|Gunder Frank Contributions to Public Discussions
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 17:33:12 -0500
From: Patrick Manning
Reply-To: H-NET List for World History
Subject: on civilization
From: Andre Gunder Frank
University of Nebraska
Editor's note: this posting and another to follow were delayed in distribution to the list
in the course of H-WORLD's recent shift in editors. They are now distributed with
apologies to the author. PM
Adam McKeown writes:
"As to Ellison's point that the main problem is getting Islamic, Confucian societies,
etc. to accept Western law, I disagree. Culture plays only a minor role. . ."
I disagree too -- the problem is getting Western ''societies,'' beginning with its main --
indeed routine -- violator the USA, to accept Western law.
"Even the Chinese were treated as "uncivilized" and incompetent in legal
matters, unable to enforce true justice. Thus, the need for extraterritoriality and
Western control of the Customs Service--the overriding concerns of economic interests are
The implication is that the US is ''uncivilized'' because of its ''need'' for or at least
insistence on extraterretoriality, eg when the US claimed that the International Court of
Justice has no jurisdiction over the US - after the US was condemmned by the Court for
having mined the commercial harbor in Nicaragua -- during the good ol' civilized days of
Olli and the Contras. But then the US also opposed the International Criminal Court, which
would also have NO jurisdiction over any American. But then there is NO law whatsoever in
the world that the United States regards itself obliged to observe.
The US violates all manner of international law whenever the law does not suit it, and
then wants to invoke it when it does. The same with the UN. Nobody in NATO asked the UN to
go bomb Yugoslavia, but once the war was over, they all ran to the UN to provide a figleaf
for their military occupation of Kosovo. [While the US led NATO was violating every Geneva
convention in its war against Yugoslavia -- fought in the name of ''human rights'' to
trample on them -- the US suddenly asked to invoke the Geneva convention in protection of
its soldiers who had gotten ''lost'' on the wrong side of a border].
While the US/UK are bombing Afghanistan on their own, they are already talking about going
to the UN to ask it to manage a post-war government in Afghanistan -- put in place of
course by the US/UK.
Has ANYone heard ANYone raise ANY question about the legitimacy of US bombing Afghanistan?
In all the hours of CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and from all the members of the US
administration, the Senate, the House, the Pentagon, I have heard NO single voice who does
not take it for granted, self-evident, and God given that the US government and state has
every right to do as it pleases in the world, always of course backed up by its UK lap-dog
under the ''guidance'' of Tony Blair. [Not even Congress woman Barbara Lee who cast the
only negative vote in Congress against this war did so with a real appeal to international
law and institutions].
What kind of ''civilization'' is being defended by abrogating the only civilized
institutions and laws we have in the world designed to and at least moderately able to
protect us and our civilization from ourselves in a society of laws instead of brutes? The
civilized institutions and laws that we have - granted that they are insufficient, but for
that to be strengthend, NOT abrogated whenever it suits the strong- is all that stands
between us and Hobbes's ''law of the jungle'' war of all against all in which the weak
[poor and starving people in Afghanistan?] are at the total mercy of the strong [what is
the most powerful country in this sad world?].
If this is not destroying civilization to save it, then destroying villages in Vietnam to
save them was not Orwellian war is peace double-speak either. What kind of [Western?]
civilization is this that must be ''saved'' by destroying it - indeed denying and/or
wantonly neglecting its existence - and the very institutions that would make us civilized
-- if we were. But of course if we are not civilized enough to observe, acknowledge and
live by the very norms and institutions that would make us civilized, then what
''civilization'' is there to protect and save?
ANDRE GUNDER FRANK
Senior Fellow Residence World History Center
One Longfellow Place
270 Holmes Hall Boston, MA 02114 USA Boston, MA 02115 USA
Tel: 617-948 2315
Tel: 617 - 373 4060
Fax: 617-948 2316