Saturday, September 13, 2008

What We Say Goes - Chile Massacre

Chomsky decries the US as a dictator

The US may be a demo- cracy, but it tries to rule the world with an iron fist, in order to advance its own interests, according to political commentator Noam Chomsky.,_what_we_say_goes1_08-08duane.jpg

In What We Say Goes, Chomsky, the famous linguistics and philosophy professor from the equally well-known Massachusetts Institute of Technology, criticises US foreign policy as being despotic. He also argues that right or wrong has little to do with the manner in which the White House takes decisions.

Chomsky derives this title from a statement made by George Bush I in February 1991, when he said towards the end of the Gulf War that there is a new world order that the US is establishing, and that the main principle of this new world order is “what we say goes”.

The first page already sets the scene, with Chomsky describing the US as an outlaw State, “totally unconstrained by international law, and it openly says so. What we say goes”. “The US invaded Iraq, even though that’s a radical violation of the United Nations Charter”.

Chomsky then uses a short story to illustrate his point.

The story tells of a pirate who appeared before an emperor, asking him why he is “molesting the seas”.

“The pirate answered, How dare you molest the world? I have a small ship, so they call me a pirate. “You have a great navy, so they call you an emperor. But you’re molesting the world. “I’m doing almost nothing by comparison. That’s the way it works. The emperor is allowed to molest the world, but the pirate is considered a major criminal.”

Chomsky then continues, in just over 200 pages (which includes a bibliography), to provide several examples of his theory on US power, ranging from Israel, the Vietnam war, to South America.

He states, for example, that Colombia was by far the leading recipient of US aid during the Clinton Presidency – and also had the worst human rights record in Latin America.

It is highly likely that Chomsky’s views on Israel will offend some of those passionate about this Middle Eastern country.

For example, he writes that the Palestinians held a free election in January 2006, voting “the
wrong way, electing Hamas to a majority of seats in the Parliament”.

“You’re not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of a democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.

“So instantly Israel and the US instituted harsh punishments on the Palestinians . . .”

Chomsky also has some harsh words for the media, and its unwillingness to lay bare or question the double standards he argues the US makes itself guilty of.

“In fact, if you look at the so-called debate about Iraq, it’s at approximately the level of a high school newspaper commenting on the local sports team.

“You don’t ask whether the team has the right to win, you just ask how they can win.”

Chomsky’s concept that many countries in the world may be democracies, but that the world’s political structure as such is nothing but a monarchy with the US the current king, makes for interesting reading, especially as it provides a dissident view to those normally given airtime.

In the end, Chomsky is tough on his compatriots, but remains affectionate and hopeful for what the US can be – perhaps, a more benign king?

The book is written in a fast-reading interview style, with independent journalist David Barsamian asking the questions.

However, What We Say Goes does read a bit disjointedly at times, and the reader might feel that Barsamian’s questions – in a twist of irony – are, perhaps, not probing enough of Chomsky’s views.


chomskyRenowned U.S. linguist, writer and political analyst Noam Chomsky has declared his support for an upcoming Chilean film about the Santa María Massacre, which took place in the northern Chilean city of Iquique in 1907.

The director of “La cantata: los fantasmas esán inquietos” (“The Cantata: the Ghosts are Restless”), Chilean Gregory Cohen, said Chomsky sent him a letter in June expressing his support for the project and calling the massacre an event of crucial importance for Chile, mining workers and the world. Chomsky reportedly first took interest in the film when he visited Chile in 2006.

On December 21, 1907, Chilean troops opened fire on striking nitrate workers – and their families – who had gathered at Iquique's Santa María School demanding better working conditions. The massacre claimed anywhere between 261 and 3,600 lives and inspired Luis Advis' Cantata Santa María, a musical recounting the tragedy and the events leading up to it.

Cohen will begin shooting the film in 2009. The movie's protagonist is a publicist, played by Chilean actor Benjamín Vicuña, who begins researching the massacre and meets the ghost of a victim.

Chileans commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the massacre last December with memorial ceremonies, events and performances (ST, Jan. 2 ).

The Santa María School massacre was a massacre of striking workers, mostly saltpeter (nitrate) miners, along with wives and children, committed by the Chilean army in Iquique, Chile on December 21, 1907. The number of victims is undetermined but is reliably estimated at over 2,000. It occurred during the peak of the nitrate mining era, which coincided with the Parliamentary Period in Chilean political history (1891-1925). With the massacre and an ensuing reign of terror, not only was the strike broken, but the workers' movement was thrown into limbo for over a decade.[citation needed] For decades afterward there was official suppression of knowledge of the incident, but in 2007 the government conducted a highly publicized commemoration of its centenary, including an official national day of mourning and the reinterment of the victims' remains.

Centenary of the Massacre

The site of the massacre was the Domingo Santa María School[1], where thousands of miners from different nitrate mines in Chile's far north had been camping for a week after converging on Iquique, the regional capital, to appeal for government intervention to improve their living and working conditions. The minister of the interior Rafael Sotomayor Gaete, decided to crush the strike, by army assault if need be. On 21 December, 1907, the commander of the troops at the scene, General Roberto Silva Renard, in accordance with this plan, informed the strikers' leaders that the strikers had one hour to disband or be fired upon. When the time was up and the leaders and the multitude stood firm, General Silva Renard gave his troops the order to fire. An initial volley that felled the negotiators was followed by a hail of rifle and machine gun fire aimed at the multitude of strikers and their accompanying wives and children.

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posted by u2r2h at 6:47 AM


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