Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 2: The Home Front Segment 7/7
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Reaganite foot-dragging on environmental protection is likely to have other long-term effects. The issues are addressed in a scientific study submitted at an October 1990 U.N. conference. The international panel reached virtual unanimity on the conclusion that global warming had occurred over the past century and that the risk of further warming is serious, ranging from significant to near-catastrophic, largely a result of fossil fuel combustion. "The U.S. press has focused on the outlying views [that question the consensus] without pressing hard on justifying them," one American scientist on the panel told Science magazine. A British scientist who is an author of the section on observed climate change added that "In America, a few extreme viewpoints have taken center stage. There are none like that elsewhere." Not a single member of the panel of 200 people agreed with the skeptical views that have received wide attention in the United States, gaining such headlines as "U.S. Data Fail to Show Warming Trend" (New York Times) and "The Global Warming Panic: a Classic Case of Overreaction" (cover of Forbes), and with TV coverage structured to leave the impression that scientific opinion is uncertain and divided.22

The British press reported that the consensus of the scientists was overridden by the U.N. political committees, under the pressure of the U.S. and Japan. Even Thatcher's England finally abandoned free market fantasies, leaving Washington and its media in the forefront of the effort to delay a constructive response to what might prove to be a major catastrophe. The guiding principle, again, is that government policy should be designed for the short-term gain of the privileged, the basic doctrine of Reaganite conservatism.23

A congressional study released in March 1989 shows that the average family income of the poorest fifth of the population declined by over 6 percent from 1979 through 1987, meanwhile rising by over 11 percent for the richest fifth; the statistics are corrected for inflation and include welfare benefits. For the poorest fifth, personal income declined by 9.8 percent while rising by 15.6 percent for the richest fifth of the population. One reason is that "more jobs now pay poverty level wages or below," the chief economist of the House Ways and Means Committee commented. The National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions released a study showing that health care for children in the U.S. had declined to its lowest point in ten years, with appalling statistics. For example, the proportion of low birth weights (which contribute to the unusually high infant mortality rates) is 1.7 times as high as in Western Europe; for Black children the proportion is far worse.24

The consequences for one wealthy city are outlined by columnist Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe. He notes that UNICEF ranks the U.S. second to Switzerland in per-capita GNP, and 22nd in infant mortality, with a worse record than Ireland or Spain, a decline from its 1960 position of 10th. For African-Americans, the rate is almost double the U.S. average. In the Roxbury section of Boston, populated largely by ethnic minorities, the rate is almost triple the U.S. average, which "would rank Roxbury, supposedly part of the world's second-richest nation, 42d in infant mortality." Though Boston is one of the world's great medical centers, Roxbury's infant mortality rate is worse than that of Greece, Portugal, the Soviet Union and all of Eastern Europe, and much of the Third World. A Harvard medical school expert on infant mortality, Paul Wise, commented: "The only place where you see social disparities like you see in the US infant-mortality rate is South Africa," the only other industrialized nation without guaranteed health care. Jackson continues:

Long before pregnancy, women are outside the loop on nutrition and health education.... While the leaders in Washington are puffing their chests this week over the tearing down of walls in Europe, vast and growing numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, Cambodians, Haitians and Vietnamese are blocked from hospitals and clinics by lack of money, health insurance or language.25

Facts such as these, which can be duplicated throughout the country, provide a most remarkable commentary on the variety of state capitalism practiced in what should be by far the richest country in the world, with incomparable advantages, frittered away during the Reagan years even beyond the disgraceful norm.

The spirit of these years is captured by Tom Wolfe, who depicts them as "one of the great golden moments that humanity has ever experienced." So they doubtless were for the important people for whom he speaks.26 The intended goals of domestic economic management were achieved to a large extent, just as the bipartisan Washington consensus achieved its intended goal of deflecting the threat of democracy and social reform in Central America.

4. Restoring the Faith

The greatest accomplishment of Reagan is supposed to be that he made us "feel good about ourselves," restoring the faith in authority, which had sadly flagged. As the editors of the Wall Street Journal put it, "he restored the efficiency and morale of the armed services [and] demonstrated the will to use force in Grenada and Libya" -- two military fiascos, but no matter. We were able to kill a sufficient number of people and are once again "standing tall," towering over the upstarts who had sought to overcome us but who succumbed to the cool courage and "the strength of the Cowboy" -- the words of British journalist Paul Johnson, while swooning over the manliness of his idol Ronald Reagan, who had in reality shown the courage of a Mafia don who sends a goon squad to break the bones of children in a Kindergarten. With these achievements, Reagan overcame our "sickly inhibitions against the use of military force," Norman Podhoretz intoned.27

Actually, all of this is sham. Frightened little men may strut about in awe of their cowboy hero, but the general public seems more opposed to the resort to violence than ever before and -- I hope, though I do not know -- more committed to acting to block it.

5. Public Vices

Sponsorship of state-guided international terrorism and economic management designed for short-term gain for the wealthy are the most notable features of the Reagan era, but there are others. In this brief review, I have not even mentioned what may be the most dangerous legacy of Reagan, Thatcher, and the rest. Coming generations are going to face problems that are quite different in scale and complexity from any that have come before. The possible destruction of a physical environment that can sustain human life in anything like its present mode is one of the most dramatic of these, along with the proliferating threat of weapons of mass destruction and continuing conflicts among adversaries with increasing capacity to cause terrible damage. That these problems have a solution is not so obvious. That exaltation of greed to the highest human value is not the answer is quite obvious. Tales about private vices yielding public benefits could be tolerated in a world living less close to the margin, but surely can no longer. By celebrating the ugliest elements of human nature and social life, the Reaganites have set back, by some uncertain measure, the prospects for coming to terms with grave dilemmas and possible catastrophes.

Coming generations will pay the costs. That is the legacy of these years even if we permit ourselves not to see the misery and torture of our victims throughout much of the world.

Go to the next chapter.

22 "Research News, Science, Aug. 3, 1990.

23 Geoffrey Lean, "UN setback for global warming action plan," Observer, May 20, 1990. See also Craig Whitney, "Scientists Warn of Danger in a Warming Earth," NYT, May 26, 1990, noting U.S. isolation, attributed to "the uncertainties in scientific research on climate change" that have "exasperated" policymakers, according to President Bush. It was reported at the same time that the U.S. was the only country at an international conference on rain forest destruction to oppose setting a year 2000 goal for protection of the world's tropical forests. In April, the U.S. was the only country at a Geneva conference to oppose a fund to help developing countries stop using ozone-depleting chemicals. Participants in an April White House-sponsored conference on global warming allege that the government manipulated the agenda to prevent consideration of mandatory restrictions in greenhouse gases. Jeff Nesmith, NYT news service, May 23, 1990.

24 Martin Tolchin, NYT, March 23; Alexander Reid, BG, March 2, 1989.

25 Jackson, BG, Dec. 24, 1989.

26 BG, Feb. 18, 1990.

27 Editorial, WSJ, Jan. 19, 1989; Johnson, Sunday Telegraph, June 1, 1986. Johnson and Podhoretz are exulting over Libya and Grenada, respectively. A notorious apologist for terrorism and atrocities, Johnson also applauded Israel for "having the moral and physical courage to violate a so-called sovereign frontier" by invading Lebanon in 1982 to excise "the terrorist cancer" -- with an estimated 20,000 or more killed, mostly Lebanese and Palestinian civilians (quoted by Wolf Blitzer, Jerusalem Post, June 29, 1984). In the real world, the invasion had nothing whatsoever to do with "the terrorist cancer," except insofar as Israel hoped that the attack might return the PLO to the terrorist policies Israel preferred by undermining its self-restraint in the face of repeated and murderous Israeli cross-border attacks, and terminating PLO efforts to move towards a peaceful political settlement, intolerable to both major Israeli political coalitions. There was ample evidence on these matters from Israeli sources at the time Johnson produced these typically inane comments. See Fateful Triangle, Pirates & Emperors, and Necessary Illusions. 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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