Exclusive Interview With Syracuse Professor Horace Campbell
Over the weekend we conducted an interview with one of the leading thinkers and opinion leaders in the Pan-Africanist community - Horace Campbell - a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, regarding the geopolitical implications of the September 11th attacks, the context in which they occurred, as well as an analysis of the reaction and role of the Black electorate - in the U.S. and abroad in the new environment.
Here it is:
Q. What factors/dynamics have you been focusing on in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th Pentagon and World Trade Center Attacks?
A. I have been focusing on three questions. (a) grieving with all of the families that lost loved ones and urging the society to embark on democratic grieving to ensure that the lives of all (cleaners, business executives, secretaries, firemen, restaurant workers, and delivery persons) are validated; (b) opposing the militarist response and calling on the people to learn from the Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu principle of forgiveness, truth and reconciliation and opposition to militarization and the cycle of warfare that will emanate from revenge; (c) struggling for a change in the politics of this country so that the black and brown peoples can demonstrate their political clout and work for new priorities in this country. This is especially necessary to ensure that the crisis is not used to increase repression as manifest in the directions of the anti terrorist bills and the establishment of the Office for Homeland Security. War sharpens the understanding of the laws of unforeseen circumstances and the dynamics of war cannot be controlled so it is better to seek non military means than to escalate the arc of warfare across the globe.
Q. What was your opinion of the response of African leaders immediately after the attacks?
A. Most African leaders were cautious and diplomatic in the response. It is known in Africa that many of those innocent civilians who perished in the Twin towers were ethnic and racial minorities as well as African immigrants. This sober reality is added to the reality that the leaders and people know pain and suffering and empathize with those in pain. This is a basic principle of African love, charity and sense of social collectivism
There were many voices among the grassroots leaders that wanted the US to reflect on its callous response to the fastest genocide in history, in Rwanda, and its support for Mobutu and Jonas Savimbi.
Q. What do you make of the interaction between the U.S. and Sudan in the wake of the attack?
A. This new public relationship between the US government and the present government of Sudan cannot hold. It is a temporary slow dance and embrace that cannot conceal the deep seated differences between the governments. There is a strong lobby in the USA among the African American community and in the Christian community that want the US government to be more forceful in challenging the repressive Sharia law of the Sudanese central government. Secondly, there are sections of the US leadership that want to be involved in the recovery of Petroleum from the oil wells in the Sudan. At the same time, on one level, masculinist and militarist leaders now lead both societies. There has been strong lobby from the petroleum sector of the economy to intensify the war between the North and the South and to scuttle the IGADD initiative by the East African countries and the initiatives of the governments of Egypt, Libya and the Sudan to bring peace.
The present posture and diplomacy of the government of the USA is too dominated by oil interests to be clear in the relations with the Sudan. Like the society of Egypt, the present arc of war from Palestine through Iraq across Central Asia and the Caspian Sea to Afghanistan will engulf the society of the Sudan.
Q. Do you believe the accusations that Somalia provides a safe have for terrorists?
A. I do not have any information that would lend credibility to the belief that Somalia provides a safe haven for terrorists. If there are agencies with this information, it should be published. The reality is that the whole society of Somalia has been destabilized by the legacies of the US support for the dictator Siad Barre. The legacies of “warlordism” are such that militant forces that have a vested interest in warfare find a base in Somalia. Moreover, because the youths of Somalia demonstrated that they could neutralize the military technology of the USA in 1993, there has not been the kind of sober reflection that Michael Maren called for in his book, The Road to Hell. There has been more preoccupation with learning the lessons of Black Hawk Down.
Q.Do you believe that U.S. foreign policy in any way contributed to what happened on September 11th?
A. The US foreign policy has been based on the philosophy of realism. This is the Machiavellian and Hobbesian view of international relations that might is right, and that only states can be actors in the international arena. These kinds of thinking correspond to the wrong headedness of the ideas of Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and the ideas of Patriarchy. These ideas were forcefully promulgated in the University and in the government by Henry Kissinger in the past forty years. The world paid a tremendous price for these ideas and the blowback is being felt from Colombia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola and from Pakistan to Taiwan.
Feminist scholars have been teaching a new concept of foreign policy that retreats from the concept of might and one that validates all citizens, men and women, Africans, Asians, Indians, and all peoples. This new theory informs a foreign policy that is based on demilitarization of the planet, reversing environmental degradation and ending the crimes against humanity since the genocide against the First Nation peoples and the peoples of Africa and African descent.
Simultaneously in the natural sciences, chaos theory and the understanding of Fractals opened up our understanding of the vast potentialities for the reorganization of human life. It is in this context of thinking, as if we are living in the age of candles when we are in the age of hydrogen fuel cell technology, that one can say that the US foreign policy is misguided and needs a new direction.
The September 11th that is referred to in your question is that of the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. But we must not be selective in the September 11th that we remember. This was the date of the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. Human rights activists all over the globe are seeking to bring General Pinochet to trial. Henry Kissinger and the cold warriors take a different view of the killing of Allende and the massacres of innocent civilians in Chile and Latin America. Henry Kissinger and realist thinkers and practitioners believed that all acts of support for dictators and terrorists such as Bin Laden were justified in the context of the cold war.
It was during the cold war that the United States embraced and trained Bin Laden. All decent human beings must retreat from the ideas of masculinity and violence and learn from the disasters of not only the foreign policy but that of domestic violence such as that of the Ku Klux Klan, the Oklahoma bombing and the shootings at Columbine High School. One cannot separate foreign policy from domestic policies. We must learn the new theories of international relations and simultaneously move from the era of candles.
Q.Is it legitimate to raise the grievances of Arab and Muslim countries toward the West at this time?
A. It is legitimate to raise not only the grievances of the peoples of the societies that have a majority of its population that follow the Islamic faith, but also to ensure that the US foreign policy does not support dictatorships (in the name of strategic interests). The embrace of regimes all over the Arab world that violates the basic rights of all citizens must end. Whether in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait or Egypt, the US government has supported repressive and corrupt governments. There is so much need in this society to rise above the ignorance of the issues of the self-determination project of the Palestinian peoples. For peoples all over the third world the issue of Palestine is today what the issue of apartheid was in the last three decades. The issue of solidarity with Palestine is the lightning rod for anti imperialist and nationalist Third world sentiments.
Q. What do you make of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's comments that President Bush deemed "unacceptable"?
A. The comments of the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, that the foreign policy of the USA was like that of the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain at the outbreak of World War II, exposed the militaristic and hawkish position of the present Israeli political leadership that wants all out international support for its occupation of Arab lands and its illegal occupation of Jerusalem. The government of the United States has belatedly agreed that it is willing to recognize the state of Palestine. This is a welcome step and those citizens of Israel who want peace and an end to the cycle of warfare since 1948 want to work for peace. This requires the isolation of the extremists and militaristic forces in both Israel and in Palestine.
The history of the Prime Minister of Israel since the period of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the killings at Sabra and Shatilla expose the side of Israeli politics to which he belongs. A clear reckoning of peace, justice and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine must be the short term, medium term and long term goal of the US government. All citizens of the USA must welcome the new position of the Bush administration that the government is willing to recognize an independent Palestinian state. Unfortunately, the media lags behind these developments and continue to portray the majority of Palestinians as terrorists. This media position reinforces the general intellectual poverty of US citizens and strengthens the isolation of the US government in international politics
One can see this in the reaction of the media to Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's letter to the ambassador from Saudi Arabia.
Q. What has been your impression of the striking Atlanticist-nature of the "war on terrorism"?
A. The conception of terrorism is defined too broadly. This ensures that even those fighting against Russian domination and chauvinism in Chechnya can be described as terrorists. Africans remember that there was a time when these same European and US leaders deemed that the African National Congress (ANC) was a terrorist organization. The USA government under Ronald Reagan the Pentagon had determined that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. In the same period when the USA was embracing Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi as freedom Fighters, they declared that leaders such as Nelson Mandela were terrorists.
It is this history that ensures that the rest of the world is not sympathetic to the Atlanticist alliance. More significantly, the white supremacist and chauvinist ideas expressed by the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, that “Western Civilization is superior to Islamic civilization” is geared to alienate most of the one billion citizens of the planet that are followers of the Islamic faith.
Q. What do you make of the vocal role of Tony Blair since September 11th?
A. Tony Blair is acting like the cheerleader for a dying cause. This is the cause of the special relationship of Britain and the USA in the service of the idea of imperial domination. A key element of this economic model of imperialism was based on the successor principle to the British Currency Boards, the International Monetary Fund.. This system was established in 1944 and embedded in the relationship between the dollar and the pound in international commerce. This relationship will end in the context of this war because the biggest victor out of this war will be the EURO. One of the possible outcomes of this conflagration will be political change in the world such that the states of the Middle East take their reserves out of the dollar. The US enjoys the use of more than US $500 billion dollars of the reserve of these countries. If, for example, the Saudi Arabian government were to take their reserves out of the dollar and the pound and use the Euro as their reserve currency, there would be a severe shock for the US economy. The British will be forced cap in hand to join the Euro.
Most citizens have a short memory of the recent economic history of global finance. When World War II started in 1939 the British had an empire and the pound was dominant in international commerce. By 1950, the empire was crumbling and the pound had to be propped up through the International Monetary Fund and intensive exploitation of Africa.
One of the unintended consequences of this war will be the massive decline in the value of the dollar and a shift from the compromises of Bretton Woods.
Many have spoken of the negative impact of what happened on the world economy since the United States departed from the agreements on the convertibility of the dollar as agreed in 1944. This occurred in the Nixon administration when the US could not finance the war in Vietnam. The rest of the world paid a very high price for the floating exchange rates and the instability in global markets. It was after this instability in the financial markets that the Europeans decided to move first to building an economic union (the European Union), and then, to develop a common currency. Despite the veiled competition between the dollar the Deutsche martk and the yen; there was relative prosperity in the USA, Western Europe and Japan. The rest of the world bled and called for a new international economic order. The world stumbled from crisis to crisis (from the LTCM to the ASIA melt down) to the point where even speculators such as George Soros wrote on The Crisis of Global Capitalism. This idea that the world economy can be managed through extending consumer spending in the USA has run its terrible course since the dramatic financial crisis in Asia in 1997.. The entire world needs a clear alternative to the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the ways in which the US treasury dominates the financial architecture.
Joseph Stiglitz who recently won the noble peace prize for economics has written on how the World Bank condemned the peoples of the third world to death. These policies of the World Bank were reinforced by the policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that supported the pharmaceuticals. These organizations placed profits before Human lives. There was a scathing criticism by John Le Carre in the book, The Constant Gardener. Here Le Carre was calling on western societies to retreat from the eugenics thinking of Adolph Hitler.
The AIDS pandemic more than anything else signaled the dire condition of the majority of the citizens of the planet, especially those of Africa.
There has been a global movement that was started by persons such as the late Julius Nyerere and those leaders such as Fidel Castro that called for the cancellation of the third world Debt. Lately, religious leaders who joined the Jubilee campaign, His Holiness the Pope, John Paul and even conservative Republicans in the USA called for a the cancellation of the debt and new management of international finances. There is also a new movement against global capitalism that is alive all across Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia. This movement grew in Seattle, in Genoa and is about to grow in the USA. The struggles for health care for all in response to the scares from bio terrorism will break the mythology of the market that has ensured that the rest of the world bled while a small minority lived in luxury.
In this age of the biotech century it is possible to reorganize the international financial architecture and the international trading system to ensure a better standard of living for all. This new era will come out of the war and the bitter debates on reparations that will in the long run help to heal the US society.
Q. What do you see as the most important elements in any economic review in light of the new terrain?
A. The most important element of the economic situation is the massive naiveté that governs the present discussion on the stimulus package. It was John Kenneth Galbraith who said that there are two kind of economists, “Those who do not know, and those who do not know that they do not know.” The present appropriations for the defense department emanates from the old conception that military spending can boost economic growth. This old view is not actually borne out by a critical examination of the facts of the recovery from the Depression of 1929-1939. What economists never answered was whether humanity had to go through the nightmare of Hitler, Mussolini, the Second World War and the Holocaust for economic recovery.
The potentialities for a new economic direction are immense, but this economy (as well as the global economy) cannot recover as long as the majority of African American youths are condemned by the educational system and are placed on the fast track to the prison industrial complex, Economic recovery will be painful because the mechanical thinking of markets (that emanate from the European ideation system) will have to be transcended and this will take a long time.
The ideas of Adam Smith were developed before the era of astrophysics when humans began to be humble in response to their understanding of the universe. The economic laws governing society are as outdated as the ideas of white supremacy but these ideas have to take their own time to fade.
In this war and economic depression over the next five years African Americans will have to draw on all of their spiritual energies to reverse the unequal division of wealth and the ideas of genetic profiling with all of the implications for barbarism.
Q. Has anything struck you in particular, in this area?
A. The most striking feature of this period is the near absence of a real debate on the economic choices before the society. There are numerous examples to expose how the fundamentalism of the “Washington Consensus” eroded the creativity of the University and the thinking on Economics. This has meant that the “talking heads” in the media reproduces the same fundamentalism when critical choices are required to reverse the massive expenditures on the military industrial complex. I will predict that the choices away from liberalization and privatization will be dramatic and that the government will be forced by the democratic struggles to have a new strategy for economic transformation. This will have to be based on an investment and stimulus package that starts with the well being of all. The recovery of the city of New York will be the first major test. Will the city be built within the thinking of the candle and gasoline age or the thinking of hydrogen fuel cell technology and solar energy?
More significantly, can the society respond to major health pandemics and bioterrorism with health care and drugs for the rich and powerful or health care for all. There is a lot that the US political leadership will have to learn from both Canada and Cuba in the delivery of health care for all. This will be part of the transformation of the economy, but before that time is reached there are many who will learn the pain that has been felt in Africa, among the majority of those around the globe who live on less than a dollar per day.
Q. Do you believe that President Bush is being torn between the advice of General Powell on one side and Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on the other hand, as some believe?
A. I do believe that President Bush is being torn between the advice of General Colin Powell on one side and on the other side the advice of the Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. This is because of the training of these officials
Colin Powell was trained in the military. In this training it was the view that the political objectives have to be crystal clear in order to have clear military objectives. The political objectives define the military objectives. Secondly, it was necessary to be clear to win the hearts and minds of the US citizens to support the military campaign and for citizens to be motivated to be patriotic to support the government with their lives. In this present war, the military objectives are confused and defined over too wide a front and at the same time the political objectives are confused by the broad definition of terrorism.
General Powell with the experience of the Gulf war understood that the clear political objective was to get the Iraq army out of Kuwait. This could not be confused with the political objectives of those who wanted to remove Saddam Hussein. Because the political objectives were clear the coalition could seek financial support for the US military campaign from the Arab states, from the European Union and from the Japanese government. Powell must understand that the USA cannot afford a long war. This is the financial reality. There is also the political reality because such a protracted war that goes over three months will create a major conflagration engulfing Palestine, Kashmir and unleashing the unthinkable. The skirmishes between India and Pakistan are dangerous and hold tremendous potential for extreme and fundamentalist leaders to come to the forefront.
General Powell must be making these calculations. The larger question is whether there are sober heads outside the petroleum sector who are considering the implications of this war beyond the control of petroleum in the area of the Caspian Sea. More fundamental, is whether there are thinkers that are not using the simplicity and predictability of Newton to plan the scenarios that will emanate from this war. The governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the most vulnerable in this period and these changes of leadership under the pressure of public anger over the bombing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan must be on the minds of policy makers.
All of the evidence from the statements of the Pentagon demonstrates the arrogance and chauvinism of those who did not learn the lessons of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or the lessons of Somalia.
White racism is so steeped in the society that even those who are racists cannot see racism for what it is and blind otherwise sober intellectuals. The kind of crude fundamentalism that emanated from the lips of President Bush on the fight between good and evil sound too much like language of the medieval crusades. It would be unthinkable that Colin Powell is thinking like a European from the crusades.
In the final analysis, the quality of the advice that President Bush receives is based on his worldview and conception of the world.
Q. What do you think of what I have called “the Bush doctrine”- the new standard, articulated by the President, whereby countries that host or harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists, or at least deserve their fate, in terms of military retaliation?
A. The Bush doctrines whereby countries that host and harbor terrorist are as guilty as the terrorist sounds too much like the thinking of the Wild West. Defeating terrorism does not require military might alone. Defeating terrorism requires political, legal and financial instruments that isolate terrorists. This will mean that there must be more international debate on who or what constitutes terrorism. Under the present definition, any supporter of freedom can be labeled a terrorist.
The words of President Bush are dominated by the sentiments of vengeance, retribution and short sightedness. If Bin Laden was trained by US agencies, there should be time for reflection and a real debate on what or who is a terrorist in this period. In my view Bin Laden is a terrorist but the Prime Minister of Israel is calling Yasser Arafat a terrorist. The government of India calls all of those who are fighting in Kashmir, terrorists.
There should be the development of international institutions such as the International Criminal Court to isolate real “terrorists” so that the legal instruments of international politics are put to work to isolate terrorists.
It is imperative that US citizens seek to understand the underlying causes that gave rise to this terrible atrocity of September 11th. And understanding is not the same as condoning such acts and their outcome. We must separate an explanation for their actions from a moral judgment on their acts. The ideas of the Italian Prime Minister echo the lunacy of Samuel P Huntington that there is a clash of civilization. What is at stake is how to create a New World based on peace, justice and human dignity.
Q.Is there an appropriate Pan-African response to the U.S. war on terrorism and the actions of those in the Arab and Muslim world who believe that it is justified to strike by any means that they deem necessary against those in the West that they believe are responsible for their suffering?
A. I concur with the views of the General Secretary of the Global Pan African Movement, Dr. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, that the response is inappropriate in so far the ideas of President Bush can serve to promote Islamophobia. In his Thursday Postcard of September 20th that was published all across Africa he argued that “The Islamophobia in presenting these matters only serve to make Muslims unnecessarily defensive and disempowers them against the terrorists. Majority of Muslims across the world are outraged about the attacks on the World Trade center but also angry that it is being blamed on them. There were Muslims among the dead, the wounded and the traumatised. And there is nothing in terrorism that is specifically Islamic. Every religion has its own extremists and fundamentalists.” He continued, “If the Bin Laden’s of this world are to be isolated then the US government must understand the root causes of what turns people into terrorists. What turns people into Terrorists is not the religion per se but its play on power. The uncomfortable truth is that so called Islamic fundamentalism of today has its roots in the cold war.” This is a very strong Pan African view and one can see the demonstrations against the bombing of Afghanistan all across Africa. Organizations such as the South African Council of Churches have condemned the bombing and there have been joint Muslim /Christian demonstrations in Cape Town against the humanitarian disaster that comes from the bombing of innocent civilians.
It is important that the repressive and militaristic direction stops so that the decent people all over the world can fight terrorism
Pan Africanists are very concerned about the statements on combating terrorism in Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and all across Africa. The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela worked hard to isolate extremists in Africa and the present policies will do much harm to the painstaking work that was done, in particular, in relation to ending the diplomatic isolation of Libya.
Q. Is this a time to increase calls for Arab-African unity like some scholars in Africa and the Arab community have articulated?
A. The Constitutive Act of the African Union provides the scope for a new direction in Africa away from militarism, undemocratic governments and unconstitutional changes of government. One of the positive outcomes of the pro active diplomacy of Col Gadaffi in the transition was to strengthen the relations between Africans across the Sahara. The principles inscribed in the Act of the Union is being embraced from Cape to Cairo. The ideas of a new mode of politics has a lot of meaning for African and Arab women. Egyptian Intellectuals such as Nawal El Saadawi have been very critical of conservative fundamentalists in both Africa and the Arab world. The struggles for the rights of women in relation to their sexuality and legal status challenges both Islamic and Christian Fundamentalists in both the Arab and African countries. The struggles for the rights of women and for the rights of the ordinary persons are struggles for a new form of economy. This will require the change in the USA where military dictators are supported and the wealth of these societies are recycled for weapons.
Q. What has been your opinion of how the Black community in America has responded/reacted since September 11th?
A. The African American Community has responded with horror. They are grieving and using opportunities in public fora to express their grief. I have heard of many prayer sessions in communities all across this country.
On the question of the military response and the bombing of Afghanistan, the traditional leadership in politics and in religion has been most disappointing. The most consistent leadership has been coming from the Black Radical Congress, from the youths and from hip-hop artists who have the pulse of the energy of the youth. .These youths have the experience of police brutality and racial profiling.
There is grave concern among African Americans and in the Arab American community over the rush to change the federal government and centralize the emergency powers. The creation of the Office of Homeland Security is worrying, especially for those who understand the relationship of the law enforcement agencies to the youths.
More significantly has been the fact that Governor Tom Ridge from Pennsylvania has been elevated to the Cabinet level position of the head of Homeland Security. Is it racism that the National Security Adviser of the President, an African American woman was passed over for this job? Governor Ridge achieved notoriety because he hailed from the state where there has been the celebrated case of the demand for a new trial for Mumia Abu Jamal. African Americans must study the implications of the Hart Rudman commission for extreme repression.
One of my colleagues described the new powers as the “Routinization of Emergency Powers.” I reminded him that the ideas, organization and principles governing the new hysteria are the same as that of the Weimar Republic.
Even more worrying is the reality that the technological capabilities for repression are more extensive and intrusive in the era of advanced electronic surveillance and control.
The current leadership of the African American community in the Congress has been too timid and should recover from the hysteria and support Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. Her refusal to support the massive appropriations for repression must be applauded. It is from among African American women where we are seeing the Harriet Tubman principle of clear opposition to all forms of oppression.
The Harriet Tubman principle of self organization and self mobilization of the African American community in order to provide moral and political leadership in this society must be studied and brought up to the twenty first century realities.
Thursday, October 25, 2001