What Is Striking In India Is The Indifference Of The Privileged- #Noamchomsky


At 84, Noam Chomsky remains the sharpest, most acute, most unrelenting critic of power, particularly American power. He speaks to Priyanka Borpujari about the evolution of protest; the disconnect between the misery he sees on the streets of Delhi and our elites’ chest-thumping pride; the narrow concerns of mainstream media; and his starring role in a Gangnam Style parody.

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Noam Chomsky, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

You have been protesting wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. And then, there has been the Occupy Wall Street movement. What have been the similarities and differences in protest movements over the years?

People do not know this, but it was very tough to oppose the Vietnam war. In the early ’60s, if I was giving a talk, it would be in somebody’s living room or a church with very few people. Right here in Boston, a liberal city, we could not have an outdoor demonstration in the Boston Common until about 1967. Any demonstration would be broken up by force. In March 1966, when we tried to have an indoor demonstration at a church downtown — since we could not have a public one — the church was attacked.The Boston Globe, which was supposed to be a liberal newspaper, denounced the demonstrators. The Harvard University faculty would not even hear about it; nobody would sign a petition. It was a few years of hard slogging. Finally by 1967-68, there were two or three years of intense activism, before it declined. The ’60s were very significant but it was very condensed. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was a very conservative campus until about 1968 and then it became very radical, perhaps the most radical in the country.

Since the late ’60s, activism has expanded but with less visibility, and it is a part of a general consciousness about all kinds of things. In the 1980s, there was a huge anti-nuclear movement. But the most significant phenomenon in the ’80s — although it did not leave much of an impact in history because it did not involve the elites very much — were the solidarity movements with central America. This solidarity was coming mostly from rural United States, like rural Kansas, and the Evangelicals, with tens of thousands of people going down to central America just to be with the victims, to help and defend them. This had never happened before, that people from the imperial state went there not just to protest, but to live with the people and participate with them. And a lot of these people stayed on. So it had a great effect over rural United States.

Towards the end of the last millennium, solidarity was visible on a new kind of global justice movement, on particular issues, like Israel-Palestine. There has been a massive shift in that. I used to have police protection on this (MIT) campus, right until the 1990s, when I talked about it. But now it is the most lively issue on the campus. I am asked to give talks about it all the time. So it’s not militant activism, but there’s a culture of independence and opposition, which I think is pretty bright.

So, who is listening to dissidents like you?

Well, anybody who is willing to talk has people listening. There aren’t too many people who are willing to go around and give talks all the time. The few of us who are willing, are deluged. Every night, I turn down a dozen invitations. When I do give talks, there is a real hunger for something different, but there is very little supply. You can almost count on the fingers of your hands the number of people who are willing to spend their lives going around and giving talks.

But on the other hand, you are in Cambridge, so you get to hear a little about . In the United States almost nobody knows anything about the outside world — people don’t know where France is.  would be some word that they might have heard in school in passing. It is a very insular society.

What about India baffles you the most?

I have followed India carefully, and have been there a number of times. It is an exciting country in many ways with its rich culture. But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it. Everyone is talking about ‘Shining India’ and yet people are starving. I had an interesting experience with this once. I was in a car in Delhi and with me was (activist) Aruna Roy, and we were driving towards a demonstration. And I noticed that she wasn’t looking outside the window of the car. I asked her why. She said, “If you live in India, you just can’t look outside the window. Because if you do, you’d rather commit suicide. It’s too horrible. So you just don’t look.” So people don’t look, they put themselves in a bubble and then don’t see it. And those words are from somebody who has devoted her life to the lives of the poor, and you can see why she said that — the misery and the oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic. There is a lot of talk about how India is slated to be a major power, and I can’t believe it, with all its internal problems; China too for that matter, but less so.

When my wife and I went to India a couple of years ago, my friend Iqbal Ahmed had told me that I would discover that the press in Pakistan is much more open and free than the press in India. I did not believe him first but when I looked into it, he explained, “The English language press in Pakistan is for you and your friends, and the government just lets them say whatever they want, because there are so few of them to cater to, just a couple of hundred thousand people.”

You have hailed the Mexican newspaper La Jornada as “maybe the only real independent newspaper in the hemisphere”. Do you think something similar can be founded in India?

It could. The interesting thing about La Jornada is that the business world hates it. They don’t give it any ads. It is the second largest newspaper in the country with a very high level of journalistic acumen and very smart people, and they are all over the country. You see people reading this newspaper on the streets. Actually, I noticed that in Kerala, the only part of India where you can see people reading on the streets.

In the recent past, India witnessed a scam that exposed the deep nexus between journalists and businessmen, but nothing happened…

That is a bit different here (in the United States). One good thing about this country is that there is very little state repression, no censorship, so they can speak out what they can. On the other hand, the internalisation of doctrine here is just overwhelming, that is, with the intellectual community in the universities. And it is partly a reflection of the freedom, I think. You get an impression that everything is free and open because there are debates that are visible: the Democrats are debating the Republicans, and the press does its share of condemning. But what people don’t see — and the seeming openness of the debate conceals it — is that it is all within a very narrow framework. And you can’t go even a millimetre outside that framework. In fact, it is even taught in journalism schools here as the concept of ‘objectivity’ — that means describing honestly what’s going on inside that framework and if there is something outside, then no, that is subjective. You see that all the time and that is a big domestic problem.

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

For example, domestically, for the population, the big problem is jobs. They don’t care about the deficit. For the banks, the problem is deficits. So the only thing discussed (in the ) is deficits. You do have an occasional different viewpoint, but it doesn’t show up at all in the  coverage of the deficit. During the 2012 presidential elections, the two countries that were mentioned way more than anyone else in all debates were Israel and Iran. And Iran was described as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s what’s repeated in the  all the time. There is an obvious question that no journalist would ask: who thinks so? They don’t think so in India; they don’t think so in the Arab world, they don’t think so in South America. The only countries to think so are the United States and England. But that you can’t report.

And then comes the question: is there anything you can do about it? This is quite spectacular when you talk about the media because it does not say this. There is something very obvious one could do about it — move to establishing nuclear-free zones. There is an overwhelming support for that all over the world. In fact, in December 2012, there was supposed to be an international conference in Finland to carry it forward under UN auspices. But in early November 2012, Iran announced that they would participate. Within days, Obama called off the conference. Not one word about that in the newspapers. Literally, not one word. The same in England. I don’t know about India; probably not there too.

On a less serious note, how did you come to feature in mit’s Gangnam Stylevideo?

I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were just a bunch of kids who seemed to be having some fun.

Did you have fun?

I was just saying what they wanted me to say.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

Lawsuit seeks evacuation of Fukushima children


Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

 

Sunday April 14, 2013 1:15 AM

By YURI KAGEYAMA

The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Their demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children.

A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the crippled nuclear plant that spewed radiation when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit it more than two years ago.

The lawsuit argues that Koriyama, a city of 330,000, should evacuate its children to an area where radiation levels are no higher than natural background levels in the rest of Japan, or about 1 millisievert annual exposure.

In a culture that frowns upon challenging the authorities, the lawsuit highlights the rift in public opinion created by the baffling range in experts’ views on the health impact of low dose radiation. Although some experts say there is no need for children to be evacuated, parents are worried about the long-term impact on their children, who are more vulnerable to radiation than adults. Consuming contaminated food and water are additional risks.

After the Fukushima accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, Japan set an annual exposure limit of 20 millisieverts for determining whether people can live in an area or not. The average radiation for Koriyama is far below this cutoff point, but some “hot spots” around the city are above that level.

“This is the level at which there are no major effects on health and people can live there,” said Keita Kawamori, an official with the Japanese Cabinet Office. “Academic experts decided this was the safe level.”

A prominent medical doctor in charge of health safety in Fukushima has repeatedly urged calm, noting damage is measurable only at annual exposure of 100 millisieverts, or 100 times the normal level, and higher.

A lower court rejected the lawsuit’s demands in a December 2011 decision, saying radiation had not reached the 100-millisievert cutoff. The International Commission on Radiological Protection, the academic organization on health and radiation, says risks decline with a drop exposure, but does not believe there is a cutoff below which there is no risk.

An appeal filed is still before Sendai High Court in nearby Miyagi Prefecture more than a year later.

After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which emitted more radiation than the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the Soviet government made it a priority to evacuate women and children from within a 30-kilometer (20-mile) radius of the plant, bigger than the 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The number of children behind the original lawsuit dwindled to 10 for the appeal, and is now down to one as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Legally in Japan, a city has responsibility for children only through junior high, since high school is not compulsory.

But the case serves as a precedent for other Fukushima children.

Toshio Yanagihara, one of the lawyers, criticized the government as appearing more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children.

“I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children — something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. “This is child abuse.”

After Chernobyl, thousands of children got thyroid cancer. Some medical experts say leukemia, heart failure and other diseases that followed may be linked to radiation.

In Fukushima, at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed among children, although there’s no evidence of a link with the nuclear disaster. There are no comparative figures on thyroid cancer in other areas of Japan.

The children in the lawsuit and their families are all anonymous, and details about them are not disclosed, to protect them from possible backlash of ostracism and bullying.

“Why is Japan, our Fukushima, about to repeat the mistakes of Chernobyl?” wrote a mother of one of the children in a statement submitted to the court. “Isn’t it up to us adults to protect our children?”

The trial has attracted scant attention in the mainstream Japanese media but it has drawn support from anti-nuclear protesters, who have periodically held massive rallies.

Among the high-profile supporters are musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.

“There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none or more vulnerable, or more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions,” Chomsky wrote in a message.

A 12-year-old, among those who filed the lawsuit but have since left the area, said she was worried.

“Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt,” she said in a hand-written statement.

__

Blog for the evacuation lawsuit: http://fukushima-evacuation-e.blogspot.jp/

 

 

 

 

Press Release-Koodankulam Could Be Another Bhopal Disaster In Waiting: Noam Chomsky


Koodankulam Could Be Another Bhopal Disaster In Waiting: Noam Chomsky

Press Release By Koodankulam Solidarity Group

31 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Internationally acclaimed academician Noam Chomsky of Massachussets Institute of Technology of the United States has said that Koodankulam could be another Bhopal disaster in waiting. In a solidarity letter to the struggling people he said `Nuclear energy is a very dangerous initiative, particularly in countries like India, which has had more than its share of industrial disasters, Bhopal being the most famous,’ said Noam Chomsky. ` I would like to express my support for the courageous people’s movement protesting the opening of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.’

Avram Noam Chomsky is internationally famous linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, historian, political critic and activist. He has worked as a professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT. In addition to his work in linguistics, he has written on war, politics, mass media and a many other areas. Chomsky was cited more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992 and he was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll.Described as the “father of modern linguistics, he is most well known for his book called ` Manufacturing Consent’

`The support of Noam Chomsky is a major blessing to the fishing community of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, who are unfortunately the first victims of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant,’ said T.Peter , Secretary, National Fish Workers’ Forum. `We hope more and more groups and individuals will flow now to support the struggle.’

`Chomsky is one of the most leading existing internationally reknowned left intellectuals today. It is surprising that while such a great personality has expressed support to the Koodankulam struggle, the left in India is still confused about their stand on the hazards of nuclear energy,’ said Civic Chandran , activist writer . Chomsky’s response came as a part of the efforts of the anti-nuclear activists to campaign on Koodankulam issue through the internet in a unique manner through a well known website http://www.countercurrents org The site has been publishing posters using statements in support of the the Koodankulam struggle from well known national and international personalities every day along with their photographs from October 11, onwards.

Mairead Maguire, the 1976 nobel peace prize winner and Irish peace activist also expressed her solidarity to the koodankulam struggle. She said the struggle is an inspiration to the world. She also said “I offer my solidarity with the brave people of Koodankulam, as they nonviolently resist the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in their community. The courageous villagers-men and women- who are risking their lives do so to safeguard the lives of their children, the livelihood of all their fishermen,and their environment.We support you all, continue to be brave, refuse to be silent, and you will overcome… your actions are in inspiration to many of us around the world and we join you in spirit…Shanti”

The campaign through posters on the net began with former Chief Minister of Kerala, V.S.Achuthanandan who said: `We do not need this nuclear bomb. The Central Govt. must immediately stop all activities regarding this plant. The Kerala Govt. must wake up with an understanding on the threat from this on the people and act immediately.’

While the stand of Achuthanandan on nuclear energy was being debated, some of the others who expressed their stand on the campaign are the following:

`What the poor people of Koodankulam is doing is what anyone would struggle for the protection of one’s own life and future. It is not surprising that the Government which has become a part of the nuclear lobby could not understand this. Let them learn from the widespread lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima ‘ – Binoy Viswarm, Former Minster of Kerala & CPI leader.

` We fully support the courageous struggle against the nuclear power station in Koodankulam. In Denmark the resistance against nuclear power was strong and well organized and today Denmark is free of nuclear energy. Our resistance was able to close the nuclear power station Barsebäck in Sweden close to Denmark ‘ – Christian Juhl, Member of Parliament and spokesman, The Red-Green Alliance , Denmark .

`Koodankulam nuclear plant is a Fukushima in the making. It will be another genocide of the Tamils, Sinhalese and Indians waiting to happen. Sri Lanka is just a stone’s throw away from Koodankulam. We the Sri Lankan people, Tamil, Sinhalese and Tamil speaking Muslims oppose it tooth and nail, along side our brothers and sisters of Idinthakarai and Koodankulam – Siritunga Jayasuria, Former Presidential candidate, General Secretary, United Socialist Party, Sri Lanka

`We agree that electricity is needed for development. But the main question is whether we have used all safer options for the production of energy before we think of nuclear option. This question is leading to a lot of suspicions’ – Annie Raja, National Council Member, CPI.

`Public pressure is needed to break the power of the greedy nuclear lobby. Koodankulam struggle is vital and I will do my utmost to spread the word about your struggle within the trade union and anti nuclear movement in Europe ‘ – Reknowned politician Paul Murphy, Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party of Ireland .

`Socialist Alternative (SAV) Germany condemn the state terror unleashed on the peaceful protesters of Koodankulam. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the police force. We demand that the government heed to the sane voice of the anti-nuclear movement and immediately stop the killer project which is bound to put the people, flora and fauna, the fragile environment and the other species in irrevocable danger’ – Lucy Redler, Spokesperson of Socialist Alternative (SAV) Germany

` The government must immediately stop the brutal treatment of protesters and shut down the plant without further delay. The investment should be channeled to renewable energy production. All development should be people centric and not for the profits of the few. Tamil Solidarity campaign will continue to support the Koodankulam anti-nuclear struggle and will continue to build support internationally’ – TU Senan, International coordinator for Tamil Solidarity Campaign.

`I am totally in solidarity with people in Koodankulam and elsewhere protesting against nuclear reactors. This we do not need in the world. We do not understand the long term dangers and must ban all new installations’ – Mallika Sarabhai, Indian classical dancer and social activist

`Atomic power is against Humanity. Human beings have not evolved enough to handle atomic power. At source level atomic energy is no different from atomic weapon. Every Nation has a hidden agenda of producing atomic Weapon. Say NO TO ATOMIC POWER!’ – KAVIGNAR Thamarai .

`The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project will have serious health consequences, not only for the local people, but also for the people of the entire region. This will be accompanied by large scale loss of livelihood for the fisher folk communities of the entire area. The long term risks of a nuclear accident are unpredictable’ – Dr. Binayak Sen, Member, Planning Commission’s Steering Committee on Health.

`Without a fully worked out disaster management plan, Koodankulam or any other nuclear reactor is a sure passport to disaster. This is an unwarranted risk. A nuclear reactor is potentially more dangerous than an ato bomb, because each 1000 MW reactor contains radio active materials equivilant to 200 nagasaki bombs’ – Dr. M.P. Parameswaran, Nuclear Engineer, KSSP.

`Stop Nuclear Menace in Koodankulam. Defend the Planet!’ – Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker .

`I stand in complete solidarity with the villagers of Idinthikkarai who are resisting Koodankulam reactor. I happened to be in Japan in March 2011 when the earthquake damaged the Fukushima reactor. After the disaster, almost every country that used nuclear energy declared that it would change its policy. Every country, except India ‘ – Arundhati Roy, Writer.

The campaign through http://www.CounterCurrents.org is generating more and more national and international support through face book, twitter, e-groups, websites and many other ways of internet sharing. ` The anti-nuclear activists have always used creative ways of campaigning and this poster campaign through the net is certainly a new step,’ said Subramanian, State Convenor of the Koodankulam Solidarity Group. ` What is most important is that we motivated Noam Chomsky himself to respond to this struggle which is situated in the other part of the planet. We are sure it will inspire many significant personalities and organizations to come out strongly against the nuclear power plant to defend life and environment’

Contact: N. Subramanyan :09497881489. nsubrahmanyan@gmail.com

K. Sajeed: 09496827652. sajeedacl@gmail.com

Geo Jose: 09446000701. geojoselily@gmail.com

 

#America Acts Like It Owns the World- #Noam Chomsky


 

By Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now!

 

28 October 12

 

 

 

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I too...

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I took in Vancouver Canada. Français : Noam Chomsky à Vancouver au Canada en 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

n the week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MIT professor, Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign: China, the Arab Spring, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and the military threat posed by Israel and the U.S. versus Iran. He reflects on the Cuban missile crisis, which took place 50 years ago this week and is still referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” He delivered this talk last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at an event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. Chomsky’s talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” [includes rush transcript]

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon. We are here as part of our 100-city Silenced Majority tour. On this week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Professor Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign, from China to the Arab Spring, to global warming and the nuclear threat posed by Israel versus Iran. He spoke last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at any event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was thinking about these remarks, I had two topics in mind, couldn’t decide between them—actually pretty obvious ones. One topic is, what are the most important issues that we face? The second topic is, what issues are not being treated seriously—or at all—in the quadrennial frenzy now underway called an election? But I realized that there’s no problem; it’s not a hard choice: they’re the same topic. And there are reasons for it, which are very significant in themselves. I’d like to return to that in a moment. But first a few words on the background, beginning with the announced title, “Who Owns the World?”

 

Actually, a good answer to this was given years ago by Adam Smith, someone we’re supposed to worship but not read. He was—a little subversive when you read him sometimes. He was referring to the most powerful country in the world in his day and, of course, the country that interested him, namely, England. And he pointed out that in England the principal architects of policy are those who own the country: the merchants and manufacturers in his day. And he said they make sure to design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to. Their interests are served by policy, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England.

 

But he was an old-fashioned conservative with moral principles, so he added the victims of England, the victims of the—what he called the “savage injustice of the Europeans,” particularly in India. Well, he had no illusions about the owners, so, to quote him again, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” It was true then; it’s true now.

 

Britain kept its position as the dominant world power well into the 20th century despite steady decline. By the end of World War II, dominance had shifted decisively into the hands of the upstart across the sea, the United States, by far the most powerful and wealthy society in world history. Britain could only aspire to be its junior partner as the British foreign office ruefully recognized. At that point, 1945, the United States had literally half the world’s wealth, incredible security, controlled the entire Western Hemisphere, both oceans, the opposite sides of both oceans. There’s nothing—there hasn’t ever been anything like that in history.

 

And planners understood it. Roosevelt’s planners were meeting right through the Second World War, designing the post-war world. They were quite sophisticated about it, and their plans were pretty much implemented. They wanted to make sure that the United States would control what they called a “grand area,” which would include, routinely, the entire Western Hemisphere, the entire Far East, the former British Empire, which the U.S. would be taking over, and as much of Eurasia as possible—crucially, its commercial and industrial centers in Western Europe. And within this region, they said, the United States should hold unquestioned power with military and economic supremacy, while ensuring the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by states that might interfere with these global designs.

 

And those were pretty realistic plans at the time, given the enormous disparity of power. The U.S. had been by far the richest country in the world even before the Second World War, although it wasn’t—was not yet the major global actor. During the Second World War, the United States gained enormously. Industrial production almost quadrupled, got us out of depression. Meanwhile, industrial rivals were devastated or seriously weakened. So that was an unbelievable system of power.

 

Actually, the policies that were outlined then still hold. You can read them in government pronouncements. But the capacity to implement them has significantly declined. Actually there’s a major theme now in foreign policy discussion—you know, journals and so on. The theme is called “American decline.” So, for example, in the most prestigious establishment international relations journal, Foreign Affairs, a couple of months ago, there was an issue which had on the front cover in big bold letters, “Is America Over?” question mark. That’s announcing the theme of the issue. And there is a standard corollary to this: power is shifting to the west, to China and India, the rising world powers, which are going to be the hegemonic states of the future.

 

Actually, I think the decline—the decline is quite real, but some serious qualifications are in order. First of all, the corollary is highly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future. China and India are very poor countries. Just take a look at, say, the human development index of the United Nations: they’re way down there. China is around 90th. I think India is around 120th or so, last time I looked. And they have tremendous internal problems—demographic problems, extreme poverty, hopeless inequality, ecological problems. China is a great manufacturing center, but it’s actually mostly an assembly plant. So it assembles parts and components, high technology that comes from the surrounding industrial—more advanced industrial centers—Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States, Europe—and it basically assembles them. So, if, say, you buy one of these i-things—you know, an iPad from China—that’s called an export from China, but the parts and components and technology come from outside. And the value added in China is minuscule. It’s been calculated. They’ll move up the technology ladder, but it’s a hard climb, India even harder. Well, so I think one should be skeptical about the corollary.

 

But there’s another qualification that’s more serious. The decline is real, but it’s not new. It’s been going on since 1945. In fact, it happened very quickly. In the late 1940s, there’s an event that’s known here as “the loss of China.” China became independent. That’s a loss of a huge piece of the grand area of Asia. And it became a major issue in American domestic policy. Who’s responsible for the loss of China? A lot of recriminations and so on. Actually, the phrase is kind of interesting. Like, I can’t lose your computer, right? Because I don’t own it. I can lose my computer. Well, the phrase “loss of China” kind of presupposes a deeply held principle of kind of American elite consciousness: we own the world, and if some piece of it becomes independent, we’ve lost it. And that’s a terrible loss; we’ve got to do something about it. It’s never questioned, which is interesting in itself.

 

Well, right about the same time, around 1950, concerns developed about the loss of Southeast Asia. That’s what led the United States into the Indochina wars, the worst atrocities of the post-war period—partly lost, partly not. A very significant event in modern history was in 1965, when in Indonesia, which was the main concern—that’s the country of Southeast Asia with most of the wealth and resources—there was a military coup in Indonesia, Suharto coup. It led to an extraordinary massacre, what the New York Times called a “staggering mass slaughter.” It killed hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants; destroyed the only mass political party; and opened the country up to Western exploitation. Euphoria in the West was so enormous that it couldn’t be contained. So, in the New York Times, describing the “staggering mass slaughter,” it called it a “gleam of light in Asia.” That was the column written by James Reston, the leading liberal thinker in the Times. And the same elsewhere—Europe, Australia. It was a fantastic event.

 

Years later, McGeorge Bundy, who was the national security adviser for Kennedy and Johnson, in retrospect, he pointed out that it probably would have been a good idea to end the Vietnam War at that point, to pull out. Contrary to a lot of illusions, the Vietnam War was fought primarily to ensure that an independent Vietnam would not develop successfully and become a model for other countries in the region. It would not—to borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology speaking about Chile, we have to prevent what they called the—what he called the “virus” of independent development from spreading contagion elsewhere. That’s a critical part of American foreign policy since the Second World War—Britain, France, others to a lesser degree. And by 1965, that was over. Vietnam was—South Vietnam was virtually destroyed. Word spread to the rest of Indochina it wasn’t going to be a model for anyone, and the contagion was contained. There were—the Suharto regime made sure that Indonesia wouldn’t be infected. And pretty soon the U.S. had dictatorships in every country of the region—Marcos on the Philippines, a dictatorship in Thailand, Chun in South—Park in South Korea. It was no problem about the infection. So that would have been a good time to end the Vietnam War, he felt. Well, that’s Southeast Asia.

 

But the decline continues. In the last 10 years, there’s been a very important event: the loss of South America. For the first time in 500 years, the South—since the conquistadors, the South American countries have begun to move towards independence and a degree of integration. The typical structure of one of the South American countries was a tiny, very rich, Westernized elite, often white, or mostly white, and a huge mass of horrible poverty, countries separated from one another, oriented to—each oriented towards its—you know, either Europe or, more recently, the United States. Last 10 years, that’s been overcome, significantly—beginning to integrate, the prerequisite for independence, even beginning to face some of their horrendous internal problems. Now that’s the loss of South America. One sign is that the United States has been driven out of every single military base in South America. We’re trying to restore a few, but right now there are none.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. Coming up, he discusses global warming, nuclear war and the Arab Spring, in a minute. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon, part of our 100-city tour. Today, though, we’re spending the hour with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. As Election Day comes closer, Chomsky examines topics largely ignored or glossed over during the presidential campaign, including the threat posed to U.S. power by the Arab Spring.

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, moving on to just last year, the Arab Spring is another such threat. It threatens to take that big region out of the grand area. That’s a lot more significant than Southeast Asia or South America. You go back to the 1940s, the State Department recognized that the energy resources of the Middle East are what they called “one of the greatest material prizes in world history,” a spectacular source of strategic power; if we can control Middle East energy, we can control the world.

 

Take a look at the U.S-British coup in Iran in 1953. Very important event. Its shadows cast over the world until today. Now that was—it was a pretense that it was a part of the Cold War; it had nothing to do with the Cold War. What it had to do with was the usual fear: independent nationalism. And it wasn’t even concerned with access to oil or profits. It was concerned with control, control of the oil resources of Iran and, in fact, of the region. And that’s a theme that runs right through policy decisions. It’s not discussed much, but it’s very important to have control, exactly as State Department pointed out—advisers pointed out in the ’40s. If you can control the oil, you can control most of the world. And that goes on.

 

So far, the threat of the Arab Spring has been pretty well contained. In the oil dictatorships, which are the most important ones for the West, every effort to join the Arab Spring has just been crushed by force. Saudi Arabia was so extreme that when there was an effort to go out into the streets, the security presence was so enormous that people were even afraid to go out. There’s a little discussion of what goes on in Bahrain, where it’s been crushed, but eastern Saudi Arabia was much worse. The emirates totally control. So that’s OK. We managed to ensure that the threat of democracy would be smashed in the most important places.

 

Egypt is an interesting case. It’s an important country, not an oil producer—it is a small one. But in Egypt, the United States followed a standard operating procedure. If any of you are going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it. There’s a standard procedure when one of your favorite dictators gets into trouble. First, you support him as long as possible. But if it becomes really impossible—say, the army turns against him—then you send him out to pasture and get the intellectual class to issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old system as much as possible. There’s case after case of that—Somoza in Nicaragua, Duvalier in Haiti, Marcos in the Philippines, Chun in South Korea, Mobutu in the Congo, over and over. I mean, it takes genius not to see it. And it’s exactly what was done in Egypt and what France tried to do, not quite with as much success, in Tunisia.

 

Well, the future is uncertain, but the threat of democracy so far is contained. And it’s a real threat. I’ll return to that. It’s also to—important to recognize that the decline over the past 50 years is, to a significant extent, self-inflicted, particularly since the ’70s. I’ll go back to that, too. But first let me say a couple of things about the issues that are most important today and that are being ignored or not dealt seriously—dealt with seriously in the electoral campaigns, for good reasons. So let me start with the most important issues. Now there are two of these. They’re of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species depends on them. One is environmental disaster, and the other is nuclear war.

 

I’m not going to take much time reviewing the threats of environmental disaster. Actually, they’re on the front pages almost daily. So, for example, last week the New York Times had a front-page story with the headline, “Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.” The melting this summer was far faster than was predicted by the sophisticated computer models and the most recent United Nations report. It’s now predicted that the summer ice might be gone by 2020. It was assumed before that it may be 2050. They quoted scientists who said this is “a prime example of the built-in conservatism of [our] climate forecasts. As dire [the warnings are] about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions … many of [us] fear [that] they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.” Actually, there’s a climate change study program at MIT, where I am. They’ve been warning about this for years, and repeatedly have been proven right.

 

The Times report discusses, briefly, the severe attack—the severe impact of all of this on the global climate, and it adds, “But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.” That is, to accelerate the catastrophe. It’s quite interesting. It demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain, or perhaps an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see impending peril—these things you sometimes find with young infants: something looks dangerous, close my eyes and won’t look at it.

 

Well, there is another possibility. I mean, maybe humans are somehow trying to fulfill a prediction of great American biologist who died recently, Ernst Mayr. He argued years ago that intelligence seems to be a lethal mutation. He—and he had some pretty good evidence. There’s a notion of biological success, which is how many of you are there around. You know, that’s biological success. And he pointed out that if you look at the tens of billions of species in human—in world history, the ones that are very successful are the ones that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or the ones that have a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They seem to make out fine. But as you move up the scale of what we call intelligence, success declines steadily. When you get up to mammals, it’s very low. There are very few of them around. I mean, there’s a lot of cows; it’s only because we domesticate them. When you get to humans, it’s the same. ‘Til very recently, much too recent a time to show up in any evolutionary accounting, humans were very scattered. There were plenty of other hominids, but they disappeared, probably because humans exterminated them, but nobody knows for sure. Anyhow, maybe we’re trying to show that humans just fit into the general pattern. We can exterminate ourselves, too, the rest of the world with us, and we’re hell bent on it right now.

 

Well, let’s turn to the elections. Both political parties demand that we make the problem worse. In 2008, both party platforms devoted some space to how the government should address climate change. Today, the—in the Republican platform, the issue has essentially disappeared. But the platform does demand that Congress take quick action to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. So let’s make sure to make it worse. And it also demands that we open the Alaska’s Arctic Refuge to drilling—I’m quoting now—in order to take “advantage of all of our American God-given resources.” You can’t disobey God, after all. On environmental policy, the program says, “We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research.” All that’s a code word for climate science: stop funding climate science. Romney himself says there’s no scientific consensus, so we should support more debate and investigation within the scientific community, but no action, except to act to make the problems worse.

 

Well, what about the Democrats? They concede that there’s a problem and advocate that we should work toward an agreement to set emissions limits in unison with other emerging powers. But that’s it. No action. And, in fact, as Obama has emphasized, we have to work hard to gain what he calls a hundred years of energy independence by exploiting domestic or Canadian resources by fracking or other elaborate technologies. Doesn’t ask what the world would look like in a hundred years. So, there are differences. The differences are basically about how enthusiastically the lemmings should march towards the cliff.

 

Let’s turn to the second major issue: nuclear war. That’s also on the front pages daily, but in a way that would seem outlandish to some independent observer viewing what’s going on on earth, and in fact does seem outlandish to a considerable majority of the countries of the world. Now, the current threat, not for the first time, is in the Middle East, focusing on Iran. The general picture in the West is very clear: it’s far too dangerous to allow Iran to reach what’s called “nuclear capability.” That is, the capability enjoyed by many powers, dozens of them, to produce nuclear weapons if they decide to do so. As to whether they’ve decided, U.S. intelligence says it doesn’t know. The International Atomic Energy Agency just produced its most recent report a couple weeks ago, and it concludes—I’ll quote it: it cannot demonstrate “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Now, that is, it can’t demonstrate something which cannot—a condition that can’t be satisfied. There’s no way to demonstrate the absence of the work—that’s convenient—therefore Iran must be denied the right to enrich uranium, that’s guaranteed to every power that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

Well, that’s the picture in the West. That’s not the picture in the rest of the world. As you know, I’m sure, there was just a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement—that’s large majority of the countries in the world and representing most of the world’s population—a meeting in Tehran. And once again, not for the first time, they issued a ringing declaration of support for Iran’s right to enrich uranium, right that every country has that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pretty much the same is true in the Arab world. It’s interesting. I’ll return to that in a moment.

 

There is a basic reason for the concern. It was expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler. He’s the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, which controls nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy. He wrote that “It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East,” one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so. General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran; he was referring to Israel, the country that ranks highest in European polls as the most dangerous country in the world—right above Iran—and, not incidentally, in the Arab world, where the public regard the United States as the second most dangerous country, right after Israel. In the Arab world, Iran, though disliked, ranks far lower as a threat—among the populations, that is, not the dictatorships.

 

With regard to Iranian nuclear weapons, nobody wants them to have them, but in many polls, majorities, sometimes considerable majorities, have said that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons, to balance those of their major threats. Now, there’s a lot of commentary in the Western media, in journals, about Arab attitudes towards Iran. And what you read, commonly, is that the Arabs want decisive action against Iran, which is true of the dictators. It’s not true of the populations. But who cares about the populations, what are called, disparagingly, the Arab street? We don’t care about them. Now that’s a reflection of the extremely deep contempt for democracy among Western elites—I mean, so deep that it can’t be perceived. You know, it’s just kind of like reflexive. The study of popular attitudes in the Arab world—and there is very extensive study by Western polling agencies—it reveals very quickly why the U.S. and its allies are so concerned about the threat of democracy and are doing what they can to prevent it. Just take—they certainly don’t want attitudes like those I just indicated to become policy, while of course issuing rousing statements about our passionate dedication to democracy. Those are relayed obediently by reporters and commentators.

 

Well, unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow inspections at all, refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, has advanced delivery systems. Also, it has a long record of violence and repression. It has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally, in violation of Security Council orders, and many acts of aggression—five times against Lebanon alone, no credible pretext. In the New York Times yesterday, you can read that the Golan Heights are disputed territory, the Syrian Golan Heights. There is a U.N. Security Council resolution, 497, which is unanimous, declaring Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights illegal and demanding that it be rescinded. And in fact, it’s disputed only in Israel and in the New York Times, which in fact is reflecting actual U.S. policy, not formal U.S. policy.

 

Iran has a record of aggression. too. In the last several hundred years, it has invaded and conquered a couple of Arab islands. Now that was under the Shah, U.S.-imposed dictator with U.S. support. That’s actually the only case in several hundred years.

 

Meanwhile, the severe threats of attack continue—you’ve just been hearing them at the U.N.—from the United States, but particularly Israel. Now there is a reaction to this at the highest level in the United States. Leon Panetta, secretary of defense, he said that we don’t want to attack Iran, we hope that Israel won’t attack Iran, but Israel is a sovereign country, and they have to make their own decisions about what they’ll do. You might ask what the reaction would be if you reverse the cast of characters. And those of you who have antiquarian interests might remember that there’s a document called the United Nations Charter, the foundation of modern international law, which bars the threat or use of force in international affairs. Now, there are two rogue states—United States and Israel—for whom—which regard the Charter and international law as just a boring irrelevance, so, do what they like. And that’s accepted.

 

Well, these are not just words; there is an ongoing war, includes terrorism, assassination of nuclear scientists, includes economic war. U.S. threats—not international ones—U.S. threats have cut Iran out of the international financial system. Western military analysts identify what they call “weapons of finance” as acts of war that justify violent response—when they’re directed against us, that is. Cutting Iran out of global financial markets is different.

 

The United States is openly carrying out extensive cyber war against Iran. That’s praised. The Pentagon regards cyber war as an equivalent to an armed attack, which justifies military response, but that’s of course when it’s directed against us. The leading liberal figure in the State Department, Harold Koh—he’s the top State Department legal adviser—he says that cyber war is an act of war if it results in significant destruction—like the attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. And such acts, he says, justify force in self-defense. But, of course, he means only attacks against the United States or its clients.

 

Well, Israel’s lethal armory, which is enormous, includes advanced submarines, recently provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear-tipped missiles, and these are sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf or nearby if Israel proceeds with its plans to bomb Iran or, more likely, I suspect, to try to set up conditions in which the United States will do so. And the United States, of course, has a vast array of nuclear weapons all over the world, but surrounding the region, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, including enough firepower in the Persian Gulf to destroy most of the world.

 

Another story that’s in the news right now is the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor in Osirak, which is suggested as a model for Israeli bombing of Iran. It’s rarely mentioned, however, that the bombing of the Osirak reactor didn’t end Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. It initiated it. There was no program before it. And the Osirak reactor was not capable of producing uranium for nuclear weapons. But, of course, after the bombings, Saddam immediately turned to developing a nuclear weapons program. And if Iran is bombed, it’s almost certain to proceed just as Saddam Hussein did after the Osirak bombing.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor and author, Noam Chomsky, continues in a moment. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Professor Chomsky will next look at nuclear weapons race, as this week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, often referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Back in a moment. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re on a 100-city tour, today in Portland, Oregon. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our hour today with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky. His recent talk entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: In a few weeks, we’ll be commemorating the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Now, those are the words of historian, Kennedy adviser, Arthur Schlesinger. He was referring, of course, to the October 1962 missile crisis, “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Others agree. Now, at that time, Kennedy raised the nuclear alert to the second-highest level, just short of launching weapons. He authorized NATO aircraft, with Turkish or other pilots, to take off, fly to Moscow and drop bombs, setting off a likely nuclear conflagration.

 

At the peak of the missile crisis, Kennedy estimated the probability of nuclear war at perhaps 50 percent. It’s a war that would destroy the Northern Hemisphere, President Eisenhower had warned. And facing that risk, Kennedy refused to agree publicly to an offer by Kruschev to end the crisis by simultaneous withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey. These were obsolete missiles. They were already being replaced by invulnerable Polaris submarines. But it was felt necessary to firmly establish the principle that Russia has no right to have any offensive weapons anywhere beyond the borders of the U.S.S.R., even to defend an ally against U.S. attack. That’s now recognized to be the prime reason for deploying missiles there, and actually a plausible one. Meanwhile, the United States must retain the right to have them all over the world, targeting Russia or China or any other enemy. In fact, in 1962, the United—we just recently learned, the United States had just secretly deployed nuclear missiles to Okinawa aimed at China. That was a moment of elevated regional tensions. All of that is very consistent with grand area conceptions, the ones I mentioned that were developed by Roosevelt’s planners.

 

Well, fortunately, in 1962, Kruschev backed down. But the world can’t be assured of such sanity forever. And particularly threatening, in my view, is that intellectual opinion, and even scholarship, hail Kennedy’s behavior as his finest hour. My own view is it’s one of the worst moments in history. Inability to face the truth about ourselves is all too common a feature of the intellectual culture, also personal life, has ominous implications.

 

Well, 10 years later, in 1973, during the Israel-Arab War, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. The purpose was to warn the Russians to keep hands off while he was—so we’ve recently learned—he was secretly informing Israel that they were authorized to violate the ceasefire that had been imposed jointly by the U.S. and Russia. When Reagan came into office a couple of years later, the United States launched operations probing Russian defenses, flying in to Russia to probe defenses, and simulating air and naval attacks, meanwhile placing Pershing missiles in Germany that had a five-minute flight time to Russian targets. They were providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability. The Russians, not surprisingly, were deeply concerned. Actually, that led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first-strike launch just minutes before launch. Now, that’s after automated systems gave false alarms. We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone. Actually, it’s a near miracle that nuclear war has been avoided so far.

 

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the crises that led to that, especially Kashmir, remain. Both India and Pakistan have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and both of them have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs, actually, until today, in the case of India, which is now a U.S. ally.

 

War threats in the Middle East, which could become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers. Well, fortunately, there’s a way out of this, a simple way. There’s a way to mitigate, maybe end, whatever threat Iran is alleged to pose. Very simple: move towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Now, the opportunity is coming again this December. There’s an international conference scheduled to deal with this proposal. It has overwhelming international support, including, incidentally, a majority of the population in Israel. That’s fortunately. Unfortunately, it’s blocked by the United States and Israel. A couple of days ago, Israel announced that it’s not going to participate, and it won’t consider the matter until there’s a general regional peace. Obama takes the same stand. He also insists that any agreement must exclude Israel and even must exclude calls for other nations—meaning the U.S.—to provide information about Israeli nuclear activities.

 

The United States and Israel can delay regional peace indefinitely. They’ve been doing that for 35 years on Israel-Palestine, virtual international isolation. It’s a long, important story that I don’t have time to go into here. So, therefore, there’s no hope for an easy way to end what the West regards as the most severe current crisis—no way unless there’s large-scale public pressure. But there can’t be large-scale public pressure unless people at least know about it. And the media have done a stellar job in averting that danger: nothing reported about the conference or about any of the background, no discussion, apart from specialist arms control journals where you can read about it. So, that blocks the easy way to end the worst existing crisis, unless people somehow find a way to break through this.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky spoke on September 27th of this year at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” If you’d like to get a copy of today’s broadcast, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And I’ll be speaking along with Professor Chomsky and Juan Cole of the University of Michigan in Princeton, New Jersey, on November 11th at 1:30. You can go to our website at democracynow.org for details.

 

 

Open Letter Demanding the Release of Baba Jan Hunzai- Noam Chomsky


  • by Signed by Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Farooq Tariq…

    FREEBABAJAN2.jpg
  • For the past 8 months Baba Jan Hunzai and four fellow activists have languished in various jails of Gilgit. Twice in this period he has been removed from jail and tortured by military and police agents.  He and his colleagues have been charged under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Ordinance.  Baba Jan, however, is not a terrorist.  He is a respected political activist of Gilgit-Baltistan (the mountainous north of Pakistan). He is being held due to his activism in support of the oppressed of the region and must be released immediately.

    In January 2010, a mountain collapsed into Hunza River and created what is now termed the Attabad Lake.  As the lake formed, village after village was submerged.  In total, over 1000 were displaced and over 25,000 were cut off from the rest of the country (the lake had destroyed the one road that connects the area to Pakistan).  The plight of Gilgit-Baltistanis was ignored. Baba Jan, an activist of Labour Party of Pakistan, toured the country lobbying for the government to drain the lake and create transport facilities for the affected. The Pakistan Peoples Party government acted too late.  The lake is now a permanent feature of the area. To off-set the protests of the displaced, the government promised compensation.

    For some, compensation never arrived.  An official list of those who were to receive compensation named 457 families.  However, over a hundred of these families did not receive their compensation. Allegedly, the compensation, instead, went to families who were sympathizers of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

    On 11th August around 200 people protested for the rights of those families who had not received compensation as the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mehdi Shah, was visiting the town of Aliabad.  The police, instructed to remove the protesters by any means, started with a baton-charge, then used tear gas before opening fire with live ammunition. Their first victim was Afzal Baig, a 22 year old student. Then, when Baig’s father tried to retrieve the body of his son, he too was shot. Both died. The valley erupted and a police station was burnt down by the protesters.

    Baba Jan arrived 6 hours later. He organised the protesters and they were promised an investigation and firm action against the police officers responsible for the killing.  The protesters waited for the government to act.

    It acted a week later.  Arrest warrants were issued for numerous protesters including Baba Jan.  While most of those arrested have been released on bail, Baba Jan and 4 activists remain behind bars.  Twice they have been picked up from jail and tortured.  First, starting on the 12th of September 2011,   for three nights for three to four hours at a time, he was beaten with sticks and had his feet crushed under boots, while, another activist (Iftikhar) had candle wax dropped on his genitals.  Again on the 28th of April 2012, Baba Jan was tortured.  Police and Pakistani Rangers (a paramilitary force) entered his jail cell and beat him up. They then whisked him to an unknown location where he was again brutally beaten, and to humiliate him, had his head shaved. He has fractured fingers and is being denied medical treatment. Further, he has been moved to Zulfiqarabad Jail, Gilgit, and put in a cell with hardened criminals.  There is reason to believe that he may be killed ‘accidentally’ while in this cell.

    Meanwhile, a judicial inquiry into the killing of Afzal Baig and his father was conducted.  Its findings have not been made public but journalists who have seen it claim it lays the blame on the police force and local bureaucracy for the incident.

     

    We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Pakistan to publish the findings of the judicial inquiry into the killing of Afzal Baig and Sher Ullah Baig.  We call on the Government of Pakistan to treat Baba Jan and fellow activists as political prisoners and kept in separate cells from other prisoners.  Further, we ask the Government of Pakistan to drop the charge it has manufactured against Baba Jan and fellow activists. We also demand compensation for the families affected by the Attabad landslide.

     

    Tariq Ali, Writer

    Noam Chomsky, MIT

    Qalandar Bux Memon, FC College

    Pervaiz Vandal, Architect

    Amanullah Kariapper, Activist

    R C Young, New York University

    Vijay Prashad, Trinity College

    Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Birkbeck, University Of London

    David Barsamian, Journalist

    Magid Shihade, Birzeit University

    Saadi Toor, Writer

    Farooq Tariq, Labour Party of Pakistan

    Simon Crithcley, New School, New York

     

    Please go sign petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/free-baba-jan

    original post here

The Real Meaning Of May Day- Noam Chomsky


Outlook
People seem to know about May Day everywhere except where it began, here in the United States of America. That’s because those in power have done everything they can to erase its real meaning.
People seem to know about May Day everywhere except where it began, here in the United States of America. That’s because those in power have done everything they can to erase its real meaning. For example, Ronald Reagan designated what he called, “Law Day”—a day of jingoist fanaticism, like an extra twist of the knife in the labour movement. Today, there is a renewed awareness, energized by the Occupy movement’s organizing, around May Day, and its relevance for reform and perhaps eventual revolution.

If you’re a serious revolutionary, then you are not looking for an autocratic revolution, but a popular one which will move towards freedom and democracy. That can take place only if a mass of the population is implementing it, carrying it out, and solving problems. They’re not going to undertake that commitment, understandably, unless they have discovered for themselves that there are limits to reform.

A sensible revolutionary will try to push reform to the limits, for two good reasons. First, because the reforms can be valuable in themselves. People should have an eight-hour day rather than a twelve-hour day. And in general, we should want to act in accord with decent ethical values.

Secondly, on strategic grounds, you have to show that there are limits to reform. Perhaps sometimes the system will accommodate to needed reforms. If so, well and good. But if it won’t, then new questions arise. Perhaps that is a moment when resistance is a necessary step to overcome the barriers to justified changes. Perhaps the time has come to resort to coercive measures in defence of rights and justice, a form of self-defence. Unless the general population recognizes such measures to be a form of self-defence, they’re not going to take part in them, at least they shouldn’t.

If you get to a point where the existing institutions will not bend to the popular will, you have to eliminate the institutions.

May Day started here, but then became an international day in support of American workers who were being subjected to brutal violence and judicial punishment.

Today, the struggle continues to celebrate May Day not as a “law day” as defined by political leaders, but as a day whose meaning is decided by the people, a day rooted in organizing and working for a better future for the whole of society.

Immediate Release-Citizens appeal to PM, CM: Save Soni Sori from death in jail


Sunday 29th April 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contacts:
Kamayani Mahabal:             +91 9820749204       (India)
Vinay Bhat:             +1 412-527-7985       (US)

Citizens appeal to PM, CM: Save Soni Sori from death in jail

In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India and other officials, about 250 concerned activists, academics, intellectuals, students, professionals and democratic organisations have demanded immediate medical attention for the Adivasi school teacher, Soni Sori, 35, currently in custody in Raipur Central Jail, Chhattisgarh. Sori’s condition is believed to be rapidly deteriorating as a result of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police. She is the mother of three young children. Signatories to the letter include members of the National Advisory Council Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, writers Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy, respected economist Jean Dreze, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan and renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on 4th October, 2011, where she had gone to seek legal assistance, fearing for her life after repeated harassment by the Chhattisgarh state police. Despite her pleas in the courts that she be held in Delhi, she was sent back to Chhattisgarh. After seeing preliminary indications that she had been tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court ordered an independent medical examination at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, where doctors found stones lodged in her vagina and rectum. In a series of letters written to the Supreme Court Advocate from jail, Sorirecounted how she was stripped, electrocuted, and physically and sexually tortured by the police.

More than six months after she was tortured, Sori continues to be imprisoned in Chhattisgarh and has received virtually no follow up medical treatment for the injuries she sustained in police custody and the infections that have developed as a consequence. According to two people (one of whom is her lawyer) who were allowed to meet Sori in prison last week, her face was visibly swollen and her hands and feet appeared abnormally thin, indicating severe weight loss. Sori complained of a severe burning sensation while passing urine and of blisters on her thighs and her private parts. The magistrate in the Dantewada court, where Sori was produced earlier in the week, is reported to have remarked that she appeared unwell. According to the jail doctor in Raipur, Sori suffers from fluctuating and high blood pressure and from anaemia. Yet, on those occasions when she has been taken to the Raipur Medical College, she met with ridicule, indifference and inadequate care from the doctors and other hospital personnel. Police interference with the doctors is also suspected.

No investigation or action has been initiated against the police officers responsible for her torture. On the contrary, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, named in Sori’s letters, was awarded a Gallantry Medal on Republic Day, 2012. Sori’s petition before the Supreme Court asking to be transferred out of Chhattisgarh has been subjected to repeated delays and is still pending. Her health continues to deteriorate in the meantime.

Sori is just one of many women subject to torture and sexual violence in custody. In a recent report, the Asian Centre for Human Rights documented that four custodial deaths had occurred daily in India over the past decade. Those demanding medical attention for Sori fear the worst by the time she is granted a final hearing.

Open Letter:

To,
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri P. Chidambaram, Home Minister
Shri Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh
Shri Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the rapidly worsening health of Soni Sori in Raipur Central Jail. She has been passing blood with her urine, is having difficulty to sit or get up, and has lost considerable weight. Despite doctors from NRS Medical Hospital having confirmed that stones had been inserted into her vagina and rectum, Soni Sori has received no proper medical attention. We fear for Soni’s life and are outraged and ashamed at this inhuman treatment of a woman in India.

Soni Sori, 35, is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada who was arrested in New Delhi on Oct 4 2011. Six months have passed since Soni was tortured physically and sexually but neither the state nor the central government has investigated the abuse. Her case has been repeatedly listed up in the Supreme Court but has been postponed every time. Throughout the duration of Soni Sori’s imprisonment, the state has also tried to stifle her communications with the civil society. In January this year, a team from various women’s groups across the country went to Raipur Jail to meet Soni, but they were prevented from doing so by the administration.

The brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the prevailing situation of conflict and repression in Chhattisgarh, cause us grave concern about Soniin particular, and the situation of women prisoners, in general. We demand immediate access for fact-finding groups to meet with Soni Sori and others to assess their condition in jail, particularly their medical situation. We fear that Soni Sori’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, and demand that she receive immediate medical attention.

Signed,

Harsh Mander
Meena Kandaswamy, Poet, Writer, Activist
Prof. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT
Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Dr. Deepankar Basu, Prof of Economic, UMass Amherst
Dr. Prithvi R Sharma, MD
Jean Dreze, Allahabad University
Uma Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Anand Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Arundhati Roy, Writer & Social Activist
Mohan Rao, Professor, JNU, Delhi
Dr. Abha Sur, Women Studies, MIT
Hiren Gandhi, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Saroop Dhruv, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Suvrat Raju, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Manasi Pingle, Film Maker
Admiral L Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff, Alibag
Lalita Ramdas, Alibag
Prof. K.N. Panikkar
Dr. KS Sripada Raju

and more than 200 others.
(Complete list of signatories at http://iadhri.wordpress.com/

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