Liberate Knowledge

…to democratize power in all its forms.

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Dictionary of the Empire, Part 2

This is the second entry in a series of posts where I attempt to put the Empire’s complex language into laymen terms so we can all understand what U.S. politicians and pundits really say. Read Part 1 here.

Introduction to the Dictionary

When you hear Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, General Petraus, John McCain, Wolf Blitzer, and other leaders of the United States as well as political pundits speak, it can often be confusing to understand – as though their words and phrases don’t actually reflect reality. The primary reason for this is that these leaders and media talking-heads are in fact speaking a different language that transcends normal dictionary definitions. In fact, they are speaking what is called the “Language of Empire,” a language in which words and phrases often have complex sub-layers or mean exactly the opposite of their normal definition.

Therefore, in order to help everyday people better understand the intentions of the United States’ media and political figures, I have begun to compile a list of phrases and words that the Empire uses and what they mean in normal words. This is a “Dictionary of the Empire.” Of course, this will have to be an ongoing project, as the Empire’s language constantly evolves and grows in order to suit its purpose at any given moment.

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Collateral Damage

People that our bombs accidentally blow up who aren’t white.

Important Note: This phrase is often perceived by leftists to be a synonym of “state terrorism.” In the eyes of the Empire, however, this is a false equivalency because non-American lives are less valuable than American lives – after all, they’re “collateral” and not “people.”

Empire

You are not allowed to say this word on TV. And if you do, you’re a radical-Marxist-communist-anarchist-Lenninist-Maoist-terrorist.

See also: imperialism, colonialism.

National Dialogue

Used as: We call for a national dialogue in the country where protesters are rising up against the oppressive regime we support and being shot by weapons that we supplied.

“We talk with a gun, you listen.”

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The Hard Truth about the Libyan Intervention: The West Doesn’t Care About Innocent Lives and Democracy

Like many anti-war activists who don’t support the West’s military intervention in Libya, I have been struggling to put my objections into words. But I have finally figured it out. It’s not that I don’t support a “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, it’s simply that I have absolutely no reason to believe this is what the West’s bombing campaign is actually about. Those that promote the idea of the intervention have what on paper sounds like a good cause: stop Gaddafi from killing scores of innocent people while supporting a democratic uprising against a dictator.

Unfortunately, there are two colossal facts that must be completely ignored in order for anyone to believe that these are the true intentions of the West’s intervention in Libya:

1) The United States and Europe do not care about innocent lives in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. In fact, they are one of the worst perpetrators of killing civilians in these regions.

I can’t believe that I actually have to make this point, yet so many people on the left who support the intervention seem to have purposefully forgotten that the United States and NATO are already at war with two countries in the Middle East while bombing scores of others.

In Iraq, the number of those that have died from our 8-year war is simply staggering. A conservative estimate of the death toll puts the figure in the 100’s of thousands; while some say that once you incorporate all of the factors (such as a lack of adequate medical facilities as a result of the war, which has led to countless unnecessary deaths), there may be a million or more dead in Iraq. In fact, our continued occupation has completely decimated the country’s infrastructure, which by 2007 reduced the average life expectancy of an Iraqi by four years (from 71 years-old to 67). Our military has been occupying Afghanistan for a decade while demolishing entire villages, bombing weddings, and even posing for pictures with dead civilian Afghans. Our drones are ravaging Pakistan and we are launching countless “secret” bombing raids into Yemen (and that country’s regime covers this up on our behalf). The list goes on and on.

And when Israel killed over 1,000 in South Lebanon in 2006 and another 1,400 in Gaza in 2009, the U.S. and Europe did nothing to protect those civilians. The United States government didn’t even say that these mass killings were wrong.

The only difference that exists when civilians are killed by Gadaffi’s shelling versus when they die from Western bombs is that one is being called “murder” and the other is known as “collateral damage.” This is a prime example of how people’s lives are suddenly devalued when they get in the way of America’s bombs, contrasted to their new-found value when under threat from America’s enemies at a convenient time.

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Dictionary of the Empire, Part 1

This is the second entry in a series of posts where I attempt to put the Empire’s complex language into laymen terms so we can all understand what U.S. politicians and pundits really say. Read Part 2 here.

Introduction to the Dictionary

When you hear Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, General Petraus, John McCain, Wolf Blitzer, and other leaders of the United States as well as political pundits speak, it can often be confusing to understand – as though their words and phrases don’t actually reflect reality. The primary reason for this is that these leaders and media talking-heads are actually speaking a different language that transcends normal dictionary definitions. In fact, they are speaking what is called the “Language of Empire,” a language in which words and phrases often have complex sub-layers or mean exactly the opposite of their normal definition.

Therefore, in order to help everyday people better understand the intentions of the United States’ media and political figures, I have begun to compile a list of phrases and words that the Empire uses and what they mean in normal words. This is a “Dictionary of the Empire.” Of course, this will have to be an ongoing project, as the Empire’s language constantly evolves and grows in order to suit its purpose at any given moment.

***

Call on both sides to show restraint

Dear oppressive regime that we support: please finish off the protesters at your earliest convince. As soon as possible would be better for our image.

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Hypocrisy Headache: American Ignorance as a Weapon Against Libyans

Reads: "No Foreign Intervention / Libyan People Can Manage It Alone"

Right now, I’m suffering from a severe hypocrisy headache that no medicine can cure. Across blogs, social media, news outlets, and even conversations with friends and family, we’re hearing calls for a no-fly zone over Libya in the wake of the brutal suppression of the uprising tearing across the country. Not only is this a dangerous call – unless it is specifically requested by Libyans (and to be fair, there does seem to be disagreement among those who are rebelling about whether this is desired) – but it is a completely hypocritical stance for anyone in the United States to be taking.

The logic behind the no-fly zone is that the Gaddafi Regime in Libya is using its air force to decimate the uprising, but, more importantly, it is also killing and maiming civilians as a result of its offensive. This is completely true and indefensible, but there are a number of ways that governments and the “international community” can support the Libyan people’s uprising without implementing a no-fly zone. And here in the U.S., the charge for a no-fly zone is being led by War Hawks and neo-conservatives. Those clamoring for it primarily include notorious war-mongers such as Paul Wolfowitz, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman (go here to read more about the neo-cons calling for the No-Fly Zone). And on Slate.com, Michael Lind sheds light on the reality of the true intentions of those in the U.S. demanding a no-fly zone over Libya, which is essential to understand:

[Wolfowitz’s, McCain’s, Lieberman’s, etc.] implication is that the enforcement of “no-fly zones,” by the U.S. alone or with NATO allies, would be a moderate, reasonable measure short of war, like a trade embargo. In reality, declaring and enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya would be a radical act of war. It would require the U.S. not only to shoot down Libyan military aircraft but also to bomb Libya in order to destroy anti-aircraft defenses. Under any legal theory, bombing a foreign government’s territory and blasting its air force out of the sky is war.

Could America’s war in Libya remain limited? The hawks glibly promise that the U.S. could limit its participation in the Libyan civil war to airstrikes, leaving the fighting to Libyan rebels.

These assurances by the hawks are ominously familiar.

Lind points to the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and argues perfectly that all three of these “quick” wars easily evolved into much larger and disastrous wars – especially the last two. When selling the American public and the world on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (or “military operations”) less then 10 years ago, the Bush administration repeatedly proclaimed these “military actions” would be simple, smooth, and easy. (There too they promised we would be greeted as liberators). Last time I checked, however, the U.S. is still bogged down in both countries. Lind goes on to explain how many of the arguments that have kept us in Afghanistan and Iraq far longer than promised, despite destroying the nations’ infrastructures and taking the lives of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocents, would destine to keep us in Libya as well:

The lesson of these three wars is that the rhetoric of lift-and-strike is a gateway drug that leads to all-out American military invasion and occupation. Once the U.S. has committed itself to using limited military force to depose a foreign regime, the pressure to “stay the course” becomes irresistible. If lift-and-strike were to fail in Libya, the same neocon hawks who promised that it would succeed would not apologize for their mistake. Instead, they would up the ante. They would call for escalating American involvement further, because America’s prestige would now be on the line. They would denounce any alternative as a cowardly policy of “cut and run.” And as soon as any American soldiers died in Libya, the hawks would claim that we would be betraying their memory, unless we conquered Libya and occupied it for years or decades until it became a functioning, pro-American democracy.

The U.N. will ultimately decide if a no-fly zone should be imposed over Libya, as the Obama Administration wouldn’t dare to act alone. And such a decision from the administration would depend on the American public’s willingness (or perceived willingness) to get involved in another international military conflict. Here, the War Hawks are counting on exploiting two forms of American ignorance and cognitive dissonance in their aims for a no-fly zone that, in their minds, would hopefully avalanche into a much larger military campaign. Most Americans: 1) forget (or don’t know) that our military is already involved in numerous conflicts all across the region – ranging from full scale occupations and wars to secretive bombing campaigns and undercover ops; and 2) don’t understand that the rationale for applying a no-fly zone over Libya would require implementing a no-fly zone against the U.S. and its allies in the region as well.

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Translating the lessons of Open Source Ecology to environmental justice

I’ve been increasing interested by the concept of applying the open source software model to the physical world that surrounds us. And Open Source Ecology (OSE), an organization that believes “everyone in the world should have access to technologies needed to escape poverty and generate natural wealth for themselves and their communities,”  is doing just that. On the Commons reports:

OSE’s ultimate goal is to develop 40 open source tools that could allow a group of individuals using scrap materials and other low-cost supplies to create an entire village. To date OSE has successfully created the plans for a drill press, a brick press that produces building blocks out of soil, a mid-sized tractor, and transmission-free hydraulic engine that powers the machinery. By utilizing scrap metal to assemble these machines, the end product is significantly cheaper than buying them.

On OSE’s Web site, Wiki-page and blog, interested groups and individuals can access detailed building and operation instructions as well as projected materials costs.

Now, I would be incredibly intrigued to see how an effort like Open Source Ecology could also be translated to urban or small-scale settings. Environmental justice is a critical issue, yet I’m a little wary of the concept of building new, intentional communities when so much work needs to be done in our existing ones. A few basic examples of pandemic environmental injustices across a wide-range of communities includes a lack of accessibility to healthy food within low-income neighborhoods in cities, environmental racism, the need for clean drinking water, poisoned soil, and so much more.

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