Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ward Churchill's Real Sins

by Michael K. Smith

Ward Churchill's recent firing from the University of Colorado is a brazen act of political repression, a defeat for free speech, and further evidence that orthodoxy, not dispassionate scholarship, rules academia. His dismissal is not for the presence or absence of Indian blood in his veins, nor for his sins of scholarship, whatever those may be, but because he dared to compare the murderous operations of the U.S. national security state with the crimes of Nazi Germany. While resentment of Churchill's heavy-handed moralizing is perhaps understandable, applauding his termination is simply foolish collaboration in the destruction of everybody's rights.

Lost in the hysteria surrounding his essay comparing 911 victims with Adolf Eichmann is Churchill’s own view that certain perspectives are too reprehensible to see print. In his book A Little Matter of Genocide, Churchill is implicitly critical of Noam Chomsky for defending Holocaust revisionist Robert Faurisson’s free speech rights. Churchill calls Faurisson and others who question the existence of gas chambers in WWII “deniers,” which is an intellectual epithet as powerfully dismissive as “Nigger.” Churchill writes: “Faurisson became something of an international celebrity in 1981 when he was able to convince no less a figure than Noam Chomsky to defend his ‘right’ to publish denials that the Nazis had utilized gas chambers in exterminating Jews.” By placing the word “right” in quotation marks, Churchill suggests that Faurisson has no such right. In addition to the fact that Faurisson does indeed have an entitlement to free speech, which Chomsky properly defended, Churchill himself concedes to "ambiguity in the record" as to whether the complete elimination of European Jewry was ever "a fixed policy objective" of Nazi Germany, since the Third Reich pursued "a rather erratic and contradictory hodgepodge of anti-Jewish policies," which included an offer to trade a million Jews for 10,000 trucks in mid-1944. He dismisses as "irrational" the contention that the Nazis intended a "cosmic" total destruction of Jewry, pointing out that about two-thirds of world Jewry actually survived the Holocaust, as did around one-third of European Jews. [A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 34-5]

In short, while roundly condemning Holocaust revisionists, Churchill has endorsed one of their main lines of contention, namely, that the exterminationist thesis flies in the face of the "hodgepodge" of Nazi actions against the Jews. His claim that this skepticism “in no way diminishes nazi culpability or Jewish suffering” will not likely convince anyone who believes that Jews were indeed exterminated as part of a “fixed policy objective,” commonly accepted to be an order from Hitler to physically annihilate every last Jew in Europe. The only way out of this dilemma is to drop the untenable view that one’s right to free speech should be proportionate to the acceptability of what one has to say. It is a bitter irony that Churchill has been fired for heresy, given his own belief in "criminal" speech.

Churchill argues that since assaults on truth and memory are a powerful part of the historical pattern of genocide, certain views therefore merit punishment, much as the infamous Jew-baiter Julius Streicher was convicted at Nuremberg for nothing more than publishing anti-Semitic propaganda. What he fails to indicate is by what logic we can condemn Pat Buchanan (who agrees with Churchill that Islamic terrorism is the fruit of U.S. Empire) for supporting Churchill’s dismissal on the grounds that his equating 911 victims with Adolf Eichmann is a form of “hate speech.” By Churchill’s calculation, sixty-nine percent of the twin towers dead were “little Eichmanns” dedicated to employments as objectionable as arranging transportation to Hitler’s death camps. Moreover, in the essay that got him fired Churchill asserts that American compensatory obligation for the crimes of the national security state would not be exhausted even if every last U.S. citizen were annihilated in future terrorist attacks. Those of a different political persuasion than Churchill’s might rather easily see this as more a prescription for genocide than anything Faurisson has to say on the existence or non-existence of gas chambers in World War II.

Furthermore, Churchill offers no critical comment on the jailing of Holocaust revisionists for their beliefs (such as Ernst Zundel, a case Churchill comments on), as though it were perfectly appropriate to try, convict, and sentence people to jail on the basis of their views of history. The highly elastic charge of historical falsification, worthy of every religious tyranny and military dictatorship in history, could be invoked against anyone and used to suppress all deviations from state orthodoxy; indeed, that is the only possible outcome widespread acceptance of its legitimacy could possibly lead to. Apparently, Churchill's passion for justice is so pure we need not worry about sentimentalities like free speech.

Churchill also cites Harvard political scientist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen without offering a critical evaluation of this rather dubious source. One of Goldhagen’s books, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, advances the improbable thesis that all WWII era Germans were driven by pathological hatred and thus leaped at the chance to exterminate the Jews. A claim so contrary to common sense barely needs refutation, but suffice it to say that Norman Finkelstein correctly pointed out that “the historical evidence for a murderous Gentile impulse is nil.” Furthermore, it bears keeping in mind that the blanket indictment of entire peoples for presumed evil was the justification for the firebombings during WWII, wherein hundreds of thousands of civilians were incinerated in attacks having little or no military significance. In a letter to War Secretary Henry Stimson in September 1944, FDR explained: “The German people as a whole must be punished for the Nazis’ ‘lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization’” [my italics]. Today, Churchill correctly reminds us that the U.S. then staunchly believed in collective guilt, maintaining that German civilians and military personnel alike “richly deserved the death and devastation” unleashed on them by the U.S. War Department. But he neglects to point out that neither Germans nor Americans have ever deserved to be burned alive or otherwise treated like ants and bedbugs.

Dismissive of class analysis, Churchill is rather too free about equating the entire American people with the elite institutions that have such a catastrophic impact on the world. He alleges that “Americans have in effect collectively lost their grip,” that a “preponderance” of the citizenry rejects the rules of civilized behavior (rules it may not even know exist) and has “enthusiastically embraced” a war on terror based on “massive perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” all of them well hidden from mass audiences in the U.S. In speaking of Newsweek casting an aura of “wide-eyed innocence” about the motive behind the 911 attacks, Churchill claims that this deceitful posture is one “the country” is perpetually eager to embrace. While conceding that relevant information about the murderous nature of the national security state is “distorted beyond recognition,” he nevertheless complains that “Americans greeted [Madeleine] Albright’s haughty revelation of genocide [by sanctions] with yawns and blank stares.” He follows this up with the claim that “the U.S. citizenry as a whole” was “willful and deliberate” in its ignorance about Iraq sanctions, as opposed to being excluded from political discourse on principle and bombarded with commercial and government propaganda on a scale that nearly defies description. Churchill refers vaguely to “Good Americans” in the same vein as stereotypical “Good Germans” and concludes that the problem in both cases is not their subordinate position and attendant distorted world view, but their own “not caring.” While castigating progressives for keeping guilt at arm’s length by latching on to “handy abstractions” such as “capitalism”, “the state”, “structural oppression” and “the hierarchy,” he makes reference to “the country,” “faceless bureaucrats,” and “Americans” in similarly vague ways.

In general, Churchill’s blanket indictment of the whole culture would be better directed at the intellectual class he has been fortunate enough to represent. Most working people in this country can only dream of the kind of income and unstructured time professors like Churchill have been granted as a professional prerogative, and rubbing their noses in atrocities they have rarely even heard of, let alone been given a chance to properly respond to, cannot possibly be a fruitful path. When dissent and popular organization has given it the information and analysis it lacks, the American public has come to reasonable conclusions, such as that the Vietnam War was “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” believed by a large majority of the population to this day as the result of popular organizing and education by anti-war activists decades ago.

In short, rather than demonize Americans with inflammatory comparisons to hopelessly caricatured Germans, it seems more humane, accurate, and promising to debunk the very notion that entire peoples are wicked or criminally indifferent. Though Churchill makes brief reference to Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler in an effort to substantiate his claim that “a lopsided majority of Germans were quite comfortable with -- and to a considerable extent openly celebratory of -– nazism’s 'triumphs and accomplishments,'" he ignores Kershaw’s documentation of considerable popular opposition to the Nazi regime in his Popular Opinion & Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933-1945. In the latter book Kershaw summarizes the pre-war situation among German workers as follows: “The glimpses of worker attitudes which we have extracted from a mass of documentation suggest strongly that workers not only were unfree, in the Third Reich, but that most of them felt they were unfree, exploited, discriminated against, and the victims of an unfair class-ridden society in which wealth and opportunity were unevenly divided. Far from being won over to Nazism during the boom years of 1937-9, the signs are that Nazism was further losing ground among workers during this period.” These attitudes, not at all unfamiliar to working Americans today, became more entrenched when the bitter costs of war came home in subsequent years.

In the countryside, resentments were much the same. German peasants turned against the Nazis, resenting the obligation to produce food without enough helping hands, after which they were forced to sell only to Nazi appointed middlemen who paid far less than what was charged to the ultimate consumers. There was, says Kershaw, an “acute sense of exploitation among the peasantry, prompting deep antipathy towards the Party and regime, aloofness from the ‘great events’ of the war itself, and overwhelming preoccupation with material self-interest -- above all else the difficulties of acquiring sufficient farm labor.” In the fall of 1941, reports Kershaw, “Detestation of the Nazi regime was by this time almost universal in country areas.”

Nor can anti-Semitism be fairly said to have carried popular endorsement. Kershaw maintains that the Nazis recognized its unpopularity and did not even attempt to mobilize mass support for persecution of the Jews. Although the stereotype of the "Jewish Bolshevik" was used to galvanize support for Nazi policies, anti-Semitism did not resonate with anything like a majority of the population. Churchill, of course, indicts passive acquiescence as well as active collaboration, but in the context of a conflict in which entire continents were reduced to smoking ruins by policies poorly understood by the populations ordered to carry them out, it is not clear that the accusation carries much moral weight.

It is certainly true, as Churchill emphasizes, that international law requires Americans to find some way of making their leaders cease and desist from their criminal aggression and other lawless behaviors. But countries are populated by human beings, not demons. If we are to succeed in transforming Empire into a society within which a decent person might want to live, we would do well to recognize that prevailing arrangements are sustained by a false and manipulated consensus, not the enthusiastic endorsement of wickedness by conscious majorities.

Michael K. Smith is the author of Portraits of Empire and The Madness of King George (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at An earlier version of this article was published in 2005 by Press Action and Dissident Voice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Imperial Demon Watch: Rafael Correa

by Michael K. Smith

Don't look now, but there's a Ph.D. economist running the government in Ecuador, and for once the doctorate degree does not stand for "permanent head damage." A self-described "humanist" and "Christian of the left," Rafael Correa is well embarked on a program of people-first social development designed "to overcome 20 years of a long and sad neoliberal night." He blames the "Washington Consensus" - U.S.-backed free market policies - for the region's economic ills, states forthrightly that dollarization has been the worst economic mistake in Ecuadorean history, has cut ties to the IMF and World Bank, is restructuring the national debt, has threatened to sue private banks for charging what he regards as exorbitant interest rates, and set up a Truth Commission to look into human rights abuses of the 1980s and 1990s. In the Cold War he would have been denounced as a Communist; today, he's denigrated as a "populist" and "authoritarian," as though there were something wrong with decisive leadership on behalf of a democratic majority.

Unenthused at the greed-is-good ethic championed by the "Colossus of the North," one of his first decisions after taking office in January was to double cash transfers to the poor, from $15 to $30 a month. He also declared a state of emergency in Ecuadorean health, education, and agriculture, helping unblock hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funds formerly set aside to pay the public debt, but which now, in Correa's words, "pay the social debt." Naturally, Ecuadorean bonds took a beating on Wall Street, and the new president was soon asked what he intended to do about nervous investors. Correa responded: "If country risk goes up because of speculators worrying over our ability to pay the debt, I don't care. The country risk I care about is children suffering. If they're (investors) nervous, let them take a Valium."

In short, his anti-imperial heresy was apparent from the beginning, when he promised to tighten banking regulations to prevent capital flight, as well as retrieve $2 billion he said Ecuadorean banks had on deposit in the U.S.. "They want us to get on our knees begging for foreign investment when our own banks send money to Miami," he said. "We're financing foreigners and that's unacceptable." He promised to "put a tax on foreign speculation . . . including capital flight," but indicated direct foreign investment in Ecuador was welcome and said he had no plans to seize private property. "The only ones seizing anything," he pointed out, "are the bankers and financial speculators when they froze banking accounts in 1999."

In foreign relations Correa has aligned Ecuador with proponents of "21st century socialism" in Latin America, calling Hugo Chavez his friend, but rejecting any notion that the Ecuadorean people aren't to be masters in their own house. In fact, corrupt influence on national policy continually arouses his wrath. In early May he warned that tax evasion would no longer be tolerated and asked for support from the people to put an end to it. On a Saturday morning radio address he observed that in Ecuador "someone begins working in customs and in two months has more cars and houses, and everyone knows that he's stealing, but nothing happens." He said that the most honest countries are not those with the most police and anti-corruption laws, but those that make social pariahs of people who put their consciences up for sale. He also attacked the endemic corruption in the Ecuadorean Parliament, helping to mobilize popular support for a referendum calling for a Constituent Assembly, which passed by an 82% majority in April. Members of the new body will be elected this September 30, after which a new Constitution is to be drawn up. This is necessary, Correa maintains, in order to depoliticize the state, reorganize the Congress, and establish systems of autonomy.

Initially, Correa anticipated that the Constituent Assembly would serve alongside the existing Parliament, but in recent months he has concluded that the plutocratic body is beyond redemption and simply has to be dissolved. He has repeatedly berated it for being obsolete, horrifyingly corrupt, a den of thieves, controlled by a political mafia, and a disgrace to the country. He's so disgusted with its performance that he says he has no further interest in what it does, that he plans to work exclusively with the 58% majority that elected him. Recent polls put Correa's approval rating at 63%, although in his July 21 radio address Correa claimed an independent foreign polling firm reports that 82% rate his performance as either good or excellent.

Unlike Democrats in the U.S., who collapse at the first sign of Republican attack, Correa rises to the occasion when targeted by his opponents. In April, his chief legislative antagonist, Luis Almeida, attempted to embarrass him by announcing that Correa's father had been imprisoned for smuggling drugs to the U.S.. Correa responded with a lesson on capitalist economics. "I don't have anything to hide from the Ecuadorean people. I had a very hard childhood, and, at five years old, my unemployed father was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years for transporting drugs into the U.S." Dismissing Almeida as a "bastard" for attempting to use such forty year old news to political advantage, he pointed out that a five-year-old boy has no responsibility for what his father does, and then flatly refused to apologize on his father's behalf. "I don't condemn my father, I think he was a victim of the system, like so many others; my father wasn't a criminal, he was unemployed and desperately seeking to feed his family." He added that those who merit condemnation are not the small fry who rot in jail for years for the "crime" of trying to support their children, but the huge drug barons who traffic with impunity.

In May, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte paid a diplomatic call on Correa. While Ecuadorean protesters chanted "assassin" at Negroponte, who directed Washington's terrorist war against Nicaragua in the 1980s and is currently a key player in the "war on terror," Correa informed him that it was necessary to end the mercantilism characterizing U.S.-Ecuadorean diplomatic relations. Correa explained to the blood-soaked "dignitary" that Ecuador's planned Constituent Assembly was designed to recover Ecuadorean national sovereignty, as well as democratize and depoliticize the Ecuadorean state. His Secretary of State, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told him that Correa didn't accept the principles of "Free Trade," and that the signing of a free trade agreement would be very damaging to small farmers and other Ecuadorean interests. She added that Correa insisted on the fact that Ecuador was embarked on a path of authentic social transformation and that there couldn't be political democracy without economic democracy. Since these are policies all too reminiscent of the Sandinista Nicaragua Negroponte worked so diligently to destroy, one can only hope that Correa's security is as tight as IMF loan requirements.

In a meeting with European Union ambassadors the day after his discussions with Negroponte Correa stated that the logic of mercantilism - the endless drive for profit and increased market share - was "one of the principal enemies of development." He denied that the Constituent Assembly was intended to allow him to rule by decree, as he had been accused of trying to do, but rather, would draw up a new Constitution that would reform political and economic institutions so that there would be governability and accountability, a real democracy, and a more just and participative economy. Justice, democracy, accountability, and public participation in government. Has he no shame?

No friend of Big Oil, Correa has undertaken a campaign to return national oil wealth to the people, rather than foreign investors. He objects to the practice of foreign oil companies taking four barrels of oil for every one they leave to Ecuador, and is fighting to reverse this ratio, which was the prevailing ratio 36 years ago when Ecuador first started producing oil. He has also accused Texaco of crimes against humanity for its pollution of the Amazon, which he says is 30 times worse than the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. He is backing a $6 billion lawsuit against Chevron (formerly Texaco) on behalf of indigenous people victimized by the pollution. On another oil front, he says he would understand if one of his cabinet ministers resigned in protest at a decision to drill the ITT reserve in ecologically sensitive Yasuni National Park, which may have to be done because of the large majority of Ecuadoreans forced to live in poverty. "Poverty is the principal danger to the environment," explains Correa, who is calling on the international community to compensate Ecuador for not drilling the ITT reserve.

As in Venezuela, media elites in Ecuador are aghast at Correa's program and attack him at every opportunity. In return, Correa denounces them as corrupt and habitual liars. On the dispute between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Radio Caracas Television, he says if an Ecuadorean T.V. station had supported a coup in Ecuador he wouldn't have waited for their license to expire before yanking it away from them. During the 2002 anti-Chavez coup, which RCTV backed, the network aired cartoons, giving no news about the kidnapping of Chavez.

Finally, Correa has a sense of humor, which is a refreshing surprise in a profession addicted to sound bite choreography. He once joked that the U.S. could keep its Air Force base at Manta as long as Ecuador could have a similar base in Miami, and called George W. Bush "a tremendously dimwitted president who has done great damage to his country and to the world." Asked his reaction to Hugo Chavez calling George W. Bush the devil, Correa conceded it was unfair - to the devil.

Correa's Vice-President, Lenin Moreno, stated recently that "the principal objective of the Ecuadorean government is to redistribute the wealth with equality and make participants of those groups that have always been marginalized." Moreno observed that Correa's efforts have won the confidence of Ecuadoreans and once again made the people believe in the presidency. In a region of the world that has experienced more than its fair share of Washington's policy of "Killing Hope," as dissident author William Blum calls it, that's no small achievement.

""The Rise of Rafael Correa,", November 27, 2006
"Rafael Correa declared winner in Ecuador," Taipei Times, November 30, 2006
"Ecuador Leader Eyes Wealth Distribution," CBS News Online, December 2, 2006
"Correa nego crisis politica," Univision Online, 14 de marzo de 2007
"Correa: mi padre estuvo preso en EU," Univision, 14 de abril de 2007
"'Si'" a nueva asamblea en Ecuador," Univision, 16 de abril de 2007
"Tightening his grip," Economist Online, April 19, 2007
"Correa cumple cien dias de gobierno," Univision, 24 de abril de 2007
"Correa acusa a Texaco de 'crimen de lesa humanidad' por contaminar Amazonia," Univision, 27 de abril de 2007
"Presidente de Ecuador advierte que no permitira mas evasion de impuestos," Univision, 5 de mayo de 2007
"Correa aceptaria dimisiones en su gabinete por discrepancias por campo ITT," Univision, 5 de mayo de 2007
"Negroponte expresa en Ecuador deseo de EE.UU. de ampliar el ATPDEA," Univision, 9 de mayo de 2007
"Correa trato con Negroponte preferencias arancelarias y relacion comercial," Univision, 9 de mayo de 2007
"Correa pide a comunidad internacional respetar proceso politico de Ecuador," Univision, 10 de mayo de 2007
"Correa es partidario que Asamblea Constituyente disuelva el actual Congreso," Univision, 23 de junio de 2007
"Correa reitera modelo economico 'ecuatoriano' sin influencias extranjeras," Univision, 23 de junio de 2007
"Molestia de legisladores en Ecuador," Univision, 25 de junio de 2007
"Ecuador warns of default on foreign debts," Financial Times Online, July 5, 2007
"Correa denuncia presunto intento de chantaje de 18 diputados al gobierno," Univision, 7 de julio de 2007
"Correa dice en caso similar a RCTV el cancelaria 'inmediatamente' licencia," Univision, 11 de julio de 2007
"Vicepresidente de Ecuador califica como positivo primer semestre de gobierno," Univision, 16 de julio de 2007
"Correa se burla de juicio politico den Congreso que intenta la oposicion," Univision, 21 de julio de 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Empires

by Michael K. Smith

1. Weave Big Myths

Myths make Empire's violent subjugations seem like tender solicitude. In India, the British taught not only English literature, but the superiority of the "race" that produced it. In Africa, the French taught black children that their "ancestors" had been born in Gaul. In Latin America, Spain taught the Indians that they were so racially feeble they were only fit to be slaves. Today's myths may be less crude, but they're hardly less effective. As we continue to instruct Iraqis in the gentle art of self-government-without-kicking-us-out, we impart the wisdom that our occupation reflects our innate superiority. They can't help loving us for that.

As things continue to fall apart, we can adopt the "civilized race besieged by ungrateful barbarians" theme, which has always worked wonders in the past. The British blamed climate and geography when they found their Indian subjects to be "inherently untruthful and lack[ing] moral courage." Lord Cromer, the virtual ruler of Egypt from 1883 to 1906, asserted that "Orientals" didn't have it in them to learn to walk on sidewalks, tell the truth, or employ logic. George Patton, leaving Mexico after failing to track down Pancho Villa, pronounced the country "ignorant and half savage." The best bet for the U.S.A. is to blame corrupt sheiks, ignorant "camel jockeys," and prehistoric "sand niggers" for squandering our gift of liberation.

2. Fuse Business and the State

World domination requires exclusive trading privileges and massive applications of force. The brigands who laid the foundation for European merchant empires of the 17th and 18th centuries made war their primary trade and unleashed flocks of warrior-entrepreneurs on an unsuspecting world. Generations of region-ravaging wars, mass poverty, and monopoly profits were among the happy results. According to Adam Smith, the British converted Bengal from a rich land to a place where "three or four hundred thousand people die of hunger in one year." One of their methods was replacing rich fields of grain with opium poppies.

Thankfully, the Bush-Cheney junta carries on this venerable imperial tradition. No one really knows where Halliburton ends and the Pentagon begins as Dick Cheney selflessly flits from Secretary of Defense to CEO of Halliburton to Acting President of the World. Firms that bankrolled Bush's near-election in 2000 are doing a good business making Iraq safe for total destruction, while Iraqis live without security or basic services and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warns of humanitarian disaster.

Not to worry. Imperial memory is short. Starving Afghans are long forgotten since Washington handed the country over to a Unocal consultant. Prosperity for all is on the way!

3. Get Others to Do the Dying

Ancient Rome fought to the last Aetoli. The British boasted of battling to the last Frenchman. Ninety percent of British forces colonizing India were native mercenaries. Washington also generally prefers proxies, primarily denationalized looters and their frisky security forces, who guarantee a "favorable investment climate" of cheap labor, no unions, weak or non-existent regulations, generous profit repatriation, and low taxes. Mountains of corpses result, but we don't need to count them because they aren't Americans.

But Lord Wolfowitz has warned that it's unwise to rely on client regimes, so now we're back to old-fashioned occupation.

Just keep repeating, "We're here to liberate," and ignore the thunderous cries of "Death to America!"

4. Forget the Past

Memory is inconvenient to Empire, which is fun to acquire but impossible to hold. Amnesia is the road to renewal.

So forget the enormous losses of life and property, and the painful decline of Empires past. Forget that Indonesia pulled away from Holland, Britain handed India back to the Congress Party, and Malaysia, Ceylon and Burma broke free of the imperial yoke. Forget the ruinous French-Algerian wars and Washington's quasi-genocidal lark in Southeast Asia. Forget the dozens of new African states and how they came about. And definitely forget the mounds of Filipino corpses that troubled Mark Twain, and the look of burning hatred in Hawaiian eyes.

The sun never sets on the American Empire. Long live Baghdad, U.S.A.!

5. Be Racist

If you're going to rob people blind, it's best to demonize them first to blaze the trail. Thus, Empire-builders love talk of bringing civilization to savages, wild aborigines, "natives," lower orders, lesser breeds, and "backward" countries. Such non-white peoples are always and everywhere "lazy," "stupid," and "unreliable." E. S. Grogan, who traversed the African continent at the end of the 19th century, found Africans "but slightly superior to the lower animals." Sir Rudolph Slatin in the Sudan detected a flaw in African economic relations: "The nigger is a lazy beast and must be compelled to work."

U.S. leaders have been equally insightful. Loss of racial purity alarmed Thomas Jefferson, who wanted to ship blacks to Africa or the Caribbean, leaving a cleansed U.S. without "blot or mixture." A century later, Woodrow Wilson restored segregation to Washington, screened the Klan-friendly "Birth of a Nation" at the White House, and dispatched the Marines to occupy Haiti. In charge of the Haiti invasion was General Smedley Butler, who found the locals to be "shaved apes, absolutely no intelligence whatsoever, just plain low nigger."

Beloved Teddy Roosevelt thought the Nazi-like Sand Creek massacre of 1864 was "righteous and beneficial," eagerly charged up San Juan Hill to "whip the dagos" in 1898, and disdained the "Malay bandits" and "Chinese halfbreeds" resisting U.S. conquest of the Philippines. These Filipinos he rated no better than "savages, barbarians, a wild and ignorant people, Apaches, Sioux, Chinese boxers." He's a hero. Check with Mt. Rushmore.

In more recent times Richard Nixon immolated Southeast Asia while peppering his private conversations with references to "niggers," "jigaboos," and "jungle bunnies." He instructed Henry Kissinger to make sure his first foreign policy messsage to Congress had "something in it for the jigs."

The Baby Boomer presidents have toned down the racist rhetoric while continuing to rain death on their victims from the Imperial Sky. I guess they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

6. Invent Self-Serving Euphemisms

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of Empire. They openly spoke of the need to kill Indians, to guide slaves from savagery to civilization, to conquer and subdue foreign lands under an American banner. They and succeeding generations of U.S. rulers regarded it as their privilege and duty to rob, swindle, torture, and murder all those who obstructed their onward march to imperial paradise. As a result, the Indians were destroyed, generations of slaves were worked to death, half of Mexico was captured by drunken invaders, Spain's colonies were seized, and U.S. power circled the globe.

This was variously called "extending the area of freedom," maintaining "territorial and administrative integrity," and "saving the world for democracy."

7. Keep Expanding

"The history of the nation is in large part the history of the nation's expansion," said Teddy Roosevelt, which just goes to show that the current fashion of attributing U.S. Empire to a virgin birth in the era of Bush the Lesser is hardly fair.

Expansion inspired George Washington to offer intriguing anthropological speculations. In 1783 he wrote that "the gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape." Thomas Jefferson found Indian peoples "backward" and foresaw that with expansion "we shall be obliged to drive them, with the beasts of the forests into the Stony mountains." He didn't see any reason not to take Canada along the way.

Chief Justice John Marshall came up with an ingenious rationale for Indian removal - "discovery." Simply declaring their lands "discovered," he said, "gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian right of occupancy."

Now we've "discovered" the Middle East. We're such traditionalists!

Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and the satire, "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mad about Libby, Mute about The Lobby

by Frank Scott

The presidential pardon of Scooter Libby, in the tradition of executive mercy for the privileged class , elicited outrage from liberal sectors of the ruling party. Calls for the impeachment of Bush, Cheney, Mrs. Bush, their dogs, and several members of the Bush family, have grown in vehemence as the president’s lame duck term nears its end. His reign of terror may soon be turned over to those critical of his more blatant expression of America’s role as self chosen ruler of the world. The opposition, while still desperately in need of a spinal transplant , has become slightly bolder as polls - and term limits - reveal that the president has become much weaker .

How significant is the Libby case, compared to others in the financial pornography business we call justice, where those with power find love while the powerless get screwed? Not very. Thousands of innocents are wasting away in America’s penal colony, while many of the guilty are serving incredibly long sentences for crimes which affected no one but themselves. And these innocent and non violent people are members of an economic class which cannot afford to buy leniency from the ruling establishment.

The cries of outrage at this alleged assault on our democracy would be more convincing if they were raised on behalf of those thousands, and not simply over one highly noticeable sick tree in a terminal ward of a forest . Libby broke the law, and his dishonesty was from a position supposedly in service to the people, and not only the market or the empire. At least directly . But his is only one of many cases of well connected criminals going free while the laws protecting power assure that the powerless don't notice.

We should never forget that the legal system serves the ruling forces of society. We need merely check the constitution, our holy bible, talmud and koran of legality. It was written by the original rulers primarily for their own benefit, to protect their status and their property from what were seen as the common mobs. Those mobs almost immediately amended it with the Bill of Rights for everyone else, demanded when there was still some fight among the ruled. Now, though it may seem that most of us have surrendered to the corporate nobility, many have grown disgusted with the entire process of a sham democracy . They are justifiably concerned over the contradiction between what we are; an allegedly democratic society in which equality is an hallucination, and what we are professed to be ; a nation of freedom, equality and opportunity for all, and not just a few.

Calls for impeachment have been loud and numerous, but only from the people and hardly ever from their representatives. Now, a handful of those are finally aroused, but only since this latest assault on a constitution usually treated as a non-binding resolution by the regime. The war that has nearly destroyed a nation, killed hundreds of thousands of its people and more than three thousand of our own, draws mealy mouthed opposition from establishment figures, while this pardon of Libby caused the usually docile to rise up in anger. How many people have to be murdered before any of these devout believers in the sacredness of the law notice what that law has done to Iraq? Don’t hang by your lip waiting for congressional employees of corporate power and a foreign nation - not necessarily in that order - to do anything but dance to the tune of those who finance their campaigns.

Why is there no outcry about the illegality of a lobby for a foreign country exercising power over the American government? Especially since that power has led to Americans spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives to protect Israel, which has won the war that America has clearly lost. At American expense, Israel has rid itself of the only Arab ruler who openly supported the Palestinian resistance , and is now working, through its American lobby, to get the USA to destroy Iran under pretenses even more idiotic than those used to get us into Iraq. How many more billions will we spend to murder foreigners, demolish their social systems, make our country as hated in the world as Israel is in the Middle East, and continue denying vital social needs at home?

Again, do not hang by your lip - or any other sensitive body part - waiting for this sorry crew in Washington to do anything but suck up paychecks from the taxpayers who receive nothing in return, while accepting campaign money from the Israel lobby which gets everything it pays for: a criminal performance by our government for a foreign interest which threatens America’s well being.

In the face of this reality, the choreographed fury about holy law which the Libby case has brought about should be seen for what it is; business as usual among the hypocritical fulminators of our one party with two factions ruling regime. If they confronted their own guilt in much larger crimes that break moral as well as legal codes by committing mass murder elsewhere and bringing greater threats of terror here, they’d have to impeach themselves.

Term limits may finally get rid of the Bush regime, but it will take something more to transform this group of hypocrites into servants of the American people. And it won't happen because of some law already on the books. The books will need to be rewritten by the demands of the people. Maybe when we finally express and act on those demands, we’ll have something approaching actual democracy. To do so, we’ll need to stop worrying about diversions like Libby, and start dealing with realities like the Lobby.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Gas Chambers, 911, and the Perils of Orthodoxy

A popular checkmate to independent thought is the claim that those who hold opinions contrary to one's own are in "denial." The premise is that one's own views are infallibly rational and objective, while those who can't accept them are deluded neurotics. Apparently, human conceit is so great that we can't resist the convenience of pronouncing ourselves sane and others crazy, no matter how much evidence accumulates that we all suffer from a very similar set of emotion-driven intellectual impairments. Welcome to planet dogma.

Given our self-awarded immunity to criticism, hardly anyone seems to realize that denial and assertion are characteristic of argument, so that skeptics about gas chambers in WWII are no different in principle than those who can't make themselves believe that the twin towers were brought down on 911 by pre-planted explosives. In both cases believers in evidence unseen offer a cumulative proof, in which the favored conclusion emerges as an inference, rather than from direct physical evidence. Anyone with the nerve to question the value of fantastical eyewitness accounts in place of credible physical evidence, is quickly dismissed for a presumed inability to face the unfathomable evil that lurks in the hearts of the truly wicked. Thus, homicidal gas chambers in Nazi-dominated Europe and pre-planted explosives in New York's twin towers simply must have existed. Only "deniers" deny it.

In short, conspiratorial proofs are held to be self-evident. As theology professor David Ray Griffin explains in his book, "The New Pearl Harbor - Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 911," direct evidence and deductive logic are not essential to a "cumulative proof," which advances on the basis of a "preponderance of evidence" that suggests, but does not prove, a general conclusion. To wit: "I should perhaps emphasize that it is not necessary for all of the evidence to stand up, given the nature of the argument. (emphasis added) Some arguments are, as we say, "only as strong as the weakest link." These are deductive arguments, in which each step in the argument depends on the truth of the previous step. If a single premise is found to be false, the argument fails. However, the argument for official complicity in 911 is a cumulative argument. This kind of argument is . . . like a cable composed of many strands. Each strand strengthens the cable. . . if there are many strands, the cable can still hold a lot of weight even if some of them unravel." (Griffin's emphases).

Aside from the fact that his "strands" more closely resemble badly frayed threads, Griffin defines "complicity" so inclusively that the very existence of empire can be taken as U.S. culpability for 911. He even includes falsification in his definition of complicity, which, given the fact that a national security state cannot possibly avoid falsification on a virtually constant basis, essentially pre-supposes the argument that he is supposed to be proving. He also indicts failure to order the attacks prevented, without anticipating the mass panic that would have ensued if news of such an order had leaked, as orders constantly do in Washington. Even worse, he suggests that the only way to discredit empire is to prove that the Bush Administration was responsible for the 911 attacks (see his "911 and the American Empire"). In Griffin's view, since virtually all Americans would reject a leadership responsible for indiscriminate mass murder against its own citizens, those who have long opposed empire for quite other reasons may need to demonstrate that the attacks were indeed the product of an "inside job." Expedience is truth?

In their book, "Denying History - Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened And Why Do They Say It?", Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman demonstrate a similar preference for a "preponderance of evidence" cumulative proof, rather than direct evidence and deduction. Failing to note that Holocaust revisionists do not, in fact, deny brutal treatment of Jews and other non-Aryans subject to Nazi rule, they smear them as political lepers uniformly intent on resurrecting the Nazi regime. Purity of motive, not persuasiveness of argument, is their constant preoccupation. Expressing a touching faith in what they claim is mainstream historians' scientific history, they fail to convincingly rebut revisionist critiques complaining of a lack of (1) photographic evidence of homicidal gas chambers in WWII, (2) contemporary records of the gassing operation, (3) physical evidence of homicidal gas chambers (as opposed to delousing chambers), and (4) speeches by Hitler or other Nazis specifically mentioning gassing as a means of physically eliminating their racial enemies. Although gaps in the historical record should inspire doubt about the official version of events, people who question the evidentiary basis for homicidal gas chambers are instantly pronounced, "Holocaust Deniers," which is the intellectual equivalent of "Nigger!" It is difficult to believe this is the culmination of a scientific thought process.

Griffin, Shermer, and Grobman all suppose that the extravagant plots they believe existed could have been carried out without advance leaks or betraying direct evidence left behind. Where Griffin argues that fear of punishment would deter leaks of an "inside job," Grobman and Shermer simply assume that Hitler's call for a permanent solution to the "Jewish problem" is synonymous with extermination by fire and gas. Furthermore, they offer no explanation as to why they believe only the Allies could have supplied photographs of the existence of homicidal gas chambers: " . . . as for direct evidence, what could we realistically expect to see? The undressing, gassing, and cremation were all done inside the crematoria buildings. It was highly unlikely that an Allied plane would have flown over at the same time as smoke was coming out of chimneys or from an open-pit burning. Indeed, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if we had such a photograph."

It is unclear whether Shermer and Grobman are being naive or disingenuous here. A photograph of a gas chamber could never have been obtained from the air, so the real question is why no such photograph has turned up among the Germans. Isn't it hard to believe that some brutal guard, many of them, in fact, wouldn't have found it irresistibly tempting to take photographs that would preserve their post-Holocaust bragging rights? "Here's one of the last Jews in Europe being put in the gas chambers. I snapped the picture myself!" Shermer and Grobman can only weakly claim that " . . . we do have photographs of people in long lines being marched toward Crematorium V, where the gassing would have taken place. (my emphasis). The hypothetical construction tells us everything.

By the way, we should note here Shermer and Grobman's conflation of gas chambers, cremation ovens, and open pit burnings, a habitual sleight-of-hand tactic used by orthodox Holocaust proponents, as though gas chambers were not a central revisionist concern requiring a special focus. (Holocaust revisionists are not so skeptical of "the Holocaust" as they are of gas chambers.) The inability to respond to exactly what is in dispute is a classic sign of dishonesty. In any event, one should not need a cumulative proof to determine whether or not homicidal gas chambers existed in Nazi concentration camps, any more than one needs one to prove that the Roman aqueduct system existed. Physical and documentary evidence should suffice. Where is it? At the very least, shouldn't there be considerable correspondence between German engineering firms and the Nazi leadership, testifying to the myriad challenges involved in building, maintaining, and using homicidal gas chambers? How credible is the assumption that the Nazis carried out an industrial mass murder program involving millions of gassing victims without producing a single document directly referring to this fact?

According to Shermer and Grobman, there are six main sources of evidence that the Nazis used gas chambers (and crematoria) for mass murder: written documents, Zyklon B gas traces, eyewitness testimony, ground photographs, aerial photographs, and "the extant ruins of the (death) camps." However, like David Ray Griffin, they admit they are constructing a "proof" in which inferential speculation casts the deciding vote. To wit: "In presenting these six lines of evidence, we are not saying that each or even any particular one proves that gas chambers and crematoria were used for genocide. Rather, we are arguing that these lines of evidence converge on this conclusion." (my emphasis) In short, Shermer and Grobman are not engaged in proving that homicidal gas chambers existed, but that they must have existed, which is quite another matter. The idea that homicidal gas chambers had to have existed is sheer prejudice, a question-begging assumption that renders argument superfluous. Those who have made a career out of pointing this out, like Ernst Zundel, Robert Faurisson, and Germar Rudolf, have been repeatedly tried for heresy. If you value peace of mind, don't read what they have to say.

While conflating gas chambers with cremation ovens, Grobman and Shermer trivialize focusing on gas chambers by remarking that "murder is murder regardless of the method," which, during the Holocaust, included "beatings, overwork, starvation, disease, and the general unsanitary conditions at the camps." But if beatings, overwork, starvation, disease, and unsanitary conditions are evidence of genocide, then all colonial and imperial powers, in particular the United States, are genocidal almost by definition. Only the gas chamber claim makes the WWII Holocaust (and Jewish victimhood) unique. Without it, Israel's moral capital to torture and murder Palestinians with a clear conscience, would disappear.

This is what Shermer and Grobman regard as the Holy Trinity of the Holocaust: (1) gas chambers, (2) intention to exterminate, and (3) six million Jewish victims. They assert that "Deniers" are deniers because they disbelieve in all three of these tenets. But, in point of fact, it is sufficient to doubt the existence of gas chambers alone to be demonized into oblivion, even though a lack of physical and documentary evidence for something is normally considered reasonable grounds for doubt. As for the intention to exterminate, among the Third Reich's voluminous documents there is no command from Hitler to murder all of Europe's Jews, while, as late as the middle of 1944, there was an S.S. offer to trade a million Jews to the Allies in return for 10,000 trucks for use on the Soviet front, a curious proposal if exterminating European Jewry was more important to the Nazis than winning the war, a standard claim made by "scientific" historians. On the other hand, we do have statements of WWII-era U.S. leaders relishing the prospect of incendiary attacks on Japan's wooden houses, so temptingly convenient for the wholesale extermination Washington methodically planned and carried out with napalm sticks. So why have we not concluded that FDR was a genocidal maniac and all U.S. leaders who revere him in need of "denazification?" Finally, what scientific precision has ever been at work in determining that six million Jews were exterminated in Nazi death camps? Estimates from population studies and self-reports by families whose missing members are presumed dead in the Holocaust are hardly unimpeachable. To answer that Holocaust "Deniers" are not really interested in finding an accurate figure and simply want to minimize begs the question of why the six million figure is regarded as sacred in the first place.

In a book trumpeting its rational approach, one would expect to find careful treatment of the very human tendency to conflate rumor with fact, but this is not mentioned by Shermer and Grobman, who remain unalert to the problem of hearsay masquerading as fact. In citing a report requested by Dwight Eisenhower in May 1945 ("Atrocities and Other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany"), they do not comment on the admission by the report's authors that one of the classes of evidence they used was "the common knowledge of the camps," which allegedly allowed camp inmates to have "accurate knowledge of certain things which they have not actually seen with their own eyes." Though this obviously opens the door to collective hysteria, Shermer and Grobman take no note of it.

Perhaps for this reason much Holocaust eyewitness testimony contains wild impossibilities and continues to be insistent about points that have long since been disproven to the satisfaction even of faithful devotees of the Holocaust Industry, such as that murdered Jews were converted to bars of soap. But there are problems with the documentary and material evidence Shermer and Grobman rely on, too. For example, Allied ground and aerial photographs do not show homicidal gas chambers, but the outside of buildings said to house such gas chambers. And what the ruins of the German concentration camps reveal is in considerable dispute: revisionists argue that Zyklon B was used in fumigation chambers (typhus was a serious problem), and that the chambers used for this purpose could not possibly have served the dual purpose of mass execution chambers, since they were not hermetically sealed and lacked a proper exhaust system for removing the deadly gas between executions. As a reward for making arguments such as these, Holocaust revisionists have been deported from the U.S. to rot in jail in Europe, to the resounding silence of ACLU members, card-carrying or otherwise. Freedom of speech is reserved for those who hold the right views.

Although Shermer and Grobman claim to reject censorship, they issue no principled condemnation of book shreddings, heresy trials, blasphemy laws, and jailings, all routine punishments meted out to Holocaust revisionists. Apparently, such repression must be viewed with considerable sympathy, since Holocaust revisionists are held to be inherently despicable bigots who must be put in their place by hook or by crook. Grobman and Shermer have such contempt for free speech that they put the phrase in quotes when referring to the rights of Holocaust revisionists. In their minds critics of Holocaust orthodoxy invite the abuse directed at them, so it's really no big deal that they are beaten by mobs and manhandled by the courts.

In short, Shermer and Grobman cannot make a principled defense of free speech because those whose speech they hate don't deserve it: "We contend that instead of revising history, instead of modifying a theory based on new evidence or a new interpretation of old evidence, the Holocaust deniers are engaged in pseudohistory, the rewriting of the past for present personal or political purposes. Historical revision should not be based on political ideology, religious conviction, or other human emotions." Aside from failing to ask why holding the "right" views is a prerequisite to free expression, Shermer and Grobman also overlook the powerful political and religious ideology woven into the official Holocaust story, namely, that Gentiles are congenitally anti-Semitic and have persecuted Jews uninterruptedly for thousands of years, culminating in deliberate Judeocide by gas chamber and crematorium ovens during WWII. Why no comment from the authors on this prejudiced, highly emotional, and sweeping condemnation of the vast majority of humanity?

And what of the distorting effect of the human emotions of the eyewitnesses to the Holocaust? Didn't the harshness of their experience and the understandable hatred they harbor for their former captors make them predisposed to accept horrifying rumors and retrospective makeovers of their "repressed" memories of the concentration camps? It would be a miracle if this were not the case. But calls to evaluate the testimony of eyewitnesses, a routine academic responsibility whatever the historical event in question, are dismissed for allegedly being cruel and anti-Semitic. When it comes to the Holocaust, survivor testimony and Nazi "confessions" that resemble those from Stalin's show trials, are taken at face value. How can we possibly dignify this as being part of a scientific mode of inquiry?

Shermer and Grobman sum up their indictment of Holocaust revisionsists this way: "Deniers are routinely unreliable in their selection of historical facts. They often make outrageous claims. The claims are rarely verified by other sources, and when they are these sources are often incestuous. Deniers almost never attempt to disprove their claims and, instead, seek only confirmatory evidence. They generally do not play by the agreed-upon rules of historical scholarship, offer no alternative theory to account for the historical data, and thus can muster no convergence of evidence for their nonexistent theory. Finally, as we have demonstrated with a preponderance of evidence, Holocaust deniers' personal beliefs and biases dictate their conclusions."

Every accusation here could just as easily be leveled against mainstream historians. Unreliability in the selection of historical facts? How many studies praising nuclear deterrence cite evidence of the U.S.S.R.'s atomic arsenal successfully deterring Washington's terror and aggression? Outrageous claims? How many U.S. historians ignore the long record of U.S. military interventions abroad in favor of repeated declarations that the U.S. consistently supports "self-determination?" Lack of independent verification of incestuous claims? How many mainstream historians cite scholarship questioning the ahistorical thesis that the U.S. was an innocent bystander on December 7, 1941? No attempt to disprove one's claims? How many conventional historians cite U.S. genocide against the indigenous peoples of North America to call into question the alleged U.S. commitment to preventing genocide? Don't play by the rules of historical scholarship? How many historians canvass sympathetic treatments of Castro, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, before rendering judgment about these political figures? No alternative theories for the evidence advanced? How many academic studies consider that Israel might just be a racist state, as opposed to "the Jew among the nations," constantly forced to act in self-defense against racist terrorism? Biased conclusions? How many mainstream historians have ever given a fair accounting of the death toll attributable to anti-Communist terrorism fomented by Washington for decades?

It would be wonderful if Shermer and Grobman's professed admiration for scientific investigation were actually reflected in their work, for the rational mode of inquiry demanded by science is as close to objectivity as human beings are ever likely to get. Science is the only mode of inquiry where rationality is not merely tolerated, but required, which makes intellectual fraud in the technical sciences extremely difficult to achieve, and easily detected when it does appear. Unfortunately, in history and the social sciences it's another story entirely. In these pseudo-disciplines dogma masquerades as objectivity and expertise is conferred on those who produce ideologically serviceable doctrines that facilitate the exercise of illegitimate power.

This gives a bad name to the world's oldest profession.

Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) and "Portraits of Empire," with Common Courage Press. He can be contacted at: