Sunday, January 30, 2011

poem: forest

if you went to get shot

a man with a gun that would not fire

a farmer

a barber who shared the barbershop

a soldier from Germany or Italy or France or America

in Barcelona

a boy or girl marching

starving the front

in Madrid

the fascist generals far away

GM tanks ready to fire

if you held out for years

what memory

when you fell

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A letter from Rich Rockwell on ROTC and standing up, part 2

My friend Rich Rockwell sent me a powerful note on the last post which offers a direct and deep appreciation of what is good about ROTC from within. His father (he is a Vietnamese orphan, flown out of Vietnam in 1975, and thus, has run into anti-Asian racism even though he grew up in a Chicano family in La Junta) and a good friend of his both benefited from ROTC. More middle class people do not have a sense of how intense racism and class prejudice, even toward working class jews, still is in America. His writing conveys a visceral sense of what "crazy days" - life for ordinary people in America - often are. Rich also traces some of the virtues of the surprising integration of and intermarriage within the military, though underlining the considerable role of racists in it. Just to underscore the alternative to ROTC: America would do far better to be like Europe in funding students through graduate school, not plunging peope into endless debt slavery, or forcing people to join the military to become educated. It would take but a cancellation of 50 military bases (out of the 1,180 current ones, more or less), or a few days of Afghanistan and Iraq occupation expenses, or sacrificing some cruise missiles instead of hitting civilians in "Shock and Awe" aggressions to achieve this important, common good. If one wants to understand how little democratic American politics is, how much it is but an oligarchy with parliamentary forms, how difficult even this seemingly straightforward step would be, here is a startling example. It would take Americans rising up as in Tunisia or Egypt or Yemen to make so simple an act of decency an American practice.

Imagine that college and graduate education were paid for because our country values the education of all of its citizens. Then individuals might choose to become officers on a genuinely voluntary basis. That practice would make it somewhat more of a citizen army. Of course, such a military would not be so useful, heavily privatized, for wars of aggression, the price of joining the military not for poor people, as it often is now as Rich rightly says, eventually standing up against the hierarchy for decency. For instance, many soldiers and officers - those "treasures" or heroes of American life in Rich's words - did stand up against Cheney's torture. In this instance, the civilians were fascists and the cliché about civilian domination of the military as universally a good thing, mandated by the Constitution, was plainly harmful. Military people stood for honor, Bush for criminality and dishonor. Sadly, the decent people could not defend democracy and the rule of law. The war complex dominates and the military element within it succeeds only in moves to the Right (Keep a bad, unending, counterproductive war going with no idea of a way out: General Petraeus, at your service!) Still, in this case, military people – knowing that American torture would make our soldiers who were captured more likely candidates to be tortured and that the dignity and integrity of being soldiers was being trashed by Mr. “Dark Side” Cheney, or simply, as a private did in protesting Abu Ghraib, that this was abhorrent - fought the good fight. Here is Rich’s letter:

“Hi Alan,

Good post today [see here]. One of my good friends, Luis Dorantes, was in navy ROTC at Boulder. He was from a family whose parents had never gone to college. We roomed together in our fraternity house and were the only
minorities, too. His ticket out of South Chicago was through ROTC. My dad enlisted for Korea in the army first, but went to OCS [Officer Candidate School] before Vietnam to better his chances of surviving. He taught ROTC courses at Ft Mcpherson and reported daily to Colin Powell in the 80s. My dad grew up in project housing in Erie, Pa and had no father around; he was accepted to Princeton, Yale, Cornell, MIT, and Brown but decided to go to Rochester because he was poor. His best friend was jewish and came back to Rochester after a year at Princeton telling my dad that being jewish and poor didn’t make for a fun experience in NJ. Later, my dad was able to do graduate work in Eugene [University of Oregon], UCLA, and Northwestern with help from the military. While there are some wackos who sign up, either enlisting, or through ROTC, the peoplelike my dad and Luis are treasures to us and to this country and their critical thinking and judgment are needed in times of crisis. The ability to use reason and do the right thing even if it means defying orders or a demotion or whatever is needed today - especially in the military. I spent many weekends traveling from La Junta to Fort Carson to buy groceries at the PX (pre-Costco). The military is very diverse with asians, blacks, hispanics all intermarried; most just need to pay bills, want health insurance, a car, etc. But there are more and more nutjob white racists joining, too. I remember my dad having to peel me off a commander in 97 after he made a remark about asians, fortunately, because my dad is a ret. colonel, I avoided being charged with assault. To this day I don't know why I didn’t get into trouble for that…Crazy days, Alan! Rich

In the same spirit as Anne Norton’s argument in the last post, Steven Zunes has written an article for the San Jose Mercury News on the military barring any ROTC student looking at a Wikileak at the University of San Francisco. He rightly points out that these efforts are an abridgment of academic freedom and, of course, foolish. They parallel the episode at Columbia and the Korbel School in December of international studies recruitment officers warning students against looking at Wikileaks. See Should international studies schools intimidate would-be diplomats? here. Who told the US government that they can force on students and professors what can be taught, what can be learned? Isn’t the US complaining about such tyrannical practices when Barack and Hiliary protest the Mubarak censure of the internet? But who again is the US, the torturer nation (even Obama allows no proceedings against the torturer-officials of the Bush administration), the one which arms Mubarak to the teeth to shoot down ordinary Egyptians, protesting for democracy, in the streets, to criticize anyone? Turn the coin, Barack, and it is of you I speak.

It is also dumb (just like Obama's well-chosen although insufficient word about American aggression in Iraq). The United States can have diplomats who are less informed than the people asking them questions, who work at becoming pretentious idiots since that is what the government requires (I thought the US at least sometimes sought to give the appearance of being different from authoritarian or “totalitarian” regimes; not in this case…).

As Zunes says, this attempt at foolish censorship – the material is already in the public domain, available by googing Wikileaks, inter alia - is a terrible policy, one that harms the integrity of ROTC (not that directly ROTC education has much), and attempts to cripple the broader participation of would-be officers in the intellectual life available to students in relevant courses on campus (If Barack Obama could listen to Reverend Wright - and this was probably a very good and broadening thing for Obama, educationally and morally - perhaps possible future candidates for the State Department as well as officers could have some serious knowledge of what it is they will be asked to do. and engage, in an academic context, in debate about it. Recall the idea of academic freedom and the distinction between universities, and what is officially allowed,under Mubarak in pretend universities (of course, students and faculty in Egyptian universities are to the fore in seeing the US-armed tyrant for what he is). Perhaps seeing and discussing Wikileaks might even make for a less bizarrely counterproductive and less criminal foreign policy/military (see the criminality of the US role in Spain, its corruption of the independence of the judicial system to protect the American murderers of Jose Couso, a Spanish journalist, in the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad in 2003, and extraordinary renditions through Madrid airport for torture, here, here and here).

Zunes’ criticism of the government is well taken. It is more likely that people on campus – students, professors and workers – can create, against this tyrannical policy, actual education, depending on courses the future officers choose, than that we can again bar ROTC altogether. Now in a democratic outburst against the rich and decadent like that of Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen, we could demand government and university fellowships so that poor students could attend universities, middle class students not take on overwhelming debt (Harvard has tremendously diversified in recent years; other universities might...).

But despite Obama’s mention again in the State of the Union of the importance of education, the corporate/militarist/banker elite world much rather have complete contol of the economy, the downplaying of any decent, common good-serving government programs (they even try to steal social security, a decent and in fact paid for by ordinary citizens out of our paychecks, government program which provides that older people not have to eat dog food and is fully funded for 27 more years – nearly 7 Presidential terms – and 80% funded after that; the government, for example, could raise the cap on social security, get the rich folks to contribute and achieve full funding for year 28 and beyond quite easily ...), particularly concerning education or health care. Some think of Attila the Hun and other pillagers of old, but the depradations of Goldman Sachs or AIG or GE or Comcast are competitors. These are the presiders over American darkness, the increasingly rapid and desperate decline of the United States…

It would be better for a mass uprising here on the campuses and among younger students to demand that money – removed from the military perhaps by canceling, say, 800 of the 1180 American bases abroad and actually withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq (not keeping 50,000 occupiers for a century, McCain’s promise in the campaign, but very likely what Barack has in mind also - h/t John Berlow, Alan Cafruny)* - go to common good-sustaining purposes.

Now the blatant government censorship Zunes reports shows why ROTC courses, under military management, are often just propaganda, and should not be available, on any campus, for academic credit. In addition, we need to revive a broad anti-war movement in the streets against the occupation of Afghanistan and for shifting the resources into government employment (rebuilding America’s roads, putting in high speed rail, what Obama rightly recommended, but with far more intensity), funding of paid for study of all qualified students in the United States, and universal health care provided by the government. We could also use military funds to balance the budget, and tax some of the extraordinary income of Goldman Sachs executives et al (part of what the Republicans insist on in these tax cuts for the super-rich) would make possible common good-sustained transfomation and growth, demilitarizing, dealing with global warming at least to some extent, and not running (huge) deficits. That this is not yet a mainstream alternative and will not be short of popular revolt, is a sign of the dessicating stranglehold of the war complex on American life, on the corporate media, on both political parties. But as Tunisia and Egypt show, even very longstanding and awful things can change rapidly - thirty years of tyranny may disappear - in the unexpected cataclysm of mass protest.

When has the New York Times pointed out the significance of the 60% opposition of Americans to having troops in Afghanistan?** It is much too easy to blame the victims for the bipartisan predation and wars of the elite, much too easy to fail to see or to talk down the real possibilities, even in America, of democracy from below.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011, San Jose Mercury News
ROTC Policy on Wikileaks Threatens Academic Freedom
by Stephen Zunes

In my more than 15 years teaching at the University of San Francisco, I have found ROTC cadets to be among my favorite students, most of them being unusually bright, motivated, disciplined and a pleasure to work with. Indeed, I have felt honored to teach them.

It was with great consternation, therefore, to learn that, according to a memo sent to ROTC programs at the University of San Francisco and other colleges and universities last month, they have effectively been prohibited from completing any assignments that professors may make involving any material released through WikiLeaks.

According to a Dec. 8 memo from Col. Charles M. Evans, commanding officer of the 8th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, "using the classified information found on WikiLeaks for research papers, presentations, etc. is prohibited." A follow-up memo from the cadet commander at the University of San Francisco advised against even talking about it, precluding ROTC students from taking part in classroom discussions regarding WikiLeaks material.

The rationale appears to be that downloading, reading, referencing or discussing WikiLeaks material could jeopardize receiving a security clearance. This has little rational basis, however, since much of the material was apparently made available by a U.S. Army private who had access to it and -- for better or worse -- this material is now widely available publicly.

It strains credulity as to what harm would be caused by cadets viewing material easily accessible to everyone else, including America's enemies.

Whatever the reason, this puts both professors and students in a dilemma.

Those of us teaching courses in such fields as constitutional law, U.S. foreign policy, Middle Eastern politics and media studies are considering using WikiLeaks material in the coming semester. This means that if any of us were to give such an assignment, ROTC students would be forced to choose between not completing it or putting their careers in jeopardy.

I could make special accommodations for ROTC cadets. I could offer an alternative reading assignment. I could not reduce participation grades if the students did not take part in a discussion.

I could excuse them from viewing a documentary that might include film clips, images or other proscribed contents. I could write up special quizzes or exams.

However, in doing so, I would effectively be allowing the military to control part of my curriculum. This raises sensitive issues regarding academic freedom. If the military can effectively tell its cadets to refuse to complete assignments by civilian professors, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
Indeed, if they can prohibit ROTC cadets from reading material from WikiLeaks, what would stop them from prohibiting students from, for example, reading material critical of U.S. military actions in Iraq or Vietnam?

The University of San Francisco administration appears to be taking this threat against academic freedom seriously and has asked for clarifications from ROTC commanders and others in the federal government. Thus far, however, nothing has been forthcoming.

There are plenty of thoughtful and diverse opinions at the University of San Francisco and elsewhere regarding the legality, ethics and wisdom of releasing classified material via WikiLeaks. Since the material is now in the public domain, however, the U.S. military has no right to dictate how it might be used in the classroom. Indeed, this kind of interference has no place in a democracy.

Stephen Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus. He is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003.)

*I listened to Ed Schulz on MSNBC last night covering the rebellions in Egypt (international policy is not Ed's strong point). He interviewed a Democratic think tank "expert" on the Middle East, a fellow named Clemons, who said, with a straight face (he may simply be ignorant, a victim of reading the New York Times uncritically and elite ideology) that the US has only 55,000 troops remaining in Iraq. As I have underlined on this blog, this fails to count the majority of US forces, the 72,000 private mercenaries from Blackwater/Xe, CACI, Dyncorps, etc. These names and numbers are not household words because the New York Times and Democratic "experts" and Ed Schulz, some, at least Ed, with goodwill, pretend they do not exist. This is as bad for America as the arming of Mubarak - every tank, every bullet ripping into a demonstrator - by the United States of America. It is sad to say that the McCain/Obama target of 50,000, guarding the vast embassy in the green zone and most of the 19 American bases is a long way up from here...

**The Times – at the time, a nearly fanatical pro-government, pro-war “paper" and NPR dishonestly covered the rally of over half a million people on January 15, 2003 in Washington, one that filled the mall. The great Martin Luther King "I have a dream" rally for civil rights in 1963 filled two–thirds of the mall. I and my wife, and many others from around the country realized at that vast gathering – wow, we are not a minority that rightly opposes the war and is trying to reach out to the majority; in fact, the vast majority oppose it. Only paid talking heads and “experts” and professional politicians were for the invasion. CNN had 391 pro-war commentators in the run up to the war and 3 anti-war commentators. They still couldn't sell the aggression. I and a thousand other intellectuals (and other citizens) had comparatively enormous credentials to discuss the war – and did at large anti-war rallies - but the corporate media shut deliberation and debate out. The New York Times reporter left 2 hours before the rally started, and filed a story reporting that organizers were disappointed – she didn’t talk to any - because only 10,000 people showed up. She was not fired. This is the New York Times

National "Public" Radio (National Pentagon Radio, as we then called it at my house) similarly reported 10,000. Given letters of outrage from all over the east coast, on the following Wednesday morning - three days later - the Times printed a correction that 100,000 people had attended…

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egypt, the State of the Union, ROTC, and a letter from Anne Norton, part 1

In Egypt following the example of Tunisia, ordinary people, led by the young and the unemployed (60% of Egyptians are under 30, 90% of the unemployed are) are demonstating in the streets, occupying the center of Cairo and Suez, to overturn the 30 year tyranny of Hosni Mubarak. The American government has poured military aid - $1.3 billion per year – into the dictatorship, second only to American aid to Israel. Every water cannon fired on the demonstrators, every canister of tear gas, every police tank is made in the United States of America. This fact may have eluded Obama’s State of the Union, the corporate press response and hence the sleepy American people, but it does not elude a single one of the 85 million Egyptians, infants excepted. It is like the Apache helicopters murdering civilians in Gaza. No one misses the connection. The Palestine Papers include the infamous American demand on the Abu Mazan (Abbas) government to oppose and delay the UN consideration of the Goldstone Report. Contrary to the mantra of Superman, truth and the American government are often opposites. In Yemen, too, people have risen up in the streets against the pro-American tyrant. An old song by Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler about the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I comes to mind:

“On the bed of the Moldau, the pebbles are stirring
In Prague, three emperors lie dead
The big do not stay big, the little don’t stay little
The black night has 12 hours, the red dawn is red,
The red dawn is red…”

How to institutionalize democracy – what it means for the little not to stay little rather than producing new tyrants and a renewed littleness – is of course a question. But overthrow of longstanding dictators is a powerful thing, and one should not view the current triumph of Wall Street, obscene profit taking, and presiding over decline, depression and militarism for most – Obama representing not very effectively some mitigation of these effects – will not perhaps last forever (of course, there is some danger in the United States, that the regime will move to the even more fantasized, tyrannical, destructive – and self-destructive – Right). Still the reports of democratic revolution from Egypt and Yemen today are intense and heartening. Listen to Democracy Now here and here.

Obama’s State of the Union did comparatively little harm. It did not dwell on the wars or play on fear. It opposed the looting of social security by Wall Street and thus, contrasted with the miserable plastic man from Wisconsin – Paul Ryan – who promised protection for those over 55 without quite naming his intent: Wall Street funded and motivated theft of social security. Ryan has a pleasant if empty surface, something to make the message palatable in the corporate media…

Obama said that the US government supports the democratic uprising in Tunisia (not all the weaponry for the Ben Ali tyranny came from the US; some was French...). This would of course be a decent thing to do, and the US might also reconsider what it is doing in Egypt (arming Mubarak as the enemy of democracy and decency). In Palestine, it might wisely join with the international community in pressuring Israel to stop the settlements, to forge a two state solution (and also, preserve itself as a quasi-decent regime, something in question with its fascist expansion and its imprisonment, brutalization and attempts to "transfer" the Palestinians from the occupied territories). But of Palestine, Obama did not speak...

But American wars of aggression and occupation continue, with no prospect of defeating Al-Qaida and many crimes against civilians which push people into broad and justified opposition to America. Obama’s good and just words about Tunisian democracy unfortunately contrast with the bipartisan deeds of America, including those of his own administration, in maintaining the tyrant and in arming Mubarak.

But American wars, include the preponderant use of mercenaries in Afghanistan continues (Obama’s actual escalation was not 30,000 troops as the corporate press reported, but 100,000 including 70,000 Xe corporation and other private operatives). In rightfully praising the abolition of don’t ask don’t tell, the removal of discrimination in the army, Barack also added: now at last ROTC can come back to American campuses (at Harvard it was barred for a long time; at Metro where I teach part-time, the military is always trolling for recruits, ROTC is present).

Obama is waging five aggressions and occupations. He does so as the anti-"dumb Iraq war" candidate, the one who wants to restrict, alone among elite politicians [I am not counting Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich as elite politicians], crazy wars. And he commendably made barely a mention of Iran; he is not going, at the behest of the Israeli leadership, to bomb Natanz. Yet the military is clearly in command of US policies, the war complex extending its influence. And ROTC is coming back to American campuses.

When I published the letter on the blog from those of us who had fought ROTC in the Harvard strike and achieved, often at great personal cost, a victory which has lasted for many years, here, Anne Norton wrote me a fine letter tracing her own changes on the issue from when she had gone to Chicago and opposed ROTC to when she taught at Notre Dame:

“Dear Alan, I think you should reconsider your opposition to ROTC. ROTC is invaluable to students who cannot otherwise afford the University of their choice. ROTC increases the ideological diversity of the military. A volunteer army (as Tocqueville brilliantly argues) tends to remove the decision to go to war (and the conduct of wars) from the citizenry at large. ROTC helps mitigate this effect, though insufficiently. ROTC was forbidden at my University (Chicago) long before it was elsewhere. When I taught at Notre Dame I was initially shocked to find students in uniform in my classes. I quickly learned that they were ideologically diverse and that they could not afford Notre Dame without ROTC. Anne."

I sent a brief response, and here elaborate on it:

Dear Anne. Good to hear from you, and thank you. These are all very good points that I will think about. I prefer a citizen army and perhaps ROTC is a step in this direction (it is certainly better than strictly military education for future officers, for example; and it does involve some people of ordinary working class experience in the military hierarchy). More precisely, ROTC students, and military students in general, tend to take war more seriously and are certainly open, if their education is not sufficiently curtailed by military instruction so that they occasionally take classes with people like us, to thinking more deeply about what they and others are asked to risk their lives for. To extend the argument you make, the value to poor, latino students of inclusive citizenship and the chance to enroll in colleges is a powerful argument even on behalf of the corrupt granting of citizenship through joining the military in the Dream Act (or far better, just allowing them to be admitted to college and participate innovatively as Americans – they have grown up here – in American life as Obama rightly pointed out in the State of the Union). There are certainly worse aspects of militarism.

One might go further on the unintended, good effects of militarism in American life, for instance, the introduction of the internet, or major experimention with non-fossil fuels (now attacked in an unusually reactionary study even for the Rand corporation – see here). Since the economy is dependent on militarism (that and the financial casino are much of what is left, after the failure to trade houses, unless the US moves to a green economy, and the military is now contributing importantly to the development of such an economy), one should remark the complexity of effects, not all of which are bad.

As you rightly note, the US does not have a citizen army. A democratic or citizen army is one in which ordinary people bear arms and the military is the first line of defense against aggression from abroad (when some other country attacks us, something that has not happened since Pearl Harbor). A citizen army is much harder to use as an instument of American aggression abroad, for instance, in Iraq. Internally, such an armed citizenry is a defense against tyrannical government as well. In the Federalist Papers, the authors feared the development of a standing army, one centralized over and above the citizenry. That was the instrument of monarchs and tyrants. But they could not even imagine today's mercenary army, better than half composed of overpaid “civilian” soldiers of fortune (often former army people) with no requirement of loyalty to the government except for profit, and above the law, escaping even prosecution for murder. Thus, 180 prisoners died, mainly of homicide in American custody during the Bush years see Greenwald here, but even at Abu Ghraib, individuals like Steve Stefanowicz of CACI were never investigated. Blackwater operatives murdered 17 civilians in Nissour Square and the Iraq government under pressure of popular outrage demanded Blackwater leave, Instead, none of the killers have ever been put on trial, Blackwater has been renamed Xe, and better than half the American occupiers of Iraq continue to be private mercenaries….

Conscription, at least if there aren’t student deferments, is more consistent with democracy than a privatized military with soldiers recruited from only a small segment of the urban and rural poor, perhaps from as little as 1% of the population. But a draft for acts of aggression based on lies seems much less possible or plausible after Vietnam (“Remember the Maine,” “the Alamo” and “The Gulf of Tonkin incidents” are three lies or distortions told on behalf of earlier American aggressions to accompany "wmds" and "Saddam-Al Qaida ties" more recently). It might provoke citizen revolt. So the military opposes conscription. And though it is, among regular soldiers, unusually integrated, the US army, especially its secret, privatized majority in Iraq and Afghanistan, no longer resembles a citizen or democratic army.

The war complex dominates American life, even forcing Obama to escalate in Afghanistan (he took an unheard of 5 weeks time out to try to work out an alternative; he put Biden up to observing the truth: that Al-Qaida is in the tribal areas of Pakistan and the US fighting in Afghanistan has lost whatever point it may seem to have had 10 years ago, and the like), why despite vast popular discontent (more than 60% in corporate, that is remarkably pro-war, opinion polls, want the troops out of Afghanistan). These occupations and wars, even under Obama, continue and as in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, multiply.

Still, as Anne says, ROTC training, in the context of serious academic education for students, might be a modest step toward the civilianization or at least broadening the diversity of the military leadership.

But the actual context makes every aspect of militarism more dangerous. For American militarism is wildly out of control (it controls the politicians of both parties; any sensible person who tries to downscale the military or recommend ending losing American wars is attacked from the Right, which includes Democratic think-tank “experts” like Leslie Gelb; Gelb criticized properly his own corrupt screaming for war in Iraq, and then promptly screamed at Obama for seeking some alternative in Afghanistan and not endorsing General McChrystal's public demand for 40,000 more troops immediately.

In fact, global warming coupled with endless American wars and occupations provides a major threat to the habitability of the world for humans over the next century or less, even without full scale nuclear war. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, testified before Congress that by the year 2050, California would be a desert, no longer sustain agriculture…The corporate news media did not think his testimony worthy of notice in their reporting…

Thus, the war complex in the United States exerts enormous, powerful influence on behalf of reaction and perhaps worse yet, of extinction. Led by the New York Times, no American newspaper will mention the crime of aggression in relation to American policies. In Iraq, 72,000 mercenaries (Xe Corporation/Blackwater, Dyncorps and the like) add to the 55,000 soldiers remaining. This is a formidable occupation: 127,000. But the New York Times does not mention this privatized war. As of last week, it prints yet again columns suggesting falsely that “only” 55,000 troops remain. See here.

Worse yet, in 2004, Bush escalated the war in Iraq with 70,000 mercenaries, as Deborah Avent recently told people at my school. This was the first and secret “surge.” That helped bring the ratio of American mercenaries to soldiers in Iraq to 1 to 1 (Obama has actual now made it 3 mercenaries for every 2 soldiers among the remaining occupiers). No one at the Korbel School of Internatonal Studies including me, let alone, citizens in the general population, had heard of this first, ineffectual “surge.” Is not war supposed to be discussed and debated in Congress and by the President and in the media? Isn’t it plain tyranny for Bush to have done this? Escalating secretly with mercenaries - so much for Rumsfeld's "lean" aggression - was a major, undemocratic initiative of the executive, something that gives the complex discussion I have offered on this blog of the authoritarianism (the Nazism) of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss and Martin Heidegger, here, here, here, here, here and here an immediate, up-to-date paradigm in how American imperialism and militarism proceeds.

The US has 1,180 military bases abroad now. The New York Times never mentions the number. I can ask any class of international studies students here or in Barcelona about this number, and almost no one ever knows. The Times and other newsapers never ask: do other powers have bases under the own control abroad (as distinct from soldiers serving in multinational United Nations forces)? France has 5 in former French colonies, England perhaps a similar number in similar places, Russia 1 in Krgyzstan, etc.

Under Obama, the US spent $704 billion officially on the Pentagon last year. The Times never compares this figure (which it mentioned once last year) to Cold War figures; America now spends 2 1/2 times as much as it did during the Cold War when the U.S. had a nuclear armed, great power rival (at its height, $250 billion). See here and Andrew Bacevich on TomDispatch today, here.

The US fires drone missiles into Pakistan from Creech Air force base in Nevada (Kathy Kelly and 13 others have held heroic exemplary activist, civil disobedience demonstrations against them and had a spirited trial about this matter.) Using drones, the CIA murders 5 innocent Pakistani civilians for every Taliban, accoding to neo- con estimates (that’s better than 80% murders of civilians through long distance – like the company in “Avatar” – aggression which makes America more and more enemies, ordinary Americans more insecure. John Mearsheimer suggests the number is 10 innocents to 1 – see here and here – the Pakistani government 600 innocents to 1. This is both aggression and massively counterproductive.*

Are we supposed to pretend that training officers for the military – very restricted and often false teaching of future officers – is now harmless, that it undergirds engagements which undermine terror rather than breeding widespread and justified enmity to the United States, and, as an outlier, augmenting recruits for terrorism, and thus, the insecurity of most Americans? In Yemen, the American government last year murdered a wedding party of over a hundred people, 50 women and children, with drones; I wonder if the Yemeni protestors against the dictator in the streets regard America – the sender of drones – as anything good?

Now the election of Obama made many people, particularly in Europe, give America a second chance, seemed a relief after Bush and a miraculous democratic renewal – the election of a black man as President in the land of slavery and segregation, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King. But Obama’s wars, the use of drones, the arming of Mubarak with American tanks, tear gas and fire hoses, inter alia, day by day erases this advantage. In Spain, the hope continues – see here – but I doubt that many Arabs, even with Obama’s sometime initiative about stopping illegal and immoral Israeli “settlements,” see America as decent. These are the enormous costs of American militarism and the war complex. These things outweigh the undoubted good of helping poor people be at universities through ROTC or the integrating role – real enough – of the military in American society. Below commissioned officers, the military is the most integrated institution in America, the blender of black, latino, poor white, jew and arab, urban and rural. The catastrophe of American militarism and the war complex overwhelms this good feature.

Ann responded to my note:

“I was very much opposed to ROTC myself until I had those students and thought over Tocqueville's argument. I too want a citizen army.” On the underlyng conception, we and I think, many others agree. That American militarism threatens all of us is visible far into the establishment (see John Mearsheimer’s excellent new piece, the long lead article, “Imperial by Design” in the National Interest for January-February 2011 here). In the second part of this post, I will talk about what a Tunisia or Egypt-style democratic uprising from below, here in America, might demand of the elite.

*Perhaps drones might be turned into plowshares. The following story shows that among many bad things, including the American contribution to melting the polar ice-caps, some rare good is possible:

"Drone has Arctic seals in its sights

16 December 2010 by Joel Shurkin
the Weapons Technology Topic Guide

An ex-military drone that has Arctic seals in its sights could make tracking the marine mammals' fate far easier.

Tracking Arctic wildlife and monitoring the local climate is dangerous and difficult work, often requiring unusual approaches. For instance, instrument-bearing narwhals have recently improved ocean-temperature estimates. Now, military technology is providing biologists with their data.

An unmanned aircraft, the Scan Eagle, was adapted from military use by Elizabeth Weatherhead's team at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Launched from ships, it has a wingspan of 3 metres and uses image-recognition software to identify individual seals after first measuring the extent of the white ice against the black water.

It's already known that polar ice is receding. According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, the area of sea ice is at historic lows. That's bad news for the region's seals, which use ice for breeding and nursing, and as a refuge from predators. One species, the ringed seal – which never goes ashore – is already listed under the US Endangered Species Act.

Cold skies

Scan Eagle is owned and operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has produced 27,000 images in two years. Flights over the Bering Sea last from 2 to 8 hours, at altitudes of between 90 and 300 metres. As it flies over the icy waters, the drone sends data back to the researchers.

However, it doesn't solve all the problems of research in the Arctic. "It's probably not a silver bullet, because seals are in the water a large proportion of the time and that proportion varies with weather or ice conditions," says Lee Cooper, a high-latitude oceanographer at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Solomons. "So the aircraft is primarily going to work for animals resting on ice.

"But it's an interesting piece of the emerging puzzle for how to improve observations in the Arctic and should provide new data of interest to Arctic researchers."

Weatherhead reported the research at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco this week."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Audiotape of my talk at war and conscience weekend

Here is the tape of my keynote speech at the War and Conscience Weekend at the Unitarian Church in Golden on October 23. It can also be downloaded here. In the talk, I explore what I call exemplary activism, the psychology and leadership of radical activists of conscience, like Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, who regardless of what any one in a hierarchy tells them especially that of the Catholic Church, act to save humanity. The challenges of militarism are real; the actions, even if the press does not notice, even if they spend years in jail and even if a New York Times book reviewer regrets the poor, weak wings of a jet on which an 85 year old Daniel Berrigan beat with his ostensibly John Henry like fists…Berrigan could do no other. See here and here.

I distinguish these acts from other, more mass forms of political, and often nonviolent resistance, such as the repeated wave of strikes against the war at Columbia, Kent State, Jackson State et al (I took part in the Harvard strike of 1969) and large demonstrations in Washington. These are mass political actions designed to bring the war or war-supporting entities to a halt.

The distinction is not rigid. In Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself. This, too, was an exemplary act. But then ordinary people rose up and overthrew the US and French-sustained tyrant Zine El Abedine Ben Ali. In Vietnam, Thich Quang Duc burned himself - there is an eerie photo of his sitting calmly in a meditation position in the flames. This awakened the conscience of the world and inspired many to resist (though Thich Nat Hanh came to the United States, ultimately influencing King’s decision to give his speech on Vietnam on April 4, 1967, because he realized that the way of his friend was not sufficient). Norman Morrison, a Quaker, followed Quang Duc’s example at the White House with less startling though I think still profound results. This is a particularly terrifying form of exemplary activism, one whose sadness there are no words to express.

Often, exemplary activism ends in jail or death, and without sparking the huge movement against injustice for which it is an angry prayer. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, leading a multiracial band of 50 activists, is a paradigm. And yet when the South hanged Brown, the gatherings all over the North and Canada, led by Thoreau and Emerson (Emerson spoke of “the gallows glittering like the cross”), mobilized abolitionist sentiment from below, repelled the slave-owners, and crystallized Civil War. Blue coats marched into battle singing “John Brown’s body lies amouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on.” The Battle Hymn of the Republic ingloriously replaces these too honorable and incendiary words. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote it, is a great figure, but the supplanting of one by the other still has this fairly racist significance. What the Battle Hymn says wrongly is that ours is not a republic of freedom upheld by great struggles against the odds to overthrow slavery for which many paid with their lives. Yet at its best as in “John Brown’s body,” America is, “America will be,” as Langston Hughes put it.

I detail the war complex, the “great demonic destructive suction tube at war with the poor” in Martin Luther King’s words. Recently, Deborah Avant spoke at my school of the increasing role of mercenaries, privately manipulated by the Executive in American wars beyond any popular, democratic or Congressional control. Of course, the mercenaries, 7 for every 3 soldiers currently in Afghanistan, have also eaten out the military from within; as I have emphasized elsewhere, the American military is now a privatized shadow. See here and here. But Avant brought up a 2004 Bush escalation which she asked how many people, in an audience of 100, at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, knew about. Not one of us did (not even me, who, a scholar of these matters and anti-War activist, would certainly aspire to know such things). Bush sent 70,000 mercenaries into Iraq without a whisper of public discussion…

I recently spoke with my dean Chris Hill, who had just left the foreign service as ambassador to Iraq in August before coming to the University of Denver. He told me there were 50,000 troops but 72,000 mercenaries still there: a total of 122,000. Outside the corporate press, the figure 75,000 mercenaries has occasionally appeared. But in the New York Times, even last week, the figure of American occupying troops was 55, 000 rather than 127,000. Avant hopes that her research, and perhaps democratic attention will lead to the corporate press responding. She emphasizes the remarkably anti-democratic character of these arrangements; they strengthen what Schmitt and Strauss (see here, here, here, and here) call sovereignty or Fuehrer power – Schmitt on the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 – or “commander in chief power.” This is a frightening development in its independence from democratic scrutiny or control. I hope she is right about protest and urge everyone to expose these practices and act against them. But militarism, as King says, is a great weight. It extends, through the war complex even into last week’s dishonest coverage of the somewhat diminished occupation of Iraq under Obama. May this war and conscience weekend be the first of many exemplary and mass acts of resistance…*

*The church did not lend itself to recording. I would like especially to thank Scott Houck and Adrienne Christy for painstakingly creating a good tape.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Letters from Sonia-Skakich Scrima and Tracy Strong on Spain and China

Sonia-Skakich Scrima wrote me a striking letter on the current inversion of citizen republicanism in America. Today in advanced high school and college curricula, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is read. During the Spanish civil war, Hemingway reported for Pravda (the Soviet paper) on the long battle along the heights at Jarama in 1939. He eulogized the fallen by conjuring how the Spanish peasants (many of them anarchists) would remember those who had come for abroad. 1500 of the 3300 Lincoln brigade members did not return. As Sonia rightly suggests, Homeland Insecurity will probably rename Hemingway’s novel: "An Enemy Combatant in Spain" for use, suitably expurgated, in American and Spanish schools. And the Paul Henreid character, the organizer of resistance being smuggled out of Casablanca, in the World War II movie of that name, reminds Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, that he ran guns to the Republic. Bogart replies cynically, “there was a lot of money in it,” but it turns out Rick is a pure in heart anti-fascist. They will have to write that scene out too and perhaps drop the movie...

Here is her letter:

“It was always a mystery to me why the Fascists in Spain were not held accountable for their acts and why, even today, there is so much active political pressure to suppress what occurred. I suppose that the huge numbers of Disappeared Children explains much of that - too horrifying to acknowledge, and so long after the civil war ended!

Facing it would be in conflict with today's agenda of globalized uncontrolled commerce and endless ‘war on terror.’ Presumably, in U.S. high schools and colleges, where A Farewell to Arms is part of a standard syllabus of modern American authors, that book should now be renamed: An Enemy Combatant in Spain. Similarly, Bogart's line in the movie African Queen, about his participation in fighting faacism in other countries, should be struck by Homeland Security, since clearly he was an Enemy Combatant. Imagine the look in the eyes of a member of the Lincoln Brigade, upon being told that they were nothing but extremist enemy combatants and under today’s laws would have been subject to indefinite detention and torture by ‘patriots’ in Spain AND the USA.

There need to be remakes of films about the Lincoln Brigade and new films made (with some footage of interviews with actual participants), so that today's Americans develop an understanding of the principles that Americans were willing to fight for, even abroad. So that today's Americans can begin to come to grips with the horror of the complete trivialization and commoditization of the lives we are living today (Buy more stuff, feel better for a little while; indulge in TV and electronic fantasy 24 /7; we've been attacked! GO SHOPPING! the President exhorts...). There need to be films made about the Zeitgeist just prior to WWI and through the 20s and 30s in the USA:
the People's March to Washington, the Army soldiers camps in Washington, the labor strikes and the retaliations, the Pinkertons, the huge tide of progressive populists and socialists, the rage against Wall Street, the armies of folks empowered and employed by the great Works programs, the extraordinary lives of people like Clarence Darrow and Jack London and Mother Jones who agitated for the common good, etc. People just don't have a clue as to how differently people lived and organized and thought about the USA during that time [Amen!].

It is as if the period between Plymouth Rock Landing and WWI have been deemed appropriate for presentation in history books, as well as the period during and after WWII, but the period in between has been written out. Too much popular turmoil and organized efforts to make a better world for common people, apparently.

While there are plenty of written sources about these events and people, they are made so much more accessible and vivid in film, especially to today’s non-reading generation.

Thanks for the update on what is coming to light regarding those dark years in Spain.”

Sonia’s question about why there has been no accounting, let alone truth and reconciliation in Spain, has, sadly, a simple answer. In 1975, Franco died, fascism fell, democracy emerged - but in Spain, alone in Europe, this regime was not crushed in war or overthrown from below (defeated by the liberation movements in Mozambique, Angola, and Guinee-Bissau, even the fascist Salazar in Portugal was overthrown by an ironically leftist coup of military officers - an inverse of the Spanish Civil War). There was never a moment of revolutionary accountability or even the sort the US imposed in Germany with the Nuremberg trials. Those trials got some of the chief criminals, though Carl Schmitt was held for a year and then freed. As I noted about Spanish judges earlier in this series, the corrupt judges in West Germany were just recycled Nazis (see the exposes of German SDS in the 60s, which reported a German Supreme Court judge’s sentence to death during World War II of a Polish priest for telling an anti-German joke, and the like). The French resistance in a bizarrelly sexist way shaved the heads of and shunned women who had had relationships with the 'Bosch" (the Nazi occupiers), but they would have had to have overthrown the ruling class to have dealt with the fascists. Initially, to oppose Vichy - the Nazi puppet government under World War I "hero" General Petain - only Madame Michelin, the wife of the tire magnate, and Corporal de Gaulle - from the elite - joined the resistance.*

Sonia rightly emphasizes the culture of protest in the 30s that has been largely whited out in teaching and culture, except for, for example, Denzel Washington's very good movie “The Great Debaters” about a black teacher – a communist - Melvin B. Tolson, and the debate team from a Southern black college that beat Harvard in 1935, It was this atmosphere which produced the Works Progress administration and its immense artistic creativity (Diego Rivera murals in Detroit and stone walkways by waterfalls in Ithaca); it was unions, those now weakened, who gave us the week end, the eight hour day, and what is decent for ordinary people: a common good (see David Leonhardt’s striking column "In Wreckage of Lost Jobs, Lost Power" in last Wednesday's New York Times about persisting American unemployment compared to other countries and the corporate defeating of unions – of all of us – here).

Tracy Strong wrote me strikingly of his quarter in Spain in 1994. Spanish Nazis were alive and well. They celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Hess.

“Dear Alan -- Spain is the only European country in which fascism was never defeated. When I was there for a term in 1994, there were posters all around Madrid announcing a rally to celebrate the 100 anniversary of the birth of ... Rudolf Hess.

When i was at Pittsburgh I was privileged to have as a colleague in the history department Robert Colodny who had fought in the Lincoln Brigades (and been severely wounded). His work (Berkeley PHD) was mainly on the Spanish civil war -- he remained committed and involved to progressive causes and was subject to a Red Hunt in the early 1960's. The chancellor stood behind him and eventually (after appearances before HUAC - the House Unamerican Activities Committee) charges were withdrawn (as it turns out, he apparently had NOT been a Party member). His THE STRUGGLE FOR MADRID is still important. Bob was also a central moving force (he had a background in the sciences) in the Pittsburgh History and Philosophy of Science Program whose volumes in the late 60's and 70's were central to the development of modern Science Studies. Tracy”

I thanked Tracy for the powerful story about Colodny – wounded in Spain, dragged before HUAC in the 1960s – HUAC incarnates the dishonor of elected venemous windbags who had never fought or at most fought in much less dangerous conditions hounding those who had been wounded fighting fascists though almost unarmed. HUAC was an incarnate betrayal of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. But with the courageous support of the Chancellor at Pittsburgh and the happenstance that Colodny had not joined the Communist Party, Colodny's career was not destroyed - with the important results Tracy mentions. Why communists** who often did good and sometimes heroic things should be demonized by those of, at minimum, no moral credibility is a question that one should examine carefully, perhaps why HUAC finally collapsed...

In addition, I suggested that perhaps the long hand of Carl Schmitt, the kinship of Francoism and Nazism down to the stealing of babies, might be visible here. See part 2 of this series here. I also pointed out that Schmitt is having a revival in China. Tracy, who has long interest and experience with China (Anna Louise Strong, the radical journalist who wrote Spain in Arms and I Change Worlds, inter alia, was his great aunt) wrote a very forceful, perhaps prophetic response:

“Schmitt in Spain, Schmitt in China -- the most complex thing about China is that they are clearly going to provide a model for development for much of the Third World, esp those parts where the authorities are not tied into the US pocket by a string of dollar bills. In the last 8 years, they have produced an intercity highway system that is more extensive than the US interstate; high speed rail between major cities; they are actually doing something about ecological questions, etc etc.. They seemed to have managed to solve leadership problems (The Cultural Revolution taught them to be afraid of anything that produces chaos (luande zai houtou na, said Chen Yi in 1968: chaos lies for sure in the future). So you are sitting there in Mali and a US rep comes mouthing human rights and offering bribes and a Chinese rep comes offering the chance to get rich and to be tied into China's sphere of influence without having to worry about rights, democracy and things like that -- which do you take? No wonder they are interested in Schmitt!

In an interview I (and a bunch of others ) had with Deng Xiaoping in 1985, he said that if there were to be no war by 2020 (I think I remember the date right) there would no longer be any economic reason for going to war because China would be powerful enough economic ally to stand on its own. Today it is announced that China has surpassed Japan as an economic power. Tracy”

China is ruled by a centralized party, with diverse centers of power, including the military, but with a profound authoritarian style. China is doing smart things for infrastructure and on the environment (sadly, a contrast with the befeebled United States even under Obama, though the first stimulus did put $500 billion into the economy, often for green jobs). China has no parasitic financial sector in which there is a “derivatives” market, - in calculus tracing the rate of change; among financiers, taking bets on when companies or the government will fail - living off, battening on economic collapse. "Derivatives" are a financial "market" in misery and death. China alone recovered quickly and robustly, pursuing Keynsian policies, from the depression.

Recently, Mark Lilla, a Straussian, has wrote an article for the New Republic, noting that Schmitt and Strauss are having a revival in China (h/t Alan Moorer). He wishes to make out that the Strauss-Schmittians are lonely “philosophical” types, outside the Communist party (perhaps he recalls the image of a tiny Taoist hermit on a mountain side, but Taoists would of course be anti-authoritarians). He rightly mocks the Iraq war – the editor of the Strauss and Schmitt papers, Heinrich Meier, was the first Straussian to suggest that with that war, “an odium” had fallen over Straussianism (Leo Strauss and the Theological-Political Predicament. Introduction, p. xx). See my correspondence with John Mearsheimer about Strauss and Iraq here and here.

But Lilla has (and Meier affects, to some extent) a beneficent view of Strauss in which Strauss's “secrecy,” Lilla wishes to assure us, is connected to something decent. For a closer look at Strauss's Heideggerian Nazism and reactionary Platonism, see here and here, and William Altman’s new book: The German Stranger). What the account is right about is that Straussians have been making a considerable effort to teach and engage with Chinese students (as a Ph.D. student, Tiphaine Dickson heroically led a fight against this at Portland State).

There is no reason to think, however, that somehow pure followers of Plato and Xenophon, learning from the cruelty and brutality of the long-lasting Roman empire as the Chinese student in Lilla's article reports, will stand aside from the Communist Party, not seek a tyrant to be the “reasonable man” to (Lilla's recounting of his surprising - to him - dismissal by the Chinese student is the most striking thing in the article). In Strauss's new justly famous 1933 letter to Karl Lowith, Strauss cites Caesar’s commentaries on Virgil: spare those who bow to you, crush those who resist (the Romans eradicated Athenian resisters to the last man at the Acropolis in 79 B.C.; cutting their throats, the blood ran down the Panathenian way...). Strauss praised the principles of the Right (surprisingly, even the German right): "fascist, authoritarian, imperial.” Among these, the word authoritarian, following Schmitt (and commander in chief power today), is most important.

The conditions for authoritarian rule exist independently in China as they are growing in the US and lurk as a possibility in Europe. But the arrival of Schmitt and Strauss, particularly in China, will shape a fiercer, more repressive and self-consciously fascist regime as well as a more inept one. The Strauss-Schmitt patter on authoritarianism in the abstract is enthusiastic, but the engaging with actual policies, with the exception of criminality, nil. John Diulio, who eventually resigned from the Bush administration, labelled them aptly "the Mayberry Machiavellis." In Nazi Germany, Schmitt was a monstrous (suggesting at a legal conference he organized in 1936 inserting the name 'the Jew so and so' for every Jew who wrote in the legal literature...), but inept and outmaneuvered figure...

Andrew Sullivan this week caught Francis Fukuyama yearning for Chinese authoritarianism as well.*** Fukuyama had followed Alexander Kojeve on Western Europe as the last stage of development ("the last man" as Fukuyama misquotes Nietzsche). How quickly the wind blows and “the end of history” shifts in a new direction. Not American democracy, but a Schmittian China..…Tracy is on to something at the end of his letter.

Sadly Obama has now reinforced many aspects of the police state in the United States as Glenn Greenwald has recently underlined here. He has eschewed torture and secret sites – so far as we know – but many other aspects, including military trials for those held indefinitely at Guantanamo, are now the bipartisan order of the day, critics like Glenn or Scott Horton or Michael Ratner or me far outside the mainstream. This is what Yale Constitutional lawyer Jack Balkin calls a bipartisan (Democratic-Republican) legal regime surrounding the National Surveillance State. It is a “legal” regime to abolish the rule of law and promote executive power, or what Schmitt defined (and Strauss advocated) as sovereignty: “he is sovereign who makes the decision in the state of the exception” (Political Theology, 1923).

In 1934, Schmitt wrote a panegyric on the “night of the long knives” in which Hitler had murdered Rohm, the leader of the Storm Troopers, and thousands of others. Schmitt said that a leader is the voice of the people, gives rise to law, rather than the dull formalities of Constitutional or parliamentary legislation (as a dark Catholic, for Schmitt, the Fuehrer resembled Christ, Weimar the "Jewish" rule of law...). See here, here, and here. Despite the temporary odium of the neocons - one which the American elite is working day by day to cancel, but the odor is, for the public and in the long run, indelible - the heart of this authoritarian view, an all out attack on separation of powers in the American Constitution, has seeped deeply into the United States, even under Obama. Obama is not determined to overturn Congressional powers and sometimes acts modestly compared to Bush and Cheney, for instance by not issuing a signing statement to elide the Congressional ban on transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the United States... But how far this process is locked in, the Constitution evaporated, is visible in how much of the edifice of executive power, even about torture, Obama has consolidated...

"Reading Strauss in Beijing
China’s strange taste in Western philosophers.
Mark Lilla
December 8, 2010 | 1:41 pm THE NEW REPUBLIC

A few years ago, when I was still teaching at the University of Chicago, I had my first Chinese graduate students, a couple of earnest Beijingers who had come to the Committee on Social Thought hoping to bump into the ghost of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher who established his career at the university. Given the mute deference they were accustomed to giving their professors, it was hard to make out just what these young men were looking for, in Chicago or Strauss. They attended courses and worked diligently, but otherwise kept to themselves. They were in but not of Hyde Park.

At the end of their first year, I called one of them into my office to offer a little advice. He was obviously thoughtful and serious, and was already well known in Beijing intellectual circles for his writings and his translations of Western books in sociology and philosophy into Chinese. But his inability to express himself in written or spoken English had frustrated us both in a course of mine he had just taken. I began asking about his summer plans, eventually steering the conversation to the subject of English immersion programs, which I suggested he look into. “Why?” he asked. A little flummoxed, I said the obvious thing: that mastering English would allow him to engage with
foreign scholars and advance his career at home. He smiled in a slightly patronizing way and said, “I am not so sure.” Now fully flummoxed, I asked what he would be doing instead. “Oh, I will do language, but Latin, not English.” It was my turn to ask why. “I think it very important we study Romans, not just Greeks. Romans built an empire over many centuries. We must learn from them.” When he left, it was clear that I was being dismissed, not him.

This conversation came to mind recently after I returned from a month of lectures and interviews in China. I had heard that Strauss was popular there, as was, to my surprise, Carl Schmitt, the Weimar anti-liberal (and anti-Semitic) legal theorist. /The New Yorker/ had even run a piece that spoke of “the new generation’s neocon nationalists,” mentioning the interest in Strauss as some sort of disturbing development. What I discovered, especially among the many young people I spoke with, was something much more interesting and important. Strauss and Schmitt are at the center of intellectual debate, but they are being read by everyone, whatever their partisan leanings; as a liberal journalist in Shanghai told me as we took a stroll one day, “no one will take you seriously if you have nothing to say about these two men and their ideas.” And the interest has little to do with nationalism in the nineteenth-century sense of the term. It is a response to crisis—a widely shared belief that the millennia-long continuity of Chinese history has been broken and that everything, politically and intellectually, is now up for grabs.

My conversations in China reminded me of political discussions I used to have in Communist Poland in the mid-’80s, after the coup and while Solidarity’s power was at its nadir. To my surprise, the people I met then—academics, journalists, artists, writers—were more anxious to talk about Plato and Hegel than about contemporary affairs, and not as a means of escape. For them, the classics were just what dark times demanded. I was particularly impressed with the publisher of a small/samizdat/ magazine printed on terrible, waxy paper, who referred everything back to the Platonic dialogues. When post-Communist Poland failed to meet his high expectations, he became a minister in the right-wing Kaczyński government, somehow confusing Kraków with Athens, and Warsaw with Syracuse.

I don’t remember if my Polish friends were reading Schmitt at that time, but they did rely on Strauss as a guide to the political-philosophical tradition they were rediscovering outside the confines of the Communist university system. In a sense, they were retracing Strauss’s own steps. Faced with the “crisis of the West” he saw in the weak response to Nazism before World War II, and toCommunism after it, Strauss set out to recover and reformulate the original questions at the heart of the Western political tradition, which he did by leading his students and readers on a methodical march back in time, from Nietzsche to Hobbes, then to medieval Jewish and Islamic political philosophy (he avoided Christianity), and finally to Plato, Xenophon, Aristophanes, and
Thucydides. Faced with the poverty, incompetence, and weak tyranny that real, existing socialism had delivered, many Poles I knew had begun a similar intellectual journey. And today, it’s the turn of some young Chinese, who are witnessing not the collapse of Communism but itsmetamorphoses into a form of despotic state capitalism. Their response has been to learn Greek, Latin, and German.

What distinguishes these young men and women from my Polish friends is that none would describe themselves as “liberal.” The era of intellectual liberalism that began in the ’80s and spread in the ’90s, not just in Eastern Europe but in pockets around the world, is over—done in by political Islamism and Western responses to it, and by the forces of globalization that have given us a “neoliberalism” that people everywhere associate with unregulated markets, labor exploitation,environmental degradation, and official corruption. Chinese intellectuals who came of age in the decade and a half after Mao’s death were involved in intense debates over competing paths of modernization and took human rights seriously, and the period culminated in the Tiananmen movements of 1989. But, a few years later, once the party’s slogan became “to get rich is glorious,” and the Chinese began to pursue this glory, intellectuals turned against the liberal political tradition.

Liberal thought, the young ones now feel, just doesn’t help them understand the dynamics of Chinese life today or offer a model for the future. For example, everyone I spoke with, across the political spectrum, agrees that China needs a stronger state, not a weaker one—a state that follows the rule of law, is less capricious, can control local corruption, and can perform and carry out long-term planning. Their disagreements all seem to be about how a strong state should exercise its power over the economy and how its newfound power should be exercised in international affairs. Similarly, there was complete consensus about China’s right to defend its national interests, just differences over what those interests are. When my turn to talk about American politics came, and I tried to explain the Tea Party movement’s goal of “getting government off our backs,” I was met with blank stares and ironic smiles.

Enter Carl Schmitt. For four decades now, the short, elusive books by this once Nazi collaborator have attracted Western radicals too soft-minded for Marxian empiricism and charmed by the notion that /tout commence en mystique et tout finit en politique/. (Not that they’ve read Charles Péguy.) In China, though, the interest in Schmitt’s ideas seems more serious and even understandable.

Schmitt was by far the most intellectually challenging anti-liberal statist of the twentieth century. His deepest objections to liberalism were anthropological. Classical liberalism assumes the autonomy of self-sufficient individuals and treats conflict as a function of faulty social and institutional arrangements; rearrange those arrangements, and peace, prosperity, learning, and refinement will follow. Schmitt assumed the priority of conflict: Man is a political creature, in the sense that his most defining characteristic is the ability to distinguish friend and adversary. Classical liberalism sees society as having multiple, semi-autonomous spheres; Schmitt asserted the priority of the social whole (his ideal was the medieval Catholic Church) and considered the autonomy of the economy, say, or culture or religion, as a dangerous fiction. (“The political is the total, and as a result we know that any decision about whether something is /unpolitical/ is always a /political/ decision.”) Classical liberalism treats sovereignty as a kind of coin that individuals are given by nature and which they cash in as they build legitimate political institutions for themselves; Schmitt saw sovereignty as the result of an arbitrary self-founding act by a leader, a party, a class, or a nation that simply declares “thus it shall be.” Classical liberalism had little to say about war and international affairs, leaving the impression that, if only human rights were respected and markets kept free, a morally universal and pacified world order would result. For Schmitt, this was liberalism’s greatest and most revealing intellectual abdication: If you have nothing to say about war, you have nothing to say about politics. There is, he wrote, “absolutely no liberal politics, only a liberal critique of politics.”

Given the widespread dissatisfaction with the pace and character of China’s economic modernization, and the perception that it is neoliberalism at work, these ideas of Schmitt seem beyond wise; they seem prophetic. For the left, he explains, without appeal to Marxism, why the distinction between economy and politics is false and pernicious, and how liberalism functions as an ideology, ignoring or explaining away phenomena central to political life. His idea ofsovereignty, that it is established by fiat and is supported by a hidden ideology, also helps the left make sense of the strange hold free-market ideas have on people today and gives them hope that something—a disaster? a coup? a revolution?—might reestablish the Chinese state on foundations that are neither Confucian, Maoist, nor capitalist. (This is where the /mystique/ comes in.)

Students of a more conservative bent actually agree with much of the left’s critique of the new state capitalism and the social dislocations it has caused, though they are mainly concerned with maintaining “harmony” and have no fantasies (only nightmares) about China going through yet another revolutionary transformation. Their reading of history convinces them that China’s enduring challenges have always been to maintain territorial unity, keep social peace, and defend national interests against other states—challenges heightened today by global market forces and a liberal ideology that idealizes individual rights, social pluralism, and international law. Like Schmitt, they can’t make up their minds whether liberal ideas are hopelessly naïve and don’t make sense of the world we live in, or whether they are changing the world in ways that are detrimental to society and international order. These students are particularly interested in Schmitt’s prescient postwar writings about how globalization would intensify rather than diminish international conflict (this was in 1950) and how terrorism would spread as an effective response to globalization (this was in 1963). Schmitt’s conclusion—that, given the naturally adversarial nature of politics, we would all be better off with a system of geographical spheres of influence dominated by a few great powers—sits particularly well with many of the young Chinese I met.

Schmitt’s political doctrine is brutal modern statism, which poses some problems in China. Though he was a jurist with a lot to say about constitutions and the rule of law, nothing in his thinking recognizes natural limits to state authority or even explains the aims of the state beyond keeping itself together and besting its adversaries. The Chinese tradition of political thought that begins with Confucius, though in a way statist, is altogether different: Its aim is to build a just socialhierarchy where every person has a station and is bound to others by clear obligations, including the ruler, who is there to serve. Central to the functioning of such a state are the “gentlemen” (or “gentry” in some Confucius translations), men of character and conscience trained to serve the ruler by making him a better one—more rational and concerned with the people’s good. Though the Chinese students I met clearly wanted to /épater/ their teachers and me by constantly referring to Schmitt, the truth is that they want a good society, not just a strong one.

Enter Leo Strauss, again. The most controversial aspect of Strauss’s thought in the United States over the past decade, given the role some of his devotees played in concocting the latest Iraq war, is what he had to say about the “gentleman.” Taking a cue from Aristotle, Strauss distinguished between philosophers, on the one hand, and practical men who embody civic virtue and are devoted to the public good, on the other: While knowing what constitutes the good society requiresphilosophy, he taught, bringing it about and maintaining it requires gentlemen. Aristocracies recognize this need, democracies don’t—which is why the education of gentlemen is difficult in democratic societies and may need to take place in secret. Much was made of this gentlemanly idea in Straussian circles after his death, and as young Straussians became part of the Republican foreign policy /apparat/, beginning in the Reagan Administration, many began seeing themselves as members of an enlightened class guiding America through the “crisis of the West.” (This episode still awaits its satirist.) In this sense there was indeed a connection between Straussianism and the Iraq war.

But for the young Chinese I met, the distinction between sages and statesmen and the idea of an elite class educated to serve the public good make perfect sense because they are already rooted in the Chinese political tradition. What makes Strauss additionally appealing to them, apart from the grand tapestry of Western political theory he lays before them, is that he makes this ideal philosophically respectable without reference to Confucius or religion or Chinese history. He provides a bridge between their ancient tradition and our own. No one I met talked about a post-Communist China, for obvious reasons. But students did speak openly about the need for a new gentry class to direct China’s affairs, to strengthen the state by making it wiser and more just. None of them seemed particularly eager to join the Party, which they said co-opted even the most independent thinkers. For the moment, they seem content to study ancient languages, get their Ph.D.s, and take teaching jobs where they evidently hope to produce philosophers and gentlemen. They are not in a hurry. Rome wasn’t built in a day."

*In the strikes of 14 million workers and students in May 1968, De Gaulle finally organized a rightist rally of 1 million people in Paris. Among the chants and slogans was "Cohn-Bendit a Auschwitz." Daniel Cohn-Bendit was an anarchist from Germany and initial leader of the student movement, attacked by the fascists as a Jewish anarchist and by the so-called Communist Party as a :"German anarchist." As one can see from Marine LePen, Fascism is never very far in Europe even today.

Perhaps the protection of Franco-style criminality in Spain with its peaceful transition from fascism to a kind of democracy, parallels Obama's protection of American torturers.

**As Orwell's Homage to Catalonia underlines, Communist conduct toward other radicals (and in Russia to other Communists) was sometimes (in Russia, often) criminal and massively self-destructive.

***"Beijing is also doing a far more effective job than Washington of tooling its economy to meet future challenges — at least according to historian Francis Fukuyama, erstwhile neoconservative intellectual heavyweight. 'President Hu Jintao's rare state visit to Washington this week comes at a time when many Chinese see their weathering of the financial crisis as a vindication of their own system, and the beginning of an era in which U.S.-style liberal ideas will no longer be dominant,' wrote Fukuyama in Monday's Financial Times under a headline stating that the U.S. had little to teach China. "State-owned enterprises are back in vogue, and were the chosen mechanism through which Beijing administered its massive stimulus." See here and here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Poem: last

I tookmyson






graywaves ofmorning








smil ing

hangin g wor ds
gr owfas t



and loo k

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The American base at Rota and the dead hand of fascism in Spain, part 3

Starting in 1953, President Eisenhower made an alliance with Franco, getting the naval base at Rota. Dropping anti-fascist coverage (strong during the war and occasionally affecting Franco), American mainstream newspapers now covered Franco favorably or not at all. As a consequence of the Truman-McCarthy period (the heroes of the Abraham Lincoln brigade were now labeled “premature anti-fascists”; during the Cold War, mainstream academics were often possessed by irrational and anti-democratic fear of radicalism; in the late 1960s, I knew only one history graduate student at Harvard, a radical, who was working on Spanish Civil War, on his own and without much encouragement), academics shied away from Spain. Even anti-Nazi protestors who learned about the kidnapping of so-called Aryan children from Poland to Germany – teams of doctors, psychologists and sociologists gave them IQ tests, did skull measurements, and the like – did not learn of similar practices in Spain or Argentina (for the Nazis, see the 1975 Clarissa Henry and Marc Hillel movie “Of Pure Blood”). The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) emphasizes in Article II, the crime of kidnapping children and resettling them in foreign homes.*

Article II bars:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

I have long been active against fascism, and am aware of these crimes in Germany, the United States and Canada (in North America and Australia, the transfer of children from the homes of indigenous people to Catholic and Protestant orphanages is odious. See Ward Churchill’s Kill the Indian, Save the Man, City Lights Press, for some of the evidence about North America). But in El Pais, December 24, 2010. N. Junquera and M. Altozano’s “Did my baby die or was it snatched? Hundred of families live with unresolved doubts over Franco’s Stolen Children” came as a surprise to me. One should take the activities of bipartisan Bush and Obama opposition to universal jurisdiction in cases of torture and extraordinary rendition – what Janet Napolitano spoke of as an “irritant” – in this context. It is now hard to remember when the US formally stuck up for justice (at least where it was not supporting authoritarian and even fascist regimes such as Franco’s, that is, most of the time). Perhaps one must journey back to World War II…

There is much dark criminality in Spain, which needs to be brought to light, about which the victims and/or their descendants need healing, and perhaps at best, as in South Africa, those oppressors who express serious public remorse in hearings, need to be reconciled. But the crimes now occurred as at minimum 35 years ago and many as long as 75. Many of the perpetrators are dying or dead. But the disappeared children and their relatives, for example, must still, gradually, with slow surmise and investigation, try to make peace with what happened to them (an impossibility, but Truth and Reconciliation would be some help). The influence of Espana negra (the dark Spain) lives poisonously on.

According to Altozano and Junquera, some years ago, families who had lost babies in the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid - allegedly dead from ear infections - began talking with one another. The number soon reached 300. “Did they tell you too that the baby had died of an ear infection and been buried?”

Some of the families took the cases to Judge Balthasar Garzon, who estimated that “nearly 30,000 children had been stolen under Franco,” and wanted to go in search of them because ‘for over 60 years it has not been investigated at all.” Three families also took their cases to High Court Public Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza. He buried the cases, and removed and charged Garzon for investigating the crimes of Franco.

Franco authorized the stealing of children from “suspected Republicans” (meaning both political opponents and whoever the Falange had seized) who were in prison. In addition, through the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid, Franco corrupted administrators, doctors and nurses for pay. These “hospital” personnel prevailed upon women, even some former defenders of the Republic which Franco overthrew (“leftists” and “reds”), to give birth there, and then stole the children, reported them “dead,” and sold them.

May Soriano told the story of her sister “born on January 3, 1964. My mother breastfed the baby until they told her she had to be taken to an incubator. When my parents went to look for her, they were told she had died of an ear infection. My father said he wanted to see her and bury her and they said they had already taken care of it and she was in a mass grave. It was at the O’Donnell clinic in Madrid.”

A mass grave…I thought mass graves were for the slaughters in the cemeteries mostly in 1936. See part 1 here. What were they doing, throwing children into “mass graves” in the 1950s and 60s? Was the message here – you are a republican so your newborn will be secretly thrown into a mass grave and forgotten? Here, the interviewer was plainly not up to the story that Soriano was trying to share…

Nuria Masso was the sister of Miguel Angel [Michael Angelo]. born in 1965. “’My mother was told that my brother had died of an ear infection. And it was also at the O’Donnell clinic. They took him to an incubator and six days later they said he was dead. They told my parents it was better for them not to see him because he had ended up in a terrible state. When they insisted, they said he had already been buried.’”

Was this, too, a mass grave? What "doctors" bury children who have died secretly, without even telling the parents they are dead?

“’I think the motive was economic. It was a method honed to perfection, which included hospital directors, doctors, midwives – and was protected by Francoism. I think that families who were able to buy a child could do so.’”

The crass monetarism of Franco's supposedly "pristine rural society" needs to be taken into account. Fascism is the practice of the worst that humanity is capable of toward its victims, and is, of course, hideously for (even small) profit…

As Desmond Tutu describes here, Truth and Reconciliation is a mirror in which the victims find some public acknowledgment and hear the full story; the criminals could apologize for and repudiate the conduct, look at themselves to the extent possible, once again, as human beings.

Blanca Guerrero reports a case, “’which dates back to 1945. My mother Agustina handed out milk in a maternity ward on Serrano street in Madrid. She was leftwing. My father and my mother had many people in their family who had suffered reprisals. She was pregnant and they put her under so much pressure to have the baby there [the O’Donnell clinic] that finally she agreed. They told her the baby was still born but my mother says she had felt him move. One of my sisters had just died of tuberculosis and my mother was in a terrible state. Otherwise she would have reacted in a different way.’”

Here is the terrible, debilitating power of fascism. Known as a leftwinger, her family repressed and damaged, this woman “had been pressured” into having the baby at this monstrous “clinic.” And then the baby disappeared with an unbelievable “explanation.” And she could do nothing. These were anti-doctors, anti-nurses…

The tendency to blame her own weakness for giving in, no matter how desperate the circumstances, perhaps ate at her enough not simply, unambiguously, to be able to fight the monsters. But her child Blanca took up the cause…

Yet even Blanca cannot quite name the horror.

Put yourself in John Rawls' original position. Imagine that it is your daughter, your son...

Another Agustina waited long, dying at age 101 in 2009. Challenging High Court prosecutor Zaragoza, Fernando Magan, her lawyer, brought her case repeatedly to the court so that it would take a statement and a DNA sample before she died.

Others died with no judicial aid, with this unresolved question gnawing at them. The daughter of one who perished, Marina Alvarez paid for DNA tests on five women who lived in France, Belgium and the Spanish regions of La Rioja, Murcia and Zamora, whom she thought might be her sister.

Hair is vital evidence for DNA testing. Julia Manzanal, 95, keeps a lock of her daughter’s hair in a box. When she was imprisoned in Amorbieta, “doctors” told Manzanal her daughter had died. Blanca Guerrero feels that she would know her brother. She has also kept a lock of “’[my] mother’s hair to extract the DNA, in case my brother turns up, I think I’d know him if I saw him. My sister and I talk about him a lot, about Miguel Angel, which is the name my mother gave him.’”

The crimes here are fresh in the memory of the victims and their children; there is an intense need for surviving Falangist and their political heirs, to bury the crimes, to silence the victims. Truth is of great, liberating, very hard to come by significance in today’s Spain. Note how ferocious the lock-in effect is. Many of the criminals have died. Yet the Right in Spain, led by Prosecutor Zaragoza, props up the bronzed head of the idol Franco, a “great leader,” spews pretence, seeks urgently to keep the crimes in the dark…

Though a democracy, in some ways even a vibrant one, after 1975 (the outburst of public art in Spain and Madrid, is wonderful, exuberant compared to the dull fascism of the Franco period, as bright as day in Barcelona*), the intense fog of fascism, the Espana Negra of Columbus and the Inquisition projected into modern times, hangs heavily, painfully over Spain.** After Franco's death, a peaceful transition to democracy occurred – a wonder – and yet an incomplete one, one that protects the heritage of fascism, In this context, the contrast of South Africa and what was accomplished by the movement from below led by Mandela and Tutu is striking. They sought and achieved some healing. In Spain, there is, as of now, none.

In addition, Rota, and the other American bases, are not, as I noted in the first post in this series, of the past. America, including under Obama, strives to suppress current crimes and allies with those like Zaragoza who want to keep Franco's crimes, even the kidnapping, under wraps. Prime Minister Zapatero heroically withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq in 2004. But today, he works to make ROTA the head of the new African command (Africom). In my course at IBEI, I asked about the American bases in Spain, and only one student, Ricardo Barcala Munoz, knew of this one and three others (the CIA also flew the kidnapped through Barajas Airport in Madrid on the way to be tortured elsewhere, for instance Bagram or Guantanamo).

Until I read the story in El Pais, I had not known about Rota (see below). 10 years ago, when I stayed in Mallorca for the winter, I had seen the sixth fleet off Palma. It was impossible not to wonder what the fleet was doing off this island in the seemingly peaceful Mediterranean. The sixth fleet which was based primarily at Rota, patrols the Mediterranean. Thus, as my Moroccan friend Hamid in Granada told me in late 2003,*** when King Hasan 1, the tyrant about whom one could not utter a criticism in Morocco without risking one’s life, died, the regime did not announce it. Instead, the sixth fleet moved off Morocco to intervene if there had been an uprising. The elite waited a few days, and then announced the death and appointment of King Hasan II.

Think of the great struggle in Tunisia over the last several weeks, just suddenly emerging in the New York Times in the last few days. See Rob Prince’s insightful "Tunisia and the New York Times" here. Mostly Tunisia has not been covered in the Times, the dictator supported by the Pentagon and the neocons, the sixth fleet available to protect them. State Department influence barely interceded in time for the Times to bring out the story. America appears in most of the world as an imperialist nation (now in decline), its fleets everywhere, poking into everything, its willingness to use unjust force even under Obama (the drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia) blatant. See Andrew Bacevich in the Atlantic here. .

Nick Turse has just done a powerful story trying to estimate the number of American bases abroad. He improves on Chalmers Johnson’s pioneering “empire of bases” (chapter 6 of Sorrows of Empire, some 750) and shows that there are now somewhere around 1.180. See here. Spain today exists in the shadow of fascism and empire. The bipartisan efforts of Bush and Obama to pursue the war complex or protect its criminality also undergird corruption in the Spanish judiciary, notably Zaragoza, and Zaragoza's efforts to put the heroic Judge Garzon on trial. Sadly, American empire is often nearly akin to fascism abroad.

Below is the Wikipedia entry on Rota base - well worth reading despite the jargon since it is a prototype of the 1,180 US bases - and a telling article by Matt Rothschild on Martin Luther King and the easy praise - it's just rolls off the tongue at NFL games - of American occupying soldiers in 177 countries!


Naval Station Rota (NavSta Rota) is a Spanish naval base commanded by a Spanish Vice Admiral.[1] Located in Rota, Spain, and near the Spanish town of El Puerto de Santa María, NavSta Rota is the largest American military community in Spain and houses US Navy Sailors, Marines, and their families. There are also small US Army and US Air Force contingents on the base.


Described by the US Navy as the "Gateway to the Mediterranean", Naval Station Rota is home to an airfield and a seaport; the airfield has often caused the base to be misidentified as "Naval Air Station Rota." The base is the headquarters for Commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTSPAIN), as well as a primary gateway for Air Mobility Command flights into Europe.[2]

Naval Station Rota is strategically located near the Straits of Gibraltar and at the halfway point between the United States and Southwest Asia. Because of this ideal location, the base is able to provide invaluable support to both US Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean and to USAF Air Mobility Command units transiting to Germany and Southwest Asia. The Base and its tenant commands are located within the boundaries of the 6,100-acre (25 km2) Spanish 'Base Naval de Rota.' Under the guidance of the Agreement for Defense Cooperation, the US and Spanish navies work together and share many facilities. The US Navy has the responsibility for maintaining the station's infrastructure, including a 670-acre (2.7 km2) airfield, three active piers, 426 facilities and 806 family housing units.[1]

From Naval Station Rota Spain, the VLF-transmitter Guardamar, which uses Torreta de Guardamar, the tallest man-made structure in the European Union as antenna, is telecontroled.

Naval Station Rota provides support for US and NATO ships; supports the safe and efficient movement of US Navy and US Air Force flights and passengers; and provides cargo, fuel, and ammunition to units in the region. The Naval Station is the only base in the Mediterranean capable of supporting Amphibious Readiness Group post-deployment wash-downs. The base port also offers secure, pier side maintenance and backload facilities. Rota supports Amphibious Readiness Group turnovers and hosts Sailors and Marines from visiting afloat units. The base also provides Quality of Life support to Morón Air Base, ARG support sites at Palma de Majorca, NATO headquarters in Madrid and the Military Sealift Command's Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 1. Rota also supports NASA Space Shuttle missions, and ongoing operations in the European theater of operations.[1]

The mission of US Forces at Rota, as well as other US Navy installations in the Mediterranean such as NAS Sigonella, Italy and Naval Air Facility Souda Bay, Crete, is to provide Command, Control and Logistics Support to US and NATO Operating Forces. These three facilities are undergoing a transformation from Maritime Patrol Aircraft airfields to Multi-role “Hubs” providing crucial air-links for USAF strategic airlift and mobility in support of US European Command (EUCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM) and African Area contingency operations under CENTCOM, EUCOM and the evolving Africa Command (AFRICOM).[1]


NAVSTA Rota has been in use since 1953 when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco strengthened relations with the Americans to improve local economies. The installation now covers more than 6,000 acres (24 km2) on the northern shore of Cadiz, an area recognized for its strategic, maritime importance over the centuries.

The Chief of Naval Operations deployed Submarine Squadron 16 (SUBRON 16) to Rota on 28 January 1964 and embarked upon USS Proteus (AS-19). USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) completed its first Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) deterrent patrol with the Polaris missile and commenced the first refit and replenishment at Rota. During the early 1970s, the submarines assigned to Squadron 16 were completing conversion to the Poseidon missile. That transition was completed when USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) returned to Rota on 14 January 1974. Treaty negotiations between Spain and the United States in 1975 resulted in a planned withdrawal of SUBRON 16 from Spain, and the Chief of Naval Operations ordered studies to select a new refit site on the East Coast of the United States. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in June 1976; it called for the squadron's withdrawal from Spain by July 1979. In November 1976 the Secretary of the Navy announced Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia as that new refit site.[1]

At its peak size in the early 1980s, NAVSTA Rota was home to 16,000 sailors and their families, to include two permanently forward deployed aviation squadrons, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO (VQ-2) and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron TWENTY TWO (VR-22). VQ-2 was based at Rota from 1959 until 2005, when it relocated to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. During VQ-2's tenure at Rota, it flew the P4M Mercator, EC-121 Super Constellation, EA-3 Skywarrior, and the EP-3 Aries aircraft.[3] VR-22 flew the C-130F and was based at Rota from 1982 until its inactivation in 1992. Through the early 1990s, a patrol squadron of P-3 Orion aircraft based in the United States would also be split-based between NAVSTA Rota and the Naval Air Facility at Lajes Air Base in the Azores to track Soviet naval vessels and submarines in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean. The patrol squadrons would rotate assignment to Rota and Lajes every six months and were augmented by Naval Air Reserve patrol squadrons for shorter durations on a periodic basis.

With the downsizing of the US Navy during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially after the end of the Cold War, the base's population dramatically declined. The US Navy maintains approximately 5,200 acres (21 km2) of the 6,000-acre (24 km2) complex. There are about 4,000 Americans in Rota, including military, civilians, and their families.[1]

The base is used jointly by Spain and the United States. It remains under the Spanish flag and is commanded by a Spanish Vice Admiral. While the Spanish Navy is responsible for external security of the base, both Navies are charged with internal security. NAVSTA Rota is technically a tenant facility of the Rota Spanish Navy base, although as such the USA enjoys the base for free and does not pay any rent to Spain. As such, certain U.S. military customs are not observed, such as the display of a U.S. Flag, which is only allowed during the annual Fourth of July celebration.


"NAS Rota". p. 7 paragraphs down.
"Commander Navy Installations Command at Rota". Rota, Spain: US Navy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
"FLEET AIR RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON TWO". Rota, Spain: US Navy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-01.

External links

U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain website
U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain website
VQ-2 Homepage
Video links
(Spanish) Old documentary on the inauguration of Rota airfield at YouTube

Monday, January 17, 2011 by The Progressive
US Empire Mocks Martin Luther King Day
by Matthew Rothschild

I was watching the great Green Bay Packers game Saturday night, and at half time there was a presentation of colors. The honor guard was representing, we were told, the men and women in uniform who are protecting us in 177 countries around the world.

177 countries?

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., that one fact tells you how just badly we’ve failed to put into practice the vision of Dr. King.

That fact of troops in 177 countries confirms that we are still “a society gone mad on war,” as Dr. King noted in his magnificent speech at Riverside Church entitled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. (All the quotes that follow are from this speech of King’s, his most profound and radical one.) That fact of troops in 177 countries confirms that we have yet to have the “true revolution of values” that will make us “say of war: ‘This way of settling our differences is not just.’ ”

That fact—along with Bush’s war in Iraq and Obama’s war in Afghanistan and the U.S. supplying two-thirds of the global arms trade--confirms that we are still “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

That fact confirms that we still have failed to embrace “allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism.”

King said, “Our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole…a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation.” And so he talked of being “a citizen of the world.”

But we are as nationalistic as ever in this country today.

And the fact that we have troops in 177 countries means that we are “approaching spiritual death” because we as a nation continue “year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift.”

And the fact that we have troops in 177 countries means that we are an empire, and that we are still “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.” Dr. King denounced in this speech the “individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

That is still going on today, and it goes by the fancy name of “globalization,” but it’s the same old neo-imperialism.

Today, with troops in 177 countries, we still wrestle with “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.”

And today, with troops in 177 countries, we still have a “glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.” Actually, it’s even more glaring than when King spoke 44 years ago.

Dr. King urged us to have a “radical revolution of values.”

But with troops stationed in 177 countries, that revolution seems more distant than ever.

And note: President Obama on the campaign trail liked to quote a phrase from Dr. King’s Riverside speech, though he didn’t identify the speech itself. That phrase was “the fierce urgency of now.” But Obama’s “fierce urgency of now” was not well defined, much less acted upon. Dr. King was clear, however: The urgency was about choosing between “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”

We have not yet made that choice.

And Obama has not made that choice.

In fact, he went to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, where he invoked King’s name but then quarreled with him and came out defending war.

So, today, the United States has troops in 177 countries. And that’s nothing to celebrate on Martin Luther King Day.

*Trailing far behind the rest of the world The United States finally ratified this convention in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter. The Truman administration feared that blacks could successfully bring the charge against the United States. William Patterson’s We Charge Genocide, a pamphlet of the Civil Rights Congress in the late 1940s, makes it clear how easy, on the facts of segregation, this charge is to sustain.

**The Museu d art contemporani is very different and modern – in that sense an explosion – but lacks substance, is closed off from the ordinary viewer, has little way to connect. Though a beautiful building right next to IBEI, few go there. On the other had, everyone goes to the Sagrada Familia, built by Gaudi, which has the vision of flowering geometries – recreating a Church in nature, something far removed from Catholicism – and is now a symbol of Barcelona. There is much contemporary public art, very adventuresome and striking, in Barcelona as in Madid.

***In 2003, Hamid worked in a restaurant down the street from where we were living and befriended my 7 year old son. He and I talked often. He had graduated from the University of Granada as an artist, his co-worker had graduated as a computer programer. Waiting tables was the only job, given Spanish racism, they could get.

When I was just in Barcelona, however, Zapatero's commendable programs to help the Roma get jobs and enter society as opposed to being ostracized, condemned, starved, and feared, stood out in all of Europe, particularly compared to the racist expulsion of the Roma by Sarkozy in France.