By Stephen Lendman
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
Noam Chomsky is MIT Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics and has been a leading political and social critic of US imperial policy for over 40 years. He’s also one of the world’s most influential and widely cited intellectuals on the Left. He’s the author of many hundreds of articles and publications as well as dozens of books including his latest one and subject of this review – "Interventions."
The introductory Editor’s Note explains that post-9/11 Chomsky began writing short, roughly 1000 word, concise articles distributed by The New York Times Syndicate as op-eds. They were widely picked up overseas but rarely in the US and only in smaller regional or local papers. They never appeared in the New York Times that circulated them worldwide but not to its own readers. It shows how the Times and all the corporate media suppress views contrary to dominant mainstream thinking. They’re verboten in a nation where A.J Liebling once said "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."
Imperfect as the European press is, Chomsky’s essays appeared in the International Herald Tribune and London Guardian and Independent among others. Even one of Mexico’s leading national newspapers, La Jornada in Mexico City, frequently publishes Chomsky’s articles.
"Interventions" is a collection of 44 op-ed pieces, post-9/11, from September, 2002 through March, 2007. Included is one written specifically for the New York Times in February, 2004 titled "A Wall is a Weapon." Chomsky added notes at the end of each one briefly expanding on and updating what he wrote earlier up to the book’s recent publication. In all his political writings, including the op-eds in "Interventions," Chomsky has always been a fierce critic of US foreign and domestic policy and the dominant US media’s practice of "manufacturing consent" for it assuring criticism never exceeds what political elites allow. It means there’s never enough of it, what’s most needed, or anything diverging from general consensus views corporate America and Washington-based rulers of the world agree on.
Chomsky confronts these rulers in "Interventions" as he’s always done in his writings and public appearances. As the Editor’s Note says: "Chomsky believes that the freedom to challenge power is not just an opportunity, it’s a responsibility." He does it as effectively in concise essays on selected issues as in expanded versions in more extended articles and books. Chomsky is also an optimist believing people can change things saying "One of the clearest lessons of history….is that rights are not granted; they are won" but not by being passive or timid. On the broad range of issues in "Interventions," Chomsky isn’t timid, and that’s why his views aren’t allowed in the dominant corporate-controlled media because speaking truth to power and the public just might catch on.
This review covers a healthy sampling of Chomsky’s book dealing mostly with foreign policies but also some domestic ones in a post-9/11 world. It’s under an administration former President Jimmy Carter recently called "the worst in history (because we) endorsed the concept of pre-emptive (in fact, preventive meaning illegal aggression) war….even though our own security is not directly threatened." In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Carter elaborated further, like no other former president ever did. He almost sounded like Noam Chomsky from what he said about George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The UK leader’s equally culpable and shortly leaving office in disgrace with a public approval rating lower than George Bush’s.
Chomsky’s first essay is titled "9/11: Lessons Unlearned" in which he addresses George Bush’s question: "Why do they (Arabs/Muslims) hate us?" Fifty years ago Dwight Eisenhower’s National Security Council explained it’s because we support Middle East despots and "oppos(e) political or economic progress" wanting only control of the region’s vast oil reserves. It’s no different today with people everywhere respecting our freedoms but hating our policies, especially toward them. With good reason, they view the US as a "terrorist regime," which it is.
Feelings on the Arab street stem for Washington’s longtime one-sided support for Israel’s repressive policies toward Palestinians. It fueled a six-decade conflict because Israel, with US backing, wants it kept unresolved until it achieves the goal noted Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, and other courageous observers explain – to ethnically cleanse, by any means, all parts of Palestine Israelis want for themselves leaving Palestinians the right to move elsewhere or live only on cantonized worthless scrub land Israel doesn’t value.
Twelve horrendous years of harsh Iraqi economic and political sanctions also fueled extreme Arab and Muslim anti-US sentiment now far worse since March, 2003. It boils over daily in the country and around the world reflected in Canadian General Andrew Leslie’s comment made in summer, 2005. Explaining why the Afghan war will be long, he said: (because) "every time you kill an angry young man (or his family), you’re creating 15 more who will come after you." He might have finished his thought that the way to stop them killing us is stop killing them.
Before the March, 2003 invasion alone, the toll on Iraqis was horrific. Twelve years of inhumane, unjustifiable sanctions caused the deaths of as many as 1.5 million victims of US genocidal policy and likely close to another million since then. They were aimed at removing Saddam it took an illegal aggression and occupation to achieve. It proved a recruiting bonanza for all sorts of resistance evident throughout Iraq today and around the world targeting America and our allies. It won’t stop till repressive policies do beginning with the illegal occupations of Iraq and Palestine. Until then, the worst may be yet to come.
It proves what what former Israeli military intelligence chief, Yesoshaphat Harkabi, said 25 years ago on how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s as true today in Israel and applies to Iraq and everywhere else. "To offer an honorable solution to the Palestinians (or other repressed peoples) respecting their right to self-determination: That is the solution of the problem of terrorism. When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitos." It goes without saying respecting peoples’ human and civil rights everywhere is a good way to end wars, too, and justifiable resistance they and illegal occupations spawn.
The current Iraq war dominates much of the book including the early March, 2003 article before it began titled "The Case Against the War in Iraq." In it, Chomsky explained the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy’s belligerent "imperial grand strategy" intentions to control the world by force and reign supreme through a policy of "preventive war." The Nuremberg Tribunal called that "the supreme international crime" against peace with guilty Nazis convicted of it hanged. Warnings this agenda could lead to terrorist attacks far worse than 9/11 weren’t allowed to interfere with the administration’s imperial ambitions. That was their policy in 2003. It remains unchanged now, whatever the consequences.
Chomsky continued his analysis in his late March, 2003 essay "Now That the War Has Begun." In it, he explained what’s evident now – that "There is no reason to doubt the near-universal judgment that the war in Iraq will only increase the threat of terror and development and possible use of weapons of mass destruction, for revenge or deterrence." With the US now an international pariah, hated and condemned by ordinary people nearly everywhere, it may only be a matter of time before the WMD threat, in fact, happens. It won’t be pleasant when it does if it takes the form of a "dirty bomb" making a large US city uninhabitable forever from radiation contamination.
Chomsky continues saying "the stakes of the war and its aftermath almost couldn’t be higher (with one possibility being) destabilization in Pakistan (making) ‘loose nukes’ (available) to the global network of terrorist groups (and) other possibilities, no less grim." But he notes a promising sign from the unprecendented world opposition to war in Iraq before it began that’s continued since but not with enough intensity to stop the horrific conflict now in its fifth year. It’s longer in duration than WW II with no signs it’s ending after the pathetic Democrat-led Congress surrendered to the Bush administration’s demands. Defying growing public sentiment, it passed the largest ever supplemental funding bill ($120 billion) in the nation’s history with more assured for the asking – at least so far.
Chomsky noted in March, 2003 what’s still true today – that the US is pursuing "new and dangerous paths over near-unanimous world opposition." Instead of responding to threats by addressing legitimate grievances, the Bush administration chose permanent aggressive wars and a policy of constructing "even more awesome instruments of destruction and domination." It guarantees responses to them, if used, will be unpleasant at least and awesome and horrific if worst case predictions come true.
In his August, 2003 "Road Map to Nowhere" piece, Chomsky addresses the long-festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He quoted Oxford University Middle East scholar Hussein Agha and former Clinton administration Arab-Israeli affairs special assistant Robert Malley saying "the outlines of a solution have been basically understood for some time now" and entail "a territorial divide on the international border, now with a 1 – 1 land swap." Chomsky explains it never happened nor will it because Israel, with US backing, rejects it even in modest form.
Rhetoric aside, "road maps" and other past peace initiatives have all been cruel hoaxes going nowhere nor will any now barring a huge change in policy only mass world condemnation and forceful action with teeth can achieve. In deference to Chomsky’s contrary view, it must include boycotts, divestment, political and economic sanctions, and isolation of Israel from the community of civilized states. It’s not a fit member of them as long as it continues pursuing barbaric policies best characterized as slow-motion genocide with the US equally culpable in Iraq and Afghanistan and for providing Israel unlimited aid.
Chomsky notes "a just peace could come" citing Northern Ireland as a recent example and South Africa another, although no one should assume those countries now resemble paradise as facts on the ground prove otherwise. It’s especially true in South Africa where noted journalist John Pilger’s new book "Freedom Next Time" explains how life there today is harder than under apartheid. It’s because "Thatcherism" and New World Order Washington Consensus neoliberalism moved in making things worse. It happened under Nelson Mandela’s presidency who signed on to it telling Pilger "You can put any label on it you like….but, for this country, privatization (deregulation and free market capitalism) is the fundamental policy."
In October, 2003, Chomsky wrote about "The United States and the United Nations," that’s little more than a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nation where it’s been headquartered on Manhattan’s east side since 1952. Whenever the US can’t bully or co-opt the world body, it just ignores it doing what it wants like waging illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only the Security Council can authorize them or Article 51 of the UN Charter allowing the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council (acts) to maintain international peace and security."
The Bush administration has contempt for international law using it only when it serves its imperial interests and condemning or ignoring it otherwise as "quaint and obsolete." At an early March, 2003 news conference, George Bush made his position clear saying "when it comes to security (meaning US imperial interests) we really don’t need anyone’s permission." So when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington’s position is unbending – "The United States must end up in effective control (of these countries using) some facade of democracy if that proves feasible." It means "democratic" elections can go ahead as long as the lord and master of the universe controls things no matter how they turn out.
And that’s exactly how it is now in Iraq and Afghanistan from US-orchestrated "demonstration elections." They installed puppet governments having no say over their own affairs except what Washington allows. As Chomsky puts it: "Washington must be in charge, not the United Nations, not the Iraqi (or Afghan) people," and that’s the way, in fact, it is today in both countries.
Indeed, it will be in Iraq if the puppet parliament passes the US-drafted new "Hydrocarbon Law." It’s a blueprint for plunder, giving foreign investors (US and UK Big Oil mainly) a bonanza of resources, leaving Iraqis a sliver for themselves. Oil giants, like Exxon-Mobil and BP Amoco, will get exclusive control of 63 of the country’s 80 known oil fields plus all newly discovered deposits. Even worse, Big Oil will get long-term contracts up to 35 years and be free to expropriate all revenues, investing none of them in Iraq’s economy. Foreign investors will also have no obligation to partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies. Iraqis only get the right to take it, or else.
Iraqi oil workers aren’t taking it. They went on strike for three days over a range of issues. Prime Minister al-Maliki then shamelessly issued arrest warrants for Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) leaders sending his military to surround the workers. He then had to back down June 8 when an Iraqi general in charge disobeyed his orders, demanded his government "sort it all out," or he’d resign and join the strikers. In response, IFOU suspended the strike saying it will be resumed and expanded in a week unless an agreement is reached. Washington and Big Oil aren’t happy, but this issue is far from resolved.
In November, 2003, Chomsky wrote about "Dilemmas of Dominance" noting in George Bush’s "axis of evil" North Korea and Iran (unlike Iraq since 1991) aren’t defenseless. It’s a lesson to all other potential US-targeted nations. "If you want to defend yourself from us, you had better mimic North Korea and pose a credible military threat" because the Kim Jong-il regime may have nuclear weapons while Iran does not, claims no intent to develop them, but no one in the West knows for sure.
Iran’s importance, however, lies in its having the world’s third or fourth largest proved oil reserves (depending on who’s measuring what reserves) while North Korea is "one of the poorest and most miserable countries in the world," except for one other thing. It has great geostrategic importance within Northeast Asia (including China, Japan, South Korea and resource-rich Siberia in Russia’s East). It’s now "the world’s most dynamic economic region, with close to 30% of global gross domestic product," compared to 19% for the US, plus "half of global foreign exchange reserves."
"The US and Europe now trade more with Northeast Asia than with one another," and Washington’s concern is that integrated regions like Europe and Northeast Asia may choose an independent course from Washington. Today, that may be more likely given the state of things under George Bush with worldwide alienation growing in the face of aggressive US policies getting harder to accept or endorse.
Chomsky also wrote about "Saddam Hussein Before the Tribunal" in December, 2003 before this writer did it in November, 2006 in an article called "A Trial Giving Kangaroos A Bad Name." It covered the 11 month travesty of justice ending November 5 with his conviction already decided before proceedings began.
He then addressed "Saddam Hussein and Crimes of State" in January, 2004 citing the "long, tortuous association between (Saddam) and the West" and how embarrassing it would be for that relationship to come out at trial, so it didn’t. Even at Nuremberg (Chomsky calls "the least defective" post-conflict tribunal), war or other crimes were only what losing sides did, never winning ones under a long-standing policy of victor’s justice meaning none at all.
So voices of UN humanitarian coordinators Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponek could never be publicly heard explaining why they resigned in protest. In 1998, Halliday said he "had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over one million individuals, children and adults," and that 5000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month. That’s inconsequential to the Bush administration in its openly stated National Security Strategy (NSS) policy. It’s a scheme to "dismantle much of what remained of the system of world order" and rule by force "with Iraq as a demonstration project." It tells the world we mean business, so stand aside or you’re next.
Chomsky also covered Israel’s Annexation/Apartheid wall in an article called "A Wall as a Weapon" with Israel (with US financial and political backing) continuing to build it in defiance of international law. The World Court in the Hague ruled 14 – 1 construction must end at once, the existing portion already built must be dismantled, and affected Palestinians must be compensated for their losses. Israel flouts the decision.
He also wrote about "The United States: Terrorist Sanctuary" with Washington notorious for granting safe haven to ousted tinpot despots and "a rogues’ gallery of people whose actions qualify them as terrorists." That’s never a problem, however, when their crimes aided this country’s imperial agenda. Two noted examples Chomsky cites are Orlando Bosch, and Bosch accomplish Luis Posada Carriles. They masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 (among their many terrorist acts) killing 73 on it, but never answered for it and now live freely in the US.
Chomsky also wrote on "Iraq: The Roots of Resistance" explaining US intelligence knew well in advance "Washington’s most formidable foe (would be) the resentment of ordinary Iraqis….hostile to the American occupation." The Bush administration ignored the warning feeling that price was minor compared to its greater goal to establish permanent military bases in a client state "at the heart of the world’s major energy sources."
Chomsky addressed "Who Is to Run the World and How" in June, 2004 noting former Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbiigniew Brzezinski writing "America’s security role in the (Middle East) region (meaning military dominance) gives it indirect but politically critical leverage on the European and Asian economies" (also dependent on) energy exports from the region." That would keep those regions from opting for a course independent from us, so controlling Iraq’s oil and reorganizing the Middle East under US control prevents that from happening. Uppermost for US policy makers is preventing successful defiance of US policy. Costly wars spawning terrorist fallout is of lesser importance and a price worth paying for unchallengeable imperial dominance, provided we can get and keep it. That’s very much in doubt today, however, with things falling apart in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Chomsky addresses a crucial domestic issue in "Democracy Building Must Begin at Home" in August, 2004 and in October in "The Disconnect in American Democracy." He did it with the presidential elections approaching and things in disarray on the ground in Iraq and soon to be in Afghanistan as well. He observed the campaign pointed up "the severe democratic deficit in the world’s most powerful (nominally democratic) state" where true democracy is more illusion than reality. He noted how detached the candidates were in their common agenda from issues mattering most to ordinary people. They pay little more than lip service to vital concerns like health care ranking at the top with costs exploding and 47 million people having no insurance because they can’t afford any.
Bush and Kerry got to run with enough funding by "similar concentrations of private power" controlling everything. That includes picking the candidates and, practically openly since 2000, which one wins, decided in advance making a mockery of the whole system. Investigative journalist, Greg Palast, covered it in his 2006 book, "Armed Madhouse," and his 2003 one, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." In them, he showed how elections today are more like auctions than a serious exercise of democracy. He documented how the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen and 2008 is already shaping up for more of the same.
Chomsky explains changing things when they’re not right is the way it’s always been. It has to be from the grassroots that against long odds ended slavery, and won rights for labor, women and minorities. It also helped end the Vietnam war through mass energized opposition on the streets to it. So even though Chomsky urges voters to make "sensible choices" at the polls (limited as they are), the "main task is to create a genuinely responsive democratic culture, and that effort goes on before and after electoral extravaganzas, whatever their outcome."
Two articles in November and December, 2004 help unmask the benevolent facade we present to the world, no longer needing Chomsky to do it two and half years later. The first is titled "We Are Good" and the second the "Imperial Presidency and Its Consequences." The first essay observes "the fundamental principle (in international relations) that ‘we are good’ – ‘we’ being the government….benevolent, seeking peace and justice" even though, in practice, the opposite is true. However, the Bush agenda of permanent war "carr(ies) an appreciable risk of ultimate doom" according to some straregic analysts like John D. Steinbruner and Nancy Gallagher. They wrote in the summer 2004 issue of "Daedalus," the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Chomsky says isn’t given to hyperbole.
The administration’s contempt for international law, scorched earth war agenda, and future intent to use nuclear weapons, like they’re just king-sized hand grenades, means the fate of the human species and most everything else some day may be up for grabs. Chomsky observes that "the world is in awful shape today" although better off for an "unwillingness to tolerate aggression." It’s because the Bush administration’s "conception of presidential sovereignty (the imperial presidency) is so extreme (it’s drawn) unprecendented criticism from the most sober and respected journals."
It’s based on the "unitary executive theory of the presidency." Lawyer, academic and author Jennifer Van Bergen wrote about it at length in her January 9, 2006 FindLaw Legal News and Commentary article titled "The Unitary Executive: Is the Doctrine Behind the Bush Presidency Consistent with a Democratic State?" Her conclusion is unequivocally no. The "doctrine violates the separation of powers" fundamental to our system. It puts the chief executive above the law, in effect, making him a dictator.
George Bush usurped this power claiming the law is what he says it is and proved it around 800 times (more than all past presidents combined) attaching "signing statements" to congressional legislation. In doing so, he illegally annulled provisions in them because nothing in the Constitution allows such practice. Chomsky asks how can we best respond to a situation so dire? He notes our "legacy of great privilege and freedom" saying we have a choice – abandon all hope or "further a democratic culture in which the culture plays some role in (political and economic) policies." Saying these are hardly radical ideas, he stresses history shows "rights are not granted; they are won" by going for them from the grassroots.
In April, 2005, Chomsky addressed "The Universality of Human Rights." He cited the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the "modern standard" including Article 25 in it stating – "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control (with) Motherhood (and children born in or out of wedlock)….entitled to special care and assistance."
Needless to say, the Bush administration rejects these rights by its policies alone. Earlier, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, Paula Dobriansky, while serving under Ronald Reagan and G.H.W. Bush, refuted what she called the "myth (that) economic and social rights constitute human rights," even though the majority population feels otherwise. Surveys clearly show popular preferences favor sharp cuts in military spending along with large increases for education, health care, medical research, job training, conservation, renewable energy and other essential social programs enhancing life. The current power structure wants no public involvement in policy choices pointing to what Chomsky calls a "growing democratic deficit."
In 1973, banker David Rockefeller (grandson of oil tycoon and mega-corporate predator John D.), Zbigniew Brzezinski and others founded the Trilateral Commission that included notable members like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. It’s purpose was to counter a "crisis of democracy" from the 1960s. That meant too much of it as sectors of the population (called "special interests") became active politically while these rulers of the world expect them to remain inert. So action was needed to restore them to their proper status – quiescent, letting "the people who own the country….run it" (for their own benefit). Those were Founding Father John Jay’s words, our first Supreme Court Chief Justice, showing his contempt for ordinary people. Today, things are so extreme under George Bush even Jay might be shocked enough to think we went too far and say change is needed to soften things.
He and the other Founders would likely be alarmed by Chomsky’s April, 2005 essay called "Dr. Strangelove Meets the Age of Terror" with the title alone pretty scary. The subject addressed is a real nuclear threat with the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) "never….weaker or its future less certain" according to Thomas Graham, former US special representative for arms control, nonproliferation and armament. He warned in the April, 2005 issue of "Current History" if the treaty fails, a "nuclear nightmare world" may become reality. His concern is that Bush administration policy is the main threat. It effectively renounced NPT and its crucial Article VI pledging nuclear nations make "good faith" efforts to eliminate these weapons because having them heightens the risk they’ll be used endangering the planet. However, it’s even worse than that as the Bush administration:
— claims the right to develop new type nuclear weapons, not work to eliminate ones we have;
— ignores NPT intending to test new weapons developed;
— ended the protection of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty;
— rescinded and subverted the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention;
— spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined with large future increases planned;
— refuses to consider a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty preventing more nuclear bombs being added to present stockpiles already dangerously too high; and
— claims the right to wage preventive wars under the doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" using first strike nuclear weapons.
As a result, former NATO planner, Michael McGuire, thinks a "nuclear exchange is ultimately inevitable," and Harvard international relations specialist, Graham Allison agrees with a "consensus in the national security community (that a) dirty bomb (attack is) near-certain" given current policy and the fact that fissionable materials aren’t secured.
Chomsky also wrote about "The Social Security Non-Crisis." It was about the Bush administration concocting a propaganda blitz in 2005 (no longer heard lately) of an impending phony Social Security "fiscal crisis" to convince the public to let Wall Street sharks control their financial future. Meanwhile, he noted, a real Medicare crisis looms with medical costs spiraling out of control and the US having the most unfair, inefficient system in the industrialized world. Reforming it through more efficient, lower cost national health care is off the table because insurers and Big Pharma won’t tolerate any public benefit harming their right to run the system their way earning huge profits from it.
Then, there’s Chomsky’s take on "The Bush Administration during Hurricane Season." In it, he noted "a long-gathering storm of misguided policies and priorities preceded the tragedy, citing a pre-9/11 FEMA report. It listed the three most likely catastrophes to strike the country – a terrorist attack in New York, an earthquake in San Francisco, and a major hurricane striking New Orleans with the latter becoming an urgent FEMA priority in 2005. Elaborate plans and a successful simulated hurricane drill were conducted, but the war, budget cuts, other preventive measures and overall Bush administration indifference meant the Katrina disaster was inevitable.
Four Chomsky essays deal with Latin America, the first in December, 2005 called "South America at the Tipping Point." In it, he says "From Venezuela to Argentina, the hemisphere is falling out of control, with left-center governments almost all the way through. Even in Central America….the lid is barely on."
The view from mid-2007 looks different with only Venezuela and hopefully Ecuador (still a work in progress under new President Rafeal Correa, barely six months in office) very much embracing a left-center social democratic agenda. In contrast, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia have mostly followed Washington Consensus neoliberal dictates. That’s in spite of their distancing themselves from US one-way FTAA trade deals and IMF and World Bank crushing debt slavery from their Faustian-imposed rules assuring debtor nations always get a raw deal.
But Chomsky noted in 2005 indigenous populations were more active and influential, especially in Ecuador and Bolivia. Today they’re still active there and in other Latin countries but have modest influence, at best. He also observed internal integration was strengthening, including South-South interaction with Venezuela in the lead responsible for most positive results in how it deals with its neighbors and other world trading partners like China.
In March, 2006, Chomsky’s op-ed piece was called "Asia, the Americas, and the Reigning Superpower." In September he wrote "Latin America Declares its Independence," and in December his article was titled "Alternatives for the Americas." In these, he noted Washington’s concern that Europe, Asia and Latin America might move toward more independence away from US dominance, and, to a degree, there are some hopeful signs, it’s happening. Middle East misadventurism consumes the Bush administration, unable to admit what every sensible political analyst knows – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are lost. In addition, the longer we stay embroiled, the worse things get and more likely US world influence will wane encouraging other nations to become more independent, less fearful of the consequences.
Central to policy everywhere is energy, and aims to control it create the possibility of shifting alliances and more potential nightmares for Washington. Crucially ahead is who lines up with whom, and one relationship Washington fears is greater India-China cooperation. Add Venezuela, Russia and Iran to the mix and Washington’s fears will be huge if those ties become strong and solidified enough to counter US dominance. Throw in a couple of other Middle East and Central Asia producers, and it spells potential big trouble for Washington planners.
Another Washington fear is if Latin states ever, in fact, unite in a "continent community similar to the European Union." It would give them far more clout together than any single regional state could have on its own, even one as large and important as Brazil. Washington has long dominated Latin America it dismissively calls its "backyard." It’s done it through "violence….economic strangulation," and brutal exploitation through installed or co-opted governments profiting as junior partners in the savage exploitation of their own populations for profit, the way it’s been for 500 years going back to conquistador rule.
Today, Hugo Chavez is a symbol of change and courage standing up to the ruling hegemon. That makes him the single greatest threat Washington faces – a good example that’s spreading enough to cause alarm in the Capitol. Since taking office in February, 1999, the US tried and failed three times to oust him by different means. The current Washington-orchestrated made-for-media street protests over the RCTV Channel 2 shuttering may indicate a fourth attempt is now underway. Chavez apparently thinks so accusing the Bush administration and internal opposition of planning a "soft coup with a slow fuse." He compares it to the same US scheme used in Ukraine’s 2004-05 Orange Revolution and Georgia’s Rose one in 2003. Both times, leaders allied with Russia were deposed and replaced with ones favoring the West.
Chavez is standing firm and is actively moving ahead with his socially democratic agenda while solidifying ties with regional neighbors and other states. He seeks integrated alliances (a "prerequisite for genuine independence" from Washington) and relations with other countries based on cooperation, solidarity, complementarity and respect for each nation’s sovereignty. He wants it to be free from the strangling control Washington imposes in its relations with the Global South, especially in Latin America it feels it owns. The confrontational lines are drawn with the spirit of democracy alive in Latin America, headquartered in Venezuela, and the Bush administration determined to crush it.
It’s one reason Washington seeks bilateral deals in the region and elsewhere and just signed one last December with India. It’s called the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, the name itself reeking in Orwellian Newspeak. The act is another blow to NPT effectively authorizing India’s nuclear weapons development along with other nuclear-related assistance enough to cause nuclear weapons specialist Gary Milhollin alarm. The deal violates "cardinal principle(s)" established to reduce nuclear weapons proliferation and delivery systems for them. They undermine the barriers to nuclear war and "may hasten the day when a nuclear explosion destroys a US city."
Hedging its bets to "become equidistant between the US and China," India agreed to a similar deal with the Asian giant the US fears most as a future challenger to its supremacy. It’s because of China’s size and fact it’s unintimidated by US dominance. But while Washington gambles with our future, the potential threat from an eventual nuclear holocaust get greater. The Bush administration is giving India "a free pass around nuclear controls," says nuclear threat expert Michael Krepon. It means "other states will be lining up to profit from proliferation," export controls are now off the table, and the safety of NPT enforcement is null and void. It points to a potential frightening future ahead thanks to reckless US policy putting geopolitics and corporate profits ahead of common sense security.
In June, 2006 Chomsky wrote on "Disarming the Iran Nuclear Showdown." He observed "The urgency of halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and moving toward their elimination, could hardly be greater. Failure to do so is very likely to lead to grim consequences (and) a near meltdown (a year ago and now) seems….imminent over Iran(‘s)" commercial nuclear enrichment program. It conforms to NPT standards while countries like India, Pakistan and Israel are nuclear outlaws. Under George Bush, so is the US, by far the worst one of all.
Washington, with help from the West it bullies, demands Iran stop its program in contrast to its strong support for it under the Shah before 1979. Today, it’s different with Washington wanting NPT’s Article IV strengthened. It grants non-nuclear states the right to produce fuel for commercial nuclear energy use. Chomsky believes that because of today’s technological advances, tightening Article IV "would have to ensure unimpeded access for nonmilitary use" but prevent it from being for weapons. That’s not easy as nuclear expert Helen Caldicott explains. She calls operating commercial nuclear reactors atom bomb factories as a single 1000 megawatt reactor produces 500 pounds of plutonium annually, while a mere 10 pounds can produce a bomb powerful enough to devastate a large city.
Despite the heated Western rhetoric targeting Iran’s nuclear program and its claimed interference in Iraq, only one country poses a real threat to what Chomsky calls "the end of biology’s only experiment with higher intelligence" and most everything else. He means the US, especially in the age of George Bush. So Washington is in the lead pointing fingers at phony nuclear threats from other countries while never admitting it’s the greatest one of all. It’s the only country with a publicly stated policy to freely use these first strike weapons under its doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" meaning preventive illegal aggression international law bans.
Chomsky revisited Iran in March, 2007 in his essay titled "The Cold War Between Washington and Tehran." He noted Iran and Syria are enemies because they "failed to subordinate themselves to Washington’s basic demands. Iran by far (is) the most important" because of its vast oil reserves we want control over the way things were after the CIA-led coup ousted democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. It reinstated the US-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi’s generation-long fascist reign of terror. It lasted until the 1979 Iranian revolution deposed him, setting up a confrontation between Iran and this country ever since. It now threatens to erupt in open war, possibly a nuclear one.
Iran’s importance goes beyond oil as its "influence in the ‘crescent’ challenges US control" there. Chomsky notes "By an accident of geography, the world’s major oil resources are in largely Shiite areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well." He continues explaining "Washington’s worst nightmare would be a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world’s oil" independent of the US. If such a bloc ever emerges and links with the Asian Energy Security Grid and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in China, US power in the world will be seriously and potentially permanently undermined.
The Bush administration will do everything possible to prevent this, but Chomsky doubts it will attack Iran. World leaders and three-fourths of the US public are strongly opposed. So is the Baker Commission representing a more conciliatory position, but no less hard line on controlling the world’s energy resources.
While not able to withstand overwhelming US power, Iran is three times the size of Iraq and no pushover. It would be crushed in a head-to-head confrontation with Washington but could put up a fight and inflict some heavy damage in the process not likely to go down well at home. It would also inflame the Middle East far more than already. Iran can also "respond in other ways," Chomsky notes, "inciting even more havoc in Iraq" and throughout the region. The public is already fed up with endless wars, demands they end, so anything is possible on US streets and the next election if George Bush starts another one with his toughest opponent so far.
Instead of war, Chomsky thinks Washington may try destabilizing Iran from within stirring up trouble and "secessionist tendencies" from much of the population that isn’t Persian, including in oil-rich areas like Khuzestan on the Gulf that’s largely Arab. It’s also urging harsher sanctions wanting to isolate and "strangle Iran economically" that won’t likely work because China and Russia won’t buy it and Europe only will part way. For years, Iran sought a negotiated settlement to long-standing differences, but Washington always rebuffed diplomatic efforts because it demands unconditional surrender to its agenda. Iran, under its present leadership won’t ever buy that, and why should it, or any other nation.
Following Israel’s brutal, illegal assault on Lebanon last summer (planned months in advance with US backing), Chomsky wrote about "Viewing Lebanon as if through a Bombsight." He noted in August, 2006 "a fragile truce remains in effect," but it may be near a tipping point now in the wake of days of savage fighting pitting the US-backed Fouad Sinora’s Lebanese army against non-Palestinian Fath al-Islam fighters holed up in the northern Lebanese Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of soldiers, fighters and innocent civilians have been killed and many thousands displaced risking this will spread to other parts of the country reigniting a civil war like the one that raged from 1975 – 1990. It tore apart a country tormented as well by repeated Israeli assaults and invasions including the infamous 1982 one killing 18,000 or more Lebanese and many Palestinians living there.
A year ago Chomsky wrote about the "US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon, with only a cynical pretense to legitimacy" because there was none. The reason for it had nothing to do with the phony one given about the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Never mentioned was that for decades Israel made a practice of "kidnapping and killing civilians in Lebanon or on the high seas, Lebanese and Palestinians, holding them in Israel for long periods, sometimes as hostages, sometimes in secret torture chambers like Camp 1391."
Israel’s summer, 2006 assault on Gaza was also planned well in advance just waiting for a convenient pretext to unleash that happened to be the capture of one Israeli corporal, hardly reason to declare war. Just like in Lebanon, Israel’s reaction was unjustifiable and savagely extreme, but as long as the US backed and funded it, Western and Arab world complaints were barely audible before ending altogether. It left targeted Lebanese and Palestinians devastated to this day and now victims of new fighting.
Israel and the US want to destroy Hezbollah and Hamas, but it’s no secret they helped create them both to use against other past enemies like Yasser Arafat and the PLO in the 1980s until he was co-opted by the Oslo Accords in 1993 to become Israel’s enforcer. Today, conflict continues in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Lebanon is teetering on the edge of the unknown, and Chomsky notes "new generations of bitter and angry jihadis" likely are being created the way Israeli Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz’s said they would be. What else could warrior states like the US or Israel expect, "view(ing) the world through a bombsight."
But Saad-Ghorayeb warned a year ago what’s as true today, stated in slightly different terms. US and Israel’s unending wars on Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians, Lebanese and any other designated Arab or Muslim targets may cause "all hell (to) be let loose (from) the Shiite community….seething with resentment" and determined to get revenge violently. And Sunnis may join them if the Muslim world unites against the US, Israel, and the West. As Chomsky puts it: "viewing the world through a bombsight will bring further misery and suffering, perhaps even in ‘apocalyptic terms.’ "
The book’s final essay was written in July, 2006 called "The Great Soul of Power." In it, Chomsky deals with two themes borrowed from the life and work of the late Palestinian American scholar and activist Edward Said – the "culture of empire (and) responsibility of intellectuals." He condemns "obedient intellectuals" for what Hans Morgenthau called "conformist subservience to those in power." He notes a "clear doctrine….reign(ing) in Western journalism and almost all scholarship, even among critics of policies – ‘American exceptionalism’ (or) the thesis that the United States is unlike other great powers, past and present, because it has a ‘transcendent purpose:’ ‘the establishment of equality and freedom in America’ and….throughout the world."
Policy must then conform to "interests," but not those of the population. It means the "national interest" or those of the privileged who dominate society running things. In America and the West, the major influence is "internationally oriented business corporations," no surprise. In contrast, public opinion has "little or no significant effect on government officials" beholden solely to wealth and power.
"Interventions" ends with Chomsky explaining how hard it is striking "a proper balance between citizenship and common purpose, on the one hand, and communal autonomy and cultural variety on the other." These questions should be "high on the agenda of people who do not worship at the shrine….of power." These are people, including Chomsky’s readers, wanting to "save the world from the destructive forces" threatening our survival. They want to change it believing "a more civilized society can be envisioned and even brought into existence." Why not, if enough committed people become dedicated to achieving it.
-Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.