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Fun With Chomsky’s Latest Hiccup

I've often wondered what it is that drives a self-described anarcho-syndicalist to focus exclusively on the high crimes and international graft of only a few governments — or one, to be more exact, and its satellite allies. When Samantha Power … Read More

By / July 19, 2007

I've often wondered what it is that drives a self-described anarcho-syndicalist to focus exclusively on the high crimes and international graft of only a few governments — or one, to be more exact, and its satellite allies. When Samantha Power published her chilling book A Problem From Hell: American and the Age of Genocide — a volume that hardly depicted the United States in a beatific light — Noam Chomsky's comment amounted to this: There is no point in discussing the American obligation to forestall genocides around the world since America has been complicit in many of them. It was the tu quoque argument as mouthed by a star of his kindergarten class, wending his way through the basics of moral philosophy.

It's become obvious that if the term "anti-American" has any legitimate political definition, it is embodied by the style and substance of Chomsky. His latest essay in Monthly Review is a fair example. Using harsh truths about U.S. foreign policy, his conclusion is that every media-anointed rogue state and enemy of not just our own national interests but of human rights, pluralism and transparency are actually the defiant victims of the One True Hegemon. Some paragraphs do more work than the MIT linguist intended, such as this one:

Saddam may have been despised almost everywhere, but it was only in the United States that a majority of the population were terrified of what he might do to them, tomorrow.

I should think that most Iraqis were similarly terrified, if not more so. Though their opinion only counts when it can it be ranged against the avowed policy of the United States:

It is an astonishing fact that the United States and Britain have had more trouble running Iraq than the Nazis had in occupied Europe, or the Russians in their East European satellites, where the countries were run by local civilians and security forces, with the iron fist poised if anything went wrong but usually in the background. In contrast, the United States has been unable to establish an obedient client regime in Iraq, under far easier conditions.

One admires the use of the word "usually," which would surely come as a surprise to occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto, Estonians in 1940, and then again in 1941, the Polish dissidents who met their end in Katyn Forest in 1940, Berliners in 1945, Hungarians in 1956, Czechs in 1968, etc. But wait — there's more in the same vein:

The second responsibility [of an invader] is to obey the will of the population. British and U.S. polls provide sufficient evidence about that. The most recent polls find that 87 percent of Iraqis want a “concrete timeline for US withdrawal,” up from 76 percent in 2005.4 If the reports really mean Iraqis, as they say, that would imply that virtually the entire population of Arab Iraq, where the U.S. and British armies are deployed, wants a firm timetable for withdrawal. I doubt that one would have found comparable figures in occupied Europe under the Nazis, or Eastern Europe under Russian rule.

Thus, sufficient evidence is offered about conditions in present-day Iraq but we are left to educated doubts of Chomsky to determine the sentiments of occupied populations toward fascism and Stalinism. Also, those same polls to which Chomsky alludes are characteristically asked in such a way that the crucial question preceding the pull-out one is this: "Do you think withdrawal of U.S. troops would enhance or diminish Iraqi security?," the implication being that an American footprint in the country greater provokes the true enemies of civil society: namely, Al Qaeda, sectarian death squads, Baathist revanchists, double-dealing police officers, etc. In what congruent way would, say, occupied France have similarly wished for the withdrawal of the S.S. in 1940? Because the Nazis were, despite their best efforts, doing little to hold the democratic structure of France together, or because they were by design doing everything possible to tear it apart?

China, too, has only the tenebrous specter of U.S. military and economic aggression to combat:

That is the basic reason for Washington’s strategic concerns with regard to China: not that it is a military threat, but that it poses the threat of independence. If that threat is unacceptable for small countries like Cuba or Vietnam, it is certainly so for the heartland of the most dynamic economic region in the world, the country that has just surpassed Japan in possession of the world’s major financial reserves and is the world’s fastest growing major economy. China’s economy is already about two-thirds the size of that of the United States, by the correct measures, and if current growth rates persist, it is likely to close that gap in about a decade—in absolute terms, not per capita of course.

Nothing here about China's human rights violations, or its support for the racist, genocidal Khartoum regime. Remember: the U.S. isn't squeaky clean on genocide either, and China is at least redeemed for its oil plunder at the expense of 400,000 dead black African Muslims by its status as our chief global competitor. Chomsky is also silent on Hugo Chavez's "axis of unity" with a Jew-hating Iranian state, whose nuclear ambitions, after all,

fall within its rights under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which grants non-nuclear states the right to produce fuel for nuclear energy.

Ah, but Iran has violated Article II of the NPT, which states:

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agencys safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this article shall be applied to all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.

Iran is only now claiming to be willing to negotiate those safeguards with the IAEA, as reported on the agency's website, but whether it actually will do or so not is undetermined. To this Chomsky would reply, as he does following his point about Iran's compliance with Article IV, that Mohammed ElBaradei's proposed solution for threatening that article of the NPT — by placing all fissile material production under international supervision — was accepted last February by only one country: Iran. Yet why Chomsky credits the Islamic Republic with good faith on a prospective new model for monitoring atomic activities throughout the world is a mystery given that it has proven recalcitrant in complying fully with the model already in place.

So much for the universal wariness of government power from the intelligentsia's favorite Cassandra.

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