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Modern-Day American Imperialism: The Middle East and Beyond part 5

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Condoleezza Rice was asked a little while ago in an interview, How could we end the War in Iraq? She said there’s a very easy way to end the war, it’s quite obvious: Stop the flow of arms to foreign fighters. Stop the flow of foreign fighters across the border. That’ll end the war in Iraq. If somebody was looking at this who hadn’t been adequately brainwashed by a good western education, they would collapse in ridicule. I mean, yes, there are foreign fighters in Iraq and plenty of foreign arms in there— namely, from the country that invaded Iraq. But they’re not foreign, remember. They’re indigenous because we’re indigenous everywhere. That follows from owning the world, going back to the infant empire. It spreads. So we’re not foreign fighters there or anywhere else. We’re indigenous, and it’s the foreign fighters who have to be stopped. And actually the concept of aggression has expanded recently. Back in January, you may have seen there was an important statement by five former NATO commanders which was reported. The big issue was that they had said we have to base our military posture on possession of nuclear weapons. But it’s nothing new. It’s always been true. It was strongly advocated by the Clinton administration—in much stronger terms, in fact. But that was what was reported. But one thing that was new was their expansion of the concept “acts of war.” They said an act of war against which we must defend ourselves by the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary, is using weapons of finance. Okay, so if a country uses weapons of finance against us, that’s an act of war, and we have to be ready to use nuclear weapons if necessary. Well, two months after, in late March, the United States Treasury Department warned the world’s financial institutions against any dealing with Iran’s state-owned banks. Now, those warnings have teeth thanks to the Patriot Act. A little-noticed element of the Patriot Act permits the United States to bar from access to the United States financial system any country that violates its orders, meaning that if a German or Chinese or other bank tries to have dealings with Iran, they can be barred from the US financial system, which is a cost that very few are willing to bear-- and is in fact a declaration of war by the judgment of the five NATO commanders, an act of war against which Iran is entitled to respond any way it likes, perhaps with nuclear weapons or terror or whatever, according to these judgments. Now, you’ll notice that there’s a serious logical fallacy in what I’ve been saying. It overlooks two fundamental principles, which are the crucial principles of the world order. The rest is footnotes. The first principle is that we own the world, and Iran doesn’t. So therefore the principles don’t apply to us; they only apply to others. And kind of corollary to that is that everything we do is necessarily with the best of intentions. That’s a tautology. You don’t have to give evidence or arguments. And that’s a constant feature of the intellectual culture, almost without exception, across the spectrum. So, for example, during the invasion of Vietnam— I hope I don’t have to describe it to you, but it killed several million people, destroyed three countries. It was just a monstrous atrocity. There was vast mainstream discussion of it. But if you look closely, you’ll find it never included a principled critique of the war. That was not permissible. Typically, just to keep to the left critical end (and the rest gets worse), at the end of the war, Anthony Lewis of the New York Times wrapped it up. He said, speaking from the left liberal extreme, that the United States entered the war with “blundering efforts to do good.” Notice “efforts to do good” is a tautology. We did it, so therefore it’s efforts to do good. So it’s not saying anything. “Blundering” because it didn’t work— as well as they wanted, at least. It worked pretty well, but not as well as they wanted. So we started with blundering efforts to do good, but by 1969 it was clear that we could not establish democracy in South Vietnam at a cost acceptable to ourselves. Well, “establish democracy in South Vietnam” is on a par with some Soviet Commissar Commissar saying that Stalin was trying to establish democracy in Eastern Europe. But that doesn’t matter. It’s us, so we were doing it. But the problem with it was the cost to us. Okay? So that meant we had to sort of start pulling out. Well, that’s the critique at the very left end. I’ll take one more example: the leading American liberal historian, maybe the most famous historian of his generation, Arthur Schlesinger, who was at first a super hawk like the whole Kennedy administration was— no alternative to victory in their invasion of South Vietnam, which is what it was. But by the late 60s he was having second thoughts and he wrote a book expressing them. He said, “We all pray” that the hawks will be correct in hoping that the surge of the day (a big influx of troops) will be successful. And if they are, we will be “praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the american government" in winning the war. And he was aware of what it was. He said, leaving a land of wreck and ruin, with its institutions destroyed. It may never recover. But we’ll nevertheless be praising the wisdom and the statesmanship of the American government. And we pray that they’re right, the hawks. But he said they probably aren’t right. It’s probably going to be too costly to us. No question about the cost to the Vietnamese—land of wreck and ruin. So, therefore, maybe we ought to rethink it. Well, that’s the criticism at the critical end of the spectrum—the dovish critical end. Then from there on over to the jingoist spectrum, we have a kind of a debate, could we have won with more force, or was it a lost cause anyway. It was rather striking that the population is out of this. So, in 1969, the year that Lewis pointed to, 70% of the population thought that the war was “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” not "a mistake." Try to find anything in the literature of educated sectors that says it was anything but a mistake, that it was fundamentally wrong and immoral. That’s not unusual. Internally, the government was aware of this. One of the things that is not taught but should be read, because it’s very illuminating, is the final part of the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers are not declassified archives. They are stolen archives, so we know or have a better idea of what they were thinking. The Pentagon Papers end in 1968, a few months after the Tet Offensive in January 1968, which convinced the business world this is going to cost too much and we’d better start winding it down. There was a request from the government to send another couple hundred thousand troops to Vietnam. But they were dubious about doing it, and didn’t do it finally, because they were afraid that there would be a popular uprising in the United States of unprecedented proportions, and they would need the troops for civil disorder control because of protests among under-privileged people— women, youth, and others who just weren’t going to take any more. Well, that tells you… They didn’t admit that they were listening, but they were. And they always do. They needed the troops for control, and they sort of slowly started backing off. Another 6 years of war devastated Laos and Cambodia and much of Vietnam, but at least they started winding down. Well, that was 1969. But notice that you can take the rhetoric about the Vietnam War and translate it almost verbatim to discussion of the Iraq War. There is no principled critique within the mainstream. And nobody can… By principled critique, I mean the kind of critique that we would carry out reflexively and do when somebody else commits aggression— say when the Russians invade Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan, or Chechnya. We dont't ask, "Is it too costly?". In fact, it wasn’t costly at all. They practically killed nobody in Czechoslovakia, Chechnya after reducing the place to ruin. Apparently it’s functioning pretty well. In fact, according to western correspondents, if David Petraeus could achieve anything in Iraq like what Putin achieved in Chechnya, he’d probably be crowned king or something like that. But, nevertheless, we condemn it—rightly. It doesn’t matter whether it worked or not, or whether it was costly to them or not. Or when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, killing probably a fraction of the number of people that Bush killed a couple of months earlier when he invaded Panama. But we nevertheless denounce it as aggression. That’s a principled objection.

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Duration: 10 minutes and 1 second
Country: United States
Language: English
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Views: 92
Posted by: sgentile on Apr 20, 2010

Discours énoncé par Noam Chomsky à l’Université de Boston le 17 mars 2009. Transcription par Steve Lyne

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