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Posts Tagged ‘noam chomsky’

A Tragic Foreign Policy: How the U.S. Ignored and Aided Genocide in East Timor

In foreign policy, sovereignty on April 28, 2010 at 1:44 am

“There is no Western concern for issues of aggression, atrocities, human rights abuses and so on if there’s a profit to be made from them.” — Noam Chomsky talking about the genocide in East Timor.

Sometimes inspiration for a post comes from an unlikely source. Today while wasting valuable study time watching videos on YouTube, I came across the song “Timor” by Colombian singer/songwriter Shakira.

“It’s alright, it’s alright. As long as we can vote. We live in a democracy and that’s what we promote.” 

I had listened to the song many times before but was never really sure of it’s meaning. Obviously, the song was political in nature — but what was Timor? I decided to Google the term.

The nation of East Timor lies just north of Australia and shares a small island with the Indonesian province of West Timor. The CIA’s World Factbook briefly references the small nation’s recent bloody history: 

“East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives.” 

What the website fails to mention is the large role the U.S. government played in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Timorese.  

The National Security Archive’s Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project details U.S. involvement in the invasion, citing previously classified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. According to its website, the Archive reveals a “consistent pattern” by U.S. administrations “of subordinating East Timor’s right to self-determination to its relations with Indonesia.”

One of the supporting documents, a former top secret memo addressed to Henry Kissinger, admits U.S. knowledge of Indonesia’s intent to invade or, “Incorporate Portuguese Timor by force.” It also reports U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia David Newsom’s recommendation for “a policy of silence”: 

“The State Department has been uncertain about the best policy to follow. Ambassador Newsom has recommended a general policy of silence. He has argued that we have considerable interests in Indonesia and none in Timor. If we try to dissuade Indonesia from what Suharto may regard as a necessary use of force, major difficulties in our relationship could result.” 

As the memo forecasted, both the U.S. government and mainstream media were silent on the invasion and resulting genocide for more than 25 years. An Australian parliamentary report described the situation in East Timor as “indiscriminate killing on a scale unprecedented in post-World War II history.”  

But more unsettling than the United States’ pretend ignorance of the genocide, was its active participation in it. Prior to the invasion, the U.S. supplied the Indonesia government with large amounts of military support and weapons — a business that did not cease after the assault on Timor. According to The National Security Archive’s research, “virtually all of the military equipment used in the invasion was U.S. supplied.”

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writer Matthew Jardine concurs. In his article, East Timor: Media Turned Their Backs on Genocide, he says not only did the U.S. give Indonesia the green light, it also provided millions in aid.  

“Since that time, the U.S. has provided Indonesia with hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military assistance, greatly facilitating the colonization of East Timor. On the diplomatic front, the U.S. has helped to block any effective action on the issue. Former U.N. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan openly bragged, in his book A Dangerous Place, about how he carried out with ‘no inconsiderable success U.S. policy to render the U.N. ‘utterly ineffective’ on East Timor.”

I was saddened to learn of the recent tragic history of East Timor and my own government’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the United State’s involvement and interventions in the region are not out of character. Timor is just one of many U.S.-backed tragedies.

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United States Elite vs. We The People

In liberty and rights, sovereignty on April 13, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Is America truly a democracy? Professor, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky doesn’t think so. He believes power resides in the hands of an elite few rather than in the people.

According to him, America “Is not a democratic society and it is not intended to be.” Instead, Chomsky describes America as a polyarchy, a word borrowed from Yale professor Robert Dahl who coined the term his 1956 book, A Preface to Democratic Theory.

Basically, a polyarchy is a system of government where power is vested in three or more persons. The masses are “fragmented and distracted” and allowed to participate in the political process on occasion. According to Chomsky, such a system has been established in America since the constitutional convention in 1787.

“The idea is old. It goes way back to James Madison and the foundation of the Constitution. A polyarchy is a system in which power resides in the hands of those who Madison called the wealth of the nation. The responsible class of men.”

Of course, we’re all familiar with Madison’s famous words, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But such a mistrusting view of the governed still dominates the philosophies of both the left and right.

In fact, Chomsky contends the choice is not between Democrats and Republicans, or what he calls, “two factions of the same party.” Instead, he says the choice facing America is between democracy and polyarchy:

“That’s the alternative. It’s not a matter of naming one party or another but just changing the whole framework in which politics persist.”

Indeed, the whole framework must be changed.

The illusion of media objectivity and the illusion of media partisanship PART I

In media on November 4, 2009 at 1:37 am

The recent “feud” between Fox News and the White House is more than a little ridiculous. Everyone, save the few Texans still driving around with “Viva Bush!” bumper stickers, realize that Fox News is really Fox Opinion.

By attacking Fox News, the White House is only furthering the myth that the mainstream media is or should be unbiased. But should the news really be fair and balanced?

Charleston City paper’s Jack Hunter and author of the blog, The Southern Avenger, points out that Fox News has never been “ ‘objective journalism,’ but neither is MSNBC, CNN, or every other corporate outlet that disseminates politically-biased disinformation.”

In his recent post, Hunter argues against The Myth of Objective Journalism and actually advocates the use of bias, opinionated journalism. He points out that:

“Before the 20th century, people got their information from newspapers that were explicitly Whig or Tory, Democrat or Republican, and which would engage in nakedly partisan public battles, leaving objectivity to the mind of the reader. Newspapers served the political and corporate interests of those who owned them and everyone knew it.”

Hunter goes on to declare that “There can be no true objective journalism because there are no truly objective human beings.”

Hunter is correct that news can never be truly bias free as it’s told by bias reporters and editors. Deciding what stories run, what their headlines are, and what content is included in them all reflect the personal opinions of the editors and reporters. But does that mean the media shouldn’t at least try to be fair and balanced? I’m not so sure.

Hunter points to the liberal Noam Chomsky who “has argued that the illusion of media objectivity has led to major news outlets becoming the instruments of government and corporate interests rather than society’s watchdogs, investigative journalism’s alleged purpose.”

In Hunter and Chomsky’s opinion, this illusion has served to further the agendas of the powerful — whether it be those in Washington D.C. or in the boardroom. However, the real question is whether or not the illusion is intentional.