Part 7 of 8
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Part 7 of 8
From : Elite Watch
The Afghanistan Foundation (this is a reproduction of the original website which I have salvaged for posterity. The original address, http://www.afghanistanfoundation.org/, is now not working. The foundation was setup in 1996 with support from Zbigniew Brzezinski & Brent Scowcroft & worked to shape thinking in Washington about what could be done in Afghanistan. I'm hoping to look more into this in the future)
The Afghanistan - America Foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit, non-partisan, independent organization located in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. It was founded in May 1996 and was incorporated in the District of Columbia in October 1996 by former U.S Congressman Don Ritter (R-PA, 1979-1993) along with committed Afghan and American leaders.
In its overall structure, the Afghanistan - America Foundation serves as a vehicle for partnership between Afghans, Americans and others in the international community who wish to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Afghanistan. It fosters public and governmental understanding regarding Afghanistan and its people. It seeks to promote more effective U.S. policies for peace, economic development, humanitarian assistance, cultural appreciation and, last but not least, a deeper understanding by the American public of the Afghan people's historic sacrifice and achievement in helping to bring about an end to the Cold War.
Since its inception, the Afghanistan - America Foundation has convened key players on the Afghanistan issue and has held educational and policymakers' forums, as well as "roundtables", in the U.S. Congress. It has testified at congressional hearings, and has begun an ongoing dialogue with the U.S. Congress and Administration on Afghanistan. It has met with key players in the region, including the Taliban, the Northern Alliance, and representatives from Pakistan, the Central Asian nations and Russia to seek positive, pro-active common ground among them. The Foundation works to reduce confrontation and enhance prospects for peace and stability in the region.
Congressman Ritter serves as Chairman and President of the Afghanistan - America Foundation. Congressman Ritter was one of the leading congressional proponents of U.S. assistance to the people of Afghanistan, and was founder of the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. For years he has played a major role in moving U.S. policy toward a higher level of positive and practical involvement in the Afghanistan issue.
In its first two years of activity, the Foundation has successfully initiated several major programs. In May 1998 the Foundation conducted a Research Mission to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. The primary objectives of this important mission were fact-finding and engagement of key players in order to create both an international Afghanistan Charter and a Seminal White Paper to inform Congress, the White House, Administration, the United Nations, and the international media. Both the Charter and the White Paper will seek to elevate, broaden, and deepen U.S. policy attention toward Afghanistan and the region.
The research mission and White Paper effort also serve as input to the Foundation's second major program, the Afghanistan Charter Project. The Charter will be a declaration of principles, drafted by Afghan scholars and leaders around the world, based on common values and essential elements of culture, history, national unity, education, and economic development. The Charter will represent an historic effort to define the ideals that will help to shape, strengthen, and unite Afghan society now and in the future.
The Foundation is in the process of expanding its current efforts with new programs, such as the National Unity Community Outreach Sectors (NUCOS) Project. NUCOS will consist of committees that will foster local dialogue and cooperation among communities of Afghan-Americans throughout the United States and abroad. Each outreach sector will seek to create meaningful activities that will bring awareness to current Afghan issues, and promote a sense of unity within the community. NUCOS will provide a constituency and a sounding board for the Foundation as it expands program development.
Alongside Congressman Ritter, the Foundation has convened the distinguished leadership and informative guidance of prominent scholars and specialists on Afghanistan and the region, as well as a bipartisan group of key Members of Congress and former diplomatic officials from Afghanistan and the United States. These form the Foundation's Board of Directors, Congressional Advisory Board, Diplomatic Advisory Board, and International Advisory Board.
The Foundation is honored to have as its National Honorary Co-Chairmen two former White House National Security Advisors, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski and Gen. Brent Scowcroft. Also closely advising and working with the Foundation are Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, RAND Corp.; Dr. Tom Gouttierre, Director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Vice-President of the Afghanistan - America Foundation. Dr. Frederick Starr, former President of Oberlin College and now Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Barnett Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations, serve on the Foundation's White Paper Task Force. Dr. Tom Greene, a retired career Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance, currently serves as the Executive Director of the Foundation. The Foundation's staff consists of young Afghan and American scholars with expertise in human rights law, international relations, and Afghanistan politics and history.
In addition to the above listed individuals, the Foundation's Congressional Advisory Board serves as a channel of contact between the Foundation and senior Members of Congress, many of whom were members of the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan during the 1980s and early 90s. Today, they serve in senior positions in Congress. Others on the Board are active on human rights issues or have numerous Afghan-American constituents. These include, but are not limited to: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman David Dreier, Congressman Duncan Hunter, Congressman Bill McCollum, Congressman James Moran, Congressman John Porter, Congressman Ed Royce, Congressman Gary Ackerman, Congressman Chris Smith, Congressman Tom Davis, and former Congressman Charles Wilson. Additional interested Members of Congress continue to join the Congressional Advisory Board as the Foundation grows.
The Diplomatic and International Advisory Boards also engage a cross section of leadership with the Foundation's work. Members include former Afghan and American Ambassadors, ex-State Department and senior diplomatic officials, intellectuals, business leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and private citizens. These individuals share information, ideas and perspectives with the Foundation by providing political, historical, ethnic, religious, cultural, intellectual, and international perspectives to the Chairman, the Board of Directors, the Executive Director, and others working with the Foundation.
The Foundation's proven track record demonstrates that it has established itself as the premier U.S.-based organization capable of raising the issue of Afghanistan at the highest levels of U.S. policy-making circles. The Foundation is in the process of enlarging its Board to include outstanding members of the Afghan Diaspora as well as concerned Americans.
AZUZ: Many of the numbers associated with this earthquake are huge: more than 67,000 people killed; 21,000 missing; 45 million residents affected in Sichuan province. But there's also a focus on a smaller number: eight. In Chinese culture, eight traditionally has a positive meaning. But some people are looking at how the number's connected to a few events that have taken place this year. As Alina Cho tells us, for them it's adding up to bad news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALINA CHO, CNN REPORTER: It may be the worst-kept ancient Chinese secret: 8 is a lucky number. That's why the Beijing Olympics will begin on August 8, 2008, or 8-8-08. In Chinese, the word for eight is similar to the word for wealth, so the Chinese people believe eight and prosperity are connected. The number 8 is everywhere: People try to get married on the 8th, and a Chinese airline paid more than a quarter million dollars to get this phone number: eight 8s. So, if that's the case, why are the blogs on fire with this: eight is a "curse for China"?
Three recent events: all negative, all linked to the number 8. First, a massive snowstorm blankets China on January 25th; 1 plus 2 plus 5 equals 8. Second, widespread protests against Chinese rule in Tibet. Date: March 14th; 3 plus 1 plus 4 equals 8. Third, a devastating earthquake hits Sichuan province, killing tens of thousands on May 12th; 5 plus 1 plus 2 equals 8. And the quake hits 88 days before the start of the Olympics.
CHO: Is this a lucky number? Is it an unlucky number? So, which is it?
ROSE WELSH, NUMEROLOGIST: Well, it's both.
CHO: Rose Welsh is a numerologist. She says eight on its side is a chain, like a chain of events.
WELSH: It was waiting to happen, that.
CHO: You're saying they should have known?
WELSH: They did know.
CHO: But on the streets of Beijing, many believe it's just a bad coincidence. Says this man: "It's nonsense. It's just superstition." And in New York's Chinatown...
RANDY FUNG: My old house was 404. 4 is a bad number in Chinese, but nothing happened to me.
CHO: But maybe that's because 4 plus 4 equals 8. Now, a lot of people we talked to in China believe all of this eight business is just a coincidence; many still believe eight is a lucky number. And there is currently no talk about changing the start date for the Olympic Games. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The "ticking time bomb" argument excusing torture as a necessary means to an end was once the preserve of philosophers and theorists. The past few years have seen this theorising take a sinister turn. Policy makers and state leaders seeking to legitimise interrogation practices that are in fact torture, are pedalling the idea that it is a viable solution in combating global terrorism.
The hypothesis states that where a person knows the whereabouts of a bomb that is certain to cause mass human carnage, it would be legitimate to use torture to avert disaster. The human rights of one person are pitched against the human rights of thousands - an emotionally persuasive argument in the wake of terrorist attacks in a number of countries. The argument places those opposing the use of torture in the position of reminding communities that torture is globally and unequivocally banned, but they are seen as belittling the rights of the innocent lives seemingly at stake.
The UK government has already attempted to dilute the applicability of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights - that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". When considering removing failed asylum seekers to countries where they may be tortured, it claims there should be a balance of probabilities test where national security trumps the risks to the individual.
During 2007, we bore witness to US President George Bush insisting that "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding are acceptable. By arguing that these 'techniques' were not within the international definition of torture, he vetoed the legal advice of his own administration to ban them. Simultaneously, we saw the US government closing itself off from scrutiny by destroying videotaped evidence of the CIA's alleged use of torture against Guantánamo Bay detainees.
It is this veil of secrecy, the assumption of legality and the politics of fear that we need to unmask. By denying its actions, a state prevents any discussion and evades accountability. This is the refrain of the torturer who tells the victim; "no one knows you're here, no one will hear your cry, no one cares".
Apologists argue that torture is a morally justifiable means to the truth if the odds are high enough. But the argument brushes over the human cost and the long term damage in societies encouraged to turn a blind eye.
Torture is wrong in principle and in law. It has been agreed as such by states around the globe. Torture is the polar opposite of freedom. It removes choice and liberty from the victim, and enslaves their physical and psychological wellbeing to a catalogue of violations and humiliation. Allowing torture just once sanctions its use wholesale, and diminishes the authority of any state by giving the clear message that human rights no longer matter. Such is the resounding lesson of history.
In 1987, reporting on the security service's use of "moderate physical pressure" the Israeli government famously sanctioned the use of certain interrogatory procedures providing its agents with the defence of necessity. Twelve years later, as torture became endemic, the Supreme Court moved to outlaw the practice.
Torture was banned throughout Europe in the 18th century on the grounds that it did not work. Over the years, that principle has been reiterated in other situations. In one particular incident, a World War II army commander ordered his fellow American POWs held by the Japanese to resist to the point of injury or the loss of mental faculty, and to then resort to deceit and distortion - never reveal the truth.
Evidence further illustrates that information provided under torture is unreliable. Dr William Hopkins, MF Consultant Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist, points out that under extreme pain and suffering, the capacity to think rationally is severely hindered. Victims become anxious, confused, panic-stricken. Added to that is the impact on the memory and concentration of repeated blows to the head. All of this diminishes the ability to respond to questioning, which casts further doubt on the validity of 'confessions' provided under torture.
Dr Hopkins says: "Some people stay quiet under torture because they know that the more they say, even when it is false, the more they are suspected of knowing, and so the more they are tortured."
Governments world-wide have endorsed human rights standards and the ban on torture - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention Against Torture, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions could not be clearer in this aim. Yet there is a growing movement to circumvent that absolute ban.
Most notably, Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz claims that as states already torture, to deny that fact is hypocritical and allows them to go unchecked. According to Dershowitz, "torture warrants" - authorising torture in rare circumstances that require proof for its necessity before the event - would reduce the frequency and severity of torture.
The argument presupposes that the torturing state will always abide by the court's decision whether or not a warrant is granted, ignoring the plain fact that torture thrives with or without official sanction.
Professor Philippe Sands QC has conducted extensive investigations into who in the Bush administration was responsible for human rights abuses in the "war on terror". In his book 'Torture Team', he claims to have found a direct link between Dershowitz's rationale and the behaviour of key individuals: "Who is to judge when the ticking bomb scenario occurs? The fact that Dershowitz was going around making that argument encouraged people at Guantánamo to believe that what they were doing was the right thing."
Torture does not operate in a vacuum. It requires the acceptance of society at large, and with that, comes the institutionalisation of a practice that until now, we have convincingly been able to deplore in the repressive regimes of countries which thousands flee year after year.
The question we must ask ourselves is this - how far are we willing to go in becoming complicit in the dehumanisation of others? Are we really prepared to forsake decades of progress to the point where human rights become conditional according to the power of a state?
~ From: Medical Foundation ~
This morning, NDP Defence Critic Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam) introduced a bill to prevent the Government of Canada from transferring prisoners to authorities where they would be in danger of torture, and to make it a criminal offence to use information obtained during torture.
“These reforms are long overdue, and I call on all Parliamentarians to support this legislation,” said Black.
After the Afghan detainee scandal, Black believed that it was necessary to introduce additional safeguards to prevent a repetition of that scandal. “It was clear from those events that there were no clear guidelines prohibiting the transfer of prisoners to a situation where they were in danger of being tortured.”
Black was assisted by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), the oldest and most active civil liberties group in Canada. Rob Holmes, the president of the BCCLA strongly supports the adoption of this bill.
~ more... ~
June brides making their way into St. Mary's Catholic Church in Seattle or Newport Presbyterian in Bellevue may find themselves walking past a 3-foot by 9-foot banner proclaiming "Torture Is a Moral Issue."
Both congregations are affiliated with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which is calling June Torture Awareness Month.
"Torture goes against the most cherished ideals of our country," Newport Pastor Jim Patten said. "Because the soul of our nation is at stake in the torture-abuse crisis, we felt it imperative to take a stand."
The campaign against torture was launched in January 2006 at the urging of Princeton theologian George Hunsinger, who believes that religious leaders and congregations need to speak out against torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
"The people in power today," Hunsinger said, "are trying to break a part of our ethical backbone and make us insensitive to these terrible human rights abuses that are taking place."
~ more... ~
By a twist of fate, the Irish must now cast the ballot on the EU constitution for both islands, since Labour has defaulted on its pledge for a British referendum.
Our shared Anglo-Celtic culture has long been a well-spring of free enterprise (with Dutch, Swedish, and Hanseatic help in fighting European absolutism along the way), and that is what is so threatened by the Lisbon Treaty, the treaty to end all EU treaties.
The text strikes the words "free and undistorted competition" from the core objectives of the Union. Corporatist aims will enjoy a higher legal status at the European Court (ECJ) and must prevail if the two clash. The Rhineland Model has locked in a permanent advantage.
Euro-creep is already eviscerating the Common Law that underpins the British and Irish way of doing business. Lisbon quickens the pace. It upgrades the ECJ to a de facto supreme court, with broader jurisdiction. It will have the last say on a raft of new economic and social rights. Who can stop them imposing a Colbertist agenda by court rulings, if they so choose? The ECJ is beyond appeal.
Euro-judges will decide how and when to enforce the Charter of Fundamental Rights, now made legally-binding. Article 52 allows the "limitation" of all liberties in the "general interest" of the Union. This is the old Reich clause. Such justifications for state coercion have been illegal in Europe for 60 years. Now they return, by the back door.
Ireland is the only state to hold a vote. Lisbon gives Europe the paraphernalia of a proto-state: a full-time EU president and foreign minister; a justice department; an energy department; "legal personality" so it can negotiate treaties; etc, etc.
The other 26 EU members have ducked a referendum, their leaders hiding behind each other in an anti-democratic pact. Some 3m Irish voters carry the lonely burden.
They have been through this before, shocking themselves with a No to Nice in 2001. This time stakes are higher. The Celtic Tiger is flagging.
Brussels is turning hostile to Ireland's buccaneering capitalism, and its 12.5pc "fiscal dumping" taxes. Paris let slip that France's incoming EU presidency would push for "harmonised" business taxes. "Untimely," muttered Dublin.
The Anglo-Celts are the targets of last week's open letter by a roster of EU statesmen calling for a new "European Crisis Committee" to take the markets in hand.
"The financial world has accumulated a massive amount of fictitious capital, with very little improvement for humanity. The financial market is not capable of self-regulation," they thundered.
Who can stop the regulatory squeeze in Europe once Ireland's free marketeer, Charlie McCreevy, is unseated as EU single market commissioner next year?
For now, the "Yes" side is ahead in the polls, 35pc to 18pc (47pc undecided). They have the money and all the parties, except Sinn Fein. Even so, Premier Brian Cowen is lucky this vote will be over by June 12, for the economy is turning bleaker by the day. Allegations have begun to fly that the Finance Ministry is massaging figures to disguise the violent plunge in growth. I doubt it. That way lies perdition.
Ireland deserves great praise. The Tiger has achieved miracles. But that will not prevent the swing from boom to bust as monetary union works its perverse effects.
Waterford Crystal is battling for its life after producing fine glass for royalty since 1783. It is facing currency asphyxiation. Almost 70pc of sales go to the dollar zone. As such it is a metaphor for all Ireland. The country is more deeply intertwined with the dollar and sterling zones than any other euro-zone state. The crash of those two currencies could not have come at a worse moment. Welcome to EMU's first "asymmetric shock".
EMU monetary policy was too loose early in the decade. Now it is tightening at the wrong time. House prices have fallen 8.9pc over the last year. Mortgage rates have been rising into the slump. Three-month Euribor is at 4.86pc, up 65 basis points since August.
Ireland's central bank cannot come to the rescue. Rates are set in Frankfurt for the needs of core-Europe. The Bundesbank is even lobbying for rates to go higher. This is starting to feel like the ERM crisis in 1992 but without the escape valve.By the time this EMU denouement plays out, Ireland will have voted. Lisbon will probably be law.
~ From: Free enterprise in Europe hangs on Ireland's EU vote ~
Greek-Turkish relations have long been dominated by divergent views on power and its use in inter-state relations. This stems from contending approaches to conflict management and resolution but also from incompatible motives in using it.
Ever since 1999 a "new" mood on both sides has changed expectations, but this proved to be on the surface, at least as far as the one side is concerned. The logic of mutual understanding and bargaining with a view to resolving pending issues has dic-tated an actual policy change in Athens. The new Greek foreign policy inaugurated after 1996 was a major deviation from the policy lines built in the previous decades.
First, it centered around Turkey´s EU membership, a task of great, non-calculated risk for the sustainment of the EU itself, its cohesion and its Europeanist dream. Greek objections had all these years been used as an alibi by those who did not wish to see Turkey in the EU. Actually this was one of the reasons the French political elite ap-peared fragmented prior to the 2005 referendum on the Constitutional Treaty. One of the leading proponents of non-membership was ex-French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius who explicitly articulated his views in a book published in 2004 providing a clear causational pattern. 
Second, despite negative predisposition across European capitals  Greece became a stern supporter of Turkish membership hoping that the values and European ideals that have cemented Europe and turned it into a zone of peace and stability could spread in Turkey. Actually this change of policy created friction between opposing groups of Greek politicians and academics who supported alternative strategies.
The most critical views were formulated on the logic that Greece was giving too much to a country that constitutes the only long term military threat to the country. They claimed that "opening" the door to a neighbor who has diachronically questioned the territorial status quo actually voided the very raison d´ être of Greek foreign policy and constituted a diplomatic blunder formulated under an idealistic and naïve concep-tual framework. The evaluation was made on the axiom according to which a state´s national policy is the actual externalization of a state´s priorities and the expression of national interest.
Still Athens went on supporting Turkish EU membership despite the multilevel chal-lenges this potential membership constituted for the EU itself  and the casus belli expressed by Turkey, should Greece exercise its legal right to expand it territorial sea borders.
Conventional wisdom supported by historical evidence and codification of crises pa-rameters analyzes the motives of the two countries through a Realist – Idealist divide reflecting contending values and motives, namely a revisionist and a status quo coun-try. In Greece polemical views against Turkish EU membership have been built on the externalization of a militaristic bravado expressed by a certain milieu in Ankara, while the rise in power of T. Erdogan was evaluated as a positive and promising sign.
In essence Greek expectations were rather far-fetched and beyond the accommodating capacity of the Turkish political-military establishment. A slight change in communi-cation strategies was not enough to alter long established views, even stereotypes in Greek public opinion and above all the perception of threat.
The ontological question made by a number of academics and policy analysts in Greece related to the extent to which such policy U-turn could affect the fundamentals of our neighbors´ policy lines and their views and attitudes on exercising foreign pol-icy. The international behavior of a state can not change overnight, particularly when it is built in a way that supports the catalytic role of a certain milieu that has long op-erated as the eminence grise of the Turkish political scene. To some circles in Ankara Greece is a very convenient "threat", a "foe" by destiny, a threat that justifies their role and ability to overlay demands for a more egalitarian economic and social policy. Actually this noble cause is one of the reasons that brought Tahip Erdogan to power.
Yet, the problem is not related just to a structural struggle between elites and their dominant role. It is far deeper and it is based, above all, on ideological grounds and the concept of using military power as a sole instrument of exercising foreign policy. This constitutes a stark deviation from EU ideals, values and norms. The EU zone of peace has not been built on coercion but consensus. It was a matter of deliberate elite choice and institutional accommodation of existing and acknowledged differences . Ex-German Chancellor H. Kohl rightly defined European integration as a matter of choice between peace and war.
The utility of military power and its being the basic, if not only, component of inter-acting with the international milieu is what differentiates the two countries. I will give an indicative example of that. It is one of the reactions to one my last articles on Greek-Turkish relations. It exposes the logic behind policy choices and conceptualiza-tion of power.
"A country's Foreign Policies must be compatible with its economic as well as mili-tary capabilities! Otherwise the result is disappointing and painful… in fact Turkish Parliament passed the famous Casus-Belli Bill, which is hanging there like Damocles' sword! If Greece is really interested in a mutually acceptable solution to the poten-tially dangerous situation in the Aegean, it should stop hiding behind big brothers such as the USA or EU, and negotiate directly with its big neighbour".
Such logic would certainly shock Luxembourgian politicians, as the prospect of this small country being crashed by German multidimensional might would be imminent. Yet, this is not the operating norm of the EU, a fact that pinpoints the huge value and conceptual gap between Brussels and Ankara.
The above depicts the Realist epitome of a particular strategy and state ideology. It is the difference between macho politics and a normative, regulatory approach to inter-national politics as propagated and institutionally supported by a soft power like the EU. Eventually Turkish policy justifies those who oppose current Greek mood vis-à-vis Turkey and seriously question the overall gains of a drastic change of policy.
Third parties fail to see that bilateral relations should be built on an equilibrium, as far as bargaining is concerned. In the summer of 2005 US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried delivered a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on behalf of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. He remarked that "Turkey has made great strides in developing close, cooperative relations with most of its neighbors, as we have seen in a steady drop of tensions in the Aegean and strong Greek support for Turkey's EU membership".
The statement portrays the final aim not the actual reality. Tensions still exist and they did not come out of the blue. Greek revised policy has not been fully, if at all, appre-ciated. On the contrary is has been interpreted as a sign of weakness a fact that needs to be taken into consideration by Athens. In a world of sovereign states and anarchy self-help provides the only reliable line of defence.
The Turkish political and military elites cannot see the real dangers both countries face. The ghost of recession and poverty is lurking at our backyard undermining the very quality of the Greek and Turkish peoples´ lives. Yet, some circles either treat this real not potential threat as a technicality or ignore it just to justify their position in power. In any case they do not serve their people´s livelihood.
1] See Laurent Fabius, Une Certaine Idée de l´ Europe, Plon, Paris, 2004
2] 35% of the right and left wing party supporters were against potential accession of Turkey to the EU. See Le Monde, 17-6-2005. In a survey conducted by Le Figaro 67% of the participants were against Turkish EU accession, while 55% of Germans adopted a similar view. See "Schroeder reaffirms his stance on Turkey", International Herald Tribune, 14-12-2004.
3] For a full analysis see George Voskopoulos, Greek Foreign Policy, from the 20th to the 21st Century, Papazisis pubs, Athens, 2005.
4] See George Voskopoulos, The Construction of Europe, peace, reconciliation, co-operation, integration, Poiotita pubs, Athens, 2008.
5] The identity and status of the sender as well as the forum it represents is at the dis-posal of the site coordinator and editor.
6] See "The U.S.-Turkish Relationship beyond Iraq: Common Values, Common Agenda", Washington Institute for Near East Policy, July 18, 2005
~ From: American Chronicle ~
Jonathan Steel, the author of ´Russia and EU need New Partnership Deal´ (May 24, Arab News) called for end of 1990´s idea of ´neo-containment´ seeking isolation of Russia and undermining efforts to develop ´strategic partnership´ between EU and Russia. Medvedev, promising to work on human rights issues has left West scrambling for a new strategy which had been using human rights abuses in Russia to secure its strategic economic, political and security interests at the global level. The article concludes on a positive note that interaction between Russia and the EU is bound to develop.
With this prologue I will base an argument based on triangle of information that should help Islamabad determine country´s foreign policy to protect national economy and sovereignty. The Future of US Foreign Policy by Daniel Drezner, http://danieldrezner.com/research/foreignpolicy2008.pdf a 25 page article forms one corner of the triangle, Imbalance of Power by Thomas Friedman http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/opinion/21friedman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin forms the second corner of the triangle and Pakistan´s economic policy direction so as to determine country´s foreign policy will form the third corner of the triangle.
Daniel Drezner in the concluding section of the article under ´American Foreign Policy in 2009´ argues that new US president will scale down use of military force subject to, ´whether any more shocks to the system occur, such as a sequel to the Sept. 11 attacks´. Drezner argues that in post Nov. presidential election America there will be in all likelihood an effort to reach out to European leaders. It is an 180-degree shift in American Foreign Policy that Drezner is talking about, which in my view is beyond powers of US president alone for following reasons:- 1) Both Republican and Democratic Party presidential candidates and leaderships are not talking about across the board upholding global human rights including EU and UN Human Rights Charters and Geneva Convention. 2) Restoring constitutional liberties of American citizens including Bill of Rights and scrapping Freedom of Information Act which was primarily put in place in 1962 to gag anti-Vietnam war coverage and is being used to deter objective coverage of Iraq war and in turn undermine Freedom of Speech act in Bill of Rights.
3) The composition of key players formulating US foreign policy as given in 16th edition of Govt. by the People shows that it is non-elected people who surround US president in the foreign policy decision making constituting foreign policy advisors, the National Security Council, the State Dept., the Foreign Service, the Intelligence and the CIA. History shows that The Senate and Congress foreign relations committees have been used to gag public opinion instead of upholding public opinion. The opinion poll ratings hovering around 80% opposing Iraq war are cases in point. The book details following US foreign policy strategies: conventional diplomacy; foreign aid; economic sanctions; political coercion; covert operations and military interventions as part of security and liberty: not by force alone.
It brings Steele´s call to EU to open up with Russia and Medvedev´s pro-human rights stance under spotlight. In my article UK: Brown in Asia (25 Jan.) predicted two things: 1) EU leaders will distance themselves from Bush´s open ended illegal war against terrorism, which in turn will derail NATO alliance in Afghanistan. The cases in point are: a) reports to enhance troops Afghanistan reflects Washington´s failure to win support of its allies and a signal that isolated America will ´continue the flawed occupation without support of its NATO allies. b) Growing China-Japan relations. c) Washington urging Tokyo to spend more on defense. 2) European leaders will avoid pitching their governments against local legal, constitutional and judicial systems, media and local and international watch groups.
Medvedev by promising to improve country´s progress on universal human rights has taken the foreign policy initiative from US in all probability to achieve following strategic objectives: 1) improve Russia´s image in Europe to secure trade, commerce and economic interests. 2) Douse western media´s anti-Russia campaign based on human rights violations. 3) Mask Chechnya issue. 4) Force pro-US European leadership to abandon criticism of Moscow. In all probability, Rice´s distrust and David Miliband´s reaffirmation of his country´s support for the new Pakistani government´s multi-pronged strategy towards anti-state elements mirror the difference in European and American approach towards terrorism.
However, I for one will not rule out ´good cop, bad cop´ strategy in this case where for time being London is playing as good cop. Islamabad should keep its eyes open to Drezner´s warning of ´sequel to Sept. 11 attacks´ amidst growing reports in western media showing biased concerns about Pakistani tribal areas, which has more to do with protecting Republicans interests in Nov. 08 American presidential election and keeping world attention from continuation of Afghan occupation for another decade or two.
Islamabad should therefore take following steps to end such speculations: 1) relocate its forces from built-up areas to borders in Northern Areas and Baluchistan. 2) Fence critical areas. Reportedly, America has erected 485-mile long fence on its Mexican borders in just eight months. It is about time policy makers rush to seal its borders with Afghanistan and global community including EU assist Islamabad to seal its border to end baseless speculations. 3) Demand withdrawal of NATO forces to end indigenous Afghan resistance against foreign occupation whose spillover is adversely affecting Pakistan´s strategic security, economic and trade interests. The spillover is forcing Islamabad to feed and support war-ravaged economy, hapless millions on both sides of Pak-Afghan border hungry and homeless. Islamabad should end borrowing, use of aid and tax money to support flawed American policies in the region because Pakistan is an independent state not an American buffer state in Asia. The earlier Islamabad realizes it the better.
In Friedman´s Imbalance of power, the writer has talked about Zakaria´s "The Post American world" and "Superclass" by David RothKopf. It is therefore time that Islamabad adopts independent foreign policy to protect country´s sovereignty and economic interests instead of turning the country into an aid dependent buffer state for ´neo-conservative elite´ led capitalism using globalization, IMF, WB and privatization policies. It will compromise public´s religious and constitutional rights to job, food, health care, education, dignity of work and security. Neo-cons failure to uphold US Supreme Court´s 1936 "New Deal" judgment protecting individuals against capitalism is case in point.
Islamabad therefore needs to tailor domestic economy according to local strengths including argi and manufacturing instead of capitalist based ´unchecked´ free economy, corrupt banking system and mostly tax evasive private businesses. It is only possible with free foreign policy. The growing oil prices, 123 billion dollar profit of five US oil companies in 2007 and reported 35 billion dollar profit in first quarter of 2008 are cases in point of free economy. The public sector energy sector in Russia, China, Gulf States and Latin American States have reduced fuel prices.
Finally, there will be little change in current US foreign policy in 2009 or beyond because Washington will continue to protect American economic interests. Human Rights and Geneva Convention; stronger international platforms including UN, ICJ and EU; independent judiciaries; media freedom and FOIA will remain at crossroads with American interests in immediate terms and coming decades. Islamabad therefore should avoid making open-ended commitments to protect its national interests including regional stakes and strategic economic, political and security objective. However, somewhere in all this it is hoped that Democratic Party will play it role to help revive country´s image by supporting human rights and international platforms to match Medvedev´s clarion call that distinguishes modern world from dark ages where might was right: A hope that Friedman could not highlight in Zakaria´s work!
1. In my view, if US wants to hold high moral ground in its pursuit to win hearts and minds and economic interests in rest of the world it has to respect International Human Rights, International Platforms including International Court of Justice.
2. Similarly, due to growing support for human rights and international platforms in rest of the world including EU, Russia and China the ongoing two US wars and domestic policies undermining US constitution including Bill of Rights will turn into a deeper challenge for next US administration.A glimpse of challenge for America is visible in 'Secret Law' under latest media on http://feingold.senate.gov/. The Democratic Party therefore has to take a clear stand on ending wars, Human Rights and restoring efficacy of international platforms for national and collective good of global community and security.
3. This article has also been published in Pakistan Observer http://www.pakobserver.net/200805/27/Articles02.asp
When Augustine enters the scene, Christianity's role the Roman government had expanded to the point that the State relied on bishops to serve as judges in some civic matters, the Church was more involved of the administration of the government, and the Church relied more on the State's coercive power to punish heretics and schismatics. Augustine, however, did not initially support the state's role in the Church matters of discipline. He felt that the protection offered by the State against those who do harm was sufficient enough; the Church did not need to resort to coercion against those who broke from the church. Rather, the church should follow the example of Christ, Who “did nothing by force, but did everything by persuasion and warning.” In his letter to Vincentius, Augustine summarizes his early view on State coercion as such: “For originally my opinion was, that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ, that we must act only by words, fight only by arguments, and prevail by force of reason, lest we should have those whom we knew as avowed heretics feigning themselves to be Catholics.”
Augustine, as stated earlier, does not maintain his view of a passive State in religious affairs. When he began to see a large number of Donatists being converted back to the Catholic Church, civil order being restored and the schism being overcome, he realized that his view was wrong.
But this opinion of mine was overcome not by the words of those who controverted it, but by the conclusive instances to which they could point … There were so many others which were mentioned to me by name, that, from facts themselves, I was made to own that to this matter the word of Scripture might be understood as applying: “Give opportunity to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser.”
Like the Donatists, who were not converted back to the Church through persuasion and appeals, so was Augustine not convinced about the use of State coercion through persuasion and argumentation; rather, Augustine saw the fruits of State-forced conversion - a large number of converted Donatists and their sincere change of heart - and believed that he, not other bishops, had been in the wrong. Coupled with his new view was Augustine's realization of the lengths the Donatists would go to persecute the Church as a result of their convictions, further proof that his method of persuasion and argumentation was not working. He now saw that coercion was the only means by which to restrain sinful man, for “the fear of punishment is the only safeguard of general peace and society.” With the Church in the right for appealing to the State, Augustine called on Christian rulers, even the Emperor, to fulfill their Christian duty in utilizing their civic powers against the enemies of the Church.
The Christian Civic Ruler's Duty
Augustine's argument for the Christian civic ruler's responsibility to repress the Church's enemies follows from how he supports his argument for State coercion in Church matters. When Augustine opposed coercion, he appealed to Scripture and the example of Christ and of God's fatherly love towards His children. Likewise, in his new view, Augustine approached his argument from three aspects: Scripture, precedent and results.
Augustine's appeal to Scripture
Augustine appealed to a number of Scripture to support his view for State coercion; so numerous, that only a few will be considered here. In his letter to Victorinius, Augustine refers to the parable of the Great Supper in which the host, when no one invited showed up to the dinner, ordered his slave to go out to the streets and compel any that he would find to attend. Jesus Himself coerced Paul when Paul encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus.]
Again, in his letter to Victorinius, Augustine interprets Paul's reference in Galatians to Sarah and Hagar as justification for the Church's appeal to the State against her enemies:
Did not Sarah, when she had the power, choose rather to afflict the insolent bondwoman?
~ more... ~
At the moment that the "normal" police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium -- the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat -- all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.
From fascism the bourgeoisie demands a thorough job; once it has resorted to methods of civil war, it insists on having peace for a period of years. And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist, it does not mean only that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance the patterns set by Mussolini -- the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role -- but it means first of all for the most part that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat.
~ From: Chapter 2 of Leon Trotsky's pamphlet: Fascism: What It Is And How To Fight It ~
Feudalism Then and Now
The business of nation states has too often been war, and, war has always been good business. "Good" in the sense that war advances the power positions and wealth of the war makers and their friends. A "good war" is any war that makes profits regardless whether the war itself is just, legal, or warranted. War is thrust upon the masses, those who do the killing, bleeding and dying. Today, in the post-modern United States, war is sold like any other commodity to a populace groomed into believing that patriotism demands that they, as consumers, buy into any war the military industrial complex puts up for sale. Little has changed over the centuries in the relationship between the rulers and those they rule. Human history shows a continuum of the rich ruling elite, the privileged haves, shepherding the have-nots into perpetual war for perpetual profit. The haves have the profits. The have-nots have their wounds, lost limbs, dead children, misery, grief and poverty. It is the common people, such as Cindy Sheehan, who mourn the death of their soldier sons and daughters while the children of the rich opt-out from "serving their country" avoiding any possibility of sacrificing their rarified lives for some orchestrated "good cause". They may be rich, but the children of the wealthy are not stupid.
US greed capitalism has made war for centuries, first on the indigenous Americans, then on Africans (slavery), the French, the Brits, the Spanish, Canada (Hull invasion War of 1812), Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Hawaii, Germany, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, China, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq.... One can go on and on. U.S. capitalism, hard pressed to sustain itself during peacetime, favors and glorifies war. Destroying marketplaces is good for creating the conditions for their profitable rebuilding. Capital invested in constructive destruction is to capitalism, as destroying a city in order to save it, is to militarism. Capitalism destroying and then rebuilding is a double-edged sword of immense profit.
Unleashing the Beast
Unleashing the beast that exploits and devours the resources of others has been the hallmark of capitalism for a long time. In the recent past, the French, Spanish, German, Japanese, British, and Soviet empires unleashed their beast. The empire today is the United States and its beast is unleashed. The contradictions of capitalism, however, make the sun that never sets on an empire unsustainable, regardless of which empire it shines on. All empires come and go.
What capitalism cannot out-compete, it need to overcome through other means, whether by manipulation, coercion, or war. The ever-increasing resources vital to capitalism's continuation must be acquired one way or another. If they cannot be purchased, or otherwise negotiated for, they are taken. Capitalism requires a feudal infrastructure. The regime (nobles) dictates what the empire must have. The CEOs, Pentagon brass, etc. (vassals) serve the nobles. The people (serfs) die in obedience and service to them. Lest one consider the comparison between feudalism and capitalism farfetched, how many of today's nobles and vassals have family members fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan? How many sons and daughters of the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rove, etc., families are in Iraq dodging improvised explosive devices in that country's roadways? How many of their children find military service of sufficient sane value to sign up?
Historically, capitalism refers to the established economic processes that allow the employment of so-called free wage laborers. These workers are supposedly at liberty to sell their labor unrestrained from the constraints of landlords and lords. The parameters under which labor operates, however, are deliberately and continuously shifting. The shifts often preclude viable employment choices as unemployment, low wages, and reduced benefits are manipulated for maximum corporate profitability. Worker status digresses such that workers, in order to survive, must accept something far less than satisfactory employment, i.e., they work for less than a livable wage. For many young people, this opens up the possibility of being easily recruited by the military through a de facto economic conscription. This race to the bottom for cheap labor, i.e., the coercion of the worker, contributes to neo-feudalism posing as post-modern capitalism. Post modern landlords contrive and control most of our lives, including the hourly wage, the rent, the mortgage, the cost of a loaf of bread, a gallon of gasoline, a quart of milk, prescription medication, health insurance, public transportation, what we eat, read, hear on the radio, watch on TV, what we buy, what we think, and who we kill. The lords restructure workers' pensions, often eliminating them when the corporate times get tough. What happens to workers should the sovereign entities, the corporations, fail? While bankruptcy statutes, down-sizing, off-shoring, union busting and federal and state laws protect the corporation and its vassals, the workers, get abused and shafted.
Equality and Equal Opportunity?
What of the principal of equality and equal opportunity for all in this the 21st century? This much cherished ideal found in the country's founding documents is made into a mockery as permanent prosperity for the rich is enshrined through congressional legislation, i.e., tax cuts, inheritance tax elimination, bankruptcy laws, so-called energy policy, and the legal recognition of corporations as being de facto persons. The workers, meanwhile, are subjugated by minimum and low paying service sector employment with decreased rights and benefits, often without health insurance. Post-modern capitalism has turned life in the United States into neo-feudalism with the token figurehead noble, the president, serving the corporate masters of war. The monarchy may not look like traditional kings, yet it exists within the community of billionaire and multi-millionaire power brokers that make foreign and domestic policy decisions. The chains of 16th century feudalism have morphed into a 21st century version where slaves without chains hustle to make ends meet as the nobility dines on the world's carved up resources.
In the feudal times of the Middle Ages, witches were blamed for many ills within society. There were the so-called Middles Ages "bitches" and other heretics. There was Christine de Pisan, the abbess and musician Hildegard of Bingen, and the patron of the arts Eleanor of Aquitaine. There were the scientific thinkers persecuted by those they threatened with their knowledge, Copernicus, Galileo, et al. The nobles accused these people of treasonous behavior diverting attention away from themselves. They blamed, stigmatized, and summarily prosecuted anyone opposing them. Today's nobles blame "feminazis", gays, dissidents, environmentalists, peace and social justice activists, disabilities rights advocates, anti-imperialists, and war protestors, diverting attention away from the regime's heinous failures. Everyone not in agreement with the US regime is castigated as a "traitor" in the attempts at drawing the spotlight away from its corruption and malfeasance.
Today's lords, as in feudal times, have co-opted the churches in controlling the masses. This symbiotic relationship between State and Church is mutually advantageous. The more things change throughout history, the more they remain the same. The more knowledge that humanity acquires, the further backward the populace goes. The poorer people become, the less they know, or care to know. Caring less makes the prospect of taking control away from the masters less probable. We, the people, have become, we, the serfs. We will remain serfs as long as income is taxed instead of wealth, and as long as workers are willing to contribute their sons and daughters to die fighting for the lies and profits of the rich. The yoke of oppression is alive and well within US capitalism, for it and feudalism, are the same.
In the book, We Can Change the World, in the chapter "Hope and revolution, Dave Stratman writes,
Revolution, in my view, does not mean simply a new economic structure, and it does not mean control by a new elite. It means transforming all the relationships in society to accord with the values, goals and idea of human life of ordinary working people.
Karl Marx has been and continues to be "discredited" by capitalists who point out that no successful Marxist society exists today. The extent of the necessity to continue vilifying Marx suggests a recognition otherwise. If Marx is dead, why is it necessary to continuously bury him? If capitalism's so-called triumph over socialism is the "end of history" as the fall of the Soviet Union was depicted to be, then why does history continue to repeat itself? Why does capitalism and neo-liberalism continue to fail the vast majority of the world's population? Why does the massive poverty of the many exist amidst the massive wealth of the few?
Often, capitalist apologists draw a distinction between capitalism and what they call the free market. They state that the term capitalism refers to imbalances within the free market and that criticism of capitalism is erroneous as the two terms are nor interchangeable. Critics of Marx accuse him of skillfully and treacherously chastising capitalism for the temporary setbacks attributed to free market imbalances. They argue that Marx's dialectic is more successful as a method in maneuvering a pro-capitalist opponent into a losing argument than it is for revealing the failures of capitalism as a system. Regardless, whether one embraces Marx's definition of capitalism or not, capitalism is as Marx predicted, in crisis. Whether participatory economics can or will replace capitalism is questionable. The world, however, cannot continue the obscene imbalances between the haves and the have-nots to continue. Whether we call this imbalance capitalism's inherent internal contradictions, or the free market's anomalies is irrelevant, as capitalism once again nears its breaking point and humanity considers moving beyond feudalism, again.
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
Howl - Allan Ginsberg
American Corporate Feudalism
Neither human beings nor corporations are free to run rough-shod over people and nature. Both must be held accountable for the abuses they inflict on others.
In the last four Administrations, a kind of libertarianism has been awarded corporations as though they are ends unto themselves. The open license of corporate imagination to profiteering has resulted in conspiratorial liberties that have hurt a lot of trusting people; there was Enron and the likes, now its money lenders defrauding homeowners.
Corporate globalization, e.g., NAFTA, is profoundly and fatally flawed by the dissolution of corporate ethics. Religious fundamentalism, not to its credit, has hitched its wagon to corporate absolutism and has been party to republican overreach. Corporate profiteering on war and weapons of war by the U.S. is a world scandal doing incalculable hurt to the American people.
The social ethic of another era, which held employers accountable to their employees and to the public, has been ravaged by an anti-social (religious “right”) republicanism which abides arrogance, ignorance and obsession to control and plunder. Such corporate libertarianism defeats fundamental civility and moral rationality.
Feudalism: a myth or mother of all ills?
In 21st century Pakistan, the privileged argue that there privileges and the socio-economic hardships of the underprivileged are both a myth. The people of this country are neither dense nor dumb. Many similarities emerge as we look back at the economic development path of the developed West. All those aware of Pakistan's fiscal crisis and its distorted structures of politico-economic power would further know where the similarities end. The similarity ends when we display a lack of courage and will-power to effect change for the better.
Bastille was demolished on July 14, 1789 and feudalism was abolished on August 4, 1789 through a series of "Decrees Abolishing the Feudal System." The opening words were, "The National Assembly abolishes the feudal regime entirely ....." The decrees did away with many kinds of manorial obligations to begin with. The decrees also abolished special tax privileges and opened all offices to all citizens "without distinction of birth." Cornerstone to build a modern France had been laid.
The second important decree was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen passed late August 1789. The second decree came on the heels of the first decree about abolishing feudalism and privileges. The decrees were thus logically sequenced. Without the first one, the second would have been meaningless.
The French Revolution did not end in the year it started. Rather, the Revolution kept consolidating itself even in the 19th century until the Napoleonic era. Even though Napoleon turned despotic, the ideals of the Revolution were pushed forward forcefully on nearly every front in his era. These ideas were also exported to Italy, Spain, and Prussia. Germany would then provide further intellectual thrust to the ideals of the enlightenment. Unfortunately, these ideas have yet to be assimilated and internalized by us.
We remain backward as we try to build a modern society on the traditional repugnant value system most prevalent in the countryside from where it also gets exported to the urban so-called modern sector. Thanks to this age of rapid and effective communication, one is saved the agony of personally witnessing the oppression in the villages. There is enough evidence available about life in rural areas on the basis of which serious students of economics can draw the sad conclusions from which the big farm lords wish to look the other way. It is true that behaviour and attitudes in other sectors of the economy are also repugnant in many ways. However, one needs to determine not just the "sources" of ills in the society but rather the "causes" of them. If a cause-effect tree is constructed, it will converge to the major problem identified way back in 1789 by none other than the French which is "feudalism." Later in the 20th century, it was identified by the Japanese, the Koreans, the Taiwanese, and the Chinese as soon as they embarked on development and modernization. However, China is ignored by many in this country due to its totalitarian political disposition. We may then travel Westward and find a case in point in the liberated France which exported the idea to other parts of Europe.
Until such time that the root cause is addressed in Pakistan, it would be very difficult to reform the rest of the society. Rather, it is impossible to reform if the major sector of agriculture or big agriculturists continue to occupy the privileged status that they do. They continue to wield the same amount of power as they did when their sector contributed over 40 per cent to the GDP in the 1950s and the 1960s. They might well know that their sector's contribution to the GDP stands declined to about 25 per cent in the decade of the 1990s. It is, therefore, not a "predominant factor" as still imagined by some of them. They should not, therefore, be allowed to continue to dominate the value system which some of them think is their birth right by virtue of the sector's significance in the economy.
What might Nero have done if he had possessed a 757-200 jetliner? On July 1, in a display intended to rally the GOP-aligned "NASCAR dad" demographic, Dick Cheney buzzed the Daytona International Speedway in Air Force Two at an altitude of 1,000 feet prior to the Pepsi 400 stock-car race. After taking a leisurely lap around the course in a black SUV, the vice president posed in front of a giant American flag with the event's 43 drivers arrayed behind him as a backdrop.
Allowing for some creative anachronism, it's easy to imagine Nero conducting a similar flyover of the Circus Maximus in Rome, then forcing the charioteers to pose with him in front of the Imperial Eagle as he harangued the masses while distributing sparsiones (imperial gifts of grain and money) to the crowd.
Extrapolating from current economic trends, I'd wager that a fair number of those who witnessed Cheney's Bread and Circuses stunt are probably separated from economic disaster by a paycheck or two. Many have probably taken out adjustable rate mortgages and face the prospect of being turned "upside down" as interest rates rise and a contracting real estate bubble undermines the value of their homes. And most probably find it increasingly difficult to meet household expenses as wages remain static while price inflation rages.
As an architect of the Iraq War that has contributed to vast and expanding deficits and triggered a dramatic spike in the "risk premium" incorporated into oil prices, Dick Cheney has done more than his share to pauperize our struggling middle class. According to the July 2 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, Cheney is positioned to profit from the economic ruin that will most likely result from the official profligacy he has abetted.
Examining the vice president's recently released financial disclosure statement, Kiplinger's concludes that Cheney and his financial advisers "are apparently betting on a rise in inflation and interest rates and on a decline in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies." Cheney has salted away between $10 million and $25 million in American Century International Bond, which "buys mainly high-quality foreign bonds," primarily in Europe.
Reacting to the Kiplinger's report, economic commentator Mike Whitney exaggerates little if at all in concluding that "we're sinking fast and Cheney and his pals are manning the lifeboats while the public is diverted" with peripheral political squabbles and extravagant public spectacles. While the elites bail out, they're leaving to the rest of us an "insurmountable debt that will be shackled to our children in perpetuity, and the carefully arranged levers of a modern police-surveillance state," concludes Whitney.
"We Are Trying to Crush Feudal Autocracy"
TIME: To outsiders, the war in Nepal, between King and Communist army, seems like it belongs to an earlier time. Is Nepal still fighting the battles of the last century?
Prachanda: This is a very interesting question. First, our party neither represents dogmatism nor revisionism. We are trying to defend, apply and develop our [communist] science to the national and international situation. We are different to how outsiders imagine us: remaining firm in our ideological orientation, but very flexible. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a unified science of social revolution of the proletariat, developed through the earth-shaking struggle of the masses. Being a science it deserves continuous and consistent development. The "Prachanda Path" is the application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to the condition of Nepal, and its enrichment also. Our People's War is a totally new 21st century war. Our party is not only fighting autocratic monarchy—so many countries have already finished this task over the last centuries—but also the evil of the imperialist world, the hypocrisy of so-called democracy that a superpower like the U.S. represents. Everybody knows that these so-called democratic countries don't support the democratic demands of the Nepalese people, but rather this hated feudal autocratic monarchy with huge military assistance.
TIME: Do you truly believe your revolution will spread across the world?
Prachanda: The imperialist world order makes a handful of rich richer and the vast majority inhumanly poorer. Developing sharp differences between the haves and the have-nots generates the basis for world revolution. Anybody can observe the growing global unrest at this world order. We deeply believe that what we are starting in Nepal is part of a worldwide 21st century revolution.
From Feudalism to corporatism
Of the many institutions that flourish under the over-arching chhatri of the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, I am fascinated most by the project they call the City Within a City (CWC). The Maharajas (and this, its sole Maharana) were derecognized in 1970 by imperious Indira Gandhi, who also took away the privy purses that had sustained the princely rulers after they had acceded their native states to the Indian Union in 1947. Now the CWC reflects in microcosm all that the original macro was, and should be in the new millennium. Here, business acumen and environmental concern whip life into a decadent heritage which otherwise would have collapsed under the weight of its own irrelevance.
The distinguishing feature of Arvind Singh Mewar – apart from the snowy beard, which he wears, parted down the centre like his great-grandfather, Fateh Singhji – is his refusal to wallow in an indolent past. He suavely rubbishes my romantic notions of the burden of noblesse oblige. He is as dismissive as his royal upbringing permits him to be of some of his peers who continue to live a treasury-to-mouth existence – 'Sell-enjoy-sell-enjoy'.
“The past is inspirational and a reference point, but you have to move on. I had to think a lot about it. You understand the awesome scope of responsibility to make you occupy the chair (and it came to him not as a birthright, but because his elder brother forfeited the right to primogeniture when he insisted on a partition of assets during the lifetime of their father, Shriji). I hope I've been able to achieve the crucial crossing of the threshold”.
Perhaps the spirit of responsible custodianship, as opposed to self-absorbed ownership is also integral to his particular inheritance. The Maharanas of Mewar have never considered themselves rulers, but merely the mortal representatives of the resident deity, Shri Eklingji, to which they trace their dynasty. The princely state of Mewar sprang from a boon given by the sage Harit Rishi to Bapa Rawal, the cowherd who had chanced upon the Shiv lingam, Shri Eklingji, in the forest, Bapa Rawal could claim for his own all the land he could traverse.
In the steamy catacomb of storehouses, which has now metamorphosed into a sleek, air-conditioned library, are stacked the traditional, red-cloth-bound bahidas, the diaries and accounts maintained by 75 generations of Mewar rulers- the nij kharch and the hokum kharch, the personal and state spending kept meticulously apart. The income from the state now belongs to a democratic India; the Maharana's challenge is to make the bequest of his forefathers self-supporting, and, more important, relevant.
The CWC project builds on the present-day reality. It nurtures back to pride the creators of age-old crafts who had been forced into soulless clerkhood: miniatures, wood painting, jewellery, textiles and inlay. It clears diesel-chocked air and lake by supporting research into solar-powered vehicles and boats, assisted ironically by oil majors. The upgraded sewerage system of this complex is now a model for the town beyond the ornate Tripolia palace gates. The courtyards of the fabled zenana earn their keep by becoming venues for the marriages of ersatz maharajahs: NRI grooms riding in on greenbacks.
It can't be easy to be forced to have strangers trampling all over what was your private domain for 15 centuries, less so for a dynasty that fiercely protected its Hindu identity. Alone among the rulers of Rajasthan, the Mewars refused marital alliances with the Moghuls or martial arrangements with the British Raj. Now it is an enlightened exploitation of the patrimony. The Maharana needs foreign investors to bankroll his projects, but he cherry-picks them to ensure that they bring the right sensibility in addition to equity.
Feudal mindsets still extant in Dubai and Malaysia
The report (Straits Times, 1 March 2000) tried to be as diplomatic as possible. Headlined "Easy does it for the Emirates", it reported that the lunch meeting between Singapore's Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, "was scheduled at 12.30 pm. More or less. This is the Arabian Gulf region, where time is as fluid and shifting as the sands of the desert."
"In the end, it is 2.30 pm when the meeting takes place, because he [the UAE Deputy Prime Minister, Sheikh Sultan al-Nahyan] was held up at the airport where he was welcoming back his elder brother Sheikh Khalifa al-Nahyan."
Both, it was explained, were sons of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, who was also the President of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi is one of the 7 emirates that make up the UAE.
"Lunch proceeds with clockwork efficiency," it was reported, "and is over in an hour." Sounds like it was rushed through.
Further down the article, the significance of Sheikh Khalifa was explained. He was the nominated successor to his father, the 85-year-old Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Whether that significance justifies being 2 hours late for lunch with a visiting prime minister from another country, I leave you to determine for yourself. I just shook my head in near-disbelief.
Near-disbelief, not total disbelief, because I heard similar stories when I visited Dubai in 1996. This one, for example, was told to me by an Indian national working there: a new primary school was to be ceremonially opened, and a bigwig sheikh was the guest of honour. He was nearly four hours late, and all this while, the little boys and girls were waiting in proper formation in the courtyard, under the blazing sun. The sheikh arrived, with nary an apology, said a few words, cut the ribbon, and was chauffeured off in his air-conditioned limousine within 15 minutes.
If a prime minister can be kept waiting for 2 hours, the children must count themselves lucky to have suffered only four.
For most of us, it is completely incomprehensible why greeting an elder brother at the airport is considered more important than keeping an appointment with a visiting prime minister. That is because, I'd venture to say, that we generally see brothers as casual equals, and a prime minister as a very important person ("VIP"), especially if he's on an official visit.
But the two stories above indicate that quite different priorities are operating in their society. The internal pecking order is of paramount importance. Junior sheikhs must pay respect to senior sheikhs, and sheikhs don't have to pay much attention to how they treat ordinary people, schoolchildren included. This system of requiring deference and obedience to be paid to social superiors, and expecting uncomplaining deference and obedience from inferiors, is nothing short of feudalism.
One of the drawbacks of seeing the world through western eyes, with thus a disproportionate regard to western history, is that we think of feudalism as something long gone, 900 years ago. We are a little stunned when we see it in operation today. Even to Chinese eyes, we are stunned. Chinese history had a long feudal period, pre-Han Dynasty, and after that, some 2,000 more years when it was an extremely class-conscious society. The mindset of deference to social superiors persisted throughout. But after more than a century of serial revolutions, one cresting after another, Chinese politics and culture have been upheaved. The ideals of republicanism and egalitarianism, if not quite communism, have embedded themselves in modern Chinese thinking. As someone westernised, but also Chinese, I am shocked at this evident persistence of feudalism in the 21st century. As must have been the entire Singapore delegation in the UAE.
Fascism, Feudalism, and the Future
The words “feudalism” and “fascism” appear so often and are used so loosely in this context that it's worth remembering that they actually do have exact meanings. Feudalism is a specific form of social organization that springs up in the aftermath of sociopolitical collapse. When central government disintegrates, money economies implode, and pervasive violence is everywhere, one of the few effective responses is a radical decentralization of power that hands control over small regions to magnates who can raise a corps of professional warriors, feed and support it with local agricultural produce, and defend their fiefs against all comers.
A feudal society is a legal hierarchy of decentralized force. In feudalism, the place of every human being from monarch to serf is measured precisely by that person's ability to wield violence, and is matched by an elaborate hierarchy of rights and responsibilities. It bears remembering that the Magna Carta, the foundation of Anglo-American constitutional law, is a quintessentially feudal document; under feudalism, serfs had rights that at least in theory, kings could not arbitrarily set aside, though those rights were doubtless honored about as often as the rights of the poor in industrial societies today. Harsh and by modern standards unjust, feudal systems nonetheless flourish in desperate times because they offer an effective bulwark against violence and chaos, and provide each person some measure of security under the rule of law.
Fascism, even in the broadest sense of the term, is a far more culturally specific phenomenon that sprang up in Europe and Latin America in the aftermath of the First World War and faded out, where it had not been forcibly blotted out, after the Second. Allied wartime propaganda from the 1940s still has most people thinking of the metastatic nightmare of Nazi Germany as the archetype of fascism, but the mainstream of the fascist movement came out of Italy, where Benito Mussolini launched it with with his seizure of power in 1922. In Italy as elsewhere, fascism was a radically centralized socialist-capitalist hybrid that opposed communism while borrowing many of the Soviet regime's own features.
In fascist societies, property remained in private hands, but capitalist competition was replaced by government coordination, and wages and prices were set by edict; labor unions existed, but workers were forbidden to strike and disputes were arbitrated by government tribunals. Public officials were appointed by the party leadership rather than being elected by the people, as in democracy, or inheriting their positions, as in feudalism. The rule of law was explicitly abandoned in favor of the “will of the nation,” which in practice meant the will of the party leadership. Fascist political philosophy explicitly argued that there should be as few levels as possible in the chain of command between the leader and the individual citizen, and the result was unfree but distinctly egalitarian – that is, everyone outside the top leadership of the party had the same lack of rights as everyone else.
Compare fascism to feudalism and massive differences outweigh the few similarities: a radically centralized society versus a radically decentralized one, a complete lack of individual rights versus an elaborately detailed code of rights for each person, the unchecked will of the leader versus the formal rule of law, and the list goes on. In the modern world, certainly, the two have also appealed to different social classes – fascism to the lower middle classes and skilled laborers, feudalism to the old aristocracy. It's not an accident that the most sustained opposition to Hitler's regime in Germany came from the Prussian aristocracy; the famous bomb plot that nearly vaporized the Führer and ended the war most of a year in advance was planned and executed by as blue-blooded a conspiracy as any in history.
So what on earth would a feudal-fascist regime be? A radically decentralized centralized state with an egalitarian hierarchy that both had and lacked individual rights and the rule of law? Clearly the words “fascism” and “feudalism” are not being here used to mean what they actually mean. Rather, they are what S.I. Hayakawa used to call “snarl words:” terms of abuse invoked because they evoke a predictable emotional response.
A civil cold war is raging among the residents of the sleepy Crown protectorate, the last outpost of feudalism in Europe.
Just the other day the Queen gave her Royal Assent to a new constitution. After nearly 450 years, Sark's feudal parliament, known as the Chief Pleas, and mainly comprising unelected island landowners, was scrapped by Britain's Privy Council.
In its place will be a new parliament of 28 elected members, and the first election will be in December. So has democracy finally arrived? Don't hold your breath.
For arguably, the new constitution makes the governance of Sark more of an anachronism and an abuse of democracy than ever.
Critics of the new constitution argue that Britain's Privy Council and Minister for Justice Jack Straw, who implemented the changes, have squandered a wonderful opportunity to bring Sark into the 21st century.
For it does nothing to remove former aero engineer Michael Beaumont from his lucrative feudal position as Seigneur of Sark - its overlord.
Mr Beaumont, 80, lives in an official residence, the Seigneury, a fine house where official visitors, including the Queen, sometimes call when visiting the Channel Islands.
Until now, Mr Beaumont had a historical right to take a personal commission of one thirteenth of the value of every property on the island every time it was sold. Instead of being used to improve facilities on Sark, the money went straight into his pocket.
This has been scrapped, but in its place he will receive an annual £28,000, index-linked, a perk he can pass on through his heirs in perpetuity.
Nor does the new constitution replace the Seneschal, Lt Colonel Reginald Guille, 66, who is appointed by the Seigneur. He is the island's sole judge and Speaker of the parliament.
[ ... ]
The chances are that the democracy-dispute would never have erupted, with Seigneur Michael Beaumont's ancient feudal powers continuing uninterrupted, had the billionaire Barclay twins, Sir David and Sir Frederick, owners of The Ritz hotel and Telegraph newspapers, not bought Sark's tiny offshore island of Brecqhou.
The enigmatic brothers set about building a home with castellated battlements and walls 4ft thick, rising above the cliffs.
Brecqhou is governed by Sark's ancient laws, which included primogeniture - under which all property must be left to the eldest son. The Barclays have four children and wanted to leave the island in trust for them all. After a lengthy legal battle, they won and the law was changed.
Undoubtedly, having to fight for what they saw as a natural right motivated the Barclays to try to dismantle a feudal system that is clearly undemocratic.
They are seeking a judicial review of the latest changes, which they say have not gone far enough. And Jack Straw himself admits the new constitution is "inconsistent with modern democratic principles".
~ From: The last feudal baron: New laws to bring the island of Sark into the 21st century ~
Leaked documents are one of the banes of modern western politics. They reveal exercises and actions being proposed that are generally objectionable to the public. Such a leak occurred with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which seeks to turn the internet into a virtual police state.
Again, it's one of the few bastions of anti-corruption, Wikileaks, that has spilled the beans on this unsavory topic. Yesterday the site revealed a document proposing a treaty that will significantly limit the privacy and rights of Internet users, to the benefit of multimillion dollar companies.
“ACTA” is basically an attempt to criminalize the Internet, thus allowing a virtual police state to occur by the selective prosecuting of crimes. In short, it's an international treaty, or hopes to be, that will greatly increase already draconian copyright measures, in a poor attempt to appease the copyright and patent industries.
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There was an old lady, from the "Cree" tribe, named "Eyes of Fire", who prophesied that one day, because of the white man's or Yo-ne-gis' greed, there would come a time, when the fish would die in the streams, the birds would fall from the air, the waters would be blackened, and the trees would no longer be. Mankind as we would know it would all but cease to exist.
There would come a time when the "keepers of the legend, stories, culture rituals, and myths, and all the Ancient Tribal Customs" would be needed to restore us to health. They would be mankind's key to survival, they would be known as the "Warriors of the Rainbow". There would come a day of awakening when all the peoples of all the tribes would form a New World of Justice, Peace, Freedom and recognition of the Great Spirit.
The "Warriors of the Rainbow" would spread these messages and teach all peoples of the Earth or "Elohi". They would teach them how to live the "Way of the Great Spirit". They would tell them of how the world today has turned away from the Great Spirit and that is why our Earth is "Sick".
The "Warriors of the Rainbow" would show the peoples that this "Ancient Being" (the Great Spirit), is full of love and understanding, and teach them how to make the "Earth or Elohi" beautiful again. These Warriors would give the people principles or rules to follow to make their path right with the world. These principles would be those of the Ancient Tribes. The Warriors of the Rainbow would teach the people of the ancient practices of Unity, Love and Understanding. They would teach of Harmony among people in all four comers of the Earth.
Like the Ancient Tribes, they would teach the peoples how to pray to the Great Spirit with love that flows like the beautiful mountain stream, and flows along the path to the ocean of life. Once again, they would be able to feel joy in solitude and in councils. They would be free of petty jealousies and love all mankind as their brothers, regardless of color, race or religion. They would feel happiness enter their hearts, and become as one with the entire human race. Their hearts would be pure and radiate warmth, understanding and respect for all mankind, Nature, and the Great Spirit. They would once again fill their minds, hearts, souls, and deeds with the purest of thoughts. They would seek the beauty of the Master of Life - the Great Spirit! They would find strength and beauty in prayer and the solitudes of life.
Their children would once again be able to run free and enjoy the treasures of Nature and Mother Earth. Free from the fears of toxins and destruction, wrought by the Yo-ne-gi and his practices of greed. The rivers would again run clear, the forests be abundant and beautiful, the animals and birds would be replenished. The powers of the plants and animals would again be respected and conservation of all that is beautiful would become a way of life.
The poor, sick and needy would be cared for by their brothers and sisters of the Earth. These practices would again become a part of their daily lives.
The leaders of the people would be chosen in the old way - not by their political party, or who could speak the loudest, boast the most, or by name calling or mud slinging, but by those whose actions spoke the loudest. Those who demonstrated their love, wisdom, and courage and those who showed that they could and did work for the good of all, would be chosen as the leaders or Chiefs. They would be chosen by their "quality" and not the amount of money they had obtained. Like the thoughtful and devoted "Ancient Chiefs", they would understand the people with love, and see that their young were educated with the love and wisdom of their surroundings. They would show them that miracles can be accomplished to heal this world of its ills, and restore it to health and beauty.
The tasks of these "Warriors of the Rainbow" are many and great. There will be terrifying mountains of ignorance to conquer and they shall find prejudice and hatred. They must be dedicated, unwavering in their strength, and strong of heart. They will find willing hearts and minds that will follow them on this road of returning "Mother Earth" to beauty and plenty - once more.
The day will come, it is not far away. The day that we shall see how we owe our very existence to the people of all tribes that have maintained their culture and heritage. Those that have kept the rituals, stories, legends, and myths alive. It will be with this knowledge, the knowledge that they have preserved, that we shall once again return to "harmony" with Nature, Mother Earth, and mankind. It will be with this knowledge that we shall find our "Key to our Survival".
This is the story of the "Warriors of the Rainbow" and this is my reason for protecting the culture, heritage, and knowledge of my ancestors. I know that the day "Eyes of Fire" spoke of - will come! I want my children and grandchildren to be prepared to accept this task.The task of being one of the........"Warriors of the Rainbow".
~ From: The Rainbow Bird Tribes ~
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