- The Guardian is writing about the dilemma that New York
is supposedly facing, yet I think that few people in New York besides
the Council on Foreign Relations types, really think like this in such
detail and planning. For me, this article is another piece of evidence
that powers outside our elected government are running or directing the
show (US policy).
- For one thing, I didn't know that the members of the
Council on Foreign Relations (and other think tanks and lobby groups)
held elected positions in our government. By the fact that members of
CFR have appeared on television talk shows and specials more often than
our own elected representatives makes me think they are making and/or strongly
steering the decisions.
- Case in point, check out PBS's latest Frontline special
on Iraq; most of the experts on this show clamoring for attacks on Iraq
are members of the Council on Foreign Relations. I guess you could say
that I am simply infuriated that such unelected people are having so much
say in the mainstream media about what the US should do about international
"terrorism". What happened to all the other voices in the discussion,
what happened to our elected congressional representatives, where's Barbara
Lee, where's Noam Chomsky?
- P.S. Between paragraphs in the article I included my
own anaylsis so as to give the reader the needed other perspective in
the debate that I feel is missing.
- September 11 Sparks Monstrous Debates In NY - Where It
- By Martin Woollacott in New York The Guardian - London
- An unseasonably benign sun, as if offering some small
compensation for the horrors of 10 weeks ago, has for days now been sending
its shafts of light and warmth down New York's canyons. Yesterday it gilded
the giant cartoon characters on the floats that bob down Broadway in Macy's
thanksgiving day parade. New York is hurting and needs the reassurance
of old routines like the parade, but it is also thinking. On Park Avenue,
in the fine old mansion belonging to the Council on Foreign Relations,
academics and politicians meet to discuss the choices before the US. It
is one of the many places where America's policy elite is working with
its customary disputatious energy to shape national strategy.
- Not far across town, at the UN, another set of committees,
some of them convening twice a day, grapples with the world body's difficult
role in Afghanistan, complaining discreetly that so far it has had little
guidance or help. In his offices, in turn, a newly elected mayor tries
to come to grips with the problems of a city whose economy is slipping
downward, and which, it now appears, is going to get far less help from
the federal government than expected.
- ** ? Where (in the media) are all the UN reps and members
discussing these issues which you surely know affect most of the world,
not just the US? Isn't it important to hear what they think? -J.B.
- Museums, art galleries, theatres and concert halls are
holding crisis meetings on what to do about the huge falls in attendances.
Estate agents, department stores and airlines adjust their discounts according
to their calculations of volatile demand. Actors and insurance men, ballet
dancers and waitresses, stockbrokers and social workers worry about their
jobs, if they have not already lost them, as many have.
- ** ? Do you hear these people in the debate voicing
their opinions and ideas? -J.B.
- Psychotherapists are treating people who were in the
twin towers, and some who were not, for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lawyers are arguing about the wisdom of creating military courts to try
people accused of terrorist activities. Doctors and medical scientists
are, a New Yorker cartoon quips, "transitioning from tree frog allergies
- A block or two from the Council on Foreign Relations,
the owner of a small hummus and kebab shop has taken down the sign that
used to read "Lebanese Restaurant." He prefers to let people
think his food might be Greek or Turkish or Israeli.
- Professor Fouad Ajami, one of the experts who meets at
the council and also one of the two best known academics of Arab origin
in the US - the other, at the opposite end of the political spectrum,
is Edward Said - sometimes eats there. The proprietor told him after the
attacks that those responsible "had ruined the old place and now
they had come to the US to wreck the new one". In that cry, Ajami
sees another aspect of the tragedy of September 11, that the wreckers of
one civilisation, in crossing the water to try to bring down another one,
had also spoiled the chances, and the hard won peace of mind, of fellow
Arabs who had made that same journey with very different ambitions.
- Wit, meanwhile, has naturally not deserted New Yorkers.
Leslie Gelb, the presiding eminence at the council, is asked - it is the
freedom fighter question - how it is possible to define exactly who the
terrorists are. Blessed with the face of a lugubrious stand-up comic, he
replies: "Well, they're not Jewish accountants." In his outer
office the secretaries giggle over a list of other "Osamas",
including Osama bin Skatin'.
- ** ? I know this statement was just a joke, but can
Gelb be serious? Has not Israel killed approximately 150 Palestinians
since the 911 holocaust, along with the invasion of Palestinian towns,
demolition of homes and assassinations of Palestinian militant group leaders?
Is Gelb saying that the Israeli government's actions cannot be called
"terrorist", too. -J.B.
- New York is the clearest example of how the September
11 attacks have both diminished and energised America. The city is damaged,
but it is emotionally raw and alert, and its formidable thinking folk,
along with their partners in the rest of the American intellectual archipelago,
from Harvard to Berkeley, are tearing away at the problems facing America.
- ** ? Speaking of Berkeley, just where are all those
"hippies" on CNN or in the MSNBC war room? I haven't seen much
of them on PBS either. When there has been protests and debate in Berkeley
there wasn't much displayed in the media, so it might as well not be there
for most of us not living in Bezerkeley. Perhaps CNN will invite Noam
Chomsky to talk about his views on the war on terrorism given that he
is definitely widely read in Berkeley. -J.B.
- The result is shaping up as a complicated and momentous
debate, which links many different issues. This debate is sometimes characterised
as being between the "Iraq first" and the "Palestine first"
schools, but it is more than that. It also involves a judgment about the
state of Muslim and particularly Arab societies, and the causes of alienation
in those societies. It concerns the possibility of a huge shift in energy
supplies, away from the Gulf to Russia, with the political consequences
which that implies.
- ** ? Alas, we hear the mention of oil (energy supplies)
in the debate, yet I don't think have heard very little of the Caspian
Sea oil fields like the Dauletab and The Great Game mentioned in most
major US media outlets, especially not on TV. At the very least, the
discussion of the political consequences of getting the oil and gas pipelines
finally running through Afghanistan from the former Russian states has
not been read on any of the lips of Bush, Powell or our own elected energy
secretary, nor in the media. If you would tell this to most Americans
they would think you are foolish or crazy or unpatriotic even suggesting
the possibility that the war in Afghanistan is not entirely about catching
bin Laden or getting the bad guys. With most Americans, this war is like
the Gulf War in Iraq, about freedom and justice and getting the evildoers,
not about oil. So what the hell is this English newspaper even talking
about oil for, man!? -J.B.
- It adds a further judgment about the nature of modern
war-making as conducted by the US. It brings in, too, the question of
to what extent the US has unique responsibilities which sometimes justify
maintaining a distance from the collective efforts of other nations. Finally,
it concerns the extent to which America's freedoms need to be abrogated
for reasons of security.
- ** ? Yes, most Americans and people around the world
easily recognize how powerful the US is and how our military acts like
the policeman of the world. Yet, isn't this what must be discussed and
debated amongst people other than those in The Council on Foreign Relations?
We Americans know how our policing policies like in Somalia and Lebanon
and Iraq have led to a lot of problems and deaths for us and our own and
the natives of those lands. Isn't this the great discussion that must
be taking place, not whether how much freedoms we should give up or how
much we should ignore international concerns in order to further our international
policing actions against the evil ones? All I can say is there is a lot
more to the debate buddy than that. -J.B.
- The same people are not in the same camp on every issue.
But there is enough coincidence to discern two broad schools. One tends
to believe that Arab societies are so deep in cultural regression that
they will not change much soon whatever the US does. It has no illusions
about swiftly turning round opinion in the Arab street. It does not value
progress on a Palestinian state so highly as to put it before anything
else, and is quite ready to shake Arab ruling classes both by moving away
from dependence on Arab oil and by dislodging Saddam.
- ** ? So, there are only two broad schools of debate?
Well that makes the whole issue so simple now we don't even have to discuss
anything else. As far as this first school of thought, well, I think it
is obvious by the numerous media appearances of members of the CFR(and
others) that many of them are proponents of this first school. I've heard
it said this would be the class of civilizations school of thought. In
my words, it is a clash of fundamentalists. On the one side are the fundamental
materialists who believe in the pursuit of material progress at all cost
and the other side the religious fundamentalists who believe in the pursuit
of religious dogmatism at all costs. Why I call them both fundamentalists
is because they both are willing to set the world on fire in pursuit of
their "noble" or "just" causes. -J.B.
- It sees in the fall of the Taliban, set beside success
in the Gulf war and the Kosovo victory, proof that America can prevail
militarily more easily than the doomsayers predict. It is ready to disregard
foreign views where those views are over-cautious. And it thinks the rule
of law in America is strong enough to bear some necessary short cuts for
- ** ? I'll just come out and say it. I couldn't disagree
more with this last view of this school. In essense, they are saying:
we are so strong and tough that we will never fall. Sorry about that,
but all the great civilizations and empires fell and the US and western
civilization will fall or drastically change sometime too. In fact, the
sun will someday, billions of years from now, engulf the planet as it
expands into a supernova and dies and this planet will be no more. Given
this cosmic scope, The Lesson, my friend, for human beings on this planet
now is to not hasten this destruction of either the US, western civilization
or the world with our own hands. Death be not proud I say to thee. -J.B.
- The other school believes that Arab societies and opinion
are open to change, and that the next focus in US policy must be an Israeli-Palestinian
peace, both because it is urgent in itself and because it will change
the Arab world's understanding of what is going on. It would embrace a
modest diversification in oil supplies but not an abrupt switch to Russia
and Mexico to punish the oil states. It is cautious about any project
to bring down Saddam, which in any case must wait on success over Palestine.
- ** ? Now the second of the only-two-schools-in-the-world
sounds a little more reasonable to me. Here is where the Berkeleites
and Chomskites would say, "Hey, dude, I can dig that, man. I don't
think all the mulims are all bad either. In fact, when I listen to the
one's who are not chanting 'death to America' I can actually agree with
many of their grievances towards US and Israeli policies. I mean, hey,
if the Chinese had a billion dollar base in the US with several thousand
soldiers and jets and were using them to blow up Canada, I might be pissed
off too." Yet, the Guardian makes no mention of the US troop presence
in the Muslim Holy Land, Saudi Arabia, so I thought I would address it
becuase it apparently has been left out of the debate between these two
- What also has been left out, which I know is on the
minds of many a people, is the discussion of energy conservation. I certainly
don't hear these words of "moral virtue" being uttered by members
of the CFR or the Bush administration. I think many Americans are thinking
and have been wondering for years, why it is so hard to increase the fuel
economy in automobiles, and what happened to public transportation, or
when is the fuel cell going to be finally introduced to consumers, and
why aren't solar panels ubiquitous in sunny places like Southern California,
Las Vegas, Arizona, etc. ? And the list of energy conservation questions
goes on and on, but in these schools of thought the question is how fast
should we exploit the Caspian Sea resources, as opposed to maintaining
reliance on Middle Eastern oil, and how quickly can we get Afghanistan
in order so that an economical oil and gas pipeline can be constructed
- Lastly, about Sadaam. Yes, many people don't like his
policies and actions, but is Sadaam all to blame and where is the compassion
for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis people who have died
since the Gulf War in 1991 due to US sanctions? Perhaps the debate about
Sadaam could be turned in another way besides the demonization and wanton
destruction of him. Perhaps, the Iraqi people really need to see the
world give them a helping hand along with the inclusion of Iraq's Arab
neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Iran in discussions about
minimizing the threats of Sadaam's supposed weapons of mass destruction
and conventional weapons. From my perspective, I hear Iraq's Arab neighbors
like Jordan saying that they really would like to live in peace and don't
want to see a US attack on Iraq cause more chaos and destruction in the
Middle East. So they most assuredly are part of the answer in working
with Iraq and each other as well as with Israel and the world community
in creating and maintaining a stable peace in the Middle East. Perhaps
a Middle East peace summit amongst all these nations would be more useful
and beneficial. A place and time where they can discuss this issues,
resolve their issues and make a determination to have peace in their lands.
- It reads recent military history differently and thinks
that the fact that the Taliban fell quickly does not mean that war in Iraq
would be an easy option. It wants to take the views of allies and others
seriously. And it needs convincing that special courts and special laws
are necessary in the campaign against terrorism.
- Colin Powell's speech earlier this week, in which he
announced the dispatch of US envoys to the Middle East and indicated that
Americans could be part of an international force there if one should
be needed, shows that the latter school remains in the ascendant. But
for some in the first school, like Ajami, this is dismaying rather than
reassuring. Is Powell, he asks, going to "squander an American victory
for a second time", as he did at the end of the Gulf war? The arguments
continue, and nowhere more fiercely than in the city where it all began.
- ** All I can say is that Victory is for the living, the
dead no nothing about it. -J.B. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,604238,00.html