Joined: 08 Feb 2003
|Posted: Sun Dec 28, 2003 11:57 Post subject: Chomsky
|Published on Sunday, December 21, 2003 by the Toronto Star
Selective Memory and a Dishonest Doctrine
by Noam Chomsky
All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and
integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and
should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal.
An indictment of Saddam's atrocities would include not only his
slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially,
his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in
At the time, Washington and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous
view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the
West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than
did those who have suffered his repression," reported Alan Cowell in
the New York Times.
Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a
dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of
firm U.S.-British support of Saddam.
With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and
Washington's reaction overlooked that support.
Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual
culture generally Ã¢â‚¬â€ a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of
course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The
content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong
things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over,
so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff."
The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages:
It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening
before our eyes.
For example, the Bush administration's original reason for going to
war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of
mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes
that now, not even Bush's speech writers.
The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there
and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East.
Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches
the level of rapturous acclaim.
Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post
commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as "the most idealistic
war in modern times" Ã¢â‚¬â€ fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and
Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, "the Bush
administration's idealist in chief," whom he described as a genuine
intellectual who "bleeds for (the Arab world's) oppression and dreams
of liberating it."
Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz's career Ã¢â‚¬â€ like his strong support
for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century's worst mass
murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that
country under Ronald Reagan.
As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under
Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of
South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.
All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change
So, yes, Wolfowitz's heart bleeds for the victims of oppression Ã¢â‚¬â€ and
if the record shows the opposite, it's just that boring old stuff
that we want to forget about.
One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of
democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's
near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces
deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.
Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to
overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking
orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.
The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz's "Determination and Findings"
on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are
countries where the government dared to take the same position as the
vast majority of the population.
Wolfowitz's alleged grounds are "security interests," which are
non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss
Ã¢â‚¬â€ along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will
be free to "compete" with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the
Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies.
What's revealing and important to the future is that Washington's
display of contempt for democracy went side by side with a chorus of
adulation about its yearning for democracy.
To be able to carry that off is an impressive achievement, hard to
mimic even in a totalitarian state.
Iraqis have some insight into this process of conquerors and
The British created Iraq for their own interests. When they ran that
part of the world, they discussed how to set up what they called Arab
facades Ã¢â‚¬â€ weak, pliable governments, parliamentary if possible, so
long as the British effectively ruled.
Who would expect that the United States would ever permit an
independent Iraqi government to exist? Especially now that Washington
has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there, in
the heart of the world's greatest oil-producing region, and has
imposed an economic regime that no sovereign country would accept,
putting the country's fate in the hands of Western corporations.
Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are
regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent Ã¢â‚¬â€ and rhetoric
about bestowing freedom and independence.
An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation
on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's
fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's
fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to
draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other
Political activist and author Noam Chomsky is a professor of
linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His new
book is "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance
(The American Empire Project)"
Joined: 23 May 2003
Location: South Wales
|Posted: Tue Dec 30, 2003 18:54 Post subject:
|Very interesting read. I think we are often conned into thinking that action takes place for "the greater good". Timing is everything.
Only a species as stupid and as short sighted as humans would fight for oil until it runs out instead of spending our time researching/developing realistic alternatives. (as opposed to a pat on the head for new initiatives, as at present)
I fear the word democracy has been diluted somewhat into something along the lines of "vote us in, and we'll do what we think is best for you" as opposed to being voted in on the principle of what the electorate think.
Or more recently, we'll vote you in, and you'll do as you are told. No more dictators in the middle east then?
Find a job you like, and add five days to every week.