Saturday, December 05, 2009

Global Shitstorm Update 

From Chomsky's speech at Columbia two days ago. Notes and summary by David Bromwich, professor at Yale. Bromwich is, by the way, a liberal intellectual and not a real follower of Chomsky. But the summary he provides here is objective and shows that Chomsky's basic outline of what is happening now is entirely accurate.

I'm not a huge fan of Chomsky, because he is fundamentally a rationalist who operates on the assumption that people would do the right thing if they knew the truth. He doesn't have much to say about the roots of fascism in the thwarted desire for a beloved community... But the guy has been basically right for so long, and the basic points he's making should really be acknowledged by all, as the basis for any future discussions about reality and how to deal with it:

...In the big constellation, Enlightenment/Rationalism/Liberalism/Democratic Values, a missing word and concept that should be understood to accompany the others is Imperialism. He addressed "the unipolar moment," which started in 1989 with the end of Soviet Communism and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The self-congratulatory tone of recent commemorations of November 1989 tended to make people forget certain other stopping points on the way to unchallenged U.S. hegemony. A short survey followed of the destructiveness of the "settler colonialism" that cleared North America of its indigenous peoples. J.Q. Adams spoke out clearly of the policy as "perfidious" and regretted "the heinous sins of this nation" against "that hapless race." The equanimity, by contrast, of the mainstream wisdom now is epitomized by J.L. Gaddis: "expansion is the path to security."

On the moral fallacy of self-congratulation: "We focus laser-like on the crimes of enemies, but crucially we make sure never to look at ourselves." If now we chose to look at ourselves in the light of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, we might admit the imperative of dismantling a much larger wall "snaking its way through Palestinian territory." The right name for it is: the Annexation Wall. Its purpose is to take over valuable land and water resources; Israel’s leading authorities recognized this early on as a violation of international law. None of it would have been possible without the support of Israel by the United States as "its partner in crime."

On November 16, 1989, shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, there occurred an event of great importance in Latin America: the killing of six prominent Jesuit priests in El Salvador. The U.S. denied any knowledge of the agents and any complicity in the crime; but documents, revealed in the mainstream Spanish press just two weeks ago and carried by the wire services, show that the order was given by authorities in El Salvador; and given the proximity of American advisers to that government at the time, it is hard to imagine the order being carried through without American knowledge and consent. This was part of a larger design–successfully pursued by the School of the Americas and other arms of U.S. policy–to suppress the Liberation Theology which had done much for the cause of social justice in that region, in the wake of Vatican II. All this was happening in 1989, while the West was celebrating the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. It is still happening and we are still celebrating. The U.S. ambassador in Honduras recently congratulated that country on having completed its own "great celebration of democracy," in an election where both candidates were selected by Honduran business interests. Chomsky said it was difficult fully to understand the Obama administration’s embrace of the de facto coup in Honduras. In this case the U.S. has separated itself from all of Latin America and from most of Europe as well, by our "brazen contempt" for real democracy.

Latin America was thus the proving ground for the first U.S. tests of what had become possible in the unipolar world. Another instance was the invasion of Panama in December 1989. Noriega, a dictator of no importance, and previously of no concern to the U.S., was punished for "dragging his feet in support of Reagan’s terrorist wars in Nicaragua."...

A distinct challenge of the transition of 1989: what to do with NATO? Here was an institution solely devised for the express purpose of protecting Europe and North America from the Soviet menace during the Cold War. The only logical response at the end of the Cold War was: to close down NATO. Instead, under Clinton the organization expanded eastward, and it has since expanded farther. Recall Gaddis: "expansion is the path to security." There has been in fact a continuous line from the expansionist U.S. policies under FDR, covering both Europe and the Pacific, to the policies pursued by Bill Clinton and codified in the Bush Doctrine. The use of violence goes hand in hand with the unilateral commitment to the opening of new and profitable markets....

***On another recent use of an international double standard when convenient for U.S. interests: Barack Obama was asked why he supported Mubarak who is an authoritarian leader. Obama replied, "I tend not to use labels for folks." Chomsky: "When a political leader uses the word ‘folks,’ you know you’re going to shudder at what comes next."

***Obama is almost too obvious a proof–a caricature almost–of the "investment theory of party competition," outlined by Thomas Ferguson. The heads of the important banks and the brokerage houses preferred Obama to McCain. He would accomplish what they wanted more smoothly. They got what they paid for....

***John Kerry, one of the people running interference for the administration on Israel/Palestine, gave a recent speech which was mostly boilerplate: we are pursuing a two-state solution in earnest, looking for reasonable compromise from both sides, etc. etc. But sometimes, in such speeches, "something really new" comes out; and in Kerry’s speech there was something new. Kerry said: now for the first time, we have a partner we can negotiate with. And what was the proof of the adequacy of the partner? That during the Gaza assault, there had been no unruly protests on the West Bank. Dissent was successfully controlled. And the reason for this? Effective surveillance by Palestinian forces trained and advised by Keith Dayton, the general heading the American Task Force in Palestine. Dayton’s presence is an acknowledged fact, though the content of the training is unknown. Unacknowledged are CIA advisers in Palestine whose actions we know nothing about.


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