Empire: affluence, violence, and U.S. foreign policy

by Robert Jensen

This article is Part 2 of a 3 part collection of essays by University of Texas at Austin Professor Robert Jensen on important issues that should be highlighted during this year’s US mid-term election campaigns.

Robert Jensen

The United States is the most affluent nation in the history of the world.

The United States has the largest military in the history of the world.

Might those two facts be connected? Might that question be relevant in foreign policy debates?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for such discussion in the campaigns; conventional political wisdom says Americans won’t reduce consumption and politicians can’t challenge the military-industrial complex. Though not everyone shares in that material wealth, the U.S. public seems addicted to affluence or its promise, and discussions of the role of the military are clouded by national mythology about our alleged role as the world’s defender of freedom. Business elites who profit handsomely from this arrangement, and fund election campaigns, are quite happy.

There’s one word that sums this up: empire. Any meaningful discussion of U.S. foreign policy has to start with the recognition that we are an imperial society. We consume more than our fair share of the world’s resources, made possible by global economic dominance backed by our guns.

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Economics: doing business as if people mattered

by Robert Jensen

This article is Part 1 of a 3 part collection of essays by University of Texas at Austin Professor Robert Jensen on important issues that should be highlighted during this year’s US mid-term election campaigns.

Robert Jensen

When politicians talk economics these days, they argue a lot about the budget deficit. That’s crucial to our economic future, but in the contemporary workplace there’s an equally threatening problem — the democracy deficit.

In an economy dominated by corporations, most people spend their work lives in hierarchical settings in which they have no chance to participate in the decisions that most affect their lives. The typical business structure is, in fact, authoritarian — owners and managers give orders, and workers follow them. Those in charge would like us to believe that’s the only way to organize an economy, but the cooperative movement has a different vision.

Cooperative businesses that are owned and operated by workers offer an exciting alternative to the top-down organization of most businesses. In a time of crisis, when we desperately need new ways of thinking about how to organize our economic activity, cooperatives deserve more attention.

First, the many successful cooperatives remind us that we ordinary people are quite capable of running our own lives. While we endorse democracy in the political arena, many assume it’s impossible at work. Cooperatives prove that wrong, not only by producing goods and services but by enriching the lives of the workers through a commitment to shared decision-making and responsibility.

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Kashmir: Trapped Within Hindu Nationalist Imagination

In annexing Kashmir, Indian leaders put aside their progressive anti-colonialism, and pursued a policy that stood in direct confrontation with the goals of struggling Kashmiris. Nehru’s professed derision for princes and despots proved facile in Kashmir in this first real test of his commitment to anti-colonialism and democratic values. His decision to urge the discredited and runaway Dogra ruler to sign the imperial Instrument of Accession, and then accept it, was a defeat for the oppressed Kashmiris who had, with great sacrifices, forced the Dogra ruler out. By recognizing the authority of the Dogra ruler, Indian sovereignty over Kashmir simply replaced the sovereignty enshrined in the Dogra maharaja. But along with that sovereignty, India inherited Dogra rule’s illegitimacy as well.

by Mohamad Junaid

(First published in Greater Kashmir on August 5, 2010)

Untitled by Samurah Kashmiri, August 5, 2010
Untitled by Samurah Kashmiri, August 5, 2010
Bharat Mata or Mother India
Bharat Mata or Mother India

On 26 January 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, after travelling by road all the way from the southern tip of India, was airlifted from Jammu to the heart of Srinagar where he half-raised the Indian flag near historic Lal Chowk. All of Kashmir was put under severe curfew, and the army was given shoot-at-sight orders. Throughout the day soldiers shot dead more than a dozen Kashmiris in the streets of Srinagar. Over the previous two years, the Indian government had unleashed a reign of terror on the people, with massacre upon massacre of unarmed protestors dotting Kashmir’s timeline. Joshi’s Ekta Yatra (Unity March), protected and provided of full support by the Indian government, was an important reminder of the nature of the Indian state and the relationship it sought with the people of Kashmir. The event was designed to put on display the majoritarian character of Indian nationhood, and line up power of the state behind it to send barely coded messages to audiences in India and in Kashmir.

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Worst decision since Dred Scott

The US Supreme Court has ruled that as a legal ‘person’ a corporation can spend unlimited amounts in an election campaign to elect its preferred candidates. The lax campaign financing rules already allowed lobby groups such as AIPAC to funnel massive amounts to candidates through individuals. Instead of reforming the system, as people like Ralph Nader have been demanding for years, the court further hacks away at democratic checks and balances. The ruling has been rightly compared to the Dred Scott case justifying slavery. Here is a clip of Robert Weissman summing up what consequences this might have for US democracy (to the extent that it exists) followed by a statement by Ralph Nader. (For Americans who want to save their democracy, here is a campaign they can join: http://www.movetoamend.org/. Also check out Public Citizen’s proposed action).

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ON PRESIDENTS AND PRECEDENTS: IMPLICATIONS OF THE HONDURAN COUP

By Joseph Shansky

First published in Upside Down World, 10 December 2009

President Obama was elected partly because of his promise to a large Hispanic constituency to give both new attention and new respect to Latin America. Judging from the US role in the military coup in Honduras, he must think that one of the two is enough.

For those who closely followed the coup and its aftermath, a tiny fear sat in the back of our minds. Eventually it was confirmed. As the State Department position shifted from condemning to condoning the illegal government, the outline of a bigger picture became clear. If this violent takeover were really to be approved by the US, it would mark a frightening new focus on the region.

In late June, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and forced out of the country. For the next five months, an illegitimate government, headed by Congressional leader Roberto Micheletti, suppressed the outrage of many Honduran citizens against this regime through a number of violent means including murder, torture, and detention of citizens.

Throughout this time, the US response to these allegations was silence.

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“Human Beings are Members of a Whole”: Protecting the Iranian Civil Society

Statement by 40 Engaged Scholars

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

— A poem by the Persian poet Sa’adi (1210 – 1290)
gracing the entrance of the Hall of Nations of the
United Nations building in New York City

If we speak out against the threat of force against Iran (regarding the nuclear conflict) and warn against a military strike, we cannot be silent on the use of force in Iran itself against its own civil society. For solidarity with the civil society and a peaceful order in the region constitute the primary concern of our efforts. If we condemn foreign sanctions against the Iranian people, we deplore all the more domestic sanctions directed at peaceful demonstrators, journalists, trade unionists, professors, students and others. Thereby the government deprives itself from the domestic basis needed against foreign threats.

Not only as individuals but also conjointly as a group of engaged scholars, we want to announce our resolute protest against the brutal clampdown of demonstrators and against the mass arrests, and strongly advise a peaceful dialogue with the civil society. We call upon the government to release all political prisoners of the last few weeks – amongst them many professors – and to seek dialogue with precisely those persons as moderators of the civil society. Freedom of opinion and the right to demonstrate – cornerstones of the UN Charter of Human Rights to which Iran is a signatory – are being massively violated in today’s Iran.

We strongly remind that the state of siege and the continuing threat of force that have emanated from foreign governments once again fatally demonstrate how thereby the space for a democratic development in Iran are being reduced.

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Mousavi and the Masses

I find the use of someone’s alleged hard line past to dismiss their significance to a present political movement unpersuasive. Nevertheless, amidst all the hype it is always useful to get a different perspective.

Following the results of a disputed presidential election Iranians poured onto the streets in their tens of thousands to protest the re-election of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The demonstrations were unprecedented both in their scale and nature and the largest of their kind since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

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Voices of Dissent – Abbas Barzegar

A female supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad displays her hand painted with the Iranian flag, also used as a sign for his party (Photo: AP)
A female supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad displays her hand painted with the Iranian flag, also used as a sign for his party (Photo: AP)

Media fantasies in Iran – Abbas Barzegar

It was only a matter of time before revolution in Iran, believed dissidents and media in the west. They were wrong

It’s not about the election, Ahmadinejad, or the even the protesters. The world has been captivated by the events in Iran because for many, Iran is to Islamism what the Soviet Union was to communism and presumably today we are somewhere near the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Iran: Influence or Threat

Al Jazeera’s Empire, with Marwan Bishara. The first short documentary is so bad that it could have been made by the BBC or CNN. Flynt Leverett is insightful as usual, but as much as I love and respect Hamid Dabashi, I think he adds little of value to the discussion.

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