More Chomsky, bringing us up to date about the war in Iraq.
Chomsky on War
ZNet forum questions and responses
by Noam Chomsky; ZNet Sustainer Program; March 31, 2003
More Chomsky, bringing us up to date about the war in Iraq.
Chomsky on War
ZNet forum questions and responses
by Noam Chomsky; ZNet Sustainer Program; March 31, 2003
An alert reader has kindly forwarded a Word doc version of this, instead of
that awful unusable PDF format link I sent around earlier.
This is difficult reading, and long, I know. I’m having a hard time getting
through it myself. But it’s very good to hear “from the horse’s mouth”…and
it is truly frightening. I cannot believe the boldness of this impending
legislation. We may as well kiss the Bill of Rights goodbye.
hey considered themselves tough-minded realists, and
regarded doubters as fuzzy-minded whiners. They silenced those who questioned
their premises, even though the skeptics included many of the government’s own
analysts. They were supremely confident – and yet with shocking speed everything
they had said was proved awesomely wrong.
No, I’m not talking about the war; I’m talking about the energy task
force that Dick Cheney led back in 2001. Yet there are some disturbing
parallels. Right now, pundits are wondering how Mr. Cheney – who confidently
predicted that our soldiers would be “greeted as liberators” – could have been
so mistaken. But a devastating new report on the California energy crisis
reminds us that Mr. Cheney has been equally confident, and equally wrong, about
In spring 2001 the lights were going out all over California. There
were blackouts and brownouts, and the price of electricity was soaring. The
Cheney task force was convened in the midst of that crisis. It concluded, in
brief, that the energy crisis was a long-term problem caused by meddling
bureaucrats and pesky environmentalists, who weren’t letting big companies do
what needed to be done. The solution? Scrap environmental rules, and give the
energy industry multibillion-dollar subsidies.
Along the way, Mr. Cheney sneeringly dismissed energy conservation as
a mere “sign of personal virtue” and scorned California officials who called for
price controls and said the crisis was being exacerbated by market manipulation.
To be fair, Mr. Cheney’s mocking attitude on that last point was shared by
almost everyone in politics and the media – and yes, I am patting myself on the
back for getting it right.
For we now know that everything Mr. Cheney said was
In fact, the California energy crisis had nothing to do with
environmental restrictions, and a lot to do with market manipulation. In 2001
the evidence for manipulation was basically circumstantial. But now we have a
new report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which until now has
discounted claims of market manipulation. No more: the new report concludes that
market manipulation was pervasive, and offers a mountain of direct evidence,
including phone conversations, e-mail and memos. There’s no longer any doubt:
California’s power shortages were largely artificial, created by energy
companies to drive up prices and profits.
Oh, and what ended the crisis? Key factors included energy
conservation and price controls. Meanwhile, what happened to that long-term
shortage of capacity, which required scrapping environmental rules and providing
lots of corporate welfare? Within months after the Cheney report’s release,
stock analysts were downgrading energy companies because of a looming
In short, Mr. Cheney and his tough-minded realists were blowing
smoke: their report described a fantasy world that bore no relation to reality.
How did they get it so wrong?
One answer is that Mr. Cheney made sure that his task force included
only like-minded men: as far as we can tell, he didn’t consult with anyone
except energy executives. So the task force was subject to what military types
call “incestuous amplification,” defined by Jane’s Defense Weekly as “a
condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in
lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for
Another answer is that Mr. Cheney basically drew his advice about how
to end the energy crisis from the very companies creating the crisis, for fun
and profit. But was he in on the joke?
We may never know what really went on in the energy task force since
the Bush administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep us from
finding out. At first the nonpartisan General Accounting Office, which is
supposed to act as an internal watchdog, seemed determined to pursue the matter.
But after the midterm election, according to the newsletter The Hill,
Congressional Republicans approached the agency’s head and threatened to slash
his budget unless he backed off.
And therein lies the broader moral. In the last two years Mr. Cheney
and other top officials have gotten it wrong again and again – on energy, on the
economy, on the budget. But political muscle has insulated them from any adverse
consequences. So they, and the country, don’t learn from their mistakes – and
the mistakes keep getting bigger.
I debated a while whether or not this was worthy of sending to the list. It’s harsh, one-sided, and not that well-written. Still, I eventually decided that it was thought-provoking enough to be worth a forward. Take for what it’s worth to ya.
More quality material to come…
27 Similarities between Hitler and President Bush
After President Bush promised last fall to invade Iraq, his spokesmen fell
into the habit of comparing Saddam Hussein with Adolph Hitler, by most
accounts the most monstrous figure in modern history. Everybody was
therefore shocked when the German Minister of Justice turned the tables by
comparing Bush himself with Hitler. As to be expected, she (the Justice
Minister) was forced to resign because of her extreme disrespect for an
American president. However, the resemblance sticks — there are too many
similarities to be ignored, some of which may be listed here.
1. Like Hitler, President Bush was not elected by a majority, but was forced
to engage in political maneuvering in order to gain office.
2. Like Hitler, Bush began to curtail civil liberties in response to a
well-publicized national outrage, in Hitler’s case the Reichstag fire, in
Bush’s case the 9-11 catastrophe.
3. Like Hitler, Bush went on to pursue a reckless ultra-nationalist foreign
policy without the mandate of the electorate.
4. Like Hitler, Bush has accordingly improved his popularity ratings,
especially with veterans and conservative Republicans, by mounting an
aggressive public relations campaign against foreign enemies. Just as Hitler
cited international communism to justify Germany’s military buildup, Bush
uses Al Qaeda and the Axis of Evil to justify our current military buildup.
5. Like Hitler, Bush promotes militarism while in the midst of a major
economic recession (or depression). He uses war preparations to help
subsidize defense industries (Halliburton, Bechtel, etc.) and presumably the
rest of the economy on a trickle-down basis.
6. Like Hitler, Bush glorifies patriotism to stir up public support. He
treats our nation’s unique historic destiny almost as a religious cause
sanctioned by God.
7. Like Hitler, Bush quickly makes and breaks diplomatic ties, and he makes
generous promises that he soon abandons, as in the case of Mexico, Russia,
Afghanistan, and even New York City.
8. Like Hitler, Bush envisages a future world order that guarantees his own
nation’s hegemonic supremacy rather than cooperative harmony under the
authority of the United Nations (or League of Nations). He is willing to
break the U.N. Charter in promoting this end.
9. Like Hitler, Bush scraps international treaties, most notably the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Convention on the Prohibition of Land
Mines, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Kyoto Global Warming Accord, and
the International Criminal Court.
10. Like Hitler, Bush depends on an axis of collaborative allies, which he
describes as a "coalition of the willing," to give the impression of having a
broad popular alliance. These include the U.K. as compared to Mussolini’s
Italy, and Spain and Bulgaria as compared to, well, Spain and Bulgaria, both
of which were aligned with Germany during the thirties and World War II.
11. Like Hitler, Bush possesses a war machine much bigger and more effective
than the military capabilities of other nations. Today, Bush depends on a
"defense" budget roughly equivalent to the combined military expenditures of
the rest of the world.
12. Like Hitler, Bush is willing to invade other nations despite the
opposition of the U.N. (League of Nations). He also has no qualms about
bribing, bullying and insulting its members, even tapping their telephone
13. Like Hitler, Bush pursues war without cutting back on the peacetime
economy. He actually seeks to reduce taxes while conducting an expensive
invasion and occupation of an "undesirable" nation.
14. Like Hitler, Bush launches unilateral invasions on a supposedly
preemptive basis. Just as Hitler convinced the German public to think of
Poland as a threat to Germany in 1939, Bush wants Americans to think of Iraq
as a "potential" threat to our national security.
15. Like Hitler, Bush is willing to inflict high levels of bloodshed, with
many thousands of casualties anticipated in Iraq, especially since the city
of Baghdad–with a population of between 5 and 6 million–will be a primary
16. Like Hitler, Bush depends on a military strategy that features a "shock
and awe" blitzkrieg beginning with devastating air strikes, then an invasion
led by heavy armor columns.
17. Like Hitler, Bush is perfectly willing to sacrifice life as part of his
official duty, as indicated by his unique record as a governor of Texas who
was reluctant to commute death sentences.
18. Like Hitler Bush began warfare on a single front (Al Qaeda quartered in
Afghanistan), but then expanded it to a second front with Iraq, only to be
confronted with North Korea as a potential third front. Much the same thing
happened when Hitler expanded German military operations from Spain to Poland
and France, then was distracted by Yugoslavia before invading the USSR in
19. Like Hitler, Bush has no qualms about imposing "regime change" by
installing Quisling-style client governments reinforced by full-scale
military occupation under a military governor.
20. Like Hitler, Bush curtails civil liberties and depends on detention
centers (i.e. concentration camps) such as Guantanamo Bay.
21. Like Hitler, Bush repeats lies often enough that they come to be accepted
as the truth. Bush and his spokesmen argue, for example that every measure
has been taken to avoid war (hardly true), that an invasion of Iraq will
diminish (not intensify) the terrorist threat to the world, and that the U.S.
is staging an invasion because the risks of inaction would be greater (not
less). All of this is highly debatable. They likewise argue that Iraq is
linked with Al Qaeda (which has yet to be proven), and that nothing
whatsoever has been achieved by U.N. inspectors to warrant the postponement
of U.S. war plans (which simply isn’t true). They insist that Iraq hides
numerous weapons it does not possess as well
as can be determined by U.N. inspectors, and they refuse to acknowledge the
total absence of any nuclear weapons program in Iraq since the late nineties.
As perhaps to be expected, they indignantly accuse everybody else of
deception and evasiveness.
22. Like Hitler, Bush incessantly finds new excuses to justify war—from
Iraq’s WMD threat to the elimination of Saddam Hussein, to his supposed Al
Qaeda connection, to the creation of democracy in the Middle East as a model
for neighboring states, and back again to the WMD threat. As soon as one
excuse for war is challenged, Bush shifts to another, but only to shift back
again at another time.
23. Like Hitler Bush and his cohorts exaggerate ruthlessness by their enemies
in order to justify their own. Just as Hitler cited the threat of communist
violence to justify even greater violence on the part of Germany, the Bush
team justifies a full-scale invasion of Iraq by emphasizing Saddam Hussein’s
crimes against humanity that were for the most part committed when Iraq was a
client-ally of the U.S., supplied with both advisors and materiel (poison gas
included) by our own government.
24. Like Hitler, Bush’s Messianic ambition to bring about America’s hegemonic
dominance in the world makes him perhaps the most dangerous President in our
nation’s history, a rogue chief executive capable of waging any number of
illegal preemptive wars.
25. Like Hitler, Bush has become so obsessed with his vision of a Manichaean
conflict between good (U.S. patriotism) and evil (the anti-patriotic "other")
that for many in contact with the White House he is beginning to seem as if
he has lost touch with reality.
26. Like Hitler, Bush takes pleasure in the mythology of frontier justice.
As a youth Hitler read and memorized the western novels of Karl May, and Bush
retains into his maturity his fascination with simplistic cowboy values. He
also exaggerates a cowboy twang despite his elitist education at Andover,
Yale and Harvard.
27. Like Hitler, Bush misconstrues evolutionary theory, in Hitler’s case by
treating the Aryan race as being superior, in Bush’s case by rejecting
science for fundamentalist creationism.
Of course countless differences may be listed between Hitler and President
Bush, most of which are to the credit of Bush. Nevertheless, the
twenty-seven resemblances listed here are striking, especially since Bush’s
presidency this last couple of years must be compared to Hitler’s early
performance as German Chancellor, preceding the chain of events that
culminated in World War II. As with Hitler, Bush’s early successes in
pursuit of global imperialism–whatever the cost to others–might well
culminate in disaster, if not quite of the same magnitude.
Here are a couple of articles that I’ve been meaning to send out for a long time now. I thought they were both really eye-opening and I give them both a four-star rating.
Sympathy for the Devil by By Hsing Lee ****
This is a really interesting article, taking a line of inquiry into our national energy agenda, from 1609 to the present! By following the money, the author ties together US policies, bin Laden, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Bush dynasty, oil business, and a lot of other things. “We must put an end to fascism once and for all, by cutting it out at its source… the Bush administration and their neo-conservative friends, the Skull and Bones, and Wall Street.”
The Historical Trajectory of Iraqi-American Relations (Word doc 74K) ****
Adapted from Josh Kane’s The Burning of a Nation
These are lecture notes from a student at UW, and lay out a fairly extensive history of Iraq and our involvements therein. Though the notes are rough and need editing, the material is eye-popping for me, as I did not know much of that history.
Long articles, but well worth the read!
OK, that’s enough for one night. I’m sure you have plenty to keep you all busy for a while.
The New McCarthyism
Here are a few
articles on the New McCarthyism that’s taking hold in our country. I’m sure,
sadly, that there will be much more on that to come.
Then there’s this warning about the Patriot Act to users of the Santa Cruz Public Library:
surrenders, cancels Donahue
“It’s not a coincidence that this decision
comes the same week that MSNBC announces its hired Dick Armey as a commentator
and has both Jesse Ventura and Michael Savage joining the network as hosts.
They’re scared, and they decided to take the coward’s road and slant towards the
conservative crowd that watch Fox News.”
–CWASHINGTON — This is Bush’s
That’s not a statement of contempt. In 1999, congressional
Republicans did express a certain contempt when they called the NATO bombing
campaign in Kosovo “Clinton’s war.” Meaning, it’s his war. It’s not our
But to call the campaign in Iraq “Bush’s war” is a statement of
political fact. President Bush has made this war his personal cause. He has
staked his entire presidency on it.
A triumph in Iraq will be his
triumph. It will give him the political capital to do anything he wants —
dividend tax cuts, Medicare reform, anything. Bush will stand astride the world
like a colossus. Just as his father once did.
But this President Bush
understands, as his father did not, that political capital is a fungible
commodity. It has to be invested in a big agenda. The father had no interest in
big agendas. He was the “kinder, gentler” president. He lacked “the vision
No one can say this Bush is not bold. Last fall, he did what few
presidents do in midterm elections. He took a calculated risk by making himself
the central issue in the campaign. It could have ended badly, in which case the
election would have damaged Bush’s political standing. But it didn’t. And the
president saw his stature immensely enhanced.
The 2002 campaign was a
trifling wager compared with Iraq. This is Texas political poker, the ultimate
high-stakes gamble. Bush has everything riding on it — his reelection, his
legacy, his party’s future. Not to mention the life and death of hundreds of
thousands of combatants, the future of the Middle East and America’s role in the
Make no mistake about it: This President Bush is a big-agenda man.
His agenda is nothing less than remaking the world.
It is impossible to
make any political predictions without first knowing what’s going to happen in
Iraq. Nothing about Bush’s economic program. Nothing about his judicial
appointments. Not even the 2004 Democratic nomination. Well, maybe one
prediction: If Saddam Hussein is still in power next year, there is no way Bush
can get reelected, short of the Democrats nominating Al Sharpton.
Bush vs. Hussein. Only one of them can come out alive. Politically, at
To claim victory, the administration will have to show proof of
two things. First, that Hussein is out of power — that he has been eliminated
or is under U.S. control. The administration’s goal is not justice. It’s regime
change. Second, there really are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
even if Hussein is ousted and weapons of mass destruction are unearthed, any
number of things could go wrong.
Massive war casualties. Israeli
involvement, causing the Middle East to erupt in flames. Chaos in Iraq. A
difficult and costly American occupation. Popular revolts that bring down
pro-American regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Egypt. Terrorist
reprisals against the U.S. homeland. Guerrilla attacks on American occupation
forces. Gasoline rationing and skyrocketing energy prices. If any of those
things happens, the political consequences for Bush will be
This war is the toughest and riskiest decision any president
has made since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Which leads to the obvious
question: Why is Bush doing it?
The necessity of war with Iraq — at
least, war now — is not obvious to most of the world. Or to many
People outside the U.S. have reached a harsh conclusion: This
is a war for oil. Isn’t Iraq believed to have the second-largest proven oil
reserves in the world? Aren’t Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney oil men?
Doesn’t the oil industry contribute huge sums to the Republican
Steve Kretzmann of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington
puts it this way: “If McDonald’s, the world’s largest consumer of potatoes,
announces in advance that it’s going to buy Idaho, and that the purchase has
nothing to do with potatoes, what would you think?”
The slogan of the
antiwar movement, from Austin to Australia, is “No Blood for Oil.” Last
November, a reporter asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, “Mr.
Secretary, what do you say to people who think this is about
Rumsfeld gave a typically dismissive answer: “Nonsense…. It has
nothing to do with oil. Literally, nothing to do with oil.”
How can that
be? “If it were about oil, it would be the simplest problem in the world to
solve,” Jim Placke of Cambridge Energy Research Associates said. “The Iraqis
would cut a deal instantly, a deal that would be very financially
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz recently said,
“If the United States had wanted access to Iraqi oil, we could have dropped our
whole policy 12 years ago, lifted the sanctions and let Saddam Hussein have his
weapons of mass destruction.”
After all, there’s plenty of oil available
elsewhere in the world. More Iraqi oil production would drive down prices — and
profits. The oil industry wants stability — “a stable price in a reasonable
range,” Placke said. And what is war but the ultimate instability? Peter
Hartcher of the Australian Financial Review put it this way: “The oil industry
wants oil, but they don’t want to go through a war to get it.”
reason why the rest of the world readily accepts the idea that this is a war for
oil: They have not heard any other convincing explanation. But the American
public dismisses the idea. By 2 to 1 in last month’s Gallup poll (65% to 33%),
Americans said oil is not a reason to take military action against
Have Americans heard a more convincing explanation? Yes, they have:
9/11. “September the 11th should say to the American people that we are now a
battlefield,” Bush said at his March 6 news conference. The idea is that the
United States, as a matter of its own national security, must disarm Iraq in
order to prevent another 9/11.
But is 9/11 the real reason why the Bush
administration wants war?
Recent books by Bob Woodward and David Frum
suggest that the administration had made the decision to confront Iraq long
before 9/11. The real motivation, some analysts say, is idealistic. For years,
neoconservative intellectuals like Wolfowitz and Richard N. Perle — figures of
great influence in the Bush administration — have been promoting the idea of a
new world order, based on the predominance of American power.
weakening of the United Nations. “Present at the Destruction” was the boastful
cover line of a recent issue of the Weekly Standard, the nation’s leading
neoconservative publication. Meaning: Let us now celebrate the U.N.’s impending
As Hartcher said, “This is about the neoconservative view, the
idealistic view, the Wilsonian view, that the world would be a better place if
only America can make it that way.”
It’s about remaking the world. By
force. Forget all the talk about the U.S. exercising “soft power” through wealth
and trade and cultural influence. That’s Clinton-era nonsense. Hard power is
what matters. Did you catch the test of the new MOAB weapon, nicknamed “Mother
of All Bombs”?
What if the rest of the world does not want to be remade?
Right now, U.S. power is unchecked. No country can stop us. The only leverage
other countries have against the U.S. is the United Nations. And the Bush
administration is determined to prove that the U.N. is
There’s only one check on Bush’s bold agenda: the American
people. Bold agendas make Americans nervous. Because the fact is, Americans have
no ambition to dominate the world. Their ambition is simple. They just want to
William Schneider, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a
CNN political analyst.
For a little change of pace, something a little less dry, I thought you
might like these January comments from Kurt Vonnegut. He certainly hasn’t
lost his edge.
Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@
By Joel Bleifuss | 1.27.03 print | email | comment
Kurt Vonnegut | vonnegut.com
In November, Kurt Vonnegut turned 80. He published his first novel, Player
Piano, in 1952 at the age of 29.
Since then he has written 13 others, including Slaughterhouse Five, which
stands as one of the pre-eminent
anti-war novels of the 20th century.
As war against Iraq looms, I asked Vonnegut, a reader and supporter of this
magazine, to weigh in. Vonnegut is
an American socialist in the tradition of Eugene Victor Debs, a fellow
Hoosier whom he likes to quote: "As long
as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal
element, I am of it. As long as there is
a soul in prison, I am not free."
You have lived through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Reagan wars, Desert
Storm, the Balkan wars and now
this coming war in Iraq. What has changed, and what has remained the same?
One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what continent
or island or ice cap, asked to be
born in the first place, and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80,
only just got here. There were
already all these games going on when I got here. . An apt motto for any
polity anywhere, to put on its state
seal or currency or whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball
manager Casey Stengel, who was
addressing a team of losing professional athletes: "Can’t anybody here play
My daughter Lily, for an example close to home, who has just turned 20,
finds herself-as does George W. Bush,
himself a kid-an heir to a shockingly recent history of human slavery, to an
AIDS epidemic and to nuclear
submarines slumbering on the floors of fjords in Iceland and elsewhere,
crews prepared at a moment’s notice to
turn industrial quantities of men, women and children into radioactive soot
and bone meal by means of rockets
and H-bomb warheads. And to the choice between liberalism or conservatism
and on and on.
What is radically new in 2003 is that my daughter, along with our president
and Saddam Hussein and on and on,
has inherited technologies whose byproducts, whether in war or peace, are
rapidly destroying the whole planet
as a breathable, drinkable system for supporting life of any kind. Human
beings, past and present, have trashed
Based on what you’ve read and seen in the media, what is not being said in
the mainstream press about President
Bush’s policies and the impending war in Iraq?
That they are nonsense.
My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are
beginning to despair. Do you think that
we’ve lost reason to hope?
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just
war, might as well have been invaded
by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has
happened, though, is that it has been
taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup
d’etat imaginable. And those now in
charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no
history or geography, plus
not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka "Christians," and plus, most
frighteningly, psychopathic personalities,
To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical
diagnosis, like saying he or she has
appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask
of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley.
Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their
actions may cause others, but they do not
care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!
And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom
and on and on, who have enriched
themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who
still feel as pure as the driven
snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these
heartless PPs now hold big jobs in
our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.
What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in
government, is that they are so
decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the
simple reason that they cannot care
what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves!
Privatize the public schools! Attack
Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich!
Build a trillion-dollar missile
shield! *censored* habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss
How have you gotten involved in the anti-war movement? And how would you
compare the movement against a war in
Iraq with the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era?
When it became obvious what a dumb and cruel and spiritually and financially
and militarily ruinous mistake our
war in Vietnam was, every artist worth a damn in this country, every serious
writer, painter, stand-up
comedian, musician, actor and actress, you name it, came out against the
thing. We formed what might be
described as a laser beam of protest, with everybody aimed in the same
direction, focused and intense. This
weapon proved to have the power of a banana-cream pie three feet in diameter
when dropped from a stepladder
And so it is with anti-war protests in the present day. Then as now, TV did
not like anti-war protesters, nor
any other sort of protesters, unless they rioted. Now, as then, on account
of TV, the right of citizens to
peaceably assemble, and petition their government for a redress of
grievances, "ain’t worth a pitcher of warm
spit," as the saying goes.
As a writer and artist, have you noticed any difference between how the
cultural leaders of the past and the
cultural leaders of today view their responsibility to society?
Responsibility to which society? To Nazi Germany? To the Stalinist Soviet
Union? What about responsibility to
humanity in general? And leaders in what particular cultural activity? I
guess you mean the fine arts. I hope
you mean the fine arts. … Anybody practicing the fine art of composing
music, no matter how cynical or greedy
or scared, still can’t help serving all humanity. Music makes practically
everybody fonder of life than he or
she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist,
always cheer me up.
But that is the power of ear candy. The creation of such a universal
confection for the eye, by means of
printed poetry or fiction or history or essays or memoirs and so on, isn’t
possible. Literature is by
definition opinionated. It is bound to provoke the arguments in many
quarters, not excluding the hometown or
even the family of the author. Any ink-on-paper author can only hope at best
to seem responsible to small
groups or like-minded people somewhere. He or she might as well have given
an interview to the editor of a
Maybe we can talk about the responsibilities to their societies of
architects and sculptors and painters
another time. And I will say this: TV drama, although not yet classified as
fine art, has on occasion performed
marvelous services for Americans who want us to be less paranoid, to be
fairer and more merciful. M.A.S.H. and
Law and Order, to name only two shows, have been stunning masterpieces in
That said, do you have any ideas for a really scary reality TV show?
"C students from Yale." It would stand your hair on end.
What targets would you consider fair game for a satirist today?
Joel Bleifuss is the editor of In These Times, where he has worked as a
investigative reporter, columnist and
editor since 1986. Bleifuss has had more stories on Project Censored’s
annual list of the "10 Most Censored
Stories" than any other journalist
Fyi. If there is typical Vonnegut, here is one (larry
> By Kurt Vonnegut
> In These Times
> March 6, 2003
> The recent Kurt Vonnegut interview (Kurt Vonnegut
> vs. !*@) has become the most popular story at
> inthesetimes.com, where the article originally
> appeared, with hundreds of readers expressing their
> opinions in the Comments section. The interview has
> also been translated and reprinted in Aftonbladet,
> Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, and La Jornada,
> Mexico’s most respected daily newspaper. In light of
> this response, Vonnegut has agreed, on an occasional
> basis, to entertain readers’ questions. If you would
> like to submit a question, write to
> email@example.com, and the editors will pass
> along your question to him.
> Dear Mr. Vonnegut
> What genuinely motivates al-Qaeda to kill and
> self-destruct? The president says, "They hate our
> freedoms – our freedom of religion, our freedom of
> speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and
> disagree with each other," which surely is not what
> has been learned from the captives being held in
> Guantanamo, or what he is told in his briefings. Why
> do the communications industry and our elected
> politicians allow Bush to get away with such
> nonsense? And how can there ever be peace, and even
> trust in our leaders, if the American people aren’t
> told the truth?
> -Peter Hoyt, Little Deer Island, Maine
> Dear Mr. Hoyt,
> One wishes that those who have taken over our
> federal government, and hence the world, by means of
> a Mickey Mouse coup d’etat, and who have
> disconnected all the burglar alarms prescribed by
> the Constitution, which is to say the House and
> Senate and the Supreme Court and We the People, were
> truly Christian. But as William Shakespeare told us
> long ago, "The devil can cite Scripture for his
> And what remains the best-kept secret from the
> Second World War, because it is so embarrassing, is
> that Hitler was a Christian, and that his swastika
> was a Christian cross made of axes, an apt symbol of
> a political party for Christians of the working
> class. And there were simpler, unambiguous crosses
> on all Hitler’s tanks and planes.
> Again: One wishes, for the sake of the whole planet,
> that the people in and around the White House
> nowadays truly mean it when they say, "Forgive us
> our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
> against us," and that they respect as children of
> God the losers, the nobodies so loved by Jesus in
> the Beatitudes, in His Sermon on the Mount: the poor
> in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, the merciful,
> the peace makers and so on.
> But such is obviously not the case. George W. Bush
> smirks and gloats unmercifully as he boasts of his
> readiness to loose more than a hundred cruise
> missiles, what I call "Timothy McVeighs," into the
> midst of the general population of Iraq, nearly half
> of whom are children, little boys and girls under
> the age of 15.
> His domestic policies, whose viciousness is peewee
> in comparison with what he is so eager to do to
> foreigners who don’t look like him and talk like
> him, who don’t have names like his, nonetheless
> inflict pain on those Americans of the sort
> enumerated in the Beatitudes, by depriving them of
> decent health care and educations, and of food,
> shelter and clothing when times are bad. It seems
> quite possible that his opinion of the American
> people has been formed while watching the Jerry
> Springer Show, which is Republican propaganda of the
> most pernicious kind.
> But America was certainly hated all around the world
> long before this coup d’etat. And we weren’t hated,
> as George W. Bush would have it, because of our
> liberty and justice for all. We are hated because
> our corporations have been the principal deliverers
> and imposers of new technologies and economic
> schemes that have wrecked the self-respect, the
> cultures of men, women and children in so many other
> It’s that simple.
> What are we to do when confronted by such hatred?
> Respond to Code Red and run around like chickens
> with their heads cut off.
> Keep in touch,
> Kurt Vonnegut
> Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in
> PO Box 90083
> Gainesville, FL. 32607
> (352) 337-9274
> (352) 871-7554 (Cell Phone)
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