JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: PROPAGANDA POSING AS ANALYSIS – THE CASE OF TOM FLANAGAN AND GENOCIDE   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY TOM FLANAGAN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

When I read this piece by Tom Flanagan, I can only wonder at the basis of tenure in our universities, for, truly, here are bits of weak observation, clichés, and half-truths pasted together and offered as analysis. Worse, there is a thread of partisan propaganda holding the bits together like a string of beads.

“Harper announced that his Conservative government would adhere to the national interest in formulating Canada’s foreign policy…”

I am sorry, but anyone who genuinely understands the history and foreign affairs knows that that has, everywhere and always, been the basis of foreign policy. To say anything else is a declaration of just plain ignorance.

Genuine national interests do change over time – after all, your interests are different when you are exporting, say, fighter planes than when you are exporting wheat. But also, and very importantly, yet something Flanagan conveniently leaves out, people’s and government’s perceptions of what are the national interests change, often for no more reason than political ideology.

The authors of the report Flanagan pretends to analyze are “not mushy-headed idealists obsessed with soft power…” so they deserve some attention. Is it usual for a professor intending to be taken seriously in what follows to use the kind of pejorative language and straw-man argument we’d get from Rush Limbaugh?

Yes, if you are a neo-con propagandist.

“These people deserve our attention when they talk about genocide.”
Good God, “genocide” is one of the most over-worked words in our contemporary language, and, far more importantly, concern about it is always used by people like Mr. Flanagan as a tool for other purposes. This is no small point.

No power or great power ever goes to war over perceived genocide.

Most importantly, has the US, a Frankenstein of military power if ever there was one, ever opposed genocide, other than in words? It is the US which holds political and economic sway over international agencies like the UN, and it is the US which has the military power to do something.

We have had several authentic genocides in the modern period.

We had a genocide in Rwanda (around a million killed). The US simply refused to use the word internally so that they could ignore it.

We had a genocide in Cambodia (over a million killed), caused by America’s de-stabilizing of the once peaceful country with its bombing and secret invasion. When tough little Viet Nam went in to do something, the US stood back and said, ‘See, we told you, the domino theory at work!’

We had a genocide in Indonesia with the fall of Sukarno. Five hundred-thousand people, vaguely identified as communists, had their throats cut and their bodies dumped into rivers.

Not only did the US not react, there were officials at state department phones late into the night transmitting names of candidates.

I would argue, too, that America’s slaughter in Vietnam was a genuine genocide. About three million were killed, mostly civilians, for no reason other than embracing the wrong economic system.

Many aspects of Bush’s “war on terror” have assumed aspects of genocide. Ever heard of the three thousand prisoners in U.S. care who were driven out to the desert in sealed vans to suffocate by General Dostum’s men while American soldiers watched, picking their noses? This came after Secretary Rumsfeld publicly declared Taleban prisoners should be killed or walled-away for life.

‘Never again’ is a slogan – we’ve proved that – and, like all slogans, it is selectively applied to sell something, just as Flanagan does here.

Great standing armies have virtually no record of doing worthy things.

They do, very much, have a record of fighting pointless wars, intervening where they do not belong, and even intimidating or overthrowing governments.

Flanagan’s “beyond our power to fulfill” is nothing but a plea for more militarism and closer association with a United States which has overthrown governments in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and a dozen other places as well as killing millions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq for absolutely no good purpose.

Great power like that is something to be very wary of, not to embrace.

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