Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 12/20
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Western readers would be hard put to learn of the Legion of Merit award to the commander of the Vincennes, but it did not go unnoticed in the Third World, where commentators also readily draw the conclusions barred within Western intellectual culture. Commenting on "U.S. imperial policy," Third World Resurgence (Malaysia) lists the shooting down of the Iranian airbus among acts of U.S. terrorism in the Middle East, quoting the words of the award and adding that "the Western public, fed on the media, sees the situation in black-and-white one-dimensional terms," unable to perceive what is obvious to those who escape the grip of the Western propaganda system.48

Huge massacres are treated by much the same criteria: their terror and violence are crimes, ours are statecraft or understandable error. In a study of U.S. power and ideology a decade ago, Edward Herman and I reviewed numerous examples of two kinds of atrocities, "benign and constructive bloodbaths" that are acceptable or even advantageous to dominant interests, and "nefarious bloodbaths" perpetrated by official enemies. The reaction follows the same pattern as the treatment of terrorism. The former are ignored, denied, or sometimes even welcomed; the latter elicit great outrage and often large-scale deceit and fabrication, if the available evidence is felt to be inadequate for doctrinal requirements.49

One comparison that we presented in great detail was particularly illuminating, the "benign bloodbath" conducted by Indonesia after its invasion of East Timor in 1975, and the "nefarious bloodbath" of the Khmer Rouge when they took over Cambodia in the same year. Reviewing virtually all available material (at that time, covering primarily 1975-77), we showed that the evidence concerning these two horrendous bloodbaths -- in the same part of the world, in the same years -- was comparable, and indicated that the two slaughters were comparable in scale and character. There were also differences. One was that the Indonesian aggression and bloodbath received critical material and diplomatic support from the United States and its allies, and could have readily been terminated by exposure and withdrawal of this support, while no one offered a serious proposal as to how to mitigate the Pol Pot atrocities; for that reason, the Timor bloodbath was far more significant for the West, at least if elementary moral standards are applicable. A second difference lay in the reaction to the two bloodbaths. Following the pattern illustrated throughout the record that we surveyed, the Timor atrocities, and the crucial contribution of the U.S. and its allies, were suppressed or denied; the media even avoided refugee testimony, exactly as in the case of the U.S. terror bombing of Cambodia a few years earlier. In the parallel case of the Khmer Rouge, in contrast, we documented a record of deceit that would have impressed Stalin, including massive fabrication of evidence, suppression of useless evidence (e.g., the conclusions of State Department Cambodia watchers, the most knowledgeable source, but considered too restrained to serve the purposes at hand), etc.

The reaction to the exposure is also instructive: on the Timor half of the comparison, further silence, denial, and apologetics; on the Cambodia half, a great chorus of protest claiming that we were denying or downplaying Pol Pot atrocities. This was a transparent falsehood, though admittedly the distinction between advocating that one try to keep to the truth and downplaying the atrocities of the official enemy is a difficult one for the mind of the commissar, who, furthermore, is naturally infuriated by any challenge to the right to lie in the service of the state, particularly when it is accompanied by a demonstration of the services rendered to ongoing atrocities.50

Quite generally, wholesale slaughter is regarded benignly, and the revelation of direct U.S. government participation in it arouses no particular interest, when the means are well-suited to our ends.51 And it is reasonable enough to regard the dilemmas of counterinsurgency as merely "practical" and "ethically neutral." It is simply a matter of finding the proper mix among the various techniques of population control, ranging in practice from B-52 bombing and napalm, to torture and mutilation and disappearance, and to kinder, gentler means such as starvation and totalitarian control in concentration camps called "strategic hamlets" or "model villages." Leading theorists of this form of international terrorism calmly explain that while it is a "desirable goal" to win "popular allegiance" to the government we back or impose, that is a distinctly secondary consideration, and does not provide an appropriate "conceptual framework for counterinsurgency programs." The "unifying theme" should be "influencing behavior, rather than attitudes" (Charles Wolf, senior economist of the RAND Corporation). Hume's problem then does not arise; there need be no concern that force is on the side of the governed. For influencing behavior, such techniques as "confiscation of chickens, razing of houses, or destruction of villages" are quite proper as long as "harshness meted out by government forces [is] unambiguously recognizable as deliberately imposed because of behavior by the population that contributes to the insurgent movement." If it is not, terror will be a meaningless exercise. "The crucial point," this respected scholar continues, is to connect all programs "with the kind of population behavior the government wants to promote." Wolf notes a further advantage of this more scientific approach, emphasizing control of behavior rather than attitudes: it should improve the image of counterinsurgency in the United States; we are, after all, an enlightened society that respects science and technology and has little use for mystical rumination on minds and attitudes. Note that when we turn to the United States, where coercive force is not readily available, we must concern ourselves with control of attitudes and opinions.

Even imposing mass starvation is entirely legitimate if it meets the pragmatic criterion, as explained by Professor David Rowe, director of graduate studies in international relations at Yale University. Testifying in Congress before China became a valued ally, Rowe advised that the U.S. should purchase all surplus Canadian and Australian wheat so as to impose "general starvation" on a billion people in China, a cost-effective method, he observed, to undermine the "internal stability of that country." As an expert on the Asian mind, he assured Congress that this policy would be particularly welcomed by the Japanese, because they have had a demonstration "of the tremendous power in action of the United States...[and]...have felt our power directly" in the firebombing of Tokyo and at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; it would therefore "alarm the Japanese people very intensely and shake the degree of their friendly relations with us" if we seemed "unwilling to use the power they know we have" in Vietnam and China.52

Apart from the scale of his vision, Rowe was following a well-trodden path. As director of the humanitarian program providing food to starving Europeans after World War II, Herbert Hoover advised President Wilson that he was "maintaining a thin line of food" to guarantee the rule of anti-Bolshevik elements. In response to rumors of "a serious outbreak on May Day" in Austria, Hoover issued a public warning that any such action would jeopardize the city's sparse food supply. Food was withheld from Hungary under the Communist Bela Kun government, with a promise that it would be supplied if he were removed in favor of a government acceptable to the U.S. The economic blockade, along with Rumanian military pressure, forced Kun to relinquish power and flee to Moscow. Backed by French and British forces, the Rumanian military joined with Hungarian counterrevolutionaries to administer a dose of White terror and install a right-wing dictatorship under Admiral Horthy, who collaborated with Hitler in the next stage of slaying the Bolshevik beast. The threat of starvation was also used to buy the critical Italian elections of 1948 and to help impose the rule of U.S. clients in Nicaragua in 1990, among other noteworthy examples. Dikes were bombed in South Vietnam to eliminate the supply of food for South Vietnamese peasants resisting U.S. aggression and crop destruction was carried out throughout Indochina, as in Central America in recent years. The practice can be traced to the earliest Indian wars, and, of course, was no innovation of the British colonists.53

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48 Third World Resurgence (Malaysia), Oct. 1990.

49 Chomsky and Herman, Political Economy of Human Rights.

50 For review and further discussion, see Manufacturing Consent, chapter 6, section 2; Necessary Illusions, 154ff.

51 A striking example was the reaction to the 1965 slaughter in Indonesia, and to new evidence of U.S. participation in it revealed in 1990. For discussion, see my article in Z magazine, Sept. 1990. See also Ellen Ray and William Schaap, and Ralph McGehee, in Lies of our Times (August, 1990), on the New York Times coverup.

52 See my "Responsibility of Intellectuals," reprinted in American Power and the New Mandarins and Chomsky Reader (Rowe); and "Objectivity and liberal scholarship," in American Power (Wolf).

53 Gardner, Safe for Democracy, 244f., 255. 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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