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To help you decide if you want to receive Z print, here are two articles. One 
is from Z February, now available. The other is from Z March, upcoming. 

The first, Imperial Presidency: Strategies to Control the Great Beast, is by 
Noam Chomsky and addresses the situation in Iraq, the machinations of 
Washington, and the responsibilities of dissent.

The second, Raise Your Voice, Keep Your Head Down, is by Michael Albert and 
addresses the recent attacks on Ward Churchill, implications for free speech, 
and some related ramifications.


Imperial Presidency: Strategies to Control the Great Beast
By Noam Chomsky

It goes without saying that what happens in the U.S. has an enormous impact on 
the rest of the world-and conversely: what happens in the rest of the world 
cannot fail to have an impact on the U.S., in several ways. First, it sets 
constraints on what even the most powerful state can do. Second, it influences 
the domestic U.S. component of "the second superpower," as the New York Times 
ruefully described world public opinion after the huge protests before the Iraq 
invasion. Those protests were a critically important historical event, not only 
because of their unprecedented scale, but also because it was the first time in 
hundreds of years of the history of Europe and its North American offshoots 
that a war was massively protested even before it was officially launched.  

We may recall, by comparison, the war against South Vietnam launched by JFK in 
1962, brutal and barbaric from the outset: bombing, chemical warfare to destroy 
food crops so as to starve out the civilian support for the indigenous 
resistance, programs to drive millions of people to virtual concentration camps 
or urban slums to eliminate its popular base. By the time protests reached a 
substantial scale, the highly respected and quite hawkish Vietnam specialist 
and military historian Bernard Fall wondered whether "Viet-Nam as a cultural 
and historic entity" would escape "extinction" as "the countryside literally 
dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area 
of this size"-particularly South Vietnam, always the main target of the U.S. 
assault. When protest did finally develop, many years too late, it was mostly 
directed against the peripheral crimes: the extension of the war against the 
South to the rest of Indochina-hideous crimes, but lesser ones.  

It's quite important to remember how much the world has changed since then. As 
almost always, not as a result of gifts from benevolent leaders, but through 
deeply committed popular struggle, far too late in developing, but ultimately 
effective. One consequence was that the U.S. government could not declare a 
national emergency, which should have been healthy for the economy, as during 
World War II when public support was very high. Johnson had to fight a 
"guns-and-butter" war, buying off an unwilling population, harming the economy, 
ultimately leading the business classes to turn against the war as too costly, 
after the Tet Offensive of January 1968 showed that it would go on a long time. 
There were also concerns among U.S. elites about rising social and political 
consciousness stimulated by the activism of the 1960s, much of it reaction to 
the miserable crimes in Indochina, then at last arousing popular indignation. 
We learn from the last sections of the Pentagon Papers that after the Tet 
offensive, the military command was reluctant to agree to the president's call 
for further troop deployments, wanting to be sure that "sufficient forces would 
still be available for civil disorder control" in the U.S., and fearing that 
escalation might run the risk of "provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented 

The Reagan administration assumed that the problem of an independent, aroused 
population had been overcome and apparently planned to follow the Kennedy model 
of the early 1960s in Central America. But they backed off in the face of 
unanticipated public protest, turning instead to "clandestine war" employing 
murderous security forces and a huge international terror network. The 
consequences were terrible, but not as bad as B-52s and mass murder operations 
of the kind that were peaking when John Kerry was deep in the Mekong Delta in 
the South, by then largely devastated. The popular reaction to even the 
"clandestine war," so called, broke entirely new ground. The solidarity 
movements for Central America, now in many parts of the world, are again 
something new in Western history. 

State managers cannot fail to pay attention to such matters. Routinely, a newly 
elected president requests an intelligence evaluation of the world situation. 
In 1989, when Bush I took office, a part was leaked. It warned that when 
attacking "much weaker enemies"-the only sensible target-the U.S. must win 
"decisively and rapidly." Delay might "undercut political support," recognized 
to be thin, a great change since the Kennedy-Johnson years when the attack on 
Indochina, while never popular, aroused little reaction for many years.  

The world is pretty awful today, but it is far better than yesterday, not only 
with regard to unwillingness to tolerate aggression, but also in many other 
ways, which we now tend to take for granted. There are very important lessons 
here, which should always be uppermost in our minds-for the same reason they 
are suppressed in the elite culture.  

Without forgetting the very significant progress towards more civilized 
societies in past years, and the reasons for it, let's focus nevertheless on 
the notions of imperial sovereignty now being crafted. It is not surprising 
that as the population becomes more civilized, power systems become more 
extreme in their efforts to control the "great beast" (as the Founding Fathers 
called the people). And the great beast is indeed frightening.   

The conception of presidential sovereignty crafted by the statist reactionaries 
of the Bush administration is so extreme that it has drawn unprecedented 
criticism in the most sober and respected establishment circles. These ideas 
were transmitted to the president by the newly appointed attorney-general, 
Alberto Gonzales-who is depicted as a moderate in the press. They are discussed 
by the respected constitutional law professor Sanford Levinson in the summer 
2004 issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and 
Sciences.  Levinson writes that the conception is based on the principle, 
"There exists no norm that is applicable to chaos." The quote, Levinson 
comments, is from Carl Schmitt, the leading German philosopher of law during 
the Nazi period, who Levinson describes as "the true éminence grise of the Bush 
administration." The Administration, advised by Gonzales, has articulated "a 
view of presidential authority that is all too close to the power that Schmitt 
was willing to accord his own Führer," Levinson writes.  

One rarely hears such words from the heart of the establishment.  

The same issue of the journal carries an article by two prominent strategic 
analysts on the "transformation of the military," a central component of the 
new doctrines of imperial sovereignty: the rapid expansion of offensive 
weaponry, including militarization of space, and other measures designed to 
place the entire world at risk of instant annihilation. These have already 
elicited the anticipated reactions by Russia and recently China. The analysts 
conclude that these U.S. programs may lead to "ultimate doom." They express 
their hope that a coalition of peace-loving states will coalesce as a counter 
to U.S. militarism and aggressiveness, led by China. We've come to a pretty 
pass when such sentiments are voiced in sober respectable circles not given to 

Going back to Gonzales, he transmitted to the president the conclusions of the 
Justice Department that the president has the authority to rescind the Geneva 
Conventions-the supreme law of the land, the foundation of modern international 
humanitarian law. Gonzales, who was then Bush's legal counsel, advised him that 
this would be a good idea because rescinding the Conventions "substantially 
reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution [of administration 
officials] under the War Crimes Act" of 1996, which carries the death penalty 
for "grave breaches" of Geneva Conventions.  

We can see on today's front pages why the Justice Department was right to be 
concerned that the president and his advisers might be subject to the death 
penalty under the laws passed by the Republican Congress in 1996-and under the 
principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, if anyone took them seriously.  

In early November, the NY Times featured a front-page story reporting the 
conquest of the Falluja General Hospital. It reported, "Patients and hospital 
employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie 
on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs." An accompanying 
photograph depicted the scene. That was presented as an important achievement. 
"The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for 
the militants: Falluja General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian 
casualties." These "inflated" figures-inflated because our Leader so 
declares-were "inflaming opinion throughout the country" and the region, 
driving up "the political costs of the conflict." The word "conflict" is a 
common euphemism for U.S. aggression, as when we read on the same pages that 
the U.S. must now rebuild "what the conflict just destroyed": just "the 
conflict," with no agent, like a hurricane. 

Let's go back to the NYT picture and story about the closing of the "propaganda 
weapon." There are some relevant documents, including the Geneva Conventions, 
which state: "Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical 
Service may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be 
respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict." So page one of the 
world's leading newspaper is cheerfully depicting war crimes for which the 
political leadership could be sentenced to death under U.S. law.  

The world's greatest newspaper also tells us that the U.S. military "achieved 
nearly all their objectives well ahead of schedule," leaving "much of the city 
in smoking ruins." But it was not a complete success. There is little evidence 
of dead "packrats" in their "warrens" or the streets, which remains "an 
enduring mystery." The embedded reporters did find a body of a dead woman, 
though it is "not known whether she was an Iraqi or a foreigner," apparently 
the only question that comes to mind.  

The front-page account quotes a Marine commander who says, "It ought to go down 
in the history books." Perhaps it should. If so, we know on just what page of 
history it will go down and who will be right beside it, along with those who 
praise or, for that matter, even tolerate it. At least, we know that if we are 
capable of honesty.  

One might mention at least some of the recent counterparts that immediately 
come to mind, like the Russian destruction of Grozny ten years ago, a city of 
about the same size; or Srebrenica, almost universally described as "genocide" 
in the West. In that case, as we know in detail from a Dutch government report 
and other sources, the Muslim enclave in Serb territory, inadequately 
protected, was used as a base for attacks against Serb villages and, when the 
anticipated reaction took place, it was horrendous. The Serbs drove out all but 
military age men and then moved in to kill them. There are differences with 
Falluja. Women and children were not bombed out of Srebrenica, but trucked out 
and there will be no extensive efforts to exhume the last corpse of the 
packrats in their warrens in Falluja. There are other differences, arguably 
unfair to the Serbs.  

It could be argued that all this is irrelevant. The Nuremberg Tribunal, 
spelling out the UN Charter, declared that initiation of a war of aggression is 
"the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that 
it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." Hence the war 
crimes in Falluja and Abu Ghraib, the doubling of acute malnutrition among 
children since the invasion (now at the level of Burundi, far higher than Haiti 
or Uganda), and all the rest of the atrocities. Those judged to have played any 
role in the supreme crime-for example, the German Foreign Minister-were 
sentenced to death by hanging. The Tokyo Tribunal was far more severe.  

There is a very important book on the topic by Canadian international lawyer 
Michael Mandel, who reviews in convincing detail how the powerful are 
self-immunized from international law.  

In fact, the Nuremberg Tribunal established this principle. To bring the Nazi 
criminals to justice, it was necessary to devise definitions of "war crime" and 
"crime against humanity." How this was done is explained by Telford Taylor, 
chief counsel for the prosecution and a distinguished international lawyer and 
historian: "Since both sides [in World War II] had played the terrible game of 
urban destruction-the Allies far more successfully-there was no basis for 
criminal charges against Germans or Japanese, and in fact no such charges were 
brought.... Aerial bombardment had been used so extensively and ruthlessly on 
the Allied side as well as the Axis side that neither at Nuremberg nor Tokyo 
was the issue made a part of the trials."  

The operative definition of "crime" is: "Crime that you carried out, but we did 
not." To underscore the fact, Nazi war criminals were absolved if the defense 
could show that their U.S. counterparts carried out the same crimes.  Taylor 
concludes that "to punish the foe-especially the vanquished foe-for conduct in 
which the enforcer nation has engaged, would be so grossly inequitable as to 
discredit the laws themselves." That is correct, but the operative definition 
also discredits the laws themselves, along with all subsequent tribunals. 
Taylor provides this background as part of his explanation of why U.S. bombing 
in Vietnam was not a war crime. His argument is plausible, further discrediting 
the laws themselves. 

 Some of the subsequent judicial inquiries are discredited in perhaps even more 
extreme ways, such as the Yugoslavia vs. NATO case adjudicated by the 
International Court of Justice.   The U.S. was excused, correctly, on the basis 
of its argument that it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Court in this 
case. The reason is that when the U.S. finally signed the Genocide Convention 
(which is at issue here) after 40 years, it did so with a reservation stating 
that it is not applicable to the United States.  

In an outraged comment on the efforts of Justice Department lawyers to 
demonstrate that the president has the right to authorize torture, Yale Law 
School Dean Harold Koh said, "The notion that the president has the 
constitutional power to permit torture is like saying he has the constitutional 
power to commit genocide." The president's legal advisers, and the new 
attorney-general, should have little difficulty arguing that the president does 
indeed have that right-if the second superpower permits him to exercise it.  

The sacred doctrine of self-immunization is sure to hold for the trial of 
Saddam Hussein, if it is ever held. We see that every time Bush, Blair, and 
other worthies in government and commentary lament over the terrible crimes of 
Saddam Hussein, always bravely omitting the words: "with our help, because we 
did not care." Surely no tribunal will be permitted to address the fact that 
U.S. presidents from Kennedy until today, along with French presidents and 
British prime ministers, and Western businesses, have been complicit in 
Saddam's crimes, sometimes in horrendous ways, including current incumbents and 
their mentors. In setting up the Saddam tribunal, the State Department 
consulted U.S. legal expert professor Charif Bassiouni, recently quoted as 
saying: "All efforts are being made to have a tribunal whose judiciary is not 
independent but controlled, and by controlled I mean that the political 
manipulators of the tribunal have to make sure the U.S. and other western 
powers are not brought in cause. This makes it look like victor's vengeance: it 
makes it seem targeted, selected, unfair. It's a subterfuge." We hardly need to 
be told.  

The pretext for U.S.-UK aggression in Iraq is what is called the right of 
"anticipatory self-defense," now sometimes called "preemptive war" in a 
perversion of that concept. The right of anticipatory self-defense was affirmed 
officially in the Bush administration National Security Strategy of September 
2002, declaring Washington's right to resort to force to eliminate any 
potential challenge to its global dominance. The NSS was widely criticized 
among the foreign policy elite, beginning with an article in the main 
establishment journal Foreign Affairs, warning that "the new imperial grand 
strategy" could be very dangerous. Criticism continued, again at an 
unprecedented level, but on narrow grounds-not that the doctrine itself was 
wrong, but rather its style and manner of presentation. Clinton's Secretary of 
State Madeleine Albright summed the criticism up accurately, also in FA. She 
pointed out that every president has such a doctrine in his back pocket, but it 
is foolish to smash people in the face with it and to implement it in a manner 
that will infuriate even allies. That is threatening to U.S. interests and 
therefore wrong.  

Albright knew, of course, that Clinton had a similar doctrine. The Clinton 
doctrine advocated "unilateral use of military power" to defend vital 
interests, such as "ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies 
and strategic resources," without even the pretexts that Bush and Blair 
devised. Taken literally, the Clinton doctrine is more expansive than Bush's 
NSS. But the more expansive Clinton doctrine was barely even reported. It was 
presented with the right style and implemented less brazenly.  

Henry Kissinger described the Bush doctrine as "revolutionary," pointing out 
that it undermines the 17th century Westphalian system of international order 
and of course the UN Charter and international law. He approved of the 
doctrine, but with reservations about style and tactics and with a crucial 
qualification: it cannot be "a universal principle available to every nation." 
Rather, the right of aggression must be reserved to the U.S., perhaps delegated 
to chosen clients. We must forcefully reject the principle of universality-that 
we apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others, more stringent ones 
if we are serious. Kissinger is to be praised for his honesty in forthrightly 
articulating prevailing doctrine, usually concealed in professions of virtuous 
intent and tortured legalisms. He understands his educated audience. As he 
doubtless expected, there was no reaction. 

His understanding of his audience was illustrated again, rather dramatically, 
last May, when Kissinger-Nixon tapes were released, over Kissinger's strong 
objections. There was a report in the world's leading newspaper. It mentioned, 
in passing, the orders to bomb Cambodia that Kissinger transmitted from Nixon 
to the military commanders. In Kissinger's words, "A massive bombing campaign 
in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves." It is rare for a call 
for horrendous war crimes-what we would not hesitate to call "genocide" if 
others were responsible-to be so stark and explicit. It would be interesting to 
see if there is anything like it in archival records. The publication elicited 
no reaction, refuting Dean Koh. Apparently, it is taken for granted in the 
elite culture that the president and his National Security adviser do have the 
right to order genocide.  

Imagine the reaction if the prosecutors at the Milosevic Tribunal could find 
anything remotely similar. They would be overjoyed, the trial would be over, 
Milosevic would receive several life sentences, the death penalty if the 
Tribunal adhered to U.S. law.  But that is them, not us.  

The principle of universality is the most elementary of moral truisms. It is 
the foundation of "just war theory" and of every system of morality deserving 
of anything but contempt. Rejection of such moral truisms is so deeply rooted 
in the intellectual culture as to be invisible. To illustrate again how deeply 
entrenched it is, let's return to the principle of "anticipatory self-defense," 
adopted as legitimate by both political organizations in the U.S. and across 
virtually the entire spectrum of articulate opinion, apart from the usual 
margins. The principle has some immediate corollaries. If the U.S. is granted 
the right of "anticipatory self-defense" against terror, then, certainly, Cuba, 
Nicaragua, and a host of others have long been entitled to carry out terrorist 
acts within the U.S. because there is no doubt of its involvement in very 
serious terrorist attacks against them, extensively documented in impeccable 
sources and, in the case of Nicaragua, even condemned by the World Court and 
the Security Council (in two resolutions that the U.S. vetoed, with Britain 
loyally abstaining). The conclusion that Cuba and Nicaragua, among many others, 
have long had the right to carry out terrorist atrocities in the U.S. is of 
course utterly outrageous and advocated by no one. Thanks to our 
self-determined immunity from moral truisms, there is no fear that anyone will 
draw the outrageous conclusions.  

There are still more outrageous ones. No one, for example, celebrates Pearl 
Harbor day by applauding the fascist leaders of Imperial Japan. But by our 
standards, the bombing of military bases in the U.S. colonies of Hawaii and the 
Philippines seems rather innocuous. The Japanese leaders knew that B-17 Flying 
Fortresses were coming off the Boeing production lines and were surely familiar 
with the public discussions in the U.S. explaining how they could be used to 
incinerate Japan's wooden cities in a war of extermination, flying from 
Hawaiian and Philippine bases-"to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire 
with fire-bombing attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps," as retired Air 
Force General Chennault recommended in 1940, a proposal that "simply delighted" 
President Roosevelt. That's a far more powerful justification for anticipatory 
self-defense than anything conjured up by Bush-Blair and their associates-and 
accepted, with tactical reservations, throughout the mainstream of articulate 

Examples can be enumerated virtually at random. To add one last one, consider 
the most recent act of NATO aggression prior to the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq: 
the bombing of Serbia in 1999. The justification is supposed to be that there 
were no diplomatic options and that it was necessary to stop ongoing genocide. 
It is not hard to evaluate these claims.  

As for diplomatic options, when the bombing began, there were two proposals on 
the table, a NATO and a Serbian proposal. After 78 days of bombing a compromise 
was reached between them-formally at least. It was immediately undermined by 
NATO. All of this quickly vanished into the mists of unacceptable history, to 
the limited extent that it was ever reported.  

What about ongoing genocide-to use the term that appeared hundreds of times in 
the press as NATO geared up for war?  That is unusually easy to investigate. 
There are two major documentary studies by the State Department, offered to 
justify the bombing, along with extensive documentary records from the OSCE, 
NATO, and other Western sources, and a detailed British Parliamentary Inquiry. 
All agree on the basic facts: the atrocities followed the bombing, they were 
not its cause. Furthermore, that was predicted by the NATO command, as General 
Wesley Clark informed the press right away and confirmed in more detail in his 
memoirs. The Milosevic indictment, issued during the bombing-surely as a 
propaganda weapon, despite implausible denials-and relying on U.S.-UK 
intelligence as announced at once, yields the same conclusion: virtually all 
the charges are post-bombing.  Such annoyances are handled quite easily. The 
Western documentation is commonly expunged in the media and even scholarship. 
The chronology is regularly reversed, so that the anticipated consequences of 
the bombing are transmuted into its cause. 

There were indeed pre-bombing atrocities: about 2,000 were killed in the year 
before the March 1999 bombing, according to Western sources. The British, the 
most hawkish element of the coalition, made the astonishing claim-hard to 
believe just on the basis of the balance of forces-that until January 1999 most 
of the killings were by the Albanian KLA guerrillas attacking civilians and 
soldiers in cross-border raids in the hope of eliciting a harsh Serbian 
response that could be used for propaganda purposes in the West, as they 
candidly reported, apparently with CIA support in the last months. Western 
sources indicate no substantial change until the bombing was announced and the 
monitors withdrawn a few days before the March bombing.  In one of the few 
works of scholarship that even mentions the unusually rich documentary record, 
Nicholas Wheeler concludes that 500 of the 2,000 were killed by Serbs. He 
supports the bombing on the grounds that there would have been worse Serbian 
atrocities had NATO not bombed, eliciting the anticipated crimes. That's the 
most serious scholarly work. The press, and much of scholarship, chose the 
easier path of ignoring Western documentation and reversing the chronology.  

It is all too easy to continue. But the-unpleasantly consistent-record leaves 
open a crucial question: how does the "great beast" react, the domestic U.S. 
component of the second superpower? The conventional answer is that the 
population approves of all of this, as just shown by the election of George 
Bush. But as is often the case, a closer look is helpful.  

Each candidate received about 30 percent of the electoral vote, Bush a bit 
more, Kerry a bit less. General voting patterns were close to the 2000 
elections; almost the same "red" and "blue" states, in the conventional 
metaphor. A few percent shift in vote would have meant that Kerry would be in 
the White House. Neither outcome could tell us much of any significance about 
the mood of the country, even of voters. Issues of substance were as usual kept 
out of the campaign or presented so obscurely that few could understand.  

It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the 
same people who sell toothpaste and cars. Their professional concern in their 
regular vocation is not to provide information. Their goal, rather, is deceit. 
But deceit is quite expensive: complex graphics showing the car with a sexy 
actor or a sports hero or climbing a sheer cliff or some other device to 
project an image that might deceive the consumer into buying this car instead 
of the virtually identical one produced by a competitor. The same is true of 
elections, run by the same public relations industry.  The goal is to project 
images, and deceive the public into accepting them, while sidelining issues-for 
good reasons.  

The population seems to grasp the nature of the performance. Right before the 
2000 elections, about 75 percent regarded it as virtually meaningless, some 
game involving rich contributors, party managers, and candidates who are 
trained to project images that conceal issues, but might pick up some votes. 
This is probably why the "stolen election" was an elite concern that did not 
seem to arouse much public interest; if elections have about as much 
significance as flipping a coin to pick the King, who cares if the coin was 

Right before the 2004 election, about 10 percent of voters said their choice 
would based on the candidate's "agendas/ideas/platforms/goals"; 6 percent for 
Bush voters, 13 percent for Kerry voters. For the rest, the choice would be 
based on what the industry calls "qualities" and "values." Does the candidate 
project the image of a strong leader, the kind of guy you'd like to meet in a 
bar, someone who really cares about you and is just like you? It wouldn't be 
surprising to learn that Bush is carefully trained to say "nucular" and 
"misunderestimate" and the other silliness that intellectuals like to ridicule. 
That's probably about as real as the ranch constructed for him and the rest of 
the folksy manner. After all, it wouldn't do to present him as a spoiled frat 
boy from Yale who became rich and powerful thanks to his rich and powerful 
connections. Rather, the imagery has to be an ordinary guy just like us, who'll 
protect us, and who shares our "moral values," more so than the windsurfing 
goose-hunter who can be accused of faking his medals.  

Bush received a large majority among voters who said they were concerned 
primarily with "moral values" and "terrorism." We learn all we have to know 
about the moral values of the Administration by reading the pages of the 
business press the day after the election, describing the "euphoria" in board 
rooms-not because CEOs are opposed to gay marriage. Or by observing the 
principle, hardly concealed, that the very serious costs incurred by the Bush 
planners, in their dedicated service to power and wealth, are to be transferred 
to our children and grandchildren, including fiscal costs, environmental 
destruction, and perhaps "ultimate doom." These are the moral values, loud and 

The commitment of Bush planners to "defense against terrorism" is illustrated 
most dramatically, perhaps, by their decision to escalate the threat of terror, 
as had been predicted even by their own intelligence agencies, not because they 
enjoy terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens, but because it is, plainly, a 
low priority for them-surely as compared with such goals as establishing secure 
military bases in a dependent client state at the heart of the world's energy 
resources, recognized since World War II as the "most strategically important 
area of the world," "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the 
greatest material prizes in world history." It is critically important to 
ensure that "profits beyond the dreams of avarice"-to quote a leading history 
of the oil industry-flow in the right directions, i.e., to U.S. energy 
corporations, the Treasury Department, U.S. high tech (militarized) industry, 
huge construction firms, and so on. Even more important is the stupendous 
strategic power. Having a firm hand on the spigot guarantees "veto power" over 
rivals, as George Kennan pointed out over 50 years ago. In the same vein, 
Zbigniew Brzezinski recently wrote that control over Iraq gives the U.S. 
"critical leverage" over European and Asian economies, a major concern of 
planners since World War II. 

Rivals are to keep to their "regional responsibilities" within the "overall 
framework of order" managed by the U.S., as Kissinger instructed them in his 
"Year of Europe" address 30 years ago. That is even more urgent today, as the 
major rivals threaten to move in an independent course, maybe even united. The 
EU and China became each other's leading trading partners in 2004 and those 
ties are becoming tighter, including the world's second largest economy, Japan. 
Critical leverage is more important than ever for world control in the tripolar 
world that has been evolving for over 30 years. In comparison, the threat of 
terror is a minor consideration-though the threat is known to be awesome. Long 
before 9/11 it was understood that, sooner or later, the Jihadist terror 
organized by the U.S. and its allies in the 1980s was likely to combine with 
WMDs, with horrifying consequences.  

Notice that the crucial issue with regard to Middle East oil-about two-thirds 
of estimated world resources, and unusually easy to extract-is control, not 
access. U.S. policies towards the Middle East were the same when it was a net 
exporter of oil and remain the same today when U.S. intelligence projects that 
the U.S. will rely on more stable Atlantic Basin resources.   Policies would be 
likely to be about the same if the U.S. were to switch to renewable energy. The 
need to control the "stupendous source of strategic power" and to gain "profits 
beyond the dreams of avarice" would remain. Jockeying over Central Asia and 
pipeline routes reflects similar concerns.  

There are plenty of other illustrations of the same ranking of priorities. To 
mention one, the Treasury Department has a bureau (OFAC, Office of Foreign 
Assets Control) that is assigned the task of investigating suspicious financial 
transfers, a crucial component of the "war on terror." OFAC has 120 employees. 
Last April, the White House informed Congress that four are assigned to 
tracking the finances of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, while almost two 
dozen are dedicated to enforcing the embargo against Cuba-incidentally, 
declared illegal by every relevant international organization, even the usually 
compliant Organization of American States. From 1990 to 2003, OFAC informed 
Congress, there were 93 terrorism-related investigations with $9,000 in fines; 
and 11,000 Cuba-related investigations with $8 million in fines.  

Why should the Treasury Department devote vastly more energy to strangling Cuba 
than to the war on terror? The basic reasons were explained in secret documents 
40 years ago, when the Kennedy administration sought to bring "the terrors of 
the earth" to Cuba, as historian (and Kennedy confidante) Arthur Schlesinger 
recounted in his biography of Robert Kennedy, who ran the terror operations as 
his highest priority. State Department planners warned that the "very 
existence" of the Castro regime is "successful defiance" of U.S. policies going 
back 150 years, to the Monroe Doctrine; no Russians, but intolerable defiance 
of the master of the hemisphere. Furthermore, this successful defiance 
encourages others, who might be infected by the "Castro idea of taking matters 
into their own hands," Schlesinger had warned incoming President Kennedy, 
summarizing the report of the President's Latin American mission. These dangers 
are particularly grave, Schlesinger elaborated, when "the distribution of land 
and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes...and 
the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban 
revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living." 

Let's return to the great beast. U.S. public opinion is studied with great care 
and depth. Studies released right before the election showed that those 
planning to vote for Bush assumed that the Republican Party shared their views, 
even though the Party explicitly rejected them. Pretty much the same was true 
of Kerry supporters. The major concerns of Kerry supporters were economy and 
health care and they assumed that he shared their views on these matters, just 
as Bush voters assumed, with comparable justification, that Republicans shared 
their views.  

In brief, those who bothered to vote mostly accepted the imagery concocted by 
the PR industry, which had only the vaguest resemblance to reality. That's 
apart from the more wealthy who tend to vote their class interests.   

What about actual public attitudes? Again, right before the election, major 
studies were released reporting them-and we see right away why it is a good 
idea to base elections on deceit, very much as in the fake markets of the 
doctrinal system. Here are a few examples: A considerable majority believe that 
the U.S. should accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and 
the World Court; sign the Kyoto protocols; allow the UN to take the lead in 
international crises (including security, reconstruction, and political 
transition in Iraq); rely on diplomatic and economic measures more than 
military ones in the "war on terror," and use force only if there is "strong 
evidence that the country is in imminent danger of being attacked," thus 
rejecting the bipartisan consensus on "pre-emptive war" and adopting a rather 
conventional interpretation of the UN Charter. A majority even favor giving up 
the Security Council veto.  

Overwhelming majorities favor expansion of purely domestic programs: primarily 
health care (80 percent), but also aid to education and Social Security. 
Similar results have long been found in these studies, carried out by the most 
reputable organizations that monitor public opinion. In other mainstream polls, 
about 80 percent favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes-a 
national health care system is likely to reduce expenses considerably, avoiding 
the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, etc., some of the 
factors that render the U.S. privatized system the most inefficient in the 
industrial world. Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers 
varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed 
in the press, with public preferences noted, but dismissed as "politically 
impossible." That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days 
before (October 31), the NY Times reported, "There is so little political 
support for government intervention in the health care market in the United 
States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to 
say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a 
new government program"-what the majority want, so it appears. But it is 
politically impossible and there is too little political support, meaning that 
the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc., 
are opposed.  

It is notable that these views are held by people in virtual isolation. Their 
preferences do not enter into the political campaigns and only marginally into 
articulate opinion in media and journals. The same extends to other domains and 
raises important questions about a "democratic deficit" in the world's most 
important state, to adopt the phrase we use for others.  

What would the results of the election have been if the parties, either of 
them, had been willing to articulate people's concerns on the issues they 
regard as vitally important? Or if these issues could enter into public 
discussion within the mainstream? We can only speculate about that, but we do 
know that it does not happen and that the facts are scarcely even reported. It 
seems reasonable to suppose that fear of the great beast is rather deep.  

The operative concept of democracy is revealed very clearly in other ways as 
well. Perhaps the most extraordinary was the distinction between Old and New 
Europe in the run-up to the Iraq war. The criterion for membership was so clear 
that it took real discipline to miss it. Old Europe-the bad guys-were the 
governments that took the same stand as the large majority of the population. 
New Europe-the exciting hope for a democratic future-were the Churchillian 
leaders like Berlusconi and Aznar who disregarded even larger majorities of the 
population and submissively took their orders from Crawford, Texas. The most 
dramatic case was Turkey, where, to everyone's surprise, the government 
actually followed the will of 95 percent of the population. The official 
administration moderate, Colin Powell, immediately announced harsh punishment 
for this crime. Turkey was bitterly condemned in the national press for lacking 
"democratic credentials." The most extreme example was Paul Wolfowitz, who 
berated the Turkish military for not compelling the government to follow 
Washington's orders and demanded that they apologize and publicly recognize 
that the goal of a properly functioning democracy is to help the U.S. 

In other ways, too, the operative concept of democracy is scarcely concealed. 
The lead think-piece in the NY Times on the death of Yasser Arafat opened by 
saying, "The post-Arafat era will be the latest test of a quintessentially 
American article of faith: that elections provide legitimacy even to the 
frailest institutions." In the final paragraph, on the continuation page, we 
read that Washington "resisted new national elections among the Palestinians" 
because Arafat would win and gain "a fresher mandate" and elections "might help 
give credibility and authority to Hamas" as well. In other words, democracy is 
fine if the results come out the right way; otherwise, to the flames.  

To take just one crucial current example, a year ago, after other pretexts for 
invading Iraq had collapsed, Bush's speech writers had to come up with 
something to replace them. They settled on what the liberal press calls "the 
president's messianic vision to bring democracy" to Iraq, the Middle East, the 
whole world. The reactions were intriguing. They ranged from rapturous acclaim 
for the vision, which proved that this was the most noble war in history (David 
Ignatius, veteran Washington Post correspondent) to critics who agreed that the 
vision was noble and inspiring, but might be beyond our reach because Iraqi 
culture is just not ready for such progress towards our civilized values. We 
have to temper the messianic idealism of Bush and Blair with some sober 
realism, the London Financial Times advised.  

The interesting fact is that it was presupposed uncritically across the 
spectrum that the messianic vision must be the goal of the invasion, not this 
silly business about WMDs and al-Qaeda, no longer credible to elite opinion. 
What is the evidence that the U.S. and Britain are guided by the messianic 
vision? There is indeed a single piece of evidence: our leaders proclaimed it. 
What more could be needed?  

There is one sector of opinion that had a different view: the Iraqis. Just as 
the messianic vision was unveiled in Washington to reverent applause, a 
U.S.-run poll of Baghdadis was released. Some agreed with the near-unanimous 
stand of Western elite opinion that the goal of the invasion was to bring 
democracy to Iraq. One percent. Five percent thought the goal was to help 
Iraqis. The majority assumed the obvious: the U.S. wants to control Iraq's 
resources and use its base there to reorganize the region in its interest. 
Baghdadis agree that there is a problem of cultural backwardness: in the West, 
not in Iraq. Actually, their views were more nuanced. Though 1 percent believed 
that the goal of the invasion was to bring democracy, about half felt that the 
U.S. wanted democracy, but would not allow Iraqis to run their democracy 
"without U.S. pressure and influence." They understand the quintessentially 
American faith very well, perhaps because it was the quintessentially British 
faith while Britain's boot was on their necks. They don't have to know the 
history of Wilsonian idealism or Britain's noble counterpart or France's 
civilizing mission or the even more exalted vision of Japanese fascists and 
many others-probably also close to a historical universal. Their own experience 
is enough.  

At the outset, I mentioned the notable successes of popular struggles in the 
past decades, very clear if we think about it a little, but rarely discussed, 
for reasons that are not hard to discern. Both recent history and public 
attitudes suggest some straightforward strategies for short-term activism on 
the part of those who don't want to wait for China to save us from "ultimate 
doom." We enjoy great privilege and freedom, remarkable by comparative and 
historical standards. That legacy was not granted from above, it was won by 
dedicated struggle, which does not reduce to pushing a lever every few years. 
We can abandon that legacy and take the easy way of pessimism-everything is 
hopeless, so I'll quit. Or we can make use of that legacy to work to create-in 
part re-create-the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the 
public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena 
from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from 
which it is excluded in principle.  

These are hardly radical ideas. They were articulated clearly, for example, by 
the leading 20th century social philosopher in the U.S., John Dewey, who 
pointed out that until "industrial feudalism" is replaced by "industrial 
democracy," politics will remain "the shadow cast by big business over 
society." Dewey was as "American as apple pie," in the familiar phrase. He was 
in fact drawing from a long tradition of thought and action that had developed 
independently in working class culture from the origins of the industrial 
revolution. Such ideas remain just below the surface and can become a living 
part of our societies, cultures, and institutions. But like other victories for 
justice and freedom over the centuries, that will not happen by itself. One of 
the clearest lessons of history, including recent history, is that rights are 
not granted; they are won. The rest is up to us. 


Raise Your Voice but Keep Your Head Down

By Michael Albert

I first met Ward Churchill when I was working at South End Press twenty five 
years ago and Ward submitted his first book which was about Marxism and Native 
Americans. It was a collection of essays which revealed why indigenous people 
distrust Marxists' cultural politics and community norms. I found Churchill's 
insights very compelling and became friends with him. I haven't seen Ward for 
years, but every so often we publish a piece by him on ZNet, where I now work. 
I offer all this in case anyone might feel our ties bias my viewpoint. 

I think the current controversy about Ward Churchill is a manipulative attack 
on free speech aimed at the whole left. I remember when Ward's post 9/11 essay 
came out. My reaction was to wish he hadn't written it. Ward took clear and 
cogent insights about the causes of international hostility to U.S. policies 
and weighed them down with not so clear and not so cogent non insights about 
the general population of the U.S. This kind of mix is always a problem, not 
least because astute but reactionary readers will try to dismiss the good by 
pointing to the bad. It doesn't matter that that is like trying to dismiss 
Newton's positive contributions about gravity on grounds that he believed in 
alchemy. When attacked with manipulative skill, tangential flaws can be used to 
undercut important truths.

On a larger scale, that's what people are now trying to do to Ward himself, as 
well: dismiss him in toto, as a person and as an employee of a university, over 
a single essay some key parts of which were, I would agree, worthy of 

There are two problems that should not be confused with one another. One 
problem is that no person should be seen as only the tangential worst that he 
or she does, even if there is a complete consensus about the failings, unlike 
in this case. 

Ward Churchill, for example, over the years, has contributed a great deal to 
the comprehension of cultural concerns and possibilities as well as to 
revealing the dynamics of repression and international relations. Ward is a 
prodigious writer and an effective speaker and organizer who has fought for 
just causes over and over. 

I don't agree with Ward's views on some health issues, on population issues, 
and on certain particular cultural matters, much less on the efficacy of what 
we might call political trash talk about strategies of struggle. But none of 
that has interfered with my liking Ward the person and feeling positive about 
his many contributions. Ward Churchill should not be judged solely on a single 
essay written the day after a gargantuan calamity, whatever anyone may think of 
that piece. Parts ought to be criticized, yes, but not the person who wrote it. 
It is the difference between ad hominem and substantive argument.

But second, and in this case more important, there is the little matter of free 
speech. Criticizing what someone says is not the same as writing them death 
threats and trying to terminate their career. The right-wing thugs who are 
after Ward Churchill are stalking horses for more astute and sober folks in the 
rear. The troops in the field are Ward's proximate problem, but the powers that 
be--at the University of Colorado, in the Colorado state government, in major 
media from Fox to The Wall Street Journal and from ABC and the New York Times, 
through to the halls of Washington DC--are ultimately far more important. 

Are reactionary elites going to coercively remove Ward Churchill from U.S. 
academia? That needs to be prevented by all of us, including people annoyed at 
having to wage the free speech fight over words they do not like. Raise your 

Why is it so hard for people, often on both sides of the left/right divide, to 
understand that what free speech means, if it means anything at all, is freedom 
to speak what others do not like or even cannot stand to hear? 

Tolerating what you like is hardly a major achievement. Hitler tolerated what 
he liked. So did Stalin. Idi Amin did too. So did Genghis Khan, the Shah, and 
Henry Kissinger. Free speech only becomes an issue when someone says what 
others don't want to hear. Ward Churchill did that and so free speech is now an 
issue. If the wrong side wins, the precedent will be dangerous.

This dynamic is not new but it is growing bolder. A recent report in the New 
York Times relayed how teachers in many states and counties in the U.S. are 
avoiding evolution by natural selection as a topic in their public school 
classes. The teachers fear fallout from fundamentalist parents, scared school 
board members, and even politically cowed principals. Ward's fight and the 
fight of these teachers are logically of one cloth. The difference is that so 
far Ward has more guts. 

Ward used to tell me, after a visit, "Keep your head down." He had seen war at 
home and abroad and he knew what he was talking about. Now Ward is in another 
kind of war. I doubt any of these right-wing thugs will come after him bodily. 
But the harm they can do institutionally is bad enough. Keep your head down.

Why Ward Churchill? I think Ward would probably say it is because what he is 
doing is very effective. Ward may even see the attacks on his essay as evidence 
that the essay had great dissident merit. I think Ward would be wrong in that. 
Ward is being attacked not because he is the strongest possible target, but 
because he is one of the weakest possible targets. His essay is featured not 
because it was seriously threatening, but because it is easily ridiculed. Ward 
provided right wingers fodder they could manipulatively use. The right wingers 
are hoping that Ward has sufficiently irritated those who would otherwise 
defend him so that he is left without defenders. We can't allow that. The right 
is a long way from going after stronger targets. Everyone on the left has to be 
sure no targets they do go after are vulnerable.

Since 9/11 at public talks I often compare George Bush and Osama bin Laden. I 
note that if you could have been a fly on the wall of the inner circle meeting 
rooms of the U.S. government leading up to the bombing of Afghanistan, I 
believe you would have heard no discussion, not even a minutes worth, taking 
into account the well being of the Afghan people in the face of possible 
massive starvation induced by our assault. Mass media at the time reported (on 
back pages only) that bombing Afghanistan could lead to five million deaths. No 
mainstream paper had a headline "U.S. contemplates killing millions to prove we 
are tough," though all knew it was true.

I also indicate in the public talks that if I were to now have the opportunity 
to ask bin Laden how he could possibly have chosen to undertake the assault on 
the Twin Towers, despicable as this act was, I think he would probably 
understand the question and would reply, roughly, that he thought the gains (in 
trying to propel the U.S. into reactions that would provoke fundamentalism 
throughout the Mideast) were worth the price in human loss. Bin Laden, as evil 
as his designs surely were and are, would understand, that is, that there was 
something untoward that occurred on 9/11, piles of corpses, and that the 
negative deaths had to be weighed against what he saw as positive political 
gains. Sane people will reject his moral calculus, of course, but I am guessing 
that at least he had one.

On the other hand, I say in these talks that if I were to now have the 
opportunity to ask Bush and Cheney how they could possibly have chosen to 
undertake the bombing of Afghanistan, I think they would not even understand 
the question. They would not see any need to weigh off benefits against costs 
because they saw no costs. For them the general estimates made by all 
responsible parties that literally millions of Afghans might suffer starvation 
if bombing were to commence counted for naught. For them, Afghans are like bugs 
outside our front door are for the rest of us. To Bush and Cheney Afghans are 
expendable. Bush and Cheney have no moral calculus. They reduce humans to the 
status of fleas.

And then I say in these talks, if there is a deep hell for sinners surely Osama 
bin Laden is headed for at least its seventh floor down, but George Bush and 
Dick Cheney are going to ride an elevator even further down to a deeper 
basement. Everyone at talks like this given in the U.S. understands these 
images and few have any problem with the harsh tone. When I have given talks 
like this in Europe, however, I have been asked why I am alive. I was confused 
the first time I heard this question in France, and then in Belgium and Italy, 
and then I realized what they meant. "If the U.S. is as bad as it seems, why 
don't Bush and Co. eradicate people as radical and militant as you? That's what 
our really bad guys did here in Europe, after all." 

Well, the answer is that things in the U.S. are not that bad. Our 
fundamentalists can only pick on targets that are relatively weak and 
effectively repress them in states that are relatively congenial to right wing 
thuggery, and even then they can do so only in relatively limited ways, at 
least so far. But if we let our fundamentalists get away with that much, which 
is already more than bad enough, then it will be just an opening act. If they 
succeed at first, their efforts will expand. 

So why do O'Reilly and the Wall Street Journal pick on Ward? I think it's 
because his words can be made to seem indiscriminate, and indeed arguably were 
indiscriminate, and because as a result they felt he would have a hard time 
fighting back. Pick Ward off, then work on all those teachers still having the 
gall to tell students that Darwin knew what he was talking about, and then move 
on from there.

I don't want to rally around Ward Churchill's specific words. They aren't my 
cup of freedom. I want to rally around Ward Churchill's right to write whatever 
words he chooses. More, I want to fight for our need to have institutions and 
social conventions that respect and support dissidence rather than institutions 
and social conventions that try to extinguish dissidence at every opportunity. 
Indeed, when we attain that level of free and supported speech, we might have 
reason to claim a degree of civilization.

P.S. There are plenty of historical instances of individuals being judged for 
more than one dimension of their lives and writing, even when one dimension had 
no redeeming logic at all. Here is another comment from W. Churchill 
(compliments of Mickey Z): "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the 
final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long 
time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great 
wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of 
Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the 
fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put 
it that way, has come in and taken their place."

Whoops, that wasn't Ward Churchill, it was Sir Winston Churchill, the man U.S. 
News and World Report called "The Last Hero." Sir Winston also said: "I am 
strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes," and asked 
British scientists to cook up "a new kind of weather" for the citizens of 

I wouldn't recommend taking Winston Churchill out of the library, but I would 
recommend strongly criticizing his vile words that had far fewer redeeming 
features than the worst things Ward Churchill has ever even fantasized saying.

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