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AUDIO TRACKS NB: If you want to download this provocative and exciting lecture, be forewarned that it is stored on the server of the University of San Francisco Library. This means it will not download as quickly or easily as the other lectures. So please have patience we can assure you it WILL be worth the wait. Just expect it to take a little longer than the other lectures. Thanks for understanding.



LECTURE NOTES

THE MILLENIUM CRISIS


A Talk by David Caploe, Ph.D

To the Board of Trustees of the Gleeson Library

University of San Francisco

Rare Book Room

January 25, 2007


INTRODUCTORY ORIENTATIONS

Basic argument: the US and the world have been involved in a structural crisis since even before September 11, which was, in fact, the third stage,

the first being the crash in tech stocks, and the end of a twice-a-century boom similar to the 1920s,

and the second being the crisis of legitimacy occasioned by the 2004 Presidential election, including not just Bush v. Gore -- decision like Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson

but also an unalloyed unilateralism, both at home and abroad -- domestically, California energy crisis / abroad, New Cold War w/China and "return of Star Wars"

In this context, September 11 was not the START of the crisis, but the third -- and certainly, to that point, most explosive -- stage ...



CHRONOLOGICAL OVERVIEW

Now, as the handout indicates, 9/11 has been followed by several other significant stages:

most notably the completely un-requested / un-wanted and / un-necessary US invasion of Iraq -- which can in this context be seen as an escalatory continuation of the pre-9/11 unilateralism ...

the emergence of political Islam as a major factor in European politics --

including but not limited to the Madrid and London subway attacks, but also a significant collapse in pre-crisis modes of legitimation,

symbolized by the rejection in both France and the Netherlands of the EU constitution, and the emergence of significant problems in Turkey's EU application --

the 2004 elections, Iraq II, and Israel's equally uncalled-for invasion and bombing of Lebanon,

and then the shocking -- altho by no means epoch-making -- 2006 elections,

followed by what we're living through now, which can probably be considered Iraq III, at which we're only in the initial phases ...

So that's the chronological overview ...



FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE/S

Having lived through all this to the point we're at today, what can we say are the main issues driving this crisis ???

Well, from the analytical point of view, I'm sorry to say that the main issues remain the same today as they were when I recorded my initial take on this crisis, a 20-CD series, during the late fall of 2001:

namely, the economic dis-locations arising from the dynamic development of the global media society;

and the shockingly disturbing deterioration in the general level of public discourse almost everywhere in the world ...

including, most importantly, the US and the Arab / Muslim world, but also countries like Israel / India / Nigeria / and Russia that confront that Arab / Muslim world directly, and, in the last several years, Western Europe ...



The Economic Dis-locations of the Global Media Society

First, the economic dis-locations coming from what might be called the "uneven development" of the global media society,

whose basic dynamic I define as the acceleration / proliferation / and intensification of the technologies arising from the development of the computer-centered mode of production that began in the 1980s ...

Now it is in the sense of the GMS -- and ONLY in the sense of the GMS -- that the term "globalization" has any meaning at all ...

Won't go into it now because it detracts from the flow of the overall argument ...

But if someone wants to ask about it during the Q & A, I'll be happy to discuss this aspect further ...



The Near-Universal Deterioration of Public Discourse

Now -- and here's where the grisly nature of the Millennium Crisis begins to become apparent --

despite the exponential amount of "information" people around the world have about each other as a result of the development of the GMS,

there has been a notable deterioration in the knowledge and understanding other societies have about each other,

let alone the almost total lack of "wisdom" that is supposed to develop as a result of this explosion of digital technologies ...

Indeed, I would argue that the key consciousness dynamic of the MC is the shockingly low level of public discourse during this period ...

a low level of public discourse everywhere, by which I mean a low level in the issues being discussed / the terms in which those issues are discussed / and the substantive content of the way those those issues are discussed ...

This is true pretty much everywhere ... in the United States, just about all sectors of the Arab / Muslim world, in the countries most directly confronting the Arab / Muslim world -- namely, Israel / India / Nigeria / and Russia, and, to a lesser extent, as alluded to earlier, the societies of Western and Central Europe where un-integrated Muslim populations are a dominant feature of the landscape ...



Summary of Fundamental Issue/s

So these then are the main issues of the MC:

on the one hand, the economic dis-location arising from the macro - level de-stabilizing -- if individually empowering -- communications technologies of the global media society ...

on the other, the disturbingly low level of the substantive content carried by those communication technologies, in just about every politically significant society in the world today,

including the US ... the Arab - Muslim world ...

the countries most directly confronting the Arab-Muslim world -- Israel, India, Nigeria, and Russia, with the new possibility of Kenya, as a result of the situation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa ...

and the countries of Western Europe, where un-integrated Muslim populations and, consequently, political Islam have arisen as primary domestic -- and not just foreign policy -- issues ...



KEY DYNAMICS

So if those are the fundamental issues, what then are the key dynamics of the MC ???



Right-Wing "Religion"

Well, here I would argue that main dynamic -- one that is largely responsible for the low level of public discourse globally --

is the rise of right-wing political movements such as
political Islam in the Arab - Muslim world /
the Christian right in the US /
the settlers movement and Kach in Israel /
the Hindu right, including the long-existing RSS, and its parliamentary avatar, the BJP /
and the re-militarizers in Japan, whose legitimation of the the infamous Yasukuni shrine represents a similar mixing of right-wing politics clothed in the raiment of Shinto piety ...

Now the tricky thing about the simultaneous development of these right-wing religio-political movements across the globe is that they are all -- simultaneously -- products of the specific cultural / historical traditions that gave birth to them AND embodiments of an almost identical structural relationship between their political programs and a very peculiar form of religion ...

That is, each of these movements uses religion to advance their right-wing agendas in three ways:

1) As a framework of legitimation of their political programs;

2) As a model for the type of society they want to create; and

3) And most importantly, as a rhetorical shield with which to transform any criticism of their political program into an alleged attack on the religion for whom these groups claim the right of exclusive interpretation ...

that is, if someone attacks the politics of political Islam / the Christian right in the US / the settler movement in Israel / the anti-Muslim program of the Hindu right / and the move to re-militarize Japan -- an initiative with which China, above all, has real problems,

these groups say, "how dare you attack the Muslim / Christian / Jewish / Hindu / Shinto RELIGION ??? " ...

which is, of course, an attempt to shift the discussion from an open examination of political issues

to a covert arena in which large numbers of other people who may or may not have any interest in that right-wing agenda are manipulated into believing that their "faith" is being demeaned and insulted ...

And it is this domination of public discourse -- by which, again, I mean a) the topics of discussion; b) the terms in which those topics are discussed; and c) the substantive content of those discussions

by right wing political groups using religion as legitimation / model / and rhetorical shield that is responsible for the almost universally low level of political discussion in the world today ...



PAUSE

Now before we leave this area of the key dynamics of the MC, and into the MAIN ISSUES that have driven and unfolded within the MC,



The Corporate Connection

it's important to note the generally unremarked-upon connection of this right wing "religion" with a simultaneous explosion in the more or less untrammeled power of big business ...

Now this dynamic of right-wing religion and corporate power is hardly a new one ...

Indeed, it was one of the most salient features of both the Third Reich and Fascist Italy ...

Now, this is not to re-hash the stale Marxist line that both Hitler and Mussolini were corporate stooges who came to power at the behest of big business ...

altho there is certainly a visible corporate component to the installation of George Bush in what will no doubt go down in history as a Republican coup whose disastrous effects on the US and the rest of the world are only now just beginning to become legitimate subjects of mainstream discourse ...

But there is a similar aspect of all the other right-wing religio-political movements ...

obviously so in Israel -- where the Likud, whose likely candidate for Premier in the next elections is likely to be Benyamin Netanyahu, an unapologetic exponent of Bush-style corporate power,

and India -- where the BJP has long been the favored political expression of the emerging Indian corporate elite ...

a/w/a obviously, Japan, where the inter-connections between the re-militarizers and big business are so obvious they need be mentioned only in passing ...

Now the interesting case here is the Arab / Muslim world, where the relationship between political Islam and big business would seem, at first glance, to be antagonistic ...

The most notable examples of this, of course, would appear to be Lebanon and the Arab gulf ...

where the forces seeking positive relations with the rest of the world --

the Hariri family and Future TV in Lebanon ... and in the Gulf

the "modernizing" monarchies of Dubai [ Ports World ], Qatar [ Al Jazeera ], and parts of the United Arab Emirates above all, the brilliant Abu Dhabi TV, probably the best -- and certainly the most interesting -- media outlet in the entire Middle East /

and, indeed, most of the anti-Osama parts of the binLaden family, who have established deep ties to the corporate West, including endowed chairs at the Harvard Business School --

Now all of these certainly seem to be exponents of economic and, to a lesser extent, political and cultural "liberalism" -- as that term is understood NOT in the US, but as in Europe and the rest of the world ...

At the same time, there are clearly intimate relations between the oil companies and the Saudi royal family,

which has in one way or another, sponsored political Islam -- if not necessarily its most violent contemporary form of jihadism --

since the 1780s, and the connection with Abdul Wahab, the acknowledged founder of the Salafi interpretation of Islam ...

And, interestingly enough in this context, Osama himself has had some pointed things to say about the centrality of oil, and, believe it or not, the necessity of the "law" of supply and demand ...

In March 1997, for example, he said, "As for oil, it is a commodity that will be subject to the price of the market according to the law of supply and demand. We believe that the current prices are not realistic due to the Saudi regime playing the role of US agent, and the pressures exercised by the US on the Saudi regime to increase production and flooding the market that caused a sharp decrease in the market."

A theme he has returned to in a number of post-9/11 speeches, notably October 6 2002, where a major critique of the US was "You steal our wealth and oil because of paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft witnessed by mankind in the history of the world" ...

Finally, two years later, in December 2004 -- more than a year and a half after the US invasion of Iraq -- he returned to and expanded on this theme:

"Remember too that the biggest reason for our enemies' control over our land is to steal our oil, so give everything you can to stop the greatest theft of oil from the current and future generations in collaboration with the agents and foreigners.

"They are taking this oil at paltry prices in the knowledge that the price of all commodities have multiplied several times. But oil, which is the basis for all industry, has gone down in price many times. After it was going for $40 a barrel twenty years ago, in the last decade it went for as little as $9, while its price today should be $100 at the very least."

Now perhaps he wants to get a better deal from the oil companies ... but there's nothing here that indicates he has the slightest problem with corporate power -- he just wants a slightly different distribution of the profits ... ;-) ...

So what, then, has this seemingly bizarre -- yet, to its exponents, apparently all too logical --

alliance of right-wing politics, masquerading as religion, and untrammeled corporate power meant for the two most important issues of the MC:

the meaning of 9/11 and the utterly disastrous invasion of Iraq, an act whose reverberations have only just begun to be felt, in both the Middle East and the US ???



THE MEANING OF 9/11

Of the many issues that have been obfuscated by this near-universal deterioration in the level of public discourse,

certainly the most important is 9/11 ... an event whose meaning, even five years afterwards, still remains clouded and confused,

above all in the United States, where it was apparently so traumatic that it has been consistently used to support actions that, for reasons we'll discuss shortly, are not only NOT a response to it,

but indeed flow from the same sort of assumptions about key issues -- notably the relation between religion and politics, church and state -- that conceived / planned / and executed 9/11 in the first place ...

So how then can we see 9/11 ???

Basically, we see 9/11 as the unmistakable announcement by the jihadi wing of political Islam of its intention to confront America on its home ground ... in other words, taking the fight to the enemy ...

Now, this may seem a little strange to some of you ... to talk about the meaning of 9/11 in terms of political Islam, and not, as has been the near-universal characterization, as an act of terrorism ...

To be sure, it was an act of terrorism ...

BUT ... and this is the crucial point, the definition of 9/11 almost exclusively in terms of terrorism -- and not in terms of political Islam, which is MUCH more significant in understanding where it came from --

has been a conscious strategy of the Bush administration ...

Indeed, the whole understanding of the post-9/11 situation NOT as a struggle with political Islam ...

but, rather, as a so-called "war on terrorism" ...

a definition that has been insisted upon by the Bush administration,

and, even more disturbingly, accepted uncritically by just about the entire American political and media elite

has -- simultaneously -- been the single most important reflection of -- and further cause of -- the frighteningly low level of public discourse in the US ...

again, the key issue of the Millennium Crisis in which we are now so dangerously enmeshed ... and will be for the foreseeable future ...

By seeing 9/11 simply as an act of terrorism -- and the appropriate response to it being a quote war on terrorism unquote --

the Bush administration -- with the enthusiastic support of the Democrats and the media -- has been able to draw attention away from the key fact of 9/11 ...

namely, that the soil out of which it grew -- political Islam -- in fact shares major structural similarities with the movement that constitutes the mass base of the Bush administration's partisan coalition,

that is, the Christian right ...

And this structural similarity between the political Islam that created 9/11 ... and the Christian right mass base of its electoral strategy has been a central fact that the Bush regime has done everything it possibly could to obscure ...

In this sense, the characterization of 9/11 as being fundamentally about terrorism -- instead of political Islam --

can legitimately be understood as an act of treason for which the Bush regime should be impeached ...

with treason being defined here as the conscious sacrifice of the US national interest for the sake of partisan political advantage ...

In this context, it was laughable to witness the successful in 2004 -- and almost so in 2006 -- Republican strategy of tagging the Democrats as "collaborators with terrorists",

when it is they themselves who should be brought to the bar of justice for the outrageous crime they have committed against the American people in order to maintain their -- illegitimate since the very start -- don't forget Bush v. Gore -- hold on power ...

But the consciously fraudulent effort to define 9/11 as a fundamentally "terrorist" phenomenon --

instead of one that grew out of the same sort of right-wing religio-political soil as the X-ian right --

is not just revolting in and of itself ... its implications were even more significant and dangerous ...

Because the conscious mis-representation of 9/11 was the key move in making it possible for the Bush regime to promote the completely UN-related idea that invading Iraq was somehow a "response" to 9/11 ...

a program with which, again, both the Democrats and the mainstream media, with few exceptions, and despite their current distaste for the results, enthusiastically went along ...

a key fact that should never be forgotten in understanding the even worse situation that the invasion of Iraq then created,

now for the people of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, but soon, we fear, in almost as direct a fashion for the people of the United States as well ...



THE ENDLESS CATASTROPHE OF IRAQ

So why then is the completely un-wanted / un-requested / and un-necessary invasion of Iraq a move that is going to make an already terrible situation a catastrophe of global dimensions and long-term consequences ...

even for Americans, whose daily lives -- even after 9/11 -- have until now remained more or less untouched in any negative way by what is going on in the rest of the world ...

We'll quickly pass over the immediate costs: the death of more than 3000 American soldiers ... the horrific wounding and disfigurement of thousands more, a brutal reality largely hidden by a complicit media ... the destruction of the American army as an effective fighting force for the next decade at least ... and the bankrupting of the American treasury also for at least the next ten years ...

As terrible as these are, they are just the beginning of the consequences of the invasion of Iraq ...

Why ???

Because the invasion has put front and center into regional and global consciousness two deeply complicated problems that the previous arrangement of the Middle East, however unfairly on the human level, was able to contain and suppress:

the Kurdish question, on the one hand, and on the other, the question of Sunni / Shiite political power in the Persian -- what some call the oil -- gulf region ...

We should have no illusions here ... these are two problems that have been -- in one case, decades, in the other, centuries -- in the making ...



The Destruction of the Middle East Nation-State System

Now whatever else you can say about it, the British / French division of the Middle East after World War I --

which is when the Kurdish problem, as we are just beginning to experience it today, was created --

did maintain relative stability in the Middle East, altho the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the process leading up to the establishment of Israel in 1948 were hardly blips on the radar screen ...

At the same time, despite four conventional wars -- 1948 / 1956 / 1967 / and 1973 -- and the heart-rending dispossession of the Palestinians,

the fact that post-WWI Middle Eastern politics unfolded in the context of a nation-state system meant that the regional effects of the Israel / Palestine situation could be fairly localized,

especially after the 1973 October war, which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat undertook as a necessary prelude to concluding a peace between Egypt and the rest of the Arab states with Israel ...

Unfortunately, both the Kurdish and Gulf Sunni / Shiite questions will NOT be containable within the existing nation-state system ...

Indeed, the key fact about the invasion of Iraq is precisely that it has thrown up a now-unavoidable challenge to the stability of the institutional system within which Middle Eastern politics have transpired since 1920 ...



The Eventual Kurdish Explosion

Let's look at the basic facts of the Kurdish situation:

You have four different ethnic groups: Kurds / Arabs / Iranians / and Turks ...

and you have four different nation-states: Iraq / Syria / Iran and Turkey ...

Before Iraq, the Arabs / Iranians and Turks were able to successfully squelch any Kurdish aspirations to political independence ...

But while none of them were too keen on having big Kurdish populations within their states,

all of them were extremely unwilling to think about any move that would diminish the amount of territory that their states would control ...

especially when, as in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan, that territory had lots of oil ...

With the dismantlement of Iraq as a result of the US invasion, however, this genie has been let out of the bottle ... and there is no way to put it back ...

At the moment, the Kurdish part of Iraq has remained by far the most stable, altho Bush's latest "plan" has already provoked armed stand-offs between American and Kurdish troops in Erbil,

which is hardly a harbinger of continued stability ...

But eventually, there is no way that Kurdish nationalism is going to be continued to be suppressed,

and there will be a move towards political sovereignty, and once that happens, all bets are off in that area ...

Whether it happens quickly or in twenty years, it doesn't make any difference ... it IS going to happen ... and once it does ... it's going to last for a long long long long time ... and no one has any idea what the result is going to be ...



The Existing Sunni / Shiite Explosion

And if you can envision how ugly the Kurdish situation is going to be after only 80 years in the making,

you can imagine how we are just at the beginning of the already exploded Sunni / Shiite disaster in the Persian -- or Oil -- Gulf region,

which has been percolating in some ways since 1450 and the rise of the Sunni Ottoman Turk Empire,

and in others since the late 600s, and the battle over succession to the Prophet Muhammad -- peace be upon him ...

To put it both simply and accurately, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is about the principle of political legitimacy ...

Namely, who are the true heirs of Muhammad as leaders of the umma Islamiyya: the Companions of the Prophet -- the Sunni, or the Descendants of the Prophet -- the Shia ???

In the Muslim world as a whole, the dominant response has been the Sunnis ... who are about 85 - 90 % of all Muslims ...



BUT ...

these figures are somewhat distorted, because North Africa and, even more importantly, South East Asia -- including Indonesia / Malaysia / and southern Thailand -- are Sunni ...

In the Muslim heartland -- from Egypt through Arabia and the Gulf and into Iran and Pakistan / India --

the proportions are much more equal ... and even more so in the heart of the heartland around the shores of the Gulf ...

Now just as the British and French suppressed the Kurdish question by dividing the Kurds up among four different post-Ottoman states,

so too they continued the Ottoman tradition of Sunni political domination ...

Under the Ottomans, this situation wasn't so tense, because they had an attitude much like the Roman Empire:

as long as you paid your taxes and didn't challenge the authority of the Empire, you could more or less live in your own communities without being bothered too much ...

The arrival of the nation-state system, however, put an end to this basically laissez-faire attitude ...

And throughout the Arab East, the Shiites were now put at a considerable disadvantage in Sunni-ruled states like Saudi Arabia / Iraq / Kuwait / Bahrain and the other small Arab states around the Gulf,

where, of course, the Persian Iran was almost totally Shiite ... and the non-Persian Iranians like the Turkmen or Azerbaijanis were also Shiite, which was why they could be absorbed relatively easily into Iran ...

But there was a problem there ... especially because, as luck would have it, the Shiites in Saudi Arabia / Kuwait / Iraq happened to be living where the oil was ...

So their land was supplying the money that their Sunni overlords were using to suppress them ...

But as long as the Iranians were basically secular and concerned with building up their state and not proselytizing, things were just simmering ...

With the Iranian revolution in 1979, however, and the establishment of an Islamic republic,

the Arab gulf states -- ruled by Sunnis over either Shiite majorities or large minorities -- were all of a sudden threatened in three ways:

1) Islamic legitimacy -- now the Iranians were saying that simply holding Mekkah and Medinah was not sufficient to establish leadership of the Muslim world;

2) rising Persian -- vs. Arab -- power and ethnic identity ... and, finally,

3) Republican vs. monarchical forms of government ...

Which is why they supported the US in its hostility towards the Islamic republic ...

and the US basically got Saddam to attack the IRI in 1980, almost as soon as it was established -- and the Arabs supported that as well ...

So this now much more tense situation could at least be contained while Iraq remained ruled by a powerful Sunni elite ...

But once Bush invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam, the suppressed tensions between Sunni and Shiite --

not just in Iraq, but in ALL the Sunni-ruled Arab states --

all of a sudden became THE fundamental issues of Persian Gulf politics ...

And as complex and violent as the Kurdish situation is, it pales in comparison to the destructive potential of the Sunni / Shiite conflict ...



IS THERE A WAY OUT ???

The ONLY possible hope is to bring everyone else in the world -- not just the region -- into the situation:

Organizations: UN / EU / NATO / Arab League ...

Countries: Saudi Arabia / Iran / Germany / France / Japan / Brazil etc. etc. etc.

But -- unlike the pathetic Democrats -- NO ONE in the rest of the world will work with the Bush regime ...

They are a failed management team, and no one is going to invest any more into the Iraq rat-hole until they are gone ...

So they have to go ... and they have to go SOON ... Cheney as well as Bush -- with their joint testimony before the 9/11 Commission providing the rationale ...

Without this happening -- and happening RIGHT AWAY -- it's hard to see any scenario that doesn't end in regional -- followed quickly by global -- system meltdown ...

Sorry to deliver such a depressing analysis, but we've gotten into this mess with massive self-delusion,

and the only way out is to start getting realistic -- and fast ... ;-)



The material in these lectures are for the private use of anyone who downloads them, and are not to be re-distributed without acknowledgement of the source. Any academic or intellectual use of the concepts contained within must be properly acknowledged and footnoted








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