Hedges vs D'Souza
On September 18th, KPFK, a listener-sponsored Pacifica radio station based in North Hollywood, California, hosted a debate between Chris Hedges and Dinesh D'Souza. The focus of the debate was D'Souza's recently released documentary, 2016: Obama's America, the popular, highly controversial film which imagines America under Obama's second term. The debate is moderated by KPFK's Sonali Kolhatkar, the host and executive producer of Uprising Radio. Hedges and D'Souza's discussion also spanned the War on Terror, the Arab Spring, and the 2012 election.
The debate highlighted the seemingly irreconcilable differences between a progressive and far-right critique of President Obama and his record. Hedges stressed that political analysts need to focus on Obama's actions and policies, not his rhetoric. If one does this, according to Hedges, they will find that Obama's foreign policy and national security policies are hardly something that progressives should feel proud about. He argued that D'Souza's documentary focused too much on speculative hearsay concerning Obama's "true" motives, rather than on the effects of his policies. According to Hedges:
The assault on civil liberties has been far worse under Obama than it was during George W. Bush… [Obama has] expanded our imperial wars: our proxy wars in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. These are pretty good criticisms of Obama [that are not in the film]... Obama has been obsequious to the military-industrial complex and to Wall Street... [He] knows where the centers of [corporate] power lie and [he] serves that power, otherwise he wouldn't be in office.
Chris Hedges is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute and author, with Joe Sacco, of the recent book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books). Hedges spent nearly 20 years as a war correspondent in Latin America, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In 2002, he was part of a team of reporters at the New York Times who received the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of global terrorism. Dinesh D'Souza is a New York Times bestselling author, filmmaker, and president of King's College in New York City. D'Souza's documentary 2016: Obama's America, was released this past July.
Listen to the debate here.
Nation Books Authors on Syria
In this week's London Review of Books, journalist and Nation Books author Nir Rosen reports from the ground in Syria. Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World follows the contagious spread of radicalism and sectarian violence that the US invasion of Iraq and the ensuing civil war have unleashed in the Muslim world.
The Alawites, Rosen writes of the minority Shia sect to which the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's family belongs, "have always been seen as a special case." Rosen traces their history, cultural identity, and religious beliefs as well as the clashes and conflicts between Alawites and the Sunni majority. Of particular interest is the complicated relationship between the Alawites and the Syrian government; members of the sect are stalwart supporters of the government, which is also Alawite. Rosen writes, "It's an intriguing contradiction. Alawites regard themselves as the country's poorest citizens, with their origins in lowly villages, thoroughly neglected by Damascus, and yet they're willing to die in droves for the very state they argue has failed to protect them."
Rosen gives a more nuanced view of Alawites in the context of broader Syrian society; although they are often supportive of Assad and are fearful of a post-Assad Syria, they are by no means a monolithic entity. He writes,
What becomes of the Alawites if the regime falls, and what becomes of Bashar's support base as a whole, are not the same question. Bashar's following includes other minorities besides the Alawites, not to mention Sunnis. From the outset the government has described the opposition as motivated by sectarianism — an accusation that encourages the very tendency it claims to deplore — but it has carefully refrained from any show of sectarianism itself, even if its Alawite supporters are less fastidious. Loyalists say that they are diverse while the opposition is almost entirely Sunni. Yet Sunni officers and soldiers belong to some of the most elite army units such as the 4th Division and the Republican Guard, and many opposition intellectuals have admitted that if the government's base was confined to Alawites, it would have fallen long ago. Were this struggle to be reduced to a bald conflict between Sunnis and Alawites the government would lose its Sunni support and be left with only 10 per cent of the population behind it, plus a few stragglers from the other minorities.
Click here for the full article.
Robert Fisk, renowned journalist and Nation Books author of Age of the Warrior, discusses the US role in the Middle East in the aftermath of the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens for his column in the Independent this week.
The US media has already invented a new story in which America supported the Arab Spring saved the city of Benghazi when its people were about to be destroyed by Gaddafi's monstrous thugs — and has now been stabbed in the back by those treacherous Arabs in the very city rescued by the US.
The real narrative, however, is different. Washington propped up and armed Arab dictatorships for decades, Saddam being one of our favourites. We loved Mubarak of Egypt, we adored Ben Ali of Tunisia, we are still passionately in love with the autocratic Gulf states, the gas stations now bankrolling the revolutions we choose to support — and we did, for at least two decades, smile upon Hafez al-Assad; even, briefly, his son Bashar.
The tragedy of this pathetic cycle of events is that the Assad regime is horrible and its secret police thugs have tortured and murdered thousands of innocents, its personnel have committed war crimes and Syria's civil war is consuming a generation who should be building a nation rather than destroying it.
Read the full article.