Author– Stanislav Zamecnik ( Czech historian, Holocaust survivor)
Genre– Non-fiction/ History
(‘Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions’….. Primo Levi)
I bought this book while on a visit to the Dachau concentration camp memorial site( created in 1965), Bavaria, Munich during the 2016 summer. A must-see place for history lovers. The camp is a bit of a harrowing repository of the Dachau archives, houses a museum which really is a time machine, whereby one can hark back to Third Reich and it’s barbarity. I could literally feel the terror while being guided through the camp( the museum is set in such a way). One of the sites which made me stuck as if in a nightmare, was the crematoria where the gassed and poisoned prisoners were burned up. Words definitely fall short for the kind of utter insensibility and cruelty of The Third Reich.
About the book, the author, Stanislav Zamecnik, himself a Holocaust survivor, has stunningly captured the details, shored up by statistics and ample evidence. He has done a painstaking and arduous job of research which is commendable. The fact that he had done this despite the sanction imposed on him by the authorities in the wake of The Prague Spring, which prohibited him from working as a historian, in itself is one of the reasons which make it a must-read for all, in particular, The Third Reich history pursuant. He was imprisoned in Dachau for almost four years. His mission in life was to preserve the memory of Dachau, and he committed himself to the redevelopment of the Dachau Memorial and the permanent exhibition there recreating the realities, leaving his indelible mark on the International Committee of Dachau.
The camp was opened on March 22, 1933, by Heinrich Himmler, 2 months after Adolf Hitler took power, the first one of a series of death camps to follow. It went on to become the instrument of the Nazi extermination regime and the prototype for the other death camps. Dachau was the only camp that remained in operation from 1933 until 1945. Located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory, it was intended to house political prisoners at first and later expanded for forced labor and to house Jews from Germany, Austria and other countries that Germany invaded. There were more than 40,000 documented deaths (murders plus death from hunger, malnutrition, overwork, and diseases) out of the 200,000 imprisoned from all over Europe at the site and its subsidiaries.
The entrance gate carries the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work shall set you free). Dachau’s close proximity to Munich, where Hitler came to power and where the Nazi Party had its official headquarters made it a convenient location. Initially, Hitler imprisoned intellectuals, artists, Jehovah’s witnesses, communists, handicapped and homosexuals for the slave labor for manufacturing weapons for Germany’s war efforts. Later, some of the prisoners were used for brutal medical experiments by the Nazis( There is a touching book about how the Nazi doctors ruthlessly did irrational, unethical, inhumane and brutal experiments- Doctors From Hell by Vivien Spitz- I had read this some time back, hope to re-read and write the review sometime soon).
The first commandant of Dachau was the SS officer, Hilmar Wackerle. A Munich schoolteacher Sebastian Nefzger was killed by the SS officers, who reported the death as a suicide. The Autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation and the public prosecutor in Munich, therefore, charged the camp commandant Hilmar Waeckerle and other SS officials in the camp with murder. Himmler was forced to remove Wackerle from his post. But on May 25, 1933, Hitler exempted Dachau from judicial oversight and authority and the SS were given unlimited authority over the camp prisoners. Later, all the camps would be removed from the judicial oversight.
Theodor Eicke, who replaced Wackerle as the camp commandant on October, 1933, brought in severe punishments including systematic beatings and summary execution for rule infringements or escape attempts. Any attempts at sabotage, escape or political agitation were met with summary execution. Later, this system would be followed for all the other concentration camps run by the SS.
Dachau camp was expanded in 1938 by the construction of an SS military training base by demolishing a WW I era munitions factory. The prisoners were made to work 24/7 for the reconstruction. During the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, about 30,000 Jews were summarily arrested and incarcerated in the three concentration camps, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed, burned or vandalized and they were dragged off the streets and homes to the camps, almost 11,000 of them ending up in Dachau.
In 1939, all the prisoners in Dachau were transferred to Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Flossenbeurg camps. The facilities at Dachau were used by the Waffen-SS for training the Death-Head’s Division. The camp would resume operating again in 1940. From 1941 onwards, the SS doctors started selecting the weak, ill and disabled prisoners, who would be transported to Hartheim and get killed there. As more numbers of prisoners started getting executed in Dachau, four crematoria were built along with the construction of a gas chamber. As a part f their plan to Germanize Occupied Poland and undermine the Catholic Church leadership there, more than 2700 clergy were arrested and incarcerated in the “Priest barracks” of Dachau.
SS doctor Sigmund Rascher conducted his infamous cold water freezing experiment on the prisoners, with methods of reviving them after they had been forced to remain in ice- cold water for hours. This was meant to help revive the German Air Force pilots whose planes went down in cold water. Out of 300 test subjects, one-third died. Numerous other prisoners were used for other medical experiments as well. A 1943 Typhus outbreak in the camp forced the SS to quarantine the prisoners and stop the forced labor. Almost 1000 died as a result of the disease.
While the prisoner numbers increased many subcamps sprang up around Dachau in Southern Germany and also in Northern Austria. On April 26, 1945, just three days before the liberation of the camp, the SS forced about 7000 prisoners on ‘The Death March’ to Tegernsee. It lasted for 6 days, while the SS shot the weak on the way, while many died of exhaustion, hunger, and exposure. The surviving prisoners who arrived at Tegernsee were liberated by the American Forces on May 2, 1945.
The Dachau Camp was liberated by the US Forces on April 29, 1945. As they arrived in the camp, they found more than 30 coal cars filled with decomposing bodies and more than 30,000 prisoners in the camp.
As a part of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution‘ to ‘The Jewish Problem‘ many more were exterminated in the other concentration camps. The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was opened in 1965. The International Monument at the Memorial Site holds a sculpture by Nandor Glid, the Yugoslav sculptor and Holocaust survivor whose father and many other family members were murdered in Auschwitz. The sculpture is a poignant pointer to the Holocaust. It is made of dark bronze. It features short strands of barbed wire on which skeletons are hanging with their heads dangling sharply. On either side of the sculpture are concrete fence posts which closely resemble the ones actually used to support the barbed wire fence around the camp. Underneath the sculpture is the dates 1933 – 1945, the years that the camp was used as a concentration camp for anti-Nazis.
On the west side of the monument is a wall whose inscription in English reads “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resisted nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.” The letters on the east side of the monument wall say “Never Again” in five different languages. In front of the wall is a box of ashes of the victims of the Dachau concentration camp, which was placed here on May 7, 1967, the same day that the Jewish Memorial building was dedicated. These were ashes that were found in red clay urns when Dachau was liberated.
The International Monument has a wide ramp which slopes down to the base of the sculpture designed by Nandor Glid. On the west side of the ramp is another sculpture which features a bas relief depicting three links of a chain held together by bars in between. This signifies the unity among the prisoners, many of whom were left-wing political prisoners who shared the same beliefs. On the links are enameled triangles in the colors of the cloth badges worn by the prisoners on their uniforms to identify their prisoner classification.
Red triangles were worn by the Communists, Social Democrats and other political prisoners and blue by the foreign workers, mostly Poles, who were brought to the Dachau camp. The Jews always wore two triangles with a yellow triangle on top of another color, usually red which signified a political prisoner.
Why we should read about the Third Reich and the Holocaust?
The Italian- Jewish Holocaust survivor and writer, Primo Levi, in his autobiographical trilogy ‘If This Is a Man‘, tries to find the reasons for the human barbarity. Logical thinking and reasoning prompt us human beings to ask questions. Discerning the answers cogently and sizing up the present and future, linking them to the past, requires one to dig deeper into the graveyards of history. I admit that the read was depressingly bleak. Yet the pages sufficed as steps of knowledge, as answers to how a civilized nation could descend into savagery of this magnitude, how complacence and denial are akin to abetment of organized crime, why only a few were audacious enough to stand up to the ordeals, how a far-right ultra-racist minority could amass the instruments of governance to systematically mass murder an entire race by kindling the smoldering hatred with the aid of warped history, spurious politics, and apocryphal pseudo-science, or, how the social, political and economic environments join forces in the origin, re-incarnation or morphing of one among us into a Frankenstein’s monster. The answers teach us many things. We learn to pay heed to the forewarnings from society, we try to respect diversity, fend off ‘otherization’, above all to question the unsavory, shady deviances. We learn to react individually and collectively. To teach is to learn and to learn is to question. And learning about the Reich and the Holocaust invariably prepares our mind for questioning, to understand the responsibilities in crimes of not only the men at the top of the ladder, but also the nameless, faceless cohorts at the lowest rungs of the society, to have the courage of our convictions, to speak out when something is not right. The German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller‘s post-war confession stays ever- relevant, in particular, in the present times. The following poetic form of his quote is engraved at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts.
‘ First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’.
As Primo Levi observes, ‘Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions’.
(‘Silent Night‘- Acrylic painting on canvas, of the temple pond and ‘paalamaram’)
This one is an acrylic painting done by me four years back. I painted it from my memory, from the indelible scorches and scalds left behind from years back. Thus, it is a story, a fine thread parsed from the mesh of memories, a revisit to the past, as much as a painting I cherish. I love the somber, dull hues, the darks, Greys, pewters, and earth tones than the bright, visual flamboyance in paintings. At that time, almost all the paintings that I did were somber ones that I liked to hoard. I remember my husband, disapproving of my aloofness and choice of somber shades. Still, he is well aware of the narrative details of this painting just as my mother does. And she was prompting me to write down the experience. When I reflect back now, I wonder how events and stories impact the minds of children and how ignorant adults are about what is brewing inside the mind of a child.
Some of the elements of the anecdote, I can relate to young Marcel anxious of sleeping alone in Proust’s ‘Swans Way‘, the first volume of ‘ In Search of Lost Times‘. Proust’s masterpiece rings a bell when I try to read it, a challenging read given the profoundness and immensity of the volumes. I own the first one of the seven volumes, ‘Swans Way’ a dog-eared paperback that I had surprisingly found in a used-book store at LMS junction during one of my routines, visiting new and used book stores with my mother during the vacation time. When at his low ebb he feels that time and past has been lost forever, he starts out searching for the lost time, racing against death, writing seven volumes of his own life, exposing them to the reader and proving the eternity and beauty of the past.- ‘Swans way’ was inspired by the memories that flooded him as he dipped Madeleine in hot tea. He describes his fear of going to bed at night and his nervousness of sleeping alone at night.
We don’t need to be anyone like the great Proust for trying to tread the path back into the past. For us, the ordinary conflicted creatures, letting go of the mists and steams of the past serve to release the gratuitous, vicious, and the obscene, thus balancing the pressure within, a sort of studied revisit coupled with blissful ignorance of past. Yet, some are more conflicted than others, with the mist imprinting joyful colors and heat of the steam scalding the insides leaving lasting immutable shades and scars.
I am a ‘creature of the past‘, as my son addresses me, boring to the hilt, morose and taciturn, nose buried in books and paintings, moody like a dark sepia painting with gloomy pewter-grey clouds hanging overhead, about to pelt down and strike and soak everything on its path. Revisiting the past, to me, is in one way letting go of somethings that incline to cling on tenaciously, at the same time taking in the fragrance of a forgotten and lost spring. It is the same sort of fond, poignant or vague remembrance, seeing the tranquil Bosphorus, Blue Mosque or the labyrinth of colored, covered markets in Istanbul or the specters of innocent lives taken by the Grim Reaper in the concentration camps, things that had flashed clearly through the fine prints years back. Thus this painting is a remembrance, restoration, reclaim and retaining of the past.
Our present links itself to the past through the conduit of the senses. Of all, the olfactory one is potent. We follow our nose down the memory lane and stumble upon the deep-rooted stumps strewn on the path. For me, the long walk back in time, where I had met the ethereal and terrestrial, heard the truths as well as myths, whiffed the angels and fiends, is ushered by the sweet-smelling devil, ‘palamaram‘, or the Indian Devil Tree. Call it science, the brain chemistry of olfaction which opens up the floodgates to the past or the mystery that reminds us of the origin of our identity guiding us back in time through the bygone path or sheer happenstance, the tangy, heady, celestial aroma takes me along the drifts of wan childhood memories.
‘Palamaram‘ had been part and parcel of the storybooks of fantasy and mythological tales in Malayalam that my mother would bring home in heaps. As much as the storybooks, our lives were entwined in the atmosphere of the ancient temple nearby, one where my mother’s family had been worshipping, with its consecrated idols of peaceful ‘Devi‘ and irate ‘Bhadrakaali‘, a historical place in the city. My mother had been a devout believer, so we children used to take part in all the religious festivities and activities of the temple without fail.
And anyone who had been lucky enough to spend time in the company of grandparents would never forget the rich and vivid experience in their lifetime. My maternal grandmother was a cache of mythological tales about ‘Yakshi’, ‘Maadan’, ‘Gandharvan’ and so forth. As in many Hindu homes with such an atmosphere, all these experiences played their own roles in molding and finessing the obscure inside me. Every child is different, so the way such things impact each is different too. Both I and my brother grew up in the same environment, still, I don’t think he had any kind of bleak effect from any of these, as opposed to me. He was into science and sports like all the other boys of his age. But, it was an altogether different one for me.
My first ever encounter with Yakshi had been a mix of awe, dread, and allure, in a children’s version of ‘Aithihyamala’ by the Malayalam author, Kottarathil Shankunni, that had one story which went by the name ‘ Yakshiyum Namboodiriyum‘ . The book, which I still recollect vividly, a hardbound one with a white cover, the front-cover picture of a super-pretty, voluptuous ‘Yakshi’ in an iridescent white flowy saree, her sable hair flowing like waves on the ground, jet black kohled eyes sparkling in fury, petaline lips like scarlet berries and a ‘namboodiri’ in a dhoti, a tuft of ‘kuduma’ on his pate, a sacred thread across his chest, eyeballs ballooned up in fear, and the chill of a shiver visible along his somewhat bent spine, in a broad backdrop of heavily bloomed ‘paalamaram’. That was one of my first picks among the Malayalam and English books, which my parents used to select for us.
Coming to the story of ‘Yakshiyum Namboodiriyum‘, what bits and pieces I can recall now is not much more than a generalization of an encounter between evil and good, the vile intents of the evil Yakshi being forestalled by the sagacious ‘namboodiri’, who gets the better of the evil spirit by literally nailing her into the ‘paalamaram’, where she languished for decades and centuries. The storyteller might only have had the intention to imbue this moral into a child’s mind. But, as a kid, rote learning and pushed to buy into the variety store of moral story ragbag, from CBSE moral science textbooks since the time I had set foot in the kindergarten premises, the moral side of the ‘namboodiri’ story was relegated to the back burner of my mind. And I was obsessed with the fantasy of the bedazzling Yakshi, her magnetic individuality that draws in everyone to her, unobtrusive existence, the ability for intricate polymorphism and camouflage, but above all the dexterity to inhabit the branches of ‘paalamaram’ without incident. I painted her, dreamed about her, felt her presence. I believed to the core that she did exist.
There were many ‘Yakshi Paalas’ near the ‘Sarpa Kaavu . My visits there increased in frequency to catch a glimpse of the ‘paala’ bloom and the live Yakshi emerging from the ‘paala’ tree. Months of waiting to catch sight of that VIP in my life turned out to be futile, but all the same, she appeared as a diaphanous apparition in my dreams. That was when I had learned that these nocturnal citizens of the world existed in two forms, a venerated benevolent one and a dreaded malevolent fiendish one.
The most macabre elements of my memories, that I would wish to stow away in the hidden repositories deep inside the attic of mind and heart are those resurrecting from the temple pond, down our house built on the same site where my maternal ancestral home had stood. The pond is basically, a step tank system with stairs of stone all around and four ghats on the four sides of the structure, it is not unlike the other sacred tanks, on the face of it. A circular pathway surrounding it led on one side, directly to our house through a flight of ancient stairs carved from huge monolithic stones.
The distinct advantage of the perch offered an uninterrupted view of the pond that appeared placid except for the local people bathing or swimming and the annual festivities of the diety conducted on a special ghat. But, that was just one brighter side of a bucolic abode, atop a pond with its own mind and heart. Legend had it that the pond never dried up even during the harshest of droughts that had struck the area. It also had an ambiguous nature, at the same time offering the elixir of life and luring the oblivious, unwitting souls to the death trap in its bosom. Swimming away from its edges towards the middle was a sure path into death well, so a large circumscribed area around the center was off-limits even to adroit swimmers and divers.
Nevertheless, nothing could have stopped the daredevils and the reckless from calling into question the laws of nature and dousing the flame of life in its waters, before it was even kindled. There was another group, that was dead set on snuffing it, overburdened by worries, who came from even far away places, offering self and sometimes their little ones to the pond with a ravenous craving for souls. Such was the grisly truth that we were not allowed to step inside the bounds of the pond even once, in the decades that we had spent in that perch.
I had been a mute witness untold times, to the pond’s morbid craving for life that had been sucked into its abyss, leaving the fallen angels to rise up to the surface after one whole day. As a kid, at first the death knell sounded by the pond never registered in my heart or reverberated in my head. I was oblivious to the form and substance of the scythe-wielding Grim Reaper. Again, as young children, we were forbidden by our parents from watching the happenings around, who kept us inside closed doors during that period, under their aegis, until everything had cleared outside. This exercise of household quarantine had only served to boost my curiosity.
I am not sure exactly when I had caught a fleeting glimpse of a floating body, belly up like a veined, dry autumnal leaf. Throngs of spectators were elbowing each other and nudging their way through the assorted congregation around the low walls of the pond, to have a look at the lifeless body. Once again, the edge offered by the perch enabled me to have an unhindered view ( I still remember it vividly). According to the oral lore and the stories from my grandmother, the pond had a discreet path underneath that bore down to the other end of the earth, a mystical maelstrom carried anything that came on its way, down through the obscure path to the inferno( as it were, another realm). And the malevolent ‘Yakshis‘ were supposed to be the ones taking the soul underneath.
My unwitting Angel might not have meant to scare the hell out of me, but that was exactly what happened ultimately. I had a cold fever with scary chills that same night and I missed school for a few consecutive days. From then on, every time I peeked into the pond at night I would conjure up the ferocious, blood-thirsty fiends hovering over, like a pall of suspended white cloud and ample nightly adrenaline shots was prescribed by the wary brain, the dose increasing gradually on a daily basis.
There was no other option, but to shiver under the bedspread, wide awake till wee morning hours watching over the silent, dreary, wakeful nights, on my bed, worrying about the ill-fated soul that was about to be dragged into the pond and enduring the yawningly indifferent mornings in the classroom that delivered incalculable dose of arithmetics. With the same religious fervor that I had exhibited in invoking the benevolent ones previously, I went all out to shrug off the vicious ones that manifested ever readily without any need at all of invoking them.
I did come out of that, by a regular rational infusion. I still remember the many medical exhibitions at Trivandrum Medical College, where I had been taken by my father, since the sixth or seventh grade. There, for the first time, I made acquaintance with lifeless cadavers, just a stone’s throw from me, that reinforced my discriminating power by dispelling the spectral mirages. Those educational trips transpired as covert desensitization therapies for my credulous self, like, see for yourself, hear for yourself, feel for yourself training sessions.
Months and years into the medical course reinforced an empirical, evidence-based approach to life. Clinical postings, apart from case studies and an obligatory shock therapy of having to watch postmortem in Forensics, were rigged-up theaters where the spectral enactment of birth to death could be closely watched. Lives reaped by the scythe and those brought back from the brink were studied up close. And the omnipresent devil tree was nowhere to be seen in medical college premises or the premises where we took up residences later on.
My parents sold the property and bought an apartment in another part of the city, later. To this day, I make sure to take the tour through my past, the temple, the pond, the site where our old house had been, the used-book stores, the place where she had worked, holding my mother’s hand, every time I visit my parents during vacation. The way I would feel at the time of the trip is hard to describe. I watch the springs and winters of the past roll by before me. And I wouldn’t trade this trip with my mother for anything else in the whole world.
I love to watch the ghost movies in all languages, something that my husband and son dismisses as a stupid waste of time. I tell them, I don’t believe in ghosts anymore, but these phantasms were a part of my past, a sort of lived experience of a fantasy I could never erase. In the place where I stay now in the suburbs of Mangalore, on a forested hillside on the banks of the silent Netravathy, guarded by the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, the people revere trees considered sacred. There are ancient temples and dilapidated palaces, dotting the area. Almost a year back, during one of our walks, I and my son wandered inside a somewhat thickly-forested part of the hillside to find a sacred grove with plenty of ‘paala’ trees. During the October- November months, the air here effuses with the musky, heady aroma of the ‘paala’ bloom, felt from our apartment surrounded by the trees, the roadside blanketed by its buttery flowers. I always feel, whoever had associated the tree to the devil must experience the peaceful, relaxed ambiance underneath it.
Even now, myths never fail to amaze me, but they stay just as reminders of the many childhood folktales I had come across in the storybooks and by word of mouth, the sweet and sour experiences that I have had as a child.
– Flavius Josephus, the Romano-Jewish scholar, and historian.
A casual observer could be forgiven for being drawn into the dragnet of bias when it comes to broaching and expounding on the subject matter of Israeli- Palestinian quagmire. Responsible journalism and authorship, though ostensibly non-partisan and unprejudiced is by no means so as the evidence suggests. That leaves us with very few options for digging deeper into the marshlands of history and collating the layers beneath to prepare the ground of conceivability in our conscience.
The beliefs of historical determinism and fatalism, more often than not, rear their ugly head in almost every causal analysis of the conflict in spite of the contrarian disposition of the rational mind. Not even a page of this book could be flipped by without contemplating retrospectively of a more lucid outcome, had the powers that be shown a speck of farsightedness or a morsel of horse sense about a region that in itself had been tangled in the cobweb of politics, religion, ethnicity and pincered between the grasp of bloodthirsty warlords and religiously evangelical zealots. The infamous Sykes-Picot agreement which unabashedly apportioned the Middle East map among British and French stemmed from the ‘ divide and rule’ dogma followed by the empire, the repercussions of which echoes to the present day, albeit in the form of protracted quasi-occupation in Afghanistan or Iraq before, by the West. Lessons will never be learned it seems, after imbibing Jerusalem’s travails.
Though the book offers a prolonged read and is steeped in history, titles and chronology Montefiore has done justice to his subject by dissecting Jerusalem right from the roots, eruditely, not in the least exhibiting any sort of pedantry or pomposity. Palpability of the spirit of Jerusalem and perspicuity of the ghosts of the past sauntering through the narrow alleys of Old Jerusalem is a haunting experience that lingers on. From the Maccabees to the present day rulers, the list of conquerors and occupiers seem never-ending, yet the provenance of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions, the seat of religious secularism, the cynosure of the world presents herself as a desolate sweetheart whom the lovers have forsaken.
The weightiness of the issue and the two-state solution on the cards endows a special significance to the book now than ever before. Montefiore’s pedigree and his ancestor’s role in carving up a Jewish state and propounding Zionism have been distinctly documented. I just loved the myriad footnotes which by themselves could be collated into a compendium of sorts. The sheer magnitude of research that has been put through by the author is unbelievable.
A magnificent tour de force, scholarly penned, bluntly chronicled, holistically viewed and meticulously researched. An absolutely enlightening tome.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Camus was born in French Algeria to Pieds Noirs parents. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five. The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L’Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose “collective creation” Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons. Camus was politically active; he was part of the left that opposed the Soviet Union because of its totalitarianism.
During the Algerian War (1954–1962), he kept a neutral stance, advocating for a multicultural and pluralistic Algeria, a position that caused controversy and was rejected by most parties.
Camus was a vocal advocate of the “new Mediterranean Culture“. This was a term he used to describe his vision of embracing the multi-ethnicity of the Algerian people, in opposition to “Latiny”, a popular pro-fascist and antisemitic ideology among other Pieds-Noirs—or French or Europeans born in Algeria. For Camus, this vision encapsulated the Hellenic humanism which survived among ordinary people around the Mediterranean Sea. His 1938 address on “The New Mediterranean Culture” represents Camus’s most systematic statement of his views at this time. Camus also supported the Blum–Viollette proposal to grant Algerians full French citizenship in a manifesto with arguments defending this assimilative proposal on radical egalitarian grounds. In 1939, Camus wrote a stinging series of articles for the Alger républicain on the atrocious living conditions of the inhabitants of the Kabylie highlands. He advocated for economic, educational and political reforms as a matter of emergency.
In 1945, following the Sétif and Guelma massacre after Arab revolts against French mistreatment, Camus was one of only a few mainland journalists to visit the colony. He wrote a series of articles reporting on conditions, and advocating for French reforms and concessions to the demands of the Algerian people.
When the Algerian War began in 1954, Camus was confronted with a moral dilemma. He identified with the Pieds-Noirs such as his own parents and defended the French government’s actions against the revolt. He argued the Algerian uprising was an integral part of the “new Arab imperialism” led by Egypt, and an “anti-Western” offensive orchestrated by Russia to “encircle Europe” and “isolate the United States”. Although favoring greater Algerian autonomy or even federation, though not full-scale independence, he believed the Pieds-Noirs and Arabs could co-exist. During the war, he advocated a civil truce that would spare the civilians. It was rejected by both sides who regarded it as foolish. Behind the scenes, he began working for imprisoned Algerians who faced the death penalty. His position drew much criticism from the left and later postcolonial literary critics, such as Edward Said, who were opposed to European imperialism, and charged that Camus’s novels and short stories are plagued with colonial depictions – or conscious erasures – of Algeria’s Arab population. In their eyes, Camus was no longer the defender of the oppressed.Camus once confided that the troubles in Algeria “affected him as others feel pain in their lungs.”
The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds Camus’s notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with “the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement – and a conscious dissatisfaction“. Meursault, central character of L’Étranger (The Stranger), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later – when the young killer faces execution – tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste (The Plague), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus’s words: “We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them“. Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L’Exil et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.
Was Camus actually a philosopher? He himself said no, in a famous interview with Jeanine Delpech in Les Nouvelles Littéraires in November of 1945, insisting that he did “not believe sufficiently in reason to believe in a system” (Camus 1965). This was not merely a public posture, since we find the same thought in his notebooks of this period: he describes himself as an artist and not a philosopher because “I think according to words and not according to ideas” (Camus 1995). Still, Jean-Paul Sartre saw immediately that Camus was undertaking important philosophical work, and in his review of The Stranger in relation to Sisyphus, had no trouble connecting Camus with Pascal, Rousseau, and Nietzsche (Sartre 1962). After they became friends Sartre spoke publicly of his friend’s “philosophy of the absurd,” which he distinguished from his own thought for which he accepted the “existentialist” label that Camus rejected. In the years since, the apparent unsystematic, indeed, anti-systematic, character of his philosophy, has meant that relatively few scholars have appreciated its full depth and complexity. They have more often praised his towering literary achievements and standing as a political moralist while pointing out his dubious claims and problematic arguments
Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.
Camus died on 4 January 1960 at the age of 46, in a car accident near Sens, in Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin.
The Stranger by Albert Camus is a novel concerning the absurdist philosophy of the main character, Meursault, who inevitably becomes the ‘other’. Though technically a philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus is integral to a deeper understanding of The Stranger. It was published the same year as The Stranger and, along with the novel, cemented Camus’ reputation as a prominent thinker. In it, Camus explicates the tenets of his philosophy, Absurdism, the ideas of which underpin much of the action of The Stranger. The Myth of Sisyphus pinpoints the absurd precisely: neither the world nor human thinking in and of itself is absurd. Rather, the absurd arises when human thinking attempts to impose its order, reason, and logic on the meaningless world, a perennially futile goal. In The Stranger, the absurd is demonstrated by the trial, the lawyers, and the numerous priests and Christians who attempt to convert Meursault to religion. But, it was not immediately a best seller. The first edition was only 4,400 copies and was dampened by Jean-Paul Sartre’s article “Explication de L’Étranger” published immediately before the novel. Today, it ranks as a classic of 20th-century literature that has been translated into English four different times. It has been adopted into film twice, one in 1967 by Luchino Visconti and then in 2001 by Zeki Demirkubuz.
Camus was known as one of the biggest players in existentialism and absurdism, however, he denied those titles for the majority of his lifetime, even that of being a philosopher. Instead, he pursued a political voice on the Cold War, rejecting both communism and capitalism. Regardless, his literature continued to portray him as a modern philosopher, posing some of the biggest existentialist and absurdist questions of our lifetime. Though The Stranger is often categorized as an existential novel, Camus himself rejected this label. Camus’ philosophy of Absurdism resembles Existentialism in many respects (both philosophies, for example, believe in the essential meaninglessness of life) but Camus was fiercely committed to human morality and dignity, ideas many Existentialists discarded. The book was published in 1942 and written in French- setting in French-colonized Algeria. The novel is blunt in its language and rather absent in message until the last few pages. Meursault is consumed with ideas of absurdism, a philosophical principle that states that humans exist in a meaningless and purposeless world. He is viewed differently in the eyes of society under a negative connotation.
However, Camus did not identify himself as a philosopher. In fact, he abjured “armchair” philosophy and argued that sitting around and thinking was not enough. One needed to live life as well. He also did not identify himself as an existentialist. He agreed with some proponents of existentialist thought that life has no inherent meaning, but he criticized others for their pursuit of personal meaning. Camus’s concept of the absurd instead implored people to accept life’s lack of meaning and rebel by rejoicing in what life does offer. Camus is closely associated with the atheistic branch of existentialism, a philosophy emphasizing humanity’s consciousness of its mortality and its consequent need to find meaning in a universe that seems indifferent and inhospitable to such a quest. Camus believes that there is no god, hence that life has no purpose. Things—human beings, plants, animals—simply live and die as part of a natural process that has no transcendent meaning or value. Human beings are distinguished from plants and animals only by virtue of the fact that they are conscious of their own mortality. Alone among all living things, human beings know that they must die. This awareness pushes them to seek explanations, to try to find meaning in what is essentially meaningless. Camus and other thinkers describe this situation as “the absurd.” Human beings—seekers of meaning in a meaningless universe—live in a condition of absurdity.Elements of this philosophy can be seen in Meursault, as he refuses to behave as if there is meaning where there is none—or, as Camus himself put it in a preface to The Stranger, Meursault “does not play the game.” Society thus feels threatened and cuts off Meursault’s head. Similar themes can be seen in Camus’s essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), also published in 1942.
Fought between 1914 and 1918, World War I introduced the world to unprecedented violence and gave rise to a new sense of disaffection and doubt, producing art very different than the art of the past. In the wake of the war rose the Lost Generation, a group of artists who addressed the collapse of traditional structures of meaning—both secular and religious—and conveyed their sense of life’s meaninglessness. Born during World War I, Camus lost his father to the fighting and grew up to be an integral member of the Lost Generation. By the time he wrote The Stranger in the early 1940s, World War II had begun and the Nazi regime occupied France, where Camus had recently moved from Algeria. Though he fought passionately for the French Resistance against the Germans, Camus lived amidst widespread fear that the senseless horrors of World War I would be repeated. The inadequacy of religion or logic to account for such horrors helped inspire his own philosophy of Absurdism, whose ideas are reflected throughout The Stranger.
No sentence in the English translation of French literature is better known than the opening sentence of The Stranger, “Maman died today . Or Yesterday maybe. I don’t know”.
It has become a sacred cow of sorts, according to Mathew Ward, the translator. In his notebooks Camus recorded the observation that “the curious feeling the son has for his mother constitutes all his sensibility“. Sartre , in his explication of The Stranger goes out of his way to point out Mersault‘s (protagonist) use of the child’s word “Maman” when speaking of his mother. So Ward has not changed it to ‘mother’ to keep the very sensibility that Camus intends.
The Stranger is an artistic sleight of hand by Camus , at once literary and popular style, that would make the complexities of life appear simpler. Mersault and Camus were moralists in their own way. Camus was a humanist and moralist throughout his life a humanist. The latter philosophy was interested in imbuing society with a certain set of morals and informed his political positioning. The simplicity of the text is apparent and the paradox is evident. What Mersault says, feels or does resonates with all he does not say, all he does not feel, all he does not do. Camus acknowledged employing an American way of writing using short, precise sentences in the first half of the book, the depiction of characters without consciousness and in some places the “tough guy” tone. Like Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner, and Cain. Camus’ use of language in The Stranger is minimalist — short, curt sentences that mimic Meursault’s noncommittal nature. The first English edition, translated by Stuart Gilbert and published in 1946, has a Britannic rendering with a paraphrastic earnestness according to Ward. In Ward’s translation, he has given the American quality to the dialogues, to capture what Camus says and how he says it and not what he meant.
In the second half of the novel, Camus gives free reign to lyricism and he takes Mersault , stripped of his liberty, beyond sensation to enforced memory, unsatisfied desire and finally to a kind of understanding. Mersault’s character has peculiarities of perception, psychological increments, something unconventional .The two parts of the novel differ stylistically.
In the prison, Meursault then stops telling of how he spent his time during those eleven months and describes an incident when, one day, while he was inspecting his straw mattress, he found a bit of yellowed newspaper stuck on the underside. Part of the paper is missing, but the newspaper contains the story of a crime, committed in a village in Czechoslovakia. The story is a short one, one in fact that Camus later enlarged into a play, The Misunderstanding. The play recounts the story of a young man who leaves home, makes a fortune, and after twenty-five years returns, hoping to surprise his mother and sister. The two women manage an inn and murder their guest during the night for his money. When the dead man’s wife explains what has happened, the mother hangs herself and the sister throws herself into a well. The story intrigues Meursault; he says that he read and re-read the story thousands of times, determining finally that perhaps one shouldn’t play tricks of that sort. Perhaps one, indeed, should not play tricks, even tricks that include writing vicious letters that lead to brawls and, in Meursault’s case, a murder.
The Misunderstanding was first produced in 1944, several years following the publication of The Stranger. Obviously, Camus was very much intrigued with the irony of a mother and a daughter murdering a rich stranger, who, by chance, is their son and brother. The women, it is assumed, have probably murdered other rich strangers who have come to their inn; this particular guest, being alone in the inn, is an easy victim. Thus, as readers, we are confronted with another murder — a murder of, presumably, a stranger. Unlike Meursault, however, the mother and daughter kill themselves in fits of madness and guilt when they discover the identity of the dead man, whereas, in contrast, Meursault does not fully comprehend his own murder of a stranger.
Camus also teases us with yet another murder and with the philosophical question as to whether or not it makes any difference whether one kills a stranger or, in this case, a son and a brother. Even the title of Camus’ play, based on this short tale is ironic. Murder can under no circumstance ever be excused as the result of a mere misunderstanding.
The title is significant on a number of levels. Meursault, the book’s protagonist, is the eponymous stranger—a stranger to himself, to his family, to his country, and to anyone with whom he comes into contact. Cut off from all meaningful interactions with other people—indeed, cut off from any kind of meaning at all—Meursault is the ultimate existentialist antihero and a man who attempts without success to impose some semblance of meaning on his existence by taking up a firm, resolute attitude to life. In the last sentence of The Stranger, Meursault wishes for a crowd of angry spectators to appear at his execution because it will confirm him in his outsider status. The impact of the ending is meant to be shocking, to show us how it is still possible to be free even on the brink of execution.
Ward has done a wonderful job translating The Stranger, keenly preserving it’s essence. Still, as Richard Howard pointed out in his classic statement in his prefatory note of the translation of André Paul Guillaume Gide‘s ‘The Immoralist ‘, “Time reveals all translations to be paraphrase. All translations date, certain works do not”.
In England it was published as ‘The Outsider‘ translated by Joseph Laredo.
The historical context, social circumstances, and philosophies he worshipped played a large role in the way Meursault was viewed and the consequences he endured towards the story’s conclusion as the ‘other’.
The intersectionality of the time period also plays an important role in the racist ideals exhibited from Meursault and Raymond during the time frame. Algeria was one of France’s major settler colonies, which means that the French aimed to replace the original Algerian population with their own. Migration to Algeria not only came from France, but also Italy, Spain, and Malta. Land expropriation of the native population, where the government took private property for public gain, took place. This process destroyed the socio-economic and cultural traditions of the Algerian people, due to European ideals of superiority. The migration was officially extended to that of France. Because of these norms, ‘arabs’ were referred to as ‘arabs’, and viewed as ‘less than’ by the general public. This explains why Meursault did not care if he were to take the life of someone who was viewed as culturally insignificant. Additionally, because a westernized way of thinking was implemented into Algeria, emotions are an expected way of showing humanity, hence why Meursault’s lack of emotion was viewed as ‘strange’ by the public within the novel. Today’s readers of this novel have usually been exposed to such an anti-hero as Meursault (think of Willey Loman in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman or Yossarian in Joseph Heller’sCatch-22)
In the 1940s, the decade in which Camus published The Stranger he was working in Paris at Paris-Soir, a large-circulation daily newspaper in the city that ran from 1923-44. His previous newspaper of employment, Alger républicain has just been banned for its left-leaning views. Albert Camus was becoming concerned about the rise of authoritarianism in Europe, especially after seeing the treatment of minority groups by the French authorities.
The Stranger by Albert Camus is a philosophical piece concerning the absurdist, meaningless philosophy of Meursault, the main character. It is examined that within the novel, people view him as an ‘other’ for his strange and emotionless demeanors. The main events within the novel contribute to his impending death, which later reveal his true beliefs in the beauty of life. Because he is unable to show these emotions to characters within the novel, he is labeled as the ‘other’. The intersectionality and historical circumstances play a fairly large role as well in how Meursault goes about his interactions. The Stranger is arguably one of the greatest philosophical works of modern times.
There is the otherness: the confrontation between two cultures which brush up against each other but never quite meet. For the shapeless Arab in Camus’ work — whose presence is almost nonexistent in The Stranger — tells us much about colonialist perceptions of the colonized: people who are marginalized, who are there but unseen until they suddenly appear, unwanted, on the landscape, provoking fear and suspicion.
Camus wrote The Stranger from a place of tragedy and suffering. His father had died in World War I, and the unfolding carnage of World War II forced a questioning of life and its meaning. Camus had also witnessed mistreatment of native Algerians during the French occupation of Algeria, which had begun in the first half of the 19th century and, after World War I, was opposed by a growing nationalist movement. This conflict can be seen specifically in Meursault’s killing of “the Arab,” the only name he uses to refer to Raymond’s mistress’s brother. The murder has been read by some as a metaphor for the treatment of Algerian Muslims by the colonizing French. Camus published The Stranger at a time when Algerians were demanding political autonomy with increased forcefulness; although France did extend some rights during the 1940s, ongoing conflicts and failed French promises of more independence culminated in the outbreak of the Algerian War in 1954.
Kamel Daoud, Algerian writer and journalist, has written a novel The Meursault Investigation (2013/2014), first published in Algeria in 2013, and then republished in France to critical acclaim. This post-colonialist response to The Stranger counters Camus’s version with elements from the perspective of the unnamed Arab victim’s brother (naming him and presenting him as a real person who was mourned) and other protagonists. Daoud explores their subsequent lives following the withdrawal of French authorities and most pied-noirs from Algeria after the conclusion of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962.
An Explication of The Stranger by Jean Paul Sartre
Sartre’s critical review of the work:
“Hand in hand with its gratuitousness went a certain ambiguity. How were we to interpret this character who, the day after his mother’s death, “went swimming, started a liaison with a girl and went to see a comic ﬁlm,” who killed an Arab “because of the sun,” who claimed, on the eve of his execution, that he “had been happy and still was,” and hoped there would be a lot of spectators at the scaffold “to welcome him with cries of hate.”
These are not really very new themes, and Camus does not present them as such. They had been sounded as early as the seventeenth century by a certain kind of dry, plain, contemplative rationalism, which is typically French and they served as the commonplaces of classical pessimism. This explains, in part, the title of our novel; the stranger is man confronting the world. Camus might as well have chosen the title of one of George Gissing’s works, Born in Exile. The stranger is also man among men. “There are days when . . . you ﬁnd that the person you’ve loved has become a stranger.” The stranger is, ﬁnally, myself in relation to myself, that is, natural man in relation to mind: “The stranger who, at certain moments, confronts us in a mirror” (The Myth of Sisyphus). But that is not all; there is a passion of the absurd. The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusion, and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the “divine irresponsibility” of the condemned man.
Since God does not exist and man dies, everything is permissible. One experience is as good as another; the important thing is simply to acquire as many as possible. “The ideal of the absurd man is the present and the succession of present moments before an ever-conscious spirit” (Sisyphus). Confronted with this “quantitative ethic” all values collapse; thrown into this world, the absurd man, rebellious and irresponsible, has “nothing to justify.” He is innocent, innocent as Somerset Maugham’s savages before the arrival of clergyman who teaches them Good and Evil, what is lawful and what is forbidden. For this man, everything is lawful. He is as innocent as Prince Mishkin, who “lives in an everlasting present, lightly tinged with smiles and indifference.” Innocent in every sense of the word, he, too, is, if you like, an “Idiot.”
And now we fully understand the title of Camus’s novel. The stranger he wants to portray is precisely one of those terrible innocents who shock society by not accepting the rules of its game. He lives among outsiders, but to them, too, he is a stranger. That is why some people like him—for example, his mistress, Marie, who is fond of him “because he’s odd.” Others, like the courtroom crowd whose hatred he suddenly feels mounting towards him, hate him for the same reason. And we ourselves, who, on opening the book are not yet familiar with the feeling of the absurd, vainly try to judge him according to our usual standards. For us, too, he is a stranger. It is true that he felt obliged to make a philosophical translation of his ﬁctional message. The Myth of Sisyphus is just that.
Meursault, the hero of The Stranger, remains ambiguous, even to the reader who is familiar with theories of the absurd. We are, of course, assured that he is absurd, and his dominant characteristic is a pitiless clarity. Besides, he is, in more ways than one, constructed so as to furnish a concerted illustration of the theories expounded in The Myth of Sisyphus. For example, in the latter work, Camus writes, “A man’s virility lies more in what he keeps to himself than in what he says.” And Meursault in an example of this virile silence, of this refusal to indulge in words: “[He was asked] if he had noticed that I was withdrawn, and he admitted only that I didn’t waste words.” And two lines before this, the same witness has just declared that Merseault “was a man.” “[He was asked] what he meant by that, and he said that everyone knew what he meant.”
In like manner Camus expatiates on love in The Myth of Sisyphus. “It is only on the basis of a collective way of seeing, for which books and legends are responsible, that we give the name love to what binds us to certain human beings.” And similarly, we read in The Stranger: “So she wanted to know whether I loved her. I answered . . . that it didn’t mean anything, but that I probably didn’t love her.” From this point of view, the debate in the courtroom and in the reader’s mind as to whether or not Meursault loved his mother is doubly absurd.
First of all, as the lawyer asks, “Is he accused of having buried his mother or of having killed a man?” But above all, the words “to love” are meaningless. Meursault probably put his mother into an old people’s home because he hadn’t enough money and because “they had nothing more to say to one another.” And he probably did not go to see her often, “because it wasted [his] Sunday—not to speak of the effort involved in getting to the bus, buying tickets and taking a two-hour trip.” But what does this mean? Isn’t he living completely in the present, according to his present fancies? What we call a feeling is merely the abstract unity and the meaning of discontinuous impressions. For him, neither love nor individual loves exist. All that counts is the present and the concrete. He goes to see his mother when he feels like it, and that’s that. But he still calls his mother by the tender, childish name of “Mama,” and he never misses a chance to understand her and identify himself with her. “All I know of love is that mixture of desire, tenderness and intelligence that binds me to someone” (The Myth of Sisyphus). Thus we see that the theoretical side of Meursault’s character is not to be overlooked. In the same way, many of his adventures are intended chieﬂy to bring out some aspect or other of the basic absurdity of things. The Myth of Sisyphus, for example, extols, as we have seen, the “perfect freedom of the condemned prisoner to whom, some particular daybreak, the prison doors swing open,” and it is in order to make us taste this daybreak and freedom that Camus has condemned his hero to capital punishment. “How could I have failed to see,” says Meursault, “that nothing was more important than an execution . . . and that it was even, in a way, the only really interesting thing for a man!” One could multiply the examples and quotations.
“The feeling of the absurd is not the same as the idea of the absurd. The idea is grounded in the feeling, that is all. It does not exhaust it.” The Myth of Sisyphus might be said to aim at giving us this idea, and The Stranger at giving us the feeling. The order in which the two works appeared seems to conﬁrm this hypothesis. The Stranger, the ﬁrst to appear, plunges us without comment into the “climate” of the absurd; the essay then comes and illumines the landscape. Now, absurdity means divorce, discrepancy. The Stranger is to be a novel of discrepancy, divorce and disorientation; hence its skillful construction. We have, on the one hand, the amorphous, everyday ﬂow of reality as it is experienced, and, on the other, the edifying reconstruction of this reality by speech and human reason. The reader, brought face to face with simple reality, must ﬁnd it again, without being able to recognize it in its rational transposition. This is the source of the feeling of the absurd, that is, of our inability to think, with our words and concepts, what happens in the world. Meursault buries his mother, takes a mistress, and commits a crime.
These various facts will be related by witnesses at his trial, and they will be put in order and explained by the public prosecutor. Meursault will have the impression that they are talking of someone else. Everything is so arranged as to bring on the sudden outburst of Marie, who, after giving, in the witness box, an account composed according to human rules, bursts into sobs and says “that that wasn’t it, that there was something else, that they were forcing her to say the opposite of what she really thought.” These mirror tricks have been used frequently since The Counterfeiters, and they do not constitute Camus’s originality. But the problem to be solved imposes an original form upon him.
In order to feel the divergence between the prosecutor’s conclusions and the actual circumstances of the murder, in order, when we have ﬁnished the book, to retain the impression of an absurd justice, incapable of ever understanding or even of making contact with the deeds it intends to punish, we must ﬁrst have been placed in contact with reality, or with one of these circumstances. But in order to establish this contact, Camus, like the prosecutor, has only words and concepts at his disposal. In assembling thoughts, he is forced to use words to describe a world that precedes words. The ﬁrst part of The Stranger could have been given the same title as a recent book, Translated from Silence. Here we touch upon a disease common to many contemporary writers and whose ﬁrst traces I ﬁnd in Jules Renard. I shall call it “the obsession with silence.” Jean Paulhan would certainly regard it as an effect of literary terrorism.
The comparison with Hemingway seems more fruitful. The relationship between the two styles is obvious. Both men write in the same short sentences. Each sentence refuses to exploit the momentum accumulated by preceding ones. Each is a new beginning. Each is like a snapshot of a gesture or object. For each new gesture and word there is a new and corresponding sentence. Nevertheless, I am not quite satisﬁed. The existence of an “American” narrative technique has certainly been of help to Camus. I doubt whether it has, strictly speaking, inﬂuenced him.
Even in Death in the Afternoon, which is not a novel, Hemingway retains that abrupt style of narration that shoots each separate sentence out of the void with a sort of respiratory spasm. His style is himself. We know that Camus has another style, a ceremonious one. But even in The Stranger he occasionally heightens the tone. His sentences then take on a larger, more continuous, movement.
The cry of the news-vendors in the relaxed air, the last birds in the square, the calls of the sandwich-vendors, the wail of the trams on the high curves of the city and the distant murmur in the sky before night began to teeter over the port, all set before me a blind man’s route with which I was familiar long before entering prison.
Through the transparency of Meursault’s breathless account I catch a glimpse of a poetic prose underneath, which is probably Camus’s personal mode of expression. If The Stranger exhibits such visible traces of the American technique, it was deliberate on Camus’s part. He has chosen from among all the instruments at his disposal the one which seemed to serve his purpose best. However, we are not concerned with honesty, but with art. Camus has a method ready to hand. He is going to insert a glass partition between the reader and his characters. Is there really anything sillier than a man behind a glass window? Glass seems to let everything through. It stops only one thing: the meaning of his gestures. The glass remains to be chosen. It will be the Stranger’s mind, which is really transparent, since we see everything it sees. However, it is so constructed as to be transparent to things and opaque to meanings.
It is this analytic process that explains the use of the American technique in The Stranger. The presence of death at the end of our path has made our future go up in smoke; our life has “no future”; it is a series of present moments. What does this mean, if not that the absurd man is applying his analytical spirit to Time? Where Bergson saw an indestructible organization, he sees only a series of instants. It is the plurality of incommunicable moments that will ﬁnally account for the plurality of beings. What our author borrows from Hemingway is thus the discontinuity between the clipped phrases that imitate the discontinuity of time.
How are we to classify this clear, dry work, so carefully composed beneath its seeming disorder, so “human,” so open, too, once you have the key? It cannot be called a récit, for a récit explains and co-ordinates as it narrates. It substitutes the order of causality for chronological sequence. Camus calls it a “novel.” The novel, however, requires continuous duration, development and the manifest presence of the irreversibility of time. I would hesitate somewhat to use the term “novel” for this succession of inert present moments which allows us to see, from underneath, the mechanical economy of something deliberately staged. Or, if it is a novel, it is so in the sense that Zadig and Candide are novels. It might be regarded as a moralist’s short novel, one with a discreet touch of satire and a series of ironic portraits (those of the pimp, the judge, the prosecuting attorney, etc.), a novel that, for all the inﬂuence of the German existentialists and the American novelists, remains, at bottom, very close to the tales of Voltaire.
How Camus wrote The Stranger:
Book “Looking for The Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic” by Alice Kaplan.
The French philosopher Gabriel Marcel wrote in The Philosophy of Existentialism that Jean-Paul “Sartre’s world is the world as seen from the terrace of a café.” The other major French existentialist writer, a very different one, was Albert Camus (1913–1960). If Sartre wrote of life as seen from a café, Camus wrote of it as seen from a beach on a hot sunny day overlooked by a house on a hill where a group of friends live. In other words, Sartre’s existentialism focused on other people; Camus’s on the natural world and its indifference to humankind.
Sartre and Camus both wrote philosophy and novels. The general consensus was—and both men grudgingly admitted it—that Sartre was the better philosopher and Camus the better novelist. Why this is so lives in the mystery of personality and talent, but it is interesting to note both men had fraught family lives: after his father’s death, Sartre was raised by his mother and her father and grew up afraid of God’s gaze and the gazes of other people; Camus’s father was killed in World War I before Camus was born to his deaf mother, who had a vocabulary of four hundred words. Alice Kaplan, a French professor at Yale, writes, “That an execution made Lucien Camus sick [he had gone to see a man executed by guillotine], that it filled him with such horror he couldn’t speak, was really the only thing Albert Camus ever learned about his father.”
Kaplan tells the story of the life of Camus’s most famous work: his relationship with his mother is the most salient biographical fact with regard to The Stranger. After all, its opening paragraph, one of the most famous in twentieth-century literature, reads, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.’”
“In May of 1935,” Kaplan writes,
soon after his marriage to Simone Hié, Camus began to jot down his insights in notebooks that would nurture every project to come. In a first entry, he reflected on those origins. Could he stay true to the poverty in which he had been born without giving into romanticism, and could he ever convey the strangeness of his relationship to his mother? “A certain number of years lived in misery are all it takes to construct a sensibility. In this particular case, the bizarre feeling a son has for his mother constitutes his entire sensibility.”
Not that The Stranger is an autobiographical novel. Camus was a much more fun-loving, animated fellow than his narrator, Meursault. At the novel’s beginning, Meursault is an almost affectless character. But as the novel progresses and he is drawn into a neighbor’s abusive relationship—which ends with his killing a nameless Arab on the beach under a blazing sun and then being tried and condemned to death—Meursault awakens emotionally. And as Camus writes of his anti-hero, whom many traditionalists denounced, “I see something positive about him and that is his refusal, unto death, to lie.”
Kaplan shows how The Stranger appeared to Camus slowly over a number of years. He had already published two books, with very small print runs, and then written a novel called A Happy Death, which comprised many of the same elements as The Stranger. Camus tried to cram his whole life into it and it was too packed with material to be effective. But while he was writing it, and also becoming a journalist in Algiers, snippets of another story kept arising disconnectedly in his notebooks. He had studied philosophy under the direction of Jean Grenier, his first mentor, and was now learning the journalistic trade under the guidance of his second mentor, Pascal Pia.
When the selfless and energetic Pia went to Paris for work, he soon sent for Camus, who then worked as a layout man for page four of a tabloid. Camus had been a court reporter in Algiers—a thorn in the side to the colonial government—and now that experience plus the solitude in Paris and his reading of James Cain’s novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice—combined to help him begin and finish writing The Stranger. Pia introduced him to André Malraux, famous French man of action and letters, who read and constructively criticized certain scenes in the novel, and helped get it published by Gallimard.
The only hitch was that Germany had begun World War II and divided France into occupied and unoccupied zones. The manuscript of The Stranger was shuttled back and forth and in all directions before finally being published in April of 1942. Camus, meanwhile, because of a recurrence of tuberculosis, had returned to Algeria. When he made it back to France, he joined the Resistance by writing and editing for the underground newspaper, Combat. The Nazis imprisoned and executed several of his colleagues. He began to write The Plague.
Publication of The Stranger sent Camus into the first rank of contemporary French writers. The more religious and traditional writers disliked and often misunderstood it. François Mauriac, the preeminent writer of the Catholic left, wrote, “I have no taste for [The Stranger], but strictly for technical reasons: I find its style too derivative.” Sartre was the most perceptive critic. He skewered Camus for his philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus—“the Paris intellectual was giving lessons to the man who had written from Algeria,” Kaplan writes—but The Stranger enchanted him. Sartre saw that Camus’s use of language was unique (“each sentence of the novel was like an island”) without knowing anything about Camus’s childhood. Kaplan notes, “Sartre’s ‘The Stranger Explained’ is proof that it’s unnecessary to know anything about an author’s life in order to understand a work of literature.”
The Plague appeared after the war, and in 1957 Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He had already become famous after an American lecture tour and the appearance of Cartier-Bresson’s black and white photographs of him wrapped in a trench coat and with a cigarette dangling from his lips. In 1948, a murderer tried to use The Stranger as part of his defense, claiming the book had influenced his crime. The father of the victim asked Camus to condemn the accused. Camus replied, “My work, Monsieur—and for once I am saying this with sorrow—does not consist in accusing people. It consists in understanding them.”
Then in 1960, Camus was killed in a car accident. In his pocket was a ticket for the train he had originally planned to take, and in the car was a manuscript of a novel, The First Man, not published until thirty-four years later and, Kaplan says, “as tender and emotional as The Stranger was cool and disturbed.”
In 2013, a novel told from the point of view of the brother of the nameless Arab killed by Meursault in The Stranger appeared. Kaplan:
There is such a thing as a zeitgeist, a spirit of the times. Maybe our current zeitgeist amounts to impatience with talk of the “absent” Arab, and a wish to describe his reality and tell his story. An Algerian novelist, Kamel Daoud, has given a name and a life to that Arab, to this brother and his mother, in a novel called The Meursault Investigation.
The murder of the Arab in The Stranger had been based on a real-life fight that Camus knew about and used. The names of the French brothers involved in the brawl, Raoul and Edgar Benoussan, were well known, but no one knew the name of the Arab. Kaplan looked in the archives of L’Echo d’Oran and found it: Kaddour Betouil. Ironically, both Betouil and Camus were tubercular and could not fight in the war.
Looking for The Stranger is, for Camus fans and those interested in philosophical fiction or fictional philosophy, a compelling read. Its detailed descriptions of the creative process will challenge writers of all stages. Although Kaplan sometimes goes a bit too far in her speculations, overall she writes on solid scholarly ground (there are fifty pages of notes). The book’s ending about the nameless Arab, though it could be construed to be an unnecessary piece of political correctness, may also be seen as a needed rapprochement and satisfaction of natural curiosity.
The title character of The Stranger is Meursault, a Frenchman who lives in Algiers (a pied-noir)(A person of European origin who lived in Algeria during French rule, especially one who returned to Europe after Algeria was granted independence.). The novel is famous for its first lines: “Mother died today. Or maybe it was yesterday, I don’t know.” They capture Meursault’s anomie (in societies or individuals, a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals) briefly and brilliantly. After this introduction, the reader follows Meursault through the novel’s first-person narration to Marengo, where he sits vigil at the place of his mother’s death. Despite the expressions of grief around him during his mother’s funeral, Meursault does not show any outward signs of distress. This removed nature continues throughout all of Meursault’s relationships, both platonic and romantic.
Raymond, an unsavoury friend, is eventually arrested for assaulting his mistress and asks Meursault to vouch for him to the police. Meursault agrees without emotion. Raymond soon encounters a group of men, including the brother of his mistress. The brother, referred to as “the Arab,” slashes Raymond with a knife after Raymond strikes the man repeatedly. Meursault happens upon the altercation and shoots the brother dead, not out of revenge but, he says, because of the disorienting heat and vexing brightness of the sun, which blinds him as it reflects off the brother’s knife. This murder is what separates the two parts of the story.
The novel’s second part begins with Meursault’s pretrial questioning, which primarily focuses on the accused’s callousness toward his mother’s funeral and his murder of “the Arab.” His lack of remorse, combined with his lack of sadness expressed toward his mother, works against him and earns him the nickname “Monsieur Antichrist” from the examining magistrate. During the trial itself, Meursault’s character witnesses do more harm than good, because they highlight Meursault’s apparent apathy and disengagement. Eventually, Meursault is found guilty of murder with malice aforethought and is sentenced to death by guillotine. As he waits for his impending death, he obsesses over the possibility of his appeal being accepted. A chaplain visits Meursault against his wishes, only to be greeted by Meursault’s intense atheistic and nihilistic views. In a cathartic explosion of rage, Meursault brings the chaplain to tears. This, however, brings Meursault peace and helps him to accept his death with open arms.
1)Meaninglessness of Life andthe Absurd
From Meursault’s perspective the world is meaningless, and he repeatedly dismisses other characters’ attempts to make sense of human. He rejects both religious and secular efforts to find meaning. From the director at the old people’s home who arranges a religious funeral for Madame Meursault to the examining magistrate who tries to guide Meursault towards Christian faith to the chaplain who lectures Meursault about repentance and the afterlife, Meursault is often advised to embrace religion and place his faith in a divine world beyond this one. Meursault, though, is adamantly atheist, and insists he believes only in this life and physical experience.
Efforts to engage Meursault in secular structures of meaning are equally futile. When Meursault’s boss offers Meursault a position in Paris, he expects Meursault to embrace the opportunity for career advancement. Meursault, though, lacks all ambition and turns down the boss’ offer without considering it. As a student, Meursault recalls, “I had lots of ambitions…But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.” When Marie asks Meursault whether he wants to marry her, she expects him to take the institution of marriage seriously. Yet Meursault is indifferent towards it, thinks “it didn’t mean anything” to love a person, and agrees to marry Marie simply because she wants to marry him. Though he grows fond of her, he doesn’t cultivate any attachment to her more meaningful than superficial attraction. Throughout his trial, Meursault is equally bemused by the meaninglessness of the justice system and finds its attempts to impose rational, meaningful structure on his actions ridiculous. He considers the guilty verdict he eventually receives entirely arbitrary, and describes its “certainty” as “arrogant.”
Meursault’s unwavering nihilism frustrates those who try to convert him to their ways of thinking and they often experience Meursault’s perspective as a threat to their own ideas. “Do you want my life to be meaningless?” the examining magistrate bellows when Meursault refuses to accept his faith in God. The prosecutor passionately describes “the emptiness of a man’s heart” as “an abyss threatening to swallow up society,” casting Meursault as a threat to social order.
This tension between Meursault’s sense of life’s meaninglessness and other characters’ persistent efforts to impose structures of meaning demonstrates the main tenet of Camus’ own philosophy of Absurdism. Absurdism holds that the world is absurd and that looking for order or meaning of any kind is a futile endeavor. Humans must accept the absolute indifference of the world towards human life. Ironically, it is only the thought of imminent death that leads Meursault to acknowledge anything like meaning or importance in life. Though he still spurns the notion of essential meaning, Meursault’s impending execution fills him with an overwhelming, heart-felt desire for life that contradicts his stated goal of being “level-headed” and considering life and death as equal possibilities.
2)Chance and Interchangeability
Meursault considers all experience interchangeable, arbitrary, and essentially meaningless. “One life was as good as another,” he tells his boss, explaining his indifference towards the opportunity to move to Paris. To him, it’s only a matter of chance that events turn out as they do. His thoughts on the beach steps as he decides whether to return to Masson’s bungalow or to go back down to the beach could summarize his attitude towards every life choice: “to stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing.” (Expressing this attitude at that particular instance is, of course, highly ironic as his choice to go back down to the beach leads to the murder that changes his life dramatically.)
Meursault remains convinced of the arbitrariness of events throughout his imprisonment and trial. Hearing street noises he recognizes beyond the court, he reflects that’s is as if “familiar paths traced in summer skies could lead as easily to prison as to the sleep of the innocent.” Meursault’s primary contention with judicial procedure is its certainty, its unwillingness to embrace chance. After being condemned, Meursault thinks how the verdict may as well have been the opposite, as all the factors leading up to it were entirely arbitrary. He fantasizes a new form of capital punishment which would work nine out of ten times, leaving the condemned a chance for hope and eliminating the unyielding certainty of death by guillotine.
Likewise, Meursault treats human relationships as chance arrangements, believing that any person could substitute for any other in a relationship without causing any difference. He tells Marie that he would marry any other women with whom he had the same relationship he has with her. He kills the Arab without any personal motive: the man may as well have been anybody. Thus, though “the stranger” of the title refers primarily to Meursault’s own estrangement from society, it also refers to the man Meursault kills, a chance stranger whom the novel never names. Contemplating his own death, Meursault reminds himself that it doesn’t matter when one dies, since “other men and women will naturally go on living” far into the future.
Yet none of the people around Meursault see events as the fluid, interchangeable occurrences Meursault sees. Throughout the trial, the prosecutor repeatedly portrays Meursault’s murder as a premeditated crime, fundamentally connected to Meursault’s prior behavior. The prosecutor’s determination to prove the deliberate malice of Meursault’s actions reaches its highest pitch when his closing argument equates Meursault’s disengagement at his mother’s funeral to the act of another criminal who murdered his own father.
3) Indifference and Passivity
The novel opens with Meursault’s indifference at his mother’s funeral and the consternation it provokes among the people around him. This dynamic recurs much more starkly at the trial, where the account of Meursault’s “insensitivity” towards his mother’s death proves to be what ultimately turns the jury against him. People’s surprise and dismay at novel’s start implied they were judging Meursault based on his indifferent attitude. The court scene in the second half of the novel makes those judgments explicit.
Meursault is equally indifferent towards Marie, who, of all the characters, shows him the most warmth. Although he is fond of her and enjoys her company, he is indifferent towards her essential being and is not in love with her as a unique individual. When Marie asks Meursault whether he wants to marry her: “I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her…She just wanted to know if I would have accepted the same proposal from another woman, with whom I was involved in the same way. I said, ‘Sure.'” In prison later on, he fantasizes about women without imagining Marie specifically. Conversely, when Marie stops writing, he is not at all disturbed to imagine she may have taken up with a new man or be dead.
Meursault’s emotional indifference contributes to his general passivity. Lacking goals and desires of his own, Meursault rarely seems to care how events turn out and acts simply to satisfy his immediate physical needs, allowing his life to flow by as it will. His passive people-watching from the balcony in Chapter 2 provides a possible model for his life philosophy. He stands by and observes others without acting. Even the crucial act of his murder is described in passive terms: “the trigger gave.” As the prosecutor elaborates, Meursault’s passive indifference threatens society because it can’t be assimilated into social life (a life premised on care for relationships, careers, friendships, family, etc.). Thus, Meursault himself is the primary “stranger” of the title – he is a stranger to the social fabric of his world.
Meursault begins and ends the novel in a state of indifference, yet his indifference at novel’s end is achieved after enduring the grueling frustration he experiences in prison trying to outsmart “the machinery of justice.” Where his indifference at novel’s start seemed like numb apathy, his indifference at the end seems to be a kind of enlightenment. He embraces indifference as an active choice, opening himself to the indifference of the world itself. The English translations of the novel differ critically in their characterization of this larger indifference. The first translation by Stuart Gilbert translates, “I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe,” while the second by Joseph Laredo translates, “I laid my heart open to the gentle indifference of the universe.” Matthew Ward’s most recent translation reads, “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” Still, despite their differences, each of these translations conveys the world’s indifference as harmless, as something to embrace and be “happy” amidst, rather than something to despise and fear.
4) Importance of Physical Experience
As Meursault explains to his lawyer, “…my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings.” Indeed, throughout the novel, Meursault experiences physical sensations and pains/pleasures much more acutely than he experiences emotional/psychological ones. As a narrator, he constantly supplies physical details without analyzing their emotional or psychological import. The most extreme example of this can be found in his account of killing the Arab. Meursault initially shoots because of the uncomfortably bright glare reflected off the Arab’s knife and later explains to the courtroom he shot “because of the sun.” Likewise, Meursault observes the mourners at his mother’s funeral coolly, unmoved to empathize with the grief their actions attest to. Later, Meursault ignores much of the argument at his own trial (including critical speeches by his lawyer and the prosecutor), preferring to focus instead on the sounds of the street outside.
At novel’s end, this way of life is actually presented as a positive, vivid alternative to religious life. He who lives a religious life lives for the sake of a world to come but Meursault wants to live for the sake of this life. When the chaplain insists Meursault must have “wished for another life,” Meursault insists that any other life should still be embodied and sensual, “…of course I had, but it didn’t mean any more than wishing to be rich, to be able to swim faster, or to have a more nicely shaped mouth…he stopped me and wanted to know how I pictured this other life. Then I shouted at him, “‘One where I could remember this life!” The chaplain (and anyone who believes in an afterlife) is, to Meursault’s mind, “living like a dead man.” The memory exercises Meursault develops to pass the time in prison by recalling every detail of his old apartment likewise convey a profound trust in the richness of physical experience: “…the more I thought about it, the more I dug out of my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten. I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored.”
Throughout the novel, Meursault remains unable to experience deep, complex relationships to the people in his life. All of his relationships – from the filial relationship he had with his mother to his friendship with Raymond to his romantic relationship with Marie – are passionless, determined much more by incidental, superficial impressions than by deep-felt emotional bonds. His casual attitude towards these relationships enables him to treat the people in his life according to his own desires without feeling any sense of duty or loyalty towards them. Once he no longer has anything to talk with his mother about, he sends her off to an old people’s home and is puzzled to hear his neighbors disapprove of the decision. At his mother’s vigil, he drinks coffee and smokes as usual, not feeling obliged to act differently out of respect.
Though fond of Marie, Meursault does not feel bound to her as a unique individual and freely admits he isn’t in love with her. Though he helps Raymond by writing the letter to his mistress and by testifying to her infidelity at the police station, Meursault does not feel these actions to be any sort of burden on himself and performs them in a spirit of indifference. Ironically, Meursault’s murder could be considered a tremendous sacrifice made for a friend’s wellbeing (it is Raymond, after all, who has a problem with the Arab, not Meursault). Yet the Arab’s connection to Raymond is, to Meursault’s mind, entirely incidental and he shoots the Arab without even thinking of Raymond.
Meursault’s cool detachment from relationships is juxtaposed by several passionate bonds between other characters, including the tender warmth between Thomas Pérez and Madame Meursault, the volatile resentment between Raymond and his mistress, and the excruciating love/hate relationship between Salamano and his dog. Though Meursault remains just as unattached to others at novel’s end as he was at the start, he glimpses the possibility of a deeper connection to others several times in Book II. The first occurs after Céleste’s testimony on the witness stand when Meursault feels for “the first time in my life I…wanted to kiss a man.” The second occurs is in the final chapter when Meursault realizes “why at the end of her life [Maman] had taken a ‘fiancé.'” In the novel’s last sentence, Meursault sees even his estrangement from society as capable of giving companionship, thinking that “to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.
Heat symbolizes the indifference of the universe towards human life. The sun’s blazing intensity without regard for bodily comfort or peace of mind stands for the general disregard the natural world has for humanity. Thus, human life is essentially meaningless and no higher or deeper order should be looked for. The most uncomfortably hot moments in the narrative are also the moments at which the meaninglessness of human life is brought into greatest relief. They literally make Meursault dizzy, a dizziness that is both physical and psychological. Meursault encounters dizzying heat on the day of his mother’s funeral as well as on the day he shoots the Arab (he himself links these two days by comparing their heat.) Likewise, the heat in the courtroom renders Meursault dizzy during the prosecutor’s damning speech in which he creates false meanings for Meursault’s actions and claims Meursault is guilty of parricide. Meursault is unable to say anything in response but that the murder was meaningless, without personal motive, a truth the court will not accept.
2) Glare (shimmer, glisten, dazzle)
Glare (along with its synonyms) symbolizes the importance of physical experience over mental analysis. Literally caused by light bouncing off a surface, glare represents a way of experiencing the world that doesn’t seek to probe beneath the surface of things. Instead of analyzing or interpreting, this way of looking at the world takes physical experience as it comes and makes decisions based on sensory impressions. The most crucial instance of glare in The Stranger can be found reflecting off the Arab’s knife on the beach, moments before Meursault shoots him. Indeed, to Meursault’s mind, this bright glare (rather than any deeper, personal motive) was the reason he killed the Arab. Glares, shimmers, glistens, and dazzles are plentiful throughout the rest of the novel as well, and shine off the landscape the day of Madame Meursault’s funeral, off of the pavement and bodies of strangers walking below Meursault’s apartment as he people-watches, and off the beach beside Masson’s.
3) The Crucifix
Towards the end of the novel, while Meursault is speaking with the magistrate, he pulls out a crucifix. He asks Meursault to examine his faith and brandishes the item almost like a weapon. It represents a specific world view that Meursault does not adhere to, but which makes up one of the two conflicting points of view in absurdist philosophy.
4) The Sea
Throughout The Stranger, Meursault returns to the sea. He is there when he meets up with Marie the day after getting back from his mother’s funeral. It is a symbol of happiness, relief, and respite from the heat. The most physically joyous parts of the novel take place in or near the sea. When he, Marie, and Raymond are on the beach at Masson’s house the same pleasure can be seen as they move in and out of the water.
The Stranger, Camus’s second attempt at writing a novel, includes a number of the scenes, characters, and situations found in A Happy Death (Mersault, the hero of A Happy Death, becomes Meursault in The Stranger). A detailed comparison of the two novels, however, makes it clear that The Stranger, which appeared in 1942, four years and many events after Camus abandoned A Happy Death, is a wholly different work in both conception and theme. No longer preoccupied with happiness in death, Camus turned his attention in The Stranger to the problem of happiness in life, to man’s irrational and desperate need to find meaning in existence. His protagonist, Meursault, is not the frail, sophisticated, death-haunted figure of the earlier novel, but rather a robust primitive who seems eerily devoid of the normal attitudes, values, and culturally induced feelings of his society, as though he had been brought up on some other planet—a “stranger” in the fullest sense of the word. Moreover, Camus hit upon the device of first-person narration as the most effective and dramatic means of confronting his readers with his disturbing protagonist, so alien to his environment. The famous opening words shock the reader into an awareness of the disquieting strangeness of the narrator:
“Maman died today. Or perhaps yesterday, I don’t know. I received a telegram from the home: “Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours truly.” That doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps it was yesterday”.
Shrewdly focusing on a mother’s death as a revealing touchstone of humankind’s most deeply ingrained social attitudes, these words achieve a double effect: They tell the reader that the son of the deceased mother can speak of her death without any of the expected symptoms of grief, but, at the same time, they remind the reader that the rest of society, having no familial ties with the deceased, habitually masks its indifference under empty rhetorical formulas such as the telegraphic announcement.
This dual perspective is fully developed in subsequent chapters as the basic theme of the book: While Meursault shows by his own forthright account of his life that he does not share his society’s conventional notions about death, religion, family, friendship, love, marriage, and ambition, he also manages to reveal—often without realizing it—that those conventional notions are often shallow, hypocritical, or delusory and constitute the pathetic inventions of a society desperate to invest its existence with a meaning it does not have. Thus, when Meursault, asked by his boss whether he would be interested in an assignment to establish a Paris office for his boss’s business, says that he has no interest in living in Paris, the reader recognizes that Meursault simply does not believe that material surroundings can make his life any different. At the same time, the boss’s dismayed reaction to Meursault’s indifference to opportunity subtly disturbs the reader with the suspicion that, after all, the boss may have a touching but misplaced faith in the value of ambition. A similar moment occurs when Meursault and his girlfriend, Marie, discuss love and marriage. The reader is surely made uncomfortable by Meursault’s casualness in saying that he does not know what love is, but that he is willing to marry Marie if she wants it. It is, however, a different order of discomfort that overcomes the reader when Marie insists that marriage is a very serious matter and Meursault calmly replies that it is not.
All of part 2 of the novel, devoted to Meursault’s trial after he has killed an Arab, brings additional and even more disturbing changes on the same dual perspective, with Meursault showing no awareness or acceptance of conventional beliefs about justice, murder, legal procedures, and the nature of evidence, while all the “normal” people involved show unexamined or self-deceiving convictions about all such matters. The ironic meaning that emerges from the novel is that although Meursault is guilty of taking a life, society sentences him to death not for his crime, with which it seems incapable of dealing, but for his refusal to live by society’s values, for not “playing the game.” As Camus himself laconically remarked, his novel means that any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral risks being condemned to death.
Meursault, in The Stranger, is not at first a seeker of meaning, nor is he particularly aware of his own mortality. He simply sleepwalks through life, as many do, ignoring the inevitability of death and the implications of mortality. Camus argues that most human beings live in this condition for as long as they can, going about their daily routines like automatons, refusing to think, seeking solace in simple physical and material pleasures. However, most are doomed to be awakened to their condition when something—the death of a loved one, perhaps, or a serious illness as in his own case—disturbs their routine.
For Meursault, the event that forces him out of his complacency is the killing of the Arab—not the murder itself, a meaningless event brought about by a natural response to the sun and danger, but its aftermath. When society condemns him, Meursault realizes that he is not being condemned for taking a human life but for refusing to accept the illusions society promotes to protect itself from having to acknowledge the absurdity of the human condition. In effect, Meursault is condemned to death for failing to weep at his mother’s funeral.
After he is condemned, Meursault could fall back on the illusions proffered by society through its priests and clergymen—hucksters and shills, as Camus thought of them. To do so would have been intellectually dishonest. In fact, the novel’s real turning point occurs when the priest visits Meursault in his cell. Here, for the first time, Meursault shows passion, revolting against the priest’s effort to impose on him the platitudes and false certainties of religion. Meursault chooses, instead, to accept his condition; he refuses to deny the reality of his impending death. In doing so, he discovers the one tie that links him to all other beings: death. Once death, or the inevitable cessation of existence, is recognized as the single inescapable condition of existence, life, however meaningless it might ultimately be, becomes valuable. However, whatever value life has must be imposed on it; people must engage it actively. Ironically, Meursault learns this too late.
The Stranger is a deeply disturbing novel. From its famous dispassionate opening—“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”—to its conclusion, where Meursault expresses the hope that on the day of his execution he will be greeted by “a huge crowd of spectators,” all hurling at him “howls of execration,” the novel challenges assumptions about life and literature. Just when it appears that Meursault can be dismissed as a callous egoist, he reveals complexities of emotion common to all; he merely refuses to pretend to feelings he does not possess. When Meursault becomes enmeshed in the legal system, Camus shows how society is more concerned with appearances than with any meaningful concept of justice. When Meursault, instead of repenting and seeking solace in some transcendent reality, refuses to acknowledge the possibility of anything beyond the immediate facts of his situation, the heroism of his attitude is made clear.
Camus’s style in this novel is disturbingly flat and objective, an anomaly for a first-person narrative. It has often been suggested that Camus was influenced by Ernest Hemingway in this respect. With this curiously flat style, Camus suggests that in an absurd universe all things have equal value. Nothing in the entire universe is intrinsically more meaningful than anything else.
Can we condemn Meursault? Should he have shed tears? Should he have thrown himself on his mother’s casket? Or should we recognize his honesty? In Part Two, a jury will judge him and will find him guilty, not because he murdered an Arab, but mainly because he could not and did not weep at his mother’s funeral. Shall we also condemn him? Camus says no: a man must be committed to himself, to his own values, and not be confined by certain value judgments of others. It is important to be a physical, mortal man, as opposed to being a half-man, living with the myth of someday becoming an immortal spirit.
Meursault’s philosophy is, despite its unusual nature, very positive. He cannot live with illusions. He will not lie to himself. This life now is more important than living for a mythical then. When, according to Camus, one has seen the value of living with no illusion of an afterlife, he has begun to explore the world of the Absurd. Values must be, ultimately, self-defined, and certainly not by the church. Why fake an emotion because society says that it is proper etiquette? A lifetime is only so long and can end very suddenly. Camus would have us ask ourselves: why am I living a life that I have not structured? How old is the universe, and who am I amidst the millions of people who are dead in the earth and the millions who are still living on this earth? There is no Holy One who cares about me; the whirling universe is alien, uncaring. Only I can try to determine my significance. Death is ever-present and, afterward, nothing. These are all questions and issues that Meursault, by the end of the novel, will have examined. He will have become an Absurd Man, and Camus has shown us the genesis of this philosophy in this opening chapter. Slowly, we will see how this rather simple shipping clerk will change, how he will gain immense insight into the importance of his life, and how he will learn to enjoy it passionately, ironically, as he faces death.
Critics have regularly protested that, in The Stranger, Camus manipulates his readers’ emotions, inducing sympathy for Meursault even though he is a moral monster and ridiculing everyone else as representative of a society afraid to face reality, hence threatened by Meursault’s clear-eyed and unsentimental acceptance of the world. Such protests are justified, however, only if one assumes that Camus intended The Stranger to be a realistic representation of the world, holding the mirror up to nature. In fact, Meursault is not a believable human figure, the events of the novel are but dimly evoked and unconvincingly motivated, and the very existence of the text itself, as Meursault’s first-person account of events, is never explained. In The Stranger, Camus makes almost no concessions to the conventional procedures of realism, constructing instead a kind of mythic tale of philosophical intent to dramatize an imaginary confrontation between man’s basic nature as a simple, sensual being and his grandly narcissistic self-image as an intelligent being whose every gesture has transcendent significance. Read as a kind of poetic allegory rather than as an exemplary tale of human conduct, The Stranger is seen as a powerful depiction of man’s painfully divided soul, at once joyous for the gift of life and miserable at the absence of any discernible purpose in that life and at the indifference of the surrounding universe. Viewed that way, The Stranger deserves its reputation as one of the great works of art of the first half of the twentieth century.
Ilan Pappe, an expatriate Israeli historian and socialist activist, is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies, and political activist. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa (1984–2007) and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa (2000–2008).
Pappe, born in Haifa, Israel, is one of Israel’s “New Historians” who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948, and the corresponding expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He has written that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet, drawn up in 1947 by Israel’s future leaders. He blames the creation of Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East, arguing that Zionism is more dangerous than Islamic militancy, and has called for an international boycott of Israeli academics.
His work has been both supported and criticized by other historians. Before he left Israel in 2008, he had been condemned in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament; a minister of education had called for him to be sacked; his photograph had appeared in a newspaper at the centre of a target; and he had received several death threats. Pappe supports the one-state solution, which envisages a binational state for Palestinians and Israelis.
Synopsis wordedexactlyas in the book
‘I am for the compulsory transfer. I do not see anything immoral in it“ David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, first PM to the Jewish Agency Executive, 1938.
In the Red House, an early Tel Aviv building, on 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers put the final touches for the plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
The military orders dispatched that evening described the methods to be employed for the eviction as large scale intimidation, laying siege to and bombarding population centers, setting fire to homes, properties and goods, expulsions, demolition and planting mines among the rubble to prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. The plan was codenamed PlanD or PlanDalet. This was the fourth and final blue print. SimchaFlapan, one of the first historians to note the significance of this plan wrote in the book ‘ TheBirthofIsrael:MythsandRealities ‘, ‘ The military campaign against Arabs, including the conquest and destruction of rural areas was set forth in Hagana’s Plan Dalet ‘. (Hagana was the main underground Zionist militia). DavidBenGurion in his book RebirthandDestinyofIsrael ,, notes that until 1948, no Jewish settlements were seized by Arabs whereas the Hagana captured many Arab villages. The plan was a Zionist ideological impulse to have an exclusively Jewish presence in Palestine. The Palestinian attacks in 1947 served as the pretext for ethnic cleansing by Zionists. When it was over, in 6 months, more than half of Palestine native population, close to 800000 people had been uprooted, 531 villages destroyed and 11 urban neighborhoods emptied of their inhabitants. A clear cut case of ethnic cleansing regarded under international law as crime against humanity.
Sadly this crime has been erased almost totally from the public memory, still today not recognized as a historical fact let alone acknowledged as a crime. And Palestinian suffering has been thoroughly ignored. The tale that Israeli historiographers had concocted was that of a massive voluntary transfer of Palestinians who had temporarily decided to leave their homes and villages to make way for the Arab armies invading the Jewish state. The Palestinian historian WalidKhalidi in the 1970 s through his book PalestineReborn has tried to explain the true history which Israel has tried to erase. But it was overshadowed by DanKurtzman s book Genesis1948 which appeared in 1970 and again in 1992 with an introduction by one of the executors of ethnic cleansing, YitzhakRabin. Yet, books like ThePalestinianCatastrophe published in 1987 by MichaelPalumbo came out in support of the Palestinian endeavor. The revisionist Israeli historians from 1980 s using Israeli military archives debated and debunked the voluntary transfer narrative and they were able confirm many cases of massive expulsions and atrocities by Jewish forces including massacres.
One of the best known historians was BennyMorris. His book TheBirthofPalestinianRefugeeProblem1947-49 was enough for the Israeli readers to understand the truth of the flawed and bankrupt ‘moral ‘ war of Israel. Even, his account was partial as he took the military records at face value and ignored the Acre poisoning of water supplies with typhoid, rapes massacres. He also kept insisting wrongly that before 15 May 1948, there were no forced evictions. Palestinian sources clearly show that months before entry of Arab forces into Palestine while the British was still responsible for law and order in the country the Jewish forces forcibly expelled a quarter of a million Palestinians. This is the fundamental root of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. From these Israeli and Palestinian historians, there has been a moral, historical and political effort to continue struggle against denial of a crime. A significant contribution to struggle against denial is WalidKhalidi s book AllThatRemains: ThePalestinianVillagesOccupiedandDepopulatedbyIsrael in 1948.
Through this book Ilan Pappe explores the mechanism of the 1948 ethnic cleansing and the cognitive system that allowed the world to forget and enabled the perpetrators to deny the crime the Zionist movement committed against the Palestinians in 1948. He replaces the paradigm of war with the paradigm of ethnic cleansing. The Catastrophe has been long denied due to this absence of the paradigm of ethnic cleansing. The expulsions of the indigenous population was not an accidental, tragic inevitability, but the main goal of the Zionists was ethnic cleansing. The term Nakba or Catastrophe was adopted to counter the moral weight of JewishHolocaust or Shoa. The author says, in doing so, by leaving out the actor, it may have contributed to the denial by the world of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. He adds that adopting the prism of ethnic cleansing easily enables one to penetrate the cloak of complexity that Israeli diplomats trot out instinctively and Israeli academics routinely hide behind when fending off outside attempts to criticize Zionism or the Jewish state for its policies and behavior
Most ethnic cleansing methods are grave breaches of 1949 Geneva Conventions. It is a crime against humanity punishable under international law. The Hutchinsonencyclopedia defines ethnic cleansing as expulsions by force in order to homogenize an ethnically mixed population of region or territory. The essence of ethnic cleansing is the eradication of a region’s history by depopulating. The town of Peck in westernKosovo was depopulated within 24 hours with sporadic massacres in May1999, which was an end result of meticulous planning. The making of greater Serbia is an example. DrazenPetrovic, of International Labor Organization in European Journal of International Law in a comprehensive study of ethnic cleansing associates it with nationalism, making of new nation states and national struggle. He exposes the connection of politicians and army in this and also the role of massacres. At at one point the political leadership ceases to take an active part but machine of ethnic cleansing rolls on. The expelled are then erased from country’s official and popular history and excised from collective memory. This is what happened Palestine in 1948.
The word ‘ alleged ‘ that appears before the Palestinian ethnic cleansing should be definitely removed since records suggest a planned execution of the act. The perpetrators are not obscure. The leader is the Zionist strongman DavidBen Gurion and 11 members constituted the cabal which the author calls Consultancy. The archival documents also show a list of 40 Palestinian leaders targeted for assassination. The military strongmen in the cabal were Moshe Dayan, Yigael Yadin, Yigal Allon, and Yitzhak Sadeh.Moshe Kalman cleansed the Safad area, Moshe Carmel uprooted Galilee, Yitzhak Rabin cleansed Lydd , greater Jerusalem and Ramla. They were war heroes for the Israeli people, the crimes they committed against the indigenous Palestinians weigh more. The intelligence officers on the ground whose function was not just collection of data, but they committed the worst atrocities in dispossession and massacres. They decided whom to imprison, whom to kill and which villages to evacuate. This was supervised by IssarHarel, later the first person to head Mossad and Shabak, Israel’s secret services.
For peace to have a chance in Palestine, the refugees should be allowed to return to their homes. UN resolution 194, during December 1948 decided on an unconditional return, which the US supported for a very short while before reorienting to a pro Israeli stance disregarding the Palestinian point of view.
Reconstructing the ethnic cleansing
The background of the ethnic cleansing by Zionists is explained in many scholarly works. In NurMasalha’s ‘ Expulsionof Palestinians ‘, he explains that the concept of transfer was deeply rooted in Zionist political thought. Cleansing the land was the valid option from the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl tothe main leaders. The movement ‘s liberal thinker, Leo Motzkin in 1917 rooted for a two step process of colonization and resettlement of Palestinians on another land. Authors Gershon Shafer and Baruch Kimmerling explores the connection between Zionism and Colonialism, a nexus that brings forth exploitation of Palestinian labour, land and then expulsions at the close of the British mandate. Authors Walid Khalidi and Samih Farsoun asks why the UN entrusted the fate of so many Palestinians to a Zionist movement that had clearly included transfer as its aim. It’s indeed hard to understand why a crime that had been committed in the modern times at the juncture in history has been eradicated totally from the collective global memory and erased from the world’s conscience. It is sad that the diplomatic effort to solve conflict has sidelined, if not ignored this catastrophic event. Half the indigenous population living in Palestine were driven out, half the villages and towns were destroyed and only a few among them managed to return. Such a sidelining is observed other ethnic cleansing like that of non Hungarians at the end of 19 th century, Armenian genocide, Nazi holocaust against Roma and Sinti.
Drive for an Exclusive Jewish State .
Zionism’s Ideological Motivations .
Zionism emerged in late 1880 a in central and eastern Europe as a national revival movement against the persecution of Jews. The colonialisation of Palestine was associated to in the early 20 th century. Eretz Israel as Palestine was known in Jewish religion was a destination of holy pilgrimage, not a future secular state. Many Ultra Orthodox Jews are either non or anti Zionist since Jewish tradition instruct Jews to wait for Messiah’s coming before they can return to Eretz Israel. Zionism secularized and nationalized Judaism. As the Zionists saw it, Palestine was occupied by strangers, meaning anyone non Jewish. For many it was empty land, when they first arrived there in 1882.. Until occupation of Palestine by Britain in 1918, Zionism was a nationalist ideology and a colonialist enterprise. Only 5% of the total population constituted the Zionists. They were vague with their plans, because of the threat of being thrown out by Ottomans. Until 1910,the Palestinian leaders considered Zionists as a part of European missionary, purchasing land and assets. They, sensing the danger, convinced the Ottomans who controlled Palestine until 1918 , to limit Jewish immigration.
A warning about the intention of Zionists came in a story published by Ishaq Musa al Husayn, in Jerusalem, The Memories of a Hen. But the Palestinians didn’t recognize the existential danger The Egyptian literati considered it as an attempt by Europe to transfer its stateless and poor into Palestine. They were more concerned about the efforts by European missionaries and church to take over Holy Land. But the Zionists were very clear with the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in order to escape the persecutions and pogroms in the West, invoking the religious redemption of an ancient homeland as their means. This was the official narrative. But the reason Palestine was selected from among other possible places was interwoven with Christian Millenarianism and European colonization. Protestant missionary societies wished to see a Christian Palestine and return of Jews was linked to second coming of Christ. This made pious politicians like the British PM during first WW, Lloyd George to act in cahoots with the commitment of the Zionist project. He distrusted and disdained the Palestinian Arabs.
Israeli historiography claims the colonization as a positive endeavor to carry out socialism and Marxist revolution. But this is doubtful since the socialist Zionists substituted nationalism for universalism, their aim was a Jewish rather than a socialist state and it was the Labour Movement with in Zionism that instituted and implemented the ethnic cleansing. The moment British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour gave the Zionists his promise in 1917 to establish a national home for Jews in Palestine, he opened the door to endless conflicts.The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population. The declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. By 1920 the violent core of the proposal started emerging. Until 1928, the British treated Palestine as a state with in its sphere of influence, not as a colony. They tried to put in place a political structure to represent both communities equally in the state parliament, but when the offer was made, it advantaged the Zionist colonies and discriminated against the Palestinians who were clearly the majority.
Palestinians made 80 to 90% of the total population in 1920 s. So they understandably refused the deal. In 1928, the Palestinian leadership, apprehensive of the increasing immigration and settlements, agreed to accept the formula. But the Zionist leadership now rejected it. The 1929 uprising was the result of Britain’s refusal to implement at least their promise of parity after Palestinians had been willing to set aside the democratic principle of majoritarian politics.
After 1929, the Zionist lobby considerably influenced the British government. This led to 1936 uprising. The British stationed more troops in Palestine and subdued the revolt with ruthless forces, Palestinian leadership was exiled, the paramilitary guerrillas were disbanded, villagers were arrested, killed or wounded and this gave the Jewish forces an opportunity in 1947 to ride into the Palestinian country side. Between the 1929 and 1936 uprisings, the Zionist movement hatc6a grand plan. In 1937, they accepted a modest portion of land from partition of Palestine recommended by British. In 1942, they demanded the whole Palestine for a Jewish state, pure socio culturally and ethnically.
From the outset the British Mandatory officials had allowed the Zionist movement to carve an independent enclave for itself in Palestine. Zionists built an efficient military organization from the start, in the eventuality of taking the land by force. One particular British officer, Orde Charles Wingate, made the Zionist leadership realize the association of Jewish statehood with army and armed aggression as a deterrent against possible Palestinian resistance. He transformed the Jewish paramilitary organization Hagana, meaning defense in Hebrew. He taught the Jewish military forces retaliatory and punitive missions against Arab revolts. In June 1938, Hagana along with the British troops occupied a Palestinian village on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Some Hagana members learned techniques by participating in the Second WW with the British, while those that remained in Palestine continued to monitor and infiltrate the 1200 or so villages that had dotted the country side for hundreds of years.
The Village Files
The Jewish National Fund (JNF), founded in 1901 served as an agency that the Zionist movement used to buy Palestinian land, keep registry of Arab villages. Its head Youssef Weitz, head of settler department, a quintessential Zionist evicted Palestinian tenants from the land bought from absentee landlords, the Mandate system creating new borders where there were none. The impact of eviction remained limited due to scarce Zionist resources, Palestinian resistance and restrictive British policies until the mandate ended in 1948. At that time Jewish community owned 5.8% of the Palestinian land. Weitz turned Village Files to a national project . Yitzhak ben Zvi, later to become the second president of Israel wrote to MosheShertock to record the layout of the villages along with exposing their Hebraic origins.
The aerial photos of villages taken by professional photographers and developed in secret facilities hidden from the British and later to the Red House in 1947. By 1930 s the Jews had all the details of the villages, inhabitants, religious affiliations in Village Files. They also had information on who participated in 1936 revolt, who hated Zionists and who killed Jews during the revolt and these fuelled atrocities, execution and torture in these villages. There were Arab informants within the villages and the Arabists or Orientalists were trained to operate them. The position of the villages on hills and the way the locals were considered primitive and barbaric made the task difficult. The work of one man, Ezra Danin made the files a systematic one. He helped include meticulous details of the villages down to the cultivated land, number of trees, names of village heads, imams, their house hold members, to even the number of rooms in their homes. Post 1945, the details became military oriented like number of guards (most had none) and weapons (mostly antiquated or nonexistent ones).
All the people who later joined Danin helped orchestrate eviction and ethnic cleansing of tenants from the land they had been cultivating for years and now bought by JNF. The reconnaissance was carried out from a youth village called Shefeya where people were trained for this. The infiltrators made use of the hospitality of the Arabs for the mission. In 1948, impressed with the fertility of the land of Umm Al Zinat village, it was invaded and inhabitants expelled without provocation. The final update of the village files was done in 1947 to include wanted person list that consisted of national movement members, those known to have travelled to Lebanon or those arrested by the British for being a member of the national committee of any villages. The informants who were Palestinians identified them, and Jews shot them on the spot. Those involved in national movement included whole villages sometimes. Those affiliated with the mufti or his political party were also persecuted. Forming a party or being its member was a crime for the Zionists . The details provided the Zionists with data that Palestinians had nobody to organize themselves.
Facing the British
The British by suppressing the 1936 revolt had already destroyed the Palestinian leadership and its capabilities. This formed a crucial factor in allowing the Zionists to plan their next move. After a danger of Nazi invasion of Palestine was removed in 1942, the Zionists recognized the main obstacle that stood in their way of seizing Palestinian land was the British presence and not Palestine resistance . As the second WW drew to a close, the Zionists tried to push the British out of the country. They planned to evict the Palestinians who formed 75 percent of the country’s population. The plans were secretive. As David Ben Gurion wrote to his son in 1937, “The Arabs should go. But one needs an opportune moment to make this happen like a war “. That opportune moment came in 1948. Thus Ben Gurion is in many ways the founder of the state of Israel and was its first PM. He also masterminded the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
David Ben Gurion, the architect
He led the Zionist movement from 1920 to 1960. His fundamental notion was that future statehood meant absolute Jewish domination. When the British offered a Jewish state in Palestine in 1937, he accepted it even if it was a small portion. To achieve this he used two magic words, force and opportunity. Wait for the opportune moment to deal militarily with the demographic problem of non Jewish majority. He was singular in his view of militarily acquiring land at the time, others believed they could possess the land by buying it. But Gurion was right in that since the amount of land they were able to purchase at the end of the mandate was just 6 %. Gurion was a pragmatic colonialist and a state builder. He knew that the Biltmore Program that clamored for the whole of Mandatory Palestine was not realistic The post war British Labour government under Clement Atlee wanted a democratic solution based on the wishes and interests of people living in Palestine.
Following this the Jewish underground militia organized terrorist attacks by bombing bridges, British military bases, and the British headquarters in Jerusalem, The King David Hotel. Retaliation from the British was mild compared to how they retaliated against the Palestinians during 1937 revolt. The British made the paramilitary to disarm, whom they themselves had armed . The large number of British troops served as a deterrent. It was due to these reasons that Gurion agreed for a reduced Jewish state over 80%of Palestine. He assured the Zionist leaders whom he assembled in a Paris hotel that 80 to 90 %of Palestine was enough for a Jewish state provided they were able to ensure Jewish predominance. This 1947 map that Gurion proposed anticipated almost to the last drop pre 1967 Israel, excluding West Bank and Gaza strip.
The Palestinian leadership was under total collapse after Second WW and the Arab states were hesitant on Palestinian question. The British mandate who crushed the Palestinian liberation movement was now the only one remaining between the Zionists and Jewish state. Even though there was a power vacuum in Palestine, Gurion was clearly concerned about their demographic majority and the military help from Arab states in the event of an armed conflict. Sosecurity remained his priority right from thebeginning. This remains until today the meta term used by Zionists and Israelis to justify their policies. The policy towards Palestinians is one of retaliation and provocation. Gurion had played a crucial role in shaping this security outlook of Israel. When he was entrusted with the defense portfolio in th22 and Zionist Congress in 1946, he held total control of the security issue of Jewish community. He became the top most leader in the Zionist movement. While he used democratic means to discuss the issues of Jewish community, taking the opinion of other political groups too, when it came to Palestinians, he ignored official structure and relied on clandestine formations.
The major topic on the Zionist agenda, the British mandate, solved itself when they decided to quit Palestine in Feb 1947 and transfer the Palestinian question to the UN. By the end of 1946 Gurion got wind of the British withdrawal and he prepared Plan C or Gimel to be implemented against the Palestinians the moment British were gone. PlanA or ElimelechPlan was made in 1937 at Gurion’s request for takeover of Palestine, Plan B was made in 1946. Both were fused into Plan C. This was an offensive military campaign against Palestine population killing, damaging infrastructure, sources of livelihoods, villages, entertainment sources and so forth. The details are available in the Village Files and Hagana archives. Within a few months, Plan D or Dalet Plan was drafted that sealed the fate of the Palestinians, a systematic and total expulsion of all Palestinians from their homeland irrespective of whether they collaborated with or opposed the Jewish state.
Partition, UN Resolution 181 and its impact .
Palestine’s Population .
At Dec 1947, when Zionists started the ethnic cleansing, there were 70%Arabs and 30%Jews, from 90%and 10% at the start of the mandate. Indigenous Palestinians were seeking right to self determination from long back, but the British mandate Plan for Palestine had the 1917 Balfour declaration along with it that promised to secure a homeland for Jews to the Zionist movement. In 1947, Palestinian was still a majority Arab nation, with 95% of the land cultivated by Arabs. The Jewish immigrants were interested in cities and towns and very few settled in the country side thus making the separation between settlements very large and with the Palestinian villages in between and surrounding them.
Two thirds of Palestine that formed the country sides were inhabited mostly by indigenous people and sparsely by Jews. Where as towns and cities were inhabited almost equally by both. This was an obstacle in creating two different homogeneous states. Logic tells that the three fourths that form the country side should remain Palestinian. The binational one state proposition by the British mandate was rejected by the Zionists. And the matter was transferred to the UN, but by then the interests of Palestinians were totally excised from the process.
UN partition Plan
UN was just 2 years old in 1947, inexperienced. The fate of Palestine partition was entrusted with the committee, UNSCOP, that had no prior experience or knowledge of Palestine’s history. The UN came up with a two state solution with the city of Jerusalem under an international regime administered by UN . This is UN Resolution 181. Demographically a two state solution should have provided the Jews with only 10% of the land. But the UN accepted the nationalist claims of the Zionists and sought to compensate for the Nazi holocaust. Thus the Zionist movement was given a state that stretched for more than half of Palestine. Palestinian leadership was opposed to partition since 1918.
The Arab League, the regional inter Arab Organization and The Arab Higher Committee (embryonic Palestinian government) did not take part in the UNSCOP meeting prior to the resolution and this vaccum was effectively used by Zionists for bilateral dialogue with UN. This pattern will be repeated in almost all future deliberations on Palestinian conflict especially after the Americans became involved after 1967. Upto the present day, bringing peace to Palestine is a concept worked out between US and Israel with out any serious consultation with Palestine.
The UNSCOP rejected the Zionist claim for 80%of the land and convinced them to be satisfied with 56%. Also the Catholic countries persuaded the UN to make Jerusalem an international city and so the Zionist claim for the city was also rejected. Partitioning into two equal halves was carried out against the will of indigenous population. Thus UN violated the basic rights of the Palestinians. The heightened tensions that the partition caused, turned the country into one of the most violent phase in history, followed by the first Arab Israeli war and beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The partition Plan was a pro Zionist one that they devised by influencing the UN when both knew that Palestinians were not willing. The UN ignored the rules of international mediation by proclaiming and forcing resolution 181. They deemed it illegal and immoral, clearly an injustice by forcing a solution on a country to which majority of the population were vehemently opposed. Western news media did not care to report that. Based on the assumption of peaceful coexistence, UN did not pay much attention to the balance of geography and demographics, when the intention of the Zionists was clearly to de Arabize Palestine. Thus UN did not preclude the ensuing ethnic cleansing.
UN map of partition had Palestine divided into 3 parts. 42% of land for the state of Palestine where there were 818000 Palestinians and 10000 Jews. 56% of land for Jewish state where there were 499000 Jews and 438000 Palestinians. The small enclave around the city of Jerusalem to be governed internationally, where both the population were equal in number. The demographic imbalance in the proposed Jewish state must have been a political nightmare for Zionists. There was only one solution, ethnic cleansing. Thus UN by voting in favor of the resolution, contributed to the crime.
David Ben Gurion single handedly led the other leaders simultaneously to accept and ignore the resolution. He had planned and conveyed to others beforehand that they were not obliged to accept the Plan that was unsatisfactory. So irrespective of whether Palestinians accepted or rejected the plan, Gurion had made up his mind early on. What he had in his mind was 80 to 90 % of land for a Jewish state with very few Palestinians if any and with Jerusalem as capital, which he had conveyed in his speech in Mapai centre on 3 Dec 1947. He accepted the recognition for a Jewish state by the UN, while determining its borders by force and not by partition resolution giving Arab rejection of the plan as a reason. His decision to disregard the plan and execute Jewish exclusivity was aired to only a coterie of his confidants in the Consultancy. Gurion’s diary is a source of details of their meetings, in Gurion’s house and the Red House where the master plan was drafted.
Finalizing the Master Plan
The ethnic cleansing of Palestine began in Dec 1947, when Palestinians protested against the UN resolution. Though Palestinians didn’t use much force apart from vandalism Jews retaliated by attacking villages severe enough to cause an exodus of 75000 people. The British High commissioner in Palestine Allan Cunningham reported about the Palestinian protests as unorganized demonstrations of displeasure using stones and sticks to which the Zionists responded with disproportionate force using firearms. On Jan 1948, the all Arab volunteer army entered Palestine villages and fought with the Jewish forces. From Feb 1948, expulsions began. On March 1948, according to plan Dalet urban centers were occupied and evacuated, 250000 evacuated, along with perpetration of massacres, notable being the Deir Yassin massacre. The Arab League decided to intervene militarily after the British left in May1948. Prior to Mar 1948, the Jews were just acting in retaliation to Palestinians. After that, two months before the end of the mandate, the Zionists openly declared that it would take over the land by force and expel the indigenous population. That was Plan Dalet.
Gurion met with a war cabinet and planned to take over the whole country in October 1948. The Zionist leadership was committed in their collusion with King Abdullah of Jordan. As per the 1942 Biltmore plan, the Zionists anticipated the future state to stretch over 80% of Palestine, the additional 24 percentage over and above the 56 percentage offered by the UN,and the remaining 20 percent will be picked up by the Jordanian. This tacit agreement with the Jordanians helped the ethnic cleansing operation to go ahead unhindered. This kept away the Jordanian army, the strongest in the Arab world, except in skirmishes with Jewish forces in the very small part of Palestine.
Zionist military capability was adequate. On the eve of the 1948 war, they had 50000 troops with a small airforce, navy, tanks, armoured cars and heavy artillery. The Palestinian paramilitary outfits were only 7000 in number with some 3000 Arab volunteer forces. The Jewish Communist party made and purchased weapons from Czechoslovakia and Soviet republic. The Arab regular forces stopped receiving arms from British, which was its main source before. Apart from the main Jewish military power two more extreme paramilitary groups helped the attacks, the Irgun(Etzel) that had split from Hagana and headed by Menachem Begin and Stern Gang, an offshoot of Irgun. The special commando unit called the Palmach ,trained to prevent Nazi invasion of Palestine were highly active in the cleansing operations and building new Jewish settlements. It was dismantled in 1948. The Hagana, Irgun and Palmach forces occupied the villages and later transferred them to logistics arm called Field Guards who committed some worst atrocities and cleansing.
The expulsionist dreams and the idea of de Arabizing Palestine were part of the ideologies of Zionists starting from Theodore Herzl. To promote the demographic balance and Jewish exclusivity, Gurion offered two options. One, to the public in local People’s Assembly, to increase Jewish immigration from Europe. But he was sure that this would never make up a majority. So, another covert plan was devised among the limited corps to use force to expel Palestinians. In the territory of their planned Jewish state, there were one million Palestinians vis a vis 600000 Jews.
A 3 day public strike was organized by the Arab Higher Committee to protest the UN resolution of partition. Some of the protests got out of hand like the ambush of a Jewish bus that all Israeli books identify as the start of war. The people wanted to get back to normalcy. Gradually the Arab League Council dispatched arms to Palestinians and formed an Arab volunteer force called Arab Liberation Army. These fuelled a welcome pretext for Zionists to escalate the Hagana operation already under way. The intelligence briefings to Ben Gurion relayed that Palestinians were eager to continue a normal life despite the Arab army trickling. This craving for normality remained typical of Palestinians inside Palestine in the years to come, even in the worst crisis and nadir of their struggle and normalcy is what they have been denied ever since 1948. The wish of Palestinians to live a life of normalcy and not to become embroiled in a civil war posed a problem to ZIONISTS determined to reduce their number. They needed a pretext and fortunately that came when the Arab volunteer forces expanded their acts of hostility against Jewish convoys and settlements.
Two men, Ezra Danin and Yehoshua Palmon who gathered intelligence from Arab collaborators acted behind the scenes in expelling hundreds of villagers , imprisoning them and executing people. The Hagana used threat and intimidation. Villages were attacked at night and villagers expelled .The NYT correspondent reports a brutal attack on the village of Khisas on the bank of Lake Hula in Dec 1947 where 15 villagers including 5 children were killed. He demanded an explanation from Hagana and Gurion issued a dramatic public apology. Haifa,the urban center was chosen then. The Jewish settlers used many methods of intimidation and killed the people there with machine gun fire. Irgun and Stern Gang executed many terrorist attacks while the British turned its face the other way. They bombed a local national committee in Jaffa, Samiramis hotel in western Jerusalem killing many people. These acts became a daily occurrence in Haifa. Hagana’s policy changed from retaliation to offensive strikes. The last British High Commissioner Cunningham in a meeting with Gurion told that while the Palestinians were trying to keep calm, Hagana did all it could to escalate the situation. His protestations were ignored. Gurion took the lack of resistance from Palestinians as their acceptance of fait accompli . The national committee of Palestinians in Haifa appealed again and again to British assuming, wrongly, that since it was the last station of British evacuation, they would be able to rely on British protection at least until then.
When this failed to materialize, they desperately sought the help of Arab Higher Committee who sent a small group of volunteers. But by then the notables and leaders had realized that the moment UN decided on partition resolution, they were doomed to be dispossessed by their Jewish neighbors, the same people whom they themselves had first invited to come and stay with them back in the late Ottoman period, who had arrived wretched and penniless from Europe and with whom they had shared a cosmopolitan city.
Youssef Weitz was the real architect of transfer of Arabs, ethnic cleansing and the occupation of their land by Jewish settlers. His ideas were relayed in a most crucial meeting called Long Seminar. Retaliation was supplanted with offensive tactics. All concurred. One of those present there, Gad Machnes, later to become the director general of Israeli ministry of minorities in 1949 ironically, appeared to show remorse on his conduct in the 1960 a admitting candidly that “if it had not been for the open Zionist military preparation which had a provocative nature the drift into 1948 war could have been averted “. By the end of the meeting Gurion gave the green light to the lethal attacks to cause optimal damage and kill as many villagers as possible. He proposed attacks on south in addition to north, but in the south as a vindictive action in the village of Beershaba where the village mayor had previously refused to collaborate with Zionist settlement. Yigal Allon proposed offensive strikes , and pre emptive strikes as collective punishment and not to spare even children.
The Arab League Army failed to cooperate with the paramilitary groups led by Abd Al Qadr al Huseyni in Jerusalem and Hassan Salameh in Jaffa. The ALA commander Fawzi AL Qawji gave his loyalty to the government of Syria and Iraq who had sent the army to Palestine. The Iraqi government saw Al Huseyni as a rival to Jordan. While the Syrian government was apprehensive of its pan Arab ambitions.
In public speeches, Gurion was melodramatic and full of pathos. He told the audience that the war was aimed at destroying and eliminating the Jewish community never referring to the passivity of Palestinians or provocative nature of Zionist actions. Gurion even went so far as to describe the war effort as an attempt to protect the honor of UN and its charter. This discrepancy between a destructive and violent Zionist policy on one hand and an overt discourse of peace on other hand will recur at various junctures in the history of the conflict but the deceit of 1948 is particularly startling. The decision to make arms purchases, aircrafts, resulted in heavy bombardment of villages. Flame throwers were used to set fire to fields and homes. The oral history of Nakba is full of evidence of terrible effects this weapon had on people and properties. Ephraim Katzir, later president of Israel directed the biological warfare techniques. In the 1980 s by a slip of the tongue, he revealed to the world that Israel possessed nuclear weapons.
The Palestinians remained unaware of the deliberations behind closed doors in Red House. ALA began reaching the villages late and had no time to train the villagers or equipment to defend them. Starting from Feb 1948, villages where defense was nil were chosen, attacked, murdered and occupied. These occured under the British forces still stationed in nearby police stations who turned their faces away. The troops entered the villages at midnight ad planted TNT outside the huts killing the sleeping people including children. The 16 Apr 1948 NYTIMES reported this offensive. The offensive was codenamed Lamed Heh operations. Rural Palestine was defenseless and did not fight back. The Israeli documents released from the IDF archives in the late 1990 s show that contrary to claims of historians like Benny Morris, plan Dalet was handed down to brigade commanders of Hagana not vague guidelines, but as clear cut operational orders for action. The draft given to politicians and army were different. The methods, conditions of surrender of villagers,timing of attacks were different in both. The official draft stated that the plan would be activated at the end of the mandate, but the officers on the ground were instructed to start executing it immediately. This dichotomy is typical of the relationship that exists between army and the politicians upto the present day. The army mis informs the politicians as to its real intent. Moshe Dayan did so in 1956, Ariel Sharon in 1982 and Shaul Mofaz in 2000. Official Israeli historiography describes a threatened Jewish Population in the settlements which moved from defense to offence after its near defeat. But the author, with the help of documents, proves this wrong. Not only were the Jews in no danger but by the end of March 1948, the sporadic attacks and counterattacks on Palestinians now moved toward the systematic mega operation of ethnic cleansing.
Blueprint for Ethnic Cleansing:Plan Dalet
Ben Gurion’s diary offers a stark contrast to the fear he planted in the audiences during public gatherings and consequently the Israeli collective memory. The Zionist strategy of building isolated settlements in the midst of densely populated Arab areas, approved retroactively by the British mandate, was riddled with tension. The first operation under plan Dalet was Operation Nachshon , a forced evacuation of the villages on the western slopes of Jerusalem. While the official plan gave the villages the option to surrender, the operational orders did not exempt any villages. All the paramilitary brigades fought together in this operation, thus paving the way for future IDF. Many villages taken by the Zionists has monuments to the Hagana fighters. The plan D as well as the plaques commemorating the Hagana fighters, tend to dehumanize the Palestinians in Israeli historiography as well as the collective memory, by completely obscuring the fact that there stood a village there and planting the lie that they were enemy bastions and so legitimate targets of destruction and expulsion. With al Huseyni killed by the Jewish troops, his forces and the other Palestinian villages were demoralized and easily fell victim to the Jewish forces. Many massacres were committed, notorious one being the Deir Yassin massacre.
The village Deir Yassin had a non agression pact with Hagana. But it was doomed to be wiped out since it was within the area designated in Plan Dalet to be cleansed. So,instead Hagana sent Irgun and Stern Gang to do that job. The village on the west hill of Jerusalem was occupied on 9 Apr 1948,the inhabitants sprayed with machine gun fire their bodies abused, women were raped and killed. Children and babies were killed too. A total of 254 were killed. This massacre was used to sow the seeds of fear in the mind by announcing through loud speakers to flee or else get killed. Menachem Begin,the Irgun leader at the time described the effect of Irgun butchery on the mind of the people which forced them to flee, in his book The Revolt: Story of Irgun. In a letter published 4 Dec 1948 in NYT, Albert Einstein and 27 prominent Jews in New York condemned the act noting that terrorist bands attacked a peaceful village that was not a military objective and killed the people. Though the Jewish agency later apologized to King Abdullah of Jordan, Begin and his group was proud of their achievements and invited the foreign correspondents to view the heap of corpses and the general havoc in Deir Yassin.
All the adjacent villages were blown up and people expelled, their belongings plundered. Two villages were spared, Abu Ghawsh and Nabi Samuil, because their mukhtars had developed a cordial relationship with the local commanders of the more extreme Stern Gang, even though Hagana wanted to demolish them. After Apr 1948, urban areas were systematically attacked and wiped out while the British and UN stood by and watched indifferently. News about Deir Yassin and massacre in Khirbat Nasr villages reached the urban neighborhoods and they started to flee. This started with the city of Tiberias where 6000 Jews and 5000 Arabs and their forebears had coexisted peacefully . Due to British obstruction, ALA could supply the city with only 30 volunteers. The Jewish forces bombarded the area, rolled down explosive barrels from the surrounding hills, produced frightening sounds through loudspeakers to scare away people. The British after offering to help the people, urged them to evacuate the town thus collaborating with the Zionists. King Abdullah of Jordan was a co collaborator in the sense that , instead of sending troops he sent 30 trucks to help move women and children. The British collaboration will be much more obvious in urbicide of Haifa and Jaffa.
In Haifa, the urban elite fled their homes to Lebanon and Egypt, hoping to return when the situation calmed down. About 15000 to 20000 fled like this. The urban elite had collapsed and the Arab League was unwilling to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians.. The British forces were still stationed there, since Haifa was Palestine’s main port and the last station of British pullout,they were responsible for the safety of the locals. Haifa was included in the proposed Jewish state by the UN, another unfair deal to Palestinians since it was the only port city. Zionists wanted it all to Jews by expelling the 75000 Palestinians. The British troops who were supposed to be present there until Aug 1948, brought the date of departure 6May. At the time of the attack, the British troops were present in greater number and they had the legal and moral authority to impose law and order and protect the Palestinian people. In Feb 1950, Reese Williams, the British Under Secretary of State’s in the House of commons debate stated the British conduct as one of the most shameful chapters of British Empire in the Middle east. Major General Hugh Stockwell, the British commander in Haifa informed the Jews that the British troops would be removed from the buffer zones. The operation was termed Operation Scissors ,done on the eve of the Pass Over. The Palestinian men who trusted the British were told to evacuate, by the British officer. Loudspeakers announced for the people to gather at the famous Ottoman period market place and the people obeyed. They were then unexpectedly shelled from the nearby hill when the panic struck people ran to the gate of the port, a stampede ensued that killed many. Those who reached the boats crowded in them and many died from overturning of the boats. The British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was furious at Stockwells behavior when he realized the enormity of disaster their inaction was creating in Palestine. The British did not even render aid to the wounded Palestinians.
In the city of Jerusalem too the Jewish offensive took place. The British did not intervene except m the city of SheikhJarrah, where the Jewish assault was halted before it was implemented. In the western Jerusalem however the British disarmed the Palestinians promising help but instantly reneged on that promise. Northern and Western Jerusalem were hammered by endless shelling. The Jordanian Arab Legion’s entry slowed the Jewish takeover though finally they did evict the people. The city of Acra ,that even Napoleon found hard to defeat , withstood the offensive despite overcrowding from refugees from Haifa, only to suffer a typhoid epidemic that was ostensibly caused by Hagana poisoning the Kabri spring. The people working on biological weaponry warfare set up by Gurion was called HEMED.
Many villages and towns were entirely obliterated and national parks and buildings like the Tel Aviv University were built later over the remains. Today one searches in vain for any Palestinian life that existed in the villages. There was a section process after conquering a village where by young men between 10 and 30 were separated and sent to prison camps. Some of the villages were visited by UN observers checking out on how the partition was implemented. They closed their eyes to the truth on the ground. Representatives of the western media including NYT were still filling stories about individual villages, but did not dare criticize the Jewish nation just 3 years after the holocaust. Thus the western readers were never given a full picture of the events. Whole villages were wiped off Palestinian maps under the watch of UN observers, British soldiers and foreign correspondents. Sources of the new Israeli historians like Benny Morris reveal condemnation of the atrocities by conscientious politicians and soldiers. They form part of Israeli ethos of shoot and cry, the collective expression of moral remorse by Israeli soldiers. Before the Red House was demolished, the Israeli writer AmozOz and his friends invited these concerned soldiers to perform a rite of exoneration. Crying aloud while shooting and killing innocent people was one tactic for dealing with the moral implications of plan Dalet. Villagers were massacred to terrorize the urban people to flee. Two such massacres are Nasr al din and Ayn al Zaytun massacres.
Ayn al Zaytun massacres is best known because it formed the basis of the only epic novel on Palestinian Catastrophe, Baby al Shams by Elias Khoury. The events were also chronicled in an Israeli semi fictional novel Between The Knots by Netiva Ben Yehuda. She was present at the village during the execution and tells the story in a fictionalized way. In some villages there were huge clans like the Zubis that had collaborated with the Jews before So intelligence officers were doubtful whether to evacuate them or keep them. It was decided to leave the villages with large number of Zubbiya clan intact. But years later they reinforced their Palestinian identity by opposing the Zionists. Certain minority groups like the Druze ,a religious sect which is a splinter group of Shia Islam, deserted ALA and the Palestinians to join the Jewish forces. The Jewish forces attacked and occupied the villages that the UN had proposed for the Palestinian state. The Druze forces became the main vehicle for Jews to carry out the ethnic cleansing of Galilee. The Circassians who had several villages in the north of the country also deserted Palestinians to join the Jewish forces. This mixture of Druze and Circassians would form the nucleus of the future Border Police of Israel, the main military unit policing first the Arab areas of pre 1967 Israel and then enforcing Israel’s occupation of West Bank and Gaza strip after 1967.
Galilee had a chance of stopping the attacks because of the presence of a 2000 men strong ALA force there under the command of Fawzi al Qawji. His strategy of dividing the force into small groups to be sent to different parts proved wrong in the presence of a stronger Jewish force with superior military capabilities. He sought a truce later with the Jews and with the blessing of King Abdullah. He could not offer a proper resistance or save the villages. Later Muslim Brotherhood volunteers entered from Egypt, but they were also defeated. The carnage was being reported by local dailies like Filastin and foreign ones like the NYT, even though the news reached the Arab governments, they never moved beyond talking about the need to salvage Palestinians. The Arab League’s General Secretary Azzam Pasha ,an Egyptian politician, at one point hoped the UN to intervene and absolve the Arab states from direct confrontation in Palestine. Jordan was negotiating with the Jews for possible takeover of Arab Palestine. They did gain control over the West bank. The other Arab leaders just kept up the rhetoric of salvaging what was left of Palestine. The Arab League leaders were aware of potential disaster awaiting the Palestinian people but procrastinated and postponed the inevitable military intervention and only were too happy to terminate sooner than later. They knew full well that their army stood no chance against the superior Jewish forces. Egypt and Iraq were embroiled in the war of liberation. Syria and Lebanon were young countries that had just won independence. Not to be sucked into a whirlwind of public opinion of their already shaky standing in their societies the Arab League Council made up of Arab states foreign ministers. The body was ineffective and it dragged out its discussion until the reality became too painful to be ignored and by the end of April when they decided to send troops, quarter of a million Palestinians were displaced, 200 villages destroyed, and scores of towns emptied. When the final decision to send their regular troops was made, all were asked by the council to send arms and volunteers, but not all complied. Only Syria was willing to engage in proper military Preparations also persuading its Iraqi neighbors to send volunteers and to train the Palestinians. The others like Saudis, Lebanon and Egypt promised arms and financial help only.
There were no lack of volunteers. Thousands of young men were willing to sacrifice their lives for Palestinians. The author tends to see this more as an national fervor of young Arabs for a fierce and bold anti colonialist struggle of Palestine like that in Algeria and less as panArabism. Jordan’s King Abdullah stood out in that he intensified his negotiations with the Jewish agency over a joint agreement in post mandatory Palestine. In effect while the 250000 Palestinians were driven out the Arab Legion stood idly by. Jordanians cemented an unwritten agreement with Jewish leaders to partition Palestine between both. Jordanians were to annex the UN designated parts of Palestine and in return promised not to join the Arab military operation. The British gave their blessing to the agreement. The Jordanian army was the best trained in whole Arab world and even superior to Jewish troops but it was confined by the King and the British to act only in those areas the Jordanians deemed theirs, East Jerusalem and West Bank. King Abdullah recognized the Jewish state but worried about them occupying the UN designated Palestinian land that Jordanians had in mind for annexation. The Jewish officer made it clear that as far as Zionists were concerned UN designated Arab state had shrunk to include only West Bank which the Israelis were willing to leave for the Jordanians. The ownership of Jerusalem was contested by both. Gurion was aware that Jordanians would fight fiercely for Jerusalem. When Golda Meir met King Abdullah in Amman he was tensed over the double game he was playing, promising member states of the league to head the military efforts of Arab countries on one hand and striving to reach an agreement with the Jewish state on other. King Abdullah was seen to do everything to take a serious part in Arab efforts against a Jewish state but in practice his main objective was to secure Israeli consent for Jordanian annexation of West Bank. The Jordanians occupied West Bank though Jews tried to wrest it back and Israel occupied WB in 1967. Palestinian leadership had fragmented, most of the leaders fled, and those who did stay were supposed to be coordinated by the Arab Higher committee, the unofficial Palestinian government since 1930 . But half of the committee’s members had now left. Those who remained stood along side the communities to the bitter end.
Israeli and in particular American public opinion succeeded in perpetuating the myth of potential destruction or a second holocaust awaiting the future Jewish state. By this myth and demonizing Arabs especially Palestinians in the eyes of general public in the US and Jewish communities around the world Israel was able to secure massive support for an Israeli state. The reality on the ground was completely opposite. Palestinians were facing massive expulsions. Rather than being preoccupied with the destruction of Jewish community, the Palestinians were simply attempting to be saved from fate .Washington, aware of the expulsions was trying to put forward a novel approach. It suggested to UN an international trusteeship over Palestine for 5 years instead of partition, while a solution could be negotiated between the two sides. This was the most sensible proposal ever made by the US, in Palestinian issue, the like of which has never been repeated. This would have changed the course of the Palestine conflict, had it not been for the highly effective pressure by the Zionist lobby on president Harry Truman. He never wished to antagonize a powerful and superior domestic lobby. Thus Zionists in US learned an important lesson of their power to influence American policy in Palestine and in Middle east. The Zionist lobby succeeded in sidelining State Departments experts on the Arab world and left American middle eastern policy in hand of Capitol Hill and White House., where the Zionists wielded considerable influence. The Arabists of the State Department who were upto date with the NYT news tried to convince Truman. Ben Gurion rejected the US offer. Three days after rejecting the US plan, the state of Israel was officially formed. White House went on to recognize the state and the State department was pushed again to back bench on US policy on Palestine.
British and UN roles in the Palestinian fiasco
Egypt sent its army after the failure of American initiative. The army had only 3 days to prepare and ended in fiasco. Britain remained the last hope for Palestinians but nowhere in the empire did the Albion demonstrate such perfidious behavior. The British knowledge about Plan Dalet is clear cut . After the plan was adopted the British forfeited their responsibility for law and order and withdrew from country sides and towns. The Palestinian people still put the blame on the British complicity despite 75000 troops that were stationed in Palestine. Infact the British helped the Zionists access the ownership deeds and other vital data which they had photocopied before the decolonization process. These were crucial details that Zionists needed for depopulation.
According to the Partition resolution, UN should have been present on the ground to supervise the implementation of its peace plan. UN had pledged to prevent attempts by either side to confiscate the land that belonged to other side. They took no action beyond watching and reporting when the ethnic cleansing started. The British forbade an organized UN outfit to be present on the ground thus ignoring that part of partition resolution. Thus Britain allowed the cleansing to take place in front of the eyes of its soldiers and officials during the mandate period which came to an end on 14 May 1948 .Britain hampered UN intervention that might have saved the lives of many Palestinians. But after 15 May, there was no excuse for the way UN abandoned the people whose land they had divided and whose welfare and life they had surrendered to Jews who since the late 19 th century wished to uproot them and take their place in the country they deemed as theirs.
May 1948 war
Prior to 1948, Jordanians made an agreement to annex West Bank. After the British withdrawal, they insisted that they should have at least half of Jerusalem including the Old City and Jewish quarter for which a fierce battle was fought in contrast to the complete inaction the Arab Legion displayed when they were stationed near Palestinian villages and towns that the Israeli army had begun occupying cleansing and destroying. Though the Jordanian army was the strongest and formidable of Arab forces, it was neutralized from the very first day of the Palestinian war by the tacit agreement that King Abdullah had made with the Zionists. The Arab Legion’s English Commander in Chief Glubb Pasha called the 1948 war a phony one due to this. There was only rhetoric and no action from the Arab League. Egypt sent 10000 Muslim Brotherhood volunteers just 2 days before the mandate ended.This group had vowed to restore Egypt and Arab world to Orthodox ways of Islam, regarded Palestine as a crucial battle field of struggle against imperialism but in the 1940 s they also regarded Egyptian government as a collaborator of imperialism. They were mostly imprisoned and without any proper military training. The Syrian and Lebanese villagers though better trained were less committed. The Iraqi troops were given orders to follow Jordanians and to help them defend West Bank. Some of these troops, were provoked into action due to their politician’s hypocrisy. Britain and France had declared arms embargo on Palestine, the Arab troops found the ammunition from their home countries drying out, there was no coordination between the national armies while the Jews got an unending supply from the Soviet union and Eastern bloc. As for the lack of coordination, that was due to the decision by the Arab league to appoint King Abdullah as the supreme commander of all Arab army with an Iraqi general as the acting commander.
Jordanians never looked back on their complicit role in Palestinian Nakba while , the Iraqi revolutionary leaders who came to power in 1958, brought the Iraqi generals to trial. The outer Jewish settlements subjected to Arab attacks and takeover were left to fend for itself by Gurion. The massacre in the village of Tantura on the Mediterranean coast on 22 May was carried out by the AAlexandroni brigade. The attacks and massacres happened after the villagers surrendered by waving white flags. Most who escaped became refugees in Yarmuk refugee camp Syria. People were buried in mass graves. The story of how the massacre came out in public is noteworthy. An Israeli research student Teddy Katz stumbled upon the massacre while doing his dissertation for Haifa university. He interviewed most of the survivors in 1999, but later his thesis was retroactively disqualified by the university and the Alexandroni veterans dragged him into court for libel. The Golani Brigade also carried out many massacres. The Harel Brigade of Yitzhak Rabin occupied villages in Jerusalem and blew up the houses. The belief that the brigades could seize the northern part of West Bank despite the agreement with King Abdullah and even conduct invasions in southern Lebanon while cleansing vast areas of Palestine reveals the cynicism behind the myth that Israel was fighting a war of survival. The brigade soldiers were infused with a zealous vindictiveness to revenge for the killing of the Jewish settlers and soldiers by the Arab armies. The aircrafts sent by the Egyptian government failed in their missions apart from the few raids in Tel Aviv. The Arab armies proved ineffective like the paramilitary volunteers
Articles 9,12 and 17 from Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted as UNGA Resolution 217 A on 10 Dec 1948 stated, that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention in exile, everyone has the right to leave and return to his country on his own and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property . The same time as this, UN Resolution 194 declared unconditional right of Palestinians to return to their homes. The expulsions and destruction in the villages in Gaza shocked the nearby kibbutzim when they learned how these friendly villages have been savagely assaulted. The UN mediated truce came into force on June 11. But the Israeli forces continued to destroy the evicted villages . By June Israel received new aircrafts to supplement their primitive machine’s. By July aeroplanes were used for aerial bombings. Telegrams about the inefficiency and inadequacy of the paramilitary groups to their commanders were intercepted by the Israeli forces who were well aware of their shortcomings. UN was aware of the summary executions but did nothing. In villages where Druze, Christians and Muslims coex6,only Muslims were expelled. In 1950, after the Pope intervened the Christian families of Nazareth were allowed to move back but they refused to do so without their Muslim neighbors. Forests of pine trees were planted over the destroyed villages. The first truce had come to an end by 8 July. In 10 days, the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte negotiated another one. He was different from the other UN observers in putting forward a proposal to redivide the country into half and demanding the unconditional return of all refugees. For the same reason the Jewish terrorists murdered him in September. The other UN observers just watched the barbarism and killings unwilling or unable to do anything.
Thanks to Bernadette, an UN Resolution in Dec 1948, recommended an unqualified return of refugees Israel had expelled, one of a host of Un resolutions that Israel had ignored. Israel needed a PR campaign to stymie adverse international responses and so began to involve the diplomatic officials in the Foreign Ministry to work closely with the intelligence officers. Thus the diplomatic arm, previously not privy to the details of ethnic cleansing operations, now became involved. The brigades who conducted the campaigns were nothing short of terrorists. One of the villages, Ayn Hawd, was turned into a Jewish artist colony. Marcel Janko, the Jewish artist founder who renamed the village as Ein Hod, wanted it to become the center of Dadaism. But the art form and the Jewish artist community went into decline. Jankos own work fittingly represents the racism shown by contemporary Israeli left in its approach towards Arab culture and Palestinians, a covert, at times nuanced, but nonetheless pervasive racism in their writings, artistic work and political activity . Jankos paintings incorporate Arab figures fading into the background of occupied Ayn Hawd. They are the forerunners of paintings of the Apartheid wall that Israeli artists have decorated with scenes beyond the wall, but omitting the Palestinian villages there
The second truce was broken by Israel exactly one week later. In one of the villages attacked, Ayn Gazal, the holy burial place of a holy man called Shaykh Shehadeh was declared a holy Jewish site by the Israelis in an attempt to stop the journey of memory and worship. The people of this village were rejoiced after the second truce and the day of the annual Ramadan fast, many villagers had come out in the streets to break the fast in coffee houses, when a plane dropped a bomb on the crowd and ground forces occupied the village later. As was the routine, the men were ordered to gather in one place, the hooded informer and the intelligence officer soon appeared, men were selected for having taken part in the 1936 revolt, shot at spot and the remaining villagers were expelled.
Operation Dani was the innocent sounding codename for attacks two Palestinian towns, Lydd and Ramla located halfway between Jaffa and Jerusalem. Lydd once famous for its mosques, after the Jewish occupation became town of Lod ,one of the belt towns around Tel Aviv housing poor people. Lydd was bombarded from the air followed by ground attacks. The Jordanian Legion units were instructed by the British chief Glubb Pasha to withdraw. ALA also fled without much resistance. Both Lydd and Ramla were within the designated Arab state, so the residents expected the Legion to fight the Jews as they fought for East Jerusalem. Later, for his decision to retreat, Glebb Pasha lost his position and had to return to Britain. Deserted by the volunteers and the Legionaries, the men of Lydd armed with some old rifles took shelter in Dahamish mosque in the city centre only to be massacred inside the mosque by the Israeli forces. All over the village 426 people were killed including women and children. The massacre was conducted by Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin. The remaining pe6, almost half of them refugees from nearby villages, were ordered to march to West Bank. The Israelis invited two foreign correspondents, embedded correspondents, Keith Wheeler of The Chicago Sun Times and Kenneth Bilby of The New York Herald Tribune who had written in detail on the Arab corpses shattered in the towns including those of children.
Reports from Lydd might seem strangely familiar for those who have been shocked by the callousness and inhumanity of US troops towards Arabs in operations Iraq. There was a reason why a newspaper report of a massacre of this scale did not provoke a reaction in US. The reports were one sided. Wheeler was astonished by the Israeli blitzkrieg (he ironically used this term) and the resoluteness of Jewish troops and Bilby called them ruthlessly brilliant. London Economist gave a less biased report on how the people were looted, dispossessed, expelled and murdered. Ramla was first targeted in February 1948 by the Irgun terrorist group when they planted a bomb in the market that killed many people. Again in July the town was attacked. Though the notables, after hearing about the fate of Lydd, reached an agreement with Israeli army, the people were expelled, houses looted, men sent to POW camps. The people were forced to march to West Bank with out food or water, many died from hunger and thirst. A question that immediately pops up in our minds is ,three years after the holocaust what went through the minds of these Jews who watched these wretched people pass by. The Arab Legion fought bitterly to safeguard the Latrun area and the defeat and fiasco remained in the collective memory of the Jews until they recaptured the area in June 1967 and expelled the people from their villages. The Jordanian Legion also fiercely defended East Jerusalem.
The city of Nazareth was not depopulated since its Christian population was more and Ben Gurion knew that the eyes of the Christian world was fixed on them. Thus Nazareth is the only Arab city I pre 1967 Israel. But the suspected people were expelled. Another village of Hittin, a scenic one, previously a Druze village , was captured Since the Druze had aligned with the Israelis, showing little solidarity or affinity with the fellow Palestinian Arabs and joined in the destruction of rural Palestine, the village was occupied very easily. Many villages like Hittin were occupied and people displaced when they were beginning to prosper. People were displaced many times over when the villages they had sought refuge were later attacked and occupied. By July the Israelis could make use of their embryonic air force to bomb the villages and expel the villagers before entry on the ground. The aircrafts even bombed the refugees on their way to nearby villages. The Negev Bedouin tribes were expelled and forced into reservations that Israel defined as closed military areas which meant they were allowed to leave only with a special permit. The expulsion of Negev Bedouins continued until 1959. The displaced tribes were again uprooted in 1967.
The second truce was violated the moment it came into effect. The Gaza strip was protected by the Egyptian forces and West Bank by the Jordanians. Had it not been for these two forces, the Jews would have entirely occupied Palestine. The lands they had occupied but legally with in the UN designated Arab state was referred to as by Gurion as administered areas, not part of the Jewish state but governed by a military judicial system. Though the Zionists were worried of UN reaction to their occupation of Arab designated Palestine, inexplicably this was never raised during the momentary interest that international community briefly displayed in the fate of post mandatory Palestine and its indigenous communities. When Israel was accepted as a full member of UN, the distinction of these areas as administered/occupied, dissapeared along with the villages fields and houses, dissolved into the Jewish state of Israel.
UN did succeed in averting an attack on Golan Heights, though it was later occupied in 1967. When it was returned to Syrians in 1974, it was totally destroyed into a ghost town. By September Arab armies had dwindled and Israel continued with its cleansing operations. Israel’s divide and rule policy proved effective in the case of Druze to whom they promised not only immunity but also arms as reward for their collaboration..The Christians were less cooperative. At first they were routinely deported along with the Muslims. Then they were transferred to transit camps in central coastal areas. Despite all Israeli efforts to judaize Galilee beginning from direct expulsion in 1940,military occupation in the 1960 s, massive confiscation of land in the 1970 s and a huge official Judaization settlement effort in 1980 s, it’s still the only area in Palestine that has retained its natural beauty, its Middle eastern flavor and Palestinian culture. Since half the population is Palestinians the demographic balance prevent many Jews from thinking of the region as their own even now.
Israel’s anti repatriation policy worked at two levels. The first one was national, to destroy all villages and transform them into Jewish settlements or natural forests. The second level was diplomatic to avert the growing international pressure on Israel to allow return of refugees. The major international endeavor to facilitate the return of refugees was led by the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC). It was a small committee with three members one each from France, Turkey and US. The PCC called for unconditional return of refugees to their homes as proposed by the murdered UN mediator Count Folke Bernadette. They turned their position to UNGA Resolution 194 supported by most of member states and adopted on 11 Dec 1948. It gave the refugees unconditional return to their homes or accepting compensation. But those Palestinians trying to return to their homes were brutally shot .Lebanon allowed free passage of refugees to their country. The Hashemite kingdom of Jordan later turned back refugees as their number increased. The UN observers became so desensitized towards the plight of the people, refugees passing in front of them. Their silent acquiescence is shocking. They did draw some conclusions in October 1948 writing to the Secretary General that Israeli policy was that of uprooting Arabs from their native villages by force or threat, but the Secretary General did not publish the report. Arab member states tried to bring the attention of the report to the UN Secretary General, but to no avail. For almost thirty years UN uncritically adopted the rhetorical obfuscation of ABBA Eban, Israel’s ambassador to UN, who referred to the refugees as constituting a human problem for which no one could be held accountable or responsible. UN observers were shocked by the ethnic cleansing and looting too. After overwhelmingly endorsing a partition resolution almost a year earlier, UN could have passed another resolution condemning the ethnic cleansing, but it never did and worse was to come.
Gurion coveted to occupy West Bank and Southern Lebanon. Southern Lebanon was invaded by Israel many times 1949, 78 and 82. Israel built Khiyam prison there which has become a byword of cruelty. The massacre in the village of Dawahmey between Beersheba and Hebron is mentioned by the UN report of 14 June 1949. By 1949 an agreement was signed by Israelis with Jordan and Lebanon and by 1950, Palestine was divided into a state of Israel, Jordanian West Bank and Egyptian Gaza Strip
Occupation and its ugly face.
The Palestinians under the military rule of Israel were harassed, their houses continued to looted, their fields confiscated, their holy places desecrated.
Illegal imprisonment of suspicious Arabs was being carried out from the beginning itself. What constituted suspicious was as cloudy as anything. Not having the newly issued ID cards carried a prison term of 1 year. The interned Palestinians were subjected to horrific brutality. They introduced roadblocks to carry out surprise checks on those without ID, a practice continuing till today. Thus freedom of movement was limited. Most of the areas which were out of bounds needed a special permit. Summary executions took place in the POW camps. Most of the Israelis who had murdered the Palestinian citizens escaped justice and remained in their positions. Prisoners were also used for forced labor in labor camps. The Red cross team that visited the POW facilities reported how the prisoners were exploited to strengthen the Israeli economy. The report was a guarded one since the group was well aware of their failure to report on what went on in Nazi concentration camps on which it was well informed. The Israeli prisoners captured by the Arab Legion army was well treated compared to how the Palestinians were treated in POW CAMPS. Ben Gurion was angry when he learned that.
Abuses Under Occupation
The Red Cross sent back disturbing reports of collective abuses of basic rights of people. Worst cases were in Jaffa. The Red Cross official who found a pile of dead bodies after its occupation was told by the military Governor that they were shot for coming out of their homes during the curfew time. Under the cover of curfews and closures Israeli military committed many other crimes. The groceries and stationary items for the Arab people kept by the British government was looted under their watch, and as per the order of Ben Gurion and sent to Jewish settlements. Looting was done by private individuals also. The mosques and churches were profaned and their convents and schools vandalized. House robberies took place in broad daylight.
Ghettoizing the Palestinians of Haifa
After driving out 70000 of Haifa’s residents the 3000 to 5000 left behind were transferred to ghettos.
Source about the incidents of rape include the UN, Red Cross and the letters by Yitzhak Chizik. We know more about incidents of rape in places where these people were there. But that doesn’t mean rapes didn’t occur in the rest of the places. Another source is the Israeli archives that cover rapes where rapists were brought to trial. Gurion’s diary also mentions about the rapes. Jaffa was a hotbed of cruelty and war crimes for Israeli soldiers. Another source is the oral history from the victimizers and victims. In a shocking case of rape and murder of a twelve year old girl by soldiers in a military base, the trial was conducted in 2003, after the newspaper Haaretz published about the incident. The most punishment received was a 2 year jail term for the soldier who killed her.
Dividing the Spoils
The Israelis suggested that all Palestinian refugees should be resettled in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. US and Britain responded favorably to this policy and did not do anything to push forward the implementation of UN Resolution 194 which called for unconditional repatriation of Palestinian refugees. Apart from the resettlement issue, Israel had appropriated the money and property of 1.3 million Palestinians worth 100 million pounds. To avoid international investigations, they planned to sell the property to American Jews. The lands appropriated from the Palestinians were decided to be cultivated by the Jews or sold to private or public sector. Gurion decided to destroy the houses to prevent Palestinians from coming back. He intensified the settlement of Jewish immigrants on confiscated land and evicted houses. The Jewish National Fund and Custodian competed among themselves to divide the spoils. By placing the appropriated lands and houses under an Israel appointed Custodian, the Israelis could sell these properties to public and private Jewish groups and individuals later under the spurious pretext that no claimants came forward. Under government custodianship they became state lands which by law belonged to the Jewish nation, which in turn meant that none of it could be sold to Arabs. .
Land was divvied up between IDF, immigrants, Kibbutzim movements. Land and houses were bought by many of these. JNF bought large areas of land from Custodian until their finances dried up.Even the Palestinians still clinging on to their lands and houses were forcibly evicted and the property bought or sold. The ruling leftist party, Mapam, was so greedy and bought large areas. By 1950, half the dispossessed rural land was in the hands of JNF. The IDF built military bases on the lands. The Arab character of the villages and towns were effaced by construction of spacious park in Jaffa and community center in Jerusalem. Almost all the houses in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem were demolished . Market places and mosques were destroyed.
Desecration of Holy Sites
Until 1948, all Muslim holy sites in Palestine belonged to Waqf the Islamic endowment authority recognized by Ottoman empire and the British mandate. Supreme Muslim Council supervised them. After 1948, Israel confiscated them and transferred first to Custodian, then to state and eventually sold them to Jewish public bodies and private citizens. Christian churches were also confiscated and sold. Israelis changed mosques to restaurants, bars and shops. The Palestinian people are denied entry into the remaining churches and mosques.
Entrenching the occupation
The 150000 Palestinians who remained in the newly formed Israel were put under a military regime based on British Mandatory emergency regulations, when issued in 1945, Menachem Begin compared to Germany’s 1935 Nuremberg laws.These regulations abolished people’s right of expression, movement, organization and equality. The right to vote and be elected in Israeli parliament came with severe restrictions. It lasted until 1966, though the regulations are still in place. Massive expulsions of Arabs continued until 1953. Bedouins were expelled from Negev upto 1962.
The Land Robbery, 1950 to 2000
The confiscated land was either converted to settlements or Zionist forests. For the public, creating new settlements were accompanied by slogans like “making the desert bloom”. JNF s forestation activities were marketed as an ecological mission to keep the country green. JNF became the sole proprietors of the new forests, it was responsible for safeguarding the Jewishness of even property not owned by them by prohibiting transactions with Palestinians. JNF was granted legal status of land owner on behalf of Jewish states by the JNF law passed in 1953. JNF had overall land share of 13%. But it implemented its policy of guarding the nation’s lands in areas beyond its control due to its role in directorship of Law of the Israeli Land Authority (ILA), which became the owner of 80%of state lands. The rest was owned by JNF, army and the government. Further laws by the Knesset prohibited even subletting of properties to Non Jews. 70% of Israeli land became private land. The primary objective was to prevent Palestinians from regaining ownership through purchase of their own land or of their people. This is why the Palestinian minority in Israel cannot build. The Palestinian Israelis, form 17 %of the total population after ethnic cleansing, they live in 3 percent of land. They are allowed to build on only 2%of land. Many confiscated villages were reinvented as purely Jewish or ancient Hebrew places.
The Memoricide of Nakba
The Re invention of Palestine
The confiscated land was Hebranized by re inventing Hebrew names and history by the archaeological agency and other land agencies like JNF. The naming committee was an ad hoc group in 1920s and Gurion in 1949, turned it into a sub division of JNF. Elad, the settlers NGO is devoted to Judaization of East Jerusalem. Many illegal home demolitions are occurring there. JNFs main challenge is the privatization of land by Netanyahu and Aerial Sharon, but it has a strong hold over Israel’s forests. Villages lay buried under these forests where Nakba denial is pervasive. Refugees are up against the JNF here.
Virtual Colonialism and the JNF
While creating the forests over Palestinian villages, Jews opted for pine trees and cypresses to completely efface the Palestinian flora and to make them look European. They were also meant to support the country’s aspiring wood industry. Olive trees definitely sprout in between the pines and cypresses in places where these conifers were planted to cover Palestinian olive groves. Inside and outside Israel, JNF is considered as an ecological agency whose b lies on making Israel green. It has built national parks, playgrounds, resorts etc. In many of these places clusters of olives, figs , almond and cactuses grows. Many think they’re wild ones, but they have sprouted from the orchards of Palestinians buried beneath. JNF websites guide to conceal the visible remnants of the Palestinian villages .The sites virtual and real displays the official Zionist story of Eretz Israel.
The bustans or the Palestinian fruit orchards are mentioned in JNF sites as a natures creation. The Palestinian history is transported back to a biblical and Talmudic past. The site fancifully meshes history and tourist tips totally wiping the remnants of Palestinian villages that the Jewish troops wiped out within a few hours from Israeli collective memory.
Two obstacles that perpetuate the refugee problem and stand in the way of an equitable peace process are, Israel’s denial of Nakba and a lack of international will.
Nakba Denial and the Peace Process
In a 1949 UN plan to peace, the International Refugee Organization was kept out and replaced by a special agency for Palestinian refugees. This was done by Israel and the Jewish Zionist organizations abroad. IRO helped Jews during Holocaust and Zionists did not want to compare Nakba with that And IRO always recommended repatriation as the first option.
This is how United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) came into being. It was not committed to the repatriation as stipulated by UNResolution 194. It was set up to provide employment and subsidies, building permanent camps, constructing schools and opening medical centers for one million Palestinian refugees who ended up in camps. Palestinian nationalism reemerged centered on right to return. PLO formed from refugees in 1968 was grounded in factual and moral redress of the evils inflicted by Israelis on Palestinians. The PLO faced two denials One, the sidelining of the Palestinian cause by the international community and two , the denial of Nakba and the ethnic cleansing by the Zionists. The Nakba and the refugee issues were consistently excluded from the peace agenda.
Genuine peace attempt by the UN and the international community was undertaken in 1949 in Switzerland according to Resolution 194, that is, Right of return, two state solution, and internationalization of Jerusalem. All parties accepted this, US, Europe, Arab states, Palestinians and Israeli foreign minister Moshe Sharett. This endeavor was deliberately torpedoed by Gurion and King Abdullah of Jordan who had wanted to partition whatever had left of Palestine between themselves. US was embroiled in an election and Europe in cold war, thus giving a winning chance to Gurion and King Abdullah, thereby foiling a true attempt at peace.
Only after 1967, there was another peace attempt. There was total Israeli control all over ex mandatory Palestine. By now Israel’s strength was beyond doubt So peace process gave weight to Israeli side. This completely eliminated Palestine point of view . Israel wanted to move with the year 1967 as the origin of Palestinian conflict, thus eliminating the refugee problem and right to return claims. To push out the Palestinians from the peace process and sought Jordanian Camaraderie with the help of Henry Kissinger. The letter read that Israel peace camp led by the Labour party regards Palestinians as non existent and prefer to divide the occupied 1967 territories with Jordan. Jordanians deemed the share insufficient, but the US supported this until 1987,when the First Intifada arose. The 1977 peace proposal by Anwar Sadat was also favorable for Israel in which it was allowed to keep the occupied territories. Jordanians were removed from the picture after the First Intifada. 1991 peace process in Madrid involved direct talks between Israel and Palestinian leadership of occupied territories with the mediation of US. Madrid Peace Plan was a gift from the US to Arab countries for backing Washington’s military invasion of Iraq in the First Gulf War. But Israel stalled the process.
Oslo Accords of 1993 ignored 1948 Nakba and right to return. The architects were Israeli intellectuals who belonged to Peace Now camp. Yasser Arafat fell into the trap of Oslo Accords. There was vicious cycle of violence. Desperate Palestinians reacted to Israeli oppression in the form of suicide bombings on civilians and military. The frustrated young joined guerrilla groups that promoted suicide attacks as the only means remaining for liberating occupied territories. The intimidated Israeli electorate elected the right wing Netanyahu to power in 1996. He failed miserably in all aspects of governance and Ehud Barak of Labour was in power in 1999.
The right to return
Bill Clinton invited Barak and Arafat to a summit meeting in Camp David in the summer of 2000 for what the Palestinians thought was genuine negotiations over conflicts end. The original Oslo documents of 1993 promised the Palestinian leadership that if they were willing to agree to a waiting period of 5 to 10 years, during which time Israel would partially withdraw from the occupied territories, the final phase of the new negotiations would be on the table. The Palestinian leadership thought that final phase had come to discuss the three essentials of the conflict: the right of return, Jerusalem and future of Israeli settlements.
But a fragmented PLO without the radical Islamist movements of 1980s had to come up with a counter peace plan. With the advice of Adam Smith Institute in London the naive Palestinian negotiators placed Nakba and Israeli responsibility for it as the top Palestinian agenda. The US plan was to allow only the Israelis to set the rules for the peace agenda. Israel’s only offer was to withdraw from parts of West Bank and Gaza, leaving 15% of Palestine to Palestinians in the form of cantons separated by highways, settlements, army camps and walls. Jerusalem was excluded. Refugee problem was eliminated. Arafat refused to sign. For nearly four decades Arafat’s movement had the main aim of seeking legal and moral recognition of the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Israel. UN had already accepted that demand in Resolution 194. For the refusal to sign, Arafat was depicted as a war monger by US and Israel.
This humiliation was exacerbated when Aerial Sharon provocatively visited Haram Al Sharif in September 2000. This triggered the second intifada. Like the first one, it was a nonviolent popular protest. But Israel responded with lethal violence. The world looks on as the strongest military power in the region with its Apache helicopters, tanks and bull dozers attack an unarmed defenseless population of civilians and impoverished refugees. The Jenin refugee camp massacre committed by the Israeli troops in 2002, was to be investigated by the fact finding mission of UN, but Israel refused to cooperate and UNGS Kofi Annan decided to abandon the mission. Camp David fiasco helped bring the issue of Nakba and refugee return to the forefront not just in Israel, but in the US and Europe. Nakba denial was the official policy of the Zionists since they feared the troubling questions of moral legitimacy of the Zionist project over the treatment of Palestinians. That would call into question the very foundational myths of the State of Israel that the state was founded in an empty land and made the desert bloom. And also would trigger moral and existential repercussions for the Israeli Jews who would have to recognize that they have become the mirror image of their own worst nightmare.
In 2003, the Quartet comprised of the US, UN, Britain and Russia offered a blue print for peace that happily adopted the consensual Israeli position as embodied in policies of Aerial Sharon. He succeeded in fooling the West by turning the 2005 military withdrawal from Gaza into a media bonanza. But in reality the army still controls Gaza from outside. It continues its targeted assassinations and will control most of West Bank. Refugees of 1948 are not even mentioned in Quartets peace agenda.
The Geneva Accord is the best option the Israelis proved able to come up with in the beginning of the 21st century. Its validity is doubtful since the proposal was concocted by people no longer in power. It recognizes the right of return provided their return is confined to West Bank and Gaza. It doesn’t acknowledge the ethnic cleansing but provides compensation as an option. The practicality of this option is undercut by the fact that Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth..From iits partner Palestinians Geneva secured recognition of Israel as a Jewish state thus endorsing the ethnic cleansing and Fortress Israel, the most significant obstruction in the path to peace process.
Gaza disengagement plan froze the peace process. Deportation of Palestinian women married to Palestinian citizens of Israel were forcibly undertaken backed by government, courts and media. Knesset in 2003 passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from obtaining citizenship, permanent or temporary residency status when they marry Israeli citizens. Even those who had been married for years were separated. Arab members of the Knesset opposed appealed to Israeli Supreme Court against this racist law. It was turned down.
The demographic problem of Israel were at the center of all elections. Already in the late nineteenth century Zionists had identified population problem as the major problem in fulfilling its dreams. Herzl has written in his diary in 1895 that to shift the Jewish society in Palestine to a Jewish state “we shall endeavor to expel the population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment in transit states, but denying it any employment in our own country “.
Ben Gurion ensured that the number of Palestinians were reduced to less than 20 percent of the total. Israel has boosted its population by two massive immigrations each of one million people in 1949 and 1980s. Ehud Olmert, PM, knew that if the occupied territories are annexed the Palestinian in Israel would increase their number. He planned to annex parts with less number of Palestinians leaving parts with more numbers. This was the explanation for the 670 km serpentine concrete wall, barbed wire and manned watchtowers and the reason why it runs twice the length of 315 km long Green Line, the June 1967 border.
The Zionist enclave was constructed in 1922 by the Eastern European Jews with the help of the British. The colonialists dreamed of massive Jewish immigration to strengthen their hold, but Holocaust killed the number of white European Jews and those who survived preferred to emigrate to US or remain in Europe. So the Ashkenazi Jewish leadership reluctantly prompted one million Arab Jews, Mizrahim, from ME and North Africa. Another discriminatory nature of Israel is seen here against these Jews who were put through an invidious de Arabisation process
In June 1967, Israel conquered the rest of Palestine, along with parts of Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Sinai was ceded back to Egypt in 1979 in return for peace. In 1982, Israel added southern Lebanon. It withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza strip in 2005. The influx in the 1980s of Christians from former Soviet Countries, the increasing foreign guest workers has resulted in an inability to claim an overwhelming Jewish majority They have no issues with this, as their primary goal is to keep the population white, that is non Arab. The black Jews Israel brought from Ethiopia in 1980s were relegated to the poor areas of the periphery and are almost invisible, discrimination against them is high. Though Israeli proposals after 1993 were approved by some Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt, since both are in the sphere of influence of US, they never convinced the civil societies there. Apartheid is popular among the Mizrahi Jews, who are Israel’s most vociferous supporters today. They find themselves leading comfortable lives like their fellow Ashkenazi counterparts, though betraying their Arabic heritage and culture has not brought the reward of full acceptance.
Israel is the last postcolonial European enclave in the Arab world today. The ideology that enabled the depopulation of half of Palestine’s native population in 1948 is still alive and continues to drive the inexorable, indiscernible cleansing of the Palestinians who live there today.
Frantz Fanon was born in 1925 in Martinique, a French colony in the Caribbean Sea. He was descended from African slaves who had previously been brought to the island. Fanon left Martinique at the age of 18 and fought for France in the last years of World War II. It was during the war that he experienced extensive racism from his white European peers. This would continue to influence his worldview for the rest of his short life.
After the war, Fanon briefly returned to Martinique and worked with the famous thinker Aime Cesaire, who was a leader of the Negritude movement. The Negritude movement produced literature that advocated for a common Black identity among Africans displaced across the world. Fanon discusses the movement in the fourth chapter of ‘The Wretched of the Earth ‘.
Fanon returned to France in 1951 to complete studies in psychology and medicine. He became a licensed psychiatrist in 1951. Drawing from his studies, he published his first book, also widely influential, in 1952. Titled ‘Black Skin, White Masks ‘, the book explored the psychological experience of Black people in colonial contexts. Fanon showed how the dehumanizing effects of racism creates inferiority complexes and at times debilitating psychological distress in Black people.
In 1953, Fanon took a position as head of psychiatry in a hospital in Algeria, in northern Africa. This would prove a seminal experience in his life. Algeria was just then on the brink of war, and in 1954 violence finally broke out. The Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) led a guerilla war against the French in an effort to overthrow the ruling colonial government. Over the course of the decade, anti-colonial violence was met with brutal retaliation, and more than 150,000 were killed. As Vikki Bell (author of the journal ‘Introduction: Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth 50 Years On ‘ – https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0263276410383721 ) describes, Fanon became increasingly involved in the war as it escalated in violence and torture. “Although he didn’t partake in the military campaigns, Fanon became a spokesperson for the movement and was in due course expelled from Algeria for his involvement; he moved to Tunis where he continued his support, in particular through editing the FLN newspaper El Moudjahid” . The experience of decolonization is the focus of ‘The Wretched of the Earth ‘, and this use of his intellectual abilities to support the anticolonial effort is something Fanon wrote about in particular in Chapter 4.
The Wretched of the Earth was published in 1961. Unfortunately, this was also the same year Fanon died. Fanon was diagnosed with leukemia and sought medical care first in the Soviet Union and then in the United States, for treatment at a National Institutes of Health facility in Bethesda, Maryland. The treatment could not save his life, and he died in Maryland on December 6, 1961, at just 36 years. He left behind a wife, Josie, and a son, Oliver, as well as a daughter, Mireille, from a previous relationship. During his short life, Fanon was an important voice in the fields of postcolonialism and Marxism, and his work has been invaluable to the development of critical theory. He advocated tirelessly for the decolonization of the Third World, and was particularly interested in the psychological impact of colonialist oppression on the colonized individual. He was later buried in Algeria.
Postcolonialism as a field of academia was founded by Edward Said, a Palestinian American and public intellectual, whose book, ‘Orientalism ‘, first identified and put a name to the racist representation of those from the East by those from the West. Other important works of postcolonial theory include ‘The Location of Culture‘ by Homi Bhabha, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” by Gayatri Spivak, ‘Midnight’s Children‘ by Salman Rushdie, ‘Things Fall Apart‘ by Chinua Achebe, and the short story “Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid. The Wretched of the Earth also closely interacts with the theory of Marxism, which is based on ‘The Communist Manifesto‘ by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Other books that also interact with Marxist themes include ‘Fight Club‘ by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son‘, and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘ by Tennessee Williams.
Fanon’s work was originally written in French, and English translators have long since disagreed on the translation of his work. Some early translations are riddled with errors, and some scholars believe that Fanon’s work has been misrepresented because of these mistakes. This misrepresentation has led to Fanon’s image as a proponent of violence, while his true message of decolonization and unity is lost.
The Algerian War of Independence was a decolonization war fought between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front from 1954 to 1962. Algerians used guerilla warfare, including marquis fighting—a type of guerilla warfare that utilized rural guerillas—and widespread torture. A series of armed conflicts known as Toussaint Rouge ( “Red All Saints’ Day“), also known as Toussaint Sanglante (“Bloody All-Saints’ Day“), the name given to a series of 70 attacks committed by Algerian separatists during the Catholic festival of All Saints’ Day began in French Algeria in 1954. The fighting led to massive social and political unrest in both Algeria and France, and in 1958, the Fourth French Republic—the republican government of France since 1946—completely collapsed. It progressed into a civil war, as well, as fighting broke out among many conflicting tribal communities. The fighting dragged on for years until the signing of the Evian Accords, a compromise treaty, on March 18, 1962. The withdrawal of France from Algeria resulted in complete social, political, and economic chaos, including several attempted military coup d’etats by rebel forces. Algeria finally gained independence on July 5, 1962, but deep and lasting damage continues to be felt in the region to this day. Nearly 2,000,000 Algerians were displaced during the Algerian War of Independence, and over 300,000 Algerians were killed, compared to just over 25,000 French and other Europeans.
Jean Paul Sartre’s prefatorial essayand the criticisms
The English editions come with a prefatorial essay by Sartre that turned controversial for it’s embrace of violence. He had written the essay when the book was published first in French in 1961. Existentialism’s emphasis on the persons creating their own free world found it’s echo in Fanon’s interest in the colonized creating their own world. Fanon rooting for violence, according to Sartre, was a concrete path to freedom that human rights’ abstractness was unable to offer.
Sartre’s preface to the Wretched of the Earth constitutes an endorsement of Fanon’s point of view by the most important and influential philosopher of the 20th Century. Sartre’s endorsement of Fanon’s call for a violent purge of European culture from Africa was echoed by Simone de Beauvoir, without question the most important feminist philosopher of the 20th century, and Albert Camus, the great French author, playwright and philosopher. Sartre’s willingness to publicly associate himself with Fanon’s revolutionary ideology was certainly not a surprise. Sartre had publicly supported the Algerian revolution and was blamed by the French military for their defeat. The French commander in Algeria said he could have dealt with guerrillas and terrorists, but not even the French army could defeat Jean-Paul Sartre.
The essay brought attention of readers to the violence part and made them overlook other dimensions of Fanon’s book like culture and national consciousness. The book was embraced by young activists for justiying violent protests. Sartre’s ideas were spreading like wildfire among the young French in universities at the time. Because of this reason Hannah Arendt attacked the book for promoting violence. According to Homi Bhaba, “Hannah Arendt’s assault on the book in the late sixties was an attempt at staunching the wildfire it spread across university campuses, while she readily acknowledged that it was really Sartre’s preface that glorified violence beyond Fanon’s words or wishes”.
Judith Butler remarks, The Wretched of the Earth was intended as a book by a colonized person to and for colonized people. Sartre’s introduction, in contrast, “is less a conversation among the colonizers than an exhortation of one to the other, asking the European to read as one would listen to a conversation that is not meant for one”. Thus, at the same time that Sartre emphasizes the importance of decolonization, he seems to co-opt the colonized voice to serve European, instead of African, purposes.
Although Sartre’s introduction continues to be published in English-language editions of The Wretched of the Earth, it has not been included in French editions since 1967. That was the year that Fanon’s widow removed it from publication. Her reasoning was that Sartre had begun to support pro-Zionist movements in Israel, which she thought was in contradiction to many of the anti-colonial philosophies of the book. In either case, Sartre had already influenced the reception of the book, and he continues to be one of Fanon’s most widely read interpreters.
Sartre begins the essay by describing how the colonizers created the colonized including a native elite as go-between interpretors. The white-washed native elites were set free into the colonies after a short stay in the mother country. When mouths of natives opened by themselves, finally, the colonizers thought, ‘ let them bawl their heads off, it relieves their feelings, dogs that bark don’t bite afterall’. A new generation of native writers and poets pointed to the hypocrisy of western humanism. Thus, as Hegel says, uneasy consciences are caught up in their own contradictions. The natives won’t get anywhere.
The voice of natives reverberated with how the West stifled, exploited and murdered whole of humanity in the name of spiritual experience. Sartre says, there is a difference beween a Frenchman saying that the country is done for, which is emotional talk followed by advices to carry out instructions to prevent this and Fanon saying that Europe is rushing to doom , when he is setting out a diagnosis. Fanon doesn’t give a damn whether she lives or dies, he speaks to his colonized brethrens and not to the colonizers. He exhorts all natives of underdeveloped countries to unite.
The Third World finds and speaks to itself through Fanon’s voice. There are the enslaved, some with a simulacrum of phoney independence, others fighting for sovereignty, others who have obtained freedom, but still under the menace of imperialist aggression. The colonizer keeps some feudal rulers or petty native bourgeois in his pay for a divide and rule policy. They are not just oppressing the natives, but creating divisions, fashioning classes and racial prejudices among them thus stratifying the colonized societies. So, Fanon says, in order to fight the colonizer, they must fight against themselves or the two fights should form part of the whole fight. Thus by breaking the internal barriers, the puppet bourgeois, urban proletariat and the lumpenproletariat stands in line with the peasants , the veritable reservoir of the revolutionary army. He asserts that in order to triumph, the revolution must be socialist. If the bourgeois takes over power, the state will remain in the hands of imperialists in spite of sovereignty. Fanon calls for unity of the Third World, after independence, where the whole of coloniized people should be under the command of the peasant class, achieving revolutionary socialism. He warns against the cult of the leader and of personalities, Western culture and withdrawal into the twilight of African culture. He says, the only true culture is that of revolution.
Fanon explains how the colonizers are estranged from themselves and make them see themselves in the light of truth. Although the people living in the mother country disapprove of her excesses by the settlers, the pioneers were sent to the colonies by them and they inturn enriched the people of the mmother country. He critiques the liberal, humane affectations and pretentions of the peope living in the mother country. He reveals to his comrades, some of them westernized, the solidarity of the people of the mother country and their representatives in the colonies. Sartre tells the Europeans to read the book since it will make them ashamed and shame, according to Marx, is a revolutionary sentiment. Fanon exposes the liberal hypocrisy of the Europeans.
Forced labor, intimidation and oppression by the overseas soldiers who rejected the universalism of their mother countries reduced the inhabitants of colonies to beasts of burden. Thus violence seeks to dehumanize them. Their culture and traditions are wiped off, they are starved, stupefied. The result is a being, neither man nor animal who understand only violence. The colonizer has to exploit, so he is unable to kill those he plunders, he loses control and the machine reverses leading him to decolonization.
The violence by the colonizer is turned on himself by the colonized. Violence , once supressed within themselves by the last refuge of their humanity, is finally unleashed on to the oppressor. Accordding to Fanon, their mad impulse to murder is the expression of the natives’ collective unconscious. If the supressed fury fails to find an outlet, in order to free themselves, they fight and murder among themselves. Colonial policies keep up their rivalries. Raising a knife against the brethren is assumed to destroy the detested image of their common degradation and thus they dehumanize themselves. Sometimes, they take precautions against their own kind by supernatural barriers, myths and rites. They dance or get possessed by spirits, do sacred things for distraction and also as a weapon against humiliation and despair. The psychosis is a defense, but also dissociation from self.
Though the Liberal Left at home is embarassed, they do not condemn the revolt by natives knowing well that it is instigated by their people only. But, Sartre tells that, ‘ our worthiest souls contain racial prejudice’. Fanon shows that the violence is neither fury nor resentment or savagery, but it is man recreating himself. Only violence can destroy violence. The rebel’s weapon is the proof of his humanity, the revolutionary consciousness deepens. Sartre brings the argument that Fanon’s book roots out the settler in each European thus decolonizing them. It stripteases European humanism, the ideology of lies, justification for pillages, honeyed words, the affectations of sensibilities as alibis for aggressions. Those who believe in nonviolence are equally responsible for the natives’ plight since they failed to stop or condemn the atrocities by their government and soldiers. The nonviolence, if shaped by years of oppression, cannot be justified since the passivity places them in the rank of oppressors.
Sartre tells that the colonizers are mere exploiters. They enriched themselves, built industrial cities, cathedrals, palaces out of the exploit and these riches accorded the human status to dejure to it’s inhabitants. Europe falls into what Fanon calls narcissism. The French poet Jean Cocteau became irritated with Paris, he noted, ‘that city which talks about itself the whole time’. Sartre brands North America too as a hypocritic super- European monstrosity that just chatters equality, liberty, fraternity, love, honor and patriotism. He critiques the anti-racial speeches as glib, the liberals who are shocked of the inconsistency must be mistaken or dishonest since nothing is more consistent with the colonizers than a racist humanism. The abstract assumption of universality served as cover for realistic purposes. And once the natives become men and reveal their true nature, the elite shows it’s true colors, the precious values begin to moult.
The colonizers were beyond reproach once, they never had a mission overseas, that is the truth. Now that the natives are rebelling, the colonizer pretends generosity by granting them ruights, which nobody ought to grant them, for each of them has every right and the right to everything. Sartre says the aristocratic values are cracking up and the signs that once buoyed up the continent of Europe are not worthy anymore. And the chance of being saved from this shipwreck is the very sentiment of Christian guilt. In the past Europe made history and now it is being made of Europe. Decolonization has begun.
Europe has to use the entire forces in a battle which is lost before it has begun. Thomas Robert Bugeaud (Governor of Algeria in 1840), was famous for military exploits in the conquest of Algeria, and whose doubtful glory was colonial brutality. We find the same violence repeated. And now it has changed direction. It comes back on Europeans. Once upon a time when Europeans were victorious, they used violence to break down others , the European humanism remained intact. Now that violence has changed direction, the natives re-creates themselves, and the Europeans involute, break up. Rage and fear are blatant anf the hunting for natives start in earnest. Savagery and barbarism are now exhibited by the Europeans. They burn the Algerian muslims alive. As Fanon reminds us of a congress of psychiatrists who attributed the criminal propensities of Africans to their underdeveloped cortex and others in Central Africa who had established that Africans make very little use of their frontal lobes, Sartre asks these learned men to follow up thier scientific investigations in Europe, particularly France. He says that the French too were victims of ‘frontal sluggishness’ since the patriots do quite a bit of assassination of fellow country men. He brands all elites guilty, the liberals and the toughs of the tender Left included.
The terror has left Africa and is settling in Europe. The fever is mounting among the natives, but they hide the rage in myths and complicated rites in order to stave off the day of reckoning. The violence erupts one day and now its the turn of elites to tread the native path. But to become native, the soil of mother country must be occupied by the colonized and the elites should starve of hunger, which wont happen since it is the discredited colonialism that will take hold of elites and the senile arrogant master who will straddle them.
Finally, Sartre tells it is better to be a native than to be a former settler. It is not right for a police officer to be obliged to torture the natives for many hours a day. It is not right that the Nation should demoralize the Army when morality of both must be protected. It is not right that a country with a Republican tradition should confide its young folks to the care of putchist officers. Its not right that all these crimes are committed in the French people’s names, its not right that nobody utter a word about these to anyone nor to their own souls for fear of having to stand in judgement. He condemns the silence of eight years, to no avail, torture at its zenith. The glare of torture is so strong that it lights up the whole France. The fear, disgust, anger and complicity of the people cannot be hidden anymore.
He asks the pertinent question of if France will recover and answers that like Achilles’ Lance, violence heals the wounds that it has created. He tells that you will have to fight or else rot in the concentration camps. Its not enough to condemn the war, but you have to stand on the side of Algerians.
Fanon starts this topic by telling readers that decolonization, whereever it is, is a violent phenomenon. It is substitution of one species of men by another. The outset is a tabula rasa despite the rise of a new nation, state, politics or other relations. It is willed, called for and demanded, a bottom up change existing as a compelling , crude, impetuous state in the consciousness of the colonized and as a terrifying future in the colonizer.
Decolonization, a completely disorderly process, does not result from magic, natural shocks or friendly understandings, but is a historical one. It is the meeting of two forces, substantiated and nourished by colonies, their very first encounter marked by violence , the exploitation carried out with the help of bayonets and cannon. The settler and natives are old acquaintances, the native brought to existence by the settler who inturn owes his existence to the colonial system. It transforms the inessential ‘things'(colonized) into privileged men introducing a new language and new humanity. Fanon says decolonization is about the eschatological teaching, ‘The last shall be first and the first last‘. He stresses, ‘for the last to be first, to make them climb the steps of organized society, all scales must be turned including that of violence’. Thus the term evokes searing bullets and blood- stained knives for the natives. The programme of decoloniation should be formulated from the very beginning to overcome obstacles with the help of violence.
The colonial world is compartmentalized into two with the dividing line of force of barracks and policemen, and the go-betweens who are the the spokesmen of settlers and their rule of oppression. In capitalist societies, the aesthetic expression of respect for the established order serve to create an atmosphere of submission and inhihibition in the exploited person, which lightens the task of policing considerably. In capitalist countires, a multitude of moral teachers, counsellors separate the exploited from those in power whereas in colonial countries the policemen and the soldiers do this by rifle butts and napalm bombs, agents of government who speak the language of pure force. The intermediary is the one who puts this into practice.
The two zones are opposed in every aspect, obedient to the rules of Aristotelian logic, they follow the principle of reciprocal exclusivity. In the colonists’ world, the streets are impeccably maintained, and no one ever goes hungry. The world of the colonized, however, “is a disreputable place inhabited by disreputable people,” where the people are hungry for food, clothes, light, and warmth. Thus, the colonized are envious people, and there is not one among them who does not wish to take the place of the colonist.
The colonial world is inhabited by two different species, two different races. Fanon quotes, ” In the colonies the economic infrastructure is also a superstructure. The cause is effect: You are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich. This is why a Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched when it comes to addressing the colonial issue.”. In classical Marxism, the economy determines the “superstructure,” or the social and cultural sphere. In this understanding, social and cultural divisions, like gender inequality and racial inequality, actually derive from economic inequalities. Fanon thinks this kind of analysis no longer applies in a colonial context. In this context, the fundamental division is racial—the division the colonist makes between colonized and colonizer. Economic inequality is based on racial inequality, not the other way around. Everything Marx says about the precapitalist society must be rethought in a colonized society. The serf in a precapitalist society is different from the knight in the colony, the foreigner settler or the ‘other’ comes from another country to impose rules with weapons and inspite of appropriation and ownership, he is a foreigner.
The violence that rules the economy , custom and culture of the natives will be taken by them to wreck the colonial world. Wrecking means destruction, abolition , burial or expulsion of the foreigners. These two different worlds are likewise inhabited by two different “species,” and what divides these two “species” is race. The “ruling species”—the colonists—are white foreigners. These white people are “the others,” and they come from a different land than the colonized, who are the indigenous population. This colonial world, Fanon says, “is a Manichaean world,” where the colonist makes the colonized into the epitome of evil. To the colonists, the colonized have no values or ethics and their culture and traditions are the mark of evil. This mark of evil has been answered with Christianity—the “white man’s Church”—which, instead of calling the colonized to God, has called them to the ways of their oppressors. The evangelical communiques were implantation of foreign influence among natives. Manichaeanism serves to dehumanize the colonized; they are reduced to animals and referred to by the colonists in “bestiary” terms. General de Gaulle spoke of ‘yellow multitudes’ and Francois Mauriac (French novelist, dramatist, critic, poet, and journalist), of ‘the black, brown and yellow masses which soon will be unleashed’. The natives’ challenge to the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of points of view but an affirmation of the Manichean world.
During decolonization, the colonied intellectuals along with the bourgeois of the colonies and the elites carry out the dialogue on culture, values and so on. But, the settler, from the moment the colonial context disappears, has no longer any interest in remaining or in coexisting. The liberals among the European minority demands two fold citizenship. Thus the free native discovers that he is no different from the settler. Thus a revolutionary zeal forms in the native population. The dichotomy imposed by the colonial context is removed along with the hetergogeneity thus unifying the natives on a racial or national basis. The Westernized native intellectual tries to get hold of the higher administrative posts which the rest of the natives recognize as sabotage and a condition not different from the settlers occupying these positions. The colonialist bourgeois instills the superiority of Western values on the minds of the intellectuals and deep down they defend the Greco-Roman pedestal and the Mediterranean values become worthless for them.
The colonialist bourgeoisie has convinced the colonized intellectuals that they must exert individualism and that there is wealth and power in thought; however, Fanon says, this theory is false. Comradery and brotherhood are forbidden by the colonialist bourgeoisie for a reason: during decolonization, the colonized intellectual will find power in the people and the notion of meetings and assemblies. The interest of all colonized people, Fanon asserts, is in the collective—either everyone is saved, or no one is. When decolonization occurs where the struggle for independence has yet to make sufficient impact, colonized intellectuals hold fast to the values of the colonialist bourgeoisie, creating anger and violence among the colonized. They form the national government, loots the resources, nationalize commerce, and reserve markets for their gain.
To assimilate to the culture of their oppressors—the colonists—the colonized intellectuals have had to assimilate to colonialist bourgeoisie thinking and are thus always in danger of becoming “demagogues.” The colonized intellectual is a “mimic man,” but the masses do not recognize colonialist bourgeoisie thought. The colonized intellectual easily forgets the purpose of decolonization—to defeat colonialism—and they forget the main question fueling it: “Bread and land: how do we go about getting bread and land?” This question, Fanon says, may seem limited and narrow, but it is the best working model for decolonization.
Truth hurries the break-up of the colonial regime, promotes the emergence of the nation. But in the case of settlers, the good of the natives is evil for them. Fanon describes how the inorganic mass of natives suffer under colonial mercantilism. In doing so, the settler makes history, but of his mother country and not the country that he plunders and starves.. The immobility to which the natives are condemned can only be called into question if he decides to put an end to the history of colonization and pllage and bring about decoloniation.
The colonial world is a compartmentalized, Manichean one, a world of statues of the General, engineer, a world where the crushed, flayed natives are penned into staying immobile. Apartheid is only one form of compartmentalization. So, the native dreams of muscular activities and prowesses, action and agression, his freedom only happens at night while he sleeps. The aggressiveness is at first manifested towrds his own brothers, waves of crime in North Africa astonishes the settlers. This is actually from the tension created in the native by confronting the colonial order. The native feels the contrasting feelings of hostility and envy to the settler’s world, dreams of substituting the settler with himself. The settler’s world is a hell and a paradise for him at the same time.
The native is always on the alert, not sure whether he has crossed the frontiers of the settler. Though always presumed guity by the settler, he never admits any accusation in his innermost spirit, it’s just a curse, a sort of the Damocles’ sword for him. Though overpowered, he is never tamed, considered ineferior but not convinced of his inferiority. He is tensed, not terrorized waitin gfor the moment in which he can spring upon the enemy. The symbols of social order like the police and military are at once inhibitory and stimulatory for him. Thus he always harbor the impulse to take the settler’s place. Fanon says there are certain emotional conditions in which the presence of an obstacle accentuates the tendency towards motion.
The settler is an exhibitionist pitting his brute force against the natives, his preoccupation with security reminds the natives of their masterly nature. Internalizing this rage will only bring about a pseudo-petrification in the settler, so he releases the tension in quarrels and tribal warfare. There is a negation of the native commonsense. The continual insult and strike from the settler cause him to reach for his knife at the slightest aggressive glance cast on him by another native. By this tribal feud, the native presumes that colonization doesn’t exist. He shows the behavioral pattern of avoidance, ignoring the obstacle and plunging into fraternal blood bath thus putting off till a later date the inevitable armed resistance to colonialism. He engages in collective autodestruction to set his tension free. His conduct is the result of death reflex when faced with danger, a suicidal behaviour which proves to the settler the need to dominate the natives, who are not reasonable human beings. The native bypasses the settler, attributing his misfortunes to fate and accepts the disntegration ordained by the God. He bows before the settler and acquires a stony calm by an interior restabilization.
The native will strengthen the inhibitions which contain his aggressiveness by drawing on myths, inhibitions more powerful than the settler. And these magical superstructures permeats the native society and fulfils certain well defined functions in the dynamism of libido which is a concern of the family or a group in underdeveloped societies. Prehistoric societies attach a great importance to the unconscious. The atmosphere of myth and magic takes on an undoubted reality, by terrifying, it integrates the natives into traditions, reassures, gives a status of identification and perenniality of the world belonging to natives. The zombies are more terrifying than the settlers, still the supernatural magical powers are essentially personal, thus shrinking the settlers powers. Natives no longer need to fight against the settlers, since what counts is the frightening enemy created by the myths.
In the colonial world, Fanon says, the emotions of the colonized are “kept on edge like a running sore flinching from a caustic agent,” and their bodies respond with spastic muscles. To understand the colonial world, one must understand dance and possession, which is the way in which the colonized relax their tense muscles. Their emotional sensitivity expresses in the form of dance and seances. They relax during muscular orgies where the aggressivity and violence canalizes, transforms and is conjured away. The orgies take place in a communal circle, a pantomime to exorcize, liberate and explain, to allow the accumulated libido and hampered aggressivity to flow away after undamming. The possessions, exorcisms and senaces are disintegration of their personality, splitting and dissolution which restores a kind of peace after they are finished. People get alienated from these practices durin gthe struggle for freedom. With his back to the wall, gun and knife in his hands he confronts the colonists with violence into freedom.
The urgent matter to a native in the thick of the fight is to decide the means and tactics to conduct and organize a coherent revolution without the reactionary risks it entail. The nationalist political parties, intellectual and commercial elites proclain abstract principles, but do nothing. Their action is electoral type, a string od philosophicopolitical dissertations on rights of people, self- determination, human dignity, freedom . They do not want armed rebellion, their objective is not radical overthrowing of the system , but they are pacifist and legalists who are partisans of the order. They just need votes and power, they are violent in their words and reformist in actions. The rank and file who follow them is urban- teachers, shopkeepers, artisans who profit from the colonial set up. These parties conduct dialogues with the settlers for reforms and a large number of natives are militat members of the branches of parties originating from the mother country. Thus the native intellectual has clothed his aggressiveness in his barely veiled desire to assimilate himself with the colonialists. Fanon writes, but the colonized masses don’t want to complete with the colonist. Instead, the colonized masses want to take the place of the colonists.
The peasantry who is disregarded by the elites, are the only revolutionary people, having nothing to lose and everything to gain, who understands that only violence pays. Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body with reason, it is just violence in it’s natural state which will only yield when confronted with greater violence. The colonialist bourgeois advocates non-violence, the same interest as the intellectual and economic elite. An attemot to settle the colonial problem around a table gets serious when the masses rebel without waiting for discussions and then the intellectuals run to settlers to find a solution for urgent compromise. The compromise is significant for the settlers, intellectuals, bourgeoisie and leaders. Discovering that the masses might destroy everything including the economy, the last three groups offer to act as go- betweens of settlers and masses, keeping their safe distance from the violent masses.
The nationalist parties explains, excuses and sometimes condemns this violence declared hateful by the press and public of the mother country. The ecuse for this ultra conservative policy is the desire to objectively see things, though in reality their attitude is not objective at all. They are not convinced the violence will serve their interests, they consider it as an act of suicide. Fanon quotes Engels from his book, ‘ Anti-Duhring‘ which is a polemic against Duhring’s views on socialism. Engels substantiates how revolution, and violence is interlinked with production and economy of the state and the material means which the same violence commands.
Fanon considers weapons or implements important in violence against colonists along with methods like guerilla warfare. Capitalism in mother countries has modified its concepts from using colonies as a source of raw materials to making the colonies a market for consumption. For reinforcing their military garrisons, this is essential and so the colonial bourgeois does not support the government of the mother country advocating for decimating the colonial slaves. Thus there is a detached complicity between capitalism and the the violent forces in the colony. The natives are supported by progressive countries, there is competition to divvy up the colonies among European countries. So, Fanon says, wars are not waged against the rebels, though the military will go on playing with tin soldiers since the higher finance will bring the truth back home. Moderate nationalist political parties of the colonized try to come to a solution with colonists that protect the interests of both sides by reformist measures, and their methods are generally peaceful. They utilize work stoppages, demonstrations, and boycotts that put pressure on colonists and allow the colonized to expend some of their pent-up aggressiveness, but, Fanon says, they are still ultimately under the control of the colonists.
The national leaders, with their so-called progressive actions, make the natives dream, but avoid the actual overthrowing of the state. They use the national or tribal language and speak of ” We Africans or we Arabs”, ambivalent and dreams are encouraged. This gives the people the idea that it is time to do something, but the rise of a new nation and the removal of the colonial system are only possible if the colonized violently rebel against the colonists. The settlers who get the air of violence , aggressiveness, become astir. The authorities arrest leaders, organize military parades, but the war manoevres only serve to reinforce their aggressiveness. In this atmosphere when all nerves are jangled, a single commonplace incident starts the machine gunning. Fanon gives Setif in Algeria, Central Quariies in Morocco and Moramanga in Madagascar as examples.
The colonial repression and mass slaughter urges on the national consciousness and the belief in force to solve the issue. The nationalist parties mostly remain outdistanced from the violence of the militants against the military force. The prolonged establishment of large forces of occupation by the colonialist forces in colonies for long period of time are not practical since they need these forces to protect their regimes. Even after the independence, the masses realize that it wasn’t worthwhile since that brings no immediate change for most of them. This exists as a masked discontenst amongst them. So, the violence does not disappear since the reconstruction of the nation continues within the framework of cut-throat competition betweeen capitalism and socialsm. It achieves universal dimensions, like the Sharpeville massacres in South Africa that shook public opinion throughout the world for months. It was througgh this incident in 1960 that the people became aware of the apartheid in South Africa.
The colonized, who are completely supported by socialist countries, will use any weapon to fight the colonists, including the Cold War. The Americans closely guard international capitalism, and they recommend that Europe decolonize and proclaim their ‘respect and support of the principle of Africa for Africans ‘( Mr Mennen William‘s, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, statement that sparked controversy). But the greatest threat, according to the colonists, is socialism, and the colonized masses can be easily infiltrated and contaminated by socialist propaganda. Also, violence and revolts imbalance the colony’s economic life. Therefore, capitalism has everything to lose if there are national conflicts, and the colonized people know all about the imperatives of international politics. The newly liberated Third world countries get trapped in the whirlpool of Cold War. While the western press try to ambiguously or negatively portray the leaders and the Third World. Similarly, the new tone that swamped the international diplomacy in the UN General Assemblyin 1960 showed the tiny role played by the Third World countries and inadmissible nature of the veto power of the superpowers.
The free world has everything to lose from the native violence. To avoid the startegic insecurity, the breakthrough of socialist doctrine into the masses and hatred of millions of men the west supports decolonization. Later the question of minorities will be addressed. Fanon says, it is not by chance that there exists in the free world committees for support of Jewish minorities in USSR nor by accident that General De Gualle in one of his orations shed crocodile tears over millions of muslims oppressed by Communist dictatorship. Both capitalism and imperialism control the struggle against racialism by aids, they practice anticolonialism as did the French colonels in Algeria with SAS carried out subversive warfare or psychological services by turning people against people in Algeria.
Though the independence has brought moral compensation and dignity, the natives find it difficult to elaborate a society and affirm values. The political leaders, when faced with this situation choose neutralism.Neutralism is equated with tainted mercantilism by some, taking what it can get from both sides of cold war countries. Though it allows the third world to receive aid, it does not allow either party to receive aid to the extent that is necessary. Mostly it is for the benefit of the donor country itself, like in the case of France trying out atomic bomb tests in Africa. The people of Africa might not have much influence in this.
Fanon says neutralism makes the third world citizens fearless, defiant and tough that dumbfounds the western observers. Though they try to shut the loudmouths of these empty countries, instead their neutralism prompts the two blocs to invite them to dinner, take the governing class and students to follow courses on either socialist planning in Moscow or liberal economy in London or Columbia University. Fanon says, this kind of facile internationalism is the characterestic feature of underdeveloped countries.
Fanon points to the Manichean nature of the settler- native combat, the us vs them in a world divided in compartments. The armed and open struggle was seen in Indo China, Indonesia,NorthAfrica. The native affirms that the colonialist understands nothing but force, just as the colonialist told of the natives. The colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force, the statues of conquistadors in colonial soil is proof, they proclain “We are here by force” ( Fanon evokes the quote of the Count of Mirabeau (9 March 1749 – 2 April 1791), a leader of the early stages of the French Revolution “I am here by the will of the people, I shall leave only by force of bayonets”.
The sort of ethnic cleansing by taking the lives of the natives in groups destroys the very thing the colonizer want to preserve. Sartre quotes from Immanuel Kant‘s ‘Critique of Pure Reason‘- ” By the very fact of repeating the racist ideas, the simultaneous union of all against the natives is unrealizable. Such union only recurs from time to time and only come into being as an active groupment in order to massacre the natives- an absurd though perpetual temptation to settlers, which even if it was feasible would only succeed in abolishing colonization at one blow”
Thus shooting down 200 or 300 natives and the reasoning of this arithmetics, instead of leaving the native lamenting in moral indignation or shaken, instead of seeking justice from the colonizer, prompts the native to group in 200 or 500 and deal with the settler. For the native a rebel or militant is a man who works, whose hopelessness was proportional to confidence. In Kenya, the Mau Mau requird that each member of the group should strike a blow at the victim, each thus personally responsible for the death of the victim. The colonized man finds his freedom in and through violence, it is a means and end. Aime Cesaire‘s poetry takes on this aspect of violence a prophetic significance. We can see this in the portion where The Rebel explains his conduct in his poem.
Fanon explains that daily life becomes impossible for the native in a violent atmosphere such that the violence and counterviolence reaches reciprocal homogeneity. The settlers intimidate the nationalists and natives. The response to counterviolence is far out of proportion in the form of machinegunning from planes and bombardments from fleet. Fanon stresses how the speeches on equality of human beings are out of pace with actions. A few colonizers killed would kindle the indignation of all civilized consciences, wheres the massacre of whole population of natives would garner least attention and importance.
Fanon mentions that in all armed struggles there exists a point of no return. Almost always it is marked off by a huge and all inclusive repression which engulfs all sectors of colonized population. The point was reached in Algeria in 1955 with 12000 victims of Phillipperville and in 1956 with Lacoste’s instituiting of urban and rural militia. ( Robert Lacoste’s( the French colonal minister) policy was to rule Algeria through decree, and he gave the military exceptional powers. At the same time, he wanted to give the country a decentralized administrative structure that allowed some autonomy. In reply of the UN General Assembly wish in 1957 of a cease fire, Lacoste decided to form urban and rural militias by arming civilians, to persecute the local Algerians)
The violence binds the people together, forms individual links within the organism of violence, mobilizes people in one direction. The mobilization of the masses when it arises out of a war of liberation, introduces into each mans consciousness, the ideas of a common cause, of a national destiny and collective history. Colonialism is separatist and regionalist, encourages chieftaincies and Maraboutic confraternities that would prevent national unification. Thus native violence helps dismantle these same things and unifies the natives. Violence is a cleansing force at individual level, freeing him from inferiority complex, despair, inaction, fear. Here the responsibility and right of violence is shared by all equally, so the leader does not have any special merits. So the reticence of masses to the machinery of the protocol of the independent young government. They are unwilling to palce their future or destiny in the hands of a living god, demagogues, opportunusts or magicians.
Violence in the International Context
Fanon says the manner of setting out the problem of evolution od underdeveloped countries post decolonization is neither correct not reasonable. The nation possessed by a sort of creative madness throws itself into a gigantic and disproportionate effort of climbing out of the morass and catching up with the other nations by the only means at hand. He says the European nations achieved development and national unity when the middle classes concentrated wealth in their hands, came to power, ran businesses, industrialized the country, developed communications and searched for overseas outlets. All European national acheved an uniform stage economically when they attained national unity.
The absence of infrastructure, the geography of hunger in the shrunken bellies of underdeveloped nations contrasts with the ostentatiously opulent European countries, a scandalous one since the opulence has been founded on slavery, nourished with the blood of slaves, comes from the soil and subsoil of the underdeveloped world. Fanon mentions the economic pressure set up by the colonials after their withdrawal from the colonies by withdrawing their capital and technicians. He says capitalism excersizes an economic blockade agaisnt Asian, African and Latin American countries. He gives the example of anti -Castro operations by the US on Cuba by counter-revolutionary brigades, enforcing the rule of an alternate government, burning sugarcane crops etc….Thus the apotheosis of independence is transformed to the curse of independence through the coercion by colonial powers. The masses are subjected to austerity buy the nationalist leaders and the new autarchs make them toil with their atrophied muscles.
Some countries of the Third World try to get over this by accepting the conditions of the former guardians. By using the strategic position, they become economically independent. The question that the newly independent colonies places before the world that unveils their true economic state is not the duel between colonialism and anti-colonialism or socialism and capitalism but that of the redistribution of wealth. Fanon says the underdeveloped countries should never be caught up in the competition between capitalism and socialism. He asserts that the capitalist exploitation, cartels and monopolies are enemies of underdeveloped countries and the choice should be of a socialist system oriented towards people and the principle that man is the most precious of all possessions.
The forced labor of human output as slaves of the newly formed nation, gives comfort, confidence and morale to masses, but cannot be kept up in a frenzied pace. The country finds itself followin gthe economic channels previously used by the colonizers in exploiting specific resources from the colonies. Fanon says, to change the nature of exports, reexamine all the other resources and invest in skilled people. Some countries where the colonizers have built good roads and infrastructure in the cities, by irony of fate, gives the impression of a complicit silence that their towns are contemporaneouss with independence. The colossal effort that underdeveloped countries are called upon to make, by their leaders, will not give the desired effects unless the conditions of work are modified.
The capitalist countries have exploited the the underdeveloped countries for centuries, treated them as war criminals, deported, massacred, forced to labor as slavesto increase their wealth. The governements of various European nations have called for reparations from Germany for the plunder that Nazism facilitated there. The 1945 Victory day ringed with the slogan, ‘Germans must pay’. Herr Adanauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, at the opening of the Eichman Trial, and in the name of all Germans, asked once more for forgiveness from the Jews. He promised Israel to go on paying the reparations as compensation. Still, Germany did not pay the indemnities in full to other colonies, since it was included by the West in the anti-Communist struggle. The same preoccupation is found among all colonists when they either include the colonies in the Western system or set military bases or enclaves there. The West has forgot the demands of reparations from Germany for the sake of NATO strategy, preserve the free world and Germany receives floods of dollars and machines. The so-called free Europe has the interest of a reconstructed Germany capable of defending against the Red hordes. Thus Germany has made admirable use of European crisis. Though, US and other European states feel a legitimate bitterness when confronted with the cut-throat economic competition from Germany.
The imperialists mustn’t be contend themselves by withdrawing from colonies nor the colonies be blinded or fed by this moral reparation. From all the continents under whose eyes Europe raises up her tower of opulence, there flowed outfor centuries wealth in the form of gold, diamonds, minerals, silk, cotton, slaves and other exotic products. Thus literally Europe is Third World’s creation. So the money given by these countries to the third world is not charity, but their due of reparations only. The French journalist Marcel Peju in his 1960 article ‘ To Die for De Gaulle ‘, mentions ” To make a radical difference between building up of socialism in Europe and relations with the Third world is, whether we know it or not, to set the pace for the distribution of the colonial inheritence over and above the liberation of underdeveloped countries. It is to wish to build up a luxury socialism upon the fruits of imperialist robbery- as if inside the gang, the swag is more or less shared equally , and even a little of it is given to the poor in the form of charity, since it has been forgotten that they were the people it was stolen from” .
As soon as the capitalists know that their government is planning to decolonize, and they are the first to know, they hasten to withdraw all the capital from there. This flight of the capital is one of the most constant phenomenon of decolonization. Capitalists are wary to invest in the newly independent countries, lay down conditions that are unacceptable, and they lend money only on the condition that manufactured goods and machines be purchased to keep the factories in the mother countries running. Capitalists fear taking risk, due to the unstable political and social climates of the underdeveloped country, so they look for support from their governments in maintaining military bases or military or economic pacts to seek guarantee of protection from the government. Fanon says few countries could fulfil the demands of the monopolies, so capital remains blocked and frozen in Europe without circulating, even investing in their own countries is not done sometimes, thus international capitalism sits in desperate straits.
Fanon says the Cold War must be ended,the struggle between capitalist and socialist regimes is irrelevant to development of underdeveloped countries and the fate of the world depends on the unconditional aid given to them . He also mentions the equivocal attitude of capitalist countries to Soviet Union, they now realize that they will have to reckon with them and remind the Soviets that they belong to Europe. Fanon says the Third Worls does not mean to organize a crusade of hunger against Europe, it just expects Europe to rehabilitate all oppressed mankind. He also says that this is not going to come out of the goodwill of European governments, but only from the indispensable help of European people. For this EUropean people must wake up to their colonial past, shake themselves, use their brains and stop playing the stupid game of Sleeping Beauty.
Spontaneity: Strength and Weakness
There is a time-lag or difference in rhythm between leaders of a nationalist party and the masses. The demands of the rank and file are restrained by the leaders leading to the discontent among the rank and file. The multiple demonstrationsby the rank and file educates them and a politically informed trade union member is aware that a local conflict is not the decisive settlement between himself and employers. The intellectual elite, educated from the mother country concentrate on organizing political parties similar to those in the mother countries to mobilize the masses and bring pressure on the colonialists. They are so concentrated on organizing the modern political warfare from the mother countries such that they forget the reasoned study of the colonial society with its infinite variations, lack of balance where slavery, serfdom, barter, skilled working class and high finance exists side by side. The weakness of such political parties lies in copy pasting the same structure of those parties in industrialized nations, and capitalist societies for the working class there. Another defect in the political parties in underdeveloped regions is to approach in the first place those who are most politically conscious- the working classes in towns, skilled workers and civil servants who hardly represents more than 1% of the population.
The proletariat in the town, less ready to follow orders of the political parties, form the nucleus of the colonized population pampered by the colonial regime. They have read the party publications, understood the propaganda, is in a comparatively privileged position, the ‘bourgeois’ fraction of the colonized people. They include shop stewards, intellectuals, tram drivers, industrial workers, miners , dockers and so forth. Here modern ideas reign and they strugle against old customs and obscurantist ideas. There is mistrust of the nationalist parties, town workers and intellectuals towards the rural natives. They are viewed to be bogged down in inertia. The truth here is that the rural structure ringed around by marabouts, witch doctors,chieftains and fedals is maintained by the settlers’ military and administrative officials. After nation forming the town people are going to compete with the feudal lords in rural area in many fields. Marabouts with doctors, oracles with lawyers and so forth. In the name of religion and tradition barriers could be set up by the rural chiefs who oppose, but the rising class of native traders would need the disppearance of these customs to develop. The native customers who now become aware that they were forbidden to buy modern products would become a new market to contend for.
The traditional rural authorities like the feudal leaders, tribal chieftains, confraternities who have been upheld by the colonial power view with disfavor and form a screen between Westernized nationalists and their attempts to penetrate the country districts, which would change the nature of their everlasting feudalism. Thus the enemy of these rural authorities is not the occupying power with which they get along, but the people with the modern ideas who will take the bread out of their mouths. The native peasantry live amidst a background of tradition and rigid social structures. This may give rise to movements based on religious fanaticism or trial wars. The countrypeople distrusts the townfolks who are considered as turncoats who betray everything to make up the national heritage. This antagonism is used by the colonialists to their advantage and struggle against nationalist parties.
The political parties believe in their power to give the initial impulse to the nation, but they do not find the mass of people in countrysides, and only try to erect a frame work around the people, treating villages like factory cells. The traditional chiefs are ignored or persecuted, the leaders trample on small local disputes so as to make the village history harmonious, the old tribal men are disrespected. The colonizer’s local authority use this momnet, and arrest the political leaders. This disastrous experience reinforces their distrust in country people, the mistakes are repeated even after freedom and makes for maintaining decentralization and autonomist tendencies. Thus tribalism in colonial phase gives way to regionalism in national phase.
Still the country people play a decisive part in maturing of the national consciousness, the propaganda of the nationalist parties always find an echo in peasantry hearts. The children of the villages grow up hearing the names of warriors who fought the colonialists, their dreams being that of identifying with one rebel or another.
Colonialsm, in order to reach its ends, use the usual traditional methods of frequent arrests of nationalist leaders, racist propaganda between tribes and creation of party out of the lumpen proletariat. Fanon gives the example of the rebellion of 1947 in Madagascar. The party of lumpen proletariats by it’s uprising gave the colonial authorities the legal excuse to maintain order by liquidating the main nationalist party elements. Peasants revolt with stones and spears on hearing about the reppression of nationalist leaders, murders. So they go on rampaging killing , the old warrior traditions kindled, banner of revolt unfurled and start the guerilla warfare. Colonialism takes fright, either continues the war or negotiates. The urban and rural movement develops independently according to their own dialectic. The urban leaders do not try to educate the rural masses though the latter are ready to listen to them, but hope that their momentum continues. Even though presented with opportunity, the nationalist parties do not try to integrate the people, to educate them politically or to raise the level of their struggle. Thus the old attitude of mistrust towards countryside is criminally evident. The nationalist leaders either go underground or seek refuge abroad and give the impression to colonialists that they have no connection to the revolting rurals. Fanon gives the example of Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya where not a single nationalist declared their affiliation or tried to defend the men in it.
When independence is achieved, this incomprehension reaches greater degrees . The rural folks are slow to take or resist the social and structural reforms by the new government formed by the nationalist parties, even if the reforms are progressive because the people at the head of the affairs now never explained to them the aims of the party, the national trends or the problems of international politics in the past. The mistrust of the country dwellers during the colonial period and the hostility during the national period is kept up by the colonial secret services even after independence. Thus the newly formed government is at a difficulty and even the nation has a reasonable, progressive head, the body remains weak, stubborn and non-co-operative.
To break up the stubborn body, the administration is centralized, country is sorrounded by a administrative framework and the often-heard maxim ‘ in underdeveloped countries a small dose of dictatorship is needed ‘. The government distrust takes serious proportions, the interior is considered a non-pacified area. Ironically the new government reminds of the colonial power in dealing with the countryside. But what is clear is that the offhand way in which the country people were treated before independence only prejudiced national unity when the young nation needed it the most.
Colonialism creates diversions around the upward thrust of nationalism. Instead of organizing the chieftains against the nationalist parties, colonialist help create splinter groups based on tribal parties, drowning out unity and denouncing the party of unity as a dictatorship. The same tactics will later be used by the opposition parties.
Opposition parties denounce the agreement between the other party and the colonial power. The ruling party tries to disband and discredit the demagogic opposition who in turn takes refuge in the country side. It rouses the people there against the corrupt governing party using excuses like religion, innovation breaking up tradition and so on. Revolutions and riots follow, the opposition grabs power and with this they place their goals in the hands of the obscure spontaneous mass of peasants.
Occasionally if the opposition relies on the progressive elements in the trade union the government calls upon the country folks to oppose the demands of the workers. In the beginning the trade unions are local branches of those in the mother country, later native trade unions are formed out of the struggle for independence. But the trade unionists who have lost all contact with the peasants have no idea how to organize the mass of country people though there is an agricultural union in the country side.
Trade unionists can bring the colonial capitalist economy to a standstill. The colonies in town would feel the heat if they strikes. This conflict, the interior is unaware of. Trade unionists see the immensity of the task of reconstruction, they see the influence that the middle class has on the government. Isolated from the rural population, they become more political and try to corner the middle class. They protest against the maintenance of foreign bases, denounce trade agreements and oppose the national government s foreign policy.. They also know the scandal that would fall on them if their social demands are voiced since they are the most favored section of population. So any kind of movement asking for the betterment of the living conditions of dockers or workmen would not only be unpopular but run the risk of provoking the hostility of the disinherited rural population. So they merely mark time.
This marks the need for a social program that will appeal to the nation as a whole. Unionists understand the fact that their anachronistic programs failed to enlighten or establish link to peasants who are the only spontaneously revolutionary forces of the country. The unionists attempt a coup d etat, but again the back country is left out. The national middle class employ force but the peasants shrug their shoulders since they know very well that both parties look on them as a make weight in a Machiavellian fashion.
But sometimes the peasants intervene in a decisive fashion both in struggle for freedom and nation building and this phenomenon is important in underdeveloped countries. The nationalist parties tries to break colonialism at the same time comes to a friendly agreement with them. This lack of ideology and poverty of tactics and strategy will be questioned by the intellectuals whose demands will be dismissed as childishness or immaturity by officials but supported by the revolutionary elements who would then be pitilessly disowned as adventurers and anarchists.
The revolutionary minority finds itself alone, party machine opposes innovation. Here Fanon describes the typical party leader who worked their way up from the bottom with their untiring work, sacrifice, patriotism and why they worry about the excessive legalities and ignore the intellectuals. The main leaders or seconds in command, who were arrested before and tortured by the colonial powers are not simply taking part in politics , but they were unskilled workers or seasonal laborers or chronically unemployed and for them party membership is a pass from the status of animal to that of a human. They had used their time in prison to clarify their ideas, strengthen their determination and through hunger strikes and the violent brotherhood of prisons quicklime they were hoping for freedom looking for an opportunity to start an armed struggle. But at the same time, outside the prison walls colonialism, attacked from all sides, was making advances to nationalist moderates.
The anarchists are made to feel that they are illegal ,undesirable elements and are shunned by the legal elements. A rift occurs between both. The illegals get in touch with the intellectuals and an offshoot underground party is formed, which is repressed by the neo colonial legal party.
Made to flee from the police, from the town, from political action, the illegals flee to the country side and mountains, infact becoming Maquisards( French guerrillas during 2 WW). The peasants protect them. They get to know the country side, forget about the town cafes, arguments about election, hear the voices and see the poverty, realize the time wasted on commentaries about colonialism. They finally come to understand with bewilderment that change over will not be reform and the political action in towns will be powerless to overthrow colonial regime.
They get to know the rural masses, understand their unwavering devotion to the cause of freedom, national struggle, violent armed resurrection, generosity, moral values, stony pride, impatience to sacrifice themselves for the cause and so forth. So the meeting between these people and the rural masses, rebels by nature, is an explosive mixture. Learning happens both ways. The armed struggle begins.
The occupiers, and the national political party leaders that condemn rebellions and force are disconcerted, the colonialists begin to reflect on the matter. All the people take part in the rhythm of the rebellion, songs are sung and the tide floods the whole nation. The national political parties are isolated. For the armed struggle to reach its culmination the rebellion is brought to cities, to the enemy camp.
The leaders of the illegal offshoot parties have either taken flight from the police or from distrust over their old political structure. The peasant fraction will be blocked at the fringes of the town. Fanon says it is exactly at this mass of humanity , hordes of starving men from the shanty towns at the core of the lumpen proletariat that the rebellion will find its urban spearhead. These people uprooted from their tribes and clans forms the spontaneous and radically revolutionary forces of colonized people.
Fanon gives the example of the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya where the British multiplied intimidatory measures against the lumpen proletariat. He says, they are like a horde of rats, whatever one does to them they are going to strike back. It endangers the security of the town and is a sign of decay on the part of colonial administration. The uprising in the towns puts pressure on colonial security services to keep guard of the people living there. The leaders of the uprising ,who witness the enthusiastic lumpen proletariat striking the colonial power , are once again convinced of the uselessness of traditional policy of demagoguery, mouthwashes, word spinning, blather and fruitless agitation. They witness the definite action of the natives without any resolutions, speeches and political trends. Spontaneity is the king. To take part in politics become synonymous with fighting the war.
Those very people who were living in narrow feuds and rivalries, who had lost their basic rights reconciliates and unites in fighting the common enemy. With increasing enemy offensives, the ragtag group is quickly overwhelmed, but fearless and careless, they refuse to abandon or beat a retreat even if losses are serious and doubts spring up and begin to weigh heavily on the rebels.
An important drawback of this spontaneous impetuosity and doctrine of instantaneity is the substitution of the illusion eternity by the reality of hard lessons of facts of bodies mowed down by the machine guns. The simple instinct to survive overtakes. Fanon gives the example in Angola in March 1961, when a group of 3000 peasants, armed and unarmed, men, women and children, flung themselves at the Portuguese outposts. They were mowed down by machine guns. The leaders realized that some other method should be utilized and during the last months of 1961 the Angolan leader HoldenRoberto reorganized the NationalAngolanArmy by employing guerrilla techniques. With the guerrilla techniques it is the guerillas who pursue and annihilate the colonial army inspite of their superior technical advantages and artillery power.
The leaders of the movement realize that the rebels must be enlightened and educated and the large scale peasant risings need to be controlled and directed into a revolutionary war. They should be made to understand that the stubborn courage and fine slogans are not enough to win a national war. With the war, tactics of the colonialists include gestures of friendship, sowing divisions or reviving tribal feuds using agent provocateurs or traditional collaborators like chiefs, caids and witch doctors. These traitors are awarded huge sums of money for this.
Fanon says that the lumpen proletariat should be given full attention since they could easily be manoeuvred. Due to their ignorance and incomprehension they could easily be led to fight for the oppressors. In Algeria they were enlisted in French army as hawkish and messalists. In Angola they were supplied as road openers that precede the Portuguese armed columns. The enemy is aware of this ideological weakness and spiritual instability. Thus the unanimity of the revolution crumbles and so now political education of the masses become a historic necessity.
Fanon say, the racial feeling , determination to fight for one’s life , hatred and resentment of enemy are lightning flashes of consciousness that fling the body into stormy paths can’t sustain a war of liberation. The psychological manipulation of natives by the colonizer pretending to become more human might disarm the hatred felt by the natives. They throw in a few shillings too. These eye washes might succeed to some extent since the native is too starved for anything that might turn him into a human being., any bone of humanity flung to him might overwhelm him. His consciousness is precarious.
The discovery of this inherent instability in the native bewilders the leaders who try to stop the native consciousness from getting bogged down. They must be made aware that colonialism never gives away anything for nothing. That is not the goodwill of the colonialists, but rather the native extortion.
The indifference of the townsfolk towards the revolution disgusts the peasants and strengthen their tendency to condemn them. Slowly they should be made aware that fractions of population who harbor particular interests do not always coincide with the national interest. The native who at the beginning had adopted the primitive Manichaeanism of the settler – Arab vs Christian or black vs white, realize that it sometimes happens that you get blacks whiter than the whites and the fact of having a national flag and hope of Independent nation does not always tempt certain strata of population to give up their interests or privileges. There are people who profiteer and benefit from the war.
Thus the clear idyllic light of the beginning is followed by a semi darkness that bewilders the senses. The people realize that the iniquitous face could be black or Arab. Among the colonialists too, there are people different from their species, who even condemn the colonial war, go over to the enemy, become Negroes or Arabs and accept suffering, torture and death. Voices are raised in the mother country by citizens and prominent persons to put an end the war and for the rights of the natives. The task of bringing the people to maturity is made easier by the thoroughness of the organization and the high intellectual level of the leaders. Mistakes are criticized by appraisal of past conduct.
There exists a brutality of thought and mistrust of subtlety which is hazardous, anti revolutionary and anarchists and if not immediately combated will lead to defeat of the movement.
Fanon says, violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organized and educated by the leaders make it possible for the masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without that struggle there is nothing but a fancy dress parade and the blare of trumpets. There is nothing save a minimum of readaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag waving and down at the bottom an undivided mass still living in the middle ages marking time.
The Pitfalls of National Consciousness
Fanon says, history teaches us that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. The native fights to end the abuses against him. The neoliberal universalism emerges as a claim to nationhood. National consciousness becomes an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been. The faults we find in it are sufficient explanation why in the case of young nations the nation is passed over for race and the tribe is preferred to state. These cracks in the edifice are retrogressive, harmful and prejudicial to the national effort and unity.
The traditional weakness, congenital to the national consciousness of underdeveloped countries are due the colonial mutilation of the natives, intellectual laziness of middle class, its spiritual penury and the cosmopolitan mould that its mind is set in. The national middle class in the newly independent nation, unlike the economically strong bourgeoisie of the mother country, is made of academic class and merchant class but not financiers or industrialists. Not being engaged in production, invention, building or labor it is obliged to send frenzied appeals for help to the former mother country . Though the middle classes ought to put its intellectual and technical capital at the disposal of people, they turn shockingly anti national like a traditional bourgeoisie, contemptible and cynical.
The national parties has nothing more than a bookish knowledge of their country’s resources. Without capital, unable to give free reign to its genius forces it back in years into an artisan economy. They focus on local products and are unable to seek out new systems of management thus limiting the agricultural production to that of the colonial period. The national economy is concentrated in cocoa, ground nut, olive, not a single industry is set up and thus the country goes on being Europe’s small farmers . The national middle class demands nationalization of economy and trade to transfer to their hands the unfair advantages of a colonial period.
The national bourgeoisie and the middle class raises claims to the businesses, commerce, transportation etc. They just act as an intermediary. The mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation. It’s just an intermediary between the nation and capitalism, also called neo colonialism. The national bourgeoisie becomes the western bourgeois ‘s business agent, a cheap Jack function, absent ambitions, pioneering or invention. The national bourgeoisie is indulgent, decadent as the western one, greatly helped by the western ones who go to these nations as tourists and big game hunters. In the pretext of tourism, the national bourgeoisie arranges these for the western counterparts. Fanon gives the example of Latin America, the casinos of Havana, Mexico, beaches of Rio. The middle class is bereft of ideas, cuts itself from people, can’t see the problems of the nation from the perspective of the whole of nation and become the manager of the western enterprise, a brothel of Europe. The technocrats and businessmen of the US are similarly indulgent the luxurious depravities of Latin American subtropical reserves.
The big farmers sweep away the lands owned by the colonial settlers after independence, demands nationalization of agricultural production, with out any innovation. The landed bourgeoisie demands facilities from the state, make the laborers do enormous work in the name of nation building like the colonialists used to do, but without any planning, modernization, development or initiative, without taking slightest of risks, without re investing the profits from the capital.
While the national bourgeoisie goes into competition with Europeans for power, the working class, artisans and craftsmen start a fight with non national Africans. Example, the racial riots in IvoryCoast against the Dahoman and Voltaic people. These tribes who controlled greater part of petty trade, once Independence was declared, became objects of hostility from the people of Ivory Coast. From nationalism to ultranationalism, chauvinism and finally racism. In Senegal it was the antiSudanese demonstrations. While the Senegalese wanted to get rid of the Sudanese, the Congolese brought pressure on Senegalese settled there to leave. For the national bourgeoisie the Europeans were the ones to be got rid of, but for the masses of people in the towns the competition is from Africans of other nations.
Thus the bourgeoisie demands for a ruling class made of Negroes or Arabs do not spring from nationalism but the desire to grab power. Similarly the masses place the notion of Negroes or Arabs within certain territorial limits. African unity fades into oblivion and chauvinism makes its appearance. MamadouDia, the Senegalesepolitician who served as the first prime minister of Senegal from 1957 to 62, says,
” On the Senegalese side, the leaders who have been the main theoreticians of African unity were mistaken not to have taken into consideration the pre colonial fact of territorialism, under the pretext of fighting Balkanization. Territorialism, fruit of colonialism, is a sociological fact which no theory or unity can abolish. We are seduced by a mirage, a pleasing structure, mistaken our ideal for reality and believed that it was enough to condemn territorialism and its sequel, micro nationalism, for us to get better of them and to assure the success of our chimerical undertaking“
Due to a failure of the national bourgeoisie ‘s mistrust toward the mas5, haziness of its political tenets, inability to educate the masses they fall back to the old tribalism and demands the other Africans to go home. In young Independent countries here and there federalism triumphs. Colonialism exploits resource rich areas making relatively richer than other areas. After independence, nationals living in relatively prosperous areas refuse to feed the poor areas, look down upon them with hatred, thus old rivalries and inter racial hatred surface again. Balubas refuse to feed Luluas in Congo (http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,894636,00.html). Katanga forms itself in to a state (https://www.britannica.com/place/Katanga-historical-state-Africa) .
The African unity that put an end to colonialism crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow cell of nationality. The racial and tribal rivalries equally give rise to religious rivalries. In the country side and bushes, minor confraternities, local religions, and maraboutic cults will excommunicate again and in big towns at the level of administrative classes Islam and Catholicism reveals themselves. Colonialism finds opportunity in this and reveals spiritual rivalries. In Senegal the newspaper NewAfrica distilled hatred of Arabs and Muslims. The Lebanese owning small trading enterprises are marked for obloquy. Christian missionaries talk in length about the Arab occupation of Africa before the European colonization, the Arab imperialism and the cultural imperialism of Islam. Muslims are kept out important posts, and in some other religions Christians are penalised. Colonialism sets at loggerheads those Africans who fought together against the settlers. Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam compete among one another. The religious tension gives rise to racial tensions.
Africa is divided into North and South, White and Black, white Africa is boasted as civilized, Mediterranean, of GrecoLatin civilization and black Africa is looked down as uncivilized, savage, veiled women, polygamy and misogyny of men are condemned. The national bourgeoisie takes over the assimilated colonialist thought from the Europeans and establishes a racial philosophy extremely harmful for African future. Fanon says it isn’t surprising to see extreme examples of racism in Africa and also the paternalistic behavior that is frequently found in Paris, Brussels or London. In certain regions of Africa the loathsome idea derived from the Western culture that blacks are impervious to logic and sciences reign in all their nakedness. Students from south of Sahara who attend schools and universities in the north are often asked if they have housing, electricity, if they practice cannibalism and so forth. Similarly in the young states of black Africa, the members of the parliament talk seriously that the danger is not in re occupation by colonialism, but by the invasion of vandals of Arabs from the North of Africa.
The national bourgeoisie is bankrupt economically, morally, politically and philosophically. The national bourgeoisie,though affirms positively with some democratic ideas, is forced to deny its humanistic ideology. The western bourgeois, though fundamentally racist, manages to mask this racism by nuances that allow it to preserve intact the proclamations of mankind’s outstanding dignity. The racial prejudice of the western bourgeois is the racism of contempt, a racism that minimizes what it hates. The bourgeoisie ideology, equality between men, manages to appear logical by inviting the subhuman to become human and to take as their prototype the western humanity. While the racial prejudice of the young national bourgeoisie is that of defense, based on fear. Observers, for this reason, take African unity less seriously because all the cracks are too visible to be ignored.
The national bourgeoisie,, in order to make their fortunes and exploit, put obstacles to the path of utopia. They bar the way to unity of 250 million men to triumph over stupidity, hunger and inhumanity. Fanon says ,for this reason , African unity can only be achieved by the upward thrust of the people, under the leadership of the people and in defiance to the interests of the bourgeoisie. In some countries the parliamentary game is faked, powerless economically and with out social relations, dominating as a class the bourgeoisie root for single party. Ordinary citizen is made anxious, state imposes itself on them, jostles them, bullies and make them aware of the continuing danger. The single party is the modern form of dictatorship of bourgeoisie.
Such a dictatorship doesn’t go far. The national bourgeoisie does not have the economic means, is pre occupied with filling its pockets, the country sinks to stagnation and repression, and in order to hide this , reassure itself and to give it something to boast about, the bourgeoisie erect grandiose buildings and lay out money for prestige expenses. The national turns its back on the interior, underdeveloped country side and more and more look toward the mother country and the foreign capitalists. There is a need for a strong man leader for stabilizing the dictatorship and for perpetuating the domination of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie dictatorship in underdeveloped countries draws its strength from the existence of leader who stands for the moral power in whose shelter the poverty stricken bourgeoisie decides to get rich. On the contrary in well developed countries the bourgeoisie dictatorship is the result of economic power of bourgeoisie. The newly Independent citizens see a new leader who helps the national bourgeoisie prosper and the ex colonial companies profit. The leader’s honesty crumbles, he comes to believe that his authority is hated, judges the ingratitude of masses harshly and he moves resolutely towards the side of exploiters into neo colonial lines.
Economy is controlled, sustains from loans and gifts and from the capital of the mother country. The colonial power increases its demands. People stagnate in poverty and they slowly awaken to the treason of their leaders. Majority of people die of starvation. Stormy days await the bourgeoisie class. They pass disparaging judgment on the masses reminiscent of the racist doctrine of the former colonial power. The authority will try to reaffirm the dictatorship. The leader, a screen between the people and the rapacious bourgeoisie, with a lifetime of political action and patriotism, stands with the bourgeoisie class defending their insolence, mediocrity and immorality and thus tries to put a brake on the awakening consciousness of the people. He reminds the masses of his patriotism, heroism, thus telling them to put their faith on him. These patriotic men who had come from the backwoods, spoke in the name of Negroes, sung praises of the race, who had taken upon themselves the whole burden of the past including degeneracy and cannibalism, now , heads a team of administrators who turn their backs on the jungle and proclaim to the people to go on obeying.
Instead of opening a future for the masses, flinging them into the path of reconstruction the leader asks the people to get drunk on the remembrance of the epoch that led to independence . During the struggle for liberation, the leader awakened the masses and promised them a forward march, today he uses every means to put them to sleep and asks them to look back on the long way they have come. The peasants who scratch out a living from the soil, the unemployed who go hungry have no illusions and they begin to sulk. The party led by the leader during independence has disintegrated. The give and take from bottom up and top bottom that guarantees democracy no longer exists. It becomes a screen between people and leaders.
The demands of the militants of the party, who during the revolution asked the leaders to create a dogma and objectives, were rejected by the leaders in the name of the only dogma of national unity and ideology of right of people to self determination. After independence the party sinks into an extraordinary lethargy, militants are sidelined, local party leaders are given administrative positions, and militants disappear into ordinary citizens. After having fulfilled the mission of leading the bourgeoisie to power, the militants are made to retire. The national bourgeoisie, incapable of carrying out any mission whatsoever except immobilizing the people, lead the party to break up into a skeleton of former self. The intellectuals rally to secure their slices of the cake of independence and the party becomes a means of private advancement.
Even inside the party the wealth misappropriation is unequal. Corruption triumphs, the people hemmed in and immobilized, people are coerced, held down, government becomes anti democratic, phase of construction of the nation is jettisoned for wealth misappropriation and the parliamentary phase chooses dictatorship. Thus Fascism triumphs. This is what happened in Latin America, a dialectical response is states which are semicolonial after independence. In the under developed countries the rule is that the greatest wealth is surrounded by greatest poverty. The army and police are the pillars of the regime, advised by foreign experts, whose strength is proportional to the stagnation of the rest of the country . The opposition becomes aggressive, people become hostile but the young bourgeoisie who is precociously senile takes no heed. The enormous profits they make is exported to foreign countries. The national bourgeoisie is more suspicious of the regime that it has set up than the foreigners, so they don’t invest in their own country. Such exploitation and contempt of the state inevitably give rise to discontent among people and the regime becomes more harsher. The army becomes the arbiter, realizes its power and hold over the government ‘a head a threat of manifesto.
Fanon says, the national bourgeoisie of underdeveloped countries has learned nothing from books. They never learned from the examples in Latin American countries. It is obvious that in underdeveloped countries the construct of an elaborate bourgeoisie society is always condemned to fail. There is police dictatorship and the profiteering caste become strawmen at the hands of the police, cleverly handled by foreign experts who practices indirect government from their mother countries through the bourgeoisie that it upholds, national army led by its experts that pins the people down, immobilizing and terrorizing them.
Fanon says, the combined effort of the masses led by the party and of intellectuals who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles ought to bar the way to this useless and harmful middle class. This has been a theoretical question raised for the last 50 years in the history of underdeveloped countries, whether or not the bourgeoisie phase can be skipped. This ought to be answered by revolutionary action and not by logic. Fanon says, the bourgeoisie phase in underdeveloped countries can only be justified in so far as the national bourgeoisie has sufficient economic and technical strength to build a bourgeoisie society, to create conditions necessary for the development of a large scale proletariat, to mechanize agriculture and finally to make possible an authentic national culture.
There are clear differences from the European bourgeoisie that developed in Europe with an elaborate ideology, resources to strengthen its power, who succeeded in accumulating capital, dynamic, educated, secular and has given the nation prosperity. But those in underdeveloped countries are not true bourgeoisie, are greedy hucksters glad to accept the dividend from the former colonial power, incapable of ideas and inventiveness. It remembers what it has read from European textbooks but imperceptibly it becomes not even the replica of Europe but its caricature. Even the investments it procures from the West is a kind of neo colonial industrialization in which the country’s economy flounders. The bourgeoisie phase in underdeveloped countries is utterly useless since it takes over unchanged the legacy of economy,the thought and institutions left by the colonialists .It’s numerically, intellectually and economically weak.
Certain members of the elite, intellectuals and civil servants who are sincere feel the necessity for a planned economy and outlaws profiteers and prohibit attempts at mystification. Fanon says, closing the road to national bourgeoisie is the only way to prevent decline of morals, corruption, economic regression, and an anti democratic regime that depends on force and intimidation. It is also the only means towards progress. The bourgeoisie is the direct product of economic conditions. The native bourgeoisie, some traders and intellectuals try to identify with the western bourgeois who run the colonies, but soon find that what they themselves lack is money.
If the government want to bring the country out of stagnation towards progress, it should nationalize the intermediary trading sector that the bourgeoisie has hold on. That doesn’t mean strict state control, which would amount to dictatorship of civil servants. This one is done on a democratic basis, by decentralizing and getting the masses involved, which in turn need them to be politically educated. This doesn’t mean mobilizing people for gatherings, which is akin to old tactics of proving that there are people behind them. The political education of masses means not to treat them as children but to make adults of them.
Fanon goes on to discuss the role of political parties in an underdeveloped country. The national bourgeoisie is convinced of the need for dictatorship. The party is given the duty to supervise the masses, control them, not to make the people participate in governance but to make them obedient and disciplined with the help of police. The incoherent mass of people is considered as a blind force that must be held in check by mystification or fear instilled by police force. The opposition party members are beaten, intimidated, condemned first to silence and later to a clandestine existence. Thus the party instead of welcoming the popular discontent and the free flow of ideas from the people forms a screen . Thus the party that once used to claim that it worked for the full expression of people hasten to send the people back to caves. Most of the time national unity is jettisoned and party is formed on ethnical lines forming an ethnical dictatorship. Thus we see a tribaldictatorship. Party positions are given on nepotistic ethnical lines. The tribalizing of central authority encourages regionalism and separatism, decentralization results, African unity disappear, different tribes try to ascertain their specific positions and the leaders cry treason.
The leader yields a baleful influence. He acts like a gangster who strikes terror. But the people refuses to be led since they are no longer a herd. Ideally the political parties should be trust worthy, not a tool in government hands, people should decide the policy. Decentralization, avoidance of excrescense of already well developed capital cities and towns, moving developments to country sides etc.should be done. No one should hold a position of highest rank or that of head. For people, party should not be an authority but an organism through which they express their will and exercise their authority. In short party should not be mingled with the government, should not have administrative powers, but act as regional body.
Fanon stresses the importance of regional organizations in country sides to awaken the region and bring progress. In the capital the government services are enormous and all the party officials, bigwigs and militants edge themselves into the government machine. The dream of all the citizens is get to the capital, so they desert the local districts turns their back on fields and the uneducated, unsupported masses of lumpen proletariat flocks towards the outer ring of suburbs. To avoid a national crisis, government should de consecrate the capital, capital should be moved to the interiors, people in back country should be served there and it should be made the most privileged part of the country. Brazil tried to find the new capital Brazilia with this idea in mind, the dead city of Rio de Janerio was an insult to Brazilian people. But the only advantage now is that a road exists through the bush to it. Fanon says, the life in the capital is like a foreign body in the life of the nation.
The party instead of being an agent of transmitting government orders should become the energetic spokesman and incorruptible defender of the masses. The western bourgeois thought that the masses are incapable of governing themselves must be jettisoned. The greatest good of Algerian revolution was to bring intellectuals to the masses, to make them witness their poverty, awakening of intelligence and progress of their consciousness. These starving illiterates held up against tanks, machine guns, air strikes, napalm, psychological serv6, corruption, brainwashing, traitors, would-be dictators etc etc. The people have progressed. Arms factories are working in the midst of the mountains, people’s tribunals, local planning commissions, large scale holdings are working for the future.
Fanon says that if technical language understood only by graduates is used, one can prove the necessity of top down management of masses. But if you use day to day language, not to confuse the masses, they seize all the meanings and tricks. It’s evident that the technical language is hard put to hide the lecturer’s wish to cheat the people and leave them out of things. And this technical language is the mask behind which stands out the much greater business of plunder. Everything can be explained to people on the single condition that you really want them to understand. If the rulers think that they don’t need the people and they may hinder the smooth running of enterprises meant to make them even poorer, then the issue is quite clear.
Letting the people participate in running the country speeds up progress. Fanon gives an example from Algeria itself when the political commissioners in 1956-57 took steps to quash black market profiteering by retail6in certain zones where the French colonialists had forbidden the people to move freely to towns and buy provisions. The people understood the basic economics of extortion, how the rich became so, not from hard work but from extortion and robbery. The true fruit of Algerian revolution was that people realized that everything depends on them and in the true understanding of their enemies. The people started using their brains and hearts along with the muscles. They started asking questions why the products are exported and not made available for local consumption.
The future of the underdeveloped countries remains as a closed book as long as consciousness of the people remains imperfect, elementary and cloudy. Fanon writes about the influence of the west on young people that shakes old traditions like pornography, alcohol, and which shakes old traditions. The government should take the responsibility of providing employment for the idle young. Instead of turning their attention to creating sportsmen, fully conscious men should be churned out who play sports as well. We ought not to develop exceptional people who is another kind of leader , but we need to uplift people, develop their brains, fill them with ideas, make humans out of them. Political education does not mean delivering lo g harangues, but opening their minds, awakening them, allowing the birth of their intelligence, to invent their souls as Cesaire said.
The summit of power draws its its worth and strength from the existence of people at the base warring for the country. It’s the people who freely create the summit and not the summit that tolerate the people. African people have come to realize that dignity and sovereignty are equivalents and free people living in dignity are sovereign people. It’s no use demonstrating that African people are childish and weak. A government or party gets the people it deserves and the people in turn get the government it deserves. The struggle for sovereignty should be collective and the responsibility should be equal at the top and the base. In a struggle, no one is clean. Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor. Fanon says, the government should take responsibility for the totality of the nation, the national consciousness among young should be raised with the help of military and civil service, the feudal tradition of patriarchy must be guarded against, equal rights given to women, and detribalization done. The army should be nationalized, educated politically, prevented from becoming autonomous.
Nationalism that glued the people together against colonialists dies away the moment independence is acquired. Nationalism is not a political doctrine or a program. If regression is to be avoided, a rapid step must be taken from national consciousness to political and social consciousness. The battle against hunger, poverty, ignorance and unawareness should be ever present in the muscles and intelligence of the masses. What can be more dangerous is when social consciousness is reached before national consciousness. Then fierce demand for social justice which paradoxically is allied with primitive tribalism occurs. And if nationalism is not enriched and deepened by a transformation into social and political needs or in other words into humanism it leads to a blind alley.
In the first phase of national struggle colonialism tries to disarm national demands by putting forward economic doctrines. This delays crystallization of national consciousness for a few years. Sooner or later colonialism sees that it is not within its powers to put into practice a project of economic and social reforms that will satisfy the aspirations of the colonized. Colonialism gives proof of its inherent incapacity. The doctrine of Carteireism flourishes here. Cartier’s calls to disengage from colonies , his disillusioned bitterness could be understood thus. The obstinate determination of France to link to herself people which she must feed while so many French people live in want shows the impossible situation in which colonialism finds itself when colonial system is called to transform itself into an unselfish program of aid and assistance.
( In France, something that is very striking in making a singularity is that most of the authors who address the question of the colonial contribution to the economic growth of France fall into the Cartierism of the name of Cartier.Raymond Cartier gave his name to a current that dominates French historiography. He was a journalist for Paris-Match in the 1970s, and in his articles he advocated very strong positions.Cartierism is an attitude of disengagement, in other words, everything that this journalist wrote was to advocate that France disengage, because the colonies were a burden. This disengagement is selfish in the sense that, according to Cartier, losing the colonies was for the metropolis to become richer.If the colonies cost, by getting rid of them one would get rich, especially the colonial burden that Cartier considered too heavy would allow metropolitan capital placed in the colonial domain to return to France and develop depressed and peripheral regions of the hexagon. Raymond Cartier considered the colonies as a burden, costly and cumbersome, giving up the colonies and the possibility of bringing back capital placed abroad and misused: « it is time to devote to Lot-et-Garonne and the Lower Alps the tens of billions we waste in Senegal and Madagascar ».
Cartierism is an old idea, Voltaire makes an assessment of the colonial experience in Canada in the 1760s: « this country was inhabited by barbarians, bears and beavers, but above all it was an unproductive and expensive colony ». It was a settlement colony and this territory had to be developed. When Voltaire wrote we are at the beginning of the development and it takes time. In the idea of colonization, there is that of a gain that can be expected in the short term and that suggests impatience. For Voltaire, « if the tenth part of the money swallowed up in these colonies had been used to clear the wastelands of France, a considerable gain would have been made ». There is something of a selfish disengagement, however, there is an essential difference between Voltaire and Cartier in that Canada was a territory that had not yet shown its potential, but when Cartier in the 1950s says that empire is a burden, he forgets to mention that before being a burden, this second French colonial empire was a source of wealth and power.
In any case, in both cases, it should be noted that losing a colony is tantamount to deliverance and that the funds distributed overseas may be better spent on development in metropolitan France. It is a constant in the history of the exploitation of overseas empires as seen from the metropolises that whenever hopes of quick gains are disappointed or the colonies cease to be a source of profit, imperial enterprises are denounced as too costly. After the 1960s, i.e. after colonisation, Cartierism became a corny idea, but Cartierism is still an idea that persists.)
Once colonialism has realized that it cannot procure the material conditions that makes the people forget their concerns for dignity they fall back on using force, terror and psychological manipulations. The men of culture in the political parties demands an affirmation of existence of national culture. The native intellectuals respond aggressively to the colonial theory of precolonial barbarism. The ideas of the native intellectuals are widely professed by specialists in the mother country. The colonialists who condemn the passion of the native intellectuals forget that their own psyche and selves are sheltered behind a French or German culture that has given full proof of its existence and is uncontested . Fanon concedes that the presence of a magnificent past culture will not change the present state of a civilization in any way. He says, the passionate search for a national culture that existed before the colonial era finds its legitimate reason in the anxiety shared by native intellectuals to shrink away from a western culture in which they all risk being swamped.
Perhaps their passion is directed by the secret hope of discovering beyond the misery of today, beyond self contempt, resignation and abjuration some very beautiful and splendid era whose existence rehabilitates them. They found dignity, glory and solemnity. The claim to a national culture in the past not only rehabilitates the nation, but serve as a justification for the hope of a future national culture. The psycho affective equilibrium changes in the native. Colonialism by a kind of perverted logic, turns to the past of the oppressed people, distorts, disfigures and destroys it. In carrying out this cultural estrangement, the colonized are convinced that colonialism came to lighten their darkness and if the settlers were to leave, they would at once fall into barbarism, degradation and bestiality. The colonial mother sought itself as a protector restraining the natives from their own evil instincts, ego, physiology, biology and so forth. For colonialists, Negro is a savage race, destined to contempt, cursed by God, a country of cannibalism. The native intellectuals set out to rehabilitate the national culture does so in the name of African culture and not in the name of specific countries.
Now it must be proved that a Negro culture exists. Those responsible for this racialization of thought are and remain those Europeans who had set up white culture to fill the gap left by the absence of other cultures. The African literature of the past 20 years is Negro literature. Thus the concept of Negroism was the logical antithesis of the insults that the white men had flung at humanity. The poets of Negroism transcended continents, from America, black voices took up the hymn. The Arab world dominated by colonialism, were also force fed the same lines that before the advent of colonialism, their history was dominated by barbarism. The struggle for liberty was accompanied by the cultural phenomenon of awakening of Islam. The writers remind the people of their history, Arab civilization, etc. That national feeling is preserved despite colonialism, be it Arab or Negro. Though the national feeling has a liveliness in Arab world, contrary to African movement, everyone tries to sing praise of achievement of the nation. Fanon says, the problem is not to secure a national culture but to assume an Arabic or African culture, when dominated by a power.
For men of African culture, it became a necessity to racialize their claims and to speak more of African culture. The African Cultural Society was set up against the European Cultural Society, The Negroes of US,Central and Latin America, who were treated in the same manner as by the colonialists in Africa joined the African Cultural society. But slowly they realized that their essential problems are not the same as Africans. The civil rights issues of American Negroes have little in common with the fight of African people against colonialism. Thus an American Society for blacks were created. The Negroism and American Negro culture broke up after they realized that every culture is first and foremost national and that the problems that kept RichardWright and LangstonHughes were fundamentally different from those which might confront LeopoldSenghor and Jomokenyatta. Similarly the Arab states who had chanted the hymn of Arab renaissance realized that their geography and economic ties of the region were stronger than the past they had wished to revive. Thus the Arab states linked with the countries having Mediterranean culture. The network of trade channels that dominated during history has disappeared, they are subjected to new kinds of pressures and new channels of trade. The political regimes of Arab countries are different and a cultural meeting is meaningless. So they think on national line.
In Africa the movement of men of culture is one towards Negro African culture or Arab Muslim culture. The native intellectuals are afraid of cutting his moorings and of breaking adrift from his people. A belief in national culture will afford him a secure anchorage. He feels the need to turn back towards his unknown roots. The intellectuals who are Arab and French or Nigerian and English chooses to negate one of those. Most often they don’t negate either and take an universal stand point. He has thrown himself greedily on western culture and he tries to make European culture his own. The intellectual who has filtered into western civilization will come to realize that the cultural matrix that he has been trying to occupy can hardly supply any figureheads comparable to European civilization. The intellectual is terrified by the voids in African history written by the west, by the degradation and savagery he sees there. He feels he must get away from white culture. He seeks his culture elsewhere, failing to find the same grandiose culture of the rulers, he will fall back on emotional sensitivity and susceptibility. Then he withdraws, thus his character brings out a contradiction.
He sets a high value on the appearances of his people, custom and traditions, thus becoming a dirty wog, unrecognizable, to get as native as he can. He searches banally for exoticism. He stresses about the bad habits of colonial settlers and reminds about the good old customs of the natives. The settlers are scandalized, men whom they had considered saved souls begins to fall back to the way of biggers, they realize the uselessness, shallowness and failure of a colonial structure and all these give justification and encouragement for the intellectual to persevere in the path he has taken.
Fanon describes the three phases which the native intellectuals go through. First when he has assimilated with the culture of the settlers. His writings are inspired by European literature. In the second phase phase native is distributed, he remembers what he is. But still he isn’t part of the people. Past will be brought up in the depths of his memory. Old legends will be reinterpreted in the light of borrowed aestheticism and conception of a world under other skies. It’s a period of distress, disgust, difficulty and experience of death. The third phase called the fighting phase the intellectuals lose themselves in and with the people and shakes the people. Now he writes the fighting literature, revolutionary literature and a national literature. Under exceptional circumstances like in prison, many who had not even thought of producing literary work, becomes a mouthpiece of a new reality in action. Sooner the native intellectuals realize that you don’t show proof of the nation from its culture but you substantiate its existence in the fight which the people wage against the forces of occupation. In creating a culture the native intellectuals are actually utilizing techniques and language from the stranger in his country. The culture that the intellectual leans towards is often no more than a stock of particularisms. He wishes to attach himself to the people but instead he catches hold of their outer garments.
The objectivity which seems to characterize the people is infact only the inert, frequent adaptations a fundamental substance which is continously being renewed. Man of culture is blind to the substance. He sees the mummified fragments only. Fanon says, culture never has the translucidity of custom. It abhors all simplifications. It is opposed to custom since custom is always the deterioration of culture. Attaching oneself to traditions or bring abandoned traditions to life means going against the current of history and opposing one’s own people. Significance of tradition changes when people engage in armed conflict .Traditions are fundamentally unstable in an underdeveloped country. That is why the intellectual often runs the risk of being out of date. The truth of the nation is infact in it’s realities.
In colonized countries, colonialism, after having made use of the natives in the battle fields uses them as trained soldiers to put down the movement of independence. They are the most anti national elements. Fanon says, the native intellectuals should throw themselves body and soul into the national struggle. Their responsibility is not vis a vis national culture, but a global responsibility with totality to nationhood whose culture represents only one aspect. There is no other fight for culture which can develop apart from the popular struggle. There can be no two cultures that can be completely identical. So creating a black culture is therefore not possible. To believe that it is possible is to forget the fact that niggers are disappearing.
It is around people’s struggles that African Negro culture takes on substance, and not around songs, poems or folklore. In 1959, the cultured Africana who met at Rome were vociferous on cultural unity. One of the loudest, JacquesRabemananjara , later a minister in Madagascar’s government opposed the Algerian people in UNGA. LeopoldSenghor, later president of Senegal, also a member of Society of African culture ordered his delegates to support French proposals on Algeria. Speeches, proclamations, are not enough. The liberation of national territories, and continuous struggle against colonialism should be ascertained.
Reciprocal bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom
The colonialists obliterate the cultural life of the natives by negation of national realities, legalities introduced by the occupier, and the banishment of natives and customs to outlying districts. The colonialists make every effort to force the natives to admit the inferiority of their culture. A national culture under colonial dominance is a contested culture condemned to secrecy. The clandestine culture is seen by the occupier as attachment to the spirit of the nation and refusal to submit. Persisting in traditions and culture is a demonstration of nationality but inert, static,empty and shriveled up. Centuries of exploitation bring about emaciation of national culture. It just becomes a set of habits, dresses, without life or creativity, rigid, or rather just the dregs of culture. The withering away of the reality of the nation and death pangs of national culture are related. These along with colonial exploitation, poverty and famine lead to an open revolt.
Fanon writes about how literature is transformed under colonialism. The literature first chooses a tragic and poetic style, later on novels, short stories and essays are attempted as the struggle against oppression intensifies and becomes more precise. Themes are altered, violent, resounding, florid writings decrease in number. Actually the occupier has previously encouraged the modes of expression like stinging denunciations exposing of distressing conditions and passions as a cathartic process. But as the national consciousness of the people progress the literature gets modified and becomes precise. The lament first makes an indictment, then an appeal and later words of command. The crystallization of national consciousness will disrupt literary styles and themes and create a completely new public. Instead of addressing the oppressors he addresses his own people.
A national literature is born from this moment. The themes and styles are nationalist. They are called literature of combat because it calls on people to fight for their freedom, mould their national consciousness flinging open boundless horizons. The oral tradition of storytelling, of epics and songs became alive with modifications and allusions The artists also, by producing creative art, participate in an organized movement. Formalism is abandoned, colours and forms which obeyed the traditional rules of harmony increase in number and are influenced by repercussion in rising numbers. Others and blues which were forbidden in certain cultures now assert themselves giving rise to scandal. The native rebuild his perceptions because he renews the purpose and dynamics of the craftsman, of dancing, music and literature and the oral tradition. His world comes to lose its accursed character. The conditions necessary for the inevitable conflict are brought together.
Fanon says, it is the national consciousness which is the most elaborate form of national culture. National consciousness which is not nationalism is the only thing that gives an internationall dimension to the conflict.
Colonial War and Mental Disorders
The war inflicts ineffaceable wounds on the people. Because of systematic negation of the native’s humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates, to ask themselves the question, who am I. In the period of colonialism when not contested by armed resistance, the defensive attitude of the natives give way and they crowd the mental hospital. This calm period of successful colonization is a regular and important mental pathology which is a direct product of oppression.
Criminal Impulses in North Africans
During the colonial era, Algerians were known for their horrendous criminality. The colonist agreed that the Algerian criminality was a widespread problem, and it was believed that the Algerian was simply born a criminal. This theory was taught in universities for years, and it was assumed that the Algerian was “a habitual killer,” “a savage killer,” and “a senseless killer.” This reputation spilled over to Tunisia and Morocco as well, and they were known for a lack of emotion, and for their stubbornness and gullibility.This, too, is rooted in the racism of colonialism, as the Algerian brain is considered less developed than the white brain. In this way, the Algerian is made into an automatic criminal and a killer who murders people for sport. This is obviously a false representation—a human brain is a human brain—but it was assumed that the colonized was automatically less than their white counterpart.
It was thought during colonial times that the North African brain was underdeveloped, and the nervous system was lacking, which accounted for the criminal behavior of the Algerians. But Algerian criminality was focused nearly entirely on other Algerians, and in France, Algerian criminality was focused mainly on the French. After 1954, there was a shift, and the criminality decreased. The Algerians stopped fighting amongst each other, and even the French had to admit this.
Thus, it is fair to say that the colonial context allows Algerian criminality a chance to be reexamined. Under colonialism, the Algerians were exposed to daily murder, famine, and abuse, and, as a result, had turned on each other. Therefore, it is not the Algerian’s brain or nervous system that leads to criminality—rather, it is the colonial situation.
“Now comrades,” Fanon writes, “now is the time to decide to change sides.” We must leave Europe, he says, a country that has massacred men all over the world. Europe has halted the progress of man and enslaved others for nothing but their own greed and glory. They have taken over the world’s leadership with violence, and, Fanon says, “we have better things to do than follow in Europe’s footsteps.” Africa must not be concerned with competing with Europe or emulating it.
“Let us decide not to imitate Europe,” Fanon says, “and let us tense our muscles and our brains in a new direction.” Two hundred years ago, a former European colony known as the United States took it upon itself to compete with Europe and now the country is “a monster” where the “flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions.” In light of this, Fanon says, Africa must start a new history and “create a new man,” one that is developed with “a new way of thinking.”
ഓഷ്വിറ്റ്സിൽ വധശിക്ഷയ്ക്ക് വിധിക്കപ്പെട്ടു, ശേഷം ക്യാമ്പിൽ നിന്ന് രക്ഷപ്പെട്ട വെരാ റീറ്റ്സർ എന്ന ജൂത സ്ത്രീ യുദ്ധത്തിനുശേഷം വിവാഹം കഴിച്ച് ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലേക്ക് മാറി.1950 കളുടെ തുടക്കത്തിൽ റെയ്റ്റ്സർ വർണ്ണവിവേചന നാഷണലിസ്റ്റ് പാർട്ടിയിൽ (എൻപി) ചേർന്നു, അക്കാലത്ത് പുതിയ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി ഡി എഫ് മലൻ ജൂതന്മാർക്കെതിരായ ഹിറ്റ്ലറുടെ ന്യൂറെംബർഗ് നിയമങ്ങളെ അനുസ്മരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന നിയമനിർമ്മാണം അവതരിപ്പിക്കുകയായിരുന്നു. ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കക്കാരെ വർഗ്ഗമനുസരിച്ച് വർഗ്ഗീകരിച്ച ജനസംഖ്യാ രജിസ്ട്രേഷൻ നിയമം, വർണ്ണരേഖയിലൂടെ ലൈംഗികതയെയും വിവാഹത്തെയും വിലക്കുന്ന നിയമനിർമ്മാണം, കറുത്തവരെ പല ജോലികളിൽ നിന്നും തടയുന്ന നിയമങ്ങൾ.
ഹോളോകോസ്റ്റിനെ അതിജീവിച്ച റീറ്റ്സർ, അതിൻറെ അടിസ്ഥാന തത്ത്വചിന്തയെ അനുസ്മരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന സിസ്റ്റത്തിനായി സൈൻ അപ്പ് ചെയ്യുന്നതിൽ ഒരു വൈരുദ്ധ്യവും കണ്ടില്ല. കറുത്ത ആധിപത്യത്തിനെതിരെയും, റെയ്റ്റ്സിറിന്റെ ജന്മനാടായ യുഗോസ്ലാവിയയെ ചുറ്റിപ്പറ്റിയുള്ള കമ്മ്യൂണിസത്തിനെതിരെയും ആവശ്യമായ ഒരു കോട്ടയായി വർണ്ണവിവേചനത്തെ അവർ ശക്തമായി വാദിച്ചു. വർണ്ണവിവേചനത്തോടും എൻപി അംഗത്വത്തോടുമുള്ള ഉത്സാഹത്തിൽ റൈറ്റ്സർ ജൂത ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കക്കാർക്കിടയിൽ അസാധാരണയായിരുന്നു.
വംശഹത്യയുടെ ചാരത്തിൽ നിന്ന് ഉയിർത്തെഴുന്നേറ്റ്, യഹൂദ ആദർശങ്ങളിൽ അധിഷ്ഠിതമായ തങ്ങളുടെ രാജ്യത്തെ വംശീയ ഭരണകൂടവുമായി താരതമ്യപ്പെടുപ്പെടുത്തുന്നതിൽ പല ഇസ്രായേലികളും ക്ഷോഭിക്കാറുണ്ട് . എന്നിട്ടും വർഷങ്ങളായി ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലെ ജൂതന്മാരിൽ ഭൂരിഭാഗവും വർണ്ണവിവേചന വ്യവസ്ഥയെ വെല്ലുവിളിക്കുന്നതിൽ പരാജയപ്പെട്ടു എന്ന് മാത്രമല്ല, അതിന്റെ സംരക്ഷണത്തിൽ പ്രയോജനം നേടുകയും ചെയ്തു. കാലക്രമേണ, ഇസ്രായേൽ സർക്കാരുകളും അഡോൾഫ് ഹിറ്റ്ലറുടെ ആരാധകരായിരുന്ന ഒരു ഭരണകൂടത്തിനെതിരെയുള്ള എതിർപ്പുകൾ മാറ്റിവച്ചു. ജൂത രാഷ്ട്രത്തിന്റെ ഭാവി അത്രമേൽ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയുമായി പരസ്പരം ബന്ധപ്പെട്ടിരിന്നു .
വർണ്ണവിവേചന കാലഘട്ടത്തിലെ ആദ്യത്തെ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രിയാകുന്നതിന് ഒരു പതിറ്റാണ്ട് മുൻപ് തന്നെ,നാസി ജർമ്മനിയിൽ നിന്നുള്ള ജൂത അഭയാർഥികൾ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലേക്ക് പ്രവേശിക്കുന്നതിനെതിരായിരുന്നു Malan. ന്യൂറെംബർഗ് രീതിയിലുള്ള നിയമങ്ങളുണ്ടെങ്കിലും അവർ ഇരകളാകില്ലെന്ന് പല ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കൻ ജൂതന്മാർക്കും പതുക്കെ മനസ്സിലായി . സൗത്ത് ആഫ്രിക്കൻ Afrikaner ഭരണകൂടത്തിന് ജനസംഖ്യാപരമായ പ്രശ്നമുണ്ടായിരുന്നതിനാൽ, ജൂതന്മാരാണെങ്കിലും വെള്ളക്കാരിൽ ഒരു വിഭാഗത്തെ ഒറ്റപ്പെടുത്തുന്നത്തിൽ അവർക്കു താല്പര്യമില്ലായിരുന്നു. നാഷണലിസ്റ്റ് പാർട്ടിയുടെ തിരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പ് വിജയം ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് ഭരണത്തിൽ നിന്നുള്ള മോചനമായി പല Afrikaners ഉം കണ്ടു. ഡച്ച് റിഫോംഡ് ചർച്ച്, വർണ്ണവിവേചനത്തിനെ പഴയനിയമത്തിൽ നിന്നും അഫ്രിക്കാനർ ചരിത്രത്തിൽ നിന്നും ന്യായീകരിച്ചു. 1940 കളിൽ പലസ്തീൻ ഒരു 'land without people for a people without land' എന്ന് സയണിസ്റ്റുകൾ അവകാശപ്പെട്ട തു പോലെ പതിനേഴാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിൽ ആദ്യമായി സ്ഥിരതാമസമാക്കിയപ്പോൾ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിൽ കറുത്തവർ ഇല്ലെന്ന മിഥ്യാധാരണ Afrikaner കുടിയേറ്റക്കാർ പ്രചരിപ്പിച്ചു.
ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലെ ജൂതൻ അഫ്രികാനേഴ്സിനോടൊപ്പമായിരുന്നു,സഹതാപം കൊണ്ടല്ല, മറിച്ച് കറുത്തവർഗക്കാർക്കെതിരായ ഭയവും,വെളുത്ത സമൂഹവുമായുള്ള പൊതു ലക്ഷ്യവും ആയിരുന്നു കാരണങ്ങൾ . പതിറ്റാണ്ടുകളായി, ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലെ സയണിസ്റ്റ് ഫെഡറേഷനും ജൂത ബോർഡ് ഓഫ് ഡെപ്യൂട്ടീസും,നെൽസൺ മണ്ടേലയെ 1963 ൽ ഭരണകൂടത്തിനെതിരായ അട്ടിമറിക്കും ഗൂഡാലോചനക്കും ജീവപര്യന്തം തടവിന് ശിക്ഷിച്ച പെർസി യൂട്ടറിനെപ്പോലുള്ളവരെ ബഹുമാനിച്ചു വന്നു . യഹൂദ ജനതയെ "അപകടത്തിലാക്കാതിരിക്കാൻ" നിഷ്പക്ഷതയായിരുന്നു ഡെപ്യൂട്ടി ബോർഡിന്റെ പ്രഖ്യാപിത നയം. മുഖ്യധാരാ രാഷ്ട്രീയ വ്യവസ്ഥയ്ക്ക് പുറത്ത് കറുത്തവർക്കു വേണ്ടി വാദിച്ച യഹൂദന്മാരെ യഹൂദ സമൂഹം ഒഴിവാക്കി.
1976 ൽ ഇസ്രായേൽ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കൻ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി ജോൺ വോർസ്റ്ററിനെ, - മുൻ നാസി അനുഭാവിയും ഹിറ്റ്ലറുടെ പക്ഷത്തുള്ള ഫാസിസ്റ്റ് ഒസ്സെവാബ്രാൻഡ്വാഗിന്റെ കമാൻഡറുമായ ജോൺ വോർസ്റ്ററിനെ- ഒരു സംസ്ഥാന സന്ദർശനത്തിന് ക്ഷണിച്ചു. ഇസ്രയേൽ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി യിത്ഷാക് റാബിൻ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കൻ പ്രധാനമന്ത്രിയെ സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യത്തിന്റെ ശക്തിയായി വാഴ്ത്തി. നാസികൾ കൊലപ്പെടുത്തിയ ആറ് ദശലക്ഷം ജൂതന്മാർക്കായി സ്ഥാപിച്ച ജറുസലേം സ്മാരകം സന്ദർശിച്ച വോർസ്റ്ററിന്റെ ഭൂതകാലത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് പരാമർശിച്ചതേയില്ല . ഒരു സംസ്ഥാന വിരുന്നിൽ Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa are the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence. Both countries faced foreign-inspired instability and recklessness". അപ്പോൾ വോർസ്റ്ററിന്റെ സൈന്യം അംഗോളയെ ആക്രമിച്ചു കീഴടക്കുകയായിരുന്നു . കുറച്ച് മാസങ്ങൾക്ക് ശേഷം, ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കൻ ഗവൺമെന്റിന്റെ വാർഷികപുസ്തകം ഇരു രാജ്യങ്ങളും ഒരൊറ്റ പ്രശ്നത്തെ അഭിമുഖീകരിക്കുന്നതായി വിശേഷിപ്പിച്ചു:കറുത്ത വർഗത്തെ.
ഇസ്രായേൽ-ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്ക അച്ചുതണ്ടിനെ ഒരു പ്രമുഖ ആയുധ നിർമ്മാതാവായും അന്താരാഷ്ട്ര ആയുധ വ്യാപാരത്തിലെ ഒരു ശക്തിയായും മാറ്റിയ ഒരു സഹകരണത്തിന് വോർസ്റ്ററിന്റെ സന്ദർശനം അടിസ്ഥാനമായി. ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയുടെ ആണവ ബോംബുകൾ വികസിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിൽ കേന്ദ്രമായ വൈദഗ്ധ്യവും സാങ്കേതികവിദ്യയും ഇസ്രായേൽ നൽകി. ഇസ്രായേൽ ആയുധങ്ങളെക്കുറിച്ചുള്ള അറിവും ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്ക പണവും നൽകി. വംശീയ പ്രത്യയശാസ്ത്രത്തിൽ വേരൂന്നിയ ഒരു രാഷ്ട്രീയ പ്രസ്ഥാനവുമായുള്ള അടുത്ത ബന്ധത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് ഇസ്രായേലിനു ലജ്ജ തോന്നിയിട്ടാകണം,അവർ ഈ സൈനിക സഹകരണം മറച്ചുവെച്ചു.സുരക്ഷാ സ്ഥാപനത്തിന് പുറത്തുള്ള ചുരുക്കം ആളുകൾക്ക് മാത്രമേ ഇതിനെക്കുറിച്ചുള്ള അറിവ് ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നുള്ളൂ. യുഎന്നിൽ അവർ തുടർന്നും പറഞ്ഞു: "ഞങ്ങൾ വർണ്ണവിവേചനത്തിനെതിരാണ്, ഹോളോകോസ്റ്റ് അനുഭവിച്ച ജൂത ജനതക്കു ഇത് അസഹനീയമാണ്".
1980 കളോടെ ഇസ്രായേലും ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയും മറ്റ് ജനങ്ങളുടെ മേലുള്ള ആധിപത്യത്തെ ന്യായീകരിക്കുന്നതിൽ പരസ്പരം പ്രതിധ്വനിച്ചു. സ്വന്തം ജനത ബാഹ്യശക്തികളിൽ നിന്ന് ഉന്മൂലനം നേരിടുന്നതായി ഇരുവരും പറഞ്ഞു,ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിൽ കറുത്ത ആഫ്രിക്കൻ സർക്കാരുകളും കമ്മ്യൂണിസവും; ഇസ്രായേലിൽ അറബ് രാജ്യങ്ങളും ഇസ്ലാമും.എന്നാൽ ഓരോരുത്തരും ഒടുവിൽ ജനകീയ പ്രക്ഷോഭങ്ങളെ അഭിമുഖീകരിച്ചു - 1976 ൽ സോവെറ്റോ, 1987 ൽ പലസ്തീൻ ഇൻറ്റിഫാദ.
ഇന്ന്, ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് ഉത്തരവ് പ്രകാരം പലസ്തീൻ ആയിരുന്ന 85% പ്രദേശത്ത് ഇസ്രായേലികൾ താമസിക്കുന്നു . ഇസ്രായേലിന്റെ എക്കാലത്തെയും വികസിച്ചുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന സെറ്റിൽമെൻറ് ബ്ലോക്കുകൾക്കിടയിലും വേർതിരിക്കപ്പെട്ട റോഡുകൾ, സുരക്ഷാ തടസ്സങ്ങൾ, സൈനിക ഇൻസ്റ്റാളേഷനുകൾ എന്നിവയ്ക്കിടയിലും 15% പ്രദേശത്ത് പലസ്തീനികൾ അവശേഷിക്കുന്നു. ഇന്ന് ആഫ്രിക്കയിൽ കൊളോണിയലിസം തകർന്നു, ഇസ്രായേൽ ശക്തമായി. പ്രിട്ടോറിയയിലെയും ജറുസലേമിലെയും ന്യായീകരണങ്ങൾ ലോകം അംഗീകരിക്കുന്നില്ല. ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയുടെ വെളുത്ത നേതൃത്വം ഒടുവിൽ മറ്റൊരു വഴി സ്വീകരിച്ചു. ഇസ്രായേൽ അതിന്റെ ചരിത്രത്തിലെ നിർണായക നിമിഷത്തിലാണ് ഇപ്പോൾ നിൽക്കുന്നത്.
റോഡുകൾ എടുക്കുക. നിലവിലുള്ള പല റൂട്ടുകളും ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതിൽ നിന്ന് വിലക്കപ്പെട്ട ഫലസ്തീനികൾക്കായി വെസ്റ്റ് ബാങ്കിൽ സമാന്തര റോഡുകളുടെ ഒരു ശൃംഖല ഇസ്രായേൽ നിർമ്മി ച്ചു. ഇസ്രായേലി മനുഷ്യാവകാശ ഗ്രൂപ്പായ ബി'സെലെം ഈ സംവിധാനത്തെ വിശേഷിപ്പിക്കുന്നത് "ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിൽ നിലനിന്നിരുന്ന വംശീയ വർണ്ണവിവേചന ഭരണകൂടവുമായി വ്യക്തമായ സാമ്യതയുണ്ട്" എന്നാണ്. സുരക്ഷാ പരിഗണനകളാണ് നയം നയിക്കുന്നത് എന്ന് സൈന്യം പറയുന്നു. സെറ്റിൽമെന്റ് ബ്ലോക്കുകൾ സ്ഥാപിക്കുന്നതിലും പ്രദേശം കയ്യടക്കുന്നതിലും വെസ്റ്റ് ബാങ്ക് റോഡ് സംവിധാനം ഒരു ഉപകരണമാണെന്ന് വ്യക്തമാണ്.
ചെക്ക്പോസ്റ്റുകളിൽ ഇസ്രായേൽ സൈനികർ പതിവായി പലസ്തീനികളെ അപമാനിക്കുകയും ഉപദ്രവിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു.കുടിയേറ്റക്കാർ ഹെബ്രോണിലെ അറബ് വീടുകളുടെ ചുമരുകളിൽ വിദ്വേഷം നിറഞ്ഞ മുദ്രാവാക്യങ്ങൾ വരയ്ക്കുന്നു. പടിഞ്ഞാറൻ ജറുസലേം തെരുവുകളിൽ അറബികളായി കാണപ്പെടുന്ന പൗരന്മാരെ അവരുടെ തിരിച്ചറിയൽ കാർഡുകൾ പതിവായി ആവശ്യപ്പെടുന്നതിന് പോലീസ് തടയുന്നു. ഇസ്രായേലി തോക്കുകളിൽ മരിക്കുന്ന കുട്ടികളുടെ എണ്ണം സംബന്ധിച്ച് ചില മാധ്യമപ്രവർത്തകർ നിർഭയമായി റിപ്പോർട്ട് ചെയ്തിട്ടും ഇസ്രായേൽ മാധ്യമങ്ങൾ അധിനിവേശത്തെ അവഗണിക്കുന്നു. ചിലപ്പോൾ വിദ്വേഷം മതപരമായ വിവേചനമായി വിശദീകരിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു. എന്നാൽ ഫുട്ബോൾ മത്സരങ്ങളിലെ മന്ത്രങ്ങൾ "Death to Arabs"എന്നാണ്, "Death to Muslims" എന്നല്ല.
ജറുസലേമിലൂടെ സഞ്ചരിക്കുന്ന എട്ട് മീറ്റർ ഉയരമുള്ള മതിൽ നഗരത്തിന്റെ പടിഞ്ഞാറ് ജൂത നിവാസികൾക്ക് അദൃശ്യമാണ്.ഭൂമിശാസ്ത്രം കാരണം, നഗരത്തിലെ ഭൂരിഭാഗം ജൂതന്മാരും തെരുവുകളെയും കുടുംബങ്ങളെയും വിഭജിക്കുന്ന കോൺക്രീറ്റ് mammoth കാണുന്നില്ല, തകർന്ന വീടുകളും. ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്കയിലെ ഭൂരിഭാഗം വെള്ളക്കാരും ടൗൺഷിപ്പുകളിൽ നിന്ന് മാറിനടക്കുകയും അവരുടെ പേരിൽ ചെയ്യുന്ന കാര്യങ്ങളിൽ അന്ധരായിരിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തതുപോലെ. അഭിപ്രായ വോട്ടെടുപ്പുകൾ കാണിക്കുന്നത്, ധാരാളം ഇസ്രായേലികൾ അറബികളെ "വൃത്തികെട്ടവർ", "പ്രാകൃതർ", മനുഷ്യജീവിതത്തെ വിലമതിക്കാത്തവർ, അക്രമാസക്തർ എന്ന് കണക്കാക്കുന്നു എന്നാണ് .
വംശനശീകരണത്തിനായി പരസ്യമായി പ്രവർത്തിച്ചിരുന്ന ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥരെയാണ് ഏരിയൽ ഷാരോൺ നിയമിച്ചത്. ജനസംഖ്യയുടെ ഒരു വിഭാഗം മറ്റൊരു വിഭാഗത്തിനെതിരെ ഉപയോഗിക്കാൻ രൂപകൽപ്പന ചെയ്ത ദേശീയതയുടെയും റെസിഡൻസി നിയമങ്ങളുടെയും ഒരു വെബ് നിർമ്മിക്കുന്ന സർക്കാരുകൾ വളരെ ചുരുക്കം ഇടങ്ങളിൽ മാത്രമേ കാണാൻ കഴിയൂ. വര്ണവിവേചനത്തിലധിഷ്ഠിതമായ ദക്ഷിണാഫ്രിക്ക ഒന്നായിരുന്നു. ഇസ്രായേലും അങ്ങനെ തന്നെ.
Thomas Piketty is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is the director of studies at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS) and professor at the Paris School of Economics. He is the author of the best selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), which emphasizes the themes of his work on wealth concentrations and distribution over the past 250 years. The book argues that the rate of capital return in developed countries is persistently greater than the rate of economic growth, and that this will cause wealth inequality to increase in the future. To address this problem, he proposes redistribution through a global tax on wealth.
Piketty was born on May 7, 1971, in the Parisian suburb of Clichy. He gained a C-stream (scientific) Baccalaureat, and after taking scientific preparatory classes, he entered the Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) at the age of 18, where he studied mathematics and economics. At the age of 22, Piketty was awarded his Ph.D. for a thesis on wealth redistribution, which he wrote at the EHESS and the London School of Economics under Roger Guesnerie.
After earning his PhD, Piketty taught from 1993 to 1995 as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1995, he joined the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as a researcher, and in 2000 he became director of studies at EHESS.
Piketty won the 2002 prize for the best young economist in France, and according to a list dated November 11, 2003, he is a member of the scientific orientation board of the association “À gauche, en Europe”, founded by Michel Rocard and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
In 2006 Piketty became the first head of the Paris School of Economics, which he helped set up. He left after a few months to serve as an economic advisor to Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal during the French presidential campaign. Piketty resumed teaching at the Paris School of Economics in 2007.
He is a columnist for the French newspaper Libération, and occasionally writes op-eds for Le Monde.
In April 2012, Piketty co-authored along with 42 colleagues an open letter in support of then-PS candidate for the French presidency François Hollande. Hollande won the contest against the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in May of that year.
In 2013, Piketty won the biennial Yrjo Jahnsson Award, for the economist under age 45 who has “made a contribution in theoretical and applied research that is significant to the study of economics in Europe.”
Piketty specializes in economic inequality, taking a historic and statistical approach. His work looks at the rate of capital accumulation in relation to economic growth over a two hundred year spread from the nineteenth century to the present. His novel use of tax records enabled him to gather data on the very top economic elite, who had previously been understudied, and to ascertain their rate of accumulation of wealth and how this is compared to the rest of society and economy. His most recent book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, relies on economic data going back 250 years to show that an ever-rising concentration of wealth is not self-correcting. To address this problem, he proposes redistribution through a global tax on wealth.
Piketty has used data covering three centuries and more than twenty countries with the help of theoretical framework and statistical studies. This book is accessible to all people , even those without technical training or an economics background. The basic reason for inequality according to Piketty is :
” when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income as it did in the nineteenth century, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values in which democratic societies are based“.
He recommends that,
“democracy can regain control over capitalism by ensuring that general interest takes precedence over private interests, preserving economic openness and avoiding protectionist and nationalist tendencies”.
Debate on Wealth Distribution
Intellectual and political debate on wealth distribuiton is prejudiced and facts are scarce. Novels by Jane Austen and Balzac, films etc exposes wealth distribution, hierarchy and its implications on men and society. The significance of inequality is it’s visibility and political conflict arises from the subjective perception and judgment of each class of people. Social scientific research systematically and methodically searches for facts, patterns, informs debate and scrutinize facts, even though it is tentative and imperfect. But for a long time this was based on a limited set of firmly established facts and a wide variety of theoretical speculations. Some of the previous thinkings are given below.
Though it seems that the old economic theories of the classical school are ridiculous in retrospect, the political, social and economic changes in the late 18 th and early 19 th centuries were huge and traumatic for the contemporary economists and observers to foresee doom for wealth distribution and class structure. And they were right too in several respects.
Thomas Malthus, (English economist and demographer, one of the most influencial members of the classical school of Economics, best known for his theory that population growth will always tend to outrun the food supply and that betterment of humankind is impossible without strict limits on reproduction) in his 1798 essay, ‘Essay on Principle of Population‘ attributes reasons for upheaval to overpopulation. His source was the diary of the traveller, English agronomist, Arthur Young who chronicled the poverty, overpopulation and French Revolution while travelling through France. The overpopulation of France in the 18 th century that led to decrease in wages and increase in land rents was one of the reasons of resentment towards the aristocracy and the political regime that led to thhe revolution in 1789. He was convinced that mass poverty would lead to political upheavel and worried about the inclusion of commoners to sit along with the aristocrats in the French Legislativve Assembly in 1790. Thus wealth distribution could be seen entangled with politics, class privileges and interests. Malthus borrowed these ideas and somewhat more radically and prejudicially argued to halt welfare assistance to the poor in England and to scrutinize reproduction by the poor, lest overpopulation would lead to a political upheaval in England too.
The two most influential economists of the 19 th century, David Ricardo and Karl Marx believed that a small social group- landowners for Ricardo and Industrial capitalists for Marx- would claim a steadily increasing share of output and income. There also were optimists, liberals like Adam Smith who dismissed that distribution of wealth would be unequal in the future and Jean Baptiste Say who believed in natural harmony. None of these people had any credible statistical data as empirical source to base their observations on.
Ricardo‘s “Scarcity Principle” was explained in his ‘Principles of Political Economy and Taxation‘ (1817). Population and output increase would lead to scarcity of land which inturn would lead to increase in land prices and rent, thus increasing the share of national income going to the landlords. Ricardo suggested a steadily increasing land rent tax to offset the resulting inequilibrium. Though, his prediction did not materialize in the long run as the share of agriculture in national income decreased during the industrial revolution. But his principle explains the effect of price system in destabilizing entire economies and societies. In the 21 st centuries, the principle holds true, we just need to replace the the land with booming real estate and oil prices. Two solutions to this supply and demand mechanisms are- one, if price increases due to reduced supply, switch over to alternate ways which inturn might decrease the price , two- increase the supply of the scarce good. But both these take a long time to achive the desirable results. Thus this interplay between supply and demand affects distribution of wealth linked to extreme changes in certain relative prices.
Karl Marx explained the theory of “Infinite Accumulation” in his work, ‘Capital‘ in 1867. Rise of industrial capitalism in the second half of the 19 th century caused the national economy to grow, but inspite of that and also due to the urban migration and population increase, the proletariat wage stagnated. The sordid reality of poverty and urban misery, child labor were caught in literature such as Oliver Twist, Les Miserables, Germinaland Engel‘s ‘Condition of Working Class in England’. The economy of France and England boomed, but in spite of or because of that worker’s wage stagnated( Historian Robert Allen calls this wage stagnation, “Engel’s Pause“”) from 1800’s to 1870’s. Wages caught up with the growth and economy slightly declined in the final third of nineteenth century, but inequality remained the same. From 1870 to 1914(WW 1), the inequality just stabilized at an extremely high level and wealth accumulation shot up. This inequality was reduced by the powerful economic and political shocks of WW1.
The first communist and socialist movements grew around 1840’s when the capital contnued to prosper while the labor incomes stagnated. After half a centruy of industrial growth from the 1800′ suntil 1840’s masses remained poor. All the politicians could do was only the prohibition of child labor. It was at this time(1848) that Marx published his Communist Manifesto on the eve of ‘ the spring of nations‘ (revolutions across Europe). Over the next two decades Marx proposed the first ever scientific analysis of capitalism and its collapse through his work Capital. Like Ricardo, Marx also explained the internal logical contradictions of the capitalist system. He explained the unlimited accumulation of capital in a few hands. Marx’s conclusion was that capitalism is doomed to an apocalyptic end either by reduced returns which inturn cause conflict among capitalists or inexorably flowing returns which cause the workers to revolt.
Marx’s prophecy was derailed in the last part of 19 th century until 1914, when wages increased, purchasing power increased, but inequlaity still worsened. Communist revolution took place only in the poorest part of Europe, Russia where industrial revolution had only scarcely begun. The richer parts of Europe introduced new social democratic changes benefiting the people. Like Ricardo, Marx was also mistaken and did not take into account the technological progress in future that could to some extent offset the accumulation of wealth sometimes. The probabale reasons are lack of proper research, and statistical data, hasty pronouncements due to political fervor etc…He did not give much thought to politicoeconomic, social situations when capital is abolished, a complex and tragic one as shown by the totalitarian governments abolishing capital.
In the 20 th century magical post war period( “Trente Glorueuses” in French- 30 glorious years from 1945 to 1975), economist Simon Kuznet proposed a theory(1955) directly antithetical to the apocalyptic theories of Marx and Ricardo , that income inequality would automatically decrease in advanced phases of capitalist development regardless of economic policies until it is stabilized at an acceptable level. The economist, Robert Solow(1956) also put forward a balanced growth path where all the variables of capitalism grow at an equal pace thus reducing inequality. These optimistic predictions mirrored the optimism of Adam Smith, Jean Baptiste Say and Proudhon of 19 th century.
Kuznet, an Ukranian -American economist, Harvard educated was the first one to postulate an inequality study based on statistics of income distribution in the US over aperiod of 1913 to 1948, . In 1953 he published his ‘Shares of Upper Income Groups In Income And Savings‘. It used two groups of data- US Federal Income Tax Returns(income tax was created in 1913 only) and Kuznet’s estimates of US National income ( two indispensible data for assessing inequality). Thus he became the first person to study the national accounts of US and the first to publish a historcal data on inequality. His optimistic theory was well received in the 1980 s and 1990 s and even today by some. The data on national income became available in many countries in the period between WW1 and WW2, when income tax was introduced to tax a certain segment of the population.
Kuznet noted a sharp reduction in income inequality between 1913 and 1948. With the data available, he calculated that the top 10% of income earners claimed 45 to 50% of the national income while the rest 90%( middle and low income earners) claimed 30 – 35% of the national income in the initial part of the time period. Calculations done in 1940 showed a drastic reduction in inequality with the top 10 % claiming 30 -35% of national income and the rest 90% claiming 65- 70 %. This decrease of 10% points in the top 10% earners amounted to half the income of the poorest 50% Americans. The reduction in inequality was objectively and empirically shown by Kuznet for the first time with the positive news that inequality in US was decreasing in the 1940′ s. While the 19 th century economics were just theoretically postulating hypotheses.
But Kuznet himself was aware that the reduction in income of the top 10% between 1913 and 1948 was due to the multiple shocks triggered by the Great Depression and WW1 and WW2 that reduced the fortune of the rich and not due to the mobility of wealth from top to bottom. Though he warned people not to generalize his interpretations in his 1953 book, he gave a much more optimistic explanation for reduction in inequality in a 1954 Detroit meet of American economists. He formulated a bell curve called ” Kuznet’s Curve” ( Inverted U- Curve) which shows that in the early stages of industrialization inequality increases and then in later stages it decreases. In a 1955 paper, he reminds readers to interpret data cautiously and note the importance of exogenous shocks in reducing inequality, he suggests that the economic development could also naturally follow this optimistic path without policy interventions or external shocks , not withstanding the speculative nature of the theory. The phenomenon was thought to be reproducible in underdeveloped and developing countries too, thus it became a powerful political weapon. Kuznet reminded the listeners in the meet the optimistic predictions were intended to maintain the underdeveloped countries within the orbit of the free world. Thus Kuznets Curve was a product of the Cold War, created for the wrong reasons. Since the 1970 s inequality has been increasing in the rich countries.
Rapid growth of China and some other poor and emerging countries have contributed to the reduction in inequality at a global level. The “balanced growth path” where all economic variables are supposed to grow at the same pace is disproved by the disequilibria in different economic sectors like oil, finance, real estate etc. Piketty has used an extensive set of historical data for understanding past and present trends, patiently establishing facts and patterns comparing different countries to get a clear idea for the future.
One – sources of inequality and distribution of income.
Two- Sources of distribution of wealth and relation of wealth to income.
Piketty has challened Kuznet’s relation between economic development and distribution of wealth. As per himself, nobody has systematically pursued Kuznet’s work since the tax historical record statistics he had used falls in a no- man’s land, too historical for economists and too economistic for historians. Piketty maintains that income inequality can only be studied in a long- run perspective which is possible by making use of tax record. The household income and budget studies by the national statistical agencies rarely date before 1970 s and also tend to seriously underestimate the upper income groups’ income. But tax records tell more about high incomes and we are able to look at it at least a century back. Piketty has used the same method, sources and concepts as Kuznet to retrospectively analyse the tax records, national and average incomes and chart the patterns in France and all the rest of the 20 countries. The income tax returns allow us to study changes in income inequality and estate tax returns studies the changes in inequality of wealth. In some countrie studied, estate tax predates income tax and so wealth inequality data is much more than income inequality data. Picketty deals not only with the level of wealth and income inequality, but also the structure of inequality(their origin i.e, inherited wealth or savings) among social groups and the systems of economic, social, moral and political justification for defending or condemnng these inequalities.
One reason the book stands out from others is the long historical data to study the dynamics in retrospective, available to the author. Sometimes dating back to 18 th century as in the case of France and Britain. Some long term changes did not emerge clearly until data for the 21 st century became available due to the fact that certain shocks due to the world wars persisted for a very long time. Until the 70 s and 80 s such studies were done manually, but technological advances has made it possible to use a better and quick mode to study these.
Major Results of the Study
The first conclusion: To be wary of, i.e, economic determinism( a theory suggesting that economic forces determine, shape, and define all political, social, cultural, intellectual, and technological aspects of a civilization.). The history of inequality and wealth distribution had always been deeply political. Example: The reduction of inequality in developed countries between 1910 and 1950 was due to the policies adopted to cope up with the consequences of war. The resurgence of inequality after 1980 is due to the changes in taxation and finance, again political decisions. Thus inequality is the joint product of political, social and economic factors combined.
The second conclusion: The dynamics of wealth distribution reveal powerful mechanisms pushing alternatively towards convergence(reduction in inequality) and divergence(rise in inequality). There is no natural. spontaneous process to prevent the destabilising forces to prevail permanently.
Knowledge and skill diffusionis the key to overall productivity growth as well as reduction in inequality both within and between countries. By adopting the modes of productivity of rich countries and acquiring skills the less developed countries have increased their productivity and national incomes. eg. China.
From a theoretical standpoint, other forces can push towards greater equality. For example: requirement of greater skills of production will lead to more empowerment and income of skilled workers thus increasing the human capital over financial capital. A scientist or reasearcher or engineer who is highly skilled would make inequality meritocratic and static. Thus technological rationality leads to economic and democratic rationality.
No matter how potent the forces of skill and diffusion of knowledge is in promoting convergence between countries and within countries, powerful forces can thwart this. Eg: Educational policies, lack of investment in or access to training, availability to acquire skills and of instituitions in turn affect societal groups. Some groups benefit, while some others do not.
Deriving Picketty’s r>g as the fundamental equation of inequality
Taking two worrisome forces of divergence, Piketty tells us that the first one is less worrisome than the second. First, top earners suddenly separate from the rest by a wide margin, means they get into the top 10%. The reason according to Picketty is either the sudden increase in the skills and productivity leading them to be top earners or more plausibly that they acquire the power to set their own remuneration in some cases without limit or in many cases without clear relation to their individual productivity. This is seen mainly in the US. Second, the accumulation of wealth and capital returns when growth of economy is weak, which has the most potent destabilizing effect of the two.
To explain the divergence, Picketty has extended the Kuznets curve over a period from 1910 to 2010. Taking the income inequality of the US first, the top 10% earners claim 45 to 50% of the national income during 1910 – 1920, drops to 30 to 35% at the end of 1940, remains static from 1950 -1970, then a rapid rise in inequality after the 1980’s until the present. By 2010 it is 50% of the national income. After the Kuznet’s Bell curve, it leads directly to an U-shaped curve from the 1940 s to 2010. The rapid rise of inequality after 1980 s in the US is due to a veritable separation of the top managers to the top 10% from the rest of the labor force as mentioned before.
He plotted a second graph of the total value of the private wealth in Britain, France and Germany expressed as ratio of national income in years (capital: national income) from 1870 to 2010. In the late 19 th century, the private wealth is 6 to 7 years of national income, very high. It becomes 2 to 3 years of national income following the shocks of war during 1914 – 1945( inequality decreases). It rises after 1950 and in the twenty first century the private fortunes in al the three countries seem to be on the verge of 5 or 6 years of national income( inequality increases). We get the same U- shaped curve. The return of high capital to income ratio over the past two decades is due to slow growth of economy according to Picketty. Those already having wealth only needs a slight flow of savings to increase the stock of wealth steadily and substantially.
Thus if the rate of return on capital is significantly above the growth rate, which is more likely when growth rate is low, the risk of divergence in the distribution of wealth is high. This fundamental inequality which Picketty writes as r>g, where r stands for the average annual rate of return on capital including profits, dividend, interests, rent and other income from capital, expressed as percentage of the total value of capital and g stands for the rate of growth of the economy, i.e the annual increase in national income or output, sums up the overall logic of Picketty’s conclusions.
Returns on capital were higher than the growth rate in the 18 th centuries and early 19 th centuries and again after 1970’s. Inherited wealth is important since it logically follows that inherited wealth grows faster than the output or income. People with inherited wealth need to save only a portion of their income from the capital to see that capital grow more quickly than economy as a whole. Thus inherited wealth dominates wealth amassed by lifetime labor by a wide margin, capital accumulates, incompatible to the meritocratic values and social justice in a democracy. Also the savings rate increases with wealth. Means , the richer one is , the wealthier one gets. This destabilization factor leading to divergence worried Kuznet, who expressed this in his 1953 book, ‘ Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings‘. These forces for divergence was also central in James Mead‘s book, ‘Efficiency, Equality and the Ownership of Property‘ and also to Atkinson and Harrison in their ‘ Distribution of Personal Wealth in Britain‘.
To sum up, the process of wealth accumulation and distribution contain powerful forces pushing towards divergence. Though forces of convergence exist, the forces of divergence can attain an upper hand at any time, as is happening now at the beginning of 21 st century. The likely decrease in the growth of population and economy in the coming decades makes this trend all the more worrisome.
Picketty’s conclusions are less apocalyptic than those implied by Marx’s principle of infinite accumulation and perpetual divergence ( Marx’s theory implicitly relies on assumption of zero productivity growth in the long run). Picketty stresses that the main force of divergence in his theory of r>g has nothing to do with any market imperfection . Contrarily, the more perfect the capital market, the more likely r>g. He suggests instituitions and policies that would counter this by progressive global tax on capital . But, they need considerable international co ordination.
The book relies primarily on the historical experience of the leading developed countries- US, Japan, Germany and Britain. British and Frech data are significant, the data for these countries are available as far back as 18 th century. They were the leading colonial and financial powers in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. Their history is indispensable in studying what had been called the first globalization of finance and trade(1870-1914), which was prodigiously inegalitarian. He has given particular significance to the study of France since the French estate records dating back to the 18 th century are probably the richest in the world over the long run. The French Revolution did not create a just society. The population increase over the past 200 years, which was slow also makes it a good subject of study. US when compared to France has a 100 fold increase in population since the Declaration of Independence(France has only 2 fold increase in the last 200 years), less important inheritence factor compared to Europe, a vast change in geography due to the extensive westward expansion, all suggesting that US case is not generalizable.
Piketty critiques the orthodox system of economists churning out theoretical results without knowing what facts needed to be explained. He maintans that the discipline of economics need to get over the childish passion for abstract mathematical theorems and purely theoretical and highly ideological speculations and should focus on historical research and collaboration with other social sciences. Since Kuznet, there was no significant effort to collect the historical data on the dynamics of inequality, a void filled by Piketty with this work. He has presented the data in the book in such a way that anyone with an interest to dissect the question of inequality can easily understand the economics, history and politics of inequality. He uses some elementary mathematical equations , which can be explained in simple ways and understood without specialized technical knowledge. He condemns the preoccupation of economists with mathematics to acquire the appearance of scientificity without having to answer the complex problems posed by the world. He exhorts the economists to work alongside other social science disciplines and the social science practitioners to take interest in economics of wealth distribution and social class and to take a pragmatic approach to avail ourselves of the methods of historians, sociologists, political scientists and economists .
Noam Chomsky is the author of numerous best selling political books including ‘9-11′, ‘Understanding Power’, ‘Middle East Illusions’, and ‘Pirates and Emperors- Old and New. He is the author of over 100 books. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to parents who were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. A political activist, philosopher, linguist, author and lecturer, he is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The creator or co-creator of the Chomsky hierarchy and the universal grammar theory, he had held radical leftist views and identified himself with anarchist and libertarian socialist movements. A staunch critic of foreign policies of US and other governments, beginning with the critique of Vietnam war in 1960’s, he rose to public attention when The New York Times published his anti-war essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals“(https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1967/02/23/a-special-supplement-the-responsibility-of-intelle/) . He was an outspoken opponet of US involvement in Vietnam war. He remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman(American economist, media scholar and social critic), Chomsky later articulated the propaganda model of media criticism in ‘Manufacturing Consent:The Political Economy of the Mass Media‘ and worked to critique the media coverage of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Chomsky and his ideas are highly influential in the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements.
His defense of freedom of speech, including Holocaust denial, generated significant controversy in the Faurisson affair of the 1980s. The affair was an academic controversy in the wake of a book, Mémoire en défense (1980), by French professor Robert Faurisson, a Holocaust denier. The scandal largely dealt with the inclusion of an essay by Noam Chomsky, entitled “Some Elementary Comments on the Rights of Freedom of Expression“, as an introduction to Faurisson’s book, without Chomsky’s knowledge or explicit approval. Responding to a request for comment in a climate of attacks on Faurisson, Chomsky defended Faurisson’s right to express and publish his opinions on the grounds that freedom of speech must be extended to all viewpoints, no matter how unpopular or fallacious.
According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar during the 1980–1992 time period, and was the eighth-most cited scholar in any time period. In 1979, The New York Times called him “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.”Since retiring from MIT, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supporting the Occupy movement. Chomsky began teaching at the University of Arizona in 2017.
Synopsis ( exactly as from the book, abridged)
In it’s pursuit of hegemony and total world domination, the US foreign policy was shaped, moulded, and tweaked, incorporating punitive and preemptive military occupations and wars and wielding cudgels like economic sanctions and trade wars, thus bringing about catastrophic humanitarian consequences and spawning of a long term threat of international terrorism and proliferation of WMD. The world was shocked to learn how possible terminal nuclear events, triggered by error, were barely avoided at the eleventh hour, the one during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 considered as a shocking example.
The war-mongering Bush administration, despite popular opposition, blocked UN efforts to ban militarization of space, and terminated international negotiations to prevent biological warfare. Warnings of humanitarian catastrophe, long -term emergence of terrorism and WMD proliferation were ignored and preemptive use of force was announced as National Security Strategy to eliminate any challenge to US hegemony. Saddam Hussein was incriminated in 9/11 attacks and in WMD proliferation,that drove public opinion in favor of use of force at will, through propagandas. Climate change and other environmental threats were ignored by the travesty of propositions by the Climate Change Science Programme(CCSP) favouring the narrow interests of the private power sectors and rebuffing multilateral engagement, thus alienating and creating resentment in Europe.
Despite the UN inspection’s failure to find WMD in Iraq, world wide protests against war and a dismally low percentage(scarcely 10%) of international public opinion in support of war, US made it’s intent to use force very clear. Human rights and democracy remained in talks and speeches, not in practice.
To ensure submission of the “great beast” or the masses according to Alexander Hamilton, to not let them stray from the confines, the men in power devised many methods. Coercion or force was the initial method. In the US, Wilsonian idealism(1918) set out international goals to ensure a government in the hands of a few good abroad and a system of elite decision-making followed by public ratification (polyarchy) at home. In the free societies that emerged later, where freedom and rights predominated, coercion lost it’s utility and new devices like control of opinion and attitudes through propaganda were deviced. Thus the beast was tamed by the art of manufacture of consent by institutions of the governement, in essence a Leninist ideal. Wilson’s Committee of Public Information was formed to whip up wartime propaganda. “The resposible men” differed from the masses/ beasts by their decision making capacity. The beasts were spectators and not participants, they do not have a function, but to trample in support of leadership class. Thus the decision making was kept within the confines of institutions with a top down authoritative control. The public areana was limited by neoliberal initiatives to unaccountable private tyrannies. Thus democracy would survive in a reduced form.
Whenever faced with a crisis of democracy, i.e, the public escaping it’s marginalization and passivity, new tools like indoctrination of the young through schools, universities and chiurches, self- censorship or government control of media worked their way to regain control. These methods were devised and propogated with the help of public intellectuals. James Madison held the view that power must be in the hands of a wealthy few, the most capable men, and the role of governement was to protect this opulent minority against the majority( pre- Capitalist). He foresaw that the majority would rebel under hardhsips, for equality and on who will make the decisions.
Control of opinion as the foundation of government
This is true in the most free and most despotic governments. The modern institution of thought control, propaganda originated in free countries where control by force was not possible. In Britain, which pioneered, it was under the name Ministry of Information. US followed with Committee of Public Information.(CPI). Both controlled the thoughts of the world. Participants like Edward Bernays called “the engineering of consent the very essence of democratic process”.The method was imitated by the Nazi Germany, South Africa, Soviet Union and Pentagon. PR industry later dwarfed the propoganda. To carry out policies opposed by the general population, leaders often followed the Office of Public Diplomacy established by the Reagan administration for carrying out it’s murderous policies in Central America. A huge psychological propaganda programme conducted by the military include the Operation Truth (a non-profit veterans’ organization that seeks to “amplify the soldiers’ voice in the American public dialogue” in order to “educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand) .
In Central America, Reagan administration faced challenges to the traditional violence and repression, from the Church and locals. Soon US responded with the propaganda of ‘war on terror'(1981)/ terrorist war by slaughter, torture and barbarism. In Nicaraugua, the US backed Somoza dictatorship was overthrown by the Sandinista rebels who dismantled the repressive military that had subdued the region’s locals. US then subjected the country to a campaign of state sponsored terrorism and the country was left in ruins. In other Central American countries subjected to the Reaganite war on terror, the military/terrorists trained by the US, controlled, terrorized, tortured, maimed and killed the people and the US citizens remained unaware of these atrocities. During the 1980’s the US backed state terrorist campaigns created societies affected by panic, terror, collective intimidation and ‘internalized acceptance’ of frequent appearance of tortured bodies. The psychological impact on the population from the culture of terror include domesticating their expectations and destroying hope after attaining which democracy is allowed/ preferred. This has been the US methodology not just in Central America, but in the rest of the world too.
Imperial Grand Strategy
By 2002, the most powerful state in history vowed to maintain hegemony through military force and threats. This was the explicit official rhetoric of the National Security Strategy, to dissuade military bulid up by potential adversaries . It sought to maintain a unipolar world without competitors and challenges. The fact is that this declaration renders the Article 51 of UN charter ( international norms of self defense) meaningless,thus spurning international law and istitutions. The problem with this strategy is that, the other states will find ways to work around, undermine, contain or retaliate against US, thus making the world more divided and dangerous and the US less secure.
The grand strategy gives the US the right to preventive war (not preemptive)(The difference is that a preventive war is launched to destroy the potential threat of the targeted party, when an attack by that party is not imminent or known to be planned. A preemptive war is launched in anticipation of immediate aggression by another party). While preemptive war might fall within the framework of international law, preventive war do not. The Central American countries had every right to strike back on the US attacking them, on the grounds of premptive strike, but rights are reserved for the powerful and not the weak. So, preventive war is absolutely unjustifiable since the strike is made on the grounds of an imagined or invented threat, making it a war crime.
The historian and Kennedy advisor, Arthur Schlesinger compared the purported anticipatory self defence claims of US in Iraq invasion to the Pearl Harbor attack by the imperial Japan. He added that the post 9/11 sympathy for US from the world gave way to hatred of American arrogance and militarism. UN Security Council was ignored, UN Charter rules on use of force were rebuffed. When WMD was undetectable, US changed the rule and stance to justify the invasion in terms of discovery of potential equipment to produce the weapons. The bar to use force was lowered as a consequence of Iraq invasion to invading any country that has the ability or intent to produce WMD. Thus the goal of Imperial Grand Strategy was set to prevent any challenge to the power, position and prestige of the USwithout any legal issue arising from this(statement by the liberal statesman Dean Acheson following Cuban missile crisis).
Similarly, Reagan administration invoked Acheson’s doctrine while rejecting the World Court jurisdisction over it’s attack on Nicaragua, reserving to themselves the power to determine it’s own matters. It reserved it’s right to unilateral use of military power and ensured uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources. Though the contempt of international law and instituitions were flagrant during the Reagan- Bush years, even before the WW II ended, planners and strategists began plotting to hold unquestioned power, limiting the sovereignity of others by complete rearmament. The Western Hemisphere, former British empire, far East and later much of Eurasia were included under their wing. A world system open to US economic penetration and political control was constructed, and moves towards independent development by others blocked under the pretext of Cold War.
Basic missions of global management included
Containing other global power centres
Control of world’s energy supplies
Barring independent nationalism
Overcoming crises of democracy
Forms in which these were done
International economic order change from 1970 s
Restoring super power enemy to quasi colonial status from 1990 s
Threat of international terrorism aimed at US from 1990 s
While Acheson and Sofaer only described policy guidelines in the line of Thucydides maxim “large nations do what they wish, while small nations accept what they must”, Dick Cheney- Donald Rumsfield- Colin Powell officially declared en even more extreme policy, one aimed at permanent global hegemony using force whenever necessary. The first two merely described while these three took action, that’s the difference.
New Norms of International Law
The Grand Strategy declaration went on to establish a new norm of internatonal law by actions. First public war fever was whipped up by propaganda, and that was during the same time as mid-term election campaign. The target of the attack should be defenseless, the attack must be worth the trouble and it should be portrayed as evil who was an imminent threat to US survival. Iraq ticked off all these boxes. The propaganda was whipped up by Bush, Blair and colleagues characterizing Iraq as evil, possessing WMD, destroying the people there. The State of the Union address by Bush in January 2003- ” Iraq is assembling the world’s most dangerous weapons to dominate, itimidate or attack and has already used them on whole villeges, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or transfigured…..If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning“. The speaker and his colleagues had long supported Saddam in full awareness of his crimes, crimes which US didn’t care at that time.
Punishment after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was sanctions on Iraq. The 1991 war on Iraq was on the basis of a huge Iraqi military build up on Saudi border( of which US still refuses to provide evidence), that was undermined by a journal that investigated them. In Sep 2002, the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, warned of nuclear threat from Iraq on the US, an outright lie for the propaganda whip up to garner public support , disclaimed by Iraq’s neighbours as well as Israel intelligence and later undermined by UN inspectors( Washingtom opposed the inspections). Saddam was declared as a dire threat, with links to international terrorists and responsible for 9/11 attacks by the government media propaganda assaults. 60 % supported attack on Iraq in self-defence, strongly believing the WMD, and nuclear threats and in Iraqi involvement in Sep 11 attacks. As political analyst Anatol Lieven states, “the systematic mendacity of the propaganda programme has few parallels in peacetime democracies”. A bare majority in midterm elections for Bush was the effect of these propaganda campaigns. In Oct 2002, Congress granted the president authority to go to war ” to defend the national security of US against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”. The same script used by Reagan to declare national emergency in 1985, invoking the threat posed by Nicaragua.
After the 6 week war Bush declared victory, by removing an ally of Al Qaeda. The fact: No alleged link was there between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, who was his bitter enemy. The consequence: The Iraq invasion actually increased the threat of terror on US , as predicted by analysts and intellectuals, by increasing Al Qaeda recruitment. The long term effects: The public even after many years still believed that US forces had found WMD (A THIRD OF POPULATION), 20% believed that Iraq had used them during the war, the effects of many years of intense propaganda inducing fear to tame the great beast, the public. Propaganda continued as the staged ‘Reaganesque’ announcement after the victory aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, clearly aimed at 2004 reelection campaign on the grounds of national security themes. Victors do not investigate their own war crimes, so whatever humanitarian crises or loss that followed was on Saddam, the same principles of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nuremberg trials, that qualified for trial and punishment only if done by enemies.
Thus, Iraq happened to be the first test case for the Imperial Grand Strategy and the new international norms, with tempting possibilities in Iran, Syria, Libya, Andean region and a lot of others. The intimidation strategy worked and the people and regimes were supposed to change their views from one based on international law and UN to consider their national interests in favour of reflecting American goals. 1990 s also became the decade of the new norm ofhumanitarian intervention in other countries by the US on the grounds of their courage and altruism. Intervention in Kosovo and East Timor were on this basis. Kosovo bombing established the norm of resort to force without Security Council authorization. Though India’s invasion of East Pakistan in 1971 and Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia( against PolPot) in 1978 are also examples of resort to force that put an end to terrible crimes and though the Western interventions in the 1990 ‘s were not even remotely comparable to those, the new norm was not recognized in the 1970’s. The reasons are clear, the 1970’ s interventions were by the wrong people, US was opposed to those ( Vietnam was punished for this by an US backed China invasion on Vietnam and harsher sanctions while US and UK lent direct support to Khmer Rouge).
The International Court of Justice in a 1949 ruling reserves intervention by force to the most powerful states. There are exceptions to this. Israel, a client is permitted to establish norms like ‘targetted killings’ of suspects. Another example is Israel’s bombing of Ozirak reactor in Iraq in 1981. US criticized it at the time as a violation of international law, but as Saddam transformed into a foe, the minor crime became a honored norm that impeded Saddam’s nuclear weapons programme. Though inspections did not reveal any plutonium production at the site in Iraq, all the while the Dimona reactor of Israel was churning out hundreds of nuclear weapons. Later, as a result of the bombing, Iraq went ahead with the decision to nuclearize and supported other Arab states too in the process, a consequence far from closing the nucleariization of Iraq. The norm that Israel established was imitated by Iraq in it’s Kuwait invasion.
The Rule of Law
How the Grand strategy extends to US domestic law?
9/11 was used to discipline the US citizens by the Bush administration. The administration claimed and excercised the right to declare people, including US citizens as “enemy combatants” or ” suspected terrrorists” without any evidence and imprison them without charge or access to lawyers or family indefinitely. Example could be found in Guantanamo prison camp. Suspected people were gagged, hooded, electrocuted, waterboarded, bound and locked , treatments questionable under international law. The humanitarian and medical organisations were prevented from accessing the prisoners in violation of Geneva Convention.
A leaked, confidential plan by the Justice Department, “Domestic Security Enhancement Act ” of 2003 expands state power by assaulting civil liberties, undermining constitutional rights by granting state authority to rescind citizenship on charges of material support to a blacklisted organization, even if the person was unaware of the status of the blacklisted organisation. It also mentions the surveillance without court authorization, secret arrests, protecting the state from scrutiny of people.
International Law and Instituitions
International law and UN charter is not even mentioned in the strategy. The primacy of law over force that has been followed since the end of WW II disappears. Force reigned as US sees it fit. The analysts predicted that the resentment towards US actions would provide the motivation for enemies to find ways to attack at US vulnerabilties. Even since WW II US has been resorting to force to secure it’s national interests, expediently and in line with the interests of domestic sectors influencing the policies. Like Adam Smith condemned the merchants and manufacturers of England as policy architects. Francis Fukuyama, who had served in the Reagan- Bush State Department, observed in 1992 than the UN served as perfect instrument for US unilateralism. UN virtually became an instrument of US power, though the elite disliked UN. On issues of elite concern, if UN fails to support, it is duly dismissed. Vetoes are the most significant examples of US power in the UN, by far the country that has issued the most number of vetoes( Britain follows), which weakens important resolutions taking them off the table (Eg- Washington’s wars in Indo China). For the same kind of SC resolutions, while Saddam was condemned, US rejected those. UN resolution conditions were changed unilaterally by Bush, Clinton and Blair in Iraq, bombing the country in 1998(Clinton) in defiance of UN. UN inspectors( UNSCOM)) were used by Washington to spy on Iraq, and it was clear that diarmament of Iraq was not the goal of US and UK. Vetoes and defiance of UN resolutions by other powers like France were characterized as scandals and failure of diplomacies eroding UN’ s credibility and legitimacy while those from the US were hailed as principled stands.
” UN can meet and discuss, but we dont need their permission” – Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Secratary of State Colin Powell. They were clear that they did not need a UN approval to declare and go to war or use force. The rest of the world was placed in notice, either to join the US or the ‘terrorists’ and suffer the consequences. The UN and the rest of the world were given an ultimatum by the US and UK to either capitulate in 24 hours or that they would invade Iraq and install the regime of their choice irrespective of whether Saddam remained or fled the country. They clearly stated that UN was irrelevant, the rest of the world has no option but to capitulate to their decisions and US had the sovereign authority to use force in assuring it’s national security interests. Bush made it clear that even if Iraq disarmed completely and unconditionally and Saddam disappeared, they would still invade Iraq and install a regime of their choice. The aim was clearly not disarmament or dethroning Saddam, but regime change, not one the Iraqis would prefer, but one that the conqueror would decide calling it “democratic”. The aims shifted back and forth from disarmament to regime change according to the time and audiences, as US saw fit. UN resolutions, inspections, Iraq’s refusal to permit inspections …. all were farces played unilaterally by the US. The message was loud and clear- ‘either be with us and enjoy the fruits or oppose us and suffer the harm’. Mexico and France tried to oppose by telling Washington that people were overwhelmingly against the war, but their pleas were ridiculed. The UN support of resolution 1441( Iraq war) tabled by the US was in reality a submission by the members, a coerced acquiescence invalid in law, but hailed as diplomacy in international law.
Rewards for following US orders included financial handouts and support. Putin was close to Bush and he was given the diplomatic nod in crushing the Chechen separatists. A head of a muslim charity was sentenced in US for funding ambulances in Bosnia and aiding the Chechen separatists, while Clinton was flying AlQaeda and Hezbollah operatives to Bosnia. Turkey was offered incentives to invade Kurdish Northern Iraq, but it did not at first, thus inviting the ire of US announcing punishment for the misdeed.
After the Iraq war, UN was once again deemed irrelevent because the complicated trade system in Iraq( imposed as a part of sanctions by the UN with full support of the US previously) was causing problems for the US companies granted contract under the military rule. Thus US demanded a freehand in the oil trade, and in deploying a government of it’s choice under a democratic facade, even though the rest of the world(except UK), majority of US citizens and a large majority of Iraqis(85%) preferred UN oversight to US control. Thus never in recent history has there been anything remotely resembling the monopoly of use of large scale violence by a free state in pursuit of it’s imperial ambitions.
Elite concern over the imperial ambitions of US reached new levels after Bush declared it as a “revisionist state” . Samuel Huntington, the political analyst, noted that US was becoming a rogue superpower. Many anticipated coalitions to arise to counterbalance the rogue state. The American political scientist, Kenneth Waltz warned of a proliferation of WMD by other states to counter or deter the actions of US, something accelerated by the dismantling of mechanisms to control violence. Examples are the impetus to Iranian nuclear weapon proliferation and nuclear deterrence by North Korea. North Korea proved to be a lesson for the world that witnessed American inability to tame it unlike the defensless and shattered Iraq, the only reason being it’s possession of WMD aimed at Seoul and US military at DMZ.
Coming to the second superpower, “public opinion”, protest was non existent in 1962( when Kennedy announced bombing of South Vietnam), and it increased only years later when the devastation and aggression became significant. There was a steady increase in unwillingness to tolerate agression and atrocities over the four decades and in 2002, protests were large scale even before the Iraq war was officially launched. Reagan administration backed down in Central America following the Kennedy model of South Vietnam in the face of public reaction and resorted to a clandestine model concealed from general public. The strengthened activity movements in the decades since 1960’s made it impossible for the US to use force without vindicating it with propaganda offensives like imminent threat by a genocidal regime and so on. The world public opinion turned against the US. Like the rest of the world, Iraq’s neighbours were also perplexed as to why US was fearing Iraq, already weakened by sanctions with a comparatively lower economy and military expenditures than the neighbours. Powell had referred to the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD on it’s neighbours at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The neighbours, also like CIA and the US Department of Defense knew well that Iraq did not pose any threat to them, let alone the US. The neighbours were actually mending fences with Saddam over US opposition. Most of the formal and informal polls around the world showed Bush as a greater threat to world compared to Saddam.
The fundamental principle behind the imperial grand strategy was Wilsonian Idealism– the noble men , with righteous intent and elevated ideals, as the historical vanguard, for the common good, transforming the global order, perpetuating its own dominance guided by military supremacy projected globally. US foreign policy has been guided by these ideals regardless of party. But for anyone to be assured of the actions as motivated by elevated ideals and altruism( humanitarian inteventions) in the quest of stability and righteousness, they have to adopt a stance called ‘intentional ignorance‘. So the past , as well as the present actions could be justified on this basis and the flaws that were tidied up as inevitable. Wilson himself put the words into deeds by conquest of Philippines and interventions in Haiti and Dominican Republic that left both the countries in ruins.
Europeans failed to understand this idealism and thought of it as mere truism. The Russian- American author and military historian, Max Boot attributed this to the history of European avarice and cynicism. The historian and political commentator, Robert Kagan points to the paranoid, conspiratorial anti- Americanism. Both of them lent their words from John Stuart Mill‘s essay on humanitarian intervention objective of Britain’s conquest of India. It is hard not to think of his essay as a disgraceful example of apologetics for the terrible crimes of Britain. Kagan’s anti- Americanism concept, to defame state policy critics who do not identify society and people with state power, is directly from the totalitarian lexicon.
The language of tyrants and conquerors remain the same throughout. Saddam warned Kuwait of retribution for undermining it’s economy by ‘assuring a world without fighting and with peace and a dignified life‘. The Munich agreement with the Nazis was hailed to bring a world order based on justice and law, but soon later Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia explaining his ‘earnest desire to serve the interests and welfare of the people‘ there. Mussolini’s concern for the liberated populations of Ethiopia, Japans aims to create a paradise for the suffering people in Manchuria and North China defending them from communist bandits, Japan’s New Order to create permanent stability in East Asia are all rhetorical flourishes sugarcoating the militant abuses of the the occupied.
Interventions are justified as humanitarian or in self defense after the war, thus making in in accordance with the UN charter.Thomas Jefferson observed on the world situation of his day- ” we believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for liberties of the seas, than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, wealth and resources of other nations“.
The founder of modern international relations theory, Hans Morgenthau condemns the “conformist subservience to those in power” by having a selective faith in the domestic political leadership, a regular stance of most intellectuals throughout history. The occasional departures were seen in two countries with US aided repressive regimes- Turkey and Columbia. Activists , writers, priests and academics face the constant assassination threats for protesting the atrocities and draconian laws of their regimes. While their Western counterparts veil themselves in intentional ignorance thus contributing to the ongoing crimes.
The New Era of Enlightenment
The final years of the 20 th century marked the idealistic world view of the US on ending inhumanity, using principles and values, an era of enlightenment, benevolence, acting out of altruism and moral fervor. The record of terror and atrocities with the help of reigning super powers and allies was supressed.
The year 1997 was significant for the human rights movement. In that single year the flow of military aid to Turkey surpassed the whole aid for the entire cold war period, for the counterinsurgency programme against the miserably repressed Kurds. Tens of thousands were killed, millions of people were driven from the devastated countrysides. Turkey was the leading recipient of US arms at the time (80% from US) besides Israel and Egypt. In the same year military aid to Colombia began to skyrocket and it replaced Turkey by 1999. The internal conflicts were militarized, people tortured and displaced, guerilla forces strengthened by terrorizing peasants and urban population, political killings rised. Internal displacement of the population due to atrocities of the governments in these countries was augmented by US aid. In Iraq, this was a grave problem that the displaced people saw the Iraq war as a route back to their homes.
East Timor and Kosovo
Indonesia’s genocide of East Timor population, they had occupied reached new heights in 1999, when the ruling generals and paramilitary threatened the people to vote for continuing occupation in the referendum for independence. Indonesia had been receiving aid from US and UK for the past 25 years. Activists and humanitarian agencies widely publicized this in the US. Clinton reiterated the position that his administration did not want to take away the responsibility from Indonesia. After strong international and domestic pressure Clinton stopped the 25 year old support, Indonesia withdrew from East Timor allowing Australian peacekeeping forces to enter. Just a withdrawal from abetting and aiding the crimes would have sufficed which could have been easily done before, but the new achievement was hailed as a new norm of humanitarian intervention.
Kosova was next in line for humanitarian intervention, reportedly based on altruism and moral fervor. Media, journals and scholarships reported the NATO bombing of Kosovo( without UN approval) to be in response to the ethnic cleansing by Serbia in 1999, that drove more than half the Kosovars into exile. The truth was that the bombing preceded the ethnic cleansing and atrocities, that happened as a consequence. The Western documentary evidence provides no significant increase in the killings of Kosovars, numbered at around 2000 before the NATO bombings. UN began registering refugees only 1 week after the bombing and the Milosevic indictment of May 1999, details a series of terrible crimes after the bombing.
The British Defense Minister, George Robertson testified that until the NATO bombing, the CIA- backed Kosovo Liberation Army(Albanian guerillas) was responsible for more deaths than the Serbian authorities had been. The guerillas had frankly told that their goal was to kill Serbs to elicit a public response for NATO intervention in Kosovo. Even befor this the Foreign Secretaary, Robin Cook had told the House that the KLA had committed more ceasefires and more deaths. It is notable that the Racak massacre by Serbian authorities (45 people killed) did not concern US and Uk at the time . In his memoir, ‘Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo. and thr Future of Conflict ‘ by Wesley K Clark, the NATO commander during the Serbia bombing, he mentions that Milosevic’s human rights violations had nothing to do with the bombing nor did the eviction of Kosovars start before the bombing. He had warned the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that if NATO proceeded with the bombing the evictions and killings by Serbians would increase. The only plausible explanation for the bombing was the imposition of NATO’s will on a defiant leader who was undermining the credibility of Western diplomacy and NATO’ s will power. The same interpretation is given by Andrew Bacevich, the American historian in his book, ‘American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy ‘. The plight of Kosovars was of no concern, and the bombing was to preempt the threats to the cohesion of NATO. It’s purpose was to warn Europeans fancying to slip away from the American orbit, affirm US primacy in Europe.
Present day consequences after years of bombing include Kosovars living in abject poverty, radical Islamists taking control of the people’s life giving rise to Taliban phenomenon of Europe. The norm of humanitarian interventions made the UN charters obsolete, giving the US the sovereign right to take military action at will without UN authorization, thus redefining the role of UN.
The Need for Colonization
Columbia, the largest recepient of US military aid in 1999, had the worst human rights record too in the Western hemisphere. Under the guise of a drug war by the US, purportedly to curb the domestic drug use, the poppy fields of poor peasants in Southern Columbia were destroyed through a chemical warfare called fumigation causing deaths, displacement, sickness and injury. Even after they failed to achieve the their goals, they were not discontinued. The rich biodiversity was destroyed, the peasants, indigenous and other people were displaced and live in slums in abject poverty and with people gone , multinationals stripped the mountains of their natural resources. Thus this helped the foreign investors and the Columbian elites in their businesses.
Columbia is an oil-producing region like Chechnya,Western China, Central Asia, and other places where the state terror by military and private paramilitary increased after 9/11 under the pretext of ‘war on terror ‘ expecting a nod from US. In Columbia, as in Turkey, Indonesia and Serbia, the state terror had been carried out by private paramilitary as crimes were also privatized in accordance with the neoliberal practice. In Columbia, fumigation was carried out by private companies, consisting of US military officers under Pentagon contract to evade accountability.
The conscience shocking atrocities in countries were overlooked until they defied US. Turkey’s atrocities against the Kurds by US provided military aid were similarly overlooked even after the extensive reporting by human rights watch organisations, but became significant after it denied the US, permission to attack Iraq from its borders as per the Turkish public opinion. Suddenly Turkey became the villain torturing , killing and disappearing the Kurds and destroying their villages.
Blairs foreign policy advisor, Robert Cooper, put forward a statement for the need for colonisation by the post modern enlightened states in the 20 th century to promote order, freedom and justice. Cooper alludes to the most important change in the world order since WW II, a striking discontinuity in history, that Europe is at peace, a post modern system of law, justice and cilvility. But, while dealing with the uncivilized, Europe and West would revert back to the laws of the jungle- of deception, preemptive attacks and force.
Protecting Naughty Children from Infection
The enlightened states of the late nineteenth century took pride in liberating the savages by violence, destruction and plunder. The Czar and Metternich(Austrian empire) worried of the pernicious contagion of republicanism and popular self rule. Worst was the Monroe Doctrine by the apostles of sedition, “a species of arrogance, peculiarly American and inexcusable” as Bismarck put it. The 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine asserted the U.S. role as policeman of the Western Hemisphere and its right to involve itself in the affairs of Latin American countries. Although justified under the auspices of limiting European interference in the Americas, the Roosevelt Corollary did more to lay the groundwork for the U.S. in its own interventionist practices in the decades to come. WIlson secured US domination of Carribeans. Britain was forced out of the oil rich Venezuela, trade with British banned, US supported the dictator Juan Vincente Gomez who opened the country to US companies. This was at the same time of the US continuing to demand and secure US oil rights in the Middle East where the British and French had monopoly. Venezuela continues still as an eyesore, remaining poor despite sitting on vast oil resources, yielding wealth to foreign investors and a few of the countries elites.
Wilson compared Latin Americas as naughty children excercising all the privileges and rights of the grown ups and so need a stiff, authoritative hand. He regarded the Filippinos as children who must obey orders. And Italians too were considered so. The Italian people’s hunger for strong leadership and dramatic leadership through democracy, was crushed by supporting Mussolini’s Fascism through the interwar years. In 1948, the democracy was subverted and US withheld food from starving people, restoring the Fascist police. Roosevelt rewrote Haitian constitution to permit US corporations to take over the land and resources after occupation. Similarly Eisenhower sought to overthrow the newly elected Castro government in Cuba.
Iran‘s conservative parliamentary government was toppled by an US aided military coup, when they sought to gain control of their resources. An obedient regime was installed that ruled with terror for 25 years. US feared the economic nationalism, a new sort of nationalism and aspirations for industrialization that would benefit the Latin Americans more and leave out the US investors as the first beneficiaries. Thus the Economic Charter for Americas was imposed to prevent and eliminate this. It should be mentioned here that economic nationalism had always been a key feature of US economy. Communism sought to promote the new nationalism, thus reducing the willingness of Communist countries to serve and support the industrialization of the West. That was the main aim of the analytical framework of policymakers of supporting the right wing dictatorship of European fascists during interwar years, to control the threat of Communism, not the military threat but the threat of economic nationalism . Thus some of the most powerful states were shaped with the private instituitions as their tools.
The rise of fascism during the interwar years that elicited concern was viewed favorably by the US, British, businesses and elites.. The reason was that the fascist version of extreme nationalism permitted Western economic penetration, and destroyed the democracy and labor movements. Mussolini was described as “that admirable Italian gentleman” by Roosevelt. Hilter was also applauded until he launched agressions that infringed on US and UK interests. By 1937, the State Department regarded fascism as a moderate force that must triumph over the Left. The US ambassador to Italy lauded Mussolini as a great human. In 1938, FDR and Sumner Welles approved Hitler’s Munich agreement which dismembered Czeckoslovakia. The business world and elites were also enthusistic of European fascism. Businesses boomed in Italy and Germany because of the stable climate and supressed threats of the masses. In 1939, Britain was more supportive of Germany, due to the Anglo- German industrial, commercial and financial relations. The support for fascism remained even after 1943, after US and UK entered the war. They tried to supress antifascist resistance in many places, to restore the traditional order by supporting some of the worst dictators and war criminals. Even througout the cold war and till the present, the ideological basis of American foreign policy supporting dictators remained much the same , though only the tactics changed.
Reconciling the need to do terrible things with the commitment to democracy and freedom was agonizingly done to create economic policies that would enable US businesses to operate as freely and as monopolistically to create an US dominated capitalist world economy. Secretary of State Lansing warned Roosevelt that the Bolshevik disease might spread. FDR feared that the American blacks returning from war might contract the disease. Anti-capitalism was present among the working class in England too as feared by Lloyd George. The revolutions worldwide were casting a shadow of fear on the west. In US, social unrest was supressed by Wilson’s “Red Scare“. The power of masses was feared by industrialists. Soviet economic development was also a concern until 1960 when it began to stagnate due to the arms race. Russia, Europe’s third- world before WW II, after defeating Germany achieved military might and superpower status. Russian- US conflict in 1917 was justified by John Lewis Gaddis, military historian as self-defense to the virus of revolution, which challenged the survival of capitalist world order. Attack as defense, a “logical illogicality“. The basic policies of intervention and war were the same during pre-war, inter-war and post-war years , all based upon self- defense or preventive attacks, the same policy of the 2002 radical nationalists.
The post war discontinuity in international politics is indicated by US becoming the global actor and Europe attaining democratic peace. While Europe had devoted to slaughtering one another and conquering the world before 1945, a happy combination of liberal norms, representative democracy and market economies changed the picture. The West could still resort to violence against the weak, but not against one another and Cold war equations were also based on this.
The Cuban missile crisis was the most dangerous moment in human history. It was revealed in a Havana conference in 2002, that in 1962, October the world was one step away from nuclear disaster and war, prevented by a Soviet submarine officer, Vasili Arkhipov, who blocked an order to fire nuclear armed torpedoes. The people at the conference, including the historian, Arthur Schlesinger, couldn’t miss the fact that Kennedy chose quarantine as an alternative to military action in 1962, while Bush committed to military action in 2002. Though Kennedy was approbated universally for the decision, he refused publically to withdraw the Jupiter nuclear missiles placed at Turkey on the border with Russia, and refused to not invade Cuba, conducting an active policy to undermine and displace the Castro regime including covert operations against Cuba. Secretly, the Jupiter missiles were replaced with Polar nuclear submarines.
The Soviet deception was unveiled by the UN ambassador, Adlai Stevenson when he exposed a photo of a missile site in Cuba taken by US spy planes. This excercise called “Stevenson’s moment” entered the historical memory.The starkness in that was, the Cuban missiles generated widespread fear in US that the Turkish missiles ostensibly failed to produce in Russia. The moment seemed to upset the balance of terror to less extreme on US side. For an impartial outside observer, the missile placemets would be fair trade by Kennedy and Krushchev. Yet Chomsky calls it an act of criminal lunacy that the missiles were placed in Cuba by Krushchev, fully aware of the posible consequences. He finds it a moral imbecility that those who warned Krushchev of the dangers were condemned and ridiculed when the worst did not come to pass.
Now let us note the asymmetry here. Cuban missiles stealthily placed by the Soviets were dramatically exposed in the UN, while the Jupiter missiles were out in the open, publically placed by the US in Turkey enveloping Russia, a country posing no threat to Turkey and attacked and devastated in the past by Germany, Britain and US (1918). US posed a grave threat to Cuba and the missiles were placed there by Russia for the self-defense of Cuba. Despite this US became the good one, moments like Stevenson’s dramatized and publicized and Russia became the evil. This is the power dynamics, ideological systems subordinated to power that makes sure that any action by the US be deemed as for self-defence, of benevolence or dispatched to oblivion, be it the international terrorism in Cuba, participation in the mass slaughter of the mass-based political party, National Liberation Front in South Vietnam, or the peasant based PKI party in Indonesia (1965)and many others.
The significance of owning a crafted moment in history, like the ‘Stevensons’ was revealed again when Colin Powell addressed the UNSC, with photographs of a truck emptying WMD from an Iraqi site and proclaimed that US would go to war without UN authorization. It was presented as proof that Iraq had deceived the UN inspectors by removing them before they had arrived and that Iraqis had penetrated the inspector team and led to the removal of weapons. Thus he tried to prove that the inspection team was unreliable in providing true data for US proved by the photos. Later the photos were proved unreliable due to the timelapse betwen them and the unreliable site. This is one of a series of stevenson- like crafted moments.
Though Kennedy officials refuse that he ordered an invasion of Cuba, the Secretary of Defense, Robert Mc Namara states the opposite. Cuban crisis became one of the reasons of wariness of European leadership at the liberal multinational end of the political spectrum to the US political leadership. Europe was kept in the dark despite the obvious threat of a nuclear disaster to Western Europe as well. The European Allies were expected to come along, they were accused of making discordant clamor if they knew. Cuban crisis, like the Iraq war was the end result of international terrorism, forceful regime change and quashing of Cuban revolution by violence and economic warfare.
International Terrorism and Regime Change in Cuba
Th 1959, the Batista dictatorship was overthrown by Cuban guerillas and the US tried a regime change by arming the guerillas and CIA- supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by exiled Cubans. Instead of a violent response, Cuba appealed the UN to resolve the issue through diplomatic means. Though the US ambassador assured no aggressive purposes in Cuba, plans to overthrow Castro government and preparations for Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced. Fearing that Cubans might defend themselves, the CIA chief Allen Dulles urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. As the British ambassador later revealed, this was done to push the Cubans to seek Soviet help and thus to portray Cuba as a security threat in the region. This was exactly the script used in Guatemala, where a 10 year democracy with popular support and economic and social benefits for a large majority greatly upsetted the US. After US cut off sources of help and threatened an attack, Guatemala appealed to Soviets for arms and this led to a half-century horror in the country evoking it as a security threat.
Arthur Schlesinger, put forth a scheme to trap Cuba warning Kennedy of the political fallouts of a direct invasion. He conceived a black operation in Haiti, which might lure Castro into sending his army there which in turn could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow US supported Haitian regime of “Papa Doc” Duvalier. In 1960, Eisenhower put forward a plan to overthrow Castro in favor of a regime devoted to Cubans( despite the intelligence report that popular support for Castro was high) and acceptable to the US interests including military operation in the island, in a manner as to avoid the appearance of US involvement( to avoid the anticipated reaction in Latin America and home). The debacle of Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba was followed by a crushing embargo by Kennedy, a terrorist campaign, Operation Mongoose overseen by his brother Robert Kennedy (paramlitary operations, economic warfare and sabotage). Operation Mongoose was the centrepiece of American policy towards Cuba until the missile crisis of 1962. Kennedy brothers devoted all the resources to topple Castro. A final military intervention was planned in 1962, when the missile crisis erupted. A sinister covert operation was planned to lure Castro into a hostile reaction to US and developing an image of Cuba as a threat to US and Western hemisphere that would be used as a pretext to attack Cuba, but before it’s involvement with the Soviets, to avoid a direct entanglement with Soviet Union.
Operation Northwoods was a proposed false flag operation against the Cuban government that originated within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of the United States government in 1962. The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other U.S. government operatives to both stage and actually commit acts of terrorism against American military and civilian targets, blaming them on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba. The possibilities detailed in the document included the possible assassination of Cuban immigrants, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes to be shot down or given the appearance of being shot down, blowing up a U.S. ship, and orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities and publishing these in US newspapers to create a helpful wave of indignation. The proposals were rejected by PresidentJohn F. Kennedy.
A plan to engineer internal revolt and terrorism by Kennedy, to be followed with US military intervention, involved speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel, attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships, contamination of sugar shipments, all carrried out by Cuban exiles permitted to operate freely from Florida. Even after a formal agreement between Kennedy and Krushchev and end of the crisis, terrorist operations continued. A covert action sabotage team from US blew up a Cuban industrial facility killing 400 workers. Ten days before Kennedy’s assassination he approved some US proxy terrorist operations to sabotage Cuban oil refineries, storage facilities, electric plants, sugar refineries, railroads, harbors, docks and ships. On the day of Kennedy assassination, a plot to kill Castro was initiated, and the next president Nixon intensified these acts , peaking in mid 1970’s, after taking office. Attacks on fishing boats, embassies, overseas Cuban offices, bombing of a Cuban airliner killing all 73 passengers on board and other grisly actions by Nixon were carried out directly from the US territory, regarded as criminal acts by FBI. In addition to all these Castro was condemned by NYT editorials for maintaining an armed camp despite US promises of protection .
The machine gun attack against a Spanish- Cuban tourist hotel in 1992 and bombings in 1997 were traced to Miami financed Salvadoran criminals operatng under the international terrorist, Lous Possada Carriles. He was responsible for the Cuban airliner bombing, and was recruied by CIA and financed by Miami business man. He was granted presidential pardon by BUSH I after lobbying by Jebb Bush and Cuban American leaders. iN 1998, US officially declared that Cuba no longer posed a threat. The Russian missiles in Cuba did prevent an US invasion of Venezuela. The economic embargo was harsher under Bush 1 and Clinton, which affected US exporters too, invited criticism from close allies and domestic public and shattered Cuba with severe health effects( managed by the excellent Cuban health care system preventing a humanitarian catastrophe).
Embargo barred food and medicine entirely. Cuba was not eased from sanctions in 1999, while Clinton eased sanctions on all other terrorist states on the list. In 1980, the West Indian Islands were punished by Carter who refused to allow aid after a hurricane, unless Grenada was excluded. The stricken countries refused the clause. Similarly Nicaragua was refused aid in 1988 when struck by a hurricane, causing many deaths from starvation and causing ecological damage. Cuban economic warfare was condemned in all international forums like EU, WTO, OAS and so forth
The reasons for the international terrorism and economic embargo on Cuba is not just a concern over Russian threat.The plans were devised and implemented before the Russian threat that developed as a consequence than cause for the US terrorism. Castro’s Cuba provided a model for the rest of Latin America to oppose ruling authority , encourage radical change and take matters into ones own hands. Land and property privileges of the upperclass was subverted by the demand of decent living by the poor. Russian aid for develpment was also a threat, of Soviets getting an upper hand in Latin America. The real reason of the embargo and terrorism attempts for regime change was Castro’s successful defiance of US hegemony, an impact that could have significant effects on leftist movements of other Latin American countries. This outrage over defiance could be traced back 200 years to Thomas Jefferson who condemned France in holding his coveted New Orleans, inspite of France’s help in liberating British colonies.
The international and domestic law became irrelevant many times in US hegemonic ambitions even before the 9/11. The achievements of international terrorism includes the US aided defeat of the ‘liberation theology’. A conservative Salvadoran Archbishop and Jesuit intellectuals were murdered with US aided security forces. Liberation theology, a religious movement arising in late 20th-century Roman Catholicism and centred in Latin America. It sought to apply religious faith by aiding the poor and oppressed through involvement in political and civic affairs. It stressed both heightened awareness of the “sinful” socioeconomic structures that caused social inequities and active participation in changing those structures.
The achievements of international terrorism were sanitized from history. Defiance was overcome by destroying the structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the majority like in Brazil, the US assisted military coup which overthrew parliamentary democracy. Kennedy’s ambassador Lincoln Gordon called it a democratic rebellion, restraining left wing forces to create an improved climate for private investment. The generals left Brazil transfering the wreckage to civilians by 1980 s as in Chile, leaving a country with dismal social welfare indices and inequality and a grand success for foreign investors and the privileged classes.
Fear of democracy and independence from the Western orbit of the small states were driving factors for US to commit international terrorism, subversion and violence. In Indonesia( 1965) the mass based PKI party was slaughtered and Suharto dictatorship installed fearing that the party would unite the nation, free itself from Western influence, stand on its own feet and prove an example to the developing nations and also turn out as a credit to communism.
Cuba’s defiance became immense when it reached to Angola as a Soviet instrument in 1975. It reached new heights when the US backed South African invasion of Angola was defeated by black Cuban soldiers, the most important contribution of Cuba in liberation of Africa . It is interesting to note that the international terrorism campaigns by US and regime changes are scarcely mentioned in literature in it’s naked form, but dismissed with comfortng euphemisms. Cuba is represented as a terrorist state, not a victim. In effect, others perform misdeeds, US correct it. While much of the US population opposed wars on principled ground, the educated elites were concerned with the costs and failure. My Lai massacre is condemned as the blame is pinned on half-educated GI’ s surviving the conditions of the field unlike Operation Wheeler Wallawa, in which the Tiger Forces killed scores of innocent civilians, including two blind brothers, a Buddhist monk, women, children, elderly civilians, and three farmers trying to plant rice. All were reported as enemies killed in action.
Cuba was added to the terrorist list in 1982, replacing Iraq, to make Saddam eligible for US aids.
International Terrorism and Regime Change in Nicaragua
The defiance of Nicaragua and the terror campaign for regime change unleashed on it by US is significant in its scale, and the way it was cast and reshaped in retrospect. It was uncontroversial among the highest international authorities. Nicaragua became the focus of war on state terror of Reagan in 1981 as it was armed by Soviets. The Nicaraguan communists were blamed to carry their revolution into US, and Soviet bases were feared to be established there. It was deemed a national security and foreign policy threat to US. Libya was bombed in 1986 for the arms aid Qaddafi was providing the communsts to bring the war home to US. The Sandinista leader, Tomas Borge‘s speech to become a revolutionary model for others was taken out of the context and transmuted to a design for world conquest by the Reagan diplomats. The State Department document of his speech was interpreted and recast as aggression and terror, while the real threat that US saw was the experiment of successful development that might infect others, like the democratic experiment of Guatemala and defiance of Cuba.
While the Secretary of State, George Schultz warned of the terrorism as war against ordinary people, US was bombing Libya and killing the civilians which was aired through all prime time TV channels for the first time. Negotiation of peace as tried by the Central American governments through multilateral organisations were duly rebuffed and blocked as euphemisms for capitulation. Nicaragua went to economic and social decline after the progress they had acheived following the overthrow of US backed Somoza dictatorship and slid into the poorest country in Western Hemisphere.. Nicaragua’s economic progress, once lauded by the World Bank and improvement in child survival lauded by UNICEF were the real cancer in the eyes of US to be cut off. Since these viruses of revolution would spread to others it should be rooted out.
Like Cuba, Nicaragua did not retribute, it approached the World Court which ruled in Nicaragua’s favor, condemning Washington. The aid to contras were deemed military and illegal, only humanitarian aid was allowed.. US condemned World Court as irrelevant, hostile and close to Soviets. Aid to contras was branded as humanitarian, aid of 100 million dollars was immedietly approved to escalate violence. The court ordered reparation to Nicaragua was dismissed and they were pressured to abandon the claim. In contrast Iraq paid 17 billion dollars to Kuwait, though only a fraction of those were killed there compared to Nicaragua. Vietnamese were denied reparations by telling that the destruction was mutual. Invaders became victims and Vietnam had to pay back the debt incurred by Saigon government that the US had installed as local agent in the Indo China wars. The precedents are China paying it’s foreign masters as reparation for rebelling agianst them( Boxer Rebellion), Haiti paying the French in 1825 for liberating them and the indigenous Iroquois civilization forced to compensate George Washington for resisting their invaders..
Nicaraguans still did not resort to violence against the US, and took the matter to UNSC, that endorsed the court judgement, the US vetoed. Then Nicaragua approached the General Assembly with US and Israel votoing twice. US escalated the war going after soft targets. Nicaragua succumbed under pressure in 1990 and voted to turn the country over to an US puppet. The strategy of soft target attacks were based on US control of Nicaraguan skies and the sophisticated communiications equipment given to US aided terrorists operating from US bases in Honduras. The same strategy in Guatemeala and Cuba was repeated. The allies were told not to aid Nicaragua to force the country to take Soviet aid. But this did not happen. So the Raeganite propaganda fabricated lurid tales of Soviet MiG’s threatening US from Nicaraguan bases, and this was used to call for bombing of the country. The same “logical illogicality“, Nicaraguans are not allowed to defend against their invaders freely operating from their skies since the invader’s action is defense and the victim’s action is aggression.
The country sank more deeply, socially, economically, politically, people left the place. Already battered by the US sponsored terrorism, it was further battered by the globalization, and massive corruption of the US backed govts. Nicaragua was warned by US in 2002 elections against voting for FSLN, an organisation that resisted US crmes in the past. They did not need warnings as history was a good guide. They had elected the wrong government, not supported by US but could not control the election, in 1984 and penalties followed. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere after Haiti, enjoying a world record for concentration of wealth.
Almost all the hawks who coordinated the state terrorism in Latin America were appointed in significant posts by Bush for the war on terror in the Middle East after 9/11. Nicaraguans were lucky initially as they had an army to defend them against the state terrorism. In neighbouring states like El Salvador, the terrorists were US aided military. When aid could not be provided directly to the state military, US resorted to their international terrorist network including Argentinian neo Nazis, Israel and Taiwan in the name of counterterrorism. The Panama invasion and bombing in 1989 by Bush killed thousands to flush out Manuel Noriega, a former CIA informant in the course of Operation Just Cause, for the crimes like drug trafficking committed while he was on CIA payroll. The invasion was condemned as illegal by the UN and other instituitions, duly rebuffed by the US as usual.
The Iraq Connection: International Script
By 2000 the more reactionary people of Reagan- Bush 1 administration regained political power. Their common goal was to eliminate the statebacked international terrorism and the script was already there.. The lines separating terrorism from aggression and resistance was blurred by them. In 1980 s, Central America and the Middle East were the two main foci. The retail terror of these regions were inflated by the propaganda machines and spread through media.
South Affrica received US assistance, support and trade relations by evading the sanctions on the country. South Africa‘s devastation of the newly independent Angola and Mozambique included millions of deaths of adults as well as children. Inside it’s borders, it was defending the people against the ‘terrorist organisation’ ANC, headed by Mandela, which was named one of the most notorious terrorist groups according to the 1988 Pentagon report.
CIA was successfull in 1980 s in recruiting radical islamists and organizing them to military and terrorist force. The goal , as told by Carter and his NSA, was to lure Soviets to attack Afghanistan by secret operations. In the war that ensued the Soviet objectives were defensive ones, while US took to pillorying and bleeding Soviets. After Soviets withdrew, Reagan’s jihadis took over Afghanistan and decades of civil war ensued.
After Russian withdrawal, the terror oganisations including Al Qaeda were recruited, armed and trained by the CIA. They inflammed India- Pakistan conflict with a terrorrist offensive in 1993, planned to blow up WTC from the formulas taught by CIA, the planning of which was traced to Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who was helped and protected by CIA in US. Saddam was supported and aided by Bush, even after Iran- Iraq war came to an end and after he gassed and killed Kurds, justifying how it would improve human rights, stability and peace. So many other dictators who were protected include Ferdinand Marcos, Duvalier, Suharto and so forth. The Romanian dictator, Ceausescu, who was overthrown after a revolt, was long supported y US. After his deposition, the Washington Post took a dramatic U-turn condemning him and Bush 2 after 12 years spoke dramatically in the Liberation Square in Bucharest, condemning the dictator and praising the revolutionaries who had deposed him.
Reagan- Bush years were marked by stagnant/ declining wages, benefits for rich, widening inequality, and free reign of employers. To maintain political power, fear was inspired on people. The people were frightened into obedience, into voting for a president who bravely fought the enemies. Devils were conjured up one after another. The Libyan hit men out on the streets to kill the president who fought Qaddafi courageouly(1981) was conjured after attacks on Libya killing the people there, hoping Libya would attack back and which could be used to frighten the Americans. Qaddafi was demonised again by framing his plan to attack Sudan to make ground for an attack on him. The subsequent US show of force was to demonstrate that Reagan acted quickly to prevent Qaddafi’s terror. Thus he was lionized by the media that gave him a superhero image making the people worship him. The leader came to the people’s rescue in many other cases like invading Grenada to quell the threat of the Russian airbase, attacks on Nicaraguan threat, bombing of Libya on the basis of preventive war etc…
War on drugs campaign(1989) was another tactic, for which media was used to whip up fear of Hispanic narcotraffickers as menace to society despite evidence to the contrary. Increase in arrest of superfluous people, and Operation Just Cause in Panama to arrest Noreiga due to his involvement with drug trafficking were done to boost up the electoral gains. At the same time, Thailand was being threatened with sanctions if it placed barriers on import of US tobacco. The Panama invasion was justified by invoking Article 51 of UN Charter, that provides the use of armed force to defend own country, interests and people and prevent another territory from being used to traffic drugs to US.
The Bush administration or the Republican administrations in general, followed tax cuts benefiting the rich, increased military spending, and the government fiscal deficits were managed by cutbacks on social welfare programmes. A fiscal train wreck was predicted that seemed like one Republicans asked for, that would offer cuts on social welfare programmes. Tax increase on the rich was an option out of the cards anytime. Beyond concentrations of wealth and power, eliminating social programmes had other goals. Social welfare was supposedly based on evil doctrines which inturn was based on sympathy, which should be driven out. Other benefits of privatization was explained thus. If the working people depended on stock markets for their wages and benefits, it becomes their responsibility to prevent situations that undermine their interests by opposing events that might cut into the profit flow of employers like wage increase, health and safety regulations etc.
The popularity of Bush after 9/11 dropped after some time due too the discontent with their social and economic policies. The mass discontent should be diverted to nationalism somehow to manintain political power as per Anatol Lieven, British author, journalist and policy analyst. National security issue was a good choice. Thus the imminent threat of Iraq was conjured up in 2002(midterm electoral campaign), just in time of the campaigns for the 2004 election. Recognising the vulnerability on domestic issues, the administration campaigned on a policy of international adventurism, new radical preemptive military strategies, and a politically convenient and perfectly timed confrontation with Iraq. Republicans though concerned with large corporations than ordinary Americans were deemed trustworthy on national security issues. Thus a manufactured fear produced enough basis for Iraq invasion. A new norm of aggressive war at will followed, that gave the administration hold on political power that was used to proceed with their harsh and punitive domestic agendas.
There was widespread acknowledgement among US intelligence and military agencies that a war initiated by US on Iraq would lead to proliferation of WMD and Islamic terror, risks considered insignificant and there was little likelihood that Iraq would initiate an attack from it’s side. The real security threats were ignored by US who abandoned a Biological Weapon Convention against germ wars, and vetoed a UN resolution to prevent militarization of space and prohibit the use of poisonous gases and bacteriological methods of warfare. The press coverage of Havana reveleations in 2002 about the Cuban missile crisis, US international terrorism and forced regime change had meagre press coverage. International relations scholars pointed out that the consequences of American adventurism, policies and globalization would be a vertical proliferation of WMD, and terrorist attacks. The study titled”America’s Achiles Heel” concluded a 90% chance of success in smuggling WMD to US by terrorists, made more grave by an attempted, unsuccessful 1993 attack on WTC.
Though a tyrant, Saddam was a rational one, his WMD was under strict chain of command. But an attack on Iraq could collapse this, opening the weapons cache to terrorists and unconventional actors. The risks of a war with Iraq in the name of preventive strike, the possible consequences and the posturing of the “rogue state”as the single most grave threat to world peace and security were unanimously echoed by US and world intelligence agencies and a number of other sources through out the world like the wizards of Davos. This was an unprecedented opposition in history to a war that had not begun. Though the critiques originated in the establishment, the administration ignored it. From a propaganda point of view, US did not need the burden of proof, a declaration of noble intent was enough. The risk of WMD proliferation and terrorism were in turn considered good even, since those could be used to induce fear in US and the world, thus maintain credibility and bolster president’s popularity for short term gains, and make others obey US. Clearly the twin most important goals were maintaining hold on political power and enhancing US control of the world’s energy sources. Roling back the progressive reforms, instituitionalizing a radical restructuring of domestic society and the imperial grand strategy for world domination were the other goals.
The Wild Men in the Wings
The main focus in White House was Iraq’s WMD and terrorism. Democratization/ liberation of Iraq, effect of war on Iraqis were not raised as concerns inside the White House except among the “the wild men in the wings” as Mc George Bundy referred to those who felt more was involved. Warning from other countries, international aid and medical agencies about the humanitarian consequences in Iraq with people already on the edge of survival from punitive sanctions, were ignored. A huge refugee flow and public health crisis was predicted by former asst. secretary of defense, Kenneth Bacon. Altogether the planned relief efforts were not detailed, short of money and hugely controlled by military and there was a studied lack of interest for the warning calls in Washington.
“The Saddam Hussein Reader: Selections from Leading Writers on Iraq” gives a complex pictire of the tyrant Saddam, who turned violence into a state instrument, with a hideous human rights record, but one who hoisted half of Iraq’s population into middle-class, developed it’s instituitions by directing the oil money into development. Arabs world over came to study in Iraqi universities. The infrastructure was purposefully destroyed during 1991 war, US and UK imposed sanctions under the aegis of UN destroyed civilians, food and humanitarian aid was limited, child mortality shot up(from 50 to 133 per 1000 live births), epidemics ensued, with more death under sanctions than from warfare. At a time of drought as well as child mortality from lack of access to clean drinking water, US purposefully blocked water tankers. Vaccination of children was blocked which was strongly protested by UNICEF,and WHO. Dennis Halliday and Haris von Sponek, the respected UN diplomats who knew Iraq well resigned protesting the genocidal character of US-UK regime, by withholding food and medicines . They were prevented from briefing in the UN. Their successor Tun Myat backed US describing the Iraqi food distribution as the best among the World Food Programme. There was general lack of coverage about the murderous sanctions except in a few news papers, discussions were minimal and whatever came to UN notice was kept from public scrutiny. The sanctions devastated the Iraqis, strengthened Saddam, and increased dependency of Iraqi people on Saddam. The International Red Cross concluded that a decade of sanctions tattered the economy, the “oil for food” programme by UN did not halt the collapse of health system and water supply, the two main reasons for the civilian catastrophe.
Coming to some bizzare defense of sanctions by the US. One, that Saddam was being punished for building palaces and monuments by illegal means, defying UN resolutions by crushing the civilians, his victims actually. Two, to bomb and occupy Iraq so as to stop the torture of sanctions. The conventional “studied lack of interest” of likely consequences is not new in case of US. Five days after 9/11, US demanded that Pakistan stop the food and aid supply to Afghanistan’s civilians. aid workers were withdrawn, and millions of Afghans were at the brink of starvation.,a “silent genocide” by US. The aid organization protests recieved no attention in Washington. The policy evaluation must be based on likely consequences, a truism applied for enemy nations , but not for US.
Democracy and Human Rights
The establishment critics restricted their comments on Iraq to disarmament, deterrence and terrorism without any serious references to democratization and liberation. They were aware of the previous administration’s support for Saddam, help given to Saddan to develop WMD when he was a danger, help given to him to crush rebellions that might have unseated him. During this time, Labor Party was in opposition and so they were free to oppose Saddam’s crimes and British support for him. They were absent in protest against the crimes including Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon and others of New Labor. Things changed and in 2002, Jack Straw, then foreign minister released a dossier of Saddam’s crimes( the timing is significant), from a period of US- UK support, something overlooked before. He failed to give a reason for his conversion from one of support to skepticism of Saddam. Actually, in 2001, as Home Secretary, he had refused to give asylum to an Iraqi fleeing torture and detention in Iraq, justifying the fair trial in Iraq under an independent judiciary of Saddam. Straw’s conversion has shadows in Clinton’s when he suddenly discovered in 1999 that Indonesia had done some grisly thing in East TImor in the past 25 years.
The ovewhelming popular opposition in US was controlled by propaganda campaigns. In Britain public opinion was split 50/50, but it took the position of junior partner, kept reluctantly after WW 2. Germany and France opposed in accordance to majority of their public who opposed war. US condemned them, Donald RUMSFIELD dismissed them as “Old Europe”. New Europe was led by Italy’s Sylvio Berlusconi who stood with US against the majority of its public opposingthe war. The interpretation was that the New Europe( 8 former Russian satellite states, Italy, Spain) stood behind Washington even if Germany and France opposed. Majority of the public in all New Europe opposed war. The public support in the former Communist countries were also low with or without UN support for the war, the leaders’ support was ambiguous, fearing US. Thus the democratic public opinion of the New Europe was jettisoned by the leaders for supporting US. Germany and France were condemned for anti- Americanism, paranoid, drive by avarice and unable to comprehend the strain of idealism that make America tick. Turkey, though depised Saddam, respected the will of 90% of their people to stay out of war. All the countries that opposed the war, were condemned that they followed the pople’s will and not US and lacked democratic credentials. Turkey was coerced by threats of economic sanctions and Erdogan complied with US’s will against overwhelming opposition by his people in a secretly held parliamentary session closed to public. But it did teach a lesson in democracy to West. Parliament in accordance with popular opposition to the war refused US troops to be stationed there. US branded the government too weak in the face of popular opposition. The clear presuppositions are strong governments disregard the public will and obey the ruler, while weak ones succumb to the will of their people. Shocking statement was by the Pentagon planner, leading visionary in democratizing the ME, Paul Wolfowitz, who condemned the Turkish military who failed to play the leadership role by allowing an elected leader to follow the public opinion.
The American political commentator and author, a liberal, Thomas Friedman suggested in NYT, that France should be driven off from UNSC and replaced by India, who was much more serious than the kindergarten France. In essence the French govt. acted in accordance with the popular opinion. India was now a serious player as it was governed by an ultranationalist proto fascist NDA alliance implicated in massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, but handing the resources to MNC’s. So the enthuiasm for Indias wonderful software industry though millions live in abject poverty, women under duress. Remember, the Taliban was also of no concern to US as long as they were cooperative.
These are instructive of the prevailing attitudes of US political and intellectual elites to democracy and freedom. Though dislike to democracy is a traditional stance of those in power with privilege, a stark demonstration of this by a democratic country is beyond real. That is the reason why the establishment critics ignores the democratization rhetoric of the elites. Commentators pointed to the uncomfortable dualism of Bush seeking to democratize the ME, at the same time seeking closer ties with autocrats exactly following Reagan. Reagans model of democracy was a top down form without upsetting the balance of the autocratic regime. A democracy where the people’s involvement was out of question and consequently Latin Americans lost their faith in democracy. The Argentine political scientist, Atilio Boron., in his book, ‘State, Capitalism, And Democracy In Latin America‘ explains the obstacles Latin American countries face in their efforts at democratic reform, including political institutions, a strong authoritarian tradition, the influence of neoliberal economic policies, the shortsightedness of the ruling classes and hopelessness among the poor.
Neoliberalization in 1970 s reduced democratic options by strenghthening investors, with the government facing conundrums against funders’ and voters’ choices. Free movement of the capital, a key feature of globalization turned out to be the greatest obstacle to democratic government as John Maynard Keynes had warned.Harmful consequences of foreign investment was mentioned by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations. Same is true of privatization, another feature of neolibaralization.
Disllusionment with democracy was evident in US in the “stolen election” of 2000. The general public regarded it as a game between large contributors, party leaders and PR industry. Issues were not on agenda, voters were directed to the personal qualities of the candidate.
Liberation from Tyranny: Constructive Solutions
In Iraq, the constructive solution to democracy would have been to end the economic sanctions that strengthened Saddam and made the people more dependent on him than an outright violence against a tyranny long supported by the US. The people of Iraq were denied the democratic choices all along, like in the 1991 uprising when US supported Saddam in crushing it maintaining that the country needs an iron fisted military junta who offered better stability than representatives of people who suffered repression who might have ruled the country independent of US. . Exposure of mass graves of Saddam’s victims of revolution oppressed with US aid, was used as a smokescreen for the 2002 attack evoking his brutal genocide, something ignored in 1991. A popular uprising unlike US instigated coup by groups it controlled would have left US out of it’s influence in Iraq, like the revolts against tyrants supported by US. Sanctions were the best way to prevent a popular revolt and it succeeded. US hegemony over Iraq was strongly opposed in post war Iraq. A Shite Islamic Republic was decided to be objected by US on the grounds that they would mend fences with Iran.
Condolezza Rice stressed that Iraq is not East Timor, Kosovo or Afghanistan. The distinction is clear by the fact that Iraq is a major prize not to be given to UN or Iraqis. So the post war Iraq administration chart topped US personnels with a few Iraqis as advisors at the bottom end of the list. Thus by disturbing the world order Iraq became the “petri dish” for the US experimentation of world order and hegemony and establishing new norms as NYT reported
Dilemmas of Dominance
US support of Eastern Europe was based on the fact that it can drive the modern capitalism by cheap labour and blow apart the welfare state culture. After fall of Berlin wall, rising unemployment and pauperization of working class meant people were willing to work for pittance, for longer hours. Thus Europe could hammer away at high wages, short working hours, corporate taxes, and luxurious labor programmes.Thus the advantages could be brought to the west as well. The market reforms of East Europe were welcomed by US elites since the Western Europes social welfare systems and tax funded health care was very popular in US. Western Europe’s social market system could be a virus that infect others just like the independent social and economic development of the third world thus constituting successful defiance. The demographic consequences of modern capitalism were stark.
European unification received ambiguous support based on the doubt that Europe might go its own way independent of US..Eastern Europe, apart from undermining the social market system of West Europe, acted as a trojan horse for US market interests. In 1973 the share of US in world economy shrunk from its post WW2 peak and a tripolar order came into existence- North America, Europe and Japan based Asia. Later East Asia and China too joined. Before WW2, US was an economic powerhouse only, but after the war it became the leader in global management too as the other powers weakened or were devastated. Industrial production quadrupled and US controlled the whole western hemisphere, oceans and territory bordering it.
Marshall Plan fuelled growth of American MNC’s in Europe. SE Asia was to provide resources and raw materials to their former imperial masters. George Kennan, head of State Departments policy planning, adviced Africa to be split among Europeans to exploit the resources and the prized possession, the Middle East rich in oil was to be under US.
Cauldron of Animosities
Michael Krepon, a co-founder of the Stimson Center and a leading specialist on nuclear threats, raised concerns about the unstable nuclear proliferation belt from Pyonyang to Baghdad. But Israel, a far more nuclear threat is rarely featured in public discussions. Bush and Blair called for Resolution 687 to eliminate WMD from Iraq as a basis for invasion . But they ignored Article 14 of UN, specifying “a goal of establishing a Middle East zone free of WMD” that included Israel too.
Israel’s military capacities are dangerous, it is an off shore US military technology base and the core of economy is a military linked high tech industrial system with ties to US economy. It is now rated second in the western world after US, in terms of social gaps in income , property, capital, education and spending. It’s former social welfare system has eroded. It has close alliance with the other major regional military power, Turkey. 12% of Israeli offensive aircrafts are permanently stationed in Turkey, spying Iran, the main purposes being to partition Iran, separating the northern region, weakening it geopolitically, bar its access to Caspian sea and to expedite a pipeline from Caspian to Mediterranean cutting out Iran.
US-Israel- Turkey alliance extend to Central Asia and India (1998). The nationalist govt of India in 1998 shifted it’s international stance to Israel. The political analyst, Praful Bidwai wrote of the fascination of the Hindu nationalists with Zionism that is rooted in Islamophobia and hypernationalism and jingoism. The alliance of India and Israel , two nuclear powers contributed to proliferation of WMD, terror and disorder.
US- Israeli relations
After WW1, economy shifted from industrial to oil- based and petroleum sources were discovered in the ME. Now, the US policy shifted to controllig ME. British empire had delegated control to Arab ruler clients, a veil of constitutional fiction and cost effective than direct rule. The population did not submit, but airpower was becoming available to bomb civilians , and some like Winston Churchil gassed the recalcitrant Kurds and Afghans. Britain undermined the efforts to prevent the use of airpower against civilians after the war. The statesman, Lloyd George praised the British Govt. for reserving the right to bomb niggers.
US followed the British empire policy and the non- Arab states like Turkey, Shah’s Iran too joined. For US, it was more about control than access. After WW2, North America was the world’s largest oil producer. Later a major exporter to US, was Venezuela. And the US was expected to rely on the Atlantic Basin resources in future and not ME oil. So control over ME, was on the basis of the profits to US-UK energy corporations. The oil wealth recycles to US and UK in many ways like construction projects, military hardwares etc. Thus a global system of military bases were planned in Gulf. Base sites include, in Eastern Europe, Turkey,Afghanistan, Central Asia, British held island of Diego Garcia( inhabitants were expelled). One of the main reasons for invasion of Iraq was to establish a military base at the heart of ME. The 1948 Israeli Arab war showed the Israeli military military prowess that offered Israel as a means to gain military advantage over the Gulf region.
In 1958, the Eisenhower administration identified three major crisis of radical nationalism which could lead to democracy. In North Africa, the Algerian sttruggle for independence, in Indonesia, a peasant based party revolting against Suharto and in ME, Nasser, the new-Hitler of Egypt overthrowing imperial forces leading to independence. A coup in Iraq overthrew British backed government and it was feared that Kuwait and Saudi would follow the same path. Israel helped in supressing the nationalist movement in Jordan and US recognised it’s importance as an ally to thwart Arab nationalism and to hold Persian Gulf oil by force. The threat of independent Arab nationalism was destroyed for ever by thwarting Nasser in 1967 war. Israel also aided by deterring Syrian intervention to protect Palestinians who were being massacred in Jordan. Thus US aid to Israel quadrupled. The tacit alliance of Israel- Iran- Saudi helped US root its power in the ME. In 1979, when Shah fell, Israel-Turkey alliance invited Saddam to join them.
In 1971, Anwar Sadat of Egypt offered peace treaty with Israel in return for complete withdrawal of Israel from its occupied territories. Israel chose confrontation with US aid, not on the grounds of security but on the basis of further expansion. Inhabitants were brutally expelled from Sinai for an all- Jewish city of Yamit. Egypt waged a war in 1973, a near disaster for Israel. Kissinger launched his shuttle diplomacy In Camp David settlement of 1978-79. US and Israel accepted his 1971 offer, but by then Sadat included Palestinian rights too in the peace offer.
Now, Israel moved on to occupt Lebanon by a 1978 and 1982 war, that left many thousands dead. Many pretexts for the planned attack on 1982 failed, and finally the attempted assassination of Israel ambassador in London by Abu Nidal was used as a pretext. The Sabra- Shatila refugee camp was attacked in Beirut killing 200 people. US vetoed attempts to end the war in UN. The war continued for 18 years. The aim of Israel was to weaken PLO and set back its struggle for a Palestinian state. US supported the reason too, by the PR machinery announcing the continous rocket attacks killing innocent Israelis as the reason. An exception, an article by NYT correspondent, James Bennet, who clearly wrote the aim as to destroy Arafat and install a friendly regime in PLO, that would help persuade Palestinians to live under occupation. It is also a textbook description of massive international terrorism tracing back to Washington which provides the economic, military and diplomatic support for Israel’s atrocities. US has continously been vetoing the the two state solution in UN.
Camp David 2 follwed in 2000. US- israeli rejectionism runs through this too. Conventional belief is that Clinton- Barak Yehuda team offered a magnanimous deal rejected by the Palestinians. The map of the deal shows a vrtually divided West Bank into three cantons separated with two Jewish settlements in between, limited access to East Jerusalem, the heart of Palestininan life and an all separated Gaza. The Israeli negotiator, Shlomo Ben- Ami, a dove, outlined the goal of Oslo Peace Process( Yasser Arafat- Rabin, Perez- Clinton in 1993/ The wordings made it clear that there should be a mandate for continuing Israeli settlement process)- to establish a neocolonial dependency for the Palestinians. The same was done in Camp David too. The South African model of Bantustans is being followed until now. Camp David 2 failure led to negotiations at Taba, Egypt in 2001 which also failed due to territorial problems. A territorial divide on 1967 borders with one to one land swap would have solved the problem, something blocked by US and Israel since the beginning. Bush 2- Sharon years were notable for absence of diplomatic solutions and continued settlement expansion with US back up. 42% of West Bank is now under Israeli occupation. Two expanded settlements separate the northern and southern WB from each other and from East Jerusalem and Gaza completely. The humanitarian effect on Palestinians are obstacles, patrols, barricades, prohibitions, isolation, compromising their ability to lead normal lives and impoverishing an entire national community. While there is forceful enforcement of the conditions of peace process on Palestinians, there is nothing like that on the Israelis. US is not stringent on the Israel responbilites on the roadmap, it specifies clauses and conditions on Israel on US subsidy like slashing public sector jobs, wages and lower taxes, favoring businesses and thus enforcing the neoliberal conditions on Israel.
By constructing a wall separating West Bank, ostensibly for security of Israelis, it has annexed agricultural lands(10%) and aquifers from Palestinian side to Israel. The winding path of the wall is designed to encircle parts of Palestinian lands(42% or less) and incorporate it to Israel. In December 2000, Bush administration vetoed an UN resolution advanced by EU, to reduce violence in Palestine by dispatching international monitors, something Israel strongly objects. 10 days before that US boycotted a Geneva conference to revive the situation in occupied territories according to which the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Conventions would constitute US- Israeli actions as war crimes under US law. The conference condemned US-Israeli settlements and the wilful killing, torture, deportation, depriving fair trial and destruction and appropriation of property. By not attending, US succesfully issued a double veto- blocked decisions and the barely reported events being erased from history. The Fourth Geneva Convention, instituted to criminalize Nazi crimes in occupied Europe is the core principle of international humanitarian law. It is clearly applicable to Israeli occupation. Resolutions from UN has adopted the US- backed occupations as flagrant violations of the convention. US and Europe as High Contracting Parties should make sure that other countries and themselves are obligated by solemn treaty to prosecute those responsible for the crimes, but by rejecting their duties US is perpetuationg terror by abstaining from UN during the Clinton years and undermining the resolutions during the Bush 2 years.
The Bush administration endorsed the violent repression by permitting Sharon to continue his offensive during 2002, levelling the Jenin refugee camps, smashing the old city of Nablus, destroying the infrastructure of Ramallah. For the first time, Bush 2 administration opposed the UN resolution opposing annexation of Jerusalem. He also voted against a UN resolution calling for pause in the deteriorating relation between Israel and Palestine, thus continuing to sustain violence and repression. He declared the archterrorist Sharon, “a man of peace” and demanded that Arafat be replaced by a pliable Palestinian leader without popular following. So much for his vision of “democracy”. In a 2003 speech to a far Right American Institute he obliquely remarked that the settlement might end once peace is achieved( unilaterally as per US decisions and terms), an implicit remark to continue settlement, and a reversal of official US policy that settlement is illegal. All these endorsements escaped mentions by the press.
During the first anniversary of 9/11 Bush approved 200 million dollars of aid to the rich Israel, rejecting the 130 million dollar aid to Afghanistan. The UK Foreign Secretary at the time was worried about the ME issues, Saddam and insecurity of Israel. The insecurity of Palestine was not even worthy of mention. The undermining of diplomatic peace porcess is justified on the basis of Palestinian terror against Israeli civilian, which did increase after they had been continually battered by the US and Israel. Israel has always had a culture of using power over peace, despite it’s sacrosanct ethos of aspiring to peace. The instituitionalization of power guided by a military culture intervening by threat or force in politics, using fear mongerng tactics to create anxiety of public and distracting them from domestic issues is a formula enacted by the founding father David Ben Gurion, something familiar in many fascist, proto fascist governments. The IDF is notorious for extreme violence, sometimes disregarding the elected civilian government as was clear during the months of Intifada. The ratio of Palestinians killed is almost 20 times to those of Israelis. US provided bulldozers raze the buildings, houses, fields and olive groves with utter abandon. The resistance from Palestine mostly boil down to stone throwing and rocket firing while the IDF uses US provided highly advanced weapons against them. US provided military helecopters fired at civilians unrestricted, again something that went unreported in US press. Bulldoing and using earthmowers fitted on tanks were used by US in 1991 Gulf war, while they bulldozed live Iraqi soldiers into trenches and killed them. Most were hapless victims of Saddam, the Shiites and Kurds hiding in sand holes or fleeing for their lives. This also was not reported by the press.
These slaughters, an overwhelming show of disparity of force, borders on perversive. Another one is the much lauded object lesson in airpower( recorded in US Airforce study) to all Communists especially to North Korean Communists during the Korean war of 1953. No targets left in a flattened country, the AirForce bombed and destroyed the irrigation dams providing water to 75% of the rice cultivation. The westerners would never understand this means starvation and slow death of people where rice is a staple diet. Such crimes constituted the ones receiving death sentences in Nuremberg trial. Examples of powerful states inflicting wrath upon the powerless and subjugated are many. British atrocities on Indians, and Britain’s repression of Kenyan colonial revolt are two examples. The ferocity and cruelty of the settler forces and IDF ordering collective punishment in Intifada 2 in 2000 forced the Palestinians to strike back. During Intifada 1 the population was terrorized, crushed, beaten, tortured, but they did not strike back. Many have pointed out the dangers to Israeli society by the IDF’s actions, when two thirds of the men in the army internalize the principle of Moshe Dayan that the task of the army is not just to defend the state, but to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are like dogs, or they are Araboushim(A highly offensive and inflammatory Hebrew term of ethnic bigotry and hatred for Palestinians and other Arabs which is widely used by Israeli Zionists.) living in terrotories promised to the Jews by God. After the second Intifada, the ratio of palestinians to Israelis killed shifted from 20:1 to 3:1. The US was naturally concerned now at the outrageous attacks on their innocent clients, not shown when innocent Palestinians were being mowed, a selective vision with deep roots in the history and culture of conquerors.
Terrorism and Justice:Truisms
The two truisms, actions should be evaluated based on consequences and the same standards must apply for all parties(principle of universality) remain just that, truisms, when it comes to US actions. The defenition of terrorism in US is obscure in the sense that it is the same definition of counterterrorism in the name of war on terror. The revised definitions did nothing to differentiate the two, one of crucial problems. US is not alone in this, all states call their own terrorism as counterterror. Even the Nazi counterterrorism in occupied Europe was claimed to defend the legitimate population and governments from London- funded partisans. The US military modelled its counterterrorism from Nazi manuals analyzed sympathetically with the help of Wehrmacht officers.
By definition US becomes a terrorist state. It’s disregard for the international instituitions and actions in other countries prove this. Defenitions of terrorism get even more complicated when distinguishing between international terrorism and agression and terrorism and resistance. Charter of UN, legitimize actions if resistance is being used for right to self determination, freedom and independence of people deprived of these esp. people under colonial, racist regimes or foreign occupation. US and Israel vetoed, Honduras ( since the phrase colonial, racist regimes would imply their ally South Africa) abstained from the 1987 resolution. US and Israel would definitely not condone the resistance of ANC under Mandela (designated a terrorist group by US ). The term foreign occupation was implying Israel. so that was another reason. US and Israel were the only countries that called this terrorism and not resistance at the time. US designated the term terrorist to Hezbollah because it resisted the Israel occupation of Lebanon and to South Vietnam and Iraq because they resisted US agression.
The sharp disparities of what constitue terrorism for US and Israel and the rest of the world is apparent in historical and documentary records and marginalized critical literature. Latin America was a victim of US counterterrorism from the 1960 s. The LA military was trained to shift from Hemispheric defense to internal security during the Kennedy administration in 1962 by tolerating their military atrocities, complicity and support. Rather than external defense, regular armies were made death squads against perceived and assumed communist revolutionaries who practically included anyone who resisted the regime and military. In 1962, Kennedy sent Special Force Mission to Columbia for this purpose. The National Security aim of army reached Central America, El SALVADOR during the 1980 s. Whenever direct military aid to the army was hampered by human rights isssues as in Guatemala, surrogates took the charge.
The first war on terror declared by Reagan in 1980 s is described by academic specialists as counterterrorism efforts of resistance of US against state sponsored terrorists like Libya, Central America and Iran. US merely responed with a proactive stance to terrorism. The villainy of Vietcong, Nicaraguans, Iranians, Libyans against the US, presents a picture of US as victim. US supported Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1982, 1993 and 1996. The car bomb outside a mosque in Beirut that killed 80 people was traced back to CIA and British intelligence. Shimon Perez’s bombing of Tunis killing 75 people was US supported. The calculated brutality and arbitrary murder of Lebanese villagers by Perez was US supported. All these fall within the category of state supported international terrorism. But none of this entered the canon of terrorism or press because of wrong- agent fallacy.
The year 1985 is considered peak year of ME terrorism not because of the above atrocities, but two terrorist attacks where two Americans were killed. The Sharon offensive of 2002 on Palestinians when many were killed, buildings buldozed, cultural centres and educational institutions crushed, people maimed, were not terrorism but defense according to US press and administration. The careful disappearance of facts by the press which presented the US version of events made it hard for the public to pursue the truth in these cases. Similar to Israel, Turkish repression of Kurds was praised by US as efforts to counter terrorism , while Turkey had been receiving the means for opression from US the one sponsoring state terrorism. For US and it’s client states the definition of terrorim differs considerably than for other states.
The bombing of Afghanistan was hailed as a ‘just-cause war’ for regime change. An international gallup poll before the bombing showed diplomatic/ judicial methods as preferrable to military action. There was considerable opposition to military action, but the poll was never reported in the US media. At that time US did not know the people behind 9/11 as it made clear 8 months after the war. Eight months after the war US announced who it thought was behind 9/11- Al Qaeda operating from Afghanistan, planned and financed in Germany and UAE. There was no definite proof still. The Bush administration bombed Afghanistan based on mere suspicions. Thus it should come under warcrimes as the bombing was not based on any actual proof, the majority of the world did not support, those who supported did so based on presupposition that US and UK knew the perpetrators well. It was a clearcut example of international terrorism by a powerful state, exactly a kind of jihad by US. The bombing, supposedly against the Taliban regime, ended up destroying the country and killed many innocents and was condemned by all Afghani leaders, religious scholars, tribal elders and also by Abdul Haq, the Afghan opposition leader highly regarded in US and AFGHANISTAN. Even in countries like India and Israel who supported military action ( for parochial reasons), a considerable majority had opposed the bombing. The hawks in US reported that the war had considerable support from a majority except some isolationist, pacifist, lunatic fringe.
The reason given by the US for bombing Afghanistan was that the Taliban reluctance to extradite the 9/11 suspects. But the US did not give any evidence to the Taliban. Contrarily, Haitian requests to extradite Emmanuel Constant , the paramilitary leader responsible for murder of thousands of civilians in the 1990 s with the support of Clinton and Bush were not even given notice in the US. The fact was that US was afraid that he would testify of the connections of US and the state terrorists. The question arises if Haiti was entitled to bomb US based on just- cause war principle. Washingtons( Bush’s) doctrine that if a country, harbours, abets , or aids terrorists, they would be terrorist too and hence bombed to earth could be applied reciprocally to US as a justified and properly calibrated response . Massive bombing of a country in which a suspected terrorist/ terrorists are being hidden cannot form a just- cause war by any means of moral/ ethical or political standards. The hollow legal claims of US commentators justifying the war as the right to self defense against those who attack or threaten one’s country could be applied by Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti or any other country who had been victims of US interventions. Another legal support from an international law expert goes like this- “a state is responsible for the consequences of permitting its territories to be used to injure another state”. This law definitely holds good for Cuba, Nicaragua and many others to justify bombing US in retaliation.
In 1998, Clinton dispatched missile attacks on al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan believed to produce chemical weapons. Many people died, there were many further deaths from starvation due to the postponement of crucial relief efforts for 2.4 million people. A mere suspicion of a pharmacy resulted in massive and dire consequences to the people of Sudan, which the US justified as unintended and absolved themselves of culpability. With such appalling consequences, Sudan is also entitled to a retaliatory strike. The callousness by Clinton and his administration despite knowing that they were destroying a major source of pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines in Sudan could be viewed under the Hegelian doctrine, Africans being considered mere things with no value of life. One commentator described the 9/11 as by agressors with moral orthodoxy divergent from the West. If so, what sort of moral orthodoxy should be ascribed to the West?
The 9/11 attacks were not entirely unexpected. It is doubtful that the attacks sharply changed the course of history. Even from the 80’s the war on terror was slated to continue and prospects of major terrorist attacks were publicly dscussed . In 1993, a near WTC attack almost happened that was thwarted on time. Even after 9/11 the risk assessments of future attacks did not change substantially. And US definitely had ideas of the radical Islamic terrorism at least from the 1980 s when elements that formed the later Al Qaeda assassinated Sadat of Egypt or a loosely related group that drove US forces out of Beirut, killing troops and civilians. These groups were well understood by the US as they had long been trained, recruited and armed by the CIA for their own purposes(from 1980 s) and continued to work with them even while they were attacking US. A Dutch enquiry into Srebrenica massacre revealed that while the CIA -trained terrorist networks, Mujahidins, were being flown from Afghanistan to Bosnia along with the Iranian Hezbollah fighters and arms by the US, to support the US side of Balkan wars, radical Islamists were planning to attack WTC in1993. Israel, Ukraine and Greece supplied Serbs with US provided arms. The 9/11 just served to topple the assumption that only the rich and powerful had monopoly to international terrorism.
The tendencies in global affairs that have been expected to enhance terrorist threats include neoliberal globalization causing financial volatility, deepening economic stagnation harming the poor more, political instability, and cultural alienation fostering ethnic, ideological and religious extremism. Most of the hatred will be towards US and its policies. To reduce the threat of terror, the terrorist networks should be distinguished from the reservoir from which they draw members, i.e, the poor and oppressed. The poor receives the double whammy from the rich and powerful as well as from the terrorists. Unless the sociopolitical and economic conditions that spawned Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are addressed, US and its western allies will be targeted. Only way is to reduce the pathology of hatred, moderating conditions that breed violence and to wean away the support base by eliminating policies that are a huge recruiting device to terrorists. Might can destroy the terrorists, but the support base could be eroded only by just policies. Even destruction of terrorists will do little unless the underlying conditions that facilitated the groups emergence like political oppression and economic marginalisation are addressed. US support for tyranical regimes has to end as it supports Muslim oppression .
Violence begets more violence. As wars like the one in Iraq, continues, new terrorist jihadis will spawn. As predicted by many observers, the Iraq war catalyzed the recruitment in Al Qaeda and new terrorist groups, there was rise in radical fundamentalism all over the world. This is the greatest setback of war on terror, a terrorist safe haven has been created in Iraq itself. The goals of the terrorists are to drive the infidels out of Muslim lands, overthrow corrupt and brutal governments imposed and sustained by the infidels and to institute an extremist version of Islam. America has been singled out by the groups, according to Laden in 1998, “when it sent its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques, and its support for oppressive, corrupt, tyrranical regimes”. Delicate social and political problems can’t be bombed and missiled out of existence, but should be addressed.
Two specific issues that inspired hatred against US policies among Muslims were the Israeli Palestinian conflict and US sancions on Iraq along with their support for corrupt governments and autocrats thus denying democracy in the Arab land. The non wealthy Muslims also resent that the wealth from the resources of their countries are being divvied up by the West and the moneyed Arabs, instead of using for their domestic purposes. Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise not just among the poor but among the educated and privileged classes too.
A Passing Nightmare
Before the dust had settled from WTC during 9/11, Republicans professed their aim to use terrorism as an excuse to pursue radical right wing agenda. Staring into the abyss of future was the public, those at the centre of power and privilige were pursuing agendas that ultimately benefited them, using the fear and anxiety of the moment to deepen the abyss. Many others joned the US in the war on terror, Russia eager to oppress the Chechnyans, China the Uighurs and Israel the Palestinians. The threat of terrorism is not the only abyss into which we peer, another one is the nuclear threat which the US and other nuclear states make sure to grow. Clinton’s Strategic Command described nuclear weapons as the most useful in the arsenal. It is the same vision as Nixon’s famous madman theory which he and Kissinger applied during the 1969 nuclear alert that could have gone wrong. The STRATCOM further manintained the right to first use of nuclear power even against those without nuclear weapons, those who have signed the Non Proliferation Treaty. They also adviced to continue to maintain the launch on warning posture for nuclear missiles on hair trigger alert. These were proposals adopted by Clinton. This document is available for the public, but they never knew that, despite the fact that US is unique in allowing the public access to high level planning documents.
Another major nuclear threat was the poorly stored and maintained nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, almost 40,000 of them. They might end up in the hands of wrong people as loose nukes or might be deployed carelessly. The Bush administration cut off a programme to safeguard these nukes and provide alternate employment to the nuclear scientists there. US nuclear proliferation has ripple effects on other nuclear weapon holding countries. Bizarre policies include, Bush administration maintaining that it has no objection in China continuing the nuclear missile proliferation, to gain its acquiescence in dismantling the arms control agreements. Clinton encouraged Russia to adopt a launch on warning strategy, something that might go wrong as the alert systems in Russia has many holes. The grave proliferation risks and threats of accidental or unauthorized strikes are growing . Thousands of nuclear scientists in Russia are mainly unemployed increasing the risk of them accepting lucrative offers for the secret weapon programmes from other countries.
Thus the post 9/11 strategies ignored measures to alleviate the threat of military confrontation and inturn increased proliferation in US thus inviting the adversaries to breed their own proliferation. Bush called for programmes for offensive use of nuclear warheads than as a deterrent. He lowered the nuclear threshold and broke down the firewall separating nuclear weapons from other conventional weapons. Militarization of space was monoplolized . During the Cold War, opportunities to reduce the nuclear proliferation was squandered by the US consistently. ICBM, a potential threat then, was possessed by the US and not by Russia. So Russia could have signed a treaty banning them, but US took no interest. Russian archives show that it’s proposal to unify east and west Germany to reduce East- West tensions and improve economy of Russia, were flatly ignored by US in 1952. Krushchev called for mutual reduction in offensive military forces, Eisenhover ignored this, but Krushchev implemented the reductions unilaterally still, against his military command to concentrate on economic growth. Instead US went on with massive nuclear and military build up thus driving the last nail on the coffin of Krushchev’s agenda for controlling the Soviet military. Soviet Union began seriously building up nuclear weapons after this. Had the US not ignored their request for treaty, Krushchev’s revisionism could have improved the economy of Russia and expedited Gorbachev’s social and economic reforms.
The controversial weapon programmes have been called defense against possible attacks. Missile defense is a moniker for comprehensive space monopolization for offensive military programmes. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative programmes was an effort to disarm BMD opponents,an antinuclear popular movement by stealing their language of peace and disarmament while advancing offensive military system. It was in clear violation of Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty signed in 1972. BMD is actually not about defense, but for offense. Absolute ownership of space allows US to launch nuclear or non nuclear hypersonic missiles on a perceived threat without warning and before the victim country could even activate its defense. This gives the US hegemony on an unprecedented scale. US remains the only country refusing to sign the treaty on banning militarization of space. Biological and chemical weapons development also has proceeded unimpeded, the US refusing to sign treaties or participate in international conferences. The protection of commercial interests of drug and chemical companies is a reason too here. Just like many industrial establishments develop and prosper in defense and military programmes. Many like Kyoto protocol were undermined as it would harm US economy.
One positive development is the evolution of human rights cuture accelerated in the 1960 s. Solidarity movement development in the 1980 s like the one concerning Central America are notable and unprecedented. The solidarity movements have been exposed to the wrath of repressive states , putting their lives at risk even. Rachel Aliene Corrie was an American activist and diarist. A member of the pro-Palestinian group International Solidarity Movement, she was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Forces armored bulldozer ..The killing of an US citizen by US clients using US provided weapons was not considered worthy of inquiry. Global Justice Movements are also large in scale and entirely new. Thus the planet’s “second superpower”, the masses could no longer be ignored. The gains in human rights were not gifts of enlightened leaders but imposed on states by popular protests. The harmful effects of corporate globalization have led to mass popular protests and activism in the South which slowly reached the rich industrialized countries thus linking and unifying them., making concrete alliances at grassroots level. Effects are in the form of restrain in state terrorism, policy and rhetorical changes. The momentum should be sustained to deepen the global bonds of sympathy and solidarity.
So there are two trajectories in current history- one aiming towards hegemony, acting rationally within a lunatic doctrinal framework which threatens survival and the other challenging the reigning ideological system and seeking alternatives of thought , action and institutions.
Bertrand Russel once expressed somber thoughts on peace:
“After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it has generated Neros, Genghis Khans and Hitlers. This however, I believe, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peacce will return“
Discontent with US policies intensified after 2002. The war increased the threat of terror and revived the appeal of global Islamist Jihad. Iraq became a terrorist haven. Suicide attacks increased globally. WMD proliferation increased considerably and worrisomely. In 2003, Madrid train bombings killed 200 people, in Europe’s worst terrorist crime. Spanish electorate voted out the government who had gone to war despite popular opposition.
Al Qaeda, a loose array of radical Islamists, for whom Bin Laden was hardly more than a symbol was able to recruit feverishly . It was not well known before 1998, when Clinton bombed Sudan and Afghanistan. This created closer ties between Laden, who was a symbol and Taliban and led to a sharp increase in support, financing and recruitment. Bush’s bombing of Afghanistan in 2002 led to futher growth of Al Qarda and the prominence of Laden. His message spread around the world and recruited many angry young people in a battle between good and eveil, a vision shared by Bush. Every use of force is a victory for Laden, whether dead or alive.
Russia carried out its largest military exercise exhibiting advance WMD in 2004, in response to the development of “bunker busters” by US clearly designed to target the Russian high level nuclear command bunkers that control its nuclear arsenal. Russia was also starting to duplicate hypersonic cruise missiles that would attack from space without warning, something designed by the US to reduce reliance on overseas bases and negotiated access to air routes. Russian military expenditures tripled during Bush- Putin time. Russia adopted the preemptive strike doctrine and warned that it would use the military if the access to places considered vital for its survival is limited.
Flaws might happen in automated response systems leading to nuclear launch. Pentagon had found flaws in it’s computer systems that could allow terrorist hackers to seize control and simulate a launch. Moreover US presidents have been systematically misinformed, just like the one with Iraq, about effects of nuclear war due to lack of oversight by insulated beureaucracies resulting in institutional myopia that can be catastrophic. Though the missile defense systems by the US is thought to be for deterrence, both US planners and potential targets are aware that its main purpose is offensive .
In 2003 US moved to terminate a ban in biowarfare and militarization of space. In 2003, at UN general assembly US along with India voted against steps towards elimnation of nuclear weapons. It voted along with Israel and Micronesia against steps to prevent nuclear proliferation in ME, a pretext for Iraq invasion. Colin Powell explained the NSS(National Security Strategy) in WEF like this- “Washington has the right to use force to defend ourselves from nations that possess WMD and cooperate with terrorists”. Later Bush lowered the bar further, removed the ‘cooperate with terrorists ‘ part and appraised the intent to use force if countries have the intent and ability to possess WMD, that is all the rest of the nations. Powell justified Iraq attack after it was known that the WMD story was cooked up, by explaining that Iraq had the intent and ability to make WMD and had used this against Iran and his own people, actually something done with US help. All these contrived pretexts collapsed on the face of the original reason for Iraq invasion, to secure a military base at the heart of the world’s major energy resources. And this aim has been the only reason and the plan to attack has been much before 9/11 from 1981 at least.
US moved to undermine the democratic government in Haiti by Jean Bertrand Aristide elected in 1990 democratically by the Haitian people against the US backed candidate. He was overthrown a few months later by a military coup by Bush 1. Bush 1 and Clinton supported the military junta and its wealthy patrons. Clinton allowed the president to return but on a crucial condition that he adopt the neoliberal policy of his opponent. Economy was taken over by foreign banks and businesses. Economic sovereignity was undermined, development restricted, political democracy became a shadow, country went to chaos and violence while Bush had already banned international aid before. What the US call “restoring democracy”. It was these kind of enforced economic programmes that created the third world, the imperial powers resorting to the state to protect the rich from market disciplines . The same principle is being followed still.In an election in El SALVADOR, Bush warned that if the democratic process did not come out the right way (by choosing the US supported candidate), the country’s lifeline, remittances from the US would be cut among other consequences.
Iraqis knew this kind of enforced rules better, Iraq was created by the British, the boundaries drawn by them, to ensure that Britain and not Turkey will get control of its resources of the north and Iraq was barred from sea by the US colony of Kuwait. Everything is there in classified British documents, of how an Arab facade was created to rule behind constitutional fictions. The large military and diplomatic presence in Iraq even after US handed over the power to Iraqis is proof enough that the aim was not democratization. The economy was opened for foreign take over.