John -- Fisk: On Edward Said

Topic(s): Said
Date Posted: 09.29.03

Palestinian, intellectual, and fighter, Edward Said rails against Arafat and Sharon to his dying breath
by Robert Fisk

The last time I saw Edward Said, I asked him to go on living. I knew about his leukaemia. He had often pointed out that he was receiving "state-of-the-art" treatment from a Jewish doctor and - despite all the trash that his enemies threw at him - he always acknowledged the kindness and honour of his Jewish friends, of whom Daniel Barenboim was among the finest.

Edward was dining at a buffet among his family in Beirut, frail but angry at Arafat's latest surrender in Palestine/Israel. And he answered my question like a soldier. "I'm not going to die," he said. "Because so many people want me dead."

On Wednesday night he died in a New York hospital, aged 67.

[Continue Reading]

Avi -- Threatening to harm ourselves

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 09.29.03

Threatening to harm ourselves By Akiva Eldar

The lethal terror attack at Negohot on the eve of
Rosh Hashanah confirmed the forecasts voiced in
holiday interviews. This new year, like the
previous three, apparently will belong to
religious fanatics and other intransigents
rejecting compromise.

Ariel Sharon has announced that
"there is no possibility of
forging a settlement so long as
terror continues, and so long
as the Palestinians fail to
crack down on terror."

Ehud Barak, Sharon's predecessor
as prime minister and perhaps
his rival-to-be in the next

national elections, has supported this
position, opining: "Sharon is right when he
says that it would be wrong to move one
millimeter on an a major issue before it is
clear that the Palestinians are doing their
utmost to destroy terror."

The demand that the Palestinian police succeed
in an effort that has frustrated Israel's air
force, tank corps, Border Police, and Shin Bet
security service, Sharon knows, is implausible.
Barak understands that no Palestinian
organization for national liberation has put
down its arms in the absence of a guarantee
that the occupation is to be brought to an end.
Barak himself once said in a television
interview that had he been born a Palestinian,
he doubtlessly would have joined militants who
fight Israel.

[Continue Reading]

Ayreen -- Tariq Ali -- Palestinians lose their most eloquent voice

Date Posted: 09.29.03

The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
September 29, 2003

Palestinians lose their most eloquent voice

Edward Said was a longstanding friend and comrade. I first met him more than
30 years ago at a seminar in New York and subsequently in different parts of
the world. My diary of April 11, 2002, records: "Spoke at meeting at
Columbia University chaired by Edward. He looks frail and exhausted. He
asked me to feel his arm. All bones. Has lost so much weight, but his spirit
is alive and is ultra-generous in his introduction ..."

Yet he always recovered enough strength to travel and speak all over the
world. And this deceived us. For the past 10 years one had become so used to
his illness, to his regular hospital visits, to his willingness to be
experimented on with the latest drugs, to his refusal to accept defeat, that
we began to think he was indestructible.

Last year I met his doctor who told me that he could think of no medical
explanation for his survival. It was Said's indomitable spirit as a fighter
that preserved him for so long. Slowly the monster was devouring his insides
but we could not see the process. And so, when the cursed cancer finally
claimed his life, the shock was awful.

By a strange irony, when I heard the news last Thursday in Sweden at the
Goteborg Book Fair, I had spoken twice already that day and Palestine had
figured prominently in these talks. I had been thinking of him, and one of
his Swedish admirers asked about his health. Later, at a special meeting
organised by his Swedish publishers, Ordfront, we paid tribute to the man
and his work.

With Said's death, the Palestinian nation has lost its most articulate voice
in the northern hemisphere, a world where, by and large, the continuous
suffering of the Palestinians is ignored. It was in this world - in the
heart of the American academy to be precise - that Said lived and worked.
And it was here that his controversial theses on culture and politics and
the use of the Western academy as an instrument of domination won him the
admiration of some and the envious hate of many.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- 27 pilots say will refuse to operate in territories

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 09.28.03

27 pilots say will refuse to operate in territories

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

A group of 27 active reserve duty pilots and retired pilots have sent
a letter to Air Force Chief, Major General Dan Halutz, declaring that
they refuse to participate in operations against Palestinians in the

"We, veteran pilots and active pilots alike, who have served and who
continue to serve the state of Israel for many weeks every year, are
opposed to carrying out illegal and immoral attack orders, of the type
carried out by Israel in the territories," the group wrote. "We, who
have been educated to love the state of Israel and to contribute to
the Zionist endeavour, refuse to take part in Air Force attacks in
civilian population centers."

The group was referring to Israel's policy of targeted killings of
Palestinian militants in the territories. Dozens of civilians have
been killed in these strikes, which began a few months after the
intifada erupted in late September 2000.

[Continue Reading]

Ayreen -- Cockburn -- A Mighty and Passionate Heart

Topic(s): Said
Date Posted: 09.25.03

A very touching tribute, from
A Mighty and Passionate Heart

A mighty and a passionate heart has ceased to beat.

Edward Said died in hospital in New York City Wednesday night at 6.30 pm, felled at last by complications arising from the leukemia he fought so gamely ever since the early 1990s.

We march through life buoyed by those comrades-in-arms we know to be marching with us, under the same banners, flying the same colors, sustained by the same hopes and convictions. They can be a thousand miles away; we may not have spoken to them in months; but their companionship is burned into our souls and we are sustained by the knowledge that they are with us in the world.

Few more than Edward Said, for me and so many others beside. How many times, after a week, a month or more, I have reached him on the phone and within a second been lofted in my spirits, as we pressed through our updates: his trips, his triumphs, the insults sustained; the enemies rebuked and put to flight. Even in his pettiness he was magnificent, and as I would laugh at his fury at some squalid gibe hurled at him by an eighth-rate scrivener, he would clamber from the pedestal of martyrdom and laugh at himself.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Fly JetBlue Lately?

Topic(s): "War on Terror"
Date Posted: 09.23.03,1848,60540,00.html

Army Admits Using JetBlue Data
02:00 AM Sep. 23, 2003 PT
By Ryan Singel and Noah Shachtman

Millions of JetBlue passenger records were used in a military effort whose methods closely resemble those used in the notorious Terrorism Information Awareness überdatabase program, the Army confirmed Monday.

Last week, defense contractor Torch Concepts came under heavy scrutiny after Wired News revealed that the company had crunched fliers' private data without their knowledge.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Waiting for Spielberg

Topic(s): Sir Alfred
Date Posted: 09.23.03

Unlike most urban legends, the one about the Iranian exile stuck at the Paris airport for 15 years is true. Surrounded by a mountain of his possessions near the Paris Bye Bye lounge at Terminal 1 in Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Merhan Karimi Nasseri is still there after all these years -- a celebrity homeless person.

Planted on the 1970's red plastic bench he calls home, and surrounded by stacks of newspapers and magazines, Nasseri, also known as Alfred or ''Sir, Alfred'' (title and comma appropriated from a mistake in a letter from British immigration), has organized his life's belongings into a half-dozen Lufthansa cargo boxes, various suitcases and unused carry-on luggage. On a nearby coffee table spotted with aluminum ashtrays, Nasseri's universe includes a pair of alarm clocks, an electric shaver, a hand mirror and a collection of press clippings and photographs to establish his present and his recent past. He seems both settled -- and ready to go.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Arab-Canadians cry foul over early closure of Ottawa exhibit

Topic(s): Censorship
Date Posted: 09.21.03

Museum director David Rabinovitch denies charges of censorship
By May Farah, Special to The Daily Star

The Daily Star
DS 20/09/03

Arab-Canadians cry foul over early closure of Ottawa exhibit

OTTAWA: When Canada's new Museum of Civilization opened its door to the
public over a decade ago, it did so with the unwavering intention of
staying true to its mandate: to foster in Canadians, all Canadians,
"a sense of their common identity and their shared past," and "to
promote understanding between the various cultural groups that are
part of Canadian society." However, recent actions has led some to
question, even criticize, whether the museum has been faltering in
its mission by neglecting certain groups of Canadian society.

The real trouble began earlier this year when The Lands Within Me:
Expressions by Canadian Artists of Arab Origin exhibit, which was part
of the Museum's Southwest Asian/Middle East program and featured the
works of 65 Arab-Canadian artists, came to an abrupt end, failing to
live up to its initially outlined intention.

The exhibit, which ran from Oct.19, 2001, to March of this year,
was to travel to other cities across Canada and eventually to other
countries. However, on March 9, the exhibit ended and the possibilities
of traveling came to an abrupt halt as well.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Negri -- The Imperialist backlash on Empire

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 09.18.03

[I think someone on the list forwarded this while back, but recently ran accross it and I thought it was interesting, 2 years later]

The Imperialist backlash on Empire

Antonio Negri interviewed by Ida Dominijanni

Empire's commercial success indicates how the interpretative proposal of the
book resonates with the reality of the present. The proposal has become,
thorugh agreement or disagreement, a compulsory point of reference in the
debate on the global world. S11 intercepts it, is interrogated by it and
interrogates it: especially the relationship between the form of Imperial
sovereignty outlined in the book and the actual American policy. The latter
seems to be characterised as a traditional imperialist state that aims to
redesign the geo-political borders of the planet by mobilising national
identities more than as global decentred and deteritoiralised Empire that
administers hybrid identities and flexible hierachies with no recourse to
ethnic, national traditions and values.

Q. Empire came out in the US at the beginning of 2000 and in Italy two years
later. In between the two towers collapsed. One would have expected the
Italian edition to have an additional chapter on S11 like many other
political books that came out this year. You didn't add one, is it because
the event was not epochal or because it did not constitute a surprise for
your thesis?

A. The event was very relevant but it confirmed one of the fundamental
theses of the book i.e. the end of American insularity and the difference
between telluric and maritime nations. The fact that New York could be
bombed like London, Berlin and Tokyo confirmed that the process of formation
of the new global order was fully deployed. The fact that Al Queda had
attacked the symbols of American economic power was a sign of the 'civil war
' for imperial leadership. What is absolutely new with respect to the book's
structure is the fact that the American reaction is configuring itself as a
regressive backlash contrary to the imperial tendency. It is an imperialist
backlash within and against Empire that is linked to old structures of
power, old methods of command, and a monocratic and substantialist
conception of sovereignty that represents a counter tendency with respect to
the molecular and relational characters of the imperial bio-power that we
had analysed. The gravity of the situation today lies in this contradiciton.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Tariq Ali -- The War is Not Going Well for Bush

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 09.18.03

An Interview with Tariq Ali
The War is Not Going Well for Bush


Tariq Ali is an editor of New Left Review and the author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms and the forthcoming, Bush in Babylon.

Riley: How would you contrast the Vietnam anti-war movement of the 1960s with the movement against the US war on Iraq today?

Ali: The anti-war movement of the 1960s was not simply an anti-war movement. It was also a movement that wanted victory for one side, that wanted the Vietnamese to win. So that gave it extra zest. People knew which side they were on. It was ultra-radical for that reason.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Why Don't We Have Answers to These 9/11 Questions?

Topic(s): US Analysis
Date Posted: 09.18.03

[This is a quick check list of unanswered questions from 9.11 -rg]

Why Don't We Have Answers to These 9/11 Questions?

By William Bunch
The Philadelphia Daily News
Thursday 11, September 2003

No event in recent history has been written about, talked about, or
watched and rewatched as much as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001 - two years ago today.

Not only was it the deadliest terrorist strike inside America, but
the hijackings and attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and
the Pentagon in Washington were also a seminal event for an
information-soaked Media age of Internet access and 24-hour news.

So, why after 730 days do we know so little about what really
happened that day?

No one knows where the alleged mastermind of the attack is, and none
of his accomplices has been convicted of any crime. We're not even
sure if the 19 people identified by the U.S. government as the suicide
hijackers are really the right guys.

Who put deadly anthrax in the mail? Where were the jet fighters that
were supposed to protect America's skies that morning? And what was
the role of our supposed allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

There are dozens of unanswered questions about the 2001 attacks, but
we've narrowed them down to 20 - or 9 plus 11.

1. What did National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tell
President Bush about al Qaeda threats against the United States in a
still-secret briefing on Aug. 6, 2001?

Rice has suggested in vague terms that the president's brief -
prepared daily by the CIA - included information that morning about
Osama bin Laden's methods of operation -- including hijacking. But
when the congressional committee probing Sept. 11 asked to see the
report, Bush claimed executive privilege and refused to release it.

2. Why did Attorney General John Ashcroft and some Pentagon
officials cancel commercial-airline trips before Sept. 11?

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Drug craze is fuelling murder on streets of Iraqi capital

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 09.18.03

Sunday September 14, 2003
The Observer

Zala and his friends live in the gardens of Baghdad. They hang around
the banks of the Tigris to beg and steal. Last week Ala and his
friends fished a bloated corpse out of the river and handed it to the
police, hoping to get some money. Mainly, though, Ala and his gang do
drugs. When I meet them one morning at 10am they already stink of
'tannar' - the paint thinners and glue that they sniff in bags. A
small medicine bottle costs 1,000 dinars (60p). The only girl in Ala's
gang, a skinny, filthy child probably in her early teens, is clasping
a full bottle. What they really like, when they can get it, is
'capsils'. They list the pills you can buy on the streets, especially
by the Babb al Sharq, the Eastern Gate: 'pinks' and 'Lebanese',
'eyebrows' and 'crosses', 'reds' and 'Syrians'. Most of all, what
these children like is a drug they call Artane, Baghdad's most popular

Its proper name is benzhexol. It is an anticolinergic, used in the
treatment of Parkinson's disease and to counter the effect of
anti-psychotic treatments. A sheet purchased from a private pharmacy
will cost 1,000 dinars. For street kids like Ala, who buy them
individually from the drug dealers, it costs a little more.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Fisk -- Secret slaughter by night, lies and blind eyes by day

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 09.18.03

In the Pentagon, they've been re-showing Gillo Pontecorvo's terrifying
1965 film of the French war in Algeria. The Battle of Algiers, in black
and white, showed what happened to both the guerrillas of the FLN and
the French army when their war turned dirty. Torture, assassination,
booby-trap bombs, secret executions. As the New York Times revealed,
the fliers sent out to the Pentagon brass to watch this magnificent,
painful film began with the words: "How to win a battle against
terrorism and lose the war of ideas..." But the Americans didn't need
to watch The Battle of Algiers.

They've already committed many of the French mistakes in Iraq, and the
guerrillas of Iraq are well into the blood tide of the old FLN. Sixteen
demonstrators killed in Fallujah? Forget it. Twelve gunned down by the
Americans in Mosul? Old news. Ten Iraqi policemen shot by US troops
outside Fallujah? "No information," the occupation authorities told us
last week. No information? The Jordanian embassy bombing? The bombing
of the UN headquarters? Or Najaf with its 126 dead? Forget it. Things
are improving in Iraq. There's been 24-hour electricity for three days
now and - until two US
soldiers were killed on Friday - there had been five days without an
American death.

[Continue Reading]

Avi -- An outcome too terrible to imagine

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 09.18.03

An outcome too terrible to imagine
By Yigal Bronner
The morning after the horrific suicide bombing at
Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem, Finance Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu was asked on the radio whether
this was the right time to cut the defense budget.
Netanyahu reiterated his promise that the funds
earmarked for what is known as the separation
fence will not be reduced and will even be pumped
in faster to accelerate its construction. This
will be done in order to guarantee the security of
Israeli civilians. It never occurred to the radio
host to ask whether the fence would, indeed,
guarantee security. As in other areas, the
escalating violence and heated emotions rule out
any alternative views.

One of the most dramatic
geo-political changes in the
history of the region is taking
place at record speed and
without any public debate.
Before it becomes too late, we
must take time out to look
through the veil of lies about
the fence.

[Continue Reading]

Reclaiming the Stolen Faces of Their Forefathers

Topic(s): Museums
Date Posted: 09.18.03

September 18, 2003

ALERT BAY, British Columbia — A local newspaper column last year suggested that the Namgis, a small band of Native Canadians in British Columbia, ought to go to London and steal the Crown Jewels to get some bargaining leverage over the British Museum.

The half facetious idea came after the group had tried diplomacy for several years to get back a beloved wooden mask stolen from them 82 years ago that is now boxed up in a storage room of the museum.

[Continue Reading]

Zinn: An Occupied Country

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 09.17.03

It has become clear, very quickly, that Iraq is not a liberated country, but an occupied country. We became familiar with the term "occupied country" during World War II. We talked of German-occupied France, German-occupied Europe. And after the war we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, the Soviets, who occupied other countries.

Now we are the occupiers. True, we liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, but not from us. Just as in 1898 we liberated Cuba from Spain, but not from us. Spanish tyranny was overthrown, but the United States established a military base in Cuba, as we are doing in Iraq. U.S. corporations moved in to Cuba, just as Bechtel and Halliburton and the oil corporations are moving into Iraq. The United States was deciding what kind of constitution Cuba would have, just as our government is now forming a constitution for Iraq. Not a liberation, an occupation.

[Continue Reading]

John -- 2 On Wesley Clark

Topic(s): 2004 Election
Date Posted: 09.17.03

Wesley Clark's 'High Noon' Moment by Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation)


Wesley Clark: The New Anti-War Candidate? from FAIR.

[Continue Reading]

John -- The Latest Obscenity Has Seven Letters

Topic(s): Fascism
Date Posted: 09.14.03

September 13, 2003

A few years after the end of World War II, George Orwell wrote that the "the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies `something not desirable.' "

Since then the term fascist has gone in and out of fashion several times. In the late 1960's, the time of civil rights and Vietnam War protests, it was widely used to describe everything from police brutality to compulsory bedtime for children. With the waning of the cold war it seemed to go out of vogue: how could there be fascism without its historical adversary, communism?

But since Sept. 11, the term fascist appears to be making something of a comeback.

[Continue Reading]

Joy -- The Bomb Project: Art + Information Forum

Topic(s): Nukes
Date Posted: 09.13.03

Introducing: The Bomb Project: Art + Information Forum

There is now a message board online at The Bomb Project. Please feel
free to post relevant urls and information about conferences,
publications, articles, projects, and exhibitions pertaining to nuclear

Thanks and best regards,
Joy Garnett
The Bomb Project

either click on the forum link at:

or go directly to:

[Continue Reading]

John -- Finkelstein on Hitchens

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 09.11.03


Editor's note: Norman G. Finkelstein is currently writing a political memoir, which will serve as the introduction to a new edition of his book, The Rise and Fall of Palestine, to be published by New Press next year. Below is an excerpt from the memoir on the subject of political apostasy. The title refers to how ex-leftist Christopher Hitchens used to sign off his correspondence.

"Fraternally yours, Chris"

I'm occasionally asked whether I still consider myself a Marxist. Even if my "faith" had lapsed, I wouldn't advertise it, not from shame at having been wrong (although admittedly this would be a factor) but rather from fear of arousing even a faint suspicion of opportunism. To borrow from the lingo of a former academic fad, if, in public life, the "signifier" is "I'm no longer a Marxist," then the "signified" usually is, "I'm selling out." No doubt one can, in light of further study and life experience, come to repudiate past convictions. One might also decide that youthful ideals, especially when the responsibilities of family kick in and the prospects for radical change dim while the certainty of one's finitude sharpens, are too heavy a burden to bear; although it might be hoped that this accommodation, however understandable (if disappointing), were accomplished with candor and an appropriate degree of humility rather than, what's usually the case, scorn for those who keep plugging away. It is when the phenomenon of political apostasy is accompanied by fanfare and fireworks that it becomes truly repellent.

[Continue Reading]

Garrett -- Another Tribe Without a State

Topic(s): War Journalism
Date Posted: 09.10.03

When a soldier on a U.S. tank shot a Reuters cameraman, Mazen Dana, last month while he was filming the aftermath of a terrorist attack at the American-run Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, he became the 17th journalist to die in Iraq. Given that there have been fewer than 300 U.S. military casualties since the war began last March, this is a startlingly high statistic.

Even more startling is the fact that five of the dead journalists have been victims of ''friendly fire.'' And unlike past wars where such casualties were most often caused by land mines, firefights, snipers or artillery, these five died after they or their offices were made direct targets.

What is evolving is a form of conflict not characterized by armies of ''good guys'' and ''bad guys'' or ''liberators'' and ''oppressors,'' one covered by journalists who come from or identify with one side or another. We have instead a new, almost gravityless, world of conflict in which the American military can kill journalists without causing great alarm and ''the enemy'' can blow up U.N. aid missions and other ''soft'' civilian targets without remorse. All that journalists have to steady them in this bad dream is grit and a stubborn refusal to serve any of the contending masters. What gives their work meaning is a defiant commitment to independence, accurate reporting and an almost existential belief that no matter how debased the world and politics become, the ''real story'' somehow still matters.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Antasofia & Chomsky -- 'The Dominion And The Intellectuals'

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 09.10.03


'The Dominion And The Intellectuals'

'One of the reasons why I am considered public enemy number one among a large sector of intellectuals in the US is that I mention that the U.S. is one of the major terrorist states in the world and this assertion, though plainly true, is unacceptable for many intellectuals...'.

Antasofia: Last year we worked on a seminar, organised by the students, called Genealogy of Dominion. We studied Max Stirner, Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, Etienne De la Boetie and Hannah Arendt. I worked on Max Stirner's The Ego and Its Own. He believes language has a disciplinary effect that through the words goes straight to ideology. So for Stirner, you have to free yourself from this kind of language and have a personal rebellion, not a revolution. This is something different from your language conception that is free and creative. I want to know what you think about that.

Noam Chomsky: I think Stirner is confusing language with the use of language. I mean it is like asking whether you have to free yourself from a hammer because a hammer can be used by a torturer. It is true that a hammer can be used by a torturer but the hammer can be used also to build houses. The use of a hammer is something we must pay attention to, but the language can be used to repress, can be used to liberate, can be used to divert. It is like saying you have to liberate yourself from hands because they can be used to repress people but it's s not hand's fault.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Cry California

Topic(s): California
Date Posted: 09.09.03

Lost in the divisive clamor of recall politics, something precious is being ground to dust.

Mike Davis
September 4, 2003

Every candidate in California's dark recall-election comedy should be obliged to answer the question: "Whither Duroville?"

"Duroville" is the California visitors never see and that pundits ignore when they debate the future of the world's sixth largest economy. Officially this ramshackle desert community of 4000 people in the Coachella Valley doesn't even exist. It is a shantytown -- reminiscent of the Okie camps in The Grapes of Wrath -- erected by otherwise homeless farmworkers on land owned by Harvey Duro, a member of the Cahuilla Indian nation.

The Coachella Valley is the prototype of a future -- Beverly Hills meets Tijuana -- that California conservatives seem to dream of creating everywhere. The western side of the Valley, from Palm Springs to La Quinta, is an air-conditioned paradise of gated communities built around artificial lakes and eighteen-hole golf courses. The typical resident is a 65-year-old retired white male in a golf cart. He is a zealous voter who disapproves of taxes, affirmative action, and social services for the immigrants who wait on him.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Fisk -- Another Fine Mess

Topic(s): Iran
Date Posted: 09.09.03

The Independent, UK -- 01/09/03

Not long before he died, old "Monty" Woodhouse asked himself if his role in
the 1953 coup d'etat in Iran had led, indirectly, to Ayatollah Khomeini's
Islamic Republic. "Regime change" hadn't attracted President Truman, but
when Eisenhower arrived at the White House in 1953, the overthrow of
Mohammed Mossadeq's democratically elected government was concocted by the
CIA with the help of Woodhouse, an urbane Greek scholar and ex-guerrilla
fighter and Britain's top spy in Tehran. America was fearful that Mossadeq
would hand his country over to the Soviets; Woodhouse was far more concerned
to return Iran's newly nationalised oil fields to the Anglo-Iranian Oil
Company (AIOC). The restoration of the young Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi -
our policeman in the Gulf - was the ultimate goal. It cost a couple of
million dollars, a plane-load of weapons and 300 lives. And 26 years later,
it all turned to dust.

The Americans called their plot to restore the Shah Operation Ajax. The MI6
plan, dreamt up by Woodhouse, had the more prosaic title of Operation Boot.
It was all a long way from Operation Iraqi Freedom, although there must be a
few conservatives in the Pentagon now wishing that they'd dusted off their
archives of the early Fifties to see how to topple Middle East leaders
without an invasion. But then Operation Ajax/Boot - though it was undeniably
about oil - was never intended to change the map of the Middle East, let
alone bring "democracy" to Iran. Democracy, in the shape of the popular,
effete Mossadeq, was the one thing Washington and London were not interested
in cultivating. This was to be regime change on the cheap.

[Continue Reading]

Greg -- Santiago dreaming

Topic(s): Chile
Date Posted: 09.09.03

Santiago dreaming
When Pinochet's military overthrew the Chilean government 30 years ago, they discovered a revolutionary communication system, a 'socialist internet' connecting the whole country. Its creator? An eccentric scientist from Surrey. Andy Beckett on the forgotten story of Stafford Beer

Monday September 8, 2003
The Guardian

During the early 70s, in the wealthy commuter backwater of West Byfleet in Surrey, a small but rather remarkable experiment took place. In the potting shed of a house called Firkins, a teenager named Simon Beer, using bits of radios and pieces of pink and green cardboard, built a series of electrical meters for measuring public opinion. His concept - users of his meters would turn a dial to indicate how happy or unhappy they were with any political proposal - was strange and ambitious enough. And it worked. Yet what was even more jolting was his intended market: not Britain, but Chile.

Unlike West Byfleet, Chile was in revolutionary ferment. In the capital Santiago, the beleaguered but radical marxist government of Salvador Allende, hungry for innovations of all kinds, was employing Simon Beer's father, Stafford, to conduct a much larger technological experiment of which the meters were only a part. This was known as Project Cybersyn, and nothing like it had been tried before, or has been tried since.

[Continue Reading]

Greg -- What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'?

Topic(s): US Analysis
Date Posted: 09.09.03

What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'?

Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the Pentagon recently held a screening of "The Battle of Algiers," the film that in the late 1960's was required viewing and something of a teaching tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the Vietnam War.

Back in those days the young audiences that often sat through several showings of Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 re-enactment of the urban struggle between French troops and Algerian nationalists, shared the director's sympathies for the guerrillas of the F.L.N., Algeria's National Liberation Front. Those viewers identified with and even cheered for Ali La Pointe, the streetwise operator who drew on his underworld connections to organize a network of terrorist cells and entrenched it within the Casbah, the city's old Muslim section. In the same way they would hiss Colonel Mathieu, the character based on Jacques Massu, the actual commander of the French forces.

[Continue Reading]

John -- War as Architecture

Topic(s): architecture
Date Posted: 09.07.03

by Tom Vanderbilt

[published August 2003 in The Knowledge Circuit, Design
Institute, University of Minnesota]

NEW YORK, NY. War, as the old Clausewitzian saw goes, is the extension
of politics by other means. As we have been reminded in recent months,
there may be cause for a new dictum: War is the extension of
architecture by other means.

Apart from the obvious architectural connotations of war--the need for
defensive shelter, the status of architecture as a target--there is a
breadth of associative meaning between the two enterprises: both are
about the exercise of control over a territory; both involve strategic
considerations of the most apt site-specific solutions; both involve
the use of symbol, rhetoric, and cultural context.

In the Iraq campaign, the architectural connotations were legion, from
the New York Times Op-Ed writer who commented upon the fact that the
Hausmannian avenues and relatively low, dispersed skyline of Baghdad
boded well for its military penetration; to the surgical extraction of
architectural assets, shown in remarkable overhead clarity by the
satellite imagery of Evans and Sutherland, looking like the aerial
mosaics employed by urban planners (in fact, aerial warfare and urban
planning have long shared an eerie confluence of language and tactics,
and even practioners, as in the Air Forces Curtis LeMay, who studied
urban planning before overseeing the devastating aerial campaign on
Japan); to the mere fact that the rebuilding of Iraq will cost far
more than its invasion. More than a war of destruction, this is a
war of construction. The terrain itself was filled with three-
dimensional militarism; an absolutist regime produces absolutist
architecture, after all, and nowhere was that better signified than
in Saddam Hussein's crossed swords monument, fashioned from the
melted metal of Iraqi weaponry, festooned with myriad helmets (some
even functioned as speed bumps) taken from some of the one million
soldiers who died in the Iran-Iraq war. Architecture, or a gesture
of war itself?

[Continue Reading]

Kevin -- Belfast separation fences divide, but slow violence

Topic(s): Ireland
Date Posted: 09.07.03

Belfast separation fences divide, but slow violence

By Sharon Sadeh

BELFAST, Ireland - A group of children and a
bricklayer are standing at the bottom of Glenbryn
Park, a street in Northern Belfast. Some adults
gathered near them throw suspicious glances in all
directions. Everywhere you look, there is neglect.
Abandoned houses lacking walls and windows line
the streets. Some are total lost causes - in these
cases, the only thing left of a house is its
skeletal frame. In the past, these dilapidated
structures were home to Protestant families. But
the families fled the area in the 60s and 70s,
when Northern Ireland's violent dispute reached
its bloodiest peak. At the time, terror strikes,
assassinations and house burnings were routine.

The children, on summer vacation, energetically
knock down walls and pull bricks out of them,
producing a new item, in a modified mortar and pestle
process known in local slang as "Belfast Bricks."

Materials from the torn-down houses are modified
and sold for a few pounds to enterprising contractors.
These builders turn up suddenly in pickup trucks, and
vanish asfast as they come.

Suddenly, the kids stop working. One of them
points at this Haaretz writer, after having
seen a camera flash. "Don't go over there,"
says the worried taxi driver, Jerry Holden, who
accompanied me on my visit to the city. "They
might attack you - they don't like journalists."
The cab driver, a Catholic who prefers to ignore
local politics, begs me to get back in the cab.
I do so, and we drive away.

[Continue Reading]

Naeem -- Civil War a Credible Hypothesis

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 09.07.03

Civil War a Credible Hypothesis
By Marc Semo
La Liberation

Thursday 04 September 2003

Religious and Ethnic Tensions Threaten the Country

Baghdad - The last henchmen of Saddam Hussein's
defunct regime and those of radical Islamist terrorism
have a common goal in Iraq. They're betting on a
strategy of the worst even as the Bush administration
pledges its desire to leave the country, or to
considerably reduce its military presence, after the
first free elections. Paul Bremer, the boss of the
provisional administration, promises these for Spring
2004. a retreat that would leave Iraq in chaos would,
however, damage Washington's credibility. All those
who have decided to revenge themselves on American
power seem, therefore, to be betting on a
"Lebanonization" of Iraq.

[Continue Reading]

Petition to stop the wall

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 09.05.03

To add your name access the online petition at

To: The United Nations, the democratic forces and governments, humanitarian organizations and the Jewish communities around the world

The Israeli government is currently erecting the Wall of Separation – euphemistically called the "Security Fence" – which is supposed to block "terrorist attacks" (but certainly won’t prevent missiles and helicopters from hitting their human targets) at an estimated cost of 2 billion dollars in the middle of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. Plans also exist to complete it along the Jordan River. In any case it is already creating a situation with immeasurably tragic consequences. But at this time, the reactions and objections from international organizations, governments, public opinions outside and inside Israel (with the notable exception of such courageous groups as Gush Shalom, B’Tselem, Ta’yush), remain strangely restrained, as if the construction were a fait accompli, as if protest must wait for the work to be completed or tactical precautions must be observed during a period of renewed "peace talks" under the auspices of the U.S. and other world powers.

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Avi -- Hass -- What the fatality statistics tell us

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 09.03.03

What the fatality statistics tell us 

By Amira Hass

Against the background of shock and disgust at the mass terror attack on the Jerusalem bus on August 19, and the fear of advanced Qassam rocket attacks, the government of Israel energetically renewed its policy of targeted killings. From August 21 through yesterday, September 1, Air Force fighters killed 11 Hamas activists in six targeted assassinations in crowded central locations. Four other Palestinians were killed in those actions, among them a young girl and an old man, and dozens were injured. The threatened revenge attack has not occurred. Is this not proof that targeted killings are the way to go?

That might have been the conclusion in December 2000 as well, after the first three targeted killings that Israel carried out the previous month. At the end of September and October 2000, the Palestinians killed 11 Israelis in the territories, five of whom were security personnel, according to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights. In November, 22 Israelis were killed, 18 in the territories, 11 of whom were security personnel, and four in Israel proper. In December, the Palestinians killed eight Israelis in the territories, five of whom were civilians and three were security personnel. No Israelis were killed in Israel proper in December. This could be seen as a direct result of the pressure brought to bear by the series of six targeted killings that same month.

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ARTiFACTs -- Census Shows Ranks of Poor Rose by 1.3 Million

Topic(s): Internal Affairs
Date Posted: 09.03.03

Census Shows Ranks of Poor Rose by 1.3 Million

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 — The number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by more than 1.3 million last year, even though the economy technically edged out of recession during the same period, a Census Bureau report shows.

The spike in economic hardship hit individuals and families alike. The report indicated that the total percentage of people in poverty increased to 12.4 percent from 12.1 percent in 2001 and totaled 34.8 million. At the same time, the number of families living in poverty went up by more than 300,000 in 2002 to 7 million from 6.6 million in 2001.

The number of children in poverty rose by more than 600,000 during the same period to 12.2 million. The rate of increase in children under age 5 jumped a full percentage point to 19.8 percent living below the poverty line from 18.8 percent a year earlier.

"These numbers provide a moving picture of population changes," said Stephen Buckner, a spokesman for the Census Bureau. "It's more timely data that should allow decision makers to make more informed judgments.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Arshile Gorky -- SELF-MADE MAN

Topic(s): BookReview
Date Posted: 09.03.03

How Arshile Gorky changed art.
Issue of 2003-09-08
Posted 2003-09-01

A headline in the Times of July 22, 1948, read "gorky's cousin ends
life." According to the brief obituary that followed, a Russian-born
American painter, forty-five years old, had hanged himself in a
barn on his property in Sherman, Connecticut. The story was full of
errors. The painter, Arshile Gorky, was unrelated to the celebrated
Communist writer Aleksey Peshkov, whose pen name was Maxim Gorky. He
was probably forty-eight years old, and was born Vosdanig Adoian,
in a village in Turkish Armenia. The Sherman property wasn't his -
he was too poor to own much of anything - and the building that he
selected to die in was a shed. The obit's major errors repeated lies
that Gorky regularly told about himself. He kept secret his memories
of the massacres, famine, and epidemics that decimated his people
during the First World War. He spoke passionately of his mother
but rarely of her death in his presence, at the age of thirty-nine,
perhaps of starvation. Gorky's widow, Agnes Magruder, who adopted his
pet name for her, Mougouch (a term of endearment that meant "little
mighty one," he told her), didn't learn until ten years after his
death that he was Armenian. But the writer's sketchiness was also
due to a profound public ignorance of the American avant-garde in
the years before Abstract Expressionism burst upon the world. Even
today, when Gorky is enshrined in art history as a crucial figure in
the shift of modern-art leadership from Paris to New York, and his
paintings resell for millions, a peculiar obscurity clings to him.

Hayden Herrera is the author of a lively and consequential biography of
Frida Kahlo. Her new book, "Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work" (Farrar,
Straus, and Giroux; $45), gives us Gorky whole. Herrera is Mougouch's
god-daughter, and her monumental, superbly crafted book, thirty-some
years in the making, supplants two recent Gorky biographies by authors
who also had personal reasons for writing. "From a High Place" (1999)
is by Matthew Spender, the son of the poet Stephen and the husband of
Maro, the older of Mougouch and Gorky's two daughters. "Black Angel"
(2000) is by Nouritza Matossian, who was impelled by her identification
with Gorky as a fellow-Armenian. Spender is brisk and engaging,
Matossian ardent and often moving, but neither rivals Herrera's
comprehensiveness, which is indispensable to a subject who cannot but
remain elusive. Beyond being an artist's artist - "a better handler of
brush and paint than anyone he was radically influenced by, including
Picasso and Miró," in the judgment of Clement Greenberg - Gorky might
be termed art's artist: an embodiment of what it means to value the
practice of art not wisely but totally. Herrera installs Gorky in
the reader's mind as a living, bedevilling, unquenchable enigma.

He was tall, dark, and outrageously handsome, with dramatic black
hair and mustache, a full mouth, a prow of a nose, and large, soulful
eyes under a wide brow. His hands were long, beautiful, and always in
motion. He was animated, cocksure, and often funny, with the air of
a melancholy clown. He was puritanical, obsessed with cleanliness,
and fatalistic. De Kooning said of Gorky, "He had a difficult life.
Everything was kind of gloomy and nothing really worked so good,
paintings and life and the money. And he would say, 'Ah, that's another
cup of coffee, another piece of pie.' He said it with a certain kind
of Armenian accent." The voice of de Kooning, with its traces of his
own Dutch patois, is one of many that enchant in the book. It was a
generation of wonderful talkers. Jackson Pollock, perhaps thinking
of the popular perception of abstract painters as depraved crazies,
reacted to Gorky's suicide this way: "Why give a lot of bastards
a chance to say 'I told you so'? And you don't sort of take others
with you, scarring them like Gorky did with that note when he hung
himself, 'Goodbye, dears' or some shit. The guy always did talk too
much." (Accounts differ on Gorky's suicide note, scrawled in chalk
on a crate; the generally accepted version, which sounds like him,
is "Goodbye My Loveds.") Besides being volcanically creative, the
tiny downtown art world of the nineteen-forties was very tough.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Art vs. Religion: Whose Rights Will Come First?

Topic(s): Art World Stuff
Date Posted: 09.03.03

Art vs. Religion: Whose Rights Will Come First?

New York Times
Sept 2 2003

MOSCOW, Sept. 1 - It was provocative, as modern art often is. But few
of those involved could have foreseen just how provocative it would
become when the Sakharov Museum here opened an exhibition of paintings
and sculptures in January under the title "Caution! Religion."

Four days after the Jan. 14 opening, six men from a Russian Orthodox
church came to the museum's exhibition hall and sacked it, defacing
many of the 45 works with spray paint and destroying others.
"Sacrilege," one of them scrawled on the wall.

The police came and quickly arrested the men, but their actions -
described either as heroism or hooliganism - began a highly charged
debate not only over the state of freedom of expression in Russia
today but also over the ever-growing influence of the Orthodox Church.

Priests denounced the museum - named after the Soviet-era physicist
and dissident Andrei D. Sakharov. Church members began a letter-writing
campaign defending the attackers.

Somewhere along the way, the tables turned on the museum, its director
and the exhibition's artists. The lower house of Parliament passed
a resolution condemning the museum and the exhibition's organizers.

The criminal charges against four of the six men were dropped early on
for lack of evidence - even though they had been detained inside the
building. Then on Aug. 11, with several hundred Orthodox believers
holding a vigil outside, a court here threw out the charges against
the others, Mikhail Lyukshin and Anatoly Zyakin, saying they had been
unlawfully prosecuted.

[Continue Reading]

Greg via Todd -- Vidal -- The Erosion of the American Dream

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 09.02.03

The Erosion of the American Dream

It's Time to Take Action Against Our Wars on the Rest of the World


This is a transcript of Gore Vidals's March 12 interview on
Dateline, SBS TV Australia.

MARK DAVIS: Gore Vidal, welcome to Dateline.

GORE VIDAL: Happy to have crossed the dateline down under.

MARK DAVIS: In the past few years, you have shifted from being a novelist to
principally an essayist or, in your own words 'a pamphleteer'. It's almost
the reverse of most writers' careers. Why the shift for you?

GORE VIDAL: Why the shift in the United States of America, which has obliged
me --since I've spent most of my life marinated in the history of my country
and I'm so alarmed by what is happening with our global empire, and our wars
against the rest of the world, it is time for me to take political action.
And I think anybody who has the position, has a platform, must do so. It's
also a family tradition. My grandfather lost his seat in the Senate because
he opposed going into the First World War. And he won it back 10 years later
on exactly the same set of speeches that he'd lost it. So, attitudes change,
attitudes can be changed but, now, I am not terribly optimistic that there
is much anyone can do now the machine is set to go. And, to have a major
depression going on, economic, really, collapse all round the world and
begin a war against an enemy that has done nothing against us other than
what our media occasionally alleges, this is lunacy. And I have a hunch
--I've been getting quite a bit around the country --most people are
beginning to sense it. The poll numbers are not as good as the Bush regime
would have us believe. A great...something like 70% really only wants to go
into war with United Nations sanction and a new resolution. I would prefer,
however, that we use our constitution, which we often ignore, which is
--Article 1 Section 8 says, "Only the Congress may declare war. The
President has no right to go to war and he is Commander-in-Chief once it

MARK DAVIS: Over the past 40 years or so, you've written about the
undermining of the foundations of the constitution --liberty, human rights,
free speech. Indeed, you've probably damned every administration throughout
that period on that score. Is George Bush really any worse?

GORE VIDAL: No, he certainly is worse. We've never had a kind of reckless
one who may believe --and there's a whole theory now that he's inspired by
love of Our Lord --that he is an apocalyptic Christian who'll be going to
Heaven while the rest of us go to blazes. I hope that isn't the case. I hope
that's exaggeration. No. We've had...the problem began when we got the
empire, which was brilliantly done, in the most Machiavellian --and I mean
that in the best sense of the word --way by Franklin Roosevelt. With the
winning of World War II, we were everywhere on Earth our troops and our
economy was number one. Europe was ruined. And from that, then in 1950, the
great problem began when Harry Truman decided to militarise the economy,
maintain a vast military establishment in every corner of the Earth.
Meanwhile, denying money to schools but really to the infrastructure of the
nation. So we have been at war steadily since 1950. I did of my
little pamphlets was 'A Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace' --how that
worked. I mean, we've gone everywhere --we have the Enemy of the Month Club.
One month, it's Noriega --king of drugs. Another one, it's Gaddafi. We hated
his eyeliner or something and killed his daughter. We moved from one enemy
to another and the press, the media, has never been more disgusting. I don't
know why, but there are very few voices that are speaking out publicly. The
censorship here is so tight in all of the newspapers and particularly in
network television. So nobody's getting the facts. I mean, I spend part of
the year in Italy and really, basically, what I find out I find out from
European journalists who actually will go to Iraq, which our people cannot
do or will not do, and are certainly not admired for doing so. We are in a
kind of bubble of ignorance about what is really going on.

[Continue Reading]

Garrett -- Philosopher on the Trail of Daniel Pearl's Killer

Topic(s): War Journalism
Date Posted: 09.01.03

Philosopher on the Trail of Daniel Pearl's Killer

PARIS, Aug. 29 ? Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes. He is also a handsome man married to a glamorous actress; he and his wife, Arielle Dombasle, are regularly mentioned in French gossip magazines. Now 55, Mr. Lévy is well used to celebrity. For 25 years he has been known here simply by his initials, B. H. L.

Not that everyone takes him seriously. His carefully cultivated public persona, which includes black suits, unbuttoned white shirts and long, dark hair, is frequently mocked on a televised puppet show, and he is often hit with pies by a Belgian who claims to target the self-important. The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné once asked of him, "Rimbaud or Rambo?"

Yet France has always had a place for high-profile intellectuals, from Victor Hugo and Émile Zola to Jean-Paul Sartre and André Malraux. And from an early age, Mr. Lévy set off in their footsteps. He earned his spurs in the late 1970's as one of several "new philosophers" who enraged the left by attacking the Soviet Union. He then turned his guns on the right, warning that 1930's-style fascism was still rooted in French politics.

Since then he has constantly been in the limelight. He has tried his hand at fiction, theater and movies (although his only feature film to date, "Day and Night," starring his wife, was a flop). And he has continued to campaign for what he considers noble causes, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, from Afghanistan to Bosnia. In a book published in 2001, for instance, he wrote of forgotten wars in Sudan, Angola, Burundi, Sri Lanka and Colombia.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- A new world order

Topic(s): Global Polities
Date Posted: 09.01.03

A new world order


Part 1: The South strikes back
Part 2: Europe's 3D vision

[ ed. note: an straighforward but interesting set of articles that comment on the Habermas/Derrida vision of Europe as well as points to the recent meeting between South Africa, Brazil, and India as an example of other groupings / possibilities. Of course the author plays it straight and well it is largely a top-down vision of the world, but interesting the realignment of nations, allies is surely one of the critical questions raised by the "war on terror". r.g. ]

A new world order
Part 1: The South strikes back
By Pepe Escobar

SAO PAULO - Last week, India, Brazil and South Africa - key regional leaders in South Asia, South America and Africa respectively- created a sort of poor-man's G8, a G3 charged to increase the bargaining power of developing countries vis-a-vis the United States and the European Union. The foreign ministers of India (Yashwant Sinha), Brazil (Celso Amorim) and South Africa (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) for the moment make references to a G3 only as a joke: the official name of the group is IBSA (the initials in English of the three members).

Sinha has pointed out that "in a more incisive way than before, we must speak as much as we can with only one voice". IBSA's agenda is ambitious, with the heads of state of the three countries scheduled to meet later this year to discuss it in detail. But it is already known that at the United Nations level they are bound to exert pressure for an urgent reform of the Security Council - which should also include developing countries. India and Brazil are already supporting each other's membership bids. This is a G3 that aims to represent the whole developing South. It may soon become a G5 as diplomats confirm that China and Russia are definitely interested.

The evolvement of this tri-nation grouping reflects other realignments on the world stage. At the recent G8 summit in Evian, French President Jacques Chirac invited heads of state of selected developing countries to hear their opinions. The European Union wants to forge itself as an alternative political and social model for the rest of the world. Russia, and especially China, are keen on forming special relationships with regional powers in the South. What are the chances of these overlapping developments finally converging and of the South making itself heard? Jose Luis Fiori is arguably one of Latin America's foremost political scientists. At the center of what is now becoming a global debate, Fiori says, lies the question of national development projects and in how to offer "hope to the damned of the Earth after the failure of the globalitarian Utopia".

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Comment on Derrida/Habermas Appeal -- Europe and the global south: towards a circle of equality

Topic(s): Ethics.Politics
Date Posted: 09.01.03

Europe and the global south: towards a circle of equality
Iris Marion Young
20 - 8 - 2003

In May 2003, leading European philosophers challenged Europe to formulate a coherent foreign policy in its own and the world’s interest. Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas and colleagues are well-intentioned but trapped in Eurocentrism, argues this American political philosopher. Europe needs not globalism but a provincialism that will enable a dialogue of equals with the rest of the world.

In an important statement published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 31 May 2003, and co-signed by Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas calls upon European states and citizens to forge a common European foreign policy to balance the hegemonic power of the United States. Europeans should forge a common political identity to stand up to this hegemonic power, it argues, but an identity that is open toward ideas of cosmopolitan democracy.

I am grateful to these civic-minded philosophers for such a call to public responsibility at this historical moment when the United States and the United Kingdom seem ready to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and the US threatens other states. As an American, I welcome the call for Europe to be more independent of the United States in assessing its own interests and the interests of the world, and I agree that a united and different stance from Europe might temper the arrogance of US foreign policy.

I wonder, however, just how cosmopolitan the stance taken in the statement is. From the point of view of the rest of the world, and especially from the point of view of the US and people in the global south, this philosophers’ appeal may look more like a re-centring of Europe than the invocation of an inclusive global democracy.

15 February 2003: birth of a European public sphere?

Millions rallied to oppose war in Iraq... the coordinated simultaneity of these demonstrations, Jurgen Habermas suggests, that harbingers a European public sphere.
Millions rallied to oppose war in Iraq, in cities across Europe, including London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris. It is the coordinated simultaneity of these demonstrations, Jurgen Habermas suggests, that harbingers a European public sphere.

Jurgen Habermas begins by citing 15 February 2003 as an historic day which may “go down in history as a sign for the birth of a European public sphere.” On that day, millions rallied to oppose war in Iraq in cities across Europe, including London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris. It is the coordinated simultaneity of these demonstrations, Habermas suggests, that harbingers a European public sphere. But this interpretation distorts the historical facts.

On that same weekend there were mass demonstrations in cities on every other continent as well – in Sydney, Tokyo, Seoul, Manila, Vancouver, Toronto, Mexico City, Tegucigalpa, Sao Paulo, Lagos, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Istanbul, Warsaw, Moscow, and hundreds of other cities, including many in the United States.

According to people with whom I have spoken, the world-wide coordination of these demonstrations was planned at the third meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January 2003. This coordination may signal the emergence of a global public sphere, of which European publics are wings, but whose heart may lie in the southern hemisphere.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Beirut artists dampen Western fantasies at Venice Biennale

Topic(s): Art World Stuff
Date Posted: 09.01.03

I’ve never been to Beirut so I can’t say anything specific,” admits Francesco Bonami, the contemporary art curator in charge of this year’s prestigious Venice Biennale. Bonami may lack first-hand experience here, but he does know the city through a handful of its more internationally exposed artists. “I feel that (Beirut) is one of those places that can stir a kind of lay fantasy in the Western art world,” he says.
If Beirut inspires a particular fascination in the West, then the Venice Biennale evokes widespread career lust among artists everywhere. So the fact that five artists from Beirut are featured there should come as good news, one would think. But, then again, the 50th outing of venerable Venice has become, in the words of one curator, “a complete mess.”
Artists Walid Raad, Tony Chakar, Bilal Khbeiz, and the team of Paola Yacoub and Michel Lasserre are all exhibiting works in progress at Venice’s Arsenale space this summer. None save Yacoub and Lasserre, who live part of the year in Paris, were able to attend the opening ­ the invitation, if it came at all, arrived with less than a week to spare, no time for a Lebanese citizen to obtain a visa for travel abroad. None have seen how their art has been physically presented ­ though a few did get a nice DVD version in the mail. And none have been particularly impressed with the critical feedback ­ scant, superficial and, in some cases, wildly off base.
For these five Beirutis, plus Palestinian photographers Taysir Batniji and Randa Shaath, the Venice project grew out of curator Catherine David’s Contemporary Arab Representations project. (For the first time, Venice’s curator delegated the show to nine additional curators, though Bonami’s decision has yielded somewhat disastrous results). David scaled down and reconfigured her exhibition for Venice, inviting artists to present fresh works in a new, if more contentious, context.
“When (David) came to Beirut, we all agreed that the work we did in Contemporary Arab Representations was behind us and we wanted to move on,” says Tony Chakar. In a relatively quick slice of time, Chakar put together a new project, based on the idea that “to make a portrait of Beirut is impossible.”
Beirut: The Impossible Portrait (And Now Will You Let Us Play with You?) consists of still images projected on a screen, with the official photographs of a pristine and restored Beirut double exposed with pictures Chakar took walking around town, capturing his version of the city in all its indications of decay. Underneath the images runs a text, set up like a CNN news bar, with a story Chakar wrote about a man who finds an architect’s notebook while strolling through Achrafieh.
The tone of Chakar’s title is meant to be cutting ­ the images of Beirut so often sold to the world are precisely those of downtown and Solidere. For Chakar, these pictures are too eager, shamelessly trying to convince the West that Beirut is civilized, modern, European, as if the city were a little kid falling all over himself to impress his older brother’s friends.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- The Infernal Machine

Topic(s): architecture
Date Posted: 09.01.03

The machine that ate the garden rages on (and on and on). It bulldozes everything every day. We are all 'landing sites', and this machine levels everything making sure nothing significant might land there (in us).

Rem Koolhaas has declared architecture dead ... I have never listened much to his pronouncements, given that he dumped a load of vacuous rubble into the discourse of architecture anyway. But he is right, insofar as reputation-mongering leads to reputation-mongering leads to reputation-mongering. Everything else is destroyed in the process -- every other alternative. The world is destroyed every day by the vast machine rolling relentlessly towards oblivion.

Arundhati Roy has suggested throwing monkey wrenches. But the machine is now so vast, it would require a cosmic monkey wrench ... which we may anyway, any day soon get. Something has to land to stop the machine.

The machine is Capitalism writ large, ugly, and in-between ... everywhere, every day ... It crushes every other idea that comes along -- every question mark is shredded along with the self-incriminating documents.

Capitalism survives by endless abstraction. What is needed to counter it is a radical contingent alternative vision ... an aesthetics of the sublime, and a sublime aesthetics (Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou's 'Universal'). Zizek is right to defend the principle of radical individuality ... What else is more dangerous to the machine ??? Where else might we find the landing site for Some-thing Else ???

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