Chomsky And Gilbert Achcar's New Book: Perilous Power
By Stephen Lendman
01 December, 2006
Chomsky needs no introduction. He's MIT Institute Professor Emeritus
of linguistics and a leading anti-war critic and voice for over 40 years
for social equity and justice. He's also one of the world's most influential
and widely cited intellectuals on the Left. Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese-French
academic, author, social activist, Middle East expert and professor
of politics and international relations at the University of Paris.
Their new book, Perilous Power, is based on 14 hours of dialogue between
them over three days in January, 2006 and updated six months later in
July in a separate Epilogue at the end. It covers US foreign policy
in the most volatile and turbulent region in the world, the Middle East,
and discusses the wars in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan as
well as such key issues as terrorism, fundamentalism, oil, democracy,
possible war against Iran and much more. Chomsky and Achcar collaborated
with Stephen Shalom, Professor of Political Science at W illiam Paterson
University acting as moderator to pose questions and keep the discussion
The book is divided into
five chapters. This review will cover each of them in enough detail
to give the reader a good sense of their flavor and content.
Chapter One - Terrorism
The underlying raison d'etre
used to justify the post-9/11 Middle East and Central Asian wars is
the so-called "war on terror" and claimed overall threat therefrom,
and that's how the dialogue between the two authors begins with moderator
Stephen Shalom asking them to define terrorism. Chomsky explained he's
been writing about it since Ronald Reagan was elected and declared "war
on international terrorism" using rhetoric like the "scourge
of terrorism" and "the plague of the modern age." It
was clear what the administration had in mind was its own planned Contra
war of terrorism against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the one west
of it against the FMLN opposition in El Salvador with US regional head
of state terrorism John Negroponte (now US Director of National Intelligence
in charge of "homeland" terrorism against the public) directing
it all through his US Ambassador's office in Hondurus situated between
the two conflict zones. The idea was to crush the outlier Nicaraguan
go vernment (that wouldn't play by US-imposed rules) and the opposition
resistance to the fascist government in El Salvador to establish or
solidify reliable right wing client dictators who always understand
Chomsky provides a useful
definition of "terrorism" from the US Code. It's "the
calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that
are political, religious, or ideological in nature....through intimidation,
coercion, or instilling fear." Chomsky then observes that by that
standard the US is the world's leading terrorist state, but this is
unacceptable to any US administration so all of them go by the undebated
notion that terrorism excludes what "we" do to "them"
and is only what only what "they" do to "us." What
"we" do is always benign humanitarian intervention even when
it's done through the barrel of a gun the way we're doing it in Iraq,
Afghanistan and in partnership with Israel in Palestine and against
the Lebanese. Condoleezza Rice's rhetoric explains this, without a touch
of irony, as "democracy (being) messy."
Achcar expands the concept
of terrorism to what the European Union (EU) has used since 2002 that
includes "causing extensive destruction to a Government or public
facility....a public place or private property likely to....result in
major economic loss (or even) threatening to commit" such acts.
He acknowledges this broader notion is a dangerous enlargement of the
concept as it could include almost any act of civil disobedience a government
wishes to label an act of terrorism.
The discussion then covers
whether or not a credible terror threat exists, and Chomsky believes
a serious one does unrelated to 9/11. He notes the comments of two former
US Defense Secretaries who see the likelihood of a nuclear detonation
on a US target in the next decade as greater than 50% while US intelligence
thinks it's almost certain unless current US policy changes. Chomsky
also mentions the possibility of other forms of terror attacks against
us all stemming from the 1954 CIA notion of "blowback" that
referred to the unintended consequences from US hostile acts abroad
like overthrowing legitimate governments as it did against Mohammed
Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 ushering in the 25 year terror reign of the
Shah. It finally led to the "blowback" 1979 revolution, and
it causes similar examples of retaliation now evident in Iraq, Afghanistan
and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Achcar agrees that terrorism
is a reality and can also be homegrown like the 1995 bombin g of the
Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City first blamed on Muslim "terrorists"
who even then were part of the anti-Muslim attitude in the country that
became hysterical post-9/11.
The issue then is what's
to be done about the threat, and that's a subject Chomsky has written
and spoken about often - "reduce the reasons for it." In the
case of the Middle East, stop attacking Muslim countries, and that will
reduce "blowback" repercussions. Achcar goes further and says
there's an economic aspect to the equation as well relating to the neoliberal
globalization direction the West took since the Carter years. It's caused
a steady erosion of the social fabric and safety net that's most apparent
in the US that Achcar believes eventually "leads to forms of violent
assertions of 'identity,' extremism or fanaticism, whether religious
or political..." Chomsky agrees and cites projections of US intelligence
agencies that the process of globalization "will be rocky, marked
by chronic financial volatility and a widening economic divide."
This will "foster political, ethnic, ideological and religious
extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it."
The solu tion both authors agree on is "political justice, the
rule of law, social justice (and) economic justice."
The crucial issue regarding
the likelihood of a conspiracy relating to the 9/11 terror attack is
then addressed which both authors dismiss out of hand and Chomsky says
is "almost beyond comprehension" that the Bush administration
was responsible for it. Despite considerable evidence that at the least
it knew about it well in advance, he argues that the notion of administration
involvement even indirectly doesn't hold water in his view. For one
thing, he explains "A lot of people (had to be) involved in the
planning" of this and for certain there would have been leaks.
He also believes claims of administration involvement divert "attention
from the real crimes" and threats from them that's "welcomed
by the administration."
Achcar agrees but admits
Washington did nothing to prevent the attack supporting the notion that
administration officials wanted a terrorist attack they could exploit
to their advantage. What happened on 9/11 served US imperial interests
the same way Iraq's invasion of Kuwait did in 1990. The attack in 2001
was the "catastrophic and catalyzing event (of a) new Pearl Harbor"
the neocon Project for the New American Century (PNAC) think tank said
it needed at its formation in 1997 to advance the kind of radical transformation
its members advocated. These are the same key people who took power
in 2001, and based on their agenda since then, it's hard to dismiss
their not being up to almost anything including complicitity in an attack
on US soil. It's likely on the evening of 9/11 they were drinking champaign
celebrating "their good fortune" in the White House.
A second conspiracy relates
to the possible US role in Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Achcar
says there's no way to prove it even though the US did nothing to prevent
it. Chomsky, on the other hand, believes it happened because Saddam
Hussein simply "misinterpreted" the message he got from US
Ambassador April Glaspie, and that the US was providing aid to him right
up to the time of the invasion which it only would have done for an
ally that wasn't planning to attack another ally. Achcar has another
view stressing that if the US wanted the invasion as a pretext for the
Gulf war that followed in January, 1991, the GHW Bush administration
would have maintained normal relations with Saddam right to the end
so as not to tip its hand.
There's good reason to suspect
the US may have wanted it. The cold war had just ended, the US needed
a new enemy to justify maintaining a high military budget to avoid the
"peace dividend" spoken of then, it also needed a way to reestablish
a US military presence in the region because of its immense oil reserves,
and since 1975 this country wanted to "bury the Vietnam syndrome"
to be free again to engage in military action abroad with public consent.
The Gulf war was the gift Washington hawks hoped for. The relatively
simple Operation Just Cause in December, 1989 to remove Panamanian dictator
Manuel Noriega because he forgot who really runs his country hadn't
done it, so in Achcar's words: "If Saddam Hussein did not exist
at the time, they would have had to invent him." Achcar also believes
the US was concerned about Saddam's military power then. His history
in the region proved he was an aggressor, and that worried his neighbors
like Israel and the Saudis.
If there was a plan to entrap
Saddam, he walked right into it. Chomsky has another view that Saddam
only became a "bad guy" after he "broke the rules."
A little leeway is always permissible, but "imperial management"
works by establishing reliable client states run by leaders who know
who's "the boss." Saddam broke the rules by his act of "disobedience"
- the same "sin" Manuel Noriega committed that led to his
Chapter 2 - Fundamentalism
The discussion begins with
the importance of fundamentalism as a source of unrest in the world.
For Chomsky, its Islamic version is mainly a reaction to those forces.
He explained for many years "there was strong secular nationalism
all over the Arab and Muslim world." It was true in Egypt under
Gamal Abdel-Nasser who was a secular nationalist, in Iraq over the past
century, and in Iran for half a century until the CIA-instigated coup
ousted Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
Achcar agrees and stresses
the US assault against secular nationalist leaders led to the doctrine's
failure in these countries and left a vacuum filled by Islamic fundamentalism
based on the most reactionary brand of it practiced by the US's oldest
client state in the region - Saudi Arabia. The US used the Saudis and
its extremist model to counter communism and all forms of progressive
movements. Achcar also points out that fundamentalist nongovernmental
terrorism is miniscule compared to the state-sponsored kind practiced
mainly by the US and Israel and is a direct outgrowth of those policies.
The US even supported the
Taliban when it assumed power in 1996 believing their authoritarian
rule would bring stability to the country without which planned pipelines
from the landlocked Caspian Basin to warm water ports in the south would
be in jeopardy. Unlike the propaganda used against them in 2001, their
religious extremism, harsh treatment of women, and overall human rights
abuses were of no concern at first despite any pious rhetoric about
them to the contrary later on.
Chomsky then commented that
the Reagan administration helped Pakistan move toward fundamentalism
and even pretended it didn't know the country was developing nuclear
weapons. It's now the only known Muslim country to have them. Israel
also wanted to destroy the secular nationalist Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), a move that led to the rise of Palestinian Islamic
fundamentalist groups to challenge its supremacy. Israel followed the
same strategy in Lebanon with its 1982 invasion and 18 year occupation
of the country from which Hezbollah emerged as a resistance group that
finally succeeded in forcing the Israelis to withdraw from the country
in May, 2000 and humiliated the vaunted Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
in the summer, 2006 Lebanon war. More on that below. Achcar notes that
in its zeal to destroy secular nationalism in the region, the US let
the "genie out of the bottle" called Islamic fundamentalism
it now can't control. It turned against both the US and Israel as a
resistance force against oppression.
Chomsky also observes that
fundamentalism isn't just a Muslim phenomenon. A powerful Christian
strain of it exists in the US that has enormous influence over right
wing Republican-led governments as it did during the Reagan years and
especially now under George Bush who believes his agenda is a God-directed
messianic mission. Achcar goes further stressing fundamentalism is a
global phenomenon with strains of it in all the major religions - Judaism,
Christianity (Protestant and Catholic), Hinduism, Islam and others with
all of them having arisen over the last 25 years or so as a "remarkable....synchronized
worldwide" phenomenon. It represents the only remaining ideological
counterweight expression of mass resentment and resistance against the
socially and economically destructive elements of predatory neoliberal
capitalism now dominant in the West and throughout most of the world.
The discussion then turned
to Saudi Arabia which Achcar describes as "the most fundamentalist
Islamic state on earth" and the "most obscurantist, most reactionary,
most oppressive of women" and yet so closely allied to the US under
all administrations because of all that oil there - what US state department
officials in 1945 described as "a stupendous source of strategic
power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history (including
the extended prize of what was available in the other regional oil-rich
states)." Wealth and power always trump ideology, especially when
a lot of oil is involved and a repressive ruling authority like the
Saudi monarchy is willing to play ball with its US master. The two countries
basically have a deal. The Saudis agree to pump whatever amount of oil
Washington wants, help control its price and recycle the revenue from
it in US markets and by buying our weapons. In return, the US acts as
the "Lord Protector" of the kingdom exerting enormou s control
over it with little interest in how backward, extremist or repressive
it is other than getting it to agree at times to some modest cosmetic
changes only for show.
Next, the state of democracy
in the region is discussed. Chomsky explains that over the last century
there were democratic movements throughout the Middle East including
in Iran and Iraq even though they weren't perfect (but neither is the
US model, especially now when it's on life support at best). When the
British or US controlled these states, it was another story. Both countries
either opposed democracy (disingenuous rhetoric aside) or tried to prevent
its development because elected leaders sometimes get the idea they
have to serve the people who elected them. Authoritarian strongmen rulers
under the US thumb have no such obligation. Today in Egypt the Kifaya
movement is a democratic force wanting to end the dictatorship of one
such man and close US ally Hosni Mubarak who's ruled the country since
he succeeded Anwar Sadat in 1981. Mubarak goes through the ritual of
holding elections like Saddam did, and like the deposed Iraqi dictator
always manages to get about 99% of the vote in a miraculous and totally
fictitious show of support.
Achcar picks up the discussion
emphasizing the potential for democracy in the region mentioning the
1979 Iranian revolution ending the brutal reign of close US ally, Shah
Reza Pahlavi. A major aspiration of the Iranians supporting his overthrow
was democracy, but they were let down by Ayatollah Khomeini who promised
it to them and then reneged once in power establishing an Islamic "Assembly
of Experts" and extremist theocratic rule. Today, however, there's
a limited amount of democracy in Iran with an elected president and
parliament even though the unelected Supreme Leader and Guardian Council
have the final say. Still Iran is an enlightened state enjoying freedoms
unimaginable in a nation like Saudi Arabia where women aren't allowed
to drive and there's a special police whipping people on the streets
during times of prayer because they're not allowed out there then (even
though these police should have the same state-imposed obligation to
be inside praying). That's OK with the US because of that "greatest
(of) material prizes" there and the Saudis never forgetting "who's
boss." The Iranians, however, have been a prime US target for regime
change for a quarter century, not for their ideology but because they
prefer going their own way independent of "the boss's" authority.
Chomsky and Achcar both explain
that a major deterrent to democracy, especially in the Middle East with
its oil treasure, is because the US opposes it. With it, the "bad
guys" might win, meaning forces hostile to western interests. The
same is true in other regions where the US is willing to use force or
stage so-called "demonstration elections" it can manipulate
to be sure candidates it favors win as nearly always happens in Central
America and key South American countries like Colombia and Peru. When
"mistakes" happen and the "wrong" candidates are
elected like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, or Hamas
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), they can expect harsh
US-directed efforts against them (or Israeli ones in the OPT) to force
their removal from office. The US has tried and failed three times to
depose Chavez, and Israel now has the democratically elected Hamas government
on its knees in the OPT, discussed further below.
The question then was raised
whether an unintended consequence of the US invasion of Iraq has been
an increase in democracy in the region. Not so far, but Chomsky explains
it can happen as it did in Asia following the defeat of Japanese fascism.
Their atrocities inspired a wave of democratic reform that included
expelling the European (and US) imperialists as happened in Vietnam
20 years later. Chomsky imagines a generation from now the Iraq war
may end up accomplishing the same thing in the Middle East, but Achcar
stresses that's not, of course, what the US wants. For now, however,
the US invasion of Iraq (and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians
and Lebanese) has been a major destabilizing factor in the region and
worlds away from showing any positive signs. Achcar notes that the "craziest
of the (Bush) neocons" call it "creative instability"
which is their nonsensical notion of "democracy" - the kind
Secretary Rice calls "messy." He further notes the Bush administration
ha s been "stupid" and "will go down in history....as
the undertaker of US interests in the region." He might have added
how equally destructive it's been to its stature worldwide, the state
of democracy at home, and eventually for having been the prime mover
for the decline and fall of the US empire along with its political and
Chapter Three - Sources
of US Foreign Policy
in the Middle East
Moderator Stephen Shalom
begins this discussion asking what are the dynamics driving US policy
in the Middle East. For Chomsky and Achcar, the answer is clear:
Chomsky explains the centrality
of oil in the Middle East saying without those immense hydrocarbon reserves
in the region, no one in high places would care any more about it than
Antarctica. It's been almost 100 years since oil was first discovered
there in what was then Persia and now is Iran. It was then discovered
near Kirkuk in northern Iraq in the late 1920s and in Saudi Arabia in
the 1930s. Most importantly, it looked even then like the region had
plenty of this essential commodity, and it was easily and cheaply accessible
and easy to refine. In the 1930s before WW II, the Roosevelt administration
knew the Saudi reserves alone were an immense prize, wanted it for the
US, and saw to it US oil companies got a foothold in the country. Chomsky
explains the US's obsession with oil isn't about access to its use.
It's about controlling most of the world's supply as a "lever of
world domination." One way to keep European and other countries
dependent on us and in sync with our p olicies is to maintain control
of the oil spigot they're reliant on.
No country, no matter how
powerful, can get that control by occupying all the others it wishes
to dominate. The US knows that and prefers having a control structure
like the British used when it was the leading power in the region after
WW I. It's essentially the way Iraq is nominally governed today under
US tutelage - an "elected" puppet facade that can't do much
more than blow its nose without US approval and the intention to withdraw
most US forces once a local satrap army and police can take over, which
is a very dubious hope at best.
Chomsky explains the US went
beyond the British model adding another structural level of control
called "peripheral states" - regional gendarmes or what the
Nixon administration once called "local cops on the beat"
with "police headquarters in Washington and a branch (precinct)
office in London." That role is now filled by Turkey and Israel
and was by Iran as well during its rule under the Shah.
Achcar agrees with Chomsky
and stresses oil's strategic importance in solidifying alliances with
key allies like Japan and checking rivals like China and Russia (which
has its own large hydrocarbon reserves). It's economic value is also
immense both to US Big Oil but also to the US economy. Those factors
are now playing out on a worldwide chessboard with two organizations
coalescing to compete with the US for control of Central Asia's reserves
- the Asian Energy Security Grid composed of China and Russia mainly
and possibly India, South Korea and even Japan joining and the more
significant Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) formed in 2001 for
political, diplomatic, economic and security reasons as a counterweight
to NATO the US dominates. It has a core China-Russia alliance in it
along with most of the former Soviet republics plus Iran, Pakistan and
India as observers that may lead to their eventual membership. As world
powers jockey with the US for control of vital oil rese rves, these
alliances may figure prominently in how things eventually play out.
Central to that discussion
is the next crucial point Chomsky raises. It's the issue of US withdrawal
from Iraq that's now more prominent in the news than when he made his
comments. He asks what happens to the country's oil under this scenario
and stresses it would be an "utter catastrophe" if the US
didn't leave behind a reliable client state. It's what noted and longtime
Middle East journalist Robert Fisk meant when he said: "The Americans
must leave (Iraq), they will leave, but they can't leave."
The country has a Shiite
majority closely allied with Shiite Iran as well as with the large Saudi
Shiite population in the bordering area between the two countries where
most of the kingdom's oil is located. Under this scenario, Chomsky imagines
what he calls Washington's "worst nightmare" - most of the
Middle East oil reserves outside of US control and possibly linked to
either or both of the predominant China-Russia energy and security alliances.
If it happens, the decision to invade Iraq will go into the history
books as one of the world's greatest ever strategic blunders and the
Bush neocons will get the "credit" for it. It could put the
US on a fast track to becoming a "second-class power" and
be a far more serious defeat than the one suffered in Vietnam. Are echoes
of "Waterloo" becoming audible?
Israel and the Jewish
The power of the Jewish Lobby
is more prominently discussed now (though not in the major media) than
when this dialogue took place. It got resonance from the paper issued
in the spring by two noted political scholars - John Mearsheimer of
the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School
of Government - who argued how dominant the Lobby is. That position
has been echoed by other analysts and also by a powerful new book by
noted scholar James Petras called The Power of Israel in the US reviewed
by this writer and available on sjlendman.blogspot.com. With his extensive
documentation in a full-length book, Petras makes a convincing case
for his position about how dominant the Jewish Lobby is in determining
US policy in the Middle East and that AIPAC is just one part of a much
Chomsky and Achcar disagree.
Chomsky believes the most powerful pro-Israel lobby is "American
liberal intellectuals," not AIPAC. The intensity of their support
crystallized after Israel's dramatic victory in the 1967 six-day war.
It happened when the US was bogged down and losing in Vietnam and for
liberal hawks (who later became neocons) this was a model or example
of how to crush a "Third World upstart." Achcar has a similar
view and believes it's untrue to think the Israeli "tail"
wags the US "dog." Chomsky adds: "Whatever you think
of the (Jewish) Lobby, it is nothing compared with the power of the
US government." Those who want the opposite view should read the
Petras book just published which covers this issue in much greater detail
including a critique of Chomsky's position in the final section.
Chapter Four - Wars
in the "Greater Middle East"
The war in Afghanistan is
discussed first, and Chomsky calls it "one of the most atrocious
crimes in recent years" because it might have (but thankfully didn't)
caused the starvation of five million Afghans with the potential number
at risk raised to 7.5 million after the bombing started. Washington
demanded all fuel supplies be cut off that disrupted desperately needed
humanitarian aid. The 9/11 event was used as a launching platform for
the foreign and domestic agenda that followed beginning with the Afghan
war that was unjustifiable by any analysis. It's also known the war
was planned well before that fateful September day and what happened
on the 11th of the month was just a convenient pretext used opportunistically
to launch step one with more war to follow in what's been euphemistically
characterized as "the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the long war,
WW III" and clash of civilizations meant to last generations pitting
the West against the forces of "terrorism"....aka "Islami
c fascists" wanting to establish a "global Caliphate"
under Shari'a law.
Chomsky explains that what
happened on 9/11 was a "major crime" but not a casus belli.
It should have been dealt with like any other crime - "find out
who the criminals were, then...apprehend them (and) bring them to justice."
Bombing a country to rubble that had nothing to do with it was monstrous,
but that's not the way it played out around the US in a flag-waving
protect the homeland, crush the "bad guys" and support the
Now five years later, Chomsky
says Afghanistan is no "showcase" but believes it's much better
off today than under the British during the years of the (first) 19th
and early 20th century "Great Game" when famines ravaged millions
in the country. But those reading John Pilger's comments in his new
book Freedom Next Time would be struck by his dismal description of
the country post-2001 as looking more like a "moonscape" than
a functioning country. He describes the capital, Kabul, where there
are "contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live
in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue (with)
no light or heat." There are desperate shortages of everything
throughout the country that even now is putting hundreds of thousands
at risk of starvation because of drought, inadequate services, no occupying
power interest to help and the resumption of conflict.
Achar's view may be closer
to Pilger's than Chomsky's based on indicators from human rights organizations
on the ground and the condemning Senlis Council think tank report in
mid-2006 that called Afghanistan today a humanitarian disaster and much
more. The US also let a brutal and hated Northern Alliance proxy force
topple the Taliban with help from its overwhelming air power. These
thuggish murderers and rapists are no different today than when the
Taliban ousted them from two-thirds of the country in 1996. Their return
to power along with a hostile occupying force led by the US along with
the desperate conditions in the country are the reasons for the resurgence
of the Taliban that have now reclaimed most parts of the country in
There's no central Afghan
leadership to counter them, and Achcar characterizes nominal and caricature
of a president Hamid Karzai (a former CIA asset and oil giant UNOCAL
consultant) as a US stooge playing the role of president when, in fact,
he's nothing more than the mayor of Kabul who might not last a day on
his own without the protection afforded him by the private US security
contractor DynCorp with the US military for backup.
Iraq after March,
Both authors then address
the reasons why the US invaded Iraq and agree the country and region's
immense oil treasure are central to understanding Washington's thinking.
It's believed Iraq's oil reserves are second only to those in Saudi
Arabia and "they're extremely cheap and accessible." In Achcar's
view, the US wants full control of both Iraqi and Saudi reserves as
between the two countries they represent nearly two-fifths of the world's
supply, and if Kuwait is added to them the ratio is close to one-half.
The US also controls the smaller oil-producing Gulf monarchies leaving
only Iran outside it's orbit and highlighting how strategically important
the Persian state is.
Controlling Iraqi reserves
was central in 1991 as well, but the only reason the US didn't proceed
on to Baghdad and occupy the country then was because that would have
been "unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate"
- something the GHW Bush administration apparently took seriously but
likely never would have deterred the younger Bush neocons who don't
even bother with UN authorization unless it's easily gotten.
In 1991, the US was also
willing to settle for a neutered Saddam it could control and wasn't
willing to risk having the country run by Shiites allied with Shiite
Iran - something intolerable to any US administration. Washington also
tried repeatedly throughout the 1990s to foment an insurrection it approved
of that would do the housecleaning job for it. It wanted Saddam removed
but only if he could be replaced with an acceptable hardliner clone
who understood "who's boss." It never happened, and once the
younger Bush administration came in, it decided on a full-scale invasion
and occupation to clean house and control the country. It began in March,
2003, but things since haven't exactly gone as planned.
Achcar explained US proconsul
Paul Bremer (who replaced the short-tenured retired General Jay Garner)
wanted to put in place a US lock on the country - politically, economically
and constitutionally - but ran up against unexpected resistance from
Grand Shiite Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who wanted Saddam removed but
would only accede to a US occupier willing to help the country and not
just itself. He was able to curtail US plans enough to allow elections
and have Iraqis write the constitution as imperfectly as the whole process
played out because the US always has the final say. It showed as he
wasn't able to stop Bremer from turning the nation into a free market
Iraq, Inc. utopia mainly for predatory US corporations that have sucked
the life out of the country and convinced the Iraqis people what anyone
should have known in the first place. The US never has democracy and
liberation on its mind. It was all about controlling the oil, stupid
and establishing a client state.
The Iraqi people figured
that out pretty quickly, and the resistance began at once and then intensified
because of an insensitive turned hostile predatory occupation. Achcar
attributes it only to the 20% Sunni segment of the population at the
time of this dialogue (that still represents a healthy five million
or more people). Chomsky believes the resistance is a genuine national
movement that's very disparate but broadly supported by the Iraqi people
who want an end to the occupation. Achcar agrees that there is a broad
consensus in the country at least outside the Kurdish-controlled north
for a firm timetable for withdrawal of all foreign troops.
Based on conditions now in
the country, outside of the Kurdish-controlled north, it's hard to imagine
there's not near unanimity favoring the earliest possible end to the
occupation. Beginning in 1991, continuing throughout the 1990s and especially
after March, 2003, the US conducted a scorched-earth campaign to destroy
Iraqi society, its infrastructure, historical treasures and its very
identity as a nation. The UN's International Leadership report showed
it's done an effective job of it: 84% of Iraq's higher learning institutions
have been burnt, looted or destroyed; archeological museums and historic
sites, libraries and archives have been plundered; and targeted assassinations
have been carried out against academics, other teachers, senior military
personnel, journalists (Iraq is by far the most dangerous place on earth
for the fourth estate) and other professionals including doctors forcing
many thousands of them to flee the country for their lives even though
they're despera tely needed.
In addition, aside from the
Iraqi resistance, there are random or targeted daily terror killings
by US-directed "Salvador option" death squads, thousands of
kidnappings and countless other examples of how intolerable life is
for all Iraqis south of Iraqi Kurdistan and outside the four square
kilometer fortress-like Green Zone HQ in central Baghdad for the so-called
"coalition" officials and the puppet "Iraq interim government."
This is the Bush administration's design to destroy the nation's cultural
identity as an Arab state, take firm control of its oil resources, and
likely divide the country into more easily governed parts the way it
was done in the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It may prove a lot
harder to make that sort of plan work in a country like Iraq and even
trying it may end up backfiring by causing even greater turmoil.
Chomsky emphasizes that whether
US forces leave Iraq or stay, it's crucial for Washington policy makers
to establish a reliable client state government or the whole operation
will have been a disaster, and it's already looking like it is no matter
what happens going forward regardless of what will be presented and
no doubt implemented by the Baker Commission Iraq Study Group (ISG).
It's because the country is so devastated and the level of Sunni and
Shiite anger against the occupation is so intense. Empire-building is
a lot easier close to home, and Chomsky cites the example of US policy
in Latin America. There, opposition resistance forces were brutally
crushed and "legitimate governments" were installed and still
are there today, except for the possibility of some change in Nicaragua
after the reelection of Daniel Ortega on November 5. Chomsky notes what
would seem to be obvious. It won't be easy to do in Iraq what was done
south of our border because the country is not El Sa lvador, Nicaragua
or any other banana republic.
Achcar agrees and emphasizes
the US has a serious mess on its hands in Iraq. So far every strategy
employed has failed, and today the situation worse than ever. The one
thing yet to be tried is a coup d'etat, and that subject is now cropping
up in the news. But it's hard to think pulling that stunt will end up
doing anything more than inflaming an already out-of-control situation
even more. Can anyone imagine replacing an inept elected puppet government
with a US-imposed strongman being a good tactic to win public support.
Chomsky agrees and believes Shiite soldiers won't take orders from a
US-dominated command against their own people, and Kurds won't fight
alongside Sunnis in a unified military command.
It's a classic example of
the literal meaning of "snafu," and all because of an ill-conceived
agenda from the start the administration was warned about in advance,
told it wouldn't work, but still it went ahead with it anyway. The whole
strategy was doomed from the start, and the only surprise was how quickly
it collapsed. Chomsky again stresses the US wants to control the resources
of the region, but because of what's happened in Iraq, how will it ever
be able to do it. The echos of "Waterloo" are getting louder.
The serious question is then
raised about whether a US withdrawal will lead to civil war. Who can
say, but Achcar makes a crucial point: "the longer the occupation
continues, the worse it gets." He also notes a hopeful sign as
the most influential Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars,
says it will call on all armed groups to end their resistance once a
timetable for withdrawal is announced. But it would have to be awfully
convincing as all the promises made from the start of this operation
have turned out to be nothing more than disingenuous rhetoric from a
now thoroughly disliked and distrusted occupier. Why would anyone trust
them now, especially with all the talk about possible new military action
against Iran and Syria and a powerful multi-US carrier strike group
force now in the region carrying out provocative exercises to back up
the bluster - even if it's just saber-rattling bluff.
Achcar thinks it's very unlikely
the US or Israel will attack Syria. He stresses both countries prefer
the Assad regime, that has the situation under control, to any alternative
that could become chaotic. If that happened, it would inflame the situation
all the more in Iraq and maybe across other borders as well. As for
Iran, Chomsky thinks things are more complicated. The country has all
that oil the US desperately wants to control, and it's been a prime
outlier since the 1979 revolution. "Imperial management" demands
"obedience" and needs to punish all "transgressors"
if only to set an example for others contemplating going the same way.
That's how US policy makers think - about Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia,
Cuba and any other country ignoring "the boss." No country
gets a pass, just a little leeway.
With that in mind, Chomsky,
as of this dialogue, thinks it's unlikely the US will attack Iran because,
unlike Iraq and other weak states, the country is not defenseless and
the potential for serious Shiite resistance in Iraq alone is a deterrent.
Achcar isn't so sure and feels the likelihood of a US assault is very
possible but not by invasion which would be suicide, Iran being four
times the size of Iraq in territory with three times its population.
If it happens at all, we'll be hearing about "shock and awe"
again as it's unimaginable it could be done any other way. And since
the US now has a powerful naval attack force in the region practically
daring the Iranians to respond, a possible scenario to watch for would
be a manufactured incident on the order of the August, 1964 Tonkin Gulf
one or the blowing up of the USS Maine in February, 1898 in Havana Harbor.
We know what happened next. If the US wants another war, it's never
hard finding an excuse to start it, but advance wor d coming out of
the ISG is it's plan will need Iranian and Syrian cooperation to work,
and that rules out any possibility of a US and/or Israeli attack against
Chapter Five - The
Few conflicts anywhere in
the world are more intractable, longer running, or more of a mismatch
than the Israeli-Palestinian one. The major issues involved are pretty
clear-cut, but nearly six decades of trying to solve them have accomplished
nothing because the Israelis, with full backing, funding and arming
from the US (and the West), give nothing, and the Palestinians have
no power to press their demands or allies who'll do it for them. The
result is the chaotic state of devastation now in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories (OPT) with no effort being made to alleviate it. It's been
that way on and off for decades but intensified following Ariel Sharon's
provocative visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on
September 28, 2000 instigating the al-Aqsa Intifada and has now become
a brutal war of attrition following the June 25 Kerem Shalom crossing
minor incident providing the pretext for Israel's long-planned merciless
assault on the OPT still ongoing beneath the radar with no resolution
of the conflict in sight or any serious effort being made to end it.
So many issues in the conflict
need to be addressed, and one of them is to include in any discussed
solution the rights of the Palestinian Diaspora. They live mainly in
Jordan, Syria and in Lebanese and other dispersed refugee camps outside
the OPT where conditions are deplorable. Achcar says all Palestinians
everywhere have the same rights, and those in the camps "live in
the worst misery....(they are) victims of oppression and...expulsion
from their land and they have a right to self-determinaton....no one
has the right to divide the Palestinian people." Unless these and
all Palestinians are included in a settlement, it's a recipe for permanent
war, and the way to do it is by "referendums of the concerned populations."
This is democracy and the opposite of the sham Oslo agreement that was
a diktat giving Israel what it wanted and the Palestinians nothing.
Arafat, on his own dictatorial authority, got it through as his "get-out-Tunis-free-pass-and-return-ticket-to-the-OPT-plus-
fringe-benefits-granted-for-his-surrender" even though the majority
of the Palestinian Liberation Authority (PLO) Executive Committee members
rejected the deal that should have arrived stillborn.
Chomsky believes any long-term
solution should be a single unity federation with federated autonomous
areas, or better still an Ottoman empire-style "no state"
solution with the Palestinians having their own large degree of autonomy
in their own territories, with a two-state settlement used as a first-step
toward it. Achcar's preference is for the West Bank to be merged into
a democratic, monarchy-free Jordan because the majority in that country
is Palestinian and the West Bank was part of Jordan from 1949 until
Israel seized it in the 1967 war. Achcar and Chomsky both agree that
Palestinians living inside Israel, who are second-class citizens of
the Jewish state, should either have the right of local autonomy in
their concentrated areas or be able to join a Palestinian or Jordanian-Palestinian
The Peace Process
For decades, Israel and the
US have been long on rhetoric and empty on pursuing any serious steps
toward a just peace and equitable settlement for the Palestinian people
totally at their mercy and receiving none. The two powers systematically
ignored UN resolutions toward that end and also routinely ignore all
international laws and norms interfering with the Jewish state's intent
to do as it pleases.
Over the last half century,
the US used its Security Council veto authority dozens of times preventing
any resolutions from passing condemning Israel for its abusive or hostile
actions or harmed its interests. It also voted against dozens of others
overwhelmingly supported by the rest of the world in the UN General
Assembly effectively using its veto power there as well. And it supported
Israel's long and deplorable record of flagrantly ignoring over five
dozen UN resolutions condemning or censuring it for its actions against
the Palestinians or other Arab people, deploring it for committing them,
or demanding, calling on or urging the Jewish state to end them. Israel
never did or intends to up to the present, including the mass slaughter
and devastation it inflicted on Lebanon in its five week summer blitzkrieg
there and its ongoing daily killing-machine attacks against the Palestinians
the IDF is allowed impunity to get away with.
The Israelis pursue their
interests ruthlessly with full support from the US and the West. After
the 1967 war, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution
242 to end the belligerency between the warring states. It stressed
"the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war"
and called for the "withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from
territory occupied in the recent conflict" and the right of each
country "to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries."
It was an attempt to achieve "land for peace," but it failed
because Israel drew its own interpretation and never withdrew from the
territory it occupied as was called for.
Earlier in 1948, after the
state of Israel was established, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution
194 that affirms the right of refugees to return to their homes as codified
in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states
"everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own,
and to return to his country." It also states in Article 15 that
"everyone has the right to a nationality." Various Geneva
Conventions also affirm these rights that clearly establish the absolute
and universal "right of return" in international law. Israel's
admittance as a UN member state through Resolution 273 was conditioned
on its accepting and implementing Resolution 194 which ever since it
refused to do. Under these conditions of joint US-Israeli intransigency
more rigidly in place today than ever, how can there ever be a meaningful
peace process. The latest so-called "road map" led nowhere
even before Ariel Sharon ended any pretense of a peace process when
he des ecrated the Noble Sanctuary by his provocative September 28,
Today the Bush administration
gives Israel carte blanche approval to do whatever it pleases and funds
it lavishly to do it. The Jewish state gets billions annually in direct
aid, huge low or no-interest loans, state-of-the-art technology and
the latest US weapons, and about anything else Israeli leaders ask for
including going along with the most flagrant violations of all international
laws and norms that include waging wars of aggression and ethnic cleansing
to seize whatever Palestinian territory they wish for illegal settlement
developments and the Annexation/Separation wall the International Criminal
Court in the Hague (ICC) ruled unanimously against saying construction
must end and affected Palestinians be compensated for their losses.
Israel ignored the ruling, and so has the US and world community.
The dialogue on the Israel-Palestine
conflict is so important it comprises nearly one-third of the book and
is far too wide-ranging to cover in detail here. In addition to what's
discussed above, it includes:
-- discussion on the legitimacy
of Israel as a state.
-- efforts to achieve a lasting
peace and how that process should be pursued.
-- the Palestinian view of
a just settlement that ranged from the early-on view that Israel should
be wiped off the map to the Oslo sellout surrender.
-- Israeli politics in the
longtime dominant Likud and Labor parties as well as the breakaway Kadima
party Ariel Sharon formed in November, 2005 before his disabling stroke
and now run by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
-- Palestinian politics and
the accession of Hamas to power in January, 2006 made possible by years
institutionalized Arafat-led Fatah corruption and its surrender and
subservience to Israeli authority.
-- ways people in the West
can work for and support justice for the long-suffering Palestinians
including a discussion of boycotts, divestment and other tactics to
-- the myth of anti-Semitism
and how Israel and its supporters exploit it.
-- anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia
that's very real and that Chomsky calls the "last legitimate form
of racism" although it's hard to ignore the vicious demonization
of all immigrants of color, especially Muslims and Latinos entering
the US illegally in desperate search of jobs to replace the ones NAFTA
The above discussion took
place in January, 2006 that was then supplemented with separate commentaries
by each author in July.
July, 2006 comments
Achcar focuses first on the
situation in Iraq at mid-year which has continued to deteriorate since
his comments were made. Even then he stressed how "frightening"
things had become. Aside from what he describes as political jockeying
and "tugs-of-war" following the December, 2005 parliamentary
election (which was more of a mirage than an election with the US running
everything behind the scenes besides cleaning the streets after the
daily dozens of car-bombings and killings), Achcar feels things hadn't
yet reached the scale of a full-blown civil war. Instead he characterizes
it as a "low-intensity" one. Holding something more serious
at bay he feels is "the persistence of a unified Iraqi government
(and) Iraqi armed forces" along with "foreign armed forces
playing the role of deterrent and arbiter."
Achcar believes maintaining
that status plays into the US plans for "Divide and Rule",
and many Iraqis (rightly) believe the US (and maybe Israeli) operatives
(in the form of "Salvador option" death squads) are behind
some of the worst supposedly "sectarian" attacks like the
one in February, 2006 destroying the golden dome and causing heavy damage
at the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra that's one of Shi'a Islam's holiest
sites. Achcar also believes if this is, in fact, the US strategy, Washington
is "playing with fire" because dividing Iraq into three parts
is a "recipe for a protracted civil war" in his view. It would
also jeopardize US control over the bulk of Iraq's oil that's located
in the Shiite-majority south of the country. Achcar thinks Washington's
best interest is to allow a low-intensity conflict to continue and try
to establish a "federal Iraq, with a loose central government (with
the US behind the scenes in charge)."
Finally, Achcar compares
the US forces to a "firefighting force" saying the occupation
by its actions is throwing fuel on an Iraqi fire, and the only solution
is announcing a total and unconditional withdrawal. The Association
of Muslim Scholars pledged to call for an end to the resistance as soon
as a timetable for withdrawal is established. So far, the Bush administration
overtly refuses to consider it saying (without the "stay the course"
and "cut and run" rhetoric) it will only leave when the country
is stabilized which is impossible as long as US forces are there - a
sure-fire formula for a high-intensity worst-case scenario "snafu."
That obstinacy may be softening, however, since the formation of the
ISG that's expected to propose an alternative agenda going forward soon
to be made public.
Hamas in Power
Achcar explains that Palestinians
voted for a Hamas-led government because of what was pointed out above
- the failure of years of institutionalized corruption under Fatah rule
and the abdication of its responsibility to its own people, opting instead
to be little more than Israeli enforcers in the OPT. Their election,
however, was not the outcome Israel or the US wanted, and the Palestinians
have paid dearly ever since for their electoral "error." Hamas
is now Israel's public enemy number one in the OPT, but ironically relations
between the two weren't always hostile. Despite Hamas' adherence to
Islamic fundamentalism and a strategy of retaliatory suicide attacks
in the 1990s, Israel lent the organization (known as the Islamic Resistance
Movement) support in the 1980s to check the growing authority and legitimacy
of the PLO then that had suspended its own retaliatory attacks in favor
of a political solution Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir explained he would
never agree to.
Today, Israel has an Olmert-led
government, but the overall strategy hasn't changed. Israel won't accept
a political solution or a Hamas-led PA it can't control. The New York
Times reported that right after the January election, US and Israeli
officials met at the "highest level" to plan the destruction
of Hamas by "starving" the PA and making the people in the
OPT pay the highest price. It erupted full-force after the minor June
25 Kerem Shalom crossing incident and has been ongoing mercilessly below
the radar ever since. The result is a current state of mass-immiseration
of the Palestinian people and the virtual destruction of a viable Hamas-led
PA with the full support of the US and the West. Achcar now believes
"prospects for peace in the region are at their bleakest, for the
present, and only further descent into barbarism looms on the horizon."
Since his July comments, things have continued to worsen, and the situation
today in the OPT is at its lowest ebb.
Hezbollah emerged out of
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and oppressive occupation that
followed. It was formed to resist the occupation, expel the Israelis
(which it finally did in May, 2000), and it remained an effective opposition
force ever since. It's also an important political force and is represented
by 11 lawmakers in the Lebanese Parliament (notwithstanding the recent
resignations that may be temporary) and has two government ministers
in the country's cabinet. But it also maintains a military wing as a
needed deterrent to Israeli oppression (and its summer, 2006 aggression)
and represents the only effective force against the Israeli Defense
Forces (IDF) in the region.
That military wing proved
more than the IDF bargained for after Israel launched its five week
summer blitzkrieg against Lebanon, planned months or years in advance,
that it initiated in response to Hezbollah's minor cross-border incursion
on July 12 that may, in fact, have happened inside Lebanon. Israel's
response was swift and disproportionate, as it was in the OPT. It acted
to neutralize Hezbollah as a political entity and as an effective resistance
force against Israel's imperial designs on the country. It also wanted
to destroy Lebanon as a functioning country, ethnically cleanse the
southern part of it up to the Litani River, and annex the territory
it's long coveted for its value as a source of fresh water as it did
the Golan in the 1967 war.
But things didn't go quite
as the US and Israelis planned. Hezbollah's resistance proved formidable
even in the face of an IDF "shock and awe" reign of terror
against the country that left it a devastated near-wasteland. The Israelis
failed to accomplish their objective and were forced to withdraw. The
country is now monitored by so-called (Israeli-approved and friendly)
UN Blue Helmets and Lebanese Armed Forces replacing the IDF on the ground
under a fragile UN-brokered ceasefire arrangement that could end any
time Israel again wishes to unleash its war machine on whatever pretext
Achcar explains that Israel's
aggression against Lebanon and the OPT "bodes ill for the future
of the region....(and) feeds various kinds of fanaticism that inevitably
backfire on the perpetrators and their own countries (as it did in New
York and Washington in 2001, Madrid in 2004 and London, 2005)."
He also blames the US for its failure of responsibility. Unless Washington
changes its Middle East policy, stops its own aggression in the region,
and ends its support and funding of its Israeli imperial partner there
will be no end to the current "decent into barbarism and the spiral
of violence and death that affect the region and spill over into the
rest of the world."
Noam Chomsky's July,
The Israel Lobby
Chomsky commented on the
spring, 2006 Mearsheimer and Walt paper on the power of the Jewish Lobby
on US foreign policy but wasn't able to address the powerful case James
Petras made for it in his important and penetrating new book on the
subject just out that discussed it in much greater depth. Maybe in a
second printing hopefully as Petras devoted the final part of his book
challenging Chomsky's view on the Lobby's power, listing what he calls
Chomsky's eight "dubious propositions" and following that
with what he calls Chomsky's "15 erroneous theses." Petras
said he did it because of Chomsky's enormous stature making whatever
his views are on any issue stand out prominently. On the issue of the
power of the Jewish Lobby, Chomsky and Petras have strongly opposing
views, and it would be a valuable exercise for both these noted scholars
to have a point-counterpoint interchange.
Chomsky acknowledges that
Mearsheimer and Walt produced a serious piece of work that "merits
attention." He doesn't doubt "there is a significant Israel
lobby" but believes Mearsheimer and Walt (and others) "ignore
what may be its most important component." He stresses the importance
of "concentrated economic power" as always being the prime
determinant of US policy.
The US and Iran
Chomsky updates his assessment
of the prospects of a US attack against Iran indicating evidence is
accumulating that there's broad opposition to it that includes the "international
community" that he says is technical language for a powerful Washington
clique (including those on the ISG) and those joining with it like Tony
Blair and the French. He also indicates what limited information is
available suggests the Pentagon and intelligence services also oppose
hostilities. Still, he and others know that once high-level administration
neocons make up their mind, they regard opposing views as almost treasonous
and often ignore the best of advice to pursue their most extreme imperial
aims. There are mixed signs on Washington's possible intentions toward
Iran, and for now no one can say for sure what will happen.
For many years, Iran has
tried to normalize relations with the US to no avail. It began in the
1980s, and Chomsky explains that in 2003 President Khatami, with support
from "supreme leader" Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, sent the Bush
administration a detailed proposal to do it through a Swiss diplomat
who was rebuked for having delivered it. The "supreme leader"
stresses his country poses no threat to any other, including Israel,
and that developing nuclear weapons is contrary to Islam even though
Iran has every legal right to develop its commercial nuclear program
which it intends to do unobstructed. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and is in full compliance with it based on
years of monitoring of its facilities by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). Israel, on the other hand, never signed the treaty, is
known to have 200 - 300 or more nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery
systems for them, has implied its intention to use them if it chooses
, and is a nuclear outlaw - but one with an important ally the Iranians
At this stage, Chomsky believes
the US is virtually alone in considering an attack against Iran and
refuses to engage in any serious negotiations to prevent one. He still
doubts there will be one and thinks instead Washington will opt for
an agenda of "economic strangulation and subversion, possibly (coupled
with) support for secessionist movements they can 'defend' by bombing
Iran." The way the US goes about bombing other than a little softening
up, any such campaign against Iran likely would be on the order of the
March, 2003 one against Iraq and Israel's summer blitzkrieg against
Lebanon - although it might not last as long. Still, Chomsky made these
comments before he knew what would likely come out of the ISG, and that
points to no further conflict in the region and more reliance on diplomacy
including with Iran.
Still, back in July, two
key considerations stood out that still can't be ignored. For at least
a decade, Israel has pushed the US to attack Iran, and in recent years
its political and military leaders have declared their intention to
do it in the immediate future either alone or in partnership with the
Bush administration. Secondly, as Chomsky observes in his writings and
in this dialogue, US "imperial management" demands "obedience"
and recognition of "who's boss." Those choosing an independent
course can generally expect a healthy dose of Washington-directed regime
change policy that won't end until the mission is accomplished even
if it takes decades. So while the ISG proposal may table any hostilities
against Iran for now, once Iraq is stabilized, if it ever is while US
forces occupy the country, Iranian help may no longer be needed and
the country may again be elevated to target status. For now though,
that's all just speculation.
Saddam learned about Washington-think
the hard way, and the US has been directing it at Hugo Chavez in Venezuela
for 8 years, the mullahs and new President Ahmadinejad in Iran for nearly
three decades and Fidel Castro in Cuba for almost a half century. Hegemons
are like elephants. They never forget and never forgive. These countries
and all others choosing to serve the interests of their own people above
those of the "lord and master of the universe" will always
face the "almighty's" wrath in the form of regime change efforts
sooner or later to bring them into line by whatever means it takes to
get the job done. That's how rogue hegemons operate.
It may now just be saber-rattling
bluff and bluster that the corporate media has intensified a growing
level of WMD-type reporting about the Iranian nuclear threat and a powerful
US carrier multi-strike group force happens to have converged in the
Gulf and eastern Mediterranean. A failing administration needs a steady
drumbeat of media-led terror threat hysteria, and it's rather nice to
stage it in that part of the world this time of year. It may just be
intimidation that for many months the US has been flying unmanned aerials
drones over Iran picking out targets and has had as many as 1,000 covert
operatives in the country doing the same thing with 400 or more sites
already apparently chosen. Famed musician Duke Ellington once explained:
"it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing," and so
far, "the fat lady" has done little more than clear her throat.
No political analyst knows for sure what the Washington neocons have
in mind when even those with final say may still be undecided. They
already have an uncontrollable situation on their hands in Iraq, they
have to consider what comes out of the ISG, and they may be unwilling
to risk making a bad situation far worse.
The Israelis as well saw
their best laid plans go awry when Hezbelloh humiliated the vaunted
IDF in its summer blitzkrieg against the Lebanese people. It emerged
from the conflict stronger than ever, has few illusions about Israel's
intentions and will never disarm and leave itself and its people defenseless.
It's not likely Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora or his government in
Beirut will press for that either although Chomsky calls Hezbollah's
failure to do it its most controversial act. UN Resolution 1559 called
on its armed militia to disarm and disband, as unreasonable and impossible
as that now seems in the wake of the summer conflict. Hezbollah might
suggest it would do it provided the IDF did as much, but that's about
as likely as convincing a carnivore to become vegetarian. As long as
an armed-to-the-teeth aggressive Israel pursues its imperial agenda
for unchallengeable regional dominance, the only effective deterrent
against it are the non-state actors like Hezbelloh no w more popular
and resilient than ever.
Hamas and Hezbollah
Chomsky again explains the
disdain the US and Israel have for outliers - "deviant" states
or organizations that forget "who's boss" and offend "the
masters by voting the wrong way in a free election." When it happens,
the whole population is made to pay the supreme price for the transgression
by being starved to death economically and literally as well as being
beaten into submission by brute force with no tolerance allowed to resist
being pummelled by "shock and awe" attacks, seeing their countries
plundered and land annexed, their people mass-murdered, raped, arrested
and tortured for decades. It's called imperial license to act with impunity
while any resistance in self-defense is called terrorism.
The US-Israeli joint aggression
against Lebanon and Hezbollah was days old when Chomsky commented on
it. When it was suspended in mid-August, it was on the basis of an uneasy
interregnum that still hangs by an Israeli-controlled hair trigger it
can squeeze off starting the whole ugly business over again any time
it wishes and on any pretext. Lebanon now lies in ruins, thousands were
killed or wounded, over a million were displaced and it may take a few
decades of regeneration to come back if Israel will even allow that
to happen. Only in the alternative media are accusations of war crimes
made and cries for justifiable retribution that will never come from
the aggressors or those complicit with them by their acquiescence or
silence. Justice today is a long way from being served, and on that
Chomsky and Achcar would surely agree strongly.
Chomsky ends his commentary
referring to Lebanon being destroyed (he had yet to see how severely),
the OPT being pummelled beneath the radar, and the Palestinian state
being crushed in plain sight with no effort made to stop the slaughter
and destruction. There never is when a rogue "Goliath" is
smashing a defenseless "David." It's part of the deeply rooted
"imperial mentality" of just business as usual. Chomsky uses
of one of Gandhi's many great quotes as a fitting ending. When asked
what he thought of Western civilization, he allegedly said "I think
it would be a very good idea." He also said "An eye for eye
only ends up making the whole world blind" and "A small body
of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission
can alter the course of history." There are noble and courageous
people now working to do just that.
lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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