Empire Burlesque
Radical Notions
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 09 May 2013 16:34

John Knefel at Rolling Stone dispels the widespread belief in the security apparat that young Muslims are being "radicalized" into violence through exposure to extremist through a "funnel" of manipulation by media and mosque. Knefel writes:

That theory was set out in a 2007 NYPD report called Radicalization in the West, which focuses exclusively on Muslims, and describes a four-stage progression – a "funnel," the report says – in which each step towards violence is intrinsically linked with increased religiosity. … There's only one problem, according to critics: It's reductive and simplistic at best, and at worst is a thin justification for racial profiling of Muslims.

"Nobody watches YouTube or reads Inspire and becomes a terrorist. It's absurd to think so," says John Horgan, director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism at Pennsylvania State University. "YouTube videos and reading Al Qaeda magazines tends to be far more relevant for sustaining commitment than inspiring it."

The mistaken belief that the earliest stages of terrorism can be seen at "radicalization incubators" – Muslim bookstores, hookah bars, mosques, virtually anywhere Muslims congregate in person or online – has resulted in a focus on so-called "preventive policing," a policy whose stated aim is to prevent a terrorist attack before one happens. Since the theory says adopting radical ideas is the first step toward someone becoming violent, officials say they're justified in surveilling places where "radical" ideas might take hold.

According to Horgan, though, that's just not how it works. "The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research," he says. "[First], the overwhelming majority of people who hold radical beliefs do not engage in violence. And second, there is increasing evidence that people who engage in terrorism don't necessarily hold radical beliefs."

…Despite all this, law enforcement organizations have used the flawed logic of "radicalization" to justify investigating innocent Muslims in almost every part of their daily lives. Under "preventive policing," critics say cops and FBI agents aren't focusing on actual crime, but on protected first amendment activities – like the NYPD's surveillance of student and political groups, or reports "that the FBI has infiltrated mosques simply to learn about what was being said by the imam leading prayers and by those attending"  – without a clear reason to suspect criminality.

The whole piece makes for interesting reading. But here's one further thought on  the "counterterrorism" efforts of the ever-watchful Guardians Of Our Nation (GOONs).

If they really are so concerned about the  'radicalization' of young Muslims, then why do all the undercover agents they send into Muslim communities pose as extremists, sowing the most radical ideas possible, preying on any vulnerable or troubled soul they come across, egging them on to violence and hatred and often even arranging terrorists plots for them to take part in? If their real concern was to quell "radicalization," shouldn't they be sending in people to talk up peace, tolerance, non-violence, etc.? [Leaving aside the quaint, barnacle-encrusted notion that the state should not be infiltrating any groups at all; I mean, get with the 21st century already, grandpa!]

Indeed, it's almost as if they want to foment scarifying plots, keeping the public scared, obedient -- even slavishly grateful -- to their GOONs and (coincidentally, of course!) justifying an never-ending stream of loot and power flowing to their own noble selves and their institutions of domination, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world in the last decade and stripped away the last vestiges of personal liberty (and prosperity) from those they are meant to be "guarding."

I wonder who radicalized them into such violent extremism?

 
Update: The Woman-Bashing Beat Goes On
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 18 December 2014 01:44

Following up from the previous post, we see the woman-bashing beat goes on. A Missouri pol has introduced a bill that would require women to get the written approval of a man in order to obtain an abortion; that is, the signature of the one what knocked her up. Rick Brattin, statesman from Kansas City, says the only exception to his man-mandating abortion restriction is in the case of "legitimate rape."

But as Mother Jones reports, Brattin is quick to assure us that he doesn't mean "legitimate rape" in the same way that his fellow Missouri statesman Todd Akin employed the term, during his disastrous run for the Senate. As you recall, Akin, delving deep into occult science, informed the world that a woman who really didn't want to experience the forcible insertion of hot salami could not get pregnant; ergo, any woman who claimed to have been impregnated by a rapist was, to put it in the most Christian terms possible, a lying slut of a whore who had it coming and wanted it anyway.

Brattin is much more enlightened. What he means by "legitimate rape" is that a woman reports the assault to the police, and "takes steps to prove it." Whether that means she must prove she was raped or that she must prove she at least tried to prove she was raped remains unclear. But rigor of jurisprudence is rarely a concern of our dedicated embryonists. The main thing is that women must seek the written approval of a man if they want to claim their constitutional right to an abortion. But if the babydaddy -- whoever he may be, as long as no lying slut can "prove" he raped her -- then the fetus-vehicle is out of luck.

Brattin adds another twist. Apparently, any woman who is raped by an abusive partner is also disqualified from the magnanimous "exemption" he provides to women seeking their own bodily freedom. As MJ reports:

When asked if he would support an exception for women whose partners are abusive, Brattin says, "I haven't really thought about that aspect of it." But he adds, "What does that have to do with the child's life? Just because it was an abusive relationship, does that mean the child should die?" Brattin notes that women in these situations can obtain protective custody once the child is born.

So if your guy beats you up then knocks you up, you must have his baby anyway. And if he's still ornery afterward, you can always get one of those protection thingies that have worked so well for the thousands of women who've been murdered by men under restraining orders.

Yes, it's just another day in the most advanced democracy the world has ever known -- or even imagined. I expect we'll be seeing Brattin in Congress soon enough -- or maybe even the White House, once the serpentine-entwined Bush and Clinton clans give their game of musical chairs a rest.

 
Shamming into Syria
Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 22:49

Here is my latest column for the print edition of Counterpunch.

Shamming into Syria

When I saw the news on June 13 that Bill Clinton had joined with John McCain in blasting Obama's "inaction" on Syria and calling for direct U.S. military intervention in the conflict, I knew we would soon hear the other shoe dropping. And lo, just hours later, pat it came, with that reliable old house organ of the power structure, the New York Times, portentously reporting that “intelligence” had “confirmed” the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government  -- the flashing "red line" that Obama had declared would be the trigger for more American intervention.

One day later, the New York Times reported that the White House will now supply the rebels with arms -- yet another loose, uncontrollable flood of weaponry washing through the most volatile region on earth, guaranteeing more death, more ruin, more terrorism, more needless suffering not only on the Syrian killing grounds, but far beyond as well -- exactly as we saw in the Libyan intervention. And no doubt the Sunni militants in Iraq -- currently killing dozens of people weekly in the sectarian hell created by the American invasion -- will love the U.S. ordnance they'll soon be getting from their al Qaeda allies in the forefront of the Syrian rebel campaign.

The move by Clinton, the progressive’s beloved “Big Dawg,” move was obviously part of a sham operation to "force" poor, peace-loving Obama into significantly ramping up American military involvement in Syria. (And the sight of this self-infatuated gasbag -- with the blood of half a million sanction-murdered Iraqi children on his hands – now demanding more bloodshed for innocent people was truly sickening. Especially the "reasoning" he gave for urging action, despite that fact that intervention is opposed by 85 percent of the American people: if Obama failed to help kill more people in Syria, Clinton said, he would end up "looking like a wuss." Yes, that really is the level of intellect that drives policy at the highest reaches of the American power structure. Yes, they really are juvenile neurotics with third-rate minds obsessed with their illusory "manhood," which can apparently be expressed only by the large-scale slaughter of human beings and military domination of the whole earth. Christ Jesus, boys -- ain't you ever heard of Viagra? Bob Dole can get it for you wholesale. You really don't have to kill people just to get it up.)

For months, Obama has been playing this rope-a-dope game, stringing along both the rabid interventionists and the remaining "progressives" who still believe, against all evidence, in the president's good intentions. But now the time has come to up the ante. Why?

One reason -- noted by the Times -- is the fact that the Syrian rebels are clearly in danger of losing, despite the best efforts of close American allies like the woman-hating, head-chopping, extremism-abetting religious tyrants in Saudi Arabia to keep the bloodshed going. Indeed, as As'ad AbuKhailil points out, the Saudi and Qatari gun-runners and paymasters of the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria are increasingly using the conflict to foment a genocidal fury against Shiites and related sects across the Middle East. As in Iraq, Western intervention is fuelling a spiral of uncontrollable sectarian violence at a level unseen in the region for centuries, AbuKhalil notes. And American warmongers love to see Muslims killing each other, especially if it opens up new opportunities for war profiteering and oil deals, as in Libya and now in Syria. For example, just one day before the intelligence apparat “confirmed” chemical weapon use by Syria, the administration eased export restrictions to “help facilitate oil sales from rebel-controlled areas,” Reuters reports. One of life’s little coincidences, I reckon.

Equally coincidental, no doubt, is the fact that this intelligence “finding” comes just as Team Obama is reeling from revelations of the Orwell-surpassing cyber-panopticon it has imposed on the entire populace. What better distraction from domestic skullduggery than the ever-reliable foreign threat: “Look over yonder -- WMDs!” Time to rally round the flag – and fill airtime and newsprint with endless blather and Pentagon propaganda about the noble humanitarian “surge” against Syria.

This is a momentous move -- however juvenile and shallow and irredeemably stupid its perpetrators may be. Syria is not Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, isolated regimes on the outskirts of the Middle East. It is in the very center of the powder keg. And it has powerful allies in Russia and Iran. Expanding the civil war there could draw those countries more directly into the conflict, as well as Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, even Turkey. The risk of a wider regional war -- even a world war -- is very real.

This is the reality we are now entering. It's not just blasts of point-scoring partisan rhetoric ricocheting around Capitol Hill, cable news and Twitter. There is a real world out there beyond the various screens that transfix us all, sealing us in an abstract, virtual space of light and pixels. Real people will die from this decision, and from the ludicrous, sinister games played by the stunted power-seekers on every side of the increasingly savage conflict.

 
Shunning Evil: Tutu Sets Example in Call for Blair and Bush Indictments
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 03 September 2012 03:54

(UPDATED BELOW)

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu refused to attend a conference last week for a very good reason – he did not want to be publicly associated with a war criminal.

 

That war criminal was Tony Blair, who had been paid his usual whopping fee ($238,000 in this case) to deliver his usual sanctimonious blather at a South African conference on “leadership.” Tutu – who was speaking for no fee – withdrew from the meeting when he heard Blair was coming, the Guardian reports.

 

This was a rare – very rare – example of behavior which should be ubiquitous: shunning mass murderers. Blair, like George W. Bush (and Bill Clinton, he whose minions openly accepted responsibility for the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children in the US-UK sanctions regime that devastated Iraq before the US and UK finally launched their outright war of aggression in 2003), swans around the world collecting accolades – and mucho dinero – from the great and good and the high and mighty (and their simpering media sycophants), untroubled by his instrumental role in the Hitlerian invasion and its aftermath, which has left – according to measurement tools used by Blair’s own government – more than a million innocent people dead.

 

But Tutu did more than a simple shunning. He went on to pen a column in The Observer openly calling for Blair and Bush to be put on trial for war crimes. His indictment (quoted here in the Guardian) is damning:

 

Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner and hero of the anti-apartheid movement, accuses the former British and US leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction and says the invasion left the world more destabilised and divided "than any other conflict in history."


… But it is Tutu's call for Blair and Bush to face justice in The Hague that is most startling. Claiming that different standards appear to be set for prosecuting African leaders and western ones, he says the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict is sufficient on its own for Blair and Bush to be tried at the ICC.

"On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague," he says.

In his article, the archbishop argues that as well as the death toll, there has been a heavy moral cost to civilisation, with no gain. "Even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.

"Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?" Blair and Bush, he says, set an appalling example. "If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth?" he asks.

"If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?"

Blair attempted to reply to this withering blast, with his best ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ shtick, but he only compounded his moral nullity with his defense. He offered, as usual, the facts that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who violently oppressed his people – a situation that has long obtained in many countries around the world (including many of Tony’s pals in the Middle East and Central Asia, who pay him so handsomely for his ‘counsel’). And of course, this oppression had nothing to do with the repeatedly stated “reasons” for the attack offered by Bush and Blair: that Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat of attack on Britain and America.

The knowing falsity of these pre-war charges has been confirmed in a multitude of quarters, but Blair, with the irreality of the genuine psychopath, now claims the opposite, saying “the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.” The fact is that every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown the complete opposite: that high officials throughout both governments were well aware of the weakness and falsity of the “evidence” of Iraq’s WMDs, and that these weak reeds were bent and shaped to fit the policy approved by both leaders: to invade Iraq, come hell or high water.


But Blair goes even further into the mire. One of the features of his defense is – I kid you not -- how “prosperous” the Iraqi economy is now compared to the situation before the invasion:

 

"I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with the child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra."

 

I must admit that, old cynic that I am, even I was taken aback by the brazenness displayed here. Blair was in power for six years of the US-UK sanctions regime against Iraq. He is just as complicit as Clinton and both George Bushes in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent children (and adults) who perished as a direct result of the devastating sanctions, which denied Iraqis most of the basic elements of life. If Iraq’s economy really is “three times larger now” (that is, assuming this smiling, unctuous, super-Christian liar is not lying in his usual lying manner), it is because it is starting from the “Year Zero” level imposed on the ordinary Iraqi people – by Tony Blair himself, colluding with his bipartisan masters in Washington, Clinton and Bush.


Blair himself helped grind the Iraqi economy – and the Iraqi people – into the dust. And now, after launching a war of aggression against the country which killed a million more people, he takes credit for the “improvement” from lifting the sanctions he himself imposed and sternly policed.


Surely this breaks new ground for war criminals. Not even Adolf Hitler claimed that his murderous invasions were “good” for the Poles and the Russians and the Jews, that by launching baseless wars of aggression and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people he was somehow doing them a favor. But Blair, like Bush and Clinton – and like Obama and Romney and the rest of the American political class – insist that their murders and invasions and black ops and sanctions are altruistic missions of mercy to the very people they are killing or strangling.

And as Tutu notes in his piece, the same dynamic is now being played out against Iran – with the stakes for mass murder, suffering and generations of chaos, hatred and destabilization engulfing the world even higher. Yet our leaders plunge on and on in this berserker frenzy in their impossible quest to dominate the entire world.


I’m writing quickly, on the road, grabbing a few rare moments of internet time, so I can’t do this outrage the justice it deserves. (And no, this is not some blanket endorsement of every position or personal association ever taken or made by Desmond Tutu.) But his shunning of Blair and his call for the instigators of the invasion of Iraq – an atrocity which dwarfs the suffering Saddam inflicted on the people there – are examples that should be emulated by everyone in public life. We can only hope it catches on.

 

UPDATE: George Monbiot has more on Tutu's humanitarian intervention in the Tony Blair war crimes case. From the Guardian:

 

When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to The Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done. Tutu broke the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another – and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.


The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg principles as the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression". This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter.


That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair's cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His attorney general warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: "self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN security council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case." Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.


His foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told Blair that for the war to be legal, "i) there must be an armed attack upon a state or such an attack must be imminent; ii) the use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) the acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack." None of these conditions were met. The Cabinet Office told him: "A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers' advice, none currently exists."


Without legal justification, the attack on Iraq was an act of mass murder. It caused the deaths of between 100,000 and a million people, and ranks among the greatest crimes the world has ever seen. That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisies Tutu has exposed.


…But while the case against Blair is strong, the means are weak. Twenty-nine people have been indicted in the international criminal court, and all of them are African. (Suspects in the Balkans have been indicted by a different tribunal). There's a reason for this. Until 2018 at the earliest, the court can prosecute crimes committed during the course of an illegal war, but not the crime of launching that war.

Should we be surprised? Though the Nuremberg tribunal described aggression as "the supreme international crime", several powerful states guiltily resisted its adoption. At length, in 2010, they agreed that the court would have jurisdiction over aggression, but not until 2018 or thereafter. Though the offence has been recognised in international law for 67 years, the international criminal court (unlike the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, which hear cases from before they were established) will be able to try only crimes of aggression committed beyond that date.


The other possibility is a prosecution in one of the states (there are at least 25) which have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws. Perhaps Blair's lawyers are now working through the list and cancelling a few speaking gigs.


That the prospect of prosecution currently looks remote makes it all the more important that the crime is not forgotten. To this end, in 2010 I set up a bounty fund – www.arrestblair.org – to promote peaceful citizens' arrests of the former prime minister. … Our aim is the same as Tutu's: to de-normalise an act of mass murder, to keep it in the public mind and to maintain the pressure for a prosecution.


That looked, until this weekend, like an almost impossible prospect. But when the masonry begins to crack, impossible hopes can become first plausible, then inexorable. Blair will now find himself shut out of places where he was once welcome. One day he may find himself shut in.

 
The Handmaid's Time is Here: America’s Apotheosis of Woman-Hatred
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:01

Salon.com relays yet another horror story in the ongoing effort to criminalize American women for being …. women. From Salon:

Tamara Loertscher had a feeling she was pregnant, so she went to see a doctor last summer. She didn’t have health insurance, but sought care anyway. It turns out that her suspicions were right, a pregnancy test revealed she was 14 weeks along.

After a urine test, Loertscher said she disclosed to her doctor that, because of a thyroid condition and depression, she had been self-medicating with marijuana and methamphetamine, but had stopped when she suspected she was pregnant. It didn’t matter. Loertscher lives in Wisconsin, and a law there allows the state to arrest, detain and incarcerate pregnant women found to be using drugs, or, in Loertscher’s case, pregnant women who have used drugs in the past.

Hospital workers reported her, and a process was set in motion. The state accused her of child abuse and appointed her fetus a lawyer. (This is a familiar pattern.) She was ordered into an in-patient treatment facility, despite the fact that she was no longer using drugs and had voluntarily sought medical care. She refused, and was soon incarcerated.

Of course, this “law” is neither designed nor intended to “protect the fetus.” The most cursory thought makes this clear. How many more fetuses will suffer from this law, from lack of proper prenatal care because women will be too afraid to tell doctors of their full medical history? Many, many more. This the true aim of this law is clear: it is to punish women.

A woman who has taken drugs is automatically a "fallen woman" in the eyes of shallow moralists who hold such sway in our society. She is more likely to be poor (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to be unmarried (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to have expressed her sexuality in some way that makes the angry, wounded, fearful, sexually insecure white men who dominate our legislatures feel uncomfortable. These pathetic wretches, who fear and hate any woman they can't control, would be pitiable in their brokenness -- if they didn't have the power of the state at their command, to use as a weapon to hurt those who threaten the weak, frayed stitching of their fragile psyches.

On an individual basis, one might deal with such a person with some understanding, take mitigating factors into account -- upbringing, personal experiences, cultural milieu, etc. -- and seek some way to reach them and repair them (as we all need to be reached and repaired in different ways). But when this disease of the soul clothes itself in the robes of state, turning personal prejudice into a monolithic hammer brought down on the heads of the innocent, then there can be no pity, no accommodation with such people. An anti-Semitic wretch on the streets of Munich who projects his personal pain onto the caricatured Other of "The Jew" is simply pathetic; but one who joins this inner putrescence with a mass movement, a public ideology, encouraging it in others and finally taking hold of the power to punish the Other for being the mirror of his own self-hatred -- this is an entirely different proposition.

And this dynamic is exactly what we are dealing with in movement to criminalize pregnant women. The idea that in 21st century America we would put a woman in jail for being concerned enough about her baby that she informs her doctor about the full range of physical factors that might affect its development -- that we would throw someone in jail for this -- is simply astounding. (And yes, I know that technically she was jailed for refusing to submit to the state's order that she enter the somewhat less stringent incarceration of a treatment facility. The fact remains that the state has the power to incarcerate a pregnant woman for speaking the truth about her medical history in order to help her unborn child.)

These laws are just part of a wide-ranging campaign to punish women -- for their fertility, for their sexuality, for asserting their freedom and equality. These efforts provoke genuine, virulent hatred in many people, and not just those of extreme religious or rightwing view (or, sadly, not just men). And some these haters stand on the commanding heights of American society, in politics and media.

I wrote of one such diseased soul -- and the consequences of his kind of public hate speech -- a few years ago. Here is an excerpt:

What drove the man who killed Dr. George Tiller? Perhaps someone who had seen Tiller lambasted by one of the nation's leading media figures as someone "who will execute babies for $5,000" and protects "rapists impregnating 10-year-olds." Tiller's activities were compared by the leading national media figure to "the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China and Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union." The multimillionaire media figure then promised that "we're going to try to stop Tiller," declaring that Tiller's Nazi-like atrocities were stripping the entire nation of its moral authority.

In other words, one the nation's most prominent and highly paid media figures told his national television audience that Dr. George Tiller was child-murdering protector of child-rapists, a figure of filth and evil on a par with Adolf Hitler. And on Sunday, someone filled with precisely that idea walked into Tiller's church -- his church -- and shot the doctor dead.

As Salon.com reports, Bill O'Reilly (aka "The Falafel of Love") has been "trying to stop" Tiller for years, since denouncing him as a Hitlerian child-murderer and child-rape accomplice on national television in 2006. We have no doubt that O'Reilly, who routinely trumpets his ability to move millions with his golden words (Is he not the man who, year after year, saves Christmas from the evil encroachments of Jews like George Soros?), will manfully step up to claim a large share of responsibility for the stormcloud of murderous demonization that has engulfed Tiller for years, and has now taken his life.

Come on, Bill, be a man: step up to the microphone, put your rubbery jowls right up there in the camera and tell us you are glad that your acolyte pumped some hot lead into George Tiller. After all, he was as bad as Hitler, right? If someone had gunned down Hitler, you wouldn't hide behind any milksoppery about "the process of law" or namby-pamby handwringing about "vigilantism," would you? Go ahead; dip your finger into one of the holes in Tiller's corpse, smear the blood on your cheek, and say it loud and proud: "We got him!"

As noted in that post, I'd written on the subject a few years before, in a 2003 post excerpted here:

The defining issue of modernity is control of women's fertility. It is this question – more than religion, politics, economics or the "clash of civilizations" – that forms the deepest dividing line in the world today. It is a line than cuts through every nation, every people, from the highest level of organized society down to, in many cases, the divided minds and emotions of individual men and women.

Control of fertility – and its active principle, sexuality – has always been an organizing principle of human society, of course, but modernity has presented the world with a revolutionary concept that overthrows millennia of received wisdom and tradition: namely, that an individual woman should control her own fertility. This notion destabilizes state structures and religious dogmas, and uproots cultural mores whose origins reach back to prehistoric times. It is a profoundly disturbing development in the life of humankind.

Little wonder, then, that anxieties over fertility and sexuality are the chief engines driving the frenzied and increasingly violent fundamentalist movements now sweeping through the world. It is here that extremists of every stripe make common cause against modernity. Almost every other aspect of "the modern" – science and technology, high finance, industrialization, etc. – has been absorbed, in one form or another, by the most "traditionalist" societies. But what today's fundamentalists – from Osama bin Laden to George W. Bush to Pope John Paul II, from the American-backed warlords of Afghanistan to the anti-American mullahs of Iran – cannot accept, at any cost, is the freedom of a woman's body.

This frenzy, this primitive fear – understandable perhaps in the face of such a wrenching upheaval – does not in itself make a fundamentalist an evil person. But it can – and does – lead them into evil: sometimes blindly, in ignorance and panic; but sometimes knowingly, with eyes wide open, a willing embrace of primitive emotions to serve selfish and cynical ends.

In a follow-up to the 2009 post, I noted that Arthur Silber had dealt powerfully with this theme, in an essay rich with historical detail and insight. I excerpted it here:

There are a great many aspects of today's world that are variously horrifying, ghastly, destructive and appalling -- and among the very worst is an idea that appears to be rapidly gaining support: the noxious notion that all questions relating to abortion rights should be returned to the states. For many reasons, only a few of which are discussed below, this idea is completely incoherent as a matter of political theory, and it undercuts any defense of individual rights on the most fundamental level. If you give a damn at all about the liberty of a single human being, you should oppose all such attempts to your last breath.

The human being to which I refer is not the developing fetus, but the woman who carries the child. I well understand that many people believe that the fetus is a human being long before birth, with all the rights that attend to that designation. In the political context, I consider all such beliefs irrelevant, no matter how sincerely and deeply held. Only one ultimate point matters here: whether you think the developing fetus is a human being or not, the fetus is contained in and supported by the woman's body. If the woman's body did not exist, neither would the fetus. Only the woman's existence makes that of the fetus possible.

The fetus only exists because of the woman's body -- not yours, not that of some possibly corrupt and stupid politician in Washington, and not the body of some possibly ignorant and venal politician in a state legislature. As I have watched this debate develop, and as I have considered with astonishment the increasingly byzantine efforts to " draw lines" about the point of viability, the time at which a full set of rights attaches to the fetus, and all the rest, I have become increasingly convinced that the right of the woman to control her own body when she is pregnant must be absolute up to the point of birth. All the attempts to craft legislation circumscribing that right prior to birth quickly become enmeshed in what are finally subjective claims that can be disputed into eternity, and impossible of proof in one direction or another.

Certainly, the woman's right to an abortion must be absolute in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. And even in the third trimester, up to the time of birth, that right must be absolute, and the decision must be that of the woman in consultation with those medical personnel she chooses. Yes, a decision to abort late in pregnancy may be agonizingly difficult, just as it may be at an earlier time -- but whatever agony is involved is that of the woman, not a politician or bureaucrat who is unjustly empowered to make decisions that affect someone else on the most profound level. The responsibility and the consequences are the woman's, and no one else's. The choice is also hers, and no one else's.

But little by little (and lots by lots), these choices , these rights are being stripped away from women, piece by piece, as this degraded, dystopian century grinds on and on.

 

 
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