C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

It's all about who you know

'Who is still standing with the regime in Harare?' asked Jeremy Sear the other day. The short answer - not too many people. For years the Mugabe regime has been brutalising its citizens - this has been well-publicised in the media, across the world. As a 'failed state', we are now permitted to seriously look at a range of options, and engage in the typical hand-wringing: multilateralism versus unilateralism, sanctions, humanitarian intervention, 'surgical' military strikes, the imposition of democracy from above, and so on.

That we are even asking these questions suggests something relatively unique about the Mugabe regime. We should not merely ask who is standing with Harare, but note who isn't. For there are a great many regimes across the world who are more or less brutal to their people. There are many dictators who routinely display their contempt for democracy and its trappings, yet we do not see them on our news.

Why are we not called upon to debate possible 'interventions' for Mubarak, for instance, instead of Mugabe? What about Israel - the analogy of 'apartheid' to describe the occupation is limited - the IDF's actions with respect to Palestinians are indistinguishable from those of Mugabe towards the opposition, Israel's superior technology notwithstanding. Why are we permitted to condemn atrocities in the Sudan, but not the rampant bloodshed in the Congo, or the crushing of the democracy movement in Uzbekistan? Why is Chavez denounced as a 'thug' and 'dictator', when, in the very next country, Colombian trade unionists are murdered on a regular basis?

The only reasonable hypothesis that I can see for this phenomena, whereby the suffering of some victims is noted, and others ignored, is that our media and governments are distinguishing between victims based on the client status of their governments. Brutality in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Central Asia and elsewhere is not merely tolerated, but largely ignored by our foreign affairs politicians and our media. Meanwhile, thuggish regimes who are outside of US hegemony or control are fodder for condemnathons - this category includes Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela (!), Sudan, 'terrorist' Somalia (but not Ethiopia), and, of course, Zimbabwe.

In all of this, I am not suggesting that Mugabe and his cronies are anything other than murderous. Nonetheless, even if such a thing as 'humanitarian' sanctions or military involvement were possible, I would still think it essential to point out that most of the world's 'failed states' are propped up by the US, or some other would-be imperialist (increasingly China and Russia, occasionally still Europe). South Africa is no more morally obliged to 'pressure' Mugabe than are we Australians when it comes to 'pressuring' the US government for its contempt for human rights and human life.

Some interesting polls

I'm reluctant to place too much faith in polls purporting to represent anything as abstruse as 'world opinion', but I've been forwarded a few interesting ones lately that I feel are worth sharing.

Firstly, one poll showed that in 17 of 18 nations surveyed, a majority of participants opposed the criminalisation of abortion. (The exception was Indonesia). This poll included countries whose current laws criminal abortion:

Contrary to their public's preferences, there are criminal penalties for abortion in Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, Poland and South Korea.

A second poll has shown that a majority reject the use of torture, even in the mythical 'but it's to prevent terrorism' scenario:

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 19 nations finds that in 14 of them most people favor an unequivocal rule against torture, even in the case of terrorists who have information that could save innocent lives. Four nations lean toward favoring an exception in the case of terrorists.

Support for the unequivocal position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%).

Since the 'strategic' use of torture against terrorists is likely to be 'exceedingly rare', according to this report, it is reasonable to conclude that a majority of people reject the use of torture by their government. These are interesting results in a decade that has seen the decline of liberalism, and should (but won't) give the US government pause for thought with respect to its policies of extraordinary rendition and the like.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

More lazy blogging

Here are some search terms that took people to The Partisan:

  • 'nuffers' (x 8)
  • 'get thee behind me satan' (x 7)
  • 'muslims taking over europe' (x 5)
  • 'molto bene' (x 2)
  • 'don't know much bout anything' (x 2)
  • 'underbelly roberta toejam'
  • 'the trouble with libertarians'
  • 'background history of the "russian male"'
  • 'Hegelians 1842 satanic interests'
  • 'the truth at last by john ray'
  • 'Non molto bene'
  • 'roberta williams turns to islam'
  • 'liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities'
  • 'Nous Somme Tous Americains'
  • 'sycophant grodscorp'
  • 'gangster yarmulkes'
  • 'marxism in scarface'
  • 'berlusconi bugger'
  • 'How to be tactful & charming'
  • 'norse pornography'
  • 'rand intellectual poverty'
  • 'partisan de satan'
  • 'splinter in his'
  • 'why fukuyama is an idiot'

And many more relating to psychoanalysis, self-harm and the term 'projection'.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Chomsky and the Middle East

It is next to inconceivable, within the mainstream of Western intellectual culture, that one might give a principled critique of the war – that is, the kind of critique we give reflexively, and properly, when some enemy state commits aggression: for example, when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan, or Chechnya. We do not criticize those actions on grounds of cost, error, blunder, quagmire. Rather, we condemn the actions as horrendous war crimes, whether they succeed or not.

This is taken from a recent interview, to be found here. Lazy blogging, I know, but I'm very busy.