This article deals with--and promotes--Chomsky's assertion that western media elites erase significant sequences from history in order to justify imperialistic policies. In it the author also articulately paraphrases Chomsky's definition of how the United States is--by it's own definition--a failed state (and state terrorist). Also of interest is the author's own listing of Israeli crimes erased from the public discourse. It's nice to see this author directly counter the bullshit assertions that the US is interested in democracy. He also talks about Wolfowitz's career as Suharto's closest advisor, while being described as staunchly democratic by the American press. And, of course, he addresses American terrorism against Latin America as well.
This is another excellent article from an excellent newspaper.
This is another excellent article from an excellent newspaper.
Yitzhak Laor; Ha'aretz English Daily said:When lies become facts
By Yitzhak Laor
"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" by Noam Chomsky, Metropolitan Books, 311 pages, $24
As I write these lines about Noam Chomsky's new book, "Failed States," the great linguist is not far from Tel Aviv: He is giving lectures in Nabatiyeh and Beirut. This is no doubt one sign of the new openness in Lebanon, and it is easy to imagine the foreign news editors of all kinds of Israeli media - speedy replicators of the dominant pro-American journalistic view that this openness is "an achievement of the United States" - adding in the spirit of the same irony that Chomsky will no doubt speak in condemnation of the United States, courtesy of which he is a lecturer there.
The true irony, which is repeatedly stressed in this book, is that democratization in various corners of the world is indeed attributed, usually, to the idealistic efforts of the United States, and of course this benefits us, the Israelis (because there is some good in the world, and this good, no matter what its character, is with us and we are with it). But along the way there is a turning point that reveals to us something that for some reason we hadn't known before, and "the discourse on democracy" is suddenly abandoned in favor of a different discourse - for example, concerning "interests of the free world," or "the security of the State of Israel," or "the security of the United States" or "the free market." And for the good of all of these it is necessary to forget the democratic discourse the newspaper celebrated only the day before yesterday (remember the elections in the Palestinian Authority). Chomsky quotes what "Adam Smith called the 'vile maxim of the masters of mankind: ... All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,'" and adds that, "much has changed since his day, but the vile maxim flourishes."
At the center of the U.S.' political conduct - the results of which are usually only seen during times of terrible disasters, like the huge shambles in Iraq (and less so in the starvation in countries whose control has been entrusted by the United States to small, cruel oligarchies) - is the determination to do everything possible to destroy national movements and ensure American control.
How do the deceptions and lies become common coin? It is sufficient to examine one example of terminology on the news broadcasts (let's say, with respect to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and the thwarting of the American attempt to topple him), and enough to observe the oleaginous smiles of the newscasters as they report Bolivia's attempt to nationalize its oil, in order to understand to what extent - here in Israel - every time the United States embarks on an attack, the official version of the action is accepted immediately. The journalistic model here always reflects the positions of the American elite: the political community, the media, the business world and of course academia (Chomsky himself believes that for the most part, it has always been a definite collaborator). Who here has written, for example, about the dubious career of Paul Wolfowitz?
For many years Wolfowitz was the American ambassador in Suharto's Indonesia. Now he is the president of the World Bank, and in the recent past he was the architect of the sewer of blood in Iraq. "The evaluation of Wolfowitz in the elite press is instructive," writes Chomsky. "His 'passion is the advance of democracy,' Sebastian Mallaby declares in The Washington Post. In another admiring account, Andrew Balls writes in The Financial Times that 'promotion of democracy has been one of the most consistent themes of his career.' No evidence is cited apart from Wolfowitz's self-image," notes Chomsky dryly.
But when Wolfowitz's candidacy for president of the World Bank was proposed, human rights activists in Indonesia mentioned the "disciple of democracy's" close relationship with their military ruler: "of all former U.S. ambassadors, he was considered closest to and most influential with Suharto and his family. But he never showed interest in issues regarding democratization or respect of human rights." This is more or less the story about the world under the American empire. The writers willingly lost their memory. Who remembers the terror of the Contras in Nicaragua, and how the current candidate for president there fell at the hands of the Americans?
Let us return for a moment to Beirut, where Chomsky traveled with great excitement. The events of the past year began with the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Chomsky writes of the murder: "One can imagine why the story might have some resonance in Beirut. Perhaps the Lebanese have not consigned to oblivion the most horrendous car bombing in Beirut, in 1985, a huge explosion killing 80 people and wounding 200, mostly women and girls leaving the mosque exit where the bomb was placed. The attack, aimed at a Muslim cleric who escaped, was traced to the CIA and Saudi intelligence, apparently operating with British help. Accordingly, it is out of Western history." Again and again, Chomsky returns in his writing to what has been erased from Western history, which is written by academics with the help of the administrations and the press. Postmodern theory is laden with examinations of the process of eradication. He is concerned about writing and reconstruction.
That same year, 1985, was already marked by president Ronald Reagan's slogan "the war on terror." As part of the "war on terror" Israel increased the severity of its attacks on occupied southern Lebanon and air force planes bombarded a neighborhood in Tunis "murdering 75 Tunisians and Palestinians with extreme brutality, according to the report from the scene by Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk," notes Chomsky. The attack was praised by Secretary of State George Shultz, then unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council as an 'act of armed aggression' (United States abstaining)."
'Out of control'
Only some of these events have been recorded in the Western memory, ours and that of the Americans. Why? Because in direct response to the bombardment, the Palestinians hijacked the ship Achille Lauro, and one of its passengers, Leon Klinghoffer, was also cruelly murdered. The United States made this matter an international issue. The reports written at the White House were long and detailed. And the punishment campaign was "legal" in nature.
It is not about the strange balance in the Israeli mind that Chomsky writes, nor even about the distorted balance of American justice, but rather mostly about the way the American elite eradicates entire segments of the sequence of events. No one remembers the event that preceded the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, but justice for the hijacking is still being exacted. Thus, American terror is never called terror. When it is carried out by clandestine means (the toppling of Salvador Allende in Chile) - they don't know about it in the elite American press. When the terror is carried out in the most open way, as in the continuing slaughter of the Iraqis, it is dealt with only when the failure is too great to achieve the goals for which the campaign was really launched.
The title of Chomsky's book relates to an accepted term in the realm of the United States' international politics nowadays, which is used to describe the danger that a certain state constitutes to America's national security (for example, Iraq on the eve of its occupation) or a state that "needs" American intervention in order to save its population from serious domestic threats (like Haiti). Although it is difficult to define the term, Chomsky - sharp as a scalpel - extrapolates from the many uses the characteristics of a "failed state": It endangers its own population, it scorns the law, it does not obey international law and it suffers from "a deficit of democracy" and so on. From that point a brilliant and detailed discussion develops of the way the United States has itself become, in the George W. Bush era, a "failed state" that endangers its own inhabitants and behaves like a global bully, and where a large majority of the population is opposed to the elected administration.
Chomsky places a very high value on public opinion polls. The system of presidential elections in the United States helps to blur the public's true positions, positions that are not expressed in choosing between two candidates or two senators. Millions of opponents to the war - this is clear from the polls - perhaps obey God's command and vote for Bush, but they also believe that his economic policy is unjust, that it is necessary to get out of Iraq and so on. American democracy, in Chomsky's view, is the response given to these sentiments. However, the current administration is even more impervious than its predecessors to the great suffering of its people and not only to the sufferings of other peoples. The increasing poverty and hunger rates under the draconic policy of the Bush administration prove this.
Apparently Chomsky draws his optimism from the fact that civil society in the United States is as effervescent as ever, vibrant with the activity of local organizations that grant American democracy its true political significance, which is not expressed in the news and the press.
And perhaps he draws his tremendous energy from the political arena in Latin America: "Though Central America was largely disciplined by R eaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-center governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether ... Meanwhile, the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests."