Monday, December 08, 2003

I am reading Noam Chomsky's new book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. As you might guess from the title, this is not a good read for those who equate recognizing the abuses of the most powerful country on earth with anti-Americanism. Chomsky makes a distinction between the American people and the American state, and then goes to town on the state's hypocrisy.

It's the hypocrisy that Chomsky can't stomach. It is not so much that a powerful nation is using its power to, often brutally, protect and advance its interests - that is pretty much the story of history. It is that this particular nation so excessively uses the language of truth and justice, and then mocks these words by its actions. Chomsky takes the role of a sort of secular prophet, a small and obnoxious, yet incessant voice revealing truths that we, in our comfort and plenty, tend to want to ignore. He reminds the powers that their main thrust is not altruistic as they preach it, but self-interested.

And even if half of what he says is true, we should be bugged; at the very least strengthened in our skepticism toward governments and political systems that pretend they share the same goals and dreams as Christ. For me, Chomsky is helpful in making my allegiances clearer.

Anyway, let's get down to some of the meat. He spends a lot of time discussing recent history, and delves into the Kennedy administration in light of some of the discovery's that are emerging from recently declassified documents. In building his case on America's incredible double standard in regards to "international terrorism" he mentions the discussions of the Kennedy administration regarding Cuba:

...After the [Cuban Missile] crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for "destruction operations" by US proxy forces "against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships." A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but "one of Nixon's first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba."

Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that "only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism": a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are "haphazard and kill innocents... might mean a bad press in some friendly countries." The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would "kill an awful lot of people, and we're going to take an awful lot of heat on it." (p. 85)

One might wonder to what degree our first world lifestyles are lived out on the backs of the third world. Chomsky contends that just such a situation exists and is far more than just an temporary consequence of the free market - it is foreign policy:

...These patterns have not been restricted to the domains of the Monroe Doctrine. To take one of many examples from other parts of the world, while Washington was facilitating the "democratic rebellion" in Brazil and seeking to overcome Cuba's efforts to "take matters into its own hands," elder statesman Ellsworth Bunker was sent to Indonesia to investigate troubling conditions there. He informed Washington that "the avowed Indonesian objective is 'to stand on their own feet' in developing their economy, free from foreign, especially Western, influence." A National Intelligence Estimate in September 1965 warned that if the efforts of the mass-based PKI "to energize and unite the Indonesian nation . . . succeeded, Indonesia would provide a powerful example for the underdeveloped world and hence a credit to communism and a setback for Western prestige." That threat was overcome a few weeks later by a mass slaughter in Indonesia and then the installation of the Suharto dictatorship. From the 1950s, fear of independence and excessive democracy—permitting a popular party of the poor to participate in the electoral arena—had been driving factors in Washington's exercises of subversion and violence, much as in Latin America... (p. 93)

Chomsky's reporting of the history of Reagan's contravention in Latin America is gut-wrenching. And it is not like this is hidden stuff, this isn't conpiracy theory history. It's not hard to find, but, like the gay cousin in a Mennonite family, we tend to not want to talk about it much. He talks about the School of the Americas (based in Florida, I think):

...The famous School of the Americas, which trains Latin American officers to carry out their missions, proudly announces as one of its "talking points" that the US Army helped to "defeat liberation theology," the heresy to which the Latin American Church succumbed when it adopted "the preferential option for the poor" and was made to suffer its own "terrors of the earth" for this departure from good order. Symbolically, the grim decade of Reagan-Bush I terror was opened, shortly before they took office, by the assassination of a conservative Salvadoran archbishop who had become a "voice for the voiceless," with thinly veiled complicity of the US-backed security forces; and the decade closed with the murder of six Jesuit Salvadoran intellectuals whose brains were blown out, and their housekeeper and her daughter murdered, by an elite Washington-armed-and-trained battalion that had already compile, a record of bloody atrocities.

The significance of these events in Western culture is illustrated by the fact that the work of these troublesome priests is unread and their names unknown... (p. 91)

More later...

No comments: