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Fwd: [surgelocal] Arundhati Roy: Not Again
by Threehegemons
30 September 2002 04:53 UTC
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Arundhati Roy's critique of the use of the term anti-American has some of the 
same strengths and weaknesses of the arguments of those who frantically try to 
distinguish between criticizing the Jewish people (which would presumably be 
anti-semitism) and the state of Israel (presumably a government, and a 
legitimate target of critique).  The strength of these arguments, first of all: 
 any hostility towards a people, Jewish, American, whatever, homogenizes what 
is inevitably a heterogenous group.  There are plenty of Jews who don't much 
like the policies of Israel, and there are plenty of Americans who don't agree 
with the policies of the US government (I'm both).  Furthermore, there are 
forces that are highly influential in shaping the policies of each of these 
governments which cannot by any stretch be conflated with the communities they 
claim to represent (for example, fundamentalist Christians and the US 
government support Israel, and the US capitalist class plays a crucial role in 
shaping US government policy, although its deliberations are largely private 
and hidden from the American people).
     However, it also seems to me that there is a danger in seperating too much 
the actions of these governments from the communities they claim to represent.  
Assuming a community is not equated with the views of all its members, it can 
reasonably be said that for the most part the Jewish community does support 
Israel, and that the diasporic community at this point is closer to the 
policies of Likud than to any peaceful vision for the region.  In centers of 
the community--temples, Jewish organizations, etc. one almost always finds 
vigorous support for Israel, and efforts to rally the community behind the 
governments policies.  It should be noted that these organizations are 
voluntary, and non-Zionist Jews are free to set up their own--nobody holds a 
copyright on the word 'Jewish'.  But our numbers are too small, our opinions 
too marginal in the community to create institutions that could seriously 
compete for leadership at this point.

Similarly, it can reasonably said that much of the US community supports Bush's 
war drive, and that most of the American community supports general principles 
of imperialism.  Its notable that nearly every major party presidential 
candidate sooner than later declares 'this is the greatest country on earth.'  
They do that to get votes, not to impress their capitalist patrons.  And while 
'treat everyone equally, regardless of the color of their skin' is a widely 
stated (not always practiced) principle, there is a virulent sense of cultural 
superiority among the American community, combined with an almost total 
ignorance about the wider world.  

The malign ideologies which hold such sway among both the Jewish and American 
communities feed the policies of these governments (again, they are not the 
only force doing so) neither of which is immune to democratic pressure, in turn 
these government's actions isolate these communities, feeding the paranoia and 
sense of isolation that fuels the ideologies.  Its a vicious circle, but one 
which needs to be understood if it is to be changed.

Steven Sherman

Students United for a Responsible Global Environment -


>To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to 
>Not again
>Tomorrow thousands of people will take to the streets of London to protest 
>against an attack on Iraq. Here, the distinguished Indian writer Arundhati Roy 
>argues that it is the demands of global capitalism that are driving us to war
>Arundhati Roy
>Thursday September 26 2002
>The Guardian
>Recently, those who have criticised the actions of the US government (myself 
>included) have been called "anti-American". Anti-Americanism is in the process 
>of being consecrated into an ideology. The term is usually used by the 
>American establishment to discredit and, not falsely - but shall we say 
>inaccurately - define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the 
>chances are that he or she will be judged before they're heard and the 
>argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
>What does the term mean? That you're anti-jazz? Or that you're opposed to free 
>speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have 
>a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you don't admire the hundreds of 
>thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the 
>thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from 
>Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans? 
>This sly conflation of America's music, literature, the breathtaking physical 
>beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism 
>of the US government's foreign policy is a deliberate and extremely effective 
>strategy. It's like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated 
>city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy 
>There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their 
>government's policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious 
>critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in US government policy come 
>from American citizens. (Similarly, in India, not hundreds, but millions of us 
>would be ashamed and offended, if we were in any way implicated with the 
>present Indian government's fascist policies.) 
>To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just 
>racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in 
>terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you 
>don't love us, you hate us. If you're not good, you're evil. If you're not 
>with us, you're with the terrorists. 
>Last year, like many others, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this 
>post-September 11 rhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. I've 
>realised that it's not. It's actually a canny recruitment drive for a 
>misconceived, dangerous war. Every day I'm taken aback at how many people 
>believe that opposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism. 
>Now that the initial aim of the war - capturing Osama bin Laden - seems to 
>have run into bad weather, the goalposts have been moved. It's being made out 
>that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate 
>Afghan women from their burqas. We're being asked to believe that the US 
>marines are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be 
>America's military ally, Saudi Arabia?) Think of it this way: in India there 
>are some pretty reprehensible social practices, against "untouchables", 
>against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh have 
>even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women. Should they be 
>Uppermost on everybody's mind, of course, particularly here in America, is the 
>horror of what has come to be known as 9/11. Nearly 3,000 civilians lost their 
>lives in that lethal terrorist strike. The grief is still deep. The rage still 
>sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around 
>the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows that no war, 
>no act of revenge, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved 
>ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal 
>desecration of their memory. 
>To fuel yet another war - this time against Iraq - by manipulating people's 
>grief, by packaging it for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling 
>detergent or running shoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of 
>meaning. We are seeing a pillaging of even the most private human feelings for 
>political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a state to do to its 
>The US government says that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel military 
>despot who has committed genocide against his own people. That's a fairly 
>accurate description of the man. In 1988, he razed hundreds of villages in 
>northern Iraq and killed thousands of Kurds. Today, we know that that same 
>year the US government provided him with $500m in subsidies to buy American 
>farm products. The next year, after he had successfully completed his 
>genocidal campaign, the US government doubled its subsidy to $1bn. It also 
>provided him with high-quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters 
>and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and 
>biological weapons. 
>It turns out that while Saddam was carrying out his worst atrocities, the US 
>and UK governments were his close allies. So what changed? 
>In August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had 
>committed an act of war, but that he acted independently, without orders from 
>his masters. This display of independence was enough to upset the power 
>equation in the Gulf. So it was decided that Saddam be exterminated, like a 
>pet that has outlived its owner's affection. 
>A decade of bombing has not managed to dislodge him. Now, almost 12 years on, 
>Bush Jr is ratcheting up the rhetoric once again. He's proposing an all-out 
>war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change. Andrew H Card Jr, the 
>White House chief-of-staff, described how the administration was stepping up 
>its war plans for autumn: "From a marketing point of view," he said, "you 
>don't introduce new products in August." This time the catchphrase for   
>Washington's "new product" is not the plight of people in Kuwait but the 
>assertion that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Forget "the feckless 
>moralising of the 'peace' lobbies," wrote Richard Perle, chairman of the 
>Defence Policy Board. The US will " act alone if necessary" and use a 
>"pre-emptive strike" if it determines it is in US interests. 
>Weapons inspectors have conflicting reports about the status of Iraq's weapons 
>of mass destruction, and many have said clearly that its arsenal has been 
>dismantled and that it does not have the capacity to build one. What if Iraq 
>does have a nuclear weapon? Does that justify a pre-emptive US strike? The US 
>has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It's the only country 
>in the world to have actually used them on civilian populations. If the US is 
>justified in launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, why, any nuclear power is 
>justified in carrying out a pre-emptive attack on any other. India could 
>attack Pakistan, or the other way around. 
>Recently, the US played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan back 
>from the brink of war. Is it so hard for it to take its own advice? Who is 
>guilty of feckless moralising? Of preaching peace while it wages war? The US, 
>which Bush has called "the most peaceful nation on earth", has been at war 
>with one country or another every year for the last 50 years. 
>Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They're usually fought for 
>hegemony, for business.   And then, of course, there's the business of war. In 
>his book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Tom Friedman says: 
>"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. 
>McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that 
>keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called 
>the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps." Perhaps this was written in a 
>moment of vulnerability, but it's certainly the most succinct, accurate 
>description of the project of corporate globalisation that I have read. 
>After September 11 and the war against terror, the hidden hand and fist have 
>had their cover blown - and we have a clear view now of America's other weapon 
>- the free market - bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched, 
>unsmiling smile. The Task That Never Ends is America's perfect war, the 
>perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, 
>the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the 
>law. So, in India, some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs 
>Al-fayda - The Word vs The Profit (no pun intended). For the moment it looks 
>as though Al-fayda will carry the day. But then you never know... 
>In the past 10 years, the world's total income has increased by an average of 
>2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 
>million. Of the top 100 biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. 
>The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57%, and 
>the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading canopy of the war against 
>terror, this process is being hustled along. The men in suits are in an 
>unseemly hurry. While bombs rain down, contracts are being signed, patents 
>registered, oil pipelines laid, natural resources plundered, water privatised 
>and democracies undermined. 
>But as the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist of the 
>free market has its work cut out. Multinational corporations on the prowl for 
>"sweetheart deals" that yield enormous profits cannot push them through in 
>developing countries without the active connivance of state machinery - the 
>police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today, corporate globalisation 
>needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably 
>authoritarian governments in poorer countries, to push through unpopular 
>reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It 
>needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, 
>standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to 
>make sure that its only money, goods, patents and services that are globalised 
>- not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not 
>international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear 
>weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or, God forbid, justice. 
>It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck 
>the whole enterprise. 
>Close to one year after the war against terror was officially flagged off in 
>the ruins of Afghanistan, in country after country freedoms are being 
>curtailed in the name of protecting freedom, civil liberties are being 
>suspended in the name of protecting democracy. All kinds of dissent is being 
>defined as "terrorism". Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the war 
>against terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to 
>continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves 
>tremble in their quarters. So, it's hard for me to say this, but the American 
>way of life is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that 
>there is a world beyond America. 
>Fortunately, power has a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty 
>empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. 
>It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared. As the war against 
>terror casts its net wider and wider, America's corporate heart is 
>haemorrhaging. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs whom nobody 
>elected can't possibly last. 
>Soviet-style communism failed, not because it was intrinsically evil but 
>because it was flawed. It allowed too few people to usurp too much power: 
>21st-century market-capitalism, American-style, will fail for the same reasons.
>Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

r u b y   s i n r e i c h -<>- ruby@lotusmedia.org

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