Saturday, March 29, 2008

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Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
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C H A P T E R   T W O

The Home Front

From Z Magazine, May 1989.

The Reagan era was widely heralded as virtually revolutionary in its import. Reality was considerably less dramatic, but the impact on the domestic social order and the world was not slight. Some reflections follow on what was bequeathed to the new administration in early 1989. The focus in this chapter is at home, and in the next, on broader international issues and policy implications.

1. The "Unimportant People"

These matters have large-scale human consequences, and should therefore be faced dispassionately. That is not an easy matter. It is first necessary to dispel the most vivid images conjured up by the words "Reagan," "Shultz," and "Bush," images of tortured and mutilated bodies by the tens of thousands in El Salvador and Guatemala and of dying infants in Nicaragua, succumbing once again to disease and malnutrition thanks to the successes in reversing the early achievements of the Sandinistas. And others like them in Mozambique, Gaza, and other corners of the world from which we prefer to avert our eyes -- by "we" I mean a larger community for which we all share responsibility. These images we must somehow manage to put aside.

We should not move on, however, without at least a word on how easily we refrain from seeing piles of bones and rivers of blood when we are the agents of misery and despair. To truly appreciate these accomplishments one must turn to the liberal doves, who are regularly condemned for their excessive sensitivity to the plight of our victims. To New Republic editor Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes of the "things about the Reagan era that haven't been so attractive," like sleaze, Rambo movies, and Lebanon -- referring, presumably, to dead Marines, not dead Lebanese and Palestinians -- but without a word on Central America, where nothing has happened that even rises to the level of "unattractive," apparently. Or even to Mary McGrory, in a very different category, who nevertheless tells us that "the real argument, of course, is what is more important in Nicaragua: peace, as the Democrats cry; or freedom, as the Republicans demand." The shred of truth in these words is that the Democrats are as committed to peace as the Republicans are to freedom.1

Or we can turn to the journal Indochina Issues of the Center for International Policy, which has compiled a very laudable record in its work for peace and justice. Here, a senior associate of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace calls for reconciliation with Vietnam, urging that we put aside "the agony of the Vietnam experience" and "the injuries of the past," and overcome the "hatred, anger and frustration" caused us by the Vietnamese, though without forgetting "the humanitarian issues left over from the war": the MIAs, those qualified to emigrate to the United States, and the remaining inmates of reeducation camps. These are the only humanitarian issues that we see, apparently, when we cast our eye on three countries littered with corpses, broken bodies, hideously deformed fetuses and hundreds of thousands of other victims of chemical warfare in South Vietnam, destruction on a colossal scale -- all caused by some unknown hand, unmentioned here. Meanwhile we contemplate what they have done to us, the agony and injury they have forced us to endure.2

On such assumptions, we can perhaps even read without cringing that James Fallows "is now fully aware after a recent visit to Vietnam that the war `will be important in history mostly for what it did, internally, to the United States, not what difference it made in Indochina'" (Dissent editor Dennis Wrong, quoting Fallows with approval). The slaughter of millions of Indochinese and destruction of their countries is far too slight a matter to attract the attention of the muse of history while she ponders the domestic problems caused for the important people, those who really count. Perhaps, some day, a thoughtful German commentator will explain that the Holocaust will be important in history mostly for what it did, internally, to Germany, not what difference it made for the Jews.3

A leading authority on Native Americans, Francis Jennings, once observed that "In history, the man in the ruffled shirt and gold-laced waistcoat somehow levitates above the blood he has ordered to be spilled by dirty-handed underlings." We will not be able to face the problems that lie ahead realistically unless we come to grips with these striking and pervasive features of our moral and intellectual culture.


Go to the next segment.

1 Hertzberg, TNR, Feb. 6, 1989; McGrory, Boston Globe, Feb. 6, 1989.

2 Frederick Z. Brown, Indochina Issues, Nov. 1988. For further reflections on the suffering imposed upon us by the Vietnamese, see Manufacturing Consent, pp. 238f.; Necessary Illusions, 33ff.

3 Wrong, review of Fallows, More Like Us, NYT Book Review, March 26, 1989. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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