Of all the received ideas that clog America’s foreign-policy discourse, none is more at variance with reality than the threat of isolationism. We have never been more engaged with every corner of the world, yet we have never been lectured more often about the consequences of “retreating within our borders.” The more countries we attack—Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen—the more dire warnings we get about national introversion. The specter of isolationism has never looked healthier.
A case in point was George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, a venue he used to tell a spine-chilling tale. With his foreign policy exploding all around him, Bush warned against an even more disastrous alternative: there were those who would “tie our hands” and have us “retreat within our borders.” From the tenor of his talk, he seemed to think that Americans were about to burn down both the Pentagon and Department of State, beat defense intellectuals into postal workers, and force every house in the land to set up a little steel foundry in the back yard—just like in the Great Leap Forward—while learning to live on grubs and wild mountain honey.
Of course, this is absurd: as many pointed out in response to this scaremongering, there are no isolationists in America—not in either political party, not in the media, and not in the academy. (The i-word is often used as a synonym for unilateralism. Here I am assigning only its most common meaning: a tendency to ignore security threats beyond territorial borders and disengage diplomatically, politically, and economically from the rest of the world.) Nevertheless, the menace of a return to geopolitical autarky is carted out whenever our sclerotically narrow foreign-policy consensus gets an unwelcome jolt. This habit of mind did not end with the exit of George W. Bush.
OK… here’s the PULSE exclusive I’ve been working on. Hope you enjoy.
Is president Barack Obama the change America has been waiting for or is he another corporate Democrat representing elite interests? According to Tariq Ali, very little has chanced between Obama and former president George W. Bush. In his latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” Ali argues that Obama is carrying on the reckless policies of the Bush regime. If Obama continues down this path, the Democratic Party not only face the prospect of the House & Senate in 2010 but also the presidency in 2012. This should be a cause for concern.
I caught up with Ali during his American book tour and here’s what he had to say about the Obama presidency.
Where did the idea for this book emanate from? Why did you want to write a book about “The Obama Syndrome” and what does that refer to?
The idea occurred because I speak a lot on the United States. People ask me questions after each talk and increasingly in the past two to three years, the talk has been about Obama. I thought a short book which essentially provided a balance sheet from the left on the mid-term would be a useful exercise. Given that he’s being attacked nonstop for being a socialist, a leftist, being a Muslim and all this nonsense that comes from the Tea Party-Fox Television alliance, I thought it was better to have a hard-headed realistic account about who the guy really is. So my book is a critique of him, but it’s also by implication a very sharp critique of people who claim that everything Obama is doing is so radical that they can’t take it anymore.
Lies are created around the truth of our struggle. But truth has a habit of confronting falsehood. Occupation is based on a pile of lies. There’s truth in the resistance of unarmed people on the streets. And truth triumphs in the end. It always does, even if it takes time.
by Majid Maqbool
The street is the home of our stones. Streets can be occupied, but stones are free for us to pick up, and angrily fling in the air — in protest. From the hands of the oppressed, once pelted, the stones deliver a message to the oppressor: while you kill with no remorse on my soil, and stage false encounters with all your advanced weapons, I’m not going to keep quiet. I will not let you kill us without offering resistance. I have these stones on my streets. I exist in these stones. If your occupation is in bullets, our resistance is in these rough-edged, homegrown stones.
We, who come out protesting on the streets, are not an ignorant, frustrated and unemployed lot — as the occupier likes to frame us, and the whole world seems to simplistically believe. Far from it! We are the ones who refuse to keep quiet in tyrannical times. We are the ones who shape the songs of resistance, as we practice them in our streets. It takes much courage and conviction to come out on the streets, and protest against the heavily militarized state forces. The sentiment of freedom confronts the idea of occupation. In every stone that’s pelted, there’s a promise to bring down the structures of occupation, bit by bit, crack by crack. We know in our hearts and minds that this ugly structure of occupation — built on deceit over the years — is bound to crumble one day under the force of our stones. It is this hope that keeps the resistance alive.
First it was Glenn Greenwald, now it is independent journalist Jeremy Scahill. Today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” former New York City mayor Ed Koch tried to defend Israel’s actions for attacking the Mavi Mamara flotilla. Koch uttered complete nonsense and Scahill picked him apart piece by piece a la Greenwald vs. Eliot Spitzer. Here’s the debate they had. Koch couldn’t defend himself, resorted to interrupting, and even used the ridiculous “Hamas Card” on Scahill. Scahill wasn’t buying it.
Later, Scahill had this to say about their off-the-air discussion (if you could call it that).
During the commercial break during my debate with Koch, the former mayor called me a “terrorist supporter.” I told him, “Say it on the air.” He didn’t.
Here is a video of yesterday’s action in Burlington, VT, my home state. The second speaker is Yonatan Shapiro, a former IDF pilot who was in the same squadron that conducted the atrocious raid on the Mavi Mamara.
The activists took their message beyond the streets. They walked into a department store and the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream store. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Ben & Jerry’s. Given Ben & Jerry’s economic and social justice activism, I’m hoping this will wake them (and all Vermonters) up to the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Another rally will take place tomorrow. I’ll update this post when I get new information.
The First BDS Direct Action in Israel
Atwood and Ghosh accepted the prize and its one million dollars, in all its bloody glory, even though they were beseeched, time and time and time again, not to support apartheid. On May 11th they spoke at a symposium, following their acceptance of the prize and we, Israeli activists of BDS, were there to make sure our stance is clear:
The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?
Dear Amitav Ghosh,
We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.
Haiti, the Western hemisphere’s most destitute country, has just experienced a crippling blow in the form of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake, centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, has devastated sections of the city and knocked out important infrastructure, including telephone communications. It is the worst earthquake in 200+ years in the region.
Partners in Health is a reputable organization based out of Boston which has a long, established history promoting social equity and health in Haiti. It was originally founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist and infectious disease specialist from Harvard, who has dedicated much of his life to alleviating the social inequalities rampant in Haiti. PIH states clearly that its mission is a “preferential option for the poor in health care.”
Donate generously at PIH’s website. PIH is actively organizing a mission to provide medical necessities and supplies to the areas that have been hit the hardest. Every little bit counts at this point. Thousands of people lay trapped in the rubble tonight. Natural disasters, like war, do not discriminate with victims. Innocent men, women and children are suffering needlessly. Our heart goes out to them.
This debate between Mahmood Mamdani and John Prendergast took place on April 14, 2009 at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Institute for African Studies, Columbia University. I recently finished Mamdani’s new book Saviors and Survivors, which I will be reviewing for The Electronic Intifada shortly. The book is a tour de force brimming with political, historical, and anthropological insights. I would highly recommend it to anyone with interest in the subject.
Mahmood Mamdani is a renowned African scholar (of Indian origin) who was last year ranked by Time as one of the world’s 100 leading intellectuals. He has previously authored the timely and influential book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim where he looks at the history of political Islam in the context of the so-called War on Terror. Here Mamdani appears on GRITtv with Laura Flanders to present the central thesis of his latest book Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror. (via Firedoglake)Vodpod videos no longer available.
In his new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani contends that the use of the word genocide is as political as ever and strategic ignorance about the history and current day politics of post-colonial Africa is just as great. Mamdani discusses the crisis in Darfur, the nature of Save Darfur advocacy, and what he sees as a dangerous collusion of colonialism and Anti-Terror rhetoric.