Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 14/20
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5. The Range of Means

The pragmatic criterion dictates that violence is in order only when the rascal multitude cannot be controlled in other ways. Often, there are other ways. Another RAND corporation counterinsurgency specialist was impressed by "the relative docility of poorer peasants and the firm authority of landlords in the more `feudal' areas...[where] the landlord can exercise considerable influence over his tenant's behavior and readily discourage conduct inconsistent with his own interests."57 It is only when the docility is shaken, perhaps by meddlesome priests, that firmer measures are required.

One option short of outright violence is legal repression. In Costa Rica, the United States was willing to tolerate social democracy. The primary reason for the benign neglect was that labor was suppressed and the rights of investors offered every protection. The founder of Costa Rican democracy, José Figueres, was an avid partisan of U.S. corporations and the CIA, and was regarded by the State Department as "the best advertising agency that the United Fruit Company could find in Latin America." But the leading figure of Central American democracy fell out of favor in the 1980s, and had to be censored completely out of the Free Press, because of his critical attitude towards the U.S. war against Nicaragua and Washington's moves to restore Costa Rica as well to the preferred "Central American mode." Even the effusive editorial and lengthy obituary in the New York Times lauding this "fighter for democracy" when he died in June 1990 were careful to avoid these inconvenient deviations.

In earlier years, when he was better behaved, Figueres recognized that the Costa Rican Communist Party, particularly strong among plantation workers, was posing an unacceptable challenge. He therefore arrested its leaders, declared the party illegal, and repressed its members. The policy was maintained through the 1960s, while efforts to establish any working class party were banned by the state authorities. Figueres explained these actions with candor: it was "a sign of weakness. I admit it, when one is relatively weak before the force of the enemy, it is necessary to have the valor to recognise it." These moves were accepted in the West as consistent with the liberal concept of democracy, and indeed, were virtually a precondition for U.S. toleration of "the Costa Rican exception."58

Sometimes, however, legal repression is not enough; the popular enemy is too powerful. The alarm bells are sure to ring if they threaten the control of the political system by the business-landowner elite and military elements properly respectful of U.S. interests. Signs of such deviation call for stronger measures. Such was the case in El Salvador. After the harsh repression of nonviolent activities, "the masses were with the guerrillas" by early 1980 in the judgment of José Napoleón Duarte, the U.S.-imposed figurehead. To bar the threat of nationalism responsive to popular demands and pressures, it was therefore necessary to resort to a "war of extermination and genocide against a defenseless civilian population," to borrow the terms of Archbishop Romero's successor a few months after the assassination. Meanwhile Duarte praised the army for its "valiant service alongside the people against subversion" as he was sworn in as civilian president of the military junta to provide a cover for active U.S. engagement in the slaughter, and thus to become a respected figure in Western circles.59

The broader framework was sketched by Father Ignacio Mart¡n-Baró, one of the Jesuit priests assassinated in November 1989 and a noted Salvadoran social psychologist, in a talk he delivered in California on "The Psychological Consequences of Political Terrorism," a few months before he was murdered.60 He stressed several relevant points. First, the most significant form of terrorism, by a large measure, is state terrorism, that is, "terrorizing the whole population through systematic actions carried out by the forces of the state." Second, such terrorism is an essential part of a "government-imposed sociopolitical project" designed for the needs of the privileged. To implement it, the whole population must be "terrorized by an internalized fear."

Mart¡n-Baró only alludes to a third point, which is the most important one for a Western audience: the sociopolitical project and the state terrorism that helps implement it are not specific to El Salvador, but are common features of the Third World domains of the United States, for reasons deeply rooted in Western culture, institutions, and policy planning, and fully in accord with the values of enlightened opinion. These crucial factors explain much more than the fate of El Salvador.

In the same talk, Mart¡n-Baró referred to the "massive campaign of political terrorism" in El Salvador a decade ago, conducted with U.S. backing and initiative. He noted further that "since 1984, with the coming of so-called democratic government in El Salvador under Duarte, things seemed to change a bit," but in reality "things did not change. What changed was that the terrorized population was reduced to only two options: to go to the mountains and join the ranks of the rebels, or to comply -- at least openly -- with the programs imposed by the government." The killings then reduced in scale, a development that occasioned much self-praise here for our benign influence. The reason for the decline, he observes, is that "there was less need for extraordinary events, because people were so terrorized, so paralyzed."

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57 Edward Mitchell, Asian Survey, August 1967.

58 See Necessary Illusions, 62f., 111f., 263ff.; my "Letter from Lexington" in Lies of Our Times (July, 1989); Winson, Coffee & Modern Costa Rican Democracy, 54-5.

59 See Turning the Tide, 106f., 109ff.; Necessary Illusions, 78-9.

60 Mart¡n-Baró, Symposium, Berkeley, California, Jan. 17, 1989, sponsored by the Mental Health Committee of the Committee for Health Rights in Central America (CHRICA, San Francisco), which made the transcript available. 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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