| "Sky Spirits" Pablo Amaringo |
July 5, 2013 | by Noam Chomsky, reposted from Alternet.org
(Graphics and links to Indigenous sites added, Editor)
With wrenching tragedies only a few miles away, and still worse catastrophes perhaps not far removed, it may seem wrong, perhaps even cruel, to shift attention to other prospects that, although abstract and uncertain, might offer a path to a better world - and not in the remote future.
I’ve visited Lebanon several times and witnessed moments of great hope, and of despair, that were tinged with the Lebanese people’s remarkable determination to overcome and to move forward.
The first time I visited - if that’s the right word - was exactly 60 years ago, almost to the day. My wife and I were hiking in Israel’s northern Galilee one evening, when a jeep drove by on a road near us and someone called out that we should turn back: We were in the wrong country. We had inadvertently crossed the border, then unmarked - now, I suppose, bristling with armaments.
A minor event, but it forcefully brought home a lesson: The legitimacy of borders - of states, for that matter - is at best conditional and temporary.
Almost all borders have been imposed and maintained by violence, and are quite arbitrary. The Lebanon-Israel border was established a century ago by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing up the former Ottoman Empire in the interests of British and French imperial power, with no concern for the people who happened to live there, or even for the terrain. The border makes no sense, which is why it was so easy to cross unwittingly.
Surveying the terrible conflicts in the world, it’s clear that almost all are the residue of imperial crimes and the borders that the great powers drew in their own interests.
Pashtuns, for example, have never accepted the legitimacy of the Durand Line, drawn by Britain to separate Pakistan from Afghanistan; nor has any Afghan government ever accepted it. It is in the interests of today’s imperial powers that Pashtuns crossing the Durand Line are labeled “terrorists” so that their homes may be subjected to murderous attack by U.S. drones and special operations forces.
Few borders in the world are so heavily guarded by sophisticated technology, and so subject to impassioned rhetoric, as the one that separates Mexico from the United States, two countries with amicable diplomatic relations.
That border was established by U.S. aggression during the 19th century. But it was kept fairly open until 1994, when President Bill Clinton initiated Operation Gatekeeper, militarizing it.
Before then, people had regularly crossed it to see relatives and friends. It’s likely that Operation Gatekeeper was motivated by another event that year: the imposition of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is a misnomer because of the words “free trade.”
Doubtless the Clinton administration understood that Mexican farmers, however efficient they might be, couldn’t compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses couldn’t compete with U.S. multinationals, which under NAFTA rules must receive special privileges like “national treatment” in Mexico. Such measures would almost inevitably lead to a flood of immigrants across the border.
Some borders are eroding along with the cruel hatreds and conflicts they symbolize and inspire. The most dramatic case is Europe. For centuries, Europe was the most savage region in the world, torn by hideous and destructive wars. Europe developed the technology and the culture of war that enabled it to conquer the world. After a final burst of indescribable savagery, the mutual destruction ceased at the end of World War II.
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