Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chomsky - Interventions - 2002 - 2007


The book is a compilation of 44 op-eds that Chomsky wrote during 2002-07, unwavering in their rebuttal of U.S. interventions the world over.

IT is surprising that in spite of Noam Chomsky’s interventions in world politics, and particularly his understanding of American foreign policy, his views or writings do not find a place in the mainstream press in the United States.

Though his short pieces on the Bush presidency, Israel and Palestine, national security and terrorism, Washington’s belligerence towards Iran, and the divide-and-conquer strategy in Iraq are accepted by the New York Times Syndicate, they are, interestingly, never published in The New York Times. Tariq Ali says, “If Chomsky were living in Italy, Germany, France or Britain, he would have a regular column in one of those countries’ main newspapers.”

Outside the U.S., he is published in The Independent, International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, and Mexico’s national daily La Jornada. Because these writings present the truth, fault George Bush’s administration, and counter his ambitions of running global affairs from the White House, the state machinery guarantees that they do not reach the public and ensures that one of the greatest intellectuals of the present times is marginalised because of his views. As A.J. Liebling maintained long ago, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

The fiercely argued articles in this book, Interventions, a compilation of 44 op-eds Chomsky wrote between 2002 and 2007, throw further light on his consistent opposition to the right-wing conservative media that are propped up by neoliberal columnists and interests that have the support of the corporate industry.


It suits their interests to keep Chomsky out. The mainstream press censors all attempts to present a left-wing radical stance and substantiates what Michael I. Niman has written: “The American mass media are like tired old dogs, dutifully fetching official lies on command and dropping them like bones at the feet of an unsuspecting public. We in turn reward them by buying both the products and the myths they sell us.”

Thus, the counter-discursive role falls on the marginalised press, and City Lights is one of the many dissident publishing houses that believe in nurturing the ability to think critically, discern the truth, and communicate knowledge that is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of the Open Media Series “is to encourage readers to use their rights for creating greater justice, human rights, democracy, and to insist on a media system which supports them”. The essays in Chomsky’s concise and forceful book are unwavering in their rebuttal of America’s intervention around the world and its fight against terrorism, which is merely a veneer on its political ambitions.

The essays also take up other issues such as the politics that followed Hurricane Katrina and the Israeli attack on Lebanon. This is intended for the common reader who needs to arm himself/herself with information necessary for the recognition of the political ethics behind the White House’s aggressive pursuit of a military approach to empire-building.

The rise in terrorism around the world is mainly owing to the foreign policy of the U.S., which has “shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had better pay much closer attention to what the U.S. government does in the world and how it is perceived.”

The Arab world, as long as it remains backward and is sucked dry by Western interests of its natural resources, will continue to resort to violence to counter the hegemony of Western economic power, or what Chomsky calls “predatory capitalism”, which brings about short-term profits for the few elites and no long-term social changes for the many.

Chomsky is aware of this intellectual responsibility and takes on the task of interrogating American history and its foreign policy along with its worldwide fallout; he maintains that the “freedom to challenge power is not just an opportunity, it’s a responsibility”. Through a detailed analysis, he provokes a passionate concern for the moral and human consequences of intellectual intervention that either spur mass atrocity or help discourage man’s inhumanity to man.

Prospects within America are not bright for ordinary people. Protectionism leaves U.S. society a welfare state meant only for the rich. Market discipline is not for the rich, but for the poor. The rich people, Chomsky argues, “are going to have a nanny state protecting and subsidising them”. Neoliberal reforms used by the global system are clearly meant to trick people into thinking that the West is using democratic principles to usher in an environment of freedom and equality.

On the other hand, confrontational militarist policies have resulted only in a visibly sick economy, with the heavy cost of overseas adventures falling on the salaried class. “The message was that the Bush administration intends to rule the world by force, the one dimension in which it reigns supreme and to do so permanently, removing any potential challenge it receives,” writes Chomsky.

The post-9/11 stand of the Bush administration is to move the U.S. war machinery towards a policy underpinned by hegemonic motives, an assertion to gain the status of the ultimate superpower. Chomsky is right when he argues that attacks against America are justified because of American presence in West Asia, the merciless bombing of Baghdad and the military intervention in Afghanistan.

The book systematically examines this provocative foreign policy since the end of the Cold War – a stand of aggression and pre-emptive war against the “axis of evil” and elsewhere where American economic and geopolitical interests are in question.

Such interventionism is a further intensification of the Clinton Doctrine, which “reserves the right to use military force unilaterally when necessary . . . ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources” (the 1997 Pentagon report to Congress explicitly emphasises this).

When I asked Chomsky recently about his views on the U.S. foreign policy in Asia in the wake of the Latin American Left forming an alliance against American unilateralism, he replied:

“Washington is no doubt deeply concerned by the developments in South America, which, for the first time since the Spanish conquests, is not only moving towards greater independence but also integrating, at least to some extent. But I do not think this is the prime motive for U.S. efforts to improve its strategic-economic position in Asia, to counterbalance China. That would have proceeded in about the same way, I suspect, even if Latin America remained under control.”

In the face of a persistent obsession with an enemy who is about to destroy them, the Americans have always laboured under fear and mistrust, which is a driving force behind their role in international politics. It is a game of hegemony and survival that works in tandem with counter paranoia, which, as Chomsky argues, “when combined with immense power and an extremely cynical and violent leadership is a dangerous combination, no doubt”. Even if one’s motives are the promotion of democracy, the use of bloodshed as intimidation makes it very difficult to predict how one’s enemies will react.


“It takes impressive faith in power to assume that because our leaders have announced their vision of democracy for Iraq after the collapse of official pretexts, they really mean it,” argues Chomsky in his forceful and brief columns, which are incisive and well-researched. The divide-and-rule policy in Iraq, the blatant hostility towards Iran and the issues of social security within the U.S. make this collection an eye-opener, especially for the American public, which is fed on the doctored strategies of fraudulent state ideology of justice and welfare, a discourse that manufactures consent. For instance, the drive for democracy in West Asia is dishonest policy because any functioning democracy would go against the interests of the U.S.

“The world has good reason to watch what is happening in Washington with fear and trepidation,” writes Chomsky. “It cannot be stressed too often that the people who are best placed to relive those fears are the people of the United States, who are fortunate in that they can do more than anyone else to shape the future, thanks to the power of their own state and the freedom and privilege they enjoy which is very high by comparative standards.”

Indeed, Chomsky’s book is essential if we are to offer any resistance to the military-economic might of the U.S. The op-ed form is used for its precise and hard-hitting potential; its brevity indicates that Chomsky can say a great deal in a few words about the contradictions and deceptions in today’s world, which elsewhere he can turn into full-length books.

The book is a provocative account of the superficial appearance of Western triumphalism which needs to be understood by the public. The illegitimacy of the state capitalist institutions and the military interventions have to be grasped, and an uncompromising critique of the American foreign policy brings people to a new vision that would enable them to put aside false success and even personal security to resist the hegemonies at work in our contemporary world of delusion and exploitation.

As Chomsky asserts, “One of the clearest lessons of history, including recent history, is that rights are not granted; they are won.” •

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posted by u2r2h at 5:47 AM


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