was born.
School reopens at Koi Elementary School. However, the crematory site in the playground was still piled with cremated human ash and bone.
Drawing / Takashi Nagara
September 18, 1945
Approx. 2,900m from the hypocenter
Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers
WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM Posted on Mon, Sep. 07, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For weeks now, the Pakistani media have portrayed America, its military and defense contractors in the darkest of lights, all part of an apparent campaign of anti-American vilification that is sweeping the country and, according to some, is putting American lives at risk.
Pakistanis are reacting to what many here see as an “imperial” American presence, echoing Iraq and Afghanistan, with Washington dictating to the Pakistani military and the government. Polls show that Pakistanis regard the U.S., formally a close ally and the country’s biggest donor, as a hostile power.
U.S. officials have either denied the allegations or moved to blunt the criticism, but suspicions remain and relations between the two countries are getting more strained.
The lively Pakistani media has been filled with stories of under-cover American agents operating in the country, tales of a huge contingent of U.S. Marines planned to be stationed at the embassy, and reports of Blackwater private security personnel running amuck. Armed Americans have supposedly harassed and terrified residents and police officers in Islamabad and Peshawar, according to local press reports.
Much of the hysteria was based on a near $1 billion plan, revealed by McClatchy in May and confirmed by U.S. officials, to massively increase the size of the American embassy in Islamabad, which brought home to Pakistanis that the United States plans an extensive and long-term presence in the country.
The American mission in Islamabad was forced to put on three briefings for Pakistani journalists in August trying to dampen the highly charged stories, which could undermine US-Pakistani relations just as Washington is preparing to finalize a tripling of civilian aid to Islamabad, to $1.5 billion a year. Over this last weekend, an embassy spokesman had to deny suddenly renewed stories that the U.S. was behind the mysterious death of former military dictator General Zia ul Haq back in 1988.
Pakistan is a key priority for the United States because of its nuclear weapons and its potential usefulness in taking on al Qaida within its borders and ending the safe haven for the Afghan Taliban.
“I think this recent brouhaha over the embassy expansion has been difficult to beat back,” said Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador, in an interview Thursday. “I can’t really understand what’s behind this because what we’re doing is actually quite straightforward. We’ve tried to explain it carefully to the press, but it just seems to be taken over by conspiracy theories.”
Briefing Pakistani journalists last month, Patterson told them that there were only nine Marines stationed to guard the embassy in Islamabad and that, even after the expansion, their number would be no more than 15 to 20. Press reports had put the figure at 350 to 1,000 Marines. She also stated categorically “Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan”. But the stories refused to go away.
Patterson said she wrote last week to the owner of Pakistan’s biggest media group, Jang, to protest about the content of two talk shows on its Geo TV channel, hosted by star anchors Hamid Mir and Kamran Khan, and a newspaper column of influential analyst Shireen Mazari in The News, a daily, complaining that they were “wildly incorrect” and had compromised the security of Americans.
There are 250 American citizens posted at the Islamabad mission on longer-term contracts, plus another 200 on shorter assignments, the embassy said. The present embassy compound can accommodate only a fraction of them. According to independent estimates, there are some 200 private houses for U.S. officials, on regular streets located throughout upscale districts of Islamabad.
Pakistani press and bloggers also targeted Craig Davis, an American aid worker, insisting that he’s an undercover secret agent. Davis, a contractor to the USAID development arm of the government, is based in the volatile northwestern city of Peshawar, and now appears to be at risk. Last year, another American USAID contractor in Peshawar, Stephen Vance, was gunned down just outside his home.
“In one or two cases these commentators have identified very specific embassy employees as CIA or Blackwater, and that very much puts the employee at danger. In at least one case we’re going to have to evacuate the employee,” said Patterson, without identifying the individual involved. “What particularly scared us about him is that Stephen Vance, who was the other AID Chief of Party in Peshawar, was of course assassinated a few months ago. So there is a track record here that’s sort of alarming.”
In recent days, shows on two popular private television channels, Geo and Dunya, which broadcast in the local Urdu language, put up pictures of homes in Islamabad which they claimed were occupied by CIA, FBI, or employees of the controversial Blackwater company of private security contractors, now called Xe Services. Some of the houses were identified with their full address. It is believed that several of the homes weren’t occupied by Americans but others were. According to the U.S embassy, bloggers are now calling on people to “kill” the occupants of these houses.
A survey last month for international broadcaster al Jazeera by Gallup Pakistan found that 59 percent of Pakistanis felt the greatest threat to the country was the United States. A separate survey in August by the Pew Research Center, an independent pollster based in Washington, recorded that 64 percent of the Pakistani public regards the U.S. “as an enemy” and only 9 percent believe it to be a partner.
“The Ugly American of the sixties is back in Pakistan and this time with a vengeance,” said Mazari, the defense analyst whose newspaper column was the subject of the American complaint. “It’s an alliance (U.S.-Pakistan) that’s been forced on the country by its corrupt leadership. It’s delivering chaos. We should distance ourselves. You can’t just hand over the country.”
While the anti-US sentiment appears genuine, it is uncertain whether the current storm, and the particular stories that it thrived on, was orchestrated by a pressure group or even an arm of the state. In the past, Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, part of the military, has very effectively used the press to push its agenda.
The U.S. provided over $11billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001. Yet in recent days, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has complained that too much of the promised new enhanced U.S. aid package would be eaten up in American administrative costs, while President Asif Zardari demanded that multi-billion dollar civilian and military aid money, currently stuck in Congress, be speeded up.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly stated that joining the U.S. “war on terror” has cost the nation an estimated $34 billion and ministers frequently lambast the U.S. for trespassing on Pakistani territory with use of spy planes to target suspected militants — an emotive tacit for the Pakistani population.
Ambassador Patterson said that “the (Pakistani) government could be more helpful” in combating the anti-American controversies, which took on a new fever pitch since the beginning of August.
The weak Islamabad government appears unable to come to the defense of its ally and even tried to score some popularity points by joining the U.S.-baiting.
A widely believed conspiracy contends that America is deliberately destabilizing Pakistan, to bring down a “strong Muslim country”, and ultimately seize its nuclear weapons. Pakistanis, especially its military establishment, also are distrustful of U.S. motives in Afghanistan, seeing it as part of a strategy for regional domination. Further Pakistanis are appalled that the regime of Hamid Karzai in Kabul is close to archenemy India.
“Part of the reason why we can’t fight terrorism is because the terrorists have adopted what I’d call anti-U.S. imperialist discourse, which makes them more popular,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, an analyst and author of Military Inc.
Many also blame the U.S. for “imposing” a president on the country, Zardari, who is deeply disliked and who last year succeeded an unpopular U.S.-backed military dictator. So democrats resent American interference in Pakistani politics, while conservatives distrust American aims in Afghanistan.
“You used to find this anti-Americanism among supporters of religious groups and Right-wing groups,” said Ahmed Quraishi, a newspaper columnist and the leading anti-American blogger. “But over the past two to three years, young, educated Pakistanis, people you’d normally expect to be pro-American modernists, and middle class people, are increasingly inclined to anti-Americanism. That’s the new phenomenon.”
Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent in Pakistan.
The war in Afghanistan today hangs like some cloud of poison gas over Washington that won’t blow away. It sickens everything as it spreads. It continues to suck precious tax dollars out of the Treasury, money this country cannot afford to squander, especially as millions of Americans are sinking into poverty and joblessness exceeds ten percent. Writing in USA Today last March 10th, Susan Page reported, “In one year, 24 million slide from ‘thriving’ to ‘struggling’ and “Some fear that the American dream may be in peril as well.” Worse, the U.S. is turning poverty-plagued Afghanistan, a long-suffering nation of 25 million souls into another Iraq, perhaps even another Viet Nam. Afghanistan has already been under U.S. assault for eight years and President Obama’s top military advisers are telling him it will take many more years to achieve “victory,” a term having utterly no meaning for skyrocketing numbers of dead and dismembered civilians.
U.S. troops dispatched to “build long-term stability” in Afghanistan (the phrase was uttered by Obama accomplice British Prime Minister Gordon Brown) went from 5,200 in 2002 to 62,000 currently while the cost has shot up from $21 billion to $60 billion a year in that period for a grand total of $228 billion—dollars that could have been far better spent in America, on Americans, for Americans. And dispatching more troops means dispatching more targets. “Deaths from bombings soaring,” the Miami Herald reported last August 12th. IED explosions soared to 828 in July, more than twice as many as in the previous July and the highest level since the war began. U.S. casualties are at record highs. This is the road to “victory”?
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, calls the Afghan crisis “serious and deteriorating” as U.S. casualties hit new highs. The Pentagon throws crack Marine fighters at the Taliban in southern Helmand province yet they are not enough. General Stanley McChrystal may shortly have to ask to increase his forces by nearly half. Worse, President Obama has escalated the fighting into Pakistan, where the Pakistani Taliban control areas close to the capital of Islamabad, and where the fighting has created two million refugees. Congratulations to the White House and Congress: America is now at war in three Middle Eastern nations, on behalf of governments in all three that are weak, unpopular, and corrupt. Who would have thunk it? And even though McChrystal says “the most important thing is to not hurt the Afghan people”, Obama is escalating, not withdrawing, and children just like his own daughters are being carted to the cemeteries.
Even conservative columnist Pat Buchanan asks, “What is so vital to us in that wilderness land worth another eight years of fighting, bleeding and dying, other than averting the humiliation of another American defeat?” Buchanan rightly adds, “And if Obama yet believes this is a war of necessity we cannot lose, and he must soldier on, his decision will sunder his party and country, and put at risk his presidency.”
George Will, another conservative columnist, wants to continue the war but by doing “only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.” He wants land forces out. Apart from the smug arrogance with which Will dismisses Afghanistan as a no-account nation (!), this theep dinker’s strategy of bombarding from untouchable bases at sea will only inspire fresh hatred against the U.S. Afghani rage is white hot because the Pentagon attacks with unmanned drones and Afghanis regard this method of warfare as “unfair” and unmanly. Reuters reported that in Farah province the district leader lamented an air attack in Bala Boluk that killed 108 civilians. Does Obama really believe he is doing the Afghans a favor?
Americans need to recognize that violence only begets violence, that attacks only beget more attacks, and that each round of reprisals gets ever deadlier. Also, there would be no war today if U.S. meddling hadn’t jump-started Osama bin Laden. “(President) Clinton’s bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998 effectively created Al Qaeda, both as a known entity in the intelligence world and also in the Muslim world,” Noam Chomsky is quoted as saying in “Imperial Ambitions” (Metropolitan Books) by David Barsamian. “In fact, the bombings created Osama bin Laden as a major symbol, led to a very sharp increase in recruitment and financing for Al Qaeda-style networks, and tightened relations between bin Laden and the Taliban, which previously had been quite hostile to him.” The U.S. is by no means innocent in bringing war and misery to this country.
While the only reason many Americans initially approved of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is because their politicians lied to them, a weak-kneed Congress has consistently funded the White House. As David Swanson notes in “Daybreak”(Seven Stories Press) the only member of the House to oppose letting President Bush pounce on Afghanistan was Barbara Lee., who wept honest tears of shame and rage. “She alone, would refuse to authorize the president to use powers the Constitution does not give him, and trust him to use those powers wisely.” Again, Swanson writes, when the House last April voted on President Obama’s budget to expand the Afghan conflict, “this time Congressman Dennis Kucinich stood alone in voting No in opposition to war.” “We are now a nation,” Swanson laments, “that regularly bombs civilians, detains the innocent, and tortures suspects—sometimes to death.”
As Francis Boyle, international law professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, puts it, “Now we have a situation where Obama is off on his own without authorization from the UN Security Council and also now illegally exceeding the authorization that had been given to Bush by Congress after 911…plus he has now escalated the conflict into Pakistan…(and) set off a humanitarian catastrophe for people of Pakistan akin to what Nixon set off in Cambodia.”
America today is a “failed state.” It is a failed democracy. Its people want peace and its elected officials make war. After taking the lead in establishing the United Nations at San Francisco after World War II, America is today the chief occupier, the chief war-maker, the chief arms-maker, and the chief arms-peddler, on the planet, and the nation that is most feared by humanity at large. It spends nearly 200 times as much for war as diplomacy. America’s Founders envisioned a nation that would show “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” (Jefferson) yet today the Pentagon spends more taxpayer’s dollars on war than all other countries combined. And while it frightens its citizens into thinking they are in danger from terrorists with fabricated color-coded alerts it is itself spreading terror in the Middle East. Mr. Obama is only the latest, slickest model in its long succession of imperial presidents. Maybe he should heed the advice President George Bush dispensed in Milwaukee on October 8, 2003, but never took himself: “See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don’t attack each other. Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction.”
Of far greater importance than what the Afghan war will do to Obama’s presidency or the national debt or even the lengthening casualty lists of our troops is what it is doing to the innocent people of Afghanistan. The managers of the military-industrial complex who are promoting this war for their own profit apparently lose no sleep when they read reports such as the one from Farah cited above. Perhaps they should be made to live among the Afghans for a time and share their peril or carry water to the wounded in the hospitals and change the blood-soaked sheets. Maybe they should be required to put their own sons and daughters in Kabul and Bala Boluk and see if they continue the Predator attacks. Back in 1955, when Richard J. Daley first ran for mayor of Chicago, the public was unconvinced he had their best interests at heart. He won them over with the words, “When I see your street, I see my street. When I see your house, I see my house. When I see your children I see my children.” That’s the kind of thinking those who hold power in America today need to adopt. When will President Obama see Afghanistan’s daughters as his own?
Sherwood Ross is a Miami, Fla.-based media consultant who runs the Anti-War News Service. To comment or contribute to his work reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Butler Shaffer
by Butler Shaffer
Ever since our resident emperor announced his “War on Terror,” I have insisted that this campaign had less to do with confronting “terror” – an effort that would have implicated the United States’ use of the practice – than with forcibly resisting the peaceful decentralizing processes that threaten the established institutional order. (See, for example, here, here, here, and here.) Social systems are moving from vertically-structured to horizontally-networked models, a transformation that bodes ill for the political and economic establishment. Some three years ago I suggested naming this conflict the War for the Preservation of Institutional Hierarchies. If a shorter name is preferred, how about the War for the Status Quo?
The Bush administration has finally confirmed my point. Showing the same irresoluteness that kept shifting the rationale for the war against Iraq, the White House has now changed the name of the conflict that was, according to Mr. Bush, to last forever. The “War on Terror” is now redesignated the “Global Struggle Against Extremism!” No announcement has been made as to who won the war that was as magisterially ended as it had begun. Nor is there any explanation as to why the administration has deviated from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card’s previous political marketing advice: “you don’t introduce a new product in August.” The War on Terror has been meeting with increased consumer sales resistance, leaving those who trade in death and destruction to come out with new and larger repackaging.
Neither the people of Iraq nor American soldiers will notice any change in their daily lives, of course. The killing and destruction will continue, but under a different rationale. Have you observed how quickly the media and politicians incorporated the new terminology into their public liturgies, substituting the word “extremism” where “terrorism” was once employed? Well-trained actors are quick to adjust to script changes.
But does this amount to nothing more than a semantic change, or is a substantive transformation occurring? “Terrorism” has historically been tied to the use of violence – whether threatened or carried out – in order to intimidate people into meeting certain demands. The “reign of terror” during the French Revolution was distinguished by its repeated use of the guillotine to carry out executions. Most Americans are too cowardly to acknowledge that their government engages in the use of terror, but they will at least recognize the interconnectedness of terror and violence.
But what is meant by “extremism,” against which the government announces its current “struggle?” One prominent dictionary offers the definition: “exceeding the ordinary, usual, or expected”; with an additional meaning “situated at the farthest possible point from a center.” Extremism, in other words, amounts to a pronounced deviation from an established norm or point of reference.
You will note, at once, that neither violence nor destructiveness – which go to the essence of terrorism’s meaning – is implicit in the concept “extremism.” In terms of destructiveness, Joseph Stalin represented an extreme deviation from ordinary human behavior. If creative genius is being considered, Thomas Edison was likewise an extremist. Without knowing anything more, the concept of “extremism” tells us absolutely nothing about the desirability of a particular course of conduct.
But it is just such ambiguity that makes the government’s campaign against extremism so terribly dangerous. Who or what will be looked upon as significant deviations from the “ordinary” to justify intrusions by the state? And what meaning are we to attach to the government declaring that this is no longer a “war” but a “struggle?” War conjures up systematic violence, although Americans have a penchant for labeling many government programs “wars”: the “war on poverty,” “war on drugs,” or “war on domestic violence” being but a few. “Struggles” are more unclear as to meaning. Who hasn’t struggled to lose weight, maintain a household, or learn to operate a computer? A “struggle” sounds less forceful than a “war,” but if the state is involved, is one any less brutal than the other? If we call something by a different name, does it become something different? Did we derive nothing more from George Orwell than being amused by talking farm animals?
Contrary to first impressions, the established order is not simply playing pointless words games at our expense. There is a deeper, singular objective in the “War on Terror” that has now morphed into the “Global Struggle Against Extremism.” That purpose lies in the endless challenge to institutionalism posed by the continuing processes of change that are implicit in the life process.
We are social beings who have learned the productive benefits of a division of labor that arises from organizing our energies with one another. Organizations begin as tools to facilitate the cooperation of individuals seeking their mutual self-interests. As long as the organization remains flexible, creative, receptive to change, and respectful of the primacy of the individual interests whose purposes gave it birth, it will likely retain its life-sustaining vibrancy.
Having created successful organizations, however, there is a tendency for those associated with such systems to want to make them permanent. When this occurs, the organization is transformed into an institution and becomes an end in itself, to be protected against the vicissitudes of change. Social practices that once thrived on spontaneity and resilience, soon become structured and rigid. The continuation of such institutionalizing thinking and practices has led to the collapse of a number of prior civilizations.
An institutionally-dominated society is built on standardized practices, goods and services, and thinking. In order to restrain the inconstant turbulence of an energized, creative, and competitive marketplace, established corporate interests have turned to the state to foster standardized investment and employment policies; standardized products; and standardized advertising and other trade practices. Schools have contributed to the agenda for uniformity with standardized curricula, standardized teaching methods, and standardized testing, all of which combine to produce standardized people with standardized minds ready to take their places in a standardized world.
Entry into various trades and professions is restricted by licensing requirements – created and enforced by those already in the trade or profession – that require adherence to standardized codes of behavior. Thought and speech are subject to standardization requirements: “political correctness” being but another institutionally-serving tool for enforcing a uniform mindset upon people. Not even the most private forms of behavior are beyond the reach of the standards police, as smokers, fast-food gourmets, and the obese are now discovering.
If one were to have recourse to solid geometry for analogies to social systems, an institutionally-dominated society would resemble a pyramid, with authority centered in the hands of a few at the top, and the bulk of humanity responding to the directions issued vertically and unilaterally. A society characterized by individual liberty, on the other hand, might appear as a sphere. On the surface of a sphere, there are no preferred locations, no positions from which power would be more likely to flow than others. Spherically-based relationships would take the form of interconnected networks, with neither “tops” nor “bottoms.”
I have written a great deal about the decentralizing processes of change that are challenging the centralized authority of institutions. In the realm of politics, nationalist and secessionist movements upset the centralizing ambitions of Leviathan; while centrally-directed wars are being countered by amorphous guerilla tactics, insurgencies, and suicide-bombings. Alternative schools and health care practices challenge established education, medical, and pharmaceutical interests. There is an increasing reluctance on the part of some state and local governments to abide by federal mandates. The institutional order is, perhaps, most threatened by what could be called a “big bang” in the information revolution reignited by Gutenberg. The Internet, cell-phones, iPods, websites and blogsites, are just the more recent tools available not only to institutions, but to individuals desirous of communicating directly with tens of thousands at a time. In these new technologies and systems lie the means by which the vertical is collapsing into the horizontal.
Do you see the threat in all of this to centralized, institutionalized, command-and-control systems? If preserving established interests becomes a societal value, then anything that threatens the status quo is a danger to be opposed. Those who represent the change essential to any vibrant, productive society, must be marginalized before they can be destroyed. History is replete with examples of men and women being labeled “heretics,” ”seditionists,” “terrorists,” “radicals,” “counter-revolutionaries,” “possessed,” “traitors,” or “extremists,” and then being punished – or killed – for voicing opinions that deviated from a sacred center. Socrates, Jesus, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, Gandhi, and Wilhelm Reich, are just a few names that come to mind. Nor does this list contain the names of other “witches” and “heretics” hanged or burned at the stake for offending the established order of their day.
There is a decided shift in arbitrariness in moving from “terrorism” to “extremism” as targets of governmental action. Because most people relate “terror” to “violence,” it might be expected that a “War on Terror” would focus on coercive, intimidating, or otherwise destructive acts. But “extremism,” as I have pointed out, is a much more abstract concept. Like such constitutional phrases as “general welfare,” “common defense,” and “domestic tranquility,” “extremism” can become whatever those in power want it to become. This, I believe, is precisely the reason the word is now being introduced to give purpose to the further regimentation of society!
In our vertically-structured world, the institutional order is – by definition – the “center” from which to measure the substantial deviations that represent “extremism.” Because the Internet allows for the open, unrestrained flow of information, it provides a challenge to the centralized control of facts and ideas. Because people’s thinking is thus moved away from the center, the Internet will become an “extremist” system with which the state must deal. The cliché is already in place: “since anyone can put anything out on the Internet, how do we know what to believe?” That major media outlets have been caught up in their own distorted, exaggerated, and falsified reports, while a president and his advisors routinely lie to the public, it would seem appropriate to suggest that everyone ought to question every bit of information presented to them, whatever the source.
The free flow of information and ideas has always been the principal force for the dispersion of power that defines a free society. If power is to be kept at the center – which is where the established order has always insisted it remain – information must be restricted. State officials will tell you all that they want you to know and that you need to know – which, in their view, amounts to the same thing. The government will expand its means of obtaining information about you – whether from surveillance, spying, computer records, wiretaps, RFID tags, etc. – while keeping information about itself from your awareness (all in the interest of “national security,” of course). Censorship, resort to “classified information,” and appeals to “media responsibility,” will be looked upon as necessary to the maintenance of “social order.” Computer “hackers” (i.e., those who do unto the state what the state insists on doing to you); political commentary that deviates from the Republocratic bipartisan center; and organized opposition to any form of the “New World Order,” will become other expressions of “extremism.”
Politicians and the media will remind us that efforts to preserve the center from outward collapse, and the campaign to defend the status quo from the forces of change, are necessary to “save civilization.” The “terrorist” who drives a truckload of explosives into a Baghdad police station will gradually morph into the “extremist” who defends the medical use of marijuana – a health-care alternative that would be contrary to the interests of a medical establishment with its “standardized” treatments. The “terrorist” who attacks a subway will soon become indistinguishable, in the popular mind, from an “extremist” journalist who reveals the underside of politics in America. Given the eagerness of most Americans to absorb government lies into their definitions of “reality,” members of the established order may believe their task will be a relatively simple one. The question is whether you and I will remain astute enough to make the clear distinctions upon which a rational life depends.
But it is not “civilization” that the political order seeks to save in its “Global Struggle Against Extremism,” but its own privileges of power. For centuries, institutions have been at war with the life processes that thrive in conditions of individual liberty, spontaneity, and creative change. Inquisitions, heresy trials, and the persecution of witches, have proven to be embarrassments to institutionalized systems which, in the end, were unable to fully repress the human spirit. The current establishment’s efforts are designed not to preserve civilization, but to petrify it in antiquated forms. As in the earlier cases of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, the life force will, like a dammed up river, ultimately break through the barriers designed to restrain the energies against which institutions have always fought.
August 1, 2005
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law.
Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com