Search This Blog

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Robert Kennedy murdered by CIA says NBC

Experts: Sirhan Sirhan Did Not Kill RFK

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- New forensics evidence presented Tuesday during a symposium at Foxwoods suggests Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots that killed Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968.

Experts from all over the world met Wednesday to discuss problems in crime solving during the annual symposium, hosted by the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. This year.s event was about conspiracies and solving complex crimes.Dr. Robert Joling, a forensics investigator who has studied the Robert Kennedy assassination for almost 40 years, determined that the fatal shots must have come from behind the senator.

Sirhan, however, was 4 to 6 feet in front of Kennedy and never got close enough to shoot Kennedy from behind, the investigator said.The other evidence was the Pruszynski recording. This is the only audio recording of the assassination. Another scientist analyzed it and concluded that at least 13 shots were fired from two different guns.Philip Van Praag, a forensic engineer, said he made three discoveries.The first two demonstrate that there must be more than one shooter, he said. The third conclusion is that the shots fired by the second shooter matched the firearm a security guard behind Kennedy carried.Joling and Van Praag presented their findings together, although the two investigated the Kennedy shooting independently. They had never met until last year. During a seminar, they realized their separate findings were perfectly wed.Sirhan Sirhan remains jailed in California.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chomsky -- international law -- USA/UK will be held accountable by

Noam Chomsky on BBC: -- 19 Mar 2008 Channel 4 News

"I would like to remind myself and others in the United States and Britain that agressors have no rights, they have only responsibilities.

"The first responsibility is to pay massive reparations for the crimes they have carried out. That extends in the case of Iraq to include support for Saddam through his worst atrocities after the war with Iran.

"After the savage first Gulf War when George Bush authorised the crushing of the rebellions that might have overthrown him, the murderous sanctions and of course the war and its aftermath.

"And their second responsibility is to hold the perpetrators accountable.

"And finally, and crucially, to attend to the voices of the victims, which are not a secret. The Pentagon has just released its latest study of opinions in Iraq. It was optimistic, it said. Iraqis have shared beliefs, so there's hope for reconciliation.

"The shared beliefs turn out to be that the United States and Britain are responsible for the Sectarian warfare and all of its horrors and they should leave Iraq to Iraqis."

"And we should finally resolve to ensure that we are never again responsible for such terrible crimes."

I am looking forward to watching the PBS version of events. I bet they stop short of calling the crimes by their names (illegal war would be the mildest term, "aggressive war" would be accurate but TABOO).

AND ... nobody ever mentions the black-ops and USA/MOSSAD remote-control "suicide" bombs to keep Iraq from uniting.

Yesterday the Indepedent published THE BEST ARTICLE ON THE IRAQ WAR

How easily the little men took us into the inferno ...

... one of the terrible ironies of our times is that the most bloodthirsty of American statesmen -- Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfovitz – have either never heard a shot fired in anger or have ensured they did not have to fight for their country when they had the chance to do so...

Fisk is ready to be a 911 truther!

Chomsky - as always - makes the clearest points - he reminds us of the rule of international law that the USA/UK will be held accountable by:

"The first responsibility is to pay massive reparations for the crimes they have carried out. That extends in the case of Iraq to include support for Saddam through his worst atrocities after the war with Iran. SEE ABOVE


FRONTLINE presents BUSH'S WAR March 24 & 25, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

From the horror of 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq; the truth about WMD to the rise of an insurgency; the scandal of Abu Ghraib to the strategy of the surge -- for six years, FRONTLINE has revealed the defining stories of the war on terror in meticulous detail, and the political dramas that played out at the highest levels of power and influence.

Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the full saga unfolds in the two-part FRONTLINE special Bush's War, airing Monday, March 24, 2008, from 9 to 11:30 P.M. and Tuesday, March 25, from 9 to 11 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings). Veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (The Lost Year in Iraq, The Dark Side) draws on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism -- more than 40 FRONTLINE reports on the war on terror. Combined with fresh reporting and new interviews, Bush's War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation's history.

"Parts of this history have been told before," Kirk says. "But no one has laid out the entire narrative to reveal in one epic story the scope and detail of how this war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government."

Since the war on terror began, FRONTLINE's award-winning reporting has gone behind the headlines to connect the dots and reveal the true story of an administration at war with itself over how to respond to the devastating 9/11 attacks.

In the fall of 2001, even as America was waging a war in Afghanistan, another hidden war was being waged inside the administration. Part 1 of Bush's War, airing Monday, March 24, from 9 to 11:30 P.M. ET, tells the story of this behind-the-scenes battle over whether Iraq would be the next target in the war on terror.

On one side, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet squared off against Vice President Dick Cheney and his longtime ally, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The battles were over policy -- whether to attack Iraq; the role of Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi; how to treat detainees; whether to seek United Nations resolutions; and the value of intelligence suggesting a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks -- but the conflict was deeply personal.

"Friendships were dashed," Powell's deputy Richard Armitage tells FRONTLINE. As the war within the administration heated up, Armitage and Powell concluded that they were being shut out of key decisions by Cheney and Rumsfeld. "The battle of ideas, you generally come up with the best solution. When somebody hijacks the system, then, just like a hijacked airplane, very often no good comes of it," Armitage adds.

Others inside the administration believe they understand the motivation behind some of the vice president's actions. "I think the vice president felt he kind of looked death in the eye on 9/11," former White House counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke says. "Three thousand Americans died. The building that the vice president used to work in blew up, and people died there. This was a cold slap in the face. This is a different world you're living in now. And the enemy's still out there, and the enemy could come after you. That does cause you to think [about] things differently."

More than anything else, the Iraq war will be the lasting legacy of the Bush presidency. Part 2 of Bush's War, airing Tuesday, March 25, from 9 to 11p.m. ET, examines that war -- beginning with the quick American victory in Iraq, the early mistakes that were made, and then recounting the story of how chaos, looting and violence quickly engulfed the country.

As American forces realized they were unprepared for the looting that followed the invasion, plans for a swift withdrawal of troops were put on hold. With only a few weeks' preparation, American administrator L. Paul Bremer was sent to find a political solution to a rapidly deteriorating situation. Bremer's first moves were to disband the Iraqi military and remove members of Saddam Hussein's party from the government. They were decisions that the original head of reconstruction, Gen. Jay Garner (Ret.), begged Bremer to reconsider at the time. Now they are seen by others as one of the first in a series of missteps that would lead Iraq into a full-blown insurgency.

But Bremer has his defenders: "We believed, Bremer believed, and I think the leadership in Washington believed that it was very important to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that whatever else was going to happen, Saddam and his cronies were not coming back," Walter Slocombe, the national security adviser to Bremer, tells FRONTLINE.

Garner was not the only one on the outside. As senior officials complained about inattention at the top, Gen. Tommy Franks and his deputy, Gen. Michael DeLong -- the generals who had planned the war -- found that decisions were being made without them as well.

"All the recommendations that we were making now in the Phase IV part weren't being taken -- weren't being taken by Bremer or Rumsfeld," DeLong tells FRONTLINE. "That's when Franks said, 'I'm done.' They said, 'Well, you'll be chief of staff of the Army.' He said, 'No, I'm done.'"

What followed is well documented: insurgency, sectarian strife, prisoner abuse and growing casualties. But within the administration, a new battle over strategy was being fought -- this one between a new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The clash between America's top diplomat and its chief defense official would go on for more than two years and be settled only after the Republican loss in the 2006 congressional elections. It was then that the president forced Rumsfeld out, ended his strategy of slow withdrawal and ordered a surge of troops. FRONTLINE goes behind closed doors to tell the most recent chapter in this ongoing story, and asks what Bush will leave for a new U.S. president both in Iraq and in the larger war on terror.

Bush's War is a FRONTLINE co-production with Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd. The writer, producer and director is Michael Kirk. The producer and reporter is Jim Gilmore. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
web site

FRONTLINE's New TV/Web Experience

Across the entire four-hour Bush's War series that will be streamed online, FRONTLINE will integrate and embed in its video player an array of related interviews, background material and video that can be viewed with just a click. In addition, more than 100 video clips of key moments and events in the Iraq war will be the centerpiece of an annotated master chronology which FRONTLINE will publish on the Bush's War site.

The interviews, video and background material are drawn from one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism: FRONTLINE's 40+ hours of documentaries and 400 interviews done since 9/11 on Iraq and the war on terror, as well as new interviews conducted for Bush's War. Promotional photography can be downloaded from the PBS pressroom.

Press contacts Diane Buxton (617) 300-5375


The Lies that Led to War Broadcast on March 7, 2008

Since the US-led invasion four years ago, the fifth estate has covered Iraq and the war on terror from virtually every angle--the military, media, intellligence, politics--revealing aspects of the story that you didn't find anywhere else.

Now, as the White House warns about the latest threat in the region, this time from Iran, we go back to examine the deception, suspect intelligence, even lies that convinced the world of the rightness of targeting Saddam Hussein.

Read more about this story:



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SPITZER was on the case of the Bush Junta

Why the Bush Administration "Watergated" Eliot Spitzer

by F. William Engdahl -- Global Research, March 18, 2008

The spectacular and highly bizarre release of secret FBI wiretap data to
the New York Times exposing the tryst of New York state Governor, Eliot
Spitzer, the now-infamous "No.9," with a luxury call-girl, had less to do
with the Bush Administration's pursuit of high moral standards for public
servants. Spitzer was likely the target of a White House and Wall Street
dirty tricks operation to silence one of its most dangerous and vocal
critics of their handling the current financial market crisis.

A useful rule of thumb in evaluating spectacular scandals around prominent
public figures is to ask what and who might want to eliminate that person.
In the case of Governor Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, it is clear that the
spectacular "leak" of government FBI wiretap records showing that Spitzer
paid a high-cost prostitute $4,300 for what amounted to about an hour's
personal entertainment, was politically motivated. The press has almost
solely focused on the salacious aspects of the affair, not least the hefty
fee Spitzer apparently paid. Why the scandal breaks now is the more
interesting question.

Spitzer became Governor of New York following a high-profile record as a
relentless State Attorney General going after financial crimes such as the
Enron fraud and corruption by Wall Street investment banks during the 2002 bubble era. The powerful former head of the large AIG insurance
group, Hank Greenburg was among his detractors.

He made powerful enemies by all accounts. He was bitterly hated on Wall
Street. He had made his political career on being ruthless against
financial corruption. Most recently, from his position as Governor of the
nation's second largest state, and home to its financial industry, Spitzer
had begun making high profile attacks on the complicity of the Bush
Administration in covertly arranging bailout if its Wall Street financial
friends at the expense of ordinary homeowners and citizens, paid all with
taxpayer funds.

Curiously, Spitzer, who had been elected governor in 2006 defeating a
Republican by winning nearly 70 percent of the vote, has been not charged
in any crime. However, the day the scandal broke New York Assembly
Republicans immediately announced plans to impeach Spitzer or put him on
public trial were he to refuse resignation. Spitzer could be asked to
testify in any trial involving the Emperors Club prostitution ring. But so
far he hasn't been charged with a crime. Prostitution is illegal in most
US states, but clients of prostitutes are almost never charged, nor are
their names usually leaked in a case in process. The Spitzer case is in
the hands of Washington and not state authorities, underscoring the clear
political nature of the Spitzer "Watergate."

The New York Times said Spitzer was an individual identified as Client 9
in court papers filed last week. Client 9 arranged to meet with "Kristen,"
a prostitute who officially charged $1,000 an hour, on February 13 in a
Washington hotel. Whatever transpired, Spitzer paid her $4,300, according
to the official documents. The case is clearly political when compared
with more egregious recent cases involving Republicans. Republican Mark
Foley was exposed propositioning male interns in Congress and Rudolph
Giuliani was discovered cheating on his wife, but no or few Republican
calls for resignations were heard.

Why the attack now?

Spitzer had become increasingly public in his blaming the Bush
Administration for the nation's current financial and economic disaster.
He testified in Washington in mid-February before the US House of
Representatives Financial Services subcommittee on the problems in New
York-based specialized insurance companies, known as "monoline" insurers.
In a national CNBC TV interview the same day, he laid blame for the crisis
and its broader economic fallout on the Bush Administration.

Spitzer recalled that several years ago the US Office of the Comptroller
of the Currency went to court and blocked New York State efforts to
investigate the mortgage activities of national banks. Spitzer argued the
OCC did not put a stop to questionable loan marketing practices or uphold
higher underwriting standards.

"This could have been avoided if the OCC had done its job," Spitzer said
in the interview. "The OCC did nothing. The Bush Administration let the
housing bubble inflate and now that it's deflating we're dealing with the
consequences. The real failure, the genesis, the germ that has spread was
the subprime scandal," Spitzer said. Fraudulent marketing and very low
"teaser" mortgage rates that later ballooned higher, were practices that
should have been stopped, he argued. "When mortgages are being marketed,
there is a marketplace obligation to ensure the borrower can afford to pay
back the debt," he said.

That TV interview was only one instance of Spitzer laying blame on the
Bush Republicans. On February 14, Spitzer published a signed article in
the influential Washington Post titled, "Predatory Lenders' Partner in
Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to
Help Consumers."

That article, laying clear blame on the Administration for the development
of the sub-prime crisis, appeared the day after his ill-fated tryst with
the prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel. Just a coincidence? Spitzer wrote,
""In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC
invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act pre-empting all state
predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also
promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their
own consumer protection laws against national banks."

In his article Spitzer charged, "Not only did the Bush administration do
nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and
unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents
from the very problems to which he federal government was turning a blind
eye." Bush, said Spitzer right in the headline, was the "Predator Lenders'
Partner in Crime." The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from
justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on the
Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet. Spitzer wrote,
"When history tells the story of the sub-prime lending crisis and recounts
its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the
Bush administration will not be judged favourably."

With that article, some Washington insiders believe, Spitzer signed his
own political death warrant.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MUST SEE VIDEO -- War Made Easy

War Made Easy brings to the screen Norman Solomon's insightful analysis of the strategies used by administrations, both Democratic and Republican, to promote their agendas for war from Vietnam to Iraq. By familiarizing viewers with the techniques of war propaganda, War Made Easy encourages viewers to think critically about the messages put out by today's spin doctors - messages which are designed to promote and prolong a policy of militarism under the guise of the "war on terror." Based on the book by the same title.

Film website:


1 hr 10 min - Aug 28, 2007

How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
Narrated by Sean Penn


Norman Solomon: War Made Easy
Media critic Norman Solomon discusses pro-war propaganda generated by U.S. governments during military operations and the influence the media has on public opinion. From the invasion of the Dominican Republic to the current war in Iraq Solomon explores ways the media is used to bolster support for military intervention.

War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations.

War Made Easy gives special attention to parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq. Guided by media critic Norman Solomon’s meticulous research and tough-minded analysis, the film presents disturbing examples of propaganda and media complicity from the present alongside rare footage of political leaders and leading journalists from the past, including Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, dissident Senator Wayne Morse, and news correspondents Walter Cronkite and Morley Safer.

Norman Solomon’s work has been praised by the Los Angeles Times as “brutally persuasive” and essential “for those who would like greater context with their bitter morning coffee.” This film now offers a chance to see that context on the screen.

Approx. 72 minutes
English subtitles
Color | Stereo | NTSC | All Region Encoded DVD

Directed & Written by: Loretta Alper & Jeremy Earp
Produced by: Loretta Alper
Co-produced & Edited by: Andrew Killoy
Executive Producers: Jeremy Earp & Sut Jhally
Associate Producer: Jason Young
Sound: Peter Acker, Armadillo Media Group
Motion Graphics: Andrew Killoy & Sweet & Fizzy
Additional Music: John Van Eps & Leigh Philips
Narrated by: Sean Penn
Based on the book by Norman Solomon

What's changed in the rhetoric of war since the 1960s? A new film, War Made Easy, explores how media and government spin from the Vietnam era to today has kept America at war.

The film has been adapted from the critically acclaimed book by Norman Solomon, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," which was published in 2005.

Norman Solomon is a nationally syndicated columnist on media and politics. He has been writing the weekly "Media Beat" column since 1992. AlterNet spoke with him about the film.

Q: How exactly did this project get off the ground?

A: I'm a writer who's done a lot of radio and occasionally TV, but I'm not a filmmaker. The experience of writing this book was a pretty mind-blowing process for me, and when it was published, I thought about the dimension of archival footage and the media onslaught in favor of war, both past, present and future, for that matter. I'd really admired the Media Education Foundation for a long time. For instance, their film -- Hijacking Catastrophe -- I thought was superb on the neocons' global agenda. So when I talked with people at MEF, they decided to make a film based on the War Made Easy book, and I was thrilled. Eighteen months later, the film is launching this summer, and I'm just really excited about how the analytical, the informational, and the emotional are accessed in this documentary.

Q: How has the response been to the film so far?

A: My hopes have been largely fulfilled during the several screenings I've been to on both the East and West coasts. People are leaving the movie with grief and anger but also motivation to stop the war in Iraq and to prevent the wars that are gleams in the eyes of top officials in Washington.

Q: Why do you think there's so much resistance amongst the media to draw parallels between Iraq and Vietnam?

A: Any geographer will tell you Iraq isn't Vietnam. But the United States is still the United States. The overwhelming issue is how our country continues to drag itself and so much of the world into one horrific conflagration after another.

The pundits and reporters who have the highest profile in this country tend to be eager to see every discredited war as an aberration, and they did the same thing during the Vietnam War. When it became incontrovertible that the war was based on a series of mendacious maneuvers, the response was, "Well, yeah, but that's not what we're like. This is an anomaly." And we're still getting that. It's because "Bush is weird, and Cheney's weird." You even get that from some liberal pundits.

Q: President Bush has said that history will ultimately judge whether of not the Iraq War was a success or failure. Do you believe we'll one day hear people saying this war was a success (as some have with Vietnam) or will people universally deem this a failure?

A: Well, both. It is one of the most horrific war choices ever made out of Washington. There will always be people in Washington and in the media who try to justify the war, or they will say if it had been done differently it would've been potentially a good use of U.S. military power. One of the key points of the film is that the whole argument against a quagmire is a very narrow one, because it begs the question of whether a war based on imperial assumptions and presumptions of empire can be justified? And how can you competently execute an immoral war? How can you do a better job of managing a war that should never have been launched in the first place?

Those kind of questions are not popular amongst the elite media. Quite frankly, if this war had resulted in a military triumph in the middle of 2003, you wouldn't have the July 8 editorial in the New York Times saying it's time to pull the troops out. They would be celebrating this war along with the rest of the media. I think War Made Easy really draws a thread across the last 50 years of U.S. foreign policy and the American warfare state, to find the patterns that have inflicted so much suffering. It's what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism," and it hasn't stopped yet.

Q: How has the way the mainstream press covered war changed or not changed since the Vietnam war?

A: The style has changed but not the substance. There's still a reliance on official sources, an echoing of the White House's rationale for war, a reluctance to challenge the prerogatives of empire. These have been virtual constants.

In terms of content, beyond style and technology, the changes have been implemented more in response to grassroots pressure. In other words, the anti-war protesting that people have done from 2002 until today has had a cumulative effect on our society, and while the news media are slow to react to grassroots pressure against the war, they are still within shouting distance. There is a huge disconnect between anti-[war sentiment in the grassroots and what we get from the likes of not only Fox, but CNN, NPR and PBS.

Q: What do you make of the analysis of President Bush's state of mind with regards to war? It is widely believe that LBJ was at least privately tortured about his leadership and the war's toll.

A: For people in Vietnam or for people in Iraq, or for U.S. soldiers who are sent to those countries to kill and be killed, it really didn't matter whether LBJ or George W. Bush felt remorseful or gleeful as the war went on. It's really about policies that affect peoples' lives. The media spin has been refined and of course adapted to changes like the advent of cable television. But one of the really stunning things about the archival footage that's been unearthed and put together for the War Made Easy film is the continuity of the propaganda messages to justify the morally and logically unjustifiable.

From the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to WMD in 2002 -- the rhetoric that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used against withdrawing troops from Vietnam is often word for word the same catch phrases and code words that George W. Bush has been using. "You can't cut and run," "You must stay the course." These are ways of vilifying the opponents of the war in no uncertain terms.

Q: Why is it that so many Americans can fall for the same rhetoric that gets us involved in imperial wars, when it is often so transparent?

A: George Orwell said it well, "Those who control the past, control the future. Those who control the present, control the past." The arguments over Vietnam have not only been about a war in the past, it's been an argument over a war in the present and prospectively future wars as well.

The so-called Vietnam syndrome is something we talk at length about in the film because it's a catchphrase that's used in a negative way by media and war advocates in Washington to try to justify continuing an insane war that's so destructive. It's basically a way to say, if you're against the war, you're a wimp and you don't have fortitude. As one TV pundit said, "You're a weenie." The epithet of the Vietnam syndrome is based on a series of myths that we unpack in the film.

Q: What makes your film unique and worth seeing?

A: You'll see a panorama of techniques from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, from Walter Cronkite to Bill O'Reilly, that show how we're being scammed in the same ways from one war to another, from one decade to another. I think it's the scope of the film, which uses unarguable TV footage and historical film segments to show just how pernicious and how deep these patterns are.

It's really, for a lot of people, mind-blowing when it's laid end to end from 1964 to 2007. The film, I think, in its unique way conveys not by talking at people but by showing people that we have been subjected to a colossal scam. The results have been so terrible that we better get wise to it and find ways to resist, or the future that we want for the future generations is gravely imperiled.

The War On Democracy by John Pilger

The War On Democracy by John Pilger. Aug 22, 2007. View it on ...

Watch video
- 94 min -

The War on Democracy is a 2007 documentary film directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger. Focusing on the political state of Latin America, the film is a rebuke of both the United States' intervention in foreign countries' domestic politics, and its war on terrorism. The film was first released in the United Kingdom on June 15, 2007. It has also been shown on the British terrestrial channel ITV 1 on Monday 20th August at 11pm.

Set both in Latin America and the United States, the film explores the historic and current relationship of Washington with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile. Pilger claims that the film "...tells a universal story... analysing and revealing, through vivid testimony, the story of great power behind its venerable myths. It allows us to understand the true nature of the so-called "war on terror". According to Pilger, the film’s message is that the greed and power of empire is not invincible and that people power is always the "seed beneath the snow".

Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who purportedly took part in secret campaigns against democratic countries and who he claims are profiting from the war in Iraq. He investigates the School of the Americas in the U.S. state of Georgia, where General Pinochet’s torture squads were reportedly trained along with tyrants and death-squad leaders in Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina.

The film uses archive footage to support its claim that democracy has been wiped out in country after country in Latin America since the 1950s. Testimonies from those who fought for democracy in Chile and Bolivia are also used.

Segments filmed in Bolivia show that for the last five years huge popular movements have demanded that multinational companies be refused to access the country's natural reserves of gas, or to buy up the water supply. In Bolivia, Pilger interviews people who say that their country's resources, including their water and rainwater, were asset stripped by multinational interests. He describes how they threw out a foreign water consortium and reclaimed their water supply. The narrative leads to the landslide election of the country's first indigenous President.

In Chile, Pilger talks to women who survived the pogroms of General Augusto Pinochet, in remembrance of colleagues who perished at the hands of the dictator. He walks with Sara de Witt through the grounds of the torture house in which she was tortured and survived. Pilger also investigates the "model democracy" that Chile has become and claims that there is a façade of prosperity and that Pinochet’s legacy is still alive.

The film also tells the story of an American nun, Dianna Ortiz, who tells how she was tortured and gang raped in the late 1980s by a gang reportedly led by a fellow American clearly in league with the U.S.-backed regime, at a time when the Reagan administration was supplying the military regime with planes and guns. Ortiz asks whether the American people are aware of the role their country plays in subverting innocent nations under the guise of a "war on terror". Former CIA agent and Watergate scandal conspirator Howard Hunt, who describes how he and others overthrew the previously democratically elected government. Hunt describes how he organised "a little harmless bombing". Duane Clarridge, former head of CIA operations in South America is also interviewed.

Pilger traveled through Venezuela with its president, Hugo Chavez, who he regards as the only leader of an oil-producing nation who has used its resources democratically for the education and health of its people. The Venezuelan segment of the film features the coup of 2002, captured in archival footage. The film holds that the 2002 coup against Chavez was backed by rich and powerful interests under U.S. support and that Chavez was brought back to power by the Venezuelan people. Pilger describes the advances in Venezuela’s new social democracy, but he also questions Chavez on why there are still poor people in such an oil-rich country.

Monday, March 17, 2008

220 cities - F*ck-Off Day Last Saturday

Beppe Grillo the comedian well known for his fierce attacks against the political class, with his crowded .Fuck Off Days..


Last saturday, in about 220 Italian cities the V-Day took place.

Beppe Grillo, whose blog you can find on the leftbar links, was the main organizer and eventer of the day.
Something in between the D-Day of the landing in Normandy and a big vaffanculo (which I believe being so international not to need any translation) it was a day where tons of my fellow compatriots gathered to demonstrate against the 25 (25!) convicted MPs sitting in the Italian Parliament. If you add the ones who only had first grade conviction or whose trial is still running the number grows up to 80.

As higly predictable, the event had very little or no media coverage; nevertheless millions of people were demonstrating and some major accomplishments have been achieved: most prominent, 300.000 signatures were obtained for the introducing a bill of law for forbidding election of proved guilty politicians in the parliament and for the reform of the current electoral law, which doesn't actually allow people to choose the candidate they would go for, but only the party, with the candidates being listed beoforehand by the parties leader. Despite the premises, the V-Day was a great success, in terms of partecipation at least. I wouldn't be so optimistic about the Parliament passing the law bill, at least in a reasonable time, but we will see about that.

But here, following the dem. from far away, I was actually wondering: why was it necessary?

In other European countries I know, a MP involved in a scandal or, even worst, convicetd for a crime, would immediately resign. Sadly, in Italy it just ain't so.
It is like something is missing, a missing pawl that you may either name "shame" or "respect for voters" or simply "responsibility". It is hard to say where this pawl should be located in the whole machine, or where it is located in other democracies.

Just to make some examples (very few, otherwise this post is going to be as long as hell), Cesare Previti
, several times under trials and convicted for many crimes, once openly admitted he had done tax-dodging. When he said that, he was a minister of the first Berlusconi's government in 1994 but, of course, he didn't resign. Former governor of Banca d'Italia, Antonio Fazio, kept his seat for several months after his absolutely unfair relations with many Italian bankers were revealed. the old Mp Gustavo Selva once hijacked an ambulance for his own purposes (getting in time to a talk show!), first lying and then threatening the doctors and attendants, committing at least a crime. But he didn't resign.
This summer another MP, the ultra catholic Cosimo Mele, was found in an hotel room with two whores and a lot of cocaine. Well, prostitution isn't illegal, but drug is. Guess what? He's still there.
The examples would be countless. Media talk about these things, but those people just don't feel like they should answer or give explanations of any sort. I would bet in Denmark, or Germany, or UK, or France, discovering such things would have immediately brought to resigning.

Why is it then different in Italy? What's the missing pawl?

I think it would be a way too simple to say they're different cultures and the likes. Let's put it this way: if, say, a British MP was found while enjoying himself with whores and cocaine, why would he feel forced to resign? What mechanism would push him towards getting on his way home?

First of all, I think the Parliament wouldn't stand on his side but rather start an inquiry, exposing the MP to a serie of humiliating procedures. Then, I assume there would be pressures from his own party, willing to get rid of a person potentially noxious for the party's image before voters (this happened, for example, to German former Chancellor Helmut Kohl when he was involved in a finance scandal - and that was the guy who reunified the country!). So, he would most likely be spontaneously marginalized by his own collegues, rather than comforted like somebody who had a little accident!

And, last but not least, the media would tear him apart every day, until resignment. This should be the traditional role of medias, that of being the fierce but true expression of people's outrage.
There we go: maybe that's what Italy is mostly missing: aggressive, cynical and straight media, the guard dog of popular justice. Maybe populist, but without partialities, truly reflecting the citizens' feelings.
Next to, comes naturally, an electoral law where the voters, and no the parties, are to decide who is going to represent them.

Well, the V-Day was a success though, and that's what counts for now ;)


Italy: Comic Beppe Grillo's blog ranked world's 9th most influential

Rome, 10 March (AKI) - Popular Italian comedian and political commentator Beppe Grillo's blog is the ninth most influential in the world, according to Britain's Sunday Observer magazine.

Due to the number of hits it receives, Grillo's blog is ranked more influential than the Drudge Report blog which takes 11th place.

The Drudge Report gained world fame in 1998 after it scooped a scurrilous rumour - untouched by mainstream media - about a sexual liaison between then-US president Bill Clinton and a White House intern called Monica Lewinsky.

Recent Drudge Report scoops include Barack Obama dressed in a turban and Britain's Prince Harry's tour of duty in Afghanistan

The Genovese comedian's rants against corruption and financial scandal have long made him the scourge of Italy's political establishment and persona non grata on state TV.

Grillo's blog ( has called for the people of the southern Italian city of Naples and the region of Campania to declare independence over the ongoing refuse crisis and has requested that Germany declare war on Italy to help its people. "We will throw violets and mimosa to your Franz and Gunther as they march through," he says.

An ongoing campaign on Grillo's blog is to introduce a Bill of Popular Initiative to remove from office all members of the Italian parliament who've ever had a criminal conviction.

Grillo's rallied thousands of marchers in 280 Italian towns and cities for his 'Vaffanculo Day' last September which urged voters to say "F... off" to Italy's "self-perpetuating" politicians and political parties

The world's most influential blog is that of millionairess Ariana Huffington, acccording to the Observer. Her Huffington Post blog, which began in 2005, revolutionised the concept of the political blog and is the most widely read news paper on the Internet.


ROME, Feb 28 (Reuters) - A growing number of young Italians plan to show their dismay with national politics by turning in invalid ballots in April's election, egged on by email campaigns and calls to boycott the familiar cast of ageing politicians.

Voting for Italy's 62nd post-war government comes amid a deepening sense of gloom, and few are as disillusioned with the squabbling political class as Italians in their 20s and 30s.

They expect little to change no matter who comes to power.

"It's always the same faces, the same politicians who give no hope things will get any better," said Niccolo Parri, 31, a doctor who plans to turn in an empty ballot.

He is one of many attracted by the words of comedians like Beppe Grillo, who has urged Italians to say "F..k off" to politicians, and Rosario Fiorello, who last week told Italians to "tear up their ballots and throw them in the streets".

About 6 to 8 percent of voters -- mainly young people in the north -- have been swept up in the "anti-politics" movement, estimates the pollster Luigi Crespi.

"We'll see a major increase in the number of protest votes and the number of people writing 'Vaffanculo' (F..k off) on the ballot form or handing in blank ballots," Crespi said.

He estimates the number of blank ballots will nearly triple to about 1 million during the April 13-14 election from about 400,000 in the last parliamentary election two years ago.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free speech: It's all or nothing

Free speech: It's all or nothing
By: Daniel Gamberg
Posted: 3/17/08

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech." - Noam Chomsky

It's a long-running debate: Should there be limits to freedom of speech? Are there boundaries to the First Amendment? Is it okay for a person to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater?

In Oct. 2006, the San Francisco State University chapter of the College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally where chapter members stepped on fabricated Hamas and Hezbollah flags that included the word "Allah" in Arabic. Finding their actions offensive, a Muslim student at SFSU complained to the college administration, which launched an investigation to determine whether the rally was suitably "civil," as prescribed in the California State University Student Code of Conduct.

Fortunately, SFSU officials soon dropped the investigation and, after being sued by a conservative Christian group defending the College Republicans, the CSU system agreed to amend its Code of Conduct. Whether or not the actions of the College Republicans were offensive is immaterial; the question here is whether documents that attempt to regulate any type of speech should be considered anemic to a democratic society and to the spirit of higher education.

If we begin to censor "offensive" speech on college campuses, just who will be to choose what can and cannot be said? College officials? State lawmakers? Will they be Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives?

In practice, there is simply no equitable way to determine the appropriateness of a person's speech. Does this mean students should not be held accountable for what they say? Of course not, but accounts should be settled by society in the court of public opinion, not by college administrators in closed hearing rooms.

Granted, there must be some limits to free speech, such as when a person's words or actions constitute an immediate threat to the physical wellbeing of another person. This is where the famous "Yelling 'fire' in a crowded movie theater" scenario comes into play. But how are these limits determined? And who decides what cases fit their criteria?

Currently, the litmus test used by the U.S. Supreme Court is to ask whether or not the speech or actions in question constitute the expression of a political or religious belief. If so, they are protected. If not, then it comes down to the justices' discretion.

For example, on June 25 of last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Deborah Morse, determining that she did not violate student Joseph Frederick's first amendment rights when she suspended Frederick for holding a banner that read "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" while attending an off-campus school event in January 2002.

The court decided that, although Frederick was not on campus at the time of the incident, the event was school-sanctioned and therefore the student code of conduct was in effect. As his banner did not express any particular religious or political statement, his speech was not protected.

Nevertheless, we must be extraordinarily cautious when deciding the boundaries of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is an essential adhesive to any functioning democracy, promoting the diversity necessary to maintain equality and individuality without fear of restraint.


Free speech in a Democracy
Noam Chomsky
Daily Camera, September, 1985
In the Daily Camera (Aug. 25), Professor Howard Smokler, responding to a column by Nat Hentoff (June 30), writes that I have "hurt and offended" him by two actions concerning Robert Faurisson, who in 1980 published a book entitled Memoir in Defense Against Those Who Accuse Me of Falsifying History in which, according to Smokler, "he charged that 'the myth of the gas chambers' originated in certain American Zionist circles around 1942 ... "The two actions are: 1) that I "defended Faurisson's right to publish these falsehoods," and 2) that "in a letter to the historian Lucy Dawidowicz, (I) expressed complete agnosticism on the subject of whether Faurisson's views were 'horrendous." I will return to the first point. As for the second, it is not clear on what grounds Professor Smokler might be hurt or offended by a personal letter, which I presume he has never seen, written to a third party, but the question is academic, since he has grossly misinterpreted its contents.

The relevant facts are as follows. Faurisson was a professor of French literature at the University of Lyon. After he published some items in which he denied the existence of gas chambers, he was suspended from teaching on the grounds that the university could not protect him from violence. He was then brought to trial for "falsification of history," and condemned -- the first time in the West, to my knowledge, that the courts have affirmed the familiar Stalinist-fascist doctrine that the State has the right to determine historical truth and to punish deviation from it. I was one of 500 foreign signers of a petition urging that Faurisson's civil rights be respected. Shortly after, in a letter of Sept. 10, 1980, Ms. Dawidowicz wrote me asking whether I "had signed a statement defending Robert Faurisson's right to speak his views," and if so, "what reason compelled me to sign it." On Sept. 18, I wrote her that I had indeed signed a statement defending Faurisson's right to speak his views. As for my reasons, I wrote that "I signed the appeal because I believe that people have the right of freedom and expression whatever their views, that the importance of defending these rights is all the greater when the person expresses views that are abhorrent to virtually everyone (as in this case), and that this becomes particularly important when the person in question is thrown out of his academic position," and subjected to other ill-treatment. I did not know then about the "falsification of history" trial, and had never heard of Faurisson's book, which appeared three months later; this book, as the title indicates, was a defense against the scandalous charges for which he was later sentenced, dealing specifically with the charge that he had falsified the diaries of Nazi doctor Johann Paul Kremer.*

[*Faurisson was not convicted of falsifying history; the Paris Court of Appeals upheld a guilty verdict based on "personal damages" likely to arise from "passionately aggressive actions against all those ... implicitly accused of lying and deception" by the results of Faurisson's research. (Ed. note)]

I also wrote to Ms. Dawidowicz that I was shocked by her query as to why one should defend freedom of speech. I remain shocked today. I might add that no question has ever been raised on the innumerable occasions when I have signed similar petitions for people with all sorts of views, often views of which I know nothing or which I know to be horrendous, or when I have taken far stronger and more controversial stands in support of civil liberties, for example, when I supported the right of American war criminals not only to speak and teach but also to conduct their research, on grounds of academic freedom, at a time when their work was being used to murder and destroy (no one accuses Faurisson of being a war criminal or claims that his work is contributing to massive ongoing crimes). I might note that the utter hypocrisy of Smokler, Dawidowicz and their circles more generally is very clearly demonstrated by the fact that they are "hurt and offended" by my defense of the right of free expression in the Faurisson case, but not by far more controversial and extreme actions of mine in defense of the same rights for people they find more congenial.

I went on to inform Ms. Dawidowicz that I knew very little about Faurisson's work, so that while it may be "horrendous," as claimed by his critics, I obviously could not comment. This is what Smokler reports as an expression of "complete agnosticism." Apparently, he is willing to pass judgment on matters of which he knows nothing, but I am not, and the fact that a person is universally denounced does not suffice for me to join in the parade without at least looking at what he has to say, which I had not done in this case and had no particular interest in doing: I am willing to wager that Smokler has never read a word by Faurisson, nor is there any reason why he should. Furthermore, as I wrote to Ms. Dawidowicz, the nature of his views is, plainly, completely irrelevant to the issue of his right to express them, a truism among civil libertarians that those of a Stalinist-fascist persuasion find quite shocking.

I have discussed Smokler's second charge, based on his distortion of the personal letter to Dawidowicz to which he alludes. Let us consider the first charge. Here he is correct. I do defend the right of Faurisson to publish falsehoods, as I defend the right of anyone else to do so, including Professor Smokler. As I wrote to Ms. Dawidowicz in the letter that Smokler misrepresents, "I thought that all of this had been settled in the 18th century, but apparently others do not agree," including Professor Smokler. He states that my support for familiar Enlightenment principles and my rejection of the Stalinist-fascist doctrine that he advocates hurts and offends him. I am afraid I have no apologies to offer about that. Smokler goes on to deny at length a claim that was never made, either by me or by Nat Hentoff: namely, that my "political rights," including the right of freedom of speech, were denied in the three incidents mentioned by Hentoff: namely, 1) a request by students at Cornell Medical School that I withdraw as commencement speaker (as I did) because my views on Zionism so offended them that the occasion would be spoiled for them no matter what I spoke on; 2) the withdrawal of an invitation by the Middle East Center at the University of Michigan after pressure by faculty members who demanded that I not be permitted to speak on the Middle East at the Cleveland City Club, evidently under some form of pressure. Smokler is quite right to say that there is no issue of freedom of speech in these cases, nor has anyone so alleged.

The issue, as Hentoff clearly stated, is an entirely different one. It is as stated in my letter to the Cornell Medical students, which Hentoff quoted: "As you may know, Israeli doves have bitterly deplored the chauvinist fanaticism among sectors of the American Jewish community that they consider -- rightly in my view -- to be driving their country to disaster." I have taken many highly controversial positions on many matters, but incidents of the kind Hentoff describes have never occurred except on this issue, and then only in the United States; my only comparable experience is in the Soviet sphere, where not a word of mine on any political topic is allowed expression. Many others have had the same experience, including prominent Israelis: for example, (General) Mattityahu Peled, who bitterly denounced the American Jewish community, after a visit here when he was subjected to the kind of abuse familiar among those who do not toe the Party Line with sufficient precision, for their "state of near hysteria" and their "blindly chauvinistic and narrow-minded" support for the most reactionary policies within Israel, which poses "the danger of prodding Israel once more toward a posture of calloused intransigence." Other well-known Israeli doves have condemned what they correctly describe as the "Stalinist" practices in these circles. The issue is a serious one, but it is not one of freedom of speech in the technical sense that Smokler irrelevantly debates with no opponent.

Smokler states that it is my responsibility to "make publicly available the evidence which leads (me) to assert that (I am) systematically excluded from the expression of (my) ideas." The assertion is his, not mine, but apart from that, I do not accept such responsibility. The ridiculous antics of Smokler's friends and associates are not my concern. If Nat Hentoff or others ask me for information about these matters, I will provide it, but I recognize no duty beyond that. The Michigan affair was discussed extensively in the University and Ann Arbor press, and by Michigan historian Alan Wald in several articles. It was regarded as scandalous quite rightly, but I have never mentioned it except in response to queries. The same is true of the other two incidents, and of many others.

Suppression of critical comment on Israel of a sort that is easily expressed in Israel itself is readily demonstrable. To mention only one case, my book Fateful Triangle (1983) was reviewed in major (and minor) newspapers and news weeklies in Canada, Britain, Australia (even on national TV), and in exactly two local newspapers in the United States (and in the New York Review of Books, after a long review had appeared in its sister journal in London, which is widely read here), though its contents are far more relevant to U.S. concerns. This is quite typical, for others as well. While I am asked to write regularly on the Middle East in major journals in Israel, Europe and elsewhere, that is virtually inconceivable here. My experience is not all that unusual in this regard. It should be noted that the U.S. is a highly ideological society in which dissenting opinion is effectively marginalized as compared with other industrial democracies, but nevertheless, the case of the Middle East is unique. As has been observed in press commentary in Israel -- a more democratic society than ours, at least for its Jewish majority -- this is a serious danger for American democracy, for the Middle East, and indeed for world peace.

Again let me stress that no one is raising an issue of the "political rights" of critics of Israeli policies. To take another case, my "political rights" are not violated when the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith keeps a 150-page file on my activities, including surveillance of my talks and grossly falsified accounts of these talks and other matters, which the League then circulates to people with whom I am to have debates (e.g., Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz) or to groups in universities where I am to speak so that they can extract defamatory and slanderous lies from this material. The issues, rather, are quite different. I have agreed to provide these files (leaked to me from the ADL office) to the people who find the Stalinist-style mentality and behavior of the ADL scandalous, and who question whether a tax-exempt organization should devote itself to surveillance and defamation of critics of the state it serves, but I accept no further responsibility to concern myself with the matter, contrary to Smokler's absurd claim, any more than I waste time over the behavior of Communist Party hacks. For those who may be interested in the disreputable and dangerous activities of these groups, there is ample evidence in Paul Findley's recent book, They Dare to Speak Out, Naseer Aruri's "The Middle East on the U.S. Campus," (Link, published by Americans for Middle East Understanding), and other works.

Smokler also presents his private version of my views, claiming that I have given no evidence for them and that an unnamed Africanist interprets the facts differently. No comment appears necessary. Those who may be interested in what my views actually are and whether I have given evidence for them can easily consult available literature, for example, Fateful Triangle. To my knowledge, only one competent Zionist historian has reviewed this book, Dr. Noah Lucas, in the Jewish Quarterly, London, Nos. 3-4, 1984. I will simply quote his concluding words: "Good luck to the reader who may succeed in refuting any of the facts or assumptions or conclusions presented by Chomsky. It will not be accomplished by anyone who approaches the matter as an issue of propaganda or public relations for Israel, but only by the student who matches research with research." Not by Professor Smokler, plainly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Famine, Affluence, and Morality

"Famine, Affluence, and Morality" is an essay written by Peter Singer in 1971 and published in Philosophy and Public Affairs in 1972. It argues that affluent persons are morally obligated to donate far more resources to humanitarian causes than is considered normal in Western cultures. The essay was inspired by the starvation of Bangladesh Liberation War refugees, and uses their situation as an example, although Singer's argument is general in scope.

One of the core arguments in the essay is that if one can use his wealth to reduce suffering—for example, by aiding famine relief efforts—without any significant reduction in the well-being of himself or others, then it is immoral not to do so. According to Singer, such inaction is clearly immoral if a child were drowning in a shallow pond where someone could have saved the child but chose not to; putting greater geographic distance between the person in need and the potential helper does not reduce the latter's moral obligations. The affluent are constantly guilty of this, Singer argues, because they have large amounts of surplus wealth that they do not use to aid humanitarian projects in developing nations.

Famine, Affluence, and Morality

Peter Singer
Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 1, no. 1 (Spring 1972), pp. 229-243 [revised edition]

As I write this, in November 1971, people are dying in East Bengal from lack of food, shelter, and medical care. The suffering and death that are occurring there now are not inevitable, not unavoidable in any fatalistic sense of the term. Constant poverty, a cyclone, and a civil war have turned at least nine million people into destitute refugees; nevertheless, it is not beyond the capacity of the richer nations to give enough assistance to reduce any further suffering to very small proportions. The decisions and actions of human beings can prevent this kind of suffering. Unfortunately, human beings have not made the necessary decisions. At the individual level, people have, with very few exceptions, not responded to the situation in any significant way. Generally speaking, people have not given large sums to relief funds; they have not written to their parliamentary representatives demanding increased government assistance; they have not demonstrated in the streets, held symbolic fasts, or done anything else directed toward providing the refugees with the means to satisfy their essential needs. At the government level, no government has given the sort of massive aid that would enable the refugees to survive for more than a few days. Britain, for instance, has given rather more than most countries. It has, to date, given £14,750,000. For comparative purposes, Britain's share of the nonrecoverable development costs of the Anglo-French Concorde project is already in excess of £275,000,000, and on present estimates will reach £440,000,000. The implication is that the British government values a supersonic transport more than thirty times as highly as it values the lives of the nine million refugees. Australia is another country which, on a per capita basis, is well up in the "aid to Bengal" table. Australia's aid, however, amounts to less than one-twelfth of the cost of Sydney's new opera house. The total amount given, from all sources, now stands at about £65,000,000. The estimated cost of keeping the refugees alive for one year is £464,000,000. Most of the refugees have now been in the camps for more than six months. The World Bank has said that India needs a minimum of £300,000,000 in assistance from other countries before the end of the year. It seems obvious that assistance on this scale will not be forthcoming. India will be forced to choose between letting the refugees starve or diverting funds from her own development program, which will mean that more of her own people will starve in the future. [1]

These are the essential facts about the present situation in Bengal. So far as it concerns us here, there is nothing unique about this situation except its magnitude. The Bengal emergency is just the latest and most acute of a series of major emergencies in various parts of the world, arising both from natural and from manmade causes. There are also many parts of the world in which people die from malnutrition and lack of food independent of any special emergency. I take Bengal as my example only because it is the present concern, and because the size of the problem has ensured that it has been given adequate publicity. Neither individuals nor governments can claim to be unaware of what is happening there.

What are the moral implications of a situation like this? In what follows, I shall argue that the way people in relatively affluent countries react to a situation like that in Bengal cannot be justified; indeed, the whole way we look at moral issues - our moral conceptual scheme - needs to be altered, and with it, the way of life that has come to be taken for granted in our society.

In arguing for this conclusion I will not, of course, claim to be morally neutral. I shall, however, try to argue for the moral position that I take, so that anyone who accepts certain assumptions, to be made explicit, will, I hope, accept my conclusion.

I begin with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad. I think most people will agree about this, although one may reach the same view by different routes. I shall not argue for this view. People can hold all sorts of eccentric positions, and perhaps from some of them it would not follow that death by starvation is in itself bad. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to refute such positions, and so for brevity I will henceforth take this assumption as accepted. Those who disagree need read no further.

My next point is this: if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By "without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance" I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent. This principle seems almost as uncontroversial as the last one. It requires us only to prevent what is bad, and to promote what is good, and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important. I could even, as far as the application of my argument to the Bengal emergency is concerned, qualify the point so as to make it: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it. An application of this principle would be as follows: if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.

The uncontroversial appearance of the principle just stated is deceptive. If it were acted upon, even in its qualified form, our lives, our society, and our world would be fundamentally changed. For the principle takes, firstly, no account of proximity or distance. It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor's child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away. Secondly, the principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same position.

I do not think I need to say much in defense of the refusal to take proximity and distance into account. The fact that a person is physically near to us, so that we have personal contact with him, may make it more likely that we shall assist him, but this does not show that we ought to help him rather than another who happens to be further away. If we accept any principle of impartiality, universalizability, equality, or whatever, we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him). Admittedly, it is possible that we are in a better position to judge what needs to be done to help a person near to us than one far away, and perhaps also to provide the assistance we judge to be necessary. If this were the case, it would be a reason for helping those near to us first. This may once have been a justification for being more concerned with the poor in one's town than with famine victims in India. Unfortunately for those who like to keep their moral responsibilities limited, instant communication and swift transportation have changed the situation. From the moral point of view, the development of the world into a "global village" has made an important, though still unrecognized, difference to our moral situation. Expert observers and supervisors, sent out by famine relief organizations or permanently stationed in famine-prone areas, can direct our aid to a refugee in Bengal almost as effectively as we could get it to someone in our own block. There would seem, therefore, to be no possible justification for discriminating on geographical grounds.

There may be a greater need to defend the second implication of my principle - that the fact that there are millions of other people in the same position, in respect to the Bengali refugees, as I am, does not make the situation significantly different from a situation in which I am the only person who can prevent something very bad from occurring. Again, of course, I admit that there is a psychological difference between the cases; one feels less guilty about doing nothing if one can point to others, similarly placed, who have also done nothing. Yet this can make no real difference to our moral obligations. [2] Should I consider that I am less obliged to pull the drowning child out of the pond if on looking around I see other people, no further away than I am, who have also noticed the child but are doing nothing? One has only to ask this question to see the absurdity of the view that numbers lessen obligation. It is a view that is an ideal excuse for inactivity; unfortunately most of the major evils - poverty, overpopulation, pollution - are problems in which everyone is almost equally involved.

The view that numbers do make a difference can be made plausible if stated in this way: if everyone in circumstances like mine gave £5 to the Bengal Relief Fund, there would be enough to provide food, shelter, and medical care for the refugees; there is no reason why I should give more than anyone else in the same circumstances as I am; therefore I have no obligation to give more than £5. Each premise in this argument is true, and the argument looks sound. It may convince us, unless we notice that it is based on a hypothetical premise, although the conclusion is not stated hypothetically. The argument would be sound if the conclusion were: if everyone in circumstances like mine were to give £5, I would have no obligation to give more than £5. If the conclusion were so stated, however, it would be obvious that the argument has no bearing on a situation in which it is not the case that everyone else gives £5. This, of course, is the actual situation. It is more or less certain that not everyone in circumstances like mine will give £5. So there will not be enough to provide the needed food, shelter, and medical care. Therefore by giving more than £5 I will prevent more suffering than I would if I gave just £5.

It might be thought that this argument has an absurd consequence. Since the situation appears to be that very few people are likely to give substantial amounts, it follows that I and everyone else in similar circumstances ought to give as much as possible, that is, at least up to the point at which by giving more one would begin to cause serious suffering for oneself and one's dependents - perhaps even beyond this point to the point of marginal utility, at which by giving more one would cause oneself and one's dependents as much suffering as one would prevent in Bengal. If everyone does this, however, there will be more than can be used for the benefit of the refugees, and some of the sacrifice will have been unnecessary. Thus, if everyone does what he ought to do, the result will not be as good as it would be if everyone did a little less than he ought to do, or if only some do all that they ought to do.

The paradox here arises only if we assume that the actions in question - sending money to the relief funds - are performed more or less simultaneously, and are also unexpected. For if it is to be expected that everyone is going to contribute something, then clearly each is not obliged to give as much as he would have been obliged to had others not been giving too. And if everyone is not acting more or less simultaneously, then those giving later will know how much more is needed, and will have no obligation to give more than is necessary to reach this amount. To say this is not to deny the principle that people in the same circumstances have the same obligations, but to point out that the fact that others have given, or may be expected to give, is a relevant circumstance: those giving after it has become known that many others are giving and those giving before are not in the same circumstances. So the seemingly absurd consequence of the principle I have put forward can occur only if people are in error about the actual circumstances - that is, if they think they are giving when others are not, but in fact they are giving when others are. The result of everyone doing what he really ought to do cannot be worse than the result of everyone doing less than he ought to do, although the result of everyone doing what he reasonably believes he ought to do could be.

If my argument so far has been sound, neither our distance from a preventable evil nor the number of other people who, in respect to that evil, are in the same situation as we are, lessens our obligation to mitigate or prevent that evil. I shall therefore take as established the principle I asserted earlier. As I have already said, I need to assert it only in its qualified form: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.

The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset. The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn, or at least, not in the place we normally draw it. Giving money to the Bengal Relief Fund is regarded as an act of charity in our society. The bodies which collect money are known as "charities." These organizations see themselves in this way - if you send them a check, you will be thanked for your "generosity." Because giving money is regarded as an act of charity, it is not thought that there is anything wrong with not giving. The charitable man may be praised, but the man who is not charitable is not condemned. People do not feel in any way ashamed or guilty about spending money on new clothes or a new car instead of giving it to famine relief. (Indeed, the alternative does not occur to them.) This way of looking at the matter cannot be justified. When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look "well-dressed" we are not providing for any important need. We would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving. It follows from what I have said earlier that we ought to give money away, rather than spend it on clothes which we do not need to keep us warm. To do so is not charitable, or generous. Nor is it the kind of act which philosophers and theologians have called "supererogatory" - an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. On the contrary, we ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so.

I am not maintaining that there are no acts which are charitable, or that there are no acts which it would be good to do but not wrong not to do. It may be possible to redraw the distinction between duty and charity in some other place. All I am arguing here is that the present way of drawing the distinction, which makes it an act of charity for a man living at the level of affluence which most people in the "developed nations" enjoy to give money to save someone else from starvation, cannot be supported. It is beyond the scope of my argument to consider whether the distinction should be redrawn or abolished altogether. There would be many other possible ways of drawing the distinction - for instance, one might decide that it is good to make other people as happy as possible, but not wrong not to do so.

Despite the limited nature of the revision in our moral conceptual scheme which I am proposing, the revision would, given the extent of both affluence and famine in the world today, have radical implications. These implications may lead to further objections, distinct from those I have already considered. I shall discuss two of these.

One objection to the position I have taken might be simply that it is too drastic a revision of our moral scheme. People do not ordinarily judge in the way I have suggested they should. Most people reserve their moral condemnation for those who violate some moral norm, such as the norm against taking another person's property. They do not condemn those who indulge in luxury instead of giving to famine relief. But given that I did not set out to present a morally neutral description of the way people make moral judgments, the way people do in fact judge has nothing to do with the validity of my conclusion. My conclusion follows from the principle which I advanced earlier, and unless that principle is rejected, or the arguments are shown to be unsound, I think the conclusion must stand, however strange it appears. It might, nevertheless, be interesting to consider why our society, and most other societies, do judge differently from the way I have suggested they should. In a wellknown article, J. O. Urmson suggests that the imperatives of duty, which tell us what we must do, as distinct from what it would be good to do but not wrong not to do, function so as to prohibit behavior that is intolerable if men are to live together in society. [3] This may explain the origin and continued existence of the present division between acts of duty and acts of charity. Moral attitudes are shaped by the needs of society, and no doubt society needs people who will observe the rules that make social existence tolerable. From the point of view of a particular society, it is essential to prevent violations of norms against killing, stealing, and so on. It is quite inessential, however, to help people outside one's own society.

If this is an explanation of our common distinction between duty and supererogation, however, it is not a justification of it. The moral point of view requires us to look beyond the interests of our own society. Previously, as I have already mentioned, this may hardly have been feasible, but it is quite feasible now. From the moral point of view, the prevention of the starvation of millions of people outside our society must be considered at least as pressing as the upholding of property norms within our society.

It has been argued by some writers, among them Sidgwick and Urmson, that we need to have a basic moral code which is not too far beyond the capacities of the ordinary man, for otherwise there will be a general breakdown of compliance with the moral code. Crudely stated, this argument suggests that if we tell people that they ought to refrain from murder and give everything they do not really need to famine relief, they will do neither, whereas if we tell them that they ought to refrain from murder and that it is good to give to famine relief but not wrong not to do so, they will at least refrain from murder. The issue here is: Where should we draw the line between conduct that is required and conduct that is good although not required, so as to get the best possible result? This would seem to be an empirical question, although a very difficult one. One objection to the Sidgwick-Urmson line of argument is that it takes insufficient account of the effect that moral standards can have on the decisions we make. Given a society in which a wealthy man who gives 5 percent of his income to famine relief is regarded as most generous, it is not surprising that a proposal that we all ought to give away half our incomes will be thought to be absurdly unrealistic. In a society which held that no man should have more than enough while others have less than they need, such a proposal might seem narrow-minded. What it is possible for a man to do and what he is likely to do are both, I think, very greatly influenced by what people around him are doing and expecting him to do. In any case, the possibility that by spreading the idea that we ought to be doing very much more than we are to relieve famine we shall bring about a general breakdown of moral behavior seems remote. If the stakes are an end to widespread starvation, it is worth the risk. Finally, it should be emphasized that these considerations are relevant only to the issue of what we should require from others, and not to what we ourselves ought to do.

The second objection to my attack on the present distinction between duty and charity is one which has from time to time been made against utilitarianism. It follows from some forms of utilitarian theory that we all ought, morally, to be working full time to increase the balance of happiness over misery. The position I have taken here would not lead to this conclusion in all circumstances, for if there were no bad occurrences that we could prevent without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, my argument would have no application. Given the present conditions in many parts of the world, however, it does follow from my argument that we ought, morally, to be working full time to relieve great suffering of the sort that occurs as a result of famine or other disasters. Of course, mitigating circumstances can be adduced - for instance, that if we wear ourselves out through overwork, we shall be less effective than we would otherwise have been. Nevertheless, when all considerations of this sort have been taken into account, the conclusion remains: we ought to be preventing as much suffering as we can without sacrificing something else of comparable moral importance. This conclusion is one which we may be reluctant to face. I cannot see, though, why it should be regarded as a criticism of the position for which I have argued, rather than a criticism of our ordinary standards of behavior. Since most people are self-interested to some degree, very few of us are likely to do everything that we ought to do. It would, however, hardly be honest to take this as evidence that it is not the case that we ought to do it.

It may still be thought that my conclusions are so wildly out of line with what everyone else thinks and has always thought that there must be something wrong with the argument somewhere. In order to show that my conclusions, while certainly contrary to contemporary Western moral standards, would not have seemed so extraordinary at other times and in other places, I would like to quote a passage from a writer not normally thought of as a way-out radical, Thomas Aquinas.

Now, according to the natural order instituted by divine providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. Therefore the division and appropriation of property, which proceeds from human law, must not hinder the satisfaction of man's necessity from such goods. Equally, whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Gratiani: "The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless." [4]

I now want to consider a number of points, more practical than philosophical, which are relevant to the application of the moral conclusion we have reached. These points challenge not the idea that we ought to be doing all we can to prevent starvation, but the idea that giving away a great deal of money is the best means to this end.

It is sometimes said that overseas aid should be a government responsibility, and that therefore one ought not to give to privately run charities. Giving privately, it is said, allows the government and the noncontributing members of society to escape their responsibilities.

This argument seems to assume that the more people there are who give to privately organized famine relief funds, the less likely it is that the government will take over full responsibility for such aid. This assumption is unsupported, and does not strike me as at all plausible. The opposite view - that if no one gives voluntarily, a government will assume that its citizens are uninterested in famine relief and would not wish to be forced into giving aid - seems more plausible. In any case, unless there were a definite probability that by refusing to give one would be helping to bring about massive government assistance, people who do refuse to make voluntary contributions are refusing to prevent a certain amount of suffering without being able to point to any tangible beneficial consequence of their refusal. So the onus of showing how their refusal will bring about government action is on those who refuse to give.

I do not, of course, want to dispute the contention that governments of affluent nations should be giving many times the amount of genuine, no-strings-attached aid that they are giving now. I agree, too, that giving privately is not enough, and that we ought to be campaigning actively for entirely new standards for both public and private contributions to famine relief. Indeed, I would sympathize with someone who thought that campaigning was more important than giving oneself, although I doubt whether preaching what one does not practice would be very effective. Unfortunately, for many people the idea that "it's the government's responsibility" is a reason for not giving which does not appear to entail any political action either.

Another, more serious reason for not giving to famine relief funds is that until there is effective population control, relieving famine merely postpones starvation. If we save the Bengal refugees now, others, perhaps the children of these refugees, will face starvation in a few years' time. In support of this, one may cite the now well-known facts about the population explosion and the relatively limited scope for expanded production.

This point, like the previous one, is an argument against relieving suffering that is happening now, because of a belief about what might happen in the future; it is unlike the previous point in that very good evidence can be adduced in support of this belief about the future. I will not go into the evidence here. I accept that the earth cannot support indefinitely a population rising at the present rate. This certainly poses a problem for anyone who thinks it important to prevent famine. Again, however, one could accept the argument without drawing the conclusion that it absolves one from any obligation to do anything to prevent famine. The conclusion that should be drawn is that the best means of preventing famine, in the long run, is population control. It would then follow from the position reached earlier that one ought to be doing all one can to promote population control (unless one held that all forms of population control were wrong in themselves, or would have significantly bad consequences). Since there are organizations working specifically for population control, one would then support them rather than more orthodox methods of preventing famine.

A third point raised by the conclusion reached earlier relates to the question of just how much we all ought to be giving away. One possibility, which has already been mentioned, is that we ought to give until we reach the level of marginal utility - that is, the level at which, by giving more, I would cause as much suffering to myself or my dependents as I would relieve by my gift. This would mean, of course, that one would reduce oneself to very near the material circumstances of a Bengali refugee. It will be recalled that earlier I put forward both a strong and a moderate version of the principle of preventing bad occurrences. The strong version, which required us to prevent bad things from happening unless in doing so we would be sacrificing something of comparable moral significance, does seem to require reducing ourselves to the level of marginal utility. I should also say that the strong version seems to me to be the correct one. I proposed the more moderate version - that we should prevent bad occurrences unless, to do so, we had to sacrifice something morally significant - only in order to show that, even on this surely undeniable principle, a great change in our way of life is required. On the more moderate principle, it may not follow that we ought to reduce ourselves to the level of marginal utility, for one might hold that to reduce oneself and one's family to this level is to cause something significantly bad to happen. Whether this is so I shall not discuss, since, as I have said, I can see no good reason for holding the moderate version of the principle rather than the strong version. Even if we accepted the principle only in its moderate form, however, it should be clear that we would have to give away enough to ensure that the consumer society, dependent as it is on people spending on trivia rather than giving to famine relief, would slow down and perhaps disappear entirely. There are several reasons why this would be desirable in itself. The value and necessity of economic growth are now being questioned not only by conservationists, but by economists as well. [5] There is no doubt, too, that the consumer society has had a distorting effect on the goals and purposes of its members. Yet looking at the matter purely from the point of view of overseas aid, there must be a limit to the extent to which we should deliberately slow down our economy; for it might be the case that if we gave away, say, 40 percent of our Gross National Product, we would slow down the economy so much that in absolute terms we would be giving less than if we gave 25 percent of the much larger GNP that we would have if we limited our contribution to this smaller percentage.

I mention this only as an indication of the sort of factor that one would have to take into account in working out an ideal. Since Western societies generally consider 1 percent of the GNP an acceptable level for overseas aid, the matter is entirely academic. Nor does it affect the question of how much an individual should give in a society in which very few are giving substantial amounts.

It is sometimes said, though less often now than it used to be, that philosophers have no special role to play in public affairs, since most public issues depend primarily on an assessment of facts. On questions of fact, it is said, philosophers as such have no special expertise, and so it has been possible to engage in philosophy without committing oneself to any position on major public issues. No doubt there are some issues of social policy and foreign policy about which it can truly be said that a really expert assessment of the facts is required before taking sides or acting, but the issue of famine is surely not one of these. The facts about the existence of suffering are beyond dispute. Nor, I think, is it disputed that we can do something about it, either through orthodox methods of famine relief or through population control or both. This is therefore an issue on which philosophers are competent to take a position. The issue is one which faces everyone who has more money than he needs to support himself and his dependents, or who is in a position to take some sort of political action. These categories must include practically every teacher and student of philosophy in the universities of the Western world. If philosophy is to deal with matters that are relevant to both teachers and students, this is an issue that philosophers should discuss.

Discussion, though, is not enough. What is the point of relating philosophy to public (and personal) affairs if we do not take our conclusions seriously? In this instance, taking our conclusion seriously means acting upon it. The philosopher will not find it any easier than anyone else to alter his attitudes and way of life to the extent that, if I am right, is involved in doing everything that we ought to be doing. At the very least, though, one can make a start. The philosopher who does so will have to sacrifice some of the benefits of the consumer society, but he can find compensation in the satisfaction of a way of life in which theory and practice, if not yet in harmony, are at least coming together.


The crisis in Bangladesh that spurred me to write the above article is now of historical interest only, but the world food crisis is, if anything, still more serious. The huge grain reserves that were then held by the United States have vanished. Increased oil prices have made both fertilizer and energy more expensive in developing countries, and have made it difficult for them to produce more food. At the same time, their population has continued to grow. Fortunately, as I write now, there is no major famine anywhere in the world; but poor people are still starving in several countries, and malnutrition remains very widespread. The need for assistance is, therefore, just as great as when I first wrote, and we can be sure that without it there will, again, be major famines.

The contrast between poverty and affluence that I wrote about is also as great as it was then. True, the affluent nations have experienced a recession, and are perhaps not as prosperous as they were in 1971. But the poorer nations have suffered as least as much from the recession, in reduced government aid (because if governments decide to reduce expenditure, they regard foreign aid as one of the expendable items, ahead of, for instance, defense or public construction projects) and in increased prices for goods and materials they need to buy. In any case, compared with the difference between the affluent nations and the poor nations, the whole recession was trifling; the poorest in the affluent nations remained incomparably better off than the poorest in the poor nations.

So the case for aid, on both a personal and a governmental level, remains as great now as it was in 1971, and I would not wish to change the basic argument that I put forward then.

There are, however, some matters of emphasis that I might put differently if I were to rewrite the article, and the most important of these concerns the population problem. I still think that, as I wrote then, the view that famine relief merely postpones starvation unless something is done to check population growth is not an argument against aid, it is only an argument against the type of aid that should be given. Those who hold this view have the same obligation to give to prevent starvation as those who do not; the difference is that they regard assisting population control schemes as a more effective way of preventing starvation in the long run. I would now, however, have given greater space to the discussion of the population problem; for I now think that there is a serious case for saying that if a country refuses to take any steps to slow the rate of its population growth, we should not give it aid. This is, of course, a very drastic step to take, and the choice it represents is a horrible choice to have to make; but if, after a dispassionate analysis of all the available information, we come to the conclusion that without population control we will not, in the long run, be able to prevent famine or other catastrophes, then it may be more humane in the long run to aid those countries that are prepared to take strong measures to reduce population growth, and to use our aid policy as a means of pressuring other countries to take similar steps.

It may be objected that such a policy involves an attempt to coerce a sovereign nation. But since we are not under an obligation to give aid unless that aid is likely to be effective in reducing starvation or malnutrition, we are not under an obligation to give aid to countries that make no effort to reduce a rate of population growth that will lead to catastrophe. Since we do not force any nation to accept our aid, simply making it clear that we will not give aid where it is not going to be effective cannot properly be regarded as a form of coercion.

I should also make it clear that the kind of aid that will slow population growth is not just assistance with the setting up of facilities for dispensing contraceptives and performing sterilizations. It is also necessary to create the conditions under which people do not wish to have so many children. This will involve, among other things, providing greater economic security for people, particularly in their old age, so that they do not need the security of a large family to provide for them. Thus, the requirements of aid designed to reduce population growth and aid designed to eliminate starvation are by no means separate; they overlap, and the latter will often be a means to the former. The obligation of the affluent is, I believe, to do both. Fortunately, there are now many people in the foreign aid field, including those in the private agencies, who are aware of this.

One other matter that I should now put forward slightly differently is that my argument does, of course, apply to assistance with development, particularly agricultural development, as well as to direct famine relief. Indeed, I think the former is usually the better long-term investment. Although this was my view when I wrote the article, the fact that I started from a famine situation, where the need was for immediate food, has led some readers to suppose that the argument is only about giving food and not about other types of aid. This is quite mistaken, and my view is that the aid should be of whatever type is most effective.

On a more philosophical level, there has been some discussion of the original article which has been helpful in clarifying the issues and pointing to the areas in which more work on the argument is needed. In particular, as John Arthur has shown in "Rights and the Duty to Bring Aid" (included in this volume), something more needs to be said about the notion of "moral significance." The problem is that to give an account of this notion involves nothing less than a full-fledged ethical theory; and while I am myself inclined toward a utilitarian view, it was my aim in writing "Famine, Affluence, and Morality" to produce an argument which would appeal not only to utilitarians, but also to anyone who accepted the initial premises of the argument, which seemed to me likely to have a very wide acceptance. So I tried to get around the need to produce a complete ethical theory by allowing my readers to fill in their own version - within limits - of what is morally significant, and then see what the moral consequences are. This tactic works reasonably well with those who are prepared to agree that such matters as being fashionably dressed are not really of moral significance; but Arthur is right to say that people could take the opposite view without being obviously irrational. Hence, I do not accept Arthur's claim that the weak principle implies little or no duty of benevolence, for it will imply a significant duty of benevolence for those who admit, as I think most nonphilosophers and even off-guard philosophers will admit, that they spend considerable sums on items that by their own standards are of no moral significance. But I do agree that the weak principle is nonetheless too weak, because it makes it too easy for the duty of benevolence to be avoided.

On the other hand, I think the strong principle will stand, whether the notion of moral significance is developed along utilitarian lines, or once again left to the individual reader's own sincere judgment. In either case, I would argue against Arthur's view that we are morally entitled to give greater weight to our own interests and purposes simply because they are our own. This view seems to me contrary to the idea, now widely shared by moral philosophers, that some element of impartiality or universalizability is inherent in the very notion of a moral judgment. (For a discussion of the different formulations of this idea, and an indication of the extent to which they are in agreement, see R. M. Hare, "Rules of War and Moral Reasoning," Philosophy & Public Affairs vol. 1, no. 2, 1972.) Granted, in normal circumstances, it may be better for everyone if we recognize that each of us will be primarily responsible for running our own lives and only secondarily responsible for others. This, however, is not a moral ultimate, but a secondary principle that derives from consideration of how a society may best order its affairs, given the limits of altruism in human beings. Such secondary principles are, I think, swept aside by the extreme evil of people starving to death.


1. There was also a third possibility: that India would go to war to enable the refugees to return to their lands. Since I wrote this paper, India has taken this way out. The situation is no longer that described above, but this does not affect my argument, as the next paragraph indicates.

2. In view of the special sense philosophers often give to the term, I should say that I use "obligation" simply as the abstract noun derived from "ought," so that "I have an obligation to" means no more, and no less, than "I ought to." This usage is in accordance with the definition of "ought" given by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: "the general verb to express duty or obligation." I do not think any issue of substance hangs on the way the term is used; sentences in which I use "obligation" could all be rewritten, although somewhat clumsily, as sentences in which a clause containing "ought" replaces the term "obligation."

3. J. O. Urmson, "Saints and Heroes," in Essays in Moral Philosophy, ed. Abraham I. Melden (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1958), p. 214. For a related but significantly different view see also Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed. (London: Dover Press, 1907), pp. 220-1, 492-3.

4. Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 66, Article 7, in Aquinas, Selected Political Writings, ed. A. P. d'Entrèves, trans. J. G. Dawson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1948), p. 171.

5. See, for instance, John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967); and E. J. Mishan, The Costs of Economic Growth (New York: Praeger, 1967).