Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice
Remember the USA-backed terrorist war against Cuba
Remember the victims of the Cubana Airlines flight blown out of the air by American-backed terrorists
Shadow of the West
|The book gives a deeply insightful picture of the complex political situation in West Asia caused mostly by U.S. foreign policy.|
AN outspoken critic of the United States’ foreign policy and a scathing analyst of media hypocrisy, Noam Chomsky is known for his deep-seated interest in the volatile politics of West Asia, a site of intense tensions with worldwide consequences, drawing powerful nations into its arena of international confrontation.
The dominance of U.S. policy among factors controlling Israeli ideology has fuelled violence in West Asia. This has disturbed intellectual peace-lovers around the world. Over a period of three days, three intellectual giants came together to discuss West Asian politics, and the result is this highly fascinating view of the hydra-headed crises that West Asia faces, along with a look at the genesis of the various problems that have led to this.
The book is based on a dialogue between Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, Professor of International Relations at the University of Paris, who is a world-renowned authority on Iraq and, more so, on the relevance of the double-speak of the Arabic press. Their analysis is underpinned by a deep concern for justice and peace, which has been so visible in Chomsky’s political writings over the years and in Achcar’s contributions to the Le Monde Diplomatique.
What emerges is a richer understanding of West Asian politics from their shared commitments as well as their varied expertise and perspectives in a book that is deeply incisive.
The conversation is moderated by Stephen R. Shalom, Professor at William Paterson University, with the intention of providing an analysis of the major forces at play, especially the scenario of terror wars, multiple conspiracies, fundamentalism, democracy and its relevance to the Iraq debacle, as well as the hegemony of Washington in calling the tune in the region with special focus on oil politics.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is, of course, one of their main concerns, and the areas covered are anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and anti-Arab racism.
At the outset the discussion dwells on the definition of terrorism where Chomsky insists on using the accepted definition within the U.S. system of laws: “Terrorism is the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature . . . through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. has never accepted this, and when the United Nations tried to redefine it in 1987 in view of the legitimacy of the resistance movements in the colonised world or in Gaza and the Golan Heights, the U.S. vetoed it, apparently for its full support of the white regime in South Africa and its policy of apartheid. Chomsky emphasises that the U.S. intends to find a definition that “excludes the terror we carry out against them, and includes the terror that they carry out against us. Terror is terror in the standard sense if you do it to us, but if we do it to you, it’s benign, it’s humanitarian intervention, it’s with benign intent.”
Chomsky’s other two books, 9-11 and Middle East Illusions, further elaborate on his theory of injustice and violence and form a supplement to this dialogue. The final solution, it seems, is to put an end to attacking Muslim countries. As far as Osama bin Laden is concerned, his intention is the defence of his Muslim brethren: if you stop killing them, terrorism would come to an end. This is largely Chomsky’s contention.
On the other hand, Achcar is of the view that there is an economic aspect to the issue of terrorism “because there is a very obvious correlation between the neoliberal turn of the last quarter century and the increase in those forms of violence labelled as terrorism or even urban violence in general”.
April 7, 1980: U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance greets Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (left) at Andrews Air Force Base in the U.S. upon his arrival to discuss Israeli-occupied Arab lands with President Jimmy Carter. Sadat’s rise to power in Egypt is seen as a consequence of the victory of fundamentalism over secular nationalism.
He goes on: “Neoliberal globalisation has brought the disintegration of the social fabric and of social safety nets. People are more and more experiencing a state of disarray and social anxiety, and this leads to forms of violent assertions of ‘identity’, extremism or fanaticism, whether religious or political or whatever.” According to him, the antidote to terrorism is “definitely not the so-called war on terror. Rather, it is justice: political justice, the rule of law, social justice, and economic justice. This is the only real antidote to terrorism.”
Both thinkers strongly feel that Islamist fundamentalism is only a reaction to the political and economic insecurity in the world. It was only the failure of secular nationalism in the Arab world, especially in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, or in Iraq and Iran that led to the rise of Islamist fundamentalism. And in such a scenario, strangely, it is the non-governmental type of terrorism that is largely palpable, whereas governmental terrorism working under the garb of state legitimacy is hardly castigated.
Achcar argues, “The present strength of Islamic fundamentalism is a direct product of very direct U.S. policies.” Interestingly, the U.S. has always backed fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia and used it for its political ends to oppose secular nationalism as well as to counter any intervention by communist forces. This support of fundamentalist forces was obvious in the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or in the backing of Zia-ul-Haq’s brand of fundamentalism in Pakistan.
Apparently, the U.S. feared that if Nasser in Egypt and Abdul Kareem Qussem in Iraq succeeded with their ideology of secular nationalism, they would begin to use oil for their own development, thus curtailing its supply to America, Europe and Japan, which would weaken the U.S.’ control over it. Islamist fundamentalism, therefore, was the antidote to this development, which clearly posed a threat to the U.S. hegemony in the region.
A similar strategy has been used by Israel to counter the secular politics of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). It is a known fact that Israel has always used Islamist fundamentalist sources to oppose the PLO in the occupied territories. The result is the rise of the Hizbollah.
Chomsky argues: “What the United States decides is conclusive in the Middle East [West Asia]; there’s no other power in the world that can come close. The U.S. government has, with the very brief exception of a week in Taba, just blocked any steps toward a sensible political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, almost unilaterally Israel has too, but Israel is limited in what it can do; it can’t go much beyond the conditions that the United States establishes. And so long as Washington continues to give colossal military, diplomatic, ideological, media, and other support for Israeli expansion, I don’t think anything’s going to happen.”
Anwar Sadat rose to power in Egypt in the wake of the victory of fundamentalism over secular nationalism. But a few years later, this fundamentalist Frankenstein’s monster was assassinated by its creator, the U.S., as his extremist fundamentalist stand became difficult to control. It is therefore clear that the impetus given to Islamist fundamentalism by a selfish West is responsible for the rise of terrorism.Interestingly, the spurt of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. is a means of countering social democratic policies. Neoconservatives back Christian fundamentalism, which in turn is used as a base to divert the attention of the masses from vital issues of education, health, wages, and so on to “religious crusades to block the teaching of evolution, gay rights and abortion rights”.
Christian fundamentalism has been converted into a political force to “shift the focus of debate and attention and presidential politics and so on to questions that are quite marginal for the wealthy – questions of, say, gay rights – that is wonderful for people who want to destroy the labour union, construct a social and political system for the benefit of the ultra-rich while everyone else barely survives”.
Noam Chomsky is known for his deepseated interest in the volatile politics of West Asia.
Chomsky argues that the CEOs are content as long as people get obsessed with evolutionary theory and gay rights and they are permitted to turn the social and economic policies without any revolutionary setbacks to their programmes. The strategic employment of “religious fundamentalism as seen in the post-Carter era where even Bill Clinton is seen every week singing in the Baptist church has a parallel in the co-opting of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East”. This is politics of expediency lacking all ideological sincerity.
The Jimmy Carter era is relevant to the global scenario of economic crisis that resulted in fertile ground for religious revivalism or fundamentalism because in such a situation, people tend to seek refuge in identity-makers. Thus, you see the rise of “tribal politics, nationalist, religious, sectarian fundamentalism or whatever and this applies to U.S. policy too”. State terrorism is apparent in the British Defence Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce’s words on the bombing of Afghanistan: “The squeeze will carry on until the people of the country themselves recognise that this is going to go on until they get the leadership changed.” Chomsky interprets this declaration thus: “We’re going to keep bombing you until you throw out your government.”
Afghanistan was used as a target before Iraq on the pretext of “war against terror”, but the real motive was strategic presence in the heart of Central Asia, as a kind of check on a Chinese-Russian alliance, as well as control over the Caspian basin through the Western bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Of course, Al Qaeda was the other target, but the war against it has yielded nothing but a push for its expansion worldwide.
As the two discussants warn at the conclusion of their discussion, the world needs to know these facets of American foreign policy without which the pressing issue of terrorism and war in West Asia cannot be comprehended. And more than the world, it is the people of the U.S. who must become aware of the hoax that their government continuously plays upon the world, pushing it towards cross-border tensions. Maybe this could be a warning to the Manmohan Singh government, which is adamant in going into the nuclear deal with Washington.
The long night of greed and military adventurism under the George W. Bush administration stands exposed. Forces of money and established power are retrogressive and hinder changes towards a more open and free society. Pressure on the U.S. must be aimed at curtailing the rising military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and in ending the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.
From the perspective of justice and peace, this book gives a deeply insightful picture of the complexity of the political situation in West Asia.
From Publishers Weekly
This intriguing series of conversations between like-minded peers about America in the Middle East pairs dissident intellectual Chomsky with Achcar, who is less well known for critiques of U.S. foreign policy (Clash of Barbarisms). Drawing on deep historical background, they deconstruct Western assumptions about international politics: "Every state you can think of is based on violence, repression... the state system itself has no inherent legitimacy." While refreshingly careful to note when their conclusions aren't backed by rigorous documentation, both make broad assumptions about human behavior, while easily disregarding contradictions. For example they rely on opinion polls to indicate the desires of a given people (as opposed to the ruling elite), but reject the once-broad Palestinian support of the Oslo Peace Accords, for instance, because, as Chomsky says, the Palestinians "were just totally deluded." Similarly, they give little weight to nonrational influences—religiosity, fear—where these almost certainly played a key role in forming public opinion, such as in Arab disillusionment with secular nationalism or Israeli presumptions of anti-Semitism. Particularly in Chomsky's case, this can extend to an unfortunate contempt for those with whom he disagrees. Both men raise vital questions, but some readers may be alienated by the authors' often dismissive manner. (Nov.)
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The volatile Middle East is the site of vast resources, profound passions, frequent crises, and long-standing conflicts, as well as a major source of international tensions and a key site of direct U.S. intervention.
Two of the most astute analysts of this part of the world are Noam Chomsky, the preeminent critic of U.S, foreign policy, and Gilbert Achcar, a leading specialist of the Middle East who lived in that region for many years. In their new book, Chomsky and Achcar bring a keen understanding of the internal dynamics of the Middle East and of the role of the United States, taking up all the key questions of interest to concerned citizens, including such topics as terrorism, fundamentalism, conspiracies, oil, democracy, self determination, anti-Semitism, and anti-Arab racism, as well as the war in Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the sources of U.S. foreign policy.
This book provides the best readable introduction for all who wish to understand the complex issues related to the Middle East from a perspective dedicated to peace and justice. It is not an interview book, but rather a carefully planned and orchestrated dialogue with two experts, skillfully edited by Stephen R. Shalom, professor at William Patterson University.
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Paradigm Publishers (September 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594513120
- ISBN-13: 978-1594513121
"Periolous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Power" records a discussion and dialogue between Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar about current events in the Middle East and the U.S. role in the region. Stephen R. Shalom explains in the Preface that the book is the product of several days of live, interactive discussions moderated by Mr. Shalom followed by review and editing of the transcripts by each participant. Consequently, the finished product has both a dynamic feel to it as Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Achcar interact with each other in interesting and sometimes unpredictable ways; and a scholarly dimension as the authors were provided the opportunity to clarify or expand on their comments after the taped sessions had ended. The end result is an exceptionally interesting, informative and timely analysis of U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.
Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Achcar agree that U.S. interest in the Middle East primarily pertains to oil and control of the world economy; to that end, Israel is a close ally who allows the U.S. to project its power in the region. Mr. Chomsky insists that the threat of terror does not outweigh the imperative of controlling Middle Eastern oil; therefore, he charges that U.S. policy makers are taking an unnecessary calculated risk when choosing to deploy its military assets to the region. Rather, Mr. Chomsky believes that the threat of terror could be greatly reduced simply by withdrawing U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia, for example. Following a similar line of reasoning, the authors conclude elsewhere in the book that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is a necessary prerequisite to ending the Sunni insurgency and creating a lasting peace.
The book offers many insights. For example, we learn that Middle Eastern democracy was undermined historically by the U.S. in order to prevent politically Left-leaning states from falling under the influence of the USSR. Today, Islamic fundamentalism fills a void as what little Arab nationalism had once existed has waned. However, the authors recognize that the rise of religious fundamentalism is a worldwide phenomenon that is connected with the ascendancy of neoliberal economics, meaning that U.S. and Israeli politics are negatively influenced by fundamentalists, too. Indeed, the increasingly dysfunctional democracies of the U.S. and Great Britain are cause for concern and cast little doubt that the purported mission of bringing democracy to the Middle East has been little more than a ruse.
In perhaps the strongest part of the book, the Israel-Palestine conflict is dealt with at length. Mr. Achcar argues for inclusive peace talks where the Palestinian diaspora is allowed an opportunity to be represented in the discussion and suggests that Jordan should be part of that state as well; for his part, Mr. Chomsky believes that a single state solution is indicated. The authors go on to talk about many complex and contentious issues, including Israeli settlements in Palestine, the separation wall, U.S. military aid to Israel, Palestinian and Israeli politics, anti-Arab racism in the U.S., and more. Throughout the discussion, the reader is impressed with the author's clear-eyed assessment of the situation; moreover, the vision of what they believe might be achieved through peaceful negotiation gives one hope that their ideas are accorded the merit they deserve.
I highly recommend this important book to everyone.
Chomsky does not say that the US should "accept" terrorist attacks as another reviewer suggests. Rather, Chomsky says the US should stop engaging in terrorism. The US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing weapons of mass destruction, and training all sorts of killers through our military camps and bases all over the world, places like the "School of the Americas" which has turned out some of Latin America's worst tyrants. We have proxy wars, special forces, and private mercenaries operating all over the world in the interests of corporatism. As General Smedley Butler said, war is a racket, and he was a "high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers."
Ann Coulter, Victor Davis Hansen, Hugh Hewitt and so many others very obediently avoid the fact of US violence against other people. They only speak in terms of the threats (blowback) our military superpower faces, never the actual harm it causes around the world. That's the "thought-crime" that Chomsky commits in book after book, he dares to suggest that the people of the US look themselves in the mirror.
What article about Cuba would be complete without mentioning the USA false-flag terror against American citizens that was proposed back in the sixties? The idea was to murder Americans and blame it on Cuba.
Remember the USA-backed terrorist war against Cuba
Remember the victims of the Cubana Airlines flight blown out of the air by American-backed terrorists
wtc7 which they won't even of heard of;
near freefall collapse;
no fighter jet interception when it had happened 60 times the year before;
operation northwoods- historical usa false flag terror plot;
government said it was safe to go back to the toxic environment;
doctors, professors, government officials and celebrities now
risking their careers by effectively saying 911 was an inside job
wrong train times announced by john reid on day of india bombing
peter power- ex scot yard anti-terror op running simulation of bombs going off at precisely the same locations;
eye witnesses saying it looked as though the bomb was under the train;
kingstar van- robotic demolition company next to bus bomb;