Atlantic Free Press OP/ED
George Katsiaficas: U.S. Human Rights Policy is Self-serving and Duplicitous
Sunday, 06 March 2011 08:49
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran
George Katsiaficas is a renowned university professor, sociologist, author and activist. He is a visiting American Professor of Humanities and Sociology at Chonnam National University, Gwangju, South Korea where he teaches and does research on the 1980s and 1990s East Asian uprisings.
Katsiaficas has a Ph.D. of sociology from the University of California, San Diego. Since 1990, he has taught sociology at the Wentworth Institute of Technology's Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. During the period between 2006 and 2008, he was an Associate in Research at the Harvard University and Korea Institute.
He specializes in social movements, Asian politics, the U.S. foreign policy, comparative and historical studies and has written numerous books in these fields.
In 2003, he won the American Political Science Association's Special Award for Outstanding Service and in 2008, received the Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Fellowship.
Among his major books are "The Battle of Seattle" by the New York's Soft Skull Press, "Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party" by New York's Routledge Press and "South Korean Democracy: Legacy of the Gwangju Uprising" by London's Routledge Press.
What follows is the complete text of interview with Dr. George Katsiaficas on the recent uprising in the Arab world, its impacts on the international developments and its implications for the United States and its European allies.
Kourosh Ziabari: After Tunisia and Egypt in which the revolutionary forces and people on the ground succeeded in ousting the U.S.-backed puppets, several other Arab nations joined them and staged massive street demonstrations to call for civil liberties, improved living conditions, freedom and democratic governments. Now the whole Arab world is in a state of turmoil and unrest and the U.S.-backed dictators are facing the bitter reality that their autocracies are about to fail and collapse. What factors led to the extension of anti-government protests to the whole Arab world? Can we interpret this collective uprising a result of the explosion of strong pan-Arabist sentiments?
George Katsiaficas: No one could have predicted that the suicide of a vegetable vendor in rural Tunisia would unleash long pent-up frustrations on such a scale. If we take a long historical view, the Arab world went into a steep decline after Europeans discovered how to round Africa and established direct trade with the East. While oil has provided a huge stimulus for recovery in the 20th century, its effects have been drastically mitigated by elite corruption. The Arab people are finally awakening from a long slumber. The masses of ordinary Arabs today know in their hearts that they are more intelligent than their rulers. They know that they could all live better lives if they could get rid of the corrupt and often stupid elites trampling on their freedoms and hogging the money that rightfully belongs to everybody.
The Enduring Mystique of the Marshall Plan
Thursday, 03 March 2011 08:37
by William Blum
Amidst all the stirring political upheavals in North Africa and the
Middle East the name "Marshall Plan" keeps being repeated by political
figures and media around the world as the key to rebuilding the
economies of those societies to complement the political advances, which
hopefully will be somewhat progressive. But caveat emptor
. Let the buyer beware.
During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice
inflicted upon the world by unending United States interventions, I've
often been met with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling
only the negative side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many
positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some examples of what
s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America's dealings with the world
in modern times, one of the things mentioned — almost without exception —
is The Marshall Plan. This is usually described along the lines of:
"After World War II, the United States unselfishly built up Europe
economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete
with us." Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign
policy, who are quick to question the White House's motives in
Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, have little problem in accepting this
picture of an altruistic America of the period 1948-1952. But let's
have a look at the Marshall Plan outside the official and popular
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and
undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the
thing called "communism" stood in the way, politically, militarily, and
ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized
to confront this "enemy", and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of
this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the
principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to
World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the
Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging communism ahead of
fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism included the
dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the Soviets. 1
Indonesia – The Worst Example For Revolutions In Arab World
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 10:35
by Andre Vltchek
several revolts shook recently big part of Arab world, as Hosni Mubarak
stepped down and the leaders of Bahrain and Libya could not think about
anything better than to order bloody crack down against their own
people, the world (read Western governments, media and academia) were
watching with increasing doze of discomfort.
Protests seem to be engulfing almost all countries in the region from Morocco and Tunis to Jordan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
ally of the West – Saudis – feel suddenly 'vulnerable', even
'encircled'. No wonder – millions of the poor from all over the region
are now marching and fighting for social justice or for justice in
general. And there is hardly a place in the world with more striking
inequalities than in this kingdom based on Wahabi conservative Islam,
historically close ally of British imperialism. As is well known, Saudi
Arabia is bathing in oil – that dark liquid which is both blessing and
curse - enriching elites while helping to maintain apartheid between the
natives and exploited migrant workers.
decades, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt (or more precisely their
rulers and 'elites') – all of them served Western interests with zeal
and efficiency. Now they are expecting helping hand, support in this
complex and 'dangerous times'.
the White House was sending conflicting reports to its allies,
well-disciplined mass media and academia rose immediately to the
challenge and invented 'the best role model for the Arab world' –
all, Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other nation on earth.
It is rich in natural resources and after 1998 it holds multi-party
elections. Its economy is growing at more than 6% a year and there seem
to be no popular uprisings or calls for revolution. Both President Obama
and Foreign Secretary Clinton sang praises to Indonesian model during
their visits to Jakarta.
is a staunch ally of the West: 'a bumper zone against rising China',
good god-fearing country where the Communist Party and atheism are
banned and business and the Almighty appear to be working in unison for
the benefit of the few. It performed extremely effective surgery on
behalf of the West in 1965/66 – murdering millions of Communists,
progressive leaders, teachers, intellectuals and members of Chinese
minority. It can be, therefore, trusted.
Writing for CNN, Ann
Marie Murphy - an associate professor at the John C. Whitehead School
of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, and an
associate fellow at the Asia Society - argued:
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned in the face of widespread
demonstrations, attention has shifted to what comes next. Fears have
been raised that Egypt's transition may follow the Iranian path, where
the Shah's overthrow led to a repressive Islamic regime that turned away
from the West and became a source of regional instability. Indonesia
provides a better analogy for Egypt than Iran. Over the past decade
Indonesia, home of the world's largest community of Muslims, has made a
successful transition to democracy that clearly refutes the proposition
that Islam and democracy are incompatible…"
Robert Jensen: Consciousness rising, world fading
Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:40
|by Robert Jensen Ph.D.
Our stories of awakenings -- whether moral,
intellectual, religious, artistic, or sexual -- are tricky. Honest
self-reflection doesn't come easy, and self-satisfied accounts are the
norm; we love to be the heroes of our own epics.
true of accounts of political awakening as well, especially for those
of us born into unearned privilege as a result of systems of
illegitimate authority. Not only do we love to tell stories in which we
come out looking good, but we know how to decorate the narrative with
the trappings of humility to avoid seeming arrogant. We use our
failures to set up the story of our transformation; even when we speak
of our limitations we are highlighting our wisdom in seeing those
So, when I
got a request from a researcher to tell my story about how my political
consciousness was raised, I was hesitant. I don't like feeling like a
fraud, and something always feels a bit fraudulent about my account,
even when I am being as honest as I can. But, like most people, I feel
driven to tell my story, mostly to try to explain myself to myself. So,
here I go again:
teenager coming of age in the 1970s in mainstream culture in the upper
Midwest, I missed the United States' radicalizing movements by a decade
and several hundred miles. I developed conventional liberal politics in
reaction to the conventional conservative politics of my father and his
generation. But in a more basic sense, I grew up depoliticized -- like
most contemporary Americans, I was never taught to analyze systems and
structures of power, and so my banal liberal positions seemed like
cutting edge critique to me. After college I worked as a journalist at
mainstream newspapers, which further retarded my ability to think
critically about power; reporters who don't have a political
consciousness coming into the field are unlikely to develop one in an
industry that claims neutrality but is fanatically devoted to the
raising of my consciousness began when I started a journalism/mass
communication doctoral program in 1988, a time when U.S. universities
were somewhat more intellectually and politically open than today. After
years of the daily grind in newsrooms, I felt liberated by the freedom
to read, think, and talk to others about all the new ideas I was
encountering. My study of the First Amendment led me to the feminist
critique of pornography, which at the time was an important focus for
debate about the meaning of freedom of expression. My first graduate
courses were taught by liberal defenders of pornography, who were the
norm in the academy then and now. But I also began talking with
activists in a local group that was fighting the sexual-exploitation
industries (pornography, prostitution, stripping), and I realized there
was a rich, complex, and exciting feminist critique, which required me
to rethink what I thought I knew about freedom, choice, and liberation.
a result of those first conversations, I started reading feminist work
and taking feminist classes, and I kept talking with folks from the
community group, which led me to get involved in their educational
activities. I didn't make those choices with any sense that I was
constructing a radical philosophical and political framework. I was just
following the ideas that seemed the most compelling intellectually and
the people who seemed the most decent personally. Those ad hoc decisions
changed my life, in two ways.
they opened up to me an alternative to the suffocating conventional
wisdom, in which liberals and conservatives argue within narrow
ideological boundaries. This exposure to feminist thinking, especially
those people and ideas most commonly described as radical feminist,
allowed me to step outside those boundaries and ask two simple
questions: Where does real power lie and how does it operate, in both
formal institutions and informal arrangements?
they helped me realize the importance of always having a political life
outside the university. Instead of putting all my energy into my
teaching and research, I was anchored in a community project and
connected to people who weren't preoccupied with publishing marginally
relevant research in marginally relevant academic journals. Although I
had to publish scholarly articles for my first six years as an assistant
professor, once I got tenure and job security I immediately returned to
community organizing and ignored the pseudo-intellectual pretensions
that dominate in most of the so-called scholarly world in the social
sciences and humanities. I had developed respect for rigorous and
relevant scholarship but had come to realize how little of it there was
in my fields in the contemporary academy.
Till September: The PA’s Meaningless Deadlines
Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:37
by Ramzy Baroud
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters in the Fatah party
want us to believe that dramatic changes are underway in the occupied
is part of a strategy intended to offset any public dissatisfaction
with the self-designated Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. The PA
hopes the ‘news’ will create enough distraction to help it survive the
current climate of major public-regime showdowns engulfing the Middle
a potential popular uprising in the occupied territories - which could
result in a major revamping of the current power, to the disadvantage of
Abbas - the PA is now taking preventive measures.
there was the resignation of the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb
Ereka on February 12. Erekat was clearly implicated in negotiating, if
not squandering, Palestinian rights in successive meetings with Israeli
and American officials. This was revealed through nearly 1,600 leaked
documents, which Aljazeera and the Guardian termed the ‘Palestine
was hardly representing himself, as he readily gave away much
territory, including most of Jerusalem. He also agreed to a symbolic
return of Palestinian refugees to their land, now part of today’s
Israel. By keeping his post, the entire PA ‘peace process’ apparatus
would have remained ineffective at best, and at worst entirely
self-seeking, showing no regard whatsoever for Palestinian rights.
With Erekat’s exit, the PA hopes to retain a margin of credibility among Palestinians.
who made his entrance to the world of ‘peace process’ at the Madrid
peace conference in 1991, opted out in a way that conceded no guilt. He
claimed to have left merely because the leak happened through his
office. The PA expects us to believe that, unlike other Arab
governments, it functions in a transparent and self-correcting manner.
Erekat wants to be seen as an “example of accountability”, according to
the Washington Post (February 16). He claimed: “I'm making myself pay
the price for the mistake I committed, my negligence. These are the
ethics and the standards. Palestinian officials need to start putting
them in their minds.”
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