Noam Chomsky on Homeland Security
So there are things that are quite feasible. Proposals have to be made and brought to the population in a convincing way. And most of the population already agrees with most of these things. But you have to turn the population into a force that will be active and engaged. Then you could have results.
Meanwhile, global military expenses continue to rise. For 2008, the US accounted for over 40% of global military expenses, eight times as much as its nearest rival, China. The US is of course alone in having a vast network of military bases around the world and a global surveillance and control system, and in regularly invading other countries (with impunity, given its power). From 1999 to 2008, global military spending increased 45%, with the US accounting for 58% of the total.
Furthermore, Obama proceeded, he will strengthen the NPT "so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions." He made no mention of the conclusion of US intelligence that Iran had not had a weapons program for five years, unlike US allies in Israel, Pakistan, and India, the three countries that all maintain extensive nuclear weapons programs (with direct US support), all unmentioned as well.
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al, did introduce some important innovations. Ordinarily, torture is farmed out to subsidiaries under US supervision, not carried out by Americans directly in the government-established torture chambers. What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system's torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage.
Among the most elementary of moral truisms is the principle of universality: we must apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others, if not more stringent ones. It is a remarkable comment on Western intellectual culture that this principle is so often ignored and, if occasionally mentioned, condemned as outrageous. This is particularly shameful on the part of those who flaunt their Christian piety, and therefore have presumably at least heard of the definition of the hypocrite in the Gospels.
One clear illustration is Washington's terrorist war against Nicaragua in the 1980s. The State Department confirmed that the US-run forces attacking Nicaragua from US bases in Honduras had been authorized to attack "soft targets," that is, undefended civilian targets. The International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council condemned the US. [The US] response [describing] terrorist attacks on civilian targets: a "sensible policy [should] meet the test of cost-benefit analysis" of "the amount of blood & misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end"--"democracy" as defined by US elites
When asked why "should the US spend massively on arms and China refrain?" senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations provided a simple answer: "we guarantee the security of the world, protect our allies, keep critical sea-lanes open and lead the war of terror," while China threatens others and "could ignore an arms race" --actions inconceivable for the US. Surely no one but a crazed "conspiracy theorist" might mention that the US controls sea-lanes in pursuit of US foreign policy objectives, hardly for the benefit of all, or that much of the world regards Washington (particularly since the beginning of the Bush II presidency) as the leading threat to world security.
But the justifications for pre-emptive war do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an imagined or invented threat.
Preventive war falls within the category of war crimes.
[Bush’s revision after discovering no WMDs in Iraq] suggests that the administration will act against a hostile regime that has nothing more than the intent and ability to develop WMDs. This revision grants Washington the right of arbitrary aggression.
The Kennedy administration pioneered the massive use of chemical weapons against civilians as it launched its attack against South Vietnam in 1961-1962. There has been much rightful concern about the effects on U.S. soldiers, but not the incomparably worse effects on civilians.
There is also substantial evidence of U.S. use of biological weapons against Cuba, reported as minor news in 1977, and at worst only a small component of continuing U.S. terror.
Cuba was a “rogue state” when its military forces were in Angola, backing the government against South African attacks supported by the United States. South Africa, in contrast, was not a rogue state then, nor during the Reagan years, when it caused over $60 billion in damage and 1.5 million deaths in neighboring states, and with ample U.S./U.K. support.
The same exemption applies to Indonesia and many others. The criteria are fairly clear: a “rogue State” is not simply a criminal state, but one that defies the orders of the powerful--who are, of course, exempt.
A: A horrible atrocity. But I reacted pretty much the way people did around the world. A terrible atrocity, but unless you're in Europe or the US or Japan, I guess, you know it's nothing new. That's the way the imperial powers have treated the rest of the world for hundreds of years. This is a historic event, but unfortunately not because of the scale or the nature of the atrocity but because of who the victims were. If you look through hundreds of years of history, the imperial countries have been basically immune. There are plenty of atrocities, but they're somewhere else. And that's gone on for hundreds of years.
A: It is.
Q: For Japanese who have experienced the atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, hearing the words "Ground Zero" leads to very complicated feelings. I wondered if you have any thoughts about that.
A: The interesting thing is that here, almost nobody thinks of it. Check around. I mean, I've never seen a comment in the press or the massive commentary on this that points that out. It's just not in people's consciousness.
Q: But that word.
A: That's where it comes from. Absolutely. No questions about it. It struck me right away.
Q: That's why it resonates with people.
A: I understand. But it doesn't mean that here, because here, it's the same story as before. The atrocities you commit somewhere else don't exist.
Rather, there has, so far, been a solid drumbeat of calls for violent reaction, with only scarce mention of the fact that this will not only visit a terrible cost on wholly innocent victims, many of them Afghan victims of the Taliban, but also that it will answer the most fervent prayers of bin Laden and his network.
The bin Laden network itself falls into a different category, and in fact its actions for 20 years have caused great harm to the poor and oppressed people of the region, who are not the concern of terrorist networks. But they do draw from a reservoir of anger, fear, and desperation, which is why they are praying for a violent US reaction, which will mobilize others to their horrendous cause.
Such topics as these should occupy the front pages--at least, if we hope to reduce the cycle of violence rather than to escalate it.
A: As for the bin Laden network, they have as little concern for globalization and cultural hegemony as they do for the poor and oppressed people of the Middle East who they have been severely harming for years. They tell us what their concerns are loud & clear: they are fighting a Holy War against the corrupt, repressive, and "un-Islamist" regimes of the region, and their supporters, just as they fought a Holy War against the Russians in the 1980s--and elsewhere.
Bin Laden himself has probably never even heard of "globalization." Those who have interviewed him in depth, like Robert Fisk, report that he knows virtually nothing of the world and doesn't care to. We can choose to ignore all the facts and wallow in self-indulgent fantasies if we like, but at considerable risk to ourselves, among others. Among other things, we can also ignore, if we choose, the roots of the "Afghanis" such as bin Laden and his associates, also not a secret.
Foreign leaders, specialists on the Middle East, and I suppose their own intelligence agencies, are warning them that a massive military response will answer bin Laden's prayers. But there are hawkish elements who want to use the occasion to strike out at their enemies, with extreme violence, no matter how many innocent people suffer. There are plenty of bin Ladens on both sides, as usual.
A: Not a secret, incidentally; prominently reported in the mainstream, though easily forgotten. That didn't violate any laws. And it's not just the CIA. Should they have been permitted to organize in Nicaragua a terrorist army that had the official task, straight out of the mouth of the State Department, to attack "soft targets" in Nicaragua, meaning undefended agricultural cooperatives and health clinics? Remember that the State Department officially approved such attacks immediately after the World Court had ordered the US to end its international terrorist campaign and pay substantial reparations. What's the name for that? Or to set up something like the bin Laden network, not him himself, but the background organizations?
His call for the overthrow of corrupt and brutal regimes of gangsters and torturers resonates quite widely, as does his indignation against the atrocities that he and others attribute to the US, hardly without reason. It's entirely true that his crimes are extremely harmful to the poorest and most oppressed people of the region. By courageously fighting oppressors, who are quite real, bin Laden may appear to be a hero, however harmful his actions are to the poor majority. And if the US succeeds in killing him, he may become even more powerful as a martyr. He is, after all, as much of a symbol as an objective force, both for the US and probably much of the population.
They carried terror into Russian territory. They won the war and the Russian invaders withdrew. The war was not their only activity. In 1981, forces based in those same groups assassinated President Sadat of Egypt, who had been instrumental in setting them up. In 1983, one suicide bomber, maybe with connections to the same forces, essentially drove the US military out of Lebanon. And it continued.
By 1989, they had succeeded in their Holy War in Afghanistan. As soon as the US established a permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and the rest announced that from their point of view, that was comparable to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and they turned their guns on the Americans, as had already happened in 1983 when the US had military forces in Lebanon.
This Third World argument doesn't even merit ridicule. In fact, a large part of their technological sophistication is the arms that we sell them. And the public pays for that, too, through subsidies.
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|Noam Chomsky on other issues:
George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)