Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 5: The Post-Cold War Era Segment 8/15
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Government-media doctrine holds that Bush "had few alternatives" to invasion, having failed to oust Noriega by other means (R. W. Apple). "Mr. Bush may have seen no alternative to invasion," Tom Wicker added, though as a dove, he regards Bush's arguments as not "conclusive."41 The underlying assumption is that the U.S. has every right to achieve its aims, so that violence is legitimate if peaceful means fail. The principle has broad application. It could readily be invoked by the terrorists who destroyed Pan Am 103, an act bitterly denounced on its first anniversary just as the U.S. invaded Panama. They too could plead that they had exhausted peaceful means. But the doctrine has another crucial feature: the right to violence is reserved to the United States and its clients.

The fundamental doctrine is further clarified by the treatment of international law. That its precepts were violated by the invasion was sometimes noted, but dismissed, on the grounds that the "legalities are murky" (Wall Street Journal),42 or simply an irrelevance. Exactly ten years earlier, Vietnam invaded Cambodia after murderous attacks against Vietnamese villages with thousands of casualties, overthrowing the Pol Pot regime. By any standards, the justification for this invasion is far more plausible than anything that Washington could offer. But in that case, the legalities were neither murky nor irrelevant. Rather, Vietnam's violation of international law deeply offended our sensibilities, establishing Vietnam as "the Prussians of Southeast Asia" (New York Times) whom we must punish, along with the people of Cambodia, by economic warfare and tacit support for the Khmer Rouge. The radically different reactions are readily explained by the doctrine that only the U.S. and its clients enjoy the right of lawless violence. But the obvious questions remain unasked, and understanding of the real world is effectively suppressed.

Largely keeping to the government agenda, the press scarcely investigated such matters as civilian casualties. Some blamed the failure on Pentagon interference, but that excuse is hard to credit. Nothing prevented the press from visiting hospitals and interviewing their directors, who reported overflowing morgues from the first days and appealed to Latin America and Europe to send medical equipment because "the United States is only giving us bullets," or publishing the wire service stories reporting these facts. Linda Hossie of the Toronto Globe & Mail reported "open skepticism" about the official figures, quoting slum dwellers, church workers, and others who tell of many civilians "buried because there were no transports to take them to a morgue." "Virtually all the Panamanians interviewed," she writes, "agreed that the vast majority of the dead are civilians." The Argentine press was able to find government spokesmen who said "they have taken the necessary legal steps for the cremation of great quantities of dead bodies piled in the morgues of the central hospitals now overflowing with cadavers." One of the few to make the effort, J.D. Gannon, reported that hospitals, morgues and funeral homes recorded about 600 civilian deaths in Panama City, while diplomats and relief workers estimated 400 more in rural areas.43

The media were much impressed with a CBS poll showing over 90% approval for the invasion, but did not ponder the fact that 10% of the population of 2.4 million said they had a good friend or relative killed (23%, killed or wounded). A few calculations on reasonable assumptions indicate that either the poll is totally meaningless, or that the numbers killed run to thousands on conservative estimates. The question did not arise.44

The lack of interest in the civilian toll was shared by Congress. On February 1, the House passed a resolution, 389-26, "commending Bush for his handling of the invasion and expressing sadness over the loss of 23 American lives," AP reported. A possible omission comes to mind, but seems to have passed unnoticed.45

This is a mere sample, but enough to illustrate "the kind of hard-hitting, no holds barred reporting that makes the press such an essential component of this country's democratic system," as Sanford Ungar writes, overcome with awe at the magnificence of his profession.46

Only a step away, the veil lifts and elementary truths are easily perceived. Israel's leading military analyst, Ze'ev Schiff, comments that there is nothing remarkable about the U.S. invasion, "neither from a military standpoint -- in that the American forces are killing innocent Panamanian civilians... nor from a political standpoint, when a great power employs its military forces against a small neighbor, with pretexts that Washington would dismiss at once if they were offered by other states." Like the bombing of Libya and other military operations, this one reveals "that Washington permits itself what other powers, including the USSR, do not permit themselves, though they plainly have no less justification."

In another client state, the mainstream Honduran press took a harsher tone. An editorial in El Tiempo bitterly denounced the "international totalitarianism" of George Bush "in the guise of `democracy'"; Bush has "declared plainly to Latin America that for the North American government, there is no law -- only its will -- when imposing its designs on the hemisphere." A columnist calls "Just Cause" a

coarse grotesque euphemism, neither more nor less than an imperialist invasion of Panama.... We live in a climate of aggression and disrespect...hurt by our poverty, our weakness, our naked dependence, the absolute submission of our feeble nations to the service of an implacable superpower. Latin America is in pain
-- while Congress gives George Bush a rousing ovation for his triumph.47
Go to the next segment.

41 NYT, Dec. 21, 22, 1989.

42 Headline, WSJ, Dec. 26.

43 Walter Robinson, "Journalists constrained by Pentagon," Dec. 25; Eloy Aguilar, AP, Dec. 22, 1989, citing Dr. Elmer Miranda, deputy director of San Tomás Hospital in Panama City. Hossie, G&M, Jan. 8; La Nación (Buenos Aires), cited by historian Thomas Boylston Adams, BG, Feb. 3, 1990. Gannon, CSM, Dec. 29, 1989.

44 Michael Kagay, "Panamanians Strongly Back U.S. Move," NYT, Jan. 6; Gary Langer, AP, Jan. 6, 1990. Alexander Cockburn cites a statistician's analysis showing that if Panamanians average 100 relatives or close friends, the death toll would have been over 2500; considerably more, on realistic assumptions. Nation, Feb. 26, 1990.

45 Joan Mower, AP, BG, Feb. 2, 1990.

46 Foreign Policy, Winter 89/90.

47 Ha'aretz, Dec. 21, 1989; El Tiempo, Jan. 5, 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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posted by u2r2h at 10:32 PM


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