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25 August 2007

Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality

Click above for the PDF of this report co-authored by Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First. Nat Hentoff on this report.

Vidal on Charlie Rose: Palimpsest

24 August 2007

A Short Introduction to Participatory Economics

In a very clever format...

Read up on this truly third way here. Since reading all of that will take you a lifetime, try reading either or both of the following, either online (below) or you can find 'em in treeware form:
And, since I just learned how to make, as opposed to simply grab, a playlist on YouTube, here's one of a multipart lecture by Michael Albert on Parecon:

More, probably with some overlap:

Finally, David Graeber, anthropologist, on an allied topic, participatory democracy; see an ever broader perspective ("participatory society") here. These allied movements seem to me to be the logical outcome of eighteenth-century liberal thought -- the logical outcome, mind you, not the historical outcome thus far.

Graeber on Charlie Rose:

Jürgen Habermas, The Kantian Project of Cosmopolitan Law, Purdue U.

A.k.a, Al Gore's favorite philosopher, as opposed to Shrub's. Here's Kant's "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch."

The Short Version -- An Interview Fragment:

An important marker has been passed, John Pilger

The Israeli boycott takes on shape and force...

23 August 2007

Bush, Iraq, and Vietnam: The Clod Will Have Blood

Ah, yes, the re-engineering of history, or, softening up the public for the strike on Iran. See Gareth Porter on DN! here; Robert Parry here; read Chomsky on the rise of the Khmer Rouge right here (from the online version of Necessary Illusions, 1989; make sure to click on the footnotes):

A propaganda model makes predictions at various levels. There are first-order predictions about how the media function. The model also makes second-order predictions about how media performance will be discussed and evaluated. And it makes third-order predictions about the reactions to studies of media performance. The general prediction, at each level, is that what enters the mainstream will support the needs of established power. The first-order predictions are those we have been concerned with throughout. The second-order prediction is that media debate will be bounded in a manner that satisfies these external needs, thus limited to the question of the alleged adversarial stance of the media; the point has been discussed in chapter 1, and I will return to it in the next section. But suppose that some study of the media escapes these bounds, and reaches unwanted conclusions. The model yields third-order predictions about this case as well: specifically, it predicts that such inquiry will be ignored or bitterly condemned, for it conflicts with the needs of the powerful and privileged. A few examples have already been mentioned,23 but a closer look is in order, because the matter is of some significance for inquiry into the ideological system. It is worth understanding the devices that are used to prevent such inquiry.

Since the matter can become intricate, let us take a concrete example. Consider the examination in Political Economy of Human Rights of three categories of atrocities: what we called there "constructive," "benign," and "nefarious" bloodbaths. "Constructive bloodbaths" are those that serve the interests of U.S. power; "benign bloodbaths" are largely irrelevant to these concerns; and "nefarious bloodbaths" are those that can be charged to the account of official enemies and are thus useful for mobilizing the public.

The first-order prediction of a propaganda model is that constructive bloodbaths will be welcomed (with perhaps some clucking of tongues and thoughts about the barbarity of backward peoples), benign bloodbaths ignored, and nefarious bloodbaths passionately condemned, on the basis of a version of the facts that need have little credibility and that may adopt standards that would merely elicit contempt if applied in the study of alleged abuses of the United States or friendly states. We presented a series of examples to show that these consequences are exactly what we discover.

The second-order prediction of the model is that within mainstream circles, studies of this kind will not be found, and that is quite correct. But now we have an example that escapes these bounds. We therefore turn to the third-order predictions: what will the reactions be?

At this level, the model predicts that exposure of the facts would be rather unwelcome. In fact, one might draw an even sharper conclusion: exposure will be ignored in the case of constructive bloodbaths; it may be occasionally noted without interest in the case of benign bloodbaths; and it will lead to great indignation in the case of nefarious bloodbaths. The reasons are clear: the welcome afforded constructive bloodbaths cannot be acknowledged, if only because it exposes the hypocrisy of the furor over nefarious bloodbaths and enemy abuses generally; exposure of the lack of attention to benign bloodbaths is not too damaging, at least if the U.S. role in implementing these atrocities is suppressed; and exposure of the treatment of and reaction to nefarious bloodbaths not only again reveals the hypocrisy and the social role of the "specialized class" of privileged intellectuals, but also interferes with a valuable device for mobilizing the public in fear and hatred of a threatening enemy.

The first-order predictions of the model are systematically confirmed. The constructive bloodbaths were welcomed and approved, the benign bloodbaths were ignored, and the nefarious bloodbaths were angrily condemned on the basis of evidence and charges of a kind that would be dismissed with ridicule if offered against the U.S. or its allies. Turning to the second-order predictions, as the propaganda model predicts, such inquiry is regarded as completely out of bounds and is not to be found within the mainstream.24 Turning finally to the third-level predictions, these too are confirmed. Our discussion of constructive bloodbaths has been entirely ignored, the discussion of benign bloodbaths has merited an occasional phrase in a context that exculpates the United States, and our exposure of the handling of nefarious bloodbaths has elicited a huge literature of denunciation.

These reactions are worth exploring; they have definite implications for the study of ideological institutions. To see why, let us look at the two cases that we investigated in most detail: the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor (benign) and the terror in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge (nefarious).

These two cases are well chosen for the purpose of testing the propaganda model. In both cases it was clear that there were horrendous massacres. Furthermore, they took place in the same part of the world, and in the very same years -- though the Indonesian violence and repression in Timor continue, with the support of the United States and other industrial democracies. The evidence in the two cases was comparable in accessibility, credibility, and character. This evidence also indicated that the atrocities were comparable in absolute scale for the time period under review, though larger in Timor relative to the population.25 The crucial difference was that the slaughter in Timor was carried out by a U.S. client with critical U.S. diplomatic and military support that mounted along with escalating atrocities, while the slaughter in Cambodia was conducted by an official enemy and was, furthermore, highly functional at that time in helping to overcome the "Vietnam syndrome" and to restore popular support for U.S. intervention and violence in the Third World "in defense against the Pol Pots." In fact, a few months after we wrote about this prospect, the deepening engagement of the U.S. government in Pol Pot-style state terror in El Salvador was being justified as necessary to save the population from the "Pol Pot left."

In our comparative study of the response to the Cambodia and Timor massacres, we drew no specific conclusions about the actual facts. As we reiterated to the point of boredom, an attempt to assess the actual facts is a different topic, not pertinent to our specific inquiry. That is a simple point of logic. The question we addressed was how the evidence available was transmuted as it passed through the filters of the ideological system. Plainly, that inquiry into the propaganda system at work is not affected, one way or another, by whatever may be discovered about the actual facts. We did tentatively suggest that in the case of Timor, the church sources and refugee studies we cited were plausible, and that in the case of Cambodia, State Department specialists were probably presenting the most credible accounts. Both suggestions are well confirmed in retrospect, but the accuracy of our suspicions as to the facts is not pertinent to the question we addressed, as is evident on a moment's thought, and as we repeatedly stressed.

Our goal, then, was to consider the relation between the evidence available and the picture presented by the media and journals of opinion; to determine the actual facts is a different task. The latter task, we emphasized, was well worth undertaking (it simply wasn't ours). Thus we took issue with the assertion of Jean Lacouture in the New York Review of Books that facts do not matter; we did not accept his contention that it is of no consequence whether killings under Pol Pot were in the thousands or millions (he had originally claimed that the Khmer Rouge boasted in 1976 of killing 2 million people, but in corrections a few weeks later stated that deaths might be only in the thousands, adding that the reduction of his estimate by perhaps a factor of 1,000 was of no significance26). We pointed out that this position, while widely praised and respected in this case, would be rejected with scorn if applied by others to the U.S. or its clients and allies; imagine the reaction if some critic of Israel were to allege that Israel boasted of killing several million people during its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, then conceding that perhaps the number was in the thousands, but that the difference is of no consequence.

Turning to the first-order predictions of the propaganda model, in the case of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge27 there were denunciations of genocide from the first moment, a huge outcry of protest, fabrication of evidence on a grand scale, suppression of the some of the most reliable sources (including State Department Cambodia watchers, the most knowledgeable source at the time) because they did not support the preferred picture, reiteration of extraordinary fabrications even after they were openly conceded to have been invented, and so on. In the case of Timor, coverage declined from a substantial level before the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion to flat zero as the atrocities reached their peak with increasing U.S. support.

The importance of this suppression cannot be too strongly stressed. Because of it, few knew what was happening, or paid sufficient attention to the little that did seep through. As should be obvious, this is a criticism of great severity. I do not exempt myself from it, I must say with regret. The atrocities in Timor and Cambodia under Pol Pot began at about the same time, but I published my first word about the former nineteen months after writing about Khmer Rouge atrocities, though the Timor massacres were far more important by any moral criterion for the simple and sufficient reason that something could be done to terminate them. Thanks to media self-censorship, there were no substantial efforts to organize the kind of opposition that might have compelled the U.S. to desist from its active participation in the slaughter and thus quite possibly to bring it to an end. In the case of Cambodia, in contrast, no one proposed measures that could be taken to mitigate the atrocities. When George McGovern suggested military intervention to save the victims in late 1978, he was ridiculed by the right wing and government advisers. And when Vietnam invaded and brought the slaughter to an end, that aroused new horror about "the Prussians of Asia" who overthrew Pol Pot and must be punished for the crime.

The first-order predictions, then, are well confirmed. The second-order predictions were not only confirmed, but far surpassed; the doctrine that was concocted and quickly became standard, utterly inconsistent with readily documented facts, is that there was "silence" in the West over the Khmer Rouge atrocities.28 This fantasy is highly serviceable, not only in suppressing the subordination of educated elites to external power, but also in suggesting that in the future we must focus attention still more intensely and narrowly on enemy crimes. The third-order predictions are also confirmed. Our discussion of Cambodia under Pol Pot aroused a storm of protest.29 The condemnation is, to my knowledge, completely lacking in substance, a fact that has not passed without notice in the scholarly literature,30 and I am aware of no error or misleading statement that has been found in anything that we wrote. Much of the criticism is absurd, even comical; there was also an impressive flow of falsehoods, often surely conscious. But I will not pursue these topics here.31 Much more interesting was a different reaction: that the entire enterprise is illegitimate. It is improper, many felt, perhaps even inhuman, to urge that we keep to the truth about the Pol Pot atrocities as best we can, or to expose the ways in which the fate of the miserable victims was being crudely exploited for propaganda purposes.

Very strikingly, the second term of the comparison -- our discussion of the media reaction to the U.S.-backed atrocities in Timor -- was virtually ignored, apart from apologetics for the atrocities and for the behavior of the media, or a few words of casual mention. Again this confirms the third-order predictions, in close detail.

In short, the model is confirmed at every level.

Let us now examine the logic of the reaction that alleges it to be improper, inhuman, to expose the fabrications of the ideological system in the case of the Pol Pot atrocities. Evidently, it either is or is not legitimate to study the U.S. ideological system. Assume that it is legitimate. Then it is legitimate to formulate the propaganda model as a hypothesis, and to test it by investigating paired examples: media treatment of Cambodia and Timor, for example. But, the critics allege, the study of media treatment of Cambodia is illegitimate. Therefore, unless there is something special about this case that has yet to be pointed out, their position must be that it is not legitimate to study the U.S. ideological system. The fact that the reaction has been marked by such extraordinary dishonesty, as repeatedly exposed, merely underscores the obvious: the right to serve the state must be protected; the ideological system cannot be subjected to inquiry based on the hypothesis that its societal function is to serve external power. The logic is very clear.

To establish this conclusion even more firmly, we may take note of the fact that no objection is raised to exposure of false or misleading accounts of atrocities by the United States and its clients, whether in retrospect or when they are in progress. It is only exposure of fabrications about official enemies that is subject to general opprobrium. Thus, none of those who are scandalized by exposure of the vast flood of deceit concerning Cambodia raise a peep of protest over exposure of false charges against Israel; that is considered an entirely legitimate and praiseworthy effort. Or take a case involving Cambodia itself. Our 1977 review-article, mentioned above, included a review of Francois Ponchaud's French study of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the first review that attended to the text, to my knowledge. We praised the book as "serious and worth reading" with its "grisly account" of the "barbarity" of the Khmer Rouge. We also raised several questions about it. We noted that some of the quotes Ponchaud attributed to the Khmer Rouge seemed dubious, since he had given them in radically different wording elsewhere and had attributed them to a variety of conflicting sources; it was later shown that his alleged quotes, widely and prominently repeated throughout the world, were either gross mistranslations or had no source at all. We also pointed out that Ponchaud had apparently misread figures and considerably exaggerated the scale of U.S. atrocities in Cambodia in the early 1970s. Our questioning of his quotes has elicited much outrage, but not a word has appeared on our questioning of his charges about U.S. atrocities; to challenge misrepresentation on this matter is taken to be quite obviously legitimate. The proper conclusion seems equally obvious: it is all a matter of whose ox is being gored.

[Here's a more recent response by Chomsky to the kind of propaganda the Bush admin is now referring to in its Vietnam analogy...]

The Cambodia Industry

Below is an exchange that took place in the ZNet Sustainer Forums where Noam interacts with the forum users. The question posed to Noam, and related material cited, is further below in this blog post. Here is Noam's response to the question...

[Here's the question. I also added some links to Chomsky's response.

ZNet Sustianer: Hi Noam,

I can't find a response from you on the question posed below and I had the identical query. I've been pressing acquaintances of mine to read your works and one of them sent me the same Bruce Sharp article that is mentioned in the attached posting: (http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm#chii) as an example of your doing precisely what you criticize: selection wrong or exaggerated data for the purposes of misleading people toward the conclusions you like.

If you've answered the challenge in previous work, just kindly point me there and I'll take it from there.. otherwise, your body of work will have at least one active challenge.

I know the Faurisson thing is a pure junk and I really enjoy having that one brought up for the fun of punching holes in it... But Bruce Sharp's work deserves a response in my opinion, either from you or Ed Herman.


Noam Chomsky: I have no record or memory of the posting below, dated in January. And I'm confident that I did not receive it, because it is the kind of posting I would have answered at the first opportunity, not because of its merit (on which, below) but because of the significance of the general phenomenon of which it is yet another illustration -- and, incidentally, an illustration that appears to have been dropped from the litany many years ago, I suspect out of embarrassment.

I know nothing about Bruce Sharp, and have no time to access the link or in fact anything from the huge torrent of charges about Cambodia that derive from one of many industries of denunciation, from many different quarters. They would take 48 hours a day if I bothered with them. No one does that, or is expected to, in professional life either. It would be an impossible and pointless task, for anyone who does anything in the least controversial. In the case of the Cambodia industry, I did respond to much of the hysteria and deceit elicited by what Edward Herman and I wrote (as did he), but I stopped paying attention years ago because the industry was simply re-cycling charges that we had already answered. However, if someone wants to bring something specific to my attention, I do respond. As I will show below, the one excerpt from Sharp's article below keeps to the standards of extreme dishonestly of the industry.

On the phrase "Cambodia industry," adapted from Norman Finkelstein, see below.

It is interesting that in the reams of industry denunciations brought to my attention, no one has found anything mistaken or even misleading in the 1977 review-article or in our follow-up chapter in Political Economy of Human Rights (PEHR) or in anything else we have written on the matter jointly or individually. If you (or anyone) thinks there is something else in Sharp's comments that merits attention, then I'll be happy to consider it and respond, if you send it to me, either here or privately, and I presume Ed Herman would be too. But no one, ever, can be expected to respond to what is posted somewhere or even appears in print. To repeat, no one ever is expected to do that, whether in professional or political life, and certainly not when it becomes an industry -- in this case, an extremely interesting industry, casting a dazzling light on the deeply rooted imperial mentality and the dedication to serve state power and atrocities. I'll discuss the general context briefly below, as often before, after a few comments on the posting you included, which refers to a review-article by Chomsky and Herman, Nation, June 25, 1977. [The date on the link is June 6, 1977, but it seems to be the right article.]

Our article discussed commentary on postwar Indochina through 1976, all that was available at the time we wrote in early 1977. One part of the article was about Vietnam, reviewing the familiar pattern: material that was generally positive about early reconstruction efforts was completely ignored, even when it was from highly regarded specialists on Vietnam. Meanwhile the US role in destroying Vietnam was largely ignored or downplayed. An illustration is the NY Times report we cited about "substantial tracts of land made fallow" -- to translate to English, utterly devastated by US bombing. To date, I have seen no comment on this part of our review-article.

The most striking case, perhaps, was the book on postwar Vietnam we cited co-authored by Jean Lacouture, based on direct observation as well as his specialist knowledge. Revealingly, though he was ignored in the area of his expertise (critical, but fairly positive about Vietnam, hence doctrinally unacceptable), he was very widely and prominently quoted on Cambodia, based on a review of Francois Ponchaud's Cambodge annee zero, in which every single reference to the book was grossly falsified, as he conceded -- while he also added that he didn't think it mattered if his estimate of deaths in Cambodia was too large by a factor of 100, a statement that elicited no concern that I could detect (except ours). You can imagine the reaction if anyone were to say something like that about the crimes of the US or some other favored state.

The review-article then turns to Cambodia, discussing media reports and the three books that were then available: Hildebrand-Porter (H-P), Ponchaud, and Barron-Paul. The review of media reports reveals the same pattern: for example, eager repetition of what were conceded to be defamatory lies. Our review of Ponchaud was the first to appear in the US, though the book, as noted, was very widely cited on the basis of Lacouture's (conceded) falsifications. We praised the book as "serious and worth reading, as distinct from much of the commentary it has elicited," also raising a few questions about it -- in each case, later shown to be serious errors in the book. In the American translation a year later, Ponchaud thanked me for praising his book, and praised me in turn for "the responsible attitude and precision of thought" revealed in everything I had written (or co-authored with Herman) about Cambodia, including the review-article and subsequent correspondence, which revealed many errors that he corrected in the American translation. Note that I say "American": not "English," or "other translations." The reason is discussed in PEHR, revealing Ponchaud's extraordinary contempt for the reigning intellectual culture in England and the continent -- justified, as it turned out. On Barron-Paul, we gave a few illustrations of how it was worthless, basically agreeing with reviewers who knew anything about the topic. We gave many further and quite remarkable illustrations in PEHR. Barron-Paul remained the main source on Cambodia for the general public, Lacouture's falsified review for the educated classes. See PEHR for much more on the topic.

One of the four questions we raised about Ponchaud's book in our review-article was his apparent serious exaggeration of deaths due to the US bombing. His book cited no sources, but H-P did, and by using their sources, we were able to suggest the probable cause of Ponchaud's error. It is interesting that in the flood of denunciations of the review-article, including the posting here, no one has ever criticized our correction of Ponchaud's exaggeration of US crimes, or faulted us for using the documentation in H-P to correct the error. That is instructive. It reveals, once again, that it is not only legitimate but essential to correct inaccurate charges against the US, while it is utterly criminal to correct false charges against an official enemy. And reliance on H-P for the worthy purpose of correcting charges against the US passes without notice on the part of those who denounce us for accurately and appropriately citing H-P. As in the posting below.

The posting, and excerpt from Sharp, express outrage over our citation of H-P, the only scholarly study then available. They omit the most crucial facts, among them our citation of H-P to correct exaggerations of US crimes, but others that are far more significant. Namely these:

As we noted, the foreword to H-P was written by the leading Southeast Asia scholar George Kahin, the founder of the modern scholarly discipline, who wrote that "anyone who is interested in understanding the situation obtaining in Phnom Penh before and after the (US-backed) Lon Nol government's collapse and the character and programs of the Cambodia Government that has replaced it will, I am sure, be grateful to the authors of this valuable study," which concentrates on the effects of "the heavy American bombing" and its consequences: "a significant amount of starvation," destruction of "many of the richest farming areas" (adding that Washington refused to allow food stocks to be replenished to the urban population), and other US crimes to which the new government reacted not by "some irrational ideology," but with "pragmatic solutions by leaders who had to rely exclusively on Cambodia's own food resources and who lacked facilities for its internal transport." The major contribution of the book, Kahin writes, apart from its account of living conditions at the end of the US assault in April 1975, is its "extensive analysis of how in the years leading up to the National United Front's assumption of power, it managed to turn a shattered rural economy into a strong enough base from which to wage a successful war against Lon Nol's American-supported regime, and then move rapidly on to develop the extensive additional agricultural resources that enable it to feed an urban populace nearly as large as the predominantly rural population previously under its control." That was the judgment of the leading Southeast Asia scholar concerning the book we dared to mention in reviewing all the books then available. And it is omitted from the posting, in standard industry style.

Also omitted is the crucial matter of timing: Kahin refers to the period before the Khmer Rouge takeover, and the few weeks that followed. The reason is that the book went to press shortly after the KR takeover, as the footnotes to which Sharp refers triumphantly make explicit. It was, in fact, the only study available -- and may still be -- of the state of Phnom Penh as the US assault came to an end, and what led to this miserable situation.. As we wrote, the book was ignored, given its topic, in accord with systematic practice.

When we wrote the review-article, it was too early to cite the analyses by the leading Asia specialist of the Washington Post, Lewis Simon, and the similar analyses by State Department intelligence, agreed on all sides to be the most knowledgeable source. In PEHR we cited these and other studies by recognized and respected specialists, all contradicting the standard stories that were circulating on the basis of falsified reports. Among others, we cited the report to Congress after our article appeared by the two leading State Department Cambodia watchers (Charles Twining and Timothy Carney, confirmed by their superior Richard Holbrooke). They estimated that deaths were in the thousands or hundreds of thousands from all causes, primarily from "brutal, rapid change," not "mass genocide," etc.; see PEHR for further details, invariably omitted by the Cambodia industry. In Manufacturing Consent we cited the astonishing analyses by the CIA and the government's leading Indochina scholar, Douglas Pike, downplaying Pol Pot crimes, well after the flood of refugees in 1979 made it clear how atrocities had mounted severely in 1978. By the time of Pike's statement and the CIA demographic study, the US had of course turned to direct support for the Khmer Rouge and severe punishment of Vietnam for the crime of having ended Pol Pot atrocities as they were peaking. Not of interest to the Cambodia industry, though it is to Cambodia scholars. Michael Vickery, for one, wrote about it.

We now know a lot more about what happened during the years before the KR takeover in 1975. Just a few weeks ago, Znet published a very important article [this link is to an updated version of that article] reviewing new official documentation on the US bombing of Cambodia. I think it is the first time this has appeared in the US. The study, by Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen, appeared in the Canadian journal The Walrus. Kiernan is one of the most prominent Cambodia scholars, also director of the Yale University Genocide Project, which focuses mostly on Khmer Rouge atrocities from 1975 through 1978, when they were finally ended by the Vietnamese invasion as they were peaking. The new documentation, they report, reveals that the bombing was five times as heavy as what was reported, "making Cambodia even today the most heavily bombed country in history." The massive US attack on the peasant society played a major role in creating the Khmer Rouge, they report, updating what was already known from other sources. It was instrumental in turning the KR "from a small force of perhaps 10,000 in 1970 to over 200,000 troops and militia in 1973," and more later as the US bombing continued, ferociously, via the Lon Nol government. These crucial revelations are of course of great interest to anyone concerned with the people of Cambodia. They also bear on what Kahin and H-P book record about their topic: Cambodia up to the end of the US war. The silence with which the Kiernan-Owen has been greeted provide yet another indication of the actual concern of the industry for the fate of Cambodians.

To summarize, we were exactly correct in our review-article in summarizing the basic content of the one scholarly source available, H-P, and the praise for it by the most respected Southeast Asia scholar, all referring throughout to the pre-takeover period and the few weeks afterward: that is, to the effects of US crimes in Cambodia, now known to be vastly greater than even what had been assumed at the time. So much for the posting and what it cites.

Turning to the more general context, I have been using the phrase "Cambodia industry," adapted from Norman Finkelstein's very important study The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein distinguishes between "Holocaust studies" and the "Holocaust industry." The former consists of extremely valuable scholarly work, initiated by Raul Hilberg, which has brought to light the hideous truth of this incredible crime. The latter consists of those who exploit the tragic events for political or personal gain, caring little for the victims, as their behavior demonstrates. Similarly, we can distinguish Cambodia studies -- a serious branch of scholarship from which we have learned a great deal about the terrible fate of Cambodia from the early days of the Indochina wars until today -- and the Cambodia industry, which concentrates laser-like on the years of KR rule (1975-1978), ignoring the massive US crimes that led to the hideous circumstances of early 1975 (and contributed significantly to the rise of the KR), and Washington's turn towards direct support of the KR, military and diplomatic, while punishing Vietnam for the crime of ending the atrocities. There are fairly simple criteria to distinguish the products of the industry from the work of those who care about the people of Cambodia. I have just given a few illustrations. In the review-article there are some others. We greatly amplified the account in PEHR, and reviewed and updated it a decade later in Manufacturing Consent. New and dramatic illustrations regularly appear, the Kiernan-Owen study and the reaction to it being the most recent.

It is also worth recalling the more general context. Here Edward Herman's distinction between "worthy" and "unworthy" victims is pertinent. The "worthy victims" are those whose fate we can attribute (often with distortion and deceit) to someone else, particularly official enemies. The "unworthy victims" are those for whose fate we are directly responsible. With a level of precision that is quite remarkable in complex human affairs, the worthy victims elicit most impressive laments, vast fabrications that are uncorrectable, and much posturing about the evil of others. The unworthy victims are either ignored, or their fate is minimized and attributed to their evil nature. The distinction is even more revealing when we consider the (obvious) fact that we can do something about the tragedy of the unworthy victims, very easily -- namely, by ending our participation in their torment -- while for the worthy victims we do very little if anything, so laments and posturing are a very safe stance. On the most elementary moral level, the unworthy victims who are ignored are far more important.

Cambodia illustrates the pattern quite well: when Cambodians were unworthy victims, pre-1975, their terrible fate elicited little media attention (we reviewed it in PEHR). When they switched to worthy victims after the KR takeover in mid-1975, there were instant charges of "genocide," and a torrent of fabrication and deceit -- and no one proposed to do anything to help them. When Vietnam ended their torture in 1978, and the US switched to support for Pol Pot, they became worthy victims of the Vietnamese, who had rescued them, and who we therefore had to punish severely. The record is most revealing.

Also very revealing is the reaction to the exposure of these patterns, not just in the case of Cambodia. To mention just one of a great many examples we have documented, the major focus of PEHR is on two huge atrocities in the same part of the world during the same years: the KR crimes in Cambodia, and the US-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor (which of course continued, with horrifying consequences and constant US support, until mid-September 1999, when Clinton, under enormous international and domestic pressure, informed the Indonesian generals that the game was over, and they instantly withdrew -- teaching obvious lessons that cannot be comprehended). The comparison was quite fair. Our detailed study of East Timor and the reaction to our own crimes was completely ignored. The paired study of Cambodia under the KR and the reaction to the crimes of an enemy elicited enormous indignation in the Cambodia industries, and endless efforts to find at least something that could be criticized -- so far, a complete failure to my knowledge, when mendacity such as that just reviewed is dismantled.

It is also intriguing to see how Cambodia industry enthusiasts pretend not to understand that their reaction demonstrates that they are miserable apologists for the violence of their own state. The logic is transparent. We (accurately) compared Cambodia and East Timor, so claims that we downplayed atrocities in Cambodia reveal that those who issue those claims are downplaying the atrocities in East Timor -- crimes comparable to Cambodia in the years we reviewed, crimes for which they share responsibility then and later, and that they could have brought to an end, very easily, if the fate of human beings was their concern. The logic is elementary, but incomprehensible to the properly educated .There are innumerable other examples, reviewed elsewhere.

It is also useful to recall the (again obvious) point that the KR atrocities were highly functional for Western apologists for the violence of their own states. Within the Cambodia industry, the atrocities were exploited both to provide a depraved form of retrospective justification for the US wars in Indochina (including the crimes that were instrumental in creating the KR), and for the US atrocities then escalating in Central America -- to protect the people from "the Pol Pot left," in the phraseology of supporters of the crimes of their own states. Again, we have reviewed the matter in print, and I won't repeat.

One last comment. The preceding illustrates one of the crucial functions of the various industries, in Finkelstein's sense. Their advocates surely understand very well that mendacity and deceit require merely a phrase, when one is lining up with power. But correction takes time and effort. One service of the industries, doubtless intended, is to immobilize critics of the crimes of concentrated power. And the effort would be successful, if anyone were to pay attention. I'll repeat again that as in the past, I'll respond to specific claims and charges, but not to a reference to some essay or posting somewhere. That is not an appropriate request.


"Iraq Does Not Exist Anymore": Journalist Nir Rosen on Democracy Now!

In twenty or so minutes, you get more truth and sane analysis from Nir Rosen and Amy Goodman than you can get in a lifetime of mainstream media.

Options on the table, Noam Chomsky, 8/23/07

Part of the first paragraph is missing; hopefully will be rectified soon. But you can get the gist.

22 August 2007

What Was That Noble Cause, Again?

I keep forgetting. From the article linked in the title above:

One of the more shocking photographs to emerge from the current Iraq war was taken last year in a rural farm town in the American Midwest. It’s a studio portrait by the New York photographer Nina Berman of a young Illinois couple on their wedding day.

The bride, Renee Kline, 21, is dressed in a traditional white gown and holds a bouquet of scarlet flowers. The groom, Ty Ziegel, 24, a former Marine sergeant, wears his dress uniform, decorated with combat medals, including a Purple Heart. Her expression is unsmiling, maybe grave. His, as he looks toward her, is hard to read: his dead-white face is all but featureless, with no nose and no chin, as blank as a pullover mask.

Two years earlier, while in Iraq as a Marine Corps reservist, Mr. Ziegel had been trapped in a burning truck after a suicide bomber’s attack. The heat melted the flesh from his face. At Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas he underwent 19 rounds of surgery. His shattered skull was replaced by a plastic dome, and a face was constructed more or less from scratch with salvaged tissue, holes left where his ears and nose had been.

Ms. Berman took this picture, which is in the solo show at Jen Bekman Gallery, on assignment for People magazine. It was meant to accompany an article that documented Mr. Ziegel’s recovery, culminating in his marriage to his childhood sweetheart. But the published portrait was a convivial shot of the whole wedding party. Maybe the image of the couple alone was judged to be too stark, the emotional interchange too ambiguous. Maybe they looked, separately and together, too alone.

The War on Democracy, John Pilger

Watch it here, and then pay twice if it ever opens in the US. It opened on June 15 in England...

Then watch this film, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, made by an Irish documentary crew that just happened to be in Caracas when the 2002 coup occurred. That's where Pilger got that amazing footage.

Chomsky in the Khaleej Times

Where he has a regular column. Imagine that! I know, I know, it's published in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, so it's something they publish. Ergo, it can be ignored, unlike the New York Times, which we publish, and we are infallibly good in our sunbeam-souls.

Update: Don't worry -- the Khaleej Times also features a column by Henry Kissinger. So, it's all good.

Foreign Policy: The Terrorism Index

Third semi-annual survey. Read it and weep.

First response: Looks like the Iran propaganda offensive is working. Not good. Should be some good commentary on this; will post as I find it.

WP: White House Manual Details How to Deal With Protesters

No comment really necessary, is there? Just click the link above and read on. The actual PDF of the manual is on that page; here it is for those who want the primary before the secondary source. Be warned: most of it is redacted. Given what wasn't redacted...well, you do the math.

You can thank the ACLU for getting this out of the Bush-Cheney White House.

FauxNews: Manufacturing Consent for a Strike on Iran

Petition, and more info, here.

Democracy Now! on the 80th Anniversary of the Sacco & Vanzetti Case

For video, click here. (Scroll to 25:05 for the beginning of the segment.)

Manufacturing Consent: Exhibit n

From the Kucinich campaign website.... I added the links. You can watch the debate here.

Note that Gravel, who, despite his good offices re: the Pentagon Papers, is making a buffoon of himself (and thus of any truly liberal opposition to the other candidates), is allowed a lot of time to be laughed at and generally make an ass of himself.

Clearly, Kucinich is too serious a threat. Meanwhile, ABC is making sure that the American people don't get to make their own choice about Kucinich. That's called "democracy."

Kucinich campaign is awaiting ABC News explanations for its actions


The Kucinich campaign is still awaiting an official response from ABC News about the unexplained -- some have charged "inexplicable" -- way in which the network has handled its post-debate online coverage of Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich over the past few days.

Among the "outrages" that have energized tens of thousands of Kucinich supporters -- and even non-supporters -- thousands of whom have flooded the ABC News website and other online news sites with comments of protest:

  • Congressman Kucinich was apparently deliberately cropped out of a "Politics Page" [since removed; Kucinich is shown in a different shot now. Not worthy of a close-up, though.] photo of the candidates.
  • Sometime Monday afternoon, after Congressman Kucinich took a commanding lead in ABC's own on-line "Who won the Democratic debate" survey, the survey was dropped from prominence on the website.
  • ABC News has not officially reported the results of its online survey.
  • After the results of that survey showed Congressman Kucinich winning handily, ABC News, sometime Monday afternoon, replaced the original survey with a second survey asking "Who is winning the Democratic debate?"
  • During the early voting Monday afternoon and evening, U.S. Senator Barack Obama was in the lead. By sometime late Monday or early Tuesday morning, Congressman Kucinich regained the lead by a wide margin in this second survey.
  • Sometime Tuesday morning, ABC News apparently dropped the second survey from prominence or killed it entirely. [It's back up; linked above; Kucinich is winning again.]
  • AND, as every viewer of the nationally televised Sunday Presidential forum is aware, Congressman Kucinich was not given an opportunity to answer a question from moderator George Stephanopoulos until 28 minutes into the program.

The campaign submitted objections and inquiries to ABC News representatives on Monday and Tuesday. ABC News representatives have failed to respond -- or even acknowledge -- those objections and inquiries.

Stayed tuned for further details.

Rotating Photos/Easter Egg

My six readers have probably noticed that I've been rotating the photo backdrops to the blog title. Well, I've added the name of the person pictured. This name is a hotlink to some reputable online treatment of that person's life and thought, so feel free to click away!

There's no rotational schedule: I wing it. Feel free to suggest persons; remember that the title of the blog is "Free Expression," so err on the side of those who devoted themselves to that end.

A debt culture gone awry, Hamid Varzi, International Herald Tribune

21 August 2007

Starving Gaza, Chris Hedges

More excellent analysis and reporting from Hedges. Key point:

The looming humanitarian crisis, manufactured and orchestrated by the Israeli government, in violation of international law, is a brutal form of collective punishment.

20 August 2007

Save Subprime Borrowers, Not Bloated Bankers, Dean Baker

Exactly right. Chance of this occurring? Zero.

Monday 20 August 2007

There is a simple and direct way in which the federal government can help out millions of moderate-income families struggling to keep their homes: They can simply change the rules on foreclosure to allow moderate-income homeowners the option to remain in their homes indefinitely as renters, paying the fair market rent.

This proposal would immediately give moderate-income homeowners a guarantee they would not be thrown out of the street because they cannot meet the terms of a predatory mortgage. It accomplishes this goal without requiring any elaborate new bureaucracy and without requiring a single dollar from the taxpayers. And this plan does not bail out the bankers, hedge funds, and other financial industry types who were speculating in mortgage debt.

Here's how the plan works: Currently, if a homeowner is not able to make their mortgage payments, the holder of the mortgage can go to court to place the house in foreclosure. This means, if the homeowner is not able to come up with back payments on the mortgage, or work out an acceptable arrangement with the mortgage holder, the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage retakes ownership of the house and can have the homeowner evicted.

Under this security of housing proposal, the foreclosure process would be changed so the current homeowner would have the option to remain in their house as a renter paying the fair market rent. If a homeowner chose to go this route, the judge in the foreclosure proceeding would appoint an independent appraiser to determine the fair market rent for the house, in the same way a bank hires an appraiser to determine the value of the house before issuing a mortgage.

The former homeowner could then remain in their home as a renter for as long as they liked. The rent would be adjusted at regular intervals in step with the change of other rents in the area. There could even be an appeal process in which either party could request that the judge get a second appraisal, at the expense of the person complaining about the original appraisal. This should ensure the rent set for the house is fair. After the foreclosure, the mortgage holder would now own the house and be free to sell it to another person, but the former homeowner would still have the right to remain as a renter, regardless of who owned the house.

This program could be restricted to homes that cost less than the median house price for an area to ensure high income homeowners do not take advantage of it. The program would also only apply to people who lived in their homes, not investors. In short, it is a very simple and low-cost way to help moderate-income homebuyers. It does not give them any windfalls, but it can ensure they don't end up being thrown out on the street.

In contrast, the politicians are lining up with plans that ostensibly protect homeowners, but would most immediately benefit the mortgage holders who speculated in predatory mortgage debt. For example, one popular proposal being circulated in Congress would vastly expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government created mortgage intermediaries, in the mortgage market. This proposal would allow them to buy up hundreds of billions of dollars of subprime and other mortgages that the private sector does not want.

Of course, the private sector doesn't want these non-prime mortgages because the default rate is soaring. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suddenly got in the market for this debt, those who are currently speculating in these mortgages stand to make a fortune. It's not clear the government's largess will necessarily benefit moderate-income homeowners facing foreclosure, but there is certainly a possibility some of the windfall will trickle down.

The point here is simple: We can design a mechanism that will directly benefit millions of moderate-income homeowners who are struggling to hang on to their homes; or, we can come up with schemes that will benefit the banks and hedge funds that speculated in mortgage debt. Place your bets.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. You can find it at the American Prospect's web site.

Kucinich on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos'

Watch Stephanopoulos, poster boy for the New Democrats (i.e., Hillary Clinton), throw his mud and play his PR game.

Bill Maher nails it, proving once again that comedians are far better at covering politics than the revolving-door media/PR whores.

Science is Knowledge and Knowledge is Power: A Discussion With Tony Benn

Dig the video here.

Info on Tony Benn from the site linked above:

Benn, having spent a life-time as a leading politician closely associated with science and technology affairs informs us on how he went about taking advice from scientists on various major issues such as, nuclear power and weapons as well as the energy gap.

He tells how he was lied to and badly advised about the safety and cost of nuclear power and why is he is now opposed to both nuclear weapons and civil nuclear power. How ‘Open Government’ is his answer to obtaining advice and freedom of information on scientific matters.

He explains how he made his decisions on the funding of science and the real power of saying ‘No’ to force arguments on why some areas should be funded. Benn gives an insight into the influence that Civil Servants have on aims and decisions and the role of the Science Advisor to Government including the dismissal of Walter Marshall during his role as Minister.

The difficulties of taking responsibility for decisions (ie. Bush on petrol) are also discussed in the light of the fact that government is ever-changing. Many other issues such as the under-estimation of the intelligence of the general public, proportional representation, communism, capitalism and democracy are themes touched upon. Benn stresses that his ‘main interest in life is to work for democratic structures and a part in controlling our own future’.

On the subject of ‘not enough young people going into science’ Benn says the problem should be open to public debate, that Market Forces dictate financial rewards and the sensible answer is government intervention and planning for more scientists.

On ‘Scientists’ responsibility for their Science’ Benn supports the work of Rotblat, Bernal and others.

Last but not least, on religion Benn talks about his personal beliefs and up-bringing. He discusses the influence on him of such quotations as ‘dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose……’ and how such quotations from the bible as ‘live in peace -- love thy neighbour -- my brother’s keeper’ and other teachings interest him as social science but have been open to manipulation.

In Depth: Edward O. Wilson

Three hours with E.O. Wilson, not my favorite evolutionary biologist, but this should be interesting, if not also infuriating.

His more recent biodiversity-defender persona is much more agreeable than his previous sociobiology persona, but no matter how you slice it, he's an important and well-known evolutionary biologist.

Too bad Steve Gould isn't around for an In-Depth treatment...ah, well.

Ralph Nader on the Subprime Meltdown

Weekend Edition
August 18 / 19, 2007

Here Come the Corporate Bailouts

Greed and Folly on Wall Street


The corporate capitalists' knees are shaking a bit. Their manipulation of the sub-prime housing market has led to a spreading credit crunch and liquidity crisis. So it is time for them to call on Uncle Sam -- the all purpose bailout man.

Only don't call it a bailout yet. It is just an injection of over $200 billion in the past week to stabilize the heaving financial markets by the European Central Bank and our Federal Reserve. Governments to the rescue -- again.

My father many years ago asked his children during dinner table conversation: "Why will capitalism always survive?" His answer: "Because socialism will always be used to save it." As a small businessman himself (a restaurateur), he was not referring to the little guys on Main Street. He was talking about the Big Boys. Today, we call these self-paying CEOs "corporate capitalists."

Central Banks are government regulators after all. Among other impacts, they regulate interest rates. But they are so saturated with banking executives or former banking officials on their Boards, Committees and at the helms, that they see themselves as part and parcel saviors of their banking brethren.

Brother Henry M. Paulson, formerly with the Goldman-Sachs investment giant and now U.S. Treasury Secretary just said: "The markets are resilient. They can absorb those losses. We've gone through challenging times in the markets, and we will rise to the challenge."

We? Paulson is a government official who is supposed to be worrying about the people first -- such as the millions of homeowners who are slated to lose their homes in the next 18 months.

How to help these "borrowers, not the wheeler-dealers," as columnist Paul Krugman described his "workouts, not bailouts" plan in The New York Times (August 17, 2007) should be Paulson's chief concern.

Secretary Paulson did tell The New York Times that federal regulators should try to eliminate fraud and market manipulation and that there needs to be more disclosure of the holdings and actions of hedge funds and other private pools of capital.

Well, that's talk. Where is the action? Krugman, an economist, believes that the current real-estate bubble was "both caused and was fed by widespread malfeasance. Rating agencies like Moody's Investors Service, which get paid a lot of money for rating mortgage-backed securities," seemed to be performing much like the major accounting firms that rubber-stamped the inflated, deceptive financial statements of the Enrons and the Worldcoms.

Passing on the risks of these mortgage loans through more and more complicated financial transactions, which are in turn bet on by the huge derivatives markets, allows wider transmission of these risk viruses throughout the national and the global financial markets.

A kind of dominoes effect sets in and induces panic selling and panic inability to obtain daily commercial loans in the stiffening credit markets.

The European Central Bank recently has poured tens of billions of Euros into the global financial system after the giant French bank BNP Paribas SA froze three of its investment funds.

If matters get worse, the Central Banks will inject more money into the system. If financial markets start collapsing along with investor confidence, then Uncle Sam will certainly adopt additional direct bailout options.

One man -- Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England -- is the lone central banker who resists intervening in the markets. "Interest rates," he asserts, "aren't a policy instrument to protect unwise lenders from the consequences of their unwise decisions."

Bailing out investors and their risky investments would just induce them to take on bigger risks next time, expecting another bailout, he believes.

More and more, corporate capitalists in side and beyond the financial markets do not want to behave as capitalists -- willing to take the losses along with the profits. They want Washington, D.C., meaning you the taxpayers, to pay for their facilities (as with big time sports stadiums) or take on their losses because they believe that they are too big to be allowed to fail (as with large banks or industrial companies).

These corporate capitalists should be exposed when they always say that government is the problem whenever it moves to help the little guys with health and safety regulations, for example, but government is wonderful when the bureaucrats are summoned to perform missions to rescue them from their own greed and folly.

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions

Noam Chomsky on US-Arab Relations, Northeastern U., 4/4/2007

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5