Interventionism, Not Muslims, Is the Problem — by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the popular post-9/11 sentiments has been the one that holds that Muslims are bent on conquering the world. The notion is that Muslims hate Christianity and Western freedom and values and that such hatred is rooted in the Koran and stretches back centuries. Thus, the United States has been drawn, reluctantly, into a war against Muslims. That’s why U.S. forces are in Iraq and Afghanistan, the argument goes — to defend our freedoms by killing Muslims over there before they get over here and kill us.

I sometimes wonder whether the people who have this mindset have reflected on the ramifications of their belief.

For example, if Muslims in general are at war with the United States, then why shouldn’t Americans be out killing Muslims here in the United States? After all, when a nation is at war, isn’t it permissible to kill the enemy? Isn’t that what war is all about?

The reason that proponents of this view don’t start killing Muslims here in the United States is very simple: Deep down, they know that the killers will be indicted by their very own government for murder. They will then be prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to serve time in a federal penitentiary for murder.

Let’s carry the ramifications overseas.

If the United States is at war against Muslims, then why not start with ousting the Muslim regime in Iraq and installing a Christian or Jewish regime in its place? Yes, I said Iraq. Believe it or not, the U.S. invasion of that country succeeded in installing an Islamic regime, a regime which, by the way, has closely aligned itself with the radical Islamic regime in Iran.

A second-choice candidate for invasion, occupation, and regime change would be Kuwait, another country run by an Islamic regime. Since Saddam Hussein’s forces were easily able to conquer the country, it should be a piece of cake for U.S. forces.

A problem arises however. Once the United States effects regime change in Iraq and Kuwait, installing Christian or Jewish regimes, what about the millions of Muslims in those two countries? Sure, their governments would no longer be Islamic but what about the millions of people living there? Wouldn’t they still be the enemy to Christians and the West? Wouldn’t they still be bent on world conquest? What should be done with them? Perpetual incarceration in concentration camps? Mass executions of all Muslims?

And what about Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and all the other countries in which people are predominantly Muslim. You know — the Islamic countries that are the recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid. Does the U.S. government invade those countries too, effect regime change, and incarcerate or execute the millions of Muslims living there?

During the Cold War, people used to say the same thing about the communists that we’re now hearing about the Muslims. The communists were coming to get us, and some Americans were even looking under their beds for communists. In fact, 58,000 American men were sacrificed in Southeast Asia because U.S. officials claimed that Vietnam was the central front in the war on communism. With a military loss in Vietnam, the dominoes would start falling, they told us, with the final domino being the United States.

Yet, the U.S. did lose in Vietnam, and yet the dominoes didn’t fall. It turned out that those 58,000 American men died for nothing. Today, U.S. officials even travel to Vietnam as tourists. Americans are freely trading with the people who were supposedly going to invade the United States and take over the IRS and the public schools.

Ironically, throughout the Cold War there was nary a mention of the Islamic threat to the West, even though proponents of that view today claim that the Muslim threat stretches back many centuries. In fact, the irony of ironies is that during the Cold War the U.S. government even entered into partnerships with Muslims, including Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and various Islamic regimes in the Middle East. No one accused U.S. officials of treason for entering into agreements with the enemy.

It’s true that Muslims have fundamental differences with Christians and the West, and vice versa. But those types of differences ordinarily do not cause people to kill people who have different values. Most Muslims are no different from Americans in the sense that they simply wish to live their lives in peace, practice their faith, raise their families, and be left alone. They don’t like it when some foreign government tries to interfere with their way of life, just as Americans don’t like it when some foreign government does that to them.

What all too many Americans, unfortunately, will not permit themselves to see is that that is precisely what the U.S. government did in the Middle East, especially when the Soviet communist bugaboo evaporated in 1989. As a result of U.S. interventionism in the Middle East, especially the interventionism that resulted in large number of deaths (e.g., the sanctions and the no-fly zones), what began as differences in values rose to the level of anger and rage that induced some people to seek vengeance through violence.

Thus, rather than ceasing its policy of interventionism after 9/11, which is what the U.S. government should have done even while pursuing the perpetrators through criminal-justice means, it did the very worst thing possible — it continued and even expanded its policy of interventionism in the hope of killing those whose differences with America’s values had risen to the level of rage as a result of U.S. interventionism. Not surprisingly, that only fueled more anger and rage.

So, what should the U.S. government do now? It should do what it should have done after 9/11: Exit Afghanistan and Iraq and the entire Middle East. Bring all the troops home.

Would this quell the anger and rage against the United States? Not all of it but certainly much of it. As I said above, most people simply want to live their lives in peace.

After all, look at Vietnam, where the U.S. government killed more than a million people. Once U.S. forces exited the country, the Vietnamese left the United States alone.

While there is the ever-present risk that there will still be some people who will still want vengeance, their numbers will be relatively small. While they will constitute an ever-present threat of terrorism, that’s the price that must be paid for past interventions. What’s important to note is that continued interventionism can never solve that problem — it can only make it worse.

When governments go awry, it is up to the citizenry to straighten out their course. The problem is not Muslims or Islam. The problem is the U.S. government and, specifically, its foreign policy of interventionism. Bringing an end to that policy will restore a sense of peace and harmony not only to the American people but also the people of the world.

 

 

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.

Indonesia As the New India

Indonesia As the New India

This stable democracy with a hot market economy resembles another Asian giant in the 1990s.

George Wehrfritz and Solenn Honorine From the magazine issue dated Oct 20, 2008 Jakarta today could be any of Asia’s 21st-century boomtowns. The malls buzz, traffic snarls and modern office towers dominate the skyline. It all feels profoundly normal—but that’s big progress in a place that, barely ten years ago, seemed destined for ruin. Following the fall of longtime strongman Suharto, and with Indonesia reeling from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, many analysts feared that Asia’s third-biggest country (population: 235 million) would go the way of Yugoslavia. Instead, it has become a cohesive, robust and exuberantly democratic moderate Muslim nation. Things are so buoyant that Indonesia invites comparison to another Asian giant: India.

Both remain corrupt, chaotic and excruciatingly complex. Yet each is also an attractive emerging economy, and in India’s case, a star of the developing world. Could Indonesia be next? Its economy grew by 6.3 percent last year, the main stock exchange ranks among the world’s best performers since 2003 and last year foreign direct investment nearly tripled, to a respectable $4 billion. All of which resembles India in the 1990s, when reforms kick-started a potentially massive economy—though outsiders barely noticed until the IT sector took off and growth passed 8 percent. In Indonesia, the key sectors are energy, mining and soft commodities like rubber, palm oil and cocoa. And in an exclusive interview, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says he sees no inherent reason why a big democracy like his can’t grow as fast China, which has posted 10 percent growth rates in recent years.

That would put Indonesia on a lot of magazine covers. In fact, the country already looks better than India in two ways: its per capita income ($3,348) is a third higher, and thanks to Jakarta’s fiscal austerity, it now boasts one of the lowest debt ratios in the world. “After ten years of restructuring, Southeast Asia’s largest economy is in great shape,” says Nicholas Cashmore, CLSA’s country head and chief researcher in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s political turnaround has been just as dramatic as its economic one. The president, known universally as SBY, is a former general who was elected in mid-2004 and has since become the country’s most effective democratic leader. In four years, he has helped Indonesia roll up its terrorist problem and rebuild from the 2004 tsunami. Less appreciated (but more enduring), he has backed a profound political decentralization program, empowering hundreds of local administrations. Jakarta now rules by consensus, not decree. This has its downsides: it makes it impossible to railroad through big national development projects of the sort China is famous for. As SBY himself admits, “in many circumstances, we face local communities that don’t agree with government projects, so we have to convince them. I do not think the system is wrong. In a democracy like ours, change, reform and resistance are normal.”

The country’s largest parties now basically agree on economic policy and the need to reduce corruption, improve the rule of law and make government more efficient. Key democratic institutions—including a free press, impartial courts and a legislature chosen by voters—are remarkably robust, and the once all-powerful military has largely removed itself from politics. Meanwhile, regional autonomy has triggered economic booms at the periphery, in contrast to the typical Southeast Asian model. “From the U.S., the U.K. or even Hong Kong,” writes Cashmore, “it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of Indonesia’s potential [or] appreciate just how much more there is to the country beyond Jakarta.” By his calculation, greater Jakarta now accounts for just 15 percent of Indonesia’s GDP, a relatively small share compared to other Asian capitals.

Indonesia’s accomplishments are all the more impressive when you remember how far and fast the country has come. The fall of Suharto’s New Order (a highly centralized system that vested absolute power in the dictator and his cronies) 10 years ago was accompanied by a financial meltdown so severe that the IMF had to step in. Indonesia also faced fierce separatist insurgencies, Christian-Muslim violence and Islamic extremism underscored by the 2002 Bali bombing. The country seemed to be teetering on the brink of wholesale disintegration. Yet today, as Australian National University economist Andrew MacIntyre and the Asia Foundation’s Douglas Ramage argued in a recent report, observers should start thinking of Indonesia “as a normal country grappling with challenges common to other large, middle-income, developing democracies—not unlike India, Mexico or Brazil.”

In some ways Indonesia’s democracy is even more sophisticated than those other states’. Take decentralization. Jakarta, like New Delhi, oversees national defense, internal security, finance, foreign policy and the justice system. But unlike the Indian government, Indonesia’s—thanks to two “big bang” reform packages passed in 2001 and 2006, and supported by SBY—must now coordinate most other activities through the country’s 33 provinces and nearly 500 local administrations, where popularly elected leaders make policy, manage two thirds of all civil servants and oversee everything from schools to economic development. As World Bank economists Wolfgang Fengler and Bert Hofman observe in a soon-to-be-publishe d study, Indonesia has turned itself from “one of the most centralized countries in the world into one of the more decentralized ones.”

To see what that means on the ground, follow the money. Under a new fiscal system implemented in 2001, regions are allocated a huge slice of the country’s budget to spend more or less as they please. Poor and remote areas receive the most per capita, and those with abundant natural resources get shared extraction revenues. According to the World Bank, regional governments in Indonesia now account for 36 percent of all public expenditures, compared with an average of just 14 percent in all developing countries. And locals can promote whatever agendas they choose. “This is the real revolution,” says Erman Rahman, who heads the World Bank’s local governance initiatives in the country. Regions with proactive leaders have become laboratories of experimentation from which innovative anti-corruption, public-health and economic-growth initiatives have emerged. For his part, SBY has enabled this process by maintaining macroeconomic discipline and political stability. And his support for local autonomy has undermined separatism, extremism and communal violence.

One regional pioneer, Gamawan Fauzi, took power in West Sumatra’s Solok region in 2001 and quickly created a one-stop shop for government services, replacing an opaque and complex web of offices and brokers. Fauzi’s concept was to bring all government services under a single roof, post set fees, promote autopayment and guarantee prompt service as a means of rooting out corruption. And it has worked: the model has since been emulated across Indonesia, and Transparency International reports that corruption, while still high, has been reduced substantially.

Other local leaders have earned fame by initiating innovative new programs. Gede Putrayasa, who heads the poorest of nine regencies on the tourist island Bali, won office in 2001 on a pledge to provide universal medical insurance and free education. The latter proved relatively easy (he simply waived the 5,000 rupiah monthly fees), but improving health care without breaking the local budget was tougher. Under the old system, funds went to hospitals and local administrators, who did things like stockpile pharmaceuticals procured from companies that paid kickbacks. Putrayasa’s innovation: provide every local household free health insurance that compensates clinics for services actually provided. “There’s not a big savings,” says Putrayasa, “but everyone is covered and the efficiency is much better because there is no longer any corruption.”

Such reforms have stimulated economic growth. Putrayasa’s health-care and education initiatives (as well as a jobs program that sends underemployed rice farmers to Japan) have reduced the local poverty rate fourfold to just 5.5 percent today. Better local governance has also made Indonesia a major beneficiary of the global soft commodity boom. Together, the value of its four largest crops—rubber, coconut, palm oil and cocoa—rose from $2.3 billion in 2000 to an estimated $19 billion in 2008, CLSA calculates. That’s thanks to local leaders like Fadel Muhammad, governor of the hardscrabble province of Gorontalo on the island Sulawesi, who turned his constituents into the country’s best corn farmers by deploying teams of agricultural consultants; providing subsidized seeds, fertilizers and rental machinery to farmers; and giving cash rewards to village leaders who boost yields. Since 2002, Gorontalo’s poverty rate has shrunk from 49 to 29 percent.

Of course, decentralization has its problems. Analysts and watchdog groups say that while the number of effective leaders in the 500 local administrations has spiked from a handful to 50 or more under SBY, they are sometimes particularly effective at blocking necessary national reforms and projects. The result, says Ramage, is that progress will be “evolutionary, not revolutionary. ” For example, the Trans Java highway, which would link Jakarta with Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, was launched in 2004 with a target completion date of 2009, but is still only 10 percent done because of local opposition.

Nonetheless, Indonesia has already become a beacon of stability in Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. Its antiterrorism campaign—Indonesia has shut radical madrassas, established an effective counterterrorism force and cracked down hard on suspected cells, while also avoiding human-rights abuses—is seen as a model for the region. And as the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia’s democratization has implications from Morocco to Mindanao in that it exemplifies an alternative to zealotry, intolerance and extremism. “Indonesia is not immune to radicalism we see worldwide, but this is exactly why we must maintain our identity as a moderate, tolerant nation,” says Yudhoyono. “It enables us to prevent a clash of civilizations. ”

SBY is likely to win re-election next year, but even if he loses, analysts don’t expect any sharp change in policy, because all the major political camps in Jakarta agree on the current reform blueprint. Even India does not enjoy that kind of stable consensus on how to catch China.

With Greg Hunt in Hong Kong
URL: http://www.newsweek .com/id/163572

The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama

October 12, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama

 

 

IF you think way back to the start of this marathon campaign, back when it seemed preposterous that any black man could be a serious presidential contender, then you remember the biggest fear about Barack Obama: a crazy person might take a shot at him.

Some voters told reporters that they didn’t want Obama to run, let alone win, should his very presence unleash the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King. After consultation with Congress, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, gave Obama a Secret Service detail earlier than any presidential candidate in our history — in May 2007, some eight months before the first Democratic primaries.

“I’ve got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying,” Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

All’s fair in politics. John McCain and Sarah Palin have every right to bring up William Ayers, even if his connection to Obama is minor, even if Ayers’s Weather Underground history dates back to Obama’s childhood, even if establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform. But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly “even-handed” journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. “Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family” was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8.

We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed “patriotic” martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.

Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers’s behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that “a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.” To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

It wasn’t always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated himself from a speaker who brayed “Barack Hussein Obama” when introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a Florida sheriff ranted about “Barack Hussein Obama” at a Palin rally while in full uniform.

From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.

McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani’s mocking dismissal of Obama as an “only in America” affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.

No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

The operatives who would have Palin quote Pegler have been at it ever since. A key indicator came two weeks after the convention, when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals.

There are no black faces high in the McCain hierarchy to object to these tactics. There hasn’t been a single black Republican governor, senator or House member in six years. This is a campaign where Palin can repeatedly declare that Alaska is “a microcosm of America” without anyone even wondering how that might be so for a state whose tiny black and Hispanic populations are each roughly one-third the national average. There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place.

Could the old racial politics still be determinative? I’ve long been skeptical of the incessant press prognostications (and liberal panic) that this election will be decided by racist white men in the Rust Belt. Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black — as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign “suspension,” a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.

To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year — the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died — The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama’s chances to win the state fell “between slim and none.” Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms’s Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.

But we’re not at Election Day yet, and if voters are to have their final say, both America and Obama have to get there safely. The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise.

Naomi Klein: Wall St. Crisis Should Be for Neoliberalism What Fall of Berlin Wall Was for Communism

 October 06, 2008

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Naomi Klein: Wall St. Crisis Should Be for Neoliberalism What Fall of Berlin Wall Was for Communism

As the world reels from the financial crisis on Wall Street and the taxpayer-funded $700 billion bailout, we spend the hour with Naomi Klein on the economy, politics and “disaster capitalism.” The Shock Doctrine author recently spoke at the University of Chicago to oppose the creation of an economic research center named after the University’s most famous economist, Milton Friedman. Klein says Friedman’s economic philosophy championed the kind of deregulation that led to the current crisis. [includes rush transcript]

Naomi Klein, journalist and author of the books The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo.

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: The credit crunch is spreading to financial markets around the world. Nearly 160,000 jobs were lost here in the United States in September. That’s not including losses directly resulting from the financial meltdown. Wall Street might be breathing a little easier since Congress passed the more-than-$700-billion bailout plan Friday, but there are no signs of an easy or quick recovery.

 

Today we take a look back at the economic philosophy that championed the kind of deregulation that led to this crisis. We spend the hour with investigative journalist and author Naomi Klein, bestselling author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

 

Naomi Klein spoke at the University of Chicago last week, invited by a group of faculty opposed to the creation of an economic research center called the Milton Friedman Institute. It has a $200 million endowment and is named after the University’s most famous economist, the leader of the neoliberal Chicago School of Economics.

    NAOMI KLEIN: When Milton Friedman turned ninety, the Bush White House held a birthday party for him to honor him, to honor his legacy, in 2002, and everyone made speeches, including George Bush, but there was a really good speech that was given by Donald Rumsfeld. I have it on my website. My favorite quote in that speech from Rumsfeld is this: he said, “Milton is the embodiment of the truth that ideas have consequences.”

    So, what I want to argue here is that, among other things, the economic chaos that we’re seeing right now on Wall Street and on Main Street and in Washington stems from many factors, of course, but among them are the ideas of Milton Friedman and many of his colleagues and students from this school. Ideas have consequences.

    More than that, what we are seeing with the crash on Wall Street, I believe, should be for Friedmanism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for authoritarian communism: an indictment of ideology. It cannot simply be written off as corruption or greed, because what we have been living, since Reagan, is a policy of liberating the forces of greed to discard the idea of the government as regulator, of protecting citizens and consumers from the detrimental impact of greed, ideas that, of course, gained great currency after the market crash of 1929, but that really what we have been living is a liberation movement, indeed the most successful liberation movement of our time, which is the movement by capital to liberate itself from all constraints on its accumulation.

    So, as we say that this ideology is failing, I beg to differ. I actually believe it has been enormously successful, enormously successful, just not on the terms that we learn about in University of Chicago textbooks, that I don’t think the project actually has been the development of the world and the elimination of poverty. I think this has been a class war waged by the rich against the poor, and I think that they won. And I think the poor are fighting back. This should be an indictment of an ideology. Ideas have consequences.

    Now, people are enormously loyal to Milton Friedman, for a variety of reasons and from a variety of sectors. You know, in my cynical moments, I say Milton Friedman had a knack for thinking profitable thoughts. He did. His thoughts were enormously profitable. And he was rewarded. His work was rewarded. I don’t mean personally greedy. I mean that his work was supported at the university, at think tanks, in the production of a ten-part documentary series called Freedom to Choose, sponsored by FedEx and Pepsi; that the corporate world has been good to Milton Friedman, because his ideas were good for them.

    But he also was clearly a tremendously inspiring teacher, and he had a gift, like all great teachers do, to help his students fall in love with the material. But he also had a gift that many ideologues have, many staunch ideologues have—and I would even use the word “fundamentalists” have—which is the ability to help people fall in love with a perfect imagined system, a system that seems perfect, utopian, in the classroom, in the basement workshop, when all the numbers work out. And he was, of course, a brilliant mathematician, which made that all the more seductive, which made those models all the more seductive, this perfect, elegant, all-encompassing system, the dream of the perfect utopian market.

    Now, one of the things that comes up again and again in the writings of University of Chicago economists of the Friedman tradition, people like Arnold Harberger, is this appeal to nature, to a state of nature, this idea that economics is not a political science or not a social science, but a hard science on par with physics and chemistry. So, as we look at the University of Chicago tradition, it isn’t just about a set of political and economic goals, like privatization, deregulation, free trade, cuts to government spending; it’s a transformation of the field of economics from being a hybrid science that was in dialogue with politics, with psychology, and turning it into a hard science that you could not argue with, which is why you would never talk to a journalist, right? Because that’s, you know, the messy, imperfect real world. It is beneath those who are appealing to the laws of nature.

    Now, these ideas in the 1950s and ’60s at this school were largely in the realm of theory. They were academic ideas, and it was easy to fall in love with them, because they hadn’t actually been tested in the real world, where mixed economies were the rule.

    Now, I admit to being a journalist. I admit to being an investigative journalist, a researcher, and I’m not here to argue theory. I’m here to discuss what happens in the messy real world when Milton Friedman’s ideas are put into practice, what happens to freedom, what happens to democracy, what happens to the size of government, what happens to the social structure, what happens to the relationship between politicians and big corporate players, because I think we do see patterns.

    Now, the Friedmanites in this room will object to my methodology, I assure you, and I look forward to that. They will tell you, when I speak of Chile under Pinochet, Russia under Yeltsin and the Chicago Boys, China under Deng Xiaoping, or America under George W. Bush, or Iraq under Paul Bremer, that these were all distortions of Milton Friedman’s theories, that none of these actually count, when you talk about the repression and the surveillance and the expanding size of government and the intervention in the system, which is really much more like crony capitalism or corporatism than the elegant, perfectly balanced free market that came to life in those basement workshops. We’ll hear that Milton Friedman hated government interventions, that he stood up for human rights, that he was against all wars. And some of these claims, though not all of them, will be true.

    But here’s the thing. Ideas have consequences. And when you leave the safety of academia and start actually issuing policy prescriptions, which was Milton Friedman’s other life—he wasn’t just an academic. He was a popular writer. He met with world leaders around the world—China, Chile, everywhere, the United States. His memoirs are a “who’s who.” So, when you leave that safety and you start issuing policy prescriptions, when you start advising heads of state, you no longer have the luxury of only being judged on how you think your ideas will affect the world. You begin having to contend with how they actually affect the world, even when that reality contradicts all of your utopian theories. So, to quote Friedman’s great intellectual nemesis, John Kenneth Galbraith, “Milton Friedman’s misfortune is that his policies have been tried.”

 

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, author of the bestselling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We’ll come back to her speech at the University of Chicago in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to Naomi Klein, bestselling author of The Shock Doctrine, talking at the University of Chicago on Wednesday about the current economic crisis and the legacy of Milton Friedman.

    NAOMI KLEIN: This process of measuring an elegant perfect, beautiful, inspiring ideology against a messy reality is a painful process, and it’s a process that anyone who has tried to free themselves from the confines of fundamentalist thinking, from ideological constraints, has faced. My grandparents, for instance, were pretty hardcore Marxists. In the ’30s and ’40s, they believed fervently in the dream of egalitarianism that the Soviet Union represented. They had their illusions shattered by the reality of gulags, of extreme repression, hypocrisy, Stalin’s pact with Hitler.

    I bring this up, because the left has been held accountable for the crimes committed in the name of its extreme ideologies, and I believe that it’s actually been a very healthy process for the left, one that isn’t over, that is continuing. But I think that the process of having to examine the unacceptable compromises that were made in the name of hard ideology, that they are paying off in the way the left today is being reborn and re-imagined.

    You know, the most left-wing place on the planet at the moment is, interestingly enough, the first place where Chicago School ideology made that leap from the textbook into the real world, and that’s Latin America. And that happened for a very specific reason, as you know. This—in the 1950s, there was great concern at the State Department about the fact that Latin America, then as now, as it seems to do, was moving to the left. There was concern about what they called the “pink economists,” the rise of developmentalism, import substitution, and, of course, socialism. And, of course, this was a concern because it greatly affected American and European interests, because the crux of the argument of import substitution was that countries like Chile and Argentina, Guatemala, should stop exporting their raw natural resources to the north and then importing expensive processed goods to the south, that it didn’t make economic sense, that they should use the same tools of protectionism, of state supports, that built the economies of Europe and North America. That was that crazy radical idea, and it was unacceptable.

    So, this plan was cooked up—it was between the head of USAID’s Chile office and the head of the University of Chicago’s Economics Department—to try to change the debate in Latin America, starting in Chile, because that’s where developmentalism had gained its deepest roots. And the idea was to bring a group of Chilean students to the University of Chicago to study under a group of economists who were considered so extreme that they were on the margins of the discussion in the United States, which, of course, at the time, in the 1950s, was fully in the grips of Keynesianism. But the idea was that there would be—this would be a battle to the—a counterbalance to the emergence of left-wing ideas in Latin America, that they would go home and counterbalance the pink economists.

    And so, the Chicago Boys were born. And it was considered a success, and the Ford Foundation got in on the funding. And hundreds and hundreds of Latin American students, on full scholarships, came to the University of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s to study here to try to engage in what Juan Gabriel Valdes, Chile’s foreign minister after the dictatorship finally ended, described as a project of deliberate ideological transfer, taking these extreme-right ideas, that were seen as marginal even in the United States, and transplanting them to Latin America. That was his phrase—that is his phrase.

    But today, we see that these ideas are reemerging in Latin America. They were suppressed with force, overthrown with military coups, and then Chile and Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil all became, to varying degrees, laboratories for the ideas that were taught in the classrooms of the University of Chicago. But now, because there was never a democratic consent for this, the ideas are reemerging.

    But one of the things that’s interesting about the new left in Latin America is that democracy is at the very center. And, you know, the first thing that Rafael Correa did when he was elected president of Ecuador, for instance—well, the first thing he did was give an interview. They said, “What can we expect of your economic program?” He said, “Well, let’s put it this way: I’m no fan of Milton Friedman’s.” And then he called a constituent assembly. He created an incredibly open political process to rewrite the country’s constitution. And that’s what happened in Bolivia, and that’s what’s happened in many Latin American countries, because democracy is being put at the center of these projects, because there has been a learning process of looking at the mistakes that the left has made in the past, the ends-justify-the-means mistakes.

    So, I think all ideologies should be held accountable for the crimes committed in their names. I think it makes us better. Now, of course, there are still those on the far left who will insist that all of those crimes were just an aberration—Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot; reality is annoying—and they retreat into their sacred texts. We all know who I’m talking about.

    But lately, particularly just in the past few months, I have noticed something similar happening on the far libertarian right, at places like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. It’s a kind of a panic, and it comes from the fact that the Bush administration adapted—adopted so much of their rhetoric, the fusing of free markets and free people, the championing of so many of their pet policies. But, of course, Bush is the worst thing that has ever happened to believers in this ideology, because while parroting the talking points of Friedmanism, he has overseen an explosion of crony capitalism, that they treat governing as a conveyor belt or an ATM machine, where private corporations make withdrawals of the government in the form of no-bid contracts and then pay back government in the form of campaign contributions. And we’re seeing this more and more. The Bush administration is a nightmare for these guys—the explosion of the debt and now, of course, these massive bailouts.

    So, what we see from the ideologues of the far right—by far right, I mean the far economic right—frantically distancing themselves and retreating to their sacred texts: The Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, Free to Choose. So that’s why I’ve taken to calling them right-wing Trotskyists, because they have this—and mostly because it annoys them, but also because they have the same sort of frozen-in-time quality. You know, it’s not, you know, 1917, but it’s definitely 1982. Now, the left-wing Trots don’t have very much money, as you know. They make their money selling newspapers outside of events like this. The right-wing Trots have a lot of money. They build think tanks in Washington, D.C., and they want to build a $200 million Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago.

    Now, this brings up an interesting point. It’s an interesting point about the think tanks, in general, which has to do with the fact that it does seem to take so much corporate welfare to keep these ideas alive, which would seem to be a contradiction of the core principle of free market ideology—I mean, and particularly now, in the context of the Milton Friedman Institute. I mean, I could see it in the ’90s, but now, is the world really clamoring for this? Is there really a demand that you are supplying here? Really?

    I think this points to a larger issue, and this comes up—has come up for me again and again in talking about this ideology, this ideological campaign. You know, is it—is it really fueled by true belief, and—or is it just fueled by greed? Because it’s not—the thoughts are so very profitable. So they are distinctive in that way, distinctive from other ideologies. And, of course, you know, certainly we know that religion has been a great economic partner in imperialism. I mean, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. But this is a question that comes up a lot. And I think it’s very difficult to answer, and it’s clear, certainly at this school, that much of it is fueled by belief, by true belief, by falling in love with those elegant systems.

    But I think we also need to look particularly at this moment, who this ideology benefits directly economically, keeping it alive in this moment, and how, even in this moment, when everybody is saying, you know, this is the end of market fundamentalism, because we’re seeing this betrayal of the basic tenets of the non-interventionist government by the Bush administration—you know, I believe this is a myth and that the ideology has just gone dormant, because it’s ceased to be useful. But it will come roaring back, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

    But, you know, I was interested that yesterday the Heritage Foundation, which has always been a staunch Friedmanite think tank, that they came out in favor of the bailout. They came out in favor of the bailout; they said it was vital. And what’s interesting about that is, of course, the bailout is creating a crisis in the economic—in the public sphere. It’s taking a private crisis, a crisis on Wall Street, which of course isn’t restricted to Wall Street, and it will affect everyone, but it is moving it, moving those bad debts, onto the public books.

    And now the Bush administration has already left the next administration, whoever it is, with an economic crisis on their hands, but with this proposed transfer, they’re dramatically increasing that crisis. So, we can count, I would argue, on the Heritage Foundation refinding their faith, refinding their faith when it becomes necessary and useful to once again argue that the way to revive the American economy is to cut taxes, cut regulation, to stimulate the economy—and, by the way, we can’t afford Social Security; we’re going to have to privatize it, because we’ve got this terrible debt and deficit on our hands. So, the ideology is far from dead, and what we are, I think, seeing with this proposed monument to Friedmanism is really a way of entrenching it and making sure that it is always available to come back, to come roaring back.

    So, I said I would talk a little bit about Friedmanism and the links to the current crisis. And, you know, it’s pretty direct. Milton Friedman is pretty much accepted as the godfather of deregulation. And this was—this ideology was the rationale for turning the financial sector into the casino that we see today. You know, Milton Friedman was clear about this. He believed that “history took a wrong turn,” and that’s a quote; it’s a quote from a letter he wrote to Augusto Pinochet. He said, “History took a wrong turn in your country, as well as mine.” And he was referring to the responses to the Great Depression. In Chile, it was the rise of import substitution and developmentalism. But in the United States, he was of course referring to the New Deal.

    And I think that the Chicago School of Economics is properly understood as a counterrevolution against the New Deal, against regulations like Glass-Steagall, that was put in place in 1934 after having seen people lose their life savings to the market crash, and it was a firewall, a very simple, sensible law that said if you want to be an investment bank, if you want to gamble, gamble with your investors’ money, but the government isn’t going to help you because it’s your own risk. You can fail. And if you want to be a commercial bank, then we will help you. We will offer insurance to make sure that those savings are safe, but you have to restrict the risks that you take. You cannot gamble. You cannot be an investment bank. And a firewall was put up between investment banks and consumer banks.

    And now we look at the way in which this crisis is supposedly being solved, and what we see, actually, is a wave of mergers in the banking sector, a wave of mergers with the banks getting bigger and bigger until ultimately—you know, the Financial Times was predicting today that eventually the United States will have three big banks, just like Japan does. That’s where it’s heading. And, of course, all of those banks will be too big to fail. So they all have this implicit guarantee; it’s not just Fannie and Freddie. It’s any function that is too important to fail has this implicit guarantee.

    Phil Gramm is the person, you know, on the legislative side who did the most to create the legislative context for what we’re seeing right now in the financial sector. You know, I think everyone knows that Phil Gramm, most famously, recently is the one who said that America was in a mental recession and a bunch of whiners and all of that. And so, he’s not officially an adviser to McCain, but there is talk that if he were to win the elections, he would be Treasury Secretary. You know, I point—I bring him up because Phil Gramm was a Milton Friedman fanatic. I think you know this. In 1999, the same year that he led the charge to strike down Glass-Steagall, he also—Phil Gramm—pressed Congress to get the Medal of Honor for Friedman. When he ran in the—when he made his 1996 presidential run, McCain was the co-chair of his campaign. Phil Gramm was asked, “If you had to rely on a single person as your foremost economic policy adviser, who would it be?” And he replied, “Dr. Milton Friedman.” So we see the connections between deregulation and Friedmanism.

    I also think there’s something else at play in the kind of politicians that are attracted to this particular ideology. You know, Reagan was the first really to embrace it, and Nixon was the great disappointment to Friedman. I’m sure you all know that. You know, he writes in his memoir that when Nixon was elected, he was euphoric. I mean, he couldn’t imagine an American president more closely aligned ideologically than Richard Nixon. But Richard Nixon insisted on governing, and he wanted to win elections, and he imposed wage and price controls. And Milton Friedman sort of had a bit of a temper tantrum and declared him the most socialist president in modern American history. But, you know, it was—so it was really Reagan who campaigned, you know, with his copy of Capitalism and Freedom on the campaign trail, who was the first person to really put Friedmanism into practice.

    And I raise this because, you know, one of the things that we hear about McCain is that he doesn’t really know about economics, and so I think that makes us inclined not to take his economic ideas seriously, not to think he would be a really serious economic force. I think just the opposite. And I think if you look at his campaign platform, you see just the opposite. He wants to privatize Social Security. He is saying that in the first 100 days they’ll look at every single government program, and they will either reform it or shut it down if it is not serving taxpayers. I mean, they are talking about a sort of hundred-day economic shock therapy period. And I think it’s the fact that he doesn’t know about economics, and that Sarah Palin, I suspect, knows a little less, that actually makes them so dangerous.

    And I don’t—you know, I don’t think it is—not to be too flippant—I’m sure that I’ve, you know, offended everyone, so I may as well just say bad things about Ronald Reagan—but I do think that, you know, that it isn’t a coincidence that, you know, a movie star president champions these ideas, or a body-builder governor, you know, who says, “Dr. Friedman changed my life”—I don’t know if you’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introductions to Freedom to Choose, but they’re good. You should. YouTube them. But the appeal of these ideas, I think, to politicians who are actually in over their head on economics—and, by the way, this goes for military dictators, too, like Pinochet—who get control over a country and are totally clueless about how to run an economy, is that it lets them off the hook completely. It says government is the problem, not the solution. Leave it to the market. Laissez-faire. Don’t do anything. Just undo. Get out of the way. Leave it to us.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein is author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, speaking at the University of Chicago against the naming of the economics institute there after its most famous economist, Milton Friedman. We’ll come back to the conclusion of her address in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We go back to the final portion of Naomi Klein’s address at the University of Chicago last week, invited by a faculty group opposed to the creation of a $200 million Milton Friedman Institute, a research center honoring the ideals of the late Chicago School economist.

    NAOMI KLEIN: This crisis moment, of course, is going to play out in a lot of different ways. And, you know, the other major contribution—another major contribution of Friedmanism to the policy framework is not just deregulation, but privatization, of everything. And, you know, in Capitalism and Freedom, he lays out his wish list, everything from the post office to national parks. So I think it’s interesting to think about how this crisis will effect future plans for privatization.

    And, in fact, it already is, because the next big bubble—and, by the way, this idea of bubbles is intimately connected to the idea of governments who think that their role is simply to create the context for maximum profit seeking—I mean, that you just get out of the way; anything that makes money is good, even if, you know, it’s entirely divorced from the real economy, if it inflates—your GDP is still going up. And the next big bubble—they went from dotcom to housing—is projected to be infrastructure.

    The crisis, you know—and this is where Friedmanism becomes a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you neglect the public sphere and—because you have tax cuts and because you’ve derided the public sphere, and we certainly saw this in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, which was not a natural disaster; it was a disaster borne of a collision between heavy weather and a weak infrastructure. But then, that was used to rationalize really just erasing the public sphere altogether, closing Charity Hospital, the only hospital that treats the uninsured in New Orleans, closing down the public housing projects. Richard Baker, Republican congressman, said, “We couldn’t clean out the housing projects, but God did.”

    Milton Friedman—and I start the book with this story—wrote a piece; it was one of his last pieces of writing, his last major policy recommendation. He wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal, saying that it was an opportunity, the fact that parents and teachers and children were scattered across the United States after Hurricane Katrina, an opportunity to radically remake the education system. Now, that—and, of course, turned into a voucher system.

    Now, that neglect of public sphere that we saw in New Orleans is, of course, a national crisis. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there is a deficit, an infrastructure deficit of between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion, just to bring the roads and bridges up to safety standards. And the solution, up until very recently, that was being held up, was public-private partnerships, was privatization of essential infrastructure. You know this in Chicago, because the airport is one of the ones on the block.

    But one interesting thing that happened today is that the biggest—the biggest test case for infrastructure privatization is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which was on the verge of being handed over to a consortium of private companies on a seventy-five-year lease, and that deal fell through today. And I think part of the reason why it fell through is because one of the companies leading the consortium was Citigroup. And the idea of putting more essential services, more things that are far too important to fail, in the hands of the same people that have made such a mess of the financial sector suddenly seems like insanity. But on the other hand, the economic pressures on states, on the federal government, is only going to increase, right? Because it seems inevitable that those private debts are going to be transferred onto the public books. So, nothing can be taken for granted in this moment.

    The other way where we—the other place where I think we see the legacy of Friedmanism in this moment is in the backlash to the Wall Street bailout, the backlash that essentially killed the bill in Congress, although it’s clear that it’s going to be revived. People got very, very frightened yesterday when the stock market had its worst day, and they called their Congress people with another message. And I just want to say, on that front, that it’s easy to conclude from that that people are just untrustworthy, and they shouldn’t really have a say in the economy, which is, I think, probably what Milton Friedman would say. And this was part of the impulse toward specialization and treating everything economic as hard science, because that means, you know that it’s out of reach of democracy. It’s not subject to any debate; these are hard rules.

    Now, I think that the sort of volatility we’ve seen on the—in the markets the past few days is at least partially the result of the incredible recklessness of the Bush administration in dangling a $700 billion bailout, just free money, saying we’re going to do this, before they had any guarantee that they were going to be able to do it. So, of course, the stock market rallies at the prospect of free money. Why wouldn’t it? And then, when it falls through, of course, it dips. And I’m not saying this is all planned, but this sort of rollercoaster we’ve been on has just been part of this pattern of incredibly poor management, poor government, that infuses every aspect of this crisis.

    And this, of course, is also part of the ideology, because the Bush administration, far from being an aberration, is really the culmination of the idea that government is the problem, not the solution. I think they really believe that and totally abdicate it, their responsibility to manage, to govern. The popping of the housing bubble was a surprise to no one. But the only preparation was a two-and-a-half-page plan presented by Henry Paulson that said, “Give me $700 billion, and don’t ask any questions.” That is not preparing, right? This was laissez-faire in action, a really scary kind of laissez-faire.

    But the anger is, of course—the anger at Wall Street, this sort of—you know, there was a vindictive quality to a lot of what the Congress people heard from their constituents: “Why should we bail them out? Look at what they’ve done to us.” And it was Main Street versus Wall Street. And this is—you know, this is another failure of Friedmanism, because the idea of the ownership society was that class-consciousness was supposed to disappear, right? Because union members were not going to think of themselves as workers, because everybody owned a piece of the stock market, and everybody was going to have a mortgage, so they would think like owners, they would think like bosses, they would think like landlords, not like tenants, not like workers. Class is suddenly back in America, with a vengeance, and it is the result of this class war that was waged from this school.

    Now, interestingly, there is another Chicago boy, and Barack Obama is responding to the market crisis by turning his campaign really into a referendum; though he wouldn’t call it a referendum on Friedmanism, he seems to be turning it into a referendum on Friedmanism. He’s saying that essentially what we’re seeing on Wall Street is the culmination of an ideology of deregulation and trickle-down economics—give a lot at the top and wait for it to trickle down to the people at the bottom—and that is precisely what has failed. And what’s interesting is that the more he says that, the higher his ratings go in the polls.

    So I think we can see a couple of scenarios for the future. One, McCain wins, and it’s economic shock therapy. You know, the thesis of The Shock Doctrine is that we’ve been sold a fairy tale about how these radical policies have swept the globe, that they haven’t swept the globe on the backs of freedom and democracy, but they have needed shocks, they have needed crises, they have needed states of emergencies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an outright military coup, which are the conditions in which this ideology had its first laboratories. It can just be a bad-enough economic crisis, a bad-enough hyperinflation crisis, in an electoral democracy that allows politicians to say, “Sorry about everything we said during the campaign. Sorry about the usual ways in which we make decisions, debate discussion. We’re going to have to haul up, form an emergency economic team and impose shock therapy,” usually with the help of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

    Milton Friedman understood the utility of crisis. And this is a quote—you know, I use it a lot, but I’ll use it now again, because I think it’s important—which he has at the beginning of the 1982 edition of Capitalism and Freedom: “Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

    Now, because I’ve been studying the utility of crisis for this free market project, which I consider to be very anti-democratic, it’s really attuned me to looking for the ideas that are lying around. And I’ve been paying really close attention to people like Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, the Republican Study Committee, these past few weeks. And I have an “ideas lying around” file, which are the ideas that they are floating right now in the midst of this economic crisis. And a lot of them are familiar, but the point is is that they’re being repackaged now as the way out of this economic crisis. So, it’s suspending the capital gains tax, getting rid of the post-Enron regulations, getting rid of mark-to-market accounting. In other words, more deregulation and less money in the public coffers. And it is interesting that the way in which this bill—the way the senators were trying to get the bailout bill through the Senate, after it had failed to go through Congress, was by adding tax cuts, a package of $118 billion worth of tax cuts. Some of them are good, some of them are not. But it’s a deepening of this crisis.

    So, we know that the crisis is coming, and the question is, how are we going to respond? I think there needs to be better ideas lying around. I think the Milton Friedman Institute is about keeping the same old ideas that have been recycled so many times, that actually make these public crises worse, making sure that they are the ones that are ready and available whenever the next crisis hits. I think that is what—at its core, that’s what so many of the right-wing think tanks are for, and that’s what the Institute is for. And I think that is a waste of the fine minds at this university. I think it is a waste of your minds, your creativity, because all of these crises—climate change, the casino that is contemporary capitalism—all of these crises do demand answers, do demand actions. They are messages, telling us that the system is broken. And instead of actual solutions, we’re throwing ideology, very profitable ideology, at these problems. So we need better ideas lying around.

    We need better ideas responding to what a Barack Obama presidency would absolutely face. As soon as he comes to office, “Yes, you can” turns into “No, you can’t; we’re broke.” No green jobs, no alternative energy, no healthcare for everyone. You know, his plan for—to give healthcare to every child in America costs $80 billion. Bailing out AIG cost $85 billion. They’re spending that money. They’re spending those promises. So, the people who are going to say, “No, you can’t,” who are going to use this crisis to shut down hope, to shut down possibility, are ready.

    And I think it would be so wonderful to have the brilliant young economists of the University of Chicago—I don’t know if any of them bothered to come out tonight—but to have your minds at work meeting this crisis. We need you. We need open minds. We need flexible minds, as creative as possible. The Milton Friedman Institute, in its name and essence, is about trying to recapture a moment of ideological certainty that has long passed. It has long passed because reality has intervened. It was fun when it was all abstract. It was fun when it was all in the realm of promise and possibility. But we are well past that. Please, don’t retreat into your sacred texts. Join us in the real world.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She was speaking at the University of Chicago against the naming of the economics institute there, the Milton Friedman Institute, invited by a group of faculty.

Muslims are at Peace With You

September 16, 2008

A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Disarm Fear-Mongering

Muslims are at Peace With You

By FATEMAH KESHAVARZ

If you have received a hair-raising “documentary” called Obsession in the mail this weekend, you are not a chosen surprise winner, or the recipient of a kind anonymous gift. You belong to a sought after group of people: the residents of a swing state estimated to be an undecided voter. The film is supposed to convince you that your country is at war with the majority of Muslims who are willing to conquer America , kill or convert you, and establish a fascist empire. If you watch the film by yourself, and have no way of evaluating its content, chances are you will be convinced. Rather, you will be terrified.

That 28 million free copies of Obsession is landing on doorsteps in swing states at this point in time, speaks for itself. Nonetheless, people are digging deep in search of the sources of financial support for this largest campaign of fear conducted to date. I’d say more power to them for their efforts to expose this campaign of emotional manipulation reminiscent of fascist like ideologies that have resulted in massive human tragedies.  For now, however, there are easier and more practical ways of countering this scare attack. As a Muslim who has never been at war with anyone, I list five of them here.

First, the movie tells you that in a Muslim country, a non-Muslim is supposed to be killed or sold like an animal. Look, in your neighborhood or among colleague, relatives, and friends, for an ordinary fellow American who has travelled to a Muslim country in recent years. Ask if he or she felt the threat of being abducted, converted, sold, or killed at anytime during his or her stay in that country.

Second, the Movie claims that the Egyptian textbooks tell school children that Muslims should kill non-Muslims and take over the world. Egypt has millions of Coptic Christian inhabitants. In fact, they form 20% of the Egyptian population. Ask yourself how have they survived living in Egypt for thousands of years? Then, locate an Egyptian Copt through your local library, university, the internet, and/or friends. Ask that person if he or she ever saw such a statement in his or his children’s school books.

Third, invite a Persian speaking friend (of whom hundreds of thousands live in the U.S. ) to watch the movie with you. When supposed scenes from the Iranian TV are shown, they will tell you that the actual language they hear is not Persian but Arabic. The documentary makers did not know what they were piecing together. They banked on the fact that the audience will not know that either.

Fourth, the film interviews supposed Muslim fundamentalists who have turned nice, loving, and truthful after conversion to Christianity.  Ask yourself why you should trust them anymore now than when they were ruthless terrorists – if indeed they were terrorists. If not, why are they lying?

Fifth, when images of large and loud crowds in the film frighten you, imagine someone taking a few shots from the GOP convention’s loud chants, put a scary voice over, add a few shots of American soldiers breaking into Iraqi homes in the middle of the night, and throw a few statements from right wing shows into the mix.  It could be sold to Muslim audiences as “The American War on Islam.”

Finally, please send this simple guide to a friend who has been terrified after watching Obsession and tell them to vote for Mr. McCain only if they like four more years of what they have experienced for the past eight years…not because Muslims are at war with America . They are not.


Fatemeh Keshavarz is Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University and the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran.

http://www.counterp unch.org/ keshavarz0916200 8.html

Islamic Group Gains Power in Indonesia

Source: New York Times October 7, 2008

Islamic Group Gains Power in Indonesia

By PETER GELLING

JAKARTA — In a sign of its growing prominence, Indonesia’s Council of Ulemas moved its headquarters from the basement of a major mosque here into an expensive new office tower in the heart of downtown.

The council was established in 1975 as a quasi-governmental body of Muslim scholars by Suharto, the country’s leader for three decades, partly as a tool to keep politically minded Islamic organizations in check. But in the decade since the dictator’s fall, the group — whose leaders have increasingly espoused a radical form of Islam — has worked to establish itself as an assertive political force.

The group, known as M.U.I., built an impressive network of offices throughout the country, staffed by people who promote the council’s view of Islam. It logged its first major political success this summer when the government agreed to severely restrict the activities of a Muslim sect that does not believe that Muhammad was the last prophet.

Advocates of religious tolerance worry that the council’s new clout could signal the start of religious radicalization in a country known for its moderate brand of Islam.

“Islamists use the M.U.I. as a major base of operations, coordinating support for the Islamist agenda,” said Holland Taylor, founder of LibForAll Foundation, an American and Indonesian nongovernmental group that promotes religious pluralism.

Among the goals of some prominent council members is the imposition of Shariah, or Islamic law, throughout traditionally secular Indonesia.

But other experts, even some concerned about the council’s conservative leanings and newfound influence, see the broader radicalization of Indonesian Islam as unlikely. They point out that Indonesia’s largest Islamic association, the Nahdlatul Ulama, promotes tolerance and religious pluralism and that Islamic political parties have struggled to gain ground in recent years.

Beyond that, broad antipornography legislation, which had been championed by the Council of Ulemas and its allies in Parliament, has been scaled back after a public backlash that included large street protests.

“I don’t think the Council of Ulemas is going to turn Indonesia into the Sudan,” said Sidney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, citing “many other balancing forces.”

The council is an umbrella group that represents established Muslim organizations. In addition to advising the government on religious issues, it distributes fatwas, or religious directives, advising Muslims on how to practice their faith. Its fatwas are nonbinding.

Maruf Amin, the council’s deputy chairman, describes it as a moderate organization that represents the views of more than 60 Islamic groups in this overwhelmingly Muslim country.

“Our job is to communicate to the government the aspirations of Muslim people in Indonesia and to protect the Islamic population here from any bad influences that might lead them to deviate from their faith,” he said in an interview.

But some analysts who have studied the group say Islamic hard-liners have had an increasingly dominant role in the council in the last few years.

“The council has a long history of moderation, but lately it has been infiltrated by some hard-liners,” said Azyumardi Azra, director of the graduate school at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta. “I have told its leaders that if they want to remain a representative organization, they need to be aware of this infiltration.”

The growing prominence of radical voices is partly a byproduct of the transition to democracy. Radical religious leaders who were often silenced during Suharto’s rule now have the freedom to propagate their views and have often proven adept at using the democratic system.

The growing relevance of the Council of Ulemas is partly a result of a budget some analysts believe is growing. (Neither the council nor the government would provide numbers.) Besides government financing, the council has sole authority to license halal food and medicine.

More recently, the council has tapped into Indonesia’s lucrative Islamic banking industry. It acts as one of several organizations overseeing banks that refuse loans to companies in businesses that run contrary to Islamic values, like those producing alcohol or selling pork.

These financing sources have allowed it to purchase its new office tower and to operate more than 150 satellite offices.

But analysts say the group has also benefited from its relationship with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Although the president is considered moderate, he said last year that after the council issues any fatwas, “the tools of the state can do their duty.”

“Hopefully our cooperation will deepen in the future,” he said during the speech, according to translations by the International Crisis Group.

Some experts said they suspected he was supporting the Council of Ulemas to shore up Muslim backing in elections next year. A coalition of Islamic political parties backed him when he first ran for president in 2004.

The council’s biggest coup so far was Mr. Yudhoyono’s decision in June to restrict the practices of Ahmadiya, a minority Muslim sect.

The council had been calling for a ban on Ahmadiya since 2005 when it issued two fatwas, one against the sect for not believing Muhammad is the last prophet and another calling on Muslims to reject “pluralism, liberalism and secularism.”

On June 1 in Jakarta, opponents of Ahmadiya, some affiliated with Forum Umat Islam, an organization formed to promote the council’s fatwas whose leaders include several prominent council members, clashed with demonstrators supporting the sect. Dozens were injured.

Despite an outcry over the incident, the government ordered Ahmadiya members to “stop disseminating interpretations that deviate from the main tenets of Islam” or face legal action. The government then asked the Council of Ulemas, with its network of chapters, to monitor Ahmadiya’s compliance.

A report in July by the International Crisis Group, which analyzed the conditions leading to the decree, laid significant blame on the dominance of radicals within the council and the council’s growing influence.

Several of those members are leaders of groups blamed for burning mosques and houses belonging to Ahmadiya adherents.

In its annual report on religious freedom in September, the United Sates State Department singled out the Council of Ulemas as “influential in enabling official and social discrimination” against minority religious groups in the last year in Indonesia.

Still, most of Indonesia’s Muslims remain moderate, and some have begun to fight back.

Mr. Taylor, whose group promotes religious tolerance, said moderate groups would need to try to take control of the council or press the government to privatize or dissolve it.

The New York Times

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Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel has started broadcasting via an Indonesian satellite, after being taken off a Thai satellite

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), 08/09/2008 – Communications and terrorism

 

Communications and terrorism: Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel has started broadcasting via an Indonesian satellite, after being taken off a Thai satellite. The Indonesian satellite covers East Asia, China, and Australia. Indonesia is a Muslim country, making it more difficult for the international community to fight the incitement aired by Hezbollah.