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Chomsky! speaks out with noble integrity

May 21st, 2009

 

 

American Amnesia: We Forget Our Atrocities Almost As Soon as We Commit Them

 

By Noam Chomsky, Tomdispatch.com. Posted May 20, 2009.

 

Historical amnesia is a dangerous social phenomenon because it lays the groundwork for crimes that still lie ahead.

 

Also in Rights and Liberties

 

 

 

 by the White House elicited shock, indignation, and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable. The surprise, less so.

 

For one thing, even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law — a place, incidentally, that Washington is using in violation of a treaty forced on Cuba at the point of a gun? Security reasons were, of course, alleged, but they remain hard to take seriously. The same expectations held for the Bush administration‘s “black sites,” or secret prisons, and for extraordinary rendition, and they were fulfilled.

 

More importantly, torture has been routinely practiced from the early days of the conquest of the national territory, and continued to be used as the imperial ventures of the “infant empire” — as George Washington called the new republic — extended to the Philippines, Haiti, and elsewhere. Keep in mind as well that torture was the least of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion, and economic strangulation that have darkened U.S. history, much as in the case of other great powers.

 

Accordingly, what’s surprising is to see the reactions to the release of those Justice Department memos, even by some of the most eloquent and forthright critics of Bush malfeasance: Paul Krugman, for example, writing that we used to be “a nation of moral ideals” and never before Bush “have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.” To say the least, that common view reflects a rather slanted version of American history.

 

Occasionally the conflict between “what we stand for” and “what we do” has been forthrightly addressed. One distinguished scholar who undertook the task at hand was Hans Morgenthau, a founder of realist international relations theory. In a classic study published in 1964 in the glow of Camelot, Morgenthau developed the standard view that the U.S. has a “transcendent purpose”: establishing peace and freedom at home and indeed everywhere, since “the arena within which the United States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide.” But as a scrupulous scholar, he also recognized that the historical record was radically inconsistent with that “transcendent purpose.”

 

We should not be misled by that discrepancy, advised Morgenthau; we should not “confound the abuse of reality with reality itself.” Reality is the unachieved “national purpose” revealed by “the evidence of history as our minds reflect it.” What actually happened was merely the “abuse of reality.”

 

The release of the torture memos led others to recognize the problem. In the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen reviewed a new book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by British journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, who concludes that the U.S. is “just one great, but imperfect, country among others.” Cohen agrees that the evidence supports Hodgson’s judgment, but nonetheless regards as fundamentally mistaken Hodgson’s failure to understand that “America was born as an idea, and so it has to carry that idea forward.” The American idea is revealed in the country’s birth as a “city on a hill,” an “inspirational notion” that resides “deep in the American psyche,” and by “the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise” demonstrated in the Western expansion. Hodgson’s error, it seems, is that he is keeping to “the distortions of the American idea,” “the abuse of reality.”

 

Let us then turn to “reality itself”: the “idea” of America from its earliest days.

 

“Come Over and Help Us”

 

The inspirational phrase “city on a hill” was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation “ordained by God.” One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony created its Great Seal. It depicted an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On that scroll are the words “Come over and help us.” The British colonists were thus pictured as benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

 

 

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Stealbackyourvote.org

October 18th, 2008

 

Don’t worry about Mickey Mouse or ACORN stealing the election. 

According to an investigative report out today in Rolling Stone 

magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, after a year-long 

investigation, reveal a systematic program of “GOP vote tampering” on

a massive scale.

- Republican Secretaries of State of swing-state Colorado have quietly 

purged one in six names from their voter rolls.

Over several months, the GOP politicos in Colorado stonewalled every 

attempt by Rolling Stone to get an answer

 to the massive purge – ten 

times the average state’s rate of removal.

- While Obama dreams of riding to the White House on a wave of new 

voters, more then 2.7 million have had their registrations REJECTED 

under new procedures signed into law by George Bush.

Kennedy, a voting rights lawyer, charges this is a resurgence of ‘Jim 

Crow’ tactics to wrongly block Black and Hispanic voters.

- A fired US prosecutor levels new charges – accusing leaders of his 

own party, Republicans, with criminal acts in an attempt to block legal 

voters as “fraudulent.”

- Digging through government records, the Kennedy-Palast team 

discovered that, in 2004, a GOP scheme called “caging” ultimately

took 

away the rights of 1.1 million voters. The Rolling Stone duo predict 

that, this November 4, it will be far worse.

There’s more:

- Since the last presidential race, “States used dubious ‘list

 

management’ rules to scrub at least 10 million voters from their 

rolls.”

Among those was Paul Maez of Las Vegas, New Mexico – a victim of an 

unreported but devastating purge of voters in that state that left as 

many as one in nine Democrats without a vote. For Maez, the state’s 

purging his registration was particularly shocking – he’s the county 

elections supervisor.

The Kennedy-Palast revelations go far beyond the sum of questionably 

purged voters recently reported by the New York Times.

“Republican operatives – the party’s elite commandos of bare-knuckle 

politics,” report Kennedy and Palast, under the cover of fighting 

fraudulent voting, are “systematically disenfranchis[ing] Democrats.”

The investigators level a deadly serious charge:

“If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat 

McCain at the polls – they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the

 

level of GOP vote tampering.”

Block the Vote by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. & Greg Palast in the current 

issue (#1064) of Rolling Stone. [Media enquiries - Dave Falkenstein, 

Sunshine Sachs & Assoc, via interviews@gregpalast.com.]

Note – Kennedy and Palast are releasing, simultaneously with the 

Rolling Stone investigative report what they call, the vote-theft 

‘antidote’: a 24-page full-color comic book, Steal Back Your Vote, 

which can be downloaded or obtained in print from their non-partisan 

website, StealBackYourVote.org

For updates and video reports, go to RollingStone.com, 

www.GregPalast.com and StealBackYourVote.org.

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