Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 6: Nefarious Aggression Segment 4/14
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2. Framing the Issues

While the first two acts of aggression of the post-Cold War era are similar by the criteria of principle and of law, inevitably there are also differences. The most significant disparity is that the U.S. invasion of Panama was carried out by our side, and was therefore benign, whereas the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait ran counter to critical U.S. interests, and was therefore nefarious, in violation of the most august principles of international law and morality.

This array of events posed several ideological challenges. The first task was to portray Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a vicious tyrant and international gangster. That was straightforward enough, since it is plainly true.

The second task was to gaze in awe at the invader of Panama and manager of "the unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua as he denounced the unlawful use of force against Kuwait and proclaimed his undying devotion to the United Nations Charter, declaring that "America stands where it always has, against aggression, against those who would use force to replace the rule of law"; "If history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms" (August 20, 7, 1990).

It might seem that this task would prove a shade more difficult than the first. Not so, however. The president's steely-eyed visage graced the front pages along with his inspiring words on the need to resist aggression, highlighted so that all would honor his valor and dedication to the ideals we cherish. Even his invocation of the "vivid memories" of Vietnam as a lesson in the need to resist aggression and uphold the rule of law passed without a clamor -- even a whisper -- of condemnation, a mark of true discipline. The press solemnly observed that "Bush has demonstrated that the United States is the only superpower...[able] to enforce international law against the will of a powerful aggressor," and otherwise reiterated our unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the sanctity of borders.12

Across the spectrum, there was acclaim for this renewed demonstration of our historic advocacy of the ways of peace -- though a number of old-fashioned right-wingers asked why we should do the dirty work.13 At the outer limits of dissidence, Mary McGrory wrote that while Hussein "may have a following among have-not Arabs," Americans "are emotionally involved in getting rid of the beast" by one means or another. She considered bombing Baghdad, though it might be unwise because of possible retaliation against Americans. The Washington Post leaked a White House plan to eliminate the beast, approved by the President when he was informed by CIA director William Webster "that Hussein represented a threat to the long-term economic interests of the United States."14

That these economic interests were driving policy decisions was acknowledged by the White House and political commentators generally. The U.S. sent major military forces to Saudi Arabia and helped organize an international embargo and virtual blockade, with the notably tepid support of most of its allies, who doubtless would prefer the U.S. and its clients to Saddam Hussein as a dominant influence over the administration of oil production and price, but appeared reluctant to risk or spend much to achieve this end. And, needless to say, they share with Washington the high principle that Might does not make Right -- except when we want it to.

U.S. aggression was not entirely overlooked. "This isn't Panama or Grenada here," former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William Crowe somberly declared, warning of the hazards of our current mission. "The costs and risks are momentous," the New York Times editors added in agreement, "going well beyond U.S. military operations in Lebanon, Grenada and Panama." Former Times military correspondent Bernard Trainor, now director of the national security program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, described Saddam Hussein as "the Noriega of the Middle East. Like his Panamanian counterpart, he has to go." In reality, the comparison between Noriega and Hussein extends about that far.15

The parallels, then, did not pass unnoticed: in all cases, the U.S. was acting in self-defense, in the service of world order and high principle -- another of those truths of logic that floats blissfully over the world of fact.

The editors of the liberal Boston Globe praised Bush for standing up for our fundamental values and drawing a line in the sand before the raging beast. "The line is clearer than that drawn in Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon," they observed. Others too made reference to such past proofs of our willingness to face any burden to discipline those who resort to force, or otherwise depart from our traditions of nonviolence and commitment to the rule of law.16

Letters to the editor, in contrast, made frequent reference to the hypocrisy of the pose, asking "what is the difference between our invasion of Panama and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait?," among many other cases of benign aggression. The dramatic difference between letters and professional commentary again illustrates the failure of the ideological offensive of the past years to reach beyond educated elites to all sectors of the general public. Overseas, simple truths could be perceived outside of the major power centers, where deviation from established truths is too dangerous. A lead editorial in the Dublin Sunday Tribune, headlined "Moral Indignation is Pure Hypocrisy," recalls the Western reaction to Iraq's invasion of Iran, the U.S. invasion of Grenada and Panama, Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and "the injustice done to the Palestinians [which] is a continuing cause of justifiable anger in the Middle East" and will lead to "continued turmoil." Irish Times Washington correspondent Sean Cronin, noting the impassioned words of U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering in support of the Security Council resolution condemning Iraq, recalled some events just eight months before: the December 23 U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution condemning the invasion of Panama (with British and French assistance, in this case); and the December 29 General Assembly resolution demanding the withdrawal of the "US armed invasion forces from Panama" and calling the invasion a "flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states."17

Go to the next segment.

12 BG, Aug. 8, 1990, and the media generally. Pamela Constable et al., BG, Aug. 20, 1990.

13 For a few exceptions, well outside the mainstream, see Alexander Cockburn's columns in the Los Angeles Times and Nation, Sept. 10; Erwin Knoll, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 17, 1990.

14 McGrory, BG, Aug. 8; Mary Curtius and Stephen Kurkjian, BG, Aug. 6, 1990, citing the Washington Post.

15 Crowe, Peter Gosselin and Stephen Kurkjian, BG, Aug. 8; Trainor, "Saddam Hussein, Mideast's Noriega, Has to Go," NYT Op-Ed, Aug. 12, 1990.

16 Editorials, BG, NYT, Aug. 9, 1990.

17 Michael Carlin, letter, BG, Aug. 9, and many others; editorial, Dublin Sunday Tribune, Aug. 12; Cronin, Irish Times, Aug. 11, 1990. 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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