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china at 60: the early days of the cultural revolution remembered Pp8-9
THERE’S NO MONEY IN PEACE
War is the American way
SUSAN SPIRITUS GALLERY
CARA BARER – ‘Secret’ (2007)
Where do we go from here?
Le Monde diplomatique has been warning about an economic storm for 20 years, and that storm is now devastating the newspaper business. Understanding its causes is no insulation from its effects; Le Monde diplomatique feels the effects of the downturn, although less than other publications and in a different way. Neither our survival nor our independence is under threat, but we have no resources to grow. We’re appealing to our readers, so that Le Monde diplomatique can continue to play its full part in the battle of ideas.
Textile, metal and car workers in northern countries first experienced structural change to their industries, and paid the high price of change as their jobs were relocated to the south. Now journalists see their jobs disappearing, as readers migrate to the internet. You could take the view that one economic model is succeeding another and say too bad, that’s life. But there’s the matter of democracy. Cars, we are told, are not an irreplaceable public good, but merchandise. They can be manufactured anywhere and anyhow or replaced by other forms of transport – no big deal.
But the press has an obvious trump card in the public debate: when it believes its existence is threatened, it can raise the alarm more easily than a worker whose factory is being shut down. To rally supporters, it only has to say “every time a newspaper closes, democracy dies a little”. This
is ludicrous: visit any newsagent to confirm that dozens of titles could cease to exist tomorrow without any harm to democracy. That doesn’t make the concerns of journalists invalid. But billions of people on earth are able to defend their right to a job without having to invent any justification other than that it pays them a wage.
Newspapers have been in decline for some time, but journalism has been in the doldrums for much longer. Editorial content wasn’t so marvellous 20 years ago when most periodicals were publicity vehicles with a licence to print money. At that time those US mastodons, The New York Times, Washington Post, Gannett, Knight Ridder, Dow Jones, and Times Mirror, were making profits 20 times greater than in the Watergate era, the zenith of their “counter-power” (1). Did profit margins that reached 30% and 35% produce daring, creative, independent journalism? Continued on page 14
TRANSLATED BY GEORGE MILLER
(1) Revelations in the Washington Post from 1972 concerning the burglary of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Complex in Washington led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974. Between 1975 and 1989 the New York Times Co’s annual profits rose from $13m to $266m; those of the Washington Post Co went from $12m to $197m. In 1989 Gannett earned $397m, Knight Ridder $247m, Dow Jones $317m and Times Mirror $298m. (See Howard Kurtz, “Stop the Presses”, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 3 May 1993.)
inside this issue Afghanistan’s problematic election results: just as everyone expected page 3 Yemen: insurrections, tribal disputes and now al-Qaida page 4 J Street: American Jews support Israel by criticising it page 5 The Arab world reunited? page 6
The economic crisis reaches Australia’s industrial heartland page 10 Welcome to ultimate fighting: blood, glory and lots of money page 12 Sanctioning surveillance: why we let Facebook into our private lives page 14 Celebrating Salvador Dali page 16
For the past 20 years, US troops or their proxies have garrisoned the globe, fought directly or indirectly without pause, and spent trillions on developing, maintaining and marketing weapons. This isn’t going to change under the
BY TOM ENGELHARDT
ar is peace” was a slogan on the façade of the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue in Newspeak, the language
invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel 1984. Some 60 years later, the phrase is eerily applicable to the United States. A New York Times front-page story by Eric Schmitt and David Sanger on 10 September 2009 was headlined “Obama Is Facing Doubts in Party on Afghanistan, Troop Buildup at Issue”. It offered a modern version of Newspeak.
“Doubts” imply dissent, and just the week before there had been a major break in Washington’s ranks, though not among Democrats. The conservative columnist George Will wrote offering blunt advice to the Obama administration, summed up in its headline: “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan” (1). In our age of political and audience fragmentation and polarisation, think of this as the Afghanistan version of the moment when CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite shocked President Lyndon Johnson by telling the US, on television, that Vietnam was unwinnable.
The Times’ report on those Democratic doubts represented a more typical Washington moment. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s plea for the president to develop an Afghan withdrawal timetable was ignored. The focus of the piece was an upcoming speech by Michigan Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He was, Schmitt and Sanger reported, planning to resist wellplaced leaks (in The Times, among other places) claiming that war commander General Stanley McChrystal would soon urge the president to commit 15,000 to 45,000 more American troops to the Afghan war. The gist of Levin’s message about what everyone agrees is a “deteriorating” US position was that he “was against sending more American combat troops to Afghanistan until the United States speeded up the training and equipping of more Afghan security forces”.
Think of this as the line in the sand within the Democratic Party; debates within the halls
Tom Engelhardt runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com in which a longer version of this article is published. He is co-founder of the American Empire Project and editor of The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire, Verso, 2008
of power over McChrystal’s troop requests and Levin’s proposal are likely to be fierce this fall. However, both positions can be summed up with the same word: more. The essence of this “debate” comes down to: more of them versus more of us (more of them – an expanded training programme for the Afghan National Army – actually means more of “us”, extra trainers and advisers). However contentious the disputes in Washington, however dismally the public now views the war, however much the president’s war coalition might threaten to crack, the only choices will be between more and more.
No alternatives are likely to get a real hearing. Few alternative policy proposals even exist because alternatives that don’t fit with “more” have ceased to be part of Washington’s war culture. No serious thought, effort or investment goes into them. One of the unnamed “senior officials” who swarm through our major newspapers, clearly referring to Will’s column, made the administration’s position clear, saying, according to the Washington Post, “I don’t anticipate that the briefing books for the [administration] principals on these debates over the next weeks and months will be filled with submissions from opinion columnists... I do anticipate they will be filled with vigorous discussion... of how successful we’ve been to date” (2).State of war
Because the US does not look like a militarised country, it’s hard for Americans to grasp that Washington is a war capital, that the US is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere at any moment. We’ve become used to the idea that, when forms of force (or threats of force) don’t work, our response, as in Afghanistan, is to recalibrate and apply some alternative version under a new or rebranded name – the hot one now is “counterinsurgency” or COIN – in a marginally different manner. When it comes to war, as well as preparations for war, more is the order of the day.
This wasn’t always the case. The early Republic that the most hawkish conservatives love to cite was a land whose leaders looked with suspicion on the very idea of a standing army. They would have viewed our hundreds of global
Continued on page 2