Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Terra Incognita 68 Cuba, Disproportionate force and protestors

1) Fifty Years of Lies: Cuba is celebrating 50 years since Castro’s ‘revolution.’ A person born the day that Castro came to power would thus be 50 years old today. The media tells us Castro overthrew an ‘American backed dictatorship run by Batista.’ But Batista was a ‘dictator’ for only 8 years. Which is better, 8 years, or an entire lifetime. There is nothing revolutionary about Cuba, it is a monarchy of Fidel and his brother, a cult of personality. The revolutionaries chanted ‘Viva Cuba libre.’ But Cuba has been imprisoned for fifty years, fifty years of lies about a socialist romantic utopia.

2) A short history of disproportionate force: Disproportionate force is not defend in international law. It is defined in criminal law and in domestic police procedures. But while excessive force is illegal (i.e shooting unarmed thieves in the back), the police use disproportionate force to stop criminals (i.e surrounding banks that are being robbed.) In war disproportionate force is the way a country wins a war. The 30 years war was proportionate, one massacre after another. That’s why it lasted for thirty years. Is that better than a short, massively disproportionate war designed to end a conflict?

3) The protestor, the democracy and the terrorist: No one protested the Mumbai terror attacks. 200 dead and no one protested. But when 200 Gazans died in the first day of the First Gaza War in December of 2008 the world began to erupt in protests. Why is it that democracies produce protestors and dictatorships don’t? Why is it that no one protests terror but they protest wars against it?

Fifty Years of Lies
December 30th, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

Cuba is ‘celebrating’ 50 years of lies. Fifty years ago a ‘small rebel band’ based in the Sierra Maestra swept away the ‘American armed dictator Batista’. So we learn from news reports. Castro is ailing so his brother, Raul, is presiding over the country. A Cuban born when Castro took Havana would today be fifty years old. We must pause and consider this. A Cuban who was twnety years old would today be seventy. Thus there are few adults that can truly remember a time without Castro.

It is interesting that news reports style Fulgenico Bautista as a ‘dictator’. He didn’t dictate much or for very long. Batista was first in power as an elected president from 1940-1944. In 1952 he launched a coup and took over the government once again. He served for 8 year. Eight years. Someone born when he took power would thus have been 8 years old when he was overthrown. Today that person is 58. Eight years. That’s all. If the people of Cuba, say those in their twenties who are now old and decrepid, could be given a choice today as to whether they wanted their entire lives to be taken up living under one pompous arrogant man, or whether they preferred the former ‘dictator’ it would be interesting to know what they would choose. They had no idea at the time, in their youth, that they were witnessing the end of history, the end of their way of life, the end of their freedom, and a long national, fifty year, nightmare where they would live in an island prison camp, a place where only one man and his family could do as they pleased. One man and his family. That is what we worshipped for so long as being romantic. Another monarchy in place in Cuba consisting of Castro and his brother.

When I was in high school in Arizona we were subjected to periodic lectures about the glories of Cuba. Some of my compatriots were encouraged to volunteer in Cuba, to clear sugar cane and ‘experience the revolution’. They were told about the island paradise of universal health care and ‘democracy’ where ‘factory workers debate their boses.’ My parents even told me about how romantic Castro had been. When I was in college I was the sole dissenter on the student senate which funded the ‘American Socialist Club’ to visit Cuba and participate in a world council of socialists. These American socialists felt the U.S was a dictatorship But doesn’t the romance ever wear off? Doesn’t it ever get old. How many lifetimes must a man and his family rule a country before it stops being romantic and it stops being a socialist utopia and it starts looking like a dark tunnel? How many times must the charade of ‘democracy’ be pushes aside. If it were a democracy there would have been elections. If Castro were popular and the people wanted to live their entire lives under one man, listening to his endless eight hour speeches and watching him wear a uniform that never seems to decay, then they could have voted again and again for him. In the U.S there are elections every four years. In Mexico it is every five. They could have voted ten times. Those who describe U.S democracy as a charade, such as Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal, who have both referred to the American presidency as a form of “four year dictatorship” should be happy its not a fifty year dictatorship with the succession going to family members, like in a kingdom.

Cuba is a Communist Socialist utopia. A true democratic monarchichal utopia. Its like the utopias of old in Europe, with a king and his brother, no free speech and a prison camp on an island (the Isle of Pines, incidentally the same prison used by Batista and where Castro himself was imprisoned). Vidal himself has visited Cuba and along with other “cultural figures” has condemned the U.S embargo of the island. It would be nice, just once, for someone who condemns the U.S for its “four year dictatorships” to condemn a fifty year dictatorship being handed over to someone’s brother. Whose next in line? Raul Castro’s son? How romantic is that?

How is Cuba ‘revolutionary’? Its just an old style monarchy with a 1930s cult of personality. When they shout ‘viva la revolution, viva Fidel, viva la Cuba Libre’ they are lying. There is no revolution. There is no free Cuba and no people should be forced to shout ‘long live’ one mna for fifty years. Fifty years of lies.

A short history of disproportionate force
Seth J. Frantzman
December 28th, 2008

Within hours of Israel launching massive air strikes on the Gaza strip in response to Hamas' firing of over a hundred rockets in three days, the international community was already reverting to form in its complaints that Israel was using "disproportionate force." On Saturday, December 27th, not long after Israel began striking Hamas police stations and terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, the European Union condemned "the disproportionate use of force."

This cycle of terrorism, Israeli reactions and condemnations of 'disproportionate force' is common in the Middle East. In July of 2006 the UN Humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland complained that Israel had used disproportionate force. On July 13th the EU claimed Israel was using such force in Lebanon. On July 27th the Prime Minister of Turkey did the same, regarding Gaza. Mati Vanhanen, the Prime Minister of Finland, said the same thing. In 2004 it was Kofi Annan complaining that Israel needed to cease using "disproportionate force in densely populated areas." Israel isn't the only country accused of using disproportionate force. During Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 it was also accused by the U.S and Nato of using disproportionate force.

Where did this idea that disproportionate force is wrong come from? Do the western nations and leaders that complain about such use of force really live up to such preaching in their own countries? What is the history of the use of such force in war?

One of the problems with the term 'disproportionate force' is that it has no accepted definition in international law or elsewhere. George Fletcher, Cardozo professor of jurisprudence, in 'Sense and nonsense about disproportionate force' wrote in 2006 that had the British bombed Buenos Aires in the Falklands war " in that context [bombing] would have been unnecessary and therefore could not possibly qualify as proportionate." However he notes that whereas criminal law deals with proportionate force in self defense, international law has never dealt with this question; "I know of no case in the international version of shooting escaping looters where a court has affirmed that the use of force was necessary but not proportionate."

In response to Washington's condemnation of Russia's use of force in George, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to Nato, claimed that "the use of force to defend one's compatriots is traditionally regarded as a form of self defense" and claimed Nato and the U.S had used disproportionate force in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this brings us no closer to what constitutes disproportionate force or if it should even be considered wrong. Proportionate force in theory should be proportional to the threat. Thus shooting unarmed thieves by a civilian is considered wrong. Police are accused from time to time of using too much force when taking down criminals. But no one claims that directly proportionate force should be used by civilians or the authorities. Thieves do not need to be punished by having people steal from them. Rapists are not raped. Hostage takers don't have their families taken hostage. No one would logically think that Hamas' rocket fire from Gaza should be counteracted through the use of equally indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire by Israel.

The history of warfare shows that it has never been fought in a proportionate manner. Winning wars requires not being proportional. Consider the Second World War. The American army at the end of the war numbered some 9 million men under arms. The U.S was churning out more planes and tanks in a month in 1944 than the Germans were making in a year. The Soviets massed some 20,000 tanks before the battle of Berlin in 1945. In the First Gulf War the U.S used disproportionate air power to crush the Iraqi army. In the Nato campaign in Kosovo in 1999, Nato employed more than 1,000 airplanes against a Serbia that had virtually no air force. When General Grant brought the full might of the Federal army to bear on the South in 1864 he outnumbered the confederates by 2 to 1 and more in almost all battles. Hardly proportionate.

It is in law enforcement where we see the greatest use of disproportionate, but necessary, force. One criminal with a handgun can result in the arrival of dozens, if not hundreds, of officers to a crime scene. In a 1997 North Hollywood shootout, two armed bank robbers shooting at the police resulted in the arrival of 300 law enforcement members, 13 of whom were eventually wounded by the bank robbers.

Disproportionate force is the way in which crime is prevented and criminals are brought to justice. Is it also the way wars are ended. All the great causes of history, such as the abolition of slavery or the de-segregation of the south, were brought about through the use of disproportionate force, in the latter example the use of the national guard to secure rights for black Americans. Nazism would not have been defeated had the allies relied on proportionate force. Proportionate force is the recipe for unending war, for the endless victimization of civilians at the hands of terrorist aggressors. Fighting crime, like terror, and Nazism, requires disproportionate force.

The protestor, the democracy and the terrorist
December 30th, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

Between the 26th and 29th of November a total of 173 people were murdered in Mumbai by terrorists. There were no worldwide protests. No one protested against terrorism, against Islamic extremism or against Pakistan, the nation from whence the terrorists came and where they were trained. Such is the fate of the victims of terror. Candle-light vigils and people claiming they will 'fight terror' by living life as normal and 'not letting it affect us.'

Between December 27th and 30th some 260 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza strip by Israeli bombs. Even when the death toll was closer to 200, in the first day of the bombing, protests swept the world. In London and Greece there were riots outside Israeli embassies with Europeans and their Muslim allies holding signs that declared a 'genocide', 'Holocaust' and 'massacre' in Gaza. The U.N secretary general and others called it a 'disproportionate' and 'excessive' display of force. Gideon Levy, the leftist Israeli writer, described Israel as the 'neighbourhood bully strikes again'. Yossi Sarid called on Israel to 'stop' the operation. David Grossman, an Israeli author, wrote that Israel was "imprisoned in the familiar ceremony of war….stop. Hold your fire. Try for once to act against the usual response, in contrast to the lethal logic of belligerence." In Israel there were small riots and protests by Arabs across the country. Leftist wealthy Israelis in Tel Aviv marched through the city protesting and on December 29th 'human rights' activists protested at Israeli universities. In Chicago a Jewish house of worship was firebombed.

Let us contrast these two situations. In both the death tolls were quite similar. But there is no condemnation by the UN of the terror in Mumbai. There is no emergency meeting. There is no condemnation by world leaders of disproportionate force being used by the terrorist or excessive force. There are no protests, anywhere in the world, against terrorism or its host country. There are no fire bombings of mosques. There are no calls by poet laureates in Pakistan to 'stop' the terrorism and stop bullying civilians in India. There are no riots. There are not white Europeans holding placards calling accusing Islamic terrorism of 'genocide' or a 'Holocaust' or a 'massacre'. The European does not care about those 173 dead Indians. There are no leftist Pakistanis or leftist Muslims in India to immediately begin a 'human rights' protest.

Why is one man's life worth more than another? Why is there a difference? What can we say is the essential difference between India and the Gaza strip? One is a big fat pluralistic democracy. The other is an over-populated Islamist dictatorship. But one has the support of the blond European women at universities throughout the Western world. One does not. When hundreds die in one place they are memorialized throughout the world by protests and riots and assaults on the religion of those perceived to have caused their deaths. When hundreds die in another place no one cares, not even the countrymen abroad. No Hindus in Washington or Europe protested outside the Pakistani embassy. Not one.

What does Democracy do to the soul that creates people who do not care when their own people are massacred? Why does democracy create a disjointed society where people have no passion to riot when their own people are slaughtered? Why does terrorism always succeed? Why is there never any condemnation of it, anywhere, and anyone who will stand up to it. Where are the well bred leftist authors and their gated communities to protest it and write letters condemning it?

Before Israel's bombing campaign against Gaza began there were hundreds of rockets fired against Israel. Yet Levy and Grossman and other leftist wealthy Israeli intellectuals did not write letters and condemn them. There were no protests against them by the leading students at universities or in Tel Aviv. Why? Because the inhabitant of Tel Aviv and the wealthy writer lives far away from where the rockets fall and they see no connection between themselves and the swarthy poor people who are forced to live under the rocket fire. Wealthy people in democracies live in islands of prosperity and because of their secularism they do not seem themselves connected to their own compatriots.

Yet in the other society, the Muslim dictatorship, we do not see this. Muslims around the world see themselves personally connected to the people in Gaza. Muslims in Europe, whatever their path in life, whether religious or secular or poor or wealthy, see themselves connected to the dead in Gaza. Wealthy Muslim secular Communist women from Jerusalem see themselves directly connected to the Islamists in Gaza, even if they know that they personally hate Hamas, the government of Gaza. Such is their deep connection.

Democracy and secularism's central problem is in its elites and its fragmentation of society. The lack of faith and social cohesion lead to a feeling that people are only affected if they are affected personally. Thus David Grossman or Gideon Levy is only affected by terrorism if his house or car is blown up. Otherwise he lives above it. The same is apparently true in the Hindu Indian diaspora. While Hindus may feel annoyed that their country has been attacked and they may complain at home and say 'we hate Pakistan', their emotional connection does not manifest itself in a 'human rights rally' or a protest against the massacre of Indians.

This is primarily because the victims of terrorism are not seen to have been massacred. And this is the other side of the coin. Not only democracy and secularism have failed to protect the victims, terrorism also elicits no anger from its victims. The victims of terror and their compatriots express themselves in candle-light vigils and sing song hippie dreamy eulogies. They express themselves by claiming, falsely, that they are 'fighting terrorism' by 'not letting it change our way of life.' But the Muslim who sympathizes with his 'brothers' in Gaza allows the 200 dead to change his life. He allows it to take some time from his day to go protest. He allows it to make him unhappy and angry and desire to seek 'justice'. Such concepts are not found among the victims of terror, especially when they are in a democracy.

The central problem with the fight against terror is that it does not provoke anger from the victims. Even in Pakistan, no matter the number dead, no one cares. Blow up thousands of Pakistanis and they will do nothing. They simply will not be angry about it.

One of the problems with terrorism is that we expect the government to solve it for us. The idea is that the government will take revenge for us. We rely on the government and we therefore resolve that we will not 'change our way of life' to fight terror. But a more healthy response is the response shown by Muslims to the Gaza bombing. The healthy response is the realization that the government cannot and does not stop terror. We must personally fight terror and we must allow it to change our way of life. The idea that a stiff upper lip is always the right response to being assaulted is some strange remnant of the Christian idea of 'turning the other cheek'. The idea that one always does nothing in the face of tragedy and in doing nothing 'overcomes' the tragedy and 'shows the enemy' that he has not affected us is mistaken. The process of 'going about your life as usual' is the mentality of a slave. Slaves were taken from their parents at a young age, sold in markets, stripped naked and checked like animals, whipped, raped, taken from their wives, forced to work all day everyday and never given time off or given a chance to celebrate or cultivate their own holidays, religion or tradition. There was no record of their birth or death. They were expected to always go about their life as normal, regardless of their treatment, hardship and the unbearable circumstances they had to work in. Secularism and democracy was supposed to free us from the slave mentality, but it has oddly enough internalized modernity and terrorism to the extent, in its fragmented society where every man is an island, that the slave mentality persists among people.

So long as the victims of terror go about their lives as usual and so long as the dictatorship and its extremists receive the support of their compatriots abroad and use terror to achieve their goals, the democracy will slowly fail and Islamism will slowly succeed. There is much that can be learned from Islam in terms of the rational response to death and suffering. There is little that can be learned from the response to the Mumbai bombings.

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