Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 6: Nefarious Aggression Segment 6/14
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3. Paths away from Disaster

There was a brief threat that the Israeli connection might come to the fore when Saddam Hussein proposed a settlement on August 12, linking Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait to withdrawal from other occupied Arab lands: Syria from Lebanon, and Israel from the territories it conquered in 1967. The London Financial Times felt that, although his offer does not reduce the imminent dangers, it "may yet serve some useful purpose," offering "a path away from disaster...through negotiation." Furthermore, he "may well have a point" in "citing Israel's refusal to relinquish its control of occupied territories as a source of conflict in the region." In linking Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait to Israeli "withdrawal from Palestinian and Syrian territory, Mr Saddam has said something with which no Arab leader or citizen, no matter how pro-American, can disagree," and the refusal to consider the matter might "bring closer the risk of an all out Middle East war involving the Jewish state." The "immediate issue" is for "Iraq to get out of Kuwait"; but in the light of Iraq's proposal, however unsatisfactory it may be as it stands,

The onus is now on everyone involved, including Middle Eastern and western powers, to seize the initiative and harness diplomacy to the show of political, military and economic force now on display in the Gulf.22

The U.S. reaction was different. In official response and general commentary, there was no thought that the proposal might be explored to find a peaceful resolution for a very serious crisis. There was not even a ritual bow to the possibility that there might be a valid point buried somewhere in the suggestion. Rather, the proposal was dismissed with utter derision. Television news that day featured George Bush the dynamo, racing his power boat, jogging furiously, playing tennis and golf, and otherwise expending his formidable energies on important pursuits, far too busy "recreating" (as he put it) to waste much time on the occasional fly in Arab garb that he might have to swat. As the TV news clips were careful to stress, the president's disdain for this irritant was so great that he scarcely even broke his golf stroke to express his contempt for what the anchorman termed Hussein's "so-called offer," not to be regarded as "serious." The proposal merited one dismissive sentence in a news story on the blockade in the next day's New York Times.23

The danger that the issues might be addressed was quickly extinguished. The media also quietly passed over the fact that two days before, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture had published full-page statements in newspapers saying that "It is difficult to conceive of any political solution consistent with Israel's survival that does not involve complete, continued Israeli control of the water and sewerage systems [of the occupied territories], and of the associated infrastructure, including the power supply and road network, essential to their operation, maintenance and accessibility." A grant of meaningful self-determination to the Palestinians would "gravely endanger...Israel's vital interests," the statement emphasized. The "continued existence" of Israel is at stake in ensuring Israeli control over the West Bank.24

In short, no meaningful withdrawal from the conquered territories or recognition of Palestinian national rights is conceivable, the consistent position of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism, which, for twenty years, has posed the primary barrier to any diplomatic resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. The facts have been rigorously excluded from U.S. commentary, including the current U.S. position: support for the Shamir-Peres plan, which declares Jordan to be the Palestinian state; bars any change in the status of the Israeli-occupied territories except in accord with the guidelines of the Israeli government, which preclude any meaningful self-determination; rejects negotiations with the PLO, thus denying Palestinians the right to choose their own political representation; and calls for "free elections" under harsh Israeli military control with much of the Palestinian leadership rotting in Israeli jails. Small wonder that the terms of the U.S. position, while designated "the peace process" and "the only game in town," do not seem ever to have been published in the mainstream media.25

Another possible problem arose when Saddam Hussein proposed on August 19 that the matter of Kuwait be left an "Arab issue," to be dealt with by the Arab states alone, without external interference, in the manner of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and Morocco's attempt to take over the Western Sahara.26 The proposal was dismissed on the reasonable grounds that, in this arena, Hussein could hope to gain his ends by the threat and use of force. One relevant fact was overlooked: the Iraqi dictator was again stealing a leaf from Washington's book. The traditional U.S. position with regard to the Western hemisphere is that "outsiders" have no right to intrude. If the U.S. intervenes in Latin America or the Caribbean, it is a hemispheric issue, to be resolved here, without external interference. The message is: strangers keep out; we can handle our own affairs -- in an arena in which the regional hegemon can expect to prevail.

To mention only one example, clearly pertinent here, on April 2, 1982, the U.S. set a precedent by vetoing two Security Council resolutions on two different topics the same day. The first called for Israel to reinstate three elected mayors who were recent targets of Jewish terrorist attacks. The second called upon the Secretary-General to keep the Security Council informed about the Central America crisis, naming no names and making no charges, but implicitly directed against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. The U.S. delegation objected to the resolution on the grounds that it "breeds cynicism," "mocks the search for peace," and "undermines the Inter-American system" which should deal with these matters without U.N. interference; a more extreme variant of Saddam Hussein's position today.27

On August 23, a former high-ranking U.S. official delivered another Iraqi offer to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. The proposal, confirmed by the emissary who relayed it and by memoranda, was made public by Knut Royce in Newsday, on August 29. According to sources involved and documents, Iraq offered to withdraw from Kuwait and allow foreigners to leave in return for the lifting of sanctions, guaranteed access to the Gulf, and full control of the Rumailah oil field "that extends slightly into Kuwaiti territory from Iraq" (Royce), about 2 miles over a disputed border. Other terms of the proposal, according to memoranda that Royce quotes, were that Iraq and the U.S. negotiate an oil agreement "satisfactory to both nations' national security interests," "jointly work on the stability of the gulf," and develop a joint plan "to alleviate Iraq's economical and financial problems." There was no mention of U.S. withdrawal from Saudi Arabia, or other preconditions. An Administration official who specializes in Mideast affairs described the proposal as "serious" and "negotiable."28

The reaction was, again, illuminating. Government spokesmen ridiculed the whole affair. The New York Times noted the Newsday report briefly on page 14, the continuation page of an article on another topic, citing government spokespersons who dismissed it as "baloney." After framing the matter properly, the Times concedes that the story was accurate, quoting White House sources who said the proposal "had not been taken seriously because Mr. Bush demands the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait." The Times also noted quietly that "a well-connected Middle Eastern diplomat told the New York Times a week ago [that is, August 23] of a similar offer, but it, too, was dismissed by the Administration." That news had not been published, though it could not be ignored entirely once it was leaked a week later to the suburban journal Newsday, which is prominently displayed on New York City newsstands -- suggesting a certain hypothesis about what happened.29 Others disposed of the problem in a similar manner.

Several features of the media system are illustrated here. Deviations from the propaganda line can occur, more readily, as in this case, out of the national spotlight. That raises the problem of damage control. A standard journalistic device to suppress unwanted facts that have unfortunately come to light is to report them only in the context of government denials. More generally, to satisfy the conditions of objectivity, a news story must be framed in accordance with the priorities of power. In this case, the Times news report -- the one that enters History -- takes its lead from government authorities. The unwanted facts are first dismissed as "baloney," then conceded to be accurate -- but irrelevant, because Washington isn't interested. We also learn that the journal has suppressed earlier offers that are "baloney" for the same reason. That ends the matter. We can breathe easily, the threat that there might be "a path away from disaster through negotiation" having been averted.

Go to the next segment.

22 Editorial, Financial Times, Aug. 13, 1990.

23 Tom Brokaw, NBC News, 6:30 PM, Aug. 12; Michael Gordon, NYT, Aug. 13, 1990. Excerpts from the Iraqi statement appear on an inside page without comment.

24 Jerusalem Post, Yediot Ahronot, Aug. 10, 1990. Reuters, BG, Aug. 11, 1990, p. 40, 90 words; zero in the Times. On the undermining of any diplomatic resolution as the process unfolded, and the refraction of the facts through the ideological prism, see the essays collected in Towards a New Cold War, and Fateful Triangle. See Necessary Illusions, and my article in Z magazine, January 1990, on the impressive success in suppressing and distorting the record in the current period.

25 Ibid. for the unpublishable facts, and references of preceding note for earlier background.

26 "Proposal by Iraq's President Demanding U.S. Withdrawal," NYT, Aug. 20, 1990.

27 See Fateful Triangle, 114.

28 Royce, Newsday, Aug. 29, 1990.

29 R.W. Apple, NYT, Aug. 30, 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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