PULSE’s Top 10 Global Thinkers of 2010

In response to the curious choices in Foreign Policy magazine’s ’Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list last year, we decided to publish our own. In 2010, Foreign Policy‘s selections were even more abysmal: among others it included Robert Gates, Ben Bernanke, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Thomas Friedman, Ahmed Rashid, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, Salam Fayyad…and John Bolton! Would anyone outside FP’s editorial board confuse them for a thinker? Once again, it appears FP chose based on the alignment of an individual’s work with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. We therefore asked our writers and editors to nominate once again their own top 10 global thinkers. The following list was the result. (Also see our Top 10 Media Figures of 2010)

Tony Judt

A towering intellect, a moral giant, a master of prose, and an outstanding historian, Tony Judt did what only the greatest of thinkers do: he constantly evolved. More significantly, he never succumbed to orthodoxies, he was always on the edge. In his later years, he also outgrew his middle-of-the-road liberalism to adopt principled, at times radical, positions on war and capitalism. He also jettisoned his youthful Zionism to emerge as the proponent of a single binational state in Palestine. In 2006 he was the only mainstream figure to come to the defence of Mearsheimer & Walt for their groundbreaking London Review essay. He later excoriated Israel as the ‘country that wouldn’t grow up.’ He was also the author of Postwar, an elegant and expansive history of Europe since 1945. We mourn his loss.

Chalmers Johnson

An exemplary scholar, Chalmers Johnson metamorphosed from a hardline Cold Warrior into one of the most formidable critics of US militarism, mapping America’s expanding imperium of bases and spotlighting the fraying edges of its republic. His 2000 book Blowback was as prophetic as his subsequent books The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis were prescient. His longtime JPRI associate Steve Clemons has described him as the ‘acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“’ and as ‘an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy’ in the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago. Johnson was also a literary critic, a skill he deftly used in his later writings to show how the imperial imagination was reflected in the language of metropolitan literature. His departure  has greatly impoverished the intellectual world.

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David Bromwich on Obama, the Establishment President

David Bromwich is the Sterling Professor of English at Yale, and easily the most astute observer of Barack Obama’s performance and character. He has written some of the most insightful articles on the Obama presidency in which he subjects Obama’s oratory and style to close textual and formal analysis, and highlights the various traits that are symptomatic of his approach to politics. In this wide ranging discussion with Christopher Lydon of the excellent Radio Open Source (based at Brown University’s Watson Institute) Bromwich brings his formidable analytical skills to bear on Obama’s langauge, the difference between his improptu and scripted speech, his attempts at humour, and what it reveals about the man. He also makes an interesting comparison between Obama’s style and that of former presidents such as Lincoln, Reagan and Kennedy.

Wrong Target for a Pretend Philosopher

French Zionist and celebrity Islamophobe Bernard-Henri Levy recently accused Susan Abulhawa’s novel Mornings in Jenin of contributing to anti-Semitism. Levy picked the wrong target. Abulhawa has already proved herself more than a match for the ranting Alan Dershowitz. In the Huffington Post she responds to Levy’s anti-Semitism charge: “This word — with its profound gravity of marginalization, humiliation, dispossession, oppression, and ultimately, genocide of human beings for no other reason but their religion — is so irresponsibly used by the likes of Levy that it truly besmirches the memory of those who were murdered in death camps solely for being Jewish.” Then she reminds us that “the people who today are being marginalized, humiliated, dispossessed, and oppressed for the sole reason of their religion are Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

The entire, excellent rejoinder to Levy’s attempt at intimidation is over the fold. Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet bought a copy of Abulhawa’s wonderful novel, do so.
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Asylum Seekers often find Sorrow

Cartoon by Steve Bell

by Giovanna Fassetta Guariento

The images of a small, rickety boat full of asylum seekers being thrashed by the waves off the coast of Christmas Island are unforgettable. As remarked by a witness who watched in helpless desperation, it was like being in a horror movie, minus the relief experienced at the end when the lights come back on and the audience is allowed to return home. It was a nightmare without the awakening, a tragedy that should not have happened, not to those who perished — the children, the women, the men — or those who were forced to watch from nearby cliffs.

The dead now number 48, but many more have yet to be accounted for. They were Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish women, men and children who left everything behind in search of a better life. They fled from the destruction of war, from the festering wounds left by forced democracy, and from the unbearable struggle of making ends meet, towards what they imagined as a better future. Sadly, this tragedy is not the first, and will not be the last. It was however the most visible yet, because it happened before the eyes of the anguished locals on the shore, and millions more who saw the images in papers or on their television screens. Many similar tragedies happen every year less visibly though, in a hushed and subdued manner. No one knows exactly how many people perish on their way to the ‘Developed World’, but the number of people who are believed to have drowned in the past decade is in the thousands, and this only accounts for people lost while crossing the Mediterranean basin.

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The Persecution of Bradley Manning

From Dylan Rattigan’s excellent show on MSNBC, an interview with one of Bradley Manning’s friends who describes the conditions under which he is being held.

By comparison, following is Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, a second rate journalist who generally recycles the consensus view of the Washington punditocracy with little in the way of scepticism or original thought. You can tell from the report below that she even manages to render critical reports in the language of the beltway hack.

Pilger: War, Media and Wikileaks

Filmmaker and journalist John Pilger discusses his latest film, The War You Don’t See, the media’s role in conflict and his defence of WikiLeaks on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post.

The rest of the show investigates the role of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the brainchild of a former Israeli intelligence officer and a US-based organisation that specialises in providing (mis)translations of Arabic-language broadcasts to American journalists and plays a central role in shaping the public’s (mis)perceptions of the Middle East.

Stephen Harper’s Sermon on the Hill

Editor’s Note: This essay was written in response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech at the Ottawa Conference on Combating Antisemitism on November 8th.

by Terry Greenberg

                                    Blessed art the war mongers
                                                            For they are hastening the Second Coming;
                                                Blessed art the ethnic-cleansers
                                                            For they are fulfilling the prophecy;
                                                Blessed art the soldiers of Zion
                                                            For they are doing God’s Work;
                                                Blessed art the enemies of free speech
                                                            For they are silencing the Devil.

On Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 8, 2010 the Prime Minister of Canada delivered a sermon on good and evil to an international gathering of supporters of Israel in which he clearly articulated his view that all support for Israel is “good” and all animosity toward Israel is “evil”. In true Bible-thumper style he offered no middle ground, denouncing this as “moral ambivalence”. It was clear in his preaching that he believed Israel was God’s Plan, and any opposition to Israel was the Devil’s work.

It should be terrifying to Canadians that their Prime Minister would have such a fundamentalist and extremist world view. If we want to understand our current government’s foreign policy and the danger it poses to Canada’s welfare, it would be worthwhile to examine our Prime Minister’s “Sermon on the Hill”. All Canadians should read it for themselves and shudder. 

Harper’s speech was remarkable in a number of ways which are outlined below:

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Empire Abroad, Surveillance At Home

Download mp3.

The cover of McCoy's book is deep red, dark blue, and a sepia white. The photo is of a several ranks of Philippine military troups. The man in front salutes, while an American flag flies overhead.I have an obsessive interest in the history of empires, but a lot of the information in this fascinating lecture by Alfred McCoy was still new to me. I hope you find it as useful as I did. (via Against the Grain)

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the US engineered its conquest of the Philippines. According to Alfred McCoy, the security and surveillance methods introduced and refined by the US in the Philippines were brought home to these shores, for use in domestic policing, intelligence, and other repressive techniques and systems that had profound consequences for civil liberties.

Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State U. of Wisconsin Press, 2009

Deck London’s Walls III

Below are some final shots from William Parry, UK-based photojournalist who, with the help of projection artist Beverley Carpenter, has spent the last several days projecting images of Israel’s apartheid wall onto buildings and monuments in London. The projected images were taken by Parry in Bethlehem, where children from the Aida refugee camp stenciled a Christmas message to the world onto their section of the wall. The goal of the project: to raise awareness of the Israeli-induced suffering that continues in Bethlehem, exploiting the city’s relevance to the current holiday, and in Palestine as a whole. (For more background and the first two sets of Parry’s photographs from Bethlehem and London, click here and here.)

Writes Parry in an email to PULSE:

It was a magnificent project to have been part of. Working with the kids from Aida camp on cutting out the stencils and then watching them put their message up on the wall was huge fun and it was great to see them enjoying themselves. But then coming to London and actually seeing the photos of these kids and their simple message on London’s walls — and some of the city’s prime wall spaces — was absolutely brilliant, really moving. Then to have the public’s interaction here with that message and with the images from Bethlehem, that just added to the fulfillment. Bev did a great job as our ‘guerrilla’ projection artist.

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